The Roman Catacombs, Italy

Day 96, Saturday December 9, 2017

We get a wave from a friendly Santa this morning on our way to catch the bus to the catacombs.

We arrive at the San Sebastiano Catacombs only to find this note tacked to the door. Too bad they didn’t bother to update the website. We visited the San Sebastiano Basilica, at least that was open. The remains of Saint Sebastian were at one time buried in the catacombs below the church.

The basilica has a beautiful carved and painted wooden ceiling.We shelter in the entrance of the church and have our lunch then head down the Appian Way to the Villa di Massenzio. We ran out of time to visit here on our last visit to the Appian Way.  This structure was the triumphal entrance gate to the Circus that was on this site. A circus is a Roman chariot racing stadium. In the background is the Tomb of Cecilia Metella that we visited when we walked the Appian Way on Bob’s birthday .
A view of the Circus. There is a tomb here built by Emperor Maxentius. I make like a statue in one of the niches.

Walking back to the San Callisto Catacombs ,which were closed until 2:00, we see this tree being carved outside the San Sebastiano Basilica, which is in the background.Our tour of the San Callisto catacombs is fascinating. Twelve Christians were killed by Roman soldiers in this small chapel known as the Crypt of the Popes as five early popes were buried here.In the 20 km of tunnels spread over 20 acres, archaeologists have found the tombs of 16 early popes, dozens of martyrs and the remains of half a million Christians. No photos were allowed so these are photos of postcards I purchased in the gift shop.

The Crypt of St. Cecilia is the tomb a young woman who was martyred in the 3rd c. because she would not renounce Christianity. When her body was exhumed in 1599, more than a thousand years after her death, it was apparently perfectly preserved, as depicted in this statue.We decide to walk to the Domitilla Catacomb nearby. The catacombs of Domitilla are about 17 kilometers long and extending to a depth of around 30 meters. Our one hour tour only visits the little area highlighted in green at the top of the map.The tombs were carved into the tufa rock which was fairly soft. The oldest tombs are the ones higher up. When there was no more space left, the grave diggers lowered the floor level and put in more tombs.  The different levels are connected with staiways.

No photos are allowed but our guide, who happens to be the Director of the Catacombs, says it is OK if we take a few photos so I take advantage of his offer. Bodies were wrapped in shrouds, placed in the carved niches and then a cover was plastered over the opening of the niche. There are many very small niches as the infant mortality rate was very high. We see some bones in a few of the niches, but most of the bones where tourists visit have been moved because some of the tourists were talking home ‘souvenirs’.Our tour began and ended in this Basilica that was built at the end of the 4th century AD above the tomb of two martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus. Most of this Basilica is underground.  The top of a ventilation shaft is just visible in one of the fields above the catacombs.

We continue along the Appian Way, and end up walking all the way home which took almost an hour. I loved the light on these trees.

The Pope’s Angelus Blessing, Rome

Day 83, Sunday November 26, 2017

Every Sunday at noon is the Angelus Prayer, when Pope Francis speaks to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Today we are among the many who are here to see and hear the Pope. We thought we had a great spot right in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with a clear view of the central balcony…then Bob spotted something in the far away window of the building across the square. Oops, this is where the Pope appears, and we are quite far away.
At noon the Pope appears and with a friendly wave and a welcoming “Buongiorno”, to which the crowd replies “Buonjourno”, he begins the Angelus Prayer. 

Good thing I have a telephoto zoom on my camera! The Angelus ends with a blessing for everyone in the square and the blessing includes any religious objects that people have brought with them. The bells of St. Peter’s chime as the crowds begin to disperse. We have seen the Pope!Although the clouds were dark and threatening while we were waiting to see the Pope, by the time the Angelus is finished the sun is peeking through the clouds so we decide to stroll about. We head down the Via della Concillazione, the wide road that leads to St. Peter’s Square…and across the Ponte Sant’Angelo with a good view of the Castle Sant’ Angelo and the Tiber River. By the way, Romans pronounce it ‘teeber’ not ‘tiber.’One of the things I love about Rome, eye candy everywhere!We take a minute to pop into the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, known as the Chiesa Nuova, or New Church. A friendly lady comes to chat and gives us an audio guide tour.

