Friday, March 13, 2020

Italy final

Italy is done

I just finished adding the pictures I felt worthy of posting to this blog. If you have access to my FaceBook page, there is nothing posted in the Italy 2020 photographs that you haven't already seen.

Thanks for riding along on this with me. I remind you that the bog is my impressions and experiences, not a tour guide. Lonely Planet and Rough Guide already do that do that in an excellent manner.

Don't read what I experienced as what you will experience. Your mileage WILL vary.

I'm not sure where the next trip will lead. If you add your address to the "Follow" box on the main page, you will get an email every time I post to the blog. I promise you, I am not getting any income from this blog. I will not SPAM you.

I hope to write to you again from ??????

 
 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

So long and thanks for all the fish

Thursday March 5th 2020
Naples on the way to Rome

Sorry about losing yesterday, I did the tourist thing and walked my feet off and then had a big decision to make. Should I stay or should I go? In looking at the map of Italy all the interesting places were a five or six hour train ride, which kills a day each way pretty much. Soo there is two days lost, Be in Rome the night before because the plane leaves at Zero dark thirty (6 am). Get there at least 2 or 3 hours before, train to airport you get the idea. Since the virus outbreak here in Italy Delta has suspended their $300 flight change fee, so might as well just call it a day and head on home.

On the fast train to Rome now, get in around noon. I might have a little time to sight see prior to a 9 pm bed and 1am get up. It’s really a shame too. This morning is the most beautiful day I’ve seen in Naples. Bright sunny morn, no wind, too warm for even my hoodie. If I hadn’t been on hold to Delta Albania for 20 minutes to change the flight, I’d call back and change it again. Oh, well.

Yesterday morning I loafed around until a little after nine and then hit the cobblestones for a bank. I was down to my last 100 Euros and kind of freaking out. A weird feeling to have nearly $3K of useless US dollars in my jeans. The banks are like the missile silos that were there to rain nuclear death on those soulless Soviets. Press a button, the eye in the wall decides if you are a threat, one door opens and to enter a small room, and the door behind you closes. Locked in a purgatory of security. Not outside and not inside. After way too long the door you are facing opens and you enter the bank proper. Then you hear “No exchange” and need to repeat the process. The next bank the same. At least she told me I was pretty well stuck with walking to near the cruise ship where the money changers were. I hadn’t planned on needing to walk a Km to get cash, but so be it. With my luck they would be closed for lunch or Christmas or because it was the owner’s son’s friend’s birthday. Yippee, they were open. The rate was reasonable and the transaction was done in a flash.

The place I wanted to go was the church of San Genaro. He was a big deal here in Naples for some reason. I knew from the previous day’s tour that it was waaayyyy over there and waaayyy up there, and I wasn’t about to walk that. Caught a taxi and zoomed and zigged and honked and cursed our way up to the church.

Too much coffee. Find a coffee refund place. Across the street from the church was a coffee bar with a sign that said “Toilet for customers only”. I took care of things and had another cupa Joe. Then to the church. Every church I have been in is pretty much the same as every other church. Some are darker, some are sparklier. This one was the sparkly kind. I walked around, gawked, went down stairs to say hello to San Genaro’s bones. Then to the oldest known Christian mosaics in the Baptismal. The idea was that you were baptized and when you opened your eyes after being threatened with drowning, and looked up to could see what now awaited you in Heaven. It was pretty chewed up over the centuries, but really pretty cool too.

.50 to pee in the Church, I guess you could poop too, but pooping in a church somehow it doesn’t seem right.

Next door is the church’s museum. Talk about sparkly. It would make the city of Antwerp sink under the weight of the diamonds and rubies. One ruby was the size of my Apple Watch, maybe a little bigger. The pointy hat like the Pope sometimes wears must have weighed 10 pounds. This and they charge $.50 to pee.

I wave goodbye to San Genaro. and the guy at the coffee shop and started walking. I wasn’t afraid of getting too lost. I knew that ‘down’ would eventually lead me to water and from there I could find my way home. Past other churches and some subterranean places. The first one was closed for pest control, and the second one’s next English tour wasn’t until 2pm. So I kept walking. And walking. Dodging people, cars and those F-ing motorcycle/scooters. A hour or two later I was back at the place where I got the taxi to go up. Decisions, decisions. Heck with it ! Keep walking.

Back at the hotel, I kicked off my shoes and socks and lay on the bed. My feet were sore. I was tired. Not Rome tired, but still worn a little. Apple watch sez 6.3 miles and I believe it.

I went up to the bar after I could stand again, had a drink and ruminated whether to stay or not. Texted a couple friends for their thoughts and make a decision. Right or wrong.

This morning, jam things in a suitcase, stuff some carbs in my face and get a taxi. This taxi was also a fixed fare taxi. I got the price upfront, half of my special price for Americans arrival taxi. I gave the guy a US sized tip.

So here we are. I’ll pop this in the mail from the hotel’s internet and maybe drop a quick note from Rome or Amsterdam before I get home.

Baptistry ceiling

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Sophia Loren llives down there

Tuesday March 3rd 2020
Naples, Italy

For you who get this via email. My apologies for that bad cut and past job I wrote yesterday. I don’t know how I managed to get those first paragraphs duplicated, I must have hit the wrong command in my haste to get that online. I have edited it in the online version.

Normal start of the day, normal coffee and roll. The streets were wet from the night’s rain, but the printed weather report at the front desk said clouds, but no rain. I took along my rain jacket just in case. I bought it for last year’s trip to the Amazon and never used it there, nor did ever expect to use it again. You know we hearty group in north west Washington laugh at umbrellas and rain coats and those that use them. I thought I’d bring it along if for nothing else as a bit of a break from the wind.

8:45 right on the button the mini bus was in front of the hotel to take me a seven unknown friends to see the ruins of Pompeii. I got on with a ‘Hello’ and was met with a wall of silence. It was interesting that they would book me with a bus of the deaf. On the way to the buss the guide was doing the up sale, and I bought it. For an additional $35 (E) I could add on the Amalfi coast. That seemed like a good deal, so I added it on.

Then we were off. Though he streets of Naples, which only reenforced that I wouldn’t want to drive here without super insurance and a crash helmet. At least until I’d had some experience in smaller towns. Past the cruise terminal and onto the freeway, that wasn’t free. And soon Naples was in the rear view mirror, or as we tourist say, the selfie cam. One instant we were on the freeway and the next we were pulling into a restaurant’s parking lot. We were in some roadside town that you wold only stop at to refill your vehicle and yourself. Turns out we were there, Pompeii. Usually the exit is through the gift shop, this time it was the first stop. This shop did physical art. Intricate carving on seashells, stone and some sculptures. I was more interested in the toilet. This one was free and the next one on the tour was a Euro toilet. I wonder if the extra Euro covers the cost of a toilet seat, I am so tired of helicopter peeing. Thankful that it did have toilet paper and soap. (speaking of toilet paper – both of my last hotels there has been a brand new roll on the spool. I just put it down the room not turning over that much in the winter. Today, housekeeping thought I was checking out. When I came back, new roll. What happens to the partially used rolls. Does the staff never have to buy TP for their home?). I decided to leave everything in the store, in the store.

