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50th Anniversary Trip (1956-2006)

13 days in Italy.   Milt and Mary Lou return to relive memories: A kiss by the Trevi Fountain, see their 1956 apartment in Verona and their first anniversary hotel in Capri.

 

Click here to see pictures of Italy Then and Now (50 years later)

 

Journal Table of Contents

Overview

      About the Globus trip in general

      Trip Tips

      Interesting Information

      Web Sites

Day 0 of our trip Tuesday May 30 Fly Tulsa - Atlanta - Rome

Day 1 of the tour Wednesday May 31 - Rome

Day 2 of the tour Thursday, June 1 50th Anniversary Date!

Day 3 of the tour Friday, June 2 - Rome

Day 4 of the tour Saturday, June 3 - Rome-Pisa-Florence

Day 5 of the tour Sunday June 4

Day 6 of the tour Monday June 5 - Florence-Verona-Venice

Day 7 of the tour Tuesday June 6 - Venice

Day 8 of the tour Wednesday June 7

Day 9 of the trip Thursday June 8 - Free Day

Day 10 of the trip Friday June 9

Day 11 of the trip Saturday June 10

Day 12 of the trip Sunday June 11

Tour Information for Italy Great Cities Tour Code ZJ

Scientific American Article: Saving Venice An ambitious plan seeks to prevent a modern Atlantis

 

Overview

We did a 9-day Globus www.globusjourneys.com tour ZJ: ITALY'S GREAT CITIES (Rome, Florence, Verona, Venice).   After that tour, we did a 2-day mini-tour to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri.

 

From the Globus journey web site: This nine-day trip will show you the highlight cities of Italy, covering it all from St. Peter 's, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and the Forum in Rome to Michelangelo 's David in Florence, and St. Mark 's Basilica and Doges ' Palace with the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Local Guides in these cities will answer all your questions. Also included are stops in Pisa to admire the Leaning Tower and in Verona to see Juliet 's Balcony. Scenic drives will show you the Tyrrhenian Coast, the Lombardian Planes, the flat Po area, the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range and Tuscany 's Chianti wine country. In Venice a private boat ride and a glass blowers ' demonstration are included.

About the Globus trip in general

 

Trip Tips

If you don 't want caffeine, say  decafeinato. Don 't shorten it to  decaf.

Cafe  Americano - Coffee

Espresso  Strong black coffee

Corretto  with a dash of grappa or some other spirit

Macchiato  with a small dabble of milk

Latte Macchiato  with milk

Cafe  Freddo  Tall glass of cold black coffee

Cappuccino  hot with frothy milk

Cafe  Latte  hot with milk and no froth

 

 

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Interesting Information

 

About our additional mini-tour

I booked our tour through Odyssey Tours   http://www.odyssey-tours.com/   info@odyssey-tours.com    but it turned out to be Carrini Tours   http://www.carrani.com/    Address: Escursioni Italiane SRL, Via Vittoria Emanuele Orlando, 95  00185 Roma Tel. 06.4742501  06.4880510.   (Members of virtualtourist.com get a 10% discount on all tours email odysseytours@hotmail.com or phone (39) 06 7720 4019 Odyssey Tours at Via Collazia 2F, Rome, 00184 Lazio, Italy)

Also look at Enjoy Rome - Via Marghera, 8a, just north of the main train station, Termini. Exit to the north (the Via Marsala exit), keep going straight for three blocks. Telephone number is ++39 06 4451843 (or ++39 06 4450734). http://www.enjoyrome.com/    and http://activitaly.it/

Another company is Argiletum Tour Roma Phone +39 06 47825706, via Madonna dei Monti 49 (near Colosseum, Imperial Fora, Termini railways station) . They also had a one day tour to Naples, Capri, visit of the Blue Grotto, lunch included.

 

Time Difference: There is a 6 hour difference. So if it is 6 pm in Rome, it is noon in Florida.

The international dialing code for Italy is 39. City code for Rome 06 (seven more numbers)    To Call From United States to Italy you have to dial   011 + 39 + the number.   To Call from Italy to   United States you have to dial 00 + country code + area code + telephone number. Country code for US is  1

Exchanging money

In January, 2000 when Italy currency was Lira, I exchanged money in Rome at the Banca di Roma

US $200 traveler checks x 1.840,862 rate = 368,173 Lira

US $90 cash x 1.854,270 rate = 166, 884 Lira

So, 368,173 + 166,884 = 535,057 Lira  13,500 Fee (about US $7)   = 531,577 Lira

In June 2005 Italy currency is now the Euro. I exchanged money at the TravelEx (www.travelex.it) in the Fiumicine Airport

US $1,300 yielded Euro 938.63  61.01 Nett Commission  6.50 Fee = Euro 871.12

US $1,300 =   Euro 938.63 is a rate 1.38.

Yeow  what a huge  Nett Commission!!! Their perk is that TravelEx will buy the Euro 's back within 30 days in the same country. It 's still not worth the cost.   I always exchange money at AmEx in Atlanta BEFORE I leave on the trip:

In April, 2006 I exchanged money at the American Express Travel Service   3384 Peachtree Road, Lenox Plaza Atlanta , GA 30326 (404) 262 7561.   There is a fixed $5 fee to exchange any amount of currency.   Jan Bussard x230   or Janet Algers x246

The rate was 1.298432636. So US $500 + $5 fee = $505 yielded 385.29 Euro

You can bring cash, VISA check card.  Don't use your Am Ex card because that would be cash advance.

Also check these places in Atlanta:

Georgia International Travel, Inc. *   6195 Barfield Road Suite 250 Atlanta , GA 30328   (404) 851-9166  

Williamsburg Travel Management - American Express *   1830 Water Place Atlanta , GA 30339 (770) 933-2000    (Off Terrell Mill between Cobb Pkwy and I-75)

Also Am Ex location at Mansell Rd and Northpoint Pkwy in Alpharetta.

 

I converted a lot of US dollars to EUROs as an investment and so I won 't have to convert any more before I go to Europe again. In January 2007, the exchange rate was 1.29649 so $1000 USD = 771 Euros. September 2008, the exchange rate is 1.40880. Now my 771 Euros are worth $1086 USD.  That's an 8.6% return. Now that's a pretty good investment!

 

Some same costs:

Italy was not cheap.   In fact when Italy they switched from Lira to Euro, everything doubled in price. 10 Lira became 10 E, so it was a very bad exchange rate to Euros.

Ladies blouse 9.30, underwear 3.60, bra 3.60, night gown 6.20, sweater 6.20, skirt 7.80, slacks 7.80, jacket 10.40

Gentlemen shirt 7.50, socks 2.60, underpants 3.10, undershirt 4.20, pyjamas 6.20, jacket 10.40, trousers 7.80

 

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Web Sites

http://italyheaven.co.uk/

http://www.summerinitaly.com/

http://www.weekendafirenze.com/

http://www.venetia.it/

www.autostrade.it   - Traffic information in Italy.

http://www.discoveritaly.com/

http://www.itwg.com/ click on Destinations

http://www.roadtoitaly.com/

http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/

 

Train Web Sites:

http://www.railkey.com/

http://www.italiarail.com/

http://www.trenitalia.com/

http://www.slowtrav.com/ and http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/trains/

Boat web sites

http://www.caremar.it/pages_it/index.asp

http://www.alilauro.it/

Drivers

http://www.amalficoastcarservice.it/

http://italylimousine.it/

http://www.francescomarrapese.com/

http://www.duegolficarservice.com/

http://www.benvenutolimos.com/

http://positanotaxi.net/

 

Day 0 of our trip Tuesday May 30 Fly Tulsa - Atlanta - Rome

Mom & Dad depart Tulsa, Oklahoma at 1 pm and arrive Atlanta at 4:35 pm.   We all depart Atlanta at 7:30 pm, Alitalia non-stop. Arrive Rome / Fiumicino 11:10 am next day.   We used e-tickets, which was a BIG MISTAKE.   I 'm glad I had all these phone number:

Alitlaia International Reservation 800-223-5730. Web-related inquiries and questions call 866-369-9935 or email: alitaliasupport@alicos.net .   U.S. Executive and General Offices 212-903-3300.   Customer Service 212-903-3575 Baggage Inquiries 800-905-9992.

Delta.com,   (800) 811 7526, 765-5000; Customer Service   (800) 895-2005 and (800)811-7526,    Reservations   International   (800) 323-2323, (800) 221-1212   Flight Information (800)325-1999

 

It is 7:45 pm here and 1:45 am Italy time. I 'm on the plane now with Mom & Dad. We have awesome seats. Seats 3A, B, and C on a Boeing 767-300 plane. The seat configuration is 2x2x2 in the first ten rows and 2x3x2 behind.

I had quite a scare when I went to check in. In the Atlanta airport, direct International flights can use the kiosk. I could not find the flight, and the Delta attendant couldn 't find it either. She walked me over to the desk and explained the problem to Oliver Hill at the Delta International check-in. It was 3:40 pm and Mom & Dad were arriving into Atlanta at 4:35. We are all on a 7:30 flight to Rome (I thought)   Long story short. I did not make it to meet them at the gate. We had an Alitalia reservation, but Alitalia had not communicated the reservation to Delta so we did not have a Delta reservation. I called Yvonne in a panic.   She calmed me down and assured me that we did indeed have a reservation.   They were just trying to bump us because the flight is really over booked. She told us not to let them do it.   I was very patient. I smiled and showed Oliver the document that I had written with the details of Mom & Dad 's 50th anniversary trip. I listened to him tell me all about Florence. Wow. He was on the phone until 4:30 when we finally got it all straight.   He got a supervisor to grab the 3 seats in the  reconfigured front of the plane. 6 per row - 2x2x2 . Very nice. Row 3. These are first class seats on Delta!   Thank you Oliver Hill at Delta.

The flight from Atlanta to Rome is 9 hours and 20 minutes.   Breakfast is served 1.5 hours prior to landing so if we land at 11 am, then breakfast is around 9:30. When we get to Italy, I need to check on our flight home also I guess there will be an Alitalia desk in Rome. There isn 't one in Atlanta. I hope our luggage makes it to Rome.

I am really entruly (is that a word?) looking forward to this trip.   I want to get there!   But we have 3 more hours to go on this flight. I only took one Benedryl and I should have taken both so I could sleep. Next time I take the Sonata sleeping pill.

The guy in the seat next to me asked if this was economy class. I said yes because we paid economy class rates (but were lucky enough to get front seats!) I still can 't believe these great seats. I would by dying in those smaller seats. I normally travel by myself so it 's easier to get a good airplane seat. This will be a new experience to be with Mom & Dad for 13 days.    Mom has had such a great attitude so far. Dad is going to be very adaptable also. When he start with his jokes, I just have to listen like Mom has done all these years.   Everyone on that tour will soon know how many countries I 've been to.   Yeah, it is an impressive list. It just takes me awhile to get the information up on the www.mytrips.com web site. I regret taking so long to write this Italy journal. It took me six months to mail my Sri Lanka journals but it only took three months to publish it on the Internet though and it was discovered shortly after that.

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Day 1 of the tour Wednesday May 31 - Rome

Wednesday and it is about 11 am. We arrived at FCO (Rome airport). We had a long walk through the concourse, found the bathroom, got passport stamps, get luggage. I had a 1 Euro coin to get us a luggage cart.   My bag was almost the last one out. I changed some more money (just in case).   I will never do that again.   The fee was huge.   See the  Exchanging Money information at the beginning of this journal.

When I was changing money,   Dad saw a Globus tour guide. They said we can take the 1 pm shuttle to the Albani Hotel for 16 E each. That 's great cause they handle our luggage. FCO is a long distance from Rome so the taxi fee would have been a lot more.

   Check into Rome Hotel where the Globus tour starts.   We turned in our hotel vouchers, checked into our room.

Albani Hotel Rome , Via Adda 45 , 00198 Rome , Italy   Tel: 39 06 84991

From the Internet: With a scenic view over Villa Albani 's ancient park, Albani Hotel is located in central Rome. It lies close to the main railway station and only a charming walk from the Spanish Steps across the historic Borghese.

Each of the 157 rooms is beautifully decorated, some with balcony. The modern lobby is spacious and has an attractive lounge area with an American style bar featuring an impressive stained glass ceiling.

From TripAdvisor.com about the Albani:

There were no tea or coffee facilities in the rooms (again I've heard that this is the norm in Rome) but it would have been a nice touch for a hotel advertising itself as 4*. It is a nice hotel but I would only rate it 3*.   I would recommend the hotel if you like a bit of a walk and don't want to be in the centre.

Breakfast was standard continental and fine. Although slightly out of the city centre, Albani can be reached by bus no's 86 or 92 from Termini. There are some very good restaurants in the vicinity (one of which was recommended by the hotel), not full of tourists and fantastic prices. I would definitely recommend this hotel if you don't mind not having everything on your doorstep and I would stay there again.

When we checked into the hotel, my room wasn 't ready so I waited in Mom & Dad 's room.   Their room has a pullout couch that I could have slept in. Oh well. It 's their anniversary so I should give them the privacy. Besides, my single room is already paid for. They unpacked and we talked about an hour until my room was finally ready. Nap time 3:30 to 5:30.

We were all very tired, but we decided to go out to get some dinner.   We went out and wandered down the street about 6 blocks to the Piazza Fiume and found a restaurant with great pizza. It had good flavor. With the tart lemon drink and coke, the cost was 17 E. That 's very reasonable I think.   (Actually, that pizza was meant for one person, not three people).   Receipt says:

Fusioni S.R.L.   Piazza Fiume N.77/79   ROMA Parita Iva

Ristorante 7.50

Bibite 2.00

Bibite 2.00

Varie 3 x 2.00  6.00

Totale Euro 17.50

31/05/2006    19-19

We walked back to the hotel. Back in the room, I gave Mom all my reading material and we went over some of the optional tours offered on the trip.  

Now it 's 9 pm. Time for sleep. B-fast is 6:30 to 10:30, so I suggested to eat around 9 am.  

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Day 2 of the tour Thursday, June 1  Rome 50th Anniversary Date!

From the itinerary:   Arrival in Rome, Italy. Time to rest or start exploring the Eternal City. At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions and leave the hotel for a special welcome dinner with wine in one of Rome 's lively restaurants. (Dinner included)

It 's Thursday 3 am and I 'm awake. It 's good to arrive a day early before a tour to adjust to the time difference.   I organized and rearranged my stuff for an hour, then I went back to sleep with ear plugs. Next thing I hear was Dad knocking at the door at 8:45. I was dead asleep to the world. I was ready for breakfast in 10 minutes.   I put some clothes on and we went down to breakfast at 9.

The buffet breakfast had with scrambled eggs, ham, cheese, cereal, rolls.   The only fruit that I saw was pineapple (from a can).   After breakfast it was sprinkling rain outside so we decided to wait and venture out later.    I took a shower, washed my hair. The sun was out at 11 so we decided to go out.

We don 't meet the tour until at 6 pm today so breakfast and lunch and exploring Rome was  on your own today.   The tour does not do this so I really wanted to go to St. Peters and see the crypts in the basement and climb the dome. This is from the Internet:

If you are looking for the best views of Rome, it 'll be tough to beat those found from the top of the dome of St Peters Basilica.   Cost 4 Euro to walk up the stairs, or 6 Euro for the elevator (which covers about 70% of the climb)

At the first viewing level you can enter the inner circular balcony of the dome which provides some fantastic aerial views of the chapel.    More steps up a narrow stair will take you to the outer observation balcony on top of the dome. The views of Rome are OUTSTANDING!!!!

NOTE: if you suffer from vertigo or are not in good physical condition I would not recommend this trip! They say there are 320 steps to the top so it 's a good workout.

We opted instead to find the Trevi Fountain.   Our farewell dinner on the last day of the tour goes to the Trevi Fountain, but it may be dusk, so we decided to go there today. I can maybe do St. Peters on our free day in Rome after the tour ends.

We asked at the front desk how to get to Trevi. That was an adventure. We walked out to Via Salaria and bought six  Metrobus Roma   bus tickets for 1 Euro each.   We took bus 63 on Via Salaria to town.    Walked 3 blocks to the Trevi fountain. Did you know that Rome has more fountains than any other city in the world? Information from the Internet http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/trevi.htm also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trevi_Fountain

The Fontana di Trevi or Trevi Fountain is the most famous and arguably the most beautiful fountain in all of Rome. This impressive monument dominates the small Trevi square. It is 85 feet high and 65 feet wide at the intersection of three roads.   The fountain is at the ending part of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC. It brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approx 20km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic center of Rome with water.

Construction of the Fountain - In 1732, Nicola Salvi was commissioned to create a large fountain at the Trevi Square. A previous undertaking to build the fountain after a design by Bernini was halted a century earlier after the death of Pope Urban VIII. Salvi based his theatrical masterpiece on this design. Construction of the monumental baroque fountain was finally completed in 1762.

The Fountain - The central figure of the fountain, in front of a large niche, is Neptune, god of the sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell, pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one is attempting to control his horse through rough sea. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea.

On the left hand side of Neptune is a statue representing Abundance, the statue on the right represents Salubrity. Above the sculptures are bas-reliefs, one of them shows Agrippa, the girl after whom the aqueduct was named.

Tossing a Coin - The water at the bottom of the fountain represents the sea. Legend has it you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the water. You should toss it over your shoulder with your back to the fountain.

Dad had printed out photos from 1956 when they visited the fountain.   We found the exact same angle and position to take the same photograph 50 years later.   That was a lot of fun.   It wasn 't very crowded and we had plenty of time to pose for our pictures.

