Posts Categorized: Travel

Aug 06 2012
1

San Marco and Burano

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Our final full day in Venice was spent with a leisurely morning walk to Piazza San Marco, a visit to the San Marco Basilica and then the ‘Secret Itineraries’ tour of the Doges Palace. We then were to hop back on the vaporetto and head out to the beautiful lace making island of Burano.

Luckily, getting to San Marco early meant the piazza was somewhat quiet compared to the usual commotion. The pigeons were in full force but luckily we were ushed inside the basiclica right at opening time. The basilica is beautiful inside but there were so many people there it was hard to appreciate it. Much like how it was at the Vatican museums. That is why I find walking into smaller churches to be a lot more enjoyable. We wandered through the basilica and back out, missing the serenity of the other local churches we had visited and gritting our teeth at the way so many tourists behave in groups.

Packs of tourists in the ‘quiet time’.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Then –

Piazza San Marco

San Marco Basilica

San Marco Basilica

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Piazza San Marco, Venice

We were then fortunate that we only had to go next door to join our tour of the Doge’s Palace. I had read about the Secret Itineraries tour as it grants access to the Palace that you cannot see normally – it was well worth it and very interesting! We got to see where prisoners were kept, where Casanova tried to escape from and the secret offices that were kept from the people of Venice where there was a whole lot of people working in secret. If you are ever in Venice, you defintiely should take the tour!

Outside Doge’s Palace –

Piazza San Marco, Venice

My favorite – the Mouth of Truth. These were basically a little mailbox for what they call secret denunciations. Basically, you could dob on somebody doing something wrong anonymously. Back in the day there were many of these around Venice. The accusations were taken very seriously and if you made a false accusation, you could be killed for doing so!

Doges Palace, Venice

I found a translation for the Latin. It says “”Put down here your secrets, against those who oppressed you, freely and officially. Have faith, for those who hide the truth will answer for it.”

The ornate ceilings –

Doges Palace, Venice

The staircase –

Doges Palace, Venice

View from the top ‘hidden’ areas of the palace –

Doges Palace, Venice

Doges Palace, Venice

We then wandered around the whole palace a bit more, when and visited the prisoner cells that the public knew of and walked over the bridge of sighs.

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Then, we went and took our touristy photo with the bridge in the background. Awww!

Bridge of Sighs

It was then time to get on the vaporetto and head out to Burano with a stop for lunch along the way. When we got off at at our transfer point we found a little dodgy place down a side lane that seemed touristy by the look but there was hardly anyone there. It seems to be more of a late night place. There, we had a great meal that looked TERRIBLE when photographing it. Yes, my risotto looks like a plate of vomit. But it tasted SO good. It was a really good mushroom risotto that was cooked perfectly. Bill went for pizza and it was delicious as well!

Venice

Venice

Burano was so lovely. The shops were awesome and had a great range of scarves, doilies and other crafts. We bought some scarfs to bring back and also a few small doilies for the lounge room. Here we loved the colorful exteriors and again, the peace and quiet. Enjoy these photos!

Untitled

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

Burano, Venice

We wandered into the local church there and their choir was rehearsing. They were singing beautifully so we took some time to stop and listen before slowly making our way back to the vaporetto. It was also a warm day so a small cup of gelato was a welcome treat as we walked around.

Burano, Venice

Vaporetto

The ride back to the main island was long and I had a little nap – we really were in vacation mode now! The only thing that faced us was packing our cases as that was our last night in Venice. So we got back to our room and without any distractions of TV, we packed up our things and freshened up before heading to dinner. Bill also went back to the supermarket where we saw the horse meat, to pick up some goodies for our trip to Paris.

We wanted to stay close by so went to the La Rivista, a little restaurant and wine bar that was just a short walk away. It was a strange mix of food but it was just what we wanted. The service was great and our waitress was so friendly – it was a nice way to end our time in Venice.

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

We walked along the water one last time and this is what we saw –

Venice

We were up with the bells again in the morning, had a quick breakfast and checked out of Don Orione. I was quite confident that if I had to return to Venice, I would stay there without hesitation. The area and the facilities were exceptional. Bill was not quite as confident as he really likes the creature comforts of a TV and plush surrounds but for me, staying at Don Orione made sure Venice was as relaxing as possible.

To get to Venice airport hopped on the vaporetto and opted for the extra long trip to the airport as we had time to spare. This gave us one last tour of Venice from the water and I was excited as it was the first time I have ever travelled by water to an airport!

Venice

Here is Bill after we disembarked and heading to the departures area.

