Lost in Venice

There is one thing that I find easy while travelling: getting lost. Finding myself lost in a foreign country was scary at first. But when it happened many times, I took it as an adventure.

The first place that I blissfully got lost was in Venice.  The walk from Venice Santa Lucia Train Station, Ferrovia to Piazza San Marco took me forever.

Venice_buildings

 

Along the way, I took many wrong turns and being alone in a superficial place, I almost cried. Many times I found myself caught in the maze-like narrow lanes and sometimes it seemed like there was no way out. Some of the lanes ended up on someone’s door. But somehow I managed to get to San Marco Square by finding and following the crowd. I swore to myself that time, if I ever come back to Venice, I will bring a map.

And then four years later, there I was back in Venice again, forgot to bring what I supposed to bring. I instead brought a friend, Evi.

“Emila, you’ve been here before, I hope you can take me somewhere nice where we can do plein air drawings,” Evi said.

“Uh-oh,” I replied.

Evi had wanted to sketch Venice since the first day we arrived in Italy. That actually makes the two of us. The last time I went I was so caught up in finding my way around.

And so we took an early train to go to Venice using regional train. Regional train is cheaper but slower than the fast one, costing only Euro 12 to compare to Euro 30. After validating our tickets (failure to do so can result in a fine), we boarded the train.

It was funny how the view along the way was somewhat different from what I saw four years back. Italy has changed a lot, I thought. But that was not the case when the ticket conductor came and check our tickets. He said the train we boarded was not bound to Venice; it was bound to Padua. We panicked and later boarded off the train. We took a train back to Bologna Station (paid extra 10 Euros for our tickets) and then took a correct train to Venice.

Before we boarded the train, I told Evi, if we ever got lost in Venice, we should find a hotel to sleep and find our way back to our base in Bologna the next day. She agreed as she could not do much about it as I was the so-called ‘expert’.

We reached Venice at about 11.30 am and first thing we saw was a Moleskine shop! We dropped in and bought each ourselves a Moleskine Sketchbook. We already had bought some in KL but we just need to add one each from Venice. Moleskine is an Italian company based in Milan. Moleskine products include sketchbooks, notebooks, planners, diaries and many more.  The design of the current Moleskine sketchbooks were based on sketchbooks designed by a small family-run French bookbinder in Tours, France almost two centuries ago. They produced it for stationery shops around France. However, in mid 80s, it had discontinued production after the death of the owner. So, I reckon that the last owner was unmarried and was the only child of the last generation – seems logical, right?

venice_moleskine

After Moleskine, it was lunch! We were super hungry since we just had a slice of bread and a cup of espresso for breakfast before we left for Venice.

Venice_lunch

Funny thing was, I seemed to know where to go. We did not cross the canal, but instead just walked along Carnareggio (the lane on the left side of the Santa Lucia Train Station) to find a place to eat. We found a halal restaurant called Trattoria All’Aquila. Evi had Penne al Pomodoro while I had Spaghetti alle Vongole. Evi sketched her lunch first. I could not draw with empty stomach so I decided to draw later after I finished my lunch.

Then we just followed our feet around Venice to admire beautiful buildings and found a spot to draw at Campo S. Sofia, off Carnareggio main lane. The buildings are all so beautiful.

venice_draw03

Luigi Barzini described Venice as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” in The New York Times. I have to agree him because every building appealed to me, not to mention picture-perfect. I could go on taking pictures of all buildings one by one. But I was there to draw, so I only managed to cover little part of it.

Our trip went smooth, it was windy and cold but we managed to stop by another location to do a drawing before following the crowd to get to the ferry station at San Marco Square to get back to Santa Lucia Station and then to Bologna.

We missed many touristy spots namely Rialto (where I got lost on my first trip), Murano, Burano and Torcello but we didn’t mind. As long as we set foot anywhere in Venice and drew something, that was good enough. Having Evi with me on this trip gave me the strength and confidence to stop worrying too much about getting lost.

Things_Venice

On the night train back to Bologna, Evi told me, “Emila, although we only discovered 5% of Venice today, I think if we ever come back to Italy, I don’t want to go to Venice. I want to discover the place that we got lost earlier today. You remember the signboard at the train station where we boarded off?”