Next a brisk walk and a sprint across the street and we were at Pompeii. You know that old town that used to be covered in dirt? First stop was a small amphitheater and then a larger amphitheater. We spent more time there than I felt was required. It’s a semi circle with steps that radiate out and up from the center of the hemisphere. Maybe I’m being too harsh here. The kids enjoyed running up and down the stairs. The older than me folks enjoyed cooling their sphincter on the cool marble.

A home for some rich bitch was next on the list. It was pretty cool. Then the dirt fell on top of the city it covered and protected the innards of the buildings really well. There were frescoes that were clear and vibrant as art work done in the 17th century not nearly 2000 years ago. I did find out that even if it is just a plain wall, leaning of frescoes is strictly frowned on. Whoops!

The streets were nearly empty, a bonus for early morning winter trip. The best little whorehouse in Pompeii was closed today to the dismay of the men and boys but the baths were open. The description she gave sounded exactly the same as the Hammams I have used in Morocco and Syria. A warm room for relaxing, perhaps a massage. and a hot room with water just short of boiling for the actual bath. These were a little fancier. The difference being akin to a limo and a tuk-tuk. Off to the side was a mold of a dead girl. When the ash and gasses came the deceased was covered and eventually returned to the earth, leaving a hollow void what the archeologists filled with Plaster of Paris and then removed it showing the death pose of the victim. Talk about bring you back to reality.

Back to the street we stopped at the dick carved into a stone in the street pointing the way to the brothel. I guess it pays to advertise. A free 20 minutes in the main square and then it was done. A two hour journey that just touched on some of the highlights.

Next lunch that was included in the cost. A conversation with a Doctor and two kids and of course former nurse wife. Two women from Holland that kept pretty much to themselves. Lunch here is like Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey. Main course, appetizer, salad and dessert, that it supper where I come from.
Then we spit up, half to another archeological site and my half to the Amalfi coast. My original plan was to rent a car and drive this route. Top down, British sports car. Head wrapped in flowing scarf, listening to Italian love songs under a blue sky. I am glad that is still there for another day. This day I would have missed all the sights. The road was like Chuckanut Drive, except it would go from Bellnigham to Everett, with more curves and a much longer drop. He drop would be so long you could turn on a song and listen to it full before you vaporized on the rocks below. Well maybe not “American Pie” but certainly “Get your kicks on Route 66”. It would have been a great drive 50 years ago, I doubt the road hasn’t changed markedly except for the buses and trucks now.

We passed Sophia Loren’s little shack on it’s own peninsula jutting to the sea. Little towns super glued to the mountain walls. Waterfalls and streams and that a stop in the actual village of Amalfi. Another cliff hugging town similar to the towns in Cinque Terre except this one was open for business. The shops and restaurants were bustling. The streets had people in them. It was great. Was that a rain drop? I think that was a second one! The next moment I have my hood up on my rain jacket and I’m walking down the street covering my camera from the deluge. Two minutes later it was over, and the blue skies and a rainbow was all that was left in it’s wake.

Back on the bus for the ride back to Naples. All of us had had all the fun we could stand, and I don’t think ten words were said the entire trip back. I know I was pretty done in.



Sophia's place is that little white house on the lower right






Monday, March 2, 2020

Gon' to the castle and we're goona get married

Monday March 2nd 2020
Naples, Italy (unless we have been blown to Sicily)

Woke up to a slight breeze and sunshine. Not too bad, I suppose. The coffee in the room was awful. I threw the first cup away, because the cup smelled like detergent. I made a second and even after washing the cup out it still smelled like soap. I’ll use my mug and Starbucks instant tomorrow.

I went down to the breakfast area to grab a cup of coffee and a pastry. The hotel charges for breakfast  $20 when you book with the room and $30 if you just want to pay for it. (Euros of course). The server brought me a solid silver coffee pot and 4 smaller pastries. Good, and I was expecting $10, she put down a $5 check for just the coffee. I motioned her over to point out she forgot the pastries. She said they were included with the coffee, they were small and of no consequence. Wowerzers. This is from the same hotel that said they would exchange USD for me at $100 to 65 E. (The exchange rate is currently 89) I know they are not a bank, but if Jesus stayed here he’d be flipping the Concierge counter over.

I put on my parka and strode into the wind and found that it was much too warm for the parka, even though everyone else seemed to be wearing puffy jackets. A quick change into my hoodie and I was just about perfect.

I had no plans, just walk and see where it takes me. With Mount Vesuvius to my right I headed towards a cruise ship in the distance. Thinking that was where my friends Lynda and Dick might have docked when they “Cruised the Med” a few years ago. That way I would be closer to the tourist area and might be able to find a money exchange that will give me 66 Euros, for my Benjamin. I walked along until I came to a decision point, go down of stay level? Stay level almost always wins, and it did this time.

The largest plaza I’ve seen with a big church on one side and a museum facing it. With big advertisement for Paul McCartney coming in June. Hasn’t that old fart made enough money already? I saw him 40 years ago and his show wasn’t as lively then as The Stones are now. What’s he going to do, come out with his walker and sing “Maybe I’m amazed”? It’s the crowd that should be amazed.

Where did that rant come from?

So back to my stroll, past shops your recognize if you lived on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I didn’t come here to look at Tommy Hillfinger, and Vicky’s Secret’s windows. I saw an arrow to the left that said Catacombs. Cool ! Only problem. It is up. How can catacombs be up? I went up, and up. The street was straight and less steep than dinner a few nights ago, so keep on going. I was getting deeper and deeper into locals only area. Not dangerous, just no tourists. After five or six blocks it was getting clear to me that the catacombs were more up than I felt their down would be worth it. So, I went lateral. Past the green grocers the meat stores. The guy sitting on a stool stripping leaves from their stems. He man was a machine, fast and accurate. I was so deep in local the they stopped to watch me to take a picture of a cat on a Vespa.

I could have kept lateral for miles, but it would have been more of the same, so a right for some down. I got down to the fringes of tourism and decided it was time for a coffee. Maybe I should have had the coffee on the up and not the down? Coffee is funny here, I’ve already told you some, also there is the payment system. Sometimes there is a cash register back with the Batista, sometimes it is somewhere else in the store. You ay at either place, but if it’s in the store, you get a receipt to take to the coffee bar. The first one I ran into was the store type. I told the cashier what I wanted, twice. She looked up at me and made a personal call. Maybe she needed to phone a friend to figure out what an Caffe Americano was. Regardless after it was made clear I was being snubbed I left and went next door where I was successful.

