Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Karen Toh's Travel Tips: Italy

Welcome to Karen's Travel Blog..

I've decided that I want to share my travel experiences with my friends, and maybe their friends.. :)

Here's one of my favourite locations - Italy!

P.S. Please note that all images in this blog are from, as i do not have any digital images of my own to share with you, as I visited Italy in 2000 before I took up Digital Photography with an SLR. However, you can view my other Photos on my Webshots Community Album. You can also read my other Travel Blogs here.

Travel Blog References
· Contents compiled and written by Karen Toh Guek Bee.
· Wikipedia

Photography Images:
· Courtesy of,

Travel Tip: Rome & Vatican City

Roma as it is affectionately called is an amazing City. Within its city center, you’ll be able to transport yourself backwards in time to the Ancient City of Rome, with the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and more, all within walking distance.

Whether you are a Christian or not, or maybe an art lover, whatever the reason, it is no excuse to miss the Vatican City! On this holy ground, you not only pay homage to the current pope and those past, but you get a glimpse of how the many art collections and sculptures, esp those by Michelangelo.

The best way to visit Rome is by walking! Better yet, why not take a Walking Tour. These guys are also history students who do part time tours for tips. They'll make your visit more lively than trying to read from a guide book, and they're cheaper than taking a proper tour (very touristy). On days that you do take the walking tour, just make sure you're are ready to walk - have bottled water, cap/umbrella, camera, whatever, just make sure you don't become targets of pick pockets.. coz you may be so intent on listening/taking photos, that you don't notice someone picking your bag/pocket (Milan is the worst i think, coz there are more gypsies).

Things to see:

Ancient Rome

  • Colosseum - book ahead through, but join the guided tour.
  • The Pantheon
  • Trevi fountain – throw a coin backwards, and you’ll return to rome!
  • The Roman Forum
  • Capitoline Hill
  • Piazza Navona

    • Vatican City

      You’ll need to go early and queue! Don’t miss it!
      • Michaelangelo’s Pietà near the entrance of St. Peter's Basilica
      • Bernini's Funeral Monument for Pope Urban VIII in the St. Peter's Basilica
      • Michelangelo’s Frescoe in the Sistine Chapel
      • Vatican Museums (if you have the time)
      • Oh, and time to ogle the cute Guards.
      Beyond Rome
      If you have an extra day in Rome, why not take a day to south to Pompeii & Sorrento. Most tours pick you up at dawn, and drop you off around 9pm.

      Pompeii and Herculaneum
      If you want to see how the Romans lived, one of the most well preserved sites are the ruins of
      Pompeii and Herculaneum. After the nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius, erupted on 24 August 79 AD, both ancient cities was lost to civilization, having been buried by clouds of ash and extreme heat.

      To experience
      Sorrento, you need to take the “Amalfi Drive” which is a narrow road that threads around the high cliffs above the Mediterranean, connecting Sorrento with the Amalfi coast. It’s a great drive, maybe not for the driver, but the views are stunning. Sorrento is also known for it’s liquor called “Limencelo”.

      Travel Tip: Cinque Terre & Leaning Tower of Pisa

      On your way to Florence, why not make two stops?

      Many people go to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa on their way to Florence, but the miss out on a little known secret – Cinque Terre.

      Cinque Terre
      If you are on your way north from Rome or heading towards Florence by train, and you have a few days to spare, let me that if you add Cinque Terre to your trip, you won’t regret it.

      These are 5 coastal villages perched on Italy’s eastern coast in near the town of La Spezia region (from which you hop off and connect to a local train). A UNESCO World Heritage Site (national park) now, it appears that time has stood still for these villages.

      The best way to visit the
      Cinque Terre is by local train, and to use one of it’s towns as a base. To explore these villages, you have two choices – by local train, or on foot.. If you take the latter, you will be rewarded by your efforts by the view! Breathtaking isn’t enough a word to describe the sights. Mind you, those who are not fit for hiking better think twice, coz there’s no turning back once you start your journey! Tip: Bring water with you, and be prepared for a change in weather.

      o Monterosso
      o Vernazza
      o Manarola
      o Corniglia
      o Riomaggiore

      Other links

      Leaning Tower of Pisa:
      If you are on your way north from Rome or heading towards Florence by train or by car, it is worthwhile to stop by for a quick visit to the Leaning
      Tower of Pisa.

