A Travellerspoint blog

2019 - The good , the bad, the ugly. Year End Review

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Each year on New Years Day I take time to reflect on the past year. Some years are wonderful. Some are uneventful. And some I am just glad to see be over. 2019 was one of those years. There were good moments. And then there were some bad ones. Nothing unusual about that. But the bad ones seemed to be overwhelming this year.

Mark changed jobs twice this year. The bank where he was employed was sold and he had to find a new job. This was a bad situation that worked for the best. He found a new job well before the bank finally closed so he was never really unemployed. He phoned me from work one morning and said to me I start the new job in two weeks. So lets plan a last minute trip before I start the new job. I am never one to turn down a chance to travel. Out of nowhere we decided to go to Milan.

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I love Milan. I had been to Milan once before in 2002. But many people are unimpressed with Milan. On my first trip even the woman at the ticket counter in the airport asked me "Why Milan?" So I was bit concerned Mark might be unimpressed also. But I had nothing to worry about. Mark loved Milan as much or even more than I do.

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Mark chilling at a ristorante in the Galleria in Milan

We also had the chance to take a train to Bergamo while in Milan.

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Beautiful Bergamo

Also on this trip I had the chance to return to my beloved Switzerland. And any year I can visit Switzerland is a good year. While in Milan we took a side trip to Lugano. It was definitely Switzerland but it also had a very Italian feel to it. It's right on the border of Switzerland and Italy. There is just something about Switzerland that captures my spirit even if they are speaking Italian.

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The beautiful Lugano Switzerland

Mark started his new job after we returned and it worked well for him. But then out of nowhere he received another job offer. The job had a good increase in salary and also was a much better commute for him. So after just a few months he bid farewell to the new job and started his adventure to a job in our neighboring county. And he really likes the job and everyone who is working there. Even though I have said this was not a great year for us, work wise it's been a great year for Mark.

Because Mark was in a new job we were not able to travel this summer. But don't feel bad for us. We spent every weekend this summer visiting local breweries in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia area. It was great fun. We were entertained every weekend. And we got to try both very good and some mediocre beers. But even mediocre beer isn't all bad.

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RAR Brewery - Cambridge Maryland

The year was going well. Mark was enjoying his second new job of the year. My daughter Katie was hired for a new position with a large increase in salary. And then the ball dropped. My daughter Danielle was made redundant at her job. She was completely unprepared. She was given a small severance package. And she remained unemployed the rest of the year. Then to add fuel to fire her wife was let go from her job also at the end of year. We are all hoping after the holidays are over they will be be able to find new jobs the first of 2020,

In November we were able to travel once more. Our friend Gillian from Manchester, England joined us for a week in Hawaii. It was Mark and my fourth trip to Hawaii. And once more we were overwhelmed.

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December found us with two more problems. My daughter had to have cervical surgery. She had to have a disc replaced in her neck. Then her boyfriend had emergency surgery two weeks before Christmas. To top all of this, Danielle and her wife were unable to join us for Christmas due to their job situation. We had a very uneventful Christmas missing Danielle and Andrea. We spent the morning on our Iphones with face time opening presents together.

We lost some dear friends this year. A beloved extended family member passed away on Christmas Day. We lost family members in Mark's family. And we lost a beloved little dog named Kobi who has been a part of our family for fifteen years. We have continued to watch Mark's Mom slowly fade away to the monster of Alzheimers. But we still have so much to grateful for. And we have a lot to look forward to in 2020. We are already planning some travel for February. I am assured Danielle will find new employment. I have a 50th high school reunion in mid 2020. 2020 you are the beginning of a new decade. We are counting on you to start of this decade better than the last one ended.

Posted by littlesam1 21:10 Tagged italy christmas hawaii switzerland milan Comments (4)

Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Mai Tai's, Alex O'Loughlin and Another Bi


View Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Another birthday in Hawaii 2019/11/12 - 2019/11/21 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Birthday morning on our rooms 9th floor deck at Aston Waikiki Sunset Motel

My husband Mark does not really care about birthdays. He does not particularly like celebrating his own birthday. It's just another day to him. But that is not me. I love birthdays. When the first day of November roles around I get very excited. That's because I don't only celebrate the day I was born. I celebrate the entire month. I usually jokingly label my photo's The Never Ending Birthday Celebration every year. Mark humors me and always goes along with my celebration month. He even goes out his way to make it special because he knows how much it means to me. Two years ago when I turned 65 he took me to Hawaii so I could climb Diamond Head on the my birthday. Hawaii has almost become our second home. We have traveled there four times in the past six yeas. It was such a thrill to stand on top of Diamond Head and take my photo on my 65th birthday. Now thanks to Mark, two years later I found myself back in Waikiki for another birthday.

We woke up early and the weather did not look good. Each morning when I woke up on this trip I looked out of the huge window and in our room to check the weather. And most mornings there was beautiful sunshine. On my birthday I woke up and looked outside to see a very dismal cloud cover.

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Oh well. I was not going to let it ruin my birthday. We had already had seven perfect days in the Never Ending Birthday celebration. So I was not going to get upset over a cloudy possibly rainy day. We were not planning on climbing Diamond Head this year anyway. But within the hour the sun started to appear and burn away all of the clouds.

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So I showered and got dressed in my Hawaiian shirt and prepared for the days adventures.

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My shirt almost matches that beautiful blue sky.

