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Travel 2016: Day Fourteen – Back to Rome and Vatican City

We sailed into Cittavecchia as the sun rose, ending our seven day cruise. Before we disembarked the Silver Wind, we had breakfast, said a few goodbyes and waited to be called. We were provided transportation from Cittavecchia to the taxi stand at the Piazza Barberini in Rome. From there we headed to Vatican City.

img_1328Arriving at the Residenza Paolo VI Hotel, our home for the night– we had plenty of time before our tour. The hotel was literally across a narrow side street from St. Peter’s Square. George and Mary were able to check in when we arrived but our room wasn’t ready. We left our bags in their room and then we went upstairs and checked out the view from the terrace.

 

View of St. Peter/s from the terrace of the Residenza Paolo VI Hotel in Rome.

View of St. Peter’s from the terrace of the Residenza Paolo VI Hotel in Rome.

 

Michael had booked our private tour before the trip. This allowed us to bypass the lines at the Vatican Museum which can be quite long. We were supposed to meet our guide by some park stairs near the museum — we just had to find them. After spending a little time in St. Peter’s Square, we headed out around the perimeter of Vatican City– and of course. we chose the long way around.

 

St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, Rome.

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Rome.

 

Michael and I in St. Peter's Square.

Michael and I in St. Peter’s Square.

 

The fortress-like wall around Vatican City.

The fortress-like wall around Vatican City.

 

After about a half mile walk, we found the meeting point and then decided to get a little lunch before the tour. We ended up at a little corner joint — didn’t look like much on the outside but inside it was actually quite nice. We had a nice filling lunch (I had pizza) and then headed to meet our guide.

The Vatican Museum is massive. We only saw a portion of it, marveling at the incredible content as we moved from room to room. Detailed frescos, hundreds of enormous tapestries, thousands of marble sculptures– not to mention the wide variety of architectural styles throughout the museum.

 

Above the entrance to the Vatican Museum.

Above the entrance to the Vatican Museum.

 

Marble Busts in the Vatican Museum.

Ancient Marble Roman Busts.

 

Inside the Vatican Museum.

Inside the Vatican Museum.

 

Domed Ceiling in the Vatican Museum.

Domed Ceiling in the Vatican Museum.

 

I loved this sculpture.

I loved this sculpture.

 

Incredible detail in this Mosaic Floor.

Incredible detail in this Mosaic Floor.

 

Laocoon and His Sons excavated in Rome, 1506.

Laocoon and His Sons, excavated in Rome, 1506.

 

Sala Rotonda in the Vatican Museum.

Sala Rotonda in the Vatican Museum.

 

Roman Mosaic Floor in the Vatican Museum.

Roman Mosaic Floor in the Vatican Museum.

 

Inside on of the four Raphael Rooms.

Inside one of the four Raphael Rooms.

 

Lysippos, Apoxyomenos.

Lysippos, Apoxyomenos.

 

Inside a room filled with mostly dog sculptures.

Inside a large room filled with animal but mostly dog sculptures.

 

In a courtyard at the Vatican Museum in Vatican City.

In a courtyard at the Vatican Museum in Vatican City.

 

The Sistine Chapel. I’ve always heard this was a must-see in Rome and it is only accessible with a ticket to the Vatican Museum. We were warned before entering that there was to be no talking and no photography inside.

We entered, and were in and out in probably five minutes or less. Why? It was extremely crowded and a little uncomfortable. Visitors were crammed in like sardines, most staring up at the magnificent ceiling. But– people were talking, taking cell phone pictures and prompting the guards to yell at the crowd, repeatedly, to stop doing both.

I kept getting bumped into and brushed against. I was honestly afraid I was going to fall victim to the rumored pick-pockets. It was the only time during the whole trip that I had any concern. I was just anxious to get out of there. By the time I got to the other side of the room– the rest of our party was also there– we all just wanted to leave that claustrophobic environment.

St. Peter’s Basilica. The Papal Basilica is considered by many as one of the world’s most holy places. We’ve toured many churches, cathedrals and basilicas around the world. This is THE basilica, right? Nothing can prepare you for how colossal it really is until you walk inside and experience it for yourself. The tallest dome in the world, it rises 448 feet above the sanctuary.

 

St. Peter's Basilica in ROme.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

 

The famous Popes Balcony at St. Peter's Basilica.

The famous Popes Balcony at St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

Preparing to Enter St. Peter's Basilica.

Preparing to Enter St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

As we were nearing the end of a Jubilee year, we were still able to pass through the Holy Door which according to Catholic beliefs, cleanses the pilgrims that pass through it. (The Holy door was just resealed by the Pope a few weeks ago.) It is normally sealed from the inside with mortar.

 

Waiting to enter the Holy Door, only open during a Jubilee year celebration.

Waiting to enter the Holy Door that is only open during a Jubilee year celebration.

 

Michaelangelo's Pieta, 1498.

Michaelangelo’s Pieta, 1498.

 

The stunning interior of St. Peter's Basilica.

