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Big Al in Italy

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Looking down Via Po Turin was the first place we visited in Italy. The Italians call it Torino. It seems a bit silly how we give an English name to a city that already has a perfectly good name.

Our trip included my French cousin, Sophie. That is her on the right leaning against the church pillar and behind us is the bridge over the Po River.

We go this way Ummmm, which way here?

I think we go this way!

Torino fountain We visited the Duomo in Turin, which holds the Shroud of Turin, the palaces and the porticos, and after all that we had a rest at the fountain.

Verona train station Then we went to the train station - we saw a lot of Italian train stations!

We are on our way to Verona, right across the north of Italy, through Milan towards the north-east of Italy.

Knights for action In Verona, they use the first century roman ampitheatre as a real opera house! It holds 20,000 people and is the third largest remaining roman ampitheatre.

The Veronese were preparing for an opera and some of their soldier props were out in the square. Can you see us?

Transporter We thought that the French had some small cars, but maybe the Italians beat them!

This is a tradesman's vehicle, with a tray at the back and seating for only one. It has just three wheels, with only one at the front!

Is this a toy? This is the family model, a Fiat, which is made in Turin. As you can see it has four wheels, but it is still small - shorter than me, but you can seat four.

Notice I didn't say comfortably.

Juliet statue The play by William Shakespeare called 'Romeo and Juliet' is based in Verona. So the people in Verona have made a bronze statue of Juliet just for us tourists to go and see. On the wall behind are a lot of notes left by people.

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The Grande Canale Then we went to Venice, where all the streets are under water! Not really. All the streets are canals, averaging about six metres deep. So anytime you want to go anywhere you catch some water transport. Instead of a bus, there is a ferry. Instead of a taxi, there is a water-taxi. Instead of a bicycle there is a gondola!

There are some narrow streets though, but just for pedestrians. There are no cars at all.

Venetian travellersMe, my mum and my cousin Sophie. Standing on the edge of the Grande Canale as they say in Italian, but as we say in English, the Grand Canal.

An Italian pastry shop! O-oh, another pastry shop - this time Italian. The coloured blocks on the bottom shelf are different flavours of chocolate, mmmmmm.

Typical Venice canal This is a typical canal around the 'streets' of Venice, where there is a footpath that is made of marble blocks beside it. So, to go a short distance, you can walk, but to go a long distance you need to have some sort of water transport.

Venice bridge And, naturally, with lots of canals and footpaths, there are lots of bridges. Some in marble, some in brick and some, like this, in steel. But all looking very pretty - usually.

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Hotel viewWe stayed in a nice hotel in the Cannaregio area of Venice on the side of a small square. On the other side were an 11th century church and an 18th century palace. This is the palace you can see in the window reflection.

Our room is thereThis is me pointing to our room on the Campo Geremia. Our room is the one with the balcony on the third floor. Only in Italy it is not called a floor, but the piano, and it is not the third piano but the second, because the ground level is not counted. Thus you go up from the ground floor to the first piano, then to the second piano etc. Is that clear?

In the middle of the Campo (the square) is a well. There are many of these around Venice and they are now all covered but there is a tap on one side that streams water all day long. The water is clean and you can drink it if you want to. But it does seem a bit wasteful.

Ship's anchorOn the eastern side of San Marco is an area called The Arsenale. This is a ship building area and it was very famous for ships in past centuries, not so much now. Mostly it is a museum of old ship building.

But they must have built some very big ships, because here is the anchor for one!

Al and Grande CanaleMe on number three bridge over the Grande Canale, near the Accademia Museum. This is near the end of the canal, where it comes to San Marco and then into the open lagoon. This bridge is wooden and is not nearly so old as the other two, which are marble.

Gondola cruisingWandering around the footpaths all day we saw lots of Gondolas - these long wooden boats powered by one man at the back with an oar. A nice, relaxing way to see Venice (but expensive too).

Masked marvelsCarnnevale is a major festival in Venice when people dress up in costumes and masks for a street party. It was not Carnavale time when we were there, but there were still some costumes about.

Gateway to paradiseThis looks like it might be the gateway to paradise. A patch of green in Venice.

But I guess the beggar in the wheelchair is telling a different story....

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Narrow waysAfter Venice we hit the Italian railways again. This time to Florence, where they have some very narrow streets indeed. This alleyway must only get the sun for about ten minutes a day! That's my cousin Sophie in the shadows.

Motorcycle streetAnd Florence seems to have a special street for parking your motorcycle. After Venice, there are too many vehicles in Florence and very narrow footpaths, making it difficult to get around the streets.

Ponte searchHello! Has anyone seen the Ponte Vecchio?

Is that bridge the Ponte Vecchio?

Ponte findOi! Turn around. That's better.

No, that is not the Ponte Vecchio.

Ponte threeThis is the Ponte Vecchio. Built in the 14th century and used first by butcher shops and then by jewellers. It was the only bridge in Florence not blown up in World War II.

Saved!In the Loggia della Signoria near the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, they exhibit many statues. This one is the biggest one.

Those people that carved in marble were very clever indeed. The people look so realistic.

Across the way is a copy of the original statue of David by Michelangelo. The real one is in another museum.

And there were hundreds of tourists too, but we kept them out of the picture.

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Postcard huntThere must be a good postcard here somewhere! This seller is right outside the door to the main cathedral.

Postcard sellers are everywhere. They offer two main advantages. One is that you can buy a photo that is better than one you could ever take yourself. Two is that they often show what is inside a building of interest, and so you can decide if you want to pay to go inside and have a look or not!

BotticelliInside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence there are many famous paintings. One of them is 'The Birth of Venus' by Botticelli. You cannot take photos in galleries, but this advertisement shows part of that famous painting.

Florence cathedralThis is near the front of the Florence Cathedral. The outside is made up of marble in white, green and pink. The design is very detailed and the effect is spectacular. But the inside, by comparison, is very ordinary. Big, but plain.

Doors out and upThis is the door to the hotel where we stayed in Florence. They like big doors in Italy. They must have some very tall people!

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Boar coming backThis is the Fontana del Porcellino. Which is the Italian way of saying Piglet Fountain. (Though he looks a bit more than just a piglet.) To rub his nose means that you are bound to return to Florence! As you can see, his snout is shiny from the hands of millions of people. Looks like I'll be back!

Hey! Stop pushing!Sophie, stop pushing!

No wonder the leaning tower is leaning!

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Torino trioThis is our last day in Italy. In the city of Torino (Turin) - big wide streets of shops.

Oh well, back to France.

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