Venice

Ciao Venezia, addio Italia and bonjour Paris! We really loved Italy so much it was sad to leave. Note – not a day goes by since we left Italy that we haven’t talked about Italy. Our time there was magical. We are now going back to Rome in February. We cannot wait!

Aug 05 2012
0

Wandering around and Murano

To try and keep Venice as relaxing as possible, we woke up with the church bells, had breakfast and then went back to bed for a later sleep in!

We hopped on the vaporetto and headed out on our adventure for the day. Through different neighborhoods, you see Venice change along the way.

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

When we got there, we decided to grab some lunch.

First we had lunch and this touristy place – it was just ok with MTV blaring. We shared this pizza and left straight away –

Venice

We then got on a vaporetto and headed out to one of the most interesting places I have visited. The cemetery!

The main cemetery for Venice is located on an island that is just one whole cemetary. There is a church there and a caretakers cottage but that was it. We were not permitted to take photos which is understandable – but this place was unbelievable to visit. From the number of graves of religious to the serenity of the grounds. Of course, if you visit any cemetary you will see that many Italian graves will have a photo of the person. This is what kept us at the cemetary for so long – rather than just seeing names you are seeing the faces of the people that have died – young, old – it didn’t matter. There was always a story to read. Some graves were amazing. There was one girl who was a dancer, there were amazing family chapels and rosary beads left hanging over so many tombstones. If you are ever in Venice, you really must visit it. I couldn’t wait to visit the church but unfortunately, it is only open for a short time in the morning. As we spent way longer there than we envisaged, we quickly jumped back on the vaporetto and headed to the glassmaking island, Murano. Here we wandered around in the afternoon sun.

This is the view looking back to il cimetero

Il cimetero

Il cimetero

When we got to Murano, it was so peaceful and idyllic and we wandered into another church –

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Shopping wise, I bought a pair of earrings and Bill got a pair of cufflinks. Here are some other photos from the beautiful island –

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

Murano, Venice

We then got on the vaporetto again to go back to Venice proper. We walked for what seemed like miles. First, I took Bill to San Geremia, where the relics of St Lucy are. It was a busier than usual church because of St Lucy, but still a peaceful retreat from outside.

San Geremia

Across from the church is the place where I stayed when Fiona and I were backpacking in Venice, Alloggi Gerotto Calderan.

Alloggi Gerotto Calderan

I quickly emailed Fiona with a picture of where we spent our time – it is awesome being able to share things instantly with friends and family while away!

By this time we were hungry and it was time to search for dinner. I suggested we just walk until we found something. We did and we found nothing appealing – we wanted to find some small. Something that didn’t have an English menu… just somewhere cute. I pulled out my guide and it had a recommendation for a place that served basic fare but had a good atmosphere for locals. I can’t even remember what it was called now. So we walked. And walked. And walked. We got lost in a myriad of little walkways. Somehow we were stuck in a neighbourhood and kept walking around in circles. I ended up stomping my foot and threw some kind of “Let’s just forget getting dinner and go back!” tantrum when we decided to give it another go. Eventually, we found it and getting lost was actually fun because we saw so much of the lovely neighbourhood in that district!

While wandering, here was some of what we saw.

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venetian Fire Engine –

Venice

Tobacco vending machines in the street –

Venice

NYC Crispy at a McDonalds!

Venice

A casino –

Venice

Most random product I saw on the trip was… Australian Kraft Block Cheddar (my favorite cheese in the entire world) for sale in a speciality store. Strange!

Venice

Dinner though – oh my gosh. It was terrible. We were so hungry we would’ve eaten anything. But check out this… blah. This was reheated in a microwave. So much for guidebook recommendations. Sigh.

Venice

Venice

Venice

After that meal, we hopped on the vaporetto, cruising down the Grand Canal in the dark – the lights from the restaurants and homes along the water were sparkling on the water. It was such a full day, but so great to just take in Venice at night.

We grabbed some gelato (which was not just any gelato… it was KIT KAT GELATO) and headed back to Don Orione in the peace and quiet of the surrounding neighborhood. Gorgeous!

Venice

Aug 05 2012
0

Oh Venezia!

Venice was everything I loved and remembered!

It was great to have it as our rest stop after such a crazy time in Rome. We were able to just wander around and really take it easy and have as much of a r est – we were exhausted when we got there. The only disappointing aspect was the food. Venetian food just cannot compare after the wonderful meals we had in Rome.

After we checked in to Don Orione and had a rest, we decided to head out and wander around the vicinity of Don Orione to get our bearings and get some dinner. In typical Venetian fashion, we walked so far out of our way but it was so peaceful and enjoyable – you can just walk and walk and walk.