Dad was showing off his pictures to other people around the fountain.   A professional photographer took a picture of Mom & Dad holding their 1956 photo.   Dad gave his email if she needed permission to publish it. That really made it a perfect day. Except for the light sprinkle of rainbut that didn 't last very long.   We walked toward the Forum through the Piazza Venezia.   We walked right in front of the  Wedding Cake building.   The building is actually The Victor Emmanuel Monument.

When we got to the forum, we did a slow walk around the ruins, toward the Colosseum.   I had printed out some maps and some information that we used when we walked around. There were several people who offered to give us tours (for a tip).   After the forum, we walked along Via dei Foi Imperiali road.   Along this road it looked like they were getting ready for a big celebration.   Tall bleachers to seat many, many people were being set up along the road.   We found out that next day that there was a huge parade down this road on Republic Day tomorrow).   

We walked back to the Cake Building square and took some nice pictures of the building.   (FYI  On our official Globus tour, the only time we saw this building was from the bus when it slowly drove past the building!   People were scrambling to take photos through the bus windows.)  

1 pm and we found a quaint restaurant across from the Cake Building.   We ordered pizza and drinks.   Yum.   It turned out to be a really nice day. I 'm glad the rain held off.    After lunch we walked up Via del Corso street to catch bus 63.   We got off at the  Po stop and walked 2 blocks back to hotel.   We got back around 3 pm. Nap time for 2 hours!

5:30 meet in the restaurant downstairs for the welcome speech. We met our Tour Director  Ursula

Ursula gave us the list of optional tours for our trip.   There were several additional tours listed in the Globus booklet that we received in the mail.   All of the optional tours listed in the booklet are not offered on all tours.   They have to customize each tour depending on the time of year, special events and what people want to see.   For example, Republic Day is June 2 tomorrow. There is a parade by the Colosseum so we will have to work around that.   The shops are closed, but the Vatican is a separate state so it will be open.

At our meeting, Ursula explained each optional tour that is available.   We have three days to decide, then we must pay for them on day 4 of the trip.

Make sure you have either a red Globus tours tag or a yellow Brendan tours sticker on your luggage.

She was giving us a lot of information and I was taking notes.   Dad was ancy, wanting to talk to people.   But we really needed to listen to Ursula 's instructions so we could decide on our optional tours and know what to expect on our tour tomorrow.   I just kept writingAt the end of the meeting, Dad introduced himself and Ursula was delighted to hear that it was their 50th anniversary.  

After the meeting at 6:30 our group left the hotel to go to our special welcome dinner (included with the tour).   We walked to the bus that was parked down the street.   We met our (very attractive) driver. His name is Salvatore.   Dad asked him (in Italian) about the price of gas:   1.36 per liter    Diesel is 1.22

The itinerary said  dinner in one of Rome 's lively restaurants.   I think it was  Benito 's. There were two other Globus groups in the same restaurant, so it was indeed lively.   We had an endless supply of wine so everyone was very lively as the evening progressed.   Mom & Dad both drank white wine with our 4-course dinner.

Antipasto with procuitto, a flour tortilla with tomato, olive oil, and herbs

Pasta rigatoni with mushrooms

Lasagna-type pasta with sauce

Pot roast with potatoes and salad

Finally dessert was a fruit and sherbet

That really sounds like a lot of food, but all courses were small, so it was just the right amount of food.

Between courses, sociable Dad got up from our table and went around to every table to meet everyone on the tour.

Ursula also arranged champagne for every table and a special dessert for Mom & Dad since today was their anniversary date.   A waiter put his arms around Mom, kissed her cheeks, and presented her with red roses!   Wow!   Dad took a picture. Everyone on the trip was congratulating them.   He should be proud that they have been together that long. It really was great night!  

On bus at 21:14 = 9:14 pm and we got back to the hotel around 9:30. I was asleep by 10:30 and wide awake at 12:30 am.   I wrote in my journal for awhile, then finally got back to sleep for a couple hours before our 5:30 am wake-up call.

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Day 3 of the tour Friday, June 2 - Rome

From the itinerary: Rome. Sightseeing with your Local Guide starts with a visit to the VATICAN MUSEUMS and SISTINE CHAPEL (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo 's ceiling paintings and The Last Judgment. Continue to monumental ST. PETER 'S SQUARE and BASILICA. Cross the Tiber and visit the COLOSSEUM and the ROMAN FORUM, where Roman Legions marched in triumph. Then time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (Buffet Breakfast included)

From the optional itinerary: Roman Highlights and Dinner. A guided walking tour takes your to some of the most famous monuments.   Admire the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti, Piazza Navona, Parliament, and Pantheon. Later this evening enjoy a four-course dinner at a popular Roman restaurant. Drinks included. 62 Euro.

The Tivoli (Villa d-Este gardens) optional excursion was listed in our book, but it was not offered to our group.  

Our earliest wake up call of the trip is today because of the Vatican visit.   5:30 am the phone rings. Uuugh.   It only took me 15 minutes to get ready. I got coffee in Mom & Dad 's room then we went downstairs for a good buffet breakfast (BB). On the bus by 7 am.    It 's a cool day, almost cold.   Very odd for June to be this cool.

Ursula said to bring as little as possible today.   Attire is  church dress code.   Cover your shoulders and cover your knees.

If you buy a religious item, you can leave it to be  blessed and they will deliver it to the hotel. Ursula   does not like tourist rip-offs, but she said this was really blessed.  

Republic Day is June 2 is today. There is a parade by the Colosseum so we will have to work around that.   The shops are closed, but the Vatican is a separate state so it is open.   So, our schedule today: Vatican and Sistine 8:30 am to about 11 am, St. Peters (Basilica and square) for 30 to 45 minutes.   After St. Peters - Pantheon, Piazza Navona where we can eat lunch (on our own).   Then go back to hotel to rest.   The second part of tour is the Colosseum after the parades are over in the afternoon, we 'll see the Colosseum, Roman Forum and the Spanish steps then dinner.

The Vatican and St. Peters is included in the tour.   Then of course everybody signed up for the optional Roman Highlights and Dinner because most everyone wants to see the Spanish Steps and Rome 's most famous monuments when they are here in Rome.   The optional tour is slow walking with headsets. The tours ends at Navona Piazza 7 pm then go to dinner included with wine and music. Tips and transport included.

Republic Day in Italy celebrates when the Republic was formed in 1946 so Italy is 60 years old. There are big parades around Rome and protest parades.   Ursula said there will be 15 million cars on the road today because of the holiday.   That means less people are here in Rome so it is a good day to be here (except for the cold weather!)

In Rome at one time, there was 15 miles of walls around Rome. Now only 12 miles remain.   There were 400 towers and 2000 windows.

There are 506 churches in the city center. A Church becomes a basilica when it is associated with a cardinal.   There are over 350 miles of tunnels under Rome.

We got as close to the Vatican as possible, then they stopped the bus and let us off.   It already looks like there are a million people here, but Ursula assures us that we are in a good position in line to see the Vatican.   I guess the early wake-up call was worth it.   The local guide, Yvonne, arrived with our    whisperers for the tour.   What a great invention!   The tour leader talks in a normal voice and the information is transmitted to our receivers and our earpiece. Nice.

The Vatican is a separate  country with its own government, newspaper, radio station, and publishing house.   Population is about 1,000 people.

The Vatican (Musei Vaticani) formed as a sovereign and independent State around 1929. For a good map, go to http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Musei.html Also look at http://www.wga.hu/tours/sistina/index.html.

My notes from the tour

Maybe 25,000 people visit the Vatican every day.

Cost to get in the Vatican is Euro 12.

In the Vatican you can take pictures without a flash.   No pictures in the Sistine chapel.

There are two statues above the exit door of the Vatican: on the left is Michelangelo, on the right is Raffello.   I took a picture of them from across the street.

We took the escalator up. It was right beside the famous spiral ramp which is closed to tourists now.   In 2000 we walked up the spiral ramp.   That was definitely a more spectacular entrance, but the escalator was quicker.

There are 3.5 miles of museum. We will see the most important galleries on this tour.

On some statues they removed the  interesting parts of the men. They had planned to replace the removed body part with fig leaves, but there was just an empty hole on most of the statues now.

I took a picture of lapis  blue marble on the floor.

Urns - The most expensive urns are alabaster marble.   The cheaper material (clay?) is used for the poorest buried in the catacombs.

In the Tapestry Gallery there is a rug from 1800 made of wool and silk and cotton. Tapestries are hung to insulate the walls and to look at. The largest tapestry shows the resurrection of Christ. The size is cm 562x954. It was made at the School of Raphael in Brussels.

I took a picture of the ceiling in Gallery of Geography.

I really wanted to see Raphael 's Loggia (LOGGIA DI RAFFAELLO)   http://www.christusrex.org/www1/stanzas/0-Raphael.html   - 13 arches forming a gallery 65 meters long and 4 meters wide. I saw a duplicate of this room in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg Russia (Sept 1998).   The last time I was in Rome (Jan, 2000) this was the only closed room at the Vatican!   I asked our guide about the room this year.   She said that Raphael 's Loggia will always be closed for security because it is too close to where the pope lives.   Oh well.

At the end of the Vatican tour is the awesome Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina)    http://www.christusrex.org/www1/sistine/0-Tour.html, also http://www.wga.hu/tours/sistina/index.html

Built 1475 -1480. The Sistine Chapel is rectangular in shape and measures 134.28 feet long by 43.99 feet wide by 68 feet high.   It is the exact dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament.

It is divided by a marble balustrade. On the side walls there are 12 frescos.

The Chapel is famous for the frescos of Michelangelo painted 1508-1512. His work covers the ceiling, the back wall and the upper parts of the side walls.   The barrel-vaulted ceiling includes frescos depicting : God divides the light from darkness, God creates the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, God separates the Land form the Waters, the Creation of Man, the Creation of Woman, the Expulsion from Paradise, the Sacrifice of Noah, the Great Flood, and the Drunkenness of Noah.

In 1533 when Michelangelo was 60 years old, he started painting the Last Judgment.   The wall where it is painted is 650 feet square with 391 figures.   Christ is in the upper middle, to his right the elect float up to heaven; to his left the damned whirl down in tumult, thrown down below where inexorable Charon waits with the boat ready.

Michael worked alone and painted naked men. Then cardinals saw it and they were angry and said to paint fig leaves. After many months, there were still no fig leaves.   The cardinal that told him to paint fig leaves is on the bottom left with a snake around him. No more complaints!

It cost 20 million to commission the cleaning work of the Sistine Chapel.   Work started in 1979 and was completed in 1999.   The ceiling was cleaned first, then Last Judgment was cleaned last in the 1980 's.    After the cleaning, the men were naked again! Before cleaning they had fig leaves.

When choosing the pope, they eat, sleep here in the Sistine Chapel. There is no communication with the outside world during the selection process.   After John Paul II died, 115 cardinal gathered here to live in April 2005 until the next pope was selected.

 

From the Internet http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560125_2/Michelangelo.html

Sistine Ceiling

A major project preventing completion of the tomb of Julius II was a new commission from Julius himself, to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Between 1508 and 1512 Michelangelo created some of the most memorable images of all time on the vaulted ceiling of the papal chapel in the Vatican. His intricate system of decoration tells the biblical story of Genesis, beginning with God separating light and dark (above the altar), progressing to the story of Adam and Eve, and concluding with the story of Noah. Scenes from the biblical stories of David, Judith, Esther, and Moses are depicted in the corners, while images of prophets, sibyls (female prophets), and the ancestors of Christ are set in a painted architectural framework above the windows. Bright, clear colors enliven and unify the vast surface, and make the details more legible from the floor of the chapel.

The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Ceiling (1508-1512) is perhaps Michelangelo 's finest fusion of form and meaning. Adam 's pose echoes both the shape of the ground on which he reclines and the pose of God the Father, thus giving visual form to the biblical description of Adam as made from the earth in the likeness of God. We see Adam beginning to come to life, as he reaches listlessly toward the vigorous energy that the image of God embodies.

The Last Judgment

Michelangelo was again called to work in the Sistine Chapel in 1534, when Clement VII   commissioned him to paint the wall above the altar. The Last Judgment (1536-1541), with which Michelangelo covered the wall, depicts Christ's second coming at the end of the world. The enormous scene is focused on the impassive figure of Christ whose right arm is poised to strike down the damned, while the left arm seems gently to call the blessed toward him. At his side is the Virgin Mary, traditionally included as a figure of mercy at the Last Judgment; she quietly looks downward toward those who emerge from their graves. The nude bodies of the saints and the figures rising to heaven are massive, perhaps to emphasize the belief that their physical bodies would be revived in a glorified state. The scene of hell in the lower right corner does not show Satan or various hellish torments as was customary, but is based instead on the Inferno, part of an early 14th-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy, by Italian writer Dante Alighieri. This and many other aspects of the Last Judgment (especially the nudity) were sharply criticized soon after the fresco was unveiled and helped it become one of the most talked about and most frequently copied works of art in the 16th century.

St. Peters  These are notes from our tour:

We went into the basement of the church first to see the tombs.   These were excavated in the 1940s.   They are 23 feet beneath the floor of the church. The featured tomb of John Paul II is only open in the morning.   He was pope for 27 years.

Pope John Paul II (May 18, 1920, Wadowice, Poland  April 2, 2005, Vatican City) reigned as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City from October 16, 1978, until his death more than 26 years later, making his the second-longest pontificate in modern times after Pius IX's 31-year reign.

Interesting that the Pope 's Will specified that he wanted to be buried in the bare earth and NOT IN A TOMB:

Text of Pope's Last Will and Testament

By The Associated Press

Totus Tuus ego sum

In the Name of the Holiest Trinity. Amen.

"Keep watch, because you do not know which day when the Lord will come" These words remind me of the final call, which will come the moment that the Lord will choose. I desire to follow Him and desire that all that is part of my earthly life shall prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will come, but, like all else, this moment too I place into the hands of the Mother of My Master: Totus Tuus. In the same maternal hands I place All those with whom my life and vocation are bound. Into these Hands I leave above all the Church, and also my Nation and all humanity. I thank everyone. To everyone I ask forgiveness. I also ask prayers, so that the Mercy of God will loom greater than my weakness and unworthiness.

During spiritual exercises I reflected upon the testament of the Holy Father Paul VI. This study has led me to write the present testament.

I do not leave behind me any property which necessitates disposal. Regarding those items of daily use of which I made use, I ask that they be distributed as may appear opportune. My personal notes are to be burned. I ask that Don Stanislaw oversees this and thank him for the collaboration and help so prolonged over the years and so comprehensive. All other thanks, instead, I leave in my heart before God Himself, because it is difficult to express them.

Regarding the funeral, I repeat the same disposition given by the Holy Father Paul VI: Burial in the bare earth, not in a tomb, 13.3.92.

Apud Dominum misericordia et copiosa apud Eum redemptio

John Paul pp.II

Rome 6.3.1979

 

The Atlanta Journal on April 7, 2005 also noted this:     Burial wish  The pontiff expressed a wish to e buried in the ground, rather than being place in an above-ground tomb.   In the end, John Paul II was placed in a cypress coffin, which was placed in a lead coffin, which was placed in an outer elm coffin.   The tomb is a simple stone slab featuring his name and dates of birth and death.   Even a pope doesn 't get his dying wish.

 

It 's 9:10 right now and we 're going up to the church.

St. Peters is the largest Catholic church in the Christian world. It is 614 feet long and 452 feet at its widest.   The capacity of the church is 80,000 people

There are no paintings. All the decoration is mosaics and marble work!

In a micro mosaic, one inch of the mosaic has 50 pieces.

The windows are marble, not glass.

The first chapel in the right has Michelangelo 's La Pieta of 1499.   This the fourth time that I have seen this statue!  I also saw this Pieta statue:

1965 - World's Fair in New York. In the International Exhibits in the Vatican.  This is directly from the American Airlines Guide Book:

The "Pieta" Michaelangelo's priceless white marble sculpture which never has been moved from St. Peter's Basilica, is the center of attention at the Vatican Pavilion. Great concern attended the shipping of this famous statue to the Fair from Italy, and a transparaent bulletproof glass has been erected to ensure its protection.

1979 - Europe trip with T & P

2000 - Delta weekend escape with Ron and Gregg.

2008 - On this trip.

 

There is also a Pieta in Florence and anther one in Milan.

I took 2 pictures of a statue of woman  the carving is so smooth that it looks like silk.

A  Cupola is a dome.   The dome is 480 foot high.   To go up to the dome you take an elevator, then you must go up 320 steps.

Raphael died at 37 years old.

There is a 2 year wait if you want to get married here in St. Peters.

#71 (on the map) Baptistery. John Baptizes Christ.

My picture is Sancta Veronica. IEROSOLYMITANA

From the Internet:   St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

This great building is the center of Christianity. The opulence of the building's interior bears testimony to the wealth of the catholic church in the 16th century. Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, ordered to build a basilica on Vatican Hill. The location was symbolic: this was the place where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, was buried in 64 A.D. A small shrine already existed on the site but it was now replaced by a new building church was completed around 349 A.D.

A New Basilica - In the middle of the 15th century, the basilica was falling into ruin restoration was ordered   and enlargement of the church. After Nicolas V died, works were halted. In 1506 pope Julius II laid the first stone of a new basilica which was to become the largest in the world.

Julius II appointed Donato Bramante as the chief architect of the new Basilica. In 1547 Michelangelo succeeded Bramante. He designed the imposing dome and altered some of the original plans. Michelangelo died in 1624, two years before the completion of the dome. The St. Peter's basilica was dedicated by pope Urban VIII in 1626. Ever since, this church has been the center of Christianity, drawing pilgrims from all over the world.

