Return to Rome - 2006, Part 1 of 3

Travel Diary

Sunday, July 9

Steve wrote:

After breakfast we said goodbye to the Savoy, one of the nicest hotels we've ever stayed at, not just for the rooms and facilities, including free Internet access in their business center, but the staff could not have been friendlier. Especially one of the housekeepers we would see every morning who would engage Rosemary in conversation in Italian. At first it started as small talk and Rosemary was able to keep up her end of the conversation, but once she started speaking Italian to her, the housekeeper would launch into conversation at regular (i.e., fast) speed and Rosemary would try to keep up, mostly successfully.

A short ride to the train station and a 90 minute trip brought us to Rome and the Hotel Hassler, located at the top of the Spanish Steps. Upon entering the hotel, it felt like an old fashioned luxury hotel, which it turned out to be. I'd like to tell you about their fabulous restaurant, but, since I didn't bring a sports coat, I could not get in. Our room overlooked the Steps and, when not too hot to open the shutters (which was never), we had a nice view.

We unpacked and decided to stroll the neighborhood a little before dinner. Tonight is the World Cup finals between Italy and France, and everywhere we looked, there were people in blue jerseys with faces painted and flags flying.

Up the street is the first McDonald's in Italy, much bigger and nicer than any I have seen in the US, including a salad bar and a gelato/expresso/dessert stand at the entrance. Except for the above, the menu is about the same as in the US, with the addition of a prosciutto sandwich and some breakfast pastries. Although we didn't eat anything, we swore to each other that we would never reveal that we had stepped inside.

Rosemary wrote:

The hotel is too elegant for the casual clothes we brought. The concierge made a reservation for us at a nearby restaurant, but when we got there they weren't ready (and weren't ready and still weren't ready), expecting potential customers to wait outside, standing in the heat and the light rain. We went elsewhere.

Steve wrote:

We found one of the few restaurants that wasn't showing the soccer match on TV (Dolci & Doni) and had a nice dinner. Walking back to the hotel, the streets were deserted and the Steps, which usually have street vendors and beggars and hundreds of people sitting on them, were empty. The police had beefed up their command post near the Steps, in case of trouble if Italy lost, or too much celebrating if they won.

Talked to my sister again and my father is improving slightly, so I don't think we will have to leave Italy earlier than planned.

When we got back to the hotel, the match was still on, so I watched until it was over while Rosemary read. Italy won, so immediately after the match the streets were filled with happy soccer fans, cheering, singing, blowing horns, etc. Not as bad as I would have thought, given our proximity to the Steps, and we were able to sleep despite the noise.


Monday, July 10

Steve wrote:

Woke up early so that we could catch a little breakfast before going to the Vatican Museums. The breakfast room is an outdoor patio covered with awnings, and we were the first to arrive at 7:00. Not all the food was quite set up on the buffet, so we ate what we could and got a cab to the Vatican.

Despite meeting at the appointed time of 7:45, the line for groups to enter was quite long and our guide, Francesca, was worried that we might not get in, as there are limits to the number of groups allowed in at a time. Fortunately, we were part of the thundering herd that gained admittance. The Vatican has one of the largest and oldest art collections in the world, so much so that when the Popes hundreds of years ago needed some extra cash, they sold off pieces as necessary. There's a pretty good description on our web page from our last trip, but something new we saw this time was the Popes' former apartment, with all the walls and ceilings painted by Raphael. There was tremendous rivalry among artists and, since Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel, the apartment gave Raphael his chance to shine, and shine he did.

Rosemary wrote:

We dropped out of the tour when we reached the Sistine Chapel so we could stay as long as we wanted. This time we remembered to bring the bincoulars. It was wonderful to be able to really look at the details, especially those faces.

Steve wrote:

Even though we had see it before, it still amazed me. I know little about religion or art, but this has to be the single greatest achievement by any artist. We spent about 45 minutes in the Chapel, remembering this time to bring our binoculars for a closer look, since no photos may be taken. Speaking of which, I'm constantly amazed by the stupidity of humans. There are signs everywhere and frequent announcements in about ten languages saying no photos or videos, yet people all over are taking pictures, some even using their flash, which destroys the artwork, and the guards are kept busy telling these idiots to put their cameras away.

