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Monday, 19 May 2014

Italy Part 2: Land of Leonardo Da Vinci (Florence)

I traveled to Italy last year (2013), visiting Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Trieste over the course of two weeks with my bestie, Bhavani. Overall, Florence (Firenze) was my favourite for this entire trip. Originally, the trip was meant as a sort of a “working trip” as I was invited by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste to attend the 1st International Workshop on “Low-cost 3D Printing for Science, Education and Sustainable Development”. 

For this trip, myself and Bhavani took Malaysia Airlines from Penang - Kuala Lumpur and Turkish Airlines Inc. from Kuala Lumpur - Instanbul (Ataturk) - Venice (Marco Polo). We both did extensive research before our trip, and here’s what we did for our entire 15-days journey (27 April - 11 May 2013) in Italy (Italia): 
<Venice (Venezia) - Florence (Firenze) - PISA - Rome (Roma) - Florence (Firenze) - Trieste - Venice (Venezia)> 

27 Apr:
PENANG / KUALA LUMPUR Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)
KUALA LUMPUR / INSTANBUL - Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to  Ataturk Airport, Instanbul via Turkish Airlines Inc. 

28 Apr: 
INSTANBUL / VENICE (VENEZIA) - Ataturk Airport, Instanbul to Marco Polo Airport, Venice via Turkish Airlines Inc. Upon arrival at the Marco Polo Airport, we took the ACTV bus (Linea 5 Aerobus) to Piazzale Roma (approx 20-30minutes) – Check-in Hotel Minerva & Nettuno, Venice 

29 Apr: 
VENICE (VENEZIA) – Piazza San Marco / St Mark Square - St Mark Basilica - Doge’s Palace Palazzo Ducale) - Museo Correr - Museo Archeologico  - Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana  - Gondola Ride at Canal Grande - Ponte di Rialto

30 Apr: 
VENICE (VENEZIA) / FLORENCE (FIRENZE) -  Depart from  Venezia S. Lucia (Venice) to Firenze  S.M. Novella (Florence) - Galleria dell' Accademia -  Monuments of Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Dome of Brunelleschi -  Baptistery of San Giovanni ) - Museo dell’ Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore -  Giotto’s Bell Tower  -  Archaeological site of the crypt of Santa Reparata - Cathedral of  S. Maria del Fiore - Basilica of San Lorenzo - Gallerie degli Uffizi - Piazza della Liberta

1 May:
FLORENCE (FIRENZE) - Firenze Central Market (Mercato) Basilica of Santa Croce - Piazza della Signoria & Palazzo Vecchio/ Neptune Fountain/ Loggia dei Lanzi - Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) - Piazzale Michelangelo & San Miniato al Monte Church -  San Lorenzo’s Market 

2 May:
PISA - Depart from Firenze S. M. Novella (Florence) to Pisa Centrale - The Piazza del Duomo or Campo dei Miracoli - The Leaning Tower (La Torre di Pisa)  - Cathedral of Pisa (Duomo di Pisa) - The Baptistery of St. John - Depart from PISA to Florence 

3 May:
ROME (ROMA) - Depart from Firenze S. M. Novella (Florence) to Rome Termini Central Station - The Colosseum + Roman Forum (at (Piazza Santa Maria Nova 53) + Palatine Hill (at Via San Gregorio No. 30) - Roman Forum - Palentine Hill - Arch of Constantine - Temple of Venus & Roma - Trevi Fountain at Trevi Square (Piazza di Trevi) - Piazza Navona - Pantheon @ Piazza della Rotonda - Piazza Navona - Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II – Depart from Rome to Florence  

4 May:
FLORENCE (FIRENZE) / TRIESTE - Walk around Florence town – Depart from Firenze S. M. Novella (Florence) - Trieste Centrale (approx 4.45 hr by train)

5 May:
TRIESTE - Piazza Unità d'Italia (Town Hall) - Municipio di Trieste - Saint Anthon and the Canal Grande + James Joyce Statue - The Old Roman Theater - San Silvestro - Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore - Via del Trionfo to see Arch of Riccardo – The Roman Gateway (33 BC) - Miramare Castle/ Castello di Miramare

6 May:
TRIESTE - FREE & EASY - Stock Exchange Square - Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary - San Giusto Castle/ Church -  Serbian Orthodox Church  -  Piazza Unità d'Italia 

7 May:
TRIESTEFREE & EASY - Grotta Gigante - Museo Revoltella -  Civico Museo di Storia e Arte e Orto Lapidario  

8 May:
TRIESTE - FREE & EASY - Tour around Piazza Unità d'Italia (Town Hall)

9 May:
TRIESTE / VENICE –Check-out from Hotel Tritone, Trieste – Depart from Trieste Centrale – St. Lucia (Venice) – Murano Glass Making – Explore Venice by Water BusCheck-in San Geremia Rooms, Venice 

10 May:
VENICE / INSTABUL / KUALA LUMPUR -  FREE & EASY - Depart from Venice (Marco Polo Airport) – Instanbul  (Ataturk Airport) and Instanbul  (Ataturk Airport) – Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) via Turkish Airlines Inc. 

11 May:
KUALA LUMPUR / PENANG - Depart from Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) – Penang via Malaysia Airlines (MH) 

If I would choose only one place to re-visit in Italy, it would definitely be Florence (Firenze). Florence was our second stop for this trip. The train from Venice (Venezia S. Lucia) to Florence was pretty reasonable (29 Euro for an Economy class), fast and it was an enjoyable 2 hour ride with great views of the countryside.  We arrived at Firenze S. M. Novella station at 10:30a.m. and headed to our B&B,  Hotel Stella Mary which was just 10 steps away from the train station. 