The Building - The building itself is truly impressive. The largest church in the world, the nave is   715 feet long. The basilica's dome, designed by Michelangelo is the largest dome in the world measuring 138 feet in diameter and reaching more than 450 feet. The interior, which includes 45 altars, is decorated by many famous artists. Some of the most important works in the church are the Pieta Michelangelo, the papal altar and the Throne of St. Peter - are by Bernini - and the Monument to the Stuarts by Canova. The opulent interior can be visited daily for free although a strict dress code is enforced.

Dome observatory - You can visit the dome itself (entrance is not free, but it's worth it). You can   take the elevator or the stairs, the latter being a bit cheaper. The elevator brings you to the bottom of the dome from where a small, long and mostly spiral staircase brings you to the top of the dome. From there you have a magnificent view of Rome and of the Saint Peter's square in particular. The famous square with long symmetrical colonnades was designed by Bernini. It features a central obelisk and two identical fountains.

The Swiss Guards - Near the entrance of the Basilica you will probably encounter some of the famous Swiss guards. Since 1506 when pope Julius II invited Helvetian soldiers to join the small Vatican army, they have been the guards of the Vatican and the pope in particular. All entrants to the army must be Swiss, catholic and they must take the oath of loyalty to the pope. This oath is taken May 26th, to commemorate the sacking of Rome on the same day in 1527 when Swiss guards protected pope Clement VII during his escape to the Castel Sant'Angelo. Of the 189 guards, only 42 survived.

From the Internet http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560125_2/Michelangelo.html

Saint Peter 's Basilica

In 1546 Michelangelo was given the task of completing the design for Saint Peter 's Basilica in the Vatican. Pope Julius II first gave the commission to Michelangelo 's rival, Donato Bramante, in 1506. Bramante envisioned a church based upon a Greek cross (a cross with all four arms of equal length) and surmounted by a great dome. When Bramante died in 1514, only the enormous supports for the dome were in place, but these determined the scale and other elements of the design. At least three other architects contributed to the design before Michelangelo took over, with the most recent one having added a long nave to the church. Michelangelo returned to Bramante's plan, but made it more compact, strengthening the supports and unifying the exterior with gigantic pairs of pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The pilasters alternate with large openings topped with pediments (triangular forms). Around the base of the dome the line of the pilasters is echoed by fully rounded columns, which are in turn repeated on a smaller scale in the lantern at the top of the dome. The effect is one of great mass pushing upward, the forms varied in complex ways yet unified as a whole.

In the square is a big pink obelisk. It was build in Egypt over 4000 years ago. In 37 PB it was brought to Rome and put in this place in 1586.   The move required 900 men and 140 horses.

After St. Peters we still had the group together so we gathered up for a group picture in the square  in the Piazza S. Pietro.   Globus has professional photographers who take great group pictures.   Ursula will get one copy of the photo for us to see so we can decide if we want to order copies for 10 Euro each. Our group photo will be waiting for us at the last hotel when we come back to Rome.

After the photo, we had a little time for shopping.   It is 11:20 now and we 're waiting for the bus to pick us up.

Back on the bus and we 're driving through Rome.   I 'm sure glad to be doing this on a bus and not driving a car.   I can 't even imagine what a harrowing experience that would be.

There are 25 bridges across Tiber river.   The round building is Angels Castle. 134 AD bridge in front of the castle.   We rode passed Angels Castle.  

We went past the castle, then the bus stopped to drop us off for another walking tour.   She stopped the group to explain an altar where they sacrificed animals in the temple of Jupitar in the forum.   I took a picture.   Walk a little more to the Piazza della Rotonda to see The Pantheon.    My notes from the tour:

The Pantheon has huge wood doors covered with bronze. 3 people were needed to open and close the door.

There is a hole in ceiling so the sun could shine into building in the winter. At noon it shines straight down.   Rain comes in then drains through the holes in the floor.

When the Pantheon was built, there were six steps up into the building. Now we walk down into the building.

The dome is 143 feet and 143 feet tall. It is a perfect building. St. Peter 's is 393 feet high. This dome is smaller out of respect for Pantheon 's architect.  

All marble is original in this building here. It was never stolen or taken to make other buildings.

From the Internet:   Pantheon, Rome : http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/pantheon.htm

Built more than 1800 years ago, the magnificent Pantheon building still stands as a reminder of the great Roman empire. The building's dome, more than 140 feet high is most impressive. It was the largest dome in the world until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed. At the top of the dome is a large opening, the oculus, which was the only source of light. The front portico has three rows of 8 columns, each one with a diameter of 5 feet. A huge bronze door gives access to the cylindrical building. The diameter of the building equals the interior height of 140 feet.

Church - Originally a temple for all pagan gods, the temple was converted into a church in 609. The Pantheon contains the tombs of Rafael and of several Italian Kings. Its interior design contrast with the temple's structural design, but the marble floor still features the original Roman design.

Earlier Temples - Before the current Pantheon was built, two other buildings occupied the same site. The first one, built in 27 BC, burned in AD 80 but was rebuilt. In AD 110 the building was struck by lightning and burned again. In AD 118 work was commissioned for the Pantheon to be rebuilt but with a totally different design. This time the Pantheon building would last much longer.

The Dome - The most important problem the Romans faced during the construction of the Pantheon was the massive weight of the large dome. In order to support it without proper reinforcement, the thickness and type of concrete varies between the bottom and the top of the dome. At the base very thick 20-foot walls were constructed. At the top of the dome, a lighter type of concrete was used and near the oculus it is only 7.5 ft thick. The use of coffers in the ceiling and the opening at the top also helped reduce the weight of the dome.

The Columns - The huge, 60 tons weighing columns used for the portico were quarried in Egypt. They were transported all the way to Rome using barges and vessels. The columns support a pediment with an inscription attributing the Pantheon to Marcus Agrippa even though it was built by Hadrian.

Piazza della Rotonda - The Pantheon borders the Piazza della Rotonda, a rectangular square with a central fountain. It is situated in the historic center of Rome, not far from the Piazza Navone.

After the Pantheon, we walked over to Piazza Navona and ate lunch.

From the Internet:   Piazza Navona, Rome : http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/piazzanavona.htm

The Piazza Navone is one of the most famous and arguably the most beautiful of Rome's many squares. The large and lively square features no less than three magnificent fountains. Another eye catcher is the baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone.

Domitian's Stadium - The square is built on the former Domitian's stadium, built by emperor Domitian in 86 AD. Hence the long, oval shape of the square.   In the 15th century the stadium was paved over to create the Navona square, but remnants of Domitian's stadium are still visible around the area. Guided tours to this underground monument are available, they start at the Piazza Tor Sanguigna 13.

Fountain of the Four Rivers - The main attraction of the Piazza Navona are the three fountains. The central and largest fountain is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (fountain of the four rivers). It was constructed between 1647 and 1651 on request of the Pope Innocent X.

The design of the fountain was first commissioned to Borromini, but it was ultimately handed to Bernini. The fountain features four figures, each representing a river from a different continent - the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio della Plata. The statues are at the base of a rock supporting an obelisk, originally located at the Massenzio Circus.

Neptune Fountain & Moor Fountain - The two other fountains on the piazza are the Fontana di Nettuno (Neptune fountain) at the northern end and the Fontana del Moro (Moor fountain) at the southern end.

The Fontana del Nettuno, also known as the Calderari, was built in 1576 by Giacomo della Porta. The statues, Neptune surrounded by sea nymphs were added in the 19th century.

Giacomo della Porta also built the Fontana del Moro. The central statue of a Moor holding a dolphin, a design by Bernini, was added in the 17th century. The tritons are 19th century additions.

Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone - Another highlight on the Navona square is the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. It was commissioned in 1652 by Pope Innocent X and built on the site where according to legend, St. Agnes was stripped naked, but miraculously saved from disgrace by extraordinary growth of hair.

The front facde of the baroque church was designed by Borromini, Bernini's main rival. Construction started just two years after the completion of Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, right in front of the building. The church was finished in 1670.

After a little time in the Piazza Navona, we met at designated spot and walked back to the bus. The parades are over, so we 'll see the Colosseum now.   It started pouring rain on the way to the Colosseum.   There was a very chilly wind.   Our tour of The Coloseum (Piazza del Colosseo) was only on the first floor.  

When we got into the seating area of the Colosseum, we did our obligatory picture session.   There were so many people wanting to walk out on that balcony to also take pictures.   It really helped to hold up the old picture so they could stay back long enough for us to stage and take the same picture from 50 years ago.

My notes:

It took 3 days to float (fill with water) the Colosseum. The arena had a wood floor.

One-third of a mile in circumference with 80 arched entrances.   Less than half the structure remains today.   In it 's demise, the Colosseum became a cheap stone quarry.   They took marble to build churches and buildings.

From the Internet : Colosseum, Rome Source: http://www.aviewoncities.com/rome/colosseo.htm

The Colosseum is probably the most impressive building of the Roman empire. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was the largest building of the era. The monumental structure has fallen into ruins, but even today it is an imposing and beautiful sight.

Construction started in AD 72. It was completed in AD 80, the year after Vespasian's death. The huge amphitheater was built on the site of an artificial lake, part of Nero's huge park in the center of Rome which also included the Golden House and the nearby Colossus statue. This giant statue of Nero also gave the building its current name.

The Building - The elliptical building is immense, measuring 600 feet by 500 feet and reaching a height of more than 169 feet. The Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectators who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances. Above the ground are four storey 's, the upper storey contained seating for lower classes and women. The lowest storey was preserved for prominent citizens. Below the ground were rooms and cages containing wild animals and mechanical devices. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena.

Velarium - The Colosseum was covered with an enormous awning known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes. A team of some 1,000 men was used to install the awning.

Food and Games - Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games. Those games were a symbol of prestige and power and they were a way for an emperor to increase his popularity. Games were held for a whole day or even several days in a row. They usually started with comical acts and displays of exotic animals and ended with fights to the death between animals and gladiators or between gladiators. These fighters were usually slaves, prisoners of war or condemned criminals. Sometimes free Romans and even Emperors took part in the action.

Inauguration - Hundred-day games were held by Titus, Vespasian's successor, to mark the inauguration of the building in AD 80. In the process, some 9,000 wild animals were slaughtered.

The Ruins - The southern side of the Colosseum was felled by an earthquake in 847. Parts of the building - including the marble facade - were used for the construction of later monuments, including the St. Peter's Basilica.

 

 

 

After the Colosseum we walked up to the arch of Titus, then up to an overlook where you can see the Forum. We did not enter the forum, we stopped on the terrace overlooking the ruins ( where the  Roman Legions marched in triumph). It was still very cold out and a little rainy.   People were uncomfortable because of the weather and fighting the crowds of tourists.

I am so glad that Mom, Dad, and I took the time to do our own slow walk through the forum the day before the official tour started.   Our tour with the group was so hurried.

The guide talked for awhile and tried to make people interested.   It got the tidbit about the virgins:   In the House of the Vestal Virgins, 8 girls, 8 years old lived 30 years.   They were released to marry at 38 years old.

From the Internet: Forum Romanum, Rome

The  Forum Romanum or  Foro Romano was the center of life in imperial Rome, evidenced by the many remains of triumphal arches, temples and basilicas.

History - Until 509 BC, when Rome became a republic, the city was reigned by Tarquin Kings. They built a sewer, the 'Cloaca Maxima', to drain water from the marshlands of the valley between the Palatine, Capitol and Esquiline hills to the Tiber river. Ever since, the area was the center of activity in Rome. It was the site of the first forum. Here, triumphal processions took place, elections were held and the Senate assembled.

The Forum Romanum Today - Today, the forum can look like a disorderly collection of ruins to the uninitiated, but with some imagination you can see the Roman empire come back to life at this site. Remains of many buildings from different periods are visible; the forum was littered with temples, basilicas and triumphal arches.

Triumphal Arches - Three triumphal arches were built on the forum. They were used by emperors to commemorate their victories. The first one, constructed by Augustus, does not exist anymore. The Arch of Titus, built in AD 81 AD commemorates the victory in the Jewish War. It is located at the Via Sacra on the eastern side of the forum. At the other end of the forum, near the capitoline hill is the Arch of Septimius Severus. It was built in AD 203 to commemorate the victory over the Parthians.

Curia - The Curia was the location where the senate assembled. The original Curia was built by the third king of Rome. It burnt down four times, first in 80 BC but it was rebuilt each time. The current building was constructed in AD 283 by Diocletius. The Curia could seat up to 200 senators.

Temple of Saturn - The first Temple of Saturn was built in 497 BC The current ruins date from 42 BC. The temple was used as a treasury. It also housed the banners of the legions and the senatorial decrees.

In the Temple of Castor and Pollux   Only three pillars remain. The original temple was built in 484 BC, the current ruins date from its last reconstruction in 6 A.D. The temple was built by the roman dictator Postumius who vowed to build the temple if his army would beat the Tarquin Kings who previously ruled Rome. According to the legend, Castor and Pollux, mythological twin brothers, helped the Roman army to victory and announced the victory at the forum.

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina - The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina was built in AD 141 AD by emperor Antoninus to honor his deceased wife Faustina. In the 11th century the temple was converted into a church. The church was rebuilt in 1601.

Basilica Julia - In 54 BC Julius Caesar started construction of the Basilica Julia, a building used as the seat of the centumviri, a court of civil jurisdiction where magistrates held tribunals. The large building, 331 feet long and 160 feet wide, was destroyed by fire in 9 BC but rebuilt again seven years later. After the fall of Rome the basilica was sacked. Not much remains of it today but you can still clearly see the floor plan.

More remains - Remains of several other temples and basilicas can be found at the forum romanum, among them the Basilica of Constantine & Maxentius, the Basilica Aemilia, the Temple of Romulus, the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal virgins.

At 3:15 we are headed back to the hotel. Arrive at hotel at 3:30 for a quick rest (and change clothes for dinner if you want.)    Depart at 5:30 to see Spanish steps then dinner.

We had a short time at the Spanish steps.   It was very crowded as expected.   The highlight of that visit was the wedding couple getting photographed.   Also the very large (100) group of kids wearing orange to identify their group.    Our group walked up the steps then on to dinner.   We walked right by the place where Ron got attacked by those kids when I visited in 2000.   The kids walked right by me then shoved a board in Ron 's stomach and tried to get his fanny pack.   He screamed so loud it scared the kids and attracted a lot of attention.   The kids ran away without any of his money.   It does seem easy to get pick pocketed in this town.   Anyway. I digress.

Dinner was very good. Vegetable starter, ravioli cheese tomato sauce, pasta w/ vegetable sauce, chicken grill breast and bell peppers or fillet fish. Baked potato.

 

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Day 4 of the tour Saturday, June 3 - Rome-Pisa-Florence

From the itinerary:   Rome-Pisa-Florence. Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (Buffet Breakfast, and   Dinner included)

Breakfast at 6:30 and luggage out at 7 am.   A short walk to the bus which is parked a couple blocks away and we 're on the bus and on the road by 8 am.   We will take  comfort breaks about every 2 hours.    Then spend about 2 hours in Pisa.   Lunch is on our own and dinner is included today.

It 's another cool day today.   Yesterday the low temperature was 47 degrees F here in Rome.   That is very unusual.   She said we should expect the same weather tomorrow.

The Olympics was here in 1960.

We are driving along the Aurelian Way following the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe we will see Elba island.  

There is no traffic because of the vacation and it is Saturday.

10 am we just entered the  Tuscany region and we are stopping for restroom break and coffee.  

10:45 and we are back on the road.   We are about half way there

1 pm and we are stopping along the way Vecia Marina for lunch at a cafeteria.   Our cost at Prince Food Point:   Calzone 5.00 E, Pizza 2.50 E, Drinks 2.00 E each. 45 more minutes to Pisa.  

The white spots that we see on Apennine Mountains are marble quarries.

1:40 and we are back on the coach and on our way.   Dad is being his normal sociable self on this trip. He loves talking to other people and sharing stories, while Mom is very quiet.   She 's been listening to him tell those stories for 50 years?!?   That 's admirable.   Absolutely amazing accomplishment to be with someone that long. Anyway, he passed two of his Pisa pictures around the bus.   Mom and Dad were 21 years old in those pictures. We need to stage the same photos on this trip.

We are on day 4 of an 8-day trip. It is Saturday. We have Sun, Mon, Tues, and Wed still to go on this tour. OK. This has really been a nice trip. We 've had beautiful weather so far today. It is cool but not cold. I hope it doesn 't rain again. Yesterday it was sprinkling. Mom 's shoes are slippery on wet stones and pavement so Dad was holding an umbrella in one hand, and Mom 's hand with his other hand.   His shoulder was hurting so I grabbed Mom 's hand when I could.

Ursula warned us about the vendors and sellers at Pisa. She said the vendors are illegal and they don 't pay taxes. If you buy something, then it encourages them. She gave us the sales pitch for the Globus  recommended shops where there is a replacement guarantee and correct packing and shipping.    I 'm sure that is all true except for when she said that we (a tourist) could get in trouble for buying something. I think that if the government wanted to scold anyone it would be the (illegal) seller and not the buyer who is spending thousands of tourist Euros in your country.

OK we 're here.   We will spend about 1.5 hours in Pisa.   There are tourist trains into Pisa so we don 't have to walk in Pisa to  the square.  

 

 

 

Pisa

The (leaning) tower is a 180 foot high marble monument

Duomo Cathedral. Built in Pisa style in 1063-1311. Leaning Bell Tower 1173-1356. There are 6 stories of galleries. The tower started leaning in 1178. It leaned 1-2 mm per year.   They will never straighten it completely because then we will loose the tourists!

Earth (dirt) from the holy land was brought for the burial ground here.

It costs 15 E to walk up and you need a reservation.   Only 30 people are allowed in the leaning tour at a time. So that means that they only let 30 people walk up, then they allow 30 people to walk down at a time. So you may not be able to come down when you want. You are stuck at the top until the 30 people in the tower get to top.

