Sunday, October 31, 2010

Three Coins In A Fountain

Coins equaling $3,000 in Euros are fished from the Trevi Fountain daily. The money is used to help the needy in Rome.

Now isn't that wonderful? Helping the needy. Who'Da thunk?

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Truck Or Treat
Isn’t He Comcastic?
Trick Or Treating With All Ten Toes
Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lucky To Be A Woman

An advertisement in a subway in Rome. If anyone can spruce up the bleakness of tunnels underground, Sophia Loren can.

But really, did you expect anything less? She even makes armpit hair look sexy as hell.

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I Feel Like A Thief
Emulating The Brazilian Bombshell
She’s Still Learning

Friday, October 29, 2010

Evening Fruits And Vegetables

A small market with fruits and vegetables displayed outside (Alimentari Frutta e Verdura is what the sign reads). This shop was located in the frazione of Bomerano in the municipality of Agerola.

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He Parks Like A Girl
Out Cattin’ On Halloween
The Bridges And A Cowboy
What Happens When Time Falls Into The Wrong Hands

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It Always Pays To Take The Full Coverage Insurance Option On Your Rental Vehicle

This is the bridge that connected Bucine, the town where our villa was located, and the neighboring town of Pogi. According to a book I read, Pogi was built on the banks of the river Ambra and this Romanesque donkey-back bridge, with its five distinct arches, crosses it.

The bridge is made of stone and brick and is immediately recognizable because it has two colors. Some experts have said that the bridge represents continuity of an ancient path and that it's built on the foundations of a Roman footbridge.

The locally produced guidebook I purchased said that in 1138, the monks of Agnano owned a mill here. And the interesting etymology of the town name, comes not from the nearby castle on the "poggio" (hilltop) but derives from the Latin "paucis" which developed into "Poci" and "Poce" and eventually became Pogi.

Another little interesting tidbit about the bridge...

It was extremely narrow; less than five feet, ten inches wide. Our van barely fit between its walls in order to cross it. This caused a high level of anxiety among the occupants of the van and during one crossing, the driver of the van (not Ed) managed to scrape the side of the van on the stone of the bridge.

Ultimately, we found another way out of the village.

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It’s Here! It’s Here!
U.S. Route 287
Room 328
This Could Be The Day You Have A Date With Destiny
Go See It

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Beautiful Place

This is the Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta in Siena, Italy. Its black and white marble exterior is instantly recognizable. Black and white are the colors of the civic coat of arms of Siena, originally linked to the black and white horses owned by the city's founders, Senius and Aschius. The Cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263. Forty-eight years. To erect a building. Amazing.

It's beautiful from the outside, but when you step inside, prepare to be blown away. This is the nave. And it's stunning. It's overhwhelmingly stunning; you just don't know where to look. The black and white stripes of marble create a fantastic effect. A delight for your eyes. It's impossible not to stand and stare at the stripes on the columns; some of them placed there 795 years ago. The thought that someone not only designed, but placed those pieces of colored marble, layer by layer, is kind of inconceivable. I can't even stack coins without getting bored and giving up. What I really enjoyed was touching the marble. Cool and smooth under my hand, I knew I was touching the very stone a workman almost 800 years ago also touched. Astonishing.And as your eye travels up each of the columns, your eyes will come to rest on the cathedral's dome. The hexagonal dome is topped with Bernini's gilded lantern and the coffers are painted in the trompe l'oeil style in blue with golden stars. This was done in the late 15th century.
The main altar was astounding. Well, to me, not so much the altar itself, but the artwork behind it. So much beauty. Seemingly endless ceilings...but not really, because when you get to the top of this one, there's a beautiful stained glass window.
Pipes for an organ, that I'm sure emitted the most beautiful music ever heard...And then, there is the pulpit. Made of Carrara marble and sculpted by Nicola Pisano over 700 years ago. This pulpit is considered his masterpiece.
It was difficult to get close to the pulpit because it was roped off; but the floor was there for the taking. According to Wikipedia, "The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy, covering the whole floor of the cathedral. This undertaking went on from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, and about forty artists made their contribution."

