Photographs and Words of Our Trip,
October 12-22, 2005
with many photographs also taken by
Our journey to these magnificent places was unbelievably rewarding! To say I am enamored of the Italians and their love of life would a great understatement. I hope these photos make you want to make the journey yourself.
This was our first trip to Rome, the Eternal City. And what a beautiful, fascinating city! If you have any interest in art or history, I encourage you to make the journey.
This was our second trip to bella, bella Italia. We had been to Florence and Venice in 1999. A friend of ours went to Rome a few months before us, and she inspired us make the trip. So don't be envious -- just save up, plan and go!
A word about the length of this web page my commentaries can go on and on. I put down any thought I feel like. You of course have the option of ignoring my prose and simply enjoying the photos!
|The Tiber River, which goes through Rome. One our first day of exploraiton, we walked along the eastern side of this steep riverbank. Note the she-wolf drawings. See below for a close-up.|
An Overview of the Trip
We spent four days in Rome, followed by three in Sorrento, Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. Our fight time on U.S. Airway was about seven hours.
I had spent a month in delightful anticipation, chiefly researching attractions. I also saw two Rome-related movies: Roman Holiday and part of La Dolce Vita. In contrast, my wife had wisely spent months learning Italian. Not surprisingly, her language skills came in very handy! At the very least, I recommend learning from a phrase book before you make the trip.
This would also be our first trip taken with another couple, and it worked out quite well! For it to work well, both couples have to be flexible. In our case, I set most of the itinerary, and that certainly made it easier for me!
|The she-wolf is a symbol of Rome.|
|Tiber scene by Mike Bomstein|
|These statues of heads just sat there on a rooftop. From whence? And why? You look, and you wnder, and you donlt mind being intrigued by such artistic puzzles! See the close-up below.|
Flight Day - Thursday, October 12th
Pardon my excessive recording of detail, but My wife and I drove to Melrose Park Train Station, Gateway to the World. Our beautiful train station has a lovely floral entrance (which neighbors and I helped create), ramps designed for the handicapped but also making easier rolling-up of luggage to the platform a breeze. The canopy kept us mostly dry from the drizzle.
Here's the convenient part: we drove our car back home said a second goodbye to our dog Bailey... and walked only one and a half blocks back to the station
My wife's yellow raincoat cast a lovely glow on her face as she ascended the station's stairs.
Why mention this? Because she is beautiful... and because that sight
cast a sweet premonition of a great trip to come.
Our US Air flight took 7.5 hours, and we slept some on the plane with the help of Tylenol P.M. . We arrived the next morning at 8;45 a.m. at Fumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport (it has two names).
Rome Day 1: Friday, October 13th
A Walk along the Tiber Campo Di Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon -
We got to our hotel, the Terra Rossa west of the tourism district, via taxi (70 euros shared by 4 people.) by being so far west of the main attractions, we saved some money on the hotel bill. But being that far away from the attractions was a nuisance -- we had to often take 2 busses, one thief-infested, or 2 buses and a subway to get to the central tourism area. I recommend staying closer to the attractions than we did.
End of complaining!
Campo di Fiori
We were in bella Italia, "on holiday" as the Brits say.
We headed for the Campo di Fiori (literally "field of flowers") open air market which we had heard was colorful and a great place to stock up on food for lunch, such as fruit, bread and cheese.
To get there, we took the bus to Piazza St. Paolo near the Vatican and then walked along the Tiber River's bank. It was busy and interesting.
|Mystery heads, along the Tiber.|
|The Tiber River, which goes|
A lady helped us find the street that would lead to our market.
"Dove e il Campo di Fiore?" I asked. We followed her Italian and hand gestures. It was a colorful, busy place.
As I do in a supermarket, I squeezed some persimmons to see how ripe they were.
That brought a prompt and loud reprimand from the old lady proprietress (understandable in any language!).
I bought persimmons and oranges at another stall. And then we enjoyed delicious thin-crust pizza there at a little restaurant, where they treated us well.
The piles of gelati at one of the stores looked mountainous, glazed, laced with ribbons of chocolate (one was pistachio with various drizzlings). I didn't get a shot of this, but the glazed gelati mountains there looked amazing.
|Campo di Fiori musicians.|
|Madnna on the wall, near the Campo di Fiori|
|Market at the Campo di Fiori|
|Vegetables at rhe Campo di Fiori|
Closer! Yes, veggies can be exciting, folks... in Italia.
