#TBT Through my eyes: Paris, London, New York & Rome

After Tuesday’s book recommendation, I thought I’d do a little Throwback Thursday post, and revisit the cities covered in the book through my eyes…

 

PARIS, 2013: Jardin des Tuileries

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LONDON, 2013: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

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NEW YORK, 2015: Brooklyn Bridge

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ROME, 2013: Castel Sant’Angelo

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa – actually, it’s just the bell tower…

So, my mum and dad are flying off to Europe today! I’m so, so excited for them – they are the hardest working, kindest, most generous people I’ll ever know. All of the time and energy goes into looking after us girls, into looking after their parents, into making other peoples’ lives better and easier. We may clash sometimes, especially mum and I (as mothers and daughters so often do), but I have nothing but love and respect for them both, and couldn’t be happier that they are FINALLY taking this trip they’ve been talking about for so long! In honour of this trip, I’m throwing it back to 2013 and my second visit to Pisa…

6.36Little known fact: the Leaning Tower of Pisa was never meant to be the main attraction in Pisa, even before it developed its current gangster lean (and it seriously is leaning – having walked up it twice, the spiral staircase you climb to the top seriously screws with your head – you literally lean against the inner and outer walls as you climb, the lean is that severe). The headliner was actually meant to be the piazza and cathedral, below, il Duomo di Pisa. The Leaning Tower is actually “just” the cathedral’s bell tower. Or at least it was until it started leaning on it’s crappy 1173 built foundation, making it a bigger draw card than the cathedral and piazza themselves…

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While we’re at it, I’m gonna do a few more travel throwbacks this week, so I’ll see you tomorrow in Thailand 🙂

We stumbled upon an Easter parade in the streets of Florence…

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Easter 2013. I was in Italy. It was our last night in Florence, and we were to leave for Venice in the morning by train. We had been up since around 7am and hadn’t stopped all day. We were absolutely exhausted and would be needing our energy for Easter lunch the following day with mum’s family. So, we took the excuse to be completely pathetic and get an early night, turning it at around 9pm.

Around an hour or so later, we woke with a start to yelling, cheering, drumming, trumpeting. Our hotel, located so close to Il Duomo you could almost count the individual tiles that made up it’s intricate facade, was unwittingly also smack bang in the middle of all the action! We threw open our room windows, wrapped blankets around our shoulders to ward off the unseasonably cold spring wind, and watched the most fantastic parade wind it’s way around the dark streets below. After 20 minutes, our exhaustion got the better of us and we finally fell asleep to the beat of the marching drummers. It was a little too dark for a photo that night, but below is the scene from our hotel window the following morning, before we checked out…

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The following morning, we rose early to take advantage of the few hours we had left in Florence before our midday train. Down the stairs we went, emerging onto a busy street. It was Easter Sunday and our hotel was only a few metres from one of the greatest churches in Europe. The craziness was to be expected. We started walking, aimlessly, through the streets when we heard it again; the drumming. We scurried along, trying to follow the sounds of the drummers, bursting from a small side street onto a larger street upon this…

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We found the parade! A cursory check of the watch indicated a solid two hours before we needed to be back at our hotel to check out, so we followed the parade, in all it’s noisy glory, all the way to it’s final destination, la Piazza della Signoria. We watched the flag throwing, the elaborately costumed paraders and the other people gathered around. We noticed a well dressed gentleman being followed by an attentive security detail, wishing everyone a buona pasqua (happy Easter), shaking hands, smiling for photos, kissing babies, that kinda thing. We shook his hand, too, when he got to us, also wishing him a buona pasqua (I did, anyway; husband had absolutely no idea what he was saying, he just smiled and nodded politely). When we finally did get back to the hotel, I asked the lady who checked us out who he was. She swooned a little and told us he was the Mayor of Florence, and the pick of the people to be Italy’s next Prime Minister. He was Matteo Renzi, and is now, indeed, Italy’s Prime Minister. Absolutely lovely man, by the way!

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That was one hell of an Easter day, one I’ll never forget, and one of those days that makes me eternally grateful for the fact that I chose to follow the crowd and allow myself to get caught up in the moment that day. While I’m not a religious person, it was beautiful to see all of these people celebrating old traditions so happily and with so much gusto. I hope everyone, no matter where you are in the world, no matter what your traditions are, has a wonderful Easter  : )

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Throwback Thursday: Il Duomo by night, Florence, Italy

Another week, another travel/throwback/take me back Thursday… I’ve been dreaming of going back to Italy for weeks now, and Florence is an absolute favourite city; not just in Italy, but in the world. Last visit there, in 2013, I was lucky enough to stay within stone’s throw of Il Duomo – I could see if from the window of the B&B, could almost reach out and grab it!

