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Photo TR: "Italy: Culture and Coasters"

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Just got back from a 3 week trip to Italy. My mom is 100% Italian, and my dad is 25%, and nobody from either families has been there in generations, so we packed our bags and headed out.


The Trip Itinerary went like this:

1 Week in Rome (No Rainbow Magicland, Sorry )

2 Days in Ravenna (Mirabilandia)

4 Days in Florence

2 Days in Garda (Gardaland)

5 Days in Venice





1. My family is very Christian, so we went to a lot of churches and other religious monuments. My goal is to keep anything that could be considered religiously offensive out of the TR, but if the admins think that anything needs to be taken down, I will be happy to do so.


2. My mom has Celiac (an allergy to gluten/wheat), and I have a gluten intolerance (an allergy that happens occasionally). Because of this, you guys will get to see some very good Gluten Free food, and some very bad Gluten Free food. There may be rants.


3. For all the camera geeks, I used a Sony DSC-TX5 in HDR mode for everything but the amusement parks, which were shot in a high-burst sport mode. I have NOT altered the photos at all except for cropping.




Part 1


The trip started with a flight from Denver to Charlotte on US Airways. The flight was pretty smooth, nothing special. As Denver is my home airport, I usually don't take photos since I've been there so much. It's a REALLY nice airport, but it's GIANT. The Charlotte Airport seemed nice, at least from what I saw of it, which wasn't much. I was pretty excited for the flight to Rome.



The Charlotte Airport


We're off to Rome!

Then I saw the plane, an Airbus A300-330. It's a huge plane, seating almost 300 people, but with that many people, there is a con; Legroom. Non Existent. Whatsoever. I'm 6' 3, and most of that height is from my legs, so for the entire flight I was stapled into the seat and I couldn't move at all (It was significantly worse than any Kiddie Coaster). My 5' 6 mom had problems fitting into the seats, and when you're up in the air for 9 hours, comfort matters. Additionally, the flight crew was dreadful. We tried to flag them down to see if my mom and I had gotten the gluten free meals that we needed, but after we made eye contact, they ignored us. Finally we were able to get their attention, and they gave us the vegetarian meals, which contained pasta. We told the woman that we couldn't eat them because they had gluten in them, and she told us that all the special meals are the same. Is it just me, or does this sound like she gave the meals that we paid extra for to someone else? So after a 5 minute argument about this, she told us that we were A$$es (No joke, word for word. She was P.O.ed).


So now that my US AIrways rant is 1/2 over (the other 1/2 will be at the end), let's move on.



Passing Morocco! Almost There!



Part 2 - Rome


After landing in Rome, we picked up our taxi. Now, I had been told about the way that Italians drive, and I thought that it would be fairly easy to deal with. As we are riding in the taxi, there were MANY times where I almost screamed. It seems like complete chaos there (no lanes, lights are rare), but after awhile, you realize that it's an organized chaos. everyone has this mutual respect on the road, unlike in the US. Anyways, since we were in Rome for awhile, we decided to rent an apartment, which was fairly nice, and significantly cheaper than a hotel. We were a block away from the Pantheon, but it was tucked away towards the back of it down a small alley next to a fairly nice restaurant called "Miscellania".


The Pantheon: The Pantheon itself is a beautiful building, as well as an engineering marvel. In the center of the building, there is a hole in the roof, which was what the Romans used as a clock (Sun makes a full revolution around the walls in a day). Every day, around 3 or 4, there sun points through the hole and the front door. This would be where the emperor would sit, and they used the sun as an enhancement to show his power and glory. Very cool stuff.



Very Impressive


The "Oculus," or eye of the building that supplies most of the light.


Sexy Doric Column


One of Many Frescoes


Oooooohhh, 3D Ceiling Effect!


Probably the best shot I took on the trip


Oh the irony :)

The Colosseum: A 3 minute bus ride from the Pantheon, the Colosseum is an ancient fighting ring. I recommend doing a tour, because if you don't have a good background, most things can end up being meaningless. The tour that we did was the "Underground Tour" which shows you things that the GP doesn't get to. If you do a tour, do this one, and do it early in the morning, before it gets too hot. Also, side note, you can get a "Roma Pass" in most of the tourist information booths. These allow you to get a 3 day pass on public transportation and entrance to certain monuments. It can come in handy when the line is really long for the Colosseum, Palatine, the Forum, etc. as it allows you to skip lines and go to the dedicated "Roma Pass" entrance which uses NFC (near field communication), so it's instantaneous and easy.



