A Travellerspoint blog

Rome Italy

Views into an Ancient Time

sunny 51 °F

Bongiorno from Rome,

We arrived in Rome by train after about a 2 ½ hour ride which was delightfully uneventful. We had chosen a hotel that was within walking distance from many of the sites we wanted to see in the old city. When the taxi dropped us off at the address we had the only evidence of the hotel was a small brass plate with a buzzer and camera mounted to the face of the building. We soon learned that the hotel was on the 3rd floor of the building and once we found the elevator it was a breeze to get checked in our room. We have been so lucky with the weather on this trip and our luck would hold out through our stay in Rome with nice sunny but cool days and moderately cold evenings. We arrived mid afternoon so we just got acclimated to the room and got caught up on our email as we did not have much internet access in Assisi.

The next morning we began to discover the city starting in the ancient city area with the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II which honors the first king of the newly unified Italy in the early 1900’s. We continued our tour visiting the Trevi Fountain, the forum which was the heart of the ancient city of Rome, the coliseum, the Vatican and the Pantheon.

So let’s get to the pictures…………………..

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Above is a picture of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II which seems to be the monument the locals love to hate. From this outsider’s perspective it does a great job of presenting a grand example of Romanesque architecture. Being completed in 1935 some locals say it is far too new to be of that architecture and thus a fraud. I thought it was cool.

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Here is a statue of king Vittorio Emanuele II on his trusty steed.

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The monument also houses the tomb of the unknown soldier with an eternal flame and the Alter of the Country which is guarded 24/7. Above is a picture during the guard changing ceremony.

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This is the famous Trevi fountain which was built between 1732 and 1762 lies at the intersection of three ancient roads thus the name (tre Vie) meaning three roads. It was the terminal end of the aqueduct that would serve Rome for more than 400 years.

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This column is known as Trajan’s Column and was completed in 113 AD. It was built to commemorate emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian wars of the early 100’s AD. It has a spiral sculpture that wraps around the column 23 times and tell the story of the battle and subsequent victory.

The next seven pictures are of the old Roman Forum. This was the main town center of ancient Rome and some of the most early remains here date from the 8th century BC. This was the main center of government and market for the citizens of Rome until the fall of Western half of the empire in about 500 AD. So much history occurred here you can almost imagine being back in those times as you walk down the street here.
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Next we visited the very famous Roman Colosseum which was originally the Flavian Amphitheatre. It was built between 72 AD and 80 AD. It is the largest of the many amphitheatres built by the Romans throughout their empire and could seat more than 50,000 people. Originally it was flooded with water and reenactments of famous naval victories were held for the people’s amusement. Of course later after a wooden sub floor was added it was used for games with battles between man and animals as well as gladiators. The History Channel estimated that more than 1.1 million people lost their lives in this coliseum. That number seems amazing to me once you realize that is about 5.5 people per day for 500 years.

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This picture shows you one of the many hallways that surround the coliseum. The holes in the walls were caused by people stealing the embedded Iron fasteners used to hold the stones together when the building was no longer being used.

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Ancient graffiti but instead of spray paint they used a chisel and hammer. This was the name of one of the most popular gladiators “Vindicomvs”

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One of the mosaics found representing a hunter’s battle with a large cat of some type. Animals were brought in from all over the world and hunters with spears or swords would fight them to the death.

The next two pictures show the current state of the building. You can see in the center the complex system of walls and structures built to route both animals and gladiators in and out of the arena through a system of lifts and ramps. This underground area was supplied by a few underground passageways one of which was dedicated for the emperor to get to and from his box without risk of being exposed to the public.
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Next we took the metro and then climbed to the North of the coliseum to visit the church of San Pietro where Michelangelo’s Moses resides. It was commissioned as the burial tomb of Pope Julius II in 1505 and remains today as one of his best works. The next two pictures show how beautiful it really is.
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The first thing the following day we walked across town to join a morning tour of the Vatican museum, The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral. It is a bit weird to think you are going into another country within Rome. It was really nice to once again have a tour guide explain some of the history of the artist and culture in the times these works of art were created and provide some popular interpretations about the message in the art.

