Italy

A ‘Ferry’ Tale

One of the great benefits of not traveling as tourists is that we do not have to travel in a rush to get some place.  What this has done is allow us to use alternative means of getting from point A to point B.  Recently we rode on two ferry boat services to help us get from one country to another.

One, Blue Line Ferry, got us from Split, Croatia to Ancona, Italy.  It is one of two ferry services that connects Croatia and Italy.  The other is Jadrolinija which runs more frequently but not on the day that we were interested in so we booked with Blue Line.  This commuter ferry service has sleeping cabins for those who wish to purchase a little more comfort, cargo hold areas to transport your vehicles; and restaurants, casinos and cafes to help kill the time.  With a trip lasting approximately 12 hours it was a pleasant enough way to travel.

Our cabin was small but the beds were comfortable

Our cabin was small but the beds were comfortable. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The cabin’s on the lowest level, which is what we booked; were small and the air inside was hot and stagnant.  The hallways smelled like diesel so we weren’t able to leave our cabin door open to get any fresh air but we had comfortable beds to sleep in which beats how many people travel on the ferry’s – they sleep in the hallways!

The bathrooms were serviceable but no one is going to try and take a shower in a place where the toilet and the shower share the same floor drain.

The food was cafeteria style and this night they had 26 groups going from Croatia to Italy so the main restaurant dining room was closed to anyone not a member of these groups.  This ferry boat service is incredibly popular with the locals and many Italians were on board this night.  The ride was smooth and calm and the time passed quickly.  The boat docked and because we did not get off with the main stream of passengers they called our name at 7:30am to make sure we were getting off the boat!

They also had a fresh juice bar on board

They also had a fresh juice bar on board. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Total cost for the two of us was 80 Euros or $110.

Our second ferry experience came on our departure from Rome where we took the Grimaldi Ferry Line ship, The Roma, from Rome to Barcelona.  Service between the two countries is done regularly and it’s easy to see why this line is a favorite of the locals.

From the time of boarding we were helped on board with our luggage and shown to our cabin.  The room was large for just the two of us and comfortable.  We had booked an outside cabin which gave us natural light from the very large window.  The ride was 20 hours from Rome to Barcelona with the boat leaving Rome at 22:15 and arriving around 16:15 the following day.  This boat makes this trip all week (except Sunday’s) so you can go round trip on this loop.

We were incredibly comfortable on this ferry boat and relaxed for the 20 hour ride from Rome to Barcelona

We were incredibly comfortable on this ferry boat and relaxed for the 20 hour ride from Rome to Barcelona. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

What we liked best was that there were no carpets anywhere on board; it was all hard surface flooring.  The ship was clean and the staff for the most part was friendly.  They have cafeteria dining; a formal dining room (and the prices to go with a formal dining room); a coffee bar and a full bar with food and drink around the outdoor pool!  Yes, this ferry boat actually has a swimming pool and outdoor bar area.  They also have a casino, internet café, gift shop, spa and fitness center.  Since this trip takes 20 hours it must be incredibly busy during the summer to travel on the sundeck and in the pool area as you make your way to Rome/Barcelona (a nice way to spend a few hours).  The ride was also smooth and effortless and one would be hard pressed to know that you were sailing on the Mediterranean.

Total trip cost, with a private room with bath for the two of us was 250 Euros, or roughly $340.  Again, airfare would have cost us more and we wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much done.  I was able to get several more stories written and Mike got some much needed rest.

Food costs are high on both of these vessels so carrying food with you is recommended if at all possible.  No one stopped us from carrying in fruit or water and both ferry lines scanned our luggage prior to boarding.

They have a pool on this ferry.  The pool deck has a full bar and grill so food and drink were plentiful.  Even though it was January 12th we ate lunch on the pool deck level.

They have a pool on this ferry. The pool deck has a full bar and grill so food and drink were plentiful. Even though it was January 12th we ate lunch on the pool deck level. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Our experiment in alternative travel is complete for now.  Any other time we can use either of these services to get around we won’t hesitate to do so.  And we definitely recommend them to anyone else who might have a little extra time to travel, like a local.

