Amalfi Coast – Sorrento and Positano

So much happened today, I had to break all the photos into two posts!  After Pompeii, we took a drive down the Amalfi coast to Sorrento.  All I could really remember about Sorrento from my last trip is that there were lemons, (which means limoncello), lots of bright and gaudy ceramics (almost as bad as Port Merion), and there were these inlaid wood jewellery boxes that were well and truly beyond my means when I was travelling in my youth, a la Top Deck!   I also remember the drive in and out of the place, and an incident on the way home from a nightclub where one of our fellow travellers was yelling at a taxi driver to slow down on the crazy hairpin turns and then the drunken idiot decided it would be a good idea to pull on the steering wheel of the car!  Yeah Quentin, what a wanker – don’t miss that particular waste of carbon.

Anyway, the drive down today was spectacular and happily devoid of anyone trying to kill us.  We did a bit of ‘speed landscape photography’ on the way given there were very few safe places to pull over for photos…

The town of Sorrento is pretty much as I remember… quaint winding streets, lots of cafes, lots of restaurants, lots of lemons, lots of ceramics, lots of scooters and lots of tourists. 

We stopped and had lunch at a fabulous rooftop garden restaurant before having a short wander around town.  AuntyMary ordered the ENTREE sized antipasto (it was enormous!), and we had a seafood risotto and some cannelloni all to share.  Absolutely delicious.

Sorrento Food 3 Sorrento Food Sorrento Food 2

‘Ciao bella!  Want to see my scoot?’ *wink*  #WorstPickUpLineEver  #PreHashTag All the ceramics – and there were plenty of stores just like this one…! Oh and did we mention the lemons?   Sorrento; where even the graffiti is sweet…

After leaving Sorrento, we followed along the Amalfi coastline to Positano, for more hair raising twisting and turning mountainous roads with stunning views of the sea.  The colour of the water in this part of the world is simply beautiful.

You can see the road winding along the edge of the cliff.  Our driver obviously knew the area very well, and was confidently cutting back and forth on the hairpins.  There was more than one passenger feeling a little nervy about the drive though! The bay at Positano.   Positano is a bit of crazy town.  It’s another ‘playground for the rich and famous’ type of place, and attracts many visitors every year – in fact, I feel many more than the little town can comfortably accommodate  It’s perched on? hanging off? the cliffs with crazy meandering little streets all leading down towards the beach.  It’s full of art galleries, jewellery stores, resort style clothing and of course – FOOD.  So many cafes and restaurants and all designed to best maximise the view. Wonder what real estate goes for in this area?  Mind you, not sure I’d ever want to live here, the beaches are all pebbles, there’s no where to park and everywhere there are soooo many steps and steep roads to the water. All the towns along the Amalfi cost have their own nativity to the Santa Maria to keep them safe…   Such a cute town, and such a building challenge I should imagine!

Pompeii again.

We had a large group to go through Pompeii today.  Mt Vesuvius erupted in 70AD and completely buried the city of Pompeii, which is a completely unique time capsule that shows what live was like in the first century.  Pompeii was totally buried beneath a rain of ash and volcanic material as Mt Vesuvius erupted, leaving the entire city frozen in time and a huge amount of information about ancient Roman life has been found here.

Before the eruption, Pompeii was known as a vacation getaway resort town, that also had a strong commercial port focus.  But after the 79AD eruption, it remained buried until 1700 years later.  Lots of ancient shops and streets are remarkably well preserved, along with vivid frescoes and striking plater casts of the remains of people died, caught by the swift volcanic ash.The amphitheater of Pompeii was primarily used for musical productions. With excellent acoustics, this theatre held about 2000 people.

On any of the main thoroughfares through Pompeii, you can find commercial trading site, shops, shops and more shops.  This store has a marker on the sidewalk that tells people that food is available here.  Many Pompeians would be out their entire day and would not return home for their midday meals, so they would stop by, what were effectively, fast food vendors to grab quick lunches.

