Italy                        Vatican
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Travels through Italy:  May 13 to May 25
(Pictures are thumbnails. Click on them for a larger view. You may click on the subjects listed to go directly to them.)

    Pisa    Cinque Terre    Rome (Roma) Colosseum    Roman Forum    Rome (Roma) Sights    Vatican Museum    St. Peter's Cathedral - Vatican    Rome (Roma) Spanish Steps    Rome (Roma) Trevi Fountain    Rome (Roma) Pantheon    Pompeii    Florence (Firenze)    Siena    Venice (Venezia)

Buongiorno Nostro Amicos!!  

We left Nice, France on May 12 on the train to Pisa, Italy.  By this time, we have learned most of the idiosyncrasies of the European trains.  It would have been nice to have had a one page condensed sheet covering how everything worked (or was supposed to work), but trial and error is a very good teacher.  Our ratio of errors or confusion to times traveled is decreasing!  This update covers our nearly two weeks in wonderful, friendly Italy (Italia).  We hoped for a lot In Italy and definitely got more than we had hoped for.  Click on the line in the box above to view  the update.  We hope you enjoy sharing our travels with us and thanks for stopping by!! 
E-mail is always welcome!

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We are getting very experienced by now packing up our suitcases and "schlepping" them from place to place, in this case, going from Florence to Venice.  By now, we have two biggish suitcases, a large duffel bag, our three backpacks and the computer suitcase.  It is still too much, but we are coping.  We started our tour of Italy with the leaning tower of Pisa and ended in the fabulous city of Venice with all its fun canals.  

We are now entering Switzerland (our 22nd country) for a respite from the hustle and bustle of Italy crowds and on to some good mountain scenery and hiking.  Check out the Trip Log to see where we were in Italy day by day.  Maps of Italy show our travel routes by Eurail trains.


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When traveling from one country to another, you usually make a train change at the first major railway stop in the new country.  In this case, we stopped in Genoa (Genova), Italy to catch the next train to Pisa.  Click on the picture below to get a better view of a typical Italian "Treni In Partenza" (Trains Departing) sign.  You look for your train's destination (final city for that train, as they may not have your city listed), time, and Binerio (Track number).  Then, you figure out where the track is and hope that there is an escalator or elevator to move bags up and down to cross to your particular track.  Many times there are only stairs.  Pulling our bags up and down stairs is the most un-favorite part of European train travel.

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A train departure sign in Genoa, Italy.  Notice the escalator is blocked and not working, so we, one more time, got to pull our bags up and down the steps in time to make the train.  Denny's knees, with four operations, suffer a little from this activity! (But Jennifer and Stephanie are quite a team.)  We did make it to Pisa and went for a stroll on the way to the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is located.  We crossed the peaceful Arno River where a couple of people were rowing their sleek boats.

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Here is a view of the three major buildings on the Campo dei Miracoli.  In the distance, the Leaning Tower, then the Cathedral, which is known by the term Duomo, and finally the round Baptistry building.  Click on the last picture for a better view of the strapping around the third level of the tower.  These straps are connected to large steel cables to the left and kept the tower from leaning further while it was brought  back to a 'safe' leaning angle.  After many tries (and a couple near disasters), they accomplished the task by merely removing some sand and dirt under the higher left ground allowing the whole tower to come back to the correct angle (or at least the angle of 300 years ago).  The day after we were there, these protective straps and cables were removed.

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The Pisa Cathedral was one of the more beautiful we have seen, so we are showing you two pictures.  (We promised not to overwhelm you with lots of church interiors.)  One of the ceiling and one of the entire nave.  

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Cinque Terre

Our favorite guidebook as we plan our travels through Europe is Rick Steve's Best of Europe book.  He has a style of picking out what he thinks is best and telling you how to do it.  We have found him to be right on the money most of the time and enjoying what he has led us to.  The only down side to this is that many, many other Americans show up with the same book.  It is funny to be in a tiny restaurant that Rick has recommended and find other people there with their own Rick Steve's guides on the tables!  We can recommend you use his guide as a reference if you come to Europe.  