Again, very impressive for something build by hand


Most things here are pretty photogenic, but the early morning sun can before over saturating


If you have Tron style glasses, giant a$$ hands, and have an O shaped mouth, you are not allowed in to this area.


To begin the underground tour, you must first proceed to the -1st floor. Wait, what?


The Water system is served by the aqueducts, and during certain times of the year , the entire bottom level will flood from the system.


Support holes for the world's first elevators. It's estimated that there are around 80 elevators around the building, but this one is the best conserved example.


After going below the Colosseum, you go to the upper levels where the GP can't go either.


Secret Tunnels ;)

Collis Palatium/Forum Romanum: Next to the Colosseum are the Collis Palatium and the Forum Romanum (Palatine Hill and Roman Forum for those of you who don't know Latin). Both are very nice if you are in to the ancient Roman stuff. Just as an FYI, the Forum entrance isn't very well marked, so it's hard to tell when you are in it if you do Palatine Hill first. Palatine Hill was, according to mythology, where the cave that Romulus and Remus (Founders of Rome) lived. The Forum is a massive plaza/marketplace. As someone who studied a lot of Roman History and knows quite a bit of Latin, this was really, really, really cool for me.



Heading through the entrance of Palatine Hill


While the place is really eroding, it's still very cool


Interesting design




Entrance to the Forum. Sorry, all of the shots I took there were taken with a smudged lens

We had a fairly nice lunch across the road from the Forum entrance, where I had a pizza, with salad on top. That's right; SALAD. Surprisingly, it was really good.



Om nom nom :)

Circus Maximus: Our journey continued to Circus Maximus, the stadium where the Romans would have Chariot races. And wow, what a disappointment. It's a field that's about 300 feet long, 35 feet wide, and nothing is there. It's just a field that's overgrown with weeds and covered in graffiti. The only surviving part is blocked off, and is 1/3 of one of the turns. Sad face.





What actually survived

Trevi Fountain: The Trevi Fountain, while beautiful, is nothing but a mess of tourists. When there is nobody there, which is almost never, it's nice. But at almost any other time, it's packed and can be miserable.



It's a beautiful fountain


But the crowds can ruin it

We found this little gem of a postcard at a market near the Trevi Fountain




Edited by imagineerz
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Nice Italy pics so far, I'll have to get to there one day.


Going back to the airlines, I've never been on US Airways but I've never heard good things about them except when Sully landed that plane in the Hudson. Sorry to hear you had a bad flight experience. When flying internationally, I always try to use International carriers (especially on long haul flights) if the price difference is not too great, as they are ALMOST ALWAYS better the US carriers. Last time I flew to Spain I used KlM/Air France (KLM outbound: SFO->Amsterdam->Barcelona and Air France inbound: Barcelona->Paris (4 days in Paris)->SFO). They were great (Air France was better though) and Air France had the best food I've ever had on an airline (haven't flown to Asia yet). On two previous trips to Spain (my mom is 100% Spanish, I have family there) I used British Airways and they were excellent too. When I flew to Mexico, I used Mexicana which was cheaper than the US carriers and included a meal and free alcohol. United was pretty decent when flew with them to Argentina in 2004 but I don't know how they have changed since then. Another perk with the International carriers is they give free alcohol and go by the drinking age of their own country (usually 18) once they are up in the sky (and never ask for ID, just what your age is). When I was 19, shortly after takeoff from SFO on a British Airways flight I was offered a drink and was simply asked "Are you 18?" and said I was 19 and was ready to pull out my ID and the attended said it wasn't necessary (she took my word ). I always find International carriers more interesting anyway, with different food and drink offerings, magazines, duty free items, and cultural differences. Anyways I hope you enjoyed the rest of your Italy trip and I'm looking forward to more pics.

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^The main reason that we decided to fly US Airways was because with any other airline, we would be charged an extra 5-ish percent because the transaction was done outside the US. The tickets were almost $500 cheaper per person, and we figured it would be much better (since it was international). The flight to Philadelphia coming back was great. The attendants were very friendly, knew what they were doing, and were able to distribute all the meals and drinks with amazing speed. After Philly, it was a disaster. You'll get hear about it later.

