Saturday, December 31, 2011

At year's End

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
- blessings by John O' Donohue

I came across a lovely poem by John O'Dononhue, and thought of sharing part of it here. It seems that one of the most appropriate way to end the year is to give thanks. Thank you for your care, your wishes, and for being there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Flowers from Italy to cheer

The beautiful flowers in Italy never fail to captivate my attention. In my humble attempt to brighten the mood, here is sharing a few of the photos of the lovely flowers from Italy. May these images bring you cheer and hope.

In the town of Assisi, I caught sight of a snail that seemed to have strong faith that it will get to where it would like to go.

In summary, I think the world is reminding us to make time to appreciate the flowers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Read: Paulo Coelho's Aleph

Title: Aleph
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, (New York), 2011.

Ever since I have first read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, I have been drawn in some ways to read the works of this very author. Aleph is the latest book by Paulo Coelho, and I bought myself a copy of it recently.

In this book, it speaks of Paulo Coelho's journey of self-discovery. The synopsis writes "Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, he decides to begin again - to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him..."

As the story unfolds, it appears that there is an implication of a core entity of the soul which evolves throughout different lifetimes. An act of cowardice of the protagonist five hundred years ago affects him in this lifetime. In this book, the protagonist takes his chance in this lifetime to make a better choice.

Today, I read from an online article of an interview with Paulo Coelho and he said that one of  the messages of the book is that what we do now affects our future. What a great power the present is, and the power of our choices.

Perhaps when the signs guide me to, I shall reread Aleph to better understand the messages that it is trying to communicate.

In the meantime, please visit this website to learn more about this book, Aleph

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Glimpses of the food from Italy

Food can give us a glimpse about the lives of the people in a country. Feast our eyes to some of the food from Italy.

I have developed a liking for risotto. Somehow, I like the way the rice is being cooked for the risotto dish. Rice is cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. Interestingly, I like the al dente texture of the rice in risotto. Some of my peers did not like the al dente texture however.

This pizza that was served in one of the restaurants was huge!

In a restaurant nearby Pompeii, I caught a glimpse of the making of pizzas by two pizza chefs.

Black squid ink pasta.

The black squid ink pasta from Cinque Terre has left an impression in me as it was my very first time eating black squid ink pasta. The seafood from Cinque Terre is fresh and delicious.

The decor of restaurants in Italy tends to be pleasing and elegant. Somehow the decor complements the food and makes the dining experience more pleasurable.

Salads, bread and lemonade.

Salads and bread are the most common appetizers in most of the meals that I had in Italy. When I was at Capri, I decided to order a glass of lemonade. Please be mindful, the lemonade is very fresh yet can be considered too sour for most people. One of my tour-mates had added more than three packets of sugar to the lemonade drink, only to still find the lemonade too sour for his liking.


Some of the best food that I had while I was in Italy came at an affordable price. Before we reached our hotel in Rome, our driver led us to a canteen in a student hostel and this place serves delicious food. At the canteen, my accompanying friend introduced me to ravioli, a traditional type of Italian filled pasta. A filling is sealed between two layers of thin egg pasta dough for this dish. It was a good treat.

One of my favourite Italian desserts is the tiramisu, which literally means "pick me up" in Italian. I was impressed to find delicious tiramisu at the canteen of a humble student hostel.

The chocolate drinks in Italy are worth trying. Rich and concentrated, the hot chocolate drink from Italy felt like as if we were drinking melted chocolate.

Till today, I can still remember the cup of gelato from a humble gelato shop in Assisi. It tasted fresh and delicious. My friend and I were singing high praises for the abundant fresh berries that we can find in the gelato.

I cannot help but conclude that food is also a form of art, with a very practical purpose of nourishing the body and delighting the taste-buds as well as the senses.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rome City Tour

After a visit to the Vatican City, our group was ready to have a tour about the city of Rome. Our local tour guide gave us insights to the history of Rome.

This amphitheatre was inaugurated by Emperor Titus in 80 CE. I was all ready to visit the Colosseum. However, there was a protest that was to take place near the Colosseum on 15 Oct 2011. As such, the Colosseum was closed to visitors since that morning. To ensure the safety of the members of the public and the tourists, roads leading to the Colosseum was closed in the afternoon.