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Cinque Terre is a remote area on the Italian Riviera which we found in Rick Steve's Best of Europe book.  It consists of five small towns right along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea about 70 km northwest of Pisa which once could only reached by sea or on foot.  We took a short train ride to La Spezia and then jumped on the very local train serving these small communities.  The attraction here is that they are away from the crowds (except Italians and Rick Steves' readers), and you can hike on a trail from one to the next.  As Steve's guide says, "Just sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), wine, and pure unadulterated Italy."  We agree.  The first picture in Manarola shows a boat being hoisted out of the Sea by a winch while onlookers watch.  Looking back to the town from the hiking trail shows how this town in set right into the cliffs.

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The day we took our hike was gray and misty, but that did not dampen our spirits at all.  Jennifer walks along the trail leaving Manarola for Corniglia, the next town north.  Click on the next picture to see the trail cut into the cliffs.  While Cinque Terre was once a totally undiscovered spot, we did meet quite a few people doing exactly what we were doing.  A good view of the Italian Riviera beach as we made our way north to Corniglia.

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We stopped for lunch in Corniglia and then proceeded two more hours along very steep and slippery slopes to Vernazza, where we completed our hike.  We weren't up for two more hours of hiking to the last town.  The first picture is of Vernazza as we approached it.  The sea has cut an opening in the rocks on this small peninsula under the town.  You can see the opening below the houses in the next shot and, in the town, Jennifer and Stephanie stand beside the opening for a Kodak picture moment.  Last, a view of this town from its breakwater.  This is the largest of the five towns in Cinque Terre and most people stay here if they are not visiting via train.  It would be fun to come back and spend more time.  Fun! 

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Rome (Roma) Colosseum

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After our day of hiking, we got back on the train and went to the big, bustling city of Rome (Roma).  After checking into our hotel, we left to walk the short distance to the Colosseum.  There is a park right outside the Colosseum and we noticed 12 local policemen (called Carabineri) with their motorcycles just hanging around the park snack bar. The Roman equivalent of a donut shop, perhaps.  We stopped for a snack for 40 minutes and, during that time, they didn't move.  Reminded us a bit of Egypt, but we did not see a similar sight again.  As you approach the Colosseum, you notice that it looks in remarkably good shape up to the point where the outer wall is gone, with the ends supported by bricks.  The last picture shows the effects of cleaning done on the right with the original on the left.  We have decided that the antiquities restoration business would be a good one.  All over the world, lots of work is going on.

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On the other side of the Colosseum, you can see the three sets of walls which provide the major support structure.  Roman engineering is something of a marvel considering this was finished in 80 AD.  The floor of the Colosseum, which was dirt over wood, is missing allowing you to see the halls and rooms below used for the mechanical lifts, gladiators, slaves, and wild animals.  The dirt was effective in keeping blood from the fights soaked up. Apparently the floor was even flooded on occasion for mock naval battles. The next picture shows some seats which were built in the 1930s as a restoration effort to show where senators would sit.  They now know, however, that they did not have hard bench seats like these.  This area was made of wide floors of marble and the more elaborate seats were on top of these ledges.  Sometimes, restoration efforts are not quite correct!  Lastly, some Rome cats are seen in the Colosseum.  Due to a bizarre Rome law passed a few years ago, wild cats are everywhere and are protected.  Feeding is even encouraged.  Steffi bought a 2002 calendar with pictures of the Rome cats among the various ruins.

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This is the Arch of Constantine, built in 315 AD, and one of the last monuments built.  It is next to the Colosseum and was built to celebrate Constantine's victory over  then emperor Maxentius.  He had a vision that he could win under the sign of the cross and it was Constantine, now emperor, who legalized Christianity.  The Arch itself, however, is not very Christian as most of the reliefs were from early pagan monuments.

