RtW Cities: Rome (+ Florence)

Travelling over the winter mostly slowed down due to skiing instead, so this is the first round-the-world cities post in a while. Other travels in that time included a trip home to Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide - maybe I should add them to the series?) and London (already written up), but otherwise, just sticking within Switzerland. Anyway, to Rome (via Florence).

Florence had been recommended by family as a good place to visit, and as it lies between Rome and Switzerland, it seemed a worthwhile place to add a stopover on our trip. Arriving pretty late on a Thursday night, we only got sneak peaks of all the fancy buildings on the way to the hotel; which turned out to be interesting, it appeared to have only just opened (i.e. still under construction, although not near the rooms) and the walk up the stairs to our room past a giant old fresco was a good reminder we were in Italy. After a good half-hour introduction from the extremely friendly Cesare, and a quick peek out the rooftop across the town, we made it through the streets to the Ponte Vecchio, which reminded me quite a bit of the Rialto bridge in Venice - equally shop-y and randomly built over many many years to the point where I'm surprised it's still standing.

That wasn't the only similarity though - Florence was a much more tourist-packed town than I was expecting. The city itself isn't all that big, and has a huge density of attractions in the middle, around which tourism seemed to be almost the only thing (I wouldn't want to live near there...). Unfortunately we couldn't fit it all in a day, but the Cathedral (picture at the top) was amazing - such happier looking compared to e.g. Koln's, and the view from the top of the tower lends itself for great photos (but be warned, not the easiest hike!). The Uffizi gallery was also a good stop, near the Piazza della Signoria (with all the statues, including that on the right), however I've realized that Italian Renaissance paints aren't really my thing - scultures maybe, and architecture yes, but endless Madonna-and-child, not so much...

Florence was followed by the main stop for the trip - Rome. The visit got off to an awesome start, a fancy dinner at Lo Stil Novo, including some wine that even Katie liked (not sure the last time I ate at a place with a sommelier...) but the best cheesecake I have ever had. I kid you not - if you're in Rome and you like cheesecake, you must try it. And if you don't, it'll change your mind :)

Anyway, we had all of Saturday to explore Rome on foot - starting with the Altar of the Fatherland which is a truly impressive sight. Next up was the Roman Forum and Colosseum; as someone who did Latin at school, I particularly enjoyed these parts, remembering the history behind them. It's quite a sobering thought, especially for an Australian (with European settlement in the 18th century), that many of the buildings in the area were from two thousand years ago. The Colosseum, built in 10 years and used for numerous spectacles, is mostly still standing and even has ancient 'graffiti' in parts; I can't imagine what it'd be like to write on e.g. Adelaide oval seats and have people read it in two millennia.

Last, but not least (lest I be struck down by lightning...), on the Sunday morning before leaving we got to cross an international border and check out the Vatican. I regret not organizing going inside, as I hear it's quite spectacular, but even just the novelty of the smallest country (2.3 Popes per square km, and a useful explanation video), the Swiss guard, and the huge crowd out the front was worth visiting. This was followed by the very pretty trans-alp rail journey back (with no missed connections, despite the warnings!) and I'll be eating bread with olive oil & vinegar for a while yet!

More complete photo album here.


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