“Yes, you mean Montselice?” I replied.

“Yes, that’s the one.”

“Sure Evi, getting lost in Montselice sounds like a great idea. I’m getting the hang of it,” I remember telling her before I dozed off to the sound of the regional train moving slowly towards Bologna.

[This article appears in Gaya Travel magazine, issue 9.4.]

 

Credit references:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moleskine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venice

 

Continue Reading

BOLOGNA: OFF THE BEATEN PATH

BOLOGNA. So what comes to your mind when I mention Bologna? Spaghetti Bolognese? Beware, I can read your mind.

things Bologna

To tell you the truth, at first I thought Spaghetti Bolognese is Bologna’s supposed signature dish, but when I was there, I simply could not find any Spaghetti Bolognese. I learned from the locals that they use tagliatelle instead of spaghetti and the meat-based sauce is called ragù. The earliest documented recipe of an Italian ragù comes from Pellegrino Artusi who first published a recipe in 1891 for a meat sauce characterised as being “bolognese”. There you go, the name to look for ‘tagliatelle al ragù‘. Finding a halal one is quite hard in Bologna, but it’s not a big deal as I can always make Spaghetti Bolognese (or tagliatelle al ragù) at home.

I visited Bologna last March for the second time to attend the world’s biggest children’s book fair. I went to do research on my new children’s books, besides being there at the Malaysia Pavilion to promote my books for international licensing rights.The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the most important international event dedicated to children’s publishing and multimedia industry. I was there in 2010. I wanted to go back this year because previously I didn’t have much chance to really explore the halls and really look at children’s books displayed at the book fair. I also didn’t have the chance to stick my illustrations on the Illustrator Wall because I didn’t know about it until I was there. I am thankful to KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for sponsoring my return flights to attend this prestigious event and eventually get to stick my illustrations on the wall.

klmtrip

You see, this is the kind of book fair that I quickly feel belonged. There were children’s books everywhere. There were millions of books on display! Just imagine that I was like a child in her playground getting the right toys!

For your information, Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been around for 53 years. Bologna Children’s Book Fair is an annual event where authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors and licensees, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers and librarians meet. Here they sell and buy copyright, find the very best of children’s publishing and multimedia production, generate and gather new contacts while strengthening professional relationships, discover new business opportunities, discuss and debate the latest sector trends.

I am proud that this year, my books and books that I illustrated were also being displayed at the Malaysia Pavilion. But yes, the hidden agenda was to just travel. Prior to Bologna, I went to Arcidosso, a commune in the Province of Grosseto in the Italian region Tuscany, including Florence and Venice.

Apart from being at the book fair for a few days, I got a day off to explore some parts of Bologna city with my illustrator friend, Evi, who stayed with me in a rented room in an apartment at Via Ferruccio Garavaglia that we booked through Airbnb. It’s way much cheaper to rent through Airbnb rather than hotel room for 2 pax. We stayed with the owners, Katerina and Fabio, a very friendly and nice couple. We rented the room because it is situated near the book fair, only about 10 minutes’ walk.

We went out to the city early in the morning, took bus 35 to the city and started walking to Via dell’indipendenza, a business street that is not far from Bologna Centrale (the main station) via Piazza XX Settembre. There was an open market at Piazza XX Settembre called Fiera del Libro that sells books and prints. This book market takes place twice a year: March to May (Spring) and from October to November (Autumn). Evi and I bought some art books at very good price.

Opposite Piazza XX Settembre, there’s Montagnola Park. Montagnola Park is the oldest park of Bologna and it has always been a location for cultural performances, games and sports competitions. This park is open to the public since 1664. The park is accessible via two beautiful flights of steps decorated with sculptures and reliefs, including a beautiful fountain depicting the horse and virgin in the grasp of an octopus.

We later strolled along the porticoed Independence Street towards Piazza Nettuno. Independence Street is the major shopping strip, with an abundance of local boutiques and jewellery stores, not to mention the international ones. I bought a pair of Marietta’s suede boots for 10 Euros and a Pull&Bear jeans for 17 Euros. Oh, and a sweater for 15 Euros at a boutique that I can’t remember the name.

