Italy 1999 Tour Itinerary and Narrative
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We arrived safely in Rome but Joe(son) was still very sick. He was diagnosed the day before we left with a viral infection. He had very bad congestion and an extremely sore throat. We almost turned around in Atlanta, but he wanted to keep trying. He had real problems with extreme pain in his ears during the plane's descent for landing due to the congestion. So, once we arrived in Rome, we spent the first couple of days in our hotel, the San Giorgio, so he could rest. His ears were still clogged and the pain was on and off. However, he improved each day. Despite his occasional pain and discomfort he was really enjoying the trip. He was truly awed by it all!!!!!
The tour group was great. Most of the people were very friendly and fun to be with. They were from all over the U.S. and the globe. There was a family from Malaysia and several couples from Australia. Also, our tour group was smaller than normal. We totaled only 34 whereas the usual number is 47. This meant there was extra space on the bus and smaller groups for the local guides to speak to.
We got to see the Catacombs, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, Trevi fountain and the Appian Way in Rome. We were a little disappointed with the Catacombs as the remains(bones) had been removed about 5 years ago. However, words can not describe our awe with the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. The Chapel had been restored since our last visit 22 years ago and the vivid colors were an incredible surprise. Our second evening in Rome, we had a wonderful welcome dinner at a restaurant called Canova in Piazza del Popolo. The food was outstanding and we were entertained by a pianist. Joe(husband) and I even got to dance the Tarantella. Joe(son) was able to join us for all of this. Rome was in the middle of a heat wave and it is unbelievably hot and humid. We missed seeing St. Peters but we will do it when we are in Rome on our own the last 4 days.
Yesterday, we left Rome and traveled South. Stopped at Pompeii and staying 2 nights in Sorrento at the Hotel Cesare Augusto. Today, we went to the Island of Capri. It was so beautiful!!!! If you remember, when we went in 1977 it rained so hard we didn't see anything.
We leave Sorrento tomorrow for Assisi where we will spend one night.
Then it's on to Venice for 2 nights, The Italian Lakes for 2 nights, Florence
nights and then back to Rome.
We are seeing and doing several things that we did not see or do on our 1977 trip.
From Sorrento we spent a night in Assisi at the Hotel Giotto and we all fell in love with this medieval town, the home of St. Francis. Again, our rooms had a breathtaking view of the valley. We have all decided we must come back to Assisi and spend at least a week there. It is just so-o-o peaceful and has a wonderful spiritual feel to it.
From Assisi we were in Venice for 2 nights, at the Hotel Ramada Venice. In Venice we did get to see all the main sights: St. Mark's Square including the Cathedral and Bell Tower, The Doges' Palace, Murano Glass Factory, The Grand Canal and the Bridge of Sighs. We even had time to go off on our own and explore several of the "off the beaten track" side streets. We also found the Park where 22 years ago Joe and I had a "picnic" lunch. The park was just as we remembered it. However, we also did something that we had not done 22 years ago. We took a tour of Burano Island which is unchanged by time. This is an ancient fishing village where the women are noted for their intricate and beautiful lace work. We had a wonderful lunch there at the La Gato Nero (The Black Cat) and just could not get enough of the sights and sounds of this marvelous place. We had stepped back in time.
Today, we stopped in Milan. Got to see the Cathedral with its belfries, gables, pinnacles and statues. It was finished by Napoleon and definitely has a very French look about it. We were glad that we were not staying in Milan for any length of time. It is a BIG, bustling city. Since most of the city was destroyed during WWII, it has been rebuilt into with a very contemporary looking city.
We are staying in Northern Italy in the town of Baveno on Lake Maggiore staying at the Grand Hotel Dino. The hotel was incredible and we were the only ones in the tour whose room had a view of the Lake. This hotel had an indoor pool, outdoor pool, bowling, ping pong, golf, tennis etc. We decided we needed a break from touring so opted not to go to Lugano, Switzerland. We used the day to veg. The scenery was breathtaking. This morning we went to Isola Bella (Beautiful Island) in Lake Maggiore and toured the Borromea Castle. It was truly incredible.
