We started our Italian adventure in Rome. We arrived at our hotel near downtown Rome in the afternoon. We happened to be just a few blocks from the Vatican. We walked up to the square as soon as we arrived. There was a special service in St. Peter's Square where Pope Benedict XVI presided over the canonization ceremony of four new saints. The following day, we were escorted through the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. Goethe said in 1787, "Without having seen the Sistine Chapel, one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving." Having seen Michelangelo's ceiling paintings, we got some sense of what Goethe meant.
Later on, we went to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. The architect of the Colosseum is unknown but it is probably one of the most impressive buildings in the Roman Empire.
The Colosseum is an elliptical amphitheatre in the center of the city of Rome, Italy. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world.
It was constructed in 70 AD and is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It's able to seat 50,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests, dramas based on classical mythology. They stopped using it for entertainment in the early medieval era.
This is a picture of the inside of the Colosseum, whch one doesn't see often.
Although the Colosseum stays partially ruined because of damage caused by earthquakes, stone-robbers and time, it is still an icon for Imperial Rome.
The Colosseum has close connections to the Catholic Church, and each Good Friday, the Pope leads a torchlit Way of the Cross procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is also depicted on the Italian version of the five cent euro coin.
This is a photograph of the Arch of Constantine which is between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill.
The arch was constucted to commemorate Constantine 1's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge that took place on October 28th, 312.
The arch spans Via Triumphalis, which is the route taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph.
The arch is 21 meters high and 25.9 meters wide, and 7.4 meters deep. It has three archways. It also has a staircase to the top.
The Spanish Steps are a set of steps climbing a steep slope between the Plazza de Spagna, at the bottom, and the Piazza Trinita dei Monti, at the top. It's called the Scalinata and it's the widest staircase in Europe.
The stairway was designed by architects Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi. There are 1315 steps and the staircase was built in 1717.
At the bottom, the Spanish Steps lead to a very fashionable shopping district known as via Condotti. World famous designer names adorn the shop entrances and windows.
When the steps were being built, there werre several heated discussions over how the steep slope to the church should be handled.
In the piazza, at the corner on the right as you begin to climb the steps, you will see the house where the English poet Joh Keats lived and died in. It's a museum now.
During Christmastime, a 19th century crib is displayed on the first landing of the staircase. In the spring, part of the steps are covered by pots of azaleas. From time to time, there are small cut flower markets around the steps. And, it's a popular place for people get their exercise, but one is not allowed to sit and eat their lunch.
The Pantheon, in Rome, Italy, is a circular building with a portico of large granite. It has Corninthian columns. There are eight colums in front and two groups of four behind them under a pediment.
A rectangular vestibule links the porch of pillars to the rotunda which is located under a coffered concrete dome with a central opening to the sky.
Even though it was built 2000 years ago, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height and diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet.
The Piazza Navona is a city square in Rome, Italy. It was defined as a public space when the city market moved to it. It has important sculptural as well as architectural features.
In the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). The church of Sant'Agnese in Agone is also located there. There are also two other fountains in the piazza.
In 2011, the Fontana del Moro was damaged by a vandal. Police found the man, who had been captured on security cameras, climbing the fountain, wielding a large rock and decapitating some of the figures. They recognized the man by his sneakers.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) is the main church of Florence, Italy.Construction was begun in 1296 and completed in 1436.
The exterior is faced with polychrome marbel panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white. It has an elaborate 19th century Gothic Revival facade by Emilio De Fabris. It's truly a work of art.
Standing adjacent to the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore is Giotto's Bell Tower. The slender structure stands on a square plan with a side of 14 meters. It's 85 meters high. The hexagonal panels on the lower level depict the history of mankind,as inspired by Genesis.
Each level is larger than the lower one and extends beyond it in every dimension so that their difference in size exactly counters the effect of perspective.
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is home to many world famous works of art.