The first order of the day was a huge birthday breakfast. We love the breakfasts in Hawaii. I am not usually a breakfast person. But when I get out on the islands I love their huge breakfasts. We usually eat at one of two places near our hotel, either Cheeseburger in Paradise or LuLu's. Both serve huge delicious breakfasts. But I wanted something different on my birthday. So I told Mark and our friend Gillian, who was with us on this trip, I wanted to walk down Kalakaua Avenue to the Maui Brewing Company for breakfast. It was a good walk from our hotel to the brewery but I had seen photos of their breakfast and new it would be worth the journey.

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And I was correct. This was the best breakfast I had eaten on the entire trip. I had Banana Brûlée pancakes with macadamia nuts. The banana's had a crunchy sugar coating. The macadamia nuts were sweet and delicious. And the maple syrup was infused with an IPA beer from the brewery. The IPA was not to strong to take away from the syrups sweetness, it just addressed it perfectly. This was a great start to my birthday.

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Now that's a happy breakfast face.

We had turned in our rental the car the previous day so we could not drive any place outside of Waikiki. So my plans for my birthday were nothing like the previous year when we climbed Diamond Head. I had a few things in my head I wanted to do though. The big breakfast at Maui Brewing was the first thing and I was able to check it off as accomplished. My next goal was a birthday Mai Tai at the Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. In my opinion they make the best Mai Tai's in Waikiki. Later that evening I wanted to go to Arancino di Mare for an Italian meal. It's Hawaii, why not Italian? And finally I wanted to end the day at late night happy hour at Cheeseburger in Paradise. So nothing extravagant was planned. It was our last day in Waikiki. We were flying home the next day. So this plan was perfect in my opinion.

We left the brewery and walked towards Honolulu but we never actually got outside of Waikiki. We, or rather I had a major distraction. We did take some time for goofy photos. That should be of no surprise to anyone. I saw a tattoo parlor and thought it might have been fun to get a tattoo for my birthday while in Hawaii, but I really had not budgeted for that. So instead I just too silly photos outside of the parlor.

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I saw a tall condominium where I told Gillian that Mark and I could by our dream home. Gillian basically said dream on and let me know when you hit the lottery. I'll move with you.

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I still think one of the corner units by the upper pool would be an excellent investment. Maybe I can convince Mark this by my next birthday?

I then saw an interesting statue. It was not a memorial or religious symbol so I did not feel wrong for taking a funny photo with it.

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We then saw a pretty park and decided to cross the street and look at the flowers and trees in the park. As we entered the park we saw some white trailers in a circle. On closer look we realized they were dressing rooms and crew trailers for the TV show Magnum P.I. There were also signs directing you the from the trailers to the filming area for the show. We decided to follow the signs and maybe get a chance to see them filming a scene from the show. But here is the story. Every time Mark and I have gone to Hawaii I have always joked about running into Alex O'Loughlin who plays McGarrett on Hawaii Five 0 I am a huge fan of the show and have watched every episode since it started telecasting ten years ago. And Alex is a real fantasy for me. But each year we have not run into him or any of the crew filming his show. I like Magnum P.I. But it's not Hawaii Five 0. So seeing the trailers and maybe the cast would be fun but not the major thrill of Hawaii Five 0 or Alex.

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We followed the signs to the Outrigger Reef Hotel. This hotel is another one of our favorite bars with one of the best beach views in Waikiki. When we got to the hotel lobby it appeared the film crew was leaving. Then we saw two aids walking with Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0!

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Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0

I just stopped in my tracks and stared. So they were filming Hawaii Five 0 even though I only saw production trilers for Magnum P.I. My first thought was it's my birthday and I am going to see Alex O'Loughlin. But we never saw him. Apparently Chi was the last actor to leave the set that afternoon. So we continued on to the Reef Bar at the hotel. We did ask the bartender about the filming and he said it was not unusual to see it going on if you worked in Waikiki daily. Gillian told the bartender that I needed a drink. She said it's his birthday and I had just missed seeing Alex. The bartender laughed and asked me if it really was my birthday and I said yes. He mixed a mai tai and passed it across the bar to me. He said, "Here you go. Happy birthday! Compliments of the house!"

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Having to chill my brow at the thought of almost seeing Alex.

I jokingly told him I needed to chill. Being this close to Alex had me over heated. He laughed. Before leaving we decided to toast Hawaii Five 0 with a a Kona Big Wave. Kona is one of the beers that has product placement on the show regularly. The bartender then asked if we wanted one more. He said to stick around. Alex might be returning. We laughed and thanked him but we needed to move on. Their mai tai was good at the Reef Bar but it could not compare to my favorite at the other Outrigger Hotel's Hula Bar farther down the street. And having one there was my original plan for the day.

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Pretending I'm drinking a Kona beer with the cast of Hawaii Five 0

We thanked the bartender, tipped him well for his kindness and left the hotel. As we walked through the lobby we saw several big cars pull up in front on the driveway and we saw a lot of people getting out of them and heading into the hotel. It was the production crew returning! I was a bit preoccupied and looking all around when Gillian and Mark started yelling at me to turn around. They kept saying turn around, look behind you. And I turned and there was Alex, McGarrett in the flesh. He just walked past me. Wow...this was a birthday present.