Further in the camera toting crowd I look across the street and espy the most wondrous temple to consumerism. It was absolutely beautiful, and I knew I was among my tourist peers when I saw the Golden Arches on a flag. Fifty feet off the floor was an arch of glass the ran off into the distance on all four points of the compass. Capped at each end with Romanesque arches.

Continuing on a caste loomed on the seashore. That could be fun. The guy at the gate says they have 2 types the 6 and the 11. The six is the grounds and the museum. The eleven is the same with the dungeon. Dungeon? That is close to catacombs! I give the cashier a 20 and he has a hissy fit. Don’t I have the eleven? I reaching my pocket and toss some hand sanitized, a wadded up Kleenex, a 10 and maybe $.40 in small change. There it is Tiger. He’s still pushing the change and 10 around while holding the 20 and waving it. Finally someone with common sense came up to him. I paid half to him and paid the rest at a different location.

The museum was works of art on one floor and sculptures on another. Some good and most unmemorable. I met up with the group for the dungeon tour near the appointed time. Out of one of the rooms come men in suits and women in dresses. Flowers and smiles, so probably not a funeral. I was a wedding. I was fortunate that the tour didn’t start until after the bride and groom emerged. He dungeon was a disappointment. Concrete steps down, and plastered walls in the dungeon. No cold stone with rings inset in the walls. No rats. No fun. I will have to put that 5 down to a donation to maintain the castle.

Back to the hotel to kiss and make up with my sore feet and kill time until the appropriate 7:30 dinner hour.
come here to look at Tommy Hillfinger, and Vicky’s Secret’s windows. I saw an arrow to the left that said Catacombs. Cool ! Only problem. It is up. How can catacombs be up? I went up, and up. The street was straight and less steep than dinner a few nights ago, so keep on going. I was getting deeper and deeper into locals only area. Not dangerous, just no tourists. After five or six blocks it was getting clear to me that the catacombs were more up than I felt their down would be worth it. So, I went lateral. Past the green grocers the meat stores. The guy sitting on a stool stripping leaves from their stems. He man was a machine, fast and accurate. I was so deep in local the they stopped to watch me to take a picture of a cat on a Vespa.

I could have kept lateral for miles, but it would have been more of the same, so a right for some down. I got down to the fringes of tourism and decided it was time for a coffee. Maybe I should have had the coffee on the up and not the down? Coffee is funny here, I’ve already told you some, also there is the payment system. Sometimes there is a cash register back with the Batista, sometimes it is somewhere else in the store. You ay at either place, but if it’s in the store, you get a receipt to take to the coffee bar. The first one I ran into was the store type. I told the cashier what I wanted, twice. She looked up at me and made a personal call. Maybe she needed to phone a friend to figure out what an Caffe Americano was. Regardless after it was made clear I was being snubbed I left and went next door where I was successful.

Then I heard the chanting and bullhorn and whistles. Yes ! I found myself in a protest! If there is a protest anyplace in the city I am visiting I'll somehow stumble onto it.

Further in the camera toting crowd I look across the street and espy the most wondrous temple to consumerism. It was absolutely beautiful, and I knew I was among my tourist peers when I saw the Golden Arches on a flag. Fifty feet off the floor was an arch of glass the ran off into the distance on all four points of the compass. Capped at each end with Romanesque arches.

Continuing on a caste loomed on the seashore. That could be fun. The guy at the gate says they have 2 types the 6 and the 11. The six is the grounds and the museum. The eleven is the same with the dungeon. Dungeon? That is close to catacombs! I give the cashier a 20 and he has a hissy fit. Don’t I have the eleven? I reaching my pocket and toss some hand sanitized, a wadded up Kleenex, a 10 and maybe $.40 in small change. There it is Tiger. He’s still pushing the change and 10 around while holding the 20 and waving it. Finally someone with common sense came up to him. I paid half to him and paid the rest at a different location.

The museum was works of art on one floor and sculptures on another. Some good and most unmemorable. I met up with the group for the dungeon tour near the appointed time. Out of one of the rooms come men in suits and women in dresses. Flowers and smiles, so probably not a funeral. I was a wedding. I was fortunate that the tour didn’t start until after the bride and groom emerged. He dungeon was a disappointment. Concrete steps down, and plastered walls in the dungeon. No cold stone with rings inset in the walls. No rats. No fun. I will have to put that 5 down to a donation to maintain the castle.

Back to the hotel to kiss and make up with my sore feet and kill time until the appropriate 7:30 dinner hour.







Sunday, March 1, 2020

The food guessing game

Sunday March 1 2020
Naples, Italy

So far the old saying is right “See Naples and die”. They were saying that since at least the late 1700s to early 1800’s. It is supposed to reflect on the beauty. Once you see it, you’ll never see anything as beautiful. If you ask me you’ll die from the expense. I should never told the taxi driver I was from the USA, because she hit me with the invisible “American tax” that is never posted, but always seems to be there. Next time I’ll say England, they are notorious cheapskates.

Last night’s dinner was at another Michelin star place. It was a little more expensive then the one I at on Wednesday, but that is totally understandable because of the need to hire the Llamas and the Sherpa to get the food up there. The food was good, but I don’t have a real good grasp on what exactly I had. It was a big secret. There was the Ala carte’ menu and then the Chef’s seven course and nine course tasting menu. That was it. Seven and nine and no description, none. It was up to the chef. On the Ala carte’ menu there was chicken liver, and I told the waitress I wasn’t so big on chicken liver. She said she’d tell the chef, after I ordered the seven course meal.

Most places that have a tasting menu, the server brings the dish and explains it. They did that here, only in a whisper and with English way, way obviously their second language. The first thing that came was a bunch of little bite sized things. Blah, blah, blah and Fried balls of Tripe. I wasn’t about to reject them after the day before, so I popped them in and chewed once and swallowed quickly with a gulp of wine. They didn’t taste bad, but even if they weren’t made with Tripe, I wouldn’t order them as a side.

Almost all these blogs are written in restaurants or bars. It keeps me from rubber necking the other patrons and allows me up to a couple hours to compose. This meal was no exception. When I get a good idea going, I don’t stop. Well the unknown dish that had a thick gelatin base and real flowers on to with nuts was really good. I had eaten two bites and got lost in the computer, and the serve stopped by and said “You don’t like” I told her I loved it. For the remainder of the meal she left me to write and eat at my pace.

The shrimp soup with froth topping and blah, blah was great, so was the beef Tartar with ?? and the pork whatever. Even when I asked to repeat what the ingredients were, I still couldn’t understand the women. I kind of wanted to tell them to drop the spiel and just bring me the dishes, but that would have just made waves.

