The best holidays are those that we travel on our own, at our pace and choosing our own itinerary. After some nightmarish tours with gluttons, inconsiderate tourists, slow loris and other tourists from hell, we swear never to follow tour groups, ever.
The best investment when planning a holiday to faraway destinations is a guidebook. I prefer Fodors over Lonely Planet. Lonely Planet is more for the backpackers. Fodors caters for families like mine. One guidebook costs about RM150 to RM200. But it is worth it. We even learnt how to cheat by finding free rides on buses!
If you watch Triumph in the Sky, you may recognise this place where Flora Chan and that fellow whatisname having lots of coffee on the balcony.
This is Florence. Man, the whole city is really, really old. Including plumbing works that freeze your bottom! I really admire how the Italians maintain the facade so well. Too bad that I wasn’t a Christian at that time and therefore, failed to connect the place with the religion. I also did not visit any of the churches because most of them have long, long queues. I missed the Sistine Chapel too.
However, we did honour Mother Mary at every shrines we found, asking her to keep us safe from harm (Thank God for that). We met with many Italians who just finished their masses and boy, they really dressed up! Tuxedoes, black dresses, black suits etc.
This is a replica of the statue of David. The real statue in marble is somewhere in the city. David as in David & Goliath. Do you notice David has big, big hands? Note that these are photos of photos I took. Hence, the odd angle. But David must have been a very handsome man. BTW, David is sometimes referred as ‘Jesus grandfather’.
We made a quick stop at Pisa. Pisa is so fully of pick-pockets and it was amusing to see these pickpockets who boarded the bus to pick someone’s pocket and then, get down immediately and get on another bus. We had the luck to see the same guy operating his missions twice! Of course, we dare not say a thing because our guidebook had warned us that these people work in a gang.
We looked too poor and hence, they probably pity us more! So, always travel in rags. Rich Japaneses are their targets.
In all the cities in Italy, Rome is the most notorious. So, whoever is going to Rome, read up and be prepared. There are bad guys everywhere in every form. Children (gipsies), taxi-drivers, immigrants and most of them work in groups. Don’t ever travel without learning how the muggers, robbers and pickpockets operate.
Our guidebook and things I learnt from the internet had made our journey a smooth one. However, a group did try to snatch my husband’s wallet. They intentionally sandwiched him between the Metro (underground train) coin dispensing metal railing. One blocked the way and the other tried to pick his pocket. Again, thank goodness for the guidebook, we were already aware of them and my husband did not take out his wallet to take his money as he had kept small changes in his pockets.
The last photo is the coloseum. Where during the Romans era, they feed Christians to the lions!
We were in Genoa where my husband’s office is. However, Genoa does not have much to offer except dirty streets filled with dogs poo, Christopher Columbus birth town, world 2nd largest aquarium and some nice castle.
Considering that we travelled alone with only maps, guidebooks and the internet, I must say that we are pretty good travellers. At that time, we only brought two of our sons who were aged 8 yrs and 6 yrs old only. Communication is a problem because French people refused to speak English and we had to practically learnt some French. Parlez vous Zanglay? And another one sentence, ‘Which direction’ which I had forgotten.
Italians are much friendlier and lively. I love Italy and hope to return there one day. Italian foods are the best in the world and that’s the main attractions.