I overheard an American asking aloud why no photos could be taken, even without flash, and I explained that the Vatican owned the rights to all the images and would not allow them to be captured, and he said, “I guess that is why I bought this”, holding up a coffee table book. I agreed that it was.

Rosemary wrote:

For lunch, we went to Ciao Bella on Via Veneto, another place we had been on our previous trip. Steve took a picture of me sitting in the same spot as last time. We strolled along the street to the Borghese Gardens where we walked for a while, then we circled back and visited the very creepy Cappuccin Crypt. Dinner was at one of the cafes on Piazza del Popolo, where we had eaten on our last trip.

Steve wrote:

It seems that several hundred years ago, these monks had a monastery and cemetery outside of town but were forced to move. Rather than leave behind the bones of their 4,000 dead brothers, they dug them up and moved everyone into town. At some point, they decided to put the bones on display. And on display they are! Small rooms under the church are filled with skulls, vertebrae, arm and leg bones, etc., stacked decoratively, linked over arches, strung from side to side. It was as if Hannibal Lecter and Martha Stewart had set up housekeeping. One of the creepiest things I've ever seen.

Tuesday, July 11

Rosemary wrote:

We got up early to be at the Palatine Hill when it opened. This is a great site for anyone who likes to wander among ancient ruins. It's right above the Forum, but not as well known, so even though it's on the same admission ticket as the Colossuem, not so many people go there. These is where the many of ancient Roman emperors lived, in a huge palace with elaborate grounds and every modern convenience. From the hill there are views of the former Circus Maximus, the Forum, the Colosseum, and beyond.

Steve wrote:

There were some amazing ruins and shells of walls, rooms, great dining halls, a small stadium with racetrack, and portions of mosaics, sculptures, columns and frescoes. Somewhat overlooked among the other major attractions, we wanted to be sure to see it, as there have been discussions of closing the area due to some walls coming down unexpectedly.

Rosemary wrote:

Afterwards, we went on to the Colosseum, and did Rick Steves' tour of the Forum. We were looking for a particular spot ("walk halfway up the ramp...") and found it easily because we spotted another couple with the same book in hand standing there.

The temperature today exceeded 100°F! Despite the baking heat, the streets were packed with tourists, including us. We had lunch in a little place near the hotel and then walked to the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

Steve wrote:

We went to the Colosseum<, which we had also seen on our last trip. A structural marvel, it was designed as two amphitheaters joined together. The original floor has been removed, and you can see underneath a labyrinth of hallways that held soldiers, gladiators, animals and the Christians who fought them. Although constantly being repaired/renovated/restored, much of the original structure still exists after 2,000 years.

After a quick food and rehydration break, we went to the Forum, the center of Roman society for hundreds of years. You can walk on the same stones as Julius Caesar without fear of a treasonous death but of a severely sprained ankle, due to the uneven terrain. A history course within a couple of square miles! Hungry and hot (over 100 degrees today, I believe), we went back to the hotel for a cool shower before lunch. We found a nice little restaurant (Zio Ciro) where I ordered what has become my “regular” lunch while here, a seafood salad. Not strictly a salad as Americans know it, it's marinated calamari, octopus, shrimp, crab, mussels, clams and anything else they can find with some finely sliced carrots, celery, olives, etc. Cool and refreshing, it makes a great lunch on a hot day.

We wandered a bit more, over to the Trevi Fountain, where legend has it that it you throw coins in the fountain, you will come back to Rome. Threw some coins in two years ago, and here I am, so I'm not taking any chances this time, and not throwing in any coins. Rosemary did, however, so I'm guessing she'll be coming back with her next husband.

