A Day in Venice

We headed to St Mark’s Square after breaking for lunch post our self guided tour down the Grand Canal. This is the only part of Venice I remember from my previous trip some 25 year prior with my parents, sister, and friend Damon. My parents had turned us loose at around 19 years of age and I think we hit various bars along St Mark’s and were shocked at the bill. I remember my sister meeting a boy who either shimmed up or down the drain spout (or both) of our hotel to come calling on her in the night. I remember being so thirsty from drinking that I grabbed an open soda can near the bedside stand and guzzled the contents only to soon realize a cigarette butt had been put out in it. I can remember visiting the bathroom in the hotel and at the airport the next morning repeatedly as I got sick from over-imbibing. And I can remember my father asking me at the airport if I’d like a nice tall glass of water as I sat green faced against a wall. I thought to myself, my father’s being awfully nice to me considering I went out drinking last night. He returned with a tall glass. I raised it to my mouth and could smell it wasn’t water but vodka. The smell sent me immediately running for the restroom where I got sick again.

So it was great to be seeing St. Mark’s again as a parent with my family. We went into St. Mark’s Basilica and were awe struck at the golden hued mosaics. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in St. Mark’s so I don’t have many images to share. However, I did pay extra to go behind the altar and see the Pala d’Oro (Golden Altarpiece) so felt I was entitled. With 15 large rubies, 300 emeralds, 1500 pearls, and other precious stones (all stolen as plunder in 1204) it was worth a tongue lashing from the guards, but I didn’t get caught.

We then ascended the staircase to the museum so we could see the La Quardriga (Bronze Horses) as well as a view of St. Mark’s Square. Again, pictures were not to be taken except outside. These horses are not the originals (they are inside the musuem and off limits for pictures) which date from 175 BC. 

Strolling past St. Mark’s and the Doge’s palace we passed by the Bridge of Sighs (named that by poet Lord Byron in the 1800s). This bridge connected the Doge’s Palace with the prison across the canal and was the route many a rightfully and wrongfully convicted man would travel to pass their sentence.

From here we wandered back streets and bridges off the beaten path towards our hotel (only getting lost a few times).

On our way back we found a restaurant we wanted to return to later that night for dinner. After a rest and change of clothes we strolled more back streets and stores for last minute gifts. We came across this funny sign and icon denoting a public toilet.

We then enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip at a quaint little hidden away seafood restaurant named Osteria L’Orto Dei Mori. It was a perfect way to end a few perfect days in Venice with far more memories made than my previous trip.

Aperol Spritz

Prawns and Pumpkin w/salad

Gnocchi w/Sordfish in a broccoli and leek sauce

Ravioli stuffed w/smoked riccotta and zuchini

Crepes w/prawns in spinach sauce

Ice cream w/pistachio, caramel sauce w/hazelnuts

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A Trip Down the Grand Canal

After visiting Murano we walked ourway through the tourist traps of the Strada Nova towards Ferrovia Train Station where we could catch Vaporetto 1. We plugged ourselves into Rick Steves and budget toured ourselves down the Grand Canal past the weathered, watered, and weary palaces. 

Ca’ d’Oro (House of Gold) – Quintessential Venitian Gothic

We disembarked at Merkato Rialto which houses the fish and vegetable market. Most of the stands were already shutting down for the day (or because it was Monday) but we stopped there for the traghetto (ghetto boat?). The traghetto is a gondola manned by official gondoliers who are obligated to volunteer for this public service a few days a month. This functions as a ferry crossing for only 2 Euros for a semi-gondola-like experience (at a fraction of the cost since a gondola rental can be 80-100 Euros). 

From here we walked winding back streets which opened into the occassional piazza and cross little bridges until we got the the main bridge – Rialto.

Hopping back on the vaporetto we continued down the Grand Canal past varied merchant palaces, University of Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, and Peggy Guggenheim’s collection (now a musueum), the wooden Accademia Bridge, and the La Salute  Church. 

