Thursday, May 29, 2014

Imperial Rome: more than just rubble!

Everyone knows about Rome!  We have all seen movies, read stories, studied it in History.  But seeing it in person is so much more!  So little, yet so much, is left.  When you walk thru the areas and see broken columns, partial shells of homes, open areas, you can visualize the city as it was!  Then you traipse through the museums in awe at the statuary and dioramas, and you visualize yourself with Charlton Heston.  Rome is more than an idea or a place to visit.  It is a part of our entire cultural tradition.  It is to be cherished!

 Rich at the Forum
 Temple of Jupiter
 Me at the Colluseum
 Typical street in ancient Rome
 Rubble in a beautiful setting!
 Passageway in the Colluseum
 The floor of the Colluseum
frieze of gladiators

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pompeii and Vesuvias

This post is a bit out of order- sorry about that.  We are now in Naples!  We left Rome on Monday, May 26.  So far, we are LOVING Naples!  But that is for a different post- when I get a few more pictures to explain why!  Yesterday, Tuesday May 27, we climbed Vesuvias!  Not the entire volcano, as we caught a tram up most of it:-)  But we did climb to the rim and walked about half the rim.  Sadly, it was very cloudy, so we didn't get any pictures of the ocean or city.  Event he pictures of the volcano are hard to see.  but that doesn't take away how awesome it was!  Then Pompeii!  All I can say is it is huge!  It was a city of 80,000 people, and they are only partially excavated the entire place.  Interestingly, some partial frescoes and mosaics survived, and outlines for homes and business, fountains, everything a city has, is still there- just in a state of ruin. It is totally interesting!!!  Today, Wednesday, we are going to the museum that holds all the treasures of Pompeii- hopefully it will be really great!

Rich at the entry to the Volcano trail
Selfie at the rim.  Sadly, the clouds cover most of the volcano

Rich on the trail.  It was incredibly lush with yellow and purple flowers.  At a lower elevation was a huge pine forest!  I always thought is was stark.

The interior of the cone.  You can barely see a fissure at the bottom.

The rim

The symbol for Pompeii

Temple to Apollo

Plaster cast of a victim.  In the 1800;s when excavation started they noticed these hollow areas, so they poured in plaster to see what it was.  It was the impression of the people and animals covered with ash.  As the bodies decomposed, they left an impression.  There are many of these in the site.  It is quite eery!

As in all of Europe, they have the most interesting statues!

The forum- an area for shops

A typical street.  Note the road- totally hard to walk on!  Uneven stone pavers.

Not sure what it was, but loved the flowers with the columns.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Green Door of Rome!

So the other night we were looking for the bus to an area to watch the sunset.  Of course, no one spoke English, and I already told you about our bad Italian, so Rich shows the map and asks if the bus goes to the statue.  Nice lady says "Si!" so we get on the bus.  As we are going, we are seeing the different streets we should be getting off at fly by.  So this nice guy says he thinks the lady misundestood us.  We said "the statue" but she thought Testaccio- an area of Rome.  So we are talking, and he said to forget the statue.  Get off the bus, walk up this hill, there will be a green door with a keyhole.  Look thru it and you will see the Vatican.  Then walk up a little further and there is a terrace with orange trees and roses, you can see the whole city.  OK?!  He seemed sane, so we followed his directions.  Amazing what happens in our lives by accident!

Rich at the Green Door.  There was actually a line for it!  We knew we were there (and we didn't fall for a joke!) when we saw the line

The Vatican thru the keyhole!!!!

The terrace, with the Vatican in the distance

Another sunset view

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rome!!!!! First impressions

Rome- What an awesome city!  Everything about Rome is huge!  Huge Piazza's (squares), huge monuments, huge ruins, huge churches, huge crowds.  Rome is essentially huge Piazza's with cool streets that lead you to the Piazza's.  Wandering the streets is amazing- at every turn, the buildings are interesting, the statuary is interesting, fountains everywhere.  Plus, we got to meet a wonderful Roman- Margherita.  We first met her in Florence, even though we didn't know it:-).  She was in a shop we were in, then when we got to Rome, turns out she lives in the area we are staying.  We ended up talking, and spending that afternoon together, and then dinner a few nights later.  We also had an "incident" on the subway (which is archaic and crowded, oddly enough for a world capital!).  These 3 odd looking people- I don't think they were Italian- one was trying to talk to me about how to get to the Vatican (why would they ask a tourist?), another had this small blanket he was twirling around (hiding his hands), and a third tried to pick a fight with Rich!  So weird.  I suspect they wanted to pick-pocket us, but two things: 1- we don't have anything to pick pocket, and 2- our shoulder bags are well sealed.  They ended up getting off at the next stop, but it was unnerving.  One Italian woman told Rich that he needed to watch out for the guy.  Creepy!  Otherwise, fantastic.  

This is the Spanish Steps- and as you can see- it is CROWDED!!!!  Lots of people here- both Italian and tourist.  It is something that must be dealt with every day as the crowds do not go down.  But- it is still totally worth it!

here is Rich in Piazza Popolo!  Great Piazza,just below the park.  And as you can see, he is modeling the latest in little cars:-)

The trees in Roma are amazing!  These trees are everywhere!  And they always look like they were just groomed.  Fantastic!

