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18.12.2014
We arose later than usual, read the paper over breakfast and then finished packing for our trip. As we entered the brand new Buffalo and Niagara International Airport Terminal, I was impressed with the gracefulness of the sweeping lines of the building. We had a last cup of coffee with Joanne and Jack and then checked into the Continental counter with our bags.
We had some time to kill,so we strolled the terminal wondering as always at the many stories evident around us.
Ironically, I was reading a book on the early years of the Italian mafia, titled a€?Capoa€?.
On the way into Italy, we could look down and see the hard granite peaks of the French and Italian Alps.They were snow covered and uninviting, a reef of sky-born peaks waiting to hull out the careless and low flying aircraft.
We were gathered up by Lucio Levi, our tour guide, and escorted to the Central Holidays bus for the I hour ride up into the Lake Lugano region of Switzerland.
The Alpine scenery is pleasant and interesting.Everything seemed well ordered and in its place. Lake Lugano hove into view as the sun came out and we were impressed at the well ordered splendor. The Sun was shining and we could see diverse Alpine landscapes reflected in the depths of the Lake.It was an impressive start to the tour. Lucio brought us to the Hotel Admiral where we checked in to room #415, unpacked and took a short nap.We were tired from the flight. After our conference with Ozzie Nelson(nap),Mary and I walked along the pedestrian shopping mall, thea€?Via Nassa,a€? to watch the crowds.It was sunny, cool and in the 50a€™s.
Next, we sat in an open square overlooking the lake and had a panini and cappuccino at the Ristorante Vanini. We sat frequently , at various stops along the lake side, to admire the Alpine visage.It is picture postcard pretty. The dinner and company were very nice but we were tiring.The bus took us for a brief night ride around the lake and then returned us to the hotel. The bus let us off near the venerable a€? La Scalaa€? Opera House, named after the daughter of the powerful Scala Family in nearby Verona.
From LaScala, we walked to the a€?Galleriaa€? shopping complex, the fore runner of our covered malls. The Cathedral was the first for us in a series of such masterful granite and marble epiphanies throughout Italia.
It was rainy and cool .We reboarded our bus and crawled for 45 minutes through heavy traffic to the expressway East to Verona. For the next hour we drove through the Po river valley and admired the vineyards and verdant agriculture of the region.
From Verona, we drove Eastward for an hour to the Adriatic Coast and the fabled Republic of the Doges, Venice.
We walked the narrow pedestrian alley ways and delighted in the architecture and charm of this magical city. The immense square is populated by throngs of tourists and locals feeding an enormous army of the aerial rats that we call pigeons.
On the corner of the square, near the Church, sits the former seat of the Venetian Republic, The Palazza Ducale. As we walked along the polished marble looking floors, our guide explained their unique construction. Next, we walked the path of the condemned over the famous a€?Bridge of Sighsa€? and down into the dungeons of the palace. From the Palazza Ducale, we walked a few streets away and toured the showroom for the a€?Muranoa€? glass works. We strolled the streets and alleys of Venice buying some postcards and stamps for friends and window shopping.
After our gondola ride we strolled the Piazza San Marco and bought some Panini vegetarian and Mineral water from a small stand (14k).We ate our lunch in the square, like the Venetians, and dodged the dive bombing aerial rats that were the delight of squealing children. Next, we entered the charming Correr Museo, a repository of Venetian art and history from 1300 onward. After this wonderful dinner we walked back towards the hotel, stopping briefly at the Piazza San Marco. We returned to the hotel, packed our bags for tomorrowa€™s departure and read for a while before sleep took us. At 8:30, a water taxi picked us up from the rear door of the hotel and we had a last twenty minute ride along the canals of Venice.
We entered the church and again appreciated the statuary and art work that these churches are a repository for. We stopped for a cappuccino (36k), at a nearby cafe with the Meads, and admired the church and its surroundings. We reboarded our motor chariot and drove for 90 minutes into the foothills of the Appenines towards Bologna.The Po River valley here is lush and grows abundant quantities of sugar beets, corn, wheat and rice. We walked into the venerable courtyard of the University of Bologna School of Medicine, founded in 1088. We settled in for some antipasto, pasta with mushrooms, salad, omelet & potato(for me), and peach torte all washed down with sparkling Lambrusco wine and mineral water. After lunch Mary & I briefly strolled the area looking in on the pricey shops like Gucci and Fratelli Rosetti. We rejoined our bus and set out over the Appenines towards the Toscanna region of Italy and the cradle of the European Renaissance , Florence.
At 8:30, we called for a taxi and rode across town to the a€?Alle Muratea€? restaurant on the Via Ghibellini. After dinner Arthur and Reneea€™ gave us a ride back to the hotel negotiating the winding and narrow streets of Florence. We met up with a€?Nedoa€? our guide and stood in line for forty minutes to get inside the Museum.
There are works by Michelangelo and others in the building, but the focus of the shrine is correctly placed upon a€?David.a€? Michelangelo had carved this 20 ft statue from a single block of marble when he was only 27. The guide told us that David, as well as depicting the biblical slaying of goliath, was sculpted as a metaphor for the Venetian republic that had recently thrown off the shackles of the ruling Medicia€™s.
As I viewed this majestic work, I admired the graceful lines of the physically powerful man depicted. Next, Nedo led us through the winding and narrow streets to the Piazza Signorini, the original site of David.
From the Piazza Signorini, we walked more winding alleys to the most famous church in Florence, Santa Croce or Church of the Holy Cross.
Started in 1300, this Romanesque beauty hold the tombs of Nicolo Machiavelli, Rosinni and Galileo with memorials to Dante and DaVinci (who is buried in Ravenna). We admired as before the artwork, religious icons and soaring vaulted beauty of these churches, repositories of art and culture and learning. The high water mark, from the horrendous flooding of the mid 1960a€™s , is still visible on the walls. We waited in line for 45 minutes and then, for a 12K Lire entrance fee, we ascended the three flights of stone stairs to the famous gallery. Tiring, we stopped for cappuccino at the small cafe (12K) and watched the swirl of tourists and art lovers drifting by. As with most Galleries after a few hours, the a€?glaze a€? descends upon us and we know it is time to leave. We left the Uffizzi and walked along the Arno to another fabled site in Florence, The Ponte Veccio. We stopped at a stand on the far side of the river for pizza and watched the scene as if in a movie.
