Buongiorno Firenze!

Florence makes me think of clear blue skies, lovers entwined in deep alleys, dogs and their walkers on cobblestones, and artists with works in museums or on the streets.

While I will not go and write about the famous tourist spots we have been to, as they are already a million of those on the web, allow me to share our holiday photos.  These pictures will always remind me of a place immortalized.. eternally influencing art, architecture, and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Campo di Fiori, Rome, Italy

Stop by early in the day at this colorful market and get your share of fresh veggies, aromatic spices, little trinkets, and souvenirs. Many shops are tourist-friendly providing you with cooking labels in English and offering luggage-ready bubble wrapped bottles and jars.

Come back at night to dine in open-air restaurants and get serenaded by strolling musicians.

Designer Shopping in Italy: Via Condotti

 

This particular fashion shopping street and those around it are just full of temptation!   Via Condotti is like New York’s Fifth Avenue but narrower…making you so close to all the gorgeous displays of current obsessions and wishful possessions!

I strolled  salivated my way through these roads and found that some goods are actually not bad, proving cheaper than Dubai and the US.

To give examples, an LV Neverfull MM goes for EU595, a Montorgueil PM for EU690, and a Trevi PM would cost EU1430.  The Gucci Heart Continental wallet costs EU340.  Don’t forget to factor in the tax refund (about 12%) and you’re down to an even lower price.

With the Euro down, tourists having multiple purchases are not uncommon.  One saleslady told me they already kind of expect that with the Chinese, Japanese, and Russians.  No wonder they treated us like kings!  Since everyone deserves to be treated like royalty,  shop (or window-shop) on weekdays when sales staff are at their best.  Friday nights and weekends are so busy it can turn the King into King Kong.  Happy shopping 🙂

Bargain Shopping in Italy: Via Sannio

Via di Sannio

Metro Station: San Giovanni

This is a flea market.  Beware, not for the faint-hearted.  I found some street vendors very touchy pulling me to see their wares.  I learned the trick is to walk fast and never respond to their greetings.  To me they tried everything from “Hello” to “Konichiwa”.  You’ll be surprised at the linguistic abilities of these people!  I just smiled politely and pasted a look on my face that said, “I am from Mars and I don’t understand a thing”.

When I finally got to the tent, the atmosphere was quieter.  The more aggressive vendors are out on the street.   The tent was filled with brand new and used items.  More of used actually but I zeroed in on this shop that had brand new high street clothes.  I got to purchase brand new Massimo Dutti and Mango tops! In my size! With no obvious damage.  For 10 Euros each! What a score!

Other available brands were Zara, Desigual, Armani but in (very) large sizes.  Several locals were alongside me going through heaps of shirts, suits, skirts, and pants.

Stocks change frequently and you cannot be assured of brands or styles, or of sizes.  Some prices are fixed, others can be negotiated ;p.  Here I purchased a silver pendant, a handmade leather belt, an ultra-feminine wool hat, a good-looking tri-colored Massimo vest (picture shown), a few basic Mango tops–all brand new and all with very low price tags.  Great buys!

Outlet Shopping in Rome

My hubby and I are not really big on brands but share the joy of getting “buon affare” (a good buy). Beyond the walls of Rome you’ll find the popular Castel Romano and Valmontone Fashion Outlets.  But given that fashion boutiques hold huge sales twice a year—January and July,  and it was November, we just decided to stay in Rome.

Here are two outlets we found in our area:

Outlet Gente

Via Cola di Rienzo 246

Metro Station: Ottaviano

It was really hard to spot a good find.  The price points are still quite steep with (YSL, Prada, Gucci) boots going for around 500 EU a pair.  You can find some Tory Burch shoes for 100-300 EU and Prada, DSquared pants for 50 EU, but already very out-of-style.  You would just be buying the logo!  This being my first experience here, I am not sure if it’s always like this.

The staff were not very friendly either.  They have a general look of boredom and you’re-just-going-to-look-but-not-buy-anyway attitude towards people which made me think they get more onlookers than customers.

Discount Dell’ Alta Moda

Via di Gesu e Maria. Metro Station: Flaminio

Via Viminale 35. Metro Station: Termini

With two branches in the city, stopping at this outlet makes it more convenient after a tourist spot visit.

The staff is more upbeat and friendlier than the previous outlet.  You can pick through racks of half-priced men’s and women’s clothes, shoes, belts, and bags on labels like Armani, Salvatorre Ferragamo, Ferre, and Fendi.