And even closer....
|Fibonnaci broccoli! Also from the Campo (see lower right above). At least that's what I called it. Fibonacci was a mathematician who noted that numerical sequences, when added together, produce ascending numbers in a pattern, These numbers can yield a spiral, when genetics is involved. The center of a sunflower is a prime example. I believe this Martian-style broccoli is another!|
|Gelati from Campo di Fiori. Magnificent! Gelati is Italian ice cream - creamier and richer than ours. Photo by Mike Bomstein.|
Continuing our journey eastward from the Tiber, we passed through the Campi Di Fiori and into the Pizaa Navona. It is famed for its fountains and statues as well as for its gelati stands. We missed the latter! Alas something for the next trip!
|Entering the Piazza Navona|
|Panpipes and pigeons go together in the Piazza Navona|
|Obelisk at Piazza Navona. These were brought back from Egypt by conquering armies.|
|This is a far clearer photo of the statue of the rivers.|
This magnificent structure is most amazing for being so huge, quiety dignified and most of all having survived for 2000 years.
|The Pantheon seems to appear from out of nowhere, an amazing survivor of many ideologies, rulers, tyrants and vandals.|
|This Obelisk with fountain in front of the Pantheon drew much attention. Photo by Mike Bomstein.|
|The Pantheon's pediment looms above, calling to you from 2,000 years ago.|
|The Oculus of the Pantheon. It has rained through this open hole for 2,000 years. No visible floor damage! And the light it allows is very atmospheric.|
|Christian statues replaced pagan ones, though I do not know who is depicted above. The change in statues allowed the Pantheon to escape destruction.|
|View of the obelisk and fountain outside the Pantheon.|
|Coffering is the term for the rectangular shapes in the dome's ceiling. These inset shapes add structural strength and reduce weight, a great architectural innovation. The US Capitol Building uses the same technique.|
|This photo of gelati-eaters outside the Pantheon is my favorite candid shot of the entire trip. I like their relaxation counterbalanced by the absurd statue faces!|
...and that gargling gargole is ready for his close-up now, Mr DeMille!
Today we saw the ancient, awesome Colosseum. This was built in (date) A.D. by Emperor Vesaptian.
Busts of Vespatian were common in several of the museums we later visited. In those statues, he looked a bit like Lyndon Johnson, with a smaller nose and a fatter head, always exuding power and fatuous self-confidence.
The colosseum looms like a living inevitability. It was amazing to be at the site of both great architectural achievement and unsurpassed, concentrated violence -- for spectacle's sake.
But to avoid spoiling the beauty of the place with its actual violent
history, let me stick to the light and beauty on this page...
If you want to learn the actual history click here. Otherwise, here's the sweet side...
Seen by daylight, you immediately and understand that such a stadium was a gargantuan work for a society that thrived 2,000 year ago.
You feel the sense of history -- something so long ago and yet a part of our world in a way that, for example, the Pyramids are not. After all, people still gather for spectacles today in arched stadia like it.
Under Vespatian, this is where free entertainment took place. Romans also enjoyed free wine spiced with hot pepper sauce while deciding on the fates of gladiators and animals.
Special workers (slaves) kept the people in the "bleachers" cool by spreading a canvas canopy as needed to block the sun.
|Our friend Benedetta can improve the view of even an internationally renowned monument!|
Now for a closer view of the Colosseum...
The Colosseum was innovative in many ways. The arches and levels were designed to encourage easy ingress and egress, a system still used in stadia today.
Cement was actually invented by the Romans, and it was used extensively in the Colosseum, along with brick and marble. Much of the original marble was later removed or stolen.
Beneath the structure are tunnels and passageway for use in preparing the stage for contingents of animals and gladiators.
The beauty of the colosseum is very palpable, especially at night, when it seems to remind us of our origins.
|Here you can see the details...holes where perhaps layers of marble were once attached.|
Real History of the Coloseum (warning, gory)
Thousands of gladiators died in the Colosseum. They fought to the death, and only 2% survived. Some of those became rich, and lost their slave status.
Thousands of animals also lost their lives here, according to the historian
On one day in particular day, they led many elephants into the stadium.
Lions were brought in and, at first, they did nothing. Then thousands of lions were brought in (hard to believe they would fit on the limited floor-space).
This resulted in such a gargantuan spraying of blood that a huge red cloud arose and saturated the air.
The odor was so strong and nauseating, that people fled, rushing out through the arches...
The red sanguinary cloud lingered in the air above the Colosseum, as if to say of these people, of this place... "shame."
Much of the above account is from a guide at the Colosseum, who said he was quoting Pliny.
|This church building with statues appeared as we left the Colosseum area.|
The Museum of Roman Civilzation.
