Monday, July 20, 2009

2008 Winter in Rome : Preparing for Italy

Italy is an accidental destination. I don't speak Italian and only realized that cappucino is Italian recently. Boo-hoo .. so much for my general knowledge! And since I have overcome Japan not knowing Japanese, surely Italy will embrace me even if I know no Italian.

It is about the same time I discovered that St Peter and St Paul are buried some where in Rome that finally got me excited. Rather than reading about the guys in the Good Book, maybe I can find some connection by visiting their resting places.

Preparation starts in early 2008. My choice of carrier was Singapore Airlines, of course.But as Pat's year end vacation starts so late in December as well as Hope's late exam results posting and SIA's schedule does not match mine,it is down to Malaysian Airlines. No choice but to forgo the national carrier with a direct flight and paying a couple of hundred dollars more, it's Italy, here I come!

From some random adverts at Great Rentals, I found Emmanuel Fadini's apartment. It has no lift and no nearby Metro but its location behind the Pantheon, nearness to the Colosseum and Fadini's long distance call to touch base halfway round the globe made me remember him. For €130 per night for an apartment in the historic center with internet access, I hope it gives the comfort and convenience of home as well as the magic of being make-believe locals.

Pat wants to do the Pisa and Sistine photo routine which he feels is what Italy is about. Only did I discover Pisa is sooooo far away! What a laugh to realize why my geography teacher left us for the private sector. Anyway, to make everyone happy, Pisa is now on my radar and just as well, since Hope wants to pop over to the Uffizi to check out the Masters in Florence. I spent a couple of months debating with myself how to fit Florence, Pisa and Rome. Looks like a night in Florence should do the 3 hour train ride justice. Finally, upon a friend's recommendation, we hired driver Beppe from Prato. The arrangement is to drive us from Florence to Prato, then Lucca and finally Pisa before heading back south to Rome. It is more costly than the train ride back to Rome but the short day in winter is a pressing factor.

As in all other holidays, target destinations grew over the months only to be scaled back due to weather and budget concerns. Since we will be totally on our own with probably our legs as the main mode of transport most of the time, I will cluster the visits to minimize fatigue like what happened in Japan. No train passes, no city hopping, just the plain old leisurely pottering around our base. Hopefully this will help us to understand Rome's charm and mystery.

Forever the control freak, I have used google-earth and livemaps to do a preliminary reconnaissance of Rome. Neat! The folks at have been both sympathetic and helpful with a persistent Singaporean traveler who has asked so many questions the past 10 months and has yet to travel. Flickr and slow travel have helped me to understand the intricacies of the train system at Trenitalia and beyond with photos, images of validating machines, Eurostar Italia and many more.

Just another 6 days more and finally Italy will be real. I want to see the ankle wrecking cobble stones, morph into a Che Belle and hopefully enjoy the plentiful gelaterias in wet wintry Rome.

Preparation fatigue is beginning to set so it seems. The google searches decreases and anxiety increases. Time for some action!

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