The most stylish urn

When guests come over to Rome, one of the things that I’d recommend that they get as a souvenir is a moka pot. It’s something that I think that is symbolic of Italy – since coffee is such a way of life here. And using a moka pot lets you enjoy espresso quality coffee at home.

Bialetti Moka Pot

Here’s a video I did about 6 years ago on how to use a moka pot. My command of Italian is rather awkward in this video, and I can spot out a lot of mistakes now but oh well 😛

Probably the most famous brand here is Bialetti. You can easily recognize it by the cute logo that it has in front.

Bialetti Moka Pot

The caricature of the man is actually Renato Bialetti. While he didn’t invent it, this was the man who made Moka pots famous around the world.

We have 5 moka pots ourselves in our household – 3 of them Bialetti. And when we travel, Cart would make sure that we at least have good coffee packed in the luggage.

Which was why, at first glance at this picture, I thought that it was kind of cool to see this priest with a big coffee maker in front of him. I was imagining that he’d be sharing some coffee after his sermon, maybe.

Bialetti Moka Pot

It was only later when I found out that it was actually an URN! Containing the ashes of Renato Bialetti who died about a week ago.

As dark as it is, I think that it’s a stylish way to go.


Experiencing carnevale di Viareggio – part 1

In Italy, there is an event called Martedi Grasso which basically means “Fat Tuesday”. This is kind of like a last chance for you to enjoy yourself before the start of 40 days of lent.

During the days leading towards Martedi Grasso, you’d see a lot of children in costumes, throwing confetti around.  There would also be a carnival. Probably the most famous and biggest one in Italy would be the Carnevale di Venezia – something that I’d love to see for myself in the future.

Anyway,  last weekend, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance of experiencing a carnival. While it wasn’t the one in Venice, the one in Viareggio is extremely impressive by itself.

A little back story. A couple of months earlier, I got a message from a production company who was looking for someone who was living in Italy to be a co-host for a documentary show in Singapore. I don’t know anything about hosting and I’ve never hosted before – youtube-ing is a whole different animal altogether but I was so intrigued about the Viareggio Papier Mache Carnival, I said yes! What’s the worst that could happen? In the end, it will be a very interesting experience.

Viareggio is a town in Tuscany. It takes about 4 hours to travel from Rome to Viareggio by train. This time round, we took Frecciarossa – which was interesting, as it has a fold-able table for when you want to do your work, a charger below, and wifi! Viareggio Carnevale 2016

But trying to log on to Frecciarossa’s wifi for the first time is quite challenging though as I don’t think that the website was coded to suit smartphones. It took at least 15 minutes for me to try to remain calm enough to type my information in.

After a while, I just gave up and enjoyed the scenery I saw outside of my window. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Around two hours passed by and we stopped at Firenze to do and interchange with a regional train for the rest of the journey.

Something that I think will probably be a little TMI is how Cart explained to me how the toilets in train works. He claims that you should only go when the train is moving as you’d make a pile when the train is still.

Really? It makes sense but I don’t believe him. I’m pretty sure that there is a containment below. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Four hours later, we finally reached the Viareggio train station. It was cloudy and drizzling slightly, but I was so excited just to be there. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

We walked to our bed and breakfast called the Villino Lola, which was just a few minutes walk from the station. It’s so beautiful! If you ever travel here in a group, this is a great place to stay – and when the cost is divided by 8 people, it’s not at all expensive.

You enter through the hall into the main house which  has a reception room, a bathroom and big kitchen. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Look! There’s a classic vespa! Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

In the kitchen, you have all the usual cooking needs like olive oil and condiments, table ware, cooking ware …

For some reason, there are a lot of bottled water in the fridge. There were at least 4 in this kitchen alone. We were told that the water in the taps in Viareggio are potable nevertheless. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This place is huge! When you walk upstairs, there are 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

I find each bedroom so charmingly country. There is a particular bathroom which was so luxurious. On hindsight, I think I should have taken a short video of the place. Pictures doesn’t do it justice. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

When you go back down to the kitchen, you could open the door that to the the garden, leading to guest house. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

And here was where Cart and I stayed for the next 3 nights. Our own little tiny house! I loved how self sufficient it is – a place to sleep, a place to cook, a place to shower. I’d be happy live here if there was wifi connection here too. 😛 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Above the guest house was a terrace where I imagine people could have a nice open air dinner when the weather is better. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

After exploring our bed and breakfast, Cart and I went to have a look see outside. The street where we walked in, there were so many houses which was decorated with masks and banners, in the spirit of the carnival. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

We walked and walked and walked and eventually we found ourselves close to the sea. It’s very lively here – there are a lot of shops and food places along the path and there are plentiful of people walking around. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

Don’t walk next to the sea during winter when it’s very windy. Personal experience. 

