A Travellerspoint blog

Malaga

"I used to sword-fight with my little brother on the terrace of our house in Malaga, with plastic swords." - Antonio Banderas.

sunny 32 °C
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Malaga is located along the southern coast of Spain, which is also known as the Costa del Sol (Sun Coast). It is a beautiful city with a distinctly old European feeling. Together with this you can see the traces of the Moorish Empire who ruled this area from their invasion in 711 until their defeat in 1212. According to the Port Explorer, you should leave your watch at home and settle into the slow and unhurried charm of Malaga. I wish I could do that, but I didn’t want a repeat of the La Spezia incident where I almost missed the ship.

1. Malaga waterfront
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The shuttle bus drops you at the waterfront which is right across from the cathedral. You can see if from the waterfront as the bell tower rises out over the buildings in front of it. The first thing that I love about Malaga is the animated traffic light men. The traffic light signal for pedestrians has a green man who casually walks in his box. Over his head he has a countdown. When the countdown nears the end the little man starts to run faster indicating to the pedestrians that they have to hurry up or be crushed by cars.

2. Horse-drawn carriages
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The Cathedral of Malaga is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture and was constructed between the 16th and 17th century. The cathedral dominates the tiny space in which it stands and looks a bit squished in here. This probably suggests that the city just expanded towards the cathedral, boxing it in. For this reason I couldn't get a great picture, because you cannot stand back far enough. The cathedral is magnificent on the outside and the inside. In Malaga I experience a real strictness with photography for the first time. In the cathedral I am peacefully taking pictures when I get yelled at for using a flash. Well, it wasn’t a yell; this is a cathedral after all. It was more like a loud whisper. I continued to admire the cathedral in a flashless darkness.

3. Square in front of the cathedral
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4. Outside of the Cathedral
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5. Inside the Cathedral
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6. The cathedral rising out over the buildings
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Malaga is clean and beautiful. There are street musicians on the corners and men playing Spanish guitar make me smile. A Chinese man on the one corner, playing a Erhu (also known as the Chinese violin), does look a little out of place.

A few famous people are from Malaga. Most notably, Pablo Picasso and Antonio Banderas. The Picasso museum is located in a lovely 16th century building down the street from the Cathedral. Here are many Picasso originals that were donated to the museum by his daughter-in-law. The house is in a square shape, but you walk around in a circle. Here they are even stricter about taking photographs than in the cathedral. They are not allowed at all. In every room a security guard watches your every move which means that you cannot even sneak a quick photo. Everything in the museum is very white and calm and a welcome escape from the hot Malaga sun.

One of the places to see in Malaga is Picasso’s birthplace. This is located in an older part of town and when you arrive there you can clearly see that this is a different part of town. When I arrive at the house, two women are fighting on the street corner and a man leers at me from behind a lamp post. Picasso was born here and lived here until he was 14, at which time the Picasso family moved to Barcelona. The thin, tall Picasso house has a few flights, but only two are open to the public. Here there is only one security guard and I quickly take some sneaky pictures. I think she was onto my secret photo-taking as she was following me around a lot. She of course had other people to watch as well and this is where my sneakiness came into play.

Upon exiting the museum, one of the fighting women from earlier, is getting sick on the sidewalk. Not a pretty sight.

7. Outside Picasso's childhood home
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8. Picasso as a child
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9. Inside the house
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Two blocks away is the Alcazabilla, a long street solely for shops and restaurants. The Alcazaba, a Muslim palace, is located on the left of the Alcazabilla and dominates the city as you can almost see it from anywhere. It is situated on a hill which looks out over the ocean. The Arab Empire of Malaga ruled from this fortress and it has amazing views of the city. I walk to the top to get a good view and from here I can exactly see how to walk to get to my next destination, the bull ring. It is much closer than I thought.

10. Optical illusion sheet to avoid buildings under construction becoming an eye-sore
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11. Alcazaba
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12. The view of the city from Alcazaba
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13. Malaga bullring as seen from Alcazaba
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14. The ship as seen from Alcazaba
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The bullring is closed today, but open over the weekends when traditional bullfights are still held. Though I am completely opposed to the torture of animals, it would have been nice to see the inside of the building. The Malaga bullring was built in 1874 and is one of the largest in Spain.

