Jeff and Carrie's Trip to Italy
Friday, August 13, 2004
Thursday, August 12, 2004
We made it home... finally! After getting up at 5am Central Europe Time (11pm Eastern Daylight time!)
It was an interesting trip home involving switching flights at the last minute, getting home two hours early... taking two trains, a taxi, a subway and bumming rides off two different people!
Maybe photos if I am up later...
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Milan and two last suppers
One last night in Italy. We made the train ride from Venice to Milan today... through the foothills of the Dolomites, Verona (the setting of the fictional Romeo and Juliet, which the town actually claims real sites from the play). A mile-long stretch of the track runs next to Lago Garda... about a 30-mile long lake with theAlps at the end.
Finally we arrived in Milan. More so than even Naples, Milan looks like a city in the United States. Modern business/residential skyscrapers are all around while many of the forms of transportation (subways, buses and trams) are as modern as any other city. I also found more fast food places, even non- American ones, serving quick Italian Meals.
The Basilica (Duomo) in Milano, located in the Piazza Duomo, is the fourth largest in the world. Unfortunately its gothic facade was under construction, but we were permitted to climb to the roof...had to duck under a couple of demon-gargoyle looking creatures. From the roof, the Milan metro area seemed unending and the alps were too far away to see. Inside the building, the only light we saw was through giant glass windows. About 30-40 feet high by 15 feet wide... with 1X1 pictures of Jesus's life... there were about 10 of these panels around the inside.
Our last stop was the church Santa Maria della Grazie. Inside the church, 'the Last Supper'. As you may know, the experimental painting of the wall made the painting nearly completely destroyed within 30 years (this was 4 centuries ago)... not to mention WWII bombings that took down supporting walls next to it and a door put in underneath it... but through restoration it is still there. The room it is in, an old dining hall for monks, is dark with no windows, high ceilings (an uninspiring fresco on the other side of the room)...the hall itself no longer than 25 feet. But up on the wall is this masterpiece. I wouldn't have believed that was the original without the background information.
We are spending the night in Gallarente... a suburb of Milan, not far from Lake Como and the foothills. Since we are finally out of a the tourist area, we had to search a bit for a trattoria for the evening's meal. We ended up finding a spot and for once, Carrie and I were the only English speakers there. I finally had to use Italian primarily to order. One of the waitpeople's English was strong, but I was mostly able to communicate through his native language. When the table next to us asked the waiter why he was speaking English to me, the waiter's answer was 'he's answering in Italian. he can speak it'. I guess I can foul someone other than myself! I talked a bit with the man next to us before we left... he told me I was going to eat very well tonight... and we did!
Be back Thursday! Cant believe two weeks went so fast
-Jeff and Carrie
ps, photos Thursday night!
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
One would think it would be very hard to get lost in a city that has no roads, but Venice is a maze of streets which allowed us to get a little off-track but still manage to see to see the sights we wanted to visit. The first day, once we left our boat for the hotel and finally found it, we visited St. Mark's Square. The inside of the church, which was named after a Saint whose body was stolen by tomb raiders from Egypt, was ornately decorated with gold (also stolen from four different holy crusades. We also visited other sites in the square, including the belltower, which at 250 feet is the hightest point in Venice. I was surprised to find, from up there, that the buildings of Venice were similar to Florence with their covered roofs. I was also surprised to find that Venice was surrounded by islands in all directions. On the way to Murano (where all the Venetian Glass Factories are located) we passed an island seminary completely walled from the sea. We also visited Burano, home of the lace factory, where almost all buildings are painted a pastel color.
The Doges Palace was another memorable sight... holding all the government buildings of Venice and the leader's appartment in the same hall. Also, a prison... which is accessed by crossing the only covered bridge in Venice over canal... the Bridge of Sighs... named for the one last view of Venice the captors would see before their internment.
For Carrie's birthday, we went and saw a concert in a church, performed in costume. The five-member orchestra performed many songs I'd played before in orchestra as a youth (Vivaldi, Pachebel, Vivaldi). After we left, we walked to St. Mark's square again where the cafes had set up their night tables in the square. For each set of chairs there was a different orchestra playing. It almost seemed a fierce competition between the groups, always forgoing softer pieces for flashier classical numbers like the William Tell Overture or something by Listz or a Salvic Dance. I even heard Aaron Copeland's Hoedown in the mix... I remember struggling through that song on the cello in high school. Certainly more American than any other classical piece I've heard... if that doesn't make you think of a county fair (Durham Fair for example) than I dont know what will.
Venice has been a laid-back portion of our trip. Unlike Rome and Naples/Sorrento, we've barely gone anywhere our feet wouldn't take us... aside from a few boat rides. We still haven't taken a gondela yet! Maybe tonight. According to one of our travel guides, the best part of the Venetian experience is getting lost. The walkways are not laidout in any fashion, but all of them have signs that point to major landmarks like the Accademia Bridge (near the museums were we saw all the Carvaggios) or St. Mark's Square. Venice is a city like none other... nearly 100 bridges for walkers only and only three over the grand canal. On our last night, we plan another night of meandering around the city and enjoying the many places we see the reflection of the moon.
