Livin’ La Vida Roma (Rome)

Rome was the last stop of my 3-week trip to Europe.

I chose a hostel just 10 minutes away by foot from Roma Termini, so finding it was not a problem. I was surprised though that the neighborhood is filled with Filipino-run establishments. There’s even a Pinoy restaurant beside the building of our hostel.

Anyway, the hostel’s reception was manned by a guy who’s a dead ringer for Liev Schreiber. 😀 After going through the usual check-in procedure, we squeezed ourselves into a tiny old school elevator just a bit wider than a refrigerator. I don’t know how we managed to fit ourselves in plus my luggage and backpack, but that was the first and last time I used the lift. Never mind if my dorm was on the fourth floor of the building.

I arrived early evening, so there was not much for me to do anymore. I just strolled the area, and booked my Colosseum and Vatican Museum tickets online, so I don’t have to waste my time falling in line for hours.

colosseum rome
The iconic Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater is the largest amphitheater in the Roman empire.

After grabbing a simple breakfast of cappuccino and sfogliatella from the hostel’s kitchen, I was ready to conquer Rome! LOL

First order of business: The Colosseum.

Getting to the Colosseum, or most of the popular tourist attractions in Rome, is pretty easy. The metro may not be the cleanest, most comfortable, and most efficient in Europe, but I appreciate they take out the guesswork of where to get off because the attractions’ names are written next to metro stops e.g. you can see Fontana di Trevi written next to the metro stop, Barberini.

Anyway, as expected, there’s already a throng of tourists outside the Colosseum even though it’s still early in the day. I’m glad I saved myself the hassle of lining up.

colosseum rome
The Colosseum’s south side collapsed due to earthquakes
colosseum rome
Underneath the Colosseum are rooms and tunnels that housed gladiators and wild animals.

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Timeless Tuscany (Florence)

It was still dark when I left my hostel in Interlaken. It was a 30-minute walk to Interlaken West Station, and I didn’t want to miss my train so I left early.

I boarded the first train, and was actually kinda annoyed that no one bothered to check my ticket from Interlaken West to Milan because it’s the most expensive train ticket (that, plus the Milan-Florence leg) I’ve purchased on this trip. haha

brig station switzerland

I grabbed a quick breakfast at Brig Station since I still had half an hour to kill. And because I still had Swiss Francs left, I lined up at the currency exchange to change it to Euros. I was third in line, but it was taking so long to serve each customer. Ten minutes before the train to Milan arrives, I left the line because I still had to haul my luggage all the way to the platform. I decided I’ll just change my Francs when I get to Milan. BIG MISTAKE!

milan central station italy
Milano Centrale Station as seen from Italo’s Lounge

Anyone who’s been to Italy and tried to change their money to Euros can attest how exorbitant Italy’s fees are! If only Euros were easy to acquire in The Philippines (I live outside Manila), I wouldn’t have brought US Dollars. Fortunately, half of my budget was in my savings account, so I just got money from the ATM the whole time I was in Italy.

Anyway, instead of being upset about the Euros I lost changing my Francs, I just savored my time at Italo’s lounge. I got lounge access when I booked a first class seat from Milan to Florence. Believe it or not, it was the cheapest I found at the time I made the booking! 🙂

I forgot to take pictures, but basically, you get to enjoy free access to the lounge with unlimited refreshments, free newspaper/magazine, and WiFi while waiting for your train.

And when my train to Florence finally arrived, I went to the platform, showed the ticket on my phone to the inspector who then ushered me to the 1st class cabin (Club Executive).

Photo from Italo’s website

Imagine, eight extra wide leather armchairs each with electrical sockets, free WiFi, and dedicated catering offering hot/cold drinks and Italian sandwiches. If only I could travel like this all the time!

Two hours went by quickly, and soon, our train was already pulling up at Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station.

The hostel was just a few a bus stops away from the station, and about a 15-minute walk to the Duomo.  Needless to say, my first agenda that afternoon was a stroll to the Duomo.

duomo florence italy
Undoubtedly the most popular attraction in Florence
duomo florence italy
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Duomo was a sight to behold! The facade is unlike anything I’ve seen before.   Continue reading “Timeless Tuscany (Florence)”

Best Places to Visit for Street Art

Seeing masterpieces by Rembrandt, Monet, van Gogh, Picasso et al can be a once in a lifetime experience for many. But going to museums usually take a big chunk off a traveler’s budget.

Today, art is no longer confined in the four corners of a building. More and more formal and freestyle artists take their art to the streets so that more people can appreciate them.

With the help of my friends, I compiled a list of best places to visit for street art.

Penang, Malaysia

wrought iron art penang

This UNESCO World Heritage town have quirky yet functional wrought iron street markers. If you take the time to read the text on the caricatures, you’ll find that they’re both informative and entertaining.

Next, head on to Armenian Street to check out murals by Ernest Zacharevic. He often marries his murals with real-life objects, and the results are larger than life.

penang street art
“Litte Girl in Blue”

Photo credit: Echoserang Lakwatsera.

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