Monthly Archives: May 2012

Italy and the Adriatic: Part 2

Rome Day 2

We had planned to go to the Vatican, but we could only get tickets for Friday and decided to do something completely different. So we went to Ostia Antica, a small port town just south of Rome that was “Pompeii-ed”, if I might make that a verb. Instead of ash though, Ostia was buried in river silt. We spent nearly seven hours walking through this well-preserved, partially reconstructed town.

Ostia Antica.

One problem with visiting Ostia Antica was the sheer number of classroom tours going on. It honestly felt like an entire school dumped its kids on the site! After struggling through the entrance, we skipped ahead, ate an early lunch, and found the far west corner. It was very quiet, and we were amazed at just how much exploring one could do. Not much was blocked off (only unsafe places), so we definitely explored! I think we came across no less than ten public baths and walked through several casas (large family homes) and smaller residences. It was quite amazing to see the floor mosaics and walk on many of them. One casa still had a good deal of its second floor as well. Herr loved it, and now we must see Pompeii, which is a wealthier town versus this more practical port town.

Ostia Antica.Ostia Antica.

We caught quite a bit of sun and did a great deal of walking, so headed nearly straight back to the apartment. Right off the metro is a nice restaurant called Pastalleta I believe, so Herr had a cheese-less pizza while I had a dish of fruit with a scoop of lemon sorbet on top. Tasty! Herr headed out for the train station to do some rail fanning of the brand new AGV train service while I chose the evening to recover (seven hours of walking is a lot for a desk job worker!).

One oddity in particular we noticed was how much people double parked around here. It’s understandable, with lack of space for parking garages (you really can’t dig down without hitting an archaeological site!), but it made me wonder how does the person inside get out? Does the double parker just try to be quick? Well, I found out. As I chilled out in the room, a car would not stop honking. I finally got up to look, and sure enough, it was someone trying to get out of his parking spot. And not more than 30 seconds after I looked, the owner of the vehicle caging him in came out to move his car! I couldn’t imagine doing it myself, I’d probably just have a bicycle. 😛

Rome Day 3

A busy day today, starting with St. Peter’s Basilica. We’ve visited this the last time in Rome, but this time instead of going up the cupola (a great view), we went into the grottoes and the treasury. I think we were both a little disgusted with the church’s show of wealth, to be honest. Gold chalices laced with precious stones and white gold diamond stars for ornamentation among other works. We’d visited St. Peter’s before and mostly overlooked the monetary squandering to respect the craftsmanship of the building. I still think it’s a beautiful building to see, but it’s a jaded trip for me.

Saint Peter Basilica.

Herr’s parents met us at one of the fountains in St. Peter’s plaza to go to the Vatican Museum, which we found an online reservation that was much appreciated (oh the lines…). As it was, we didn’t escape the crush of people inside. Oh did I feel like cattle being herded through the halls and rooms. When we went three years ago, we didn’t experience this and were able to enjoy each installation that appealed to us. Being squashed through, we got to the Raphael rooms very quickly as we could not stop or deviate to look at anything until then. I have to say the Raphael rooms were worth going through again and were, thankfully, not nearly as crowded. At that break between the Raphael rooms and the Sistine Chapel, both crowds thinned out. Woohoo! We still had to go back through the Sistine Chapel, which both of us thought seemed different the second time around, but made it through to the cafeteria for some water. Herr was interested in the “popemobiles”, so we made one stop there (I didn’t find it too interesting, many of the carriages looked alike but the cars were modified to have a heavily gilt single seat in the back) before hopping the metro and two buses to the catacombs.

Getting to the catacombs was difficult, but we arrived at the Domitilla Catacombs in time to meet up with the English tour that had just begun. I was very curious after visiting the Parisian catacombs, with its bones piled into art, to see Roman catacombs, which are supposed to be much larger. It was much different though. The narrow tunnels were dug specifically for burials (Paris’ had a different original purpose), and people were laid into narrow slits in the wall. It was a unique experience, although it was a very controlled visit via the 40 minute tour. I was reaching the end of my walking tolerance by then, but we still wished to see the Caracalla Baths. And so we did.

Domitilla Catacombs.