The church celebrates the life and legacy of Saint Philip Neri, and this little side chapel is dedicated to him. He is also entombed there in a glass coffin. It is a bit strange to see so many bodies on display in churches here, it is not something we see at home. We wander back towards the Pantheon for photo of the obelisk in the centre of the fountain. I think we are getting close to seeing all the Egyptian obelisks in Rome. I will have to check, but I do know there is one more near by.I wanted a photo to show just how enormous the columns at the Pantheon are.Around the corner behind the Pantheon we find one more obelisk. Bernini designed the base for this one after it was discovered in excavations nearby in 1667.Back to the front of the Pantheon where the long line up has disappeared so we go in to see what it looks like in the daytime. The sun is shining through the oculus, but other than that the lighting isn’t much different than during the evening. We take another quick look around and we are on our way. People try to earn money in all sorts of ways in Rome. This young woman was sculpting sand puppies…and an artist asks to be adopted, but he was nowhere in sight when we walked by.Christmas decorations are making an appearance, and many stores use live evergreens in their decorations. I am curious and a closer look reveals that they are using Oasis, or floral foam, to keep the greens fresh. These displays smell so Christmassy when we walk by.A view down one of the main streets where we wait for our bus. Notice that there aren’t many cars at all. Also notice the gypsy lady prostrated on the sidewalk, begging. I can’t imagine this is an easy way to make money.

We pass Trevi Fountain with its hordes of people and decide it is time to head home.As you already know, I love looking down side streets and into courtyards.  I didn’t even notice the ‘street art’ on the do not enter sign until today when I was posting this.

This lovely apartment building with its garden balconies is on the corner near our own apartment.

All Roads Lead To Rome

Day 82, Saturday November 25, 2017

The Appian Way was Europe’s first super highway. It is the reason for the saying “All roads lead to Rome.” Built in 312 B.C., it connected Rome with Capua (near Naples), running in a straight line for much of the way. Eventually it stretched over 600 kilometres to Brindisi, on the east coast of Italy. Today is Bob’s birthday and we are going to walk the Appian Way.

We take the metro and then a bus to the outskirts of Rome. Before we start our walk back into Rome we walk a bit further in the opposite direction to visit the Villa Dei Quintili. We buy our €5.00 tickets and when we walk up to the building below it is all locked up and under construction!

Turns out this isn’t the villa, and we need to walk along a dirt path behind this building for a ways to the ruins. The Villa Dei Quintili was the largest villa complex in the suburbs outside Rome. It was built by two brothers, who were later executed by Emperor Commodus who took over possession of their villa. It was then expanded and used by emperors until the 5th century. There are boardwalks in many areas but sometimes we are walking on the original mosaics floors! Hard to believe that this is allowed. There are baths here with a calidarium (hot water) and a frigidarium (cold water). Many of the rooms have remains of mosaics and floor tiles. A few even have traces of frescoes on the walls. 

This all covers a huge area and it was all one villa. When it was first excavated it was thought to have been a town!Back on the Appian Way we are ready to start our walk towards Rome, on the same road that was used by Romans almost 2,000 years ago! We are going to walk in the footsteps Roman Emperors, merchants, saints and maybe even St.Peter! Julius Caesar travelled this road along with thousands of soldiers, and now we are too.
Romans did not allow anyone to be buried inside the city walls so many people were buried along the roads leading out of Rome. Wealthy people built impressive tombs for themselves. The remains of many of these tombs are visible today.  Sometimes there is as little as a mound of earth but there are also still quite impressive remains of the larger tombs.These are the original stones that were used to build this road. These stones were set upon a bed of gravel and cement. Lime cement was then used to fill the gaps between the stones and the road was said to have been so smooth that the joints between the rocks could not be felt. In the foreground the ruts made by ancient chariot and wagon wheels can be seen.One of the many ‘reconstructed’ tombs along the Appian Way…and a couple more.