When you are in Viareggio, you’ll see this a lot : Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This is called the Burlamacco. This red and white clown like figure is the mascot for Viareggio. I think he’s cute. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

It was starting to be dinner time, so Cart and I headed back and met the crew  at this very lovely sandwich place called Paninoteca Adone. Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

I love this place. The people here are so friendly and the sandwiches here are the bomb! The  list of sandwiches are very comprehensive and can be daunting for the first timer, but you’ll be sure that there is something for everyone.  And here are some of the pictures of the sandwiches that I managed to snap.

This is the 4 formaggi  sandwich – gorgonzola, mozzarella, groviera, fontina. Check out how cheesy it is! Viareggio Carnevale 2016 Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This is the Rosa – Smoked salmon, butter, lemon Viareggio Carnevale 2016

This was my Verde – Artichokes, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, tabasco sauce and lettuce. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

It was so delicious that I’m still thinking about it now. I think I’ll try to make it myself. It shouldn’t be too hard, I hope. The only thing is that, it’s a little bit oily, and it trickled down my hands while I was eating it, which made it a little bit awkward.

Anyway, let me introduce you to part of the team! Next to me is Remi, the producer and there is Dzul who is the director and the two ladies are Seri and Mas who are the hosts, who by the way, are very popular in Singapore. Viareggio Carnevale 2016

I’m covering myself with a flower because I look really bad in this picture. Yikes! Next time, I’ll remember to turn my head or cover my neck with a sandwich like what Mas is doing here. Ahaha!

When I first met them, I wasn’t sure how to react. What should I do? Should I talk all formal? How? What? Huh? But when we started talking, they were so friendly and so nice and so chatty that I felt so comfortable around them.

One of the things I remember was when they told me about their trip to Jokkmokk, Sweden and how the temperature there was very cold! Minus 25 degrees even.  I don’t think that I’d be able to cope in such cold weather. Nevertheless, they enjoyed seeing the reindeer and the scenery there.

After our dinner, we had an early night. Tomorrow will be a big day!

Fighting for the Abaddon Anomaly in Milan

Last month, Cart and I were in Milan for the abaddon anomaly. It was such an unforgettable experience and Milan has been a wonderful host, that I’d love to visit again. I’ve already been to Milan some years back, but this time was different as I got to see Milan up a little bit up close and personal. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

A couple of weeks leading to the event, we’ve been preparing for the anomaly, and also getting gear for ourselves. Since Milan is up North, many of our team members were concerned about how cold it was going to get. We got a couple of thermal shirts and I got for myself a heating pad and some wool socks. I can’t believe that I’ve never discovered wool socks before this. They are so comfy in the cold weather.

Friday afternoon, after an eventful day, rushing around, getting ready and last minute packing,  we just managed to take the train. Phew! We sat down and finally relaxed. Taking the train is something that I enjoy as it’s tranquil to see the scenery outside of the window as the train runs.  Plus, there was complementary WiFi! Making the 4 hour journey pass by quickly and in no time at all, we’ve already reached Milan! Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

We quickly checked in our hotel and then headed out to pick up our abaddon packs. One thing that I’d recommend for travellers to do, is to take the multi day transport pass as it’s a lot more convenient and much more cost effective to travel this way, instead of having to pull out 1.50 euro for each each trip.

