Ah, Roma, Italy 🇮🇹 – a visit to Vatican City

The next part of our Italian adventure saw us leave the snow behind in Florence and travel again by high speed train to Rome, then a metro train to take us to Spagna. The subway in Rome is not as good and less clean than that of what we saw in Milan, but another experience anyway!

Our accommodation in Roma was in Piazza Mignanelli just by the Spanish Steps, so the first thing we did was explore around the Piazza di Spagna.


Me by the Spanish Steps

Rome is full of things to do, so 4 days is no where near long enough to do even all the “must sees”, so I am going to do more than 1 blog post on Roma.

You cannot go to Rome and not see Vatican City and our first full day in Roma saw an early start for a pre-opening visit.


We booked an early morning (admission before general entry, with Viator) tour, and I highly recommend this, it’s worth the extra money. It started raining just as we got there, but that wasn’t too bad as most of what we did was inside. Our first stop was the Sistine Chapel – amazing! We had 20 minutes to admire the frescoes. There are no photographs allowed in the chapel, and there is supposed to be no talking. Our guide had provided a lot of information about this chapel, what to look for, what was noteworthy and why, and she provided a visual guide. This was great.

After the Sistine Chapel, we went back to look through the museums, very interesting.

And, it’s not just the Sistine Chapel that has an amazing ceiling – you can spend a lot of time looking up at the marvellous paintings on the ceilings throughout the Vatican.

On the way to St Peter’s Basilica we passed back through the Sistine Chapel (and you can understand why it’s good to go early).

St Peter’s Basilica is amazing! I am running out of superlatives here, but it was awesome. It is a very grand and stunning church.


St Peter (with a very shiny right foot, where everyone touches it)

Of course, when you leave the Basilica, you are facing St. Peters Square.


St Peter’s Square



The Pope’s Balcony

Firenze, Italy

After 5 nights in Milano, we boarded a fast train to Florence in Tuscany.

These trains are fantastic, and I wish Australia had one or two of these. Very comfortable – and fast (~260km/hr fast)! You even get a drink and a snack for free on board.

Once we arrived in Florence (Firenze), we caught a taxi to our home for the next 5 nights (Stone Lion Exclusive apartment – very nice by the way and definitely recommended). After checking in, we hit the streets for a look around. Saw lots of interesting buildings and architecture and wandered across the Ponte Vecchio,

before meandering through some markets.


Anyone who has been to Florence will tell you, there is at least one leather outlet on every block and plenty of market stalls to buy your leather goods. There is plenty of variety and prices, I believe seem very reasonable. I picked up a lambswool lined leather coat (as it was freezing), a couple of pairs of shoes and a couple of hand bags. The leather rush may have gone to my head!

Firenze was amazing, I loved it from the moment we got there, even though the weather wasn’t kind. So many little streets and great architecture.

Our first full day in Firenze, we wandered aimlessly and visited San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Firenze, consecrated in 393).

On the way back to our apartment we managed to get lost. The streets of Florence twist and turn and I found it easy to become disoriented in this city, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Day 2 we did a day trip to San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Sienna, which also included a stop at a local family run winery for some wine tasting and lunch.

Day 3 we went to see David at the galleria dell’accademia,


Michelangelo’s David

and checked out the Duomo (which I thought was more spectacular on the outside).

Day 4 we woke to snow ❄️ it was a freezing day, with snow, sleet and rain. We managed to visit the Bargello museum and see some more impressive sculptures.


Donatello’s David


Later we went through the church across from where we were staying, the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei are buried. This was an amazing church and very impressive (I personally liked it better than the Duomo).

And finally, did you know Pinocchio was born in Florence?

It would be lovely to one day return to Firenze, and spend a whole lot more time there, as there is so much more I would like to see.

Our last days in Milano, Italy

There is of course plenty to see in Milan, as in every large city. Just 5 days is not enough to discover all there is to see. I had a list of a few things that I prioritised as things I’d like to do. As I love history, and I’m a fan of old architecture, I thought a visit to Castle Sforza and a viewing of Leonardo’s Last Supper painting were worth the effort for me.

Day 4 – we really had nothing planned, so we caught the metro to Cairoli station, which is just a short walk to Castello Sforzesco. It’s free to get into the grounds and just €5 to get into the museums.

Heaps to see here, and the music museum is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, quite extraordinary.

I also particularly liked the tapestries!

Day 5 – what an interesting day for our last full day in Milan! First on the agenda was a visit to Leonardo’s Last Supper. If you want to see this famous painting, I highly recommend you book a tour. It’s a bit more expensive, but worth it; you get a good commentary on the painting, it’s history and restoration. To view the last supper, you are allowed into the room where it is displayed in groups of 30 people at a time (don’t worry – there is plenty of room and readily viewed from anywhere in the room) and for 15minutes only. Because visitor numbers are limited – this is another reason to book a group tour ticket. LastSupper-1LastSupper-2

After viewing the painting (which is housed in the refectory of theSanta Maria delle Grazie church), we took a look inside main church.

