Florence, Rome, and Venice – 2011

First family vacation overseas in seven years, I’d been to Italy a couple of times for work but generally we had been very US centric in our travels. We flew into Milan and immediately drove to Florence. When renting a car I got distracted in getting a sports car versus room – so we had a lot of luggage and it was a very tight squeeze – the luggage was a problem throughout the trip.

I had been to Milan a couple of months earlier for business and really not much historical to see beyond the Duomo and the adjacent Galleria Vittorio. We arrived in Florence and headed to an overlook of the city right at sunset.


We stayed on the outskirts of town and we were out early the next morning to be able to go to the top of the Duomo….we have a hint from the Rick Steves book to get there early. When we go to the top, Rick Steves was there filming. Weather was perfect. When I wrote this in 2020, I checked the Rick Steves episode on Florence from ~ 2011 and it was from that same day, but we weren’t in it.

Glad we beat the late morning crowds and spent the rest of the day outside in the gardens and outside attractions.


From Rome we drove to Florence – and after awhile we were table to get to our hotel which was at the top of the Spanish steps. It was quite an upgrade to a Intercontinental from the Holiday Inn Express (same brand using points) and it was so nice it was uncomfortable as it was very proper. But the location was hard to get to with all the one way streets and alleys, so I did end up getting a camera ticket when I got home for illegally driving through a pedestrian square where I dropped off the girls and all the luggage and then I drove to drop the rental car off and taxi back.

We spent the morning in the Vatican and the afternoon hitting other sites in the city. Just like the last time in Italy, it was very expensive with a historically high Euro versus the USD (1.5 to 1), so we did not eat at the hotel as it was too expensive. So to save money, we stopped at a bakery right outside of the Vatican – got croissants, some Coke/Diet Cokes. and one of the girls added a healthy fruit dessert. Cost was 70 Euros or about $100. From then on – we would go to the grocery store in the morning to stock up on bread and water for the day with dinner at McDonalds with water. Coke/Diet Coke was one of the culprits at about $7/each – so no more of those for the trip. Did the full Vatican tour with the Sistine Chapel and the other works of art and then to Trevi Fountain.

I had gotten a heads up from a friend that the Colosseum required an advance ticket – we had that for our last day and it was key as the line was so long we would not have gotten in. We spent most of our last day here and the Roman Forum.

The Electrocution

When I started this blog entry, I asked everyone for their most memorable part of the trip – everyone said “The Electrocution”.

We were up early to take the high-speed train from Rome to Venice. As we were just getting moving and after getting the luggage situated, I opened my computer in to catch up on work and it needed charged. My adapter was made for Italy on one side with an interchangeable face plate for US or UK on the other side (see pictures for the male side of the adapter – in this case this was the “Italy side”). I had the adapter plugged into the train on the Italian side and the US “female” face plate on the other side. My computer cord was UK so took off the US face plate to replace with the UK – this was a bad idea as I exposed the internals of the adapter and must have touched the metal directly on the Italian side. You can see the silver on the bottom of the respective plugs in the pictures. I was flopping around in the seat and screaming (apparently – I don’t remember) but I lived. 220V or 221V – I think I was pretty wired for the rest of the day.


Venice was a bit of an issue – the train station drops you off and then you get on a water taxi or vaporetto with a lot of luggage and unclear exactly where our place was. No fancy U.S. hotel chain for this stop. We did finally find it and our luggage pretty much took up the entire floor – but we were in Venice and that is all that mattered. Had a couple of great days there – had another great tip to download an audio tour that was timed to the vaporetto at night as by the time we got to Venice, I was pretty salty on money.

On our last trip to Venice in 1992, Sharon had an adventure in going to the islands near Venice This time, we when to Burano instead of Murano – a lot of brightly painted houses so I had to wear my cabana wear. We also ran into some pro-communist protesters.


Coming back through London, we had a long layover and took the girls back to our townhouse and their school. Not sure Annelise remembered much but Alexandra seemed to remember everything. Of course, we ran into one of our friends at the coffee shop – 9 years after we left.

Across the street from our townhouse was Olympic Studios – by the time we moved there is was past its prime and the only famous people we knew of that recorded while we were there was The Cure and Victoria Beckham. Back in the day – it rivaled Abbey Road Studios – the quote below is from the Wikipedia. Below the quote is a picture of the plaque stating U2 was the last to record there in 2008. And somehow I missed it all.

The Rolling Stones were among the first clients of the new Olympic Studios in Barnes, consecutively recording six of their albums there between 1966 and 1972. The Beatles worked at the studio to record the songs “All You Need Is Love” (1967), having been happy with their recording of the song “Baby, You’re a Rich Man” (1967) on their first visit to Olympic. Jimi Hendrix recorded tracks for his album Are You Experienced (1967), the tracks for Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and a large part of Electric Ladyland (1968). The Who recorded their albums Who’s Next and Who Are You there and it was used extensively by Led Zeppelin, who recorded tracks there for all of their studio albums up to and including Physical Graffiti in 1975. In the same year Queen used the studio for their album A Night at the Opera and David Bowie used the studio at the same time. The studio also saw the production of other landmark albums and singles including tracks by Small Faces, Traffic, Blind Faith, Hawkwind, the Seekers, the Moody Blues, and Deep Purple. Procol Harum recorded all tracks for their album “A Whiter Shade of Pale” at Olympic.

From The Wikipedia

(This was written during the Great Shutdown of 2020. My memory isn’t this good, used internet searches to fill in a lot of holes. If there’s huge fat foot below me, it not my fault – that an advertisement I can’t control).


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