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The front of St. Peters Cathedral from the square.

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The garden where the late pope John Paul II would often stroll while talking to visiting heads of state and friends. I’ll bet there were some interesting conversations held here.

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The Vatican has amassed and amazing amount of art over the years. I suspect every piece of art has a story but however they were obtained the size of the collection really surprised me. Here is just one corridor of small sculptures.

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The two pictures above show some early thoughts about recycling. The fountain you see above used to be a statue of a man, an engraved tomb (only gently used) and a water pot. Someone decided to reuse them together as a fountain. The second picture shows an example of recycling the beautifully engraved sides of previously used tombs to decorate building facades.

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Susan was convinced this was a long lost ancestor of mine. I don’t see it. I don’t want to. You can’t make me.

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Ahhh this guy has earned special distinction and is well known among past generations at the Vatican for contributions to the museum. This is Pope Leo XIII who is called the “penis catcher” because of his campaign to find and cover every example of exposed male genitalia on every painting by over painting it and on every sculpture by placing a fig leaf over “it” . OK I’m sure he did other good stuff…I mean he was a pope!

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Some examples of really nice tapestries they had on display.

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The very highly decorated ceiling of the map room. The images on the ceiling correspond to the geographical locations of the maps on the side walls below.

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The Sistine chapel……an amazing collection of works.

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Probably the most famous section of the chapel ceiling “The Creation of Adam” my Michelangelo. A widely held belief about this painting is that the cape of god is spread to be the shape of a skull or brain suggesting among other ideas this may have been Michelangelo’s suggestion that God was only in Adam’s mind. It was certainly true that Michelangelo wasn’t as convinced about religion as most of the people he worked for.

The next three pictures were taken inside St. Peter’s Cathedral. It is the largest Christian church in the world.
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This is the famous Pieta sculpted by Michelangelo between 1498 & 1499. When the French Cardinal who had commissioned the work asked how Mary could still look this young with a 33 year old son…..Michelangelo replied “If you believe she was a virgin you should have no trouble believing she doesn’t age”

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It was amazing to realize that there are no paintings in St. Peter’s cathedral. Every picture in the church including the one in this picture are all mosaic’s. Among the best Mosaic examples in the world.

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One of the Swiss guard showing in a visitor.

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The two pictures above are of the Castel Sant’Angelo which was constructed as a mausoleum to the Roman Emperor Hadrian about 135 AD. It has been many things over the years including a fort for St Peters Basilica but today it is a museum.

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Here is Susan at the Castle bridge across the Tiber River.

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The two pictures above were taken as we were trying to navigate our way on foot to the Pantheon from across town. It is the sacred area of Largo Argentina and was only recently discovered in 1926. It houses four separate temples of worship the oldest from around 100 BC.

Next to our final tour stop in Rome…the Pantheon. It might be the best preserved of the ancient Roman buildings remaining. Originally built in 31 BC the building we can see today was largely built in about 126 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The next three pictures show some of the face of the building with its beautifully intact columns and some pictures of the interior.
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I thought this was a funny picture as the late afternoon sunlight shining through that round opening in the center of the domed ceiling make all almost perfect image of the alien in the old Space Invaders video game.

Well..that does it for Rome. We enjoyed some great Italian food and wines while we were here and would be happy to share recommendations via email about Rome or anyplace we have been. Next we travel further South to Napoli and Sorrento to taste Olive Oil and Limoncello from where they were born.

Until next time….Ciao

Posted by Trainwater 09:58 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Assisi Italy

A charming Umbrian town with a long history

all seasons in one day 48 °F

Hello from Assisi Italy,

We left the train station in Florence for the 135 km trip Southeast to Assisi. We arrived in the station which is located on the valley floor and took a taxi up to the old walled city that rests on top of a nearby mountain. We typically have a hotel reservation waiting for us upon arrival in a new city but this time we wanted to stay at a particular hotel that had been recommended to us by friends but with whom we had not been able to make contact. Upon arrival we understood why….it was closed until May. Traveling during the off season definitely has some advantages but also some disadvantages. While we have enjoyed access to many of the most popular sites with only minimal waits and crowds we have also encountered many more closures and construction than you would typically encounter in the high season. After speaking to the driver he recommended another hotel with very nice owners. Unfortunately, they did not have any rooms left with a view. When I seemed disappointed he thought a moment and decided to rent us a room in a hilltop property they also owned but typically did not use during the winter months. We had a beautiful view of the city roof tops and the valley below from a hotel that must have had about 12 rooms and we were the only ones in the building. Susan loved the experience until I mentioned the movie “The Shining” …guess I will never learn.

