Tuesday, September 21, 2010


After leaving Switzerland the landscape quickly turned flat and boring and became interesting when we reached Bologna.  We drove to our first Italian hotel on the outskirts of Milan - Crowne Plaza Linate.  The hotel was a newer hotel, clean and modern.  The food was good, but nothing to rave about on our first stay there.  At breakfast the eggs, bacon and sausage were inedible but some of the pastries and other options were good.  The bar had a good selection of free snacks. 

On our return trip we also stayed at the Crown Plaze Linate.  However, the food in the evening was cold when it should have been hot, the coleslaw tasted off.  The desserts were very nice though.  Breakfast the next morning was okay, but the pastries weren't fresh. 

On arrival at the Crowne Plaza while we were all checking in a man followed the group in and stole the overnight bag of one of our fellow passengers.  The bag contained diabetes medication and pajamas.  So the man had to go to a hospital to get more medication.  The thief was seen on the CCTV taking the bag and also showed his licence plate as he got in his car.  So aside from stealing nothing of value he was going to be caught.  Ha! 

We were warned about petty thieves and pickpockets and were well-prepared with our vests with security pockets. 


Our hotel in Rome for 4 nights was the Parco Tirreno.  The hotel was surrounded by lovely gardens and outdoor bar area, was quiet and the rooms were large and clean.  It was an ideal location as it was 1.5 miles from the Vatican.  However, this hotel was obviously decorated and furnished during ancient Roman times, was shabby, dreary with a musty smell.  As this was a group tour the breakfasts and dinners were included.  What can I say about the food we were served??  Horrid. Boring. Tasteless.  To be fair there were a couple of desserts that were nice and the risotto on the first night was good.  Otherwise the food was horrific.  One dinner consisted of chewy creamed pasta with occasional tiny bits of bacon.  The second course was dried up turkey with spinach on the side.  A treat at this meal was that the rolls were not longer as hard as rocks and were edible.  Dessert was fruit which wasn't yet ripe.  Breakfasts were stale breads, stale cereal, often the juice was too watery. 

Now for the good stuff....

On our first full day we did a tour which took us to the outside of the Colosseum.  The fee for going inside was not included in our tour.  As we had already booked a tour of the Vatican for the afternoon we left the tour early via taxi.  I was amused by the taxi driver who kept swearing at other drivers in what sounded to me as very fast Italian.  Traffic in Rome was as expected.  Crazy.

Vatican tour

I had booked our tour with Maximus Tours and we were very pleased with our tour guide, Joanna.  The tour lasted just over 3 hours and included key parts of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and visited St. Peter's Basilica on our own at the end of the tour.   The Vatican Museums were fascinating but we all found the Sistine Chapel a disappointment as it didn't feel like a chapel and was filled with crowds of pushy people who kept talking in spite of constant reminders to be silent.  St. Peter's Basilica was jaw-dropping amazing!  We also visited the Tomb of Popes.  One surprise we found was the Stuart tomb which contained King James II and III and Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). 

Pompeii and Sorrento

The next day we toured Pompeii for 3.5 hours and discovered one would need an entire day to see it all properly.  Fascinating!  Pompeii history on BBC

After leaving Pompeii we had a lovely drive to Sorrento on the Bay of Naples.  It was very difficult to get photos from a moving coach but I did get a few good ones.  The header of this blog is in Sorrento where we were able to explore for a couple of hours.

We had 3 hours to spend in Florence after our time in Rome was finished.  It's a place I could easily spend a day or two.

The cathedral was Santa Maria del Fiore and was amazingly attractive for a church that didn't look like a church.

Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence's six bridges, is one of the city's best known images. Probably going back to Roman times with its stone pillars and wooden planks; it was built in stone but then newly destroyed by a flood in 1333. It was built again twelve years later, perhaps by Neri da Fioravante (or Taddeo Gaddi, according to Giorgio Vasari).

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