Poor planning on our last trip to Rome resulted in me being unable to get a ticket to see the Borghese Gallery, I was devastated and vowed that it wouldn’t happen again. After failing to successfully purchase tickets through the Borghese Gallery I decided to pay that little bit extra and get skip the line tickets through Viator. Our entry time was at 9am and we had until 11am to view the entire gallery, at 11am they kicked us all out and the next group of visitors went through. Two hours doesn’t seem like much, we could have easily spent another hour at least in the gallery especially with the addition of garments from the Azzedine Alaïa collection being on display.
The ‘no photo’ rule seemed to have been withdrawn from the Borghese, I vaguely recall reading in guidebooks and hearing on travel podcasts that photos were strictly prohibited and cameras would have to be stored in lockers. All around us people were taking photos with iphones, DSLRs and compact cameras and nobody seemed to care. After a few quick shots with my iphone, out came my trusty Nikon DSLR and it didn’t return to its bag until we were in the gallery gift shop.
The Azzedine Alaïa gowns on display were stunning, much thought had gone into the location of each gown or group of garments with some looking almost like a ghostly apparition among the sculptures and paintings. In the nineties I loved seeing Azzedine Alaïa’s designs on supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour, they wore them so well and the gowns looked like works of art. Moving around the gallery, my eyes flicked from classical sculptures to fashion items and while others crowded around Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne I was taking photos of the nearest design by Azzedine Alaïa. This gave me one advantage, by the time I had finished admiring the design most of the group had moved on and I could enjoy the sculptures in relative quiet.
The Borghese Gallery is a most magnificent place to visit, I walked out of there feeling extremely happy and it would have to rate as one of my most enjoyable gallery and/or museum experiences. The restricted number of visitors at any one time certainly enhances the experience, having been to the Vatican Museum where numbers do not appear to be limited and large tour groups crowd the halls and stairwells, I much prefer having to book in advance for a nominated time slot.
Turin is a wonderful city to visit, the food is great and there is plenty to see and do regardless of the weather. On our last full day in Turin we decided to catch the funicular up the mountain to see the baroque Basilica Superga and to hopefully get a glimpse of the snow covered mountains that provided such a scenic backdrop for the city. To get to the Basilica from the city centre you can catch a tram from Piazza Castello and get off at the Sassi stop which is not far from the Superga Station. The ride up on the funicular takes about twenty minutes and offers a glimpse of the private residences of locals as it climbs to the summit of the Superga hill.
The Sassi Station
The Sassi-Superga Funicular
Me on the tram
Looking up towards the Basilica Superga
The Basilica was founded by Duke Vittorio Amedeo II of Savoy in 1706 and is dedicated to our Lady of Grace. The design of the basilica was the work of a Sicilian architect, Filippo Juvarra and construction took 14 years to complete. On a day when the sun was shining and the sky a vibrant blue, the golden exterior glowed and I, along with a few others, went a little crazy taking numerous photos of this magnificent building. We entered the basilica for a brief visit, it was surprisingly still open because we had been told that the hours were limited at this time of year. Inside we found walls covered in graffiti dating back to World War II and a beautifully decorated interior of the dome situated over the main alter. Not long after entering we were given the signal that the basilica was closing so we were unable to climb the spiral staircase up to the balcony of the dome where you can apparently see a spectacular panoramic view of Turin and it’s surrounds.
The Basilica Superga
Corinthian columns at the entrance of the Basilica
The main altar decorated with Carrara marble
The interior of the dome of Basilica Superga
Light a candle
Graffitti on the interior walls dating back to WWII
The Basilica Superga
We gave the Royal Tombs and the Royal Apartments a miss preferring to be outdoors and walk around the Basilica via a well trodden garden path. It is Autumn when we visit, the colours of the foliage range from green to golden and the temperature is just right for being outside. Some visitors are having a picnic in one of the parks, others are relaxing on park benches and taking pleasure in their surroundings. Instead of seeing the tombs of the princes and kings of the House of Savoy we saw the site where a plane crashed in 1949. On the plane was the legendary Grande Torino football team, the entire team was killed along with their management, technical staff and accompanying journalists. A monument sits to the side of the path which runs behind the basilica, flowers, pictures and memorabilia pay tribute to those who perished.
Perfect spot for a picture
The scenic view from the top of the hill
The Grande Torino Football team killed when the plane crashed into the base of the Basilica Superga in 1949
When it comes time to leave we discover that the next train down to Sassi is not due to leave for another hour or more. The small bar in the station offers freshly made panini to eat with your beverage of choice, you can sit at a table in the garden or on the balcony, both offer a good view. The weather was perfect and so we made the most of it and enjoyed a fresh salami and cheese panini and a glass of vino while waiting for the train. The views from the bar and the terrace above are wonderful even when it is hazy, I can only imagine how spectacular the alps and the city look on a clear and crisp day.
On Tuesday our baby boy turns 9. Happy Birthday Bundy! It is hard to believe that he was once so little that he and his brother could sleep together on my lap, now he weighs about 20 kilos and has to settle for sitting on my lap rather than sleeping. His muzzle is turning grey and he has slowed down a bit but he will always be my baby.
At the moment he is lying peacefully on his bed, half chewed squeaky toy by his feet. Dear old Maxi is snoring soundly and couldn’t care less that her little brother has a birthday coming up. Bundy’s birthday means more stuffies to destroy, he loves his stuffies and his squeakers.