Upon arrival we were enchanted with the charm of the city. The history of the city goes back a long way. It was believed to have been founded during a wave of immigration to Europe in about 1000 BC. In about 450 BC the Etruscans took over the city and then it was captured by the Romans in about 295 BC. Some of the Roman construction from this time period is still standing today. The city is maybe best known as the home of St. Francis who founded the Franciscan Religious Order here in Assisi in 1208.

Let’s get to the pictures…………..

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Here is a picture of the old walled city of Assisi.

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A picture looking out of our hotel window at the rooftops of the city and a couple of the cathedrals nearby.

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Given our good fortune at securing a room with such a nice view in such a private building I thought we should celebrate with one of those bottles of Super Tuscan we purchased back at the Saint Appiano winery. Nothing but the finest plastic stemware for us.

The next three pictures were taken of the city streets as we discovered charming Assisi.
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This is a picture of the fountain in the main piazza courtyard in the city

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One of the old water fountains in the city. I saw pictures in the city of oxen drinking from this fountain in the mid 1800’s.

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One of the archways leading to another small street that was beautifully decorated.

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The Basilica of Santa Chiara (aka Saint Clare). Built in the late 13th century it has a pretty basic gothic style interior.

The next two pictures were taken just outside St Clare’s cathedral in the courtyard.
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The building with the columns in front is one of the remaining Roman structures in the city. It was built as a temple of Minerva but when Christianity was adopted here in 238 AD by bishop Rufino it became the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

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A picture from inside the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Very small but beautiful.

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A picture of one of the original gateways on the old wall of the city.

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An old fresco in one of the open archways in the city.

The next two pictures were taken at the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi which has now been designated a World Heritage site. The church was built between 1228 and 1253 immediately after the canonization of St. Francis. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed of the beautiful frescos depicting the life story of St Francis inside.
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Here is Susan with one of the Franciscan monks asking for donations on the street. I wanted to know…If he took a vow of poverty what did he want my money for? Hmmm

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Susan dishing out some head scratching to what may be the fattest cat I have ever seen.

The next seven pictures were taken while discovering the cities back streets and alleyways. It may be the most charming city we have seen.
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Just above the town at the peak of the mountain lies the Rocca Maggiore which is a mid evil castle built under the direction of Cardinal Albornoz in 1367 some say to intimidate the towns people with the power of the church. The next four pictures were taken on our afternoon visit to the castle.
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My funny (maybe odd would be more accurate) street scene for this entry is this wire fence along side the road leading from the Rocca Maggiore to the city below. Those decorations on the wire fence are actually pieces of used chewing gum that people have deposited over time.
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One final shot at sunset as we reflect on a wonderful stay in the charming Umbrian town of Assisi.
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Next we depart by train to Rome where we plan to take in the major sites and enjoy some more amazing Italian food and wine.

Until next time…Ciao.

Posted by Trainwater 03.03.2011 07:22 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Tuscany Italy

Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, Siena & The Chianti Wine Region

all seasons in one day

Bongiorno from Tuscany,

We departed Rapallo by car and drove South to Pisa where we stopped to view the leaning tower and the cathedral. We did not spend too much time looking at the leaning bell tower before realizing we were hungry in Italy which just seemed so wrong so we stopped for pasta and vino. After lunch it was time to drive on toward Florence. On the way we stopped in the small town of Montecatini Terme to visit an Olympic gun club that we had been invited to by the owner of a restaurant back in Villefranche. His son represents France in Olympic trap shooting. The gun club was very nice and we enjoyed visiting and meeting his son and his shooting coach. Then it was back on the road to Florence where we returned the rental car and were once again pedestrians. One of the amazing things to me on this last section of the drive through Northern Italy was how many tunnels there are. I wish we had counted how many we drove through but I would guess it was more than 100 between Genova and Florence. There has been a great deal of labor spent boring holes in Mountains in Northern Italy.