      It never ceases to amaze anyone who gets a glimpse of the tower in person. It really leans!

      You may not realize this but the tower was meant to be the bell tower for the Cathedral, but 1173 due to poor foundation, the tower began to tilt.

      Travel Tip: Florence

      Firenze, as it is called by its locals, is an interesting city, especially if you like art. Even if you’re not, you’ll find Florence to be very picturesque city with a variety of things for everyone to do.

      Like rome, you can join a Walking Tour in Florence. The guided tours are conducted by art history students. Beware of musuemnitis.. after a while, one picture will look like another, and whatever your guide tells you won't make any sense.. haha. not joking though :p

      Things to see:-

      • Uffizi Museum, Florence - i recommend the walking tour with this. or the

      • Michangelo's David is at Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence - you can also try this on your own.

      • The Duomo - Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori - Don't forget the cathedral with it's tower.. when in Italy, you can't miss this in every major town. don't forget the cathedral with it's tower.. when in Italy, you can't miss this in every major town.

        Oh, if you’re not intending to go to Milan, and want to do some shopping for leather goods, the things you find in Florence are pretty good, but like all shopping in the street, some bargaining skills are required.

      Travel Tip: Venice

      The city of Venice, in the past was famous for its decadence and parties. This water city comprises of numerous small islands along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. A trip to Italy isn’t complete until you’ve visited Venice.

      To understand Venice a little better, you need to go on a guided tour. Since you can cover Venice by walking, why not take a
      Walking Tour?

      Things to see:

      • Piazza San Marco

      • Basilica di San Marco

      • St Mark's Clocktower

      • Doge's Palace

      • Rialto Bridge

      • The Bridge of Sighs

      If you decide to explore Venice on your own, you may want to book your tickets to the Doge’s palace in advance.

      One last excursion you should take is to the island of Murano. This is where Murano Glass comes from.

      Travel Tip: Milan

      Of all cities in Italy, Milan seems to be the most fast paced, and is definitely a modern Metropolis. Fashionable Milan means you have to dress the part too!

      So, in Milan, before you get distracted by the shopping, here are a few things you must see!

      • The first stop has to be the church of Santa Maria della Grazie, that houses Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper. Remember if you want to visit this painting, you need to book in advance.

      • Visit the Cathedral (Duomo) if you aren't tired of visiting churches by now. The Duomo is the second largest cathedral of the world and the world's largest collection of marble statues.

      • La Scala Opera (Teatro alla Scala) is a must see if you can, better if there's a show going on

      When you’re out sightseeing or shopping, remember to watch out for those gypsies, who are very cunning. some use babies/children to distract you.


      Sienna or Siena, a city in Tuscany, is the capital of the province of Siena. The historic centre of Siena has been declared by the UNESCO a World Heritage Site.
      The Roman origin accounts for the town’s emblem – a she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus. According to legend, Siena was founded by Senious, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named.

      Things to see:
      · Siena Cathedral (Il Duomo)
      · Piazza del Campo
      · Abbazia di San Galgano
      · Pinacoteca Nazionale
      · Basilica di San Domenico


      Verona is a city in Veneto, northern Italy, and is one of the main tourist destinations, due to its artistic heritage, annual fairs, shows and operas. It’s ancient amphitheatre built by the Romans still stands.

      Okay, so one of the main reasons people flock to Verona is to see Juliet’s balcony, as in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. Although the story is set in Siena, and not Verona, the balcony and “Juliet’s house”, now a museum, seems to attract people of all walks of life.

      Things to see:
      · Piazza dei Signori
      · Museo Archeologico del Teatro Romano (“Roman theatre”)
      · Ponte di Pietra ("Stone Wall Bridge)
      · The Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore