A Travellerspoint blog

Venice, Italy

Water, Water, Everywhere

rain 20 °C
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It has beem raining most of the time since we arrived in Venice except for our only tour. That breaks our record of 28 days straight of hot temperatures and no rain. At first it was actually a relief and we happily put on long sleeve shirts. It is getting a little boring now! Venice is out of this world - its hard to imagine why its here in the first place and how it continues to be here. In the beginning it was populated to escape barbarians after the fall of the Roman Empire and then of course it was major trade route. Today it is all about tourism and it really is something to see. There is absolutely no other place with the variety of architecture that you find here except modern! Most of the buildings were built between 9th century and 17th century. With the ocean rising Venice could all be under water in a few years - already most of the bottom floors of the palaces lining the grand canal are unusable. Many of the square have been raised to prevent flooding. Flooding occurs very frequently (200 times per year) to some degree or another. High tides and southerly winds are the recipe for floods. When we toured St. Mark's Bascilica we didn't know for sure until we were in the square whether we would be able to go in the building because of flooding. Today we went shopping at the outdoor market in preparation for our long train ride tomorrow to Switzerland (we won't be hungry or thirsty that's for sure). This afternoon we're travelling by vaporetti (water bus) all over the island and to the island of Murano where the venetian glass blowers are located. Our b&b here is pretty cool with a shared kitchen, dining room, bathroom. Breakfast is free but there is so much food there (mostly goodies) that you could actually eat free for your entire stay. There was a young Australian man staying in one of the rooms and we think he was surviving on cereal, toast, and pasteries. Our hostess is Gina and although she speaks very little English she never stops talking to us in Italian - funny eventually you actually understand what she is trying to say.

Posted by 60somethin 12:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rome, Italy

Vatican City

overcast 26 °C
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There's only one thing wrong with a really great electronic itinerary - when you make a mistake it really screws you up. Well I made my 2nd big mistake of the trip (but who is counting). I had booked a tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel which I thought was for today. Wrong - it was yesterday and the tour doesn't run on Sunday because the museum is closed. We did go to Vatican City and saw St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Bascilica which was breathtakingly gigantic. Leigh thinks it is six acres and the top of the dome designed by Michalengelo is over 400 feet tall. Most of the chapel was designed by Bernini. There was a church service going on while we were there and we thought we might get lucky and be blessed by the Pope in the square at noon but not today. Well its time to pack (I should say cram) everything in our tiny bags for our last flight before the big one home. One good thing about travelling with carry-on weight and space restrictions is it really discourages Shopping!

Posted by 60somethin 19:58 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Rome Italy

A Roman's Rome

sunny 32 °C
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Today we took a little break from the maddening crowd and explored along the Tiber River. At tiny Isola Tiberina we crossed a 1st century BC bridge Ponte Fabrico. We exploed the area of Trastevere and then planned to return by boat down the Tiber River. Well we never did find the boat but just kept on walking south to the Piramide Di Caio Cestio. This is a pyramid which is a marble and brick tomb built in the 1st century BC. From there we took the metro home. Another day of at least 6 hours walking. We finally had a few rain drops on our heads walking back to our room from the station. We hardly even got wet and that is the first rain we've seen since arriving in Paris August 17th. We can hear a good steady rain outside our room now - the girl at the desk said it hadn't rained all summer.

Posted by 60somethin 18:06 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Rome, Italy

Ancient Rome

sunny 32 °C
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Nothing we had seen up to this point prepared us for Ancient Rome. Totally unbelievable that 2000 year old buildings could still exist like this - and if it they hadn't been abandoned by the church in the 4th century and pillaged for their marble and stone to build other structures like St. Peter's Basilica they would still be complete. We toured the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum with an archaeologist. We walked the old Roman Road where Caesar walked and saw where he was stabbed to death and where his ashes are stored. Romans are still putting fresh flowers! After the tour we walked up Capitoline Hill and took several pictures of the Capitoline Museum which was designed by Michelangelo. We also found the Pantheon which was built during the 1st century but has been used as a church since the dawn of Christianity in 4th the century so it is still fully intact. After 2000 years it still has the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. We also found the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps and toured a couple of churches. The number of people at all of these places was amazing and we are so glad we're not here in July. Saint Ignacius at the top of the Spanish Steps was magnificent so we cannot imagine what St. Peter's Basilica will be like. We started out at 9:00 AM and virtually walked all day with only a few breaks and returned to our hostel at about 6:00 pm. Some days I wish we had a pedometer. We had a picnic in the room (you know the usual meat, cheese, wine) and I think we were asleep by about 7:30!!

Posted by 60somethin 07:26 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Florence, Italy

sunny 28 °C
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Arrived in Florence by train and our GPS finally took us to our destination for the first time although we had to stop for a picnic on the way to recharge with the solar charger. The first evening we walked into the old city and across the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) which is lined on both sides with gold and silver merchants and has been 1593. This is the only bridge across the Arno River which survived the bombing by the Germans during the 2nd world war and it also survived a terrible flood in 1966. There has been a bridge at this place since medieval times and the existing one was built in 1345. We splurged and had a Bifsteck ala Florentina (great big T-Bone) - very delicious. Next morning we toured the Accademia Museum where we saw Michelangelo's David - the real statue has been in the museum since the 1800's because it was being damaged by weather and riots. There is a replica in the Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazo Vecchio. The Accademia was originally an art school founded in 1784 and now houses the world's most important collection of Michelangelo's sculptures. Most impressive where four unfinished sculptures named the prisoners by art historians. Apparently Michelangelo (unlike other sculptors) always carved free form and said the figures were already in the marble and he was just bringing them out. He left Florence for Rome when summoned by the Pope to paint the Sistine Chapel and never had time to finish these although he worked until he was 89 years old. Before we left the Accademia we toured the musical instrument museum - Gary would never have left this place. Between the Accademia Tour in the morning and a Rick Steve's walking tour we learned a lot about the history of Florence and the Renaissance. Florence has been a major trading center and route from northern Europe into southern Italy since medieval times. Even when Rome fell Florence continued to prosper and the Renaissance movement (rebirth of art and culture after the fall of Rome) really started here and then spread throughout the rest of Europe. It is still a shopping heaven and would be a good destination after winning the lottery - there is Prada, Gucci, Pucci, etc. etc. everywhere. The leather shops would make you drool - coats, shoes, bags. Also its the home of Pinnochio. In the afternoon we toured the Uffizi Gallery which was orginally the offices of the Medici family who ruled Florence for 300 years before they were thrown out in the late 1700's. It now has the world's greatest collection of Renaissance paintings and includes Giotto, Paulo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc. This tour started with gothic art from the 13th century and showed the evolution of art from that time into the 16th century. The major changes were the artist's attempts to paint in 3D in a 2D art form. The emphasis in subject also moved from the Madonna to Venus. Leonardo actually added muscles and veins - he apparently disected bodies to learn about anatomy. Okay I'm getting long winded about the art but these galleries were truly amazing and we only saw a little bit.

Posted by 60somethin 21:25 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

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