From a high highway we saw Monte Carlo and Monaco lapped by the blue-green Mediterranean Sea. The mountains were much steeper than I would have thought. As we passed from France to Italy in a tunnel, Kate took a look on the other side and said, “Italy isn’t all flat!!” Indeed it wasn’t! Before we’d traveled very far, we saw that the people seemed to be much poorer. Buildings were shabby and garbage strewn around. Genoa was just plain dirty.
John says there is just no excuse for waxed paper instead of toilet paper. Even the Romans used soft sponges. They’ve been going downhill ever since.
One thing we did admire about Italy – the roads. In the mountains, we were in and out of tunnels and straight onto great bridges spanning the valleys. We shudder to think how long it would have taken to travel on local roads.
Italy is short of many things – coins (you have to buy discs to activate a Coke machine), electricity (power is off several hours twice a week); we conclude they are also short on good government. Things are so backward they can’t get the color of their oranges right! We ordered orange juice, and the waiter brought red juice, insisting it was orange juice. It was! Delicious, too! They were so amused at our ignorance of blood oranges that they brought us an orange cut in half. It was orange outside and bloody looking inside.
We rode a funicular railway up a mountain to see Genoa and the harbor laid at our feet. We also walked to old city gates and the areas where Christopher Columbus lived. [I didn’t find any photos taken in Genoa.]
Most post cards don’t really show the leaning tower of Pisa as dramatically as it appears in person – you need to see the upright buildings around it to make the contrast.
We went to Rome and saw the Pope – almost as easy as that! As we walked into St. Peter’s square, we noticed many people sitting in chairs before a grey draped stage. Soon there was a white robed figure clearly visible, blessing the crowds. We were allowed to walk much closer than many people sitting down. The pope sat to read a long address in Italian, and after we left, he spoke in several different languages.
We saw the Borgia apartments, many works by Raphael, and the Sistine Chapel. The chapel was bigger and the ceiling higher than we’d imagined. At first the Basilica didn’t seem as large as some English churches until we’d wandered a bit. The enormous barrel vaulted ceilings were gorgeous and all the domes of the side chapels higher than many churches have. We sat down to look at the big dome – Michelangelo’s – and at the altar by Bernini. The walls and floors were covered in many colours and patterns of marble. The Pieta appeared bigger and much more impressive than when we saw it at the World’s Fair 18 years ago. When we came out to head back to the hotel, visitors were being turned away. What excellent timing we had all day, thanks to John!
Italy was certainly THE place to take a little blond fellow. People smiled at him, waved, stroked him, pretended to poke him with rolled up posters, talked to him and about him, and a guard offered to swap him for his 21-year-old son! They looked at us as if we were the luckiest people alive to have him. Wow! How different from England!
We poked around the Roman Forum, identifying various public buildings, the temple and home of the Vestal Virgins, and other temples. In England I was impressed by mosaics laid during the life-time of St. Paul. In Rome I saw columns and arches he must have laid his eyes on! Wow! There is still excavation going on.
We have several photos taken in the Forum, but this was the only one with our family tucked in like an afterthought. How magnificent it must have been when it was new!
Just a stone’s throw away was the magnificent Colosseum. The size of it was mind-boggling. We climbed up as high as we were allowed and down to the floor of the arena, imagining lions chasing Christians. Can you believe they had awnings to go over the spectators? The stones that held posts supporting the shades are still there.
This is the most unusual photo we took inside the Colosseum. They were filming an ad while tourists were wandering about.
Quite a distance outside Rome was Hadrian’s villa – town is more like it! There were 2,000 servants and a thousand other residents living there all the time. The area covered over four square miles including one private bath, two public ones, one Greek theater, one Roman theater, and miles of underground passages for the servants who were not seen mingling with the guests and residents.
After searching for tiny signs in the fading light, we found the Appian Way and drove on it. The girls hopped out of the car once just to be able to say they’d walked on the Queen of Roads – pride of Rome.
Italian drivers are something else again. In rush hour on a ring road we heard of a head-on collision, went the other way and saw a five-car pile-up, a two-car fender-bender, and a serious crash where a tiny car had tackled a van from the rear. John wondered if there was any driver near Rome who has never been involved in an accident in some way.