Posts Tagged ‘st. peter’s’

St. Peter’s And The Vatican Museum

May 26th, 2009

May26

Statue of St. Peter in front of St. Peter's Cathedral

We were scheduled to meet up with JeanE and Kathie at about 9:15 am on the Bridge of Angels, near the Angel holding the crown of thorns.  We succeeded in that, and it was then a picture fest.  The sun was already beating down, and we were taking tons of pictures while walking towards the Vatican for our appointment at the Vatican Museum.

A Vatican Boxing Match

The walk took us 2 hours.  Wow.

I had ordered our tickets for the museum online, and although the lines weren’t gigantic today, we would have been able to avoid them because of this.  I highly recommend ordering your tickets online if you ever go to the Vatican museum here in Rome, or if you go to the Accademia or Uffizi in Florence.
We hit the last couple of rooms of the museum first, so that when we got to the Sistine chapel, we could duck out the back door directly into St. Peter’s Cathedral.  I pretended to be the group’s tour guide, holding my folder aloft so that they could follow me.

After the last couple of rooms (that we saw first), we were already famished and we would not be able to complete the 6 miles worth of museum unless we ate something.  So we stopped at the cafeteria and had a lunch and a rest.  The first 2 rooms alone seemed like a forever amount of museum.

It is always an interesting experience trying to explore a museum with others.  Everyone has their own style.  Some are fast, some are slow, some like to sit and stare, and others just like to sit.

JeanE was really excited to see the Sistine Chapel, and so around every turn, in every room, she would ask “is this it?”

We reached the Raphael room, which is probably one of my favorite rooms in this museum.  I love his School of Athens painting.  Actually, I think I like all artists that paint archways, or have a similar feel. I’m a big fan of Veronese’s paintings that are similar.

We finally, to JeanE’s delight reached the Sistine chapel.  We hung out there with the crowds for awhile.  They no longer even allow non-flash photography and I thought I would be sneaky and take a non flash photo by holding the camera at my waist.  Well, one of the guards caught me, took my camera, and kicked me out.

OK, the last sentence wasn’t fully true.  He did catch me, and he made me put it away, and he gave me an italian look of disappointment.  But I am used to that sort of look.

We snuck out the back door so that we would get directly into St. Peter’s rather than having to wait in the long line at the front of the church.  Inside the church, we walked around, touched Peter’s toe, enjoyed the mosaic art and most of all the cool temperatures.

Debbie and Steve sat down, and Kathie, JeanE, Lisa and I took the winding narrow stairs to the top of the church for the lookout.  This hike up is really cool, as you get high within the church, within the dome.  You can look down over all of the tourists.  We took the moment to do Owl noises so that we could try to get Debbie and Steve’s attention.  While doing so, we hiked right by mosaics on the wall that you could just reach out and touch.

We got up to the top and enjoyed a spectacular view.

We were there till about 4:30 pm, and then we trekked back to Campo di Fiori and picked up some happy hour snacks.  Following that we walked to dinner to an interesting calzone and pumpkin place.  Yes, a pumpkin place.  Most entrees had pumpkin in it.

It was now bed time.

Being A Big Baby

Playing Duck Hunt

Playing Duck Hunt

Jack Talk Thai Real Good

May 24th, 2009

May 24

bridge of angelsWe have been moving so fast, seeing so much, tiring ourselves out for almost 2 weeks now that I think the lack of sleep is catching up to us.  We rested late, but kept worrying if we were gonna over sleep the pope.  It is Sunday and I want to see the Pope give his blessing at noon from the Vatican.  I figure, I am in Rome, its a Sunday, there aren’t too many of these opportunities in life.

It was super hot again today.  We had a 20 minute walk to St. Peter’s Cathederal.  It was actually really pretty weather and we took many pictures along the way, along the Tiber River.  I love the Bridge of Angels and the way Bernini depicted them.  Its a beautiful walk.

We arrived at the cathederal around 11:30 and there was a LONG line of people wrapping around the square to get in for the Sunday Mass.  We huddled under the symmetric collonade so that we could be in the shade.  Noon arrived, and we went out into the square so that we could peer up to the window where he makes his blessing.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46az6tXTcg0

However, today he was out of town, and was giving his blessing via CTV, the pope television video boards that now are in strategic locations around the square.  We watch for about 20 minutes and then decide its time to get out of the scorching heat and go eat some lunch.

We walked thru Vatican city and found our way to an italian restraunt-go figure.  A pizza, ravioli and frizzante lunch hit the spot.  The air-conditioning felt good.  At one moment during lunch, a family came in with about 10 people, including what must have been their priest.  It was cute to see them taking their priest to lunch.  I felt badly that he had to wear all black in this heat.