15. The bullring up close
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At this point the heat is getting to me and I decide to head back to the shuttle bus. I walk through the Paseo del Parque which are beautiful gardens next to the waterfront. This takes me back to the shuttle bus and I cannot believe that my day in Malaga is over. It has truly been magnificent. Malaga had the least tourists of all the cities on this trip which makes everything so much more accessible as I didn’t have to stand in any queues. Malaga is so beautiful with an amazing atmosphere.

16. Paseo del Parque
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Next stop: Gibraltar

Posted by Anja Fourie 08:08 Archived in Spain Tagged sun bullfights fortress alcazaba malaga painter bullring picasso musuem antonio_banderas paseo_del_parque costa_del_sol Comments (0)

Fly me high, Ibiza sky

"Woah, we're going to Ibiza!" - Venga Boys (We're going to Ibiza)

sunny 29 °C
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Quite appropriately the island of Ibiza was named by the Phoenicians after their god of music and dance, Bes. The original name was Ibossim. This seems very fitting as this island is know the world over as a party island. And that is exactly what we did. Party. For that reason this will be my shortest post yet.

Four people fit into a taxi which takes you to Bora Bora beach. The beach is lined with bars, but it is too expensive to buy your drinks like that, so we stop at the local supermarket and buy alcohol, juice, water and cups. Down at the beach we find a spot for our big group and everyone strips down immediately. Here, the girls are mostly semi-naked and guys wear tiny hot pants. Most girls just go topless and dance around like that on the beach with everything swinging around. The DJ’s play their music loudly from the bars next to the beach and people are just dancing everywhere.

1. Massvie bottle of vodka
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2. Panoramic Ibiza
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3. Girls on the beach
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The San Miguel yacht was also parked right outside the designated swimming area and they would then send a rubberduck with girls who throw beers to the people who are swimming. This differs from South Africa where we are not allowed to drink on most of our beaches. Here people stand in the ocean with a beer in the one hand and a cigarette in the other. There are absolutely no waves, just little tiny bumps in the water. By 9pm we were still going into the water as the Mediterranean feels like lukewarm bath water even at that time of night.

3. Some more Bora Bora beach
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Eventually the beach started to clear, so we took our bags and moved towards the dancing area. This beach is famous for thieves and a few people have had some valuables stolen here in the past. The dancing area is where the DJ has been playing all day. We just danced into the sunset and eventually decided to make our way back to the ship.

The ship looked beautiful at night and I realised this was the first time that I was seeing it after sunset. I tried to take some photos, but the driver was going so fast that I couldn’t get any. Then I almost got blown off the harbour by some really strong winds which mean that those photos were also blurred.

5. Result of a crazy taxi-driver
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6. Blurry ship at night
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On the ship, we continued the Ibiza party..

Next stop: Malaga

Posted by Anja Fourie 07:28 Archived in Spain Tagged taxi beach ship drink dance music party alcohol ibiza Comments (0)

Barcelona!

"In Barcelona you will eat the best fish of the Mediterranean. Add to this the true art of preparing dishes, which I do not hesitate to call philosophic and Homeric." - Salvador Dali

all seasons in one day 29 °C
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With a population of approximately 3 million people, Barcelona is the most important city in Catalonia. It is also the administrative capital of Spain and the largest city on the Mediterranean Coast. In the early 1900’s the Nationalist party, led by General Franco, banned the Catalonian language. In 1975 Franco died and with the crowning of King Juan Carlos I, the Catalonian language and culture has been allowed to flourish again. The people in Barcelona are immensely proud of their Catalonian culture. Barcelona is also famous for being the host of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Montserrat Caballe, who famously sang the theme song of the '92 Olympics with Freddie Mercury, is from Barcelona. Barcelona is also the home town of the famous Surrealist artist Salvador Dali, Spanish soccer player Gerard Pique and Pablo Picasso moved here when he was 14 years old.

"Barcelona - How can I forget, Barcelona - Such a beautiful horizon." - Montserrat Caballe & Freddie Mercury (Barcelona).

Las Ramblas is a very popular area of Barcelona. Las Ramblas is in fact a series of short streets with different names, hence the plural name of Las Ramblas. It is a 1.2km long stretch of tree-lined boulevard that stretches from the waterfront right to Plaça de Catalunya, which is the Catalonian Square. This street is the centre of activity in Barcelona. It is very crowded and a lot of people just walk up and down, eating ice-cream, watching the human statues and drinking sangria. In Spanish rambla refers to an intermittent stream of water flow.

“It is the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” - Federico García Lorca (Spanish poet).