The day started out cloudy and cold but the sun came out and warmed us up.There are many grand modern villas along the Appian Way. This is looking down just one of the many long tree-lined driveways we see along our walk.Getting closer to Rome. It is a bit tiring walking on these original paving stones. The cement that made the road smooth has long worn away. We saw lots of people bicycling along here and it looked bone jarring.                                 

This is a small archeaological area along the road that used to be a farmer’s field. Some of the floor mosaics show where they were damaged by the plows used to till the fields!Fall has arrived. The leaves here were a beautiful golden yellow.Inside the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, one of the best preserved tombs along the Appian way, there is an exhibit of modern sculpture by Paola Cream. I like this bird man…and these vessels. The exhibit sign said the show only runs until November 11th, but this is Rome and not everything is what it says it is.

This is the outside of the Tomb of Cecilia, who was noble woman in the 1st century B.C. Inside the hollow round tower is where her body is thought to have been buried.

That was our last stop of the day. The ruins are closed at 4:00 and we still have a a walk and then a bus and metro ride to get home. we ran out of time to visit the catacombs so we will have to return another day.

The Colosseum, Rome

Day 77, Monday November 20, 2017

Rome’s greatest amphitheater was commissioned in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and we are visitng it today. There are a lot of people outside the Colosseum trying to sell us tickets, tours and trinkets. Our ticket from the Forum yesterday also gives us ‘skip the line’ entrance today. No waiting in long lines to buy tickets!It is a pretty spectacular place. The floor of the arena is gone so we can see the rooms beneath the arena that were used to hold the wild animals, prisoners, props and gladiators. 
Bob took some Classics courses in university but I bet he never thought he would get to see many of the places and buildings he read about so many years ago.These arches were made without mortar, just the keystone in the centre of the arch to hold it all up. Here they are almost 2,000 years later, still standing.Looking down into the internal corridors that allowed the large crowds to enter and exit the arena very quickly. The arena held 55,000 people, who were seated according to rank. The poorest citizens were seated high up at the to of the arena, but they were sheltered by a huge canvas awning that was supported by poles on the top of the arena. This is a site with lots of interesting information about the Colosseum. A small portion of the floor has been reconstructed on one end of the Colosseum. The arena floor would have been covered in a think layer of sand during events. In the opening games, which lasted 100 days in 80 AD, over 9,000 animals and 2,000 gladiators were killed!There are even some of the original marble steps.There is a museum area on the second level of the Colosseum with models, paintings, sculptures and other information about the arena. This model shows the internal corridors as well as how the seats fit over everything. It really helped me visualize what it would have looked like.This also showed a reconstruction of the arena  and what it looks like today.This little snuff box was one of the objects with images of the Colosseum. It was a mosaic image with the tiniest little pieces of mosaic I have ever seen. Part of the exterior wall of the colosseum collapsed during earthquakes in 847 and 1231 and this image shows the arena before reconstruction.
Here are a couple of views around the arena from the second level, where people standing.We spent a couple hours in the Colosseum and then walked north towards the Forum of Augustus, Trajan’s Forum and Trajan’s column. These ruins are right alongside a main road. In some cases, more modern buildings were removed so that these ruins could be excavatedBelow the 16th Century Church of San Giuseppe Dei Falgnai nearby is a small museum and the dungeon, which according to Christian legend, is where St. Peter and St. Paul were imprisoned before they were crucified. It was dark, wet and filthy. Prisoners were dropped into here through a grate in the floor above. We get to walk down the modern steps.Next we visit the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, which also has The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which we somehow didn’t see. We plan on coming back to this area so we will have to look for it then. We climb to a high terrace for some great views. Bob is convinced that this this is as high as we can get, but I am equally convinced that we can go higher. I am sure I saw people right up on the very top of this building when we were visiting the Forum a couple days ago..I was right! There is an elevator that takes us up to the rooftop for panoramic 360 degree views of Rome.Bob is trying to decide where things are…and I am just enjoying the view.We can see mountains in the distance, and there is some smog but not nearly as much as I expected. As the sun starts to set, the golden light on Rome’s buildings is beautiful. Notice the seagull. I think he is following us!There are twin statues on either end of the building that can be seen from many of Rome’s neighbourhoods.It is a long way down, and those people are standing on the first terrace we took photos from. The ground is much further below that, way down at the base of the building across the street.On our way down we stop once more at the terrace and take this photo of Trajan’s Column.By the time we reach ground level the sun has set and it is getting dark. Just as I am taking another photo o Trajan’s Column the lights come on!
The ruins look quite different all lit up. While we wait of our bus a street musician serenades us with lovely violin music.It has been a full day.We stop at our local grocery store on the way home, which is conveniently located right in the bottom of our apartment building. I just have to take a photo of these interesting looking cauliflowers.  