Thankfully, the tour bus got our group a good glance of the Colosseum from the tour bus in the late morning. In the afternoon (during our free time), together with my accompanying friend and one of the tour-mates, we attempted to make our way to the Colosseum only to be disappointed that the roads were sealed. The best that we could see was smoke coming from nearby the Colosseum.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument
This monument was built to honour Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. The monument looked very grand and lavish.

Piazza Venezia
The tour-bus drove the group about Piazza Venezia several times so that we can enjoy the sights of the Piazza from the bus. Due to the anticipation of the protests, the tour-bus did not stop anywhere nearby the Piazza. Nearby is the Victor Emmanuel II Monument.

Castle of Angels
This castle looking building was originally the massive circular tomb of the Roman emperor, Hadrian. It was erected on the right bank of the river Tiber.

Trevi Fountain (photo stop)
A beautiful fountain that will delight. In a 1960 comedy-drama film, La Dolce Vita, one of the protagonists threw three coins backwards over the shoulder to ensure a return visit to Rome. Our guide gave us a different interpretation to the coin throwing game. The method of throwing the coins remain the same. However, the instructions were to make three wishes and then throw the coin into the fountain.

Spanish Steps (photo stop)
My friend and I counted that there were 132 steps to the third tier of the Spanish Steps. I saw that by the late afternoon and evening, people will sit on the steps of this Rococo-style staircase watching the world go by. The Spanish Steps reminded me of a part of my Secondary School's building where students would sit down on the steps of the stairways waiting for the flag-rising ceremony to begin.

I read that Francesco De Sanctis designed the steps in 1723-6 for King Louis XV, and the Italian name is Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti, after the church at the top. The nearby hourglass-shaped square is known as Piazza di Spagna.

I could only say that there are so many interesting and beautiful buildings and monuments to see in Rome that I felt pretty overwhelmed in a positive way. I was also happy that I chose to explore parts of Rome instead of spend the time shopping during the allocated free time.

I hope to visit Rome again. May my wish be realized by the Trevi Fountain.

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Rome.'Angelo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Moving Masterpiece: Experience Bianjing

If you have missed the animated version of "Qing Ming Shang He Tu" (Along the river during the Qingming Festival) (清明上河图) by the famous twelfth century Chinese painter, Zhang Zeduan, during the World Expo 2010 Shanghai, exhibited at the China Pavilion, here's your chance to catch it in Singapore. Till 6 Feb 2012, at the Singapore EXPO Hall 3.

Here is a post that I have written after a recent visit to this exhibition: A Moving Masterpiece: Experience Bianjing

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Vatican City Tour

The tour of the Vatican City was one of my favourite segments of the tour about Italy. The credit would go to the knowledgeable local tour guide who gave the group a very concise yet informative tour of the Vatican City. During the tour, we learnt about some of the collections of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and the St Peter's Basilica.

I saw a number of remarkable art works during my visit to the Vatican City.

Pieta, by Michelangelo.
This work depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother, Mary, after the Crucifixion.

St Peter's Basilica
This is one of the most famous churches in the Catholic and Christian faith. The basilica's size and spiritual significance is impressive. This church in Renaissance style.

St Peter's Square, St Peter's Basilica in the background.

Inside St Peter's Basilica.

The grand St Peter's Basilica.

The visit to Vatican City was a relative short one as the group had to head to other parts of Rome. In my mind, I wonder how people of the Catholic faith would experience Vatican City. I figured it could be a spiritual or home-coming experience to visit the Vatican City?

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)'s_Basilica

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Read: The Tao of Warren Buffett

Title: The Tao of Warren Buffett
Authors: Mary Buffett and David Clark
Publisher: Scribner, 2006

In the hope to appreciate the wisdom and strategies behind Warren Buffett's investment achievements, I readily borrowed this book, The Tao of Warren Buffett, when I came across it at one of the public libraries.

In summary, Warren Buffett's strategies are pretty down-to-earth, practical, and disciplined. From my reading of this book, I have learnt that Buffett's key strategy to value investment is as such: Invest in and buy "businesses with good-to-superb underlying economics run by honest and able people and buy them at sensible prices". While this may seem simple, it also requires patience, doing good homework, understanding financial statements and being disciplined.

In this book, I also learnt about the reasons why Warren Buffett think it is not necessary to diversify one's investments. He seems to be famous for concentrating his investments on companies that he thinks have good business economics and fair prices.

