A Travellerspoint blog

A bientôt

Washed our clothes in our own little washing machine and hung them to dry on the pulley line outside our window. Then, kaboom, the bracket pulled off the building wall and the line started cascading to the ground. We hurried to the laundromat so we could put the clothes in a dryer because we needed to meet Maryse and Jean at their hotel at 10:00.
We snuck out while the clothes were drying to buy a few pastries at Barbarino's pasticceria and some meat and cheese from Volpetti's. Ate a hurried breakfast as we were on schedule to be late to meet Maryse and Jean. Walked the three-quarter mile hike down Via Marmarotta to the Pyramide station only to find the doors locked. We were informed that the subway workers were on strike for the day. Started walking all the way back, but it was already ten o'clock. We tried to flag a taxi, but unfortunately trying to get a taxi during a subway strike is a little difficult. We were almost ready to give up when we finally flagged a taxi that was unoccupied. We had an exhilarating ride through the chaotic streets of Rome!
The sidewalks were crowded as walking became the main form of transportation. Our group of six walked to St. Peter in Chains church to see Michelangelo's Moses. His beard was very impressive. We elbowed our way through the tour groups to take a few pictures.
We took a guided tour through the underground of the Coliseum. Learned about gladiators fighting each other and savage animals. Executions were the mid-day entertainment. Marveled at the architectural genius of the Romans over 2000 years ago. Walked to the Roman Forum outside of the Coliseum but, without a tour guide, we couldn't tell Titan's arch from Septimus Severus'. It was like trying to look for an address in a demolished city. My feet were in pain and Maryse and I needed a coffee. We walked to The Artemide and had a caffé latte and wonderful conversation with our friends on the rooftop restaurant. We found out that the subway workers were going to work a few hours and then strike again at eight o'clock. As it was almost 7:30, Maryse and Jean walked us to the subway station as they are leaving tomorrow. We didn't say good-bye but rather, à bientôt. Then we joined the rest of the world trying to cram themselves into a subway car before they halted the train.
We went to Remo's, the best pizzeria around our corner. The waiters are so entertaining and they encourage us to watch them make the pizzas and put them with their long paddles into the blazing oven. Had a carafe of wine and it's definitely time to say à bientôt once again!

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When Push Comes to Shove

We met Maryse and Jean at their hotel and subwayed to the Vatican Museum. Amazingly we only had to wait in line for about fifteen minutes. Saw mummies, Egyptian statues, Greek and Roman sculptures, and so much art in so many rooms that we just tried to get an overview of the museum before heading down the corridor to see the Sistine Chapel. This corridor is an ornately adorned quarter of a mile hallway filled with tourists. Our feet were aching and we were getting physically tired before we even made it into the Sistine Chapel. We were propelled forward by the crowd and found ourselves standing under the ceiling of Michelangelo's art. As more people were let into the chapel, we were getting more and more crushed into the people in front of us until my breath was practically taken away. The only way out was one small doorway through which everyone had to funnel. Everyone pushed and shoved in an almost panic situation.
At last we had some room to breathe in St. Peter's Basilica. 2000 years ago this area had been the site of Nero's Circus where Romans had their chariot races. For entertainment they killed Christians and St. Peter was one of them. The present church was designed first by Bramante then Michelangelo and others. The enormity and opulence of the church is beyond description. Michelangelo's pietà is here behind glass where throngs of tourists try to jockey into position to see it.
We were tired, hot, hungry and thirsty so in desperation we chose a tourist trap restaurant with exorbitant prices.
After being refreshed, we took a leisurely stroll to Bessetti Tessuti, Rome's largest fabric store where Anne bought a piece of fabric with graphic designs of tans and orangey-reds that she's hoping to frame.
We shopped a little more on the Piazza Navona where vendors sell their art or draw your caricature. The large impressive fountain is by Bernini and consists of four river gods holding up an obelisk in the center.
The Pantheon was close-by and from the outside looks like it is constructed of ancient little bricks, but on closer inspection you can see all the ornamental designs that have been worn away since it was built in 120 AD. You can just imagine how beautiful it once was. And then you walk in and WOW, it is so beautiful with the marble columns and the dome that was an inspiration to Brunelleschi and Michelangelo.
Then we ducked into the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva which was a little jewel! Marble columns, art and sculptures in a simple but beautiful church. And Michelangelo's sculpture of Christ right out in the open! I reached out my hand and touched it!
Of course I had to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, which I never imagined to be so big. After a quick look at the Spanish Steps, we took Maryse and Jean back to their hotel, came back to do some laundry and get take-away pizza from what is considered to be Rome's best pizzeria that is right around our corner!