Most of the gang was mildly lit from the eveninga€™s revels and the bus ride back to the hotel was happily raucous and enjoyable. We ambled along the narrow lanes and found and stopped in another old Church, that of St.Rita. Next, we found the a€?Nuovo Mercadoa€? a pedestrian area of exclusive shops and wandering tourists.
From the new market, we walked along the Arno to the Uffizzi Gallery and mingled with the throngs that gathered there daily in the small square next to the gallery. Further along the Arno we stopped at a small cafea€™ and bought spinach and cheese panini and mineral water for 15K.We stood in the sun along the Arno and ate our lunch while watching the daily drama played out on the Ponte Veccio.
The Arno valley here is lush and green.Scores of nurseries and tree farms furnish Italy and much of Europe with trees and shrubs. Finally, we approached the Romanesque complex of the Church of Santa Maria.The Duomo, or main church, had been built in 1063 and the adjacent Bell tower in 1173. We reboarded our bus and set off through the Tuscan hills for Florence, passing by the small town of Vinci from whence Leonardo came. At 7:30, we joined the Meads and the Martenisa€™s for dinner in the hotel dining room of the Anglo American.
We were heading through rural Umbria to the historic mountaintop village of Asissi, home of St Francis. The massive bulk of a 50,000 man Roman Legion had been deployed in the wide valley just behind us.
After Mass and communion, we met a€? Marcellaa€? our guide.She began a brief explanation of the significance of the church and the history of St. We wandered up the curved and winding alleys of the upper town admiring the substantial brown, fieldstone structures with red-tile roofs.
After lunch, we walked around for a brief time admiring the valley scape and the well ordered Town of St.Francis of Asissi.
We boarded our bus and continued on through the hills near Perugia, stopping at the small mountain town of TORGIANO, noted for its vineyards and wine making .
Tiring with the day, we climbed aboard our motorized chariot and drove the final 100 miles along the Po river valley to the Eternal City, Roma There are flocks of sheep, vineyards and villas on every hilltop along the way to Roma.We were expectant and chatty with anticipation at arriving in so fabled a city. The sun was still with us and we were in Rome, so we set out with the Meads for a walk to Navona Square across the Tiber River.
The two grand series of steps surround a wonderful floral garden .At the top of the very long steps stands the outline of the Villa Medici with its twin Byzantine towers. Interestingly, the stadium had a canvas awning that could be erected over the entire structure by a team of 400 sailors using nautical ropes and pulleys. Hydraulic engineers could also flood the first level and stage mock sea battles for the entertainment of the nobility. And now here it stood, a heap of interesting rubble stripped by scavengers for centuries of all its former beauty. From the Arch of Constantine, we walked along the narrow a€?Via Sacraa€? over the same cobblestones trod upon by the Romans. The Forum itself was entered through the smaller Arch of Titus, built to commemorate the subjugation of Judea in 70 A.D.
Still, standing there beneath the quiet blue sky of a Roman afternoon, one could imagine the triumphs and intrigues of a powerful empire that must have played out here daily. As we left the forum and walked back over the Via Sacra, we passed by the grassy and treed remains of the Palatine hill where Rome was founded, in the 8th century B.C,.
The ruins of the Palace of the Flavian Emperors stands forlornly on the hill overlooking an empty oval of grass that had once been the Circus Maximus. From the Palatine and Capitol Hills, our bus took us for a brief ride across the Tiber to the living and breathing heart of Rome, Vatican City. We stopped first at a religious store for rosaries, icons and all such necessary souvenirs.
Next, we marched across the street to stand in what is perhaps one of the three most noted squares in the world, that of St.Petera€™s. We made our way past the fountains and chairs, with thousands of others, to the very center of world wide Catholicism, the Church of St.Peter. Words are poor descriptors for the tiled mosaic friezes, bronze castings of various popes and shrines to many of the saints and holy family. A tour of the catacombs and the Appian Way was scheduled for the afternoon, but Mary & I decided we had toured enough for the day. After this refreshing stop we followed the winding streets and the conveniently posted signs to another Roman tourist favorite, Berninia€™s a€?Trevi Fountain.a€? Dutifully, we threw coins over our shoulders into the fountain and hoped it meant we would return to Rome again. We stood for a while watching many others, young and old, throw coins into the fountain and take pictures of each other.Everyone seemed festive and happy to be here, perhaps reflective of the legendary sunny Roman temperament. From the Trevi Fountain, we retraced our path to the Spanish Steps and then up the Via Condotti and across the Tiber to our hotel to take a breather before dinner. We crowded all 45 of us into a small back room and were served family style by sweating waiters. As we walked the length of the ornately decorated hallways of the Vatican Museum, Nora pointed out the array of wall-sized painted arras completed by Raphael and his students.
Next, we entered the quiet precincts of the Sala Immaculata Conceptione,an intimate little chapel adorned with grand murals honoring the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a primary tenet of church dogma.
The third level is an evenly spaced depiction of a series of Popes, perhaps a sop to the financiers of the chapel.Lastly, in small triangles and created in a special paint by Michelangelo that is a collage of vivid oranges, blues,reds and peaches,are the prophets of the old testament like Daniel and Ezekiel. Finally, we come to the most prized of artworks, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.Starting in 1508, under the stern direction of Pope Julius II,Michelangelo painted, in four years, a series of ceiling wide panels depicting Goda€™s creation of the universe ,the original sin in the garden of eden,Noah and the flood.
We left the chapel appreciative of the experience and sat for a while in an outdoor alcove, near the Vatican post office and in view of the high relief of the Vatican Dome of St.Petera€™s. The group had the option to stay and visit the many thousands of exhibits, but we werea€? museumed out.a€? We elected to take the bus back to the hotel. From the hotel, we walked with the Meads across the Tiber and wandered the back streets, on our way to the Pantheon. From the Pantheon we traversed the narrow streets to the Piazza Navona and again admired Berninia€™s fountain of the four rivers.
We walked along the narrow lanes to the Tiber River and past the massive fortification of Castle San Angelo with its wide moat.
Tonight was to be the last evening in Italy for about half of our tour group,so a special dinner was planned.They were being replaced by 12 new arrivals who had joined us in Rome two days previously.
Upon arrival, we descended a flight of masonry stairs into the ancient cellar of a very old restaurant.
Mary and I decide to take a 15 minute walk to the Piazza Cavour to clear our heads before retiring.
We retired to our room, finished packing for the morning departure and slept like the dead.
As we negotiated the morning traffic out of Rome, Lucio pointed out to us the remaining lengths of the old city wall.Stretching for some eleven miles, it rises over 20 feet in height. The ride South was uneventful.We were driving through the narrow valley that stretches from Rome to Naples. The Allies drew heavy casualties here in their advance.The New Zealand Commander, attached to the British Eight Army, insisted that the Abbe be bombed. To the East, the Appenines were snow covered.The mountains here are tall and can reach over 14,000 feet in height.
At the Southern end of the valley, sitting along the beautiful bay of Naples like a large and tiered amphi-theater, sits the City of Naples. The traffic was heavy and a small demonstration of some sort was closing the downtown area.Our capable wheel man Fabrizio reversed course in the crowded street and threaded our way along the waterfront heading south along the coast. Our next destination was the small town of Torre Del Greco, where we stopped at a small company of artisans(Giovanni Apa) who carve cameo broaches from sea shells. Our guide for the day, a€?Enzoa€?, met us outside the ristorante and shepherded us through the turnstiles and up the stairs and hill to the fabled ruins of Pompei.
Some few a€?bodiesa€? were discovered in the ash, completely encased in volcanic material, yet retaining their human shape. Enzo took us to the towna€™s central forum where we viewed the remains of the curia, basilica,which served as a financial center at the time, and other municipal buildings.Most had been constructed of brick and faced with marble.
We viewed a remarkably well preserved public bath with its steam rooms and lounging areas.It gave you a sense of the ancients as not so different from us.
We were up early, wakened by the thunder and lightning flashing across the surface of the bay.
We showered,dressed and had breakfast with the Lynches in the upper dining room, a€?Re Artua€?(King Arthur).
We boarded the jet foil and for twenty five minutes had a ride worthy of Disney.The boat slalomed through the four foot rollers like a hog in a wallow. We wandered by the quaint shops to the scenic overlook park named a€?Giardino Augusta,a€? after the emperor Augustus.It had been financed and constructed by the Krupp armaments family.
Mary and I wandered the alleys admiring the shops and stopped at a small cafe for panini and cappuccino. There,we wandered for a time the upscale shops on the narrow pedestrian lanes and admired the even better view, of the bay, from the top of the mountain that is the Isle of Capri. While the girls were in browsing a shop, I noticed that Bill and I were left standing on a street corner. We walked slowly through town and up the hill to the Sorrento Palace where we sat on the terrace and admired for a time the lovely view as the sun set over the Bay of Naples. After dinner, we stopped by the lobby and listened to some music and chatted with each other for a while. First ,we stopped in town at the a€?Lucky Cuomo Store.a€? It is a display show room for an industry that provides work for a large portion of the town,wood working and furniture construction.
As we approached the small tourist town of Amalfi, the traffic thickened like molasses in January. It started to sprinkle soon after we arrived, so most of us took Lucioa€™s advice and stopped for lunch at the a€?Pizzeria Di Marie.a€? We had wonderful Minestrone soup and vegetable pizzas, with panne and mineral water, as we watched Mama Maria and her family work the old fashioned pizza ovens,smiling at the sudden onrush of business form the crazy Americans.
After lunch,we walked along the narrow and crowded main street and stopped for a cappuccino at the a€?Cafe Royal.a€? (5k) Then, as the splatter of rain began, we stopped into the lovely Chiesa San Andrea perched at the head of a precipitous flight of steps.
We waited until all of the soggy stragglers had made it back aboard and then slowly inched our way out of town through the tangled snarl of traffic.Frabizio, our sunny tempered wheel man was at his best along these narrow and crowded lanes . We were served tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese on toast, vegetables(for me) bruscetta for the others, salad, pasta crepes with cheese and the house specialty for desert, the a€?Deliciouso Limonea€?, a lemon angel-food cake that is wonderful.
The bus returned us to the hotel, where we sat again in the lobby listening to music and chatting with each other.We were leaving these gentle surroundings tomorrow morning and heading North to Rome.
We were up early, enjoying the scent of lemons and oranges and the sounds of birds chirping happily in the hotel garden.It seemed like every available patch of green space in the area has its own lemon or sour orange grove along this narrow coast. A light rain fell as we motored Northward along the scenic coastline.Our fellow passengers on the bus were subdued and thoughtful, perhaps mindful of their imminent departure and the real life that lay waiting for us just beyond the ocean.


We stopped for cappuccino and a break at a roadside rest stop.Lucio warned us about being approached by Gypsies with bogus items for sale. Another hour up the road and we approached the towering spur of Mt.Cairo that holds the hilltop Abbe of Monte Cassino. As the wind swirled around us we passed into the first of the a€?four open courtsa€? of the monastery.
The next level and open stone courtyard features another statue of St.Benedict and one of his twin sister Scholastica, a rather interesting woman who had helped found the order. The next court, at the head of a small stairs and open to the sky, is the a€?court of the protectors.a€? Displayed in it, is a series of figures and small monuments to the lay members of the order who had become Kings and Popes. Lucio had told us to look for one of the twenty remaining elderly monks, survivors of the WWII bombing. We left the Abbe amidst the splatter of rain.One of our group, an elderly woman, was experiencing a brief reunion with local residents that she had not seen in fifty years.
Descending the winding roads from the Abbe, we could see off in the distance the floral cross and quiet grounds of the Polish Military Cemetery A 1200 man Battalion of these gallant lads had been attached to the British Eight Army during the final siege and storming of the MonteCassino.These brave men had led the charge and been virtually annihilated to a man by the superior German forces entrenched in the rubble of the Abbe high above them. Lucio narrated for us a tale of the many daily practices that the life of so important an Abbe had influenced among the local populace.