A few more stops and we were at San Marco and St. Mark’s Square. We passed the crowds and disembarked at San Zaccaria (1 stop beyond San Marco) for a quick lunch before braving the throngs of humanity and pigeons at Staint Mark’s Square. 

Salute! Cin Cin!

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Murano Glass Factory

Upon check-in we were told the hotel could arrange a complementary trip in the morning to Murano where all the Venetian glass is made. Although we knew it would be an up-sell to purchase glass we jumped at the chance to visit Murano and see the artists at work.

We left in a stately and self important looking private boat at 9:30 (shared with a few other guests) and headed down lonely canals and eventually away from Venice towards Murano. 

View from our room


View from our room

Heading away from Boscolo Hotel down canal

The slow decay of Venice

Clara leaving Venice for Murano

Leaving Venice for Murano

In the 1200s all glass factories were banned from Venice for fear of fire to the island of Murano. A much more industrial island it also looks to be in a slow motion decay.

Once in the glass factory were were treated to a tour and explanation of the craft. The master craftsman (the younger person) was working on a single light shade for a large chandelier. We saw him start from a mere bowl and attach pieces of glass, form them into petals, and shape them into the graceful curve to match the rest of the set.

This is the process used to ultimately create lamps such as this:

Next we were treated to a glass blowing and bottle making demonstration.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the galleries but were obliged to go through each one of them with a commentary. No prices were spoken, but if you had to ask you probably couldn’t afford one anyway.

We jumped the next boat back to the Boscolo to enjoy our day in Venice.


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Train to Venezia

Having gone to bed near 2am after several bottles of Tom’s exceptional Euro-Find-Wines finds we found ourselves oversleeping a bit. We woke in time to pack ourselves up, catch a quick breakfast with Tom and Heather, grab a few last minute electrons, and reach the Spoleto train station in time. We boarded the train, releaved to make the train but worried our ticket wouldn’t be accepted as it had already been time stamped and punched the day before. But I had time stamped the wrong side of the ticket and the hole punch had a hanging chad. I licked, positioned and squeeze that chad back into its hole as best I could and validate the proper side fot he ticket. Wringing my hands about what to tell a potentially non-English speaking conductor if we were caught I decided honesty was the best policy. As the conductor came down the isle I thought to myself, “Calmé” and handed him our tickets and started to explain the discrepancies, “…Yesterday…we, uh”. But he took the ticket, punched it clear thru, handed it back to me before I could form a sentence and said “Tiburtina is the next stop” and he went on to the next set of passengers, two young Japanese women whom where sitting in first class with a second class ticket. He made them pay a fine (and purchase a first class ticket) on the spot, 60 Euros. Ouch. Calmé.

Our next stress came from having only 20 minutes in Tiburtina to find the Frecciargento TrenItalia high speed train to Venezia. We hustled ourselves off the regional train and schlepped our luggage up the escalator of Platform 6 and into the station to find a schedule board so we could find our next platform. The train to Venezia was leaving from platform 6. We schlepped ourselves back platform 6, found the space for our car and waited for the train to arrive. Calmé…

Frecciargento 9430 to Venezia

The train showed up on time and we slipped into the very stylish and modern first class seats. No sooner did the train leave the station than a beverage cart came along and offered us a complimentary glass of prosecco! Grazie! It was calmé all the way to Venice.

On the train I called the Boscolo Hotel to find the best way to the hotel from the station. “You can take the #4.2 or #5.2 Vaporetto (the public boat) for 7 Euro each and get off at the Orto stop and its a short 5 minute walk, or you can hire a private taxi speed boat for abou 70 Euro.”We made our way to the vaporetto stop, bought 24 hour tickets (so we could take it down the Grand Canal tomorrow), and hopped on the 4.2. It was twilight and Venice was beautiful from the boat.

Venice at sunset

Boscolo Hotel

The Boscolo greeted us with Murano glass chandelliers, and a complementary room upgrade to a junior suite! Clara got her own room up the stairs from us. To top things off, just after our bags arrived so did two glasses of wine and two martini glasses filled with gelato. 