We walked back towards our neck of town, and stopped at the internet cafe.  I was feeling really grossed out about our apartment, and really worried about it serving the needs of my parents when they arrived.  So we spent about 90 minutes searching the internet for an alternative place to stay.  JeanE and Kathie are coming to town and they reserved a place so they could be nearby us.  We couldn’t book a place now the other side of town.  But did I feel comfortable staying in our place one more night?  Did I feel comfortable hosting my parents with that disgusting bathroom?  We researched many different possibilities.  We looked into renting a room(s) at a hotel that was nearby, and renting rooms for all, somewhere else.  But there was barely any vacancy anywhere.

champheini_smWe are in Rome the week of a large, Super Bowl type event.  It is the UEFA Champions League Finale on the 27th and rooms are all booked as people have come to Rome to cheer on either Barcelona or Manchester United.

When it came down to it, I decided that we were “stuck” in our situation and we just needed to grit our teeth and get thru it.

We left the internet cafe and started walking up the street, when across the street we saw a storefront window that read “Traditional Thai Massage.”  We decided to give it a shot.  I have a hard time turning down any massage as I find them very beneficial and relaxing.

So we walked in, and there is a crew of Thai women sitting around.  We try to talk to them in English, but their language is Italian and Thai.  We finally get them to realize that we want a massage, we don’t have an appointment and we are wondering if there is availability.

There were four types of massage on the menu:  Traditional, Oil, Foot, and Cellulite.  I decided to go for the Traditional–which I was told was stronger, and Lisa ordered the Oil massage–which we were told is more relaxing.

We were led back to our rooms, and the rooms had showers in them.  The lady left these weird clothing items on the bed and then left.  I sat there wondering, “Am I supposed to take a shower first?,”

I decided to just put on the clothing they left out.  It was these thin, light,  white cotton shirt and short combo.  It was kind of like a mini scrubs, but a much thinner, more see-thru (without being see-thru) version.  It was very comfortable.  I lied down on the bed, unsure if I had done the right thing by not showering, if I was supposed to lie down yet and all other questions that occur when its your first time visiting a new masseuse.

The traditional Thai Massage was an interesting massage.  It was less of a massage, and more of a stretching, contortion sort of exercise.  The lady would bend me and pull me in random directions.  At one time, she was up on the table with me, locking my legs in a weird position with her hands arms and her own leg, and then using one of her feet to push against my butt to pull and stretch my legs.  As odd as it all was, I found it very beneficial.  I felt my muscles stretched, my circulation improved and much more limber.  Since they had not used any oil on me, and was merely yoga type exercises, the shower must have just been for show, or for the other types.  Lisa wrote about it as well.

We then went and tried the hop-on hop-off bus tour.  We were told that the best way was to just buy a ticket on the bus.  There was a stop for the Green bus company right across from where we were, so we stood in line.  They are supposed to come every 10 minutes.  About 45 minutes later, we decide to skip it, since it hadn’t arrived.  We had seen many of the Red bus company drive by, so we tried to go find a Red stop.  We found one not too far away.  We waited there for about 15 minutes, and it finally came.

badrome_sm

I hate Rome ATM's!

We got on board, and the bus started moving.  Went to pay, but they were cash only, and we didn’t have the proper amount.  Darn.  Since the bus already started, we had to wait till the next stop, St. Peters, to get off.  We exited the bus, and got some cash out of the third ATM we saw (stupid Rome ATM’s that don’t work), and then went to the bus stop to get on and take the tour, and enjoy the breeze in the strong heat and humidity.

However, it was too late in the day.  The bus was halfway through its final leg, and would not be making it back to the stop near our place.  And now we are a long 25 minute walk away from our place, its scorching hot, and we are tuckered out and frustrated.

Rome has been very frustrating.  We are towards the end of our trip, and we are tired, emotional, and just need something easy.  But Rome has been extremely crowded, extremely hot and kind of a drag.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this city.  I love the art, the architecture, the food, and the people.  It is just this particular time, this part of the trip, just nothing seems to be going perfect.

We got back to the general area of our hotel and decide to try and eat dinner at this rooftop restraunt that we had passed by the day before.  Finding it again, would be tricky.  Like most nights out, as previously mentioned, finding our dinner restraunt can be fun, yet sometimes gets frustrating and lost.  This was no exception.  We wandered trying to retrace steps and find it.  Finally after some direction asking (Dove Il…)we found it.  However it was reserved and booked full for the night.  So we kept walking.

restrauntrome_sm

We found this charming restraunt, that was really quaint and pretty.  Each table faced the alley way, and was covered with yellow table cloths and had vases of fresh cut flowers and lit candles.  It was really romantic.

