Saturday, December 15, 2018

If you want to know a city book a local with Prontopia




Venice   Rome   Florence


If you are visiting for the first time,  an independent traveler or returning often, Prontopia can simplify your travel 






 Use Prontopia to book a local to help eliminate some of the stress of travel


Arriving in a new city where you do not speak the language and signs may not always include a translation, can be exhilarating as well as a challenge.   Navigating transportation from the airport or the train station can add to travel-stress at the start of your trip.
Daily life in Italy always makes me smile






  • Now, thanks to Prontopia much of the worry can be eliminated by booking a local via a simple mobile app.  Find help on demand when arriving in Venice, Florence or Rome
  •  to become oriented to the city
  • reach your hotel
  • understand the public transportation systems  
  • meet a scheduled tour or 
  • find the best route to a must-see sight, Prontopia can help.

Read more about Prontopia at www.facebook.com/prontopia



Prontopia is similar to the ‘uber’ concept but designed for walkers and those using public transportation, particularly in areas with pedestrian only zones.  

If you have a busy schedule and limited time to see as much as possible in each city, Prontopia can save you time and offer great tips of where to find the best restaurants, places not to miss as well as assisting guests with special interest that may not be covered in a tour book:  gardens, ‘secret’ museums or even vintage shopping.

Until I read about the benefits of booking a local with Prontopia, I thought I could easily manage on my own and had no need for a guide.   After all I had lived in Italy short term and now return 2 or 3 times a year, I feel like a local in a few cities.    

Prontopia is far more than a meet and greet program.   The concept of locals interested in meeting travelers from other countries and sharing their knowledge and love of their city, would offer an opportunity  to ask questions and have an experience that I could not replicate on my own.   At the end of my meting, I had made 2 new friends, found a tea shop and a great restaurant!




Venice is a city I get lost in every time I visit.    Finding a map of Venice with ‘street’ names, identifies the location of churches, points of interest, museums etc is not always easy. 

Even with the best map, navigating Venice’s more than 100 islands, 400 bridges and 170 canals* that often do not have signs, is a challenge.     A veteran of many trips to Venice, my paper map continues to help me with the never-ending turns and twists that are the charm of Venice.   Sometimes a route may literally end at a stone wall.   You back track and try a different turn and can be rewarded with a vignette of daily life in the city: a soccer game, laundry day, the daily sweeping and washing of the front step or an animated chat with a neighbor.    All this is what makes me love Italia!

Venice, Italy is an amazing city to experience and one of the ‘big three’ stops for most tourists.     From your first view of the Grand Canal on the steps of the Santa Lucia train station to the tranquil garden setting in the Castello sestieri (neighborhood),  Venice is an immersions of sites, sounds, smells and tastes that calls me back every trip Home to Italy.






Early visitors to St Mark’s square are only a fraction of the huge groups that will fill the square later in the day.

Testing the limits of my skill with an app, I booked a local in Venice to meet me at the train station and go with me to my hotel.         Meeting at the busy train station was a small challenge since there were hundreds of people milling around or waiting for a vaporetto.  Describing myself as short and wearing all black did not distinguish me from half of the large crowd.    We quickly located each other as two people  talking with each other only a few feet apart!   You immediately like Eloisa.  Her bright smile and energy are genuine.  And we did not have to rely on my limited Italian, since you can book a local who speaks English. 

  





    

Quickly we decided that walking to my hotel would be quicker and more comfortable than the boat.   Crossing fewer bridges and taking back passageways we arrived at the Fondamenta Zattere where the wide, level esplanade offers cafes facing over the water to the Guidecca.    This quiet area, away from the crowds that can make Venice seem like a theme park, is often filled with only locals going to the post office or the supermarket that are located here.   You may be tempted to just sit in one of the caf├ęs and not see another museum or stand in line at another tourist spot for an hour.   