Pots where food would be stored and kept warm to sell to workers and passers-by. Walled edge of the amphitheatre directly opposite the ‘fast food’ store. Typical Roman house.  This house however had a few more bits of information that tells us something about its inhabitants.  The large plinth doorway tells us the inhabitants were quite well off.  The seats outside the house tell us that this is apparently a politicians house – people would come to meet and air their grievances and concerns with the local politician and would wait their turn in the street. Further evidencing this as the home of a politician was this little piece of propaganda.  As it turns out, Pompeii was in the middle of an election period when the volcano erupted, and a good deal of electoral propaganda can be found on the walls.  This sign is telling citizens to vote for “Cornelivm”, the man who owns the house above.  A little further down the street is the House of Menandro.  This is a very well preserved example of a wealthy Roman’s home.  The entry foyer/lobby has the typical water feature and open roof, designed to create a type of evaporative cooling system, and to catch water from the opening in the roof for a pretty indoor water feature.  Off this room would be all the bedrooms for the inhabitants of the house. The frescos are just remarkable – nearly 2000 years old and still quite vivid.  Pompeian Red is a thing because of these frescos.  The blue colour is apparently the most expensive colour to paint your wall with as it was made with ground lapis. The detail is beautiful – it makes me feel we have lost something in the art of interior decor in the modern era… Further through the house are rooms that would have been used for business, for entertaining, for visitors, for cooking, slave quarters – an entire complex to house a Roman household. The central garden courtyard is further back in the house, behind the central fountained lobby and bedrooms. Most Roman homes did not have a private bathhouse, but this home did.  It has a small frigidarium and tepidarium for the wealthy nobles who lived here.
Bathhouse.  I am certain this house is not the only example, but the owners of this house fled the volcano – whether they survived or not is unknown… what is known is that they locked all their wealth and goods into rooms with their slaves to protect them.  The slaves in their desperation smashed down the walls in an attempt to escape, but were likely too late to get away.  Ash rained down on Pompeii for two days, but the people here had no idea what was happening or how long it would last.  At the end of it, the entire city was covered and considered lost.
We went for a walk up the top of a small hill to have a view over the city.  Here we got to see the winding streets and how tightly packed the city was.
The view down over the streets was from an elevated position, which we later found out is an un-excavated part of the city.  We were standing on top of more ancient Roman ruins that it has been decided to leave buried for future generations.  You see, due to Mt Vesuvius’ close proximity comes an awareness that it will erupt again one day.  And everything that has been excavated could be destroyed.  Again.  So they have left a large section sealed as it were for after that eventuation.

Mt Vesuvius (below) used to be one peak, but is now Mt Vesuvius on the left and the valley created by the eruption is called the Valley of the Giants.  Under all this vegetation in the foreground is more ancient Roman ruins to be unearthed one day.

All the roads, walls and monuments and frescos in Pompeii are authentic ancient monuments, but there are artworks dotted throughout the city that are modern bronze works based on impressions of Pompeii.  There were a few (the large faces etc) in some of the pictures above as well.

I saw this one and really loved it.  Huge enormous hands wrapped around a winged torso.