Weather had been warm, HUMID and sunny until today. We are getting
a light rain and I must say it is a nice change. We've been told
that rain is the
normal weather for Baveno thus the reason for the lush vegetation.
Joe was feeling much better but his ears were still clogged. He's still enjoyed every sight.
On our way to Florence, we stopped in Pisa and got to see the leaning tower. It certainly does appear to be leaning further than what I remember from our trip 22 years ago.
We are now at a place called the "Internet Train" in Florence.
A neat little store front with about 20 terminals with internet access
where you pay by the
hour. This has allowed us to send and read emails. The manager was having computer problems and could not seem to resolve it. Well, Joe(husband) solved it for him and he was so thankful that he did not charge us.
Arrived in Florence last night staying at the Grand Hotel Mediterraneo. Had dinner in an old palace with Renaissance entertainment. As in the days of old, we (Husband and I) were participants of the show. We have quite the video. We had a 4 course Italian dinner with all the wine you could drink.
Today, we have been busy seeing all the incredible sights of Florence. We just came down from climbing 459 steps to the top of the cupola of the Duomo. It was a spectacular, indescribable sight of all of Florence. Tonight, after dinner we will be going to see Michelangelo's "David".
Joe (The Younger) has fallen in love with Italy. He would especially like to return to Assisi, Verona, Siena, and of course Florence.
The weather is still warm and HUMID. We are all missing the dry climate of Colorado.
I can't say enough about our tour guide. She has been very attentive to everyone, but especially to Joe (The Younger) due to his illness.
We left Florence yesterday morning. Stopped in Siena and it was
just beautiful! It is another medieval village where every year in
July and August
they hold a very famous horse race in the main square. We were able to see a parade where they were dressed in medieval costumes and carried the flag of Siena. They put on quite a performance doing various maneuvers with the flags. It was quite the sight. Next, we passed the Cararra marble quarry. Looked as though the mountain was covered in snow when in fact it was the white marble. This marble was the favorite of Michelangelo.
Then last night we had a Farewell Dinner at Tanagra a wonderful restaurant, here in Rome. The owner is a former Opera singer and has professional opera singers giving a performance in between the various courses of your dinner. The singers were incredible!!! Food was wonderful and the wine flowed all night!!! A great way to end our tour. Spent the night at the Sheraton Golf Hotel.
So, we are now on our own in Rome and very happy with our Pensione, The Erdarelli. It is run by a family and they have been the most cordial hotel people we have met so far. Dad and daughter work behind the main desk, while mom is in charge of breakfast. Love the location as it is just down the street from the Spanish Steps.
We have turned into real Italians. Get up early in the cool of
the morning and then return to our hotel in the afternoon and rest during
the heat of the
day. Having a late lunch and late dinner. Thank goodness the humidity here in Rome is not as bad as when we first arrived.
We found another Internet point, The Netgate, in Piazza Firenze in Rome,
about 10 blocks walking distance from our hotel, on the way to Piazza Navona,
one of our favorite night spots in Rome.
Tomorrow we will be going to St. Peter's. Since Joe(son) was so
sick when we first arrived we lost the first 2 days of our tour which included
a tour of
St. Peter's. Therefore, I am so GLAD we had decided to stay these extra days, as he would have missed a most important sight.
We are definitely enjoying being on our own in Rome. Again, we are very, very happy with our Pensione and enjoying getting to know the wonderful family who own it.
Yesterday, we spent 4 hours at St. Peter's. Joe(son) was absolutely wowed by it. Yes, we climbed the Dome and had Rome at our feet! Joe(husband) and I took the elevator part way thus saving ourselves from having to climb 170 steps. However, we still had to climb up 331 steps! We did it 22 years ago and somehow I don't remember it as being such a long climb. Then again, I was a heck of a lot younger. Joe(son) decided to climb all the steps and forego the elevator.
Today, we went to the Colosseum and to the church of St. Peter in Chains.