We had a cheese appetizer that had a cheese that had pistachios in it.  It was tasty.

After heading back to our apartment for a short break, we decide to go look for a cookie, so we headed out to Piazza Navona.  I love this square.  It’s so pretty.  We enjoyed the nightlife there, but alas, could not find a cookie.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAUMvBzCleg

Went back to the apartment, I took a shower to wash off the heat, and then fell asleep.

John Denver Is Full Of

May 23rd, 2009

May 23

Went downstairs for a coffee and some internet time.  Hung out there awhile while Lisa wrote a post on her site about Montalcino.  Made it back upstairs and packed our bags and settled our things and wrote down some last minute information.  I am kinda intimidated today about Rome and the pick pocketers.  Ive seen them in action, and I’ve heard many stories, but recently I have heard more stories, and success stories (success of the pickpocketers) especially near the main train station in Rome.

I am worried and stressed, though I am sure it will all turn out ok.  What do I have to get stolen?  My watch?  The loads of cash I am carrying?  Passports?  This mini computer?  The bottle of wine?  The souvenir I bought Chaunce?

I am on the train right now trying to fight off the motion sickness from the hour curvy drive to this station, as well as catch up on some of the journal typing on this keyboard whose mouse in the middle is ultra sensitive and continues to throw my typing for loops.  It is really hot and I’ve already been lectured about having the window down.  The conductor assistant came by and put the window up and locked it.  Oops.  Its almost a two hour train ride to Rome, and we are about halfway done.

The train has been really hot, almost unbearable.  All of the windows say to keep them closed because the air-conditioning is on in that car.  Highly unlikely.  We had ours open for awhile, as did others.  When the aforementioned employee came back and scolded us, and locked all our windows.

Not only is it hot, but we are sitting near these two ladies.  One of them seems to be quite irritated with her travel partner, and also seems deathly ill.  Its getting really gross and rude how she keeps coughing and sneezing without covering her mouth.  Does she have the swine?  She looks really really sick.  And a few times I want to just tell her to cover her mouth and nose when she is gonna project her sneezes into the air.  I am THIS close to speaking up.

But I don’t.  But I do occasionally shoot a disapproving look her way when she does it.

Finally we arrive in Rome, and its really hot too!  We are ready for war with the pickpocketers at the station.  When we exit the train, we quickly come across a side exit of the station, and figure we might as well mad dash out here.    We make our way to a cab line that we see, and we get a quote on a ride from here to our rented apartment.  He either said 29 or 39 euros.  We accept and figure, whew, we are safe.  We arrive at our apartment, pay the man, and we are stoked that we made it past the pickpocketers at the station we were worried about.  However, in reading up on cab fares from the train station, we figure that we think we got taken.  In retrospect, we remember even that he didn’t even turn the meter on.  DOH!  (I would later email this information to my dad, to find out that they paid only approx 15 euros when they arrived in Rome a few days later).  A small price to pay for safety.

We arrived at our apartment that we are renting and there is a carabinieri parked and standing across the street with an automatic weapon.  We find the door for our address, but it is locked and we don’t know who to buzz to let us in.  We are standing outside this door for about 20 minutes, thinking our landlord will be here anytime.  Eventually someone exited the door and we were able to get ourselves into the courtyard area inside.

We are sitting here for about an hour, continually going out the front door to check the street to make sure he isn’t sitting out there.  Afterall, he did request we email him yesterday, our arrival time, and he did know that I would not have an available european working cell phone.

We eventually give up and decide to track down a place to try and call the number he had left of his girlfriend, in case there was a problem connecting.  I sent Lisa on the trail.  Approximately 20 minutes later she returned, frustrated with what she just experienced.

She found her way to a tabaccheria where she was rudely shushed out of the store.  She tried to offer a clerk 10 euros to make a local call for us.  She was ignored and treated very unkindly.  She found a calling card for the pay phones, and when she went to use it, she didn’t realize for some time that you have to rip off the corner of the card in order to activate it.  She reached the lady and the lady rudely says “youre there now?”  No kidding lady, we have been here for 2 hours, at the time we said we would.

10 minutes after Lisa returned, and about 2 hours after we arrived around 1:30 PM,  this young high school age man showed up with a grocery bag.  He was neither the guy I had rented the apartment from, nor the lady that he said would meet us at our arrival time.  He took us into the apartment, showed us around, took out a bottle of shampoo and 4 rolls of toilet from his grocery bag and left them with us, provided the keys, took our money and was on his way.