The next day after arriving in Florence the previous evening we hired a guide to show us around Florence in a day. We found her contact information in the Rick Steve’s book and she was great! We visited the Duomo, the Palazzo Medici, the Palazzo Vecchio, San Lorenzo and the Uffizi Museum. Unfortunately, the Uffizi does not allow photos of any kind so I can’t show you any of the amazing works of art we saw there but I would highly recommend it if you get a chance while in Florence. It was great to have someone explain the highlights along with some history and background for the places and objects we were seeing. The next day we booked a bus tour from Florence to San Gimignano, Siena and a rural Tuscan Winery named Saint Appiano for some wine tasting. It was a busy two days of hard core touring but we were up to the task. Fortunately for us the wine tasking was the last task on the list.

This entry has MANY more pictures than normal so let’s get to them……………

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Here we are at the leaning tower of Pisa. None of those cheesy pictures of us trying to hold up the tower. You wouldn’t believe it anyway…would you?

These next two pictures are of the Gothic Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo Cathedral near our hotel in Florence. It is an amazing building of mixed marble which was started in 1296.
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This is the Baptistery of Saint John which is adjacent to the Cathedral. In 13th through 17th centuries they would hold baptisms here for babies once per year so they could make a census of how many people were living in the city.

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These are the amazingly detailed doors of the Baptistery. They are bronze relief panels telling the story of the bible in amazing detail.

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A picture of down the center section of the Gothic Cathedral. It was supposedly left purposefully void of decoration to represent the austerity of religious life

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In the rear of the church was a very unique 24 hour clock with only one hand. The zero hour represented sunset and the position of the hand told how many hours until the next sunset. This way of telling time was used through the 17th century.

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The dome took more than 11 years to paint and was begun in 1568. The painting represents the ascension to heaven and fall to hell with heaven represented in the upper most sections and hell on the lower ring of the dome.

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As you might imagine the Medici’s had their portraits added to the mural in a respectable high position of the dome seen in the picture above with crowns on their heads.

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A picture of the Duomo and bell tower at nightfall taken from atop the Ufizzi museum across town.

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There is a huge market area in the old town section of Florence where you can buy just about anything. This was one vendor selling spices where we bought some Saffron threads.

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A cheese vendor shows his offerings.

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Wild Boar meat is very popular here. This is a try of the meat with a small stuffed boar peering into the container. He must have been nervous.

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One of the many meat and deli vendors with an amazing selection of just about any section of any animal you can imagine.

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This is a picture of the unfinished facade of San Lorenzo Church. It was started in 1419 as the main chapel of the Medici family and today houses the burial place for the main family leaders of the Medici family. The façade was never completed as the plans kept changing and money for its completion kept being redirected.

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This is the Piazza Vecchio which serves as the town hall of Florence. Its construction was begun in 1299 and has virtually been under construction or renovation since depending on its current occupants or purpose. In addition to housing the city government offices it also contains an impressive museum.

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This was a memorial to Girolamo Savonarola a Dominican friar who lead an uprising that banished the Medici family from Florence in 1494 preaching a less worldly existence and higher level of morality. When the Medici’s returned four years later in 1498 this was where they had him burned at the stake in the Piazza della Signoria. Nice folks!

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This is again the Piazza della Signoria where the original Michelangelo’s David stood for almost 370 years until being relocated to the Academia Gallery in 1873. The statue there today is a replica which is now the only one you can photograph as no pictures are allowed in the Academia.

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Here is Benvenuto Cellini’s statue of Perseus with Head of Medusa also at the Piazza della Signoria dating from 1554.

