Tag Archives: vatican

things i discovered while in italy.

a good ol’ f/u.

…as in follow up.

……from my previous post.

Some tips I discovered while traveling around Italy

Language
  • Well, there’s a language barrier. There’s that.
  • Learn basic phrases in Italian or the language of any foreign country you’re traveling to. Even if you sound stupid, at least it sounds like you’re trying.
  • I feel it would be useful to learn the phrase, “Can I pet your dog?” I realize it’s not for everyone, but it really would’ve came in handy for me.
Venice
  • Venice is expensive. Gondola rides are 80 euro per person (around $120) during the day and 100 euro at night. You may be able to find cheaper rates, but on worse canals. Just do it in Vegas. 🙂
  • Venice is a complete tourist trap… but it’s very beautiful and definitely worth seeing.
    …But maybe only for a day. You can hit all the big things in Venice in one day.
  • Venice has TWO train stations. Make sure you book your trains for the right one. Sounds stupid, but worth repeating.
Rome
  • You WILL wait in line for approximately 2 hours to see the Vatican. It is 15 euro, 31 for a guided tour (and they will sell out quickly). If you’re feeling risky, street vendors offer you tickets and a tour of the Vatican, St. Peter’s, and the Basilica (free entry on the last two) for 45 euro and you can skip the line. It’s your call. It could be worth it.
  • Just assume people are going to try and steal your money (pick pocket) on the bus. It won’t make you the most friendly, but it won’t get you robbed either. Bus line 64 is the infamous line for gypsies and thieves. Both 64 and the 40 will take you to the Vatican.
  • ^ Speaking of the bus lines, you can pick up bus tickets at any tobacco shop for 1 euro.
  • Also, the pick up and drop off spot for the buses are not usually the same place. That doesn’t make ANY sense to me.
  • Stay at the B&B Smart. It is located in a decent area by the train station, it’s cheap, and Isa is the most hospitable person I’ve ever met.
Additional Information
  • It’s important to figure out how to get to your hotel/destination ahead of time. I’m learning the value of this. It makes Jessica much less upset.
  • Be aware of culturally respectful things – some cathedrals have dress codes. You can’t wear too short of shorts and you can’t wear tank tops. They will make you buy a shawl. They made me buy a shawl. It cost euro and it felt like a thin paper towel.
  • Um, gelato. It’s delicious, try it if you’ve never, savor it if you get the chance.
  • It happens in touristy places in the US too, but there are people in costumes who will encourage you to take pictures with them. They WILL charge you, this is not just for their enjoyment. They will also charge you if you take a photo OF them, so if you do… well, be sneaky.
  • Public seating is scarce. A lot of restaurants will have a place to rest, but you need to eat or drink there to use their facilities. Also, restaurant owners, waiters, etc will heckle you (in a fun, good natured way) for you to eat at their restaurant.
  • Grappa. Oh gawd, grappa. It’s an Italian alcohol that’s anywhere from 35-65% proof. It tastes like gasoline and burns even worse. My European co-workers keep assuring me that “aged grappa, colored grappa” is delicious. I don’t know if I believe them.
  • Limoncello, on the other hand, is delicious. But should be sipped. It’s usually served chilled and after-dinner. The first time I had it I took it like a shot. My mouth went numb immediately after.
  • If you ask for water with your meal, it will come in a bottle and you will have to pay for it. A LOT, as they jack up the prices at meal time. Best to just get a pop or a glass of wine. 😉 Or a couple glasses of wine. Hey, you deserve it.
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italia, mio amore

i will just start this post by saying that i love italy. i love italy so much that i paid a ridiculous amount of money to try to learn the language through rosetta stone, then remembered my inability to finish any long-term project i aspire to… but yes, there is just something about the place that i really enjoy. i had the good fortunate of going there for work in 2010 and then the even better fortune of going there for fun in 2011.

jessica and i had decided that, since it was much cheaper to fly from one european country to another than it would ever be to fly from america, we’d be silly to pass up the chance to go exploring. we bought our plane tickets from ireland to italy for around $130, got a list of hostels, booked our stays, and off we went. the original plan was to fly into venice, stay there for a day and a half, go hang out with my co-worker bruno in verona, and then take a train down to rome. unfortunately, bruno got called to des moines for the week we were in italy (bummer!) so we had to find last minute plans. the whole thing didn’t go as smoothly as we anticipated, but i think that is half the fun. you might want to get jessica’s take on the matter sometime, though… she’s a “make sure you know where you’re going” kind of lady. (aka: a bitch. [just kidding {or am i?}])

while we were sitting in the airport in dublin, getting grouchy with each other, we found a map from the water boats (vaporetti) to where our hostel was in venice. as much as i give jessica a hard time, she was really dead useful when it came to getting around. i’m kind of a wanderer, i’ll follow people, i’ll get lost, i’ll ask for directions or i’ll just keep wandering. jessica remembers things; she knows where we turned, where we should go, and has pretty good intuition which helped keep us from getting lost. so needless to say, we arrived in one piece to our hostel, casa petrarca.