The pic below is for yale…

This area is the entrance walkways to the public gymnasium, which leads through to a public bath house.  More beautiful frescoes line the walkway.
Inside the entry to the bathhouse has the most incredible ceiling, with very fine bas relief styled work.  It’s very intricate and would have been stunningly colourful.   Detail of the ceiling – just gorgeous. This room is the frigidarium for this bath house.  It was for men only.  People used the bath houses much like a steam, a hot bath and then a cold plunge at the end to refresh the body and close the pores of the skin… however, it was felt women didn’t have a strong enough constitution for such things, so they were not permitted to use the frigidarium room.  The frigidarium roof:
The walls of the frigidarium: And the pool of the frigidarium: The other ares of the bath house were two hot bath house room – one tepid, one really hot…
Back outside in the main square of Pompeii with Mt Vesuvius in the background. Along the left of the square is a large ‘warehouse’ that is open to the elements.  It houses many of the ancient artefacts that won’t fit in the Napoli Archeological Pompeii Museum!  All these items are authentic Roman artefacts found in Pompeii.  Tables, jars and amphorae that held olive oil, wine, that weird fishy paste/sauce (garram? arum?) that Romans were fond of. During the excavations of Pompeii, a particularly cluey archeologist discovered that they were unearthing ‘bubbles’ or cavities in the ash that occasionally had human remains in them.  These cavities turned out to be where humans had been caught in the ash and had died, and subsequently decomposed.  The archeologist (whose name I can’t remember) decided to pour plaster paris into the cavities to see what they were and discovered people, frozen at the time of their deaths.  Most of these casts are now in the museum and are being tested for DNA to find out more about the people who died in Pompeii.And then it seemed we were leaving our tour.  With a few of us having been here before, we asked the guide if we were going to the red light district, as attitudes to life, love, sex, and death were very different in ancient times and it’s interesting to see how the Romans’ views differed from our modern views. Our guide, Monica, claims was told by her company that we were  not going to the brothels as part of our tour of Pompeii.  We asked amongst ourselves and none of us had give that directive, so it seem she had taken it upon herself to censor our tour, possibly because we had four teenagers travelling with us.  So suddenly we didn’t have time to go to the brothels at all.  Bit disappointed for the others, but having been through them before, I was not too bothered.   She did walk us back down a street we had already taken to show us a sign that pointed to the red light district (can’t believe we walked right past it and she didn’t point it out… bit prudish). 

All up a great visit to Pompeii, (and I keep saying this when I travel) and I’d love to go back again even, so long as it wasn’t so hot!  Stuff this travelling in the high season.  🙂

Messina, Sicily

Today we were on Sicily, in the port of Messina.  Messina is a city of some 250,000 people with a breathtaking natural scenery, an impressive architectural heritage an ancient history.  It also has a a series of recorded natural disasters which Messina has managed to weather – including a very serious earthquake that turned into a tidal wave in 1908.  Evidence of buildings affected by the earthquake (or not re-built since) dot the town of Messina. There is plenty to see and do here but we had put our day in the hands of Matteo and Antonio to guide us to a little town called Taormina, to find a very well reputed restaurant called Taverna dell’ Etna, in search of some good, authentic Sicilian food, followed by a little shopping.

Our driver Giovanni drove (exactly as you would expect an Italian to do – at breakneck speed and with a supreme almost zen-like confidence) through the winding hills to the town of Taormina which is a world regknow resort situated approximately 700 feet above the sea level.  The gorgeous little town has been a famous resort since Roman times and has superb views over the Bay of Naxos in the east and the equally impressive Mt Etna volcano in the west.  

We found our restaurant, after a somewhat ‘interesting’ drive through the winding mountainous roads, and were led to a patio with magnificent views towards the Mt Etna.  Messina 1 The view from Taverna dell’Etna
Messina 2The restaurant itself didn’t exactly have the most sophisticated decor, but then that is often the case with little hidden gem restaurants!  It was late afternoon by the time we got there for lunch, but they were kind enough to stay open.  We were so hungry, would you believe – I don’t think anyone took even so much as a single photo of the food!  We tried local calamari, fresh anchovies, prawns, mussels, clams and octopus dishes.  Some lovely fresh salads, several absolutely delicious pasta dishes – one with pumpkin, buffalo cheese and who knows what other yumminess, as well as some mixed grill.  The food was fantastic and washed down with spritzes, some crisp dry local white wine and after dinner, some locally made limoncello, served chilled in frozen glasses.  The service was also excellent, they were very accommodating to stay open so late in the afternoon, when I’m sure they would all have preferred to be off on siesta by then.

Messina 1A

Messina 4 Views down to Naxos Bay.
Messina 5 Messina 6 Taormina evidences both Greek and Roman history in its architectural style, as well as a significant medieval quarter with castle ruins intermingled with modern shops and restaurants, known as the Corso Umberto.  It’s an adorable little village with loads of character.Messina 7 Messina 8

After lunch we had down the Corso Umberto for a bit of shopping, and a stop for a gelato (limone, of course), and a drink on the lovely terrace of a local hotel – the Hotel Metropole Taormina.  We popped into the cathedral in the town square and I was amazed to see several medieval paintings (13th – 15th century) just hanging on the walls – no glass, no humidifiers, no alarms, no nothing.  