June 17, 2001 Atlanta Journal Constitution  Monumental task completed   By Frances D 'Emilio

The Leaning Tower was closed in 1990 when the tower was  very, very close to falling over. And the bronze bells were ordered stilled for fears the vibrations would threaten the stability.   The tower will reopen soon. Only 30 people at a time will be allowed at one time because John Burland , engineer at London 's Imperial College, says they are worry in this lawsuit-conscious after about the possibility of tourist falling off and NOT their collective weight.

December 16, 2001 Atlanta Journal Constitution    Pisa 's tower has old tilt back

Pisa 's leaning Tower reopened its doors and dizzying stairway to the public Saturday after a decade-long renovation to reduce the famed tower 's tilt.

Construction of the 190-foot tower began in 1173. The soil underneath began sinking before workers completed the third level. but worker forged ahead completing it in 1360.

The tower closed in 1990. Renovation attached a pair of steel  suspenders, excavating soil under its foundations. The seven bells were stilled for fear their vibrations would threaten the tower 's stability.

Engineer shaved 17 inches off the tower 's lean so it now back to where it was in 1838.   It leans 13.5 feet off the perpendicular.

My notes from the map of Pisa:

1 Cattedrale (with the ornate doors)

2 Battistero   (round building)

3 Torre (Bell Tower)

Camposanto Monumentale

Museo dell Opera del Duomo

Museo delle Sinopie (pix)

Mura Medievali

To duplicate the photo where Dad is holding up the leaning tower, it took a bit of maneuvering to get him in the correct position.   We were about 100 feet apart and I waved my hands to move him right or left.    His arm is still sore from the rotor cuff surgery a couple months ago and he had to hold up that arm a while I took the photo.   I know his shoulder hurt him after that because he took the two Advil that I have him in the bus.

At the doors of the Cathedral, Dad had a big crowd (about 15) people around him.   They were looking at the two pictures of Mom & Dad in Pisa in 1956. He successfully communicated (in Italian /   Spanish! ) that it was their 50th anniversary. It was priceless to see the expression on one lady 's face when she realized that the people in the photo were actually Mom & Dad.   The crowd was genuinely impressed. So are a lot of people on the bus. OK, they do deserve the kudos. T&P are going to love these stories.

4:00 the train leaves to take us back to the bus.   Now we have about 1.5 hour drive to Florence.   This really is a fabulous day today. The stop in Pisa was great. We had plenty of time to take our pictures.

 

When we arrived in Florence, we had to stop at a place where Globus had to pay 320 E to drive the bus 2 days in the city. And we still have to walk from where we get dropped off and picked up in Florence!

Ursula said there are bad mosquitoes in Florence.   In fact our hotel room supplied the coils that you plug into the electrical outlet.   She also said there is not much around our hotel and there is no Internet.

5:45 pm we arrive to check into the hotel in Florence.    HOTEL in FLORENCE Raffaello , Viale Morgagni 19, Florence I-50134 Tel: 39 055 4224141    Firenze Hotel Raffaello   www.raffaellohotel.it

My room is across the hall from Mom and Dad 's room. I was sitting in my room waiting for my suit case to be delivered and there was a knock on my door.   It was Dad inviting me over for champagne. Mom had put the bottle they received last night in her Globus bag!   What fun.   I unwrapped the foil on the champagne bottle, loosened the wire cap, and the stopper came out one notch. I realize that it may soil the carpet when it blows open, so I stood up to head to the bathroom.   The cork came out another notch. Oh no. Then a loud POP!! The cork flew across the room and it almost hit Dad who was coming out of the bathroom. We had big laugh and toasted to a great trip.

Dinner was at the hotel. Salad with olives, spaghetti with tomato sauce, roast pork and potatoes. It sounds like a lot of food, but it is really small servings (compared to the mounds of food that is normally served in a restaurant in the United States).   We don 't need all that food so I liked the small servings sizes. Then you have room for dessert   - yummy creme caramel.  

 

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Day 5 of the tour Sunday June 4

From the itinerary: Florence. Guided sightseeing including headsets; Follow your Local Guide to the magnificent CATHEDRAL, Giotto 's Bell Tower, the Baptistry 's heavy bronze  Gate of Paradise, and sculpture-studded SIGNORIA SQUARE. To top it off, admire Michelangelo 's celebrated David in the ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS. The afternoon is free. Florentine leather goods and gold jewelry sold by the ounce are attractive buys. You may wish to join an optional dinner outing to a fine Tuscan restaurant. (Buffet Breakfast included)

I got three wake up phone calls this morning.   Yeow. I didn 't ask for any of them. I answered because I think it 's Dad calling.   We met at 7 am Buffet Breakfast. 8 am and we are on the road.   We met our guide  Franchesco at 8:25. Our schedule:

Walk to Accademia and tour until 11 am, walk to the Dome, Signoria area, Santa Croce Square, and Holy Cross church. We will see a fashion show at a leather shop. Free time, then at 4 pm walk to coach (bus).

There are 50 museums in the city of Florence. We are going to the most famous: The ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS  Accademia was built for the statue of David.

Our ticket says  Galleria dell 'Accademia, Lorenzo Monaco. Price E9.50 Fees E3.00.

The clay version of the famous statue  Rape of Sabine women is here. Sculpted in 1583 by Bulonia. The actual statue displayed in Signoria Square.   When an artist is commissioned to make a statue, they make a clay model in full size.   Michelangelo did not make full size clay models. He would maybe make a smaller model to show the aspects of the work.

The statue of David was made by Michelangelo Buonarroti (Caprese 1475  Roma 1564) aka  MA. Michelangelo was 29 years old. He started the statue in 1501.   On Sept 8, 1504 it was revealed in the square. Florence population was 100,000 people back then.  

Interesting note: Leonardo da Vinci initiated the High Renaissance. In 1500, da Vinci returned to Florence from Milan (where he did the Last Supper). da Vinci found the young Michelangelo, who was about to begin the famous gigantic statue David

David is 17 feet tall and weighs 11,000 pounds. He is carved from one piece of marble. He is the shepherd boy who killed Goliath.   He is holding a strap with his left hand and holding a sling shot (and stone?) in his right hand. There is a strap across his back. His eye 's show determination.   David stands for moral and political values.  

In order to learn how the body is put together, Michelangelo illegally dissected at least 50 corpses to understand the human body.    It was illegal for him because, at that time, only physicians we allowed to dissect bodies.

About David from   http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560125_2/Michelangelo.html

The subject of this work is the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, in which the young David, future king of Israel, flings a stone from his slingshot to kill the giant Goliath, thereby saving his nation. The statue expresses not only the daring of the young hero, but also of Michelangelo himself, who established himself as a master with this work. This massive statue, which stands 17 ft tall, was carved from a block of stone that another sculptor had left unfinished. Michelangelo drew on the classical tradition in depicting David as a nude, standing with his weight on one leg, the other leg at rest. This pose suggests impending movement, and the entire sculpture shows tense waiting, as David sizes up his enemy and considers his course of action.

While David reveals Michelangelo's expert knowledge of anatomy (he had been dissecting corpses for about five years), the head and hands are much too large in comparison with the torso. Critics have suggested several reasons for this inconsistency, but the most convincing is that the statue was originally intended for the roof of the Florence Cathedral, and exaggerating the head and hands made them more visible from a distance. The statue was never placed there, but set instead in front of the Palazzo della Signoria, the center of government in Florence. As a result its meaning changed: Rather than a religious image (it would have been one of several Old Testament figures on the cathedral), it became a symbol of the political strength of Florence against the forces of tyranny.

David stood at entrance to Palazzo Vechio palace for 300 years.   In 1507 soneone threw a bench   from the palace window and broke off David 's left arm. He has been inside since 1873.   During the war, they built a cone to protect the statue.    There was a time when public nudity wasn 't appreciated so soldiers had to protect him from people throwing stones.   In 1991 a man hit a hammer on the 2nd toe of left foot.   The only restriction for the man who hit David toe (and other works of art) is that he cannot go into the museum. His picture is displayed at the entrance so they can ID him.   Now there is a Plexiglas barrier around David.    There are micro cracks in the left leg. The cracks are probably from vibrations of people walking around.  

Michelangelo worked because he was paid, but he was a slow worker.   Many statues are left undone because they weren 't paid for.    The pope ordered some statues, and Michelangelo bought marble, but the pope changed his mind and told Michelangelo to paint Sistine Chapel   instead. Michelangelo only did seven of the 42 planned statues.   Michelangelo wasn 't happy about doing Sistine He said,  I 'm a sculptor, not a painter!. His unfinished statues look like people trying to escape the stone.   Michelangelo died with money and the status that he deserved.

In Accademia there is a hall with many, many plaster models.   These are the models submitted for requirements for final exams for students.

We had 45 minutes of free time here, then we met in the street in front of entrance at 9:30. That was plenty of time to see everything.

The toilet is near exit before you go out.

 

After Accademia, we walked over to the see the Florence Baptistry and the heavy bronze  Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1381-1455).

The ten individual relief 's are 31  inches square.   In 1990 the original gilded bronze panels (made 1425-1452 ) were moved to the Duomo museum.   There are bronze copies on the Baptistry now. This note was posted:

Note: These photographs were taken of the relief 's outside on the doors. These are actually copies of the original panels which are now in the Duomo museum for safekeeping.

Eastern Door of the Baptistry - This is the masterpiece of Ghiberti, who worked on it for 27 years, lavishing on it all the richness of his imagination, combined with a fine sense of composition and profound knowledge of the modeller's art. Michelangelo defined the door as fit to be the "Gate of Paradise".

The door, a universally admired masterpiece, has ten panels depicting Biblical scenes. At the centre of the door at left is the self-portrait of Ghiberti. The door's original gilding has recently been recovered from beneath the patina formed over the centuries. It was badly damaged by Florence's flood in 1966 when the waters of the Arno reached a height of more than 5 feet. It took 25 years to restore the panels. After restoration it was moved to the museum of the Cathedral and substituted by a copy.

 

Gates of Paradise in Atlanta!  In July, 2007 three of the ten original bronze panels were on view for the first time in the United States at the High Museum of Art Atlanta. How cool is that! 

 

Beside the Baptistry is the Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria de Fiore) and   Giotto 's Bell Tower.   There are 463 steps to the top of the dome and 414 steps to the top of the bell tower.

Next, we walked South to the  sculpture-studded SIGNORIA SQUARE.   

The real statue of David was removed from the square in 1873.   In 1913 a marble copy of the statue of David was sculpted.   The copy is the same size as the original statue and placed here in the square.

There is also an open air museum here in the square.  

The original statue of the  Rape of Sabine women is here. 1583 by Bulonia. We saw the clay version in Accademia.

There is huge statue of Neptune in the square.   In August 2005 right hand of Neptune was knocked off. The man who did it was fined.

About the PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA AND PALAZZO VECCHIO

One of the best loved squares in Italy, Piazza della Signoria came into being after the tumultuous historical events of Florence's past, and not as part of a well thought-out architectural plan. When the Guelphs overcame the Ghibellines they destroyed all of the Umberti buildings belonging to the Guelph faction. Thus was formed the irregularly shaped Piazza della Signoria. The Loggia della Signoria dates back to the second half of the 1300's and the Palazzo degli Uffizi was added two centuries later. In 1871, when Piazza della Signoria as we today know it was beginning to take shape, the medieval Loggia dei Pisani was knocked down to make room for Palazzo Trevisan. Palazzo della Mercatanzia and Palazzo Uguccioni however survived. Between the Fountain of Neptune (Bartolomeo Ammanati) and Palazzo Uguccioni, rises the statue of Cosimo dei Medici, by Giambologna. Right in front of the Fountain of Neptune there is an inscription laid into the pavement indicating the spot in which the Inquisition condemned Girolamo Savonarola to be burned at the stake in 1428.

Just South of the piazza, and past the Uffizi is the Ponte Vecchio. It is 606 years old, built in 1345 and lined with shops:  The paradise of women, the hell of men.

We went West to the Santa Croce church where Michelangelo is buried.   We all went into a leather shop where the members of our group helped in a fashion show modeling the coats they were selling.   The man that was with 7 women on our trip put on a nice show for the group.   Another girl, Valerie,   looked great in a 400 Euro White jacket.   She was very uncomfortable wearing it because she is a vegetarian.   I saw a beautiful Burberry plaid lined leather coat for 680 Euro.   Yeow!

Now we have free time from noon to 4 pm.    If you want to take a Taxi to the hotel it is about 10-15 Euro or bus #14 goes in front of hotel. Giocatola via Martelli. 15-20 minutes ride.

We were the only people in our group that signed up for the optional afternoon tour of the Uffizi.   Ursula has learned not to offer it, because then people will sign up for it and then they will be very very tired and complain that they wanted more time for shopping on the tour.   Florence is a great shopping city, but we were more interested in the museum.   So,   on our short walk back to the Signori square, we stopped for lunch.    2 calzones, 1 slice pizza, 2 sodas was 10.50 Euro

From the optional itinerary: Uffizi Gallery. Admire the world 's greatest collection of Italian and Florentine art. The GALLERY showcases works by Leonardo da Vinci. Botticelli, and Michelangelo. 36 Euro.

We met our Tour Guide  Francesca   at 1 pm.   Our ticket says  Galleria degli Uffizi La mente di Leonardo Price E9.50 Fees E3.00.

Francesca took us upstairs to the famous collections.   I have to mention the that best view of Ponte Vecchio is from the second floor of the Uffizi.   Francesca 's provided very detailed (almost too detailed) descriptions of the most famous works. Some of my notes:

Lorenzo Monaco 1413   (I drew a picture in my book)

1423 Gentile da Fabriano.   There are 3D God highlights.

Sala del Botticeli. Birth of Venus.   Sun-faded. Others have vivid colors.

Leonardo (LAD).   San Gerolamo. Unfinished painting.

The Holy Family with the young St. John the baptist. 1507 Michelangelo

Raffaello 1483-1520

Tiziano Venere d 'Urbino

From the Internet: Uffizi   http://www.weekendafirenze.com/museidet/uffizi_e.htm

The Uffizi started off as a project by Vasari in 1560 and was completed by Bernardo Buontalenti in 1580. Originally the Uffizi wasn't meant to be a picture gallery - it was intended to house the offices of the Judiciary and Cosimo I raised to the ground an entire quarter, as well as the Church of San Pier Scheraggio to make place for it. The remains of the church can be seen in Via della Ninna and in part within the gallery itself. The Uffizi Gallery is undoubtedly one of the most important and most famous art galleries in the world as far as Italian art is concerned. The works on display date from the 12th to the 18th century and the collection holds 3,800 pieces, although due to lack of space only 2,000 are currently on display for public view. You can visit the gallery from Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 7pm and a complete visit takes about two hours. The building has seen some changes over the centuries. In 1581 Buontalenti closed off the open gallery on the second floor (east wing) in order to house a collection of sculptures, paintings weapons and naturalistic finds. In 1631 Ferdinando II married the daughter of the Duke of Urbino and through this union many splendid masterpieces by Piero della Francesca, Raffaello, Tiziano and Federico Barrocci made their way into the Uffizi. It was through the intervention of Cardinal Leopoldo that the Venetian paintings arrived at the Gallery, whilst during the period 1600 to 1700 Cosimo III added the Flemish paintings and numerous statues acquired whilst in Rome to the collection. Thus we arrive at the year 1737 when Maria Louisa dei Medici - the last of that glorious dynasty - left all of these works to the Lorenas, on the condition that they "remain forever in Florence". The Duke of Lorena reorganised the art gallery towards the end of the century, but it wasn't until the 1900's that the Uffizi Gallery became the vast and complete collection of art works that it is today, thanks to the addition of pieces from the 1300's and 1400's.

I have to mention the one regret I have now is that we didn 't allow enough time to see the rest of the Ufizzi.   The famous pieces are in the galleries on the second floor.   There are three corridors and many rooms.   In order to exit, you must walk down stairs.   There is at least three hours of museum downstairs.   Many interesting exhibits and hands-on displays.   We walked very quickly through everything in search of a restroom.  

I would recommend to allow at least 2 hours upstairs and 2 more hours downstairs at the Uffizi.

After the Uffizi, we went in search of the best Gelato in Italy at Vivoli Il Gelato at Via Isola delle Stinche, 7.   We didn 't take the most direct route, but we did finally find it.   I remembered visiting that same shop back in 1979 with T & P. Great Gelato.   I finally found a place in Atlanta (Smyrna) where I can get Dulce de Leche Gelato.   Yummmmm.

We were supposed to meet back at the leather shop at 4 pm to walk back to the bus. So at 3:45 we stopped 2 shops down from leather shop where Dad and I got a cappuccino. I sure needed that shot of caffeine to help me keep going.  

The bus can 't enter the city proper, so it is parked across the Arno River.   Ursula quickly walked our group across the Ponte alle Grazie bridge. It is a popular route for all tourists and the vendors knew it.   There were many things for sale on the sidewalks.   I saw a purse and bargained him down to 7 Euro.   It has the world print and it has all of the countries that I was looking for.   On one side, South America (with Tahiti off the coast) and China. On the other side is Africa, India with Sri Lanka and the Maldives correctly labeled.   I saw a world print purse in Pisa and when I looked interested, the guy started trying to haggle a price. I had to explain that there was no way that I wanted a purse with the United States on both sides. Anyway, so I catch up to the group and we get on the bus for the ride back to the hotel.   Ursula knew that members of our group were buying things so she didn 't miss the opportunity to scold the vendors around the bus that they were illegal and to leave us alone.   It 's a tough life and tourism is a way to make a living.   That 's how Ursula makes a living.