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He was surrounded with production crew and they were trying to get him out to the filming location on the beach. He did wave and acknowledge some of the fans in the lobby. Mark and Gillian are both saying to me "Where's your phone! Get a photo!" Well I was just too excited. I did get my phone out and was trying to open the camera but I was all thumbs and he was gone before I could get a photo. But I didn't care. After six years and four visits I finally got to see a filming of the show. And it was on my birthday.

We left the hotel and headed back to Kalakaua Avenue. We did some window shopping at the high end stores that line the avenue. Then we eventually ended up at the Outrigger Hotel where the Hula Grill is located. You can try mai tai's all day, up and down Kalakaua Ave and you will not find one better than the one they make at the Hula Grill in my opinion. And after four visits in the six years I will admit I have tried them all. It was getting late in the afternoon. By the time we reached the Hula Bar we were getting hungry and also needed something cool due to the heat of the afternoon. I remembered how Gillian had mentioned my birthday earlier and I was given a free mai tai. So I decided to try it one more time. I mentioned my birthday to the bartender and voila! There was a complimentary mai tai sitting in from of me. And it had a smiling face on the glass as if to say Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry! (Happy Birthday Larry).

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I did need some lunch. I'd had two mai tai's and a beer on an empty stomach so far today. So I ordered shrimp taco's at the bar. They were an excellent fusion of Hawaiian and Mexican food.

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And then I ordered one more mai tai because they are so good here.

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So this had been a three umbrella day... so far.

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After lunch we returned to our hotel. We all needed to rest for a while. We had done a lot of walking and I had done a bit of drinking.

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After napping and showering Mark and I were ready to head out for my birthday dinner. We picked an Italian restaurant near our hotel. It was going to be something different from our standard Hawaiian vacation meals. We have several inexpensive Hawaiian shirts we have bought as souvenirs over the years. But on our last day we always save our dress Hawaiian shirts to wear. So we dressed up and headed out with Gillian to Arancino di Mare for an Italian dinner.

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It was the perfect ending to a very special birthday. But it still wasn't quite over. We decided to stop in to Cheeseburger In Paradise for their late night happy hour. It was near our hotel and had become our night cap stop on several nights. We had gotten to know the two evening bartenders, Andrew and Caleb very well. When we walked in Caleb laughed and told Mark and I that we had gone more Hawaiian than him. They are required to wear Hawaiian shirts and accessories while they are working. He said "Look at you two. The shirts, the kukui nut leis, and Larry you even have on the Makau fish hook necklace. I feel like I dressed down tonight." I used my birthday excuse once more to see what would happen. I told him we dressed up for my birthday dinner. He laughed. Then I told him I had been drinking free mai tai's all day. He said " but I bet you haven't had a birthday shot yet have you? " Gillian and Mark both laughed and told him that I had already had enough free drinks for one day. And then he asked me again if I wanted a birthday shot. And of course I said "Hell yes!" Jacob then made me a shot he called Hawaiian Gummy Bears and toasted my birthday.

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Everyone should have Hawaiian Gummy Bears for their birthday.

We ended up all smiles by the end of the night at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

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And still the night was not over.

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Our bartenders : Andrew and Caleb

We had learned from the bartender Andrew on a previous night that he was from Perry Hall, Maryland. Perry Hall is only about ten minutes from where Mark and I live. It was another one of those small world stories. After I finished my shot that Jacob had made for me, Andrew pointed to another man at the end of the bar. He was a local regular at the bar. Andrew told us that he was from Edgewood, Maryland and I should go say hello to him. So still in the happy birthday spirit I walked down to the end of the bar and said rather loudly "Hey Edgewood. How are you doing?" The guy looked at me like I was crazy and asked how in the hell did I know Edgewood, Md. I told her I had worked there for quite a few years at the US Army base. He laughed and bought me one last drink. . But you know what they say on the internet. Photo or it didn't happen. So then we took a photo together

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Making friends from Maryland while in Hawaii

Finally back in our hotel room. From the cloud cover in the morning, to the sunshine in the afternoon, to the darkness of night

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Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry. Happy birthday Larry. If you have to get old, this is the way to do it.

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The birthday is over. One last shaka "hangin loose" salute before the lights go out. And yes the lights did go out. We had a sign on our door telling us the hotel was to lose power at 11:30 pm until approx 4 am. for emergency maintenance. At least they left us a little survival kit.

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Mahalo (thanks) Gillian for joining us on this crazy adventure.

And a very big Mahalo to Mark for making it all happen.

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Posted by littlesam1 17:08 Archived in USA Tagged oahu hawaii waikiki birthdays mai_tai cheeseburger_in_paradise hawaii_five_0 mcgarrett alex_o'loughlin chi_mcbride @alexo'loughlin @chimcbride @cheeseburgerinparadise Comments (5)

O Solo A Roma - Day 8 - The Last Day - Arrivederci Roma


View O Solo Roma July 2016 on littlesam1's travel map.

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The colors of Rome are starting to fade behind me.

The vacation alone in Rome had been a wonderful experience. Although I missed Mark's company and regretted him not being there I will always be grateful he insisted I go. The lost maps, the evasive piazza's, the con artist, and my friend Aldo who owned the restaurant are all apart of the experience that was slowly fading into the past on my last day in Rome. But I still had big plans for the last day. I saved The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum for my last day. And it was the perfect way to finish the adventure.