You’ve heard me rave about Venice before so it will come as no surprise that after my third visit to the serene city I still feel the desire to return. We stayed in a small hotel called the Locanda La Corte not far from Rialto Bridge and close to the Ospedale vaporetto stop, perfect for walking to the city’s main attractions. The window of our hotel room opened onto a canal, it was ideal for us and there were many moments when all I wanted to do was look out that window, listen to the seagulls and watch the world float by. Of an afternoon, when the sun was shining, the reflection of the waves could be seen on the wall and ceiling of our room creating a feeling of calm.
Being Autumn the number of tourists seemed lower than on my previous visits in Spring and Summer, but still the streets and main squares were crowded. Away from the main attractions such as St Mark’s Basilica and the Rialto Bridge we could stroll freely and without interference from people armed with selfie sticks and those trying to sell them. It was the quieter alleys and squares that I love, although feeling like an intruder armed with a camera and invading a local’s personal space. One morning I left hubby at the hotel while I went out for a walk, camera in hand I decided to venture into a part of Venice that I had not seen, Cannaregio. I didn’t make it very far and found myself standing on the edge of the island and looking towards the Island of San Michele and in the background, snow covered mountains. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day, ideal for hopping on a boat and heading to the islands of Burano and Torcello which is exactly what we did.
Venice is often described as a theme park, attracting millions of visitors all year round and it is easy to get caught up in the hype and complain about how expensive everything is and how it is difficult to find a good, affordable meal. On Burano there are a dozen or more places to eat on the main street where all the tourists go, a couple of locals recommended two restaurants but they were packed so we sat down to a meal of fried calamari and chips (fries or frites) by the water. The food was cheap and fresh and not far from the vaporetto stop. Our favourite cheap eat find was a little place not far from the Rialto Bridge, I had read about it in a couple of guide books and expected it to be full of budget conscious tourists like us. Rosticceria Gislon is not what you would expect in a seemingly tourist area, it looks like a cafeteria and offers pre-prepared food at a good price, it was also crammed with locals (or Italian speaking tourists). We had three great meals at Rosticceria Gislon, one of the most memorable (and cheap) being the deep fried mozzarella and ham sandwiches…delicious!
I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in a centuries old city such as Venice, one that is never free of the hoardes of tourists whilst also having to manage the impact of high tides and rising sea levels. The eery beauty of this city appeals greatly to me, I have always wanted to spend a few months living in Venice however I wonder if the enchantment would wear off during an extended stay. In the meantime, editing all my photos and remembering our time in Venice will have to suffice.
Local restaurant, great food and service
View from the bell tower
The canals of Venice
A popular square, turn left to head towards the station
Cruising across the lagoon towards Murano
The Winged Lion, symbol of Venice
Trying on a mask
Venice at night
The bell tower and St Mark’s Square
The Grand Canal on a gondola
Typical Venetian view
Santa Maria della Salute as seen from the Campanile
School holidays and theme parks aren’t usually something I would combine, however it can be fun if you have good company and a fast-track pass (helps beat the hideously long queues, for a fee of course). One of my long-time friends and her teenage daughter came to stay for a couple of nights so we had one day of age appropriate activities for us (shopping and food) and one for her daughter, and yes, visiting the MovieWorld theme park was her choice. MovieWorld on the Gold Coast is a popular Warner Bros theme park and has several rollercoaster type rides as well as a stunt show, 4D movie, kids area and superheroes and cartoon characters parading around and posing for photos. We arrived when the park was open and already there were hundreds of people queuing to get on the popular rides, it didn’t look promising. My girlfriend bought two Fast-track passes which helps bypass the long queues, at $60 per pass I thought it a tad expensive but it did mean that we only queued for 10-20 minutes instead of 1-2 hours. On top of the $89 adult entry fee, cost of photos, food and souvenirs, it must get horrendously expensive for families.
My girlfriend has family living nearby so they met us at the theme park, her twenty-something nephew went on the rides with her daughter while we looked after his two young children. For us it was fun trying to manoeuvre a pram through the crowded theme park and keep the kids entertained, eventually they were happy to hang out with us and we were able to enjoy a coffee break. When it came time for the kids to go home and have a sleep, I inherited one of the Fast-track passes, given the cost my girlfriend wanted to make sure that she got good value for money. If you haven’t already guessed, my girlfriend doesn’t do rollercoasters. Rollercoasters have always frightened me, that is part of the experience, but they’ve never made me sick and up until yesterday I had never experienced that OMG!!!! I’m never going on that again feeling. Having lunch just prior probably didn’t help, you’ll understand when you look at the photos and see if you can spot the photo where I look less than thrilled to be on the ride.
Yesterday was a laugh and although it isn’t something I would choose to do for fun (anymore) I am so glad that we went to MovieWorld, it was a great day spent with wonderful people.
On the Scooby Doo rollercoaster
Getting drenched on the Wild West ride
Me and my girlfriend playing elves
On the Green Lantern rollercoaster
Heart attack food for lunch: pulled pork nachos, lattice fries and beef burritos all served with sour cream and guacamole.
On the Superman rollercoaster
Watching the parade with the Superman Rollercoaster in the background
Justice League Superheroes in the MovieWorld Parade