A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Just made it out of Rome

Thank you Frederica

storm 30 °C

In the morning the transfer van comes to pick us up right on time. We get a last look around Rome as we pick up a few other couples from their hotels. We head out to the Leonardo da Vinci airport and enter mayhem. We are here 3 and a half hours before take off time, but Rome airport must have a reputation as half the plane are already here. Its moving okay and we are soon at the front. Chuck the bags on the belt and hand over the paperwork...we have a problem. Please move over to the end here and my colleague will help you out...Frederica is mystified to start with. Yuro let her know about us this morning, but it is not quite as straight forward as first thought. We do have seats on the plane, we just do not have a ticket. So Frederica gives Malaysia a call to find out what the hell is going on, and she has much the same experience as me – she has a frustrating half hour with an occasional mutter from the other end and then she finds out they have hung up on them. She is getting quite frustrated, but she has worked out what has happened – when we had our upheaval on the way over, and had to have our KL to Paris flights changed they cancelled our return flights! The theory goes that they reissued the tickets, but they never told us about them... So now it is 90 minutes to flight time, and Frederica has to get back on to MA in KL and get them to reissue the tickets so that she has a ticket number to get us on to the plane. However, their reply was you can do it yourself, Frederica patiently explained it was a Sunday in Italy and their ticket office would not open for another 20 hours. Eventually they agreed to issue a number, and I head over to the ticket desk to wait for the number to come through, and wait, and eat chocolate, and wait...here it is. Now, the ticket has to be handwritten out - how long since you saw a red and blue paper ticket? And with 42 minutes to go, our bags disappear down the hole- but not the bike box which has to go through oversize luggage. But that’s not the end of the tension – the bloke who takes oversize bags has gone missing ‘don’t worry, he’ll be back soon’ fortunately it is only 5 minutes, but now we have to race through all the checks to get to the plane before it leaves – and we don’t even have time to do duty free shopping – much to L’s disgust. Apart from a toilet stop, it is straight onto the plane. Once we are in our seats, G’s first exclamation is “Can we never ever fly Malaysian again?” no problems with us there. The Italian end of MA have been very supportive and helpful, but the Malaysian end has been hopeless and not at all concerned with customer support.
We're coming back

We're coming back

I'm coming back too

I'm coming back too


So we tried not very hard to get to sleep and watched loads of films and tv. And we eat airline food, and don’t go to sleep. Then we don’t go to sleep a bit more and then we arrive in KL where we get some healthy food at Starbucks. Well you know what comes next – airplane, tv, food, sleep, and then we get to Melbourne.
And it was great to see Mum as we head out the gate ready to take us home. Well, L and G at least, as Rob has come out to take me and the bike home. After that it is home and sinking into our lovely comfortable bed – oh how we missed it...

Posted by lostagain 04:17 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Last day in Roma

And Europe too

sunny 35 °C

The buses are running again in the morning, and we ride in together. G and I are going to head off and look at a few different things, and L is off to the shops. We head out to the Pantheon, which we reckon is pretty amazing considering it was built 2000 years ago. The sun is streaming dramatically in through the roof and the marble decoration gives you an idea of what the other Roman buildings would have looked like in their prime. I think G was genuinely impressed!
See the light

See the light

In the Pantheon

In the Pantheon

Nearby we check out Piazza Navour, which I have manoeuvred G into on the pretext of showing him a toy shop. We do find a couple too, so honour is satisfied. We jump on a bus to get to where we want to, but a small detail is that we do not know where the bus is going. After we wrongly head over the river, we hop off and wander back via a cold drink. I get to have a look at a bike shop with some very cool machines in it, but none of the gear I am after.
Around this point we get to thinking we have had enough and we are quite happy with the idea of heading home to a long cold drink to soothe us. We hop on the 492 bus and head back to San Lorenzo. Up and cooled, it is time to start packing up all our stuff ready for our last day in Europe for a while.
End of a long day

