Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Milan, Italy

It's a wrap... Milan is the last city visited during our trip to Italy.
Duomo of Milan, Italy
During this holiday, we had driven around 2,200 km from south of France to south of Italy.  I had been noticed the good quality of the highway and all of the necessary maintenance.  Other than that, it is fun paying attention to the brand of the cars in the highway.  Some of them I had never seen it in Indonesia and Vietnam.

I counted the numbers of tunnels between Milan and Nice; more than 100 tunnels including around 30 giant bridges connecting the hills! The distance between one bridge to another varies; between 76m to 1,500m.
Highway & tunnels, Italy to France
Thanks to GPS, driving from Venice to Milan was easy.  Reaching the apartment was a little bit of a challenge as GPS instruction was puzzling.  Anyway, we turned too fast to the left and had to go back to the main street again.  The small Ferrari behind us made us crazy, il fait “tut tut” and was not patient at all.

But then, voila... We arrived at the nearest parking lot to our apartment.  Still we had to push our luggage to the lift, stairs and walk at the sidewalk to the apartment.

Mr. Right has described the area of the apartment we rented, which is very near to the Duomo (Cathedral)... What we did not realize was that it is exactly located in front of the Duomo of Milan! Perfect...
Passage to go to our apartment
Lift & stairs inside the apartment building
It is a studio type apartment, two bedrooms with the main one on the mezzanine floor, another bed on the ground floor, two bathrooms, a small kitchen, quite spacious living room and a very small balcony with a grand view facing the Duomo!

Once we unpacked, we took a walk to the Duomo before the sunset...  

In front of the Duomo, there is a piazza (public square) and some birds flying around happily and happy people passing by. 

A street vendor persuaded me to feed the birds with his feed, it is nice but I was so sure nothing is for free. I could not be bothered negotiating how much he would charge for that.

The construction of the Duomo started in 1386. It is the most important work of gothic architecture in Italy.  During the construction of five centuries, the style has been influenced by many architects. 

The interior part of the Duomo is beautiful… More than words to describe it; so many beautiful paintings and statues!

The Duomo is open for the public from 7am to 7pm.  Proper clothes are required to enter religious places, no shorts/tanktops.

As such ancient building requires renovation, and so does this Duomo.  In the center of the piazza there is an area that was covered for renovation.  It looks like a statue i.e. the equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first Italian king from 1861-1876

Interior part of the Duomo of Milan
Interior part of the Duomo of Milan
See the painting! Inside the Duomo of Milan
Inside the Duomo of Milan
Even the floor is pretty!

The areas surrounding the Duomo are very posh with high level of taste in Art.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is the mall next to the Duomo.  It is occupying an ancient gorgeous building... All stores selling all luxurious brands!  The one that is less expensive is McDonald’s -J

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

It seems like walking in the church or museum, high rise ceiling, and the building has something similar to dome in the middle of the four halls.
Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Beautiful statues are carved in the high wall, and paintings on the dome ceiling.

Painting is different in each corner

Different painting in different angle

A group of male choir did a performance under the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the sound echoed all over the mall.
We walked passing the main hall of the mall, outside there, there is a small fountain and statue of Leonardo Da Vinci… In front of him, there are a few souvenir shops where I found cute souvenir for my 3-year old nephew in Indonesia...
Statue of Leonardo Da Vinci
The sun was still high around 7pm.  Jalan-jalan continues...
We did a survey to this neighborhood around our apartment.
McDonald's, Milan
One of the branches, Citi #almamater

Street Florist
Elegant building of the Post Office
You're selling coffee now, Marilyn?
Buongiorno Signor Polizia!

No specific plan for dinner yet, so we continued walking  Laduree!  I shouted when I noticed the famous Macaron store!  “Why are you so crazy about Macaron dear?” Mr. Right questioned me...  It is because they are cute and yummy... -J

Hey, look at this delicatessen store called Peck across Laduree... The shop reminds me of Ranch Market in Jakarta, Annam Gourmet in Ho Chi Minh City or Great in Hong Kong, and yet it is even much better.  They sell best quality products and fine food, including wine.   
First class dinner in front of the Duomo of Milan
The highlight was Mr. Right agreed to prepare for our dinner... Fresh lobster, cheese, fruit, cakes and wine. The perfect place to enjoy dinner is in the small balcony in our apartment with the first class view to the Duomo...
The view is 99% perfect except a little bit covered by the scaffholding over the statue ...
In the evening, the Duomo shines and looks so white under the light... 