Messina 9 Lots of higher end shopping in this town, but the only thing any of us bought was gelato and later, more wine!Messina 10 View from the Hotel Metropole…Messina 11 Messina 12 Messina 13 Messina 14

Further down the Corsa, and past all the popular shops, we were picked up to head down to Taormina Beach of a quick dip and/or a stop in the shade.  The beach is all tiny pebbles, no sand at all.  While all the local kids were busy playing with their blow up beach toys, our kids were busy ducking under water to try find and pick up the biggest rocks!

Messina 15 Messina 16

Then we were on a very important hunt for cannoli. Cannoli is a Sicilian dessert and according to our Italian friend, Antonio who was driving today’s adventures, the stuff we call cannoli in Australia is nothing like it at all!  So he had Giovanni take us to ‘the best pastry shop in Messina’.  And we ended up the Irrera Bakery, a famous pastry shop not far from the ship that has been making cannoli for the lucky residents of Messina since 1910.

Cannoli at home is usually a soft round pasty with a custard like filling that is sickly sweet – actual cannoli is a slightly crunchy pastry shell, that is left empty until right before you eat it, and then it is scooped full of a fluffy ricotta slightly lemon flavoured filling, and is not that sweet at all.  Messina 17

The staff at Irrera were somewhat alarmed that we wanted cannoli to take away and weren’t having it on the spot.  They warned us several times that it had to be eaten as soon as possible and that we shouldn’t leave it or the shells would go soft.  Didn’t think it was a big deal, but they seemed seriously concerned about their reputation and the warning was repeated by the staff member who was taking payment as well.  And then we get back in our van and Giovanni our driver, was also warning us that they had to be eaten straight away or they’d go soft!  So, apparently that’s a thing.

Then it was back to the ship (after a small hiccough over a mobile phone left behind at the pastry shop which was, thankfully, recovered without too much ado).  None of us felt like dinner, but I went to the dining room to find out how everyone else’s day had been and to watch them have dinner.  😀

After dinner, we went up to the rooms with a drink, and tried out cannoli, and the staff at Irrera would be pleased to know that even two/three hours later, the cannoli was still crunchy and absolutely delicious!

Farewell to Rome onwards to the Isle of Capri

Our final morning in Rome was spend running a few errands to get ready for our cruise.  We have 14 nights on the Royal Princess, so we wanted to make sure we had our cruise ducks lined up.

For our transfer to the ship we had ’15 people with one large suitcase each’ travelling to the port at Civitiavecchia and the company we booked the transfer through sent two 7 seater mini-vans.  You have never seen mini vans packed so high.  We had people squished in, suitcases in between legs and on the front seat and the poor little drivers throwing their hands in the air trying to fit everything in.  I think they should have sent a bigger coaster bus or something.  Oh well, the drive through the country side was nice, and we were dropped right off at the port. Boarding went very smoothly, and we all managed to get aboard around 1pm even though we had a 4pm allocated embarkation time… there wasn’t much we could do about that with 11am hotel checkout times and an hour or so drive to the port.

Our ship is enormous – I’ll end up writing a second post on the ship when I have finally gathered a few good photos and have actually gotten around to see it all!

Today was our first port in Naples. We had two options – Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast or a trip over to the Isle of Capri.  Luckily for us, the cruise loops back around the Napoli and we get to both.  So today it was off to the Isle of Capri for a boat trip.

We took the hydrofoil over – about 1hr 10mins by fast boat to the island and then went looking for Augusto’s Caffe to meet our boatman – Gianni.  We found Gianni and were guided to our boat for the day… thankfully LaMiaSorellini had arrange for a boat with a decent shaded area, because it was beautiful weather for being out on the Mediterranean – bright, sunny and hot, which of course is also optimal conditions for sunburn if you’re as white as an emo/goth chick at the end of winter.

