Posts Tagged With: Ruins

Rome, Imperial vibes

Rome is not just a destination, it’s an experience. The capital of the old empire possesses a rich heritage with the relics of over two thousand years of inhabitation. The city is made up of layers of history interwoven to an almost overwhelming degree: medieval churches build on ancient basilicas above Roman palaces; house and apartment blocks that integrate remains of eroded Roman columns, carvings, escutcheons and inscriptions. Exploring the Italian capital by feet is a no-brainer if you look at the density of Rome’s traffic. With imagination I reconstruct the old empire as I walk the cobble roads, alleys and piazzas which follow the lines of ancient amphitheaters and stadiums.  I take Piazza Navona as the center of the city from where I calculate that I’m probably twenty till thirty minute walk away from most of the places I want to see – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, St. Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain, Castel St. Angelo, Villa Borghese or the bohemian Trastevere district. And getting to those emblematic places is the real adventure as behind every corner lays a new puzzle piece of what was. Sometimes it is a façade with angels, another time it is a beautiful fountain with no name and a lot of times it’s a kind of déjà vu sensation as we all have seen Rome a billion times on postcards, movies and so on.

It is always the unexpected here in Rome.  Every now and then it even seems like things doesn’t fit.  The Pantheon for example… or the building is too big, or the square is too small. The Colosseum for example… is that even possible the way it stands so high and vertical, the way it seems so solid and brittle at the same time, standing here in the middle of a modern city.  There is even a religious capital inside a political capital… a city inside a city. Is Nicola Salvi’s Fontana di Trevi the façade of a building?  I tell you, at every corner there is a new bit of the long story of this city. Rome has fifty monumental fountains and hundreds of smaller fountains and over 2000 drinking fountains, more than any city in the world, it counts over 900 churches, 14 catacombs and about 40 Roman ruins to visit.  It has the Tiber river flowing through and you can walk along it taking sunset pictures at the over 30 bridges it contains and even an island to take a rest at the riverside. It’s blessed with an endless list of restaurants, takeaway pizzerias, pasta bars, charming coffeehouses, taverns with sunny terraces and crowded ice-cream shops without closing hours.

Rome at night is what I liked most and what I recommend most. The heat of the day fades away and a fresh breeze runs through the streets. The streetlight gives a special vibe to the city and transforms it into a magical place with luring bars and clubs, with local youngsters gathering together on the minor squares and students from all over the globe celebrating student life as they do each evening. There is no queuing at 2am and at 4am there are no people to mess up a nice picture… a unique moment for a city as Rome.

There is this moment without the souvenir fridge magnets racks and without fashionable shop windows… there is just me and these small ancient stonewall passages. The same passages that were there a thousand years ago and now and hopefully another thousand years withstanding modernization.

Recommendations:

  • Before hitting Rome, read a bit about its history. Who were Julio Ceasar, Pompeyo, Augusto,…
  • The same for its art, lookup the history behind fontains, emblematic bridges, squares,… Having a bit of information before you get on the streets will save a lot of time and will change the way you perceive its beauty. You can click on the links in this post or click on this INFO-GUIDE that I found online and helped me a lot to understand more about Rome.
  • The ruins of antiquity allow us to reconstruct with the imagination how Imperial Rome was. But after spending three hours in the Roman Forum, looking at broken columns and scattered stones, you’ll want to enter a building that still stands. Similarly, if you visit 20 baroque churches in a single day, you will be so “saturated” that they will all look the same to you. So alternate between ancient and modern. In Rome you have enough variety to avoid monotony.
  • Most of the important monuments are inside the Aurelian wall, which delimits the center of the city and whose area is quite accessible on foot.
  • Rome, it’s an ancient place, yet it’s so much more than an open-air museum: its culture, its food, its people make up a modern, vibrant city so enjoy every aspect of it.
  • We all know what a pizza should taste like but if you really want something original, fresh and with superior quality… I recommend Pizza Grand Gourmet as an alternative on anything else you’ve ever experienced. 🙂

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Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copacabana, on the Bolivian Side of Titicaca Lake

15-16/01/2014

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Facendo un salto sul versante boliviano del lago navigabile più “alto” del mondo ci si ritrova a Copacabana, un ridente villaggio di pescatori situato nella provincia di Manco Kapac che vivono della pesca giornaliera e del turismo portando a spasso i visitatori per le isole che la circondano. Dopo aver contrattato un trasporto economico con una delle mille imbarcazioni ormeggiate al porto, raggiungiamo la famosa Isla del Sol, una splendida isola abitata da aymara e quechua (le etnie predominante in Bolivia) nata sulle acque del lago Titicaca, soleggiata e verde, con esotiche calette bagnate da acque trasparenti e bruciate dal caldo tropicale.

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L’isola è divisa in tre comunità, Yamani al sud, Ch’alli nel centro e Chillipampa nel nord, ognuna dei quali riscuote il suo pedaggio dai passanti che decidono di attraversare l’isola a piedi. 

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La bussola punta al Nord, tocchiamo terra e ci dirigiamo verso le rovine inca dell’isola, in cui risaltano quelle del tempio dedicato a Inti, il Dio sole, e i resto dell’antico sentiero inca. Scattiamo delle suggestive foto allo spettacolare paesaggio incorniciato dai muri grezzi e dai sacri altari del sito archeologico.

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Da lì intraprendiamo un trekking di 11 chilometri seguendo il cammino inca che percorre tutta l’isola fino ad arrivare alla punta Sud da dove, dopo aver preso un po’ di sole aspettando la barca, facciamo ritorno a Copacabana.