In Florence, we had the opportunity to see Michelangelo's David in the Academy of Fine Arts. It is as stunning as everyone says it is. It took Michelangelo's genius to create such a fluid and graceful form from a piece of white marble. Unfortunately, photographs were forbidden.
The fountain to the right is in Piazza della Signoria. We walked from there to peruse the many shops on the Ponte Vecchio, which spans the Arno River.
From Florence we went to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Pisa is the birthplace of Galileo. He conducted his famous experiment of dropping a 10 lb. weight and a one lb weight demonstrating that they both fall at the same speed. You often hear about and see the Leaning Tower but the Cathedral of Pisa which is adjacent to the tower is also a beautiful piece of architecture.
From Pisa, we headed across the Apennine Mountains to the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea and the beautiful city of Venice.
We boarded our water taxi and entered Venice. Our walking tour included St. Marks's Square and the Basilica di San Marco.
We also took a gondola ride and got a water's eye view of an incredible variety of dwellings and restaurants along the canals. We passed under the beautiful Ponte Rialto.
Later, we toured the lavish Doges' Palace with its incredibly ornate rooms and gilt embellished ceilings. We snapped away at the Bridge of Sighs.
Depending on various weather factors, St. Mark's Square can be filled with several inches of water. Fortunately, we were there on a dry day.
This is a picture of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of the same name in Venice, Italy. It was built between 1566 and 1610.
The church and island are the focal point from every part of the Riva degli Schiavoni.
The first church on the island was built about 790 and in 982 the current island was given to the Benedictine order of priests. The Benedictines founded a monestary there, but in 1223, all the buildings on the island were destroyed by an earthquake. The church and monastery were rebuilt after the earthquake.
Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) is the main public square of Venice, Italy.
The other urban spaces in the city are called "campi" (fields).
A remark attributed tro Napoleon calls the Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe". It has no motorized traffic and is filled with human voices only.
The Piazzetta dei Leoncini is an open space on the north side of the church named after two marble lions which is now called the Piazzetta Giovanni XXIII.
The neoclassical building on the east side adjoining the Basilica is the Palazzo Patriacale, the seat of the Patriarch of Venice.
The Piazza is dominated at the eastern end by St Mark's Church. The basic structure of the church has been altered greatly over time. The 14th century contributed heavily to its adornment. Venetian vessels going to the Orient almost always brought back a column, capital or frieze taken from some ancient building to add to the fabric of the basilica.
The exterior of the west facade is divided in three registers: lower, upper and domes. In the lower register of the facade sit five round arched portas covered in marble. Above the central door are three bas relief cycles of Romanesque art.
The gondola is a traditional, flat bottomed Venetian rowing boat. They are well suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon but are primarily used today to carry tourists on rides for fun.
The gondola is propelled by a person (the gondolier) who stands facing the bow and rows with a forward stroke, followed by a compensating backward stroke.
There were eight to ten thousand gondolas during the 17th and 18th century but there are just over four hundred in active service today. The origin of the word "gondola" has never been established, but there are many theories.
Gondolas are handmade using 8 different kinds of wood (cherry, elm, fir, larch, lime, mahogany, oak, and walnut) and are composed of 280 pieces. The oars are made of yet another wood - beech wood.
The left side of the gondola is made longer than the right side. This causes the gondola to resist the tendency to turn towards the left when the gondolier is doing the forward stroke.
Gondolas are not paddled, they are rowed.
In August 2010, Georgia Boscolo became Venice's first female gondolier.
The profession of gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses.
All gondoliers go through a long period of training and apprenticeship. There is heavy competition to attend the training and even more competition to pass a major comprehensive exam.
The exam tests knowledge of Venetian history, landmarks, foreign language skill, as well as practical skills in handling the gondola. The test also includes assessing the ability to handle the gondola in the tight spaces of Venetian canals.
This row of gondolas covered with blue tarps in Venice, Italy is one of my favorite shots.
We left the crowds of Venice and cruised across the Venetian Lagoon past the island of Murano to the island of Burano.