This place is tiny and not very clean.  Granted, it is in a brilliant location just a short walk from the Piazza Navona.  But it is much more cramped than I expected.  And although we had to pay an extra 40 euro as a “cleaning fee,”  it is obvious that it was not fully cleaned after the last visitor.  Beds are made, but there are museum receipts on the table, and hair on the bathroom floor, a gross shower mat, mildew in the shower, and a puddle of water (I hope) behind the bidet that has rusty fixtures.  There is an open bottle of travel shampoo still in the shower, and a topless can of hairspray on the shelf above the sink.   The bathroom and the room are tiny and “cozy.”  The downstairs beds/couches smelled like urine and I would later find yellow stains on the sheets.

I thought to myself that maybe this was all just stemming from the bad first impression that the landlord left on me by standing us up, so I let it go for now and we left the apartment to explore.

We walked around, trying to figure out our surroundings.  We came across an internet cafe and bought a card and surfed the net, left posts, twitters and checked email to holler back to my parents in Montalcino.  We walked to the Piazza Navona and it was much more crowded than I remembered it.

I know, I glorify my previous trip to Europe, and my new memories are shaded by the light and knowledge and experiences of that trip.  I am not saying that my new experiences are any less, I am saying that seeing certain things and places bring back memories and experiences of places.  What I recall of Piazza Navona was a cool “square” (oval in shape really) that had its cafe’s and its people, but was not overly crowded.  And it had this really cool fountain/statue that has become one of my all time favorites.

Well, most of those things still hold true, but now the square if overflowing with people, street performers (boring human statues), and art sellers.  It still is cool though.

We grabbed lunch on the corner where they had a pizza, bruscheta, soda special for 12 euros.  It was tasty.  It was more soupy than the pizza of the north.  Yet, it still is not the perfect pizza.  I tend to like to explore, or get lost, or some might say “wander aimlessly.”  I like to take in the sights, the smells, the people, the scenery.  I like to get a lay of the land and then figure out what to come back to.  Being that I don’t often have a plan per se, I think can be frustrating to Lisa.  I have been trying to be more vocal with what direction my mind is thinking.  We start to head towards the Pantheon, since its not very far from this piazza.

oculus_smThe Pantheon is crowded outside–its another really cool open square with cafe’s–but we make our way thru the people and enter into the building, which isn’t too crowded inside.  This is a really cool building with an oculus that lets in rays of sun, and in wet days, rain as well.  It holds the tomb of Raphael and is a really cool temperature which is welcoming on this hot and muggy day.  I think its one of my favorite things in Rome.  It has a ton of history too and is built with great geometric precision.  Its a building that has inspired many great buildings and domes around Europe.

trevi_sm

It seems that we are now hitting everything.  We walk towards the Trevi Fountian.  This too has become much different than I remembered it.  It must just be my memory of it, but I was completely dissappointed in it.  I remember it being right on the edge of the road, and less confined, and more at an angle.  I don’t know why I am so struck by this, but I’m really flabergasted.  “I always thought the Rockies would be a lot, rockier.”  Oh well, its still a beautiful statue that harbors many emotions for everyone that visits.

spsteps_smWe stayed their briefly, catching our glimpse, our pictures, and our dissappointments, and then followed the signs that led to the spanish steps.  Now I have never been to the spanish steps, so this will be brand new.  It was a long hot walk and my body is really feeling gross and sweaty.  The spanish steps aren’t very easy to find, even with a map–at least the first time.  After walking these crowded streets, we found these crowded steps and did the italian thing and lounged on them for about 10 minutes.  I could do this everyday.  Sit here and just people watch.  There are really hoards of people here.  It’s about 7:00 PM and its sunny, hot, sweaty and crowded.  It hasn’t been the most pleasant of days, but the things we have seen have been ridiculously amazing and fun.  What a day.

Now it was the best time of day, and also a frustrating time of day.  I have loved and looked forward to our dinners every day.  Meals have been my best and most enjoyable aspect of this day to day travelling.  Some nights we go off of a recommendation in the Rick Steeve’s book, and other times we just walk and check menu’s.  It seems that every few feet there is another restraunt.  The trick has been trying to find ones that do not look like tourist traps, serving microwaved food.  Sometimes we have been succesful at this, and other times we have not.