It was at the subway where I noticed this : Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

I think it was the first time that I see a public place being sponsored by a corporation like Nissan and Premium Mediaset. Even while walking on the footpath towards the park to pick up our packs, I noticed “MTV” printed at each start. I can understand it, but I still find it quite bizarre nevertheless. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

I love how bustling the atmosphere was, where we picked up our packs – seeing so many people raring to fight the next day, meeting old faces and making new friends. It was such a nice feeling. We were supposed to meet up at a pub afterwards and get to know other resistance agents, but the queue there was too long that in the end, many of us adjourned to a restaurant not too far away. Nevertheless, we were still quite a big group that we occupied pretty much an entire room! Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

It was here where I also got to meet a really friendly group of fellow resistance agents from France 🙂

The next day, we got up bright and early to meet up with our team members. All those concerns about Milan being extremely cold was all for naught in the end, as it turned out to be bearable. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

We took the subway and slowly walked to Parco Sempione and waited for the event to officially start. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

If you were wondering why I keep having earphones during the entire event, yours truly was the communications officer for my team – a role that I was curious enough to give a try. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

It’s all quite military like. Each team consists around 15 – 20 people, lead by the Team Leader who will oversee the group at the various check points. My role was being the facilitator between my team leader and the dispatch team and they are a sort of an operator, looking through the intel maps and strategizing. I had to listen to their commands and support my team leader at any changes. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

It wasn’t easy for me as my team leader likes to run a lot and each time when I get an update, I had to stop to listen amidst all the cacophony and by then, my team leader would be at least 500 meters away. Hahaha.

Keep in mind, that my backpack looks like I packed a big cube inside it, and you’ll find out later why. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

Anyway, there isn’t much to say about the anomaly itself, that I haven’t said before in this post. But there was something very memorable that happened. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

There was a point where my team was running off to the next cluster, and Cart, who was in my team, hurt his feet and had to walk slowly. My team was already a distance away and I didn’t want to lose them so I had to make the painful decision to leave Cart. But by this time unfortunately, I couldn’t find my team members, lost in the huge crowd. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

I typed in the chat,  “Where are you guys?

We’re at the 4th cluster, Via Brera

So I typed it in Google Maps, hoping that it’ll help me bring me there speedily. I only had 15 minutes to go before the next check point and I was starting to panic. But for some reason, Google Maps got wonky and made me run to one corner of the duomo instead of going straight forward. But the strangest part was, after that, it made me run through Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II! A mall! And it was extremely crowded with Christmas coming up then. Why on earth did Google made me pass here?

I thought that it was extremely peculiar, and felt bad that I had to be rude and push some of the crowds of people in front of me. But it had to be done. I was in a huge competition.

At length, with only 5 minutes left, I managed to reach the final cluster and to my huge surprise, I saw Cart already there! I almost cried with relief, feeling awful that I’ve left him. Apparantly, he was better at reading maps, not trusting Google Maps this time round. Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

Anyway, at the end of the cluster, we felt really good at our efforts. I had a good feeling for this, the resistance managed to make a big area field over Milan, and I found out much later that a group of agents rented a helicopter and a boat to create good anchors.

Win or lose, I felt extremely proud of my team and I gave each of my team members something from my bag … A cake that I made earlier! And I have to say, that it was a really good cake. We all deserved it 🙂 Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

We then slowly headed to the final location where the results were announced. And we found out that we won! I was extremely thrilled to find out and the feeling of enthralment continued for the next days. I was that happy! Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

All in all I had a really fantastic experience. In fact, Cart and I are considering going to the anomaly in April in Vienna! I am so looking forward to it. I’m sure it’ll be interesting to see 🙂 Ingress Abaddon Anomaly in Milan 2015

Pictures by : NCC1701R /  Resistenza Roma 

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Preparing for an Ingress Anomaly

Cart and I have wanted to participate in an anomaly for the longest time, and after weeks and weeks of preparation, it is finally here!

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

We could hardly sleep in excitement.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

Anomalies are basically cross faction events, held in various locations around the world where agents fight to gain the most points for their faction. The rules are different for each anomaly, one day it could be the most portals captured, another it could be the most fields made, or it could be a flash shard like the one we participated in, for Obsidian Vienna.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

The one that Cart and I participated in was held in the heart of Florence. We’ve already been here a couple of years ago, but instead of the relaxing stroll as we did the last time, the air was full of excitement and frenzy with so many agents from all around the world in one place.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

The first thing you do is to queue up to get your hand stamped and get a pack full of codes – one for a participation medal, and the other a redeemable card – it could be XMP 8, Res 8, Capsules, Shelds, etc, it’s all at random.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

Then you queue up to get your physical badge. It’s always recommended to get the registration done early as there will be a long line afterwards. There is usually a bit of time afterwards to socialise with other agents and have a quick meal. Then there will be a group photo after which the anomaly starts proper.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

A good inventory is important when participating in an anomaly – Be prepared to have at least 1800 items in your inventory.