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Roman Forum

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The Roman Forum was the ceremonial center of the city with emperors continually renovating older buildings and erecting various new temples and monuments.  What is left gives you a sense of how busy this area must have been over the years.  The first picture gives you a sense of just how many monuments and temples there were.  The red poppies were a nice contrast.  The next two pictures are of the remains of the Temple of Saturn, one of the more spectacular ruins there.  

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If you click on this picture, you can see details of the huge amount of ruins left.  You definitely need a map showing what it what.  We did get a better appreciation for the quality of the Roman ruins we saw in the city of Jarash in Jordan, as they were in better shape overall than the Roman Forum.  Click on Egypt & Jordan and then select the subject Jarash if you would like to check out comparison photos. But in fairness, Rome has reused so many of the sites through the years, there is probably more antiquity underground than above!

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Rome (Roma) Sights

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Needless to say, Rome is steeped in history.  This is a statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who ruled around 170 AD at the height of the Roman Empire.  It is in the center of the Capitoline Hill area, which was laid out by Michelangelo.  Adjoining Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio is the oversized Victor Emmanuel Monument.  This very large and most imposing building was inaugurated in 1911 to honor the first king of Unified Italy in 1870.  Romans don't think of it as an alter to the fatherland but rather as "the wedding cake," the typewriter," or "the dentures."

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Across the street is a large column called Trajan's Column.  It is 40 meters high and has a spiral on it depicting scenes (a continuous narration) of the Romans preparing for and winning a war over the Dacians (now Romania).  If you click on the second picture, you can see some of the detail.  Finally, less than a block from our hotel was another beautiful church, the Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral, started in 420 AD, notable for its terrific mosaics.  Of course, we have pictures, but one of the most interesting statues we have seen is one right in the middle of the church of a lifelike Pope praying which adorns his tomb in the crypt.   

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Vatican Museum

Vatican City, founded in 1929 and the world capital of Catholicism and home of the pope, is the world's smallest country.  It occupies 106 acres and only 500 people live within it's high walls.  St. Peter, founder of the church and the first pope, was martyred and buried here in 64 AD and became the residence for the popes who succeeded him.  The papal palaces, next to the huge basilica of St. Peter's, are home to the Sistine Chapel and the large varied collection of the Vatican Museum.  We will show you some of the art work in the museum and some of St. Peter's.  Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed in the recently restored Sistine Chapel.  It was a busy day with lots to see. 

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The is a picture of the center courtyard of the museum.  Very large buildings of the museum surround this courtyard and contain most of the museum collection.  Of course, the Catholics have art from all over the world acquired over the centuries by various means.  Since we were not allowed to photograph mummies in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we thought you would enjoy seeing this mummified Egyptian woman which was on display in an extensive collection of Egyptian art.  If you click on the next picture, you can see a hall holding the collection of smaller statuary.  It  was very extensive. 

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During the Vatican tour, we saw lots of fine and interesting art work, especially some of the sculpture.  Here are three samples.  Click on the pictures to see the details.

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Of course, statues of humans (usually naked, of course) and animals were in abundance.   We are not sure what the first statue of one woman represents, but it is definitely unusual.  The horse and the Roman man are typical of the hundreds on display. 

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This is a large hallway showing the elaborate ceilings with many beautiful frescoes.  One hall had a large collection of tapestries, in this case, depicting the Biblical story of Herod killing all the male infants under two years of age in his attempt to to find and kill the newly born Jesus.  Of course, he did not succeed other than to kill lots of innocent children.  Some of the scenes were pretty scary.  Another hall had huge detailed maps of every part of Italy from the 18th century.  