From my research and also from friends who have visited Rome, I was told it would be difficult to get tickets to see The Sistine Chapel. I was told there were long lines and crowds. I was advised to book in advance before arriving in Rome. So I booked a tour through Viator for a tour of the Vatican Museum. And I was dreading it. I hate guided tours where you are lead around like a large group of lemmings behind a disinterested guide rattling on and on about every little nook and cranny sharing the most boring minute details. I would much rather just tour the museum on my own and read the signs and descriptions on the items that catch my interest. My tour that I booked in advance promised me I could "skip the lines" and avoid the crowds. Of course those tours are their own little mini crowds so I really don't know what you are skipping. I paid $35 over the internet for my reservation. I was booked for late afternoon. My last day in Rome was going to be spent with the thing I dislike most about traveling. Group tours.

I got up that morning and decided to walk down to the Vatican Museum entrance to see where I was supposed to meet my guide later that day. I didn't want to arrive and go to the wrong place and miss my tour. The web page where I booked the tour warned if you are late you will be left behind. It was only a couple of blocks from my hotel so it would not take me long. When I arrived there was no line at the entrance. The ticket office was open. There were people there buying tickets and going directly inside the museum. The entrance price was $17. Guess what? I decided to not worry about the losing the $35 reservation fee I had paid in advance. I just walked up to the ticketing area, not having to "skip any lines", bought my ticket, and was on my way to a morning tour of the museum and then my chance to see the Sistine Chapel. It was somewhat crowded inside and there were many tour groups who chose to skip the nonexistent lines. I passed by most of them as their guides droned on and on and then some self important person would take time to ask asinine questions. Oh I was glad I was not with them.

Everything inside the museum was beautiful. Even the stair case was a work of art.

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And by the stair case, for those of us who were not in a group following a droning guide to warn us, there was a sign letting us know not to fall on the stairs. How convenient.

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Could have been me....the guided tours.

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I passed the slow moving guided tours and continued my journey. The walls, the ceilings, every part of the museum was beautiful and a piece of art in itself.

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And then finally I arrived. Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. I had been wanting to see this ever since taking an 8th grade art class trip to see Charlton Heston paint the ceiling in the movie The Agony and The Ecstasy. I even wrote an entire blog about the experience of seeing the ceiling three years ago right after I got home.

Mark, who I wished was there, had told me he was not overwhelmed with the Sistine Chapel when he saw it was a teenager after his high school graduation. He warned me that it was just a crowded box shaped room with Michelangelo's God touching Man way up over head. As I entered the crowded box shaped chapel I was wondering what my experience would be. It was crowded. People were pushing to get inside. And I was only allowed a short time to take in the experience as the guards tried to keep the crowd moving.

And there it was. I was directly under it in the middle of the chapel and it was breath taking. All I wanted was one quick photograph, without flash of course. There were signs saying no photographs. But people all around me were sneaking out their cell phones and small camera's to get a quick photo. And I was not leaving without taking one also. I cautiously took my camera out of the camera bag. I lifted the camera just over my head for the photo and someone taps me on my shoulder. It was a security guard and he said no photos. I looked around and many others taking photos were being ignored. So I waited and when he turned his back I took the photo. And of course he caught me. He tapped me again and said firmly. Put the camera away...NOW.

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Just behind me was Michelangelo's final judgement and I really wanted a photo of that also. I snapped it quickly and then saw the guard looking at me from across the room. I showed him from a distance I was putting my camera away and then quickly made my exit.

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I don't know what I would have done if I had gotten into serious trouble with the guard. How would I explain long distance to Mark that I had been thrown out of the Vatican Museum because I didn't take my guided tour and I needed extra cash for a fine. Luckily that did not happen.

Leaving the museum the view of St. Peter's was beautiful and much different from observing it from front in St. Peter's Square.

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I left The Vatican and the crowds and the guards behind and had to chuckle to myself because I do tend to get into trouble when I am alone. It was extremely hot on this day and I need to take a break and cool down. There was a really nice little cafe just across the street from the museum entrance. I stopped in for something to cool to drink and then noticed they had watermelon on the menu. What a perfect way to relax and cool off and also take a silly selfie.

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So there I am with a quartered slice of watermelon, a mirror behind me, and my cell phone. I probably should have used that cell phone in the Sistine Chapel. I probably would not have been noticed at all.

I went back to my hotel to shower and get a change of clothes as it had been very hot and I was a bit sweaty. I put away my little white hat I had bought to wear in Rome and broke out my Baltimore Oriole's baseball cap. I was slowly preparing to return home. I went to lunch in the neighborhood and to my surprise I found a craft beer. I had not seen any craft beers the entire time I had been in Rome. So I was excited to get something other than a Peroni.

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My last lunch in Rome was a bit melancholy. I still had a dinner coming up later in the evening but something about lunch set me back a little. I started thinking about how much Mark and I had looked forward to this trip. And I felt awful that his father was ill and also that Mark had to stay home. I looked over at the empty chair sitting in front of me and took a photo. This was Mark's chair. And I ordered him a glass of wine and sent him a silent toast and a thanks.

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And then suddenly this typical tourist couple walked past me. I am sure they were part of one of the "skip the line" tour from the Sistine Chapel. And I just got the sillies. I had to giggle. So much for sentiment. Here is what I saw as they passed by me.

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I sure hope Jack didn't lose her.

I went out that evening for my last meal in Rome. I stayed in the neighborhood. I found a delightful little pizzeria named La Tavernella.

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One more glass of wine...

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...One more plate of pasta...

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...And one more Italian waiter.

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And the vacation was over. Arrivederici Roma!