The number may change though, depending on your team’s requirements – some would play defensively while others may have an offence tactics. Your team leader will advice you on the optimal amount of gear to carry.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

About a month leading to the event, you’ll have a plentiful of invites to participate in farms. Attend them! Not only will you get gear crucial to the event, you’ll also get to meet your team members. Personally, the hardest part for me is recycling some of the things in my inventory not in the list, just to fit into the requirements, especially since I’m going for the Onyx Translator medal. I had to go around and use as much as I could, tried to have someone to donate to, or carry it for me for a bit. drops ingress inventory

Apart from your Ingress inventory, there are some physical items that I recommend that you bring along with you in an anomaly.

Most of the above are pretty self explanatory. Keep in mind that you’ll be on your feet for at least four hours. So wear comfortably and be prepared for any weather change.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

(It was very cold and windy and drizzling when we  reached the 4th cluster. It’s amazing how we managed to get through that!)

One tip I’ve learnt is to plug the power-bank to your phone immediately when it’s fully charged and leave it to slowly discharge. I found that the phone lasted significantly longer that way. The freezer bags on the other hand are mainly for protecting your phone and the power-bank in case that it rains, but did you know that your phone is still functional while wrapped in the bag? Freezer bag Phone

How the anomaly works is that there will be four clusters made up of various portals. Shonin Cluster Portals

You and your team are usually delegated to one portal in each cluster. You can tell the anomaly portals by the hexagon halo around them. Shonin Cluster Portals

For 10 minutes you’ll have to capture, defend, link and field as much as possible. After which, the next 50 minutes is used to travel to the next cluster where there should be ample time to restart the phone, go to the loo, snack, strategise with your teams etc.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

In theory, it sounds easy BUT with thousands of agents in the area, and with at least 30 agents from opposing sides delegated to ONE portal the level of play is much more intense compared to regular game-play. Having a good phone with a high speed data connection is advantageous. The second cluster was impossible to play for us, it took a long time just trying to deploy due to the jammed network.

Nevertheless, when it does work, you’ll find that in just a split second, the portal could flip from blue to green and vice versa. It’s total chaos. You have to be focused and continue deploying for the entire 10 minutes even if it still appears to belong to your faction.

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

(Note how close both the factions are with each other)

It’s always easier when you work in a team and your team leader will delegate the roles – some to deploy the resonator, some to deploy the mods, some to link. Cart and I were tasked to shield and I was stunned (but not so surprised) that in just 10 minutes, we used up at least 30 very rare shields each. Shonin Cluster Portals

(Left with only 10 resonators at the end of the day!)

With so many agents going around in large groups, some with flags, looking intently in their phones, there will be a chance when a person comes up to you and ask you what you are doing – For some, it’s easy to multi-task, but for me, I had a simple solution of putting a notice at the front of my bag :

“Hi! I’m in a competition, for more information, please go to

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

After an intense 4 hours, it’s time to head to a location where the results will be known. And if you still have some juice left running, celebrate and have a party – regardless of which party won.

It was a very close call in Florence with the Green winning by just 10 points on a count of about 800 for each side, mostly due to their advantage of 400 points (200 for each cluster) on having a big field covering Florence in the second and third cluster. But adding the results of the two secondary sites, Brno and Bilbao, we won the 1st day of the anomaly by 3 points on a count of more than 2000 for each side!

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

All in all, I had a very enjoyable time and had lots of fun participating in my first anomaly. It was extremely memorable and I really wouldn’t mind participating in another one 🙂

Shonin Ingress Anomaly Florence 21 February 2015

Pictures by : NCC1701R / Magic74

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Bottle your own mineral water

If you’re thirsty in Rome, it’s not a problem as there are plentiful of water fountains, called nasone here. It’s safe to drink and freely accessible to everyone.