Look at that floor. I wanted to get down and slither on it. Each area contained so much detail. And although it's marble, I kept thinking of my brother the "tile-guy", wishing he could see not only the beautiful detail, but the vastness of it. It covers the entire space of the Cathedral. From what I read, the uncovered floor can only be seen for a period of six to ten weeks each year. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I'm thrilled that I got to see it. This was, by far, the most beautiful Duomo I saw while in Italy. I propped my camera up on one of the (hundreds of years old) statues to take this picture of Eddie and I. It's rare that we get a picture with both of us in it. It's a little dark and I didn't have a tripod, but it'll do. One of the last things we did before leaving the church was to visit the little corner where you can light a small votive candle. This plaque hung next to the box of candles. I lit several for my family and friends. The best translation I can find, using online translation, is this:

I do not know how to pray
I do not know what to say
I do not have much time...
I offer this light and
a bit of my love.
a bit of my time.
a bit of myself.
This light that shines
will be my
That will continue
as I leave this

I'm not very much into church anymore, but being raised in the Catholic faith, lighting candles always felt very special. It was fun to do as a child and by leaving the lit candle behind you, in such a sacred place, it's as if you really knew that someone would be watching that brilliant flame and answering your prayer.

And for a moment, I was grasped by that childlike faith and left my candles flickering as I left this beautiful place.

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If I Had A Horn, I’d Toot It. I Do Have A Blog Though.
We Are THAT Good
Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
Alabama’s Greatest Showplace
Half Nekkid Thursday Virgin

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There For The Climbing...If You're So Inclined

Our trip to Pisa was filled with great anticipation for me. I think the main reason was the fact that the Leaning Tower is so iconic. It graces magazine articles about Italy, can be found on packages of frozen ravioli in the grocery store and is a famous landmark known around the world. Anyone who sees it knows exactly what it is and where it is.

After we drove our rental van to Pisa and parked at a suggested site, we took a short ride on a bus over to see the tower. When we got off the bus, this was my first glimpse...a teaser for sure.

As soon as we walked through that arch, we saw the Baptistery on the left, and the first thing I noticed was this part of the building. It looks like it's leaning, doesn't it? But no, that wasn't it. Does everything here lean?

Immediately beside the Baptistery is the Cathedral and then, the Leaning Tower. From this angle, it doesn't appear all that wonky.
But as you move closer and get on its other side, you can really see the incredibly obvious lean. The tower, or campanile, is freestanding. Its only purpose? To be a bell tower. A bell tower that began leaning immediately after the start of construction in 1173.

That's when the
Leaning Tower of Pisa was born.

It took 177 years and three different stages of construction for it to be finished. It took Ed 10 minutes to plant himself in this pose.

The tower leans approximately 12 feet, 10 inches off-center. It's really quite an amazing sight. All that was left for us to do now, was climb it! They only let thirty people in at a time and at some point in the climb, while you're going up, the last group is coming down. There's plenty of room at the bottom for someone to pass, but when you get to the top, it's a one-woman/man show.

On the way up, I turned around and took a picture of this guy going down. He stopped at one of the landings to take a peek outside.

I took several of these breaks to take pictures.

Look at the detail of this marble. I felt fortunate to be able to not only climb it but to be inside, as the tower was closed to visitors for ten years while they worked on strengthening the structure. The marble walls at the base of the tower are eight feet thick!

As we neared the top, the passage got so narrow, I was wondering if my generous hips were going to be grazing the sides. At this point, I was sweating, and as one woman climbing behind me uttered in Italian, exhausted.

I had a fan that I bought in the gift shop to keep me company as I continued to make my way up into the tower. I'd climb and fan myself. Climb and fan. Climb and fan. Of the seven people in our group, only five of us climbed the tower. Look at the beautiful worn marble on these steps.

At first, when I heard it was 296 steps to the top, my initial reaction was, "No fucking way." I knew I would be hot and I knew it would tiring. But then I said, "How can I be here and NOT do this?" So I went. And I'm so glad I did. I'm also so freakin' proud of myself for making it!

Here I am, cresting the top of the tower, just a few steps left before I was at the very top.

Once there, I got to see the bells. There are seven of them, tuned to the musical scale, clockwise.