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The Sistine Chapel is the highlight of the tour of the Vatican Museum and comes last.  If you want to see the Chapel, you still have to walk through a lot of other rooms and chapels along the way.  We don't have any pictures of the Sistine Chapel, but this ceiling from one of the smaller chapels gives you an appreciation of the detailed art work.    Michelangelo's ceiling, depicting many scenes from Genesis (painted from 1508 to 1512) and the altar wall with the Last Judgment (1534 to 1541) are spectacular.  You might be interested to know, as we were, that the ceiling is not just the famous fresco of God creating Adam.  It consists of 33 panels showing many different biblical scenes.  The ceiling and altar wall are now restored to their original bright colors with the work having been completed in the early 1990s.  A few small dark squares were left so you could appreciate how much more colorful it is now.   This spiral staircase is the exit to the museum and was designed in 1932 by Guiseppe Momo.  Click on the picture and you can see Jennifer and Stephanie looking up.

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St. Peter's Cathedral - Vatican

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Walking around the corner from the Vatican Museum, you come to Piazza San Pietro in front of the church.  This is where the pope speaks to the crowds from the middle library window on most Sundays and some Wednesdays. It was set up for a major address to be held the next day.  While the front of the church is really not as spectacular looking as some others we have seen, it is certainly huge and is the largest Catholic church in the world.  The next picture inside shows the size by noting  the people present.   One famous statue in the church is the Pieta by Michelangelo, showing Mary holding the crucified Jesus.  It was one of Michelangelo's earliest masterpieces, completed in his early 20's, and is incredibly lifelike. 

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The floor of the church is of very colorful Italian marble.  This elaborate Baroque canopy, built in 1624, is called a Baldicchino and covers the Papal Alter which stands over the crypt where St. Peter is reputedly buried.

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One of the unique things you can do at St. Peter's is to climb the 537 steps up to the top of the dome.  Jennifer and Stephanie are happily contemplating the climb.  The top of St. Peter's provides a great view of the Piazza and the city of Rome.  Looking down shows a view of some gardens and a view of the Catholic crest.  At the top of the church, statues of Jesus and the Saints look down on the Piazza.

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Rome (Roma) Spanish Steps

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This is a view of the Spanish Steps from the Piazza di Spagna and is one of the most famous squares in Rome.  It is crowded, as you see, all day and most of the night.  People watching is the entertainment.  At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Fontana Barcaccia boat fountain.  We have noted that EVERY fountain we have seen in all of Europe, famous or not, is working!!  We wish Denver and other American cities would see fit to do the same.  An empty, rubbish filled, old fountain will certainly not draw a crowd.  Nearby the Spanish Steps is one of the world's most elaborate and lavish McDonald's.  We stopped in just to get a picture.  It did look great, with statues and all, but the food is still Mickey D's.  

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Rome (Roma) Trevi Fountain

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The Trevi Fountain, built in 1762, is Rome's largest and most famous fountain and is the setting for the old movie, "Three Coins in a Fountain."  Neptune is behind the fountain flanked by two Tritons, both trying to control some unruly sea-horses. Stephanie and Jennifer are ready to make a wish and toss in their coins.  Each of us threw two coins to cover all bases and keep with the tradition that this will assure a return to Rome.  It was also a good way to get rid of coins from previous countries that we could not convert - we hope the Romans find a way to use the foreign money.  There is a huge crowd here, too, at night.  

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Rome (Roma) Pantheon

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The Pantheon, which is the Roman "temple of all the gods," was completed in 125 AD.  It gave us the greatest and best-preserved look at the splendor of ancient Rome.  It is also a wonderful feat of early engineering with its huge dome, 142 feet high and wide.  The next picture shows the dome with its square indentations which are a technique called coffering to reduce weight.  Towards the top, the concrete dome gets thinner and lighter and the highest part is largely made of volcanic pumice.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, it became a church and the middle age barbarians left it alone.  It is in remarkable shape.   The last picture is a fun shot of the base of the Egyptian obelisk monument out front.  You can't say Romans didn't have a sense of humor!