After checking-in and dropping off our luggages, we started to explore the city of Florence, visiting the Duomo, Cathedral of   S. Maria del Fiore, Basilica of San Lorenzo,  Basilica of Santa Croce & Palazzo Vecchio and many other interesting places which most of them are within walking distance from our hotel. The centre of Florence is pretty compact, so the best way to see it is by foot. It's a charming city and the people seemed friendlier than those in Venice. Our first stop was the Galleria dell’ Academia (Academia Gallery, invaded by over 1.2 million visitors every year), which we pre-booked the tickets in advance (highly recommended) and by passed the huge line.  Well, Michelangelo's David was just magnificent!

David is a must see in Florence!
Breathtaking sculpture

After the Galleria dell'Accademia, we walked over to the famous Duomo with its magnificent terracotta coloured cupola. We climbed up the 436 challenging and winding steps to get a wonderful bird's eye view of the city of Florence. After all, it was well worth it. We then sauntered past the San Lorenzo marketplace with its leather goods.
The magnificent Duomo
The magnificent Duomo
St. Giovanni Baptistery
The Duomo, the biggest dome in the world
Facade of Santa Maria del Fiore
Santa Maria del Fiore,Cathedral of Florence built in 1296
Facade of Santa Maria del Fiore
The Golden Gate to Paradise, east door facing the Duomo

Looking up at the beautiful dome.  Amazing!
Breathtaking sculpture
Breathtaking sculpture
Giotto’s Campanile or bell tower of the Cathedral
Florence is a great city just to walk around

Breathtaking sculpture
Breathtaking sculpture
Breathtaking sculpture
The next day, we moved on to Piazza della Signoria where we found unique outdoor gallery of sculptures, including Neptune’s Fountain and a copy of the famous Statue of David followed by a visit to Ponte Vecchio,  the oldest bridge in Florence built in 1345. Later in the afternoon, we took a local bus and hoofed up to Piazzale Michelangeo for a stunning panoramic shot of the city. There we found fantastic views of Florence and the Arno River. 
A copy of Michelangelo's Da Vinci at Piazza della Signoria
Statue of Hercules and Cacus

Unique outdoor sculpture gallery at Piazza della Signoria
The Rape of the Sabine Women statue

The Statue of Neptune
Piazza della Signoria
Basilica Santa Croce - Burial place of Michelangelo and Galileo

Santa Croce's facade

I am impressed by the beauty of this painting

The famous Ponte Vecchio built in 1345

View of Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore
At Piazza Michelangelo: Sign of Spring!Flowers blooming
At Piazza Michelangelo,  famous square with magnificent panoramic view of Florence

Myself & Bhavani at the entrance of Basilica Santa Croce
I am so glad we booked our entry tickets in advance. We saved time for not queuing in front of the Cathedral/ Gallery/Museums and have more time to discover Florence better! 

I must say that I enjoyed my trip in Florence very much! Florence is not just any historic city to me but it is much more than that. We spent five days in Florence and the next time I travel this way I will make it at least a week. If you’re an art lover, you’ll definitely love Florence. There are a lot of museums, statues, art, churches, history to see if you are into that kind of stuff.  Beautiful cathedrals are one of the reasons why I love European countries. We loved our time in Florence and hope to visit this place again sometime in the future!

Architecture of Florence

You see street artists everywhere in Italy
One of the streets we walked on to get to Piazza del Duomo from Piazza della Signoria

Who is the artist behind these entertaining forms of harmless graffiti?
Trash bin along the streets

Piazza di Santa Maria Novella
Air Itinerary Details: 
Penang - Kuala Lumpur  (via Malaysia Airlines MH) and Kuala Lumpur - Instanbul (Ataturk) - Venice (Marco Polo) via Turkish Airlines Inc.  / Venice (Marco Polo) - Instanbul (Ataturk) - Kuala Lumpur via Turkish Airlines Inc.  and Kuala Lumpur – Penang (via Malaysia Airlines MH)  

Local Transportation: 
How to get there: Took Frecciargento train from Venezia S. Lucia - Firenze S. M. Novella 
Departure time: 8.25a.m. - 10.30a.m. (approx. 2 hour)
Fare Type: 30,75 Euro/pax (Economy/ Class 2)
Click here for details: http://www.italiarail.com/italian-high-speed-trains 

Venice (Venezia) - Hotel Minerva & Nettuno
Florence (Firenze) - Hotel Stella Mary
PISA – N/A (1- day-trip from Florence)
Rome (Roma) – N/A (1- day-trip from Florence)
Trieste - ICTP Galileo Guesthouse and Hotel Tritone
Venice (Venezia) - San Geremia Rooms 

Dome of Brunelleschi - 12 Euro
Baptistery of San Giovanni - 7 Euro
Santa Croce - 6 Euro
Church of Santa Maria Novella - 5 Euro 
Galleria dell' Accademia (Academia Gallery) - 10,5 Euro

Read more about our travel experiences @ Italy (Italia): 
Italy Part 1: The Venice Experience (Venezia)
Italy Part 3: More than just a Leaning Tower (Pisa)
Italy Part 4: Rome wasn't built in a day! (Roma)
Italy Part 5: Unlike any other Italian cities! (Trieste)

 “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard 

Welcome to Small World! This blog allows me to share my travel experiences with others in a straightforward and far-reaching way. I often made great use of other peoples travel blogs and websites every time I plan for my travel itinerary as they often contained most updated information and invaluable resources from their past travel experiences.  I really hope that you will find every piece of information contained within my blog handy and useful for your upcoming trip. Thank you very much for reading my post(s) and feel free to leave a comment/testimonial. The writer is a passionate traveler who enjoys speaking to young keen travelers about the freedom to get cultured and to taste the fullness of life. Feel free to contact the writerif you need any travel guidance or tips or if you have any burning questions with regards to your upcoming trip/ journey 
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