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Rome, Italy day three

Wow.. now what?

sunny 28 °C

Tracy and I headed over to the termini to check out tour options. After finally finding an info site we discovered they don't have brochures out and ready for travelers. But we did talk to Guido who works with green line hop on and off buses, so we can stop by there tomorrow and get a deal.
We got a taxi and the five of us squeezed into a cab for four. Pretty funny. I have pictures. We arrived at the Vatican and it was not that busy. We had reserved tickets that probably saved us five minutes, but we were in in no time. We split up for the first hour exploring the area around the Cortile Della Pigna Courtyard. There are Egyptian displays including the mummy of a woman who died three millennium ago. Her hair was red with henna and on the lid of her coffin lid was the stuff she packed on her journey to the afterlife.
We moved onto animals as Egyptians worshiped them as incarnations of the gods, and brown tablets with Sumerian writing. The next rooms displayed more Roman statuary, frescoes and artifacts. Everyone was crowded around the Belvedere torso, which is all that remains of an ancient statue of Hercules. Then the round room, which shows some idea of Roman grandeur, the floor tiled with what, was once the bottom of a roman bath.
The long walk to the Sistine chapel begins. A quarter mile of tapestries maps and sculpture. Tracy pointed out the tapestries were made in Belgium. The Raphael rooms were amazing. His students finished the frescoes started by 25-year-old Raphael who was quite handsome and sophisticated. We have been in and out of rooms, down halls, up stairs and down stairs and again we are lead downstairs. You begin to wonder if you will ever get there when you see a sign reminding us of proper attire for the chapel and we are in. We found seats along the sides and just sat and took in the sites. People were stopped at the door and asked to cover up, people were taking pictures and warned to stop, many were loud and ever few minutes they were shushed and the noise level lowers for a moment and then builds. No words here...just look it up.
The long walk back takes you by everything Pope related. Stoles, hats, rings, bibles and all. We make our way down to the washrooms and order drinks while Roger and Tracy nip up to get some very mediocre pizza and we enjoyed our break. Again we walk down and return the two audio guides and make our way outside.
A 15-minute walk to the left brings us to St. Peter's Basilica. We find a spot for Joyce and Doris to sit and watch the world go by. The vote is taken and we go in. The line up is short and we pass security. Again I have no words to describe what I see. The mix of emotions, of the wealth in the Basilica and the poverty in Rome, the beauty, The Pieta, done by Michelangelo at age 24 was remarkable. It was too late to see the tombs, but there is always another time, we did throw coins in the Trevi fountain after all. There was a service going on and the temptation to stay was strong, but we chose to move along and this time we found a taxi van and our return trip was much better. Certainly not as entertaining. Dinner was Egg and chips for Joyce and salad. Simple, but really we're not too hungry. The Gin and Tonic and wine are much more appreciated. It is already after nine so we head out to find Internet. You have to register at McDonalds and have a phone number where they can text you the password. We find another place and buy a beer and get hooked up, but for whatever reason it kept kicking us out of gmail, which is where I need to be to get travel details confirmed for flights on Friday.
We also tried to plan something for the seniors. While a riverboat ride seemed a possibility the reviews on Trip Advisor all panned it. Lousy food, the river is below city level so no views and so on.

Posted by Mari Anne 13:24 Archived in Italy Tagged peter basilica rome vatican saint piazza Comments (0)

Rome, Italy day two

So another full day.