The Forum, Rome

Day 76, Sunday November 19, 2017

Today we visit the Forum. On the way to finding a spot for a view over the Forum we visited the Basilica San Maria in Aracoeli.  There were chandeliers everywhere and while we were there the chandeliers were turned on…just for me!

This painting on the pillar looks very old. As we make our way to the Forum entrance I spot Romulus and Remus.We finally find a place to overlook the Forum while this fine feathered fellow takes a good look at us.There is a lot to see here, so just walk along with us. Looking back towards the entrance and the Arch of Septimius Severus.Wow, we are really here!Hard to believe we are standing where Romans lived and walked over 2,000 years ago.The courtyard of the Vestal Virgins. Girls were chosen at the age of ten and served until they were forty when they were handsomely rewarded and allowed to marry. However, if a woman lost her virginity, she was given a loaf of bread and then buried alive! Apparently this was not an uncommon occurrence.People standing on the Palatine overlooking the Forum.I want to go to the top of the white building with the two big statues on it for a great view of Rome. We will have to check that out another day.These are the original 2,000 year old stones that still pave the streets of the Forum.The Temple of Antonius and Faustina is now incorporated into the church of San Lorenzo.This is the side nave of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. The largest building in the forum, it was as big as a football field but only one wall of it remains. A Basilica was not a church but a place used for the administration of justice and conducting business. It did however become a model for the great cathedrals and basilicas of Europe.The Arch of Titus erected in 81 AD to commemorate the sacking of Jerusalem.A panorama of the forum…and a selfie with the Colosseum in the distance.These three photos give a better look at the forum, starting at the north end… the centre with the gardens and house of the Vestal Virgins,,,and the south end with the huge Basilica of Constantine.OK, I am including these Palatine (Imperial Palace) info panels to save lots of writing. We were only able to see some of the Palatine as it was late in the afternoon and the site was closing.No idea what the two little houses were about.I love the tall pruned coniferous trees we see here and all over Rome.We catch the bus home near the Colosseum. There is a strong military presence everywhere in Rome, by all the major sites and in the Metro stations as well. I don’t mind having them there.

Siena, and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, Fabriano, Italy

Day 69, Sunday November 12, 2017

I really wanted to visit Fabriano and the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana, (Museum of Paper and Watermarks.) Fabriano is known internationally for its quality paper.The only day we could fit it in was Sunday afternoon so today we drove from Florence to Perugia with a short stop in Siena, and then on to Fabriano.