Firstly, we checked our the church that was next to Don Orione, Santa Maria del Rosario. Oh my goodness – it was absolutely spectacular. Remember – this is a normal everyday parish for people. Can you imagine going here for Mass? I know!

Santa Maria del Rosario, Venice

Santa Maria del Rosario, Venice

Santa Maria del Rosario, Venice

Santa Maria del Rosario, Venice

View from the front door, looking out –

Santa Maria del Rosario, Venice

We hadn’t got far when we arrived at the BILLA supermarket. The name alone drew us in! Visiting another supermarket was fun… but then we reached the meat area. Ewww. They sell horse. We had to take some photos. Here are horse burgers –

Equine for dinner?

Shredded horse –

Equine for dinner?

Horse steak –

Equine for dinner?

Sliced horse –

Equine for dinner?

We kept walking, down little walkways, over tiny bridges and started to look for a restaurant. We then stumbled upon a place called Osteria 1518.

Bill and I are so alike… we both do not like al fresco dining at restaurants but for this, we took a chance. It was just near a cute little square in a quiet walkway.

Here was the view from our table –

View from Osteria 1518

View from Osteria 1518

Our first Venetian dinner –

Osteria 1518

Osteria 1518

Osteria 1518

While we were eating, the weather changed drastically and the wind picked up substantially. There were a few drops of rain but then a huge gust of wind blew away chairs from a nearby restaurant. All of a sudden we were getting covered in a dusty dirt/sand mix. It was awful! Luckily, we had just taken our last bite of dinner so we retreated inside. The service at this restaurant was pretty bad so we hung out there for a while until the storm passed and then quickly left.

We walked around the back canal area and it had some gorgeous views –

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Venice

Gondola repairs –

Venice

Of course, we also had to try some gelato!

Venice

Venice

We slowly meandered back for an early night and thankfully the storm that night was the only bout of bad weather we had while in Venice!

Jul 19 2012
0

AALL Boston – I am there! #aall12

I know it has been ages since my last update – I really have to get on to documenting the rest of Europe. This is even more of a priority since last week we booked to return to Rome in February next year. Oops! We couldn’t help ourselves. We love Rome so much – we are already counting down until we get there!

But in other news of a more library nature, a few months ago, I was awarded an LLAGNY Travel Grant to attend the AALL Annual Conference in Boston. Yes, I know… OHMYGOSH! I screamed when I got the email.. I am SO excited!

AALL Boston

This is my first big American conference. I have been to LegalTech twice but to me, that was almost more of a sales conference and it didn’t have a library focus. The AALL is HUGE and time has flown by so quickly, I cannot believe that we leave for Boston on Saturday!

You can see my conference schedule here. Hopefully the WiFi will be exceptional and I will have no trouble securing a powerpoint so I can live blog away.

No doubt I will be also thinking about all the amazing NLS conferences back in Australia and all the happy memories there. I hope that I manage to make some wonderful contacts… I was so lucky that my involvement in ALIA was the basis of so many friendships I still hold today.

AALL being in Boston is a big time bonus. I love Boston SO much. When I moved over here, I always envisaged that I would stay in New York for a year and then head to Boston. Well little did I know that Bill would make me an offer I could not refuse! 😉 Instead of organizing my things for the conference, I’ve been reminiscing about Boston memories. The first time I visited Faneuil Hall, eating clam chowder at Legal Seafoods, my first Nantucket Nectar, riding the T, the Freedom Trail, my first visit to Fenway, when I spent St Patrick’s Day 2006 at a Dropkick Murphys concert with Amy… I love it all!! I am really looking forward to being at such a great event in a great city! Now.. some flashbacks!

Here I am on my first visit to Boston in 1999 where I fell in love with all things Beantown!

Harvard

Then again in 2002..

Salem

Then again in 2005..

Jenelle the Celtic

Then again in 2006.. where I spent time behind the scenes at the JFK Library and Museum and also the Harvard Law Library. It was an AMAZING visit!

JFK Library & Museum

Then again in 2009..

Boston

Boston

Then again in 2011.. this time in North Cambridge!

North Cambridge

Jul 04 2012
1

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Quite simply, our accommodation in Venice was fantastic. The Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli is such a great place to stay – it isn’t fancy, it isn’t a hostel but in my opinion, it is a great option in Venice where accommodation can be so expensive. The history of the building is amazing and there are plenty of books and artefacts displayed around the place that celebrate this. Staying here, we also learnt a lot about Saint Luigi Orione (Don Orione) as well!