Revisited the Pantheon, the Duomo of all Duomos, and another fountain before my spirit and back gave out. Went back to the Hassler for a quick rest and our third shower of the day, then dinner at a restaurant at the bottom of the Steps (Caffà Leonardo) and went to bed.

Rosemary wrote:

Many street performers dress up as statues or historical figures and pose on platforms where tourists can be photographed with them in exchange for some coins. In their makeup and costumes, it's a hot job! At Piazza Navona we saw a guy with a slightly different twist. He was dressed as Death, scythe and all, and would stalk tourists and play at dragging them back to his spot. Some people fled from him, others laughingly volunteered for the pictures.

Wednesday, July 12

Steve wrote:

We had thought about going back to Pompeii but didn't relish six hours in a train on a day as hot as this. Rosemary had read about Ostia Antica, the original port for the Rome area, which was only an hour away by local trains.

So, having mastered the London Underground and the Venice vaporettos, we decided to take on the Rome railway system, did a little studying and now believe we can figure out how to get to Ostia by train. There's a Metro station for the “A” line behind the Spanish Steps and, after figuring out how to buy a ticket, we descended into the cool tunnel for the “A” line to go to the central Termini station to switch to the “B” line. The “A” cars are newer and fully air conditioned. The “B” line and subsequent commuter train to Ostia, however, are not and are at least 20 degrees hotter, plus the commuter train is full of teens in bathing suits going to the beach and wondering who the sweaty old guy next to them is.

Rosemary wrote:

Ostia could be viewed as a poor man's Pompeii. Pompeii was a resort city populated by wealthy people living lives of luxury. Ostia was Roman colony, a port town with a naval base, and eventually an important warehousing and administrative center. It was full of regular working people. Pompeii came to a sudden, dramatic end, buried under tons of hot volcanic ash. Ostia ran out of steam when the Tiber silted up and the port was abandoned, and it was gradually buried by mud. Both ancient cities are now available for our viewing, but Ostia is less well-known and thus, much less crowded.

Steve wrote:

With all of this, some of the effects of dehydration have caught up with me and I'm a bit off today, but we soldier on. More ruins, this time not of a palace or rich town, like Pompeii, but of a working class town. Despite their poverty, portions of the brickwork still stand today. Ostia has a cafeteria with better food than we expected and it's actually air conditioned by US standards.

Rosemary wrote:

Although many shops and retaurants in the cities we've visited have signs claiming they are air conditioned, we have learned that this is usually just a trick. It means that somewhere in the building there is a fan that might or might not (usually not) be blowing a little bit of air near the ceiling. More often than not, it's hotter inside than out. Real air conditioning is found in hotel rooms, the expensive boutiques along Via Condotti, and McDonald's.

Steve wrote:

After a few hours of wandering around in the hot sun, we took the trains back to the Spanish Steps. Duke Ellington was right - when in Rome, as in Harlem, “Take the 'A' train”.

After a break and a cool shower, we wandered a little and found a decent looking restaurant (Otello alla Concordia). More than decent, they served leg of lamb, cut with the bone still attached, making the lamb tender and delicious, served with some potatoes roasted with olive oil. Definitely not recommended by Jenny Craig, but delicious none the less.

Thursday, July 13

Steve wrote:

It's our last full day in Rome, but we are pretty tired and decide not to do too much and take cabs when we can. We go to Campo de' Fiori, an open air market, and wander the surrounding streets. Other than the paper mache sun in Venice, a few gifts on Murano and my Italian soccer shirt, we haven't really done any shopping. The timing has been wrong (we want to shop when they close for a three-hour lunch), the weather (who wants to try on clothes in 100 degree heat?) and not a clear direction of what she wants. I'm lucky that Rosemary is not extravagant, so when she says she wants to go shopping in Rome, how can I say no? But the morning proceeds uneventfully, so we decide to take in a couple of sights.