The drive from Florence to Siena was beautiful. Lots of rolling hills with little towns perched high on the hilltops. It is definitely autumn and the trees are turning colour, but as Bob said, it is like our September autumn, and it is November here.We enter Siena by walking though a gate in this wall. You can just see the arch of the top of the gate.We wanted to visit the Sienna Duomo but it is closed to tourists until 1:30. I ask the guard if we can visit for a quiet time to think about Baba and she lets us enter. There is a mass taking place so we sit and have some reflective time, listening to beautiful singing and the Italian sermon. This is the inside of the Duomo with its black and white striped marble pillars and incredible inlaid marble floors.We wander the  streets and pass this little gallery with all the horses. Quite appropriate for Siena as the Palio is held here twice a year. This is a bareback horse race that is held in the Piazza Del Campo. Check out the link for some great photos of this event. I toss a coin and make a wish in this ancient well, and admire the paintings on the ceiling which are outside and exposed to the elements.The streets are narrow with tall buildings on either side…with wonderful sights tucked away in courtyards and…at the end of this long sloping road we enter a large open square. It is the famous Piazza Del Campo where the Palio is takes place.We didn’t have a lot of time here as we need to be in Fabriano this afternoon so all too soon we head back towards our car, which is parked outside the old city. The buildings here are all beautiful shades of sienna and ochre. Loved the horse.There are great views.These six very long very steep escalators were a great help getting us up to and down from the old town. I was feeling a bit weary today and quite happy I didn’t have to climb all those hundreds of steps.  Here we are, leaving Siena, there are no flat roads here!We have time to check into our Airbnb and then drive to Fabriano, almost an hour away. Our tour of the paper mill was at 4:30. We arrived at 4:00, just in time to watch an English video about paper making as the tour was only in Italian!  I didn’t think to check that when I reserved way back in August, however, after our video a very nice woman gave us a tour in English! I think the fellow at the ticket office got her especially for us. She was great, very knowledgeable and very pleasant. This is a photo of her from a show that National Geographic made about the Fabriano Paper mills and paper making. I can’t remember her name, but she was very knowledgeable and spent quite a bit of time with us.We got to see the old hammer mills in operation and a master papermaker came and pulled some sheets of paper with watermarks to demonstrate the process. I just loved the old wooden press. It is just a bit bigger than the one I use at home when pressing my handmade paper. The museum has a fantastic collection of very old papers and papers with watermarks. Their Fabriano Mill makes watermarked paper for bank notes for several countries, but I most fascinated with their with chiaroscuro watermarks .

For those unfamiliar with watermarks, take a quick look at the link above which simply explains what they are and how they are made. For a more detailed explanation take a look at this link from the Museo della Carta e della Filigrana

I get myself a souvenir from our visit to Fabriano, a piece of paper with a watermark of two angels called Il Primo Bacio (The first Kiss) by William Bouguereau. I just need to decide how to display it, as the watermark only shows when it is held up to the light.

Image result for il primo bacio painting
There are a couple art shows in the hallways of the museum and I absolutely adored the work of Valentina Verlato.   This link takes you to her Italian website but if you type her name into Google you will have the option of translating the website into English. Of course, the photos on internet just don’t compare to the actual paintings.
As we left the museum the street lamps lit up the leaves above us.Day 70,  Monday November 13, 2017

We spend a quiet day at home. We have been travelling for ten weeks and I am just a bit tired. Bob did go out exploring the town of Perugia but most of the sites were closed today so he came home early.He did get some great views of Perugia which he said is ‘lots of steps!”

Tomorrow we are on our way to Rome!

Day 71, Tuesday November 14, 2017

Our drive to Rome went well and we arrived at our Airbnb early afternoon. We were very relieved that it is not a ‘smoking allowed’ apartment as that is what showed up when we checked our booking a couple of days ago. I was so worried that it would smell awful and that we would have to find another place at the last minute. It seems that the Airbnb site ‘updated’ and incorrectly listed the apartment as ‘Smoking Allowed.” This was also a surprise to our host who assured us that it was indeed a non smoking apartment. It is a lovely place and I think we are going to be very happy here for the next two weeks.