The next eight pictures are from the museum inside the Piazza Vecchio. Very beautifully decorated building showing the early rise of the Medici family.
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This is a picture of the Ponte Vecchio built across the Arno River and is one of the oldest bridges in Europe. It was first built by the Romans and is mentioned in a document from 996 AD. It used to house the towns butchers but the waste meats were thrown into the river causing many health problems. Today the vendors on the bridge are just about exclusively jewelers.

The next seven pictures were taken at San Gimignano which was the first stop on our day long excursion trip out of Florence. San Gimignano was founded by the Etruscans in the 3rd century BC and remains a very well preserved mid Evil walled city. It is famous for its towers which were both a means of defense for the families that built them as well as a status symbol. The higher your tower the more important you were considered to be. Funny how little we have progressed isn’t it?
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As we were traveling from San Gimignano to Siena we went through another very small mid evil village named Colle di val d'Elsa. As we approached the town I noticed a Deviation (aka Detour) sign for Siena outside of town but the bus driver went straight ahead into town. The street kept getting more and more narrow but I figured “hey he has done this about a million times before right?” When we came to this V in the road there were these town’s people out there waving their arms. We stopped the bus to learn that there was construction ahead and the bus would not fit. This caused a huge problem because we can’t go forward and we can’t turn around and we are blocking all traffic through the town. As you might imagine in Italy there were a number of emotional discussions with arms and hands flying at the speed of sound. Below are some pictures of the, now humorous, event.

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The town’s people that originally stood up to stop the bus and who called the highway construction workers to the scene.

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The highway construction workers and the bus driver who are trying to talk over a melody of honking horns behind the bus.

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Another elderly man looks on just shaking his head.

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When your tour guide looks like this……The tour is NOT going as planned!

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Town’s people look out their window at the spectacle as the police clear the road and we must back the bus through these narrow streets until it can turn around…. All together about an hour long ordeal.

We finally arrive in Sienna have a fast lunch to make us some time and begin to explore the city with a local guide. Siena is one of the most charming cities we have seen. This city was also founded by the Etruscans between 900 – 400 BC. They were famous for their knowledge of irrigation and the ability that gave them to farm lands previously unusable. The history of the city is turbulent with many conquerors and different rulers. Most of the oldest building seen today date from the 14th and 15th centuries. The next five pictures were taken on our walk from the outside of town to the cathedral.
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In the 10th through 13th centuries there was a lot of war and conflict between Siena and Florence. Siena wanted to build a cathedral that would be better than the Duomo in Florence and thus began construction on this church in the 12th century and the main façade was completed in 1380. It is apparent that the desire was not to erect a building void of decoration like the cathedral in Florence but rather to decorate every area of the building possible. From the front façade of the building to the floors, walls and columns inside there are statues, mosaics, paintings and stained glass everywhere you look. It is a visual collage of art like I have never seen anywhere in one building before. A very young Michelangelo was brought into to provide the four sculptures in the lower niches of one side alter (see below) between 1501 and 1504. These next 10 pictures cannot accurately show you the detail of this church but I hope you can get some sense of how amazing it is.
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A picture of the main town square where each year a bareback horse race is held with representatives of each of the town’s neighborhoods.

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A very nice women who we met while buying some Siena ceramic’s. She spoke some English but not much and we spoke some Italian but not much. It was a great experience.

Next we traveled (without incident) to the rural Tuscan winery of Saint Appiano where we enjoyed a variety of Tuscan wines while watching the Italian sunset.

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A picture of some of the vines against the rolling Chianti hillsides.

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A picture of the wineries cellar where they store their wines in French oak barrels for varying amounts of time depending on the quality desired.

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Tom & Susan in their element as we stand infront of two casks of Chianti in the cellar.

Whew! That was a long blog entry. Thanks for haning in there to the end. Next we will depart Tuscany by train for the Umbria region where our first stop will be the small town of Assisi. This old walled city's history goes back to 1000 BC so it should be amazing.

