Part DUO Firence Calling

5th May 2015

After a beautiful trip to Venezia it felt right to move on even though the Biennale  was starting (world artists week), I had my pics and was now time to catch the train for my next port of call to Florence but when got round to buying it nearly cos €69 so I thought quick on my feet & I was in travel mode this time  wasn't prepared to wait 4 hours so I split my journey into two parts which cost half the price and headed to Bologna. The stop off was an hour and there were no tourists which was a culture shock. Anyways as this was the fast train to Roma it was pretty special as it only took forty mins to arrive in florence.

This train would give any train at home a run for a money not only did I feel like I was travelling on the orient express but at lightning pace. Oh and I had a reserved seat which was brilliant.

As I departed the train I immediately felt the sticky humidity and having trousers was a travel no. Fortunately the place I was staying at was close by which after twenty minutes I eventually found. After meeting Guiseppe after the fifth tier of stairs I was greeted by a dream of a building idolised by unique artwork. As i was guided by Guiseppe I was impacted by the level of detail he had put into his place, the cleanliness and facilities were immaculate. A five star hotel would be lucky to compete with this. not only was the bedroom inviting having the option to dry my clothes out the window and to take time out was just what I needed, oh not forgetting the all important free wifi. Guiseppe could not have been nicer hosts as their level of knowledge and tips was great which will be shared.

After having a luxurious power shower I then got ready and retired the camera for the night letting me charge the much drained batteries, it was more of a scouting mission and to get my bearings on what Firenze has to offer.  

One tip to all people who are planning or travelling citymapstogo is a great app and a godsend for adding pins and places as it downloads all the maps and info so can be used offline with gps.

It was now approaching 5pm so I headed out over the bridge to an area called San Spirito Square (a local spot) but didn't appear to be local as all that could be heard were American and French. On recommendation by Guiseppe I then tried a pasta bar and was not disappointed. l had tagliatelle and described in one word was belissimo.

After dinner caught up with footy (juve vs real) , walked the city for spots to check and to feel the city. The americans had invaded florence. well eventually getting back in the wee hours was good to experience florence's rock scene.  oh & juve beat real which was great to see but my money's still on barca.

6th May 

After a midday start, my plan was to shoot firenze, with the beautiful weather yesterday I had expected the same, I guess thats why I don't forecast the weather but when rain is not bitter like home, I'd call it tropical rain as is easily bearable. after travelling from Venice bang the shear size of this city astounds you as the landmarks are very poignant. I had planned on seeing uffizi & duomo but the queues stopped that and so I walked some more. On my way exploring I visited a gallery with breathtaking images hand painted by a guy called Hass Masa, took a few images of his habitat who had spent his 20 years in,I couldn't not and very thankful for his custom. 

Chiesa Especial

Each church I have been to, are fascinating to see as they are draped in wall to ceiling murals depicting Mary and Jesus & is very interesting. Once finding out the queues I then trekked my way to Michelangelo square where I was presented with a great 360 panoramic view of the city. This view was spectacular so I naturally waited for the sunset for three hours but was totally worth it as the sun set; the mist blew in from the valley and I got my twilight hour which I was delighted with. During the hours I met a few other photographers I had met in Venice and thankfully were great people, and I got a portrait done with Firenze behind.


Before I knew it it was 10 o'clock , had some pizza which literally blew me away, & not if it was hunger from being in sun all day but this was off the chain. I'm afraid by far the best i've ever tasted. With the moonlight out I ended up doing Firence by night which was another experience.


Florence By Night


After the great pizza I then proceeded over the bridge and got sucked into the sheer beauty, I then shot Uffici at night home to Michaveli,Raphael,Donatello & other inspired creators. As Ponte Vecchio was the next shot as I spent a good amount of time shooting Firenze most iconic monument, I then headed inwards to the city and shot David and Bargello which was surreal as was pretty empty except every now and then the Cabinerri would drive by. The story behind that is a tourist foolishly climbed onto david and broke the scroll he was holding so now the government have night patrols watching all the statues and prolific art museums, in Bargello Square; they were also filming the new Dan Brown movie so there was a great buzz in the city of seeing Daniel Craig and Tom Hanks, an insider leaked to me  when I was out that she was early for filming, Tiredness now started kicking in but I couldn't not shoot Il Duomo so next image was taken. Now this is four in the mornin all you expect is a few drunkards, before I knew it I heard hundreds of voices and one of the most surreal experiences when shooting was these tour groups appeared out of nowhere speaking no english, I noticed the flags that appeared to be Coloumbian, and Bulgarian, was very zombie like as these groups were wide awake, i then waited for the blue hour and proceeded back to the apartment after sunrise, had a few hours kip as was checkin out in the morning for my next adventure. 