The stunning interior of St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

Inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

Dome inside St. Peter's Basilica.

Dome inside St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

Inside St. Peter's Basilica.

The Altar Canopy Inside St. Peter’s Basilica is only used by the Pope.

There is no charge to visit St. Peter’s. If you are visiting Rome but limited on time, you should most definitely visit St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica, even if you don’t have time to tour the museum.

For dinner we headed to Su & Giu Cucina Romana on the recommendation of George’s sister. We arrived too early (just after 6) forgetting that most restaurants close after lunch and then open later for dinner. In our case, they didn’t open until 7:30. So we took a walk through the neighborhood and did some window shopping in the meantime.

George and I enjoying the street view on our last night in Rome.

George and I enjoying the street view on our last night in Rome.

The streets were quite lively. There were lots of street vendors and people hurrying about. I found a special pleasantness about it all– a wonderful vibe and quite charming. It was enjoyable just to sit, people-watch and soak it all in.

We were the first to be seated when we got back to the restaurant. We couldn’t have shared a more perfect meal for our last night. There was an overabundance of delicious food. We were stuffed!

We took a taxi back to the hotel, George and Mary went upstairs, while Michael and I walked back over to St. Peter’s Square to view it all lit up and snap a few photos.

 

St. Peter's Square at night.

St. Peter’s Square at night.

 

I’m really glad we planned our trip this way. Saving a day just dedicated to seeing the Vatican was a smart move. There’s really no way to truly experience all that Rome has to offer and the Vatican in one day. Splitting it up the way we did, I feel like we were able to fully experience this incredible city– even if it was crammed into a couple days.

 

(Original Travel Date: September 30, 2016)

Travel 2016: Day Twelve – The Italian Ruins of Nora and a Broadway Legend

It was a sunny but hazy morning as we hurried through breakfast and our morning routine.

We boarded the coach bus for day’s tour and it seemed to take forever to get out of the port. We maneuvered through traffic and our guide gave us some of the history of the region as we trudged along.

The Devil's Saddle on the coast of Sardinia.

The Devil’s Saddle on the coast of Sardinia.

It felt like as soon as we actually started moving, we were stopping at an overlook for a panoramic view of the area. We had Cagliari on one side and the Devil’s Saddle on the other.

The Devil’s Saddle is a natural rock formation, jutting out into the sea. The legend says that the Devil loved the beauty of the Cagliari coast. God sent Archangel Michael with an army of angels to banish Lucifer. During the battle, Lucifer was thrown from his horse, losing his seat which later turned to stone.

Cagliari is the capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia.  It has about 150,000 residents and is the largest city on the island.

 

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

It was a nice little stop, not rushed and some great views. The haze hadn’t burned off so my pictures don’t really do it justice.

Archaeological Site of Nora. Nora is located on a peninsula. A portion of it is submerged because the southern part of Sardinia is slowly sinking into the Mediterranean Sea.  An ancient Roman town, only part of Nora has been excavated because much of it is under the control of the Italian Army. The part that has been excavated is not nearly as impressive as the ruins of Pompeii, but jutting out into the ocean, it’s a wonder that this much has survived.

From Nora, the skies over Sardinia.

From Nora, the skies over Sardinia.

There’s a substantial amount of walking, nothing treacherous–  just getting to the site from the parking. Along the way is a beautiful public beach, a rocky coast line and on the other side- a nice view of the island’s mountains.

At the actual entrance, there is a nice little cafe where we stopped to use the facilities while our guide purchased our tickets.

We entered the site and the guide stopped to talk… and talk…. and talk. True to form, Michael and I got bored and decided to wander off, keeping the group in sight so we didn’t repeat our Pompeii incident.

At one point as we were wandering, Michael’s attention was drawn one direction and I walked off in another. Suddenly, alarms were going off– which I ignored– until they sounded a second time. There was also an announcement to return to the main path. I still wasn’t sure it was me until I turn back the direction I’d come from and saw two of those small security cameras pointed my direction. I’m still not sure exactly why the area was restricted. It wasn’t marked, it wasn’t roped off and looked no different than the rest of the pathways. I guess this is why you’re supposed to follow your guide!

 

Much of the ruins of Nora look like this.

Much of the ruins of Nora look like this.

 

Excavated Walls of the Ruins of Nora.

Excavated Walls of the Ruins of Nora.

 

Portions of a surviving mosaic floor.

Portions of a surviving mosaic floor.

 

The Ruins of Nora set against a stunning backdrop.

The Ruins of Nora set against a stunning backdrop.

 

We were given very little time to explore so we made the most of it. As it turns out, had there been time, we could have gone out and explored one of the two watch towers on the site.

 

One of two watch towers at Nora.

One of two watch towers at Nora.

 

I’d highly recommend that anyone interested in visiting Nora, make it a relaxing day trip and plan on some beach time while you’re there. Though the ruins themselves aren’t spectacular, the location and views are. A lovely place to spend a relaxing day.