A Benedictine monk, by the name of a€?Fra Guidoa€?, had also given us our system of musical notes and scales. We stopped again, about an hour along the highway North, for some excellent Minestrone zuppe, panne and mineral water at a a€?RistoAgipa€? stop.The food was both good and welcome, but the waiter skinned us with a bogus tale of included charges. As we approached the Eternal City , we could see many bright yellow mustard fields, flocks of sheep and abundant agriculture in the rolling hills outside of Rome.We threaded our way through the city traffic and arrived again at the Visconti Palace for our last night in Rome. The walk along the Tiber and past the massive old and circular fortress of Castle San Angelo was pleasant.
The area around the Vatican was a swirl of people as we again admired St.Petera€™s square. A curate was singing mass near the main altar and the multi lingual confessionals all had lines of the faithful waiting penitently, signs of an older and different church from the one that we now know in America. We gazed, interested, upon the many marble statues and tile frescoes along the various walls of the enormous church. I was rather taken with a small and innocuous bronze plaque on a wall near a museum, at the side of the church. Glazing over form the impressive reliquary and art treasures, we left St.Petera€™s, a mental portrait fixed forever in our minds of so fascinating a place of worship, power and beauty. We walked back along the Tiber River to our hotel and ` relaxed before dinner, our last one in Rome and Italy.
The staff of the restaurant was inordinately gracious, even when one character in our group pulled the Maitrea€™D aside and began to offer him suggestions on how to better run the place. We watched, for a last time, the walls of the ancient city pass by us and thought wistfully of the many people and places that we had seen in these last two weeks. We had a last Cappuccino, changed over some lire at larcenous rates and sat waiting for our flight. We boarded Alitalia flight #640 and had a pleasant, if long , nine-hour, marathon flight back to Newark International Airport.We passed through customs and rechecked our bags with Continental Airlines for the flight to Buffalo. Newark was fast becoming a madhouse as teeming thousands were returning from everywhere on their Easter Vacations.
Anne Juliana Gonzaga became a Servant of Mary following the death of her husband, Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria in 1595, after receiving a vision of the Madonna, to whom her parents had prayed to cure her of a childhood illness?
Marya€™s sister Joanne and husband Jack were going to take us to the airport at Noon.We had a definite sense of anticipation for our long awaited Italian adventure. We read our books and passed the time as well as we could for the 7 hours that it took us to reach Milana€™s Malpensa Airport. Next, we set out in search of the Central Holidays Tour guide who was scheduled to meet us. Off in the distance you could see the snow covered Alps.Garlands of dirty gray clouds, pregnant with rain, ringed the mountain peaks like ringers tossed in a carnival game. From the towering mountains nature had gouged out , like the four fingers of a hand, a deep and scenic glacial lake. We stopped by the famous Swiss Jeweler Bucherer and admired their pricey wares.The jeweler gave us a silver spoon as a memento. We noticed a sign for the pool(Piscina) and headed down to the basement for a relaxing swim.The water was heated and we luxuriated in its warmth. Night had fallen and the lake shore was atwinkle with illumination beneath the ponderous shadows of the towering mountains around us. Inside, Emmanuella our guide gave us a narrated tour of the opera house and accompanying museum.
The shops lined a cross shaped and tiled arcade that was covered high above by a peaked glass roof.The four corners of the cross were open to the air and a fountain gurgled at the join of the cross arms. The roof line is a series of spires each topped by a small statue, perhaps a wealthy patron or friend of the Viscontia€™s. Along the way, we stopped at an a€?Autogrilla€? for Zuppe, panne and mineral water (26K-L).
He had apparently formed a rather strong dislike for the famous Operatic Tenor Pavarotti and referred to him often as a€?The barking dog.a€? The Streets of Verona are narrow and picturesque. You must first cross a paved causeway, stretching from the mainland for a mile, to reach this island city. Mahogany bannisters and woodwork, Venetian glass fixtures and fabric print wall paper give the hotel an ambiance of quiet elegance. Like most tours and cruises, meals are the less harried periods of the day and the time to share impressions and experiences of the day before. Arched pedestrian bridges crossed the many small canals as we made our way to the center of Venice,The Piazza San Marco. This building and all of Venice is built upon pilings sunk into the bottom of the lagoon.Minor tremors and other earth movements often shift the surface below. After a brief demonstration in glass blowing, an army of sales people descended upon us to show us the many colored and world famous Venetian glassware. At 12 Noon, we met up with our group for a Gondola ride down the many small canals of Venice. Later that afternoon we set out along the narrow alleyways to find the Academia Art Museum. We had eggplant with grilled tomato and vegetables, pasta with clams, sole, insalata, and tiramisu all washed down with Soave Bolla and Mineral Water. Then, we had a quick breakfast with the Meads and browsed the streets near the hotel one last time. The taxi dropped us off at the head of the causeway where we boarded our Central Holidays bus and set off for the one hour drive to Padua.
The School was hundreds of years ahead of the rest of Europe in dissecting cadavers for research purposes. Groves of olive trees are clustered everywhere along the hillsides.No arable land appears to be wasted.
The brick buildings here are more of an a€?ochera€? color.Each city appears to have a distinct and uniform a€?colora€? to the brick buildings in its area We skirted the city center and drove past many splendid Tuscan villas to reach a€?Michelangelo Squarea€?.
Allora, we did our a€?Chevy Chasea€? look and remounted the bus for the ride into Florence. The streets were impossibly narrow and lined with cars and the ever present and annoying motor bikes. There stood another wonderfully sculpted water fountain, a casting of David and a few other Greco Roman figures and a covered portico of sorts with a large array of statuary including the famous a€?Rape of the Sabine Women.a€?. We learned later that hundreds of international volunteers, affectionately dubbed a€?mud peoplea€? by the locals, had come to Italy after the flood to help restore the frescos and objects da€™art.