This is an accessible book that is fairly easy to read and understand. Great wisdom presented with simplicity.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Imagine Sorrento

Imagination will take us to find beauty even whether circumstances did not seem to support it. On a rainy day, let us imagine the greatness of Sorrento and the clarity of its beautiful Mediterranean skies.

I did not have many photos of Sorrento. Perhaps it was because I had decided to view Sorrento through my imaginative eyes than through the camera lenses.

A glimpse of Sorrento on a rainy day.

In the meantime, please enjoy the song of Sorrento.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Capri Island tour

After the visit to Pompeii, the tour group made our way to Naples. The following day, the tour group make its way to Capri.

On the south side of the Gulf of Naples, Southern Italy, there is an Italian island in the Tyrrhenian sea that is called Capri. Geological surveys and archaeological findings confirmed that Capri island was once part of the mainland of Italy.

The tour group took a hydrofoil to Capri Island. I was expecting a sunny and warm weather. Yet, interestingly, it was a pretty windy day. Nevertheless, I had an enjoyable ride on the hydrofoil.

Mount Vesuvius, as seen from the hydrofoil.

I read that Capri is a Mediterranean island with a magical beauty. Our guide told us that on a day with good weather, the water will be in a beautiful hue of clear blue. However, as if it was an excuse for me to return to Capri in the future, the weather was strangely dull and rainy on the day of our visit.

As such, for the rest of this post, please use your imagination to picture the beautiful scenery at Capri Island.

Marina Grande

Marina Grande is the main port of the island. This is a charming seaside. I could imagine how it would be on a sunny day. Ferries and hydrofoils to Capri dock at this port.

To get to the town of Capri, we took a mini-bus up the narrow and winding road.

Anacapri is a principal town on the island of Capri. Due to the rain, we did not get to visit the highest point of Capri.

Limoncello tasting
This Italian lemon liqueur is an after-dinner digestivo that is traditionally served chilled. It is mainly produced in Southern Italy. I sampled a small cup of limoncello and it did not have the sour taste of lemon. I like the sound of its name most of all, i.e. limoncello! Doesn't it sound like a musical instrument?

Perhaps the dull weather that I had met in Capri was the reason for me to visit Capri yet again, sometime in the future?

To end this post, let me share this song, Isle of Capri.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Simple ideas to enjoy the exhibition "Dreams and Reality" better

With an overwhelming number of more than 140 paintings, photographs and drawings from the collection of the world renowned Musée d’Orsay, an art museum in France, what could a visitor do to better appreciate this exhibition?

In this post, Simple ideas to enjoy the exhibition "Dreams and Reality" better, I shall attempt to share some suggestions that may guide a visitor, especially one who is totally new to visual art, to enjoy this exhibition like a seasoned visual art-lover.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pompeii: The UNESCO heritage site

Taken from the exhibition "Pompeii: Life in a Roman Town 79 CE".

About a year ago, I went for an exhibition in Singapore that showcases artifacts from Pompeii titled Pompeii: Life in a Roman Town 79 CE. One that fateful day in 79 CE, Mount Vesuvius erupted and the extend of the eruption destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii, and yet ironically preserved this Roman town for centuries.

This buried city of Pompeii was rediscovered in the 16th century but systemic excavation only began in 1748. I learnt that the western part of Pompeii is where the most impressive and intact Roman ruins are located.

A plaster cast of one of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79CE.

The star sights of Pompeii are said to be the "House of the Faun" and the "House of Vetti". However, somehow I do not remember visiting these two sites.

Our tour guide led the group to see a gymnasium and an auditorium in the town of Pompeii.

A gynasium.

One of the auditoriums.
Imagine that the auditorium seats used to be covered by marble stones.

Along the way, he gave us interesting details on some of the features that could be found on the streets. I learnt that "stepping stones" were laid on selected areas of the streets of Pompeii so that people could use these specially elevated large stones to cross the streets of Pompeii in the event of floods.

One of the streets of Pompeii.
The gentleman in the foreground holding  a camera is stepping on a "Stepping Stone".

More than a thousand years ago in the town of Pompeii, the people of Pompeii already have amenities such as drinking fountains, bakeries, chemists (today's version of the pharmacy), baths and more. I was pretty fascinated to simply see the ruins of Pompeii personally in my lifetime.

Inside one of the Roman baths.
This, if I recall correctly, is the original marble structure placed at a hot-steamed bath area.  

