Italy, Day 10: Venice

Our last stop in Italy! We stayed in an Airbnb near the central station of Venice as the price was much cheaper. From the Airbnb, we hopped on a bus going straight to the popular area but we woke up early to beat the crowd.

APRIL 21, 2019

Our last stop in Italy! We stayed in an Airbnb near the central station of Venice as the price was much cheaper. From the Airbnb, we hopped on a bus going straight to the popular area but we woke up early to beat the crowd.

Our first order of business was supposed to be a gelateria but it was closed. So, we went to the bakery beside it – MAJER. We ordered a pizza slice and tried the arancini with prosciutto and mozzarella.

That arancina was super good that we had to order a take-out for our dinner onboard the overnight ÖBB train to Munich. 🤣 When we were done, we were surprised to see that GELATO DI NATURA was not closed for the Easter Sunday. They just opened later than usual. I ordered panna cotta and dark chocolate flavors, and both were really good.

Overall, Venice was nice but quite difficult for me to enjoy because of the insane amount of tourists during our time of visit.

We passed by RIALTO BRIDGE but we were not able to get good shots because of the crowd.

After a lot of walking, we finally saw ST. MARK’S CLOCKTOWER, which was a sign that the basilica was nearby.

We bought Skip-the-line tickets online for entry to ST. MARK’S BASILICA. At first, I was nervous if we bought legitimate tickets because we could not see any sign of the seller. We thought that maybe we were just hours early for the ticket. We decided to just explore the area first.

When it was 30 minutes before our entry time, we checked out the front of the basilica and was glad to find that the booth had been set up for those who had online pass/voucher (click here). I have no picture to place here because photography was not allowed inside the basilica. A few tourists violated this rule though.

Since the gondola price was too expensive to share between just me and my sister, we decided to ride the vaporetto (water bus) as a cheaper option to pass through the Grand Canal.

It was still quite early so before we left the area, I told my sister that I wanted to visit CHIESA DI SANTA MARIA DI NAZARETH, which was just near the central station. I was glad to find some peace and quiet in here because there were only a few people around.

If you’re in Venice, this should be a must-visit because the interior is really beautiful. It’s a small church so it will not take up too much of your time.

At past 21:00, we finally left the central station to head to Munich. Our ETA was around 06:00 the next day so we had time to catch some snooze.

Italy, Day 8: Florence Cathedral

As it was our last day in Florence, we wanted to make sure that we visit Florence Cathedral, a UNESCO Heritage Site. We lined up for more than 2 hours before we were able to go inside so it was a battle between boredom and fatigue from standing. When it was finally our turn to go inside, it was somehow underwhelming.

APRIL 19, 2019

As it was our last day in Florence, we wanted to make sure that we visit FLORENCE CATHEDRAL / BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE, a UNESCO Heritage Site.

We lined up for more than 2 hours before we were able to go inside so it was a battle between boredom and fatigue from standing. When it was finally our turn to go inside, it was somehow underwhelming. Not sure if it was a function of the altar and majority of the front section being off limits for that day… I read up about this cathedral before going in and sad to say, I was not able to see Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment.

We were contemplating if we wanted to go up the cupola designed by Burnelleschi but that would require another round of lining up so we took a pass. There was a basement section where the remains of a 7th century church could be seen.

Before going back to our Airbnb to check out, we had Florentine steak and carbonara for lunch from TRATTORIA DALL’OSTE. One order of the steak was good enough for me and my sister to share.

When we got our stuff from the Airbnb, I just had to make a last trip to our favorite gelateria nearby. I got the triple gelato flavors and no regrets!

It was finally time to travel to Milan (via Trenitalia), where we almost got scammed in one of the elevators in the central train station. Good thing we were alert enough to see them trying top open the zipper of our handbag! The same thing happened the next day when we were leaving Milan but a different set of scammers doing it.

Italy, Day 6: Back in Florence

Since we were back early in Florence, we visited Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, which was just across the central station. I read articles saying that this is not a top destination in Florence and that saddened me because this church was absolutely beautiful.

APRIL 17, 2019

Since we were back early in Florence, we visited BASILICA DI SANTA MARIA NOVELLA, which was just across the central station. I read articles saying that this is not a top destination in Florence and that saddened me because this church was absolutely beautiful. I’d say the best time to visit would be late afternoon because the sun rays that hit some of the stained glass windows reflected colors on the church’s floor.

There were more artworks and relics in the museum-like rooms outside the church.

Our last stop for the day was PONTE VECCHIO. The golden rays of the sunset gave beautiful, warm colors to the structures around.

We were too lazy to go out for dinner so we just grabbed a sandwich in the café beside our Airbnb building. We also bought homemade gelato from NON SOLO GELATO. What was interesting here was that most of their flavors change everyday so we did not eat the same flavors of gelato each day.