However when you travel to some areas outside of Central Rome, like in Anguillara, drinking tap water is banned due to the small level of arsenic found. Residents could still bathe with it, but they are banned from using tap water for direct consumption such as brushing their teeth, drinking and cooking.

Which is why there are kiosks such as there all around Anguillara : Case dell'Aqua Anguillara

Here residents could bring their own bottles and have them filled up with different types of water – most commonly, liscie (plain) and frizzante (fizzy).

I’m not sure if non residents could have access to these water though. I’ve always wanted to try the water here and luckily Cart brought with him an empty half litre bottle when we passed by the area the other night. Case dell'Aqua Anguillara

We happened to meet a resident at a kiosk who was filling up and he told us that we needed a subscription card to activate the nozzles. He was kind and offered to fill up our bottle anyway. Case dell'Aqua Anguillara

So I finally got the chance to taste the water from the kiosk. The fizzy one. I like it. It was as good as the ones you get from an Italian supermarket here.

For those of you who think water is water and tastes the same everywhere, don’t knock if off till you’ve tried it yourself. I used to think that way too – but the water here is distinctly different. I find the water here quite delicious. I’m even ok at giving up drinking soda. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why agricultural crops have a different quality here?

Orvieto in the Winter

Cart and I had a lovely time with our friends in Orvieto last weekend. The last time that we were there was somewhere in the middle of Summer, so this time round, the area felt quite different.

It takes around and hour and a half to reach there by car. The weather has been quite erratic lately, and on our way there, the clouds started to get really dark and it started to rain. Only this time, instead of dripping away, the raindrops went blob on the windscreen – indicating that it was actually snow flurries. Orvieto

One of the first times when I saw real snow, it felt quite magical, seeing the area covered in a blanket of white powder. There wasn’t that much snow when we reached Orvieto, nevertheless, it still looked quite charming. Orvieto Orvieto Orvieto

Fortunately, the rain stopped when we reached there, but it felt very cold nevertheless at around a single degree at noon. Thank goodness Cart had the foresight to pack the snow boots along and I keep my gloves in my bag practically all the time now 🙂 Orvieto Orvieto Orvieto

We headed for lunch at the same place where I had my awesome pizza the other time. And we were fed really really well. While the others had meats and lasagna with ragu, we still had an awesome meal.

I especially liked the vegetable lasagna with beschamel. The first time that I had this was at Lorenzo’s house, I immediately fell in love with it – it’s creamy, decadent and so hearty with the mix of stir fried vegetables in it. We should make this again 🙂 Orvieto

Their tiramisu was so eggy and has bits of chocolate drops in it, making the texture a crunchy surprise. I’d soak the savioardi biscuits in coffee for a little more though as they were rather tough here. Orvieto

This was Cart’s house made vanilla gelato with espresso coffee next to it. You’re supposed to pour the coffee to drown the ice cream – this is called an affogato . Orvieto

After our sumptuous and long lunch, we went for a walk around the town, enjoying the sights and each other’s company and … then a coffee break an hour later:P Orvieto Orvieto

The sign reads, “I don’t like chocolates!” which was amusing. Orvieto Orvieto

We said our goodbyes when it was getting close towards dinner time. When we got back on our way back on the autostrada in Rome, there was a sudden hail fall. I could hear the sharp sound of hail dropping on the car and before you know it, the roads was covered with a layer of white.

At this point of time, cars started to slow down presumably because they didn’t have snow tires on. It was so unusual to see any car going so slowly on a highway in Rome. Orvieto

We all know that many Italians are F1 drivers on the inside 🙂


The most peculiar date

Recently, Cart and I went on a non-traditional date, thanks to ingress.

As you know by now, I’m very involved with ingress and the community here. Thanks to the game and the community, I got to know lots of people whom I enjoy being with and discovered a lot of interesting sights that I might normally miss. Ingress Guardian

Here I am with some of my fellow Resistenza di Roma family!

When I first started ingress last April, the maximum level that you could reach was 8, where you could use level 8 XMP (which is the strongest weapon in ingress so far) and level 8 resonators (which is sort of like the strongest brick to use for building your portals)

But not too long after I started playing, Niantic increased the maximum level to 16. At the time I thought that I would be happy with my level 8 since I could use the highest level items, but I find myself enjoying the challenge of trying to reach the higher levels and somehow I’m level 14 at the moment 🙂 Ingress

These mission badges are spiffy!