In the picturesque fishing village of Burano, renowned for its pastel-colored houses, we walked around and enjoyed seeing the colorful houses and window boxes full of flowers.
Back in Venice, we went on to watch skilled glass blowers fashion their delicate vases, glasses and figurines using age-old traditional glass blowing techniques. Venice is a special world of its own.
We were driven along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea to Ravenna.
Here we saw the famous mosaics in the 6th century Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Classe. The Basilica was located next to a Christian cemetery, and quite possibly on top of a pre-existing pagan one, as some of the ancient tombstones were re-used in its construction.
The exterior has a large facade with two simple uprights and one mullioned window with three openings. The narthex and building to the right of the entry are later additions, as is the fine 9th century round bell tower with mullioned windows.
Capri - the name just brings to mind a sun-drenched paradise - and you wouldn't be wrong.!
Capri is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the Sorrentine Peninsula on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy.
We took a short boat ride to the Isle of Capri, the ancient retreat of Roman emperors. In the late half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular resort for European artists, writers and celebrites.
We went sightseeing, sampled the Limoncello di Capri and visited the Villa San Michele in Anacapri. We strolled around the wonderful shops.
Capri is a popular tourist destination for both Italians and foreigners. It has twelve churches and seven museums and monuments. It's known for the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto). The Blue Grotto is the most visited attraction at Capri.
The Grotta Azzurra was discovered in the 19th century by foreign tourists and it's been a spellbinder ever since. On one side of the grotto are the remains of ancient Roman rock, with a narrow cavern.
There are no cars on the main part of Capri. It's served by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples, Sorrento, Positano or Amalfi.
We arrived on Capri from Sorrento. This was our the view of the island as we apprached the pier.
There are boat services from the ports. Boats arrive in the morning and leave after lunch, usually around 3:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.
From Naples the ferry takes 80 minutes and the hydrofoil takes 40 minutes. From Sorrento, our ferry took about 40 minutes. The hydrofoil would have taken about 20 minutes. It was a nice ride over and beautiful scenery.
Boats call at Marina Grande, from where a funicular goes up to Capri town. From Anacapri, a chair lift takes passengers to the top of the island.
Few places in the world can boast such a high concentration of designer shops as Capri.
Making your way along Via Camerelle and, in the 100 meters which separate the Grand Hotel Quisisana from Via Tragara, you'll come across all the biggest names from the world of fashion. Too many to list.
One can also purchase something that has been made on the island. Of course, it will be unique. There are plenty of little artisan shops and showrooms in Capri that offer just what you're looking for. Capri is famous for its handmade sandals. We enjoyed some of the limoncello liqueur made with the island's lemons.
On our way back to Rome, we visited the Abbey of Monte Cassino. Situated atop a rocky hill, it's where St. Benedect founded the Benedictine Order of monks.
The monastery was constructed on an older pagan site, a temple of Apollo that crowned the hill. The area was still mostly pagan at the time. Benedict smashed the sculpture of Apollo and destroyed the altar. Then he used the temple, dedicated it to Saint Martin and built another chapel which he dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
It was rebuilt according to medieval plans after near total destruction during WW II.
The Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino holds the graves of over a thousand Poles who died, storming the bombed out Benedictine Abbey atop the mountain in May 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino. The graves are marked by three different types of headstones - Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Star of David for Jewish men.
The Polish memorial at Monte Cassino bears the following inscription: For our freedom and yours, We soldiers of Poland gave our soul to God, Our life to the soil of Italy, Our hearts to Poland.
Monte Cassino has ben destroyed and rebuilt several times. The church is beautiful as you can see from the pictures and the views are breathtaking. An earthquake damaged the Abbey in 1349 and although the site was rebuilt, it marked a period of decline. The site was sacked by Napoleon's troops in 1799 and in 1866, Monte Cassino became a national monument.