Along the walk to Piazza Nettuno, we saw the baroque Cattedrale di Bologna, a church that is dedicated to Saint Peter. Most of the present building dates from the 17th century, with a few parts from the late 16th century. The architecture is so grand and amazing.

When we got to Piazza Nettuno, we saw a rally going on. The rally, called S.O.S. Venezuela, was in support of students and protesters in Venezuela who are standing up against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. S.O.S Venezuela was simultaneously held in dozens of cities throughout the world on the same day. The objective of the gathering was to create public awareness of what is happening in Venezuela as well as gain signatures for a petition to get elected officials to take a stand and denounce the human rights violations. We didn’t join but just stood there watching the rally while looking at beautiful buildings in the area including the Fountain of Neptune.

The Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno), a monumental civic fountain with a bronze figure of Neptune, extending his reach in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters. I was mesmerised to learn that in 1920, one of the Maserati brothers, the artist Mario Maserati, used this symbol in the logo as it was considered particularly appropriate for the sports car company due to fact that Neptune represents strength and vigour. In addition, the statue is a characteristic symbol of the company’s original home city, Bologna.

Other than Maserati, I thought that it is good to mention here that Ducati and Lamborghini was also established in Bologna in 1926 and 1963 respectively.

Also in the vicinity of the square is the big Biblioteca Salaborsa. Salaborsa is Bologna’s multimedia and general information library, which provides users of all ages with books, newspapers, magazines, videos, compact disks, data banks, along with cabled and wi-fi internet connections. Access to the library is free.

Opposite of Salaborsa is the Town Hall (or Palazzo d’Accursio), consisting a set of buildings that were united over the centuries. In the 15th century, it was restored by Fioravante Fioravanti, who added, among other features, the Clock Tower.

clock tower

And the clock made us hungry! We didn’t realise that we had walked and explored for 5 hours! It was already 3pm and we decided to eat rice. We walked the same route back to the station and had our late lunch at a Pakistani cafe. While eating, we planned to explore more parts of the city but suddenly the rain poured. We decided to just go back to the apartment and rest. The 5-hour walk (with a heavy camera, bag full of books, new pair of boots, jeans and sweater) had an effect on my back.

We did go out to the city once or twice to have lunch and buy few other things during other days but that was about it since we had limited time. After discussing much about it, Evi and I like to go back to Bologna on a more relaxed trip, not as an excursion for an event.

Bologna has so much to offer and makes a perfect off-the-beaten-path destination for savvy travellers. It is a delight to simply wander and discover unexpected sights and architectural masterpieces from the past, not forgetting the tagliatelle al ragù.

Getting to Bologna: KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operate twice daily from Kuala Lumpur(KUL) to Bologna (BLQ).

P/S: I wrote this article for Gaya Travel magazine and will appear in the latest issue 9.3.

Continue Reading

Venice

Evi had wanted to sketch Venice. Me too. And so we took the earlier train to go to Venice using regional train. Regional train is cheaper than the fast one; Euro 12 to compare to Euro 30. We reached Venice at about 11am and on the way to the toilet we saw a Moleskine shop! We dropped by the shop later and bought each ourselves a Moleskine Sketchbook.

venice_moleskine

So first thing Venice was Moleskine. Next was lunch! We were super hungry as we just had a slice of bread and a cup of espresso for breakfast. Evi had Penne al Pomodoro while I had Spaghetti alle Vongole. Evi sketched her lunch first, haha! I could not draw with empty stomach so I decided to draw later after I finished my lunch.

venice_darw01

Then we walked around Venice to admire beautiful buildings and find a spot to draw. Luigi Barzini described Venice as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” in The New York Times. I have to agree him because every building appealed to me, not to mention picture-perfect. I could go on taking pictures of all buildings one by one.

I let my photos do all the talking below :

venice_archie

venice_people

venice_archi02

venice_archi01

Venice is a city in north-eastern Italy situated on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. It is located in the marshy Venetian Lagoon which stretches along the shoreline, between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. The city in its entirety is listed as a World Heritage Site, along with its lagoon.