Anyway, once you’ve reached level 8, you will need enough points and have certain achievements to unlock the next level. One of these achievements is to keep a portal alive for as long as possible – 3 days for a bronze guardian, 10 days for a silver, 20 days for a gold, 90 days for a platinum and 150 days for an onyx. Ingress Guardian

And at this point of writing, I’d need another platinum medal to unlock level 15. In theory, the guardian medal is simple to achieve – capture and just charge it every now and then so that it doesn’t decay completely.

In real life though, there are a lot of nasty players who hunt your oldest portal and breaks it for the sole purpose that you don’t reach the medals.

It’s easy to feel indignant about the entire situation. The first few times when it happened to me, I was extremely upset. I’d like to think that they unknowingly shot my portal because I’ve done that before and that’s in the spirit of the game after all – to capture as many portals as possible. But when it’s always the same people breaking it just a few days or even hours before reaching the medal, it’s all very suspicious.

I had one broken on the 89th day, just a few hours shy for the platinum badge and my next oldest one was broken some weeks back. This one I captured somewhere in October. It was quite a feat because of all the ridiculously tall grass and risk of serpents. Who’d be crazy enough to traverse that? (Me!) Ingress Guardian

So it was very annoying to see it broken a week before the platinum badge. But what made it even more annoying is that when I returned, the grass was significantly shorter due to the winter, making it a lot easier to walk on. Bah.

Not too long ago, someone broke Cart’s guardian portal which was already 149 days old and missing some hours before it reached the coveted Onyx badge. Cart was a little upset but he already anticipated it. And in this situation, there are two options that you could do :

  1. Do nothing about it or
  2. Get even

Personally, I’ve never liked the idea of breaking other people’s guardian portals on purpose, as I think that it’s a nasty things to do. But in this case, we really didn’t appreciated getting bullied so asking around fellow agents (and we’re connected to practically almost every community in various regions in Italy, which is really cool) we find out their oldest portals and proceeded to go there and hunt for them.

Often these guardian portals are in the most interesting, out of reach locations, where we would absolutely NEVER go on a regular day.

One of the locations was a castle by the sea, with a tall jagged cliff next to it. The scene was as if we were in a movie set – with the blowing wind in the middle of Winter, the strong waves of the sea, walking on the black sand … It was quite cold and it was such a funny sight to see two dogs running around and accompanying us while we shot and deployed. Ingress Guardian

Another location was going to an Etruscan tomb which was located in the middle of a field. It was already night time, and we didn’t see much in front of us so we got waylaid at a steep edge before finding another path. Ingress Guardian

The entire experience going the fields reminded me when I was in outward bound, I was around 17 then and a group of us had to do a challenge, walking at night in the jungle, alone, with no flash-light. It was a sort of a courage building exercise. This time round, it was pretty much the same, complete with animal noises (with real animals this time) to reach the portal some distance away. Ingress Guardian

Where on earth am I?

We are so lucky there is a torch function on our phones and we could see where we were going and finally captured the portal. But the experience that has to take the cake what we did yesterday.

Cart took the day off to accompany me in collecting my new permesso di soggiorno and decided to take the opportunity to go to the portal of the person responsible for breaking his 149.

Looking at the particular portal through intel, it was located up in the mountains. We’ve already dressed warm and brought our snow boots with us. The location was a church which is around 80 km from where we live. Ingress Guardian

The route was extremely scenic, with the snow capped mountains. It was so breathtaking that I didn’t mind the long journey. About an hour later, we find ourselves in a quiet little town. Opening the ingress app though, the portal was still not visible as it was a low level portal.