The other side of piazza in front of the Duomo
Crowd around the Duomo
I sat at the balcony facing the white Duomo; many people still wandered around the piazza, a group of cyclist still pedaled their bikes…

Finally, the Duomo is quiet, no one around by midnite
Between me and the Duomo, there is only the renovated equestrian statue of Vittorio Emanuele II -J  When it was almost midnight, the Duomo stayed awake.  
Yes, I was sleepy, but for that moment, I thought sleeping was a waste of time…. I wish to enjoy every minute of my stay in Milan...
Peeping the Duomo from the small whole in my balcony
Lanjut?  Pulang yaa…. Home sweet home. Bye-bye Europe… Hello Asia…

Proud to see "Borobudur" name in this KLM flight! #proudtobeIndonesian

Monday, October 29, 2012

V and Venice

Listen to the way an Italian says its name; Venice…  Exotic!
Venice, I love you
The adventure going there was even more exotic.  GPS said turning left and we ended up in the parking lot of a fish market!

Waiting at the ferry terminal

The complete hotel address has been accepted by GPS, but then, where should we go?  Curiously we re-read the hotel direction ‘manually’.  "By car: at the end of the bridge that leads to Venice you will find a sign "Tronchetto ferry-boat to Lido".  The ferry leaves every 50 minutes and journey lasts 35 minutes".

Ferry from the mainland to Lido

Oh la la… The GPS is correct, but we completely unaware that we had to take ferry from the mainland to Venice Lido!

Passing Piazza San Marco


During our stay in Venice, Lido became the choice of where we stayed.  It is for one specific reason; hotels in Lido provide reasonable parking lot.
Piazza St. Mark's from the ferry
Venice Lido is an island, usually just referred to as the Lido. It is the narrow strip of land which separates the central part of the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea. The atmosphere on the Lido is very different from Venice: it is a regular residential area with restaurants, shops, cars, cyclists, pavements and beaches.

Getting closer to Lido

There are many private beaches which are convenient.  As I observed in the movies, the beaches in Europe is mostly full in sunny days, almost every inch of the beach is occupied by "towels" -J 

But the private beach we went to, the cabin is well organized in lanes. Different size is available depending on how many persons. Location varies; first row facing the sea, second/third row, etc.  Different charges apply.  In average, it could be in the range of 58-100€ per day (for two persons) in summer days. 
Luxurious boat, Venice
How to go to Venice from Lido?  It takes only 20 minute by ferry (water taxi), then we can reach the most famous Piazza San Marco.  We stopped at the pier in front of Danieli Hotel and walked to the Piazza. CNN says, Danieli is one of the  Five lavish hotels in Venice where Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp checked into in The Tourist.

Walking to the Piazza, some street vendors selling souvenirs and the one that attracted me the most is the mask…
Piazza St. Mark's, the two pillars with symbols of  two patron saints of Venice
Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square)

Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice… It is the principal public square of Venice i.e. the graduation place for everyone visiting Venice!
Graduation corner in Venice
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark is situated at the eastern end of the Piazza, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace.  The first Saint Mark's was actually a temporary building in the Doge's Palace which constructed in 828.
Clock Tower
Near there, the Clock Tower which was completed in 1499 stood still.

If I stood near the Clock Tower facing the lagoon and the Cathedral on my left side, I could see the two large granite pillars carrying symbols of the two patron saints of Venice. 

The first is Saint Theodore, who was the patron of the city before Saint Mark, holding a spear and with a crocodile to represent the dragon which he was said to have slain.

The second one has a creature representing the winged lion which is the symbol of Saint Mark.

This guy who's working in a restaurant wanted to take pic with me, ok!
Cute buildings, Venice


Gondola is identical to Venice, as seen in the movies.  Gondola makes Venice even more romantic -J

The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon. They were the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice for centuries.