-Jeff and Carrie
next is Milan!
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Well, here is another quick post.. the internet card is about to run out. On the computer next to me, the keyboard doesn't have an N key, so I have to be happy with what I got.
Today was a road trip into Tuscany. We first visited Siena, a city that is proud to be stuck in the 1300s. The roads were like a hamster maze and in the center was a large, bricked courtyard. Fences were set up for the bi-annual PALIO. I'd suggest taking a look on google/yahoo to figure it out, but basically it is a horse race which involved 10 of the 17 Constrads (districts) of Siena where the horses are all blessed before the race and during the race, well "anything goes"... About 50,000 people fit into the town square to watch the race. I'll definitely write more about this later on... once I have a couple of pictures...
We also visited San Gimignano... like a 1400s mini-mall. In the heart of Tuscany, it was a midway point between rivals Firenze and Siena. Siena, which lost half of its 60,000 residents (at the time) to the Black Plague, was at war with Florence for nearly a century before Florence finally won out. San Gimignano, approached from a distance, looks like any other hill in Tuscany, until we got close enough to see that the top of the hill had giant watch towers, not cypress trees.
Touring through Tuscany, much like Vermont in the fall, it was easy to understand why so many people find it such a beautiful place. We actually drove by a bowling alley though! With English signs! Right by a vineyard! But usually, aside from the cheap vinyard offices set up along the way to sell Chiante, Tuscany is rugged and naturally aesthetic. Again, with the pictures I'll show more.
We spent in the night again in Florence... interesting street magician act.. also interesting to see the street vendors hide their goods when the cops drive by.
Sorry if this is a pretty lame entry... I'd love to get into the Palio anymore (think High School Football meets the Kentucky Derby ... all for a flag of the Virgin Mary)... Siena itself is as difficult to navigate as it is to explain....
Tomorrow we leave for Venice... certainly there will be more there!
-Jeff and Carrie.
PS... I left my cell phone in Scott's Car!! Hope he knows when to pick me up.. if you are reading this Scott.. Baggage claim area.
Friday, August 06, 2004
Florence Part 2
Walking around a corner there is a row of unfinished statues that lead up to a Michaelangelo's David, an ironic site at that. The statue towers over everything else in the room and the "common man" David is now the Goliath. Carrie and I spent time at the Accademia Gallery today and saw the works of Michaelangelo including his unfinished "Prisoners". Today was museum day. We also went to the Gallerie degli Uffizzi... home of Botticello works and many other renaissance pieces. It took us almost two hours to see everything at the Uffizzi and, although the works were mostly contained on one floor, we still felt a bit rushed.
The other museum we visited was the Science Museum which contained many archiac scientific instruments used by the original renaissance scientests. We saw a machine that could be used to predict the orbits of the planets and a room full of scientific molds of child birth. Even Gailleo's finger was on display.
Just before the rain began in the afternoon, we ducked into the Santa Croce. Inside, the cloisters and courtyards barely made us feel like we were in the middle of the city. After a rest, it was off to dinner and a nighttime walk on the Arno (watch out for the bats!)
Tomorrow Siena and San Gimignano!
Jeff and Carrie
Thursday, August 05, 2004
Capri and a long trip to Florence
The one good thing about a soaking rainstorm... as it washes away the dirt on the sidewalks, so go the loads of tourists. After 5 days of hot sun, we travelled to Florence today. After we got situated in our room, we walked outside and the skies opened up. About 2 hours of thunderstorms ensued... but the good news was the Duomo emptied out and we had plenty of solitude as we explored. We snapped some pictures of the bridges over the river Arno, including the ancient Ponte Vecchio (which has buildings on the side of it, sort of like barnacles... only it's expensive jewelers). Florence has a more "renaissance" and elegant look than did the cities of the south. We only just got here, so we'll have more on Florence next time.
As for Sorrento, we finally made it out to the sea, taking the speedy hydrofoil to Capri. Capri is known as a tourist trap, despite the congestion the views on the island were amazing. Capri has a couple of hills over 4,000 feet... we took the funicular to the top of one of them and the hike down, well... next time we wear sneakers. Each town is almost 1,000 feet higher than the town before and requires some sort of chairlift or windy-bus trip to the center. We visited the Blue Gratto, a small cave filled with water. Under the rocks of the cave a blue light appears, caused by the erosion of the rock. It was a quick visit and our boatsman wasn't happy with the tip, but the natural blue light was like a blue aura under each boat. On the way back, we finally got a clear day and could see the summit of Vesuvius, 30 miles away.
The trip to Florence was long.. nearly 400 miles I believe. Six hours on a train, but some neat sites on the way in Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany. Umbria is a place I may consider visiting next time, like the city of Orievata, which is on top of a 1,500 foot volcanic ledge.
We need to dry off now! It's still pouring!!
ps. Jairo - i found your tabus... Carrie's birthday is Sunday!!! she's getting a gondola ride!