Catching a train in Rome

When travelling, time management is very important. Every little detail has to be taken into account; the time you wake up, the time you take to bathe, the time to leave the hotel, transportation schedules and what not. Evi and I learned a precious lesson, we almost did not make it home last April. But we did; with lots of running and high determination to catch our train in time. Our train was scheduled to leave Rome for Bologna at 8.45am, and a few minutes before that we were still in a bus, caught in a traffic jam.

Evi and I left our accommodation, located some 40 minutes from Rome city centre by train, around 7.00am despite 6.45am as planned, because we had to actually take some time to return the key set which comprises of the keys to gate, building, apartment and our room. The automatic gate can only be opened with the key, so we figured out a way. After opening the gate, Evi ran back to the apartment at 1st floor to keep the key while I stand in the way of the gate to keep it open.

We then walked 10 minutes to the nearest Torrenova train station. We took the 7.15am train and journey from Torrenova Station to C Lodi Metro Station took about an hour as it stopped longer at every station during week days. We arrived at Piazza Lodi around 8.15am. From there we then had to take a bus before reaching Rome Main Station. We have 30 minutes to reach the station, but the bus was nowhere in sight. We tried to hail taxis, but no luck. The bus finally came around 8.30am. 15 minutes to catch our train. At this time, we were counting minutes and looking at the time as often as we could. We were panicking. To make matter worst, the traffic was at its peak; moving slowly as if time and speed had become distorted. We prayed hard in the bus. God knows we did.

You see, our train from Rome Main Station to Bologna was scheduled to leave at 8.45am. We have to catch that train as we bought a Smart ticket for two persons for 34,90€. It was a good deal. If we miss the train, we might have to buy new tickets at more expensive rate.

With my phone in hand, I searched for ticket from Rome to Bologna and found out that it cost about 60€ per person—with arrival time at Bologna at 3.00pm. Smart ticket was not available on that date. Taking the regional train was out of the option as it would reach later than 3.00pm. We knew then that by hook or by crook, we had to take our train because our flight to Kuala Lumpur was scheduled at 3.30pm. We had to be there on time, else we will get stuck in Rome with only 60€ in my pocket. Evi tried to withdraw some money a day earlier, but it was rejected. Something wrong with the withdrawal setting on the bank side, even though she had it activated for overseas withdrawal. Mine was good, but there was no money in it (haha!).

With the money in my pocket combined with Evi’s money in the bank (if we were at all successful at withdrawing it), it was still not enough to cover new flight tickets, plus train tickets from Rome to Bologna to Gugliemo Airport, not to mention money for food. It’s not cheap. Asking money from family members was the last thing on our minds.

Anyway, we reached the main station around 8.40am. We ran as fast as we could and were trembling as we reached the check-in gate, the platform and the train. 8.43am. Phew. That was close.

When inside the train we panicked once again as we had not validate our ticket. We asked around and a man told us that we do not have to validate as our ticket has confirmed seats. Phew again.

At 8.45am, the train made its way to Bologna with two women laughing their asses off (while still having trembling leftover), happy that they made it.

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Verona, Italy; City of Romance

I was not planning to visit Verona at all, but a friend told me that it is good to visit as Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s Castle) is located there, and so I visited the city with some of my friends.

We visited the so-called castle and there’s a bronze Juliet statue in the courtyard. Most all of the tourists seemed to be wanting to be photographed with the statue while groping its breast. For good luck in love, they said. I was not too keen and I refuse to belief the myth.

juliet-statueJuliet statue by Nereo Costantini (1905-1969).

The area was too full with tourists and we couldn’t even breathe, so we opted walking outside the castle, along the old street, that looks more enticing.

Verona tends to bring out the romantic in everyone who made the trip to see Juliet’s castle, balcony and statue, which in reality are just a good bit of marketing strategy to market Verona to tourists. Historians said there is nothing to link the house to Shakespeare’s tragic love story but however, archaeologists unearthed skeletons believed to be Romeo and Juliet outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona.