Day 72, Wednesday November 15, 2017

We spent a quiet day at home today, resting, organizing and planning what we will see and do in Rome.

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Day 68, Saturday, November 11, 2017

We changed our plans to visit the town of Siena today so that we can go to the Uffizi Gallery. In hindsight I think we should have planned for more time in Florence, a week was just enough to be a tease. There is so much more I would have liked to see here. ‘sigh’

It is so easy to miss the small sights when surrounded by such majestic ones. I thought the artist who added his or her touch to the official street signs was very clever, especially David carrying the big white ‘do not enter’ bar.
Florence is the birthplace of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio. I made a new friend but I think Bob has been telling a few fibs lately!We tried to visit the Library again. We were told we could come Saturday morning and the library is open until 1:30. However when we arrive just after 12:00 we discover that ‘visiting hours’ ended at 11:30! No library visits in Florence for us.

This ‘statue’ on the steps at the Uffizi Gallery surprised a few people when it moved!

We are lucky and there is no line up at the Uffizi Gallery. In the summer the wait to get tickets can be as much as five hours! I discover some Italian artists whose work I really like. These paintings seemed to call to me from across the room, begging for a closer look.This drawing by Bellini from 1500-1506 is about three feet long!I think this incredibly beautiful painting ‘Madonna and Child With Two Angels’ 1460-5  by Filippo Lippi is my favourite. A photograph doesn’t do it justice.

The Uffizi is a ‘U’ shaped building with two long wings connected at one end.
The ceilings of both upper wings of the Uffizi are beautifully painted, each panel different from the next…and they are very long hallways!There are many Medieval paintings…  I particularly liked all the detail in this Adoration of the Magi from 1423 by Gentile Da Fabrianoand the wings of these little angels. They make me think of parrot wings.I was surprised to see this large Roman copy of an original bronze sculpture from the 3rd Century. I drew a sketch of the original bronze when we visited the Correr museum in Venice. Different angle, same boar.We stopped for tea and a yummy fresh fruit tart in the museum café. Two pots of tea and one tart were ‘only’ $30.00 Canadian, but we had a great view!  Rested and refreshed we continue our visit. I saw many paintings that I ‘know’ from reproductions. I feel very fortunate to be able to stand in front of the originals.

Francesca’s The Duke and Duchess of Urbino.
La Primavera, 1480, and…

The Birth of Venus, 1485, both by Botticelli.

Michelangelo’s The Holy Family, known as the Doni Tondo painted in 1507, and…Titian’s Venus of Urbino from 1538. This painting was considered so risqué at the time that it was concealed by a sliding panel until the end of the 16th Century!The ceilings in many of the Gallery rooms were also beautifully painted.We had a great view the Ponte Vecchio from one of the second floor windows.Bob read that this painting was badly damaged by a Mafia car bomb explosion in 1993 and was later restored. I did a bit of research if you want to read about it.There are several paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci in this gallery but I am most interested in The Adoration of the Magi San Donato in Scopeto. Da Vinci never finished this painting so it gives insight into his creative process. I found it fascinating. The painting was being restored for six years and was only returned to the Uffizi in March of this year. This link allows you to zoom in for a closer look.

We managed to see a lot in the 4 1/2 hours we spent at the gallery.  Several of the rooms were closed, which was probably a good thing. We never would have managed to see it all if they would have been open. On the way home we pass this rather small, curious door to apartment #9.

One last view of Santa Croce. We learned that a Spanish tourist was recently killed here on Oct.19th, by a piece of masonry the fell from the ceiling. 

Corniglia to Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Day 58, Wednesday November 1, 2017

Today we hike from the village of Corniglia, to Vernazza. We take the train to Corniglia and explore a bit before starting our hike. It doesn’t take too long as it is a small village with a population of only 150.