Murano glass chandelliers in Boscolo lobby

Junior suite upgrade!

Tired from our 5.5 hour train trip we wanted something simple for dinner. The hotel recommended Pizzeria Visuvius so we walked there for a quick bite before wandering the back canal streets and tourist traps along the main streets and piazzas.  

Prosciutto and gorgonzola pizza

Gorgonzola bianca w/spicy sausage

Murano glass for the tourists

Venician masks for the tourists

One of the narrow walkways to our canal

Hotel Boscolo

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Spoleto, Italy

Sunday morning we headed to Termini station to catch our train to Spoleto. We had a complicated itinerary with a mix of regional and high speed cross country trains and wanted to collect our tickets we had purchased online. But the self service machines wouldn’t work for us.

A woman approach us an asked if she could help. She seemed very helpeful and told us that our regional train and high speed train would require us to see customer serivce and retrieve a combined itinerary. Just as she told us this another woman (an official from Trenitalia) came over, scolderd, and shooed her away. Then she scolded us. “You should avoid these people, they are dangerous.” Then she proceeded to give us the same informationn the dangerous woman had; collect a number at this machin, then stand in line waiting for our number to be called and go to that counter to collect your ticket.

Thirtyfive minutes later A296 was called, and immediatly after A297 and A298. I bolted into the booth, raised my number,  insisting A296 never had a chance to report when our number was called (I literally had 2 seconds or less). He allowed me to push the other family aside and proceeded to “help” me. But he couldn’t figure out how to manage the error on his computer and was flustered because his printer had run out of paper. He called in another employee to help him. Then printed our tickets. But the tickets didn’t show a train from Rome to Spoletto, only the tickets from Spoleto to Rome for the following day along with the tickets from Rome to Venezia on the high speed train. I insisted that my tickets were wrong and I needed today’s ticket to Spoleto. In broken English he insisted “Roma-Spoleto, Spoleto-Roma, come/go, today/tomorrow, its okay.”. I took him at his word and we headed to the regional platforms clear on the far side and outskirts of the station. It was a 20 minute walk with our bags to get there and when we arrived we asked a conductor if this was the right train. It was the right train, but the wrong ticket. He took us to another conductor that spoke better English. He was very nice and kind. We explained that we thought it was the wrong ticket but he had told us “Roma-Spoleto, Spoleto-Roma, come/go, today/tomorrow, its okay.” We showed our online receipt and he understood that it was customer service that had made the mistake and there was no way I could physically get back to the main terminal and get the right ticket. He said,”I’ll be on the train and I’ll let check your ticket, go validate it over there” pointing to a machine across the way. I stuck the ticket in and got a time stamp on it. Later, on the train, the punched the ticket even though the ticket wasn’t from Rome to Spoleto, but only a ticket for the next day from Spoleto to Rome.

Ninety minutes later were were in the classically quaint Italian walled hill town of Spoleto. Tom (whom we had sailed with in Greece) was there to meet us at the station where he had a car waiting for us. We drove to their appartment high in the hillside town while Tom rode his bike up. The apartment is being sublet to them by the parents of a middle school friend of mine who’s parents are exploring other places in the world to live but didn’t want to loose this apartment (and its furnishings) until they determined where they wanted to live so Tom and Heather carpe diemed and took over their place.

Heather was waiting for us with a spectacular lunch of locally sourced bread, meats, and cheeses.

During lunch we relayed our train travails to Tom and Heather. Tom recounted his own experience in dealing with Italian bureaucracy as he tried to set up rent payment, utilities, and deal with other adjustments to Italian life. But that through it all he had learned an Italian concept told to him by no particular bureaucrat, “Calmé”. That if you keep calm it will all work out.

After lunch we headed into the upper town for a walk and look around. We started our walk with our first gelato (locally made) which was absolutely sumptuous.