This museum contains scads of beautiful and historically interesting statues.
It makes sense to compare it to two other great collections we visited -- The Vatican Museum and the Galleria Borghese, which I will later describe.
If you have limited time, visit those other two before this one. It does excel, however in truly ancient art. And the line of people to see these exhibits were, well, non-existent.
Many of the busts on display were of the despicable but interesting Vespatian, who started building the Colosseum. As I mentioned, he exudes power in fatuous way. You can see how all politicians get drunk on power, and have done so for 2,000 years or more - just by looking at his pouissant, ancient mug.
Roman and Greek statuary differ in quality and style greatly. But sometimes, the sheer humanity comes crashing through across 21 centuries. You know you are looking at faces of people from 2,000 years ago; not at generic faces, but clear individual humans with personalities that emerge from their features.
The Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley (not worth it)
This bus ride would be good for older people or those who want to see many sights in a limited time and then scram. I found it too confining, and besides, we saw or would see most attractions pointed out.
So we took the hop-on hop-off trolley. This was a way of conserving our legs. However, at day 3, we had already seen much that was described on the audio headsets provided.
Recco: Do on day 1 or skip.
MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS of ROME
Who says so? Why li'l ole me! (who has admittedly missed many stellar attractions)
1. The Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps nearby each other. So easily
seen within one or two hours)
1. The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps
I am writing this at the Spanish Steps, at a gelateria called the Barcaccia. This is named after the "barca" or boat-like statue half way down the Steps.
They are called Spanish because a Spanish Embassy was once located here.
The view from the top is impressive, sometimes with sunshine visible in the far distance, cracking between the streets. Giant advertising banners somewhat marred the historical atmosphere, but not overly so. Basically, it's a great sight to see the steps fan out below, and people enjoying themselves.
The throng here is intense, though now I don't mind it at all -- I'm enjoying a fabulous gelati at the bottom of the steps and typing on my tiny Psion mini-computer with one hand, ever your devoted and self-sacrificial reporter!
The Spanish Steps are pleasant and atmospheric -- if you don't mind crowds.
In the spring, the azaleas are said to be very pretty. One of my favorite scenes in Roman Holiday is where Audrey Hepburn negotiates with a burly, gruff flower stall proprietor over the price of a bouquet.
In the flick, he seems like a real Italian, and I bet they recruited him for the part on the spot -- so gruff, but willing to make a deal with that graceful Hepburn beauty.
The steps are fine but... they're not a mind-bender like...
The spectacular Trevi Fountain
This beautiful fountain and statuary complex is gorgeous beyond belief. We just LOVED this sight, and the gushing splendor of it all. Our group had almost wanted to skip the Trevi just a day earlier. Why see another fountain when we had seen nice ones in the Camp di Fiori. But I persisted and insisted.
When we turned the final corner and the Trevi came into view, my wife literally gasped. It was that special. Not simply another fountain with cute statues.
This tableau of scenes was created by (Nicholas Scalva in ?)
Neptune stands amidst his assistant Tritons, who attempt to reign in horses. One rampant horse represents inclement seas, and other, held by his mane represents more docile seas.
Virgins looking on from above in various scenes are portrayed in niches.
The beauty of this fountain overwhelmed us... and others. Lovers kissed, children played, and a million deep breaths were taken. A similar number of snapshots went off everywhere.
The fountain appeared to emerge from rocks and the foundation of the building.
In fact, it was hard to detect where the building facade ended and the statuary began or how it was planned or even built!
Very special. Truly, seeing the Trevi Fountain is one of the experiences of a lifetime.
This is the imposing view of The Vatican that you get when you are within the grounds....
Today, our goal was to see some of the Vatican. Specifically:
1. The Sistine Chapel
2. the Vatican Museum - I wanted especially to see the Lacoon group, a famous statue
3. St. Peter's Cathedral
Vatican City has been an independent principality since 1929. It was built by Constanine in the 300's on the site of St. Peter' tomb. The first bascillica on that spot lasted over 1000 years.
In the 1300's, the old bascillica was destroyed to make room for the new one, still the largest cathedral in the world.
We awakened at 6:15 am, caught a bus at maybe 7:30, and arrived as the Vatican Museum was opening. But not early enough, as the crowds were humongous. I would advise getting to the site even earlier to avoid extremely long lines. We stood on one line for 90 minutes to get into the Vatican Museum. It cost about 8 ruod per person. We bought admittance to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, but not to St. Peter's Bascillica, which it turned out we missed entirely. (Hope you get to see it.)