I got about six and a half way through the seven courses, before telling the server I was throwing in the towel. It was getting to the point that I was so full that it would be work to finish it, and no longer fun. I guess no one has ever given up before. I was satisfied and would have been miserable to be forced to eat more. It was close to eleven pm and I still had a 20 minute walk back to the hotel. Then I was offered a ‘surprise’ to go to the museum on the third floor. I was sated and tired. Again no one it seems has ever declined the offer. They took it in stride and offered to call me a taxi. What the heck? I F-ing walked here, my ego won’t let me take a taxi back to my hotel. Besides it was all downhill until you hit the flats, and I know the way from there.

In this neighborhood at 11 at night there is no one around, I walked down to the Ponte Vecheio bridge in the middle of the street. It was nearing 11:30 by now and the squares were ALIVE ! Umping. Full of hundreds of young people. No one being rowdy, just hanging and having a great time. Sure the was the occasional tourist, but it was like the city had been given back to the kids of the town.

Safely back in my room I bedded down and told Siri to awaken me at 7:30. I woke up at seven to the church bells. I guess it is better than listen to the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer at sunrise. Bathe and breakfast and out the door to catch the train to Naples. Passing the currency exchange I see the dollar has taken a hit. It was at $1.16 per Euro this entire trip, now it is $1.17. Not much, until I think about converting a grand and not it will cost me and extra sawbuck.
The train was about 30 minutes late, but I had bought the fancy seats and they come with the lounge access, so I had a sanctum sanctorum away from the craziness of the main terminal. I found a chair that was designed for people to sit in, and still wonder what the designer was thinking on one or two of the couches in the lounge. I guess style over function.

Menu for food included in the price of the ticket
The train was 30 minutes late. My car was at the end of the train closest to Naples and farthest from Florence. The conductor made me get on the train three cars before mine, so she could get the train moving. For spite I made her load my heavy suitcase on the train. Then I had to do the sideways aisle dance through Business class to my car. I had the car entirely to my self. Had a nosh, wrote a TripAdvisor review, watched Italy scream by at 299 Km/h (183 MPH???)

Got here, got extorted on the taxi. Got to the room and now sipping a Vodka Tonic and listening to my neighbors discuss politics and I can’t figure who is who.

I guess the war is over, just not sure who won





My own train car


Mount Vesuvius

view fom my room

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Two trains. Two successes

Saturday February 29th (Leap Day)
Florence Italy

Back in Florence. Kinda like being home. I still get confused with the streets, just not as confused.

Everyone is talking about the Black Death that is killing millions and millions. At least that I the way they seem to be reacting. I think I took a class on history someplace along the line, maybe it was 6th grade. They were talking about the actual Black Plague in the 1300’s. Out of Africa on ships to devastate Europe. Have planes, trains and automobiles (but no John Candy) and a very mobile population. Whereas people in the 1300 seldom went more than 5 miles from their birthplace. Now that is a drive to the grocery store. We have a virus with a long incubation period. It is now on every continent (Maybe not Antarctica). I fear the genie is out of her bottle and stopping events, flights and voluntary travel might slow it down, but it coming to a town near you soon. Hopefully it will be after a vaccine is created, but I fear it with us like flu or common cold (some strains of the common cold are corona virus’). It seems to be more contagious than the flu but less lethal. Use common sense, wash your hands whenever soap and water is available, and alcohol based something (I prefer Vodka, Smirnoff not Grey Goose) when soap and water is not available. Keep your damn hands away from your face, especially the nose and mouth. I seldom wear mascara, but on this trip I do, it keeps me from rubbing my eyes. So men maybe you should let your freak flag fly until we get that vaccine.

Okay back to our usual irreverence.

This morning began as always with a shower, but I was staying in an apartment and not a hotel and the coffee situation was dire. By dire I mean none. So I speed showered and ran down to the corner coffee shop. I had coffee and a roll there yesterday. It was good, and like a good Italian drank my coffee and ate my roll and then put both of the dishes on the order counter. Like a good American I gave her a small tip. Coffee is cheap here (a Euro and a half) and the same price for a coussiant, so a tip is in the area of 20 cents. Every town has a city hotel tax. Rome over $10 as I recall, Florence less, Monteresso was a Euro and a half. The woman who showed the room made sue, double sure, that I left the key on the counter and of course the three Euros. That left me with a two euro coin and a couple 100 Euro notes. I walked into the coffee place and pulled out he C note and sheepishly if she could manage it. She demurred it was impossible. That’s fine, just give me an Amaricano please. I took the coffee and sat down and drank my coffee. He asked me if I wanted a croissant now and come back and pay her later. I explained I was leaving in an hour so that was not going to happen. A couple sips later. She asked me what kind I liked. She was going to give me one !! Really! That was as sweet a thing as anyone has done for me this trip, and sure washed away the shellfish.

I got my bags, made sure the key and the three Euros were on the counter and was again back on the road. It wasn’t as great a day as yesterday, but the walk to the train station was hundred times better on the return than it was in the monsoon on the way in. I did make a small detour to capture a photo of the name of yesterday’s memorable meal tore front, so I can give then the grand review they richly deserve. The coffee shop at the train station could handle the bill so I got a second cuppa Joe and some carbohydrate energy for the trip back to Florence.

While waiting on the platform I chatted up a English speaking couple. They were newlyweds and came to Italy to celebrate. I got to go to La Jolla California and Ocean Shores, Washington. They had chosen Venice for theirs. The had chosen Venice specifiably for Mardi Gras . Right in the middle of the week’s celebration the city announced the celebrations were all canceled, because of the virus. I had read that fashion week in Milan was also curtailed and some models were still walking the runway with and empty room to strut for. The train arrived and we parted, but didn’t shake hands.

Hey! I got on the right trains, twice! The ride was without drama. My Apple watched like it though. I guess the rocking of the car made it think I was moving and it congratulated me on being so active, as I sat on my butt.

Once in Florence, I made a quick pit stop at the same hotel as before. I had left my luggage there. I gave the bellman my ticket and he brought me my suitcase and a Prada shopping bag, with something under the tissue paper. He insisted it was mine, and I insisted back it wasn’t. I didn’t use the ‘Fuck’ word with him but he was a hard sell.

I left immediately to go to the restaurant that I had the fabulous meal at on Wednesday, but they were full and had no room for a poor wandering stranger. I asked for second choice and they gave me a name. It was nearby. I looked at the map and I was right across the river. A phone call and reservations were made.

A slow stroll back to the train station to secure a ticket for tomorrow to Naples, then the room to chill out and internet hunt a place to sleep in Naples.

Dinner at 7:30, so I’ll leave the hotel at 7 for a 22 minute walk, according to Apple maps. I haven’t had good success with Google maps this time. Apple is pretty good and the watch buzzes when you gt close to a direction change. Down I go past familiar sights, jostling people on the sidewalk. Alternating from walking on he walkway and the roadway. After a while, the tourists lessen and it becomes more locals. Then fewer of them. I check my phone to make sure I’m on the right path and it looks good. Then I walk across the bridge and there is no one. And the map says take a soft right. Well the soft right leads up a hill rated for a 4X4 in low gear or at least a Sherpa. I know people walk his type of street, but they have thighs and calves of iron. Mine are more on the melted lead type. Also it is one of those streets that curve and you can’t see what it coming up, or how far the corner is. I am sweating at the first corner and then have more of the same to go before the restaurant. I can see the light, my watch has dinged that I am close, still I actually have to stop twice more to catch my breath before crossing the threshold.