End of a long day


Try to check in on line, but the Malaysian Airlines system would still not recognise our ticket numbers. Try to check in by our flights, no success. So we give a call to Kuala Lumpur to see what has happened to us. I spend 40 minutes on the phone with them, but they cannot tell me anything of any use – they can see our tickets going from Australia to Paris in April, but there is nothing after that – we seem to have disappeared and the lady ‘cannot see you anywhere’ on the system. She cannot trace us by name, by flight, ticket number, reservation, anything – and she is the expert for Malaysian Airlines. Her best advice is to ‘just turn up at the counter tomorrow and it will be fine’. Not trusting this after the near debacle on the way out, I get a phone number for the Rome operations then hang up. Fortunately, Yuro in Rome is more helpful and seems to understand the system better than the Malaysians. He has found us, and worked out that our tickets have been exchanged – what for he cannot tell us. We are not showing on the flight and there are only two tickets available on the flight. He asks us to leave it with him and give him a call back in an hour.
One hour later, Yuro has been on the phone with KL and thinks he has sorted us out some seats for the next day. He says to make sure we are on time in the morning and he will see us there.
That sorted, we head out for dinner nearby at Tram Tram. This is a great little restaurant serving some good honest food and not focussing on pasta and pizza. This is an excellent way to finish the food side of Italy and we need to have an easy walk home to let it settle a bit. Still just enough space to fit in some of Terry’s Chocolate Orange – I’m sure he won’t miss it. Now to try and get some sleep.

Posted by lostagain 04:09 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Roman Holiday

For the bus drivers at least

sunny 33 °C

To make certain we have an authentic Roman stay, there is a transport strike today. Starts off in the Metro, but spreads to the buses too. We are left outside a metro station studying the locked gates. We then walk to Termini where we wait in vain with hundreds of others for a bus to somewhere, anywhere.
What termini bus station looks like in a strike

What termini bus station looks like in a strike

Since nothing has happened, we go over and hop on to the hop on, hop off bus instead. At least the Roma pass gives us a 25% discount on this one. The real value of the Roma Pass comes soon after though, as when we arrive at the Colosseum there is a massive queue, but we can waltz past and straight to the front. The Colosseum is a magnificent reminder of the structures the Romans could build. Everyone used to get in for free, but where you sat very much depended upon your standing in society. Now its all reversed, everyone pays but you all go the same way.
Bear baiting

Bear baiting

It all stopped being used in the 5th century after earthquakes damaged it and the Goths turned Rome into a back water. It was amazing that Rome had 1.5 million residents in the 1st century AD, then down to 20,000 in the middle ages to leap back up to 400,000 in the renaissance. The arena is huge and stretches miles above you, but there is also a basement under the arena where all the gladiators and slaves were held before the fights. Them and all the wild animals could be wound up in lifts to pop out of the floor of the arena. Just as well politicians these days don’t stoop so low to buy a vote. After we have taken photos all around the place, we head out and over to the forum.
Send in the lions

Send in the lions


Again it is a bloody hot day, and it is great to be able to grab cool water out of the fountains all around Rome. Got a good tip from some other tourists: freeze some water in your drink bottle the night before and you have a lump of ice there to cool down your water all through the day.
Another arch

Another arch


We go over there via the Palatine Hill, where lots of the emperors built their residences, trying to outdo the memory of the previous. Most of the palaces need plenty of imagination to see them in all their glory, as all that remains is the brick skeletons. Up at augustus' place

Up at augustus' place


We trek over through the whatsit’s gardens and drop down into the Forum. Again it takes imagination to fill in the details but there is a lot more here than on the Palatine hill. There are plenty of marble bits lying around to give you a good idea of what sort of decoration you would have seen on the buildings. And if you step back you can get a good view of... the next group of Americans steamrollering through to get to the Pantheon, Vatican and the Trevi fountain before hopping on the bus to Florence tomorrow morning.
Cooling off in the Forum

Cooling off in the Forum


We also head over to the Trevi where we are bowled over by a couple of busloads of Japanese tourists, followed up with a left hook in the form of a Con Tiki tour. We join in with everyone else and throw our coins in the fountain. The fountain police blow us up for having our feet in the pond, so we give others our seats on the edge. This is one Roman fountain you do not want to drink the water from.
Cooling off in the Trevi - before the cops get us!