For the dinner tonight, almost everybody on the tour signed up for the optional Tuscan Dinner.   The other optional dinner outings  A Florentine Night Out and the  Renaissance Dinner weren 't offered to our group.

From the optional itinerary: Tuscan Dinner. Drive out to the Tuscan Hills to enjoy a traditional Florentine meal, including drinks, in a picturesque country setting. 50 Euro.

6 pm bus on the bus. We drove to great spot for a picture of Florence  domes, river, bridges, the whole city. Also a bronze (green) David. 6:40 back on the bus to drive to restaurant for our Tuscan Dinner.

Dinner was ab fab (absolutely fabulous).   The host was an  odd man, quite the comedian.   We could choose filet mignon, roast chicken, steak or lamb.   I select lamb (of course)   It was very very good. Melissa ordered steak. It was a T-bone. Mom and Dad   ordered Filet Mignon.   Looked very good.   The starter was fruit and procutto. Then we had soup with white beans (not pasta). Small pasta dish, penne and a green pasta stuffed with something good. Then our main course with french fries and spinach. Yum yum.

After dinner we danced!    Dancing music!   The YMCA song got many people up.   I remember dancing to that song with T & P 25 years ago on our Europe trip. When he played the Electric Slide song, the whole dance floor was packed.

Sunday night, 10:10 pm and finally left the restaurant.   Quote from Stacy (blonde daughter)  Vino y Musica makes for a crazy night. 

We got back to the hotel at 11 pm. yeow. SO TIRED!

 

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Day 6 of the tour Monday June 5 - Florence-Verona-Venice

From the itinerary: Florence-Verona-Venice. North to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare 's Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet 's Balcony and the well-preserved Arena. Stroll around the picturesque market square. Tonight you are in Venice, a powerful magnet for romantics and art lovers from around the globe. (Buffet Breakfast included)  

What is up with this hotel?!? I got two 6:30 wake up phone calls this morning. Yesterday, I got three calls. At 6:45 Dad knocks on the door. Yes, I 'm up!    At 6:55 Dad knocks again.  We 're going down he is so punctual. Buffet Breakfast.

8 am departure on the road. Over the mountains 2300 feet high pass today.   Bus ride from Florence then North to Verona.

We arrived in Verona at 11:20. We have two hours see the city and get lunch.   Our primary goal was to get a taxi and find Mom & Dad 's apartment where they lived from 1956 to 1958.   Ursula lead our whole group up Via Leoni to Piazza delle Erbe where the famous Madonna Verone Fountain (Cansignorio 1368) is located. In the plaza is the Tower Lamberi and in the back is the Palazzo Mafei  a 1688 Baroque work with pagan divinities of Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Apollo, Hercules and Minerva.   More at   http://www.virtourist.com/europe/verona/

Ursula found a taxi and explained to the driver that we wanted to go to this apartment and take pictures.   And we 're off to Verona 27 Risorgimento.   We were all excited about this adventure.   The driver seemed a little humored that she would be a part this story.   When we arrived at the apartment, we got out of the car to take our pictures.   Big trees had grown up in front of the building.  

Dad said that when they moved in, they asked for the bidet to be removed. The Italians must have thought that Americans were dirty people, when in fact we probably take more showers.   Dad probably has a couple more stories to add here

Next, she drove us to Castelvecchio (meaning  old castle) A museum inside a 14th century palace. The sign in front said  Epoca medievale (1355) Museo d 'arte Medievale e Moderno.   She dropped us off at one side of the bridge and we walked across the Adige river.   Mom said she used to drive the 1956 Pontiac across that same bridge.   It is closed to traffic and only for pedestrians now.   There was lots of construction and restoration on the castle, originally built in 1354.

We waited on the other side of the bridge and looked for the taxi. Walked a block left, then right. No taxi.   I ran back across the bridge and the taxi was waiting at the other side. I got in, and thank goodness she understood to drive around the block to get to the other side of the bridge to pick up Mom & Dad.   Dad recognized the Piazza Bra area and told her to drop us off there.   I wasn 't sure where we were in the city but Dad seemed to have his bearings and he said we would walk back to the meeting place for our bus.   OK.

So here we are beside the arena in the Palazzo Barberi.   Dad found a (clean) public restroom in the plaza where you have to walk down stairs.   We walked across the plaza to the Roman Amphitheater, aka  The Arena. A huge pink marble structure, very well preserved. It is now used for operas.   Seats 25,000 people on 44 rows of seats in the arena.   We needed to get a picture on the highest top row of the arena, but we were told it was closed on Monday, in fact all museums are closed on Monday. Well, it looked like people were going inside, but we really didn 't want a workout climbing stadium seats so we settled on duplicating the picture of Mom at the entrance gate.

Beside the arena is the Town Hall building with beautiful white columns. It is two-stories high. In my photo, there is an Egyptian statue 1.5 stories high in front of the building.   It looks like a staging area for a some sort of celebration of Egypt or something.   We navigated our way Via Giuselle Mazzini to the Piazza delle Erbe.

We walked back down Via Leoni to Via Cappello to see Casa di Guilietta made famous by Shakespeare 's Romeo and Juliet.   The courtyard was open and you could see the Juliet 's Balcony.   This is really the house where Juliette 's family lived.   We had a difficult time staging our pictures with all the people in the courtyard.   Many people were more interesting in the statue of the naked lady and rubbing her (now shiny) breasts.    It helped to hold up the old picture so people could see we were trying to take a photo and they stayed back.

We grabbed a meat danish to go a restaurant on the way to our meeting place at the San Fermo Church.   The bus arrived at 1:30 and we were off on another part of our adventure.   It is a 2 hour bus ride from Verona to Venice.  

Venice is 118 islands linked with 400 bridges.   A 3.3 foot tide affects the water level in Venice.

To get to the main island, we drove across the Freedom Bridge and parked the bus. The fee for the bus is 165 Euro!   Parking is 18 Euro a day to leave your car.

We got off the bus with our hand luggage and walked a block to hotel. We arrive at the Venice hotel at 3:30.

HOTEL in VENICE Carlton Grand Canal   http://www.carltongrandcanal.com/en/    and http://www.corihotels.it/

Hotel Carlton & Grand Canal  Santa Croce 578, 30135 Venice, Italy  Ph. +39.041.275 2200  +39.041.275 2000

The Hotel Carlton and Grand Canal with its one hundred windows, looks out onto the Grand Canal, the romantic stretch of water lined with magnificent palaces and their thousand reflections and colors: a truly unique location which makes this elegant hotel the perfect option for an unforgettable holiday discovering Venice - a magic, timeless city!

The hotel is in a great location, one block from the bus and opposite the railway station.   It is in a 300-400 year old building and all the rooms in the hotel are different.   Melissa is in room 262, I 'm in room 263.

I was waiting for my suitcase to be delivered and I wish I had known that it was out in the hallway!   I had to bring it into the room.

5 pm meet in the lobby for our Gondola serenade ride. This is another awesome perk for tours.   (The first perk for tours on this trip was the quick entry to the Vatican).   If it was raining, then Globus would change the appointment.  

From the optional itinerary: Gondola Serenade. Enjoy a serenaded ride in a traditional gondola, gliding through centuries-old canals, under famous arched bridges, and past lavish palaces and quaint piazzas. 38 Euro.

The Gondolas were lined up and waiting for us.   We divided up into 6 people per boat.   Mom, Dad, Melissa and I were in one gondola with the musicians  a singer and an accordion player.   It was quite a memorable ride.   Mom & Dad were sitting comfortably in the big seat at the back.   Since the musicians were in our boat, we got our photo taken a lot.  

After the Gondola ride, we met in the lobby at 6 pm for the  A Venetian Night Out   dinner.  

From the optional itinerary: Travel by private water taxi along the splendid Grand Canal with its elegant palaces to a fine Venetian restaurant, and taste four mouth-watering courses of local specialties and wine.   Later there 's time to explore and absorb the romantic and unique atmosphere of Venice by night. Cost is 66 EUR per person.

We walked half a block to the water taxi stop.   Climb aboard and ride to the city center, then a short walk to the restaurant. Ursula really knew these streets!   She walked us by some very impressive architecture.   A spiral staircase made of stone on one home. Wow.   We arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm.

Starter was "Proshutto con melone" It is prosciutto with slices with melon. Seemed odd to me. I was eating each piece separately, but then I saw someone put them together.   Wow, the taste when you put both prosciutto and the melon in your mouth at the same time  yum.    Prosciutto is salted pork.   Preparing it according to local customs it takes anywhere from nine to eighteen months.

The rest of the dinner was very good for Mom and I. I think Dad ended up getting a fish dish (again). Everyone seemed very energetic and loud.   Our group was divided into about 5 tables and we were sitting at a big table.   We were getting so loud talking between and among the table that I noticed a couple asked to be relocated away from our group.   The cost for a dinner like that would be about 58 Euro without the wine in that restaurant.

After dinner, Ursula walked us over to St. Marks Square.   It was absolutely beautiful at night!   At 10 pm the water taxi picked up for our ride home.

We had such a great time today, we had to call T in Florida tonight. She was glad to hear from us. My phone hasn 't let me down yet.   I can make direct dial phone calls from Singapore, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and now Italy.

 

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Day 7 of the tour Tuesday June 6 - Venice

From the itinerary: Venice. Start the day in style by PRIVATE BOAT to meet your Local Guide. Guided sightseeing including headsets Highlights of your walking tour are ST. MARK 'S SQUARE and the BYZANTINE BASILICA, lavish DOGES ' PALACE and the BRIDGE OF SIGHS. Also watch skilled GLASS BLOWERS fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional cruise to the charming island of Burano. Tonight is your chance to sample the city 's fine restaurants. (Buffet Breakfast included)

7 am buffet breakfast. Mom & Dad were so early arriving at this breakfast that they got seated with the other Globus group.   I have to say that Dad is very punctual.

7:50 meet in the lobby for sightseeing.   Dad opted not to join us today.   He wanted to rest and keep his feet elevated.   So Mom and I forged ahead.   Another full day of touring.  

8:10 Our group boarded the water bus.   We went north, passed by the freedom bridge, the headed NW, then south, then east around Venice on the outside of the island.   She was giving us a lot of information:

Population in Venice 70,000.

In the canals here the water is 15-20 feet deep. It is  brackish water  salt and fresh water. She said there is a problem with  the smell of the water and the age of houses.

We passed by some HUGE docked cruise ships: the  Blue Dream by Pullmantur cruises.   Another cruise ship:  Silver Wind. Dad said that there 's a good chance that a friend of his, Dr. Scheibler   is on one of those ships.   That would be a coincidence!

If you want to take city transportation back to the hotel. Venice water taxi 180 Euro so take the Vaporator (water shuttle) for 5 Euro. Use line 1 or line 2 to Fero Bilia or Ferano Bila.   Ferrovia.  

About lunch on your own:

If you go to the famous Harry 's Bar http://www.cipriani.com/cipriani/Locs/ven.htm   it costs 34 Euro for one hamburger, a drink is 14 Euro, Coke is 8 Euro,   and water is 6 Euro.

In St. Marks square. Every restaurant has music. You pay for the music so two glasses wine may cost you 26 Euro.

At the Hotel Splendid they have a day special: 2 dishes and dessert. 20 Euro for light lunch.

We were dropped off a couple buildings east of St. Marks square where we met our guide. Glass blowing first and then a walking tour of the Doges palace.

It was short walk to the Vecchia Murano glass factory.   It is near the Bridge of Sighs.   This is the exact same place where our tour went to in 1979!  

They did a demonstration and made a vase. A Murano glass blower made the vase but it was not made in Murano.   Therefore, they must put the finished vase back in the fire to melt. Since it was not made in Murano, it cannot be sold as  Murano glass so they must destroy it.

To make the glass colors they add copper to make green glass, or a Manganese for the amethyst color.   It took 700 years to realize that adding gold made red so red is the most expensive color.

They explained how to make 2-fire and 3-fire works.   They put gold on 4-5 layers then enamel decoration.

They had a  Blue light special (oh no, Wal-Mart lingo in Europe!) They were offering a vase and 6 glasses  thick bottom so the glass stands back up if it tips over. Blue color is 420 Euro. Red color is 490 Euro. The price includes shipping and insurance.

After the tour, we walked through many, many rooms of glass works for sale and more demonstrations throughout the labyrinth.   Mom and I walked quickly so we found the bathrooms before they got crowded.   We finally found the exit.  

Our group was supposed to meet at 9:45 in the same room where the glass factory tour started.   We picked up our whisperers (what a fabulous invention for large groups on walking tours).    There were several people from the group still missing, but we had to get moving to the next tour.   Another 30 minutes would have been nice to see all the incredible glass items, but our tickets for the church had an 11:55 appointment time stamp that we had to adhere to.

It was a short walk to the square. For a good basic map of the square, go to http://www.cheapvenice.com/map-saint-mark.gif

Our ticket says:

Musei Civici Veneziani  Musei di Piazza San Marco:

  1. Palazzo Ducale
  2. Musei Correr
  3. Museo Archeologio
  4. Biblioteca Marcrana

Euro 11.00

We had a walking tour of St. Marks Basilica (Basilica di San Marco)  the main church on the square.   There is absolutely no talking allowed in the church except for leaders of tours who are using the whisperers.   A man started scolding our tour leader for talking because he didn 't know that she was guiding a group through the church.    It was interesting to see the high water marks since the church has been flooded so many times.   There 's lots of information on the Web about this church.

http://www.victorianweb.org/photos/venice/1.html

http://www.venetia.it/m_basil_eng.htm

http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/St_Marks.html

http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Italy/Veneto/Venice-140867/Things_To_Do-Venice-St_Marks_and_Piazza-BR-53.html

Next we go to the Doges Palace: the  Palazzo Ducale.

There were 140 Doges. They were elected for life. They pick richest and oldest and someone who is not related to any other doges. They usually elected very old doges. The shortest doges term was 30 days.   One years is a long time.

The doges were social but they never decided anything. Those around him were the ones with the power to decide. Very unusual political system.   There are 200 elected to the senate. It was a very big room with wood seats around the edge of the room.   The largest canvas painting in the world by Tintoretto is here.

We saw the Institutional Chambers Prisons  The Bridge of Sighs

From http://www.venetia.it/m_ducale_eng.htm:

The Ducal Palace was the residence of the Doge up to the fall of the Venetian Republic in I797 a public palace and seat of the administration of justice. The highest and richest symbol of Venetian civilization, of its cultural, military, political and economic history. All historic periods are represented in an extraordinary stratification of structural and decorative elements: from the antique foundations of the original Gothic complex, to the great halls dedicated to political life and decorated by the canvases of Veronese. Tintoretto and the great masters of the Renaissance. To the precious rooms of the Doges apartment, from the dark prisons and places of torture to the luminous loggias on the Piazza and the Lagoon.

Renaissance means early 16th century. They are in process of restoring all the time.   The word  restoration now means to remove the dust. Absolutely nothing is added, changed or retouched because  what is lost, is lost.

12:20 the tour ended and our guide left us in front of St. Marks Basilica.   Straight ahead of us in the square is the Procuratie Vecchie. At the end of the long building along the square, scaffolding had been covering the Torre dell 'Orologio clock tower for 15 years.   They just removed the scaffolding last week!    There were many beaurocratic problems so it stayed up so many years.

Our ticket for Doges palace is also valid if we want to visit the library, museums around St. Marks. That 's nice, but were tired and hungry and we had a long walk back to the hotel. We took our photos of Mom with pigeons (same as 50 years ago) and the Campanile. I have a picture of Mom & Dad beside the Venice Campanile that is located in Disney 's Epcot in Orlando FL.   The tower looks exactly the same.   There is also a Venice Campanile in Las Vegas.

After pictures, I headed us out of the square in what I thought was the right direction (through the Museo Correr). Wrong.   Mom sensed that we needed to go the other way.   We came back to the square and walked through the Procuratie Vecchie.   She was right because we saw signs to the Rialo Bridge.   We kept walking, heading toward bridge.   We were near the bridge and I wanted to keep walking in the same direction on the street.   Mom stopped me and pointed left.   There was the bridge!   We would have missed it if she hadn 't stopped us. We had to stage another picture with Mom standing on the bridge.

That done, we were on our way again. We walked slow because it was so crowded!   We had to hold hands the whole way because there were so many people everywhere. I didn 't want to get separated.   We also did many, many steps up and steps down on bridges over waterways.   No place to hold on so we had to hold onto each other.   (I really did enjoyed that!)   We finally found to big road Strada Nova.   It took us all the way around the west side of the Grand Canal.   We were warned not to cross the Canal because we would get lost in the internal alleys.   That was good advise.  

We stopped to eat along Strada Nova, then it was a short way back to the hotel.    We arrive around 1:30 pm.   We were both dead tired.   We had been on our feet since 7 am and it was at least an hour walk from the square to the hotel.   Yeow.   I can 't believe Mom! 71 years old and she never slowed down and never asked to stop and rest.   I was impressed.   We found Dad in the room, relaxed and rested.   It really was a great morning out with Mom.  

We had till 4:50 to rest and get ready go out and about again for our dinner tonight.   We are doing a lagoon cruise to the island of Burano where we eat dinner.

From the optional itinerary: Leave the crowds of Venice behind and appreciate the peaceful vistas of the Lagoon while you glide past the islands of San Giorgio, Santa Elena, and the famous Lido. In the picturesque fishing village of Burano, renowned for its pastel-colored houses, savor a four-course dinner with drinks included.   Afterwards there 's time to shop and stroll. 62 Euro

4:50 pm meet in the lobby.

The water taxi is not fast and the seat are not padded. You leave busy areas and it is a relaxing leisurely trip.   Cruise to island and see a sunset on the way.