This better be good!





Friday, February 28, 2020

Sea Shells

Friday February 28 2020
Monterossa, Cinque Terre, Italy

I was about to get a cup of coffee, come back to my room and book the first train back to Florence when I got up this morning. Last night’s forced march in a driving downpour had me sure of it. It was so bad that I almost didn’t go out to eat. Luckily there is a pizza joint on he other side of the wall. Since this is a summer tourist destination most of the restaurants are still shuttered.

I stepped outside and was hit with blue skies and blinding sun. I never would have believed it possible. That canceled my internet search for fast trains. After coffee and croissant I went a wandering. At the top of my hill was the city information office. I asked her for an area map and she gave me one and explained things. You see that blue line? That is the easy trail overlooking the water. It’s closed for landslide repair. The next easiest? It’s pretty much closed too. - Where would you suggest for someone old and fat, bit mostly fat? - Two towns away on the train. Thank you.

I walked back downhill and came to a church and walked it. Pretty great little church with a pretty great ceiling. Down to the seaside and a few pictures and mostly enjoying the sun. Through the tunnel, there is an actual 100 yard long tunnel connecting one part of the village with the other. Down to the train station. After some cursing at the ticket machine I got my paper and then had to learn to validate the darned thing. I don’t quite understand, but once you buy the ticket, you have to get it stamped my a machine. If you don’t and the conductor checks your ticket, you are subject to a several hundred Euro fine.

I had thought the trains between he towns was a special little train. No you get on a regular train and get off a couple miles later. I got off at the station and there is nothing there except station. The town is perched atop a crag of a mountain. I followed the crowd to the base and expected to find an elevator that you could pay for and ride up. That was an unmet dream. I looked up at the stairway, full of switchbacks and decided I’d need a burro or a llama to get me up that. I turned back t the station for the next train going my way. At the station there was a little bus, I asked about a ride and he said for 2.50 I had a seat. Narrow roads and switchbacks and horn honking we got to the top. The top of what exactly? The top of what looked like the village I had just come from, only steeper. I killed and hour and went back to the train.

Back on my home turf I went searching for an ice cream shop. Oh, right. It’s winter and none are open. There was this attractive restaurant on the seaside. It was after 3pm, let’s get an early dinner and watch a movie on the computer. The waiter ushered me to a great seat, and looking at the menu I saw they had a tomato based seafood soup. I don’t know if it is the same name here, but back home it is called Chopino. I’ve had it a few times in restaurants back home and have even made it. A nice thickened tomato and garlic base, in a fish stock. Simmered with fish and shell fish. Simple and good.

It came in this kettle and looked great. It wasted wonderful. I was surprised how much olive oil they used in the dish, but it is their recipe, not mine. Mussels, clams, shrimp and octopus. Soak some of the broth up with hearty bead and you have the perfect meal. All is good in the world … well there was that Mussel that had the cracked shell ….. and then the clam that one of it shell halves was broken and gone. Whoa Filter feeders with broken shells? Did they toss in maybe an opened shell as well? I think now would be a good point to stop eating this. I pointed out the broken shells to the waiter and he said – oh you know? They sometimes break when stirring the soup. – All the recipes I read and followed said, make the broth, let it reduce then a few minutes before serving add the seafood. The shellfish goes in last because they cook the fastest. 2 to 4 minutes. No heavy stirring. I tell the waiter to take it away, he offered to make a new one and I tell him that is not necessary. Then some suave guy comes over and asks what is going on. I explain that the shells were cracked and the waiter said them got cracked in the cooking process. I said I couldn’t be sure and was stopping on the safe side. He explained how I didn’t know anything, he was the owner and was listed in the Michelin book and on and on and on .. I could see that nothing I said mattered to him, nor would it shut him up. This is not a quiet table side chat, this is a full on baby stomp your feet rant. Finally I had enough and said “Just give me the fucking check” – Did you say to me to give you the fucking check?!?! Did you really say to give you the fucking check?!? How dare you say to give you the fucking check?!? There are children in this restaurant a who don’t want to hear you say fucking in here. – Err… I said it once, and you have just yelled it how many times four? Five? – You are a crazy lady! .. on and on. The waiter gave me the check, I tipped him 2 Euros, the service was good, and told him the Euros were for him, and left. The owner was still ranting as I walked down the street.

The TripAdvisor review will be fun.

I sat b the beach the rest of the afternoon watching the tide come in and the sun set over the hilltops. Yikes, as soon a the sun drops so does the temperature. Now all snug in my room with train reservations and a hotel in Florence tomorrow.

Good fucking night.






Thursday, February 27, 2020

Try it, you'll lke it

Thursday February 27 2020
Cinque Terre, Italy

Well, that was more of an adventure than I had planned, but let’s go back to last night.

I had reservations at a Michelin stared restaurant for dinner. I don’t get many chances for such an experience. Oh, I’ve eaten as several restaurants run my chefs, but never one of their restaurants that had actually earned a star. I figured I’d never get a chance again, so let’s blow today’s budget.

I made a reservation for 7:30 hoping to get in on the early bird special. When I say early bird, I mean that I was the only customer for the first hour. Just me and the staff. As the meal came I was watched like a hawk by the owner to see my reaction. I had ordered one of his three tasting menus. The only problem with the tasting menu is that the entire table has to order the same. One of the few times dining solo has it’s perks.

The meal started with the chef bringing a hot cup of broth, to warm me up. I was already pretty warm from walking to the restaurant, but it was welcomed. Then an Amuse Buche, and then the meal started in earnest. Wild boar, with Fiore Gras, pomegranate stars on a nice sauce. I think you are getting the idea. There were about 10 courses, each one as good or better than the one before. All the ingredients he used were ones you and I have used before, but certainly without his knowledge and touch. The only thing he made that I’d never heard of to eat was Rooster Comb. The red crown like thing that roosters have. It wasn’t bad a little gelatin like, just an odd thing to consider serving. The meal kept coming and coming, and one dish before the dessert came, I was about to call ‘Uncle’. I was stuffed, but I didn’t want to offend the chef, or miss out on what he came up yet. After two and a half hours the food stopped arriving. The cooks are in this giant fish bowl affair and so everything they do is on display. Along with the tasting menu I’d ordered a glass of red wine and a big bottle of water. When the bill came it was 115 Euros, somewhere close to $125. Christ ! I have spent more than that at a restaurant 20 miles from home. Granted it was a great meal, but it was a Big Mac in comparison to this delight. Before this meal I use to have a favorite meal, but it has now slipped to second place. This was the best meal I have ever had.
Leaving the restaurant a little after 10pm I walked back to the hotel, possibly a half to three quarters of a mile. Through well it alleys and streets feeling completely safe, except for the occasion Italian driver. When I got into bed I had a hard time going to sleep thinking about that meal.