 

Autograph Session, Part Due. Back on the ship, we went to the second autograph session with the other half of the performers. Immediately following, we went to dinner, excitement building for the headline performance to follow.

 

Our framed, autographed poster from Broadway On the High Seas 7.

Our framed, autographed poster from Broadway On the High Seas 7.

 

Chita Rivera in Concert.  Who hasn’t heard of Chita Rivera? The legendary star of such Broadway musicals as Can-Can, West Side Story, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and most recently, The Visit. She’s a Broadway Icon.

Chita Rivera.

Chita Rivera.

Michael and I had seen her on Broadway twice before. The Dancer’s Life (2005), was a sort of retrospective of her life and career; and the revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, played Broadway in 2012.

Her concert for us tonight, was a mix of interview and song. It featured many wonderful numbers from her illustrious career. I was most thrilled that she sang “Chief Cook & Bottle Washer”, from the musical The Rink, in which she co-starred with Liza Minnelli in 1984.

Of course, the audience loved her! She might have even given the longest concert ever on a BOTHS cruise.

 

The legendary Chita Rivera.

The legendary Chita Rivera.

 

Chita Rivera in Concert.

Chita Rivera in Concert.

 

Tomorrow is our last full day of the cruise and we’re visiting Bonifacio, Corsica, France.

Travel 2016: Day Eleven – Erice, Sicily: Feels Like Home

Our Silver Seas ship, the Silver Wind, docked in Trapani.

Our Silver Seas ship, the Silver Wind, docked in Trapani.

 

We docked this morning in Trapani, Sicily. Beautiful blue skies only added to our anticipation of exploring another new location. Today we were headed to Erice. We actually could have fit in two different locations but the scheduling would have been pretty tight. Instead, we opted to just stick with one excursion and have a more relaxed day.

Early afternoon, we boarded the bus and headed up the narrow winding roads to the top of Mount Erice. We had some pretty spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea and of Trapani below us as we climbed.

 

The view of the Mediterranean as we climbed Mount Erice.

The view of the Mediterranean as we climbed Mount Erice.

 

Looking up towards the top of Mount Erice and our destination.

Looking up towards the top of Mount Erice and our destination.

 

Just outside the city’s walls stood the Chiese Madre (Main Church) greeting us. Originally built in 1312, it actually collapsed in 1853 and was immediately rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style.

 

Chiesa Madre against the clear blue sky.

Chiesa Madre against the clear blue sky.

 

Chiesa Madre.

Chiesa Madre.

 

We had the opportunity to spend some time inside the church and marvel at its majestic detail.

 

Inside the Chiesa Madre.

Inside the Chiesa Madre.

 

Close up of the altar in Chiesa Madre.

Close up of the altar in Chiesa Madre.

 

Intricate detail in the Chiesa Madre.

Intricate detail in the Chiesa Madre.

 

We entered the west end of Erice through the Porta Trapani, one of three entrances to the city. Erice has a long complicated history dating back to ancient times. The population here at the peak is only about 300. The city was all but abandoned by the year 1800; one of the reasons being the harsh winters.

 

The west entrance of Erice, Porta Trapani.

The west entrance of Erice- Porta Trapani.

 

There are a lot of Greek and Roman influences here. The biggest impression you get from the city is the quiet, quaint charm of it all. Even with thousands of tourists filling the streets, it remains a calm, peaceful place.

 

One of several dogs we past, lounging in the streets of Erice.

One of several dogs we past, lounging in the streets of Erice.

 

The simple, quaint charm of Erice.

The simple, quaint charm of Erice.

 

The bell tower of Chiesa di San Giuliano, Erice.

The bell tower of Chiesa di San Giuliano, Erice.

 

Our walk took us through the streets, slowly climbing upwards but not steep enough to really notice. We reached the Venus Castle, also known as Norman Castle, Torri Pepoli Castle or simply Erice Castle. The castle was built in the 12th century on top of the ancient Temple of Venus. In addition to the castle itself (now part of it is a resort hotel), you have the advantage of some of the best views in Erice.

 

Approaching Venus Castle.

Approaching Venus Castle.

 

Venus Castle.

Venus Castle.

 

A view of Sicily from the top of Mount Erice.

A view of Sicily from the top of Mount Erice.

 

The mighty fortress, Norman, or Venus Castle.

The mighty fortress: Norman, or Venus Castle.

 

The resort entrance at Venus Castle.

The resort entrance at Venus Castle.

 

Feels Like Home. At some point, Michael voiced what I was thinking, “How’d you like to live here?” A relatively peaceful, quiet, simple life- maybe not a very practical idea– but that’s just how Erice felt. Like home.

The first time I ever felt that way about a place, was in my 20’s in Greenwich Village, NYC. It was late at night, just a few days before Christmas. A light snow was falling and the city was quiet. I passed just a few people on the street and we all seemed to be enjoying the magic in the air. It just felt– right.

The next time I felt that was when Michael and I visited Stockholm a couple years ago. Strolling around the Stortorget (The Big Square), lined with brightly colored, centuries-old buildings.