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Part 3 - Ostia Antica


Ostia Antica is a huge collection of very well preserved ruins. The precursor to Rome, Ostia Antica was a huge port for trade, as one section of the city was bordered by the Tiber River. It's a half hour train ride from Rome, and the short walk to the ruins feels just like Brooklyn.



Maze of houses


Mosaic at the Baths of Neptune


The Amphitheater


And the view from it


Grain/Olive Grinder


The Bar. No, seriously. Wine Bar.


A drain at the main baths


The Underground tunnels that were used by the slaves to help fuel the fires that would send heat through hollow bricks, up to the ancient version of a spa.

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Lovely pics so far.


In reference to the airlines I always try and go Virgin Atlantic, never had any issues with them and although sometimes they are a little more expensive I generally find it worth it on a long haul flight. (on the 24 hour trip to Fiji they were about £75 more than the American equivalents)


How did you find the general level of service in Italy? I backpacked through for a few days last year and found on several occasions restaurant, train and hotel staff to be incredibly abrupt and on occasion rude. Maybe it's just because I'm English or perhaps because It seemed that way because I had just come from the incredibly friendly Croatia. Just interested to see other peoples experiences.

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The anthropology geek in me is in love with this trip report! Your pictures are great and I love all the detail you have about all these cultural destinations and how you string everything together from the beginning to the end, from airline rants to food pics to sightseeing pics. I can't wait to see more!

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^^Service was okay. At restaurants, it would take awhile to get the waiter's attention, but it felt pretty nice to have time to relax and people watch. Everywhere else, some workers did seem irritated that we spoke English and not Italian, but they were still helpful and friendly. That said, there was one store in Rome where the lady wouldn't let us buy anything because we didn't speak Italian .


^ Glad you're enjoying it! There's more to come!

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Sorry it took so long to get this update done. My Macbook Pro was NOT happy with OS X Lion upgrade


Part 4 - The Vatican


The Vatican was pretty cool, but felt kind of creepy at times. There's a massive wall surrounding most of the place that makes it seem like a fortress. In addition, there are a crapload of security guards, and it felt like I was in Portal from all the cameras that seemed to follow our tour group . Tours should be done at night, because in the day time, it's impossible to move through the rooms because of all the people.



The oh-so welcoming Catholic Church


The model of the city


The dome at St. Peter's Basilica


Courtyard and cool moving sculpture


This interesting ceiling lined the tour path


They had a cool sculpture with a bendable light


The coolest exit stairs ever

The next day we went to St. Peter's Basilica. We started with the Scavi tour of the Necropolis under the Basilica. It was easily one of the coolest things we did on our trip. In the end of the tour, you get to see St. Peter's bones, which, OMG that was awesome! The Basilica is absolutely beautiful, but if you go there, you NEED to do it during early morning, or the crowds are worse than Magic Kingdom before opening. You can climb to the cupola, but our tour guide didn't recommend it. She said that by the time the they open and you are in it, it becomes an oven. She also said that the dome in Florence (sorry, can't remember the church) was much better.



Facade of the Basilica


Is it just me, or is St. Peter looking down at that TV Screen like "WTF?!?!?!?"


Interesting lighting inside the Basilica


The Dome


Altar w/ floodlights


Statues....of stuff....


Tomb of some people


Holy Water fountain


Up close and personal


The crowds at 9:00 in the morning


Crowds early in the morning. Pay attention to the fountain on the left. The security check/entrance is on the right.


The same fountain, but note the people in the background. That's the line to get in. Oi Vey.


They ran it Fuji Q style. Only 2 security checks out of 40 were open.

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Finally, We get to Amusement Parks!


Part 5- Ravenna/Mirabilandia


Ravenna is small. Very small. Mosaics are everywhere, and there aren't many tourists. Most of the places there do speak English, and prices are very reasonable compared to Rome.









Calico System.nltrack

When we first saw these, I was like "OMG Hard Light Bridges!!!!!111!!!!1!" Then I realized it was just a bike path...


I'm still confused on this one...


I was soooo tempted to get this, but I resisted.


Nobody EVER wins a Big A$$ Lighter


Yay! We're Here!


Crowds weren't bad


I see a sexy Intamin beast. You?