But anyway, despite the romantic fiction, the town is full of artistic, historical and cultural histories. Some of the places we visited was Castelvecchio, Piazza Brà and the Roman Arena.

castelvecchio

Castelvecchio (Old castle) with its amazing fortified bridge, represent a military monument of the Scaligera (the Scaligera was the noble family, also called “della Scala”, that governed Verona) dominion. The castle housed Verona’s principal art gallery.

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We visited Piazza Brà, a large open square where the town’s most remarkable sight, the Arena, is located. The main part of The Arena is well preserved, though an outer ring of arches is almost lost. With a total length of 139 meters and a width of 110 meters, it is one of the largest amphitheatres in the world and, after the one in Rome.

Here are some photos of attractive buildings around Piazza Brà.

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Cinque Terre travel tips

CTVernazza, Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre is a beautiful place to visit. A well-planned trip can allow you to save time and cost of travelling as well as place to stay, thus I am writing to share the tips on how to plan for your travel.

Cinque Terre consists of 5 villages; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Browse the Internet to get insights on which village that suits your preference.

1When to visit – It depends on your preference. Most travellers prefer to visit in the summer to get the best weather for swimming and lounging on the beach. I visited Cinque Terre in early Spring ( a bit rainy, I have no choice as I took the chance of visiting the terre after the book fair), and and I wasn’t planning on swimming at all.

2Airports near to Cinque Terre – The closest airports to travel to Cinque Terre are Pisa, Florence and Genoa. I did mine from Bologna as it was my base during the book fair.

3Transfer to Cinque Terre. From any airport above, get to the nearest train station (Centrale) and buy ticket to the village of your preference. Bear in mind that, you have to change train more than once. In my case; Bologna-Parma-La Spezia-Corniglia. My train ticket fare from Bologna to Corniglia was €19.15. Ticket from Florence – Pisa – La Spezia – Corniglia for €14.90. If you take a train from Pisa Centrale, it will be just around €11.40, above an hour ride with route Pisa-La Spezia-village of your preference.

You can check train schedule and fee at Trenitalia website and buy online. You can either print your ticket or just use your mobile phone and show your booking code to the ticket inspector. More info here on ticketless purchase. If you are not buying online, you can still use the schedules to plan your itinerary.

Reminder: train ticket must be time-stamped in a machine at a station before you get on the train. If you do not time-stamp the tickets, you could just keep on using them for many journeys, so there is €100 fine for travelling without the ticket having been validated. However, this only applies to ticket that could be used on more than one train (regional train). If your train ticket is for a specific date and time with an assigned seat, you do NOT need to validate it at all, since it can’t be used again anyway (city train/fast train).

4Place to stay. I use booking.com because I like to change my mind a lot. I always opt for room that I can cancel in case I found cheaper room, and opt to pay cash.

5Online connection. I bet you would want to share your photos online. I bought a WIND local sim card; that cost me 30 Euro, with 5GB data plan. It worked fine around Italy but however, the network did not work while in the La Spezia region. My network got disconnected after La Spezia station and only got it back after leaving La Spezia two days later. My advice; get a room with free Wi-Fi connection. Or you can buy Cinque Terre Card to get WI-FI internet connection in the Park’s Hot Spots. If you get to Vernazza, you can buy the Wi-Fi from Internet Point shop at Via Roma (the main road). If you get to Corniglia, free Wi-Fi can be obtained easily at any cafe around the square. You just need to dine-in or have coffee and ask for the password.

6Things to do in Cinque Terre.

a. Taking photos is a must. Just be prepared with a good camera/smart phone. Make sure you bring along extra battery, charging cable and plug adapter. Do wake up early to capture the sunrise and do not forget to capture the sunset too.

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sunsetViews from a terrace at Corniglia.

b. Hiking any of the trails is a popular thing to do while visiting Cinque Terre. Some of the trails might be closed. These are the available trails during my trip: Corniglia – Vernazza and Vernazza – Monterosso. Check updates on the trails here.

c. Before you go on hiking, you need to buy Cinque Terre cards  from the Info Counter at the village train station or at Information Center at La Spezia Train Station.  There are 2 types of card: Cinque Terre Trekking Card and Cinque Terre Card Train Multi-Service. Check Cinque Terre National Park website for more information on the cards.