The frustrating aspect has been that I am often looking for, in a restraunt, the perfect balance between sights, food, price and atmosphere.  Too many times a restraunt is lacking one of those qualities, so I say we just continue walking and look for the next one.  The downside of this is that it leads to about an hour more of walking, getting lost, and getting tired.  Tonight is another occasion of that.

crowdedrome_sm

Before These Crowded Streets

We settled on a place to eat, and sat down.  Now a couple days of ago when we went on that cool winery tour with Ceylan (Jay), she mentioned how she was coming to Rome, and we offered to meet up for dinner.  Well we didn’t ever connect after that and so we were on our own.  Now, tonight we are eating on this back alley of restraunts, dark, on the patio, and guess who walks by.  Yep, Jay.  In a big city like Rome, with all of the great resteraunts and locations, we happen to run into the one person that we know is going to be in the city.  We shared salutations and then she went on her way and we finished our meal.

With our belly’s refreshed, and some wine in our system, we decide to try and walk towards St. Peter’s so that we can see it all lit up at night.  It is late though.  And we have exhausted our patience, and our legs.  We got lost trying to get there, and decided to stop at one of the bridges to cross the river, but instead take a few long distance pictures and head home.  It has been a long day, full of difficult times, and exciting sites.

stpeter_sm

These items that we are seeing are beyond belief.  Are we really here?  Sadly, is this trip almost over?  How remarkable is the check list of things we have seen and done today?

We find our way home, and I have to shower off all the grossness.  I am even more grossed out by the shower and bathroom here.  I must block it out and fall asleep.  It is really hot here.

stpeter2_sm

Earth To Italy

April 27th, 2009

So I have been planning a trip to Italy to travel around as well as to visit my parents.  Finding hotels has not been an easy process.  For instance, during my time in Rome, there will be a sporting event that could equate to our Super Bowl. Google Earth has this great feature where you can turn on icons to represent lodging.  But even with that great tool, almost every place I searched for in Rome ended up being unavailable.  Eventually I found a place through http://www.vrbo.com.  

I figured out general locations where I wanted to be situated in each city.  Then, when looking for a room, often the hotel would claim that they are near that location.  But Google Earth has been a great tool in this.  I would merely punch in the address of the hotel, and it would show me exactly where it was in relation to where I wanted to be.  You would be surprised at how many hotels claimed to be near the Duomo in Florence, only to be not so close.

At this point I have everywhere booked, except for 3 nights – 2 of those nights are in the Cinque Terre.  Here are the screenshots from Google Earth and websites where appropriate.

 
Here is my itinerary:

  • May 7th leave San Diego
  • 8th land in Milan
  • 8-9 Lake Como
  • 10th Milan (I am hoping to  get tickets to the soccer game or the opera as a fallback)
  • 11-12 Venice
  • 13-14 Cinque Terre
  • 15, 16, 17, 18 Florence
  • 19, 20, 21, 22 Montalcino
  • 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 Rome
  • May 28th Fly home

 

Lake Como
La Pergola

La Pergola, Hotel and Restaurant, drawn from a sixteenth century-building, lies by the lake, in a most typical fishermen’s hamlet called Pescallo, right on a shore of the promontory of Bellagio, turning south-east and facing the Lecco branch of Lake Como. The House was drawn from a building dating back to 1500, and assigned to a convent in the past centuries. The centre of Bellagio is but 10 minutes’ walk, among the luxuriant olive trees and mediterranean vegetation spread out on the Spartivento Point.

La Pergola

 

Milan
Best Western Cristoforo Colombo
About a 15 minute walk from the train station and about a 15 minute walk from the Duomo.  Im desperately hoping to get tickets to the Juve v. Milan soccer game, but am considering the opera as a backup plan.

milanhotel

Venice
Hotel Ai Do Mori
They have a crappy website.  They need Gorirra.  But it is only about 10 meters from St. Mark’s Square.  

Venice Hotel

 

Cinque Terre
Vernazza
Ivo Camere
The apartment which is also in the center of the town is accessible via a characteristic “carugio” (small side street) and is steps away from the piazza and the sea. 

vernazzahotel

 

Florence
Brunelleschi Hotel 
Hotel Brunelleschi is located in the middle, pedestrian area of the historical center of Florence, just steps away from the Cathedral and the Signoria Square, from a part overlooking the Via Calzaiuoli.

Florence Hotel

 

Montalcino
With My Parents
Next time I get the address from my parents, I’ll take a Google Earth pic.

montalcino

 

Rome
Private Apartment
its perfect location. From there the most important sights of the City can be reached with a short walk. You are just in the heart of the centre. 200 metres from Piazza Navona and Pantheon, 300 metres from Spanish Steps or Trevi Fountain and, in the opposite direction, just crossing the Tiber, you can reach Sant’Angelo Castel and St.Peter Cathedral (400 metres).

Rome Apartment

This Week I'm Thinking About: Bill McCreery