Our room was beautiful – as in beautifully sparse. I loved it! It was absolutely spotless, with plenty of space and allowed us to really feel like we were in a different country! Bill found it a bit disconcerting to have no TV or radio – he seems to like them on for ‘background’ noise. Thankfully, we had bought a small travel speaker. At night I would plug in my iPhone to the speaker so we could have some soft background music while we were reading.

Even with the lack of TV or radio, it was easy to relax and rejuvenate after a busy day. The room had shutters so we would keep the windows open at night and that would allow our room to be comfortably cool. At 7am we would be woken by the bells of the church next door, Santa Maria del Rosario. You can listen to them here –

The bells would also ring at noon and at 8pm. Church bells ringing is one of my favourite aspects of visiting Italy. I can never get enough of them.. even at 7am!

Here is a view of the church from afar, our accommodation was located at the back of it.

Here is our room –

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

View from our window –

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

We had a great breakfast each morning that was included in our stay. Rolls, jam, pastries, juice, cereal – it was the perfect way to get a head start on the day

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

The hallways has various commmon areas, shared book cases etc –

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Downstairs area –

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli

I would not hesitate to stay here again – it would be first on my list. The location is amazing on a beautiful square (Campo Sant’Agnese) and close to the Accademia and Zattere vaporetto stops. It is in a lovely quiet area that was still close to everything. We had restaurants and gelato nearby and just a few steps away was the magnificent Santa Maria del Rosario. It couldn’t have been better!

Jun 20 2012
0

Roma – Venezia #blogjune

Termini

We got to Termini time for our train to Venice on the Frecciargento train. Train travel is just awesome in Europe and makes everything so easy.

It was such a fast AND smooth trip. I slept for a couple of hours! One highlight was the little refreshments cart that came down the train aisle. It had a built in espresso machine! So Bill got a coffee and we shared a packet of Italian cookies and watched the Italian countryside roll by.

Train to Venice

The trains were very modern and clean. This is what the seats looked like in our carriage –

Untitled

Train to Venice

They go so fast and yet, hardly any bumps. My ears regularly popped when we were going through the mountains – it is a great way to travel!

Untitled

We arrived at the Venice – Santa Lucia station and took our time walking to the vaporetto. We picked up a Venice pass which enabled us to have unlimited vaporetto trips for our whole stay there. This was great just for convenience – we never had to worry about buying tickets.

Our accomodation was near the Accademmia vaporetto stop so we got to cruise down the Grand Canal and see Venice in all its glory. I got chatting to a girl from Australia who was originally from Bathurst and was studying in Florence. Her boyfriend had just flown from Bathurst to meet her – he had never been overseas before and you could tell he was slightly overwhelmed by everything!

Even with our suitcases, the vaporetto was an easy trip and we were lucky that from the Accademia stop to our accomodation we didn’t have to go over any bridges – a straight run!

Imagine getting off a train, hopping on a vaporetto and this is your view?

It was great to be back in Venice!

Jun 19 2012
0

A supermarket adventure and dinner… #blogjune

After our full day on the Scavi tour and at the Vatican museums, it was time for some downtime for our last night in Rome.

We just wanted to go to a nearby restaurant and have an easy dinner and an early night. Bill also thought it would be fun to go to an Italian supermarket and also pick up some snacks for our train trip the next day. So that was the plan!

The supermarket was a cute little community one like an Australian IGA or the small Associated we have in our neighbourhood. This was so much fun and we just had to share some of the photos we took in there!

The Deli –

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Smurfs were everywhere!

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Some familiar things –

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Chocolate pasta anyone?

Italian Supermarket

Italian lollies –

Italian Supermarket

The refrigerated section provided some entertainment!

WUDY! What an awesome brand name –

Italian Supermarket

BIGGY!

Italian Supermarket

Italian ‘snackables’ –

Italian Supermarket

Pronti in 5 minuti!

Italian Supermarket

For Steve and Colette!

Italian Supermarket

Pasta heaven –

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Italian Supermarket

Béchamel sauce in a tetra pack! GENIUS!

Italian Supermarket

Is it just for Big Americans?!

Italian Supermarket

I don’t think anyone paid any attention to the sign –

Italian Supermarket

The line to get to the checkout… we just hung out by the freezer for a while!

Italian Supermarket

I wanted to walk out of the door with the whole Kinder display –

Italian Supermarket

We then popped in to the restaurant around the corner for some dinner. We thought it looked touristy but all we were thinking was food and then bed. It was a FANTASTIC meal! We were so surprised – it was a great way to end our time in Rome. It may not have been the coolest place but wow – the food was great.. and cheap!