After spending 45 minutes trying to find the Church of St. Peter in Chains, which houses some artwork by Michelangelo, we are told that they are closed for three hours, so we head across town by cab to see a site of an old Roman bath. Arriving at the location, we see another McDonald's across the street. We decide to eat there for the following reasons: real air conditioning, drinks with enough ice to actually make them cold, you can sit down without paying extra, clean toilets, and a decent looking salad bar with about 7-8 choices. So, salad and cold drinks it is!

We visited the church built over the site of the baths, which features some design elements by Michelangelo. Man, that guy is everywhere! But, as our previous Vatican guide, Linda, said, “He was unmarried, so he had a lot of time on his hands.” By this time, we were too tired to go back to St. Peter in Chains, and called it a day. We took a short nap and went to dinner at La Penna d'Oca, a restaurant we had enjoyed on our last trip. Service was “leisurely” (the meal took over two hours), but the food was as good as we remembered. We toasted our good time and the friends and clients who had made this trip possible, walked back to the hotel and packed for an early departure.

Friday - July 14 - Rome to Los Angeles

Steve wrote:

Went down to breakfast at 7:15 to find them WAY behind schedule on set up and service, but we soon found out why. One of the doormen came in to tell us that, as of midnight last night, the taxi drivers were on strike. Having planned to take a cab to the airport in about 15 minutes, we left breakfast and went straight to the concierge, who was able to hire a car for us. The doorman told us that when he came to work, he was told not to change into his uniform, because he had to take some guests with an early morning flight to the airport. You hear stories of the Italian unions going on strike periodically, but usually they give more notice.

Our driver showed up in about 20 minutes and, because there were no cabs, traffic wasn't too bad and we got there in plenty of time and stayed for a few minutes in the first class lounge, which was mediocre. The trip to Frankfurt was uneventful except for the usual nightmare of finding our gate, but the first class lounge was great - large, uncrowded, not only a full bar but a great antipasto buffet. Our plane was delayed before boarding and again on the ground, as only one of the two runways was usable due to high winds. But Lufthansa's< service and food are excellent, so that made it better. I didn't get any sleep but Rosemary seemed to nap a little. We landed at LAX about 11 hours later, went through customs and got home safe and sound.

A great vacation, but I'm glad it's over and glad to be home. Tomorrow, we pick up the cats from being boarded and resume real life as we know it.


Florence - 2006

Travel Diary: Florence

Wednedsay, July 5

Steve wrote:

Packed up and checked out of The Danieli and took the vaporetto to the station for our train to Florence. Passing some of the sites we had visited, we were sorry to leave Venice.

Got to the train station and had to wait to see which track we were on before we could board. In 1st class on the Eurostar, adjoining seat numbers face each other, so one of us is always traveling backwards. This time it was Rosemary, and she became a little sick from it, but we made it without incident and detrained in Florence.

And we thought Venice was hot! Stifling heat as we leave the train station for what we believe is not too long a walk to our hotel. We have a sense of where it is but the streets of Florence are unlike any other city we've been in. Odd angles, names changing every couple of blocks and, of course, Italian drivers who elevate horn honking to a fine art. Due to the heat, the walk and general level of anxiety trying to find it, we arrive at our hotel sweating like the American pigs we are.

Rosemary wrote:

"Mamma mia!" said the doorman when we told him we had walked, rolling our luggage behind us, from the station. This is the first time in my life I can remember being embarrassed by my own sweat. I leaned on the front desk and left a puddle which was hard to mop up surreptitiously because everything I was wearing was wet.

Steve wrote:

The people at Hotel Savoy, our home for the next few days, were too polite to notice our condition. We checked in, were given a free upgrade to a junior suite (thanks to our travel agent, Evelyn), a lovely space with large bed, separate sitting area with desk, two TVs (neither of which we would watch, it turns out) and a welcoming gift of some dessert wine and biscotti. Not much of a view, although we can see the top of the Duomo, but the air conditioning works pretty well. We unpacked, cooled off and went down to the bar for a couple of glasses of wine and a snack. Spoke to the concierge, who was able to get us two tickets on Saturday to the Accademia, home of “David” by Michaelangelo, and arranged for a rental car for our side trip to Siena tomorrow. Feeling fortified, we walked around town a little and had dinner at a restaurant across the Piazza della Repubblica (Caffè Concerto Paszkowski), where the waiter brought us ice with our bottled water, a welcome relief.