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Posted by littlesam1 21:53 Archived in Italy Tagged italy rome michelangelo the_vatican the_vatican_museum Comments (4)

O Solo A Roma Day 7 Hunting for elephants centaurs & giants


View O Solo Roma July 2016 on littlesam1's travel map.

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A Busy Day For Swollen Feet

I planned day seven to be an easy but exhausting day. I knew I would be walking a lot the entire day. But I would not be frustrated with maps or hidden piazza's. I was returning to some familiar places I had already visited and wanted more time to explore them closer. I was off to the notorious Piazza Navona which had hidden from me taking me two days to locate the at the beginning of my time in Rome. This would be my last chance to return to the piazza and take some photos I had missed on my previous visit. I had gone through my photos from my earlier visit and was dissatisfied with some of them. I had some other angles and close ups I wanted to try on the fountains in the square. I was still on a Bernini overload and just wanted more. Also after my first visit I had read a lot more on Google and in my guide book about the church Sant'Agnese in Agone and wanted to go back to try and understand more of what I had seen on the first visit.

Fontana dei Quattro

I felt like my original photos of the Bernini's fountain did not do it justice. I wanted to get some photos that were close up and wanted to examine the figures more in detail. Getting close to the fountain I could feel the movement Bernini created in this work. And once more I was transported. I was glad to be alone this day as I knew my slow examination and time I spent here would have driven someone else crazy. I just felt compelled to study this more and feel the experience.

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I also wanted a good close up of Fontana del Moro from the piazza with the Basilica behind it. There was on photo in my guide book of the fountains with the church in the back ground that I wanted to recreate and I was able to do that.

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Basilica of Saint Agnes in Agon

On my previous days visit to Saint Agnes in Agone I was hesitant to take photos because there were signs posted about not using cameras. So I tried to take a few quickly with my phone. When I returned this time I noticed almost everyone was taking photos and no one was asking them to stop so I also took quite a few photos with my camera and was much happier than I was with those from the previous day. The church is truly amazing inside.

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The masterpiece inside of the Basilica is the sculpture Saint Agnes in Agone

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I was fascinated with this work and was very glad I had the chance to go back and take some photos of it. I was fascinated with the story of Saint Agnes. Saint Agnes was a twelve or thirteen year old early Christian martyr whose beauty was her undoing. According to the legend she had many suitors of high Roman rank. She refused their attention by her resolute devotion to religious purity. In revenge her name was submitted to the Roman government as a follower of Christianity. Her body was dragged through the streets to a brothel naked where she was to be raped. The legend goes on to say her hair grew to cover her nakedness and all of the young men who tried to rape her were turned blind. The son of the one of the men e who condemned her was struck dead by was revived by her prayers. She was tried and condemned to be burned at the stake. However the flames parted away from her and the wood would not burn. So the officer in charge drew his sword and beheaded her. The more I learn about the saints the more fascinated I become with their stories and the more the sculptures and paintings of them intrigue me.

On my previous days visit I was in a bit of a hurry as I had other plans for the day and more things I wanted to see. So I missed seeing the Shrine of Saint Agnes. To my shock and surprise there in the shrine is what is said to be her skull. I completely missed all of this on that first visit. Seeing it brought a realness to the legend for me.

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I left Piazza Navona for the last time of this trip and walked down the side street towards Piazza della Rotunda and The Pantheon. I was getting good at navigating these side streets....I thought.

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Searching for Piazza della Minerva.

After my time in Piazza Navona I wanted to go find Piazza della Minerva. There was an unusual Bernini work I wanted to see in that square in front of Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. . From my guide book and also the hotel's tourist map I knew it was located directly behind The Pantheon. And I knew how to find The Pantheon so I did not think I would have any problem finding Piazza della Minerva. Wrong! For some I was unable to find the side street to take me to Piazza della Minerva. I knew I was right there according to the map, but I just could not get my sense of direction correct and find the piazza.

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In my frustration I decided to take a break. And where better than to take a break than in Piazza Della Rotunda in front of The Pantheon.

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I took a break for lunch in the Piazza in front of the Pantheon. It was hot and I was thirsty. So the break did me well before I went back to search for another lost piazza.

Some water...

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Add some pizza and a beer...

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And a good view...

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Now I was ready once more to search for Piazza della Minerva.

I did find it. And I don't know how I missed it. It was exactly where the map and the guide book said it would be. Directly behind The Pantheon. I guess I was too distracted by odd things like Pope lollipop stores

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Piazza della Minerva

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You can easily see the round roof on top of The Pantheon in the back ground from Piazza della Minerva in the photo, I don't know how I missed finding the square. But then remember it took me two days to find Piazza Navona so it's not surprising.

This short column is the main reason I wanted to find Piazza Navona. It's not tall. It's not screaming for your attention. At first appearance from a distance it's very unassuming. But it is another great work by Bernini. The Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and the Piazza were all but deserted. However the Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is one of the more fascinating churches I have toured. Starting with the Bernini Elephant column in the front and then all of the Bernini art work inside made it a treasure trove for me. There was also a Michelangelo work inside the church. I was surprised that there was not a crowd visiting this church. It's not really mentioned in many guide books. When you mention visiting Rome no one usually asks if you visited Piazza della Minerva. Yet in my opinion there should be as many tourist here as there are at the Spanish Steps or the Trevi Fountain.

In front of the church is one of the most curious and unusual monuments in Rome. It is an elephant statue designed by Bernini.