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A column reaching from the floor 142 feet up to the start of the dome.  The inside looks like it could have been made yesterday using modern construction techniques.  A sphere 142 feet in diameter could fit inside the Pantheon.  Steffi gives us a perspective pointing up to the hole at the top, called the oculus, which provided the only light.  The last picture is the side of a taxi outside the Pantheon.  It contains the Roman crest and the letters SPQR, which are everywhere.  We checked and it comes from the ancient Latin: Senatus PopulusQue Romanus which means The Senate and The People of Rome.

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We took a trip south of Rome through Napoli to the city of Pompeii, the site of the ancient Roman city which was buried in ash from erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.  The volcano is still active with the last eruption in 1944.  We learned that the city was NOT destroyed by the eruption.  It was merely covered in ash and is the reason the ruins are in such good shape.  An earlier earthquake in 62 AD did cause major damage and in the 17 years up to 79 AD, the Romans had repaired a lot, but not all, of the damage.  Interestingly, the early city had an estimated population of about 25,000.  Most people escaped to the sea and only 3,000 people died in the ash while waiting, wrongly assuming the eruptions would stop.  Pompeii is in a warm climate and this city was an early resort destination for wealthy people.  As such, Pompeii was certainly a more affluent city than most would have been.  The artifacts, money, pottery, etc. that were discovered are in a museum in Napoli.  Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the museum, but we found this place to be very interesting and one of the best archeological sites we have visited on our Odyssey.  We provide quite a few pictures here so you can get a sense of how an early Roman city looked.

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Mt. Vesuvius is shown in the background of the first picture.  In the foreground is the main open area for Pompeii which had various temples to the gods.   As we were entering the site, our guide, Vitterio, is shown looking at the ticket taker.  Without all the detail, we made the mistake of leaving the site (having entered at a different point only 10 minutes earlier) to find an English speaking guide.  When trying to return, they would not let us back in without buying another ticket!  No amount of discussion would change their minds.  This was not customer friendly and not in keeping with the warm attitude we found all over Italy.  The last picture is the edge of the city near the original entrance.

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This is one of the 3,000 poor souls who died in the ash.  This is NOT a mummy.   When the bones of a person are discovered in the ash, plaster is poured into the cavity which was made as the body decayed over time.   The ash is then cleared away and you have an impression of what the body would have looked like.  If you click on this image, you can see the person had a belt on.  Next, a large wall with its original paint and decoration still in place.  Notice the early use of 3D and perspective in the paintings.  The next picture is a basin in one of the baths used by the nobility and rich people in the town.  It was used for washing hands and faces.  It was a gift from a person seeking a political office and is inscribed with his paid political message around the rim. 

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Along many of the streets in the city we saw shops where food and wine would have been served, sort of like a fast food restaurant today.  The holes in the counter would have held the food and wine or other drinks.  We visited a couple of houses owned by wealthy people and much of the wall and floor decoration is still there, such as this painting from a wall.  It was a long strip of nymphs showing typical day to day activities.  Next, a courtyard from this house with the columns still intact.  The roof you see would have been burned in the ash and has been reconstructed to appear like it would have.  

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Along the streets were public drinking fountains supplied by underground pipes, made of lead.  Steffi shows the indentations made in the rock from years and years of people leaning over to get a drink from the spout.  It is suspected that much of the early population would have suffered from lead poisoning.  However, their normal life span was not very long anyway so it is not known what effects lead really had.  An atrium of another house is shown.  This was a open area behind the entry door and was used to collect rain water through a hole in the roof.  This house has not had a new roof put in place. 

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Roman theatres, one large and this one smaller, were present in Pompeii.  The citizens would have made frequent use of these facilities especially since this was a desired "resort" location.  Here is another affluent house (with new roof added) showing an elaborate mosaic floor.

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A large amphitheater was also in Pompeii right at the edge of the town.  Some of this has been restored but it is largely intact, just as it was in 79 AD.  Denny poses at the entry to the large arena where gladiators and animals would be brought in.  Steffi gives you an idea of the view of the floor of the arena from the top "nose-bleed" seats.  The floor of the arena was the ground and had nothing underneath, unlike the Colisseum in Rome.

