Monday, June 27, 2016

Sorrento

Monday, June 27th, Rome to Naples to Sorrento
View of the Sorrento Harbor

Our morning train to Naples is delayed 40 minutes. We know that when we arrive in Naples we must transfer to a different train line for Sorrento and when we arrive Art asks a cluster of loitering men for directions to the local train line platform. One disheveled, middle age man, reeking of alcohol takes it upon himself to escort us through the terminal and to the local line. I’m quite sure that his escort will come with a price but he does his best to reassure and charm us and repeatedly tries to help me with my luggage.  Indeed, when we are reach the ticket turn style, he asks Art for ten Euros. Art chuckles and hands him five and we join the other passengers gathered on the platform to wait for the local train. It arrives shortly and there is a rush and push to board the crowded train and we stand, sardine style, much of the way to Sorrento. During the push to get aboard, Art is blocked and jostled by several men and when he settles onboard he discovers that the button to his cargo pant's pocket is undone. He is upset but fortunately, still has his wallet. (This episode will inspire Art to purchase a decoy wallet in Sorrento into which he will put a small amount of cash and keep in his upper accessible pant’s pocket. He will also buy a pack of safety pins to pin closed his lower cargo pant pocket where his will keep his real wallet.)  

Sorrento
The Lemon-House; Air B  & B Sorrento Italy












Our Air B & and B host, Gisieppie picks us up at train station and drives us the ten minutes to our accommodation at the Lemon House. She is in her mid 50’s; large and gregarious, and we are grateful for the direct delivery to our room. This is the first Air B & B that we have stayed at and the room is exactly what is pictured on the web site. Unfortunately, the drive to the Lemon House is mostly uphill and I realize that the “short walk to town” will be more like a hike. We settle into the immaculate and spacious room with a queen bed and a pull out sofa for John. The bathroom is updated and more than adequate but Gisieppie rambles on with complicated instructions about how to close the shower door properly. She suggests tours to Capri and tours along the Amalfi Coast and although we want to do both, I simply want to be left alone and to read travel details in the Rick Steve's guide book and check my e-mail. I feel that she is annoyed that I don’t commit to one of her tour suggestions where she likely receives a commission but I feel equally annoyed and pressured by her. She eventually leaves us alone in our room and we attempt to log onto the Lemon-House wireless. The connection is painfully slow and will continue to be problematic over the next several days. 

Waiting for our laundry to wash

Technical challenges - soap dispenser











We bag up our dirty laundry and with map in hand, walk into town with finding a Laundromat first on our agenda. Once again, our friend Rick Steve’s gets us directly to one of the two Laundromat’s in town  and I watch with amusement as Art and John try to figure out how to purchase soap from the dispenser and operate the washing machine. (I have learned that trying to help in these “technical” situations only leads to disharmony.) When the comedy of errors is over and the machine is agitating our laundry, Art and John tell me they are leaving to buy sandwiches and leave me to guard over our laundry. They are gone a very long time but in the meantime I make many friends at the Laundromat. 
Although I am alone to begin with, a newly wed couple arrives, the young woman looking terrified with the prospects of domestic duties. Soon a group of seasoned and gregarious Australians arrive and the sterile Laundromat turns into a party as they open bags of dirty laundry and bottles of beer. They struggle to operate the machines but I watched Art and John carefully and I am forthright in disclosing the idiosyncrasies of the machines. Art and John return just in time to decipher the mysteries of the dryer cycle and to confess that they have been watching a soccer game while I watched the laundry spin.

With stuff bags filled with clean laundry, we set out to explore the more interesting parts of Sorrento. It is late afternoon and the sun basks the city in a golden glow. The Italy versus Spain Soccer game is underway followed by the England and Iceland game and all the cafes are filled with enthusiastic fans. Art and John want to watch and they manage to find a shared table at an outdoor cafe where they can sit, watch and drink beer.  


Art & John watching a Soccer Game in Sorrento Italy
A winning soccer maneuver, Sorrento










Not a sports fan, I take this opportunity to stroll the picturesque city alone and I stumble upon a cliffside elevator down to the marina several hundred feet below where I hope to investigate times and prices of tickets to Ill de Capri. The elevator pops me out at beach level and although it is late in the day there are still people enjoying the fading sunlight.  



Private beachside cabanas
Peter's Beach, Sorrento


The various beaches are all private with deck chairs and dressing cabanas alongside a narrow boardwalk that winds between the steep cliff and the various beach enclosures. The scene is picturesque and I make the mistake of stepping onto a private deck to take a photograph and am reprimanded by my intrusion. The marina is just a short walk ahead and when I arrive I find the ferry office still open and pick up a printed schedule so that we can plan tomorrow’s trip to Capri. 


The New Marina, Sorrento

I meander back the narrow boardwalk, enter through the turn style for the cliffside elevator, pay my half euro, and am quickly transported back up to Sorrento. The elevator regurgitates me onto the cliffside square and I walk to the railing to admire the view of the marina below. After inhaling the view, I leave the park and see a Franciscan Church adjoining the square. 