It’s an incredible feeling when you find a place like that. It’s the ambience– more of a vibe than anything. Erice has that vibe. It’s sort of a fairy tale place.

 

Where the sea meets the sky.

Where the sea meets the sky.

 

Looking down on the Torretta Pepoli, part of Venus Castle.

Looking down on the Torretta Pepoli, part of Venus Castle.

 

A vendor stopped by the castle.

A vendor stopped near the castle.

 

Norman Castle is poised on top of the steep cliff.

Norman Castle is poised on top of the steep cliff walls.

 

We had time to wander the streets but our visit ended too soon. It was time to board the bus and wind our way back down Mount Erice to Trapani. We had Broadway stars waiting for us on the ship.

 

I'm waiting for the autograph session with the stars. (Photo by Mary T.)

I’m waiting for the autograph session with the stars. (Photo by Mary T.)

Autograph session. Every cruise, Playbill Travel creates a beautiful piece of frameable art that we can have signed by the Broadway performers on that trip.

For those of us (most of us) that don’t stalk the performers on the cruise, it’s an easy chance to say hi without feeling like you’re imposing.

I was disappointed though. Right before it started, we were told ‘no time for candid pictures and no conversations’– keep the line moving.

Seeing that this was the third time we’ve done these sessions– and the fact that the other two– moved quickly, even with photos and short conversations– I felt a little cheated.

I did sneak in a few pleasantries…. even if I didn’t get the chance for pictures.

 

Kate Baldwin.

Kate Baldwin.

Kate Baldwin in Concert. Another great concert tonight. This time, by the stunning Kate Baldwin.

She gave us an energetic and powerful mix of familiar and lesser-known Broadway songs from a wide variety of composers.

She has appeared on Broadway in Finian’s Rainbow, Giant and Big Fish. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kate will star as Mrs. Malloy in Hello Dolly! with Bette Midler next spring.

 

Kate Baldwin.

Kate Baldwin.

 

Kate Baldwin during Broadway On the High Seas 7.

Kate Baldwin during Broadway On the High Seas 7.

 

Kate Baldwin in Concert.

Kate Baldwin in Concert.

 

From Home. Before bed, I checked Facebook for the day’s pictures from the boarding facility we use back home. They post daily so owners can see their pet children at play. The biggest drawback about a long vacation is missing the children. Belle and Dudley seem to be doing fine without us– a good thing– but I always wonder if they miss us as much as we miss them.

 

Belle on the left, Dudley second from the right.

Belle on the back left, Dudley second from the right.

 

Tomorrow we visit Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy.

Travel 2016: Day Nine – And God Said, Let There Be Rain… And Waves…Lots and Lots of Waves

Soon It’s Gonna Rain. We knew for a couple days there was a likely chance of rain today. As a matter of fact, last night the prediction was above 80%. Not just a shower… rain all day. Troupers that we are– and because you can’t cancel an excursion without at least a 48 hour notice (without paying anyway)– We got up early, dressed appropriately, had breakfast and watched as we were hit with the first down pour.

Our tour was supposed to take us to explore Taormina and Castelmola this morning. The key phrase here is supposed to. All tours ended up being cancelled with ongoing weather concerns anticipated throughout the day and because we were supposed to tender into port. The water was just to rough to safely make it to and from land.

Unfortunately for us, the decision was not made until around 10 AM, long after our scheduled tours were supposed to have started. This left us in limbo, waiting for the final word. It’s too bad we hadn’t known the night before because we could have caught up on some much needed sleep. This is just one of the chances you take with cruise travel.

What To Do? The good news was that the change in plans gave us time to socialize. We had a favorite spot where many of the same people would gather at some point, day to day, throughout the week. The conversations were always lively and anything was fair game– we didn’t just talk Broadway. You could frequently find us with Janet, Paul, Bill and a few others engaging in some animated fashion. One of my favorite ongoing discussions was with Susan, Champ (He was in the cabin next to us on the last cruise with the wall that slid open!) and Philip (Lindsay Mendez’s husband) discussing the upcoming election. After more than a week away from home, I was itching to get some things off my chest.

One thing that I’ve noticed– if you put a group of theatre lovers together in a room– they can talk about pretty much anything, speak honestly and not be attacked by anyone for a differing viewpoint of belief. I find it really comforting. Theatre people are the most accepting, loving, understanding and all-inclusive group I know.

While I was in deep conversation, Michael was off with Mary, Linda and Wendy playing euchre in the card room.

Let’s Put On A Show! In typical fashion, Phil Birsh (CEO of Playbill) and Seth Rudetsky (Music Director on BOTHS) rallied the troupes — Mickey and Judy style– throwing together a really fun, entertaining show with many of the Broadway performers contributing.

Laura Osnes, fresh off her performance the night before, led off the truly enjoyable set of musical numbers this afternoon.

