Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Day Of Day Trippin'....

So today we had planned to take off for the day to the old Renaissance town of Sienna...it is a walled city still intact and sits up on a hill.

We headed to the bus station as we were told this was the best way to travel.
I think it was like a 45 minuted drive.

Below is one of the many pictures taken looking out a window that my cousin Lonnie took.
She just loved all the countryside we went through on this trip.
This is a view of Tuscany from the window of a bus.

 we reached the town of Sienna and at first a little confused on where to go as there were no signs. We stopped and got a map that we soon found out we didn't need.
Once we started out on our first street we just walked and tucked the map away.
 This place was beautiful and filled with tons and tons of people.
We walked, we looked, we took pictures, we shopped...shops were everywhere.
I could just imagine back in the day of horses and Knights and their shops and homes along these cobbled roads.
 We stumbled along this beautiful church...we didn't go in...there were lots of people and we just enjoyed it's beauty from afar.
 and behind me inthe picture below is the center of this old town...this square is huge and apparently races use to take place here and today still do twice a year...we just missed one of them, it happened while we were in Rome...how cool would that of been and they also dress in the clothing from back in the day.
 there were tons of people around this square, there was a castle as well and then places to eat but during this time of the day it was all sun...no shade....so we just shopped and walked and took it all in.
 One of the many fruit stores.
 laundry hanging
 and then we found a small quite place along one of the cobble stoned streets that was shaded and so  it was time to sit and relax....we shared a pizza and a bottle of wine
Cheers to the cousins vacation and to another wonderful day.
Over lunch we had decided we had seen all we had come to see and it was time to head back...but since we still had a lot of the day left we decided we would take another trip and this time we would go the same distance but the opposite direction.

We were going to go to Pisa.

So, we felt the best way to accomplish this would be to head back from where we started in Florence and go from there so we would know the right way to get back from Pisa to Florence....after all I didn't want to be lost at night somewhere in Italy.

When we got back to the bus station we found out the bus from Florence doesn't run to Pisa, that we would have to take the train....so we went across the street to the train station and bought our tickets through the ticket machine and then we couldn't figure out where we were to catch the train....there was no platform number.
We got some help but then had to rush cause our train was leaving in 2 minutes...we just made it...which seemed to be our theme on most of these trains.

We arrived in Pisa an hour later .... got a cab.... and said, to the leaning tower please.
Below is the museum and church next to the tower.
People were everywhere.
 It was so cool to see the leaning tower...certain angles it looked like it leaned more and from another angle it didn't looked like it leaned at all...was so strange and cool at the same time.

Below is my cousin Lonnie in front of The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
 and there's me
 and then taking the famous pose of looking like your pushing the tower back up...it was funny seeing all the hundreds of people in different directions taking their poses.
 and then theres me and at my angle it looks like I'm holding it up pretty good...not as much lean.
After our photo moments we walked the shops across from the tower and shopped the shops before they were sarting to close and got our souvenirs....t-shirts for the grand-babies, a photo frame for our picture and my ornament....I look for a ornament every place I go and finally found one and by accident as I was paying for the picture frame, it was in the back of the store near the register...these stores were more stalls than shops and too small to really walk in so most of our looking was from out front...anyway, glad I found my ornament other wise I would of never saw it.
Then it was time to catch a cab back to the train station and end our evening in Florence.
What a night we had....tune back in tomorrow to see how our last night in Florence turned out.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Under The Tuscan Sun

Today is Day 4 in Italy and today we head to Florence.
Florence is a city in the region of Tuscany.

Our train ride was about an hour and a half and to help pass the time away we had a small bottle of wine with our conversation and sightseeing from the train window.
 Once we arrived in Florence we found a taxi to take us to our hotel....The Hotel Regency,
It was a really nice hotel (as was the one in Rome) the hotel sat back away from everything...it was in a quite area.

Once we arrived our room wasn't ready...it was suppose to be ready at 2 and it was 2:30...so we had a glass of wine and waited about 30 minutes.
Once in our room we unpacked just a little and got ready to head into town and check out Florence.

We had the map...as you can see below Lonnie had the map and she was gonna be the navigator...
We got a couple blocks from the hotel and it was obvious Lonnie wasn't sure where we were going or what the direction was (sorry cuz)....those who know me very well know I don't do maps...I don't listen when someone gives me directions, I expect who I'm with to take care of all that...so I took over the map, which was a very BIG deal.

It took me a minute to figure it out, their streets run differently and every block has a different name....but I got it figured out and we were on our way.
I'm The Map! I'm The Navigator! I'm The Bomb!
 Above is just one of the many streets we went down...some their were shop vendors...some with restaurants and some with both....lovely quaint streets.

Below is The Arno River and The Ponte Vecchio
which means Old Bridge.

This was the destination we were aiming for when we left our hotel and I found it.
I Rock! (sorry...you just don't know what a big deal that was).
 And below is what the bridge looks like when your in the middle crossing over....shops galore...all kinds of jewelry...mostly gold....and leather products too.
It was a really nice place.
 we found a side street and stopped and had a late lunch early dinner and of course our drink of choice...a bottle of wine. I don't have pictures to share cause obviously I didn't take any so they are on Lonnie's pictures which I haven't received yet.