Here is our dinner at Ristorante ‘Steak House’. Now you can understand why we thought it would be an average meal.

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

This pizza was absolutely amazing –

Ristorante 'Steak House'

And so was this carbonara –

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

Ristorante 'Steak House'

We then headed back to Domus for our last night. Some last minute packing and getting our things in order was all that was needed before we drifted off before our early morning wake up for our train to Venice.

Jun 18 2012
0

Monday in Rome #blogjune

On Monday it was another early morning as it was time for a Scavi Tour. We had to be back at St Peter’s at 8.30am! Yep – back to St Peter’s AGAIN! The Scavi Tour can be extremely difficult to get tickets to – only a small amount of people are able to tour the excavations on any day. Because we knew our dates so far in advance, this wasn’t a problem for us. Also – this is different to visiting the catacombs – a lot of people get these tours mixed up! We could not take photos so I cannot share anything but my memories with you.

We got to the St Peter’s and had to go through security in another ‘secret’ side entrance.

Going on the Scavi

Scavi Office

There, we started chatting to a couple from Ohio who had tried for their past four trips to Rome to get on a Scavi tour – it is that sought after!

I would probably say that it was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had travelling. We were in a small group of ten and were led through dark, narrow corridors of the necropolis under St Peters – you can view the map here.

Our tour guide was a sensitive, intelligent theologian who led us through and explained clearly what we were seeing. It then ends up, he has written a whole book on the area and was an expert on the excavation, so it was even more wonderful that he was able to explain everything to us in a way we could understand. The tour itself went for about an hour and a half. We kept going through the dark, damp underground area and then came out in a chapel area. This chapel (later found out it is called the Clementine Chapel) was entirely covered in gold with a few small kneelers and an altar.

Here is a photo from the web of the Clementine Chapel –

Our guide gave an explanation of the chapel and then led us up some metal side stairs and into a darkened stone room that had glass on one side looking at some rubble. It was here he explained if we looked closely into the rubble we would see bones and these were the bones of Saint Peter himself. It was chilling and I got goosebumps when he said it then, there was just emotion. He then asked us all to bow our heads for a prayer. Here we were, steps a way from St Peter’s remains. It is something we will always remember. I just held Bill’s hand and we were led out of the room. You do not have to be Catholic to go and do a scavi tour or anything like that but it was such a powerful experience that we were speechless. We then walked back into the Clementine Chapel and then we realized when we turned around that we were. Where were right below the cupola in the middle of the Basilica. The phrase “Upon this rock…” came to life right there.

We were led up a small staircase and up to the middle of the Basilica where our tour ended.

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter's Basilica

We walked around and tried to comprehend what we just experienced but we really couldn’t. The pangs started happening at that point where I was fretting at having to leave Rome. We needed more time but we didn’t have it.

St Peter's Basilica

After this, we went at posted some postcards at the Vatican Post Office and then made out way back into the town to have another look around.

Vatican Post

Streets of Rome

We went to the Gammarelli shop and picked up a couple of pairs of socks for our two Fr Joe’s and then we saw a church across the square from the shop.

Gammarelli

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

As we had got into the habit of doing, we went inside for a look. The church was Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. This church was dark and gothic and there was hardly anyone in there. I walked up to the altar and saw a tomb. On closer inspection I nearly fainted. It was the tomb of St Catherine of Siena. My confirmation saint. It was too much to even comprehend when I saw her tomb was open – because it had been her feast day the day before. I was able to go in and pray over her tomb – it was just too much!

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

All of this in a little neighbourhood church!! Even just typing about it now gives me chills. We spent a long time in that church full of strange plaques and displays… here are some.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Blurred –

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Side chapel –

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

We then went to a quick place for lunch and to rest our feet… gnocchi time! We stopped at a touristy little place called Trattoria Di Torre Argentina.

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

Chocolate Mousse was more like a cold fudge –

Trattoria Di Torre Argentina

As we spent longer than expected lazing around at lunch we ended up getting a cab back to the Vatican as we had a 2pm guided tour of the Vatican Museums. As we crossed the river and around the back streets alongside the Vatican walls we could see an ongoing queue of people. I think there was easily 15,000 people LINING up to get in to the museums. This is only part of the line –

Line to the Vatican

Seriously! To make it worse, it was already 1.30pm – these people had NO HOPE of getting in and yet, there they were lining up. This was most probably because it was the May Day public holiday on Tuesday and the Museums would be closed. So those who were in Rome for a short time had no other choice but to try and get in to the Vatican on that day. The thing that baffled me was there was guided tour groups lining up in this line. What kind of tour guide and/or tour company makes people who are visiting Rome spend half of their time lining up in obscene queues in hot weather? I can only feel for these people, probably on a trip of a lifetime and spending all of their timing lining up in endless queues. It is awful and tour companies should know better. We booked our place beforehand so just walked right in. It was absolute scenes of madness in the ticketing area. There were people everywhere. Bill and I found a corner and waited for our tour to start.