Thursday, July 6

Steve wrote:

We had some breakfast with a window view of the Piazza and went to get our rental car for our trip to Siena, a medieval town about an hour away. Having

never driven in Italy, but having seen what lunatics the drivers are plus the people on scooters that weave in and out of traffic, plus the confusion of the one-way streets, areas where no vehicles are allowed and the odd street angles, I was a little nervous about driving. Plus, as we discovered, road signs are very confusing. In some places, there are 5-10 signs indicating various towns, directions, mileage, etc. So by the time you find your sign, you've gone past the intersection. Despite all of that, we found our way to the Siena-Firenza Highway, or the "Si-Fi", as it's called, and navigated south through beautiful country scenery.

Rosemary wrote:

It was a pleasant drive through lovely, green countryside. The signage getting out of town was pretty good, and once we were on the autostrada we had no

problem. Leaving Siena was a little more complicated. We couldn't seem to get out the same way we came in, and when we finally reached Florence things seemed really crazy. The signs were mostly tiny (and sometimes conflicting), especially at traffic circles. My favorite was a sign in Siena that read "tutte le direzioni" - "all directions".

Siena is a hilltop town, where you are always going up and down (usually up, it seems). Getting lost there is not part of the fun, the way it is in Venice. The town is certainly picturesque, and I'm glad we got to see it, but I don't understand why so many people seem to be deeply in love with it. We found the Duomo and its museum, and saw the “crypt” with its untouched 800-year-old paintings. The colors were amazingly vivid, having been protected from both the elements and human attempts at preservation for so many years. We saw the famous Campo where the horse races are held. We were amazed at the large number of shops selling neckties. Lunch was unimpressive, just some pizza that we ate on the street while it rained lightly, and later some gelato.

Steve wrote:

After walking around for several hours and seeing the main attractions, we headed back to Florence, getting slightly lost trying to find the Si-Fi and following a nice country road until it crossed the main highway. We got back to our room to find a nice fruit plate, courtesy of the hotel, rested a bit and had a nice dinner at a casual restaurant (Natalino) recommended by the concierge, followed by gelato and a good night's sleep.

Friday, July 7

Rosemary wrote:

It was cooler (but only a little bit) Friday morning, and that didn't last. It had rained early. The housekeeper predicted "brutto tempo", and some people thought it would rain all day, but it didn't rain again until dinnertime, and then only lightly.

The first time we were in Florence, I found the streets terribly confusing. At the time, I wrote, "The streets are narrow and winding, and tend to change their names every few blocks. In fact, there is no such thing as walking around the block. Streets fork and fork again, going off at odd angles. Every wide spot where two or more streets meet is a piazza." But after having spent a lot of time walking in Venice, the streets of Florence seem wide and almost well-organized. It's the traffic - especially those nasty little motor scooters - that can drive you crazy.

Steve wrote:

I checked my paperwork on our reservation for the Uffizi Gallery, only to find that I had mixed up the dates and that our reservation was for Thursday, not Friday. Made a phone call to the tour company, who said, “Oh yes, your reservation was yesterday.” before I could even explain why I was

calling. But they graciously added us to today's tour. Having a few hours to kill before the Uffizi, we went to the Duomo, including going down into the crypt where you could see layers of flooring from earlier versions of the church, including some mosaics from the 1300s. Also, we saw a stone tablet carved with names of donors to the original “building fund” and the amounts they donated. We then went to the Duomo Museum, where there are statues, mosaics, sculptures and tapestries from hundreds of years ago. It makes you realize that the U.S. has relatively little history and what we call “old” isn't really old at all.