It might be gorgeous by day, but to me, it really comes into its own at night. Il Duomo and the surrounding piazza and streets become another world at night. You can smell all sorts of deliciousness wafting through restaurant doors as you wonder down the old, cobbled streets. Sometimes you’ll hear the odd musician playing and children laughing as they chase each other around. It’s old world, its classic, it’s beautiful and it’s really something to experience.

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Roman dining – one of the best meals of my life!

 

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I can’t even tell you how much I hate myself for not remembering what this place was called. I can’t believe I didn’t bother to write the name or address down, to take a photo of the little sign out the front, nothing… what an idiot! That said, my husband maintains that if we were to go back to Rome, he’d be able to remember how to get there… we found it on the walk back from the Vatican. It was pouring, and I mean really pouring rain, we were wet and hungry and needed to stop for warmth and food. Just as we were getting desperate, as fate would have it, this place appeared like the proverbial oasis in the dessert. We ambled in, discarding drenched coats, scarves and beanies, and settled in to what felt like the living room of a family member. That could be mostly because I’m Italian, and am accustomed to big family dinners. Whatever. This place was amazing.

The service was really fantastic, very attentive and helpful. Before we’d said a word, a basket of bread arrived, for which we were very grateful. We placed our orders and didn’t wait long at all for our lunch to arrive. First up came the Caprese salad of fresh tomatoes, basil and bocconcini cheese. My favourite! The wine was pretty darn good too!

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And next came the pasta. Husband had the pesto linguine you can see at the top of the picture below. I had the pasta at the bottom of the picture, which we both agree is the best pasta either of us have ever had to this day. Rigatoni with ricotta and eggplant. It was rich and creamy, and tasted like no other pasta I’ve ever had before. This was phenomenal. Even more amazing was how much husband loved it – he usually doesn’t like eggplant or ricotta. It was really unexpected for it to have had so much flavour and punch, but it was absolutely perfect. It’s a big call for a wog to name her best ever plate of pasta, but (sorry Nonna!!!) this was hands down “the one” for me.

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If ANYONE recognises this place, please, what is it called?!?!?!? I NEED TO GO BACK!!!!!

Stay here: Hotel Pasitea, Positano, Italy

Positano Art Hotel Pasitea
Via Pasitea 207, 84017 Positano, Italy
http://www.hotelpasitea.it/

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This was the view from our room at the Hotel Pasitea in Positano. Not bad, huh? And guess what? The hotel itself was as good as the view. Ohh take me back…

It’s a beautiful design hotel set in the hills of Positano, doubling as an art gallery and also having the advantage of a balcony view for each room. The rooms themselves are beautiful in white, simple in white and wrought iron. I absolutely adored our room, with the big painting behind the bed and the postcard view. But it was the smaller touches that I loved too, like the kindly gentleman at the front desk who generously complimented my broken Italian, and politely laughed at the one or two words I spoke in dialect rather than proper Italian. He greeted us each day with a smile, and always asked how our day was when we returned from an outing. It’s true – the people make it 🙂

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Some of the notable features you may want to know about when considering a stay here..
– fantastic location
– on site carparking
– free wifi
– all rooms have balconies (!!!)
– LCD TVs
– daily housekeeping
– private bathrooms
– air conditioning
– telephone
– hair dryer
– tea/coffee making facilities
– buffet breakfast

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This hotel was fantastic – the staff were amazing and really looked after us, the location was great (was easy enough to walk everywhere from where we were), the prices were really good considering the standard (and the view!) from around $135 per night off peak, and it’s somewhere I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend or stay at again 🙂

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Il Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

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Il Ponte Vecchio (or “The Old Bridge” as it translates to) is a pretty popular point in Florence. A medieval stone bridge that lays over the Arno River, it was re-constructed in it’s current form in 1345 after a flood destroyed an existing bridge. It was also miraculously the only bridge in the city not destroyed by the fleeing Germans in World War II.

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There was also a corridor constructed above the bridge in the mid 1500s, in order to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. While the bridge was originally occupied by butchers, it’s now well known as the place to buy jewellery in Florence and as such is very popular with the ladies (not so much with their poor husbands and boyfriends)!

It’s a really lovely place to take a stroll come dusk – the sun setting over the neighbouring bridges is a beautiful sight, and the atmosphere changes come early evening, less frenetic and more relaxed.

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