sunny 30 °C

Had a great sleep. Slept with the windows open, which allows fresh air, but it is noisy. I guess Rome never sleeps. Breakfast was cheese, crackers, muesli, tea, coffee and yogurt.
It took some time to get everyone organized and out the door. After a moment of directional confusion we figured out how to get where we were planning to go. Our first stop was interrupted by Joyce's need for American coffee from McDonalds. Their wifi was not working, but Roger, Joyce and Doris had their sit down and Tracy and I went off to explore the Baths of Diocleziano (Emperor Diocletian). Very cool! Around 300 AD these were the largest baths in Rome with a complex of pools, gyms, and schmoozing places that could accommodate 3,000 bathers at a time. The baths are now a church called Santa Maria Diegli. The current nave of the church was the Tepidarium of the baths (a cooler room which people entered after going through the hot room (Caldarium). The church's central area is football field sized. Behind the altar is where a 32,000 square foot swimming pool used to be. The church we saw today was partly designed by Michelangelo (in 1561). The other neat thing in the church is a meridian line, a line on the floor in a north south orientation. There is a small hole 65 feet up on the wall. When the sunlight sweeps across the meridian at noon it shines through the hole and will indicate the date on the meridian line (the line is marked with dates of the year in Latin).
We then backtracked to the National Museum of Rome at the Palazzo Massimo. It is a floor of busts of famous Romans and random busts and statues that show hair and dress styles. The next floor is filled with Frescoes and Mosaics that are absolutely amazing. They have been rescued from ruins and are displayed in a climate-controlled environment.
We may head back for another day, as there is so much to see. We stopped ay a cafe where we managed to order some food from a totally non English-speaking server. We had a Salad and shared some vegetarian calzones. Roger and Tracy had the coffee and declare it very good. Tracy had a brownie of sorts that melted in your mouth. Some of used the WC that was located through a narrow space and down some stairs. It had the usual squat toilet and while there is a cubicle for women the wash-up area is shared with men.
A stop at the grocery store netted us some fresh pasta, sauce, gin, ice cream, melon, banana, and other tasty tidbits.
After a game of Settlers of Catan we went out for our night walk. I went over the plans with Tracy and she mapped out the route and was our guide of sorts. We made our way from the Termini area through some quieter residential streets and found our way. We passed Nero's Golden House and arrived at the Coliseum. 50,000 Romans could pack this stadium and cheer as their favourite gladiators faced off in bloody battle. The Coliseum on the right some open ruins on the right and more touristas. We passed the memorial to Vittoria Emanuele II, Arches, and just amazing sights. Our goal was the Campo de' Fiora. We managed to miss it and arrived at the River
Tiber and crossed the river. Along the shore walk is a strip market with food, goods and classy sit down restaurants. There is supposed to be a nice bike path, but there is so much down there the path is basically made impossible. We picked up some fresh licorice and dried figs. We crossed back over on the next bridge through the Jewish Getto to the Campo De' Fiori. During WWII 2000 Jews were take to concentration camps and only 50 returned. At Campo De' Fiora the piazza is watched over Giorano Bruno an Intellectual heretic who was burned on the site in 1600. The Vatican protested when the statue was erected, but the angry locals over ruled them. Be hind the statue apartments are built right into the walls of the Theatre of Pompey where Julius Caesar was assassinated. We made our way to Piazza Navona. It is huge and is the remnants of a huge oval racetrack. Its central point is the Four Rivers Fountain. The four river gods are Ganges, who is holding an oar, Danube who is turned to admire the central obelisk, Nile, who has his head covered, and Rio de la Plata, which is in Uruguay and is looking quite shocked up towards the church.
We find our way to the Pantheon where we feel the first drops of rain we have felt since leaving Paris. The area is full of protesters. The signs suggest it is a protest against the Mafia. With the few drops of rain the men selling toys and stuff all appear with umbrellas. We must have been asked at least 25 times if we wanted an umbrella. It showered for a while with a few rumbles of thunder and lightning off in the distance, but we're from Vancouver so what is a bit of rain.
Across the way we find Tazza d'Oro del Caffe, locals come here for coffee slush with cream. Further on we pass through the Piazza Caprancia where big shots built palaces with towers just for show. Then came a 6th century Egyptian Obelisk taken as a trophy by Augustus after his victory against Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in Egypt. This sits in front of the parliament buildings where we saw guards all over the place. No obvious politicians or Mafia.
We cross over the noisy north/south stroll and found the Trevi Fountain. Masses of people here, but we threw our obligatory coins with our right hand over our left shoulder into the fountain. Oceanus rides across the waves in his chariot pulled by horses and horn blowing tritons. Are the coins in the fountains used to feed the city's poor? Good question.
The Spanish steps are about ten minutes away and this brings us to the end of our tour. The steps are named Spanish due to the Spanish embassy to the Vatican that located here. At the base of the stairs is a fountain with a half submerged boat recalling the urban legend of a boat that was left here after the flood of 1598. Beer cans litter the streets and we see the last of the umbrella and doodad sellers and make our way home. A twenty or thirty minute walk straight up one street to our neighbourhood and in the door by 11:15

Posted by Mari Anne 13:23 Archived in Italy Tagged night fountain walk spanish steps rome colosseum forum trevi Comments (0)

Rome and off the ship

So they are making us get off today. How rude!

sunny 30 °C

The off loading of the ship was easy and our driver was waiting for us. Alex and Roger chatted in the front seat and the drive into Rome was quick and painless. Alex pointed out some of the sites and we arrived at the location to pick up our keys before we headed to our apartment. We didn’t get access until three so we dropped off our bags, washed up and wandered out. We ended up at a restaurant and enjoyed our first meal in Rome. The Risotto was excellent. We just have to remember to split meals as they are very large and the look at you funny if you ask to pack up your meal.
There was a group at the next table that seemed to know what they were doing so we chatted with them. They were from Texas and just finished a mission at an orphanage in Croatia. They had mixed feelings about that, but had lots of tips about their time spent in Rome.
We headed to a park where we enjoyed the atmosphere and some water and ice cream. We arrived a bit early to the apartment and it was not quite ready, but we slipped in and Doris, Roger and Joyce were asleep in minutes. Once the cleaner left I passed out to.
Joyce is hungry and wants her wine so Roger, Tracy and I wandered out. We found a Vietnamese and a Chinese market and a small corner store before we backtracked from a woman carrying a big bag of groceries. We found it. I immediately stuck a Euro in a shopping cart before trying to find just a basket on wheels. We had a great time picking out cheese, crackers, butter, wine, dessert, milk, cereal and such guessing at ingredients. I must go back with a camera to take a photo of the horsemeat baby food and the bottle of McDonalds Ketchup. Filling lunch for five was 51 Euros. Groceries for five for several meals were 39 Euros and that includes two large bottles wine.
Rome is hot and somewhat muggy but much cleaner than Naples. We continue to get major warnings about pickpockets. We had a fellow come in the restaurant to ask for Roger's pizza. The waiter headed him off and asked him to leave. The apartment is great; it has a little lift that holds maybe three normal people. You must remember to close both elevator doors otherwise it will not move. Joyce and Doris have a bedroom with twin beds, we have a room with a large bed and Tracy's bed is in the common room. The kitchen has a clothes washer, gas stove and basically what we need. There are fans in each room that are not in the best of shape, but they do work.