May 7th. 

After walking around Florence by night the anticipation of Toscana was too much so decided to hop on a bus to Siena, there was only so much tourist accents I could take, I felt more like being in Paris than Firence so I took the Siena rapida and arrived in record time but trying to find the accommodation wasted a bit. Siena is a 12 century town built inside a fort surrounded by defence walls and every street is steeped with Chiesa (churches) piazza (squares) Bargellos (towers ). but is tutti benne. The town all leads down to the round piazza . The town was founded by twelve families which are celebrated throughout Tuscany, if they were lucky each family was rewarded for their great work. there are two famous the Baroli & Girafe.

Must be a sign as my ancestors were related to the il Girafe so was great to experience the church they built. Every year Siena is well known for the horse races as was depicted in the bond movies.digressing a bit as I arrived I had some delicious pasta with bruschetta and wine for fifteen euros which kept me full till the night and met an American honeymoon couple from Toronto which were a delight to talk to, after enjoying my set menu I then explored Siena bought a mobile charger to charge camera batteries via usb and then checked out Santa Maria duomo which is a piece of beauty in architecture at the golden hour.Each texture was designed with the most minute detail which is cast out of marble.and really is a marvel to behold.

Sienna at a glance, travel italy-whp.jpg


Once seeing the sunset over San Domingo chiesa, I headed back to my room on via Paridiso, taught some English and vice versa then headed out for the Siena nightlife which has to be said was much better than Florence but there were not too many English accents around. It turns out the top law universities and language universities are in Siena. I then headed back & took some night shots in the early hours, I was so excited about seeing the heart of Tuscany was ready to move.

May 8th

May 8th, as had to check out at 11 I left my bag and proceeded to explore and find my answers about the il Girafe family while going into tourist mode. On recommendation from Dallas and Alana which I misquoted as Atlanta I headed after midday to il duomo, took some pics inside of the magnificent building, and a tour of the roof which was open to awe inspiring views.I then visited the library and palace de opera which was open to more panoramic views. I had judged the weather with great time. 


Bus ride

For the first time on my trip I've gotten goosebumps, the beauty of the countryside here is phenomenally beautiful. The light has hit it at all the right places, pictures don't give it justice as the sheer simplicity and beauty is evident. A great time of year to visit as the farmers are making the best of the sunshine, with cut hay and did I mention the blue cloud sky, wowsher. The sunset will be memorable. 


Ciao Italia 15 Part Uno

After a week or so of being home and getting stuck into the thousands of images I took, I'm starting to get my head round the editing, during my tour of Italia I made a journal of the fun and memorable times I had which I hope you will take the time to read and join me on my tour of Italia, the experiences and memories couldn't have been made without the amazing people I met along the way.

Thursday April 30th 2015

No sleep, guess excitement took over the senses.

Awesome clear skies flying over Alps, could feel Italy was going to be a great experience

If Carlsberg did flights.

If Carlsberg did flights.

City - Bologna - 7th Largest City In Italy

Arrived in Bologna,  it gets a bad rep, after I eventually found the city centre was v. Impressed, full of old arches and the architecture is very Renaissance looking.. I checked out a few churches and the two famous towers which were unreal and highly worth a visit. I also ordered my first pizza with chips which was an interesting concept.

Think lost in translation.

Think lost in translation.

After scaling the leaning tower with a suitcase and backpack that proper drained me it was time to get a gelato ( i earned it) and made my way to the train to visit Venezia. The city is steeped with wee gems of history growing through it.

For 12€ it was a steal but there is a reason you don't immediately get a seat which I learnt of but after a two hour journey I then arrived in the most beautiful city in the world,which is still open to debate as almost anywhere in Italy is.


I left Bologna at 6 o'clock so you can imagine how busy the train was, but I left Bologna with a greater appreciation than started with even if it was on a flyby visit.





