Wow, So we are over halfway through with our Spring Tour. Midterms came and went. And then everyone piled on to a coach bus with our usual driver Roland and our Program Director Dr. Horcika for a 4 week break from school. It starts with about 10 days in Italy, then a Ferry boat ride to Greece where we spend another 10 days or so, and then the tour ends and a handful of us are spending the last 4 days back on the beach of Sicily, Italy. Here is the large journal entry for all of Italy. I am going to just designate it city by city instead of trying to talk about each individual day! Here goes:
First we stopped in Padua, where we saw some things like the Scrovegni Chapel, and what is pictured below, the Gattamelata Monument (the horse statue) in front of the Basilica di Sant'Antonio.
After we see things as a group, things that are historical and beautiful art and educational, we usually have free time to wander around the cities or places we are. So far, this tour has been really good. I think that because it is spread out over more time compared to our previous trips (i.e. Paris or Vienna), we usually have a good balance each day between educational guided tours, museums etc and the opposite, free time.
It is really nice to be able to get an impression of a city and culture by being able to walk the streets, gets some coffee or gelato, and also, just hang out with friends. Yes, we had a ton of Gelato in Italy.
The nest place we visited was Ravenna, we visited several churches. Ravenna is well known for its mosaic art, as you can see from the picture below. Of course, this picture doesn't even begin to do the beauty any justice, nor did the pictures of any of the other chapels or walls, some of which, were literally breath taking.
And once again, walking through the streets on your lunch break. Even outside of the monuments, churches and museums, you still see the art and architecture all around. Really cool.
Here is proof of the Gelato, this must have been the 3rd gelato stop so far.. and we may have only been in Italy 3 days....
And then another stop at Sant'Appolinare in Classe. Again, you can see a glimpse at the beautiful Mosaic work in this Basilica.
Next, we traveled to Florence where we stayed a lot longer, 3 nights, I think. There would be no hope for me trying to list all the art and places we went. But maybe Ill mention a few, like the picture below, the Fountain of Neptune.
And the Duomo, which is the Cathedral in Florence, not only is is huge and amazing, but the city of Florence does not allow any building to be built taller than it, so you will see in a later city-scape picture, the dome of it.
Florence was a really great city to be a tourist in. A huge section of the town is closed to (almost) all cars so it was really great to just walk around and eat food and window shop and everything.
Near one of the outdoor markets, they have this boar statue and if you rub its nose, they say it will bring you back to Florence one day. Also, if you set a coin in its mouth and it falls out directly into the coin slot, it gives you extra luck or something..
Here is a view of the main town from the river! Lots of yellows and other fall colors for the buildings, typical for parts of southern Europe like Austria and northern Italy (at least, that is what I have noticed).
And at one of the famous outdoor markets, Heidi finally found the leather bag she has been searching for for ages! She was pretty excited.
Lots of bikes and scooters everywhere in Europe.
And the typical walk back to the hotel along the river, coming from the center of town:
More Gelato, this time from a wrapper and not fresh, but we kinda became addicted..
And then there is the famous David sculpture by Michelangelo. I was more intrigued by the crowd of people who were more interested in taking selfies with the sculpture than actually looking at the sculpture. I mean, come on, is the only reason they came to Florence just to say they saw David, and to take a selfie as proof, to post on facebook and tell all your friends?? Well, I found David pretty baffling, but I was more intrigued by the sculptures in the room right next to it, they were Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures and so you can see more of the process and how impressive his work really is!
And once again, another shot of the city and river.. This bridge is famous because it has buildings on it, mostly jewelry shops on it when you walk across, but above all of them are residences!
And the city-scape where you can see the Duomo!
From the same hill we climbed up to, where I got the above picture, as the sun lowered in the sky we had a picnic and then I took the below picture of the hills!
While the group of us had our picnic, this man was playing hits and classics non-stop, he really was better than a jukebox!
Then we said goodbye to Florence and started the trek to Rome with one beautiful stop on the way, Assisi!
Assisi is where the Franciscan order was founded by none other than Francis of Assisi. It is a beautiful little village on a hill with lots of little streets and beautiful everything!