Italy, Day 6: San Gimignano

When we arrived at Poggibonsi station, the bus going to San Gimignano just left a few minutes before and the next one will be after an hour. We were not in the mood to go around so we just sat in one of the areas in the park. Good thing it was sunny so the cold did not bother us.

APRIL 17, 2019

When we arrived at Poggibonsi station, the bus going to San Gimignano just left a few minutes before and the next one will be after an hour. We were not in the mood to go around so we just sat in one of the areas in the park. Good thing it was sunny so the cold did not bother us.

From Poggibonsi, the travel to San Gimignano took less than 30 minutes. Even outside the main gate, we could already see the medieval architecture of the walled town.

We went first to DUOMO DI SAN GIMIGNANO, which housed a lot of religious murals and paintings. There was also the Chapel of Santa Fina and Chapel of the Conception inside.

For lunch, we went outside the main gate to reach TRATTORIA RIGOLETTO. We ordered aglio olio, spaghetti al ragu, and a meat main dish.

And, because we heard about the famous GELATERIA DONDOLI, what else to do but order gelato for dessert! I got the cioccolato and their popular Crema di Santa Fina (orange cream-flavored with bourbon vanilla pods, San Gimignano saffron pistils, and Pisa pine nuts)… It sounded weird and actually tasted weird (but tolerable) hahahaha! Buti na lang I had the cioccolato to mix it with.

In an attempt to burn the calories we ate, we planned to climb the TORRE DEI CUGNANESI. We climbed a lot of steps before reaching the final round of steps for the tower… and we chickened out when we saw it. It was so high and in between each step, there was no cover so you can see all the way to the bottom. We took a commemorative photo instead then just checked out the artwork sections.

We explored the rest of the town and inner streets before heading back to Florence in the mid-afternoon.

Italy, Day 4: Amalfi Coast (Part 1)

We availed the “Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi Tour” from Viator, which costs around €80+ per person. Our first destination was Sorrento, which is the home of limoncello.

APRIL 15, 2019

We availed the “Sorrento, Positano, and Amalfi Tour” from Viator, which costs around €80+ per person. Our first destination was Sorrento, which is the home of limoncello. We first visited SORRENTAGRI which sold limoncello in various alcohol volume %. I was not a fan of both 20% and 32% but then again I don’t drink alcohol.

After buying small bottles of limoncello and cooking aids, we headed to the city center of SORRENTO and we were given free time to explore the city on our own.

My sister and I went to the famous DAVIDE IL GELATO and I got a 2-flavor cup: limone (lemon) and nocciola (hazelnut). Good thing I got the nocciola to neutralize the sourness from the limone.

We walked around some more before going back to the parking lot to reconvene with the rest of the group…

Second stop was POSITANO where we had a great view of the ocean and houses built in the cliffside village.

We had our lunch at RISTORANTE LA CALAJANARA where we had a simple 3-course lunch, part of the tour package. My sister and I were seated with a fellow tourist from Sweden, and we exchanged lots of stories about traveling and our home countries.

Last stop of the tour will be continued in the next post. 😊

EU, Day 1: Vatican

Our first order of business for our first day in Rome was to visit Vatican. We headed straight to St. Peter’s Square followed by St. Peter’s Basilica.

After years of saving, EU trip finally came true! First country we visited was Italy, and I was really excited for this one because I would get to eat pasta all day everyday. We flew with Etihad from MNL-CDG then took another flight from CDG-FCO (Rome) via AirFrance.

APRIL 12, 2019

Our first order of business for our first day in Rome was to visit Vatican.

We walked around ST. PETER’S SQUARE and I shared with a friend that upon stepping into this place, it felt like the Lord’s blessing was closer than ever and I was humbled by His grace. It sounds weird but he assured me that that was how he felt too when he went there.

Next, we fell in line for ST. PETER’S BASILICA. Initially, I thought to myself that the line was long but when we went outside after going around the basilica, the line was 3-4x longer. The basilica was so huge that we were not sure where to start… I even took a long time to streamline which pictures to share here.

Next, we headed for our scheduled meet-up place for Skip-the-Line ticket to VATICAN MUSEUMS (bought here).

The guide accompanied us until the entrance inside Vatican Museums and she said goodbye to us once we got our STL tickets from her. Good decision because the regular line was insanely long outside. However, the crowd inside was also big that my next thought was to go outside already. Haha!

I honestly cannot remember the names of each room or section that we went to and it took us about 2 hours to finish seeing everything. Sharing my favorites from the museum visit:

We had our late lunch in PANIFICIO BONCI, a small but famous bakery in the area. Once inside the store, we got a queue number. We were nervous what to order because there were no labels or descriptions… we also did not know how to say that we just need a small portion because all the other customers were speaking in Italian. When it was our turn, it was a relief that the staff was able to get our orders exactly the way we want them.

Dessert was, of course, gelato! We dropped by OLD BRIDGE GELATERIA, a famous gelateria near the Vatican. They had more than 10 flavors displayed and I got the option of having 2 flavors in 1 cone.