Consulting with a fellow agent who studied the map and adviced us to go to an alternative path, we drove to another road and tried to go up further, but the terrain was too much for Cart’s car to handle. Ingress Guardian

So we changed into our snow boots and started walking into the woods. The path was littered with snow and ice as well as piles of animal droppings. But the scene was so beautiful though, seeing the mountains in the distance was so tranquil and serene. Ingress Guardian Ingress Guardian Ingress Guardian

We walked for about an hour and a half, hoping that we were going the right way – we still couldn’t see the portal on the scanner and I was desperate to do it as fast as possible before sunset. At one point, there was a crossing – one going up and the other going down. On a leap of faith, we went up. Fortunately, I finally managed to see the portal through mobile intel and that we were on the right path. Ingress Guardian Ingress Guardian Ingress Guardian

I was feeling fine as I’m in a relatively good shape as I’ve already done a full marathon so at this point, I can trek for hours with no problem. Poor Cart though, was out of breath and wheezing. I felt bad for him, but he kept insisting, “I need to do more of this more frequently Ingress Guardian Ingress Guardian

Eventually we reached a relatively open field where there were horses and sheeps grazing around. And that was where I could finally see the portal in my scanner! Around 300 metres away!  I was ready to walk past the horses so that I could reach the portal, but Cart warned me not to, as there was a chance that the male horses might be territorial and attack us. Ingress Guardian

So we went around the border, where we found that the distance was more or less the same and we walked across thorny bushes and tree branches. It didn’t bother me so much as it’s kind of like my camping days. It was actually rather fun. I was excited and wanted to rush off to reach the portal. Just a few meters more! Ingress Guardian

I was almost reaching it through my scanner! Ingress Guardian

And this was what we saw : Ingress Guardian

An invisible church. No words.

One hypothesis is that the church was initially located in the town below, but the location was edited to an unreachable place later. Nevertheless, we did a full deploy and tried to reach the car back as soon as possible as it was already nightfall, but there’s always time for a picture for posterity. Ingress Guardian

I’m mostly amused at how inappropriately accessorised  I was – in the middle of the woods with my giraffe bag. Ingress Guardian Ingress Guardian

Look at how dirty our boots were

At this point of writing, the portal is a level 6 and is easily seen through the scanner from the town below – it’s a good potential guardian portal but Cart and I don’t care too much for for this medal any more. I mean, if we get it, it’s great. But if we don’t get it, it’s fine. In fact, Cart has his stats open for all to see for a couple of weeks now.

And walking through the woods at night, I kept thinking of how peculiar and unreal the entire situation was. It honestly felt like we were in an advanced virtual world, where I was actually at home on the sofa – you don’t see or do stuff like this in regular life! Ingress Guardian

The temperature dropped to -3 degrees by the time we reached the car, but I felt perfectly fine, probably because of the long trek that we did. And wearing gloves, multiple layers and snow boots helped a lot. Ingress Guardian

The thing that matters a lot for me is the memories and the experiences that I gained together with Cart. Sometimes, we don’t see eye to eye in some aspects of the game, for example, I prefer to be spontaneous and strike quickly, while he takes his time to analyse the situation. In the end though, I think that by having these out in the open and having a common goal made us closer and understand each other better. Ingress Guardian

Of course, I always enjoy spending time doing things together with Cart. Be it having dinner together, or simply just watching a movie together … but this would have to be the most peculiar date by far!

Sidenote : If there is anyone interested in playing ingress, just let me know, and I’ll send you an invite 🙂

Adventures in getting a permit of stay in Italy

Before you know it, 5 years has already passed since I migrated in Rome. It doesn’t feel that long ago though.

Comparing myself from 5 years ago, a lot has changed and I guess that I’m settling down well – although there are a lot of things that I planned but didn’t materialise. On the other hand, there are a lot of things that  wasn’t in my original life goal but I managed to reach anyway.

One thing about living in Rome is that you’d need a ‘Permesso di Soggiorno’. This is a permit of stay which lasts for 5 years after which you will be eligible for the ‘Carta Di Soggiorno’ which lasts indefinitely. So Cart and I went to the ‘Questura’ or the Police Headquarters to get my new Carta late last year. Unfortunately, due to their misunderstanding with my passport, I had to go to the Singapore consulate to have them declare that my first name and last name is so and so.

Apparently, in the Italian system, they have a code where their passport will be printed as Lastname<Firstname. Mine was printed in inverse as Firstname<Lastname.

At first I thought that it was a universal code and I was indignant that my passport was printed wrongly. But it was only later that every country prints them differently. Especially with a lot of different people having different naming systems.