After we ate we started to walk and shop. We stopped in a pastry cafe that also sold wine and limeoncello....I had to buy some...I had a limeoncello at lunch and man that stuff is strong but it's very popular in that region.

In the shop there was a nice friendly man who got his flirt on with Lonnie....nice guy...he wanted to take her home but I said she couldn't leave me unless he had a brother...he said he had a friend.
So...did we go??? I'll never tell...
 On many of our walks you would come to a square area and or church area and people would just be sitting and relaxing and drinking water and taking their breaks....I liked taking my breaks at a table with some wine.
 Here we are in front of the statue Neptune...Roman God of the Sea
below is a copy of Michelangelo's famous statue David...we could of seen the original if we would of paid to go inside the building it was in....something we were not in the mood to do....go into any museums....we did that at The Vatican in Rome.
 and below is the statue Hercules and Cacus
after our sightseeing we made it back to the hotel thanks to our trusted guide Robin (who by the way rocks...lol)
Tomorrow we head out on a fabulous day trip...
Until then....Arrivederci (Until We Meet Again)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rome Is Hot...Day 3...Part 2

After a little nap it was time to get ready for our evening out on the town with Marco.
He picked us up at our hotel and he was so excited.
He said... I have something for you and I want you to wear it tonight.
He reached in the van and pulled out devil horns....his were red and ours were neon colored with a little bit of boa material sound them.
As you can see in the night, ours looked like they were lit.

We must of made a big impression for him to go out and get us some horns.,,hope it didn't have anything to do with the buffalo balls.
He had the door man take our picture several times...so we also had him use our camera as well.

We were told we had to leave our horns on while we were together...and we all did.
 Remember in my day 2 post I took a picture of a building and said when you look through the key hole you could see Rome and St Peter's Basilica...Marco took us back there to see it at night and it was beautiful....below is the one picture that came out...it doesn't show it all but still a very cool shot.
My camera had a hard time focusing cause the door was confusing the camera...but at least I have this one shot.
 Some of my pictures didn't come out that great at night....I was having camera issues...but Marco took us up hill to an area to see another view of Rome...it was beautiful along with some of the buildings we saw along the way.
 We the stopped for a slushy...this part of town was hoping and the slushy place was busy...you can also by beer and mix drinks from the street stand as well and walk with them...reminded me of Vegas....If you look closely you can see in the left hand corner of the picture in pink, Lonnie with her horns on and then a little to the right of her under the light is Marco with his on.
 So, as we had our slushy which also had a slice of fruit with it,,, we just enjoyed the night air and our surroundings...we looked down at the Tiber River with it's street vendors and places to eat and drink wine...they also had amusement type games and had several Foosball tables....I said ...hey look, they have Foosball...and Marco is like, Foosball, what is Foosball and I showed him and he said no it's a soccer table and I'm like...where I come from it's Foosball....
I wish we would of found this place sooner...it would of been a cool place to hangout for a couple hours or so. 
 and then we were off to another square...Marco dropped us off and Lonnie and I walked through it and met Marco at the other side...this fountain is called the called The Four Rivers.
 the square was a wonderful place...kids playing..vendors selling their goods....artist painting...people sitting outside and having wine and just enjoying the evening.. going out for a Saturday night in Rome is so different than ours...I like there's so much better...mainly cause it's just relaxing and no hurry.
 below another picture as we walked through the square
 we met Marco just at the end of this little side street
 where we then saw the Trevi Fountain...just as beautiful at night but oh so much more crowded
there were so many people all around....we didn't bother to go down closer as we had already done that and had our pictures made and our wish taken care of.
 When then stopped and had some gelato and walked around ...we only had a couple hours with Marco and it was nearing the time we had to part...we were taken back to the hotel where we said our good-byes.
Our time with Marco is one we won't forget nor our time in Rome....we wore our horns while with Marco...we had looks and even questions of why and it was all good fun.
Thanks Marco!
After leaving Marco we made our way around the corner from our hotel to a little pizzeria where we shared a pizza and a bottle of wine.
 When then walked around taking in Rome one last time and walking off that pizza.
As we came back to our hotel the area was hopping.
This picture was taken from in front of our hotel looking out you see the gladiator school in ruins in the distance you see the Colosseo and to the left with all the lights there are wall to wall people at the restaurants hanging out...
this is a gay section of Rome...one street is where the gays hang out...it is about 95% men
they are just doing their thing and having a good time just like anybody else on a Saturday night except it's a little more crowded....apparently there aren't that many areas where they hang out so openly.
And what was amazing is that with this huge crowd we heard very little noise from our room.
I was curious how you would wait on that many people outside.
Then it was time to go to our room and get some shut eye...for in the morning we needed to pack and make our way to the train station....destination...Florence.

Thank you Rome....we had a wonderful time in your city...should of made it longer...next time I know better.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rome Is Hot...Day 3...Part 1

So today we had a lot  on our agenda....first, was going back to The Vatican and going underground to where the ground use to be...Rome is layer and layer...underground we were going to the tomb of St Peter.