Rowing around in the Gondola

It is rather expensive to ride them, I cannot recall the exact price, maybe it is around 100€ to row around Venetian lagoon in 30 minutes. But if you only visit Venice once in your life time, to tick the box and in the name of romance, it would be nice to budget it…

The Rialto Bridge

It is called Ponte di Rialto in Italian; one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice which is also the oldest bridge across the canal.
Rialto Bridge
Along this famous pedestrian bridge, tourists are just walking around and crossing between San Marco and San Polo, or doing the window shopping as there are some souvenir shops nearby.

The best time to come to here is before the sun set.  Stand in the middle of the bridge facing the canal with San Marco on the left, San Polo on the right and gondola passes below the bridge.
Padlock bridge, Venice
The Mask

Ever since we arrived in Florence, I was attracted to the beautiful Italian masks.

Each mask has its own mystery.  The more I look those masks, the more I notice that there are many types: small, medium, big, white plain, colorful ones with feathers, etc.  Some masks have scary expressions.  The jokers are beautiful but after the second look, mmm….
Masks are everywhere in Venice
I paid attention to their prices, from street vendors to shops. The cheapest one is 2-3€, which is the small plain white mask only to cover the eyes.

The medium to big colorful with feathers is around 10-25€. Similar to this type is available at one of the shops in Rialto Bridge for 8.99€ only.

During a walk tour, Francesca our tour leader took us passing a Mask Factory. This store made gorgeous masks 'handmade' with nice individual designs i.e. they are not mass production.
I listened to her explanation. The black one was used bla bla bla…, the plain white was used by people coming to the casino, the white with long nose is for the doctors - so they do not catch flu!
We came back to this store when the tour was over, and I had good chat with the Mask Master!  He confirmed my observation; each mask has different emotion…  The actor/actress uses the mask to play their role.  Sometimes, some are so attached with their role and cannot leave their mask…

Following to my intuition, I chose this mask.  The Mask Master nodded to my choice.  She looks creative and stunning…
The Best Book Store in the World

As its name, it is the best book store I have ever been the in world! Libreria Acqua Alta is somewhere in the small alley in Castello, Venice.

Best Book Store in the World

The kind owner welcomed me and Mr. Right with big smile, he guided us to go to the back of the store to see the Emergency Exit for fun, up to the stairs which made from books, and we were welcomed to take pics as much as we wanted…

I love this book store! Venice!

His books are stored in big boat and ready to sail in case of the flood.  I love this place!  Inspiring bloggers/writers, let’s visit this best book store in the world! -J 

Classical Music - Le Quattro Stagioni di Vivaldi

In our last evening in Venice, Mr. Right took me to watch an orchestra.   

The orchestra was performed in the main hall of the Scuola Grande Di San Teodoro.  It is ten minute walk from Rialto Bridge.  The house itself is an ancient lovely house with adorned with paintings from 17th and 18th century by Italian painters.
The performance started at 8.30pm sharp, the sound of instruments started and light deemed. The performers dressed up like in the 18th century Venice costumes; six musicians; three violinists, two bassists and a harpsichord (piano forte?).

Le Quattro Stagioni di Vivaldi - Vivaldi's four seasons, the songs represent the four seasons in the year: spring, summer, autumn and winter.  Winter is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas Summer evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often dubbed Storm.
I can count with one hand, how many times I went to classical music, but I like it…as if it improves my ‘chi’ in Art J

It was already dark when we left the music hall. We were the only couple walking in dark and quiet ancient Venetian alleys.  I could not imagine if I had to walk myself in the dark.  Takut.

Well, okay, we got lost trying to find our way back to San Marco pier. In the dark, a gentleman approached us and asked if we needed any help. We walked together and he showed us the direction, he himself turned left to his destination. Who could imagine that we’re a bit lost in Venice, met a noble gentleman who is also a priest from India and was in Venice for his examination. God bless you.
When it was about to get dark

In the water taxi leaving Venice to Lido, we passed many ancient buildings along the canal. Some of them are very dark. One building was very dark except one window in the high floor was left bright. Was there anyone? I believe some buildings are left unattended, due to renovation? Perhaps the darkness keeps the mystery to be remained in Venice.......

Next posting:
Italy, everything about you is so amazing… Next and final destination is Milan.

Italian food & gelato, sedap!