Herculaneum, Italy

Day 93, Wednesday December 6, 2017

We are up early to take the train to Herculaneum, which is another ancient town that was destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

We are a bit early for our train so we visit the church in Pompeii. Yes, another church! I should be tired of them but it seems that each one we visit is so different for the others that there is always something new and amazing to see.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary is an international place of pilgrimage.  It is considered the most important shrine consecrated to Mary in Italy.  4 million pilgrims from all over the world visit here every year.

The church has many hallways and rooms covered in thousands of ex-votos. These devotional images were created in thanks for the fulfillment of vows by those who survived an illness or disaster because they prayed to the Virgin Mary. I keep seeing images in the marble. What do you see here?

Every town we pass on the way to Herculaneum is crowded with apartments. I think just about everyone in Italy who lives in urban areas must live in apartments.
We can see the smog over Naples. There seems to be more smog here than in Rome.Believe it or not, this is the ‘street’ that Google maps tells us to walk down to get to the archeological site.  It was long, narrow, dirty and full of garbage!This is our first view of Herculaneum. Unlike Pompeii, which was covered by about 4 meters of ash, Herculaneum was buried under more than 20 meters of mud, ash, and other pyroclastic material. This thick layer preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even skeletons.

Until these skeletons were discovered inside boat sheds near the shore of ancient Herculaneum it was thought that most of the residents escaped the town. However excavation of the boat sheds in 1981 revealed over 300 skeletons. It is thought that they were waiting for boats to take them to safety but they died before this could happen. Please take a look at this excellent five minute video from the Smithsonian which explains all about these skeletons.

I understand that the skeletons on display are replicas of the originals but they still make a powerful impact.
These walls were painted from dark orange-red changing to light yellow…and the column’s construction was interesting.There were more places for buying prepared food…and this is one of the many water fountains we saw both here and in Pompeii.Many beautiful mosaic floors were well preserved because they were covered with the hot mud that flowed down from Vesuvius.

This is part of a huge sport centre here which had a pool and areas for other types of recreation.Herculaneum is especially known for having well-preserved buildings with upper floors.It is possible to see carbonized charred wooden beams. doors and shutters…as well as railings and shelves inside the buildings.There are several of these ‘balconies’ along the streets.The College of the Augustales was an order of freemen dedicated to the Imperial Rulers of Rome. The big carbonized beams that supported the upper floor are still in place.

It is possible to see how the modern town of Ercolano was built on the buried remains of Herculaneum, and there is Mount Vesuvius in the background.More preserved areas. Unfortunately many of the largest and best preserved villas were closed to visitors today. It was disappointing but not much we can do about it. We read a sign that said that it was not possible to properly look after the site for many years, and that by the year 2000 two-thirds of the site was closed to visitors due to safety concerns. With the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, work is now ongoing to restore this site and reopen areas to visitors This building is particularly well-preserved…and has a carbonized bed inside.The doors in the back of this photo are the original wooden doors that were carbonized, which really just means to be changed to carbon by burning.Some of the villas were very grand and must have been incredibly beautiful homes.

We were able to peek into the entrances of the closed sites.

As we leave we look down on this ancient town one last time. The arched rooms in the bottom of the photo are the boathouses where the skeletons were found.I read that the peak of Vesuvius has been reforming and there is danger of another eruption sometime in the future. The volcano is closely monitored and the hope is that there would be enough warning to evacuate nearby residents if this happens. I wonder about that.We did find a longer but more appealing route back to the train station. We see some interesting graffiti along the way…and roads paved with large square stones, laundry hanging right on the sidewalk and streets, some interesting buildings, and finally we are at the train station just as the sun is setting.

So, to answer the question of what I saw in the marble, it was a cartoonish horse figure, standing up on its back legs looking straight out at me.

I forgot to post this video titled A Day In Pompeii yesterday. It is a reconstruction of what likely happened in Pompeii during the eruption. I found it helpful in trying to make sense of what we see now in Pompeii. Take a look if you are interested.

The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

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.