We passed by the island of Murano  population is 7,000 now. The glass blowers were sentenced to death if they gave away their secrets or went to work for someone else. They had many privileges and they were treated well.

You cannot buy islands in the lagoon. You must lease them for 99 years.

Engineers are rigging something because water level is falling and exposing wood that Venice is built on and the wood dries out and that is bad.   Read about the  Moses Project in the article at the end of this journal.   They inflate big balloons of air to keep water levels more consistent in the Venice. It 's call the Moses Project ( he parted the waters in the bible).

We got out of the boat on the island of Burano. All the houses have different colors. Very pretty.

We stopped to see a store where the made lace.   Beautiful clothes, table cloths etc.   We walked about 2 (beautiful) blocks to the restaurant on the island.

Dinner starter is fish spread with bread. Then came the lasagna with sauce. The main course of grilled fish, shrimp, calamari (looked like onion rings!), seafood risotto, salad, fruit. Dessert is a special  Burano cookie You are supposed to dip these cookies in white wine, then eat it.    Hmm, sounds like a grown up version of dipping Chocolate Chip 's Ahoy cookies into milk.

The meals on this trip are truly fabulous.   Great quote from Alex 's father Tony:    I can 't wait till we don 't have to eat like this again

Boat ride full of very tired people back to the hotel.   And finally sleep.

 

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Day 8 of the tour Wednesday June 7

From the itinerary: Bus ride from Venice to Rome. A scenic drive today through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Panoramic drive through CHIANTI COUNTRY.   Then speed south along the Highway of the Sun. (Buffet Breakfast included)

Breakfast and luggage out at 6:30 am. (Ughhhh!)   Depart at 7:20 to walk back to coach. Bus departs at 7:30.

We are driving South to Tuscany and onto Rome. We are taking a small detour through Chianti area to get A1 road. We will maybe arrive in Rome between 3-4 o 'clock.

At 9:30 we had a potty stop for 20 minutes. Actually, they call it a  Technical Stop for a bathroom break.

2500 feet height over Apennine Mountains. We can see snow on the alps!

It 's 10:50 and we are near Florence. Now it 's 11:00 and we are getting off the highway.   We are going up a narrow windy road. We 're in the town of  Il Pruneta or  Impruneta.   We 're on the 222 road. It 's an old historical road through Tuscany.   I 'm glad we 're getting to do this now, because big tour buses like this aren 't going to be allowed on these roads soon.   I imagine that they are tearing up the roads and causing a lot of noise and pollution.   It is a very beautiful area.

At 11:25 we passed an on-ramp to get back on the motorway so I guess we are off the 222?   11:35 and we are back on the highway. So we did a 30-minute detour to see Chianti country.   We took the 222 road near/after Florence, went South, then looped back to A1 to Rome.   Salvtore earned his tip when he was driving our huge bus on that 222 road.   We have about 45 minutes until our lunch stop.

OK, lunch is over.   Ursula showed me on a big map where we were driving. Yup, winding road through the countryside.   It 's 1:20 now and we 're back on the road after lunch.

On our long drive back to Rome, Ursula gave us some very interesting information:

It was a common practice to move olive trees in front of new hotel or buildings. But now, it is illegal to cut down or move an olive tree. About every 5 years the government takes a satellite picture of your land. If you chop down an oak tree or an olive tree, you get a fine.   Ursula said they have 90 trees on their property.

Ursella 's bidet instructions.   Her instructions were much more entertaining and just as informative as the instructions on    http://www.ehow.com/how_13097_bidet.html    She was very tasteful in her description.   She didn 't know the word  straddle so she says  jump on it like John Wayne. So here are Ursula 's bidet directions:

Face the wall

Fill with water so it is a lake

And you sit in the lake. Wash. Turn around, wash.

Bidet 's are used in Italy and France. They are disappearing. The bidet was a substitute for bath tub to save water.   Our culture is changing hotel have them because its an old tradition but not many people use them.

Ursella 's risotto recipe

1 spoon olive oil, 1 spoon butter (for flavor)

Stir fry finely chopped onion till glazy (not brown). Put in risotto, when golden, add wine and very slowly add ladles of soup broth to get the creamy texture.   Let liquid evaporate.   Simmer for creamy risotto.   Add 1-2 spoons of parmesan cheese.   Add any vegetables, asparagus, etc. Cooked Pumpkin or pesto sauce.

Ursula about pasta:   Every pasta has it 's own sauce.   She said that the way pasta is cut makes it taste different in your mouth. Penne pasta is cut diagonally and rigatoni is cut straight and that gives it a different taste!   I 'm just sure..

Per Ursula, sneezing is  dusting your brains

At the Hotel Majestic the cost is 374 E for a single room

Italian men do not pinch.

There are many many Oleander trees around Rome. They are poisonous.

Check into our HOTEL in ROME: Villa Pamphili   (4 star), Via Della Nocetta, 105, Rome i-00164 Tel 39 06 6602 or 39 06 66157747

www.hotelvillapamphili.com   or http://www.atahotels.it/villapamphili/

http://www.city-accommodation.com/hotels/ROM_rome/112820.html

Built in 1975 and remodeled in 2003.   It is located in a residential area 3 km south of the Vatican.   We had very nice rooms.   I have a separate room tonight, but tomorrow night I move into Mom & Dad 's room.

The copies of the group photograph that we took St. Peters square were waiting for us. It is a big photo and a great picture for 10 Euro each.

The farewell dinner evening starts at the Trevi Fountain.

From the optional itinerary: Toss your coins into the Trevi Fountain, then enjoy a memorable dinner party with you newly found friends in one of Rom 's popular restaurants, where a delicious four-course meal and drinks will be served. A wonderful way to say  Arrivederci Roma!   Cost is 55 Euro.

5:30 we left the hotel.   She warned us that it may be a 55-minute bus ride to city center where we get dropped off. Actually it was an hour plus 5 minutes.   There was so much traffic.   I would not want to be driving around this city in a rental car.   At 6:35 we arrived at the place where the bus dropped us off. It was a short walk to the Trevi Fountain.   It was so crowded with so many people everywhere. There were so many shops along the walk to the fountain. Some members of our group didn 't even see the fountain. They got sidetracked with the shops.

We had about 20 minutes to walk around the Trevi.   There is no way that we could have taken our staged Trevi photos in that time!   Also there was no way to take a decent photo of the fountain.   I am so glad that we came here the day before the tour to take those pictures of Mom & Dad.   It was absolute zoo with so many people everywhere.  

Ursula told us that throwing coins in the fountain is a symbolic gesture, so use the smallest denomination.   1, 2 and 5 cent red coins. She said about 250 to 350 Euro a day is fished (taken) out of the fountain. The money goes to a homeless organization names  Caritas.

Another tradition is to throw a coin in if you want to return.   This is my third time here, so I did not throw a coin in the fountain.

We walked back to main street to wait for the bus to pick us up. Ursula explained that it is OK to drop off, but it is not OK to pick up at that location. I guess they don 't want buses waiting on that very busy street.    So where are they supposed to pick up?   We gathered the group together, then Ursula used her cell phone to call Salvatore and the bus arrived at 7:16 to pick us up.

7:40 and we are still driving to the LaTana de Rey restaurant on Kings Square.

With three of us at the table, they gave us 1 carafe of red wine, 2 open bottles of white wine, 2 one-liter bottles of water, AND 1 two-liter bottle of coke.   Wow.    One bottle of wine each.   I think the more bottle they open, the more they get to charge Globus and the more they get to take home that night for themselves.   Anyway.   Dinner was the best food ever.

1st plate was antipasto which included salami, 2 slices prosciutto, and grilled vegetables: 1 slice of eggplant, 1 zucchini, red pepper.   Very good.   Next was two pastas: Soup with white beans, and the next one pasta with the best vegetable sauce. It was red but it didn 't seem tomato based. Very delicious. Salad came next. For the main course you selected fish, chicken, or meat.

Dad got his salmon (with some bones). Mom and I got the best veal ever. Two large very thin slices, with a nice sauce. Sweet white potatoes. We had a choice of dessert from the trolley: tiramisu,   lemon cake, or chocolate cream.   Mom got the lemon and Dad and I got the tiramisu (which may have been a mistake as we find out the next day).

This dinner was very special for our group.   The entertainment provided by the restaurant, a woman and a man on guitar, was nice and the entertainment provided by people in our group was even better.   Dad was enjoying the guitar player, then he asked if he could borrow the guitar.   So there he was, Dad doing  my get up and go has got up and went poem for the whole group.   Anther girl in our group ( I think it was it Lisa ) sang with the woman. Was it Ava Maria? I wish I hadn 't waited so long to type up this journal.   If anyone is reading this and remembers who sang and the song, please let me know.

After dinner, we had a short (cool) walk back to the bus. Then a drive around for our  illumination tour of Rome. We drove by the Wedding Cake building into the Vatican. We got out of the bus and took pictures.

Tomorrow, Thursday is our down day. I sure need it. I 'll see St. Peters Cupola next time (if there is a next time). My 46-year old body is so tired . I can 't imagine how Mom and Dad feel.

 

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Day 9 of the trip Thursday June 8 - Free Day

This is last day of the official tour. Most people have homebound flights, but we have a DAY OF REST!   We are staying at the same Villa Pamphili hotel.   I got a Travel Bound Hotel Voucher with a GTA Reference number (required for the room reservation).    3 adults in one triple room and American breakfast on   June 8, 2006. $328.50 USD.   There is a free shuttle from this hotel to and from the Vatican so it would be easy to go back there and go up St. Peters Cupola.

What really happened today is I slept till 8 am. I went to the bathroom at 8:15, again at 8:30. Took 2 Imodium. Yuck.

There are great breakfasts at this hotel and buffet breakfast is included in the room rate. I felt OK, so I went down to eat breakfast. They have fresh-squeezed orange juice. You press a lever and watch the oranges get pressed. They had all kinds of cheeses, breads, eggs, etc.   Very good, but I didn 't feel like eating much.  

At breakfast we met Susan. She takes pictures for Grand European Tours.

Tony and his wife were also in the breakfast room. Alex, their son was also sick. They found out that he wasn 't the only one from the group that was sick.   A couple other of the girls who were flying back today weren 't feeling well.   So it turns out that Dad was sick, and then I realized that I was sick also. I think we figured out that it was the tiramisu that made everyone sick. I can remember thinking that it wasn 't good considering all the calories that it contained. I never imagined that it would make me so ill.

After breakfast we went back to the room and immediately had to lay down. Mom was fine. But Dad and I could not move all day. Horizontal in bed was the best, I mean the only position. Any vertical position and I had to run to the bathroom.

It was a rough day. I was glad I was in the same room as Mom and Dad so we could commiserate together.   One thing I have to mention is that the orange juice tasted just as good the second time. Anyway.   By about 5 or 6 pm Dad and I were feeling better. I kept water down and half a melba toast.   Around 7 pm we started repacking. We were staying in the same room the next night so all three of us packed our over-night stuff into one suitcase.   We would store the other two suitcases here at the hotel.   After our mini-tour, we come back to this hotel for one night before we fly home.

At 8 pm I made some instant oatmeal and ate it slowly. I can 't imagine if we had to fly home when we were sick. That would have been unbearable. I tried to cancel our Naples Sorrento Capri tour but it 's paid for, so I we are going on the tour.

Asleep by 10 pm. Dad was up at 5 am Uuugh.

 

Day 10 of the trip Friday June 9

I slept great last night. Dad said he was up every 20 minutes all night but he was feeling a lot better today.   We sure needed that day of  rest to recover from whatever we ate at the farewell dinner and the very fast-paced tour.   Perfect timing for our down time, but now we were going to hit the road again.

Buffet breakfast was included in room rate, but we are leaving before breakfast is served. So, the hotel is packing three breakfasts for us.   We will get lunch and dinner included on the mini-tour.

I booked our tour through Odyssey Tours   http://www.odyssey-tours.com/   info@odyssey-tours.com  

But it turned out to be Carrini Tours   http://www.carrani.com/    Address: Escursioni Italiane SRL, Via Vittoria Emanuele Orlando, 95  00185 Roma Tel. 06.4742501  06.4880510.   (Members of virtualtourist.com get a 10% discount on all tours email odysseytours@hotmail.com or phone (39) 06 7720 4019 Odyssey Tours at Via Collazia 2F, Rome, 00184 Lazio, Italy)

TOUR number 16:   Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, Capri (2 Days/1 Night)   - Depart Rome to Naples, the ancient city of Pompei, historic Sorrento overnight, the beautiful Island of Capri, and return to Rome.

Departure Dates : Every Day of the Year, Departure Time : Hotel Pickup - between 6:45am and 7:00am  

Price: With a double room: 257.00      per person.

Includes: Pickup from Hotels within the greater Rome area.   Transport by deluxe coach.    Bus   co-operator and is bilingual.   Visits as per the schedule with local guide, entrance fees, lunch (drinks and personal extras excluded), tour director during the journey.

Overnight in hotel with bed & breakfast, two lunches and one dinner. Only one piece of luggage per person is allowed.

From the itinerary - The first day of mini-tour is Rome-Naples-Pompei-Sorrento:

After leaving Rome and driving along the "Sun Route" motorway, we will cross the regions of Lazio and Campania. Once in Naples, there will be a short panoramic tour of the city, we will then continue towards Pompei, where after the lunch break, we will visit the excavations of this world famous Roman town, destroyed by the eruption of the Mt.Vesuvius in 79 A.D.. Then we will drive along the Sorrentine Coast up to Sorrento, where we will have dinner and overnight stay.

I got a confirmation email that we would be picked up between 6:15 and 6:45 am by bus Carrani Viaggi (Tel: 39 06 474 2501). Our reservation was confirmed by Marianna de Ruiter via email on 28 May 2006.

At 6 am we were in the lobby.   We checked out of the room and stored 2 suitcases.   At 6:35 am we were still waiting on the shuttle to pick us up. I nibbled on my breakfast.   It was sure nice to be able to keep food down.  

At 6:45 a car arrived to pick us up from the hotel.    It was a 20-minute crazy drive to the Carrani office where the bus was parked. At 7:30 we were on the bus waiting to take off. It was big bus. The seats were very close together and every seat was full. I think our guide 's name was Monia Sebastiano.   When we boarded the bus, Monia asked us what language we spoke.   I think there were three languages on the bus.

There was also 3 tours on this bus. There was 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day tour people. Its was about a 3 hour drive to Naples. She did all the announcements and tour information in 3 languages! Amazing.

After 1 hour on the bus, we stopped for a (bathroom) break.

We arrived in Naples for a city tour with a local guide.   Naples is Italy 's third largest city.   She said we would be here only about 40 minutes.   The tour is a 30-minute walking tour of Naples, so we decided not to participate. Dad and I were still feeling a little weak from the day before, so we sat in a coffee / car shop.

After the Naples tour, we had a one-hour drive to Pompeii.   When we arrived we had lunch in a place set up to handle huge tour groups.   On our mini-tour, lunch was included, but not drinks. Good servers, but also very tired, overworked servers.  

After lunch we had a 20-minute stop in the Cameo Corals store.  

Next is Pompeii.    On August 24, AD 79 Mt. Vesuvius buried the city under more than 23 feet of volcanic ash.   The peoplesuffered a live burial and mostly died from suffocation from poisonous gas.   The city was found in the first unearthlings in 1748.   It is about 160 acre site and one third is still covered in ash. 2 million visit Pompeii annually.

Our Pompeii visit/tour lasted about 2 hours. We had a big group of English speakers so it was difficult for our guide to talk to the whole group. There were many many tourists. We had to wait for one group finish and move away before our guide would talk.

It was a little frustrating at times dealing with the people and trying to listen to her give us information.   It really made me appreciate the whisperers on all the other Globus tours that we had the previous week. Over all, I think Pompeii was a lot more interesting for me this second time. The first time that I was here was in 1979 and I had a horrible hang-over

People here are thankful for Vesuvius. It left fertile soil from past eruptions and it brings tourists now.

At 5 pm we met in the parking lot to find correct bus for the next part of the tour. The 1-day tour people were going back to Rome, the 2-day and 3-day tour people were going to Sorrento.   We moved our suitcase from the first bus to the second.   It was a very good idea for all three of us to pack our stuff into one suitcase for this one over night trip.  

It was 50-minute drive to Sorrento. Population 20,000. There was a lot of traffic on curvy narrow roads with beautiful scenery. We got to the Ambassador Hotel about 6:30.

Grand Hotel Ambasciatori  

Via A. Califano, 18

80067 Sorrento Italy  

Phone 081 8071021

www.manniellohotels.it   or http://www.ambasciatorisorrento.com/index.php

Average daily rate is 260 Euro for our Deluxe Plus room.   From their web site:

   A double room with sea view balcony, luxury furniture and bathroom in fine marble.    Deluxe Plus double rooms are spacious and luminous, all provided with balcony or terrace overlooking the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius and the luxuriant secular park. The design is always extremely elegant, with inlaid wood work furniture finely decorated by local craftsmen and personalized for the Grand Hotel Royal. Deluxe rooms are both available with double or twin beds.

Services: individually adjustable air conditioning and heating, mini bar, direct dial phone, modem plug and internet access, wardrobe with safe, television with satellite antenna connected to the major national and international television channels, radio, desk with lamp.

Bathrooms are provided with bathtub and shower, direct phone, hairdryer and a well provided courtesy line.

Pictures at http://www.ambasciatorisorrento.com/gallery.php.   It was a very nice comfortable room.   It was maybe a half mile walk to the main square and shops in Sorrento.

Six people got off the bus. We got very brief instructions. Dinner and breakfast is included. We are supposed to meet in the lobby at 7:30 am without luggage tomorrow.  

It was very nice hotel. We had a suite with 2 rooms and the bathroom was in between.   You could close the door for privacy to each room.