Spoleto is an ancient hillside city in Perugia that dates back to the Roman Empire (around 240 BCE) but has at its convenience defended itself from Hannibal as well as the influence of the Pope. It consists of narrow winding streets punctuated by piazzas, churches (such as the Chisea S Ansano which contains the crypt of Saint Isacco), or the Duomo (Cathedral) of S. Maria Assunta which acts as the center piece to the old town. Its capped with a palace and connected to nearby hills with an ancient aquaduct. In many ways its the quintessential hillside Italian dutchy.







We continued our walk around the top of the town with exceptional views of the Italian countryside (olive groves and vineyards in the distance) and stopped for a short cup of coffee before heading around the backside of the hill to explore views of the palace and the dramatic aqueduct.






As we rounded the scenic trail the town below came into view. We enjoyed vistas as we descended to explore Duomo of S. Maria Assunta.











Then we descended under the hilltop town where a series of tunnels, moving sidewalks, and elevators are being built in a vision to make the town car free at some point in the future. Residents would have to park in lots (and pay for the privledge) and then take these underground pathways to walk, escalate, and elevate to their homes. It was surreal to see this modern underground system under such an ancient city.


We ascended back to the top of the town and took the analog paths of winding city streets down to the rest of the town below. The town was coming alive with twenty-somethings drinking in the street and courting each-other in the central piazza. We headed to a local bar ourselves (Sophia’s) where we were treated with many complimentary appetizers that could have been a meal in itself.


Shoe cobbler




We then headed to a favorite restaurant of Heather and Tom for another amazing Italian meal of buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, wild boar cooked in wine, a rosemary steak, and a fruit ice cream served in the fruit from which it was made.




Buffalo mozzarella


Wild boar cooked in wine


Ice creams and sorbets served in the fruits from which they were made

After dinner we headed back up the hill to their apartment where we drank wine into the night. Tom showed us bottle after bottle of his wine conquests. “I only pad 1.50 Euros for this bottle, and only 2 Euros for this one. Taste them. They don’t taste like 2 Euro bottles of wine do they? Maybe if your lucky I’ll open a 5 or 6 Euro bottle.” And he was right. The wine was good. No, not good, great and cheap and flowed into the wee small hours of the night as we introduced them to Heads Up.

As it approached 2am we lamented our itinerary in only including 1 full day in Spoleto with them. I worried about our train tickets being accepted tomorrow since they were already punched and stamped. I worried about making our connection in Rome to the train to Venice. I worried that we had already overstayed our welcome in that Heather and Tom had let us wash our skivvies, eat their food, drink their Euro wine, and steal their electrons to charge our varied devices. But as I laid my head down to sleep I heard Tom’s voice telling me, “Calmé, calmé…”. And he was right. I was in Italy with a belly full of fantastic food and wine and surrounded by friends perched into the side of an ancient hilltop town. It would all work out. “Calmé” I said to myself as I drifted into an Italian slumber for the night.

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Ancient Roma

We left Bernini’s Dutch damaged Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Ugly Boat) below the Spanish Steps.

And retreated back into the Metro to Colosseo. I had been here before with Damon in my youth but we were too cheap to buy a ticket and go in. So we just walked around the outside before heading to the Forum (which in the late 80s/early 90s I think may have been free). I was really looking forward to seeing the Colosseum up close and from the inside.

Tawny and I got in a long line but then realized we had bought Roma Passes which would allow us to skip the line. We headed inside ahead of the masses and hoards, much as the Senators, Vestal Virgins, and other Roman Elites may have done in ancient times. But when we got to the turnstiles our Roma passes were denied and we were sent to another window (short line) to pay a reduced fee. Confused (because we thought our Roma passes would allow us into 2 historic sites or museums) we appealed to the woman in the ticket booth that we had only used our passes at the Borghese Gallery and should have a free entrance to the Colosseum. She agreed with us and went to investigate and confirm with others. Ultimately the verdict was a thumbs down. We had bought the wrong Roma Pass which only included 1 entry. However, it had allowed us to skip an hours long line, pay a reduced fee, and gain quick entry into the Colusseum. Let the games begin:




We plugged ourselves into Rick Steves’ Colosseum tour and fumbled ourselves around the huge stadium in search of the talking point. The views and the stories transported us back into the horror shows and spectical of ancient Roman bloodlust.