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The elephant is the supporting base for an Egyptian obelisk. It is the shortest of eleven obelisks found in Rome. The inscription that was chosen by the Pope Alexander VII who commissioned the elephant sculpture is said to represent that "...a strong mind is needed to support a solid knowledge." Bernini's inspiration for the elephant comes from an unusual 15th century novel by Francesco Colonna. In the novel the main character meets an elephant made of stone carrying an obelisk

As I have mentioned in my other blogs about Bernini in Rome, to me once again, I can see movement in the statue. It's not just an elephant standing with it's trunk in air like so many drawings and other statues.. This elephant's head is turned to look directly at you and his trunk is swinging to his side

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When I returned home within the week I read an article where the elephant sculpture had been damaged by a tourist. Part of the tusk had been damaged. The article said it could be repaired but that Romans were quite upset by the damage. I was very angry also. When I returned to Rome two years later the tusk had been repaired. But I was still angered at the ignorance of people.

Basilica Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

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The church was very beautiful inside and was way beyond my expectations.

The Bernini designed Cardinal Domenico Pimentel tomb in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

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The Bernini detail is evident in this tomb.

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Bernini's Funeral Monument of Giovanni Vigevan

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Bernini's funeral monument for Cardinal Gregoro Naro

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There is also a Michelangelo sculpture inside the chapel. Michelangelo's statue of The Risen Christ stands in the church. The statue was originally nude created in a heroic ancient Greek style. It holds the cross, the sponge and the reed of passion. At a later time a bronze disc halo, modesty cloth and a sandal on the right foot were added. It is believed the sandal was added to protect the foot from being worn away by the touching and kissing of the faithful. Later the sandal and halo were removed. But the modesty cloth has remained in place.

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There are so many items to be viewed in this church that I had a difficult time keeping track of what I was seeing. I found trying to make notes later was a difficult job. There are many chapels all filled with art and sculptures. It was truly overwhelming, in a good way at times, trying to take it all in.

Relic - Funeral Monument of Giovanni Vigevano.

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There are many relics in Rome and scattered all over the world. But each time I see one I have to stop and realize this skull, or this piece of bone, was a living person at one time. I always find it a bit horrific that the bones were ripped and torn and dispersed around the world. But there is also a semblance of sanctity about their display and remembrance.

I could have stood for hours studying the chapel of the Memorial of Cardinal Bonelli. There were many sculptures in the memorial chapel. Some by Bernini and some by other artists. It would have been possible to write an entire blog just on the art inside this memorial.

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I had other art works I wanted to find on this day. I only had one day left in Rome after this and it was on my schedule to see The Sistine Chapel. So I had to reluctantly leave the Basilica Santa Maria della Minerva to allow myself time to visit the Campidoglio Museum. So much art and so little time.

Leaving the church I walked over to a taxi driver who was parked near the church and asked if he could take me to the Capitoline Museums. After all the searching I had done for Piazza della Minerva I did not want to waste any more time getting lost. But he laughed and explained the museums were just around the corner from me. I laughed to myself. I knew that must be very near for him to turn down a fare. But I also knew my sense of direction and wondered if I would walk around in circles looking for but yet missing it. Luckily he was correct and it was just around the corner less then a five minute walk.

Campidoglio Museum

The Campidoglio Museum is the oldest museum in the world. It is the first place where art was opened for public enjoyment. And it was the highlight of an already remarkable day. I spent well over three hours exploring the musuems and all of the beautiful artwork inside them. Even then I had to force myself to leave knowing there was so much more I wanted to see.

The museum contained a magical world of centaurs, and giants, huge equestrian statues, God and Goddesses and yes even some more of Bernini's magic. I used my guide book to make a list of the works I did not want to miss. I made a list and when I got to the museum I mapped out their locations. Of course on my way to find them I found many other amazing surprises also.

Young Centaur, by Aristeas and Papias

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Bernini's Medusa - you could almost see the snakes move.

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Another Centaur. I was beginning to feel like I was walking through a Ray Harryhausen movie on a Saturday afternoon matinee at the movies.

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Equestrian statue of emperor Marco Aurelio

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One of my favorites. The Reclining marble statue of the river god Marforio

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This sculpture of the lion attacking a horse was so realistic I almost wanted to turn my head from it.

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Probably the most moving thing I saw in the museum is the beautiful but sad sculpture of The Dying Gaul or Dying Galatian. The figure represents a Celtic warrior. He lies on his fallen shield with his sword, belt, and curved trumpet lie beside him.

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Boy with Thorn, also called Fedele (Fedelino) or Spinario, This is one of the very few Roman bronzes that was never lost to sight. It was quite amazing to see.

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Much like the museum itself I have too many photos to include in one blog. So I will have to force myself to move on much like I had to do that day in the museum. I think it's fitting to end with copy of Romulus and Remus from the museum.

The End of My Day

After a long day of walking and exploring art I did not want to spend any more time searching for some place to eat dinner. So I returned to my friend Aldo's Taverna Varonne. It is the only place I returned to twice to eat. And for good reason. Aldo had been such a gracious host the previous night I only felt it polite to return his kindness and dine there again.

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And just in case you are wondering, yes he did insist I have grappa again on this evening. And once again he did not add it to my check. Grazie Aldo!