Sorrento View
Franciscan Cloister
Franciscan Cloister













I have read about this church cloister in our Rick Steve’s guide book and step into the courtyard. The courtyard glows in the late afternoon sunlight; bougainvillea bright against the gothic stone archways. I stroll the perimeter and decompress before heading back to the main street to join Art and John and to partake of the soccer festivities. In between cheers for the teams, Art is in conversation with two British couples and they heatedly discuss Brexit and what it signifies for the U.K. and the European Union. 

When the game finally ends we walk down to the Grande Marina in search of dinner. The winding cobblestone pathway descends steeply toward  the sea and we arrive at the marina just in time for sunset. 

Walking down to the Grande Marina

Sunset at the Grande Marina












Sunset over the Marina


The lighting is magical and we are in good spirits. Because it is sunset, the many inviting restaurants are filling up quickly and choosing which one to dine at is stressful but we see one with an available table at the edge of the patio and sit down impulsively. 


Grande Marina Sorrento, Italy
Close up at the Grande Marina











The silver sheen on the water is lovely but the service is slow and although Art’s seafood pasta is good, John’s and my dinners are disappointing. We stroll along the waterfront after dinner, find the bus that departs every 30 minutes and take it back up into town. The evening is balmy and we enjoy after dinner drinks at an outdoor cafe and when the bill arrives, they also bring us shots of Lemonchello, the local aperitif that Sorrento is famous for. The thick sweet liquor tastes like melted lemon jello with a kick.

Campari and Lemonchello

Lemonchellos









From there we hoof it through the town center and uphill “the short walk” to our Lemon House Air B & B. When we crawl into our beds, it is after 11:00 P.M.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Our Roman Holiday - Part Four


Sunday, June 26th - The Pantheon and the Heart of Rome Walk.

Pantheon 

Taxis are affordable in Rome and we take an early morning taxi to the Pantheon and enter the cool and uncrowded building. Art has downloaded the Rick Steve’s audio guide onto our phones and we listen to the history of this monumental Roman temple and admire the immense dome that inspired the domes of Brunelleschi’s Duomo in Florence and Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s Dome. 

Pantheon 



Interior dome of the Pantheon








Interior of the Pantheon
Interior of the Pantheon



We leave the cool of the marbled Pantheon and are stuck by the heat as we wander towards Plaza Navona to admire the Plazas  three fountains. At one end of the plaza is a fountain of Neptune wrestling a giant octopus and coincidentally, Art is wearing an Octopus T-shirt from Apo Islands in the Philippines. John takes photos of Art beside the fountain. 

Fountain of Neptune battling a giant octopus. 
Art wearing Octopus T-shirt



The center fountain is the most famous; the baroque Bernini, Four Rivers fountain that is crowned by an Egyptian Obelisk and where horses plunge through rocks and exotic flora and fauna. The third fountain at the opposite end of the plaza is a Moor wrestling with a dolphin but it is the Octopus fountain that most impresses me.  

Four Rivers Fountain by Bernini
Four Rivers Fountain










John wants to go to Castel Sant’Angelo, a middle age castle, prison and tomb for emperors. The  formidable castle is build of ancient bricks and stands at the edge of the Tiber River. John walks the quay while Art and I stroll above and towards the elegant bridge to cross to the Castle. Our Roma passes get us a deep discount and we spend two hours within its stonewalls looking at armory and admiring the structure itself. The view of the St. Peters Basilica, the Vatican and Rome from the battlements is wonderful. 
Panoramic View of St Peter's Basilica from Castel Sant'Angelo


Art, John, St Peter's Basilica
Castel Sant'Angelo



River view, Castel Sant'Angelo 

View of the Tiber River from Castel Sant'Angelo










We continue the “Heart of Rome” walk; step into a stunning Cathedral and pass the crowded Trevi Fountain again and eventually pop down into the Metro near the Spanish Steps. 

Interior, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva



Tree installation,  Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Egyptian Obelisk






















We take the metro to the train Station to buy tomorrows  tickets to Naples and onto Sorrento. John and I hope to still make it to the Catacombs of Priscilla (open on Sunday) but by the time we have figured out the train tickets, time is short. Art is more interested in horizontal time than exploring the Catacombs and we part ways. Our three-day Roma passes get us free bus and metro travel and the bus to the Catacombs leaves from the train station. As we wait for our bus, I pull out my Roma pass and realize that I have Art’s pass as well. I don’t want him to have to walk back to our hotel and scan the plaza in front of the train station. Miraculously, I spot him crossing the street a block away and John sprints towards him. When we catch up I give Art his pass and John and I return to wait for the bus but it’s after 3:00 P.M. and last entry to the Catacombs is at 4:30.  Reevaluating, I am afraid that this might be a wasted trip and when I scan the plaza I see National Sculpture Museum of Rome at a far corner. This is the main branch and according to Rick Steve’s, our new best friend in Rome, houses the greatest collection of Roman art anywhere. John and I flash our Roma passes, get a nice discount and spend two hours looking at the collections of Roman Sculptures and an extensive collection of Roman coins. 