After two hours later, I arrived in Venezia, exited the station and was greeted by the majestic grand canal. The grand canal starts at the ferrovia (station) and ends at St. Marcos Square.

Once left ferrovia caught the bus boat (vaporetto) to a nearby island called lido de venezia where I joined my uncle and aunty devouring fresh lobster with pasta. It was some sight, I then retired early and hit the hay.


Friday 1st May 2015 


Next day an early start, had to make most of it as was special to not only me but my uncle as our birthdays was on same day so we decided to go island hopping. As Venice is on a lagoon it is made of an archipelago of smaller islands which should not be missed when visiting.


I had heard so many fascinating reports about Torcello and did not disappoint, a very beautiful island stepped with history and home to the oldest church, a Byzantian 1 at that which to describe in words wouldn't give it justice.




After torcello then hopped back on the ferry to Burano, now yesterday the weather was soo hot so I had expected this to be the case today, how wrong was I might I add as I had so read the weather wrong and as expected was freezing my ass off.Unfortunately Burano got the brunt of bad weather as the rain descended and took the fun of shooting this awesome island. Burano is home to lace while its neighbour Murano is home to glass and is fascinating to see old crafts and techniques still  being used.

Home Of Lace & Colour

Home Of Lace & Colour


One fact which you may well not be aware of Burano is famous for its crafts and colours, all the buildings are painted multi-coloured to help pilots of the Venetian boats navigate through the dense mist.


As the weather opened up, brollies out, we headed back on the ferry to Lido, made a formal change in record time and hopped back on a return ferry to Venice. Oh yea on mayday or 1st May not only is it a great day the locals love it so much they stop working and have a holiday so you can imagine the tourists plus locals = congested Venice. To guarantee we had a great meal fortunately my aunty booked a local restaurant that had been trading for nearly 40 years, a special restaurants in our hearts.


Now I did forget to mention that in Italy pizzas are on another level, and must be taken with respect as each pizza is different. In Burano through the hustle and bustle my uncle knew a great spot to eat, but he left one thing out, he never told me where he was eating so I guess shooting the colourful buildings I somehow lost track but after thirty minutes I eventually found them devouring an outrageous pizza. I'm sure you all know I appreciate a good pizza and this thankfully did not disappoint. Well now after having that late lunch the time it got to dinner I just got greedy and ordered another pizza, sure it was my birthday after all. After eventually eating it two minutes later the whole restaurant went black, was there a power cut across Venice, nope I'm sure you can all guess what happened, two tiramisus then landed on the table followed by candles with the whole restaurant watching me and Peter, let me tell you I thought my sunburn was bad this was a new tone of red. After the family's fun then had a few local spirits as you do and made way back to the vaporetto, as the pensioners were becoming tired we then made tracks back to lido stopping off at the station to check if could store my bag the next day.


Overall except no blue skies was a great birthday present and will be one to remember for a long time.


Day 2 Sat 2nd May 2015


The next day another early rise as the rest of family were leaving and it was time for me to move accommodation, I was moving to the heart of Venice and what a day to do it. After the wet night I scouted that I could leave luggage at the train station Ferrovia which was a great godsend so I did that and naturally went into explore mode. As was still a bank holiday the hordes of tourists were in every corner so I took a quick escape and went on a mini adventure exploring parts of Venice I had never really captured before. As the heat and people were too much I chilled out and 'inhaled' the life of Venice which was very interesting to take a view of local life.   Taking my time round the Ghetto I then made tracks to my accommodation situated by one of the many famous landmarks in Venice, the Rialto bridge. This bridge is known for the markets which are built in the centre of the bridge and runs down either side.


Again with everything in a city major renovation was taking place round the area. After eventually finding my accommodation I was very impressed after walking countless flights of stairs but was rewarded for Venice a very large apartment. After a homemade meal by the amazing host Katerina I then headed back out to venture to the creme de la creme which is St Marcos Square.


