Monthly Archives: September 2017

Italy, last days in downtown Positano and the island of Capri.

Positano town is touristy and busy but somehow manages to exude charm at the same time so somehow the crowds are not as bothersome as they might be. Everyone seems to be enjoying La Dolce Vita and with sights like these round every corner, who can blame them. Bring on the camparis.

Positano from all angles.

Took a one day boat trip from Positano that sails all around Capri (Blue Grotto not accessible due to high tide but we saw a green grotto and various caves along the way) and then let’s you have four hours to explore the island. The furnicular takes you from the docking marina to Capri town but we enjoyed then hopping into an open topped taxi that took us up a very windy edge of the cliff type road to AnaCapri which is far less busy and gives spectacular views in all directions. Again a busy place but nevertheless worth a visit.

Capri Island, the three rocks entryway,the green grotto, and views from AnaCapri. Me enjoying the open topped taxis.

Ice cream flavour Chocolate with cherries

Next stop Ravello.

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Italy, Herculaneum and Pompeii

A great day of stepping back in time. We had a private guide for both and that really helps to appreciate exactly how people were living back then.

Herculaneum was a resort spa town. It is smaller than Pompeii but because it was nearer the sea it was preserved differently and in excellent condition. You can see below the high quality frescoes, the bones (replacements as originals being examined at a university) of the people who ran to the sea to escape on boats presumably but didn’t make it. Being close to the sea more people saw it coming from afar and were able to escape. The other great thing about Herculaneum is it has far less visitors than Pompeii.

Herculaneum

At Pompeii it is all about scale. This was a busy trading town close to the foot of Vesuvius and was famously instantly clouded in gas and ashes. One of the original archaeologists had the brilliant idea to inject some sort of plaster into the bones of those left before they were dug up and as a result there are some perfect copies of those people including all their features. Many were asleep as the eruption happened in the middle of the night. This one was awake and it is thought he might have been a chained slave or prisoner who was not able to do much except contemplate his fate.

There is also a famous brothel area to view with originally preserved stone beds (easier to clean!) and appropriate “get you in the mood” frescos – but out of respect for the delicate amongst you I have not included those.

Pompeii

Italy, Rome  – day 6. Farewell to the eternal city. Great Synagogue,Trevi Fountain and final thoughts

Started off my last day by visiting Piazza Di Popolo and then walked to the Jewish Ghetto area to see the great synagogue (this area had been closed off for three days due to  Rosh Hashanah.). The Roman Jewish population is the oldest in Europe and was never dispersed in 2000 years until the 2nd World war and the arrival of the nazis. The Jewish museum was very interesting and explained a lot about Jewish customs and holidays in an easy to understand way.The synagogue itself is impressive with a decidedly Roman feel to it. The last three popes have visited it. Just outside is Octavia’s Gate (that’s the Roman pic at the bottom!)

Great Synagogue, Octavia’s Gate, Piazza Di Popolo

I had to have one more taste of Caciofi before I left. This is a Jewish origin Roman recipe which is a deep fried artichoke (leaves and heart) which is “crispyfied” and then drizzled with olive oil. I am hooked.

I decided to get to the Trevi Fountain for sunrise – mainly to take some pics before the hordes arrived. This worked well – only about 20 people there at 6.15am! We all looked a bit bleary eyed but worth it for some more Bernini:). And yes of course I tossed a coin in the fountain – I want to go back to Rome for sure.

Trevi fountain – pre and post dawn

And this was my last evening in Rome – perfect evening sun. And gelato flavour of the day was Zabaglione.

Things that surprised me about Rome:

1. There are more than 7 hills and they are not nearly as high as I imagined they would be

2. Recycling of old artefacts started here well before it caught on elsewhere. People just took old Roman artefacts and added them to their houses and so it went on over hundreds of years

3. Because of 2 – many buildings in Rome are like lasagne (multilayered from different time periods often hundreds of years apart)

4. The yellow traffic light stays on for much longer than the green so it is ok to cross on yellow.

5. Everyone seems to drive a smart Ka

6.I now have a better understanding of “what the Romans did for us” (Monty Python reference for those not of my generation).

Final recommendation is to visit Domus Romane – no pics allowed but one of the highlights of my visit. Hard to explain – just go But you need to book for a timed ticket beforehand.

