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)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pisa: The glorious Pisa

Field of Miracles.

From Cinque Terre, our tour group headed to Pisa, which is located within the Tuscany region of Italy. We were heading for the Field of Miracles.

The magnificent buildings of Pisa reflected its glorious past whereby trading links with Spain and North Africa brought much wealth to Pisa. A quick glimpse of history seem to suggest that glory and power may not last, and yet, the wisdom to preserve one's heritage is a cultural asset that will last for generations to witness and to be proud of.

Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of Piazza Duomo. It was intended to complement the Duomo. The architecture is Pisan-Romanesque in style. I can remember the famous science experiment whereby Galileo Galilei climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and conducted his experiments on the velocity of falling objects.

In a nutshell, the leaning bell tower was caused by the unsteady ground which is rich in water. Notice that this bell tower is slightly bent.

At the Field of Miracles, engaged visitors can be easily spotted trying to create the optical illusions of attempts to make the Leaning tower of Pisa either become perpendicular or to cause it to lean. I had wanted a climb of the Leaning Tower of Pisa but gave it a miss so that I could enjoy a walk about the Field of Miracles. Somehow, it was a beautiful experience to view all the structures in the Field of Miracles as a harmonious whole.

It seemed that the Leaning Tower of Pisa has in some ways overshadowed the Duomo in the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) that it was intended to complement. Notice the lace-like columns at the front,its intricate designs somehow makes the Duomo impress upon its visitors as a very exquisite and fine building.

I personally find the Baptistery to be very attractive. This is the Baptistery of St. John (Battistero di San Giovanni), and is a replacement of an older baptistery. I read that the Baptistery has astounding acoustics.

Strangely, I was more attracted by the grass field than the buildings in the Field of Miracles. Perhaps I have been overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of the architecture of these buildings that the plain grass field somehow provided a nicely welcomed break?

To be honest, while I have visited the Field of Miracles and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I felt that I have yet to experience Pisa. I suppose Pisa is simply more than the Field of Miracles? Nevertheless, at the very least, I have a good glimpse of the beauty of the Field of Miracles.

As I end this post, I realized that the buildings in the Field of Miracles have stood the tests of time. Their presence, in some ways, connect the people and visitors of Pisa across the various generations, reminding all of us of the glorious Pisa.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Buffet at Penang Place

A-char on the right.

One Saturday evening on 12 Nov 2011, I visited the Penang Place Restaurant with one of my good friend, Mystic, to enjoy its Penang buffet spread.

The reviews shared that the Char Kway Teow from Penang Place is one of the best in town. The ingredients (e.g. the beansprouts and cockles) are fresh and flavour-some. I think it is nicely cooked and a delicious treat for anyone craving for Penang Char Kway Teow.

Mystic said that the a-char (pickled vegetables) was nice. Quality and fresh ingredients were used. The a-char sauce had a mildly spicy and sweet-sour flavour. I liked the a-char too.

Delicious and appetizing desserts.

The desserts seem to have won Mystic's taste-buds. She was raving how the delicious rice flavour from the glutinous rice used in the desserts became gradually more apparent with every bite and chew. I like the gui-ling-gao dessert.

Penang Rojak. I love the juicy star-fruits.

The do-it-yourself rojak was nice too. Ingredients such as juicy fresh star-fruits, guava fruits, cucumber and so forth were made available for the guests to prepare their own rojak. Mystic said that this is a dish that cannot go wrong as the rojak's prawn paste is flavour-some and tasty.

Other favourites of mine include the chendol, Penang laksa, and beef rendang.

With a great company in Mystic, we did not realised that we had spent more than two hours at Penang Place. It seemed that Penang Place is a great place for celebrations While we were having our dinner there, there were three occasions when the audio system in the restaurant played the Happy Birthday tune to celebrate the joyful occasion for three of the guests.

This is one place for quality Penang food and for celebration indeed.

I end this post with a wish for Mystic and her loved ones. May they be blessed with good health and happiness.

Penang Place
1 Fusionopolis Way
Connexis #B1-20/24
Singapore 138632
(Closed on Sundays)
Tel: 64611003

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cinque Terre: an UNESCO world heritage site

Cinque Terre. Vernazza.

I beg for your pardon. I have not heard of Cinque Terre until I have signed up for the group tour package to Dynasty Travel's "11D8N Best of Italy". To satisfy my curiosity, I googled for Cinque Terre.

Wikipedia's description of Cinque Terre is as such, "a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia...The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site."

An artist practising his art at Cinque Terre.

The five villages are namely Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro ("Light Blue Trail") connects the five villages.

Setting off from La Spezia.

For our tour group, our expedition went as such:
We took a train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore. From Riomaggiore, our group took a leisure walk along the well-paved coastal path of Via dell'Amore (Lovers' Lane) to get to Manarola. Along the way, we enjoyed stunning oceans views.

Lovers' Lane.

From Manarola, the group headed to Monterosso al Mare for lunch. After lunch hours, the group headed for Vernazza which has a nice beach in a protected harbour before returning to La Spezia. Our group gave Corniglia a miss as one would need to walk up 382 steps from the train station to reach Corniglia.


