Another nice day (weather) … 1/2 hour walk to visit Galleria dell’Academia to see Michelangelo’s David in the “flesh” …17 feet high, gleaming white, with a halo-like dome over his head … a must-see when one comes to Florence … again, no photography allowed … you’ll have to come see for yourself.
Next, the first visit to a street market … kept our valuables close … lot’s of leather goods & scarfs … prices do not compare to China … crowded with tourists!
Lunch … met two interesting gals … widows we think … sisters (Pat & Janet) … Pat admitted to be 78 … traveling together, driving a car through Italy, France & Switzerland !!! … (gave Mel a shot of courage to start the drive to Como on Friday). they were a couple interesting gals to share ‘adventure travel tales.’
Then Karen says “let’s go down on the Plaza and people-watch’ … found a spot to sit (crowded) … soon we were chatting with a couple from eastern Oregon ‘farm country’ (Paul & Marge) … they just returned from a visit with their daughter in Milan, Italy … stopped by Florence to take in the culture.
Also chatted with an American couple from New Jersey visiting Florence while on a land tour of Italy (Globus Tour Company).
The people-watch continued and soon we were in a discussion with a cute petite gal (Molly) sitting alone next to us … she recently graduated from Washington University … degree in Environmental Organic Farming … she came to Italy alone for a few months to do volunteer work with the World Organic Farming organization … learn more about organic farming … just finished a week picking grapes … wasn’t sure what’s next or where she would be staying. We asked how her parents felt about this adventure … “they hate it … Mom calls me everyday asking if I’m OK & where next.” She seemed a bit lonely but eager to get to the next chapter in her adventure. Mel felt she wanted to chat with a “father-figure” … a warm conversation then said our goodbyes and she quickly faded into the crowd of tourists.
Evening and time for a guided wine tasting tour. Met our guide, Suzy … turns out we were the only customers so we had a private tour. Met Suzy on the Bridge and walked to the West Bank area … rarely visited by tourists … many academics and international graduate students live here … kind of a “Starbucks” feeling without the glitz … Suzy was born and raised right here … took her education in France, Germany & England … dearly loves Florence and one believes she will never live anywhere else. Enjoyed good wine, warm conversation … made the evening fly by!
Stockholm is a city that enchants with its historic buildings, and narrow cobblestone streets. Everywhere there are bridges spanning the waterways that divide the city. Spread over multiple islands, hop on hop off water ferries are a great way to explore.
The historic center is called Gamla Stan. No visit here would be complete without a stop at the Vasa Museum. Housed in this museum is an original warship from 1628. Salvaged in 1961, this historic ship actually sunk on her maiden voyage due to design flaws. Visitors can get an up close look at this one of a kind piece of history, and learn more about that era. Tours are available in English.
The changing of the guard is another enjoyable pastime here. Watch as the horses get so close you can almost reach out and touch them.
For kids, there is a large amusement park called Grona Lund, with lots of rides and shows.
If you are arriving by cruise here is the wikiport information.
Cruise passengers need to know there are two HO HO ferries that depart from the cruise pier. Of those, Stromma has the easier to navigate site in English. The other Ressel shows a schedule(circle line pdf) for the other ferry, but not much else in English.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the ferries go in different directions, so you must plan how you will visit the different stops. Make sure that the ferry you choose, goes in the direction you need, to return to the cruise pier before the ship departs.
Here is one last helpful post about the ferry boats:
No matter what you choose to do, there is lots of sites to see in Stockholm.
Goal of the day – drive completely around Lake Garda … ~70 miles … sounds like a ‘piece-of-cake’ but factor in the roads … VERY narrow … a challenge greater or equal to “Tail-of-the-Dragon” in N. Carolina (Mel’s Biker Buds understand … 318 turns in 11 miles) … ‘get the picture?’ … FUN!
Every village having it’s own ‘character’ and endless, breathless scenic spots. We could bore anyone to tears with all the pictures we captured today. So, we want to focus on what is considered the prettiest spot on Lake Garda … Punta San Vigilio. The walk from the road is a ‘tree tunnel’ of huge cypress (approximately 90′ tall … see photo giving specs of one that was blown over Aug. 1995) … then walk the cobblestone, walled entrance to find a restaurant of tables atop the seawall that provides private docking. We had to have a cappuccino and soak in the grandeur.
Another stop of mention, Riva del Garda … northern tip of the Lake … backdrop of jagged cliffs and beaches … due to the wind currents has become a mecca for wind surfers and sailing schools … definitely a resort town.