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Florence (Firenze)

An interesting note on European graffiti:  Without exception thus far, every European city we have visited has been literally covered with graffiti.  If a wall or post or most anything is flat, it is covered with graffiti.  It is very noticeable and quite ugly.  Our relatives, who live in Lisbon, Portugal, told us there are really no meaningful punishments there and nobody really polices the problem.  So, the kids just tag everything.  It must be the same all over.  It gave us a new appreciation for some of the cleaner North American cities, especially New York, which proved the problem could be solved.

BUT...  starting with Florence, things were different.  The community here obviously does something right as there was little graffiti present and you could tell in a few places where it had been painted over.  We also found Siena and Venice, too, to be very clean.  After touring ALL the previous cities, the clean walls are noticeable and refreshing.  And, as we learned to say in New Zealand, GOOD ON THEM!!

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On to Florence (Firenze) to spend three days exploring the city and the region which is the heart of the Renaissance, the artistic and cultural reawakening of the 15th century.  In the center of the city is the large Catholic Cathedral, or Duomo.  This is Europe's fourth largest church and the outside is particularly spectacular with its use of pink, green and white Italian marble.  It, like many buildings in Italy, had been recently cleaned and looked spectacular.  Of course, the inside is beautiful too.  Nearby a copy of Michelangelo's famous statue, David, stands in the main square.  The last picture is the real thing and is in the Galleria d'Accademia.  Click on the two pictures and see if you can tell the difference.  We thought we could.  Pictures weren't officially allowed in the museum, but every single tourist was taking a picture of David, so we did too.  The nearby guards didn't appear to care about the pictures, but once in a while, they would pick someone to hassle.  Not consistent.

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These are views of the famous bridge in Florence (Firenze), the Ponte Vecchio, with its gold shops lining each side.  It spans the river Arno.  The shops shown on the bridge are famous for their gold and jewelry.  There are probably 40 of them on the bridge alone. The windows on the second story lined the walkway where the Prince of Florence could walk unseen and out of the weather from the city to his home on the other side of the river.

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Before we came to the Florence area, every one we met said we had to go to Siena.  We took a short train from Florence and spent the day in Siena, missing our train on the way back and taking a bus.  Public transportation is great! The main square is the Piazza del Campo and is billed as Italy's loveliest piazza.  It is fun and lots to watch.  Here Steffi is enthralled with a clown mime who made fun of everyone with his antics, in this case making people think it has started to rain.  Steffi watched him three different times for an hour.  He makes his money through donations he collects after he is finished.  The next two pictures are of the Catholic Cathedral or Duomo.  It shows the unique starred ceiling in the dome and the alternating black and white columns of marble.  Outside, the top of the front of the church is particularly elaborate.

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We climbed the 400 steps of the bell tower of the Palazzo Pubblico (Public Palace) to get these views.  The church noted above with its stripes is shown with the Tuscany countryside in the background.  The Rich Odyssey Team enjoying the heights (except maybe for Jennifer who doesn't like to look over the edge).  Looking over the edge, you see the unique fan shaped Piazza del Campo.

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Venice (Venezia)

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For now, Steffi has decided that Venice (Venezia) is her favorite city.  It is fun, with its crowds, canals and general bustle.  The first shot gives you an idea of the streets.  We are having lunch at a table on a narrow street.  The portal in the background is also a street you walk through.  Cars aren't allowed and everything is delivered or transported on their canal system that you see next.  All the bridges have steps up so that the various boats and gondolas can get by underneath.  Stephanie and Jennifer walk in a wider street with some unique arches above.  It is very easy to get lost in Venice and that is half the fun, because you can just keep walking until you find something or at least a sign you recognize.   Steffi loved it every time we got lost, which was very often. 