After leaving the Colosseum and haggling with vendors over trinkets and momentoes we stood in line for the Forum and Palantine Hill. I remember having gone here with Damon before, but couldn’t imagine we paid for anything. Now there were baggage checks and ticket checks (our Coluseum ticket gaining us entranace) while Rick Steves continued to enlighten us to the sorted history of Roma, its early temples and as the center of commerce and corruption at the hight of the Roman empire.








We strolled through the Forum and Palantine hill before walking outside the ruins and into side streets of Rome in search of lunch near the Capitoline Museums. Unfortunately our feet and thirst gave out at a touristy spot to rest but had a decent Neopolitan pizza and bierra that offset the smell of the sewer vent nearby.

From there we walked down the nearby ally way of Via del Seminario Loyola towards the Pantheon and took a quick side trip into a rather non-discript chruch in front of a small piazza of the alleyway looking for a bathroom. To our surprise we walked into the Chisea di Sant ‘Ignazio di Loyola which houses specatacular perspective frescos and optical illusions painted into the ceilings. But while no bathroom was to be found it was a welcome discovery. But too dark inside to get good pictures.

A few hundred feet further along was the Pantheon. Rick Steves walked us through the history of this amazing architectural masterpiece.




We walked from there through back streets (still looking for a bathroom) to the Trevi Fountain. While it was unfortunate that the fountain was under repair and largely covered by scafolding and drained, the upside was we so desperately needed use of a bathroom we weren’t unduly biologically influenced by a gushing fountain of suggestion.


We hopped a taxi back to our hotel and made reservations at a restaurant suggested by one of the Faculty of our daughter’s school…someplace they had eaten earlier in the week and where we might have dinner prior to picking her up before her classmates headed to the airport. The restaurant was Il Ristorante Peperoncino D’Oro and was very good. We were impressed with the challenging menu – Rabbit, Pigeon, Scorpionfish, etc and couldn’t have imagined our 8th grader and her friends had eaten here. But they did, as did we, and ordered many of the same things. Tawny had vermicelloni pasta with fresh lobster, tomato, and basil. I had paccheri pasta with Scorpionfish threads, tomatoes, capers and fried eggplant. We accompanied with Rome artichokes and a crostini w/a spicy pepper spread which was fantastic. Unfortunately the sauces for us each where extremely salty and while the flavor was good it was just too salty to eat too much and we were running late. We needed to go pick up our daughter at 8:30 so we cut our meal short and left food (but not wine) on the table.

We headed out of the restaurant to walk to the rental rooms for the school and ran into the school principal. He said the kids were still out to dinner and probably an hour away from finishing. So we joined him nearby at a restaurant where he was getting a bite to eat. He was on a break from taking care of several sick children on the trip. Apparently something had been passing through the kids (stomach virus) which Clara had just before leaving for the trip (as did several of her friends) and which Tawny got just as we left Seattle. The faculty had spent the week taking shifts and looking after the sick kids. He looked exhausted but we had a pleasant time hearing about their week of adventures and misadventures before collecting our daughter and sneaking her back into our hotel for a night. The next morning were would be heading out to visit our friends Tom and Heather in Spoleto.

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Roma Riots

When we first arrived in Rome Tawny wasn’t feeling well so I lit out to explore the city winding my way down from the Borghese Gardens area to the Spanish Steps and Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Ugly Boat) fountain the the Spagna Piazza just below the steps.

Since Tawny had missed the Steps the first night I suggested we visit them after the Vatican since we had to disembark at the Spagna metro stop anyway to get back to our hotel.

