Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rome, Again

Fountain of the Turtles
Bill and I figured out how to take a bus to the  Jewish Ghetto neighborhood.  We started out at the Fountain of the Turtles, an attractive fountain in the center of a small piazza.  From there we walked to the Portico d’Ottavio, some impressive ruins were on display there, near the old synagogue. 

St. Cecilia Church

We then crossed the river to the Trastevere neighborhood. Saint Cecilia Church has frescoes from the 12th century and is crawling with nuns in traditional garb, the way I remember them from my childhood.

We had a delicious lunch, and then met up with Janet and John (who had spent the morning at the Vatican) at the Colosseum.  It was very crowded, with annoying vendors trying to sell private tours.  We were tired and decided to merely walk around the Colosseum rather than touring the interior.  I was not disappointed.   We finished off the day with the traditional gelato.

Monday, October 15, 2018


We arrived in Genoa yesterday and started today with a minor problem.  I don't like to check baggage, so I brought only 3 pairs of pants and 3 shirts on this trip.  I also came down with a bad cold yesterday.  We were running out of clean clothes, so Bill volunteered to take our clothes to the neighborhood laundromat.  I put all 3 of my shirts in the laundry, but didn't mention to him that I had no other shirts.  We thought he was going to a laundromat where you wash and dry your own clothes in coin operated machines, but when he got there it was the type of laundry where you drop off the clothes and pick them up later in the day.  That meant I had no shirt to wear.  I solved this problem by wearing my pajama top as a shirt and wearing my hoodie over it.  Fortunately the weather was a bit cool, so this attire was comfortable.

We took a narrow gauge railroad to Casella, a small village in the hills above Genoa.  Lots of great views on the way up, but the train windows were too dirty for good photographs.  The town of Casella itself was unremarkable.

When we returned to Genoa, we picked up the laundry and I changed into an actual shirt.

Genoa's Cathedral
We went out for gelato at a gelateria near the cathedral,  a very impressive building.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore

St. John the Baptist Church in Monterosso al Mare
For our second full day in Cinque Terre we toured two more of the five villages.  First we went to the northernmost village, Monterosso al Mare.  They have a pretty church with stripes of white Carrera marble alternating with stripes of green marble from Punta Mesco.

Next to the church is the Oratory of the Dead, the headquarters of a Confraternity whose mission is to arrange for funerals and take care of widows, orphans, and the shipwrecked. The interior decor is consistent with their mission.

At the cemetery in Monterosso al Mare
It's a long climb to the cemetery, but there's a pretty statue greeting you at the gate.

XXX with pesto
For lunch I had another local specialty, trofie (a short twisted tubular pasta) with pesto.  It also contained green beans.


The second town we visited was the southernmost town, Riomaggiore.  Once again there are colorful houses perched on the hillside.

Rocks to keep tiles on the roof during windstorms

In Manarola, on the walk to our hotel, I noticed a roof with rocks on it to prevent the tiles from
blowing away.  Placing rocks on the roof is a tradition in this area.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Manarola and Vernazza

Looking Down at Manarola
Our original plan for today was to hike the coastal trail from Manarola to Riomaggiore.  However, when we went to the national park office to buy our trail pass, the staff told us that that particular trail was closed.  So we did the Rick Steves walking tour of Manarola.  This walk took us up into the terraced vineyards above the town.  It involved some difficult climbing, but we were rewarded with beautiful views of Manarola.

Near the end of the Manarola Walking Tour

We finished up this walk at about 11:00 am and hopped on the train to Vernazza, considered by some to be the most beautiful of the 5 Cinque Terre villages.  Again we were in a seaside town that quickly climbed into very steep hills.  We followed only part of Rick Steve's tour because of the amount of climbing involved.  We made it up to the cemetery which is ridiculously high up over the village.

Marinated Anchovies
By now it was time for lunch, so we stopped at a small restaurant.  Bill had marinated anchovies for his appetizer, and they looked delicious.  I had a local specialty, pansotti, cheese ravioli in a rich walnut cream sauce.  It was delicious, but not as picturesque as Bill's anchovies.  We took the train back to Manarola.  Because our hotel is up a steep climb, we stopped for the daily gelato before making the trek to the hotel.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Venice to Cinque Terre

Today was not particularly productive because we spent most of the day on trains traveling from Venice to Cinque Terre.  Cinque Terre is also known as the Italian Riviera.  It's a series of 5 small coastal fishing villages connected by walking paths within a national park.  We arrived early in the evening, so didn't get a chance to do much exploring.

Grilled calamari
In fact, the only photo I have for this post is my dinner, which was grilled calamari.  Very tasty!

A Full Day in Venice

Gondolier on the Grand Canal
Yesterday was our only full day in Venice, so we had to pack in as much as possible.  In the morning we went to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.  The modern art she collected was in striking contrast to the Renaissance art we saw at the Uffizi in Florence a couple of days ago.

Rialto Bridge
Next on the agenda was seeing the Rialto Bridge which crosses the Grand Canal.  From there we
wandered into a backstreet area we hadn't explored yet and found a place for lunch.

We decided to take a vaporetto to Burano, a fishing village and lace-making center.  It's very picturesque.

Portion of the front of St. Mark's Basilica

When we returned to Venice proper it was starting to get dark, but we hadn't yet been to St. Mark's
Square.  We managed to find our way using a combination of signage, phone apps, and intuition.  Very impressive, but not the perfect lighting for iPhone photography.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Last Day in Florence - First Day in Venice

Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" (severely cropped due to another
visitor getting in front of me at the left-hand corner)
  We had a train to catch in the early afternoon, so made an early morning visit to the Uffizi Museum, probably the most important collection of Renaissance art.  I'm not a fan of classical art, but couldn't help but be impressed by this collection.  Perhaps the most famous piece in the collection is the Birth of Venus by Botticelli.

Mask and puppet shop with way too much reflection

We had to quickly check out of our rooms and head to the train station for the 2-hour ride to Venice.  Now we were in an area with no cars and only canals for transportation.  The souvenir shops included lots of glass shops and mask shops.

Fried calamari with polenta
I treated myself to fried calamari for dinner.  It was delicious, but I can't keep eating it or I won't be able to fit into my pants when it's time to come home.