The windows are open to the light and you can look out, from one end of the upper gallery, to the Arno River below. The Europeans seem to consciously expose their children to art and literature and culture on a much greater scale than we do. We ordered(16K) and chatted with the bar tender in our best Italian and enjoyed the ambiance of the place. The Villa is a pale- yellow, two -story Italianate mansion sitting amidst sculpted floral gardens and overlooking the Tuscan countryside. The waiters served us courses of Insalata, Risotto, pasta con mushrooms, Potatoes with cheese and peas and a lemon torte for desert. It always seemed like a carnival and it was enjoyable just to stop and watch the swirl of people and events. After a quick shower, we met the Meads and the Lyncha€™s in the hotel dining room for breakfast, before our 8 A.M. As we passed the beautiful shore of Lake Trebbiano, Lucio explained the significance of this sight in Roman History. Hannibal and his Carthaginian invaders sat undiscovered at the head of the narrow defile along the lake that we now traversed.
Two mighty armies and peoples had pounded upon the granite slate of history with waxen mallets,their impressions all too soon faded and worn by the fibrous and scouring sands of time. We and hundreds of others listened to the Mass in Italian and sat respectfully in this historic old church.
We saw Berninia€™s famous a€?four riversa€? fountain and the many swirls of tourists that gather here nightly. We sought Cena(dinner) at a place nearby that Lucio had recommended .It was one of the few restaurants open on Easter Night.
As we wandered around and tried to imagine the cheering throngs that once sat here, I could hear in my minda€™s ear the savage cries and the roar of the crowd.
It was here that the victorious Roman Generals marched in triumph to the Forum, to receives accolades from the Roman Senate. The store offered various packages of reliquary that could be sent over to the Vatican to be blessed and delivered later to your hotel room. Hundreds of times I have seen this square on television, as a Papal address was given or more dramatically, when a new pope is elected.
Mass was being said at the main altar and priests from many nations were giving confession in a dozen languages. You could feel the hurt in her eyes and sense the forlorn helplessness of a mother whose child had been taken from her. We walked from the hotel, across the Tiber, up the Via Corso and across the Via Condotti to the Spanish Steps. Most seemed to be Italian families out for the day on a€? Pasquitaa€? or a€?little Eastera€? holiday.
Built by Pope Sixtus IV as a private Chapel, the church was divided into an inner and outer chapel, separated by a 12 foot, ornate, wrought-iron screen. The first fifteen feet are painted as purple velvet curtains.The texture of the work leads you, from a distance, to watch the curtains lest they move. Marie saw a nice leather coat in a small store and bought it The shop owner formerly had a girl friend that lived in Buffalo.He had even visited once,small world. Pagan, Christian or other, it is a place designed for quiet contemplation and harmony with the elements of nature.
It had been at various times the tomb of an emperor, a fortification,a prison and is now a museum.
As we sat in anticipation, the strolling minstrels played the Mandolin,.picollo, and folk guitar in nostalgic Italian folk songs.
It was pleasant to walk amidst the Roman night and remember all that we had seen and done in one of the most ancient of European capitols. It is the avenue North from Naples and the major reason the Allies had landed at Sorrento in WW II. It is named for the Spanish Ambassador at a time when the Kingdom of Naples was a part of Spain. We watched the trained artisans etch and carve the medallions, rings and various pieces of jewelry from the shells. The weight of the ash had collapsed all of the ceilings and the effect looked like a scene from a WWII movie after an aerial bombardment. They and the mural in the vestibule, with the outsized priasmic phallus, drew the most snickers from the tourists.
Soon we came to the small coastal town of Sorrento, where we were to stay for the next three nights. The bus carried us back to the hotel where we read ,caught up with journal entries and surrendered to a conversation with ozzie nelson.
The lemon and orange trees were swaying gently and the birds were singing happily in the rain. The topic of conversation was whether or not the jet foil trip to Capri was still a go for today. We rolled side to side and jumped the occasional roller.If you werena€™t holding on tight, you would go rolling down the aisle of the sleek jet-boat like a tumbleweed in the wind.
Roberta shepherded us to the funicular that would take us up the hillside to the lower village of Capri.
We gazed out across the deep blue Mediterranean, admiring the two massive rock formations in the harbor. The sun was shining and we had a gorgeous view of the bay and mountains along the shoreline. We stopped for ice cream at a small stand and watched the shoppers come and go.It was one of those sunny Mediterranean afternoons that give the area its magic and allure. After a shower and breakfast in a€?Re Artu.a€? we boarded our bus for the daya€™s excursion, the main feature of which was to be a drive along the scenic Amalfi Coast.
The sales rep gave us a demo of the various types of woods used and the process involved in making the elaborately in-laid and finely crafted furniture. Mussolini had first built the original stretch in the 1930a€™s.It had since been widened but is still a narrow two lanes, traversed by a monstrous crush of tour buses and traffic. We were lucky too have so able a pilot steering us safely over roads as potenially treacherous as these. Tour buses were only allowed in the Southbound direction along the Amalfi drive, because of the hairpin turns and narrow passageways.
We followed a series of five miles of winding and heart stopping switch backs, rising some 1200 feet from the valley floor,.to this magnificently reconstructed white limestone edifice. Here, a central green space is dominated by statuary depicting the dying St.Benedict, upheld by two monks supporting the sainta€™s lifeless form. It was she who had started the custom, followed to date, of including a library and chapel in every Benedictine monastery.
Each in his own way had looked after the interests of the order, perhaps in a time of great need for the brothers. It is covered with lustrous marble and trimmed in gold.The bronze candelabra sparkled in the dim light and I could feel one of those time-warping mind blinks forming. They were the last twenty or so remaining monks in the complex, an unbroken monastic chain stretching from antiquity.
Like most Monestaries during the dark ages , the Abbes were centers of learning and repositories for artwork .Perhaps it explains why they were so often sacked by the marauding barbarians.
It was sunny, cool and in the 50a€™s out.The Via Condotti and environs were as crowded as usual, with their weekend visitors.
We ran into Bill and Marie Mead along the way and decided o take a last look at St .Petera€™s and the Vatican.
It seemed like we had the known the Meads for a very long time and were casually comfortable in their presence. We stopped for a time and said a prayer at one of the small altars, thinking ourselves privileged to do so. Inscribed upon it is the lineal array of the Popes form Peter, in the upper left hand corner, to Jean Paulus I in the lower right hand corner.It is an unbroken chain of some of the most important and powerful men in History.
The room was circular with a high and vaulted ceiling Fluted doric columns supported the walls and the large floor to ceiling windows gave the aura of a private garden in a Roman Villa.