It is believed when some excavation was going on that they found the bones of Peter.

This is a hard ticket to get. You have to request it through The Vatican. They only allow 120 people per day and in a group of 12.

There isn't a lot of information about this tour in your guide books. I happened to stumble on a discussion regarding this when I was doing research for the trip. It sounded really cool and the fact to be so close to a part of Peter to me was amazing.

I was at first denied tickets for the first date requested but I kept going and was able to secure tickets the morning of our last day in Rome. I was so excited that I can't even put it in words.

Sorry, I have no pictures of this part of our trip...no cameras allowed...it's considered sacred ground.

So...we get there and go through security and wait for The Vatican guide to take us in.
We go in....she stops and talks and then we move forward through this tiny door that is card key coded...we walk in, the door shuts and Lonnie goes...oh no... I can't do this.

We are now in a tomb area with dark rock walls and the halls very small....Lonnie goes, I'm claustrophobic. Someone tells her to take deep breaths and the guide telsl her if she feels the need to leave to let her know that there are exits she can guide her through along the way.

Lonnie gets better and seems to be okay....it's hot...there is no air flow...it's 99% humidity in the caves cause they keep it the way it was from the beginning. There are popes that are buried in this place.
This tour is about 45 minutes long....our group is 16 people  and not 12 and there is a group in front of us and did I mention it's hot.

I remembered I had papers in my purse, I get them out and we use them to fan ourselves...I pull my hair up not carrying how it looks any longer...I have a shaw wrapped around my shoulders cause it's a holy place and women can't show there shoulders...did I mention it's hot.

So we're nearing the end and I'm feeling extra hot and warm and a lack of oxygen...I'm feeling a little off and a little nauseas as well but trying to hold it together cause I want to see Peter. We get in this one area and I know we are close because they are showing us things about Peter. I step back away from people hoping I can catch my breath....Lonnie looks at me and says are you okay...I'm like I don't think so, I think I'm gonna pass out...my body just didn't feel right....the guide is talking to the group and all of a sudden I go....

Excuse me....I hate to interrupt but I need the exit I think I'm gonna pass out with no air....seriously...I'm gonna pass out.
She takes me down a couple steps and in this room next door that has air conditioning and there is an altar that is built to St Peter...she tells me to sit and rest and then if I need to leave she will let me out.
I am starting to feel better...I'm drinking some water and there is air.

The group joins us in the room...she's talking and I ask...so where is St Peter...and she says right here...the next corner on the side of the alter behind glass are some bones that are believed to be his...you could make out fingers...it was so amazing and to think I had made it so far and almost missed what I came to see.

Now I would of preferred to of missed all the beginning and gone straight to Peter's tomb...
Also I would of liked to of known that there was no air where I was going and that the possibility of your own death was possible.
I thought I was gonna join Peter that day.

Anyway, it wasn't what I expected because of  the heat and no air ...so not sure I could recommend this tour ....It is a travel at your own risk kinda deal and not for the faint of heart...I thought I was a pretty tough cookie but...guess not.

And there you have our morning...I was never so happy to be on ground level and in a air conditioned building.

Afterwards we left and walked around the area...we walked and saw the Tiber River....a name I know from the Bible which in itself was very cool.

In the picture below you can see over to The Vatican...a beautiful sight.
 A castle
 Another shot of the Tiber River
 and straight ahead a portion of the city wall around Rome
We then headed back to the hotel and took a little rest before our next tour...my body was tired and needed to recoup from the heat toll it took.

Next tour...Ancient Rome
The Roman Forum
 I was fascinated by the ruins....I would of loved to of seen it in it's prime.
It's a shame it wasn't preserved all these years.
 When new places in Rome were built and parts of The Vatican people came and took pieces from the area of The Roman Forum to build....if only they knew the history they were messing with....still something to be in awe about.
 I wish I could remember all the things we were told about what we were seeing but at this moment I can't so just enjoy it's beauty in the rubble.

But the Roman Forum was a place where people gathered and came to find out news and such.
 And what a beautiful sight to behold as your walking out of The Roman Forum area there is The Colosseo...Beautiful...I loved that building.
 Inside the Colosseo was amazing...but again it was a hot day...Rome was extremely hot this day and after my morning ordeal heat was the last thing I wanted to deal with....our guide kept asking..Robin, are you okay...yes, I'm okay, just hot.
 the picture below shows where the Emperor sat during the Gladiator games and if their were any diplomats they would sit on either side of the Emperor
 below shows what it was like underneath and you can see in the back a layer of flooring, in it's day the floor was completely covered and that is where the games were held and the area below was kinda a holding area of Gladiators and animals.
This truly is the first football stadium...I know now where the plans for a stadium came from.
 and a view looking out from the Colosseo....
Our Ancient tour was about 3 hours...we saw a lot and learned a lot and got a sun tan in the mean time...but loved every minute of it...we then went back to our hotel where we napped and cleaned up to get ready for our Rome by Night tour.

Tomorrow I will post part 2 of Day 3...as you can see today's post was rather long.
Until tomorrow...