Capri looks just like I remembered it… only busier.  🙂

All the beautiful blues.  The water was a bit choppy and we had quite a bumpy ride to get around to the other side of the island.  Plenty of beautiful rock formations and birds to look at, and odd little locals who somehow scaled down these very steep cliffs to drop a line in to fish

Once we got around the other side, it was considerably calmer, so after poking around in the grottoes a bit, we had a hunt for a nice spot to jump overboard and have a swim.  The water was perfect temperature – cool and refreshing, and so crystal clear!  Just love it.  Reminded me of our week sailing around the Greek Islands in 1995 on the SS Silly Bitch… though with slightly less rocket-fuel masquerading as sangria!

The colours of the water are hard to capture in a photograph, but I did have to try… I love these gorgeous Mediterranean blues and greens as you enter the shallows in all the grottoes.

We checked out most of them – the Santa Maria grotto, the White grotto, the Lovers grotto, the Forum grotto and the natural arches.  Our boat driver very skilfully manoeuvred our small boat right up into each of the grottoes so we could have a good look.  Many of the larger tourist boats that were out for the day with 30 or 40 people on board were forced to hang back and not get too close, so the little boat, small group thing is the way to go here.

After our lovely boat trip, we had a few hours to kill before heading back to Napoli via the hydrofoil – and what better way to do so than to find a nice restaurant, order some white wines and have a nice long lunch while watching the world go by on the esplanade.  It was pretty obvious that the seafood restaurant we choose – Augusto’s Ristorante (not to be confused with Augusto’s Caffe… seems Augusto has this place stitched up) – was used to shuffling people in and out of their establishment really quickly, but we found ourselves a nice table and decided to order in courses and share everything.  We had some lovely charcuterie, a cheesy ‘salad’ to die for, a fruitti del mare pizza, some obligatory fresh calamari, a ricotta ravioli and some authentic Italian lasagne.  All trickling out of the kitchen for us to share each meal.  It was lovely food in a beautiful spot with fantastic company.


cheesy salad

After lunch it was a small wander around the shops to have a look at some of the local handicrafts.  Some new additions since I was here last – the Bells of Capri are a ‘thing’ and you can buy bells in ceramic, metal, jewellery or glass.  And the Capri Watch which you apparently can’t buy anywhere else in the world is also a ‘thing’.  I guess if you can’t find a niche market – you create one!

The hydra-foil back to the mainland went really quickly as I found myself engrossed in an in-depth chat with No1Niece about the recent Brexit poll, the ‘results still undecided’ election back in Australia, global economics, the asylum seeker/refugee/immigrant problems many nations are facing, and the impact of the Murdocracy on the perceptions of the masses. #KeepingItLight  😛

We then came back to the ship, had dinner in the Symphony and stayed up drinking until 4am… and that’s as much detail this blog is going to get of that night!

Pantheon and the Vatican today.

Another gorgeous morning at the beautiful Hotel Fontana. Wandered outside to take yet another set of photos of the gorgeous fountain, ever mindful of the glorious vanity of long dead Popes that allows us to enjoy this beautiful place. Ran into the Kazakhstani cycling team who were out early to check out the fountain too.

Had another lovely breakfast looking down on our fountain (Yes, it’s mine now – I’ve decided I need to keep it!), while making plans for how best to attack the day.

