Tuesday 2 April 2013

Arrivederci, Roma!

March 28:

This was our last full day in Rome... but we did manage to do a lot in that time.  Our first stop after a large breakfast at our hotel, was the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, located inside the Villa Borghese, within close walking distance from our hotel.  The weather was gray and rainy in the morning, so it was the perfect day to be inside perusing art.  We spent several hours inside the gallery, and saw the entire collection, including a whole lot of Italian art from various time periods, plus a special temporary Japanese collection.  No photos were allowed within the gallery.  Among other things, the original Verdi portrait by Giovanni Boldini was on display.

front steps of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna
portrait of composer Giuseppe Verdi, by Giovanni Boldini (1886)
[image courtesy of Wikipedia]

After the Modern Art Gallery, the rain had stopped, and we had a relaxing stroll through Villa Borghese Park, where we saw the famous 'Pines of Rome', which served as the inspiration for composer Ottorino Respighi's piece of the same name.  

a pigeon and some spring greenery

Fountain of Seahorses
among the Pines of Rome
Walking out of Villa Borghese, I said a visual goodbye to this beautiful city... we walked back into town the same way we'd gone on our first evening in Rome, enjoying a panoramic view of the city from the higher vantage point of the park.

view of Rome from the edge of Villa Borghese park

Our next stop was the Tiziano (Titian) exhibit... we spent quite a while inside, admiring 39 large paintings by the famous 16th century master.  It was really a stunning exhibit.  I bought a small book (in Italian) with some of his works, and came away inspired with an abstract idea that I might try to translate into music in my next piece.  

outside the Titian exhibit
changing of the guard outside Quirinal Palace, where the president lives
There were a couple of other things (well, many more things!) I would have loved to have time to see and do in Rome, but we were tired by the time the gallery closed, and we headed back for dinner at a small pizza place near the Euclid station close to our hotel.  It was a relaxing and low-key evening... a perfect way to wind down a very busy and exciting past couple of weeks.  

On the way home tomorrow, we will be connecting through Frankfurt, then Montreal, and home to Vancouver.  Arrivederci, Roma!  My first visit here was amazing, and I definitely hope to be back again someday!

Buongiorno, Papa Francesco!

March 27:

Today we went over to see the Vatican.  After a quick look around the piazza in front of St. Peter's Basilica, we went into one of the Vatican gift shops (called 'Mosaic'), since I had the urge to peruse some of the souvenirs.  I did buy a few small things, including a charm of the new Pope, Francis-- not bad, considering he has only been Pope for a matter of days.  I also got a postcard, but didn't take advantage of mailing it from within the Vatican... I'm glad I didn't line up for stamps right then, because if we hadn't emerged from the gift shop right when we did, we'd have missed the biggest sighting of the day...

outside St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican
Yes, we saw Pope Francis!

Swiss guard at the Vatican
After our sighting of the Pope, we wandered outside the Vatican walls again, and walked all the way around the perimeter of the Vatican walls (the long way) over to the Vatican Museum, where we spent a couple of hours looking through their extensive collection of art and artifacts.

Musei Vaticani
Oliver and the golden ball

There was a huge amount of interesting things to see... it was also very crowded with tour groups passing through, but we managed to view pretty much the entire collection, which ranged from ancient Egyptian artifacts, through Greek and Roman sculptures, to Renaissance art, and even a smaller modern art wing.

checking out a work by Van Gogh
The culmination of the Vatican Museum tour (whether self-guided, or with a tour group) brings one to the Sistine Chapel, which is breathtaking.  The room was packed full of tourists, and museum guards telling people to be quiet, and not take photos (though photos were permitted in the rest of the museum)... still, we spent quite a good amount of time looking around, and up at the spectacular ceiling and walls.  (Yes, I did sneak in two photos inside the chapel...)

ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
part of the wall of the Sistine Chapel
St. Peter's Basilica
After the Vatican, we paid a visit to the Colosseum... it was closed for tours by the time we got there, but we were still able to walk around and check out the exterior.


After the Colosseum, we walked by another landmark, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, whose construction dates all the way back to the year 435 AD (though it opened in the 1700s).  After a quick stop for gelato, we strolled on to the Giardini di Piazza Vittorio, just as the sun was going down.

Santa Maria Maggiore

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
After another long day, and a few kilometres of walking, we headed back to the neighbourhood near our hotel for some dinner.  Tomorrow is our last full day in Rome, and I think we are planning to check out some more art...

Monday 1 April 2013

Andiamo a Roma!