1. Las Ramblas
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At the beginning of Las Ramblas stands the Monumento a Colon. This is the Columbus Monument and stands at the place where Christopher Columbus returned to Spain from his voyage to the Americas. This was his most famous trip and the monument is a reminder that Columbus returned to Barcelona to report to Queen Isabella about his trip. The monument is a straight-up column of 60 metres with a decorated base of angels. Black lions flank the steps. A favourite photo moment seems to be to climb onto the lions. I almost tried to jump on a lion when no one was looking. In fear of flashing my bum or breaking my arm, I decided not to. The kid before me was crying so hard when his dad didn’t help him off and he had to jump off himself. Those lions are high. I suspect he may have broken something.

2. The Columbus Monument and Lion Climbers
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But, I quickly passed all of this to make my way to the Sagrada Familia. As Antoni Gaudi is a famous architect from Barcelona and this is one of his most famous works, this is probably what you have to see when you go to Barcelona. The walk is quite far, but instead of taking the subway, I walk to the cathedral and enjoy the scenery. Barcelona is a big urban city with a lot of beautiful, old buildings. It reminds me a lot of Cape Town. The difference is that the roads are much wider, where Cape Town has a lot of narrow one-way streets. The result is that you get this open feeling even though you are in the center of a big city. It's still early in the morning and shopkeepers are setting up for the day. A man is repainting the door to his shop after graffiti artists / vandals used it as a canvas for their Spray Can Expressionism.

I finally reach the cathedral after a 45 minute walk. The cathedral was started in 1882 and even though Gaudi died in 1926, it still isn’t finished to this day. I find it so ugly that I don’t even want to stand in the queue that stretches around the block. Just because something is famous, doesn't mean that it needs to be admired by all. I start to make my way back to Las Ramblas.

3. Outside the cathedral
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On the way back I walk past a little church. It is much smaller than the Gaudi cathedral, but it has a lot more charm. This is the church of San Francis of Sales. This is considered the masterwork of Juan Martorell Montells. He was Gaudi’s teacher and I am much more impressed by the master than the student. Yet again, a beautiful church that most tourists overlook. No entrance fee and no queue. Every time I am amazed how all these little churches on my trip brings me a sense of calm and how easily all the sound from the city outside is blocked out. All I'm hearing is the choir practicing in a room somewhere. No cars and no people. Just peace.

4. San Francis of Sales Church
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On the next few blocks across I walk across the Plaça de Catalunya. This is generally considered to be the city centre and the place where old and new meet. Most of the important streets of Barcelona meet here. Here are some beautiful statues of women, which seems to have a Greek influence. They are surrounded by beautiful fountains. I stand around a little and watch the kids, including the little Messi, chase the dozens of pigeons that crowd the square. As this is the home of FC Barcelona, the red and blue colours of the team can be seen throughout the city.

5. Placa de Catalunya
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6. Little Messi and his pigeons
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The shopkeeper I passed earlier today is still painting his door. Graffiti is scribbled everywhere, even on statues and buildings that are supposed to be part of their heritage and history. I rightly believe in freedom of expression, but vandalising beautiful old buildings does put a frown on my face. Today at the Plaça de Catalunya, graffiti actually made me laugh a little when I saw one of the female statues received a black spray can full of hair on her nether regions.

6. Artistic expression about body hair?
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7. La Deessa by Josep Clara
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I buy Stracciatella gelato and indulge in the heavenly hazelnut flavours. While eating I notice a group of photographers surrounding a couple. They must be someone famous, but I had no idea who it was. Every move they make sends the paparazzi into a frenzy, so I also jump into the crowd and try and take my photo. The combination of ice-cream in the one hand, camera in the other, shortness and ten other photographers pushing me around, made my first and last paparazzi moment a bit hard.

8. Some famous couple with the demon human statue
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9. Floating human statue
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I walk down Las Ramblas and sit at the Columbus Monument, eat my ice-cream and soak up some Vitamin D. I reflect on the brilliance of Barcelona. There are still tourists here, but they seem less than in Italy and the Spaniards are friendlier by miles. For lunch I buy a Falafel Shawarma at a little place for 4euro.

With Shawarma in hand, I walk through the St. Josep La Boqueria, a fresh produce market place. A variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and smoothies can be purchased here. The colours of the fruits and vegetables are so vibrant that they look like fake plastic food.