Today was my travel to Cinque Terre day. I got t the madhouse of a train station and looked t both the major and the local arrivals/departures board and didn’t see my train. One of the staff steered me in the right direction and finding a seat we were off. I had left my big bag at the hotel and just brought my computer/camera backpack and my trusty blue backpack with 3 days of clothes. I stuffed these in the overhead rack. Ever since I had my camera borrowed from me in South Africa I have been very careful not to pull it out when on a train. There was a guy who go on late and took a seat near the door. He checked everyone out and his eyes strayed to my bags. I made evil eye contact with him and near the same time the conductor walked through. He leaned into the aisle to see where the conductor went and as soon as the conductor left the car, he was out of his seat and moving to a different car.

So we chug along and stop here and there until the end of the line, where get off and change trains. We got in at 1357 and my train left at 1402. I went to the right track and leaped on just as the doors were closing. After a few stops I asked a guy if this was the right train, I just had a feeling. He said no the 1402 was late, this was the train before that. I got off and the next station in Hicksville Italy. No ticket agent, nothing. I my Apple watch made English into Italian for a lady sitting close too the door asking when the next train back to my change point was. She said no, you want to go that other way. I got on that train and found a map where it was going and it wast where I wanted to be going. I hopped off and trotted along the train until I got to the conductor want to blow his whistle to send the train off. He held the train long enough to tell me to get the second train and get off at ???? and switch there. Fuck me ! I followed his instructions and here I am.

Ya, go to Cinque Terre, you’ll love it they said. It is 45 degrees, the wind is blowing 20mph with gusts to 30, and it’s raining. Eamonn you can go to the west coast of Ireland in February look out over the Atlantic and feel right at home, except you’d be warmer. This is going to be soooo much fun.

H, did I say the place I’m staying is a mile from the train station and there are no cabs?






Grumpy Camera

Wednesday February 26 2020
Florence, Italy

3:13 am, forget you clock! I have no plans for the day until dinner. Roll over and shut them peepers, And I did until 7. Yay, me !

Long slow shower. Long slow breakfast. I didn’t get out of the hotel until close to 10. This is the way a vacation should be. ‘Everyone’ says go to Cinque Terra. A series of small former fishing (now tourist mecca) villages. Five in all, stretched along the coast. Except for the first and the last the ones in the middle are inaccessible by anything except boat and now a train. ‘Everyone’ says go, you’ll love it. Well I’ll go but I’m not gonna like it! I’m not ! I’m not !

I want to go to Modena where the balsamic vinegar is made, and Enzo Ferrari was born. I want to go to Parma where the cheeses is hatched. I want to drive like an Italian. So I think I’ll go check out renting a car for a couple days. Joe’s junker cars wanted $250 for 4 days. Sorta big named wanted $200 (but offered no liability insurance), Budget Renta Car wanted close to $300 with full insurance, both car and liability. A far cry from the $90 a week some places on the internet advertised. Maybe, you can buy Balsamic vinegar other places than the source. Maybe I can look at red cars someplace else. I’’ll have to work on that one while I am in Cinque Terra and not liking it.

So off to wander the streets of Florence. No destination, just look and see things without a guide and at my slow turtle pace. It has suddenly turned cold and windy. Overcast with a hint of rain being threatened. Over breakfast I got a glimpse of sun rays through the clouds. I was watching the rays move across the city and was waiting for them to spotlight the Douma. You know, God looking down on the church of Ash Wednesday? Well it stopped just shot of making it. Guess God wasn’t feeling particularly benevolent this Wednesday. I was alright in my hoodie, but my gloves would have been nice to have along.

For some reason my camera and I are not on the same page today. It doesn’t want to focus on what I want it to focus on. I assume I clicked a software switch someplace in it’s brains and can’t figure out which witch is which. I’ll just have to go old school and use manual focus. I can’t remember using manual focus since ….. ahh …. 1969? Even then you had assist. You ad 2 hemispheres that you had to move to become a circle for the shot to be in focus. Today, I had to use my eyes!! Oh, God the inefficiency.

I am becoming a near Italian for my coffee. If you order your caffeine and don;t take a seat it costs less than if yo sit your butt down. So I am now a coffee stander. I still want a cup of coffee not a shot. At home coffee is an experience to savor. Here it is consumed, like a drunk coming off a bender. Coffee on counter, straight, no chaser, thrown into the mouth. Cup slammed on the marble counter. Ciao, and gone ! If it is a Latte’ maybe two gulps. Try that I Starbucks and they would call the aid car to remove the unstable person from their premises.

Without my Apple watch and phone today I would be someplace south of Rome. There are no reference points. it's mostly flat, and the part that isn’t flat is like the rest that isn’t flat. Where the might be a visual difference there is a building in the way. I am forever begging people for a general direction to get where I am going. The watch vibrates wen I am getting close to a choice. Back home it is easy. Snow is east, water is west. Not always, but as a rule you can follow it. I did manage to work my way back to try and recapture a few images I either poorly exposed or missed yesterday. It was nice t be fee of the reins and tethers of a guide for a day. Not nearly as informative, but I guess that is why you pay extra for free range eggs. (that doesn’t make any sense)
I generally don’t have lunch, per se. I might snack in the afternoon, but to eat real food isn’t what I do. But as was passing a smell grabbed me and pulled me to a stall, and forced me to order a sandwich with that magical animal the pig roasted to crispness and covered in black truffle sauce. I almost burst into song and started high kicking around the square. That was absolute best sandwich I have ever had. It is a meal that is very close to the top ten.

On the way back to the hotel I heard a thud on the walkway behind me. I turned and saw a late middle aged, perfectly presented woman on the curb. She had fallen and dropped her purse and shopping bag. I put out my hand and helped her up and a man came by to offer further assistance. We got her up and going, I handed her her bag and exchanged thank yous and you’re welcomes. I took a few steps and thought, pickpockets are rife in Rome. This is Florence. Where is my iPhone? Where is my Apple watch? Are my pockets still zipped? Everything was as it should be. Then I thought “you touched another person’s hand”, and reached in my pocket and bathed my hands in alcohol. Oh, what YouTube and the news have turned me into.

I had dinner reservations for 730. I wonder if I’ll get the early bird special?



p.s. If I don't text you as I normally do, it is becaise it cost me $.30 for each text and I only put $10 in that part. I can receive for free. -- Also off to a small town for a few days. Not sure about the internet, so may be MIA for a day or so.







Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Can you keep a secret?

Tuesday February 25 2020
Florence Italy

I sure don’t understand this sleep thing. I am dead beat at the end of the day. My feet and calves are sore from walking. I stay up to a reasonable adult bedtime and still can’t sleep past 3am. Oh, well I’m functioning, maybe not at peak efficiency but enough I suppose.