Top Hat=Airtime




The Launch


The Slo-Mo roll was fun


Twistyyyy off the top hat


Autosplash. Soon to be AutoSkloosh.


Giant A$$ Ferris Wheel


Katun had a fast lift...


...AND an Old School cobra roll with the "Snap"


This way!


The graffiti was very well done


More Theming


Enter through the sewer...


...And you'll find the Statue of Liberty




Air Conditioning unit. Don't think that's working anymore ;)




Just outside of Reset, these slides provided a good pop of air.


Even more theming. It's a very beautiful park.


This was the BEST park food ever! Tortellini with ragu.


Love this sign


Fastest Mouse in the world




Massive Ferris Wheel


Max Adventures is no where near completion.


This is one of the most genius dispatch systems for an Autopia style ride. The car is lifted off the track onto the conveyor belt, where it moves to the unload point. The car is lifted off the belt at the unload, and then after around 5 seconds is lowered back on to it. The same happens at the load station. This allows for an efficient easy to manage dispatch system. Very impressed.


Before we leave, another shot of iSpeed for good measure :)


Okay, fine. Here's another.


On the way out. Goodbye Mirabilandia! Thank you for a great day!


Back in Ravenna, we found a restaurant with a Gluten Free french fry pizza that was OMFG good! I ordered it originally because it was a special, but it ended up being really good!


Edited by imagineerz
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  • 2 weeks later...

And now, we travel off to the "magical" Gardaland!


First impressions of the "resort" were not the best.

We stopped at the Peschiera de Garda train stop to pick up the free shuttle to go to the Gardaland Hotel. The bus from Mirabilandia had been a beautiful coach with air conditioning, curtains, and other amenities. The Gardaland bus, ewwwww. It was literally a metro bus from the 1970's. No air conditioning, dingy, not a lot of seating, and all around gross. The bus had "Hotel" plastered all over the thing, so we hopped on it. Within 20 minutes, we're at the park, with our luggage, and no help from the driver as to where to go. We eventually were able to find a driver who explained that the buses were incorrectly labeled, and we needed to take the "Park" bus to get to the hotel. The schedule posted is almost pointless, as the drivers go whenever they want to. 30 minutes after we arrived at the park, the bus for the hotel leaves. The bus stopped at the front gate to the resort, leaving a 150 foot driveway up to the hotel to walk, with luggage. It takes around 5 minutes to check in, but our room hadn't been cleaned yet. We had to wait for around 20 minutes for the room to be cleaned, while listening to crying babies and those songs where the only lyric is "Gardaland" (I will refer to these songs as the "Kill Me" Songs the TR). We got into our room, which was fairly nice. Not many complaints here, except for when you open your door, the Kill Me songs play for around 30 seconds, in your room. There was a patio with chairs and a table, and a mini fridge that wasn't so mini. We headed off to the park, taking the dreaded bus (worst thing about the resort). To get into the park, you have to go under a road through a tunnel. Now this is no ordinary tunnel, because as soon as you see it, you'll think "OMG It's the escalator ride !!11!1!!!!!!1". For those who don't no, there's decorative lights all over it, and it plays the Kill Me songs. We get our tickets, and head in to the park. Just like at Mirabilandia, lines were almost non-existant. The longest line we waited in was 25 minutes for Sequoia Adventure, and that was because they had to remove a car from the track onto the storage track. The food here was very bad, even for park fare. It was also expensive. The layout of the park was also pretty bad, as there were many walkways that weren't marked, and we found ourselves lost at times.




Ride Counts: (Over 2 Days)


Raptor: 12

I Corsari: 5

Magic Mountain: 2

Sequoia Adventure: 4

Ortobruco Tour: 5

Monorail: 2

Colorado Boat: 3

Ramses: 6

Space Vertigo: 4

Fuga de Atlantide: 5

Jungle Rapids: 7

Blue Tornado: 1

Mammut: 10

Magic House: 2


I'll give quick reviews of the rides (except for Raptor. If you just want to read that, scroll down past all the other reviews)


I Corsari: Gardaland's response to Pirates of the Caribbean. The entire ride is around 50 feet below the park, and uses two large boats linked together. The twisty drop, cave scenes, and underwater scene are really cool, but other than that it's just "meh."