This is something we saw a lot of in Croatia and now in Italy as well. A nicely kept apartment right next to, or above, a deserted empty one. I wouldn’t want to live above a place that looked like this.Corniglia had interesting little side streets. I liked the way the sunlight lit this one.We had tea on a little terrace overlooking the ocean before we set out on our walk to Vernazza. Here is a view of the village with its terraced gardens from the beginning of our walk.
We are headed somewhere over and around this cliffs and we end up going right past the pink and blue houses in this photo.Here is a view looking back towards Corneglia, which is just visible on the cliff jutting out into the water.  We walked on the path in front of the white fence which is at about the same level as the town. That nasty blurry spot below the town is a dust speck inside my camera! Not happy about that!This large tree manages to grow out of the rock beside more old uneven steps. 

There are steep steps up to this abandoned house and I want to go explore. The steps are very crumbly and look unsafe so I reluctantly pass it by.Here Bob is carefully negotiating some really uneven steps. Simply by chance we have chosen the easiest direction to walk this section of the Cinque Terre path. We walk down steps for at least fifteen minutes and we are thankful that we didn’t have to climb all of them.We are heading towards that little tower in the distance, on the side of the hill just below the path that looks like a road.Bob took this at an interesting/strange angle, trying to show how the steps switchback down the hillside.This shows the short train track between two tunnels. The trains run mostly inside long tunnels to reach the villages in Cinque Terre.There are lots of cactus and a little shrine along the path…some pretty wildflowers…
and this. Any idea what these photos are all about? The strange machine is a clue.There is some ‘street art’ on the side of the check point booth near Vernazza.Finally we arrive at Vernessa, the same village we walked to yesterday from the other direction…and we pass this interesting shrine just as we enter the town. It even included a lobster carcass on the back wall!We climb even more steps up to the Castello Doria for some great panoramic views of the village. That is me up top.These are the stairs inside the tower. I am pretty tired by now and ready to head home but we stop for ice cream and sorbet first.Here is the main street of Vernezza, on our way to the train station.We stop for a quick visit to the Via del Amore, which is a short section of the Cinque Terre walk that used to go from Manarola to Riomaggiore. It has been closed for five years due to a rockslide so there is only a short 100 metre section open. Too bad, as it is would have been a half hour walk with great views right along the ocean. We will have to come back another day to check out the village. Somehow we have managed to log over 15,000 steps and 80 flights of stairs today and my body knows it!


Last Day in Milano

Day 55, Sunday October 29, 2017

After packing the car we take the metro into town to see about lining up at 2:00 this afternoon for last minute tickets to The Last Supper. We have been unable to get tickets anywhere. We find out that these tickets, if we were lucky enough to get them, would be for after 7:00 pm tonight which doesn’t work for us. We have a three hour drive to La Spezia, which is our next destination. Too bad but “oh well.” We should have booked three months ago! I guess we will just have to try to get back to Milano some time.