10. St Josep La Boqueria and its bright food
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I walk past H&M and have to pop into this massive 5 level store. The store is so crowded, with a million girls pushing each other out of the way and pulling clothes from racks like beasts. The reason: You can buy very cute dresses here from as little as 3euro. That is less than what my lunch cost! Exiting the store, it suddenly starts to rain. Totally unexpected to me, but the locals are ready and whip their umbrellas out. The good thing is that the rain leaves as quick as it came and clears up in less than 10 minutes.

11. Rainy Barcelona
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By that time I was exhausted and the time had come to, unfortunately, head back to the shuttle bus and leave magnificent Barcelona behind.

12. Last walk down Las Ramblas
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Next stop: Ibiza

Posted by Anja Fourie 05:00 Archived in Spain Tagged food barcelona olympics fruit spanish cathedral gaudi clothes meat lions sangria falafel la_boqueria smoothie las_ramblas plac_de_catalunya montells h&m freddie_mercury montserrat_caballe Comments (1)

Palermo, Sicily

"In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns." - Calo ~ The Godfather.

sunny 28 °C
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Today we are docked in the darker part of Italy. Mafia country.

Palermo is the home of the Sicilian Mafia, also known as the Cosa Nostra. The city has a quiet, eerie feeling to it. The streets are emptier than all the other Italian cities I visited. Could this be an effect of the Mafia? Or is this merely a fantasy playing out in my head? There are apparently up to 4000 active members of the Mafia in Palermo. On my trip here, I try to spot a Mafia member or something giving away evidence of Mafia activity. I find nothing, but I guess that is the point. If I could point a Mafia member out from the crowd, he wouldn't be a very good Mafia member, now would he?

1. Docked at Palermo
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Compared to the famous cities of Rome and Florence, Palermo looks poverty stricken and dirty. Palermo is the largest city and port on the island of Sicily. It used to be a part of Greece and later became part of the Roman Empire. In 1861, Sicily became a part of Italy.

2. Post office of Palermo
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A tourist map shows eight places of interest in Palermo. I give the Marionette Museum and the Archaeological Museum a skip. I follow the map to Quattro Conti, the exact city center of the old Palermo. The four buildings surrounding the city center are all decorated with statues and carvings. On every corner in Palermo, there are also horse-drawn carriages that take you around the city for 5 Euro.

3. City center of old Palermo
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All of the carriage men try to get my attention. One whistles at me and I decide it is time to brave the heat of the summer day. I leave the shadow of the buildings and walk down the road to the next destination on my map. A man on a Vespa suddenly drives up the sidewalk right in front of me. My first thought is that he made an accident, but he turns around a throws a big smile at me. "Gelato?" he asks. It takes me a moment to realise he wants to buy me an ice-cream. I shake my head no and start to walk away. This does not discourage him at all. He starts to follow me on the sidewalk, slowly riding his pale blue Vespa behind me.

My next destination suddenly appears before me. The Cathedral. Sanctuary from Mr.Blue Vespa and sanctuary from the Sicilian heat. This 12th century Roman Catholic church, with architectural styles from the Middle Ages, shows a stark difference to the Renaissance flair of architecture in Florence or Pisa. The appearance is almost Gothic and Middle Eastern at the same time. This could be leftover from the time that Sicily was under Arab rule.

4. Cathedral and grounds
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Further down the street, the last thing to see is the Palace. I can't find a way into the palace, but with the sun bearing down uncomfortably on me, I didn't look too hard for an entrance either. I rather just stroll through the palace gardens. Later I found out that this is the current seat of the parliament of Sicily and not a tourist attraction.

5. The Palermo Palace and gardens
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Walking back I accidentally stumble upon the Piazza Pretoria. This is a beautiful fountain which was originally built for a villa near Florence, but ended up here. Somewhere down the street I walk into a church. This isn't even on the tourist map, but I go in anyway. Here I just sit down a little to get away from the heat. It is really quiet, peaceful and beautiful inside the church. The great thing about beautiful old churches are that they are tourist attractions, but generally do not ask any entrance money.

6. Piazzo Pretoria
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7. Inside the little church
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As I walk back to the port to return to the ship, I buy myself a bottle of water. The shopkeeper realises I am a tourist and that I don't speak Italian. "Where? Where?" he excitedly asks.
"South Africa." My answer is met with a blank expression. "Africa?" I try again.
His face lights up as I see understanding sinking in. Then, confusion. "But...uh...you...uh...white?"
"Yes." I smile. The language barrier is far too great to explain this one, so I just show him my R5 coin instead. It looks exactly like a 2 Euro coin. Both have a golden circle in the middle, surrounded by a silver band. He gets immensely excited about the coin and I give it to him to keep.
"Ah, I remember! I always remember!"