If you prefer not to buy the train card, it is OK too, you can just take the train to next station for 1.80 Euro (one way) and explore the village.

d. And oh, do not forget to bring a good hiking shoes. And lots of water. I saw many of the hikers using hiking stick, you can bring that one too if you like.

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7Places to eat – For Muslim, there’s no halal places, Pakistani or Arab restaurant/cafe around Cinque Terre. You can opt eating seafood or vegetable pasta or salad. Or you can buy breads and spread, and eat it in your room or pack it in your bag. Here are some Italian words that can help you in selecting your food; verdure – vegetable, pollo – chicken, manzo – beef, insalata – salad, pane – bread. Do install translation apps on your smart phone for easy translation on the go.

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So there you go. Happy planning!

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Cinque Terre: Vernazza

After exploring a little bit of Corniglia, we went to Vernazza, the neighbouring village. Train fare is 1.80 Euro from Corniglia Station, and the ride took less than 10 minutes.

Just in front of the station, there’s the main street, Via Roma, that is lined with little cafes, restaurants, shops, grocery stores as well as colourful houses and steps that lead to more cliff houses. Vernazza is packed with tourists, unlike the quiet Corniglia, but nonetheless, the village is beautiful.

 

Via Roma - Vernazza main roadVia Roma, Vernazza.

Shops, cafes and houses at hte main street.Shops, cafes and houses at the main street.

Via Roma runs to the  main square through Via G. Guidoni. The main square, known as Piazza Marconi, is where the small natural harbour is located.  Having a small harbour with an amphitheatre shape makes it the most quaintest of the five villages. Local fishermen dock their colourful boats here and unload their catch of the day that they will immediately sell to the restaurants around the village.

piazza marconi

piazza marconi

boats at Piazza Marconi

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After spending time at Piazza Marconi, we walked up the trekking steps that lead to Monterosso Al Mare. We made it just to the top to view Vernazza from up the cliff.

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Vernazza from top

Vernazza from top, amidst lemon trees.

Then we went down and climbed the opposite steps that lead to Corniglia. At first we wanted to walk all the way to Corniglia which is 1 and a half hour away but we skipped the idea because my shoes were not meant for hiking. And we actually have to pay 7.50 Euro to continue walking. We thought we just get down and take the train and pay 1.80 Euro instead. Cheaper and safer. ;P

The view was breathtaking. We glad that we climbed the cliff.

Vernazza from top (Corniglia side)

We had a nice lunch at a restaurant by the cliff which is called Bar Ristorante La Torre. The waiter, Andrea,  was friendly and recommended us nice lunch and learned some Malay Language from us. He wished us Selamat makang. Yup, Vernazza can be like Terengganu. Few minutes later his cook came and wished us Sala makan.

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Spaghetti with seafood at La Torre.

 

view from la torre

We had a great time at Vernazza. Climbing up to the top to have the beautiful view and food was the best thing that we did here. If we ever visited Cinque Terre again, we will make sure to wear hiking boots and hike to all five villages.

 

 

 

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Cinque Terre: Corniglia

The Cinque Terre comprises of five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare (by order, if taking a train from La Spezia), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Evi and I had picked Riomaggiore earlier because we found one small cheap room to share but when our friend, Evelyn, decided to join us for this fun trip, we could not find a room that fit 3 persons at Riomaggiore that is within our lean budget. So we searched booking dot com and found a cheap apartment at Corniglia that can fit 3 persons.

From the train station, Evelyn who reached Corniglia earlier, told us to take the City Centro bus just outside the train station. We paid 2.50 Euro to the bus driver, but then found out later from Evelyn that we could get cheaper bus ticket from the small tourism office located inside the station. Alternatively, we can climb Lardarina, a long brick flight of more than 300 steps, but we were both not up to it as we had been travelling since morning and did not have the energy to climb up. We would be blue-black catching our breath. ;P

steps

The village stretches along the main road, Fieschi Road (or Via Fieschi), and the houses have one side facing this road and the other facing the sea. Corniglia is characterised by narrow roads and a terrace in the rock from which all other four Cinque Terre’s villages, two on one side and two on the other, can be seen. The houses are lower set, and only more recently higher, similar to those of the villages of the hinterland.