At the church they have the chains that held St. Peter while captive in
Also in this church is Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses. This work of Michelangelo's was quite beautiful and is considered his best work.
We decided yesterday to really get the feel of Rome and take local transportation. The Metro(subway) is close to our hotel so decided to use it.
We of course were aware that gypsies "work" it so were very aware of
our surroundings. Well, Joe(husband) was the target. A guy
tried to get his
hand into Joe's pocket but Joe felt it and yelled at him and he immediately got off at that stop. Both of my guys have been keeping their wallets in their front pockets and their hand in that pocket.
Today, we used the Metro again. Well, AGAIN Joe(husband) was the
target. This time 2 girls were working together. The accomplice stepped
in front of Joe as we were exiting the train. Then the other girl put her
hand into Joe's pocket and grabbed his wallet. Again, Joe felt it,
grabbed her on the station
platform and started to yell at her to give him back his wallet. I grabbed the accomplice as the crowd gathered around us preventing them from getting
away. We then heard a "thud" on the floor and there was Joe's wallet fully intact!!!! Of course, there weren't any police around so we let them go.
Would you believe on our trip back they were both there "working" the same area.
Just to let you know, there wasn't anything important in Joe's
wallet. We had removed all the important stuff and he was only carrying
enough cash for
one day. Still quite the event.
We are a little disappointed in Rome. We can not believe all the graffiti. It is on every building everywhere! The noise of the thousands of motor scooters speeding through all the streets of Rome is almost deafening.
We are also experiencing the "Scaffolding of Italy". Every church
and monument is virtually covered with it. They are preparing for
No it is NOT because of the Millenium. This has to do with the opening of the sealed holy doors in the 4 basilicas in Rome. They are expecting millions of pilgrims in the year 2000 so ALL churches even in the small towns have been given money for restoration, etc. We were lucky in some places that the scaffolding had just been removed and we were able to see some of the important sights.
Weather has definitely gotten better. It is actually comfortable as the humidity is much lower.
Our plan is to rest tomorrow as we will have a really long trip back on Friday.
Just couldn't resist sending one more email from Rome. Actually, we found a wonderful restaurant located down the street from the Internet place. Decided to have our last dinner in Rome there so just had to get my "fix" one last time.
Don't think I mentioned how incredible the food has been throughout
Italy. It has truly been an assault on our taste buds. I guess
because the food is so
fresh and there is just so much more flavor! Some of our meals have been like an ecstasy in the mouth.
Joe(son) just LOVES Italian TV. There is NO CENSORSHIP of any
kind. So, they leave nothing to the imagination! Even the commercials
are very exotic. He has really been enjoying all the sights and I
am not referring to the antiquities! I don't think he has ever seen
so many beautiful girls/women
walking down the street. It's been quite the visual feast.
Today, we decided to go see the Trevi Fountain one more time. We had seen it at night on the tour but the lights were not on. It was quite beautiful today and there were much fewer people. Of course, we again threw our coins into the fountain so I guess we will definatley be returning to Rome again.
Well, I guess this is really it. We leave Rome tomorrow, June
18th, on the 10:10A.M. flight. Hope to arrive in Colorado at 9:00P.M.
All in all it will be about a 25 hour day of travelling.
Just wanted to let you all know that just before we left Colorado, Joe(husband)
ordered and received the new Nikon Digital Camera, Coolpix 950.
It has been wonderful on this trip and he has taken over 450 pictures! So, I hope you will all be prepared for the onslaught.
Also, it's been quite interesting getting into the churches of Italy.
Since it is so hot, we have been wearing shorts and Joe(son) has been carrying
jeans in his backpack. Well, depending on the guard, they will let you in with knee length shorts. All of ours fit this category. Yet, at St. Peter's
the guard let ME in with shorts but the 2 guys had to put their long pants on.
To be honest, the guys shorts are longer than mine. We then noticed that the men inside the church all had pants on but several woman were wearing shorts. I guess the guard liked the legs of us women!
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