Once inside the enormous Vatican Museum, and after about a 30 minute walk down a crowded art-encrusted corridor, we trooped along with what seemed like thousands of tourists.
|These Vatican corridors seem endless.... and endlessly rich. Nobody seems to stare upwards for very long. In truth, you could get trampled!|
Below, just one ceiling view, close-up!
The Laocoon and His sons statue in the Vatican. In a story related to The Odyssey but not included in Homer, Laocoon tried to reveal the trick
of the Trojan horse. This angered Athena or Poseidon, who sent a serpent to kill Laoccon. I remember how amazed I was to see this world-famous statue all by its lonesome! No one but me to admire it that day!
March, march, gotta get to the Sistine Chapel.
I sort of wished for a few sample overviews of the art overhead and alongside us. The crush was so intense that you could easily get separated from your group there, so I'd recommend a plan to meet somewhere, or carrying cell phones or use some other stratagem for staying united.
Finally, we arrived at the Sistine Chapel. To say the obvious, which I am wont to do, it was a marvel of fresco art. I see it as similar to a Technicolor movie of the period --- Michelangelo's equivalent of the movie, The Ten Commandments.
The colors were brilliant. However, it was more dimly lit than other spectacles in the museum. If you are sincerely interested in seeing the 24 or so scenes of the Sistine Chapel clearly, read a good book on the subject or visit a web site such as. Each scene is impressive but difficult to see way up above -- and harder to follow.
Some scenes are say, obvious -- such as God giving man the light of life, and Adam and Eve with the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Other scenes, such as the Drukenness of Noah, were previously unknown to me, and tougher to decipher. Here's a good Vatican web site for previewing some of scenes:
Lunch in Rome with Benedetta and Ales
I don't think everyone can count on having great Italian our friends' like ours, or on being the recipient of such tremendous hospitality. (Though they have been outstanding hosts to our daughter, Emma and other friends.)
Now FOOD is one of the principal reasons why people go to Italy. While I love great food, not would not be a main reason, wonderful as it was. For the fooodies maong us, I will g into just bit of detail Our restaurant featured photos of famous Hollywood and European actors and actresses on the walls. Ales and some friends recommended this place, friends who are not posh but who enjoy "good food."
We had appetizers of fresh mozzorella cheese, which our hosts extolled as "the best you can have."
In fact, it was very fresh and flavorful and had more texture than typical mozzorella.
I had a delicious entrecote cut char-boiled steak with hollandaise sauce placed on a little hillock on my plate. At first, I thought the sauce was a dollop of risotto but my waiter explained it to me.
The meal was excellent but our friends' vivacious company made it beautiful.
Piazza de Campidoglio.
We had drink on this famous piazza at a rooftop bar and restaurant near the statue of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king. Aurelius was a follower of Epictetus and also a killer of early Christians.
The view up there was excellent!
"This is Rome!" Ales said proudly. Even though he is in heart and soul a Florentine first, he clearly has a love for the Eternal City.
And, and indeed, you could see much of it from this rooftop- spot.
Our 2.5 robberies.
At the time of my writing, we thought we had been victimized 2.5 times. I hope that number does not grow.
First, one of our friends had her wallet stolen from her zippered purse while on the bus heading into Rome. This was terrible, and she was actually upset, as any of us would be.
However, the credit cards were covered and no money was permanently lost.
Nearly half a day was spent, though, filing police re-ports, applying for
new cards, etc.
And lastly, my friend felt a hand moving into his pocket while on the bus. He had turned to the woman to whom the hand belonged and indignantly asked: "Is that your hand in my pocket?!" II think that was remarkably cal and gentlemanly.) She acted guilty and looked away. That was the ".5" robbery.
Not that I am such a wise traveler, but I recommend: Use the hotel's safe for storing valuables (which we did often).
Put your valuables in a neck container... or in a well-hidden wallet.
Clutch your handbag, with your hand on the zipper. Be aware at all times.
We left the hotel Terra Rossa after a sleepy morning and a late breakfast.
Andrea was our taxi driver. I liked his strong opinions, which I coaxed out of him with my pidgin Italian.
We asked him about his favorite Roman sites.
He mentioned Castel di San Angeli, and we said we had missed it.
He was upset!
After further conversation, he got more annoeyd and ticked off with his fingers the important attractions we had foolishly missed, nt they we were on our way to Sorrento.
"St. Angelo - NO.
He was thoroughly disgusted with us.
But we riposted with the names of places we HAD seen, and Andrea sort of forgave us.
Then we further assuaged Andrea by agreeing we would catch other important sites NEXT time!