The name Venice is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. Venice has been known as the “La Dominante”, “Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals”. Venice has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe’s most romantic cities.

venice_pisato
Remember the hotel in Tourist movie? The orange building is the façade of the hotel in the movie. The building is called Palazzo Pisato Moretta. It is actually a palace. 

And here are two more drawings I made of Venice:

venice_draw02

venice_draw03

Getting to Venice: KLM operated 2 time(s) daily from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Venice Marco-Polo (VCE).

 

Continue Reading

Florence – the city of lilies

After the bookfair I had a day free and took the chance to visit Florence with Evi. Our intention was to visit Uffizi Gallery but we had to skip it as the queue was quite long. We didn’t booked the ticket online because we did not plan the visiting date. I guess this will give reason to visit Florence next time.

firenze_queue
This was only part of the queue.

Nonetheless, I took interesting pictures around the gallery:

firenze_cupid firenze_realman
Both were real men disguising as statues.

Evi and I later wandered to the nearby Piazza Della Signoria and saw Neptune Fountain. Neptune seems to be everywhere in Italy.

firenze_fountain

The Fountain of was commissioned in 1565 and the work-of-art of sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati. The Neptune figure, whose face resembles that of Cosimo I de’ Medici, was meant to be an allusion to the dominion of the Florentines over the sea. The figure stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal fountain. The pedestal in the middle is decorated with the mythical chained figures of Scylla and Charybdis. The statue of Neptune is a copy made in the nineteenth century, while the original is in the National Museum.

However, when the work was finished, it was not appreciated in particular by the Florentines, who called it Il Biancone (the white giant).

Work continued on this fountain during the next ten years. Ammannati, with the assistance of the best Florentine sculptors and casters, added around the perimeter of the basin, in a mannerist style, suave, reclining, bronze river gods, laughing satyrs and marble sea-horses emerging from the water. The monumental marble and the dynamic bronzes give nevertheless a coherent impression. The fountain served as an example for future fountain-makers.

And then, we walked to the great Il Duomo!

firenze_dumo

Il Duomo or Florence Cathedral or The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (English: Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church of Florence, Italy. Il Duomo construction was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival façade by Emilio De Fabris.

The cathedral is one of Italy’s largest churches and the the 150-foot-wide (46-meter-wide) dome remains the largest brick dome ever constructed, built without flying buttresses or freestanding scaffolding, using experimental methods that many contemporaries believed would surely fail. But it didn’t, it stood there for nearly 6 centuries now. And do you believe that the creator of the dome, Filippo, was just a homely, hot-tempered goldsmith with no serious architectural training? I admire his brilliant masterpiece.

firenze_draw

Geared with a cup of hot coffee, a Moleskine sketchbook and watercolor, I sat at Smalzi Café with Evi and tried to draw the building:

firenze_duomodrawing

Massimo Ricci, an architect from an ancient Florentine family, dedicated his life trying to work out the construction techniques that Brunelleschi used to build the dome. After 40 years, he concluded that the geometry of the dome resembles the petals of a flower. Massimo, in his interview with Tom Mueller from National Geographic, laid out some of the evidence for his theory of the dome’s flower, which he considers to be the breakthrough in his conception of Brunelleschi’s method. He told Mueller, “In fact, Santa Maria del Fiore means Saint Mary of the Flower and the symbol of Florence is a flower, the lily.”

Getting to Florence: KLM operated 2 time(s) daily from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Florence – Peretola (FLR).

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_of_Neptune,_Florence
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140210-duomo-florence-brunelleschi-cathedral-architecture/

Continue Reading

Bologna Children’s Book Fair

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the most important international event dedicated to the children’s publishing and multimedia industry. I was here in 2010. I wanted to go back this year because previously I didn’t have much chance to really explore the halls and really look at children’s books displayed at the book fair. I also didn’t have the chance to stick my illustrations on the Illustrator Wall because I didn’t know about it until I was there. As I wrote in my previous post, KLM agreed to fly me to Bologna to realise the many dreams that I wanted to do. I am truly thankful to KLM.

illustratorwallMe at Illustrator Wall.