Unfortunately the clouds blocked the sun for sunset but was still a very busy city and countless opportunities to capture. As 10 o'clock I started to pinch myself how beautiful the square was as the high tide had just come in and parts of the square had become flooded and to any photographer that is a dream shot as gives the iconic surrounding a new perspective. St. Marcos is not only know for the inspiring buildings and monuments, it is also re known for buying the most expensive coffee in the world, simply to the fact that not only do you have an intimate quartet to yourself but a view that never gets old. Surrounding the square are marble arches, which are home to the best designer shops in the world and is prime real estate. After getting a high from the reflections I then took a short walk round the canals which were thankfully much quieter than before giving me the opportunity to capture my iconic shots. Before I knew it not only had midnight had passed but I now found myself the power to shoot Venice by night with no tourists or bodies in my way which I was delighted about. 


It then appeared I wasn't alone as in the distance I heard a kiwi accent I naturally introduced myself and it turned out to be world travel photographer Trey Ratcliff. I had only recently heard of this guy through his HDR technique on landscapes and travel but he's living the dream and was great that fame hadn't got to his head, was a very down to earth guy and had invited me to return tomorrow to join him on a photowalk around Venice.


Now 2am approached I think it was time for sleep as the next day I had arranged to meet a local Italian photographer Ugo Cei who lived nearby in Milan.


 Day 3. Sun 3rd May 2015

After returning in the early hours I woke up at 11, rendezvoused with Ugo outside the apartment and  later met up with two other local Italians Francesco and Nico who were so friendly and having local knowledge in this city was a delight and so we went fine dining in the local tavernas. Hey these guys were shooting Fuji and canon, I was so impressed that instead of carrying gear all Nico had was Fuji x100 with a fixed 35mm, no bag. I was very impressed. Ugo was shooting 10-20 Fuji xe-1 & Francesco on a canon 70-200 (400d)

Unfortunately one place which we ate was known for happy hour which served a buffet and two for ones on drinks, had not been on at the times we were there so we got a little robbed at the price but hey, still an unreal restaurant and one of the best places I've dined at in Venice. I had a gnocchi and was absolutely spectacular. 


Meet Trey & Ugo

Meet Trey & Ugo




After that unreal meal we then leisurely strolled round Venice getting to know one another, I had never really experienced the beauty of the chiesa (churches) round Venice until Ugo showed me Santa Maria which was breathtaking inside and such a marvel of architecture. We then headed to Accademia were I realised that my back was light, and thankfully with hindsight I picked up a biz card from the last place, got Ugo to call through and the bag was still there which I would pick up later.

So there was no problems there which was a relief, we then proceeded our walk until we came back to St Marcos. I then got my bag and headed to the meet point for Treys photo walk were a good number of tripods were huddled in a circle attached to their owners.




This had the making of a long night, once we figured the route we then made haste at a fast pace round the streets of Venice. thankfully he showed me and a number of other photographers new territory to shoot which did not and could not disappoint. Again once the sun came down the clouds blocked the making of a great sunset. As I had been shooting the sunset the group didn't want to wait round so made tracks to their next point. Thankfully I knew Ugo who was part of the group and was blessed that he sent me directions on where to go. 

Me & Trey Ratcliff

Me & Trey Ratcliff

After eventually meeting up and realising the whole restaurant consisted of the photo group, spent surprisingly a short time connecting, which turned into a dead haul. As most people were starving and shattered after the walking including us four we went off to another Taverno and guess what I ate again, another magical gnocchi.

We then exchanged our photos and with broken English and Italian had a great night.

Once the Italian guys then left I then took a few more night shots, stopped for a few drinks which escalated into a few more hours, before I knew it it was 3 am and I was set to leave in the morning but the craic was mighty and my agenda was to shoot Venice so I naturally experienced Venice by night.


Venice By Night


My new amigo was staying in Giudecca and without spending 80€ on a taxi we naturally took the cheaper option.

It is one of the best things I have ever done as stereotypically I see Venice in a new light meeting the many random drunks, workers and wildlife and having the areas at daytime all to myself.

Not only I'm a sucker for reflections but if the light is great I get even more excited and this was no exception as the full moon was forecasted to rise today. After walking round before I knew it I was running round in the blue hour or dusk trying to capture all I could and then in a two minute frame the whole sky turned pink which was just bellissimo as only how to describe it.

The tiredness was now kicking in so I hopped on a vaporetto back to Rialto. 

Fortunately there was space for another night so was able to catch up on sleep which was well received indeed, thanks to Katerina.

If interested in part 2, please leave a comment, thanks for reading part 1.




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