Our bus to Sorrento left at 3 pm and had a projected arrival time of 7 pm.
Everyone had advised us NOT to rent a car to do the difficult stretch of road from Naples to Sorrento.
On prior vacation drives in the U.S., we had survived doing the vertiginous
But staying road-safe on a tortuous road in a foreign country seemed a higher level of challenge. We left it to our trusty bus driver.
We caught just some of the fabulous sunset that day, with pink and orange glowing hues in the bay.
This hotel Sorrento was very pretty. It is 500' from Tasso Square, the heart of town.
The hotel has a rooftop patio and also a patio below with a lemon and
Wednesday. Oct. 19
Today, we spent a half-day doing laundry. What a waste! Considering how hard it is to get here and how expensive, I would recommend making alternate laundry plans, such as:
1. one - bring enough clothing to last the entire trip.
2. let your hotel clean your clothes.
Sorrento, a seaside beauty
This is a charming seaside city, with tiny alley-like street and a million tourist shops despite the abundance of shop, the atmosphere is definitely charming, with lovely parks and squares, plus varied architecture.
We visited the church of St. Francis, which has a lovely, blossom-filled
inner courtyard. Plus we followed Rick Steve's advice (he writes travel
books and has shows. We walked through part of town, taking turns reading
In the evening, we enjoyed a meal at Pizza Trattoria, which has150 types and a hurly burly atmosphere. Our waiter said the chef wanted to treat us to around of Limoncello liqueur, which we did. It was sweet, but not overly so. Lemons are the major fruit grown in Sorrento, and during our stay we passed many lemon trees and orchards, always fragrant and picturesque..
A more genteel meal was provided at Trattoria Antica on Via Giugli. This
is included as a price fixxe dinner. Our meal, one of many types available,
* prok with bacon and baked apple
In Rome, we had lunch with our friends at Il Cuccio, on the Corso Rinascimiento,
Friday, Rome and the Galleria Borghese
This is a converted palace within a park in the northern part of Rome. We returned to Rome because I had pled for us to go to the Borghese.
What made it extra special for me was my enjoyment of the Bernini statues. I love fine art, I never took an art history course. And somehow, Bernini never appeared in my prior experience. How could I have considered myself even a semi-educated person?
His statues were magnificent.
One of these shows Aeneas carrying his father. The warrior Aeneas is rescuing his father, carrying him away from Troy. The father carries a small statue, a household god. At the very least, the statue as a whole shows filial devotion in a unique way.
Next in fame is the statue of Pauline, sister of Napolean by Canova. Canova made this so sensual that Pauline's husband had it locked up!
Another great statue was the Rape of Persephone. How, you may wonder, can a rape be beautiful But this statue doe not look like a rape, though it does looks like man carrying way an unwilling woman. Perhaps it is beautiful because ii is unrealistic and the figures are so lovingly created.
That leads me to.....
The incomparable statue of Apollo and Daphne by Bellini
Also see this fine youtube video:
This statue is for me, the most superb work in the museum ad the most incredible work of art I have seen in years.
What make this work so powerful'? For me, I love the bodies in motion, and Persephone's fingers turning into leaves and her feet into leaves and roots, the grace of her figure, of her trunk turning into bark, or the ineffable grace of her arms and hands
Have I said more than enough? Probably Then stop reading and see a fine photo of the statue here!
We were taken back to our hotel by the most delightful driver of the trip, Roland,
Roland, il Magnifico
Somehow, I convinced him to sing and he regaled us with many melodies in a fine baritone. He sang Arrivderci Roma and many other tunes I have often heard but whose names I cannot recall and we sang along!
So he had a car full of singing Americanos. We got chummy and, knowing that we wanted even more cool shots of Rome by night, he did a crazy U-turn in traffic (safely. But scarily) pulled over at the Baths of Caracalla and let us take photos.
We sang as we left him giving him a big tip. I have to think (though I may be deceiving myself) that he too enjoyed having the chance to sing while working, with an appreciative group of tourist would-be singers. He made our last evening in Rome special.
Pompeii - destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius' eruption in 79 A.D., re-discovered in 1599, partially recovered and visited by millions today!
Mt. Vesuvius - This is an Italian volcano which erupted in 79 A.D., destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum. The eruption killed 16,000 people, mainly from a hydrothermal pyroclastic flow. The blast had 100,000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The only written first-hand record of the even was recorded by Pliny the Younger in his letters to historian Tacitus. For us, the climb was not difficult. As you will see, it has not yet cooled completely - in fact, it has erupted many times since.