Bronze Sculpture 

Discus Thrower - Roman Copy


Fish Mosaic

Mosaic








Marble Roman Carving

Ancient Roman Coin













Last night, John made reservations for dinner at a Monti neighborhood restaurant. Our reservations are at 8:00 P.M. and we have a reserved table on the street.  It is by far the best meal we have had in Rome and I regret that I didn’t  jot down the restaurant’s name or what dishes we ordered. 


Friday, June 24, 2016

Roman Holiday - Part Three

Saturday, June 24th The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Borghese Gallery
We enjoy our first generous and delicious breakfast in the charming dining room of our hotel . We are welcomed with strong coffee with milk, croissants, cured slices of ham and thick slices of cheese, yogurt and orange juice. 


Breakfast at Hotel Antica Locanda
Breakfast at Hotel Antica Locanda


The morning is brutally hot as we walk to the Roman Forum. Our Roma passes allow us to skip the lines and John rents an audio guide which isn’t well organized and we wander the extensive grounds of the Forum in a disorganized manner. We drink water constantly, refilling our water bottles from the stone water fountains throughout the vast Forum.


Arch of Titus, Roman Forum
Temple of Antonius, Pius & Faustian












Although I don’t know for sure, it feels like the temperature is over 100 and we try to keep to the shade. We climb the many stairways, wander the ruins, and when I am about to expire, we cool down in the museum. 


View of the Roman Forum
Looking up to Palatino Hill








View of the Roman Forum




View of the Temple of Vesta





Museum Murals







Palatino Hill Plaza


Palatino Hill Courtyard











Palatino Hill adjoins the Forum but it is high on the hillside above requiring the climbing of many stone steps. At the top there is another small museum and I rest gratefully and watch a short movie about Palatino Hill. For the first time I grasp the essence of the cultured and brutal civilization that inhabited these ruins and how the civilizations rose and fell and how this extensive city morphed throughout the ages. We spend five hours exploring the Forum and Palatino Hill and I am exhausted by the time we start the walk back towards our hotel. 

We have lunch at the same restaurant around the corner from our hotel and the air conditioning and food revives me. Art and I order excellent artichoke and chicken salads and John orders a squid cannelloni. After refreshing showers we set our alarms and sleep for two hours to be recharged for our 5:00 P.M. reservation to the Borghese Gallery.


Pauline Borghese as Venus
Bernini's David










One needs prior reservations to visit the Borghese Gallery with its renowned collection of Baroque sculpture by Bernini, and paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and Rubens. We take a taxi to the museum and use our Roma pass to pick up our reserved tickets downstairs. There are many disappointed people who didn’t know that reservations were required or who paid for online reservations but because they were traveling, were unable to print out their ticket vouchers. After collecting our tickets we have just enough time to grab a cappuccino at the museum cafĂ©; much needed to clear the cobwebs of our brains after our afternoon siesta. We are required to check all bags including my purse and the museum check provides a small clear plastic bag into which I may put just my wallet, passport and phone to carry inside. Precisely at 5:00 P.M. we are allowed entrance into this sumptuous jewel of a museum.  

Detail of the Rape of Proserpina
The Rape of Proserpina, Bernini


This 17th century museum was the Cardinal Scipione Borghese mansion and Cardinal Borghese collected much of the finest Renaissance art of the times.  Each room features a Baroque masterpiece and the intimate experience is awe inspiring. The breathtaking Carrera marble sculpture of Pauline Borghese as Venus, by Antonio Canova reclines scandalously in the first gallery. In another room, Bernini’s David puts a rock into his sling to slay Goliath but it is Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne that takes my breath away. Daphne’s fingers and toes morph into roots and leaves as she is magically transformed into a tree to escape the advances of Apollo. 
Apollo and Daphne, Bernini
Detail of Apollo and Daphne 










Bernini’s, The Rape of Proserpina, created when he was just 24 years, is masterful and he turns the marble into living flesh. The immense hands and fingers of her captor leave impressions on Proserpina’s voluptuous flesh and a single tear slips down her face.  The painting galleries are upstairs and there is an entire room devoted to the work of Caravaggio and Titian.

Caravaggio
Titian












Each gallery showcases one exceptional piece but is also filled with other remarkable works and the walls and ceilings are sumptuously painted with frescos, rococo iced and gilded with gold leaf. 
Borghese Gallery fresco
Borghese Gallery ceiling fresco










We loose John somewhere in the museum and Art and I wander together through rooms filled with remarkable masterpieces. In the midst of all these masterpieces, a small painting by Jacopo Zucchi, the Allegoria Della Scoperta dell’ America, captures my eye. Water nymphs hold coral and rays and shells ripe with pearls. A jeweled treasure of shells and coral surrounds Neptune, crowned with coral. When we catch up with John later he remarks on this painting and tells me it his favorite painting in the museum.

Allegoria Della Scoperta dell' America