At times like these, you can only pretend not to know the person involved and run for the door. Unlike many other peoples in the world, the Italians rarely boast of their nationa€™s many accomplishments in Literature, the arts, sciences and a dozen other fields of study. The new European Community is in the process of dismantling all of the cumbersome customs checks between its member states. We walked along the Lake promenade and noted with interest the statues of George Washington and the Swiss hero, William Tell. It was too high for me.The last few hundred yards of the journey looked almost vertical in its ascent.
We settled in with Bill and Marie Mead for courses of pasta, salad, omelet(for me) and finally a Torte with cafea€™ for desert. We saw musical scores and various mementos from operas created by the Italian masters Puccini,Verdi and Donizetti. It was rebuilt according to original specifications, by the Italian Government, after the War. The imposing Soave Castle could be seen far off in the distance, dominating a hilltop and commanding the region.
We walked them and admired the architecture.Off one small lane we entered a courtyard,that of the Capuletti (small hat) family. From the terminus of the causeway we boarded motor launches, for the 20 minute ride along the picturesque Grand Canal, to a landing area near our hotel, the 800 year old a€?Saturnia.a€? Another motor launch had been hired to carry our luggage to the hotel. Alessandro informed us that on 100 days of the year the square is entirely submerged in the waters of the nearby Adriatic.
In this way, the Venetians insured a reasonable turnover in their chief executives.The average Doge ruled for 9 years.
The Venetians had developed the techniques for making transparent glass in the 16th century and later the technique for making glass mirrors by adding silver to one side of transparent glass. These vessels are sleek, ebony, highly -decorated canoe -like structures that operate with one large oar working off a stern mounted fulcrum and a hearty gondolier to propel them. After some exploring, we came upon the Museum but did not want to fight the hordes of students and tourists already occupying the place.We continued walking along the quaint back alleys and passed by the renowned a€?Peggy Guggenheima€? Museum of Modern Art.
How were we going to get across without retracing our steps to the nearest bridge far behind us? Mariea€™s nephew Michael and girlfriend Jennifer were able to join us for dinner and we enjoyed their company.


Around his altar and tomb are pictures, letters and mementos from people who had their prayers answered by St.
Many of its streets are lined with a colonade-type of walkway created by an overhanging second story of the buildings. My own brother Mike had attended this Universitya€™s Perugia Campus, so we took a few pictures for him. It is a wonderful old trattoria that is a favorite of students and revelers.We descended into a basement that could well have been found in Bavaria.
We checked into room # 334, unpacked, wrote some journal entries and tried to relax before dinner.
It is faced with green marble and trimmed in both red and white marble.Next to it and somewhat asymmetrical is the Agiotto bell tower, faced in the same marble motif. Along the hallways, almost casually placed, are scores of Greco Roman statuary salvaged from private villas, public buildings and many other sources throughout the empire.
The Florentines had ordered all of the gold merchants to center here in the middle ages.They and many jewelers still plied their trades along this venerable bridge over the Arno. Even the rain could not dampen the splendor of the place.Three fire places were ablaze as we entered the cozy villa.
We washed down this magnificent repast with both red and white wine and mineral water as a musical group played Italian folk songs. We had breakfast with Tom and Nancy Martenis, from Vermont , and then set off walking the narrow streets of Florence. The Piazza Duomo was, as always, awash in tourists.We briefly admired the church, bell tower and Baptistry before continuing on.
The sidewalk vendors performed a continual ballet of cat and mouse with the Carabinieri who shooed them away whenever they came upon them.The Ponte Veccio was similarly awash in people. It stands 8 levels high and has that delightful a€?wedding cake a€? appearance so prominent in the Romanesque style. The baptistry is similarly styled and the three building are harmoniously attractive architecturally as a grouping.The a€?leana€? of the bell tower makes a delightful photograph against the granite solidity of the other two structures. The Romans, thinking perhaps to catch the Carthaginians unawares, started their march in the predawn hours into the narrow defile.
Curiously, scores of tourists still filed down the side aisles headed for the tomb of St.Francis on the lower level, economics I suppose. The storied and very expensive Hotel Hassler stands at the top of the stairs awaiting the well heeled. It was properly titled as a€?La Vigna dei Papia€? or the Vineyard of the Pope, but to us, it became the a€?Popea€™s Deli.a€? We had a wonderful minestrone zuppa, insalata, vegetables with desert, mineral water and several flagons of a tasty red wine, all for the modest sum of 75k Lire( for 2).
Made of brown brick and originally faced with white marble, it now stands as a crumbling reminder to the glory that was Rome. Much like our own football and baseball stadia, the fans scurried to their seats cursing the traffic and hoping not to miss the thrill of the first contact and the approving roar of the mob.
Nuns and priests from the far flung regions of the world wide church walked respectfully and purposefully amidst the sprawl of tourists from as many countries. Even were it not religious, this carved block of marble would inspire awe and appreciation.
It was sunny and warm out and the area was a throng of people.We sat by the fountain and watched the ebb and flow of the tourists as they took pictures, drank from the fountain(ugh) and milled about, not realizing that the principle activity was to sit and watch the others.
A nice desert and all washed down with mineral water and liberal quantities of Abruzzi wine .
We had an early 7:15 bus to see one of the worlda€™s most renowned masterpieces, The Sistine Chapel. She told us that the normal wait could be up to two hours with a line winding back a mile or so into St.Petera€™s square. Trump La€™oeil paintings along the ceiling gave us the impression of three dimensional sculptures hovering above us. It seems Michailangelo wasna€™t above a fit of pique ,depicting a troublesome Vatican secretary as a horned devil in hell.
It was windy and cool out as we returned to the hotel to pack for our departure tomorrow morning and prepare for dinner.
The area Commander, American Mark Clark, resisted at destroying an Italian National Monument. Italy long ago must have been a pyrotechnic land shaking with continuous earth tremors , the skies covered with ash from the erupting volcanoes.