Magic Mountain: It's pretty fun to experience a Vekoma corkscrew the way it was designed, and the turnaround after the loops has some good air. Only drawback: the new restraints have belts that crush your collar bone.


Sequoia Adventure: Fun but pointless. They've made the brakes ar the peak act as holding brakes, so you hang before you flip upside down. On ride photos are pretty cool.


Ortobruco Tour: World's longest Wacky Worm. Has some good speed to it, but the trains are definitely meant for smaller people.


Monorail: Almost identical to the one from RCT1. 'Nuff said


Colorado Boat: Nicely themed log flume. The Last drop gets you soaked, but it's good on a hot day.


Ramses: Egyptian Terminator shooting dark ride. Build underground like I Corsari. When you see a skeleton come out of a pyramid with machine guns, you realize just how messed up this ride is.


Space Vertigo: Strange 70's space theming. The ride itself is just a normal Intamin drop tower. Still fun, but the drop is rather short.


Fuga de Atlantide: This is easily the best splashdown ride I've been on. Since it has a cable lift you are almost launched into the turn before the drop. Didn't get very wet from the ride, but the water cannons that people shoot get you pretty wet, but not sopping.


Jungle Rapids: Driest rapids ride ever. It has really good theming and good rapids, but they don't get you very wet.


Blue Tornado: Sorry, I can't hear you. My ears are bleeding.


Mammut: Big Thunder Mountain, but better, faster, and with airtime. That said, the fiberglass trains shake. A lot.


Magic House: The elevator ride underground takes FOREVER, but then again, I couldn't really appreciate it since I don't speak much Italian. The ride is pretty cool, especially with the movement of the vehicle. I'm assuming the whole ride housing is on a motion base, since you could tell you were actually tilting at times, not just watching the housing go around you.


And finally the long waited review of Raptor: I've been hearing a lot of complaints around TPR about the ride, and I can't figure out why so many people dislike it. It's not designed to be a super high adrenaline filled ride, it's designed to be a fun ride that you can re ride multiple times. The water effects are entertaining, and that actually got me more wet than Jungle Rapids did . Since the track isn't heartlined, riding on the left side of the train is different from the right side of the train. Since all the inversions rotate to the left, by sitting on the left, you will get more negative g's than sitting on the right. The theming is amazing, and the trains look great. As for the burning question about larger people not fitting in seats, they seemed fine to me. It isn't large that are a problem, but larger thighs. Despite that, they seem friendly to everyone . As for the trims, you only notice them in the 3rd row (that's where they activate). If you sit in the 2nd or 1st rows, you get a good pop of airtime on that hill, but behind said rows, it's meh.


***Part 2 Comes Tomorrow***


Yay! We're in Garda!


Hotel Entrance. Seems nice, right?


Then you come across these creepy fountains.


*Insert Twilight Zone Theme Here*


Fountain at the Center of the Resort




Under the road


Escalator Ride spinoff


In case you forgot, this is where we are!


We headed straight for the good stuff in fear of lines, which weren't there.


Theming with an empty queue in the background


I didn't know Raptor was made by Intamin!


Lift Hill enthusiasts rejoice! This is definitely one of the fastest B&M lifts


Crashing through theming


The Aftermath



Overview of the Layout


Slow Twistyyyyy


Drop over the midway


Blue Tornado. No Lines.


You may not ride Blue Tornado if you just broke up


Seems innocent, but it's evil.


Within the next few seconds, you could here a resounding "AH AH OW OW OW AH AH" from the train




No Lines


It's intense and fast, aka the opposite of what a mine train should be!



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Part 2


Really?!?! Really?!?!


Vekoma with Sexy restraints


Twistyyyy with Pointless Ride






Exciting Rainbow train in the Loop


helix, Helix, HELIX! (2 Points for people who get that joke)




Lift Hill shot


Helix with many Laterals


Pointless Ride!


These guys were stopped there for like 20 seconds. Needless to say, I LMAO'd.


This is where they take your photo


Upside Down


Colorado Boat


World's longest Wacky Worm


Strangest transfer track ever


Jungle Rapids




Oh S#!T Airtime!!!


Prepare for impact....




Mushroom Head


70's Alieny theming


I Corsari (Underground)


Egyptian Terminators


Bada$$ Lighting


Goodbye Gardaland! Thank you for an amazing time! (at the park at least :p)

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