Today was a tour day. I had signed up for a nice 3 hour tour of Michelangelo’s David and a walk around town. There was another option of a 6 hour tour that included the Ufizzi Gallery, a magnificent art gallery donated to the city by the Medici family. They were the Jeff Bezos of their time. Started out in cloth (not books) and moved into money (not everything). They bought art like some women buy shoes. I have to admit, it would be nice to see some of this stuff, but I missed art appreciation day in 6th grade. Oh, I can look at the Masters, but I ain’t no connoisseur of art. I thought seeing David was about all I really needed. Besides, six straight hours on m feet again? No thank you Sir, I do not want another one! Three hours will be just fine.

Breakfast was included in the cost of the room, so I grabbed a cup of coffee, and some scrambled eggs before heading out for a ten or fifteen minute walk to the meeting area. Check in went smoothly, there were only 7 of us in the group, all North Americans and Jessica the guide. This was the same tour company I had used in Rome for the Colosseum and the Sistine Chapel. One of the guides was outstanding and the other was in it for the job. I was hoping Jessica was one of the former and not one of the latter. She and the tour wrangler outlined what we were doing today. See David, walk around, break for lunch and we all meet back at 1245 to go to the Ufizzi. ALL? Not what I signed up for, but if it’s in the cards, I’ll take it. I don’t know the 6 hour tour was broken up and a six hour forced March of the arts. Since it was the wrangler who said that and not the guide I figured – Their loss, my gain. I like to think of myself as a reasonable honest person, I guess I’m not.
Get your ticket, disrobe, x-ray our stuff and magnetize your body before you can get in. Jessica walked us and talked us though a bunch of lesser know sculptors and a few unfinished Michelangelo sculptures. The all recognizable as works in progress. We've all heard his saying “I see what I want in the marble and it is my job to release it”. These four unfinished are referred to as ‘The Prisoners’ because they are still locked in the marble.

Through a doorway and there was David. What a breath taking piece of old rock. Huge too. Jessica explained why this was different than all the other Davids. All the ones before depicted after Goliath was given a terminal headache. This one is set just before the meeting. Both sizing the other guy up. One hand the rock and over his shoulder the sling. How from one angle he looks like an adult and a different angle a barely pubescent boy. And I’m not talking about what you think I am talking about, you dirty minded thing. I like to think, it was cold on the field of battle that day. No she was talking about his face when looking at it face on. She explained and really brought to life this statue. Then we went looking as some more art and then back on the mean streets of Florence.

Past plazas that had significance, past buildings that were also significant and churches that were big or worth a mention. We looked at the outside of the big domed church that is one of the symbols of Florence. Went into a small church dedicated t lovers, where it had the most interesting votive offering holder. And back to the Ponte Vechio. Where we were set free to reassemble at quarter to one.

I went in search of an ice cream shop she recommended. I had to do one stop along the way to get my directions cleared up. I was about to push on the door and then noticed they didn’t open until 12 and it was 1130. Time to kill. More people watching and then back at 5 til I was there, now behind two people. Shortly the church bells rang and the area shuddered and it was noon! Then noon 5. The man in front of me pulled out his phone and typed. Then he said “They are closed on Tuesday”.

Besides that disappointment my feet were sore. I found a place to sit down in a restaurant and bought an overpriced sandwich and bottle of water, the rest and wait to rejoin the group.

I saw Jessica and the wrangler talking and then start checking their list to see who is naughty and nice. The wrangler came up to me and said she just assumed all of us were in the same group all day and I wasn’t on the list. I asked if I could pay the difference and continue on. No, way. The Company had only so many tickets. - Okay, I understand. - If you want to bu our own ticket into the gallery. Jessica says you can stay with the group, but I can’t give you a headset. - How could I complain about that? - Oh, wait, we have an extra headset you can use. Just don’t mention this to the company. - I know how to keep a secret. The price difference was $60 more. All I had to put out was 12 Euros to get in! Thank you Wrangler lady !

The Ufizzi Gallery was great. We hit the high points, but it is so large that you could easily spend the entire day and see everything. Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo paintings. A short class on evolution of painting from medieval to Renaissance. A couple Botticelli paintings that I recognized. I certainly got my 12 Euros worth. At the end I slipped Jessica a 20 and she seems satisfied and I was thrilled.

I did get that ice cream on the way back to the hotel, but not from the ‘best’ one.




Monday, February 24, 2020

Livin' the lfe !

Monday February 24 2020
Rome – Florence Italy

Boy, oh am I fancy schmancy. On the train to Florence. No not second class. No not Business Class. Yes, Executive Class. You know the one where you get to sit in the lounge before your train. The one with the leather Italian styled seats (Look great. Not built for human anatomy), the free coffee, juice, canned drinks. The cookie selection looked like it was stocked from the the dreams of Cookie Monster. Only those of us with the secret code and whispered password were allowed to pass the sliding glass gates and leave the hoi paloi and noise behind. I am now enclosed in leather and chrome. With my own table, and a waiter shared with ten other seats on the entire car. They rival any first class on any airplane I have had the the privilege of walking through on the way on or off a plane. The train’s steward took my drink order and food order almost before I sat down. He was shocked when I declined alcohol. I guess it is NOT done. He just came by in white gloves and laid the table cloth and silverware on my tray table. We’ll have to see how the grub is at this end of the train. I did mention that lunch and drinks and white gloves are included in this service didn’t I?

The current plague has hit Italy, at least that is what my home page told me this morning. While waiting in ‘the lounge’ this morn the news crawl for the rail system said that trains would no longer be stopping in the two towns that are hardest hit by the virus. (currently 120 mph on train) Will they contain it? Who knows? I am skeptical, but I am just praying I don’t get a cold or bad shellfish and my temperature to rise since the remote people thermometers are out at the airport and now train station. I don't need two or three days in quarantine

Sure is a lot of lit and dark on this train. One moment countryside, the next tunnel. I guess that is how you can go 225 kph, nope 229 kph (you gotta do you own math to figure out miles) – 245 – 250 ---- where will it stop!! Yikes, when you pass another train going the other way at this speed it’s like trying to catch a mosquito.

We got into Florence about 25 minutes late. Mussolini wold be spinning over in his grave if he has one. That was his campaign slogan ‘He made the train’s run on time’. I go on he platform, found the way to the taxi stand and loaded the bags into the back. I showed him my hotel reservation on my phone and he laughed, and pointed to my hotel a block and a half away. It was easier to pay him a couple Euros than it was to unload the car. Hey! I’m on vacation !

The hotel is something out of an Agatha Christie novel. Dark wood, thick carpets not made for roller bags. Bell boys and uniformed desk clerks. Federico took my passport and found my reservation and stared typing for a room for me. The room is a suite. Hard wood floors, KING sized bed. Mini bar and breakfast included. The price? About the same as the Radisson at SeaTac. I’m not sure if I got the winter rate or the virus rate.