It certainly puts everyone on notice to consider well what others will find and view in your home after your passing. The mind blink was warping in and out as images of ancient people inter phased with the modern tourists walking the lanes. It faces the bay with two wings of four stories of rooms.Five outdoor pools empty into one another on a second and lower terrace A Grand central lobby, with bars and restaurant to the sides, faces out onto a broad patio that overlooks the Bay of Naples. Still who could complain?The lemon and sour orange trees abounded in the hotel garden, the sweeping bay was gorgeous and the warm air wafted over us with the scent of lemon and orange.It worked for me.
Traversing roads that were higher and narrower than those around a€?Big Sur.a€? in California. We stopped for pictures at a scenic overlook and fruit stand in Positano, the birth place of Sophia Loren. It was a delightful repast .The restauranta€™s hard earned reputation for great food and pleasant surroundings is well justified . We returned to our rooms to pack for departure and sleep, tired with the long and busy day. Finally, a massive earthquake had leveled the place in the 1300a€™s Now here it stood, pristine and formidable, a monument to the staying power of a remarkable and at times very powerful order of Monks. The real estate here abouts is consecrated in the blood of many fine young men from lands far and near. On the whole we had found Italian merchants to be uniformly pleasant, inordinately honest and genuinely helpful and patient especially with the exasperating antics of the army of multi lingual tourists.
We milled for a time amidst the crowd, enjoying as always people watching and the diversity of the crowd We did not know when we would walk this way again.
We viewed and admired again Michaelangeloa€™s Pieta by ourselves and then walked slowly and respectfully around the floor of the most famous and spectacular church in Christendom. Then, we had a lighting 12 minute breakfast with the Meads and ran to catch the bus for the airport.
The plane, a wide-bodied monster, was packed to the gunwales with passengers of all types.We spotted a few Central Holidays carry on bags and wondered if these folks would be on the tour with us.
Lucio pointed out the a€?CHa€? designation on the license plates of the Swiss automobiles.It stands for Confederation Helveticorum, the Roman and official name of Switzerland. It has a wonderful pedestrian promenade lined with sycamores and Cherry trees that were just starting to bloom. In the performance hall, the audience seating is constructed in a a€?Ua€? shape facing the enormous stage. Historians credit Marini for making popular the use of macadam for the roads surrounding the facility.The soft material quieted somewhat the noise made by the metal wheels of the many carriages passing by and enhanced the acoustical enjoyment of the house. There, on the second level, is what is thought to be the balcony featured so prominently in Shakespearea€™s a€?Romeo and Juliet.a€? If it isna€™t the real one, it should be. The Gondoliers and their gondolas competed for space with the water taxis and work boats along the many narrow side canals.
Fettucini with Tuna, salad, Dover sole,risotto with cockles and shrimp,ice cream and coffee, accompanied by red wine and mineral water presented us with a memorable repast. The fourth side is the wonderful Byzantine Masterpiece,the Church of St.Mark , from which the area takes its name. We had a new appreciation for the ornate glassware that we previously thought somewhat tacky. The effect is a vaulted and arched colonnade lined with shops, and safe form the elements. Off in the distance we could see the distinctive shapes of the Duomo with its majestic bell tower and the Chiesa Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross) Mark Twain was a frequent visitor to the area and once remarked that the Arno would a€?be a credible river if someone would pump some water into it .a€? It wasna€™t Twaina€™s Mississippi but it was scenic and pastoral. The hands are brutish and large and I wondered at the contrast to the graceful lines of the whole.The eyes look unfocused and stare off into the distance. Opposite both of these structures is the domelike a€?Baptistrya€? with its fabled 15 foot high doors of gold.The golden portals had been replaced by bronze ones, the originals placed in a museum.
A massive swirl of tourists, from everywhere, window-shopped for gold and jewelry along both sides of the the bridge.
We had Campari and soda and chatted with our fellow travelers while admiring the casual splendor of the formerly private Villa.
We found the Via Turnabuoni and window-shopped the many pricey stores like Gucci, Bvlgari and Cartier.
We walked by the a€?Church of the Medicia€™sa€?.It is now surrounded by what is called the a€?straw marketa€?, rows of vendors and merchants selling cheap leather goods and souvenirs. The tower leans about 14 feet off center and is now counter balanced with steel cables and 900 tons of concrete.
We took a last walk to the Arno River sensing that it would be a long time before we walked this way again. As they marched into the rising sun they could see only the swirling lake and mountain mists above them.They marched confidently and unknowingly into the grinding maw of a killing machine waiting on the slopes above them.
We sat for a time thawing out and awaiting the luncheon that the hotel was putting on for us.
We surveyed, for a time, the swarm of people walking and sitting along the length of the stairs and decided it was time to head back.
We laughed heartily about the two sets of Spanish steps and enjoyed the camaraderie and the enjoyment of being in the Eternal City.The heavens opened while we were inside and we felt grateful to the elements for holding off until we were undercover. I could look above to the Papal balcony, now draped in flowers for the Easter address in 48 languages. Nora shepherded us through the entrance way and via the elegantly paneled elevators, to the second floor level of the Vatican Museum. Three are the works of the master, Botticelli, the others by Perugino and his school, depicting biblical scenes and medieval Italy. His Intelligence section had informed him that the Germans were not occupying the Abbe or using it as a defensive position.Churchill intervened with Eisenhower, who acceded to the New Zealandera€™s plea.
One wonders, like Thornton Wildera€™s a€?Bridge of San Luis Reya€?, what quirk of fate brought these people to this unfortunate time and place. We read for a while and then, to the faint odor of lemon and orange blossoms, drifted off to sleep. Our tour company had been thoughtful enough to get one, so we inched into the sea side parking area where some forty other tour buses sat in rows awaiting their camera clicking occupants. The Moorish arches in the colonnade, along the front vestibule, were visually pleasing and a nice adaptation of another integrated architectural style.
There were 5 star resort hotels like the a€?Grotto Emeraldaa€? and the a€?Santa Caterinaa€? along the way, but they passed in a swirl of mist.Without so daring and capable a wheel man we may well have been sitting in a cafe someplace waiting for the weather to clear. There was even a sign, posted outside the rest stop in Italian, warning of shady characters offering items for sale, with cartoon like bad guys depicted.