bing.com/images




During our walk I peppered Eloisa with questions on where to find solo-friendly cafes, the boats to some remote islands in the lagoon and the shop selling fashions created by inmates at the local prison.         She quickly gave me suggestions and answers.    One of her suggestions was an interesting restaurant frequented by students, that would be near my hotel.  The restaurant was closed that day, so we continued to nearby Campo San Barnaba passing a Tea shop that I would visit later in the day.   In the Campo we found many outdoor cafes, other restaurants and the book store where an event was planned that evening.  
Stopping in one of the cafes, with a map of the entire lagoon spread between us, Eloisa helped me identify the islands I might reach by public boats.  Some of the more remote islands required private transportation and would have to be put off until the next visit. 
Eloisa identified neighborhoods that were not well known to tourists and suggested walking routes to visit the Jewish Ghetto and the area beyond the Public Gardens.   So much to see in only a few days.    However, the few hours with Eloise saved me from wasting time visiting the constantly busy tourist office to request the information she shared.   Without her help I am not sure I would have accomplished half of my goals for this trip.   During the transportation strike later during my visit I should have booked a local to find alternative transportation to the Lido. 

The time spent with Prontoipia was so enjoyable it is hard not to instantly consider the locals you meet as friends!   Far more than a guide service, I decided to book a Prontopia local when I stopped in Rome, later in the month!
If you want to know about a city you are told to ask a local!    Even better book a local with Prontopia.

I have to disclose that my app skills were greatly lacking to make my first appointment.   Thanks to Ilaria Nardone, Italy Marketing & Recruitment manager for Prontopia the app was linked to my credit card and I received a one on one tutorial on how to book a local. 
 Ilaria was available any time I ran into a problem (which was often) and assured my bookings were placed correctly.

I want to thank Shannon Kenny for inviting me to try the Prontopia app during my trip Home to Italy.  The opinions in the post are my own.

 *Veneto-explorer.com














CEO and founder Shannon Kenny, launched Prontopia in April of 2017 with the help of engineer Davis Brimer.   Shannon had divided her time between California and Italy throughout her professional career as a historian and social entrepreneur since 1997.  The business plan for Prontopia includes the mission:   Prontopia is a public Benefit Corporation committed to cultivating human rights awareness through global connectedness and human understanding.  We believe that together, we are better.  Through purposeful grassroots action, we help travelers, locals, and communities arrive to a better place without delay.

Next:  Prontopia local Bess helps me ride the green, metal tube  




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Friday, November 30, 2018

Great news for travelers arriving /leaving from Rome

Great news if you fly to or from Rome, Italy

I almost missed this news since I have been traveling for months but if you go Home to Italy via Rome you can now take a direct train to the airport from a few cities without a stop/change in Rome!

What is more exciting to me is the news that you can take this route from with Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Genoa and Venice.  For me it means no more train changes with luggage!

I found this post on Conde Nast Traveler.   To find details I did the typical G search for Frecciarossa and found the following:



Article is from The Local IT      I can not wait until they have a direct train to Milan's airport!   No more changing trains in the city....

From next month, travellers will be able to take one of Italy's high-speed trains directly to and from Rome airport without going into the city centre.
"         "

Starting on December 18th, Frecciarossa fast trains will connect the capital's main Fiumicino airport with Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Genoa and Venice.
While the cities are already linked by rail, running the high-speed line via the airport will save inbound travellers a trip across town to either Termini or Tiburtina station on the other side of Rome.
There are plans to introduce similar services to and from Milan's Malpensa airport from 2019, said the director of the Italian state railway company, Gianfranco Battisti, as he unveiled proposals on Tuesday for a "great integrated transport network" between Italy's airports, train stations and ports.

From next month, travellers will be able to take one of Italy's high-speed trains directly to and from Rome airport without going into the city centre.


Starting on December 18th, Frecciarossa fast trains will connect the capital's main Fiumicino airport with Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Genoa and Venice.
While the cities are already linked by rail, running the high-speed line via the airport will save inbound travellers a trip across town to either Termini or Tiburtina station on the other side of Rome.
There are plans to introduce similar services to and from Milan's Malpensa airport from 2019, said the director of the Italian state railway company, Gianfranco Battisti, as he unveiled proposals on Tuesday for a "great integrated transport network" between Italy's airports, train stations and ports."

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Art in the Cemetery of the Holy Gate in Florence, Italy


With a zoom lens you can view the Duomo in Florence


Cemetery of the Holy Gate
Located next to the church San Miniato al Monte.