After lunch (Guelfa), we went to the Uffizi Gallery, the former offices of the Medici family and their banking businesses and home to the largest collection of art in Florence, from the 12th to the 17th century. Two museums and one Duomo are about my limit, so we had some gelato and went back to the hotel to rest before dinner, another good recommendation (Parione) from the hotel. It rained a little, but we didn't care, we were just happy to be together in Italy.

Saturday, July 8

Steve wrote:

While I was showering in the morning, Rosemary noticed that our phone message light was lit. My sister had left us a message the night before that my father was back in the hospital and “it looked bad”. Even though it was 3am in Atlanta, I called her. Janis was flying to Florida with Gracie and would assess the situation, but one of the doctors told my mother that he might not make it through the weekend, so everyone was in a panic, including me trying to figure out if we would have to cut our vacation short and how to get from Florence to Florida quickly (BTW, it can't be done quickly, as I found out going online to search for travel info). But until Janis got to Florida ten hours later, there was nothing we could do.

We decided to try to enjoy what might be our last day of vacation and kept our 12:00 reservation at the Accademia, another art museum, the star attraction of which is Michelangelo's “David”. I had seen pictures, and there is a copy outside Palazzo Vecchio, but the original is breathtaking. Michelangelo, who is notorius for not finishing projects, completed this work from all angles. Originally intended to be placed atop the Duomo, he even sculpted the hair on the top of David's head, even though only pigeons would see it. His technique was unusual, in that he did not work from a sketch, but simply chiseled away everything that didn't look like David. The musculature, the veins in the arms, the look on his face and other details are what make this one of the world's great artworks. I think I have a man crush on David!

Rosemary wrote:

Of course, there is other artwork in the museum, even though people don't always remember to look at it. There was, among other things, a large exhibit featuring Lorenzo Monaco, a prolific Gothic artist who created many different kinds of paintings as well as illuminated manuscripts.

Steve wrote:

We took a cab to the Pontevecchio, had lunch at a little cafeteria and did some window shopping. But it was hot (have I mentioned it was hot?) and we were tired, so we went back to the hotel to get off our feet for a couple of hours before dinner. We had another great dinner, at Buca Lapi. (And why aren't Italians fatter as a group?)

Rosemary wrote:

The waiter was so pleased when we complimented the flavor of the onions, that he told us the recipe. Interestingly, they were cooked with a little bit of Vin Santo.

Steve wrote:

Later I spoke to my sister, who had seen my father and spoken to his doctor. While he was not in good shape, the feeling was that the immediate problem was dehydration and getting his body chemistry back in balance. So, for the moment, we're going to Rome tomorrow and will hope for the best.

From our hotel window, we could just see the top of the Duomo, temporarily encased in scaffolding.
Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1420, this dome was one of the greatest architectural achievements
of its time, and served as the model for many other domes, including St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.
It is possible to get a magnificent view of the city by climbing nearly 450 steps to the top, but we
decided not to do that.

The frescoes inside the dome, representing the last judgment, were painted between 1572 and 1579
by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. There are 3,600 square meters of painted surface.

The "crypt" underneath the cathedral is an archaeological site revealing the mosaic
floor of the previous church as well as various artworks from earlier periods.

The east doors of the Baptistry (housed in a separate building) were created by Lorenzo
Ghiberti in 1425. Michelangelo called them the gates of Paradise. Currently, copies adorn
the actual doors, and some of the original panels are displayed in the nearby museum.

The museum contains statues and other artworks which were removed from the church when it was
redecorated, redesigned, or rebuilt for various reasons over the centuries, as well as items that
have been brought inside for protection while copies take their places outside, and miscellaneous
pieces of religious or artistic significance. This choir box was carved by Donatello.

Michelangelo used his own face as that of Nicodemus in a "Pieta" that he originally
intended for his own tomb. Unhappy with the work, he destroyed it while it was incomplete.
One of his assistants later had it put it back together.

This modern "art" in the courtyard of the Uffizi Gallery helps us appreciate the Renaissance.

This lookout tower tops the Palazzo Vecchio, once the city hall of the Medicis, now a museum.

Large groups of touring teenagers find it easier to stay together by wearing matching shirts.
Can you spot the spy?