You see, this is the kind of book fair that I quickly feel belonged. There were children’s books everywhere. There were millions of books on display! Just imagine that I was like a child in her playground getting the right toys! And oh, Oliver Jeffers was even there this year! But too bad I didn’t get the chance to meet him. I collect his children’s books.

For your information, Bologna Children’s Book Fair has been around for 53 years. Bologna Children’s Book Fair is an annual event where authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors and licensees, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers, and librarians meet. Here they sell and buy copyright, find the very best of children’s publishing and multimedia production, generate and gather new contacts while strengthening professional relationships, discover new business opportunities, discuss and debate the latest sector trends.

I am proud that this year, my books and books that I illustrated were also being displayed at the Malaysia Pavilion.

mybooks

Here are some photos from the book fair:

dinabookfair
Dina, the character from my books was on display alongside with illustrations by Yusof Gajah and Jainal Amambing, two award-winning illustrators from Malaysia.

Malaysia Pavilion
Malaysia Pavilion.

emilaandbook
Me holding my book, Dapur Emak Saya, together with (from left) Yusof Gajah, MamaZakian andPuan Sri Diah, from Karangkraf.

bookfair2
Award-winning books.

bookfair3
I am crazy over The Forever Flowers by Michael J. Rosen and Sonja Danowski but it was not for sale. The illustrations only have 2 colors: black and red. Loving the illustrations and color concept. Beautiful book!

marcosoma
Marco Somà, illustrator of La Gallinella Rossa book, the book that I bought and offered as giveaway last March.

emilabookfair2
Me already thinking of going next year 🙂

Getting to Bologna: KLM operated 2 time(s) daily from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Bologna (BLQ).

Continue Reading

Bologna

I stayed in a room (booked via airbnb) with another illustrator friend, Evi, and the room was cosier than Lorenzo’s place. It has hot shower and heater. We stayed with the owners, Katerina and Fabio, a very friendly and nice couple. We rented the room because it is situated near the book fair; about 10 minutes walk.

I had a day free before the bookfair and went to visit Bologna town with Evi, Pak Yusof (well-known illustrator from Malaysia) and his wife, Mama Zakiah. We took bus 35 to town and from the station we walked along Via dell’Indipendenza to Piazza Dell’8 Agosto. Previously there would be a massive Sunday market but when we reached the square, there were only few stalls selling cheese, vegetables and fruits.

bologna

bolognavege

We didn’t buy anything, so we walked back on Via dell’Indipendenza before reaching Piazza Nettuno.

bologna_indipendenzaVia dell’Indipendenza

When we got to Piazza Nettuno, we saw a rally going on. The rally, called S.O.S. Venezuela, was in support of students and protesters in Venezuela who are standing up against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime. S.O.S Venezuela was simultaneously held in dozens of cities throughout the world. The objective of the gathering was to create public awareness of what is happening in Venezuela as well as gain signatures for a petition to get elected officials to take a stand and denounce the human rights violations.

SOS Venezuela

We sat for a while looking at the rally while looking at beautiful buildings and Fountain of Neptune at the square.

bolognanettuno

The Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno) is a monumental civic fountain with a bronze figure of Neptune, extending his reach in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters, is an early work by Giambologna, completed about 1567.

The logo of the Maserati car company is based on the trident in this Neptune statue. In 1920 one of the Maserati brothers, the artist Mario Maserati, used this symbol in the logo at the suggestion of family friend Marquis Diego de Sterlich. It was considered particularly appropriate for the sports car company due to fact that Neptune represents strength and vigor; additionally the statue is a characteristic symbol of the company’s original home city. Maserati was established on December 1, 1914, in Bologna. Other than from Maserati, Ducati and Lamborghini was also established in Bologna in 1926 and 1963 respectively.

Apart from the fountain, there’s the City Hall.

bologna_cityhall

The Town Hall (or Palazzo d’Accursio ) consists of a set of buildings, that over the centuries have gradually been joined to the oldest acquired by the city at the end of the thirteenth century. Renovated and expanded in the first half of the fifteenth century, with the help of Architect Fioravante Fioravanti, it was enriched with a clock tower in Accursio and according to examples common in central Europe, a carousel with wooden automata (Madonna with Child and the court of Magi). It was removed in 1796 (some of this still remains today, and is preserved with the Municipal Art Collections on the second floor).