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Posted by littlesam1 07:04 Tagged basilica museum moro dei minerva fontana_ _quattro del_ piazza_ della_ _of_santa _maria_ sopra _minerva campidoglio_ Comments (8)

O Solo Roma - Day 6 - Hunting for the Ecstasy of St. Teresa


View O Solo Roma July 2016 on littlesam1's travel map.

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It was day six in Rome. I had read my guide book the previous evening and found something that fascinated me. So my big plan for the day was to find Santa Maria della Vittoria and see Bernini’s sculpture Ecstasy of St. Teresa. If you have been following my blogs on my trip to Rome you have probably found humor in all of my problems with the maps I had been using. I finally gave up on the ones I had been using and decided to grab one of the tourist maps in my hotels lobby. I needed to find Largo Santa Susanna where Santa Maria della Vittoria was located. The hotels tourist map had the church marked clearly so it should be easy to find.

Domienicoo Fontana's "Fountain of Moses"

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Fountain of Moses

When I arrived to Largo Santa Susanna the first thing I noticed was a very large fountain and sculpture. It had not been mentioned in my guide book so it was a pleasant surprise to see it. From the signs I could read I found this was Domenico Fontana’s “Fountain of Moses” on Via Orlando just across the street from the church I was wanting to visit. The Fountain of Moses was built in 1587-1588 by Domenico Fontana and it has quite an interesting history and mythology surrounding it.

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Although the story is probably exaggerated it is however certain that the statue was ridiculed; the locals even called it 'Il Mosè ridicolo' - the ridiculous Moses. But historians now know that Antichi did not create the statue on his own, most of the work was likely done by Leonardo Sormani, who also finished the statue. But I hate to dispute a good story. So I am sticking with the mockery and suicide story. The statue is a bit overwhelming and domineering of the intersection. And Moses does look threatening.

Santa Maria della Vittoria

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I then walked across the street to see Santa Maria della Vittoria and the Bernini masterpiece The Ecstasy of St. Teresa. The church is not over ornate on the outside. I could have walked right past it with little interest never knowing the master piece that was located inside if I had not read about it in the guide book

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa

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The sculpture amazed me. I was honestly left motionless staring at it for the longest time. Bernini's works are all amazing. And as I mentioned in some of my early blogs I was on a mission to take in as much Bernini as possible on this vacation. But I was not prepared for the effect this masterpiece had on me. Like all Bernini's work there is great fluid and motion to the sculpture. His works are never static. They flow and move. The statues in this piece depict a moment described by Saint Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, where she had the vivid vision of a seraph piercing her heart with a golden shaft, causing her both immense joy and pain. The flowing robes and contorted posture leave classical restraint and repose behind to depict a more passionate, almost voluptuous trance. You can see and almost feel her ecstasy looking at the sculpture.

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I had a terrible time taking good photos of the sculpture. It was placed over head with bright lights surrounding it. Most of my photos turned out blurry and a bit out of focus. I had to work some major photoshopping to make a few them worthy of the exhibit.

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Another beautiful sculpture in the church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel Giving the Scapular to St. Simon. Although it pales in comparison to the Bernini it still is quite interesting to see. Not being Roman Catholic I had to do some research about the meaning of this sculpture and also to find out what a scapular is Pious tradition maintains that both the rosary and the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel were given by the Virgin Mary to saints Dominic and Simon. This particular statue represents the ones given to St. Simon. I was excited to text home to Mark later in the day to let him know all of the Roman Catholic history I was learning on this day.

Piazza della Repubblica

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I left Santa Maria della Vittoria and walked to Piazza della Repubblica. I was on my way to Santa Maria Maggiore. I stopped in a small cafe in the piazza to take a break and have something cool to drink as the day was very warm. It was a very beautiful location to take a break. There were fountains, churches and to my surprise all of the chairs at the café had Budweiser written on the back.

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Really Rome? Really? Budweiser chairs? How disappointing.

The Fountain of the Niaids

In the piazza is a very unusual fountain that I found very interesting. There is a bit of eroticism to the fountain .In the center is a group of sculptures called the group of the Glauco, sculpted by Rutelli in 1912, depicting the fisherman Glauco fighting a fish, symbolizing the dominion of mankind over natural forces. A tall central spray is shot upward from this sculpture. But the real highlight of this fountain are the four Naiads (nymphs) evenly spaced at the edge of the fountain, each with a jet of water spraying from the center toward them.

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The four figures of the Naiad's were to represent the four water nymphs. The Naiad of the the Oceans, the Naiad of the Rivers, the Naiad of the Lakes, and the Naiad of the Underground Waters, each with an allergorical animal that represented their environment. But nobody imaged quite what the artist had conceived and the population was shocked when the statues were finally unveiled in 1901: four completely naked young female figures whose bodies, soaked by water that gushed from a large nozzle at the back, glittered in the sun in a very erotic manner. It is said the young men in turn of the century Rome like the statues a lot. I did also. But conservative factions of the city rose up and battled to have removed in the name of morality and decency. It didn't work. The statues still remain thank goodness.

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The Four Naiads

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Rutelli's Glauco fighting a fish at the center of the fountain

Although the fountain was not mentioned in my guide, and criticized and almost censored at the turn of century, it was what a delightful to find while resting before heading to my the next church of my day.

Santa Maria della Maggiore

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I followed the convenient map my hotel provided to find my way from Piazza della Repubblica to Santa Maria della Maggiore. There were several small side streets I had to follow and I could only have found it with my map.