Cooling off in the Trevi - before the cops get us!

Then we head back on a leisurely bus trip back to our apartment, and after grabbing some supplies we settle in for a great home cooked meal and a bottle of champagne. Send off an email to Malaysian to see why we cannot check in over the net.

Posted by lostagain 03:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

All roads lead to Rome

But it can take a long time

sunny 33 °C

One last swim in the morning before we head out, then we are off to another outlet visit just to the north of Rome.
The pool

The pool


Here L picked up a few clothes, but still no shoes for her size anywhere in Italy. I on the other hand pick up another pair of runners Asics this time, and some cycle gloves (colour matched to the Goka, natch). Gaelan gets a Lindt Ball. We spent a bit too long here, and we have to rush in through the traffic to get into our accommodation in the San Lorenzo area. The ring road is pretty heavy, but we do get in. Amazingly, without getting lost. More amazingly we get a car park outside too. Our host is soon here to meet us and help us shift a mountain of stuff (raised eyebrows at the bike) up to the 4th floor apartment in a rickety lift. This is only the first leg though as once we have dumped everything in the flat, I have to jump back in the car and get it back to Peugeot. The road is chock a block to get out of the city which takes about 20 minutes. The next 10 kms around the ring road was at a stand still, and took 50 minutes until it suddenly cleared, and the foot went down as I had to get through the next 15kms in 9 minutes. I raced through the gate at 4:59 just before they shut for the night. They didn't take me to the airport but to the nearest station, and it takes me another 90 minutes to get back to the apartment.
We are all knackered, and it is the night of the Spain – Germany semi final in the World Cup. We thought about some take away pizza and watch it at home, but there are TVs in the restaurant so we plonk down here to have pizza and beer whilst watching the game. We go grab a gelati at half time then get home in time to see Puyol head the ball through the back of the net, and head to bed satisfied...

Posted by lostagain 03:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

In the Tuscan Hills

Montepulciano and Pienza

sunny 33 °C

Naturally the first thing the next morning is going for a ride in the team outfit. I get 90 minutes out there for around 40 kms. A bit windy, so a bit tough on my own. To keep to the ritual, a swim on my return too.
bona fide Gallo Nero

bona fide Gallo Nero

Into the car for a drive around some hill towns to the south. First we head to Chianciano Therme where we have a look about the treatment centre where people come to take the waters. And obviously it is still big business – it is set up to take thousands with treatment rooms, a spa, reception rooms and a ballroom, all set in massive gardens. And then we find we have just touched on the town as we drive past masses of hotels towards the other two thermes in town. We head on up to Montepulciano and hike up the hill from the car park.
The drive around this area is great, and is just the sort of thing you see on postcards of Tuscany. Montepulciano is a very pretty little town with lots of small lanes waiting to be explored and some great views around the area. We stop off up the top at a bistro to have some pasta and a glass of wine. Then a nice walk around the rest of town before we head off.
Up the hill

Up the hill

My kind of place

My kind of place


Next stop is Pienza, where we have a quick walk around, only because it is small and we are getting tired. This is a very picturesque little town with a great main street. There are some great buildings along a beautiful main street. The views over the surrounding valleys behind the church are just great, real postcard stuff. We head back home to have a swim then get packed up ready to leave tomorrow.
In the main square

In the main square

Side street

Side street

somewhere to put your hat?

somewhere to put your hat?

Posted by lostagain 03:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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