During the Battle of Monte Cassino, (January - May 1944) the Abbey made up one section of the 100 miles Gustav line, which was a defensive German line used to hold the Allied attackers from advancing into Italy during WW2.
On February 15, 1944 the abbey was almost completely destroyed in a series of heavy American led bombings. The bombing was done because ground troops reported that Germans were occupying the monastery. It was considered an observation post.
However, it was found that during the bombing no Germans were present. But, after the bombing, the Germans did occupy the monastery because the ruins provided excellent defensive cover.
An account notes that 120 German trucks were loaded with monastic assets and art which had been stored at the Abbey for safekeeping. The trucks were loaded and left in October, 1943 and only very strenuous protests resulted in their delivery to the Vatican.
The delivery was minus several cases of property and were possibly delivered to Goering in December 1943 for "his birthday"
Some of this history was obtained via Wikipedia and we're including it because it is so interesting.
The Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, Italy marks the place where St. Francis was born and died. The Basilica was begun in 1228 and is built into the side of a hill. It comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church. There is also a crypt where the remains of St Francis are interred. The Upper Church is Gothic and the Lower Church is late medieval in design.
St Francis was canonized in Assisi in 1228 as the foundation stone for the new church was laid. In 1997, two earthquakes hit Assisi and many ancient buildings were destroyed. As specalists and friars were inspecting the damage to the Basilica, an aftershock hit and caused the collapse of the vault. As a result, two Franciscan friars and two specialists were killed.
The Franciscan existence (Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and so on) is a space where God, man, and the natural world work harmoniously. Francis treated everyone from peasant to Pope equally and with equal respect. He an his brothers (friars) slept in fields, begged for food and were known as the "Jugglers of God".
While Italy was torn by conflict, Francis promoted peace and the restoration of the peace and understanding of others.
Even today, the leaders of the world's great religions meet here for summits.
The architecture is of the Romanesque and Gothic styles. When first built, both upper and lower churches had a simple cruciform plan with bays, and a bell tower. The Lower Church was built in the Romanesque style with low semi-circular cross vaults over the nave and barrel vaults over the arms.
The main entrance is through an ornate Gothic doorway above which is an ornate rose window. The Upper Church has a facade of white washed brick divided into two horzontal zones. There is a single large dooway in the Gothic style.
The main medium used for conveying the Church's message is fresco, rather than stained glass.
As you approach the Lower Church, there is a large plaza walkway with a very long stoa with Roman arches. The surface of the area is made up of alternating stripes of white, light grey, darker grey and black with hints of magenta.
The following are some pictures that we took while we were in Assisi. Assisi is a beautiful old hill town with many steep and narrow stone streets.
From Assisi, we went to Pompeii, a partially buried Roman town near modern Naples. Pompeii was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was buried under 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice until it was accidentally discovered in 1748.
The objects that laid under the city were well preserved for thousands of years because of the lack of air and moisture.
Pompeii is on a spur formed by a lava flow to the north of the Sarno River. It was about 5 miles from Mount Vesuvius.
During archaeological digs, it has been determined that the city had suffered from other seismic events before the eruption.
The excavated town offers a snapshot into Roman life in the 1st century. The forum, the baths, many houses and villas remain well preserved
Details of everyday life are preserved. Houses provide details concerning professions and categories, such as for the "laundry" workers. Wine jars have been found bearing what is apparently the world's earliest know marketing pun. At the time of the eruption, the town may have had some 20,000 inhabitants.
It was an area in which Romans had their holiday villas. Due to the difficult terrain, the streets are straight and laid out in a grid in the Roman tradition. They are laid with polygonal stones, and have houses and shops on both sides of the street. It followed its decumanus and its cardo, centered on the forum.
A large number of well preserved frescoes provide information on everyday life and have been a major advance in art history of the ancient world. Some aspects of the culture were distinctly erotic, including frequent use of the phallus as a good luck charm in various types of decorations.