First stop this morning is the Pantheon. We dropped by on Tuesday but were unable to go in due to it being closed for the Feast Day of St Peter and St Paul… yeah figure that one out; religious holiday so let’s close the churches?! This morning we arrived around 8:45am expecting it to open at 9am, but we found the place open and largely empty. It is exactly as I remember it. Grand on a hard to imagine scale with its 49m diameter and 75m high dome and the lovely artworks and marble floor. We stayed and enjoyed the peace and beauty for nearly an hour. It was lovely but of course started to fill up with too many noisy tourists. (For the record, I’m a very quiet, unobtrusive and mindful sort of tourist, keen to observe local customs and traditions and I have long since given up wishing every one would be half so considerate.)


pantheon-interiorAfter the Pantheon we hopped a taxi and crossed the Tiber to our pre-booked ‘Skip The Line’ English guided Vatican tour. There were 22 of us in the group and we set off at 11am as per the schedule. Then ensued, what can only be described as a sort of organised chaos… or in Aussie parlance – a complete clusterfuck. There was a public line to enter which streamed out into the street and around the corner in the heat waiting to go in – and there was the ‘Skip the Line Tour Groups Only’ line, stretching in the other direction winding back and forth like a Disney theme park ride queue, to get to the point where we could BUY A TICKET. There were people of all nationalities everywhere, lined up in the heat all wearing the same slightly confused, ‘What the fuck is the hold up’ and ‘Didn’t I pay extra to avoid this queueing nonsense?’, look on their faces. We eventually get inside, put our things through a metal detector where a handsome young Italian ‘security officer’ was busy smiling and winking at young girls and didn’t once look at the monitor of bags being scanned!

Get to the other side of ‘security’ and it was like, ‘Welcome To The Crush!’. For the next two hours or so we were kept moving at an annoying slow and halting snail’s pace through the ‘highlight galleries’ of one of the world’s most prestigious and most visited museums. Lots of beautiful things to see and study – no time allocated to even precursorily do either. Seems there should to be a special tour for people actually interested in history and art to get any in depth analysis or even a bit of background on what we are looking at, instead it seems organised tours are very, ‘Oh look at this… it’s very old, very beautiful and very valuable.’  Or if you lucky a vague… ‘This was commissioned by Pope Snacktyback in the fuxteenth century, you can see the statue of <insert random God/Saint> is made of marble.’  Marble?  No shit!  Didn’t know they did that.

Kill me now.

Pagan sarcophagus ‘recycled’ for Christian use (detail below).

Flemish tapestry c.1500-1600s (yes, the info we were given was so vague as to date something to ‘sometime in those two centuries’) depicting the Barberini Cardinals.

Barberini Bees

For yale and Niall… this thing was easily five times the length of my foot!

Many of the galleries have stunning mosaics under foot – only the most special ones are fenced off from the traffic, others are left to fend for themselves…

Floor mosaic

Perseus brandishing the head of Medusa.Perseus with the head of Medusa

Elaborate ceiling in the Map Gallery that connected Papal apartments to the Basilica.Map Gallery

The tide of somewhat travel weary humanity carried us on through the galleries, and I ditched the volume on our poor guide several galleries before the Sistine Chapel being quite capable of recognising Papal keys and the Barbarini bees without her assistance. We entered the chapel and were herded – actually herded – to the centre of the room by security, for fifteen minutes to enjoy the chapel; cheek to jowl with our fellow sweaty and dehydrating travellers. It was equal parts absurd and ironic… cover your knees and shoulders when entering into a religious site.  Moments later, *alarm buzzer* “Please remain silent in this holy place”, blared loudly over a PA system, while strapping security guards moved through the crowd pushing people aside and loudly declaring “No fotographs!” Of course we had a good look around, but I felt more like I was in the mosh for a silently boy band comprised of all the saints looking down from wall depicting the Last Judgement. Last visit we were able to sit on the stairs and enjoy for a few moments and the place was silent as nuns patrolled the room with nothing but stern looks.  Let me tell you, those nuns were far more effective than these security guards and their megaphones!  Oddly, I decided to move through, rather quickly.

A couple of the photos I was not supposed to take in the Sistine Chapel, one of the ceiling… but also one of the floor which no one really seemed to notice, but which I thought looked grate (just for you Luke … how tired am I?).After that we descended into the grotto to see the tombs of all the past Papi, and the alleged tomb of ‘the’ St Peter. It was a lot lighter, and more museum-like, than I remembered. Actually, felt more like wandering through a long forgotten government archive than a crypt, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me. No photos allowed. Again. Seems to be a recurring theme.