 

Laura Osnes

Laura Osnes

 

Charles Busch

Charles Busch

 

Jennifer Simard

Jennifer Simard

 

Lindsay Mendez

Lindsay Mendez

 

Faith Prince

Faith Prince

 

Chatterbox. As originally scheduled for late afternoon, Seth Rudetsky hosted a Chatterbox session with Brenda Braxton and his longtime friend, Andrea Burns. I always like hearing artists talk about their experiences in the business and sharing their highs and lows.

Brenda Braxton was on the cruise as a “Broadway Ambassador”, not a scheduled performer, per se. I saw her in Legs Diamond with Peter Allen many years ago and got the chance to share that with her later in the cruise.

 

Brenda Braxton

Brenda Braxton

 

Old friends Seth Rudetsky and Andrea Burns.

Old friends Seth Rudetsky and Andrea Burns.

 

Sea Sick? As it turned out, we really didn’t experience much rain during the day but the water was rough. It continued to be throughout the evening. I’ve been on boats that were rocking and swaying a whole lot worse but for some reason it really started to get to me at dinner. I left halfway through and Michael had my entree sent to the room.

I wanted to just stay in bed, only I wasn’t about to miss tonight’s concert. I did start feeling better as the evening wore on.

Adam Pascal in Concert. If you know me or have read my blog, you know that RENT is my all-time favorite musical. So how can I not love Adam Pascal? One of my pinnacle, theatregoing experiences was Adam’s performance of One Song Glory the first time I saw him in RENT. It’s forever etched in my brain.

Adam also starred on Broadway in AIDA, Memphis, Chicago, Disaster! and currently, Something Rotten. He also played Freddy in the highly-acclaimed concert version of Chess with Josh Groban and Idina Menzel.

The format for Adam’s concert tonight, was an informal sing-interview format with music director Seth Rudetsky. It was a great evening– showing off his versatility, powerhouse vocals and occasionally accompanying himself on guitar.

 

Adam Pascal

Adam Pascal

 

Adam Pascal accompanying himself on guitar.

Adam Pascal accompanying himself on guitar.

 

Adam Pascal with Seth Rudetsky.

Adam Pascal with Seth Rudetsky.

 

After the show– a nightcap with friends and then off to bed. Tomorrow Michael and I have a private car and guide scheduled for a whirlwind tour of Malta!

Travel 2016: Day Eight -Sorrento, Italy and Ancient Pompeii

Hazy Sunrise over Sorrento.

Hazy Sunrise over Sorrento.

Sorrento, Italy. is our port of call today. It was a hazy morning as the sun rose, revealing more and more detail on shore. We couldn’t dock so we had to be tendered on and off the ship to the port.

Booking Excursions. We’ve had good experiences with most of the tours we’ve taken in the past. The success most often depends on the guide. Some are terrific, humorous and informative, some have great English while others struggle a little more; and some just talk way too much.

Some of the Broadway performers go out on the excursions with the guests and sometimes they do their own private tours. Today, Kate Baldwin and her friend (BFF) Amber were on ours.

We had a number of interesting choices for shore excursions from Sorrento. Way back when we booked the trip, I only had one in mind….. Visiting the ancient ruins of Pompeii.

The Dog of Pompeii. My fascination with Pompeii goes back to childhood and the short story, The Dog of Pompeii by Louis Untermeyer. It’s the tale of a young blind boy named Tito and his beloved dog, Bimbo. Bimbo stole raisin bread from the street vendors of Pompeii and that’s how he and Tito ate to stay alive. When the Volcano errupted, Tito was saved only because of Bimbo. Tito was frightened but not able to tell what was going on. It was up to Bimbo to save him. Bimbo nipped at Tito’s feet, keeping him moving away from the city to the ships in the harbor and to safety. With not enough room, Bimbo, sadly– was left behind. Eighteen hundred years later, when excavating the city, the skeletal remains of a dog were found. In his mouth was a petrified piece of raisin bread.

The story is more heartbreaking to me now than I remembered it. Still, pieces of that story have stayed with me my whole life.

So, yes. Pompeii was a must.

A little hitch at the start of the day– our coach bus had mechanical issues. We were able to squeeze on the second bus without too much overcrowding and proceeded on the hour drive to our destination. Since we joined that bus, the other tour guide had control of the intercom. She never- stopped- talking. More than one person commented, wondering how and if she ever to took a breath.

When we arrived at Pompeii, we stopped briefly at a small hotel and street market at the entrance. We split up into our two original groups and we were on our way. Our guide was also pretty talky but made up for it by being very witty and keeping our group moving.

Ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii

Ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii.

Discovering Ancient Pompeii. It is believed that Pompeii was settled around 7 BC. It is also believed that there were approximately 11,000 inhabitants at the time that Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying it under as much as 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice. Approximately 2,000 people died as Pompeii was buried. The city was lost for 1,500 years until portions started to be uncovered in the 1599. Actual excavation began in 1748.

The ancient ruins of Pompeii are one of the highly valued, UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Plaster Cast of one of the victims.

Plaster Cast of one of the victims.