Posted by Mari Anne 13:22 Archived in Italy Tagged people city apartment rome explore 5 Comments (0)

Naples, Italy

Pompeii and Herculaneum

An early start had us off the ship and looking for the Stazaione. It took somewhat longer than we had planned. We were following the GPS but then switched over to signs when we saw a directional sign. Only they disappeared. We asked several people and found our way. We bought tickets at 4.50 Euros for a train to Pompeii and back. The train was packed with locals, many heading out to the beach. Lucia called to say her train was late, but we ended up in Pompeii at about the same time.
She bypassed the ticket line and we walked up the old Roman road into the city. Having studied Pompeii in school I was a little more aware of its history, but nothing can prepare you for the actual thing. The ruts in the rock from the chariots, the sanitation system, the complete devastation of an entire city, to see a man and women trapped by the ash and rock in their final moments is a truly amazing and humbling thing. Lucia's knowledge was extensive and she led us through some of the more traveled sites and then off to see some areas that were off the beaten path.
It was hot and dusty, but the time flew. Yes the three hours were gone and there was still so much to see, but one can only absorb so much. We wandered back out to the entrance and said a quick goodbye as the train was coming. This was a newer train and flew back to Ercolana Scavi where Herculaneum is located. We headed down the hill and stopped at a pizzeria that Lucia suggested for a pizza baked in a forno. We ordered a Margarita pizza made with Buffalo Mozzarella and local tomatoes, a Caprese salad to share and it was great! The pizza was four Euros and was a full twelve-inch pizza. Great deal ... we could have shared two.
We walked the rest of the way down and were able to view Herculaneum from above. We decided we would not appreciate the site enough to pay the entrance fee. Too much of a good thing. The ruins are different. They of course were destroyed by a wall of superheated mud from Vesuvius and their excavation has been much more difficult as the mud solidified after it cooled.
It is our day for making connections as the train arrives very shortly after we entered the station. We are back on the older train with many returning beach goers.
The other place that needs viewing is the museum in Naples where the artifacts from Pompeii are housed. That is the artifact that exists. The many bronze statues were taken away to be melted down for weapons. Some things never changed.
Joyce and Doris planned a bus tour and were only half pleased. The first part of the trip was in Naples itself and it is a dirty, dirty town. The streets are littered with garbage and there are huge piles of trash all over. This seems to be an ongoing issue. The second part of the trip was much better and gave them chance to see something other than garbage.
Only one moment made me nervous today. With all warnings of pickpockets we are pretty aware of who is around us. This morning as we walked to the train an older man, was hanging around, as we passed he changed demeanor and fit himself in between Tracy and me. As I moved closer to Tracy he looked at me sideways and scowled. It was not a good feeling. Then he just drifted off to the side. So maybe nothing, but...it didn't feel right.
So we are packed, we have said good-bye to Paolo and Adrian and the activity staff and a few random people we have connected with over the cruise. We will catch a bit of the show and dance some before we meet Charlotte for a game of scrabble at 10:30.

Posted by Mari Anne 21:48 Archived in Italy Tagged ruins train guide tour naples herculaneum pompei garbage erkolano Comments (0)

At Sea

Time to spend some time in the pool and on the dance floor.

So what is a day at sea but a little extra sleep, read a bit, play trivia, do some line dancing and get ready for our formal night in the dining room.
We connected with Amy, her brother Allen and their mom Natalie at the morning trivia and gave them one of the free dinners for two to a specialty restaurant and then Jane at line dancing and offered her and Charlotte the other one. Charlotte and Jane had a great meal and were very happy to have the time to hang out as well.
The evening started with a great dinner and then to the theatre for the 'Cirque de Soleil' type show. We got good seats and knowing Sanci was suspended circling the mid area of the theatre he walked down the post right over Tracy's head and winked at her. The whole thing was very magical. I am sure the others did not blink during the show, but I nodded for a bit. We finished the night in the Sky Lounge for the New Years Eve party.

Posted by Mari Anne 21:47 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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