Florence Lince

www.about.me/florencelince

Walk This Way

But Be Sure to Look Up, and Down, and All Around

For those of you who have never been to Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel this is first and foremost a post for you.

Transitioning from Croatia to Spain can take many forms.  I decided that we should visit the city of Rome for a week since my husband Mike had never been here before.  What I really wanted was to share some of my favorite places with him and Vatican City was at the top of this list.  I had to prepare him however.  I explained that one just doesn’t open the door to the Sistine Chapel and enter it; no; it takes time and patience and walking, lots and lots of walking to get to see some of the most famous works of art done by Italian master Michelangelo.  You must go up and down stairs to visit gallery after gallery of artwork.  You walk on floors covered in mosaics.  You walk in halls covered in tapestries and view ceilings covered in paintings and reliefs.  You glide past windows with carved wood work and you see statues and monuments and other priceless works of art in glass cases.  You wonder that so much beauty can be housed in one location and the more you walk the more overwhelmed you become.  It is pointless to try and caution someone about what lies ahead; it is overwhelming no matter how much you prepare.

After walking for almost three hours (two for the Sistine Chapel and one for St. Peter’s itself) my husband let out a long breath and said that which I knew; “it’s grandiose on a scale I’ve never experienced before.”  He is still processing all that he saw.

I have therefore created a movie slideshow of some of the sights one will see on your way to the Sistine Chapel and some of the highlights of St. Peter’s Basilica; truly one of the most spectacular symbols of Catholicism one will ever visit.  Photos inside the Sistine Chapel are no longer allowed so sadly those are not part of my presentation.

For those of you who have been to the Holy See hopefully the video will be a nice reminder of your visit and bring back some great memories. Enjoy.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Arrivederci Roma

Or, How Do I get My Coins Out of Trevi Fountain

For the first time in my life I am embarrassed to be Italian.  It was my idea for Mike and I to travel to Rome, excited as I was to share the amazing history and beauty of this city with him as we transitioned from Croatia to Spain.  Anyone can simply fly from one country to another but I had the thought that we had the time so we should take a week and explore Rome since Mike had never been here.  It is a week I will not forget.

On the second day of our stay here we took a walk to see the old Roman Forum and the Coliseum.  We spent several hours walking and taking pictures to give Mike time to absorb the history that is Ancient Rome.  It was while leaving the Coliseum that we decided to take the subway back to Termini Station instead of walking the mile back to our hostel.  It was while attempting to board that subway that a group of gypsy kids swarmed Mike and stole his wallet while distracting him.  He didn’t realize it but 12 seconds after they blocked my entrance into the subway I knew something was wrong and I asked him if he had his wallet, he didn’t.  It was too late; the doors to the subway had closed and the kids stood there, still in their circle waiting to speed away with his driver’s license, his credit cards, a little cash, and his pride.   It is humiliating and depressing to be targeted when you feel that you are not target material.

What made things worse in my opinion was that we were told by those who watched this happen how these kids steal; how others in this city keep their wallets and purses chained to their persons; how and where these kids hide to watch for their next victim; and that the police do nothing to stop them.  We were still told to report the theft to the local police department and twice we tried to comply.  We went to a police station after we had called every bank in the US to report the theft and the first station we went to was closed because they had a big case happening and all manpower had been put on that case.  Really?  One of the largest cities in the world and the police department is closed because there is a really big event happening?

The next day we went to another station to report the theft and again we were told to wait and someone would come to take our report.  An hour of watching men walking around the station slapping each other on the back and chatting and doing nothing we left disgusted and more aware than ever why the crime in this city is so high.  There is no one leading this group of people in uniform and this is why gypsies steal on subways and on the streets; there is no one to stop them.

If I had been thinking faster I would have begun to take pictures of those little thieves; tons and tons of photos and then plastered them all over the internet.  Having their mug shots spread all over the internet will help to get their thieving to stop.  It is clear that the police in this city are worthless and ending the crime has to happen with the common man.

Look around Rome the next time you come; if you do; and realize that there is no economy except tourism.  You drive the shops and the restaurants and the hotels and the tourism companies.  Everyone in this city works for you.  It is time to either stop coming here or to demand that you be safe while here.  If they want our money to keep this economy going they had better do something to earn it; like make sure the thieving stops.