My two travelling buddies, Evelyn and Evi, busy capturing photos at Via Fieschi.

Corniglia houses

Fieschi RoadNarrow Fieschi Road.

Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea. Instead, it is on the top of a promontory about 100 metres high, surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces, the fourth side descends steeply to the sea.

Corniglia houses

village

cornigliavillage

vineyard

The origin of the village dates back to the Roman Age as testified by the name, which finds its roots in Gens Cornelia, the Roman family to whom the land belonged. In the Middle Ages it was a possession of the counts of Lavagna, the lords of Carpena and of Luni. In 1254 Pope Innocent IV gave it to Nicolò Fieschi, who held it until 1276, when the village was acquired by the Republic of Genoa.

We spent only a short time discovering Corniglia the day we arrived and the next morning before going to Vernazza in the afternoon. As for food, we had pasta al pomodorro, lemon pie, sandwich with anchovies, bell pepper, eggplant and olive and of course not leaving behind, our favourite drinks; coffee and hot chocolate.

Here are more photos around Corniglia:

Corniglia Piazza.

corniglia-square2Having breakfast at the piazza.

coffee

pieHaving limoni (lemon) pie at the terrace by the cliff.

lemonLemon is one of the main crops at Cinque Terre.

neighbourhoodThe neighbourhood.

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window

blossom

flower

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seaview2Sunrise.

sunsetSunset.

From Corniglia, we witnessed the sunrise over Manarola and ended the day witnessing a sunset over Monterosso. We will never forget the feeling nor the beauty.

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Cinque Terre Dream

“My luggage is too heavy, I think I wanna leave it here and take few clothes with me. I don’t think dragging it along will do me good,”I broke the silence while Evi and I packed our luggage before we leave the guesthouse in Bologna for Cinque Terre. Evi looked at me and agreed right away. We thought that each our luggage would be lighter after selling some of our books at the fair, but that was not the case. We bought books and collected some brochures/postcards, and that certainly cover the weight of the books that we sold. After communicating with the guesthouse owner via Whatsapp, we left our luggages that we will collect in five days and paid 3 Euro.

Three days earlier,we bought our tickets to Cinque Terre (Corniglia, specifically) for 19.15 Euro each. If we buy on the day we leave, the fare would be more expensive. Or we might have to take a different route with more expensive fare.

From Bologna to Corniglia, we have to change train three times. As written on the ticket, we have to travel through Modena, Parma and Fornovo. We were not sure whether to get down at Modena or Parma, so we followed our instincts; get down at Parma. So, we did. So far, so good.

While waiting for next train to La Spezia.

A photo posted by Em – Illustrator, Malaysia. (@emilayusof) on

We waited at Parma Stazione for one hour for the connecting train to La Spezia. We boarded the train but we had doubts whether to get down at Fornovo or La Spezia. We both agreed to board down at Fornovo as we thought that maybe there’s another connecting train there.

fornovo

fornovobuilding

We thought wrong. Fornovo station is just a small station, not an interchange station. So we had to wait for two hours for another train to La Spezia to arrive. We felt stupid, of course, because the only way to Corniglia is through La Spezia. ;P

We wandered outside the station and found a cafe. We had vegetable pies and coffee and took the chance to complete our previous sketching from Bologna.

Don’t really like it but that’ll do.

A photo posted by Em – Illustrator, Malaysia. (@emilayusof) on

Somewhere along the way from Fornovo to La Spezia, Evelyn (my previous travel partner to Arcidosso back in 2014), texted me that she already arrived at Corniglia. Poor girl had to wait more than two hours for us to arrive. But she really enjoyed the time waiting. She had good late lunch, coffee and went sight-seeing around the area.

We arrived at La Spezia Centrale around 5.30pm. From La Spezia, we had to take another train (Levanto bound) and boarded off at Corniglia. We passed by Riomaggiore and Manarola before reaching Corniglia.