During our walk home we stumbled across some of the craziness that is fashion week in Milan.

And immediately after, we were witness to some street protest march (?political rally).

It was an event filled 5 days and we had a great time in Milano. Next stop Firenze!

A Visit to Houston

So, I am spending a couple of days in Houston with a friend.

Yesterday, after a 5 hour drive from Sherman, we took in some culture and visited the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

I was particularly taken by the Roman Vishniac photographic exhibition and his photographs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Many poignant and candid photos giving the viewer a real glimpse into a life that many of us can only image, particularly those taken in post war Berlin. I could have spent so much longer pouring over these images; it was fabulous.

I also got to enjoy some more classic paintings from the masters – Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet & Matisse.


I have seen some wonderful art whilst in Texas – we miss out on so much in Australia, where we have to wait for a special traveling exhibit.

Also at the museum is the Shadow Monsters interactive display – we made scary shadows and had fun! Great for young and old! 

There was also a fabulous interactive LEGO building exhibit where you could indulge your inner architect or city planner. Everyone is encouraged to add to the LEGO city creation.

The MFAH is a very interesting museum and is spread over 2 buildings. Between the two, is an interconnecting walkway which is a piece of art in itself – a light tunnel, where the color changes every 6 minutes.


If you get to go, Thursday’s are a great day to visit as entry is free!

Anyway, the reason I am in Houston is that I am accompanying a friend on a business trip – so I took the opportunity to see a little more of Texas and poke around a little in Houston. My friend is a well respected quilter and author (Becky Goldsmith) and is attending the Quilt Market in Houston. Now, this ‘convention’ is a BIG deal – I didn’t realize just how big. More later!

Experiencing some classic culture

This past Tuesday, I experienced a wonderful day of culture!

I was invited by a friend to tag along on a day out with a friend (and a friend of hers) who were going to take in some of exhibitions at a couple of museums in Fort Worth. I saw things that I would not have experienced in Australia, and have to admit, I had a lovely day!

We drove down to Fort Worth, which is almost a 2 hour drive from where I live in Sherman (so, about the equivalent of driving from Newcastle to Sydney). We took in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and then the Kimbell Art Museum, where we also enjoyed a delicious, light lunch.

I have experienced quite a few museums and art galleries during my travels, but I must admit, the art I took in on Tuesday was noteworthy; I saw quite a few paintings from artists that I have only seen once before (at a special exhibit in Canberra), or not at all.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is not an overly large museum and we were there primarily to see the special exhibits – Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art and Audubon’s Beasts. The Amon Carter museum opened in January 1961 and was established by Amon G. Carter Sr. (1879–1955) to house his collection of paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The museum contains only American art and artists (to the best of my knowledge) and “aims to collect, preserve, and exhibit the finest examples of American art; and to serve an educational role through exhibitions, publications, and programs devoted to the study of American art”.

The exhibit of Audubon’s beasts was a collection of maybe 20-24 (I can’t quite remember how many there were) of hand-painted prints of some of North America’s four-legged creatures; these were extremely detailed and wonderful to see. John James Audubon (1785–1851) was a famed scientist and painter, best known for his work depicting the birdlife in America in The Birds of America, a book of 435 images – portraits of every bird then known in the United States.

The Indigenous Beauty exhibit was fabulous too – there were plenty of native American Indian art and craft works, with some excellent examples of textiles, pottery, basket weaving and beadwork. It was very impressive and I am glad to have seen it – if you get the chance – go see it!

Again, the Kimbell Art Museum is not large, but it does have some quality works, all housed in a fabulous, modern, noteworthy building. The museum is especially noted for the wash of silvery natural light that enters the building through its vaulted gallery ceilings.

The reason we went to the Kimbell was to see the special exhibit: Botticelli to Braque – Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. There was some very fine art in that display by famed artists such as Titian, Pissarro, Degas, Botticelli as well as Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Rembrandt. However, before we got to this exhibit, I was very excited to have witnessed works by some of the great masters that exist as part of the Kimbell’s permanent collection where I saw works by Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Cezanne . Like I mentioned, I saw paintings that you just don’t get to see the likes of in Australia, unless they are part of a special, travelling exhibit. These paintings were part of the museums regular, permanent collection – available to view in downtown Fort Worth, Texas!

If ever you find yourself in Fort Worth, Texas, I can recommend a visit to these two museums!

If you made it this far – sorry for the long post and the absence of pictures, but I did think it was worth writing about! 🙂