As excavation advanced, it was discovered that much of the city was preserved having been sealed from air and moisture all those years. Scientists found that they were able to make castings of victims by carefully pouring Plaster of Paris into the voids as they were discovered. This resulted in capturing the exact poses of victims when they died.

The excavation of Pompeii is much larger than I’d thought it would be. Because of its massive size, it’s probably best to tour it with a guide; or at least, a map designating the highlights. There are some incredibly well-preserved rooms, complete with frescos and tile flooring.  There are many, many streets; most with just the suggestion of the original shape of the foundations surviving.

At the time of our visit, there was an incredible display of bronze sculptures by artist Igor Mitoraj that are a beautiful addition to the archaeological site. They are set to be displayed only through January 2017. In my opinion, they should stay as a permanent exhibition.

 

One of the larger bronze sculptures by Igor Mitoraj on exhibition throughout Pompeii.

One of the larger bronze sculptures by Igor Mitoraj on exhibition throughout Pompeii.

 

We each had ear piece devices for the tour. It was especially handy for me when I’d get sidetracked, or veer away from the group to take pictures.

 

Standing among the massive ruins of Pompeii.

Standing among the massive ruins of Pompeii.

 

A portion of one of the amphitheatres in Pompeii.

A portion of one of the amphitheatres in Pompeii.

 

Close of of surviving wall art.

Close up of surviving wall art.

 

One of the more complete, excavated rooms in Pompeii.

One of the more complete, excavated rooms in Pompeii.

 

Ruins of one of the streets in Pompeii.

Ruins of one of the streets in Pompeii.

 

Ruins of Pompeii.

Ruins of Pompeii.

 

Mitoraj's art exhibition compliments the landscape.

Mitoraj’s art exhibition compliments the landscape.

 

Standing guard over the ruins of Pompeii.

Standing guard over the ruins of Pompeii.

 

We reached a point in the tour where, having visited the main highlights, our guide gave us the option to head back to the market or continue on with her. At the end of the tour there was to be some time for shopping or a bite to eat before heading back to the ship.

Michael and I opted to head back and had our first (delicious) slice of pizza (in Italy) from one of the vendors. Shortly after, we saw one of our new friends, Paul, who said the group was making its way back our direction. We also saw Kate and Amber strolling through the marketplace. Since we were told we’d have time for shopping, Michael and I got gelato and proceeded to walk through the rows of market vendors.

Left behind? We never saw the rest of our group and also lost track of Paul. We just figured they still weren’t back yet. I put my ear piece back in and after a moment, could hear the guide saying something about getting on the new bus and then she turned off the audio system!

Wait, what?

Michael and I shifted into high gear but had no idea where the bus was parked. We left the market square went out to the street. We looked left and right and couldn’t figure out which way to go. I happened to see the other bus from our cruise leaving and we flagged it down. The guide said ours– was looking for us– so we headed to where that bus had pulled out. We found our bus– only our guide had gone back to the market to look for us. Oops!

We apologized to everyone as we got on, found empty seats near Kate and Amber, who seemed to be enjoying the humor of the situation. Eventually our guide came back, told us she was going to kill us, everyone laughed– and we drove off.

We got back to the port and had just missed the tender to our ship, meaning a 40-minute wait until the next one. (I guess this was our fault!) So some members of our group stood in line waiting, some shopped and others grabbed a snack.

At the port in Sorrento.

At the port in Sorrento.

 

While we waited for the tender, Michael kept wandering off, out of sight, going in and out of the shops. He was making me nervous because I saw the tender coming and didn’t want to miss the next one. He reappeared and we made it on with no problem. I joked that ‘we made it‘ to Amber and Kate– and Amber said they were keeping an eye on us so we didn’t get left behind. (This became our running joke.)

 

Sorrento from our ship.

Sorrento from our ship.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to miss that tender was because it was getting close to time for the late afternoon BOTHS activity, a talkback with playwrights Charles Busch and Douglas Carter Beane.

Charles Busch is an actor, playwright, screenwriter and female impersonator known for his high-camp style. He is an iconic figure in the New York Off Broadway scene and beyond. Charles is responsible for the cult classics Die Mommie Die! and Psycho Beach Party, both of which were also made into films. His best know work is The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, that played Broadway in 2000.

Douglas Carter Beane is a prolific writer for the stage, having worked on many familiar productions you may not realize he had a hand in. He was Tony-nominated for his wonderful play, The Little Dog Laughed and more recently, his play The Nance appeared on Broadway. Douglas wrote the book for the musicals Xanadu, Lysistrata Jones and the new adaptation of Cinderella. Many probably don’t realize he also wrote the screenplay for the cult hit, Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar.

I found their stories and experiences fascinating and enlightening.

 

Douglas Carter Beane discusses his writing process.

Douglas Carter Beane discusses his writing process.

 

Charles Busch sharing stories of acting and performing in his own work.

Charles Busch sharing stories of acting and performing in his own work.

 

We had a large group for dinner (as we did most every night) at The Restaurant (that’s actually the name) followed by one of the best sunsets of the trip.

 

Stunning Sunset as we sailed from Sorrento.