We wandered out from the station to the Piazza Spagna into a sea of bottles and broken glass strewn across the cobblestones and hoards of drunken Dutch Feyenoord futbol fans. Dozens upon dozens of them where standing against the wall of the corridor to the piazza Spagna literally pissing a great yellow river that was running down into the piazza and puddling into pools along the uneven cobblestone street. We hugged the Northern wall (which still had a swath of cobbles above the flow of piss) and made our way into the piazza. As we turned towards the Steps and Fountain it became clear (if it hand’t already) that we were not in a safe place. That became more evident as the riot police arrived. Tawny suggested we get save the Steps for another time and get the Hell outta there. I looked to my right and recognized a street our taxi had driven down earlier that day. “We can go this way around and get to the top of the Steps to look down and see what’s happening.

We hiked up the steep road and into a stair case to come out upon the back side and top of the steps where we could hear clinking bottles, drunken dutch singing futbol songs, and police barking orders from behind a barrier of riot shields in formation to keep the Dutch from ascending the steps while police helicopters flew overhead.

We must have left before the Rome Riots started and made international news. Because it was getting dangerous I put my camera away in my bag to keep a low profile so I don’t have many pictures to share (click the link above to see images of the riots and arrests).

We made our way to our tour of the Borghese Gallery and eventually back to our hotel about 6pm. We went to the rooftop bar and thought we’d have a glass of wine. But at 6:05 they told us “Sorry, we can no longer serve wine. The city has been put on a city wide restriction to serving alcohol until Midnight because of the Dutch Hooligans”. “What?”. We went to the lobby and were talking to the concierge who told us that the police had come to tell the hotel to no longer serve any drinks. He told us our dinner reservation would probably also not be able to serve us. As we explored our diminishing options for enjoying a fine glass of Italian red on our vacation a pair of American’s approached us to announce they had just purchased two bottles of wine at a wine shop down the street which appeared to either not know of the temporary prohibition or was blatantly ignoring it.

The next morning we headed to the Spanish Steps and Fontana della Barcaccia to see the damage before heading to the Coliseum. Throngs of Italians had come out to see the damage to their beloved and recently restored Bernini fountain as well as the news media. The fountain had been drained, baracaded, and experts had been brought in to survey the damage.







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Lunch w/Romeo & Borghese Gallery

Post our Vatican tours and in need of sustenance to power us through jet-lag and into the afternoon tour of the Borghese Gallery we headed through backstreets off the tourist beaten path and find a good place to eat. To our surprise we found Romeo Chef & Baker, a modern twist on Italian cuisine. There we had a few delicious micro brews, a buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto, and gnocchi on pecorino fondue with fried artichokes. It was rich and fantastic and well deserved after the 12K+ steps my Fitbit had registered that morning.






After lunch we took the subway back to Spagna and got out to see the Spanish Steps before walking back to our hotel (The Grand Flora). Upon entering the piazza we saw a scene of near riot (another blog post to come) with Dutch football fans disrespecting the famous Roman landmark.

We quickly got ourselves out of there before things became dangerous and headed through the Borghese Gardens to the Borghese Gallery to see a few Bernini statues we had heard about. They were incredible.

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne with Daphne turning into a laurel before your eyes had motion and transformation carved into marble with intricacy and detail that was hard to believe.


Bernini’s other master work of Pluto and Proserpine was also spectacular. With the weight and pressure of his hand wrapped around her and pressing into her flesh made the marble seem soft and pliable and, well…fleshy.


We were also impressed by Canova’s carving of Paolina Borghese in repose on a marble mattress so detailed you could see the sense the weight of her body pressing down into the mattress which was hard to imagine as marble.



There were many paintings (most of them titled “Adoration of the Bambino” and equally “Madonna & Bambino”) as well as paintings by Caravaggio and Raphael.


But most impressive to me were the detailed mosaics.



After the gallery we headed back to our hotel for a glass of vino only to be denied. Two hours earlier, because of riots from futbol fans across Rome (mostly drunken Dutch) all alcohol sales across Rome had been suspended. But that’s a story for another blog entry to come. Instead we headed out to Piazza Navona and to a restaurant recommended by a friend (which was great btw) called Osteria Del Pengo (where it was too dark and intimate to take any pictures of the food).