We had another great tour guide but the conditions were awful. There were so many people in the museum we couldn’t move through the areas easily and came to a lot of traffic jams that resulted in long waits just to move.

Vatican Museum

The hot conditions in the museum itself were awful. We were basically dripping with sweat and people were pushing to get their way through – it was difficult to enjoy the surrounds.

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

View through a window –

Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

When we got to the Sistine Chapel the madness continued. Despite signs everywhere saying SILENZIO! Many people find it impossible to be silent for even five minutes and continued to chat. This resulted in the guards constantly shouting “SHHHHH!” “QUIET!” To make it worse – a lot of the offenders were TOUR GUIDES. It was infuriating and the lack of respect or care by the people in there was making my blood boil. The experience was ruined. I had already seen it before, but I was disappointed for Bill. SIGH! Our guide was actually respectful (being an actual Vatican guide) and explained aspects of the Sistine Chapel to us at the start of the tour using these boards as guides. It is a shame that the shoddy guides don’t use this method as well –

Vatican Museum

At least we can say we were both there, together but when we go back to Rome, hopefully the museums will be a little bit less stressful!

When we left we headed straight back to the hotel for a little downtime before dinner and some adventures at an Italian supermarket!

Jun 17 2012
0

The Blevins and the Pope #blogjuine

Our alarm went off at 5.30am on Sunday morning and we had no problem getting up at all! We were off to Mass at St Peter’s but this wasn’t just any Mass. Pope Benedict was presiding and the Mass included the ordinations of new priests. WHOA!

Before bed, we got all of our clothes and things ready. I checked my purse ten times to make sure we had our tickets! When we went down to the Domus Lobby, they called us a cab and gave us our packed breakfast. They even took a photo of us –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

I was actually nervous as we were in the car… but it was beautiful driving through the empty streets in the morning sun. Everything was beautifully illuminated and peaceful.

Morning sun at St Peter’s –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

When we got to St Peter’s there was already a line of people. Mass wasn’t starting until 9am and we got in the line promptly at 7am. Then we just had to wait it out.

In the queue –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

By about 7.45 the line through security was moving. We just held hands and said “Let’s do this!” and off we went. We entered the Basilica and the sun shining from behind us was almost blinding. People moved swiftly and what surprised me most was that we could choose our own seats!

So here we were, 21 rows back from the main altar AND we were sitting on the aisle. We would get to see everything! I was in shock that we were able to sit so close and I kept thinking someone, somewhere would be coming up to tell us we would have to move but that didn’t happen. Before we left, I bought us two Italian – English missals so we could follow along but we didn’t need them as we all got beautiful Mass books just for the occasion. We will always treasure them!

Everyone getting seated –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

The pews started filling and I started chatting (as well as we could understand each other) to the lady beside me. Her brother was a priest and would be in the main procession. I was so excited for her and she was very excited to have New Yorkers beside her. The excitement in the air could be felt by anyone there and it was wonderful to see so many different people – young familes, the elderly, nuns, tourists, locals – all together in one place.

Here we are all settled and excited –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Before Mass there was a recitation of the Rosary in Italian and then we all waited patiently. The procession was amazing. I have never seen so many priests in my life – there were hundreds of them.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Then, surrounded by clouds of incense, we could see Pope Benedict in the distance.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

I couldn’t even speak. As his platform moved slowly down the aisle you could hear the gasps of people – just honored to be in his presence. When he came near us, he was close enough that I could have reached out to him. It was one of those moments that you can’t really believe what you are seeing.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

A few things – he is A LOT shorter than I envisaged him. He is tiny! He is also very tanned – I didn’t expect that. He was also a lot more mobile that I expected. It is known that he suffers from severe arthritis but honestly, you couldn’t tell. He looked great. I was so transfixed on looking at him and with the shock of seeing him I didn’t even get a good picture of him arriving. I thought Bill would have but.. he had the same issue as I did!

Before we knew it, the Swiss Guards were standing in place and it was time for Mass to begin. I was able to follow along a lot easier than Bill because I have some knowledge of Italian.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Funnily enough, mum was watching at home on EWTN online and she was getting a full explanation of everything that was going on and what he was saying in his homily! We had programmed our Tivo to record it on EWTN so we were able to come home and watch that broadcast.