We don't know why this hotel is in Florence.

This triumphal arch frames one side of Piazza della Repubblica, where once the Roman forum
of Florence stood. Rosemary's guess-interpretation of the inscription is,
"The ancient city center, from centuries of squalor, restored to new life".

Details of one of Ghiberti's panels in the Duomo Museum.


Madonna with the glass eyes - an unusual detail.

A decorative detail on the exterior of the Duomo.

Siena still has a medieval look and feel.

The town's main square is known as Il Campo, which means "the field".
This is where the famous (and dangerous) horse race, the Palio di Siena, is held twice a year.

The surface of the entire plaza is angled down toward this very fancy grate.

Pigeons take turns drinking from the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy).

This fountain is a copy of the original, which is now inside the museum up (up, up, up) the street.


The tower of the City Hall is 330 feet high, the tallest secular tower in Italy.
We chose not to climb to the top.

Medieval Siena was proud of its political independence from the Pope. The pagan she-wolf of Romulus
and Remus became the city's symbol. It appears everywhere, large and small, in statues, reliefs,
paintings, and logos, sometimes in combination with other important symbols.

Siena's streets are all uphill. It was incredibly hot and humid, with shade hard to find,
and no relief provided by the light sprinkling of rain.

Nearly every Italian cathedral is nicknamed Il Duomo. The full name of Siena's is
Santa Maria della Scala. Scala means "staircase", and that's no coincidence, since just walking
around the outside of this building requires scaling a long flight of steep steps on one side and a
steep street on the other, as well as the stairs up to the entrance, down to the crypt,
or down to the baptistry (which we never actually found, due to vague and conflicting signs),
as well as the many flights of stairs in the adjoining museum.

The coffered ceiling of the dome's interior is a painted illusion.

The heads of 172 popes encircle the ornate church. A close examination reveals that the same
four faces were used repeatedly.

This structure was begun in 1215, and most of the decoration was done between 1250 and 1350.
It took the better part of two centuries (1373-1547) to pave the elaborate marble floor.
Many artists and artisans, both famous and unknown, collaborated for over 300 years to produce this interior.

The bright frescoes of the Piccolomini Library tell the life story of Aeneas Piccolomini, a Siena native who became Pope Pius II in 1458.

This spiral stairway, unnaturally illuminated by the camera's flash, is just wide enough to
accomodate one person. It's the only way up or down from the famous panoramic view on the
roof of Siena's Duomo Museum. A second spiral stairway, narrower and darker than this one,
climbs up inside a small tower, but we chose not to go there.

A view of the church of San Domenico from the roof of the museum. The artists'
colors "raw sienna" and "burnt sienna" were named after this town.

The pavement of Il Campo.


Return to Venice 2006 , Part 2 of 2

On our first trip to Venice, we had only a day and a half, at the end of an exhausting two-week trip.
We saw what we could, given our limitations, sticking mostly to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square).
This time, we had five days and plenty of energy. We repeated very little of the previous trip.

One of only three bridges crossing the Grand Canal, the Rialto bridge links the larger part of
Venice with the Rialto district, which was once a separate town. It is still the commercial district.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Venice's old wooden bridges were replaced with stone bridges
that had high profiles to accomodate the tall cabins on the gondolas of the wealthy. The current
Rialto bridge was built in 1588. It spans 160 feet and is covered with an arcade of buildings that house shops.

A classic view from the bridge.

On the other side of the bridge there is a vast open-air produce market and a huge
fresh fish market, as well as bakeries, butcher shops, and small cafes. Take a good look
at the illustration on the window of this meat shop.

The Scala Contarini di Bovolo, built in 1499, was the external staircase of a palazzo.
The 113 winding steps rise five stories to a lovely view, but we chose not to climb them.

Old artwork like this is a common sight on the exteriors of buildings.

