Friday, October 17, 2014

One last adventure!

Yesterday was our last day in Italy, and having seen all of the major sights in Rome that we wanted to, we decided to take the train out to the small hill town of Orvieto for a day trip. It only took about an hour to get there and we had a great day! Once we arrived in Orvieto, we took the Funicular (I wasn't sure what that was until I saw it, but it's like a tram) up the steep hill into town. From there we visited an old fortress on the edge of the hill and then strolled pleasant back streets of town and I satisfied my urge to photograph tons of charming Italian doors. Damon is such a patient husband!

Our tired feet were thankful for the Funicular!


Damon made a new friend at the town fortress

Damon on the fortress walls

View from the fortress walls

Me on the fortress walls

Doin' my thing!

Here we go with my photo series "Doors of Orvieto"!

We visited Orvieto's Duomo, which is so ornate on the outside. The inside is fairly empty for the most part but it did house some beautiful and famous paintings by Signorelli. They also have a framed blood-stained linen cloth that's the result of a early Christian miracle which was interesting to see and learn about.

Damon reading the creation story on the outside of Orvieto's Duomo

Orvieto's Duomo

Gorgeous church!

We enjoyed some very good pasta for lunch at a wine bar, where we also got a bottle of local wine made in 2004. It was such wonderful flavor - it is remarkable what time does for Tuscan red wines.

Wine from 2004!

Damon enjoying the vino

Exploring Orvieto

Charming little street in Orvieto. We popped into a woodworker's shop and bought a beautiful olive wood cheese board and salad utensils.

We were so glad we took the trip out to Orvieto, it was such a cute town!

After lunch we went to one of Orvieto's other famous sights, St. Patrick's well. It was dug in the 1500s and features a double-helix staircase design, so that traffic flows one way and you go up a different staircase than you came down. It was a very clever way to be able to bring donkeys down to the well without causing a traffic jam. Looking down into the well was dizzying! It was so far to the bottom that Damon told me to look down because there was a rat down there - I looked and said "no honey, that's a person!" Maybe Damon needs a new contact prescription! Anyway, it was almost 500 stairs to the bottom and back up. Damon challenged me to run all the way up without stopping and I almost made it, but this was right after a lunch of pasta and wine so I have to cut myself a little slack!

Italians shooting the breeze outside St. Patrick's well.

The entrance to St. Patrick's well

Looking down into the well. So far down and a bit dizzying!

Who's that guy??

I was terrified of falling down the well and was very careful when posing for this picture!

At the bottom of the well. Damon was begging me to take the picture quickly because he was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes!

I like the way the alternate developing turned out on this picture

Looking up the well from the bottom

We took the train back into Rome and had dinner at a quirky little restaurant around the corner from our hotel. The food was great but the waiters kept arguing with each other in the middle of the street (our table was on the sidewalk). Italians are so animated and I wish I understood what they were saying!

Me & my favorite hobby!

We are headed for the airport shortly and are excited to go home. This has been such a wonderful trip and we've had do much fun, but we are looking forward to seeing our dogs and sleeping in our own bed! Arrivederci!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The tiniest country

Yesterday we visited the world's smallest country, the Vatican. We started at the Vatican Museum, which is huge and full of amazing artwork, sculptures, and artifacts, but also very crowded. Thanks to the online reservation system, we didn't have to stand in line and just walked right in. We saw some of the highlights and then zipped to the Sistine Chapel, which was very cool to see. Michaelangelo's paint job seems humanly impossible! Then we faked being part of a tour group and snuck in the back door of St. Peter's Basilica, thus skipping both a 30 minute walk around the Vatican City walls and waiting in a long line. St. Peter's is so over-the-top huge - it's built on such a large scale that it's difficult to comprehend just how big the church and all its decor are.

View of Rome from the Vatican Museum

The impressive ceilings in the Vatican Museum

Intricate sculptures

Vatican Museum

More fancy ceilings

I haven't gotten tired of old maps yet!

Damon's sneaky picture of the Sistine Chapel ceiling!

Damon inside the massive St. Peter's Basilica

Altar in St. Peter's

The Pieta

Afterward we hung out in St. Peter's Square for a bit, which was still set up for the previous day's Papal Audience. Damon was excited to see the Swiss Guards, and we also saw the papal apartments and the smokestack of the Sistine Chapel from the outside.

St. Peter's Square, with all the chairs for the Papal Audience

Swiss Guards!

More sights around St. Peter's Square

Holy water for Mary Weaver ... mission accomplished!

Taking advantage of the waters of Rome!

Vatican city walls

Later in the afternoon we headed down to the fun and trendy Trastevere neighborhood for a walk around before meeting Damon's cousin Chloe and her friend Isabelle for dinner. When we got to Trastevere we were ready for a snack, since we'd had a light lunch and weren't eating dinner until 9 (when in Rome!). So we popped into a bar that had apertivos  set out. Two days prior we'd been to another bar that had a similar setup for late afternoon drinks and complementary snacks. We ordered a glass of wine and Damon went to get us each a snack and came back with 2 pieces of bruschetta. But, no one else in the bar was eating the snacks and we soon figured out that we weren't supposed to either - they were not complementary at this bar! Oops! Damon was like "finish your wine and let's get out of here!" On the way out we saw the signs they'd set out after we'd come into the bar, saying that for 10 euros you could get a glass of wine and snacks. We would have done that had we known, but instead we got 5 euro wine and stole the snacks! I asked Damon if he thought that buying holy water at the Vatican earlier in the day made up for it, but he wasn't convinced. I guess we can add this escapade to the list of things we've accidentally stolen in Italy (postcards for our nieces and an antique key being the other two). We feel like we've got a track record for petty theft now and it's completely unintentional!

The Arno River, as we crossed to the Trastevere

Another Arno River shot

We walked around Trastevere for a while longer, enjoying the vibrant scene. We also popped into a couple of very pretty churches.

Damon at one of the churches we stopped at in the Trastevere. We were very excited to see (on the wall behind Damon at the entrance to the church) the covers to many of the tombs from the catacombs we'd learned about on our tour the day before. From what we learned on the tour, we recognized many early Christian symbols and icons that decorated the catacombs, and were probably removed and placed here on the church.

Inside the church

Beautiful all lit up!

How cool that a typical neighborhood church in Rome is THIS pretty!

We had a wonderful dinner with Chloe and Isabelle at a popular restaurant called Taverna Trilussa. Chloe is studying abroad in Rome this semester and Isabelle is doing a semester at sea and had just arrived in Rome. It was fun to hear about their adventures - they've both been to lots of places in Europe and beyond. We ate more black truffles, this time on bruschetta and had delicious pasta dishes. Yum!

Where we met Chloe and Isabelle for dinner ... great place!

At Taverna Trilussa with Isabelle and Chloe

Damon and the ladies!

Yesterday was our highest mileage day yet: 10.6! The miles are tougher than at home because of all the uneven cobblestone streets ... we think we've averaged about 9 miles a day on them in Rome and our legs and feet are tired!!

Sore feet despite making good use of the Roman subway system