The Abbe, and the La Scala opera house in Milan, had been the two national monuments reconstructed by the Italian Government immediately following the war. There should be a novel in here some place.It was cold and windy out with a light rain spattering around us, as we approached the rising entrance of this fortesslike Abbe. A short hallway behind the main chapel leads to a grotto of sorts below the main altar.I could see light reflecting from a rather magnificent chamber tiled in deep blue and gold ceramic tiles. They too had hammered upon the granite slate of history, but with a more hardened mallet whose imprint still remains, alive and vital.Only time and winsome fate will determine the duration of its impression. It was a meal worthy of a Roman Senator and a fitting finalea€™ to a gustatory onslaught that would be long remembered by all of us.
For hundreds of years they were a bellicose and fearsome people who dominated, civilized and even terrorized the known world. It appeared to us that the majority of the flight was filled with Italian nationals returning home from a visit to the United States. The trees were first planted by the Romans and named a€?Cherrya€? after the Roman word a€?Cherazza.a€? The term is a truncation of a region in Turkey where the Romans had found the tree in abundance. It was delicious and set well the stage for the ensuing caloric tide that was to pleasantly engulf us over the next two weeks.The food here is wonderful. Private boxes rise six levels along the a€?U.a€? The interior floor level of the a€?Ua€? is filled with seating as well. Regions like the Po river valley make up the remainder and are heavily involved in agriculture and grape production.
This marble covered and gilded apparition is an architectural delight.The soaring bell tower next to it dominates Venice.
I had never experienced Varonese or Tintoretto on such a grand scale before and enjoyed immensely the sweeping saga in oil that lay before us. When dried,it is saturated with vegetable oil three times yearly and buffed to a high finish.The result is marble in appearance, yet vibrant and giving to the various strains of the building.
How they manage to steer these fragile craft around the narrow turns and in and out of the crowded boat traffic is a mystery to me, but they did. We saw some energetic young men oaring a sleek black gondola across the choppy waters of the Grand Canal. We sat for a while in the Piazza to watch the crowds swirl and then Mary and I headed back to the Piazza Signorini to enter one of the worlda€™s more renowned art museums,The a€?Uffizzia€? Gallery.
The municipal workers were sweeping the sidewalks with old fashioned besom-style brooms.Then the modern street sweeper and sprinkler would come by and finish the process. I am not sure the haughty Medicis would have approved, but then maybe that was the point of it all. Unable to maneuver in the narrow valley and outmatched by superior cavalry, the Roman legion was ground to pieces against the Carthaginian phalanx.
In a bright and high- windowed room, over looking the valley below,we were served Pasta, vegetables(for me) ,cream puffs, white wine, mineral water and cafea€™latte. We walked on in the night admiring the lighted splendor of the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument, through the Piazza Venezia and along the busy Via Corso to the upscale Via Condotti and finally to the most famous gathering point in Rome, The Spanish Steps , named after the former residence of the Spanish Ambassador. It was a family outing in ancient Rome.The language had evolved to English for us, but the thirst for blood and the animal frenzy of the crowd remain with us even today.
The victorious general, driven in an ornate and ceremonial chariot ,nodded approvingly at the tumultuous cheers from the Roman people. My minda€™s ear heard the cheer of the teeming throngs who often packed the square to hear the Papal address a€?il Papaa€? they chanted. Nora was taking us directly to the Sistine Chapel, bypassing the rest of the museum in order to give us time to better enjoy the chapel unhurriedly. There are more interior Corinthian columns, along the circular walls and supporting the circular and convex dome whose center is open to the elements.
Toasts of a€?Arrivederci Romaa€? and a€?Salutea€? passed back and forth.It was a wonderful farewell party for those leaving Italy tomorrow. The Abbe was bombed and completely leveled, much to the anger of the Italians then and now.
Outside, we got a delicious Italian treat from a small pushcart vendor,lemon ice(2k) .It was delicious. In front of the 5 star Hotel Quisianna, playground of the well heeled, Roberta cut us loose for a few hours to have lunch and do some shopping. Someone actually did approach me, but unknownst to him I hadna€™t a clue as to what he was saying in his staccato burst of Italian. Yet today, they are a gentle, good-hearted and decent nation who love family and the quiet enjoyments of food, wine and music. Generations of tourists had rubbed her right breast for luck and it sparkled in contrast to the dull sheen of bronze covering the rest of the statue.
Similarly, the floor joists and timbers between floors are constructed all of wood so that thebuilding will give with the stress and strain of frequent movement. Ten panels on the bronze doors ,framed in black marble, depicted various biblical scenes. As we left the Villa Viviani, the skies cleared and a full moon shined over the Tuscan hills.It was the stuff of which tourist brochures are made. Broken swords and bodies littered the scenic landscape for years afterwards.A few of the local village are named a€?pile of bonesa€? or a€?bloody fieldsa€? to memorialize the slaughter. Behind him, in the chariot, stood a slave with a laurel wreath of gold , held over the generala€™s head, whispering in his ear an admonition, the phrase a€?Sic transit gloria.a€? Fame is fleeting.
A roseate marble glimmered in the filtered light from the polished walls.There are several small shrines to San Guiseppe and other saints.
The irony of the situation is that the Germans took over the rubble of the abbe and made an excellent defensive position of it for the coming battle of Monte Cassino, which I will describe later when we visit the abbe. We arrived uneventfully at the hotel around 4:30 and retired to our rooms to read and relax before dinner.
We drove by the 600 year old Visconti Palace, with its imposing tower and battlements.The fortress had once had 132 drawbridges across its formidable moat. The walls of the stone courtyard are covered with hundred of linked initials in heart shapes, a curious graffiti memorial to young love. An enterprising photographer took snaps of us in the gondolas when we left and had them developed upon our return. In a mind blink I had traveled across the centuries and now sat looking at a beautiful lake scape where so much death had once occurred.
In any case we much enjoyed our stay as guests in this beautiful land amidst a people that we found both warm and charming.We hope often to return and visit them. Getting a ticket to a performance here is difficult at best,even though the place is enormous. We could well visualize a hearty rendition of a€?Carmena€? or a€?Aidaa€? performed before enthusiastic and cheering crowds. For the first time, I could picture myself chanting a€?Bravoa€? during a performance and not looking pretentious.



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