Until next time…Ciao

Posted by Trainwater 25.02.2011 10:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rapallo & Cinque Terra Italy

The beautiful sea side towns of Northern Italy

rain 49 °F

Bongiorno from Northern Italy,

We departed Villefranche by car and headed South to Monaco where we had lunch in Monte Carlo. It was definitely the land of the rich and famous. We had hoped to go into the Casino there and play a hand or two but on Sundays they do not open until 2PM and we didn’t feel like waiting around to make a donation. We had a burger and fries and a nice bottle of wine at the American Bar across the street from the main Casino. The service was amazing. We had about 4 waiters bringing us whatever we needed slightly before we needed it. I do think we set a new record the amount paid for burgers and wine though it was very nice. As I had been told there was a parade of luxury and exotic sports cars in the main plaza in front of the Casino. So many Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s I lost count not to mention Audi R8’s, rare Porches and the like. The whole event made for an entertaining show while consuming the “golden” hamburgers. After lunch it was back on the highway and into Italy. Our next stop was to be Rapallo Italy as a base to visit Cinque Terra. We were delightfully surprised to find Rapallo a beautiful city itself and after the rain let up we enjoyed discovering more about it.

I had always heard of Cinque Terra and thought it was a town on the coast in Italy. I learned it is actually five small towns thus the name Cinque (“five”) Terra. The plan was to take the local train from Rapallo to the southernmost city Riomaggiore and then walk North on the Via Dell Amore “Walk of Love” to the next town Manarola. The morning we departed Rapallo it was pouring rain but by the time arrived in Riomaggiore it had stopped. It so happened that we took the walk of love on Valentine’s day so of course, I tried to solicit full credit for advanced romantic planning. When we started our walk on the beautiful sea side walkway we began to see a few pad locks attached to the fences, guard rails and other things along the path. As we walked further we began to see a few hundred locks and then a few thousand followed by thousands and thousands more. We didn’t know about the tradition so we didn't bring a lock to attach so we attached a small chain from Susan’s backpack. We arrived in Manarola and found a wonderful small fishing village that was a joy to walk through. Afterwards we took a train North to the next city of Corniglia where we hiked and had lunch at a small out of the way restaurant with great food. Unfortunately, both the weather and our energy level deteriorated after lunch (i.e. the wine is very good and very cheap here) and we decided to stay on the Northbound train back to the hotel in Rapallo.

Let’s get to the pictures…….

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A picture of some of the yachts tied up at the harbor in Monte Carlo.

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One of many beautiful buildings in Monte Carlo.

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This is the main Casino in Monte Carlo. Standing there I had a strange desire to say “Bond….James Bond”

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This was a picture taken of the harbor in Rapallo from the hotel balcony. It’s a Best Western!

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This was an old structure in the harbor there in Rapallo. I could never find out what it is or was. Right after taking this picture is started to pour.

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A night picture of Rapallo harbor just after night fall from the hotel.

The next six pictures are street scenes from the city of Rapallo. Like I said before we were very pleasantly surprised at it beauty and charm as we were simply looking at is as a base to see the towns of Cinque Terra.
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This was the train station in Rapallo the next morning as we were leaving to visit Cinque Terra….Still raining!

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So we finally arrive at Riomaggiore and the rain had stopped. Above is a view of the Via Dell Amore which is leisurely 45 minute walk to the next town of Manarola.

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Near the start of the Via Dell Amore were these two hearts with a number of locks attached to them.

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By the time we were about half way we much have seen 20 thousand locks. This picture shows just one bench area that must have over 5000 locks all by itself.

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As I mentioned before we didn’t have a lock so here was our contribution. A small black chain with clips on each end that we attached to the wire netting above the Via Dell Amore.

After we reached the town of Manarola we walked through town to visit the sites. Here is a picture entering the main street in Manarola from the Via Dell Amore .
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For some reason Susan seems to attract animals in just about every town we visit. Here is a local cat jonsing some tourist affection.

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Above is a picture of the boat launch in town. It was a drop of about 30 feet to the lagoon below.

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A local dog just kickin it on a rock bench watching the tourists parade by for his amusement.

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One of many charming alley ways in town.

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A very nice elderly woman was sweeping off her steps after the rain.

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Here is a beautiful view of the town of Manarola from the sea side walkway past town.