From Riva del Garda to Tignale the road climbs to 2,000′ providing more spectacular views of the Lake. The travel guide warns the road can test even the most experienced drivers … BELIEVE THAT WARNING! … but what fun !!!
We highly recommend a visit to Lake Garda … not eager to leave.
Sorrento is a great home base to explore the Amalfi Coast. From you can explore both Amalfi and Ravello or even Positano, as well as the island of Capri. Transportation is available by either the local SITA Bus or by ferry.
The local SITA Bus runs from in front of the local train station two times per hour, head to Positano, and continue to Amalfi. From there you can connect to other cities. Tickets are euro 1,40 to 2,50 per leg, or you can get a day pass for the Amalfi Coast for euro 6 per 24 hour period.
In Amalfi the cathedral, with its distinctive stripes, was built in the 10th century, although the facade has been rebuilt as recently as the 19th century. Rest on the front steps, or pay the entrance fee to explore the interior. The charming winding streets are full of shops of all kinds, and around every corner something new to discover.
Another SITA bus takes you up the winding hillside to the sleepy town of Ravello. Here you are rewarded with sweeping views of the sea. Nearby, for a few euros explore the Villa Rufolo, and the surrounding gardens. Outdoor cafes’ invite you to sit a while and soak up the ambiance.
Getting There: Daytona to Atlanta to Paris To Florience to the Piazza della Signoria in only 19 hours, completely on schedule. Greeted by a sunny day with a high of 78.
Lodging – Relais Uffizi, right on the main square. In Renaissance times, where citizens pioneered the radical notion of self-rule! Getting to our room was a challenge: 4 bags, 50 lbs. each plus backpacks and no direct elevator to our floor. Traverse two flights of stairs, 17 steps each! Mel not happy, wants a USA chain hotel.
Off immediately to tour, and soon became aware of the World Bicyclists Championship is underway with Florence being a major point in the races (each day for a week)
The event has many tourists in town. So, we decided to stay close and visit some of the interest points on our square (plaza)
First the Palazzo Vecchio, a fortified palace once the home of Florence’s ruling Medici family, then served as Town Hall and where David (statue) stood until 1873. Today is the office of the City Mayor.
Next, walked to the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, formerly where butcher shops stood end-to-end (scraps tossed into the River Arno) then along came the Medicis and replaced the butchers with jewelry shops. This is the only bridge in Florence to survive destruction in WWII.
Savored our first Italian meal-a pizza for lunch on the main square. With our batteries recharged and off to tour the Uffizi (oo-Feed-zee) Museum, said to have the world’s greatest collection of Italian paintings. Sorry, none of the exhibits allow photography.
Restaurants open for dinner at 7 PM, we walked around shopping for a nice place, found a sidewalk “Spaghettiria” MMmmmm … then soon after seating met a cool Chinese couple at the next table (close) … on their honeymoon … she was a China-Air flight attendant (spoke good English) … don’t know much about him (no speak English, but he did understand) … they are from a rural area ~1 1/2 hours from Hong Kong … what a delight to chat with them … we all laughed a lot.
The wine & carbs plus travel got to us and we turned-in following dinner.
Arrived Sirmione (Lake Garda) midday … a paradise indeed !!! … the lake is ‘pear shaped’ … 30 miles N/S, 10 miles E/W, crystal clear water … Sirmionne is on a tiny peninsula at the lake’s south end … Auroa Hotel is very contemporary, beautiful place.
Afternoon walk Hotel to Castello Scaligero … about 20 min. … Castle built early 1400’s … originally a Roman resort, now an upscale tourist location … the sidewalk to the castle lined with roses and giant oak trees … you must cross a tiny drawbridge to pass through the Castle to the area of sidewalk cafes, jewelry shops, whatnots (China exports) & gelato stands.
Had another pasta lunch … decided to ‘take-in’ the beauty of the Lake & surroundings … sat on a bench with another couple watching the Lake … Karen soon heard them speaking English (the first we heard today) … she struck up a conversation … it’s Bob & Bobby from Marin County (north of San Francisco) … this is a very special trip for Bobby since she just “beat” lung cancer! … they’re world travelers but have been on hold for quite some time as she fought her cancer … they just finished 10 days in Rome and will go on to Venice next … they were a lovely couple to engage in an afternoon chat … they have a revised and long “Bucket List” of travel plans.