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One evening, we went to a music performance with a string orchestra, dancers, vocal and violin soloists all dressed in17th century costumes.  Listening to an evening of Italian classical music was fun for all of us, as you can see.  And, yes, we got lost at least once walking back to our hotel that evening.  Fortunately Venice is very safe and, since it's an island, it's impossible to go far wrong.

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San Marco Piazza

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The Piazza del San Marco is the major plaza in Venice and the biggest open space by far.  People flock here just to hang out or to visit the surrounding shops or the three major buildings.  The first building shown is the Palazza Ducale, which is the palace used by the ruling duke, or doge, when Venice was its own powerful country .  This palace was built to show off the Venetian power and wealth and remind visitors that Venice was numero uno.  We toured the Palace, but cameras were again not allowed.  Suffice it to say that it was opulent with many huge rooms.  The prison in the cellar was also interesting and would have clearly been a very depressing place.  The second picture is the top of the Basilica di San Marco showing Saint Mark, his winged lion and the angels.  In the Piazza are thousands of pigeons drawn by the many people feeding them such as this little girl and her mother.  

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The third building is St. Mark's Campanile, a tall bell tower in the Piazza.  The first tower was built in 1173 as a lighthouse, but it suddenly collapsed in 1902.  The current one was built to replace it and was finished in 1912.  These pictures were taken from the top of the tower.  The first picture is along the Adriatic as the sea is known here.  Second is another view of the Sea with a tall column honoring St. Mark.  And, if you look down on Venice from the tower, you can only see the location of the larger Grand Canal by noting the buildings shining in the sunshine in the middle of the picture.  Other streets and canals are too small and narrow to distinguish.

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Venice (Venezia) Canals

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The canals, of course, are something you have to experience.  We did this first using the boats on the Grand Canal which serve as buses called vaporettis.  The first picture shows a spot where the boats stop to pick up and drop off passengers.  This is how we got from the train station to a stop near our hotel.  Next is a shot of a building on the canal, painted with gold murals and covered by mosaics reflecting the setting sun.

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 Another way to see Venice is in one of their famous Gondolas.  The canal tour lasted about 40 minutes and cost 200,000 lire.   To convert the 2,200 to one US dollar, you always ignore the last three digits, then divide by 2 and then subtract 10%.  If your math is right, you should find that the gondola tour cost about $90 and was worth it..  at least once a visit.  Steffi took a picture of Denny and Jennifer enjoying the ride through the narrow canals and then on to the Grand Canal and under the famous Ponte di Rialto bridge which was near our hotel.  The last picture shows the low bridge and a person (in the white shirt) singing to a group of other gondolas.  You have to arrange for a singer if you want, and it is not likely your gondola boatman will sing at all.  We enjoyed listening in as we passed.

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Venice (Venezia) at Night

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Venice at night is, of course, spectacular with the lights, the crowds and the water.  If you click on the first picture, you can see a gondola going down one of the wider canals under a light.  Next, you can see the effects of the tide coming in.  Venice is sinking and many sidewalks in the city can be under water, especially at high tides in the fall and winter.  This picture is right along the Adriatic Sea shore where gondolas and other boats are docked.  You can clearly see the water coming over the sidewalk.  Our gondola boatman had told us that experts predict Venice will be literally under water in 30 years.  We don't know about that, but they do have a major problem.  Jennifer and Steffi watch water come up in front of St. Mark's Basilica.  Is just emerges from cracks and man hole covers.  During the evening, it covered a good portion of the piazza and had totally surrounded the Basilica.  

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While we were watching the water rise, three of the restaurants in the piazza had a version of "Battle of the Bands" or orchestras.  They would take turns playing some great music to the delight of the crowds around the square as well as patrons at tables in front of their restaurants.  Finally, a picture showing the front of St. Mark's Basilica lit up at night.  Very beautiful.  We're hoping for a solution to the flooding, but barring that, we hope to return before 30 years is up. Venice is wonderful.

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