The Town Hall could be trace back to 14th century. It became the seat of the Anziani (“Elder”), the magistrates of the commune in 1336, and later served as the city’s Town Hall until November 11, 2008.

Later we went walking to Piazza XX Settembre to look for 2nd hands books. We bought some art books at very good price.

bologna_books

After that were all very hungry and went to a Pakistani’s café near the station to have a late lunch. Lunch was rice and chicken and salad! Yums. I had been eating Pizza al Pomodoro and spaghetti for few days that it was good to have rice for a change.  After lunch, Pak Yusof and Mama Zakiah went to the book fair to see the preparation while Evi and I went back to our room because it was about to rain. We took bus 35 to reach Viale Aldo Moro, the nearest stop to walk to our room and walked pass Don Bosco Park. We had fun taking pictures of flowers and birds before it was raining.

bologna_park01

bologna_park02

bologna_park03

Getting to Bologna: KLM operated 2 time(s) daily from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Bologna (BLQ).

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_of_Neptune,_Bologna
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_d%27Accursio

 

Continue Reading

Arcidosso, Grosseto, Tuscany

lorenzosplace

Evelyn had warned me earlier that we will be couch-surfing at Lorenzo’s Place and that means that we have to share the place with other couch-surfers. She had told me that the place is like a dorm. When we reached, there was actually no beds for us. Lorenzo had to borrow a bed for Evelyn while converting a sofa to a bed lined with big cushions for me. As I was tired and sleepy, any bed will do for me. We settled the night sleeping with 3 layers of blanket. Lorenzo does not have a heater but I am ok with that.

As agreed earlier, the deal was that Lorenzo provide us place to sleep for free and we just have to help him with his garden and cooking. Both Evelyn and me decided to help him at his garden; you know pick olive fruits and things like that.

The morning came and breakfast was Tuscan bread (rubbed with garlic clove and spread with fresh-pressed olive oil, seasoned to taste with salt) and coffee. I love the real Italian breakfast idea! The breakfast is called Fettunta. I am so ok with this. I will use the idea to make my own breakfast (or snack) at home; but maybe with addition of chopped olive fruit and cherry tomato and come up with Fettunta Al Oliva e Pomodoro! But the real challengeis to look for Tuscan bread in Malaysia but perhaps I can just use French bread that I can easily get at home.

Later after that we went down the hill to get to his new garden. He actually has 4 gardens and the new one is a green project where he designed the whole garden to have the word ‘Arcidosso’ in a form of trees. I imagined picking olive fruits and did not expected to be working on a new garden. The soil was hard and I had to help get good soil further down near a river. Being a sedentary woman who sits behind her sketchpad and watercolors and laptop all the time, I was not prepared for this. I am not ok with this hahaha. I had a backache after few scoops of soil. I later went up back to the garden to help Evelyn separates rocks from hard soil. It was easy as we just had to sit and gather rocks and later spread them on the pavement of the garden. A little bit after afternoon, Lorenzo said that we could leave the work and explore Arcidosso. We were happy to run away from the garden. Haha!

lorenzoatwork
Lorenzo (in green) and his wife (in purple) working with other couch-surfers at his garden.

We took a walk and take photos around the village. Here are some pictures that I like to share:

arcidosso

arcidosso2

arcidosso3

arcidosso4

arcidossoflower

arcidossobee

Arcidosso is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Grosseto in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 100 km south of Florence and about 35 km northeast of Grosseto and near the town of Montalcino.

The first certain documentation of the existence of the settlement of Arcidosso is from the year 860, when it is said to belong to the Abbey of San Salvatore. In 1331, Guidoriccio da Fogliano besieged it for four months with an army of 4,000 soldiers and 400 horsemen, until it surrendered. After the fall of the Republic of Siena in 1556, it passed under the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Cosimo I de’ Medici established many outlying offices here.

Following the Leopoldina Reformation of 1786, there was a remarkable population increase and the number of Arcidosso’s citizens quadrupled in about 100 years. Arcidosso thus became historically the most important political and administrative center in the Monte Amiata area.