Dinner was at the very nice restaurant in the hotel. I had stuffed anchovies, salad bar, cold veal with tuna paste and capers. Dad had tomato soup, fish in a foil tent. Mom had rigatoni pasta and veal with a wine sauce. We all had pistachio ice cream for dessert. We were all so tired, it seemed difficult to eat.   But we did it. It was delicious.

After dinner we took some picture, then went back up to the room and crashed.   My head hurt and I was so tired. My whole body is tired. I can 't imagine how Mom and Dad feel. Tonight we were asleep by 9:30 pm.

 

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Day 11 of the trip Saturday June 10

Dad was up at 6 am. I said I wanted to wake up at 6:30 so he knocks on my door at 6:20.   I wanted 10 more minutes! I guess it 's better to be early than on time.   I showered and was ready in about 25 minutes.   It 's easy to get ready fast when there are no decisions to make.   Dad wore his Cisco t-shirt under the shirt that Paul gave him.   Are were off on our last day of adventure.

Breakfast at 7. Buffet Breakfast is included in room rate on the tour.   We checked out of the room, and they tried to charge us for peanuts that we didn 't eat so we refused to pay for the peanuts.  

I was a little nervous about leaving our luggage at the front desk, but that is what we were instructed to do. We will get our suitcase later today at 3 pm for the drive back to Rome. That drive is not going to be fun.

From the itinerary - Second Day of our mini-tour: Capri-Sorrento-Rome

After breakfast, we will embark for Capri. On arrival, weather permitting, we will enjoy a visit of the Blue Grotto, by rowing boats. On the way back, from the harbor of Marina Grande, we will go to Ana Capri, a tiny and picturesque Mediterranean style village with a wonderful view of the Gulf of Naples. Lunch break in a typical restaurant. After lunch, free time at disposal to wander about the celebrated "Piazzetta" and the characteristic streets of this little town. In the afternoon embarking for Sorrento.

In case of adverse weather conditions; should the visit to the Blue Grotto be impossible, it will be replaced by a visit of the Villa di San Michele in Ana Capri.

A bus picked us up at 7:30 am. We were at the dock at 7:50, and departed the dock at 8:05. It was about a 25 minute hydrofoil ride to Capri. He said the ferry ride coming back will be about an hour.

Our ticket says: Linee Marittime Partenopee. Cost was 12 Euro. (this cost was included in our tour)

From Fodors:   Linee Marittime Partenopee offers one to three hydrofoil departures every hour from Sorrento (EUR8, travel time 20 minutes), seven ferries per day from Sorrento (EUR6.5, 50 minutes), and one hydrofoil per day from Ischia (in the morning, EUR12, one hour).

Other services: Caremar (PHONE: 081/5513882 or 081/8370700, www.caremar.it). Linee Marittime Partenopee (PHONE: 081/8781430 or 081/8071812). Navigazione Libera Del Golfo (PHONE: 081/5527209 hydrofoils from Naples; 089/875092 ferry and hydrofoils from Positano). SNAV (PHONE: 081/7612348).

We met our Capri guide at the dock.   He is an older gentleman who spoke fluent Spanish, Italian and English. I could tell is was going to be a good day.   Many things just falling into the right places today. Sure enough,    Our Blue Grotto experience was absolutely PERFECT.   We couldn 't have timed it better

I think we reached Capri around 8:35 in the boat.   It was a short walk to the dock where we boarded another boat to take us to the Blue Grotto.   8:50 am and we were off to see the grotto. 9:05 and we were getting out of our boat and into little row boats.   Mom opted to stay in the bigger boat, she did not do the grotto because stepping into the little row boats over water bothered her. She watched the bags for everyone on the boat.

It was a little tricky going from boat to boat with waves bouncing you up and down.   Dad was in the front of the boat and I was in the middle.   We rowed directly into the grotto, no waiting.    I got a picture of Dad ducking down in the row boat. It looks like about 10 inches of clearance in the rocky grotto entrance.

It was beautiful inside the grotto.   Someone in another boat was singing and the echo was incredible.  

Getting back out was a little scary.   You really have to lay all the way down in the row boat to get through the little opening.   When there are high waves, no one can enter (or exit). Overall, our grotto experience was much better than I expected. We were out by 9:10.

The grotto is only open about 100 days a year.   They close it because of waves and weather. We were very lucky to be able to see it.

From the Internet.   http://www.capri.net/    The Island of Capri...    The Island of Capri lies to the South of the Bay of Naples. The island has a perimeter of approximately 10 miles and a total area of about 1..036 hectares, it is 4 miles and its width varies between 1.6 miles and .7 miles. Map of the Island The highest point is Mount Solaro  1932 feet. There are two towns: Capri and Ana Capri. About 8000 people live in Capri and 7000 in Ana Capri. The town of Capri is located on the eastern side of the island, Marina Grande - the port - to the North and Marina Piccola to the South. Ana Capri is on the western side of the island and is separated from Capri town by the imposing slopes of Mount Solaro. The climate of Capri is typically Mediterranean. The temperature varies from 50 F in February - the coldest month - to 82 F in August. Spring and Autumn are the milder seasons during which it is certainly more pleasant to visit the island.

SIGHTSEEING The road that climbs from the main town of Capri to Ana Capri offers views of the Gulf of Naples, from the Sorrentine Peninsula to Ischia that are simply stunning. The drive takes less than 15 minutes, so if you want to savor the panoramas (and it's not too hot), consider walking (it will take 45 minutes or so) and ponder the fact that for most of history, the two towns were linked only by Scala Fenicia, a staircase carved out of the rock cliffs. At Piazza della Vittoria, ride the chairlift up Mount Solaro for another sweeping view, then return to the piazza and visit the nearby Villa San Michele, the former home of Swedish author-physician Axel Munthe and now a tasteful museum.

DINING After decades of foreign (mostly French) influence, the island's kitchens have returned to their Mediterranean roots  fish seasoned with olive oil, squid (often prepared with a cheese filling and a tomato sauce), pasta with fresh veggies, ravioli (the island version features pasta made only with flour and water, served with a tomato sauce and fresh basil), and Capri's trademark dish, insalata caprese, a classic salad of sliced tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, dressed with olive oil.

Anacapri: La Grotta Azzurra

A magic no word or image could ever describe. It is a 200 feet long, 80 feet -wide cavity; to get into it, you need to take one of the small rowing boats moored outside the cave; since the opening is very narrow, you will Relais Mare have to lie on the bottom of the boat to get into the grotto (in experience case the sea grows rough, boat service is suspended). There is  the World" actually a bigger but completely submerged opening; this very underwater entrance allows the   blue coloration of the water inside the grotto, due to a phenomenon of sunlight reflection. There is an almost surreal view in the inside, the transparency and the blue colour of the water give us the impression of navigating through   a clear sky, and the boats seem to float on a fantastic universe.

The Blue Grotto has been known   since the Roman times, and   Emperor Tiberius chose it as his   own personal nymphaeum.   The statues of pagan gods    found on the bottom of the cave   date back to the Roman times),   later on almost nothing was known    of the grotto, also because the fishermen of the island believed   it to be haunted by evil spirits.   It was rediscovered and made popular as late as April 18, 1826 by the German painter August   Kopisch and his friend Ernst Fries with the help of Angelo   Ferraro, a fisherman; since then, the grotto has been visited by   millions of tourists.

There were many other boats are waiting when we were leaving. It was great timing for our group.

From my writings in the boat:   It is an absolutely beautiful day today. Maybe 78 degrees F. Light wind. Big blue sky with some clouds. Mountain island all around us.   Mom and Dad (both healthy- yeah) are sitting in the boat with me.   Wow, our last day in Italy. This will be one of the best days so far.

We boarded a small bus to drive up to Ana Capri.   Here is some information from our very good, very entertaining guide:

12,000 people live here year round.   In the summer 24,000. And 10,000 to 25,000 people visit in one day.

There are 90 days of rain a year.

There is no water on the island they collect water on the roof tops.

There are no sandy beaches here. It is a limestone rock island.

It 's 9:45 and we are driving up a very scary narrow road 1000 feet up. You can also walk up 777 steps up to Ana Capri.    Our guide said there are  parachutes under our seats (in case the bus goes off the road).

Our guide is really good.   He has great sense of humor and you could tell he loves his job.   That is refreshing to see.

9:50 we arrived in Ana Capri.   We have one hour (until 10:50 then we meet for lunch).   Some people opted to shop.   There was no question about what I was going to do  the chair lift up Mount Solaro. The ticket says:

Seggovia Monte Solaro ANACAPRI   P.I. 02158321006   Tariffa Biglietto di Andata e Ritorno

I think it was about 8 Euro.   It was single chairs that takes 12 minutes to climb 970 feet up to the highest 1932 peak on the island.   Dad went with me and Mom waited at the bottom.  

On the chair lift, we went over people 's houses. It was almost as if we were in their back yard with them.   2000 feet high at t the top and it was awesome weather so the view went on forever.

We made it down in time to meet the group for lunch (included in the tour).   First course was soup or pizza or lasagna. The next course was veal or fish.   I confused them a bit by ordering soup for my first course and lasagna for my main course.   It made sense to me, and they accommodated me.   I just couldn 't eat veal or fish again.

After lunch waiting for the bus I realized that I left my camera on the table.   I ran back to get it.  

We had a short, harrowing bus ride to Capri.   The seats are so close together in the buses, you must sit sideways in the seats.

Our guide took us to the main square in Capri with instructions to meet at 1:20 in front of Magic Lemon shop. It is AFTER the pink house.   When we were standing in the square, he gave us directions and pointed to where we should walk to find the hotel.

And we 're off on another highlight of our trip: to find Mom & Dad 's hotel where they spent their fist anniversary.   We were all so tired, I 'm sure we could have rested with a cappuccino, but we had an hour and a half.   We could walk slow and find this place.   To get to La Floridiana:

Take Qui Susanna left, then first right. Follow the signs to the hotel.   Other landmarks (so we can find our way back) : Malo, Prada, Best Western, Silanos.

From the Internet: Hotel La Floridiana   http://www.lafloridiana-capri.com/    www.lafloridiana-capri.com     

Email: lafloridiana@capri.it   Via Campo di Teste, 16    80073 Capri PO Box 90

Directions: From La Piazzetta take Via V. Emanuele to Via Camerelle.

Tel +39 081 8370166 Phone 39-81-837-0166,    Fax +39 081 8370434

Ideal for those who want to relax in a central but quiet position (5 minutes from the famous little square), LA FLORIDIANA is surrounded by greenery and faces south in a marvelous triangle of sky, sea and pine trees. It's just a few minutes from the Certosa congress center and the Gardens of Augustus, and near a public swimming pool, tennis courts and disco.

The walk to the hotel was down hill most of the way. It took us 9 minutes to walk there. We took some photos in front of the hotel sign and they let us walk out to the balcony to take some pictures.

At one point in planning this trip we had reservations to stay at this hotel (at a rate of 322 Euro per night!).   It was very expensive and we would not have seen Pompeii if we did that option.   I think we had enough time to walk around the hotel to relive the memories.

We walked back slowly because it was up hill and it was a warm day.   There are lots of expensive shops on the streets.   We wandered near the 1:20 meeting spot and found a shady bench to park Mom & Dad. It was a 20 minute bus ride down to the main marina.   We were at the 21 dock at 1:50 where we got our one-way ferry ticket back to Sorrento on Linee Marittime Partenopee. Cost was 12 Euro.

 

When we arrived in Sorrento, we found out they had moved our luggage out of our Ambassador hotel and it is now at Hotel Royal.   There is a soccer game near the Ambassador so the bus can 't go there.   They have to pick us up at Hotel Royal.   OK.   Our guide found us a bus to take us to Royal Hotel and we said goodbye to him. He was so good, I gave him a nice tip.

Now we are waiting on Carrani Tour to pick us up between 3:15 to 3:30 bus pick us up at Hotel Royal.   Dad was encouraging Mom to go to the restroom, I got the front desk to help me check on our flights home. The guy at the desk called Alitalia and Delta. Everything is confirmed so I guess we are flying home tomorrow.

I have to say that I was very impressed with Odyssey Tours and the Carrani organization. We had great multi-lingual guides on the bus.   She said everything in three languages. Our Capri guide was really funny and a good guide.

We rode from Sorrento to Pompeii where we met at the same parking lot around 5 pm.   We had to change buses for the ride back to Rome.   The switch was  somewhat organized.   They had some many different tours and people going South, other going North.   We found our bus and we were in Naples by 6 pm. We had to pick up the 2-night people. They took the ferry form Capri to Naples. That was a lot less time on the bus. One night people (like us) took the bus from Sorrento.

We got off the bus and bought some snacks while we waited. I got a chicken sandwich. I realized that I hadn 't eaten any chicken on this trip.   There 's probably a good reason for that  the bird flu scare. Oh well,

We had a 7:30 quick toilet stop. ETA (estimated time of arrival) 9:15 arrive in Rome.   

For traffic information in Italy, go to   www.autostrade.it . Now it 's 8 pm and it is still light out. One more hour to Rome.  

8:45 it 's still light out!

About 9:10 we transferred to a shuttle to take us to our hotel. We stopped at two other hotels, and finally we were the last to be dropped off. We checked back into the   Villa Phampille (it means '  little nut).   Or is it Villa Pamphili. Located at Via Della Nocetta, 105, Rome i-00164 Tel 30 06 6602.   I had my Travel Bound Hotel Voucher with the GTA Reference number, Issued on 26 May 2006 for 3 adults 1 x triple room and American breakfast on 08 June 06. Cost is $328.50 USD.

We got   our suitcases out of storage.   Started repacking all our suitcases. Dad was sniffling a little. I hope he 's not getting a cold.   Traveling is so hard on your body! Asleep by 10:30. We were so so tired.

 

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Day 12 of the trip Sunday June 11

From the itinerary: Homebound flight arrives the same day.

Buffet Breakfast (and VAT) included in room rate.   I got some more of that really good OJ (Orange Juice). We took a taxi to the airport.   It was worth the 58 Euro to have a no hassle, direct ride.

We got to the airport in plenty of time and the flight was also delayed one hour.   I 've got a really good story about what happened when we were waiting at the gate.   The seats in the gate are in a U configuration. We are sitting at the back of the  U.   A family with small children is at the end of the  U.   The little boy got sick and puked all over the floor.   We 're talking projectile stuff here.   Very stinky.   They notified the gate attendant to get someone to clean it up, then they left.   People would see the empty seats, and start to walk to the seat.   Dad and I would yell to  STOP and held our hands up, then pointed down to the floor.   Yuck, yuck, and yuck.   Only one guy walked right into it, we successfully stopped others.   Whew.   Now that was entertaining.  

I got a bit of information from the young guy sitting next to me in the airport.   He stayed in the hostel in Ana Capri and the cost was only 80 Euro. It was a nice room. He took the transport to main square and the hostel is a short walk from there.

The next bit of entertainment was the entire bottle of sprite that leaked into my carry-on bag. A couple people let me know that my bag was dripping.   Oops.   No worries though because I carry everything in zip-lock bags.   And I mean everything, even my sweater was in a plastic bag.   So we finally board our flight home.

Mom, Dad, and Suzi:   Depart Rome / Fiumicino 1:25pm Alitalia flight 7608 Operated by Delta, non-stop. Arrive Atlanta 6:25 pm same day. Seat configuration is 2x3x2. Our seats are 28C, D, and E in the middle. We put little Mom in the middle and she seemed to have plenty of room.

At 2:55 we pulled back from the gate. Tina is having kittens because our layover in Atlanta is getting shorter. The layover was 4 hours, then the flight to Tulsa was moved 1 hour earlier so the layover is 3 hours, then the flight to Rome is an hour later so the layover is 2 hours. Now we are late taking off and the push back stopped. I hear odd sounds .   OK, we 're finally in the air finally.   It is 10 hours and 22 minutes to our Atlanta destination. It is 9:25 Atlanta time so we will arrive at 8 pm.

Half way into the flight I was really really dying. That was, by far, the most uncomfortable flight of my life. I could not sit still. I was so fidgety. I could not wait to get off the plane.   We finally arrived in Atlanta.

Mom & Dad depart Atlanta 10:35 pm Delta flight 4220, non-stop. Arrive Tulsa 11:35 pm.

I think they stayed in a hotel in Tulsa and drove home the next morning.  

Fantabulously fun awesome trip over all. What a great way to celebrate a 50th anniversary reliving young memories.

 

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Tour Information for Italy 's Great Cities Tour Code ZJ

We booked this trip with Globus.   Brendan (a Globus partner) has the same tour for the same price.

Globus Tours Web site www.globusjourneys.com or call 1.866.755.8581.

Brendan Tours Web site http://www.brendanvacations.com/italy.asp?id=12

ZJ Vacation Overview

This nine-day trip will show you the highlight cities of Italy, covering it all from St. Peter 's, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and the Forum in Rome to Michelangelo 's David in Florence, and St. Mark 's Basilica and Doges ' Palace with the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. Local Guides in these cities will answer all your questions. Also included are stops in Pisa to admire the Leaning Tower and in Verona to see Juliet 's Balcony. Scenic drives will show you the Tyrrhenian Coast, the Lombardian Planes, the flat Po area, the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range and Tuscany 's Chianti wine country. In Venice a private boat ride and a glass blowers ' demonstration are included.

This vacation offers family friendly departures with special activities and optional excursions perfect for families. Look for "Family Vacation" when booking this vacation online. Please note, these vacations are only available for families traveling with children under the age of 21.

Tour includes accommodations,   7 buffet breakfasts (BB); 2 three-course dinners (D)   and Inside visits and special features are shown in UPPERCASE in the tour description, including admission charges when applicable, including admission charges when applicable.