Last day in Rome

Next stop – Positano

Italy, Rome – Day 5. Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Maestro Jocomo, Bramante Cloisters and Nocciole flavour gelato

Yes I’m back looking at art. This time at the galleries and private apartments called Palazzo Doria Pamphilj (thanks for the recommendation Shayne). The room below is a mini Versailles hall or mirrors. Love the painting at the top right – both the money lenders and their clients look pretty dodgy. Then the Raphael of the then Pope – who was horrified that it looked just like him (duh) and finally a death mask (yes they are somewhat obsessed with death over here – at least they were in earlier centuries). 

Art and rooms at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

And here are three paintings by an artist only known as Masetro Jocomo (candle) as no-one knows who she or he was and all he/she was known to have painted were candles. Well whoever it was – they did a fine job.

who was Maestro Jocomo?


Below is the fountain of the four Rivers (another Bernini), the Bramante cloisters which despite their traditional look on the outside housed an ultra modern exhibit inside which included me being in a room with a lot of red balloons! (Thanks again Shayne for that recommendation). After that I needed to eat well and visited Roscioli as recommended by Emma – it was truly fabulous

Fountains of the 4 rivers, Bramante Cloisters and Roscioli burrata and sun dried tomatoes to die for


And for those whose “ice cream Italian” needs a brush up – today’s flavour (courtesy of recommendation from Tania) was hazelnut – which basically tasted like iced Nutella and cream. Sigh……..

Italy, Rome – Day 4. Out and about and some scary Capuchin monks plus basil flavour gelato today.

Just to prove I don’t spend all of my time in art galleries and museums I am sharing some random day and night shots of Rome taken as I’ve been mooching about the city on foot and also from an open top bus tour. It is fairly called La Bella Roma.


The final pic is a snap from the Capuchin Crypt which is decorated with human bones and skulls and as you can see some of these monks who were so holy that they didn’t decompose at the same speed as us mortals – hence some of them look very alive although in fact dead for a couple of hundred years. They seem to have a thing for dead people staying in great shape in Rome – Cecilia, a couple of the former popes in the Vatican and now this. It was certainly bizarre and as they so nicely put it 

“What you are now we once were; what we are now, you shall be”. So there you have it!

Italy, Rome – Day 3 – Catacombs, Theatre of Marcellus, Borghese Gallery and oodles of brilliant Bernini and captivating Caravaggio. Not to mention pistachio flavour gelato – all bliss.

I was in luck today as met another traveller at my hotel who had booked a private full day Rome tour and who asked if I wanted to join him – I certainly did as it included two spots I had wanted to see but hadn’t managed to confirm. En route we stopped at the Theater of Marcellus which shows really clearly how layered Rome is with Republic era Rome, Empire era Rome, Medeival Rome and then sometimes more modern Rome usually one on top of one another – it gives  the concept of going underground a whole new meaning and they were certainly master recyclers. Note below that above these Roman arches are apartments – which are still being lived in and are worth a fortune. What an amazing view they have.

Theatre of Marcellus

These are the catacombs of St Sebastian (we preceded this with the underground tour of St Clemente church but no pics allowed) which you access via the Appian Way (the “bees knees” of Roman Roads). They run for something like 9 kilometres which is why you need a guide to show you around or you might never come out! There are simple tombs for the plebs (Roman reference not mine) and then there are also three necropolis (necropoli?)- these are family tombs for the wealthy and are well decorated as you can see – and remember they are from around 300AD.

Catacombs of St Sebastian


Was very excited to visit the Borghese Gallery for the two geniuses (genii?) artists – Caravaggio and Bernini. 

Starting with Caravaggio – he was a bit of a rebel and changed the way light was painted away from the tradional approaches of the time. He liked a black background and most importantly he employed realism. The first pic (top left) is his own self portrait; the one of the Madonna was very controversial as the child was too old and naked and had no halo, the angel looks like a witch and the face used for the Madonna was that of a local prostitute. No-one quite knows why but my view is that he wanted to select a person who might also not know for sure who the father of her child was. Anyway Caravaggio got into a lot of scrapes and fights and was always being rescued by his patrons but then died under mysterious circumstances. 

Caravaggio at the Borghese


Finally my favourite of the day – Bernini. The sculpture of the reclining lady was Napoleon’s sister – considered somewhat racy as you might imagine. The image of David about to defeat Goliath with his sling is supposed to be his head (but probably not his body!). But the star of these sculptures for me are the cushions that Napoleon’s sister is reclining on as you feel you could squish them if you wanted to. Even more amazing is the hand of Pluto on Persephone’s Thigh and her hair. Hard to remember this is solid marble!

Bernini at the Borghese