Posts Tagged ‘italy’

We went to see the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus today!

Took the bus to the Catacombs!

Beautiful area above the catacombs

We bought our tickets for 8 euros each, and then waited by the entrance of the catacombs for an English speaking guide. There were a bunch of germans there, lots of italians, a few french people and a bunch of english speaking tourists. Our tour guide went in last.

Now unfortunately, it was forbidden to take pictures inside the catacombs, but let me tell you, it was quite the sight to see. We only explored the 2nd floor (there are 4 levels) and the path we took (about half an hour of walking) only represented 2% of the catacombs. The entire length of the hallways and corridors (its like a labyrinth)  totals 20 kilometers! It is hypothesized that there were 500,000 tombs in these catacombs.

Here’s some information about them:

First page of the pampflet

2nd page of the pampflet

It was really something to see. There were about 7-8 tombs per floor, vertically stacked, and how it worked was they would dig the tunnel, add tombs along the sides, then lower the floor in order to add more tombs. The freshest graves were the deepest – no remains existed however, any that did were removed.

It’s just a field on top, wouldn’t even know its there if not for the fancy gates:

The gates to the Catacombs

Afterward we hopped back on the bus (we’re getting the hang of foreign public transportation!) and headed back to our hostel to pick up our bags. We then took the metro to a regional train station and were off to our Country Club resort we booked (only 20 euros a night!).

We arrived at the station as described in our directions, but saw no shuttle bus to the Country Club. So, we got out our phone GPS and punched in the address. It was a few kilometers away from a train stop… 3 stops ago! So we got back on the train, and went to the stop and followed our GPS. We arrived at the location Google gave us and there was nothing there. We asked a local and she said it was WAAAAY down this street. We started walking. Few kilometers in and we still saw nothing. We called the club and were told to keep walking! Another few kilometers. We asked another local who didn’t speak any english, and she made motions with her hands to indicate it is much much further down this street. At long last we arrived. The place existed! It turns out it was right next to the original train station we got off at. Thank you google. Thank you.

We were shuttled to our “bungalow” and it was surprisingly nice!

The bungalow with 2 bunk beds!

We then took the shuttle bus to the Colombo station (the shuttle we were suppose to take originally instead of walking miles) and headed to the beach. The first Ocean I’ve ever swam in! The Mediterranean sea! Huge waves, quite fun to swim in and ride the waves. Very salty though!

The beach! Covered in black sand, very soft!

Went back to the resort and checked out the local grocery store. We had a dinner of hot dogs. Also bought a kilogram of cookies for 1 euro! They were actually good!

We also bought some alcohol – There was a Discotek that night!

Lemoncello and Sambuca!

We watched several episodes of The Bing Bang Theory (great show) and checked out the Discotek around 11PM. It was empty. We went back to the cabin and watched a few more episodes, and went back again. Still empty. Strange, seeing as we saw lots of people our age earlier in the day…

After our hectic and legendary journey to San Gimignano we decided to slow it down a bit… Woke up, had some breakfast of potato chips (remains from the night before) bought some souvenirs, completed the scooter rental transaction, and made it to the train station. Next train to Roma was at 13:45. We were about an hour and a half early, but hey, we’re used to waiting by now.

We took the cheap train – a regional one that made at least a dozen stops between Pisa and Rome. It took about 3.5 hours to get there. When we arrived we followed the signs.

Train station

A wise man once told me, “Keep your head up, and follow the signs” it’s been working this entire trip. I’ve been the navigator for all our journey’s and we’ve made it everywhere safely thus far! Maybe not always in a timely fashion… but we make it nonetheless.

We made it out of the labyrinth like train station that is the Roma Termini and pulled out our cellphone GPS to locate the hostel we had booked. After a bit of confusion, we found it, a few blocks away. It was on the 5th floor of a building, we took the elevator.

The tiny 2 person elevator. Did not feel safe...

Unfortunately, when we got there we found out they had overbooked the hostel. Too bad! It was called Happy Days and it seems really nice, lots of young people traveling, bright colorful walls, etc! The guy felt bad though (our internet reservation hadn’t gone through fast enough) so he called up a sister hotel and gave us a double room there for the same price as the hostel (16.80 euros per person). Unfortunately it was across town. We wandered back to the metro and crossed the city, then wandered the streets until we found our hotel, this time only on the 2nd floor.

