Saturday, May 28, 2016

St. Peter's Basilica

 There is no fee to enter a church, BUT you need a ticket. Line to get ticket is 3 hours. "Skip the line" ticket is 15€, best money I ever spent. At the age of 24, Michaelangelo sculpted this from one block of marble. Even though it's 25 feet away behind bullet proof glass it's still incredible. The detail in anatomy and flowing garments make it come to life.  The ever vigilant Swiss Guard. Uniforms designed by Leonardo Da Vinci are unchanged.
Well I made it from Canterbury Cathedral in England to St Peter's in Rome. Not how I imagined the Via Francigena being done but we had fun and I look forward to going home in a couple days. My knee still hurts and I'm glad not to be walking down paved roads for 20 plus miles at a clip, in the rain, for another six weeks or more.

Highlight of Roma

 Private night tour of the Sistine Chapel. Sorry, no cameras allowed. Michaelangelo painted it at age 33 over 4 years. He refused the job initially as he was a sculptor. But the Pope refused his refusal. Michaelangelo ignored all advice and suggestions for the ceiling and did it his way. It wasn't oil on canvas but some form of paint on plaster. The stories told through the paintings and the paintings themselves cannot be adequately described in words. You see it, you feel it. The famous helical exit steps after an evening in the Vatican Museums and Sistine. Lisa and Rosa on far side. Thank you Rosa!


  The Trevi Fountain. Yes we did throw a coin, right hand over left shoulder. The fountain was fed by an underground aqueduct from some 20 miles away. Vertical drop in those 20 miles was 12 feet- now that's some engineering. Daily vacuuming of coins. Eye candy at lunch while waiting for Colleseum tour. Rosa, our beautiful guide, in the arena.   Subfloor of the arena where they housed the animals and gladiators before hoisting them up. Lions, giraffes, hippos, crocs, hyenas, snakes. Anything from the entire conquered Roman Empire. The local gladiator schools provided the fighters. Some say over 700,000 people were killed here and over a million animals. 80,000 people filled the stadium which had free entry. They could fill it in 30 minutes from 80 entry points.  One of many hoists to bring animals to the arena.   It's hard to picture the grandeur of the Colleseum in its prime since it was plundered and so many parts "redeployed" for other uses in the last 15 hundred years. But it had to be pretty cool!   Next stop was the Forum, a conglomeration of government buildings, shops, temples, etc. Our guide had books showing what it looked like back in the day. It wasn't until the last 40 years or so that Rome started protecting and preserving these areas. Again, so much was repurposed for other building. Plus each emperor would change and remove temples and buildings as they sought to leave their mark. The Romans did not believe in the "hereafter" so they tried to leave some physical monument for their memory.

Last pizza in San G

  Perfecto! Thin crust, firm but chewy. Thinly sliced eggplant, veggies, few kernels.

Cinque Terre side trip

          After driving to La Spezia we got on the Cinque Terre train that goes to the five villages. We started at the last one- Monterosso, and did the 2 1/2 hour hike to Vernazza. Trail was narrow and steep, going up and over the mountain to the next seaside village. An old man at the top was making fresh OJ for 2€.  This is Plazza Marconi. Ray really is eyetalian😎

More San G

 Poppies grow wild everywhere in France and Italy. Nice Veterans symbol. This from a morning hike on the Via Francigena. 

Cum Quibus

   Best restaurant on the trip. Started with the famous "Black Pearl". Served on a half oyster shell over coarse salt. It's liver pate coated black ink gelatin drizzled with olive oil. Nothing quite like it, delish.t Goat cheese mousse and shaved truffle salad. Ground mushrooms, dabs of sauces. Note the rows of four peas held by a sliver of zucchini. Each dish a work of art. Fois gras Amazing 7 course dinner. Every restaurant menu the entire trip has been unique. There is no standard fare. Each one has its own style and identity.