March 26:

We spent the morning having breakfast in the town square of Sant' Agnello, followed by a quick shopping excursion in Sorrento, since I wanted to purchase some small ceramic souvenirs.  We made it back to our suite just in time to be picked up by the taxi, which took us to the Sant' Agnello train station.  We were pleasantly surprised by a busking trio on the train (who were actually quite good)-- two accordions and saxophone.  We would later discover that busking on the train for money was pretty common, as we saw a few more people with accordions, none of whom were any good.  As Oliver said, these guys set the bar high!  But in any case, this made my morning:

Sant' Agnello station

Busking trio on the train

We were also able to see the map of the trains again, and figure out that we must have been on the green line the other night, instead of the blue one... stranding us in Poggiomarino, instead of taking us to Sant' Agnello.

Anyway, we arrived in Rome again, no problem, and were able to find our hotel, which was just outside the centre core of town, near the lovely Villa Borghese Park.  After checking in to our hotel, and leaving all our baggage, we went out to explore the town, starting with a stroll through Villa Borghese...

The big 'O' outside the Gallery of Modern Art

pond and sculptures

Heading out into the city itself was kind of spectacular.  We could see over the rooftops and all the way to St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.  We had a small map from the hotel, with some of the main attractions in town listed, and we wandered through town.  We also randomly found a very interestingly-named store...

looking over Rome to St. Peter's Basilica
Oliver navigating
Hey, I didn't know you had a store in Rome!
We walked through the Piazza Navona, which was bustling with tourists and small outdoor caf├ęs trying to lure us for dinner... and on to the Pantheon, where we were able to step inside and have a look around.  There was even a cellist busking just outside-- he was quite good.

fountain in Piazza Navona
bustling with tourists
outside the Pantheon
cellist busking near the Pantheon
Finally, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant that was so busy we got the only free table left, at the very back... though it did have the best porcini mushrooms I've had in a while!

We continued on past the Fountain of Trevi (again, swarming with tourists, though quite impressive)... and the famous street intersection with the Four Fountains, before locating the Teatro dell' Opera.

Fountain of Trevi
Teatro dell'Opera

Finally, we took the subway back to our hotel after a long and interesting day... tomorrow we are planning to visit the Vatican!

L'isola di Capri

March 25:

After a leisurely breakfast at our suite in Sorrento, we headed down to the marina to catch a boat to Capri.  We just made the 1:00pm boat over, which was a bit of a rough ride, since it was another windy day.  But Oliver especially enjoyed the ride over, and pulling into the island, this is what we saw...

sailing into Capri

We hiked a little ways up the hill, before we realized how daunting it would be to hike all the way up... so we went back down to the marina for a relaxing (though costly) lunch.  

Marina Grande, Capri

lunch at the harbour
After lunch, we took the Funicolare straight up the hill to the town of Capri.  This is the more touristy of the two towns on the island (Capri and Anacapri).  We did a tiny bit of window shopping, and purchased a bottle of limoncello (glass bottle in the shape of a cello)-- we struck an easy deal: Oliver would drink the limoncello, and I would keep the bottle.  It came in handy later that afternoon on the chairlift...

Funicolare from Marina Grande up to the town of Capri

view from town of Capri
From the town of Capri, we got on a bus to the other town, Anacapri.  If we'd thought the roads in Sorrento were narrow, these seemed about half that width, clinging precariously to the cliffside.  It was a spectacular view down to the water.  I'd asked the bus driver about the chairlift in Anacapri-- since we'd been told it might not be running that day due to rain and wind earlier.  The bus driver told me it was closed today, though he gestured to us when we got off the bus... we walked over to the chairlift (seggiovia) entrance to find out that it was in fact open and running now, since the weather had just cleared up.  Perfect timing!  The chairlift was the #1 reason I had wanted to come and see Capri...

It was a fun and scenic 13-minute ride to the top of Monte Solaro... I got on the chair in front of Oliver, and behind a large tour group of Australian students (guessing by their accent).  No one was coming down the other way, since the chairlift had just reopened.  I took so many photos that my camera was giving me a dangerously low-battery warning.  We floated over trees, houses, and gardens, and Oliver enjoyed some bread and limoncello along the way...

view of Anacapri

Limoncello time!

We were up in the clouds at the top of Monte Solaro, but the view was still spectacular.  

We took the chairlift back down, and walked around the town of Anacapri a bit, before taking the bus back down to Marina Grande.  The last ferry sailed back to Sorrento at 5:40pm, and as we got to the marina, we could just see the moon starting to rise over the island.  The ride back was much less of a nautical rollercoaster than the ride over, and we got back to Sorrento before sundown.  

map of Anacapri (on ceramic tiles)
moon rising in the distance, over Marina Grande, Capri
Arrivederci, Capri!
Arrivederci a Sorrento, Sant' Agnello, Capri, e Campania... it's been a lovely time!  I wish we could have stayed longer.  But tomorrow we catch the train back to Rome...

moon through the olive trees