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Don’t Forget to Look Up

When my friend Damon and I went for the weekend in Rome from Cortona in the summer of 1990 we had no guide books, no smartphones, and no clue. We wandered off the train and most likely into the nearest bar (we were 19) and then lit out across the city. We somehow found our way to the Colleseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, and the Vatican.

It was summer. It was hot. I remember waiting in the queue to get into the Vatican for what seemed hours only to be pulled aside by the fashion police and told that our shorts were not allowed inside. It was like 95 degrees and we were made to put on these pajama pants over our shorts if we wanted to continue in. Begrudgingly we complied and grumbling under our breadth we entered. Not being Catholic we really didn’t know what we were walking into. As we entered I was overwhelmed and quite frankly disgusted with the wealth and opulence of the place. We took a very quick look around and decided to leave in a huff.

Upon arriving back in Cortona my parents asked what we had done. We told them about our experience at the Vatican and that we left in a hurry. “Did you look up?” my mother asked. “Huh?” I said (the way only a 19 year old could). “For what?”. ” For the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam” my mother said. Disappointedly we admitted we didn’t.

So all these years I believed I had walked into the Sistine Chapel and forgot to look up. Its been a good story of mine, the kind you pass on to your kid and has become family lore. Today I realized that I had never been to the Sistine Chapel but had instead walked in and nearly immediately out of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

With online reservations allowing us to skip the line we headed first to the Vatican Museum and which culminates with a trip to the Sistine Chapel. Upon entering I clearly new I never been here before. It would be impossible to enter this sacred space without looking up. Photography isn’t allowed so I snuck this photo with my iPhone to prove to Mom I was there.


We made our way through meandering tour groups and endless halls of Vatican treasures and spoils, and back to Saint Peter’s Square to get in the queue.



The line moved reasonably fast and it was only 60 degrees, so a sunny but cool and comfortable wait. And this time I wore pants.




Once in side we took our time. While the opulence and extravagance still offended my secular sensibilities I could appreciate and admire this masterpiece of architecture, symbolisim, and history. Its pretty stunning. And just to make sure I didn’t miss anything I made sure I looked up repeatedly.





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All Roads Lead to Rome

Our daughter’s school does an annual pilgrimage to Rome to round out their Latin program. We had for years talked about meeting her in Rome after her school trip and taking her to see some other European sites.

I had been in Rome with I was 19 with a friend from high school. It was a short side trip away from my parents and their vacation in Italy one summer in the early 90s. Although I had been here, my wife had not. She had spent her time in Italy backpacking around Italy and Spain to other points of interest such as Venice, and Barcelona in the late 80s.

We had each been to Venice before but figured that was a good place to take our daughter before it becomes the next Atlantis. And as I had never been to Spain or Barcelona my wife insisted we make that part of our trip and thus our itinerary was born.

Months ago we booked our flight with many a saved frequent flier mile and took a convoluted (but business class) road to Rome. Seattle>Detroit>Paris>Rome. With the layovers included it was 26 hours from door to door.

Along the way we noticed somebody and their entourage getting their pictures taken with the flight crew on the tarmac before we boarded our plane.


It turned out to be Jean Dujardin (from The Artist and The Wolf of Wall Street fame).


Jean Dujardin (left) and his father (right)

We eventually reached Rome. And after being ripped off by our taxi driver over charging us for our ride from the airport we found ourselves in a spacious room with an unfortunate view of a brick wall.


View from room 301 Marriott Grand Flora Hotel

We then ventured out into the streets of Rome to discover a quaint little Italian restaurant named Il Giardino di Albino where we tried our first Sardinian wine, a rigatoni in gorgonzola, a generous serving of prosciutto and melon, and a tonnarelli funghi (with porchini, bacon and peccorino cheese). Fabulous dinner before total collapse and 12 hours of sleep.





Categories: Italy, Paris, Rome | 3 Comments

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