For the new priests, the ordination ceremony is extremely moving. They pledge to obey, they lay on the floor, they are blessed – it was very moving but somewhat celebratory after all of their study and preparation – today was their day!

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

The music was spectacular and the choir sung beautifully. On the other hand, Communion was the craziest scene I have ever witnessed in a church! A priest was assigned to distribute communion to two rows each. But, they did this while standing in the aisle facing us who were sitting and facing the altar. So first up was Bill, as he was sitting against the guard that was blocking us from the aisle. He stood up and received and I crept around him when it was my turn. We ended up having to walk back to the end of our row of seats while the others in our row went up for communtion. The problem was all of this movement was taking place in a tiny space – it was chaos! Also, with no kneelers it was strange to just sit back down straight afterwards!

The Mass went for nearly over two hours. Then it came time for the recessional. WOW. We actually managed to get a few good photos of Il Papa! It all went so quickly but the recessional was beautiful and full of joy!

And look – we got some good photos of him as he was leaving!

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

More of the spectacular recessional –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

You can actually see the whole Mass online here
Read Pope Benedict’s homily here

After a while of sitting there thinking “Whoa – what did we just experience?” it was time to go outside. When we stepped out a lot of the fellow worshippers were mingling out the front of St Peter’s – just like what normally happens at every parish on a Sunday. Then we looked out ahead and there were thousands and thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

Ohhhh look Vatican tape –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

And… trying to move the crowd on –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

There was the huge sitting area that was empty between us and them. They were all waiting to see the Pope appear from his apartment window for the Regina Caeli. As he normally doesn’t actually perform that many Masses, he always says the Sunday Angelus/Regina Caeli from his window. We were SO fortunate to be present for both!

Here he is –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

For the Regina Caeli, everyone prays and then also reads a message. It was a great way to finish off a very memorable morning. He read the part about to English speaking visitors in English so we could understand part of the message! It was fun to read what he said later and to know that he finished with “I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday!” Awww!

Here we are – still basking in the excitement of our unforgettable morning –

Papal Mass - St Peter's Basilica

See the video here
Read his message here

The crowds were so large and getting back to Domus was going to be an issue. We were lucky enough to get a cab and got back to Domus very quickly as the buses were not running frequently and the lines were so long. We were exhausted so we decided to try and have a nap to refresh ourselves before heading back out to our afternoon activity.

I had booked tickets to see Lux in Arcana – the special Vatican archives exhibition at Musei Capiolini. By the time we got there, it was PACKED. We had pre-booked tickets so we thought we would be able to just walk straight up and collect them. Unfortunately not. I asked two people and they just said “Ticket booth!” The line for the ticket booth was about 30 minutes long. I couldn’t believe I went to the trouble of booking in advance to still have to line up! One thing that made it easier was we got talking to the couple in front of us who were from Memphis. We all chatted away for the whole time and then, when we got to the ticket booth we saw a sign for pre-booked tickets. We could’ve skipped the line after all but we couldn’t get close enough to the booth to see the sign! Sheesh! Anyway, we got into the exhibition and again it was packed and again, it was hot. I couldn’t really enjoy it as I think by it being after 5pm I was now jut too tired to enjoy anything and seriously what could top the morning activities?! We ended up staying in the museum for a while but did spend a lot of time on the rooftop. It was so peaceful and it offered us such a beautiful view of the city… I could have stayed there forever!

View from Musei Capitolini

View from Musei Capitolini

View from Musei Capitolini

From where we were standing there were church bells ringing everywhere. When I get the video uploaded I will post it separately.

I wish I got to take more at the exhibition as some of the artefacts on display were absolutely amazing, but by the time we left (and Bill had heard me say a million times “I love it here – I want to stay forever!”) we were starving as we had skipped lunch. So we wandered around and ended up back at… Abruzzi!

Before we sat down for dinner, we went and spent time in Santi Apostoli. This was a very dark church inside – it was almost spooky! We went down to the crypt are and this was the view looking up –

Santi Apostoli

Santi Apostoli

The altar under the church –

Santi Apostoli

Relics of St Philip –

Santi Apostoli

The church was magnificent and there was hardly anyone there as we were visiting so late.. it was perfect!

We wandered across the square to Abruzzi. Again, everything we ordered was absolutely amazing.. my mouth is watering just thinking about it while I type this. It was the best lasagne I have ever eaten!

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

Abruzzi

After dinner we went for a walk.. it was such a beautiful night and walking around the quiet back streets was a great way to end the day.