Quiet Day in Firenze Italy

Day 63, Monday November 6, 2017

We are exactly halfway through our holiday and we have been having a really good time, but it is hard work too and I am starting to feel a bit weary.  Today I stayed home and Bob went out and about exploring. It was a grey day today with rain on and off so I think it was a good day to stay put. Here are a few more journal pages. The light wasn’t the best for photographing them but it will have to do.Strange how the pages look so different on the computer than they do in person. I don’t like them as well, the texture of the paper doesn’t show, sometimes the colour is a bit off,  and they tend to look ‘flatter’ that they really are.  I think perhaps if I was able to scan them they would look better but I can’t haul a scanner around with me! Too bad.I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment.  It is so nice to hear from readers of the blog. If you read a post perhaps you could take just moment to press the ‘Like’ button? I enjoy knowing that you liked the post.  Thanks.

Naval Museum, La Spezia, Italy

Day 59, Thursday November 2, 2017

This is the view from the little balcony at the back of our apartment. Take a look at the long stairway covered with grape vines up to the yellow house. Imagine climbing those stairs every day!The view from the balcony in the front of our apartment looking down the hill and…this is looking up the hill.  The town of La Spezia is built on hills and it is the closest bigger town to Cinque Terre. The trains leave frequently for the short trip to the ‘Five lands.’I stayed home today for some much needed rest after our two days of hiking the trails in Cinque Terre. I didn’t accomplish much, photographed my sketches of people on the bus and metro and did our laundry.

I never know how long I will have to draw before a person leaves. I drew the fellow playing the violin standing in front of me on the Milano metro, and had less than a minute before he moved on.Bob went for a long walk today to the Naval Museum by the harbour. He took these great photos of some mast heads. He knows how much I like dragons.More mast heads.They are also known as figureheads.This model of the Santa Maria, the ship that Columbus sailed to North America is about three feet long.

Yesterday’s photos of the netting in the trees shows how olives are harvested. The trees are shaken and the olives drop onto the netting. The strange little machine is how they move the harvest down the mountains and steep hills. It is loaded with olives, and runs on cogs, kind of like a roller coaster for olives!

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!


Cinque Terre, Italy

Day 57, Tuesday October 31, 2017

On our way to the train station to visit Cinque Terre we pass street cleaners who use the same ‘witchy’ brooms as they do in Paris. It seems especially appropriate today on Halloween.We are rather surprised that most of the train ride to the Cinque Terre villages is inside tunnels! I guess, in hindsight, that makes sense as these towns are only accessible by train, boat, or walking. We are visiting Monterosso al Mare, which is the town furthest away from La Spezia where we are staying.
Cloths for sale spread out on the sand. There were lots of sellers but not many buyers.We have seen a few Halloween decorations here and there but this is the only real pumpkin jack o’ lantern we have seen.This huge rock was a popular spot. We walked all along this beach… and through a narrow tunnel to reach the oldest historic part of town.
Monday is wash day and we see lots of laundry hanging outside windows.We have noticed that churches in Italy are all quite different from each other. When we were in Spain a couple of years ago the churches seemed much more alike than they do here. These four churches are all in Monterosso al Mare.We walk down this street on our way to find the footpath that leads to the next Cinque Terre village of Vernazza about 3.6 km away. 