The next five pictures were taken in Corniglia which is the small town just North of Manarola.
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This dog was named Jack. We met Jack up in town earlier in the day and Susan petted him. He ended up following us about a half mile in distance and maybe 500 feet in elevation back down to the train station where this picture was taken.

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This was a nice young couple we met back in Rapallo during our Valentine’s night dinner.

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Here we are enjoying a traditional Italian meal and a very nice Chianti.

Well that is all for now. Next we travel to Florence where we will return the rental car and spend the next 4 days seeing the wonderful historical sites and maybe take a day trip to some cities outside of Florence to experience more of Tuscany.

Until Next Time…Ciao

Posted by Trainwater 21.02.2011 09:25 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Bandol, St. Tropez and Villefranche France

The Beautiful French Riviera

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Bon Jour from the South of France (part deux),

As we continue along the French Mediterranean coastline by car we leave the hotel in Nimes a bit late in the day due to a moderately late night the night before and after we made our stop in Arles and did some shopping we found it getting dark on us near the small seaside town of Bandol. We drove around town looking for a hotel and happened upon a very nice hotel named Ile Rousse where they had a room. We were pretty stunned when we arrived in the room and found an outstanding view. We learned later that night while chatting with some locals at dinner that it was in these waters around Bandol and Toulon where Jacques Cousteau first tested his scuba diving system that he invented in the early 1950’s. The next day we drive on into St. Tropez where we stopped for lunch and then finally into our next planned destination of Villefranche Sur-Mer. Susan had been to Villefranche years ago and had the ideal hotel picked out right on the harbor waterfront.

Onto the pictures!

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We arrived in Bandol right after nightfall to this view outside our hotel balcony.

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The next morning we awoke to an even more beautiful view of the Bandol harbor on the Mediterranean.

The next three pictures were taken in St. Tropez. I really didn’t know what to expect of St. Tropez but I imagined it being full of millionaires sunbathing or something. Well it was cloudy and a bit cool so no one was sunbathing but there was plenty of evidence of wealth. There were probably 50 yachts in the harbor along with some beautiful smaller sailboats. We had lunch at a very nice restaurant on the harbor waterfront with a sand floor. I felt like taking off my shoes and playing volleyball or something.
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The picture above was taken of a harbor as we drove through Nice France at sunset just before arriving in Villefranche.

Villefranche is a seaside town that is built on the cliffs rising from the ocean between Nice and Monoco. Our hotel was right on the water so just about everything we did in town required a significant climb. To give you an idea of just how steep it is the city limits extend from sea level to 1750 feet in elevation. The good news is after you go out drinking it is a downhill walk (roll) back to the Hotel. The next four pictures are some views around town. They had some very interesting vegetation growing there.
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These next five pictures are of Fort Du Mont Alban which was built in 1557 under orders of Emmanuel Philibert, the Duke of the Savoie to protect the Villefranche harbor from invasion. It remains in excellent condition and was a joy to tour.
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We were fortunate to be in Villefranche on Saturday morning when they hold their weekly street market which was full of vendors of all types. It was clear that the market was also a gathering place for the locals to get together and talk and the beautiful weather was a great reason to get out and about.
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This was a shot of the restaurants on the harbor right outside the hotel. The pastel colors of the buildings in this area are very nice.

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These were some men having some drinks at a local café where we stopped for a cappuccino and chocolate croissant. Just about everyone who walked by waved or spoke to them so I suspect they are important (or at least popular) to the locals.

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Here is my favorite picture of Villefranche and among my favorite pictures of the trip so far taken from the balcony of our hotel room. We enjoyed several very nice glasses of wine and a few meals under those red umbrellas just looking out over the sail boats at the Mediterranean.

Well that’s it for this leg of the trip. Next we will travel by car through Monaco and plan a short stop in Monte Carlo so see the Casino and what I have heard can be an elaborate parade of exotic cars then onto Rapallo Italy where we will visit the sea side towns of Cinque Terre before we drop off the car in Florence Italy.

Until next time…..

Ciao (OK I finally learned how to spell it)

Posted by Trainwater 17.02.2011 10:07 Archived in France Comments (0)

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