after we got settled, and they made us pay them in cash (highly suspicious, but happened EVERYWHERE we went), we got our giant key (i’m not kidding, i wish i had taken a photo of it) and we went out to explore venice. everything in venice is so tall and narrow- the buildings are like slender (ancient) super models. they were so old and beautiful, it was easy to get lost in the moment. the weather was nice, albeit a bit hot (compared to ireland), and everything was definitely within walking distance because the city was so small (yet extremely populated). admittedly, i looked like a huge tourist since i had my camera around my neck, but since i’m asian… well… i thought i could get by with it.

there’s an old charm to the city and everywhere you turn there’s something you could take a photo of. cathedrals, town squares, gondola rides, people letting pigeons crawl all over them… wait, what?!?

this was such a mystery to me. i mean, i can understand not wanting to take a gondola ride (they were around 80 euros during the day, 100 euros at night!), but why on earth would you want filthy, diseased pigeons crawling all over you. and do that for free?

this whole phenomenon was weighing on me the rest of the day. i couldn’t see the appeal. maybe i’m biased and have a thing against birds (sort of true), maybe i just have one too many scars from the species (literally *cough*eddie*cough*).

i couldn’t see the appeal and yet, and yet… i really wanted to try it. we tried to sit to see if the pigeons were interested in us, but we realized pretty early into this endeavor that people were selling bird seed, which of course, attracted the dirty rats with wings… ahem. anyway. i wasn’t going to pay for any stupid bird seed just so i could have this… strange… experience.

…but i will take the extra crackers from my table at dinner and use them.


(as you can see, i’m not handling it very well)

okay. now that i have that out of my system…

our time in venice was fairly short. it’s a fairly expensive city and i feel like you can see most of it in two days, which is roughly the amount of time we spent there. if you are traveling to italy, venice is a place you definitely need to see… but i would never live there. don’t get me wrong, i liked the place and it was fantastic for photography. but it was very touristy, very crowded, and just not the place i would hang my hat and call home.

in our last few hours in the city, i have well documented trip photos of us trying to find our way to the train station and also jessica’s frustration with how the names of the street kept changing. she tried to figure it out… i took photos (i am not much help in most situations).

after realizing that there are signs that point you to the train station (although it is called something different) we realized we had plenty of time to spare and did a bit more actual sight-seeing. we went to the cathedral to look around. a friendly tip: you are not allowed to wear tank tops or shorts into a cathedral in italy. if you try to enter in non-proper clothes they will give you a shawl to wrap around yourself while you’re inside. oh, and by “give you a shawl” i mean “they will make you pay a euro for a paper towel like piece of fabric.” just a fair warning. i’m not saying it’s not worth it.

jessica and i hung out at the train station in venice for a bit. since the original plan was to go to verona we still had our train tickets to there, but because bruno was no longer in town we did not have any housing. right before we left for vacation i had gotten us a room at a holiday inn (or something similar) at the train stop right outside of verona. it was fairly cheap and, besides worrying that we might be mugged, raped, and killed on our way there, the hotel was actually SUPER nice for the price. there was a complimentary buffet breakfast, good utilities, and super nice rooms… it was easily the most relaxed night of the whole trip. and sometimes you need to just relax, to be able to recharge your batteries. the next morning we woke up refreshed, we got ready, and we were on our way to rome.

when we got to rome we immediately found our hostel and fell in love with the place and our adorable hostess, Isa (who also made us pay in cash). let me just say, if you ever go to italy, do not hesitate to stay at the B&B Smart. it’s reasonably priced, it has a great location, and seriously, Isa is the best. she gave us water and drew us out a map when we first got in. she made us breakfast every morning. she hung up my clothes for me while we were touring the town. she brought us fresh watermelon while we were in the room lounging around. bless her little asian heart.

rome.is.huge. it’s old. it’s beautiful, it’s everything you think about when you think of italy. we, of course, did all the touristy things like go to the coliseum, the roman ruins, the fountain of trevi, the vatican…

sigh… the vatican. here’s a thing about the vatican. there’s parts of vatican city that you can see for free- there are other parts that aren’t free. and you will wait in line for at least 2 hours to go see the stuff. probably closer to four. hindsight being 20/20, i might have taken up the “fake” tour guides for their offer of tickets and a tour for $40 and skip the line. in fact, i might’ve paid $40 in itself just to skip the line. don’t get me wrong- the vatican was so AMAZING. there’s so much culture and history to it (and a surprising amount of mythological creatures and ideology), but my feet hurt so damn bad by the time we were there that i was ready to be done around 3/4 of the way through.

all in all, i can’t pinpoint what it is about italy that i like so much. it’s fun to see all the touristy, site-seeing places. it’s fun to walk around and go places you’ve never been. but it’s something about the culture, the architecture, just the country in itself that i can’t explain. i want to go back to italy as often as i can, for as long as i can, for as long as i’m able.