We came across the Pontifical University –

Pontifical University

Streets of Rome

Streets of Rome

Streets of Rome

Streets of Rome

We had no idea where we were going but Bill asked if we were close to the Trevi fountain. I said there was no way we could be but.. before we knew it we were there!

That REALLY is the color of the sky!

Trevi Fountain

And it was here that we took the most touristy/creepy photos EVER –

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Then… romance!

Trevi Fountain

Now.. here I was 13 years ago. I threw a coin into the fountain and well.. I really did make it back!

At the Trevi Fountain

We walked away knowing that we really didn’t need to throw a coin into the Trevi to hope that we would be returning to Rome.. we knew that someday we would definitely be back. Without a doubt!

Jun 16 2012
0

Domus Australia #blogjune

Our accomodation in Rome was at Domus Australia.

It was the most unbelievable accomodation and an absolutelty wonderful experience to stay in such a beautiful place. It was just perfect!

I first saw mention of Domus when we dropped into St Patrick’s in Gundagai – there was a brochure on a table. I picked it up and thought nothing of it until we returned to New York and remembered the brochure. I checked out the website online and Domus wasn’t even open yet! But it would blessed by Pope Benedict and open by the time we were planning to go… so as soon as we had dates, I booked.

You don’t need to be Australian to stay there… in fact there were a fair few Italian people there at the same time as us. The location is awesome – close to Termini but far enough away to feel like a normal neighbourhood. Everything is new and spotlessly clean. The beds are comfy and the bathrooms are HUGE.

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

View from our room –

Domus Australia

They also provide breakfast. An included breakfast is something that I really look for in accommodation as it can help save time and money and really helps to get your day started off on a good note! For Italy, an included breakfast normally means a roll and some cheese or cereal. Not at Domus… eggs, bacon, baked beans, lamingtons, cheese, cold cuts, coffee, juice, yoghurt – this is definitely not the norm!

Breakfast at Domus

Breakfast at Domus

Breakfast at Domus

Breakfast at Domus

Then there is the Chapel of Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary and Saint Peter Chanel. It was breathtaking – from the portrait of Mary McKillop to the portrait of Mary with the Southern Cross in the background. Nothing was overlooked and it offers a place of peace in such a busy city. Going to Mass there was intimate and and yet, familiar. The restoration is absolutely beautiful.

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

Chapel - Domus Australia

The Rector of Domus is Father Anthony from Melbourne. He is also a Pies supporter and is studying in Rome at the moment. How he gets the time to do all he does, I have absolutely no idea! But, it was like staying with family. Everyone was so nice!

This is what is looks like from the street –

Domus Australia

This is the view looking up towards our room –

Domus Australia

The beautiful al fresco dining area and water feature – beautiful chance for quiet reflection!

Domus Australia

Looking down to the dining room –

Domus Australia

The walkway to the accommodation –

Domus Australia

The attention to detail and planning of Domus has been amazing. An example was our floor was named after former Bishop for the Diocese of Sandhurst, Bishop Grech. For that connection our hallway was full of historical photos of churches from around the Bendigo region.

Domus Australia

Domus Australia

Many of the Australia dioceses have contributed to the development of Domus and there are tokens of appreciation everywhere. To tie in with this, in the foyer there are beautiful pictures and information of prominent Australian Catholics. You can see how this is unlike staying in a random hotel or apartment… Domus offers so much!

On our first morning, we were at breakfast and looked up and Cardinal Pell was there having breakfast at the next table! We told him how appreciative we were of his work to make Domus happen and how impressed we were with everything. Later on after Mass one night, he blessed all of our medals, prayer cards etc for us. It was truly humbling!

The staff at Domus were exceptional. Every question we had was answered wtih a smile and they provided a great amount of useful resources – not just stacks of touristy brochures. They are all locals but they really do ‘get’ the Australian thing. On the morning that we were going to the Papal Mass at St Peter’s the kitchen packed a to-go bag of breakfast goodies which came in very handy seeing as we were there for so long.

Apart from the Italians also staying there, there was also a group of Australian travelers who had just been to Anzac Cove and were on a bit of a pilgrimage. Cardinal Pell spent a whole evening with them all downstairs in the dining area having a great time! I am sure it will be something they will always remember!

I cannot recommend Domus highly enough. Speaking to other people we met along the way and hearing about their tiny rooms and lack of breakfast… we knew we had come across something great. It is a credit to Cardinal Pell, all of the Bishops who supported this and all of the Australian parishioners that made this happen. We know that it was part of the reason we loved Rome so much and we cannot wait to get back there. It really did feel like home!