Until that time I will no longer look at Rome in the same way; nor will I return.  Thousands of years ago structures were built in this city that are still standing; monuments to past greatness and of those who led this once great country; today there is high crime and graffiti and vandalism everywhere.  For the people of this country to tolerate these facts makes me sad and embarrassed.  It is time for the real citizens of Rome to take their city back and to rid it of the crime and vandalism that Rome is sadly known for.  It is time to fight back against a police department derelict in its duty to those it was sworn to protect.

Rome fell once due to greed and corruption.  Will the citizens of modern Rome let history repeat itself?   Do not let the fiddle play…

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Croatia

It Feels Like Home…and Yet…

As we leave Croatia and look forward to our move to Spain I take a minute or two to reflect on the Croatia I came to know, and love.

The Good

From the first I felt at home here.  From the first greeting; the first meal; the first excursion, I felt at home.  Croatia and its people are very familiar to me and I’d never been here before.

My family comes from Sicily and when I told everyone here how familiar everything seemed to me using this as a reference there were some who were offended.  I meant no offense.  I had stumbled upon an old feeling of historic resentment between Croatia and Italy because of centuries of domination under Italian rule.  I am extremely proud of my heritage and to me comparing these two countries meant that what I found here in Croatia was good people with good hearts; great food with flavor and presence; beautiful scenery and a grand history.  These are all things that I hold dear and finding them here was a nice surprise and a pleasure.  I chose to live in Croatia before I lived in Sicily so that alone should speak volumes.

The Bad

Sometimes living in a country as we do for extended periods of time we learn way more about a country than just a casual visitor.  Take Croatia for instance.  We have learned that some people spend a lot of time in being jealous of their neighbors who are doing well.  Businesses where locals try to get ahead and do well are looked upon with suspicion.  Local government is not a purveyor of growth but most jobs are gotten by who pays for the privilege of having that job.  Then when they get into that job they do nothing to build or foster growth for all the citizens but to line their own pockets with money.  This leads to an environment of every man for themselves instead of team building.  We have seen this type of political environment in third world countries and it is never good to keep the masses as the poorest of the poor because when they rise up against you, you have no solid footing to stand upon.  Croatia needs leadership in all areas where the people have a say and a government that works for them, not in spite of them.  They need teamwork and cooperation between agencies and companies not jealousy and suspicion.

Croatia has a lot to offer the world and the world is beginning to come here.  What is not happening however is that the many are not receiving the benefits of these visitors; the few are.  What those at the top fail to acknowledge, as they pocket more and more money, is that everyone in Croatia at one time or another comes into contact with a tourist.  And if they treat those tourists badly; if they give Croatia a bad reputation, then no one here is going to make any money.  Make all the people of Croatia benefit from the influx of tourism coming here and then Croatia will flourish.  Will there be a leader among the generations who will lead this change in Croatia or will the status quo hold?  I hope it changes, for everyone’s benefit.

I will be watching.

Florence Lince

http://www.about.me/florencelince

Authors Note: I have created a short video of the highlights of our time in Sibenik, Country, Croatia.  The people in Sibenik opened their hearts to us and we will forever be grateful.  I had also wanted to create a video using the traditional music of Croatia known as Klapa.  Recently a young group of musicians known as Klapa Adriaticum performed a selection of songs at a post Christmas gathering on the waterfront in Sibenik.  I approached their manager and with his permission created my video with their music.  I hope you will enjoy it.

We wish to make special mention of the following people who made our time in Sibenik and Croatia so wonderful.  We will miss you all.

Nina Belamarić our landlady and friend. She took care of me when I got sick and in general was our best source for information on Sibenik. Thank you, thank you.

Tina Vickov, owner of Sibenik Plus Tourism Agency; another new friend who made sure that we saw and experienced more of this area than most tourists.  We are happy she entered our lives.  We will stay in touch.

Biljana Lambasa, owner of Personal Insider; another new friend who engineered some great travel experiences for us coming all the way from Zagreb to do so. Thank you Biljana.

And to our friends Lea Brezar and Manuela Tunjić from Dhar Media; we would never have Discovered Croatia without you and we will be forever grateful. Hugs to you both.