Dolce and Gabbana soft leather shopping bag sells for 625EU

As with most outlet shopping centers, you have to spend an adequate amount of browsing time.  You won’t have this season’s items, but you will not have its matching price tags, either.  Shop wisely 🙂

St. Peter’s Basilica

I had a Catholic upbringing and was schooled in Catholic institutes, sang in church as one a choir member, and as a child, had frequent appearances as an angel (not too far from real life hehehe) during Easter Sundays and other similar church activities.  Think Katy Perry.  While at present I consider myself more spiritual than religious  (hmm, that sounds very Perry still), I have been waiting all of my life for the moment I set foot at the Vatican and let God’s church open its doors to me.

I went two times.  The first time alone, the second with my hubby.

Despite the throngs of tour groups, crowds speaking in varied languages and clicking away, I felt a deep sense of serenity as I gazed into Renaissance architecture of one the largest churches in the world.

I separated myself from all that buzz and allowed myself to admire this holy site.   The look was not new to me, the feeling was.  I have seen enough photos and videos of this but the warmth and peace weren’t always there, as it was..here..now.

I visited the sarcophagus of former Pope John Paul II.  He was the Pope I knew, serving before I was even born, 1978-2005.  I did not have the chance to see him in person when he was alive but being so used to regularly seeing him on media paraphernalia saying mass, and smiling at people, and winning us all with his natural charisma made me feel close to him, more especially at that particular moment when his remains were a few steps away from me.

Another memorable event would be the visiting the Chapel of the (Blessed) Sacrament.  Luckily on my first visit it was open for prayer.  “NO photos, no visit, pray only”, as strictly enforced by the guard.   How good of God to allow me to offer my adoration.  To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.  Some of my fellow Catholics were shedding tears in reverence.

One of our most unforgettable events was the fulfillment of my birthday wish–my hubby and I were granted an audience with the priests of the Vatican.  We heard mass at the greatest of all churches in Christendom.  The mass was generally in Italian and well, we didn’t understand a thing, but there we were joining the community if just by following sequence, standing in rapt adoration at God’s greatness in and outside these walls and into our lives.

I have never felt more Catholic in my life.

Top 10 Rules in Italy

Hello my dear readers,

I know I have been missing in action for quite sometime.  Pardon me as we had almost 2 weeks of vacation in Italy.  Ahh…the rich human heritage, the churches, the food, the shopping… We had a marvelous time and expect my next posts to be about this recent holiday.

We deliberated over bringing Lil T with us but then decided otherwise as it will be hard for him and it will disrupt his routine.   The solution: find someone we trust who will take good care of him.  One person isn’t enough, why not bring four? If you remember in my former posts, I wrote that hubby and I brought both our parents here to Dubai.   Yup, two sets of grandparents to hover around our 14-month-old.

The morning we were leaving for the airport, while reading a book to my little boy, I actually had a 5-minute tear fest.  Plus a repeat on the way to the airport.  My hubby assured me that Lil T was in good hands.. 4 pairs of hands!  We took this time to tour Italy since hubby had a scheduled business conference in Rome and all we needed to do was extend our trip.  He was pretty sure Lil T wouldn’t feel the least bit neglected.  In fact, he said Little T won’t even miss us.   We’ll be back by the time our son realizes we’re gone.

So to Italy we flew, celebrating our birthdays in the middle of the trip.  We have the same birthday you see, except that he’s 7 years older. (I get a lot of reactions on this—from “how romantic” to “how inconvenient”).

Anyway, during our stay, I have observed a couple of things on this nostalgic European wonder.

Top 10 Rules in Italy

  1. Purchase a small car.  All the better to insert it in crowded parking spaces.
  2. Stick to the following exterior paint colors: terra cotta, yellow, and gray.  After decades of wear and tear, repainting is optional.
  3. Let vines cover your house.  The thicker, the better.
  4. When tourists ask you in English, answer in Italian. You will look all the more authentic.
  5. Hand gestures and body language are a must even if you are just on the phone and the person you’re speaking with cannot see you.
  6. To consider a building “new”, it must be around 100 years old.
  7. Do not interrupt an Italian in the middle of his lunch.
  8. Only wine or water is the acceptable drink of your meal.
  9. Patience is a virtue and should be widely practiced.

10. Above all, “Vivi e lascia vivere”.  In English, “Live and Let Live.” Ciao!