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Una rilassante passeggiata per la spiaggia durante il tramonto con l’odore di pesce fresco appena arrostito e le onde a scandire il tempo dimenticato. Siamo pronti per una nuova destinazione.

Suggerimenti:

  • I prezzi in questa zona della Bolivia non sono bassissimi rispetto al resto del Paese però se siete in cerca semplicemente di un tetto sotto cui ripararvi e un letto su cui riposare dopo una lunga giornata sotto il sole cocente noi consigliamo l’ Hostal Las Balzas (20-30 Bolivianos a persona, ossia 2-3 euro), a pochi passi dalla fermata dell’ autobus. Vi sono ovviamente altri ostelli/hotel con più comfort, prezzi più alti e connessione WiFi.
  • I prezzi del trasporto per l’ Isla del Sol si aggirano sui 30-40 BS a persona (3-4 euro), andata/ritorno in giornata. Il pedaggio da versare alle comunità indigene se si vuole camminare lungo il cammino inca sono di 60 BS (6 euro) in totale a persona. Vi è anche la possibilità di includere una visita alla Isla de la Luna o aggiungervi una delle isole fluttuanti presenti anche su questo lato del lago.
  • Per provare la cucina locale e non sfondare i portafogli si può considerare l’opzione del mercato locale con tante leccornie a basso costo e alto tasso di colesterolo. 🙂 Vi sono poi una serie di locali e ristorantini con buona musica e un ambiente accogliente per chi cercasse qualcosa di più raffinato o una connessione WiFi.
Categories: Bolivia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas

09-11/1/2014

After many years reading and dreaming about it, finally here we are. Our feet now touch its sacred ground, our eyes stare astonished at the greatness of its people. Machu Picchu, the Lost City, where magic, mysticism and hard work gave life, centuries ago, to one of the 7 new world wonders.

We take the bus from Cuzco at 7 in the morning and, after 8 hours driving, we finally get to the Central Hidroelectrica around 3 in the afternoon. From there we start our trekking along the railways in a gorgeous scenery surrounded by nature in order to reach Aguas Calientes and spend the night there before hiking until the park. A real pilgrimage of hundreds backpackers looking for their Mecca.

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It is still pitch black, 4:00am. We get up very early in the morning to be among the first ones to get to the gate. 2014-01-15 05.32.56 The bridge that opens at 5:00am allows you to the steep stairways, the only access by foot to the ruins. For a little extra on the entrance price you can also climb one of the two mountains that surround the valley, Montaña Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu, where we experienced one of the most breathtaking view ever.

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Once we got to the top of Montaña Machu Picchu at 7:30am, we have our well deserved breakfast enjoying speechless the panorama in front of us. The clouds that were covering the sky lending the valley that mystic atmosphere which it is known for, suddenly disappear. The sky acquires a deep blue colour and the sun lights up the silver river running through the Urubamba valley, slowly revealing the ancient Inca ruins that rest silently under our feet.

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I am not going to give a full description of the archaeological site of Machu Picchu, of its culture or historical meaning because this is something you can easily find everywhere surfing the net, in books or works of those who dedicate their entire life to the secrets of this complex civilization. I will just provide some useful tips on how to get there and enjoy its essence without emptyingyour wallet. After that I will leave pictures speaking for me and showing what nature and men can create working together and living side by side.

Our recommendations:

  • For travellers with a low budget:  the best and cheapest way to get to Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Town, the starting point for the hike till the ruins, is to book a transfer from Cusco till the Central Hidroeléctrica. From there you have to walk about 2 hours along the railways. It is an easy and pleasant trekking along the impressive Vilcanota-Urubamba river. Prices for transportation vary from 60 to 80 Nuevos Soles, according the agencies and the number of days you want to spend there.
  • If your budget is not that low and you feel like walking for a few days across the Sacred Valley, you can consider the option of doing the popular Inca Trail (3-4 days for 400-500 dollars) or the newest and cheaper Jungle Trail (4 days for 200-250 dollars) combining trekking, bike and bus.
  • To enjoy completely the experience you need a full day going around the ruins and hiking the mountains, so be sure to get to Aguas the day before, spend a night in one of the many hotels or campsites to have a good rest, recharge the batteries and be ready for the hike early in the morning. Have a look to the Hotel Ecomapi  (20 NS per night per person) for a basic accommodation in the centre. The park closes at 5 pm so, unless you want to take the night train (50 dollars) back to Cuzco, you will need a second night in Aguas. The next day you can go back to the Hidroeléctrica and take the bus back or stay a few days more and get deeper into the Sacred Valley. This is only up to you and to your muscles. 🙂
  • There are thousands of agencies in Cuzco that will almost stalk you with tours or transfers back and forth between Aguas and Cuzco. Spend a few hours if it is necessary to have a general look to the different possibilities and prices in order to get the best offer.
  • With the ISIC card you will get the 50% of discount in the entrance fee, so remember to carry with you your student card and for 12 dollars you will receive your personal International Student Card(you can find an ESIC office in the main square of Cuzco, in front of the cathedral).
  • As far as the ticket is concerned, you can buy it online (but probably you will be charged of an additional fee for the service), in the official agency of the archaeological park in Cuzco, or directly in Aguas. We suggest you to buy it in advance in order to guarantee your entrance to the mountains and to the ruins since there is a limited number of people per day that are allowed to enter.

ENTRANCE PRICES

As of January 2014, Machu Picchu entrance fees for foreign visitors are as follows:

Machu Picchu (standard ticket): S/.128 nuevos soles (approx. US$50)
Machu Picchu and Site Museum: S/.150 (approx. US$58.50)
Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: S/.152 (approx. US$59)
Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain: S/.142 (approx. US$55)

Categories: Peru | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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