Stunning Sunset as we sailed from Sorrento.

 

A gorgeous view as Sunset framed this rock formation jutting out of the sea.

A gorgeous view as Sunset framed this rock formation jutting out of the sea.

 

Laura Osnes in Concert. The main event onboard was a concert featuring Laura Osnes, accompanied by Seth Rudetsky on piano.

I started following Laura’s career when she appeared on Broadway in Bonnie and Clyde (with Jeremy Jordan) receiving high praise from the critics.

She is probably best known as the winner of Grease: You’re the One That I Want!, giving her a starring role as Sandy in the 2007 Broadway revival of Grease. I had failed to make this connection until the cruise.

Among her many credits, Laura recently starred on Broadway in Cinderella, in the title role.

It was a great concert. One of the fun highlights of the evening was bringing her high school sweetheart– now husband, Nathan Johnson on stage for a sweet duet.

 

Laura Osnes with husband Nathan Johnson.

Laura Osnes with husband Nathan Johnson.

 

Laura Osnes.

Laura Osnes.

 

Laura Osnes in Concert.

Laura Osnes in Concert.

 

Tomorrow– Sicily!

Travel 2016: Day Seven: From Villa Borghese to the Silver Wind

You go on vacation either to relax, for a holiday or event (usually family-related) or to go sightseeing. Most of us joke about needing a vacation to recover from vacation because- let’s face it: vacations are exhausting. I’ve found that no matter what type of vacation you have planned, it’s always important to allow for some down time. It’s good to take a breath, relax and let it all soak in.

Our last three big vacations have allowed us to see the world. We’ve experienced the Baltic region, Southeast Asia and now London and Italy. Having already explored two amazing cities, and barely reached the midpoint of this adventure– Michael and I were both ready for a little relaxation time.

What to do? Our suitcases had to be packed and ready for transport (early) leaving us about four hours before boarding the coach bus. From there, it would be about an hour to Cittavecchia, where we would meet our ship.

So what do you do with time to spare in one of the world’s most famous cities?

You go for a walk in the park.

Villa Borghese Gardens. After breakfast, Michael and I headed to Villa Borghese just to wander around. No rush, no set destination– just a relaxing walk on what was to be another beautiful day with perfect weather.

Who knew that we would spend our time, sitting on a bench, enjoying ducks swimming around the Temple of Aesculapius (built in 1786)?  Or, that we would find a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (2003)  hidden among the trees? Well, we did.

Here are some of the images I captured along the way:

Strolling through Villa Borghese Gardens.

Strolling through Villa Borghese Gardens.

 

The Temple of Aesculapius.

The Temple of Aesculapius.

 

Statuary at the Temple of Aesculapius.

Statuary at the Temple of Aesculapius.

 

A peaceful scene at Temple of Aesculapius in Villa Borghese.

A peaceful scene at Temple of Aesculapius in Villa Borghese.

 

The Galleria Borghese.

The Galleria Borghese.

 

Rome's replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Villa Borghese.

Rome’s replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in Villa Borghese.

 

One of several beautiful fountains in Villa Borghese.

One of several beautiful fountains in Villa Borghese.

 

A morning stroll through Villa Borghese Gardens.

A morning stroll through Villa Borghese Gardens.

 

The Tempio di Annia Faustina e Cerere.

The Tempio di Annia Faustina e Cerere.

 

Mephistopheles and Faust - part of the Monument to Goethe by Gustav Eberlein.

Mephistopheles and Faust – part of the Monument to Goethe by Gustav Eberlein.

 

Monument to Goethe by Gustav Eberlein.

Monument to Goethe by Gustav Eberlein.

 

Tempio di Diana in Villa Borghese.

Tempio di Diana in Villa Borghese.

 

Villa Borghese Gardens.

Villa Borghese Gardens.

 

The view across the Piazza di Siena in Villa Borghese Gardens.

The view across the Piazza di Siena in Villa Borghese Gardens.

 

Leaving Rome. We walked through the streets after leaving the gardens, arriving back at the hotel with plenty of time before boarding the bus to Cittavecchia.

 

Standing guard at the American Embassy in Rome.

Standing guard at the American Embassy in Rome.

 

We found Bernini's Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini.

We found Bernini’s Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini.

 

Upon arrival at the port, we were greeted by the ancient Cittavecchia fortress at the harbor. In just a matter of minutes, we were on board the Silver Seas ship, Silver Wind.

 

The fortress at the harbor of Cittavecchia.

The fortress at the harbor of Cittavecchia.

 

Sailing on the Silver Wind. Since we weren’t technically leaving Italy, boarding was fast and simple and our luggage was to be delivered directly to our room. We got our keys and checked out the room before exploring the ship.

The Silver Wind is a small ship with a modest passenger capacity of  296 and a crew of 222. Silver Seas has paid great attention to detail, providing most of the amenities of a larger cruise ship. Pool, spa, gift shop, casino and four restaurants all beautifully provided.