Monterosso al Mare.

Food wise, seafood is plentiful since Cinque Terre is located on the Mediterranean. You are wise if you have guessed that my tour-mate and I had seafood for lunch.

Black squid ink pasta.

Cinque Terre area is also known for its pesto, a sauce that is made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. The most common bread that is baked here is the Focaccia bread. For folks who like savoury and crunchy pancake, they may like to sample Farinata, which is made from a base of chick-pea flour. Time was limited and appetite was not huge, so I did not feast on all the specialties of Cinque Terre.

Mussels and clams.

The charm of Cinque Terre could be due to the lack of visible corporate development. I thought it was very wise that the community decides to preserve the elements that form the strengths of this region. The landscape is charmingly beautiful with carefully built terraces being built on the rugged landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea.

A Cinque Terre card with train travel is recommended for visitors to Cinque Terre. I have learnt Cinque Terre is quite protected from strong winds. I did not get to use any of the warm clothings that I had brought along. As such, it may help to dress in light layers of clothes at Cinque Terre.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Tuscany: The Florence Walking Tour

Tuscany is a region in Italy that is renowned for its art, history and evocative landscape. You may have heard of famous Tuscan cities such as Florence, Siena and Pisa.

Florence is the place to visit to appreciate Renaissance, a movement of the 15th century that centered on artistic and cultural reawakening. During that period of time, Florence was at the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe. In those days, some of the world's greatest Renaissance works were created by artists, sculptors and architects who moved to Florence.

From Venice, the tour-group headed to Florence by bus. One of our first stops in Florence was Piazza Michelangelo.

Piazza Michelangelo
Panorama view of Florence from Piazza Michelangelo.
This is the photo stop to head for. I was told that this spot offers a magnificent panorama of the city of Florence. According to DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy, when the sun sets over the river Arno and distant Tuscan hills, this place offers one of the most evocative views.

There is a copy of the statue of David at Piazza Michelangelo. It was not impressively sculpted, yet it seemed to earn a fair amount of attention from the visitors to Piazza Michelangelo.

Ponte Vecchio
This is a Medieval stone segmental arch bridge over the Arno River in Florence. It is the oldest surviving bridge in the city of Floence. Built in 1345, Ponte Vecchio was desgined by Taddeo Gaddi.

Ponte Vecchio over River Arno, on the left of the photo.
Piazza Signoria
The heart of Florence's political and social life, the great bell of Piazza Signoria had once used to summon citizens to public meetings. The statues in the piazza commemorate Florence's major historical events.

There is a copy of David, the famous sculpture by Michelangelo, sitting at the Piazza Signoria. I learnt that David was commissioned by Florence for Piazza Signoria. However, it was subsequently moved to the Galleria dell'Accademia for safe-keeping in 1873.

Visitors ought to take a good look at Palazzo Vecchio, The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna and Perseus by Cellini. These are said to be star features of Piazza Signoria.

On the right: The Rape of the Sabine Women. By Giambologna.

Santa Maria del Fiore, the richly decorated Duomo, is Florence's most famous cathedral. "Duomo" is a generic Italian term for a cathedral church. This cathedral is Europe's fourth largest church and is the tallest building in Florence.

I have learnt from an introductory class to Western architecture that Santa Maria del Fiore's dome is Gothic in outline and is influenced by (Italian) Gothic architecture. The dome's design is engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. It was founded upon a double shell design whereby the outer shell is supported by a thicket inner shell that acts as a platform for the former. I was told that the top of the dome, i.e. the lantern, not only offers spectacular views of the Florence city, it also serves to structurally disperse the weight of the dome. The weight of the lantern hence prevents the dome from springing apart.

I had wanted to join the queue that was to go up to the top of the dome of the Duomo. However, after much considerations, I did not do so due to long queue, the fact that I had to meet the rest of the tour-group by a specified time.

Gate of Paradise
At the Baptistry of the Duomo, visitors ought to make time to admire Lorenzo Ghiberti's famous bronze Baptistry doors. The panels of the doors are often regarded as the first works of the Renaissance. To the east, the doors have been called by Michelangelo as "Gates of Paradise". These doors depict scenes from the Old Testaments.

The original ten relief panels showing scriptural subjects are now exhibited in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. The panels at the Baptistry are copies.

Piazza Duomo, 17 - 50122 Florence
Tel and Fax: +39(055)215380

Florentine Steak Dinner with wine
In the evening, our guide led us to a quiet alley in the city of Florence for a sumptuous Florentine steak dinner with wine at Oseria dei Baroncelli.

I read that the versatile Sangiovese grape dominates wine making in Central Italy. The finest red wines are made in the hills of southeasten Tuscany. Notable red wine includes Brunello di Montalcino and Sassicaia. Yet, I am sorry to share that I have no clue what red wine I had drank that evening. I only knew that the red wine went well with the rest of the dinner.

Street art.
I read that getting around Florence is pretty easy as it has an excellent bus system. Travelling by foot is one of the best ways to navigate about Florence. Florence somehow gave me good vibes. It is likely that I shall visit Florence again.

River Arno.

DK Eyewitness Travel: Italy. (2011)