Departure Date 5/31/2006

Land Price $1,469 in 2006 (in 2011 the cost is now $1709)

Single room supplement: $255 or   Triple room reduction per person: $24.

Extra nights per person in Rome tour ZJ:   May'06-Apr.'07: in single room $212, in twin room $155, in triple room $123.

Insurance $109+30

Price Guarantee: All vacation prices are based on rates (including foreign exchange rates) expected to be in effect at the time of departure. Prices are subject to increase without notice if such rates change prior to departure. The current price will be confirmed at the time of reservation. However, once Globus has received your deposit for any vacation departing during the current year, that land price is guaranteed, and any subsequent land cost increases are at our expense, not including any government tax increases. Airfares included as part of air-inclusive vacation prices are guaranteed when we receive confirmation of air itinerary and full payment. Vacation prices are per person, based on double occupancy. Single room supplements and triple room reductions may be applicable.

Not included in the tour price: Federal Inspection Fees for the U.S. Customs and immigration; International Air Transportation Tax; agricultural tax; any other taxes; security fee; airport taxes and fees; passports; visas and vaccinations; tips to your tour director; tour host; tour driver; local city guides; gratuities on ferries, trains and cruise ships; laundry; telephone; mini bar; alcohol; beverages and food not on the regular table menu (these extra items will be billed to you before leaving the hotel or restaurant); optional excursions; porterage at airports; travel protection; excess baggage fees; all other items of a personal nature.

 

Day 1   Board your overnight transatlantic flight.

Day 2   Arrival in Rome, Italy. Time to rest or start exploring the Eternal City. At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions and leave the hotel for a special welcome dinner with wine in one of Rome 's lively restaurants. (D)

Day 3   Rome. Sightseeing with your Local Guide starts with a visit to the VATICAN MUSEUMS and SISTINE CHAPEL (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo 's ceiling paintings and The Last Judgement. Continue to monumental ST. PETER 'S SQUARE and BASILICA. Cross the Tiber and visit the COLOSSEUM and the ROMAN FORUM, where Roman Legions marched in triumph. Then time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 4   Rome-Pisa-Florence. Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 5   Florence. Follow your Local Guide to the magnificent CATHEDRAL, Giotto 's Bell Tower, the Baptistry 's heavy bronze  Gate of Paradise, and sculpture-studded SIGNORIA SQUARE. To top it off, admire Michelangelo 's celebrated David in the ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS. The afternoon is free. Florentine leather goods and gold jewelry sold by the ounce are attractive buys. You may wish to join an optional dinner outing to a fine Tuscan restaurant. (BB)

Day 6   Florence-Verona-Venice. North to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare 's Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet 's Balcony and the well-preserved Arena. Stroll around the picturesque market square. Tonight you are in Venice, a powerful magnet for romantics and art lovers from around the globe. (BB)

Day 7   Venice. Start the day in style by PRIVATE BOAT to meet your Local Guide. Highlights of your walking tour are ST. MARK 'S SQUARE and the BYZANTINE BASILICA, lavish DOGES ' PALACE and the BRIDGE OF SIGHS. Also watch skilled GLASS BLOWERS fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional cruise to the charming island of Burano. Tonight is your chance to sample the city 's fine restaurants. (BB)

Day 8   Venice-Rome. A scenic drive today through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Then speed south along the Highway of the Sun. An optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your Italian vacation. (BB)

Day 9   Your homebound flight arrives the same day. (BB)

 

FEATURES INCLUDED in GLOBUS TOUR

ROME - Welcome dinner; guided sightseeing including headsets; visit St. Peter 's Square and Basilica, Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, and Roman Forum

PISA - Picture stop at the Leaning Tower

FLORENCE - Guided sightseeing including headsets; visit the cathedral, Michelangelo 's David, and Signoria Square

VERONA - Orientation including Juliet 's Balcony and the Arena

VENICE - Private boat ride; guided sightseeing including headsets; visit St. Marks Square and Basilica, Doges ' Palace, and the Bridge of Sighs; glass blowers ' demonstration

CHIANTI COUNTRY - Panoramic drive 

Optional Excursions.

CITY: Florence

Tuscan Dinner
Drive out to the Tuscan Hills to enjoy a traditional Florentine meal, including drinks, in a picturesque country setting.
Cost: EUR  50 per person in 2006, it is 53 in2011.

Highlights of Uffizi Gallery
Admire the world's greatest collection of Italian and Florentine art. The GALLERY showcases works by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and Michelangelo.
Cost: EUR  36 per person in 2006, it is 34 (lower!) in 2011

Renaissance Dinner
In the magnificent setting of Palazzo orghese, enjoy a four-course dinner with wine served by waiters wearing costumes inspired by the great Florentine banquets fo the 15th century. Original Renaissance music, ballets, and a jester will add to the cheerful evening.  Cost: EUR  51 per person

CITY: Rome

Excursion to Tivoli
Leave Rome for a guided visit of the famous VILLA ADRIANA or the VILLA D'ESTE GARDENS and FOUNTAINS in Tivoli. Followed by a typical country style dinner with wine, spumante, and music
Approximate value: EUR  75 per person

Rome at Leisure and Dinner
Time at leisure to discover the famous Spanish Steps and to browse around the fashionable districts of Rome. Tonight enjoy a four-course meal with drinks included.
Approximate value: EUR  55 per person

Roman Highlights and Dinner
A guided walking tour takes you to some of the most famous monuments. Admire the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti, Piazza Navona, Parliament, and Pantheon. A four-course dinner including drinks at a popular Roman restaurant can also be added for the total price of EUR 62.00 per person. In 2006, 65 in 2011.
Cost: EUR   EUR 62.00 per person. In 2006, 65 in 2011.

CITY: Venice

Classical Concert in Venice
Enhanced by exquisite 17th-century costumes, this memorable concert is performed in the prestigious main hall of the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro in Rialto. The famed Orchestra I Musici Veneziani performs Vivaldi's Four Seasons or the most enchanting Baroque arias.
Approximate value: EUR  35 per person

A Venetian Night Out
Travel by private water taxi along the splendid Grand Canal with its elegant palaces to a fine Venetian restaurant, and taste four mouth-watering courses of local specialties and wine. Later there's time to explore and absorb the romantic and unique atmosphere of Venice by night.
Approximate value: EUR  66 per person in 2006, 68 in 2011

Gondola Serenade
Enjoy a serenaded ride in a traditional gondola (for 6 people), gliding through centuries-old canals, under famous arched bridges, and past lavish palaces and quaint piazzas.
Approximate value: EUR  38 per person in 2006, 37 (lower!) in 2011.

Lagoon Cruise with Lunch or Dinner in Burano
Leave the crowds of Venice behind and appreciate the peaceful vistas of the Lagoon while you glide past the islands of San Giorgio, Santa Elena, and the famous Lido. In the picturesque fishing village of Burano, renowned for its pastel-colored houses, savor a four-course lunch/dinner with drinks included. Afterward there's time to shop and stroll.
Approximate value: EUR  62 per person in 2006, 67 in 2011.

 

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Scientific American Article: Saving Venice    An ambitious plan seeks to prevent a modern Atlantis   

By Zeeya Merali    Scientific American    August 19, 2002   

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00088E1F-D709-1D5B-90FB809EC5880000

It is 6 a.m. on New Year 's Day, 2001, in the picturesque city of Venice, Italy. Sirens blare across the piazza, warning of impending high tides. Venetians wake once again to the war against the waters. It 's a war they are currently losing. Venice is sinking, and could be submerged by the end of the century.

Now Project Moses, a controversial $3-billion-dollar government-funded scheme to keep Venice above water, has finally been given the go-ahead by Italian officials. Construction of its novel floodgates is set to begin in December 2002, following years of false starts. But some scientists still object to the project, saying that it will damage local ecosystems and is doomed to obsolescence within years if the sea level rises as predicted by current climate-change models. Moses may yet have a few mountains to climb before parting Venice from the sea.

The Tide Turns

To better understand why Venice is so troubled, it helps to consider its history. Venice is a city on stilts. Built on 117 small islands in the middle of a lagoon that flows into the Adriatic Sea, the city has origins that stretch back to Attila the Hun 's invasion of Italy in 452. People sought refuge on the lagoon 's islands, and the tidal channels have guarded settlers for centuries since. In 810, Venice 's watery ramparts blocked the forces of Pepin, a son of Charlemagne, who had rampaged through Italy, seizing land-based towns.

However, the waters that have defended Venice are now its greatest threat. In 1966, a meter of water blanketed the city, prompting the Italian government to label safeguarding Venice as a matter of "priority national interest." In the years that followed, the Consorzio Venezia Nuova (CVN), the private consortium of engineers and architects behind the floodgate project, was founded and charged with the task of keeping Venice from drowning.

Water, Water Everywhere

Venice is sinking about half an inch per century. Italy, as part of the African geological plate is drifting north, pushing under the European plate. This is causing the Alps to rise and Venice to sink. The subsidence was exacerbated by industries pumping groundwater from below the city, for manufacturing and agricultural purposes, after World War II. That practice--which was stopped in the 1970s--caused the city to sink a foot in two decades. As a result, the world-famous St. Mark 's Square, the center of Venetian social life, stands just two inches above the normal high-tide level. The square stands under four inches of water in flood events that occur around 100 times a year. And things are getting worse. January 2001 saw the worst spate of sustained flooding in the city 's history, which lasted more than a fortnight, with an eighth of the city underwater. Add to that the projected sea-level rises due to global warming, and the peril of a city sinking without a trace becomes depressingly clear.

Parting the Sea

Since 1951, 90,000 people have left Venice, and the 60,000 who remain live in fear of a repeat of the 1966 floods. The CVN 's solution is the Mo.S.E. (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or Experimental Electromechanical Module) Project. It involves the construction of a set of 79 mobile floodgates that will separate the lagoon from the Adriatic when the tide exceeds one meter above the usual high-water mark. Similar gates have been constructed in London and Rotterdam, but they are large aesthetic intrusions on the landscape. The Italian government is adamant that the construction project should not have an impact on Venice 's scenery. During normal tides, the 300-ton mobile gates are designed to lie flat on the seabed, inactive and filled with water, hidden from view. When a tide of one meter is forecast, air will be injected into the gates, pushing out the water and causing the gates to rise. As the tide drops, the gates will be refilled with water and return to rest on the seabed.

The mobile gates were first proposed more than a decade ago, so why has it taken so long for approval? The answer is that Project Moses has had to overcome many environmental objections. Italy 's Green Party fears that closing the lagoon for long periods will cause it to stagnate, damaging marine life. To appease the Greens, the CVN has implemented many complementary projects to defend the city by alternative methods, often repairing damage caused by earlier makeshift attempts to stem the tides (see sidebar).  

Raising Venice

The most ambitious such project involves raising the sidewalks and shores of the city 's lowest-lying areas to a height of one meter. This should protect these vulnerable regions from flood levels that are high enough to cause damage but too low to activate the gates. Thus far, the CVN has raised 960 hectares of land, 80 percent of the target. So why are the mobile gates needed at all? Why not simply raise the city even higher to safeguard it from floods greater than one meter? "In historical Venice [which in parts dates back to the eleventh century] in particular it is difficult to raise up the level of pavements while maintaining the function of the building; it reduces the door size," answers Maria Teresa Brotto, an engineer with the CVN. St. Mark 's Square cannot be raised without irrevocably--and unacceptably--altering its appearance. Instead, the CVN is raising up the surrounding embankments and placing a waterproof clay membrane under the square to stop water from rising up through the soil. And, Brotto adds, "raising pavements is a very expensive project."

The chosen height of one meter seems to be a good compromise. At that level 5 percent of the city 's surface area must be raised, at a cost of around $40 million. However, to raise the pavements by just an extra 20 centimeters escalates costs to $2 billion, because 30 percent of the city would then need to be raised. The mobile gates, on the other hand, will protect the city from floods between one and two meters. And, Brotto stresses, the gates will only be called into action around seven times a year, minimizing effects on marine life.

The Threat of Obsolescence

But will the gates be enough if sea levels rise as predicted from global warming? No, says Paolo Antonio Pirazzoli, a geophysicist with the National Center for Scientific Research in France, who worked as a consultant to the city of Venice on the Mo.S.E. project during the 1990s. In the May 14, 2002, issue of Eos, published by the American Geophysical Union, he accused the CVN of failing to account for realistic sea-level rises over the next century, against which the gates will be ineffectual. Pirazzoli worries that the government is backing a superficial solution to improve its political image. "I do not know whether Mr. Berlusconi [the Italian Prime Minister] follows, on the Venice problem, a rationality much different from that of President Bush on the greenhouse-gases problem," he says. He predicts that the $3-billion construction will become obsolete within decades.

An environmental-impact study, commissioned by the CVN, comes to the opposite conclusion. Raphael Bras of M.I.T, the lead researcher on the 1997 study, states that the gates can successfully handle a rise of 50 centimeters in the next 100 years, which is a greater amount than many models predict for the Adriatic. But, Pirazzoli counters, the study ignored rainfall, river discharges and winds that will raise the lagoon level when the gates are closed. "This is simply not true," replies Bras. "Independent hydrologic studieshave confirmed that this is not an issue." He explains that most of Venice 's rivers were diverted to go around the lagoon 500 years ago, so lagoon flooding from the rivers is minimal. "For this peak [in rainfall and river discharge] to even coincide with the tide peak is almost inconceivable," says Bras.

Pirazzoli remains unconvinced. He is currently preparing a paper with four new case studies that he says will show that the mobile gates cannot cope with a 50-centimeter rise. He also questions why the M.I.T group chose to examine a worst-case scenario of a 50-centimeter rise at all, when the second IPCC report, published in 1996, predicated a potential sea-level rise of up to 90 centimeters by the year 2100. The third IPCC report, published in 2001, estimates a maximum rise of 88 centimeters. And so the debate rages.

For now, though, it seems that the Italian government will continue to support the project, which should take eight years to complete. That will at least help to relieve the suffering of the Venetians for many years after the gates become operational. And the CVN is confident about the gates ' performance against potential sea-level rises. After all, says Brotto with a laugh, "with a 20-centimeter rise, all other parts of Italy will be flooded, but not Venice. Perhaps then Venice will be the only dry city!"

 

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Italy baby-cash aims to boost births

  By Tamsin Smith    BBC, Rome   October 2, 2003.

In Italy, a country with the lowest birth rate and fastest ageing population in Europe, the foundations of the ample state pension scheme have already begun to crumble.   Italy leads a crisis throughout Europe, where fertility rates are plummeting and life expectancy increasing.

The Italian Government is planning to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65, a proposal which has already triggered labour unrest including the announcement of a strike on 24 October.

Helping families to have more children if they want to is a duty for our country and workforce   Marco Follini   Christian Democrat leader  

But is there a simpler solution?   This week the Italian Government announced in its annual budget a cash bonus for the birth of a second child - can this deliver?   The Italians spend more on baby clothes and toys than any other Europeans, but they have fewer babies.

'Save the family'

In the pre-war years, Italians traditionally had large extended families, but rapid industrialisation meant people moved away from their familiy network to find jobs in cities and the birth rate declined rapidly.

Today this situation is nearing crisis point.   We do see a peak of fertility when the measure is first implemented, but then we see that the attitudes come back to normal levels because it is not just about money Maura Mitziti Population researcher  

"If projections are right, then in 2050 Italy will have 15 million fewer people than today, which means we won't have enough young people to pay for welfare system, pensions, health and so on, " says economist Giuseppe Pennisi.

In a country where family values are still closely linked to the church, the Catholic lobby in government has been shouting loudest for solutions to save the Italian family from extinction.

Helping families to have more children if they want to is a duty for our country and workforce," says Marco Follini, leader of the Union of Christian Democrats and supporter of the new proposal to reward parents financially for producing more children.

  It's not just the money, it's too difficult for schools, services and everything like this Parents Francesco and Natalia   "In our budget we have set aside 500 million euros for families, so we can offer 1,000 euros to each child born and to help parents bring children more easily into the world."

So could this measure be the key to a new baby boom? "It is possible that it works," says Maura Mitziti, a researcher from the national institute of population research in Rome who has studied the impact of cash incentives on fertility.

Only children

"Measures like these have been used in Sweden, and we do see a peak of fertility when the measure is first implemented. But then we see that the attitudes come back to normal levels because it is not just about money."

In the early evening many church squares across Italy are full of parents and children. They gather so the many single children can play with each other.

Asked why she only decided to have one child, Bettina said: "People prefer to just have one so they can give the child everything - the best schools, the best clothes, the best everything."   "We have one child," said Francesco and Natalia. "She's five but we're not planning any more. It's not just the money, it's too difficult for schools, services and everything like this."

Logistical nightmare

The problem is that the rapid post-war industrialisation of Italy was not accompanied by modernisation of family support. Many women now work but the lack of creche and after-school care makes it much more difficult to balance work and children.

Schools here in Rome can finish at any time between 1330 and 1630, which Maura Mitziti describes as a logistical nightmare for parents with more than one child.   "We have a tradition of bad services - creche, kindergarten, even timings of schools and shops... and of course lots of bureacracy," she says. "We need the value of equal opportunities to be recognised and people to recognise the value of work-life balance."

Although this year's budget plans cash handouts for new babies, there are no plans for investment in these social services so badly needed by working mothers.

Watching Italian parents pushing their single pushchairs or prams, you are left with the impression Ital is becoming a nation of only children.

To reverse this trend and to re-populate Italy, parents do not just need a cash bonus, they also need long term investment to improve social support and change attitudes.

Story from BBC NEWS:   http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/3155324.stm

Published: 2003/10/02 08:30:15 GMT  BBC MMVII

 

Grazie E Arrivederci

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