Armed with all the documents needed ready at hand – the bollo, the ID pictures, the lo stato di famiglia (which we had to do in the municipio in another location), we went back to the Questura…

where we found out that because of the mess with the passport, I’d have to get another 5 year Permesso di Soggiorno anyway and only get my permanent card in 2020!

It’s not a big deal, because it’ll not affect me in my Italian residency, it’s just that it’s such a hassle going to the questura which is a distance from where we live, and it’s a depressing place – crowded, full of crying, screaming children and many times there’s tension in the air with people arguing with the clerks behind the counter.

I don’t know if I could mentally handle it by myself if Cart wasn’t with me. I felt kind of bad for the people who had to go through all these, and I think that there should be an easier and clearer way for all these bureaucracy.

And after waiting for hours, I had my hand and finger prints and was done and have to come back again in a week’s time to collect my new Permesso.

I kept telling Cart that I think it’ll be much easier for him if he married an Italian lady and thanked him for taking the days off to accompany me, saying that he’s been really kind.

Cart : No, I’m actually being selfish

Me : Selfish? Why?

Cart : I want you to stay here, so I’m doing all what I can to keep you here

Aww! Cart may not be a poet, but that was sort of romantic.

Visiting beautiful Villa D’este

Just for the fun of it, I went to Tivoli recently. Villa D'este, Tivoli

Tivoli is a charming town about 30 km from Rome. Cart couldn’t accompany me so I had to go by myself. At first, I was freaking out as I don’t think I’ve ever been out of Rome without him. Villa D'este, Tivoli

But all my fears was for naught as it was actually ridiculously easy to reach there by public transportation. All you had to do was to take the metro B all the way to Ponte Mammolo. From there, look for the counter that sells COTRAL tickets and get 2 – one to go, and the other to go back. And then head to the bus station, look for the number 2 berth and then sit and enjoy the scenery. Villa D'este, Tivoli

For an even more detailed article on going there, read this link written by Ron in Rome.

I think it’s much more relaxing going by public transportation rather than going by car (or even Sam the scooter!) You don’t have to wait long for a bus and the travel time is less than an hour. You also don’t have to deal with the toll and the traffic, plus you get to enjoy this view : Villa D'este, Tivoli

For 2.20 euro, it’s so worth it. I can’t believe that I didn’t do this sooner! Villa D'este, Tivoli

One of the beauties of Tivoli would have to be Villa D’este. Villa D'este, Tivoli

Like Villa Adriana, the gorgeous Villa D’este is listed as a UNESCO heritage site and the villa is full of majestic renaissance architecture. Villa D'este, Tivoli

When you enter the villa, you will pass through many rooms with gorgeous frescoes. The frescoes were interesting to me as the colours were vivid, as if I was looking through a HD TV. Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

But when you go down the spiral staircase, is when you find yourself transported in another world. Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

I gasped when I stepped out, seeing the beautiful garden. It was as if I was transported in a fairyland.

In the autumn, the garden looked quite magical with the rich colour of the trees, accented with the deep moss. But I think that it would be better to visit here during Spring or Summer with the fountains spouting. During colder periods, the fountains are dried out. Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

Nevertheless, it was breathtaking being here – I channelled my inner Lara Croft,  as if I was in a scene from Tomb Raider, the game. The only thing I felt was missing was the running sound effects 😀 Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

From the top where you start, you’ll see the intricate builds of of the period architecture, with the town of Tivoli in the background. Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

And as you walk down, you’ll be immersed in the tranquillity of the garden. Apart from Tomb Raider, there is something about the place which reminded me of Secondlife as I explored inside. Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

One of the memorable display for me was a wall full of smaller fountains which when you looked closer has different figures each – aptly, it’s called the “Cento Fontane” or 100 fountains : Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

Apart from the fountains, there were interesting statues and builds to be discovered at each nook and cranny. All the pictures are taken with my Nexus 5 by the way, I find myself using my PNS lesser and lesser nowadays. Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli Villa D'este, Tivoli

There was even a friendly little kitten that came up to me, and got so comfortable that it took a snooze. So adorable! All in all, I had a relaxing morning in Villa D’este. I don’t mind going back here again! Villa D'este, Tivoli

At this point of writing, Villa D’este is open at 8.30 am every day except Mondays, January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. Tickets cost 8 euro but entry is free on the first Sunday of each month.