Italy is packed with art and the city of Florence, Italy is no exception.    Major museums display and protect some of the most famous paintings, tapestries and sculpture.  

Sculptures can be found outside of formal institutions.     You can view sculpture in a public piazza, as ornamentation to a building or even in private homes.

San Miniato al Monte
But do not miss the amazing sculpture in the local cemeteries.

The artists creating grave memorials do not restrict themselves to crosses as I discovered in the three cemeteries I recently visited. 

On this visit I climbed the hill to San Miniato al Monte to find the entrance to the Cemetery of the Holy gate to the left of the Church.  Check times and days open on line.





   

Don't miss the crypt in the lower level.                                    The dome pictures are done in mosaics





             





              
Angels have always been my favorite.   The mystery of how wings are attached to the statue or more amazing, how they might be planned as part of the block of marble keeps me searching for  every angel in the cemetery.   When in Rome be sure to visit the English Cemetery too.

In addition to wings the artists have created drapery (robes and clothing) that appears soft as it folds around a figure.      Perhaps the most arresting features can be the facial expressions that convey such intense emotion.  Perhaps my favorite tomb in this cemetery, is in a more remote location and you come around the corner to find her weeping.






What is missing for most of the monument art is the name of the artist.   The family name is on most stones and usually the name of each interned but few stories about the occupants or the artist.


Perhaps one of the most discussed stories is that of Antonio and Maria.  You see the 5 foot figures as you enter the main part of the cemetery and the white stone glows.   What happened to these two young people?     Their stone says they passed within 2 months of each other.  Were they just married or were they brother and sister who their mother wished them to  be together.    This story needs to be researched and the on line information verified.  Whatever the background, I felt sad when visiting them.  





                A resting angel?   A guardian angel?    What is the cost for a private piece of art?


                           There are multi story crypts to accommodate more graves.




                            Some families build mausoleums that resemble miniature villas.





In the courtyard at the front of the church you will find a gift shop selling handcrafts.   There is a large display of small bottles of home remedies I expect the brothers make.   The directions are in Italian but there is a short summary for the use of each bottle.   Apparently they are well know for their ice cream.  The freezer was almost empty!   Make time to visit while you are exploring the property.    Note:  WC available at the left of the entrance to the cemetery.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Stone angels in Italy

Italy is known for outstanding museums           where art treasures are on display


You can find incredible marble carvings in museums, public plazas and even private homes and courtyards.  But have you searched for other incredible carvings in the cemetery?

Entrance to the Rome English cemetery in Rome


A view of the Piramide from the cemetery. 
Only a few blocks from the metro station Piramide 

The English Cemetery or also known as the Protestant Cemetery, was my first stop to find marble angels.   

How does an artist make hard stone look alive, show stone like a folded piece of fabric and the depth of emotion in the facial expressions?   No other grave sculpture has had such a lasting impression on me as the The Angel of Grief, also know as the Weeping Angel.   


              You see this grave piece from across the cemetery.   



A number of well know expats are buried in the cemetery but many visitors may make the pilgrimage to see the Weeping Angel.  This massive sculpture by artist William Story  is a memorial for his wife.      



                                         The posture of the angel expresses abject sadness.




                       You do not need to see the face of this angel to feel the pain she is experiencing.


The grounds are very well kept with paths that allow you to walk past every headstone.  On a very hot day in Rome the cooler temperature and quiet was a welcome respite from the hectic pace of the city.






There is a welcome center near the entrance where friendly English speaking volunteers will sell you a simple map and give you directions and or background information on the graves you may be looking for. 



Continuing my search for stone angels I found several of interest but nothing compared with the Weeping Angel.

I have to question how some of the angel wings are attached.   Some of the 'slimmer' statues were carved from one piece of marble.   Angles with a wide wing span are 'attached'.   On my next visit I will try to find an answer.   Did the artist use metal bars to attach the wings?












                      Just another example of the incredible detail the artist puts into a statue.







                                   A visitor may have left the flower for this sleeping lady
Possibly a raven . Makes me think of an Edgar Allen Poe story.  


  I must thank Steve at The Beehive in Rome for a post about the cemetery.     There are so many other great places to explore on every trip Home to Italy.