Hand crafted masks are a long-established tradition in Venice. At one time, wearing masks was
part of the everyday culture of Venice. It allowed all citizens to mingle equally, and in a small
town, kept busybodies from knowing exactly who was doing exactly what. It also promoted a lack of
personal accountability that contributed to Venice's moral decay. Today, masks are still part of the
Carnevale tradition, and are very popular decorative souvenirs.

No one is going to try burying cables in the unstable "ground" under Venice.
20th century antennas sprout from 16th century rooftops.

This space between buildings is actually a named street, and not the narrowest one in town.

Ground space is limited in Venice, where a clothesline would interfere with foot traffic.
Laundry airs in front of, on top of, and between buildings.

Venice continues to settle, sink and sag. Brick and concrete reinforcements have been
added over the years to keep buildings from collpasing into each other.

Iron bars are used to hold the buildings together.

This is how trash is collected.
A gondola ride is expensive, but there is nothing else like it.

Seeing things from water level gives you a new point of view and reveals details
that tend to go unnoticed from above. These mirrors help gondoliers and other boaters
navigate around blind corners.

Many buildings have back -- or front -- entrances that are accessible only by boat.

We have often stood on bridges photographing people in passing gondolas, so it seems only fair
that we, too, will end up in a tourist's scrapbook.

Many canals have no walkways, making a gondola the only way to see these lovely back "streets".

These old, capped "wells" are actually openings into cisterns and can be seen in piazzas throughout the town.
Venice doesn't have a natural source of fresh water. Since the late 19th century, water has been brought from
the mountains by aqueduct. In the old days, fresh rainwater was collected and made available here. Wealthy
people imported and drank bottled water, just as we do now. The cisterns no longer function, but a few of
these old wells have been converted into public fountains.

Flowers and trees are rare at ground level in Venice, where space is at a premium, and everything
has been paved over. Window boxes are popular, and many buildings have small gardens on rooftop platforms.

The word "ghetto" comes from Venice, where it was first applied to the island where Jews were restricted during
the 16th century. With little available space, they couldn't spread out, so they built up. Five- and six-story
buildings were the skyscrapers of their day, and are still tall by Venetian standards. (The area was near a former
foundry, or "geto", from which the word "ghetto" was coined.)

At spots where the streets jog, it's not unusual to find a small shrine. This was one of the fanciest we saw.

"The Assumption of Mary", painted by Titian in 1518, hangs in the Frari Church. Venice is packed
with churches and museums that contain an impressive array of artwork from the past 1400 years.
But the city itself is one great outdoor museum. Every time we took a walk or rode the vaporetto,
we saw architecture, sculpture, mosaics, and all the amazing details that make this city such a
pleasure to look at.

Here's part of the front of a building we snapped as our boat chugged by.

When we were here two years ago, the clock tower in Piazza San Marco was covered with scaffolding.
Newly restored, everything looks good and works well. This is one of the very few pictures we took
in the Piazza on this trip.

Just an interesting bit of hardware on an old door we passed.

This big, modern sculpture was on view from the canal outside a large gallery.

This towering work was built in the shape of a gondola. The blue strip is created
by lights that glow very brightly at night and move in a suggestion of flowing water.

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection includes works by many of the 20th century's most important
and influential artists. Photos are not allowed inside. In the garden and on the terrace there
are several sculptures, including this bronze equestrian statue, "The Angel of the City", by Marino Marini.

Italian law prohibits placing billboards and other advertising on historical buildings and landmarks.
But there is a loophole in the law. When a building is being repaired and restored, it is usually
protected by a fabric cover, which is allowed to carry advertising. As a result, some restoration
projects seem to take a very long time. Currently, the famous view of the Bridge of Sighs has been
spoiled with one of these enormous ads.

The solution is actually simple. Just walk around to the other side,
and snap a photo of the slightly less-famous view of the same bridge.

Goods are brought in by boat, and these specially designed hand carts are used to haul stuff over the bridges.

Over a Murano doorway, an illustration of traditional glass blowing.

Harry's Bar doesn't need to advertise.

Steve relaxes on Peggy Guggenheim's terrace.