Thursday, 7 November 2019

Spirited and Spiritual: ITALY

Spirited and Spiritual: ITALY: From Austria we headed for Italy which was the last country on our European itinerary with Soman’s Leisure Tours.   Venice - Ital...


From Austria we headed for Italy which was the last country on our European itinerary with Soman’s Leisure Tours.  

Venice - Italy
Our first destination in Italy was Romantic Venice.

Romantic Venice 
This beautiful city floating on  water is truly a magical land. 

The floating City - Venice
Some of the most important tourist attractions are the Piazza San Marco, a famous square in Venice which houses the  beautiful ornate cathedral Basilica San Marco, Palazzo Ducale or Doge’s Palace which was the palace of the former ruler of Venice, the bridge of sighs which  connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace etc. This enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has windows with stone bars.  The view from the windows of the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts had before they were brought for their execution. In fact the bridge takes its name from sighs of despair and depression of the convicts. .  
St Mark’s Square

St.  Mark’s Square
Doge’s Palace
Doge’s Palace 

Bridge of Sighs
Transportation in Venice is done by water ways.  Gliding along the Grand Canal in a gondola was certainly a dream come true as we sat back and enjoyed the splendor passing by.

Gondola ride

The Grand Canal
Enchanting Venice which attracts tourists from all over the world is in fact a labyrinth of narrow streets, alleys and canals and it’s easy to get lost.  In fact we did get separated from our group for quite  some time in the  little streets that were overcrowded with tourists.  In spite of those few moments of anxiety and tension Venice still continues to entice me.  

Venice - Castello
Rio del Greci
From Venice we moved to Padua where we retired for the night.  A few of our fellow travelers visited the St Antony’s Basilica early next morning. 
In front of our Hotel Western Biri, Padua

 breakfast we proceeded to the eternal city of Rome, also the birth place of Julius Ceaser

A stop en route Rome
Rome is full of history and ancient ruins.  A visit to Rome is therefore like travelling back in time. 
The Pyramid of Cestius in Rome built in the 1st century BC
The bridge over the river Tiber


You need at least two to three days to see all of Rome. There’s lots and lots to see. There is the beautiful Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, The Palentine hill and Roman Forum and much much more.  Unfortunately when we reached Rome, certain streets were closed due to some public  demonstrations on the roads. This, added to the shortage of time, made our Rome sightseeing short of complete coverage.
Palentine Hill and Roman Forum as seen from the Colosseum

Today Rome is becoming notorious for the prevalence of  pickpockets. It is better not to carry valuables.  In fact we’ve witnessed a lot of them trying to distract tourists' attention to fulfill their intentions. 

The biggest attraction in Rome is the Colosseum the major part of which  still stands after 2000 years.  It was in this giant amphitheater that gladiator combats were staged and so much of blood was shed for the entertainment of the masses.
The Colosseum
Our Mothers' Day celebs at the Colosseum
The Spanish Steps are a long, grand staircase of 135 steps. At the foot of the Spanish Steps is a sculptural fountain, in the shape of a half-sunken ship with water overflowing from its sides. 
The fountain at the foot of the Spanish Steps
 At the top of the Spanish Steps is an Obelisk, an 18th century Roman made monument constructed in the style of  ancient Egyptian obelisks.
The Spanish steps seen from the Fountain at its base

Adjacent to the Spanish steps is the house where the famous English Poet John Keats spent his last days.  It has now been converted to a historical museum known as the Keats Shelly Museum in memory of the two great English poets. John Keats, died at the young age of 25, after travelling to Italy from England hoping  that the Italian sun would  cure him of the tuberculosis that was killing him. 
The Keats Shelley Museum adjacent to the Spanish Steps
Here I stood after two centuries on those same steps that the romantic poet used to climb  to enjoy the views of Rome from top.  Staring at the building where he once lived I  imagined the poet gazing out from that window for long periods of time viewing the bustling activities in the Spanish Square below.  
Looking down from the Spanish Steps
Near  the Spanish steps is the home to the Pope, the Vatican City the smallest country in the world.  Swiss guards dressed in colorful uniforms of red, dark blue, and yellow guard the entrance to the Vatican. 
Swiss Guards at the Vatican

The Vatican City has a strict dress code and shorts, short skirts, hats, and bare shoulders are not allowed .
Papal Audience window - 2nd from top right
The attractions within Vatican City are St. Peter’s square, St. Peter’s Basilica which is filled with religious sculptures and works of art, the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel.  The Obelisk at the center of the square was transported to Rome from Egypt in the 1st century AD.  Rome has a lot of obelisks throughout the city. 

The dome of St Peter's Basilica and the Egyptian Obelisk at St Peter's Square
Ceiling of the Basilica

Inside the Basilica

Michaelangelo's Pieta inside the St Peter's Basilica

Inside  St Peter's Basilica
The beautiful St. Peter’s square  is crowded with tourists. There are a lot many gift shops and food vendors too.   

Gift shops at the square
The Vatican

Our lunch was at Zen Gardens, an Asian Buffet restaurant with a wide array of dishes.  After a sumptuous meal we continued our journey to Pisa in Italy’s Tuscany region. 
Lunch at Zen Garden

Zen Garden
Tuscany is beautiful with its mountains, fields, villages etc. 

The Leaning Tower is the main attraction and it is situated in the famous square ‘Field of Miracles’. It  is really magnificent. 
Field of Miracles

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The square is surrounded by beautiful lush green lawn 
Cathedral at Pisa
After clicking fun photographs  at the leaning tower we spent some time shopping at the  long line of vendor stalls that sell souvenirs, bags etc  just outside the complex.
Restaurants and vendor stalls outside the complex

Fun Photograph

Stay was at Hotel Euro
Hotel Euro
Next morning we moved to Milan, the fashion capital of the world. That was the last leg of our trip.
View of Milan from our bus window

Milan from our Bus window


A street in Milan 
Milan is fairly a compact city.  At the heart of Milan, is the Duomo cathedral.  The interior of Milan Cathedral is spectacular with its highly adorned columns and beautiful Italian Marble floors. 
Italian Marble floor of the Cathedral
Piazza del Duomo

Milan Cathedral

Inside the Milan Cathedral
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the very beautiful shopping centers in the world, with some of the most expensive shopping boutiques.  There are also many restaurants. 

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Another classical image of Milan is the large flock of pigeons hanging out in the Piazza 
 del Duomo  the main city square of Milan. Tourists can be seen clicking photographs while feeding the pigeons.
Feeding the Pigeons at the Piazza del Duomo in Milan

There  is a beautiful underground metro station located in Piazza Duomo the central area of Milan.  
At the Underground Metro Station in Milan
Enjoying ice cream at the Piazza

After a splendid day in Milan we proceeded to the Malpensa Airport for our journey back home to Cochin via Muscat. 

Malpensa Airport

In the Oman Air flight
That was the end of our incredibly wonderful Europe trip with Soman’s Leisure Tours last May. 

Aerial view of Muscat during landing

As we grow older we realize that it’s not  the things that we possess but it’s the wonderful people who we are surrounded with, the beautiful places we visit, the sweet memories we carry in our heart that add color to our life. Our Europe trip was a combination of all these.

We made friends with a bunch of very lovely people all of who are still in touch.

Our Tour Group
In fact we did have a reunion of our group recently.

And we all look forward to another exciting journey in the year ahead....a journey that would be made picturesque with laughter and fun.