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When I arrived to the church there was a lot of security. There is security all over Rome particularly at the famous tourist sites, but this was more security than I had seen any where other than the Vatican.

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I had to walk through a scanner and run my bags through a security scanner also. I placed my map on the belt with my bags but when I retrieved my bags I did not pick up my map. I went inside to view the church and sat down on a pew for moment to look at my map to find my way back. That’s when I realized I had lost the map in security. I was not sure what to do. I knew I would have a very difficult time finding my way back without the map. But I also knew the very serious security guards would be in no mood to hear my story about the lost map. So I went to a gift shop in the church and they did have maps for sale and I bought one. It was not expensive. When I opened it up back in the street outside of the church it was a full map of Rome and not just a convenient map of the tourist locations. It was difficult to read and follow the map and I was a little aggravated with myself for losing the smaller easier map. I walked across the street from the church and found another souvenir stand. They did have small tourist friendly maps for sale here. So I ended up losing my free map and then buying two other maps. The map was really excellent and I used it for the rest of my time in Rome. At the time of my visit I did not realize the church had been the target of a possible terrorist attack in Dec. 2015. That explained the tight security outside of the church. So for all practical reasons I can say my losing my map was due to an act of terrorism.

When I returned home the map was an excellent aid in helping me identify my photos and to map out in writing my daily journeys. I kept the map and used it again when Mark and I returned to Rome together two years later. Guess what? We lost it our second day there!

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Marion Column in front of Santa Maria Maggiore standing in Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore.

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This church had many unusual things about that caught my attention and interested me both inside and outside of the church.

There were several stern and serious looking sculptures on the outside wall of the church. I tried to find some information on them but did not any specific information about them.

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Inside the church is the Crypt of the Nativity. It is one of the more unusual things that I saw in the churches in Rome. There is a very large statue of Pope Pius in front of a golden statue of the infant Jesus that looked very unusual to me. As I have said before I am not Roman Catholic so I did not want to make jokes about the image. But Mark is a devout Catholic and he did find some humor in the image. When I sent a photo home to Mark later that evening he said it looked like disco Jesus. But my research told me later it had a greater significance than I had realized.

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The statue of St. Pius is one of the first things to be noticed inside the church and it was very large immediately capturing my attention.

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This is the image of the Christ child that I found so unusual. This area is part of what is called the Bethlehem crypt.

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Although Mark and I made a bit of irreverent joke about this particular statu,e to our embarrassment, I read later it has a very important significance. Under the high altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity or Bethlehem Crypt, with a crystal reliquary designed by Giuseppe Valadier said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of the infant Jesus. This is known as the Bethlehem crypt or The Crypt of the Nativity.

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The Basilica was very beautiful inside and I took many photos.

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Leaving the church and headed back towards my hotel I was very glad to have bought a new map. There were many side streets, intersections, and small paths to follow getting back. I would have been completely lost with a map.

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The end of my day and making a new friend.

When I finished my walking tour for the day I took a taxi once again from Piazza Vittorio to Piazza del Popolo. It had been a long day walking in the heat of summer in Rome.

Arriving back to Piazza del Popolo I started the walk back to my hotel. I took a photo of two men sitting on a wall near Piazza della Liberta. I have taken similar photos in other cities. It seems to be a theme I enjoy. It's usually a person or a couple with their backs to be sitting on a bridge or riverside. For some reason seeing thsee two men sitting on the wall made me realize how grateful I was to Mark for this trip to Rome and how much he should have been on this vacation also. It's one of my favorite photos from the trip. It's not a church or cathedral. It just captured a moment and an emotion.

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I had a late lunch at a small place with a beautiful wall of wine near my hotel.

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I went back to the hotel to rest a little, take a shower and recoup before going out for dinner. Afterwards I walked down towards the Vatican and saw an interesting little pizzeria. There was outside seating and some steps leading downstairs to the actual restaurant which was in the basement of the building. The owner of the place was named Aldo and he was very friendly. I ordered a Peroni and it came in a very large mug with complimentary bread sticks.

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Then came the pizza. It was delicious.

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I ordered a second Peroni and decided that would be enough as it was late and dark and I was walking alone. I talked with Aldo, the owner a little more. We talked about Rome and where I was from. I brought up the topic of grappa in our conversation. We talked about good grappa and bad grappa. Good grappa is smooth and never burns your throat. Bad grappa on the other hand can burn all the way down. He asked me if I wanted a grappa before leaving. I love grappa but I said "No thank you. I think I have already had enough for tonight." He said but you must have a grappa and laughed. I asked him what kind of grappa. Was it the kind that burned all the way down? He laughed and said "No I have good grappa." So I took his advice and had the grappa.

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It was delicious and had no burn at all. I said to him that it was very good and it did not burn. He said" I told you it was good grappa" and then filled my glass again. Oh boy! I would have to be very careful walking back.

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Aldo's was a wonderful find for me. The evening could not have been better. Great food, free grappa and a new friend..

On my way back to the room it was still early. I knew I would be awake for a while so I stopped at the little grocery store by my hotel and bought some snacks and a bottle of Poretti. Then it was time to relax, check out my guide for tomorrows adventures, and text Mark to tell him all about my day.

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Posted by littlesam1 07:30 Archived in Italy Tagged food sculptures fountains italy rome pizza grappa bernini ecstacy_of_st._teresa santa_maria_maggiore piazza_della_republica naiads Comments (5)

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