We grabbed some sandwiches from a local food store, and hit the sack.

It was pricey, but we bought tickets to climb the Leaning tower of Pisa! (15 euros each).

293 stairs...

They only allow 30 people up at a time due to safety concerns (also the staircase is tiny!)

The top!

Quite the view!

The stairs were crazy, eroded from so many people walking on them:

Crazy steps

The musical bells of the tower (can't be used anymore due to safety concerns)

One more!

And now we’re off to rent scooters! Going to San Gimignano (an ancient medieval town, which also so happens to be featured in a favorite video game of mine… Assassins Creed II!)

To Italy!

Posted: September 11, 2010 in Italy, Switzerland
Tags: , , , ,

We went out to Old Jim’s pub for dinner (a burger and a beer) and met some really cool people. Three 23 year olds, one who worked for the UN or something, the other a Swiss Banker, and girl in university. They were really smart guys and we talked for a good 2-3 hours, funny too! Life’s a lot different in Switzerland – very posh in Geneva.

Myself and Heinz had water with our meal – unfortunately we didn’t specify, and ended up buying 4.50$ franc bottles of water… It tasted like regular water.

Most expensive water I have ever drank...

After that we went home to the Hostel and booked another one in Pisa for the next night, our first actual PLANNED trip! We went to bed, but our classmates went out (Geneva parties until 5:00AM).

Confirmed booking of a hostel!

We set the alarm the next day for 6:30AM . . .

The next day…

We heard the alarm go off, but I pressed the snooze button. As I swam into consciousness half an hour later I realized we had a train to catch! We got all our stuff together, had a quick complimentary breakfast in the hostel, and ran off to the train station!

Now unfortunately, the train to Milano was reservation only… And we only decided we were going there the night before, so no time to reserve. There was room on the train… for a bit. We sat in seats when we could, but as the stops went by, more people came on and claimed their reserved seats. We ended up sitting in the luggage compartment for about an hour…

Sitting in the luggage compartment

Beautiful scenery from the train. Apologies for picture quality, cell phone isn't THAT good

Mountains... EVERYWHERE!

Made it to Milano, and took a stroll around the train station – not too much to see, we ate lunch in a small cafe, but didn’t understand the menu so we just pointed and paid. It was pretty good.

Lunch in Cafe

Big train station in Milano

Another shot of the train station

We jumped on the next train to Pisa, which turned out to be one of the bullet trains – it didn’t really seem that fast, but we made it there in about 3 hours (with a half hour stop in the middle).

Our first view of Italy!

Getting off the train in Pisa we were a bit nervous, lot of people, lots of pickpockets apparently, and we weren’t quite sure where our hostel was… or if it even existed.

We walked all the way to the one river, didn’t see any familiar signs, then made our way back to the train station, where we found a free wifi connection. Checked the reservation, got the email confirmation, and discovered the GPS on our phones actually works! Plugged the address in, and we were off to our hostel, the Hotel Helvetia. It was only 1.6km away.

Arrived at the hotel and checked in, we got a free upgrade to a suite that included a bathroom! Hooray!

Nice little room - complete with an old school TV! Everything was in Italian though...

After making use of our bathroom and having some showers, we went out into the streets to tour around. One block later we were standing in front the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Better pictures tomorrow when we get our free tour (included with hostel).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa! Better pictures coming tomorrow

Pretty cool seeing it in real life. We walked around a bit and found a scooter rental shop – Probably going to be renting scooters for Monday to tour the countryside.

We had dinner at a small pizzeria, and ate Lasagna and drank some Ramazotti. It was delicious. And not even that expensive! 9 euros for both lasagna and the drink. Now the Ramazotti was SUPPOSE to be on fire (how its SUPPOSE to be served) but the bartender tried lighting it and it didn’t work. On the plus side, the lasagna was great.

Italian Lasagna!

We also had to buy water again… But this time it came in a fancy 1.5L bottle, and was only 1.50 euros!

View of the Tower from our dining table (with our bottle of water)

Anyways, we just got internet at the hostel (hence the update) and now we’re off for a night on the town. Tomorrow we plan on properly touring the city (with a guide) and then going to the beach for the afternoon. Monday we will most likely be renting scooters to ride along the countryside.

Ciao!