I came to see Michelangelo’s David and the Ponte Vechio bridge. So I headed down to the bridge to see it at Sunset at the golden hour. I took pictures and people watched for about and hour and then came back to the hotel. A light dinner on the roof and back here. The bill had a discount f about 10%. I put cash down and the waiter said I had to sign it to my room for the discount. Okay fine, but I am confused.

Tomorrow is a skip the line tour to see David and other stuff. So I’ll stop now.


Dome in the background over dinner




Sunday, February 23, 2020

.. and he said it was just a short walk

Sunday 23 February 2020
Sill in Rome

Again with the 3 am. Enough already! Well I was able to roll back over and get back to sleep until 5.

Out the door and off to the Concierge to give me some advice on hoe to best get to the Pantheon. I was looking for the closest Metro, since I’ve become the Metro Queen. The Metro doesn’t go there. But! If you are walking it is just a short multi block trek past what you already know and then into the new “Beware! Dragons!”. A simple walk. Yeah. It’s not like any street runs longer than four blocks and then dead end’s and to have to turn to find the next street, or alley, or cow path, since the map makes almost no distinction from a 4 lane divided highway and a one car wide alley. Then when you finish with the Pantheon you should walk over here (another short walk) and then down here and over there and …

Okay thank you, I’ll be sure to see everything you suggested. (whispered “not!). I started out the door and lo and behold Mr Blue boy was on gate duty again. I happened to remember I had a shoulder patch from that unnamed Federal agency that use to pay me to show up for 30 years, until we both got sick of one another. I went to offer him that as a Thank you for being human yesterday, reward. He wasn’t having any of it. He did say in pretty good English. Thank you, but inside would not allow it. - Fair enough!

Back on my trek, down familiar streets and then into virgin territory. The street was about to “T” and my sense of direction has been so out of whack in this city, I may as well be in Stranger Things’ Upside Down. Left or right? I knew my next landmark, and a coffee place was right there. I opened the door and was greeted with.”I don’t speak English”.I said you do speak, and pointed in a couple directions. I showed her the map, pointed to me destination and she pointed off to the left. I told her thank you, and she almost smiled. Almost.

I followed the map and as the camera totters became more frequent knew I was in the right area. A short pit stop for a cup of coffee and a roll I was back on track. Suddenly I turned a corner and there it was. The Pantheon. Some big old round building with a domed roof that the Caesar type Romans built. They used some sort of super cement and it is still standing. Big Whoop! I’ll give it the obligatory look and get on to some other stuff. Wow! What a building! The architecture is outstanding and decorations are out of this world. Marble and gold in the pillars. Marble mosaic on the floor. Kings and artists laid to rest inside. 25 foot tall 7 ton doors to enter through. High ceiling that has a little hole to let the sun light in, that little hole is 25 feet across. It was amazing! Thanks Eamonn for reinforcing that I should see it. Raphael is entombed there. So I’ve see the works of Michelangelo and now Raphael. I expect to see some DaVinci in Florence. So I now have three of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles under my belt.

Stepping outside into the plaza, I look to m left and that is the exact spot where Audrey Hepburn noshed in Roman Holiday. Right there! It wasn’t a cafe, but a set of doors, but it was the spot. A little bit of a disappointment, one of those heroes falling off pedestals times.

The next place was easy. Look at the map. Look at the picture of the Pantheon. Look at the orientation of the door and turn left and start walking. Along the way was a really big church, so might as well have a look see, churches seem to be free. This church wasn’t as big as the one the Pope lives in, but it must to have homed a Cardinal or two. The altar was as ornate as Saint Peter’s and the ceiling was fresco-ed beautiful. Were the Sistine Chapel didn’t want anyone to share what they saw, this church welcomed cameras. They even had a very large mirror cocked to the roof so you didn’t have to stand there and stare up. Obviously the artist was not as famous as Michelangelo, Whatever this church paid the artist, they got their money’s worth. I was reluctant to leave, but my list was long today.

Suck it, Sistie !

On down the street I walked. Did a quick local pedestrian direction check and found I was going in the right direction. Until I got to the corner and saw a sign pointing to my destination directly back the way I had just come. I sighed, but was really happy the wrong turn lead me to that church. Back to the Pantheon, past Audrey Hepburn, follow the rest of the tourists and five minutes later. I was at some big square, that was a must see. I saw, and wondered what I was missing. It had a nice fountain, a tall pointy thing stolen from Egypt. A guy with bagpipes and men in skirts, and restaurants lining the sides. My watch said I had walked over 2 miles, so I was allowed to have a real breakfast. Sitting at a white table clothed sipping coffee and eating scrambled eggs done to perfection is a great way to watch the world pass by on a Sunday.

With trusty map in hand I pointed to my next stop and could see it was either via that end of the square or that end. The waiter assured me it was that way. I stopped in at a church along that way. Another no shoulders or cameras church, but the choir was rehearsing. God they sounded Heavenly. I mean that. The director was seldom happy with the women, but never corrected the men. I guess you can’t go wrong with too much bass. Back on That-a-way in a few blocks I hit the Tiber. That was not what was expecting. The part of the Tiber I wanted was at least 10 blocks from that square. Looking at the map, it was clear I was in the wrong spot. A quick U-turn, back to the square to bitch at the waiter. But he was clearly cowering in the back of the restaurant fearful of my return. I kept the sun in my eyes and in about the right number of blocks I found the right part of the Tiber. Triple checked and turned left.

Before I knew it, I was in front of m destination. I was within 50 feet of where I asked for directions to the keyhole. This was one of the must see’s that the concierge circled. The line was long to get in. Maybe it was free chocolate Sunday. Might as well get I line. The line moved with fits and starts, an then it dawned on me. Me and most of Japan and Korea were waiting in like to see an artifact. A round disk like a sun with a face and a mouth. Gregory Peck (?) told Audrey Hepburn that it was the mouth of truth. If you put your hand in and lied it would chop off your hand. Everyone was in line to get their picture taken with their hand near the mouth. The church was totally secondary, it was just a place where the disk lived. I hopped out of line and went directly into the church. Frankly the Disk was the high point. Though there was an entrance to Hadrian’s crypt, which was pretty cool.

Back along the Circus Maximus and a left to the Colosseum and the subway beckoned. According to Apple Watch I had covered 7 miles on foot. According to me, I had covered quite enough. Metro, short stroll, taxi and I was back at my starting point. My bed.

Dinner time eventually came and I looked at the nearby restaurants and they all seemed to be closed for Sunday. I found one about 4 blocks from my hotel and really had a nice meal. I just wish all the men and women in this town would quit asking me personal questions. I walk in and the say “Prego?”, and I have to admit. “No, not prego. Just fat”. I guess I’ll get used to it.


Tomb in the Pantheon