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The Roman Rains

Watched the full moon cast its light on the shimmering sea and listened to the sound of the waves lapping the rocks for one last time as we waited on the bench at Manarola's train station.
Next and last stop- Rome.
With map in hand and a few false starts, we managed to find our Roman apartment. We arrived early at the large locked iron gate and pressed the buzzer to no avail. Someone let us in and I walked into the large courtyard to find our door, Scala V. No one answered there either, but finally the man arrived and showed us in. We have our own kitchen, so we set out in the rain to find a grocery store open on Sundays. The supermarket was around the corner and across the little piazza. We ate lunch quickly as it was getting very late and left in the pouring rain to walk through the part of town known as the Jewish Ghetto, the muddy, flooded, part of Rome where the Jews were forced to live from 1555 to the time of Italy's unification, more than 300 years.
Now thoroughly soaked, we walked down the Roman streets past the Coliseum and past beautiful buildings mixed in with Roman ruins. We arrived at the Hotel Archimede to meet our friends, Maryse and Jean, who had flown in from Toulouse to meet us in Rome. We found a pizzeria together and had a wonderful visit. Now we have an apartment and friends in Rome! Now we just hope for a sunny day!

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Lazy, hazy, drizzly day

Walked downstairs to the little restaurant under our rooms. Anne and Tom wanted to hike the dangerous and difficult Cinque Terre trails, so they left while Bob and I enjoyed a delicious cannoli and another cappuccino. They returned because, much to their disappointment, the trails were closed due to the landslides. Now it was my kind of day!
We took the train to Vernazza, one of the five towns, and browsed through the little shops. If only we had room in our suitcases for limoncino, Cinque Terre wine and olive oil, hand painted ceramics and the many other regional products. Had a quick lunch and gelato, of course, and then took the train back to Manarola, our home base. We looked through the little shops and walked through the little alleyways on the different levels of the city. We even spied locals as they were brewing their own wines and limoncino in their cellar-like space. We stopped at balconies overlooking the deep aqua sea with its hazy sky background. We watched as mostly young American tourists were swimming and jumping off the rocky cliffs. We found the sounds and scents of the seawater to be so calm and relaxing.
We had dinner at the downstairs restaurant patio where I ordered "scalloped" pork chops with a wonderful lemon Bernaise-type sauce. I will have to try to duplicate it, but there are no lemons in the world like these lemons!
The deluge of tour groups and day trippers staying in La Spezia left and the city took on a tranquil and serene ambience. The four if us are sitting on the balcony with a bottle of Prosecco overlooking the dimly lit Via Antonio Discovolo talking about the many memories we've made and the wonderful people we've met along the way.

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Trains, trains, trains

Ran with our luggage to catch the train for Pisa. Dragged, lifted and carried our luggage on and off the train, then dragged, lifted and carried our luggage on and off the train to La Spezia, then dragged, lifted and carried our luggage onto the train to Cinque Terre where we could see marble quarries through the window as the train sped by. As we neared our stop, the beautiful sea peeked through the arched windows of the tunnel which then opened up to see the beautiful blue sea and the pastel houses clinging to the cliffs of Manarola. I felt giddy thinking this was the most breathtakingly beautiful place on earth and was overjoyed when exiting the railroad tunnel that our little hotel was only about ten steps away, across the grey stoned street. Franco met us with little glasses of his homemade limoncino. This is lemon country and lemons never tasted this good!
Trattoria da Billy is the best restaurant in the area so we splurged on a special celebration lunch for our fortieth anniversary (two days early) and Anne and Tom's belated one. Anchovies in lemon, caprese salad, grilled fresh sea bass and vegetables were eaten on a patio hanging over a cliff overlooking the sea.
Thought we'd enjoy a relaxing boat trip along the coast with the five little towns perched in the hills. The wind on my face was helping dispel the heat and sweat of the day. But as we were waiting to dock at Monterossa, the waves were lapping the side of the boat and tossing it so much that my stomach began tossing right with it. We looked through a few touristy shops there and ate a take-away of fried calamari, chicken and fish while a pretty fat cat begged for food right in front of us. The mountainous streets looked overwhelming to me now and I felt overcome with exhaustion and nausea, so we headed for the train station where the only restroom was a foul-smelling hole in the ground. We waited for what seemed like an hour to board the train and when it sped by Manarola we realized that we had taken the wrong train. Luckily this train station was still open and we were able to buy more tickets for the way back. The wait for the train was peaceful, though, sitting on the bench looking at the little station across the tracks, listening to the waves lapping the rocks and the church bells ringing. No matter where you are in Italy you can always hear the music of the church bells.

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