I made my way around to the northern side to take in the fantastic view of the Cathedral and the Baptistery.

I looked out over the sweeping 360-degree view of the surrounding town of Pisa.

And I had someone take a picture of me with my boyfriend Ed, to prove I had actually made it.

There was just enough time for me to catch my breath and rest my legs before the guards started yelling at us in Italian to move along. It was time to make our way back down.
I climbed an icon! And forever, until the day I die, I will be able to say, "Yeah - I climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa."

ow cool is that??

I suppose there's a reason they call the area on which the tower stands, Campo dei Miracoli...

Field of Miracles.

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I Need A Thing That Ain’t No Big Thing
Race To The Head
Eddie Fresh From A Nap Friday
Forever Yours

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Medieval Equals Pretty

It's been said that Siena is Italy’s prettiest medieval town. If that's not distinction enough, it's on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and out of all the sites in the world, Italy has the most, so Siena is in pretty good company. The city occupies three hills and the town is connected by a maze of alleyways, steep steps and slopes, that if covered with snow, would make a downhill skier salivate.

The heart of the town is the Piazza del Campo best seen in this aerial photo (which I didn't take) and was teeming with people, as you can see in this picture (which I did take)...

We happened upon our second bride of the trip, who was more than happy to honor my request of a picture. Ed thought she was a little emaciated and whispered to me that maybe we should buy her lunch, but I didn't want to ruin her special day by making her have to eat.

After the people fest in the piazza, we wandered through some of those winding alleys...

Turning corners that revealed small ristorantes (and other lost people)...

Stores with delicious displays of meats and cheeses hanging in illuminated windows...

And in their doorway, a teeny baby cinghiale that probably made up some of their tastiest delicacies...

A ring to tie your horse to, perhaps during Il Palio...

And the Red Cross for when that horse breaks free and tramples you...

This is the path we took down (it was very steep)...

And these are the stairs we went up (multiply the amount you see here by 480 and you'll get the amount of steps I had to climb)...

To get to church at the top left corner of this photo. The slope started at the top of the right side of this photo, went down to the center where you can see that open concrete pad, and then the steps went up the other side, above those three little arches. It came out at the top, just below the church where the pointy tree on the right side of the building is...

The best part of Siena to me was not this church, but the amazing Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (my favorite one of all the churches we saw, including the Vatican) and which I will post about soon.

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A Great Celebration Of Abundance
Dormers Of Sweetgrass
Old Power
At Your Service
Clothing Identification 101

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Italy On A Shoestring

This is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence...

Some people (including two in our travel group) were energized enough to take the climb to the top of the Duomo. Since the climb is over 700 steps, up spiral staircases, through narrow passages and stairwells, I chose to pass. I found it just as beautiful from the ground.

This is the Loggia del Mercato Nuovo. It was built around the middle of the 16th century in the heart of Florence. It was initially intended for the sale of silk and luxury good and then for the famious straw hats. It's also known as Mercato del Porcellino or Mercato del Cinghiale.

These names were coined because of the bronze statue of a wild boar (Cinghiale), which is the focal point of the market. The Fontana del Porcellino (Fountain of the Piglet) boar was cast by Pietro Tacca in the 17th century after an antique original, which can be found in the Uffizi Gallery.

Legend has it that if you rub the well-polished Cinghiale's snout, it will ensure a return trip to Florence. When we were there, we met a beautiful young girl who was there with her Aunt. She told us that she rubbed the snout last time she was there, just six months before, and therefore her return trip convinced her it worked! Based on that, Ed and I rubbed away!

Pizza looked more beautiful than it does at home. We didn't eat at this joint, but there were several others that we couldn't pass by. Pizza there is goooood.

Here's another random side street in the city...

When we got near the area of the Ponte Vecchio, we saw some street performers...

And some of the shimmering gold...

Took a picture of the view from the bridge...

And on the way back to meet the group, we came across this pretty little store...

I didn't buy any gold, but I did buy a few things at the market and really the best part of walking around, for me, is the people watching. It's the best bang for your buck.

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What The ELLE???
Weird And Random
California Burning With Need
Walking Into Another World
Fall Into Winter