A drinking tap.
Spirituality and religion seemed to be an important part of the lives of the people of Pompeii. I cannot help but notice the elaborate structures that form the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Apollo.

Temple of Jupiter.

Temple of Apollo.

There are simply a lot to be discovered about the civilization of Pompeii. I personally find the visit to Pompeii shorter than I would like. Then again,I was very grateful that the visit to Pompeii was a great way to get me reacquainted with Pompeii once again. One of my minor achievements as a result of visiting Pompeii was that I have learnt to recognize Mount Vesuvius.

Mount Vesuvius in the background. 

Civilizations may rise and fall. Yet what has enabled the human race to continue to exist on Earth since mankind exists, is possibly the faith and courage to live in spite of all the odds.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Assisi: The memorable Roseo Hotel Assisi

One of the hotels that had left a very positive impression on me was the Roseo Hotel Assisi.

At the hotel, we enjoyed a most sumptuous and memorable buffet dinner. I particularly like the following items from the buffet: hazelnut parfait, risotto, peas and potatoes. Many thanks to our wonderful tour manager who had got a complimentary bottle of red wine for our group to share.

The hotel's lobby was nicely decorated. At the roof top, one can enjoy a nice view of Assisi. Great hospitality, good vibes and scenic views, all these have made the stay at Roseo Hotel Assisi memorable.

View from Roseo Hotel Assisi.
Taken by my friend who was on the tour with me.

Roseo Hotel Assisi
Via Giovanni Renzi 2
06081 Assisi

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Places: Musée d'Orsay travels to Singapore

Places: Musée d'Orsay travels to Singapore:

This is the time to be inspired by some of the collections from the world renowned Musée d'Orsay , right in Singapore. Till 5 Feb 2012.

Dreams and Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Venue: National Museum of Singapore
Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Ticket Prices: $11 including SISTIC charges
Ticket Bookings: SISTIC counters nationwide
SISTIC hotline: (65)6348 5555
SISTIC online booking:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Assisi: The beauty of a medieval town

Assisi during sunset.

Assisi is a beautiful medieval town in the Umbria region, Central Italy. Assisi appears to be closely associated with Saint Francis, who was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone. He was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher who founded the Franciscan religious order in Assisi in 1208.

San Francis Basilica

St Francis is buried at the site of the Basilica di San Francesco that is located in Assisi. The basilica that begun in 1228 is one of the great Christian shrines. A great number of pilgrims visit the basilica throughout the year. At the Basilica, one will find the tomb of St Francis in the crypt.

It appears that lovers of frescoes will delight in the visual treasures that they will see at this Basilica.
  • The frescoes by Lorenzetti is worth admiring. The Deposition (1323) is based around the truncated Cross. Interestingly, the composition of The Deposition leads the viewers to focus their attention on the figure of Christ.
  • Giotto's frescoes consisting of 28 panels depict the life of St Francis (c. 1290 - 1295).
  • Cappella di San Martino's frescoes on the Life of St Martin (1315) is yet another set of frescoes that is one of the star features of the Basilica.
Architecturally wise, visitors could take notice that the rose window of the facade reflected the styles of early Italian Gothic. This Basilica is often visited by pilgrims.

The place to get souvenirs from Assisi is possibly the gift-shop found within St Francis Basilica. Sales proceeds from the sale of souvenirs from this very gift-shop will be used to fund the running of the St Francis Basilica.

St Mary of the Angels

Situated in the plain at the foot of the hill of Assisi is the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (St Mary of the Angels). It was constructed in the Mannerist style of architecture by architects Galeazzo Alessi and Vignola. This style of architecture prefigured the theatrical Baroque style.

The statue at the top of St Mary of the Angels.
This was taken by my friend and travel companion.

The ambience of St Mary of the Angels is peaceful and tranquil.

Piazza del Comune
Situated in the city of the city of Assisi, this square is the social, cultural and political centre of Assisi. Make time to admire the Foro Romano (Roman forum), the Torre del Popolo (Tower of the People, Minerva's Temple (Temple of Minerva) and the fountain built by Giovanni Martinucci in 1762.

Via Portica
This street leads to St Francis Basilica. It is a beautiful street, especially in the evening.

Assisi is a tranquil medieval town. There, I have experienced a sense of peace. It is a place with good vibes.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)