The Baths required another hop on the bus, and we misinterpreted the stop we needed due to a road that carried the same name. After quite a walk, we thought we found the entrance, just to walk allllllll the way around the baths first. The long way round wasn’t all in vain though, as one side was up a hill that had a decent view over the ruins. Once inside though, we went right into the enormous main bath facility. Much of it no longer has any roof or ceilings, but we got to see some of the still-colorful mosaic floors and much of the superstructure walls still stand. Herr was keen on this building as two railway stations in the U.S. were modeled after it (although only half of one still exists, whereas this does). By then, I wasn’t sure how I was still walking. We found a metro not too far away and looked for a restaurant all over the main train terminal. We mostly stumbled to our apartment after eating.

Caracalla Baths.

At Sea

The day our cruise began! We didn’t do much of anything until our van came at noon, which was a welcome break for our feet. The van took us to the port, but the driver struggled to get us to our actual ship. He ended up bringing us to a bus that brought us there. After all the hassle, I didn’t want to have to get back to the city, so we missed out on Civitavecchia. We had a lot of orienting to do with the ship though. We learned of the 370ish capacity, there’s 270ish passengers. An overall relaxed atmosphere with a number of younger couples (although the majority was certainly older). I hadn’t realized the ship is run primarily in English with the U.S. dollar. It’s been so long!

WindSurf Masts.

We sat in on the two orientation discussions and had an evacuation drill (it was like a participatory version of the airline emergency drill, but funnier). Dinner began very late for my standards at no earlier than 7:30 p.m. and came out to be three courses. Three! All free! Oh, it was awful how much I ate. I think we all learned our lesson to moderate. It was good too, aside from an excessive use of salt (and alcohol in everything, honestly! Cruises were not meant for tee-totalers). The staff were super friendly and each learned our names. I felt quite out of place as this was my first experience on a cruise, but I started to figure it all out by the end of the day.

WindStar.

Italy and the Adriatic: Part 1

Summary

Herr, his parents, and I went on a two week vacation in Italy and along the Dalmatian Coast, primarily by ship. The weather held to mostly sunny and pleasantly warm, and the cruise was onboard the Windstar line’s WindSurf, the largest sailing yacht with a capacity of 370 passengers. We spent three days around Rome before boarding with stops at Capri, Italy; Messina/Taormina, Sicily; Kotor, Montenegro; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Hvar, Croatia; and ending in Venice, where we stayed for two nights followed by one night in Verona.

This is our story.

Rome Day 1

Our flight out of Frankfurt was delayed for a half an hour, and upon landing in Rome we found out potentially why when we heard a crazy noise repeatedly coming from the landing gear. After a sporty van ride through some crazy Roman traffic, picking up the keys to our apartment, and picking up some lunch, we went our separate ways for the rest of the day. Herr and I went northeast to the Borghese park and rented a riscio (two person quadracycle with electric assist). Our goal was to see the Galleria Borghese, but it was sold out until Monday. So instead we cruised around the gardens. The pedal carriage was a lot of fun!

We made a quick stop by the Hard Rock Cafe, which was only a block from the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church that houses the Capuchin Crypt. The crypt was interesting enough with only a euro donation, but no pictures makes for sad tourists. The crypts are decorated with a wide variety of human bones, unlike the Paris Catacombs that display mostly femurs and crania. It makes me all the more curious to see the bone church in the Czech Republic.

Church front.

The church isn’t far from Trevi Fountain, but we just jumped the metro to the Roman Forums instead. We heard later from Herr’s parents that Trevi was intensely busy, so I’m a bit glad we didn’t go by, even if it has one of the best gelato shops. At the forum, we sat down and enjoyed the atmosphere much more than last time (three years ago). We had spent most of our time on Palatine Hill then, so we skipped that and hung out among the ruins. It was great to take it easy, and it allowed us to appreciate it much more.

Rome.

We left a little after 6 p.m. and grabbed some sandwiches from a street vendor (overpriced, but it is a tourist-y area). As we ate, we watched other tourists around the Colosseum, which was entertaining enough. By then, though, we were quite exhausted with the early wake up (3:30 a.m.) and made our way back for an early night.

Colosseum.