Here is a sunset photo from the park.  The sky here in Rome always looks a little grayish.  We have learned that around late afternoon, it clears up and they have great sunsets.

Me at the Trevi Fountain.  Toss in a coin, and you will return!

Rich at the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument.  This thing is gigantic!  They have terraces in the back to see the city, a cafe with real expensive drinks (no, we didn't), a free bathroom when you are in the area, and a museum on Italian immigration and war history.

Rich at Piazza Venizia.  The Colluseum is just around the corner, and the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument is under Rich's feet:-).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Vatican!

No trip to Rome is complete without touring the Vatican.  What we did not realise is the extent of the Vatican museums!  We arrived at 10:30 (be sure to get advanced tickets!), and didn't leave until after 5 PM!  Huge building filled to the brim with art, frescoes, Roman and Greek statuary, and of course, the Sistine Chapel!

Jesus Christ Superstar was also playing in Rome- starring.......Ted Neely as Jesus!  We saw him a few times before in this play- starting about 40 years ago:-).  I was joking that Jesus dies at 33, and Ted Neely is twice that age:-).  But- the production was fantastic!  A rock band was on stage, the dancers were excellent, the cast was all Italian.  They sang in English, and you could totally tell it was not their native language- it really added a new dimension.  Plus the production value using technology.  the star- Ted Neely- totally held up!  I have to say, his voice is outstanding, and he evoked more emotion now than he did before!

We also scored tickets to see the Pope!!  He gives an audience every Wednesday morning in St. Peters square.  What we didn't know, (but should have!), was that there are at least 20,000 tickets given out.  Talk about a sea of people!!!!!  Loved it!!!!  They used a projection screen because the square is so large- t was hard to photograph, but I did get one.  Enjoy:

 St. Peter's Square: obelisk by the Egyptians, colanade by Bernini
 St. Peter's Basilica
 Inside St. Peters- no photo does it justice- it is massive and beautiful!
 Pieta' by Michelangelo
 Ceiling in Sistine Chapel (this is out of order- sorry).  There is no photographing the Sistine Chapel, but Rich was able to sneak this one!
 St. Peter's from the Vatican Museum courtyard
 Me with my ticket to see the Pope!
 Me dipping my crucifix in the holy water
Pope Francis on the big screen 
Advertisement for Jesus Christ Superstar

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Florence- continued

So we have now left Florence for Rome.  Very sad, actually, as we loved Florence.  Not to live in, but to visit- Definitely!  So here are some of my thoughts on Italy so far:  I was actually quite apprehensive about coming to this country.  I was here in 1978 and again with Rich in 1984.  The Italians, both times, were chaotic!  They would drive on the side walk, honk their horns, scream at each other and at us, no one spoke English, and were completely unhelpful.  In general, the country was a pain in the ass.  Not so now!  Nice, polite, passionate yes, but really great!  And helpful as can be.  Really a great people!  Especially great were Antonella and Umberto at our hotel (Hotel Hermes)- truly great people!

The city of Florence really takes you by the heart.  It was slow in its grasp.  ou arrive and you know you are in a great city, you look at art, you drink great cappucino's and wine, you wander the streets always discovering something new and beautiful, and ALWAYS come across a great building.  At first, it is sight-seeing overload, then it seeps into  your soul, and you become part of it.  When visiting, don't just hit the sights; wander and let her become part of you; your life will be richer because of it!

One thing I observed was there are lots (I mean LOTS) of unidentifiable African men here hawking junk:-): sunglasses. mass produced bracelets and ear rings, weird little nick-nacks, and very nice purses and bags.  The Italians all say they are very nice, but they are odd.   They run when the police arrive, speak some language I have never heard (it is not Swahili, as I wear my t-shirt from Tanzania and they never comment on it), and usually congregate by themselves.  There are also lots of middle-eastern men doing the same- but they sell other weird stuff. It is like they have an agreement not to sell the same things.

Also odd is the Italian we learn  in the US is not the same as they speak here!  I cannot tell you how many times I spoke my best Italian: "Ey Tony- gimme a larga sausaga pizza"!.  They just stared at me!  Even when I cupped my fingers together and shook them from the wrist, they didn't understand!  I didn't get it!  So I had to just speak English with them.  Strange isn't it?!

Now that I have offended everyone of Italian heritage, here are some pictures.  But mind you- the entire city is a photograph!

 The bell tower for the Florence Cathedral (Duomo)- we climbed it: 414 steps
 Ponte Vecchio bridge
 Duomo from the hill top
 Death of Medusa- sculpture- bronze- in the square of the Palacio Vecchio
 Selfie in the Palacio Vecchio square
 Duomo square from the top of the Bell Tower
 Selfie from top of the bell tower
 The red roofs of Florence from top of the Duomo- we climbed it too:-)
 Selfie from top of the Dome
 The Cathedral is beautiful outside but dark and  boring on the inside, except for this great stained glass window
 In the Uffizi Gallerie museum there is no photography, but I grew a pair and took a photo of Boticelli's Venus Rising- just beautiful!!!!!
 Statuary in the square of the Palacio Vecchio
 Nighttime shot of the Duomo
Nighttime shot of Ponte Vecchio- check out the reflection in the river!