After visiting the two main churches that are built on top of each other, but on different levels because it is a hill, we went for lunch. This whole time it has been delicious Italian food, lots of carbs! Pasta's and Pizza's mostly with some potatoes and beans and things like that town in. And don't for get the Gelato, I cannot say this enough, Gelato everywhere, but always in my tummy ;)
After our little afternoon in Assisi we finished the trek to Rome and checked in to the hotel. Then the Rome adventure began! One of the first things we did was the Early Christian Catacombs. These were cool, basically, because cities like rome had fortification walls built around them, and they didn't like to have the dead buried within the walls for sanitation reasons, they built these large caves of tombs along the roads just outside the walls. In this picture, you can see all the slots that would have had marble stone sealing the little spot engraved with names similar like we do now.
And the classic view walking into another museum or monument in Rome. Big, regal, columns.. I know this sounds oh so rudimentary, but the terms we learned about in our art class before this are not necessary, and much to fancy. I think that this was the entrance to St. Paul's Basilica:
And the awesome Pope Francis on the facade with all the other Popes before him:
And, of course, a visit to Rome would not be complete with out the ruins.. and not just the ruins, but the Colosseum! This truly was great to visit, it is mind boggling and so cool to see it up close, and to imagine how they built it and then what it was like after it was completed, the games, the crowds.
And the Roman Forum, so much history and everything all in one place, seeing the layers of ruins and excavation. Seriously, so cool:
And after any day touring the Colosseum and Forum, it is expected to be a bit exhausted. In order to have enough energy to tackle the rest of the city, sun basking/reading breaks are always welcome.
And Other things we visited in this part of the city were the Trevi Fountain, although it was covered in scaffolding, it was still beautiful. And the Pantheon, this was an impressive building:
And then, the Spanish steps as the day ended, with a final search for food.
Another day, we did the ol' Vatican tour and saw the St. Peters Cathedral, and wow was thisAmazing. If I remember correctly, it is the biggest cathedral in the world and it looks it. But if youre looing at the picture below and thinking "wow it is big" then think again.. That is just one of the side chapels, to the left of me (im taking this picture) is the center Portal (door) and then to the right of me is the Nave!
Here is the main dome, and to gain some perpective, the gold band around the base of the dome with the words is about 3 meter tall...
And a small shot of the front, nothing does this justice so just go visit the vatican yourself!
And more rome-ing around the city :)
While we were walking along the river, we came across something pretty cool. We later find out that they were filming for thr new james bond movie! As you can see in the picture below, two fancy cars were doing laps driving up on the banks of this section of the river!
Also, one night, I went and took a few night shots of the Colosseum. It was actually much more difficult then I expected. I have always been used to taking night shots in nature, mostly of the stars and distant city lights, but not like this, with spot lights shining on the building and lots of it illuminated. It wasn't what I was expecting, but still turned out kinda neat, and it was a great learning experience.
After Rome, we made a stop at Monte Cassino, a big monastery up on a hill in Italy. It was a cool drive up, the view was great and the monetary up so high was impressive.
And after Monte Cassino, we went to Naples. In Naples, we toured the ancient village runs of Pompeii, I didn't take any pictures here because it began with rain, so I didn't bring a camera. Besides the ancient village ruins of Pompeii, just seeing Naples was interesting. We were getting more and more south, and as we did this, the scenery changed, as well as the type of cities we saw. Naples and the surrounding areas was full of trash, abandoned junk and suburbs full of shacks, huts and rundown buildings stuffed into small spaces, on hills, and between roads.
After we left the main parts of town for the day, we headed up into the hills outside of the city where our (nice) hotel was, even so, you can see in the picture below the flats and houses and shacks stuffed onto the hill, and this was the nice parts of town. Really interesting to see, and I hope to visit more of these places someday when I can explore them more and meet people.
The same view from our hotel Balcony, but at night.
Then, just outside of Naples, is the Volcano Vesuvius, you can see it in the background of the picture above (the one with the top relatively flat). We drove the bud most of the way up and then hiked to the top. Here is the view of Naples from up there.
Unfortunately, because the clouds rolled in so soon, I didn't get any picture that show how cool it was, a huge crater a couple hundred feet deep and wide just sitting up there, steaming.
Then, after Vesuvius, we drove to Bari, where we boarded our ferry boat (see below)
No, no.. Just kidding, this was in the slip next to our ferry. I believe it is the ferry that caught on fire over the christmas holidays this year, many people lost their lives on this accident. And I was on the same route we were about to take. Although the accident was nothing to make jokes about, the part about us boarding a ferry right next to this one, that wrecked on our same route, was rather comical.
After 8 hours overnight in cabins and fancy looking lounges, we were in Greece! But, thats another story to come soon.