We aren’t exactly sure what we were expecting but we were definitely surprised at how many steps are on this path. By the end of the day we calculate we have climbed about 1,420 steps!! and of course what goes up has to come down. That is a lot of climbing up and down! These photos were taken on flights of stairs that had between 200 and 350 steps all in a row. Yes, I had to stop several times to catch my breath and rest my legs, but I did it! I am rather proud of myself.The path is also fairly rough in places and sometimes only just over a foot in width. It was quite an adventure. About half way along the path we found an older gentleman making fresh orange juice for € 2.00 a glass which seemed like a bargain! It was delicious. Way down there is Monterosso where we started our hike.We saw this little rat on the path. He didn’t want to get out of the way, despite being prodded with my hiking pole. I didn’t think he looked very healthy which may explain his strange behaviour.We even crossed a cute bridge over a small creek.There is our destination, the village of Vernazza.We found these little cat houses along the trail along with big containers of food and instructions to fill the cat’s dishes if they were empty. Someone here really loves stray cats.Finally, we are almost at Vernazza, after 2 1/2 hours of climbing up and down, and down and up.It isn’t a very big village and has a population of less than 900 however the Cinque Terre villages see more than 2.4 million tourists a year!I love peeking inside doorways and today I was rewarded with this interesting collection.
We arrive in Vernazza in this narrow street but…we have to climb down one more long narrow set of stairs to reach the main piazza, or public square, where we find an ice cream shop for a much deserved treat. The fruit sorbet in Italy is amazing, so creamy and delicious.Children in Italian towns play in the squares or on the streets, or in small playgrounds. Green spaces are far and few between. I think about how different their childhoods are compared to children at home who spend so much of their time playing outside in grassy yards and parks.After watching the sun set over the we take the train and then a bus home. We need to get off our bus a couple stops early because an accident that has tied up all the traffic. Two young people on a motorcycle have had a collision with a car. It looks very serious as neither of them are moving and there are several ambulances on the scene. It is very sobering to think of how quickly life can change. 

In yesterday’s post look at the windows in the last picture of the boat. One of them is covered in black plastic and duct tape. Not what we expected to see on a boat that costs millions of dollars.

The Milan Duomo and Teatre La Scala

Day 54, Saturday October 28, 2017

On our way to the Duomo we come across a fashion photo shoot. This rather strange man with the oversized sweater and furry slippers was giving the model directions on what to do. He was very bossy!The Milano Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, is one of the largest Gothic Churches in the world. It is very impressive.The view looking towards the altar. 
It is a bit overwhelming, placing my hands where so many other hands have worn the stone smooth and shiny over the centuries. There are 52 of these massive pillars.The stained glass windows are stunning, especially these ones behind the altar.I thought this sculpture was rather unusual. It is Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, who was flayed alive and then beheaded. He is carrying his own skin!Looking down one of the side aisles. This church is very big!This is a copy of the Madonna of the Duomo. The original is on the highest point of the church.
There are many large paintings hanging in the church. Many of them look as though they need restoration work.Each of the pillars is topped by an ornately carved capital, and each one is unique.We go into the crypt of St. Charles Borromeo who lies in a crystal coffin below the altar. We  also visit the archeological area which was excavated under the plaza in front of the Duomo. The black and white photo shows an aerial view of the excavations before they were covered by a new plaza.Then we climb 250 steps up to the roof top terraces for a close up view of some of the churches 135 spires!The flying buttresses are beautiful as well as functional. This church is decorated with 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 figures in the marble reliefs, There are decorations everywhere, each one different from the rest. We were thrilled with this visit to the rooftop, but then…we discover that we get to climb even higher, to the very top of the church, 75 meters above the ground below! You can see the golden Madonna statue above us.The views are amazing but it is a bit hazy which is too bad. Apparently on a clear day you can see the Alps in the distance.Looking down at part of the plaza in front of the Duomo. Soon it is time to return the ground far below.This lion looks rather annoyed at all the pigeons who are perched all over him.We walk through the Vittorio Emanuele II Galleria which is lined with high fashion designer stores…on our way to the Teatro La Scala where we get to watch a little bit of a rehearsal, and then we visit the Theatre’s museum.The second floor of the museum is dedicated to Maria Callas and displays many of the beautiful costumes she wore while performing.Back to the Duomo for a couple more photos. Here I am in front of part of the incredible front door.The plaza in front of the church is a gathering place for tourists and locals alike.To really appreciate the size of the Milan Duomo you need to see a three-quarter view of the building..Next stop is the Duomo Museum, which has many of the original sculptures from the church.  They are slowly being replaced by copies so that the originals can be preserved.This room was incredible! The brown sculptures are terra cotta studies for marble sculptures.I love gargoyles so I was delighted to get a close up view of these before we leave the museum and head home.We have been exploring for 8 hours today and we are both tired.