This is the church where the Last Supper is located. I somehow thought it would be a bigger Church. I couldn’t seem to find a spot where there were no power lines to take the photo.Walking towards the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana I spot this little balcony with an orange tree full of fruit. I’ve never seen that before.We pass a little church and I decide to peek in. We are really glad, because it is absolutely amazing. The Chiesa di San Maurizio was built in 1503. This room is used as a public church and we when we went through a little odd shaped door in the back left corner of this church…we find another church that was used as a cloistered church. I think it was called the Nun’s Hall. There are over 4,000 square metres of pictorial decoration in this church. If you look carefully you will see a painting of the Last Supper on the back wall. We had a little laugh about that. At least we get to see a painting of The Last Supper even if it is not Leonardo Da Vinci’s!Here is a close up of the beautiful painting in the arched area of the above photo. It was stunning!The shops are closed today but we can still window shop a bit. I have enjoyed experimenting with a few different fountain pens this trip, but I certainly can’t afford any of these.We arrive at the Bibliotheca Ambrosia only to see a sign saying we need to go to a different address to buy our tickets. I peek into the door and find someone who explains that the tickets are available at the front of this building, and that this is the exit. Of course there are no signs explaining this to us, or anyone else. This is actually a very nice art  gallery, and not really a library at all. There are 26 rooms of beautiful paintings, sculptures and other objects including an exhibit of Ambrosian Liturgical Codices which is very interesting. The oldest one in the top left corner below is from the 9th century and is usually not on public display.I quite liked this little group of sculptures from the 17th century. They’re about a foot tall.We get to see yet another Last Supper, and …finally we find a room that looks like a library. It contains the exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbook pages that we had come to see.There are 16 pages on exhibit. I am surprised at how small they are. I have a book of Leonardo’s drawings at home and I always thought that the pages of his sketchbook were much larger.  His writing is a special kind of shorthand that he invented himself. Da Vinci also mirrored his writing, starting at the right side of the page and moving to the left, so if you want to read it you must hold the page up to a mirror to reverse it.All too soon it is time to leave. We walk past the Duomo one more time, just as all the pigeons decide to take flight. What a commotion! There were kids laughing and kids crying and adults ducking to get out of the pigeon’s way. It reminded me of the movie ‘The Birds.’I wanted to see the gargoyles on the Duomo. There is so much to look at on this building that I didn’t even notice them yesterday. There are lots of them high on the side of the church.On our drive to La Spezia we pass some interesting buildings, including several of these oddly angled high rises with very strange windows.It was getting dark as we pulled into La Spezia and the very dark clouds were backlit with the setting sun. I have never seen a sky like this before, it was quite eerie. The colours in this photo are true to life, not enhanced at all.Our new Airbnb is very nice and I think we will be quite comfortable here for the next week.

Murano and Venice

Day 46, Friday, October 20, 2017

We are going to Murano today to visit the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum). On the way we pass the Cemetery Island but unfortunately don’t have time to stop and explore. We both quite like very old cemeteries.

Murano is like a little Venice, but it is much quieter and has a lot fewer tourists.We visit the Glass Museum but we aren’t able to find anywhere to watch a glass blowing demonstration which was a bit disappointing. The glass pieces below reminded me of marbled paper. Bob is standing behind a table centrepiece which is a huge formal garden made completely of glass.There was a modern glass exhibit and we took this photo reflected in one of the pieces.

The Basilica del Santi Maria e Donato is a 12th Century church that was built on the site of a 6th Century church. Its floor is covered in beautiful mosaics.We didn’t stay too long in Murano as we planned on trying to visit three museums today. We take a vaporetto (water bus) back to Venice and travel down the Grand Canal on the way to the museums.  Come along for the ride. There still isn’t any sunshine which is a shame. The pictures would look so much better if the sun was shining, but there isn’t much I can do about that.This is one of the few place that has any greenery along the canals. There aren’t many trees and plants in Venice, at least not along the public areas. I think that there must be private gardens but we don’t get to see those.These giant hands called ‘Support’ rising from the sea to grasp a building are a commentary on global warming by artist Lorenzo Quinn. They are a rather startling sight.There are gondolas everywhere…and we see how someone moves their furniture in Venice.There are several interesting sculptures along the Grand Canal.The colours of the buildings are quite beautiful. There are so many shades of rust, ochres, yellows, pinks and reds…punctuated by the bright blue mooring posts.The gondoliers are everywhere, on the canals and…moored along the banks.We have already walked over the Rialto Bridge a couple times. There is a lovely little handmade book store there that has a beautiful sketchbook I covet. It is rather expensive but I may just decide to treat myself.Four ambulances pass us on the Grand Canal. They have very shrill sirens and the boats on the canal stop for them, just as cars on the road do for an ordinary ambulance.

We never did get to visit the museums we planned on seeing today as they were closed for a union members meeting! We took a vaporetto across town to some other museums only to discover that they were closed as well, so we called it a day and headed home.