I say my grazies and my ciaos and the shopkeeper hurries outside to wave to me as I walk down the road. Sicilians are definitely a lot friendlier than main land Italians. I smile as I wonder if I would be part the dinner conversation that evening.

Next stop: Barcelona

Posted by Anja Fourie 14:43 Archived in Italy Tagged horses fountain florence cathedral dirty sicily friendly palermo Comments (3)

When in Rome...

"Rome has not seen a modern building in more than half a century. It is a city frozen in time." - Richard Meier.

sunny 26 °C
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Civitavecchia is the heart of Italy as this is a really big and important port and harbour. Civitavecchia, which means "ancient town", is about 80kms away from Rome. Walking on the port is not allowed, so a shuttle bus from the ship takes us into town where we take the 1.5 hour train ride into Rome.

1. Civitavecchia harbour wall
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Rome has a few different train stations as the city is so big. We decide to buy a ticket for one of the hop-on-hop-off bus tours. The bus stops at 12 major points in Rome and you get earphones to plug into a little box where you can listen to interesting facts. These type of buses are a really quick and cheap way to see the city when you don't have a lot of time.

2. The map and our stops
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As the bus drives down Via Labicana you see the Colosseum coming towards you. When we round the corner we also see the sea of tourist surrounding the popular fighting grounds of Ancient Rome. We walk around, take some photos and then proceed up Fori Imperial, past some beautiful buildings and ancient ruins.

3. Thank you Mr. Obvious, we almost didn't see the Colosseum there
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4. Entrance gate to the Colosseum
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5. The Colosseum
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In the distance you can see the Il Vittoriano and it takes your breath away. The Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II is a monument build to the first king of a unified Italy, Vittoria Emanuele. It is visible to most of Rome as it is so large, but is regarded by most as too pompous. To me it was just one magnificent structure. The building is made out of pure white marble and it just dominates everything around it. Not even the rude gladiators can ruin the mood.

6. Il Vittoriano
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Everywhere on the streets there are men dressed as gladiators and you pay them to take a picture with them. We ask the one which way we should walk to get to the fountain. He rudely replied: "Why should I speak English to you. I am standing here and I am hot in this outfit and you don't even want to pay me for a photo." We then just use our own little map and figure the way out on our own.

The square in which the fountain is situated is so crowded that we cannot even reach the edge to throw in some coins. Throwing in a coin will, according to Roman legend, ensure that you return to Rome one day. In the end I climbed on a step just to get a photo. The Fontane di Trevi really is very beautiful. This should not be confused with the Fountain of Love that can be seen in the movie, When in Rome as this is a made-up fountain. We then make our way down to Stop 12 and come across the Pantheon without even searching for it. The Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to all the gods. Vittorio Emanuele II is also buried here. Today the Pantheon is used as a Catholic church.

7. Trevi Fountain
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8. Pantheon
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Stop 1: Citta del Vaticano. Arriving there, the queue to get inside is at about 2 hours. We have no time to stand in this queue, so we just take some pictures of St. Peter's Basilica, the dome, and then get some ice-cream. We sit on a bench and wait for our bus to come back so we can take the train back to Civitavecchia. The ice-cream melts immediately as it probably has the same density as milk. You eat so fast, just to avoid getting melted ice-cream all over yourself. This being the first relaxed moment we had all day, I just sit in wonderment at the busy Roman street in front of me and the beautiful view of the Vatican to the right. The Vatican City has a population of about 800 people and it is ruled by the bishop of Rome, who is of course the Pope. It is the sovereign territory of the Holy See, which is where the jurisdiction over the Catholic Church presides. It is thus the central government of the Catholic Church. The current pope is Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th Pope. He is of German descent and holds both German and Vatican citizenship.

9. Pope Benedict XVI
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10. Outside the Vatican
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Rome is a big and magnificent city. Even though there is so much more to see in Rome than in smaller cities like Florence, Florence is much more beautiful. Rome is dirty at best and there are so many people everywhere that you get crushed wherever you go. Rome is just such a big city that you really need about three days to experience it properly.

Next stop: Palermo, Sicily.

Posted by Anja Fourie 10:46 Archived in Italy Tagged italy rome vatican colosseum vittoriano ice-cream trevi_fountain rude_people Comments (2)

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