So to sum it up; we took 3 regional trains: Bologna – Parma – La Spezia – Corniglia. And from Corniglia Station, we took a bus (City Centro) to Corniglia village center and paid 2.50 Euro. We found out later that we can buy the bus ticket at the tourist counter for 1.50 Euro.

After we settled our things in our tiny apartment, we went exploring the village.

Here!!!! Finally at 5 Terre.

A photo posted by Em – Illustrator, Malaysia. (@emilayusof) on

We, finally made it after dreaming about visiting Cinque Terre for years.

We explored Corniglia and Vernazza, two of five villages of Cinque Terre.We wanted to visit all but a full one day is certainly not enough to cover all. Well, we can do it quickly, hop in the train, get down, take photos, hop in the train again to the next station and so on until we cover all five villages but that is not what we have in mind. We like to take our time and enjoy, and yes, keep the other three villages for next time.

I will post about Corniglia and Vernazza in two separate postings later tomorrow.

Emila,
Rome, Italy.
1.32am, 110416.

 

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BICBF 2016

I went to Bologna International Children’s Book Fair for the third time this year. Every time, I went crazy looking at picture books and illustrations. I bet you would to if you were there.

bicbf01Malaysia Pavilion organised by Perbadanan Kota Buku.

bicbf02Some of the titles by Oyez!Books.

bicbf03I was invited by Hunan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House to attend the launching of Tang Sulan’s picture book series, of which one of the books is illustrated by me; ‘The Other Side of the Bridge’. It was launched by the winner of Hans Christian Anderson Awards 2016, Mr. Cao Wenxuan from China. Miss Lim Lay Koon, International Rights Director dari Yusof Gajah Lingard Literary Agency (YGL) and Oyez!Books was also present to witness the auspicious event.

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Winner of the Fiction of Ragazzi Award (Fiction): MON TOUT PETIT, text by Germano Zullo, illustrations by Albertine. Winner of Non-fiction: LIBROS PARA MAÑANA (Series),text by Equipo Plantel illustrations by Marta Pina, Mikel Casal, Joan Negrescolor & Luci Gutiérrez. Winner of New Horizons: TONGUE TWISTERS (Lisanak Hisanak), text by Fatima Sharafeddine and illustrations by Hanane Kai. Winner of Opera Prima: PACHO RADA, LA LÉGENDE!, text and illustrations by Johanna Benz.

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This year, BICBF celebrated 50 years of Illustrations Exhibition. The exhibition “Artists and Masterpieces of Illustration, 50 Illustrators’ Exhibitions 1967-2016” told the story of half a century that has seen a community of artists, publishers and readers meet each year to share their great passion: books and reading. The narration of
five decades, in the company of illustrators that have made their debut at the Fair or participated in the exhibition before going on to achieve international fame.

“Artists and Masterpieces of Illustration. 50 Illustrators’ Exhibitions 1967-2016”: an exhibition and a publication that intends to record the evolution and the latest trends in illustrated books for children through the work of artists from all over the world. In Italy with Altan, creator of Pimpa, and Roberto Innocenti with the unmissable Rose Blanche; together with great masters of illustration, Bruno Munari, Iela Mari and Lele Luzzati, to artists such as Chiara Carrer, Fabian Negrin and Alessandro Sanna, and the very young; from Britain, Quentin Blake, illustrator of Roald Dahl, Tony Ross, who is adored by the very young for his Stories of a Princess Series, including “I want my Potty!”; from France, Jean Claverie, author of Little Lou, Little Lou, and Yan Nascimbene, the refined illustrator of Italo Calvino; from Prague, the grand dame of illustration, Kv?ta Pacovská; from the United States, Eric Carle, creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and David Macaulay; from Australia, Shaun Tan, with The Arrival, a pertinent story of migration; to the South Korean Suzy Lee with The Wave, a precious bookwithout words, a cult work for readers of all ages, just to name a few.

Here are more photos:

bicbf07Illustrations by Korean illustrators.

bicbf08Illustrations by Taiwan illustrators.

bicbf09Books from Germany,Country of Honour this year.

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Best regards,
Emila, Corniglia,
Cinque Terre, Italy.
10/04/16,10.45pm.

 

 

 

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