Pope Bonifacivs VIII had an amazing heraldic display on his tomb… including what looked to be a heraldic shroud.  So I had to hang back and take some quick pics.

From there we ascended through a back door directly into St Peter’s Basilica… which didn’t quite have the *angels singing* <added AWE> effect it had on us last visit.  It is, nonetheless, truly spectacular… and with the light just so, it’s beautiful.

Above: One of the first chapels on entering the Basilica – with added #awe.

The lettering you can see below the dome is 2.7m high.  The marble statue you can make out is 7m high, but because of the enormous scale of the place, everything looks much smaller.  This centre altar is made of bronze – most of which was ‘repurposed from the roof of the Pantheon’ – the horror of that notion. Rip the bronze off an ancient building to make a Renaissance/Baroque folly of a thing for the middle of world’s largest Christian church.  I’m guessing their preferences tended towards immediacy rather than preservation.  The courthouse, over near the Pont Saint Angelo was constructed in the 13thC with stone cadged from the Colosseum!

Mosaics at the base of the dome.  There are large frescoes throughout the Basilica which are copies of famous paintings – only they are not traditional frescoes, they are tiny minute mosaics made of thousands of pieces of tiny colour stone.  To look at them (below) you’d never guess they weren’t paintings, they’re so detailed.  Below: this is a mosaic about 5m high… Detail of the mosiac work in this piece… it’s incredible.  When we came to the Vatican and St Peters many years ago, the old old pope JP2, was holding an audience in the piazza and we went around the crowds who were attending the audience, to wait for the huge doors to the Basilica to be opened when he finished his blessings. When we entered the building there was only about 15 other people in there with us for about the first half hour or so… you could have heard a pin drop and the grandeur and opulence of the Basilica silently washed over us. If there was a god, and if god was anywhere, it felt like he/she was here. I vaguely recall thinking at the time, ‘Imagine how people throughout history, people with no TV, no cinema, no mod cons, and limited education, reacted to this place!’ It would have been overwhelming.  It was an unforgettable experience.

Today’s experience was somewhat different. Still being buoyed along by the babble of tourists, I have to admit, it just wasn’t quite the same. An absolutely fantastical and ostentatious display of wealth and power, but somehow diminished by the chatter of a few thousand snap-happy tourists.  I was glad when the tour ended and we were free to move at our recognisance and that, most immediately, meant finding a space not currently occupied by at least two other visitors.

I know some people come here with limited time, and they know they may never be back, so everyone tries to see it all in a day or two.  And given this isn’t my first trip to Rome, I had no intentions of attacking the sights that way – but far out, it feels like we done the Real Tourist™ thing today and I do not recommend it. If at all possible, do not come to Rome in high season, there are just too many people.

After our Vatican experience we decided to take a taxi back to Trevi.  Grabbed a hail down outside the piazza and told him where we wanted to go – he said it was going to be a flat rate of 15 Euros to go to the fountain, now given that it cost us only 8 to get there, I asked him to turn on the meter.  He said, it’s a flat rate.  So… I said, turn on the meter or let us out of the car right now.  Wanker pulled over and let us out of the taxi.  Hah.  Fancy that, an obnoxious cabbie trying to take advantage of the tourists.  Next two cabs that came past, I asked first before getting in, and they both said it was a flat rate of 18 Euros to get to Trevi…? What?  We wandered down the road a bit, and turned left, found a cab rank and about a dozen cabs with no one in them.  I asked the one lady cab driver there how much to Trevi, and she pointed to the meter, saying ‘how much it says, no more than 10 Euros’.  So we jumped in and drove back.  Got back to Trevi and surprise, surprise, the meter said 7.80, so we gave her 10 and wished her a nice day.  It’s no wonder cabbies have such a bad reputation world wide!

We had a quiet hour or so in the afternoon before meeting the others for dinner and a trip to the Colosseum to see it in twilight/dark.

Such a very long day and such sore feet… we had our well deserved (second) gelato and called it a night!