As we walked the beautiful street back to our hotel, we felt good and so very lucky to be here enjoying this day. We decided to have dinner at our hotel on the outdoor patio overlooking the Lake, and just take it easy for the evening.
A Baltic cruise features so many great destinations, it is hard to choose a favorite. Before your visit, this port is typically unknown to American visitors, but afterwards, it’s hard not to choose this as your favorite. Easy to reach, the historic center is just a short stroll from where the ship docks. As you wander through the city, around every turn are sidewalk cafes, and buildings from centuries past, as if time has stood still.
The capital and largest city in Estonia, the old town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buildings here date back as far as the 13th century. A simple stroll through the old town will reveal buildings from multiple centuries, with something new to discover everywhere. Tourist information can be found here.
Once two separate towns , the upper town was once home to Roman Catholic bishops and the Chivalry of Estonia.
The lower town is one of the best preserved old towns in Europe, with many walls and towers still intact.
Tours are available detailing the towns historic past. Whether you take a tour, or just wander the streets on your own, there is much to enjoy in Tallinn.
When you arrive in port, towering in the distance you will see the beautiful Palma De Mallorca Cathedral, designed by Antoni Gaudi. A pleasant stroll will take you past the harbor and through the charming town and to the church. Built with flying buttresses reminiscent of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris this cathedral has a beautiful stained glass rose window, and a stunning chandelier.
You can visit Alcudia Old Town and enjoy the historic buildings. For a complete list of things to do and see visit this site.
On the day our cruise docked we just happened across a group of musicians and dancers putting on an afternoon performance below the cathedral.
Barcelona is home to many architectural works of Antoni Gaudi. The Parc Guell, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is an easy to explore example. Originally intended as housing development it was constructed between 1900 and 1914. Only two houses were constructed, one of which Gaudi lived in from 1906 to 1926, “la Torre Rosa, “ is currently a museum.
Views from the park include a sweeping panorama that includes the Sagrada Familia and the bay. The whimsical tiled creatures and undulating serpents, as well as the otherworldly trails will delight children and adults alike.
Sit down on the massive terrace benches for a few minutes, and you will find bright green monk parakeets among the pigeons and sparrows, just hoping for a handout.
Effective October 2013, there will be an entrance fee of between 7 and 8 euro for the park entrance, and only 400 tickets per half hour issued. For more information on the park click here
Are you flying in to, or out of Rome for a Mediterranean cruise? The easiest way to get to the ship is to get a cruise ship sponsored pre, or post cruise package, or take the cruise ship transfer. This takes all the work out of making the transfer. However, if you want to venture out and save some money doing so, here is how it is done.
Rome Flumiciana Airport Transportation
Arrival in Rome can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you arrive on a red eye flight. The easiest solution is a taxi to your hotel, or a pre-arranged car service. If you are traveling directly to the cruise port, the cruise line will offer a transfer. While convenient, this can be expensive.
Affordable transportation is available. From the airport, two bus shuttle companies run to Termini Station in central Rome. One is Terravision, the other is SIT. The transfer in a charter coach with luggage bays runs 5 Euro one way, you can buy tickets for either right at the bus door. The biggest challenge at FCO airport is finding the bus departure location once you arrive. Follow the signs, and if necessary don’t be afraid to stop and ask someone, lots of people speak English.
The bus drops you at Termini Station, and you can easily get an affordable taxi to your hotel, or depending on its location, possibly even walk. If you are heading directly to the cruise ship you can go in to Termini station and get a train to Civitavecchia.
Here is a link to some general information about Romes airports
Civitavecchia Cruise Port from Rome Termini Station
If you are going on the the cruise port it is a simple matter of getting the train from Termini. Be aware US credit cards will not work in the ticket machine. There are ATM machines here, so get Euros. The ticket machines do accept euros, so it is an easy work around. Other options include buying tickets online ahead of time, or the tabacchi shops. The line to purchase tickets from the train office itself can be hours long.
Look for the train to Civitavecchia, it is usually at tracks 27-30, which are a 10 minute walk from the central station area. Click here for photos of the terminals & cruise port. Be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow machine before you board the train, you can be fined if you forget. You will find there are usually lots of other cruisers going to the same destination. When you exit at you will go under the tracks, and exit the building, turn right, and follow the crowds to the port entrance, about a four block walk Taxis are available here if you prefer not to drag your luggage.
Here is a link to instructions on the train.
Here is a link to the train booking engine. You may have to call your credit card company to authorize the charge.