Shortly after boarding, we ran into Lindsay Mendez (Wakefield) and her husband Philip– they remembered us from last year– and they had just enjoyed a beautiful honeymoon (pre-cruise) in Tuscany.

 

Our room on the Silver Wind.

Our room on the Silver Wind.

 

Our Bathroom on the Sivler Wind.

Our Bathroom on the Silver Wind.

 

Once everyone was on board, we had the required muster drill, which was fast and painless. Our luggage didn’t reach our room until about that time; so afterwards, we quickly changed for the cocktail reception and dinner.

We were treated to a beautiful sunset shortly after sailing. It was difficult not to pause and enjoy it– with the flurry of excitement and meeting many new people that was all happening at the same time.

 

Our first Sunset on the Silver Wind, off the Italian Coast.

Our first Sunset on the Silver Wind, off the Italian Coast.

 

Luckily, George had made dinner reservations for the four of us at The Grill prior to the cruise. We enjoyed dining outside with the ‘Black Rock experience’– cooking our own choice of meat on preheated volcanic rock at our table. It was unique. Our meat cooked perfectly– but bibs were required! Lots of pops and sizzles on the hot stones.

Broadway On the High Seas. Our first concert of the cruise was a special treat: Andrea Burns, taking a break from her Broadway run in On Your Feet and traveling with her husband Peter and son, Hudson.

She is an incredible performer with great versatility and talent. Andrea Burns was in the original casts of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights and Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For a New World among many other theatre, film and television credits.

 

Andrea Burns with music director Seth Rudetsky in the background.

Andrea Burns with music director Seth Rudetsky in the background.

 

Andrea Burns pulling out all the stops.

Andrea Burns pulling out all the stops.

 

The wonderfully versatile, Andrea Burns.

The wonderfully versatile, Andrea Burns.

 

After the concert (and some unavoidable raving,) we said our goodnights and headed to our room for some much-needed sleep.

 

Travel 2016: Sacred Beauty – Churches of Rome – A Photo Essay

There are so many beautiful houses of worship in Rome. Churches, Cathedrals, Basilicas — no matter what they are called, they are full of a rich history and artistry that is a wonder to behold.

On our full day of touring Rome, Michael and I found ourselves wandering in many of these beautiful sanctuaries. They stand open, throughout the day, welcoming anyone to enter.

Here is a sampling of the churches we visited. Many had origins back to the 1st Century but all the current structures date back to as early as the 16th century.

 

All Saints’ Anglican Church – Est. 1887

Detail inside All Saints' Anglican Church, Rome.

Detail inside All Saints’ Anglican Church, Rome.

 

The Interior of All Saints' Anglican Church.

The Interior of All Saints’ Anglican Church.

 

 

Chiesa de Gesu E Maria – Est. 1602

The exterior of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

The exterior of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

 

The interior sanctuary of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

The interior sanctuary of Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

 

The Pipe Organ Loft.

The Pipe Organ Loft.

 

The ceiling inside Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

The ceiling inside Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

 

The confessional.

The confessional.

 

Statuary in Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

Statuary in Chiesa de Gesu E Maria.

 

 

Basilica S. Giacomo – Est. 1600

The Interior of Basilica S. Giacomo.

The Interior of Basilica S. Giacomo.

 

The domed ceiling of Basilica S. Giacomo.

The domed ceiling of Basilica S. Giacomo.

 

An angel at watch.

An angel at watch.

 

 

Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo – Est. 1610

The exterior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

The exterior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

 

The breathtaking interior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

The breathtaking interior of Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

 

The ornate ceiling in Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

The ornate ceiling in Basilica dei SS Ambrogio E Carlo.

 

Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso – Est. 309 AD , rebuilt 1597

The Exterior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.

The Exterior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.

 

The Interior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.

The Interior of Chiesa di San Marcello al Corso.

 

Close up of the dome.

Close up of the dome.

 

Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso – Est. 1568

Exterior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

Exterior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

 

Interior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

Interior of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

 

The ceiling of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

The ceiling of Oratorio del Santissimo Crocifisso.

 

I loved the shaft of sunlight playing on the wall.

I loved the shaft of sunlight playing on the wall.

 

Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi – Est. 1650

The exterior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.

The exterior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.

 

The Interior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.

The Interior of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi.

 

Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli – Est. 499, rebuilt 1714

The Interior of Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.

The Interior of Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.

 

I loved the chandeliers above the altar dome.

I loved the chandeliers above the altar dome.

 

Looking up from the lower level in Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.

Looking up from the lower level in Basilica dei SS. XII Apostoli.

 

Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi – Est. 1589

The Interior of Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.

The Interior of Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.

 

Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.

Chiesa San Luigi dei Francesi.

 

Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone – Est. 1652

The Interior of Chiesa di Santi' Agnese in Agone.

The Interior of Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone.

 

The Pipe Organ of Chiesa di Santi' Agnese in Agone.

The Pipe Organ of Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone.

 

The magnificent ceiling of Chiesa di Santi' Agnese in Agone.

The magnificent ceiling of Chiesa di Santi’ Agnese in Agone.