Saturday, June 7, 2014

Rick Steves Doesn't Think Much of the Facade of Duomo Cathedral

He notes that the "noisy neo-Gothic facade from the 1870s is covered with pink, green, and white Tuscan marble."  (This photo obscures the church's most impressive dome.)

Some interiors of this cathedral, for which construction started in 1296 and was finished in 1436.

Close-up of floor

Dome above altar

Stained glass

Views of Florence from the Top of Giotto's Campanile

Construction of the 278-foot tower started in 1334 and was completed in 1359.

These views were our reward for ascending 414 steps.  

Looking to the east, maybe a bit southeast.  The Bargello National Museum is at center right.  Santa Croce Church is just above center.

Looking south.  The Palazzo Vecchio, the castle-like building with tower, is at center.  The Arno River is just beyond.

Looking north.  Find the yellow wall just left of and slightly below center.  That's where we're staying, at the Hotel Europa.

For those of you who have been following along -- yes, the weather has been perfect every day.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Reminiscing Already: How to Get to our Bed & Breakfast in Rome

Might as well use this series of photos.

After aggressively tailgating any vehicle impeding his progress on the 20-minute drive from the Fiumicino airport to our destination on Viale Trastevere, our van driver deposited us in front of a large, black metal gate that didn't exactly say, "Welcome!"

The street-level entrance.  We were given a key to get through this point.

After finding which one of the 36 buttons to push, and waiting about 30 seconds for a response, Desiree, one of the owners of the B&B greeted us in heavily accented English and buzzed us in.

"Go to the second floor," she instructed.

As we recalled from our Paris trip, the second floor is two flights up:  ground, first, second, etc.

The first set of stairs

Once we reached a courtyard, my concerns about our location, based on the first impression of the metal gate, started to evaporate.  


Walkway to a double set of doors. 

Doors.  We were given a second key to open this door.  I think this is still considered ground level..... we still have 2 more flights to climb.

Double doors leading to our section of the B&B (3 bedrooms and a kitchen).  We were given a third key for this door.

 We were in room 2.  And key #4.

The Red Room

A view from the balcony.

Overall, we were very pleased with the accommodations, amenities, and Desiree's and Davide's great hospitality.

B&B Zen Trestevere
Viale Trestevere

Pompei, Destroyed and Preserved

On August 24, 79 A.D., Mt. Vesuvius exploded and spewed tons of molten ash, pumice, and sulfuric gas into the atmosphere.  Pompei, with a population of 20,000 at the time, and other communities in the area, were buried under a thick layer -- 20 meters, according to our tour guide -- of volcanic material and mud.  The number of people killed by this natural catastrophe varies from account to account.  So far the range that I've found is 2,000 to 16,000, with more of the estimates in the lower range.

As you can see from the following series of photos, taken on Thursday, June 5, the volcanic eruption both destroyed and preserved Pompei.



Entrance to Baths

Cold bath

Hot bath

Entryway to home (floor is original)

Street view

No chariots allowed beyond this point



You Can't Judge a Basilica by its Facade, Part 2

Although in this case, the more elaborate facade heightens the expectations of what will be seen inside.

The Church of St. Louis of the French .  Construction started in 1518, was interrupted in 1527 by the sack of Rome, and completed in 1589.

Exterior offers more to the eye, including columns, pediments, statuary, and other Baroque architectural elements.


Ceiling by Domenichino

You Can't Judge a Book by its Cover, and You Can't Judge a Basilica by its Facade

Anfter a 3 1/2-hour return road trip from Sorrento yesterday, we weren't in the mood to travel a mere 30 minutes by bus and train to visit Ostia, the ancient port city of Rome. No more ruins, in other words.

As an alternative, we walked a meandering route to the Pincio Gardens, stopping at whatever location caught our attention along the way.

Such as the Basilica of Santa Maria above Minerva.  Groundbreaking took place in 1280, and the church, of Gothic design, was completed in 1370.  Many changes have been made since then.

Exterior (note the pigeons)



One of the chapels 

A Comparison of High Curbs


Warren, Pennsylvania

Iconic Rome

"Iconic" is an adjective that tends to be used carelessly, indiscriminately nowadays.

The iconic dishes of Chicago?  Chicago Eater put together a list of 20.  Seriously.

In my view, in order to be iconic, one image should come immediately to mind, not an entire smorgasbord.

After 5 days in Rome, the Colosseum represents the iconic image of the city for me.  It is instantly recognizable by name and place, andit's been around for 19 centuries.

The view here is from Palatine Hill, and it's my favorite of the many I've taken of the Colosseum.

This Trip is Ruins!

In the vicinity of the House of the Vestal Virgins

On Wednesday, we collected a considerable amount of dust on our shoes walking around the Roman Forum (above) and up and down and all around Palatine Hill (below).

Part of the ruins of the House of Augustus, the primary residence of Caesar Augustus

Since the majority of the buildings in this center of Ancient Rome are much reduced -- not much more than rubble, in many cases --and were built over a period of centuries, I found it difficult to get a clear sense of the layout, particularly the streets of the Forum as they would have been constructed in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.

The 3 columns are what remains from the Temple of Castor and Pollux, constructed in 495 B.C.

On the other hand, Pompei, with its well-preserved grid of streets, came to life as a community, thanks to our knowledgable tour guide.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Oldest Profession as Practiced in Pompei

Take your first right-hand turn and you'll end up on a narrow street where chariots, once upon a time, deposited men looking for some satisfaction.

Yes, their destination was a house of prostitution, and a series of frescos painted on the walls offered them a visual menu of options.

Such as...



Any of which positions took place in a room like this.

Clearly, the bed survived the 79 A.D. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, but the pillows did not.

 Our tour guide explained that the initial discovery of this erotic art during excavations that began in the 18th century was a source of great embarrassment.

Rome's Circus Maximus

It certainly doesn't look like much today.  (Photo taken from Palatine Hill, perhaps near the perch of Emperor Augustus'  imperial box.)

But imagine, 1900 years ago, a stone and marble stadium, 2000 feet long and 500 feet wide, that could seat more than 200,000.

Imagine chariot races, athletic events, and gladiatorial combats.

More than once while in Rome, I've wanted to take a trip in Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine.

"Set the dial to 103 A.D., Sherman."

Head of Emperor Constantine

At the Musei Capitolini