A large collection of erotic votive objects and frescoes were found in Pompeii. Many were removed and kept in secret at the University of Naples until recently. In 2002, another discovery at the mouth of the Sarno River revealed that the port also was populated and that people lived in palafittes, within a system of channels that suggest a likeness to Venice to some scientists.
A paved street. The blocks in the road allowed a pedestrian to cross the street without having to step onto the road itself which doubled as Poppeii's drainage and sewage disposal system. The spaces between the blocks allowed horse drawn carts to pass along the road.
The destruction of Pompeii is undoubtedly history's most storied natural disaster.
To most people, the scope of the calamity in a.d. 79, natural forces transforming bustling areas into overnight cities of the dead has always seemed unimaginable. Although, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Southeast Asia's 2004 tsunami, it's more understandable.
Passage of time softens the horror of Vesuvius's human toll but it is still unimaginable.
In the museum, some moments of trauma are brought eerily to life by plaster casts of Pompeii residents at the moment the eruption overtook them.
In 1863 an ingenious Italian archaeologist named Guiseppe Fiorelli noticed four cavities in the hardened layer of once-powdery ash that covered Pompeii to a depth of ten feet. By filling the holes with plaster, he created disturbingly lifelike casts of this long departed Pompeiian in its final horrifying moments. It was as though an eyewitness from antiquity had stepped forward with photographs of the disaster.
The Vesuvius volcano did not form overnight, of course. In fact, scholars say that the mountain is hundreds of thousands of years old and has been erupting for generations.
In about 1780 B.C., for example, an unusually violent eruption (known today as the “Avellino eruption”) shot millions of tons of superheated lava, ash and rocks about 22 miles into the sky. That prehistoric catastrophe destroyed almost every village, house and farm within 15 miles of the mountain.
But it was easy to overlook the mountain’s bad temper in such a pleasant, sunny spot.
Even after a massive earthquake struck the Campania region in 63 A.D. - a quake that, scientists now understand, offered a warning rumble of the disaster to come, people still flocked to the shores of the Bay of Naples. Pompeii grew more crowded every year.
Many scholars say that the excavation of Pompeii played a major role in the neo-Classical revival of the 18th century. Europe’s wealthiest and most fashionable families displayed art and reproductions of objects from the ruins.
Drawings of Pompeii’s buildings helped shape the architectural trends of the era. For example, wealthy British families often built “Etruscan rooms” that mimicked those in Pompeiian villas.
Today, the excavation of Pompeii has been going on for almost three centuries, and scholars and tourists remain just as fascinated by the city’s eerie ruins as they were in the 18th century.
We travelled up the coast to Sorrento situated on the Gulf of Naples. John serenaded me in the Mayflower restaurant as he played "When a Man Loves a Woman". He did an outstanding job and I felt so proud and blessed that we found each other 24 years ago. We went on to enjoy a Neapolitan live stage performance of the area's most famous songs and tarantella folk dancing.
Sorrento is a small town in Campania, southern Italy. The town overlooks the Bay of Naples.
We took the Amalfi Drive (connecting Sorrento and Amalfi) which is a narrow road that threads along the high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea. It's an unbelievably beautiful drive.
We like to take long walks when we get to our hotel. On one of our walks from our hotel, we ran across this site at the bottom of a bridge that was crossing a steep ravine.
Trevi Fountain is the most famous fountain in the world.
It's in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy. It stands 86 feet high and 161.3 feet wide. The fountain is at the juction of three roads.
A traditional legend says that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain they are ensured of a return to Rome.
This was the theme of 1954's "Three Coins in the Fountain" movie and song by the same name. An estimated 3,000 euros are thrown into the mountain each day. The money has been used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome's needy.
The central figure of the fountain, in front of a large niche, is Neptune, God of the Sea. He is riding a chariot in the shape of a shell, pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea.
On the left hand side of Nepture is a statue representing Abundance, the statue on the right represents Salubrity. Above the sculptures are bas reliefs, one of them shows Agnippa, the general who built the aqueduct that carries water to the fountain.