We spent the last night at Lorenzo’s Place before heading out the next morning (as early as 7am to catch the 7.20am bus) to head to Florence before heading to Bologna. We missed the 8.20am bus to Firenze and had to wait for the next bus at 9.15am. Taking the Florence route is much nearer as Florence is also in the same Tuscany region and the journey took about 1 and a half hours. We reached Firenze around 11am.

Upon reaching Florence, we went for lunch (Pizza al Pomodoro and coffee) at the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station and later bought our tickets to Bologna (around 1pm). While waiting for our train, we just walked around the station doing a window shopping.

Getting to Florence: KLM operated 2 time(s) daily from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Florence – Peretola (FLR).

Continue Reading

From Rome to Tuscany

It had been my dream to visit the countryside of Italy and when I got the flight booked few days earlier than Bologna’s Children Book Fair, I quickly agreed to follow my illustrator friend from Indonesia, Evelyn, to visit Arcidosso, a commune located in the Grosseto province, Tuscany region.

When I arrived at Fiumicino Airport in Rome,Italy, I quickly got on the next Leonardo Express (Trenitalia) train to Roma Termini, the main railway station of Rome, Italy. I paid Euro 14 for the ticket. I know I could get on the cheaper train but I was running late to meet Evelyn. I promised her to be at the termini around 1pm. The time was 1.30pm.

The station has regular train services to all major Italian cities, as well as daily international services to Paris, Munich, Geneva, Basel, and Vienna. With twenty-nine platforms and over 150 million passengers each year, Roma Termini is one of the largest railway stations in Europe.

Termini is also the main hub for public transport inside Rome. Both current Rome Metro lines (A and B) intersect at Termini metro station, and a major bus station is located at Piazza dei Cinquecento, the square in front of the station. However, the main tram lines of the city cross at Porta Maggiore, some 1,500 metres east of the station.

When I reached the station, first thing I did was to look for Evelyn. I found her at the main entrance waiting with her host in Rome, Pasquel. She got herself on airbnb room for few days at Pasquel’s home. Before we leave for Grosseto, I got myself a Vodafone prepaid data sim card for Euro 35. It is valid for one month.

Later, Evelyn and I bought our tickets to Grosseto by using one of the ticket machines located almost everywhere at the station. The fare to Grosseto is Euro12.95 each. We got the 16.20pm ticket so while waiting for the time to board the train, we walked a bit to Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore just to pass the time. I had been there before.

piazza maggiore

The piazza (or square in English) is a place where Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and Baroque bronze statue of Mary and child are situated. The current church dates from the time of pope Sixtus III, who reigned from 432 to 440 while the statue was erected in 1614.

maggiorechurch

statue maggiore

After sitting at the piazza for an hour admiring buidings, we walked back to the station to catch our train to Grosseto.

The journey took us about 2 and a half hour before reaching Grosseto Station. Took some pictures along the way.

grosetto1

marinella

By the time we got there, the night already fell. We bought a bus ticket of Euro 4 to get to Arcidosso.

At first we did not know which bus to take. We asked around and a bus driver told us to take bus number 15 or 30. Then another bus driver came to us. He had heard our conversation. He told us to take any bus to Sienna, get down at Paganico and take another bus to Grosseto. He spoke in Italian with a little bit of sign language so that we understand what he was trying to convey. He had been so helpful and we thanked him In Italian words: grazie mille (million thanks). He seemed happy that we speak a little Italian.

If he had not told us that, I think Evelyn and me would’ve ended in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany. But I did told Evelyn that if we got lost, we should find any hotel and stay for the night before finding our way to Grosseto the next day.

nightbus

A bus came and we saw that the sign shows that it will go to Sienna, so we boarded the bus. The journey took more than two hours to reach and we had to change bus at Paganico before reaching Archidosso. When we reached Arcidosso small town, it was around 9pm and most shops were already closed. As we walked looking for the place that we would be staying (Lorenzo’s Place), we saw one pizza shop that was about to close. We dropped by and ask for direction. The boy was so kind to show us the way and finally we reached Lorenzo’s Place.

Stay tuned for my blog post on Archidosso.

Getting to Rome: KLM operated 2 time(s) daily from KUL to FCO (Rome).

Continue Reading