"I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever." Psalm 52:8

Monday, March 29, 2010


What started out as a afterthought, ended up as one of our most favorite destinations - ROMA!
When we scheduled our trip to the Amalfi Coast we figured that since we'll be so close we should spend a day or two snooping around the city that everyone says not to miss. Wow! Were they ever right!
We limited our sight-seeing to the core of historical Rome - the city centre. With our trusty "Rick Steve's Rome" book in hand, we devoted one full day to leisurely wandering around Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum and of course, the Colosseum.

The Colosseum is MASSIVE, awe-inspiring and a little unsettling when you think of the violent events that the early Romans deemed as "entertainment."
The south entrance into the Forum area has a great view of the colosseum from the Arch of Titus.
In the Forum the ruins are puny compared to the immensity of the original architecture that graced this area.

We took shelter from an afternoon rainstorm in a neighborhood cafe huddled in a cozy corner with two cups of cappuccino. And then back to our room at the Sistine B&B to rest up and plan for more sightseeing.
One of the huge blessings to traveling off-peak season is that there are virtually no crowds. We spent an afternoon strolling around St. Peter's Square, the Vatican Museum and the Basilica. At one point we stumbled on to a free tour given by young students who are studying to enter the priesthood. They really knew their church history and gave a very enlightening tour.
The dome of St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica was designed by Baroque architect Bernini and the interior is even more beautiful than the outside. Among other treasures, it houses Michelangelo's sculpture "Pieta" depicting Mary holding the dead body of Christ after he was removed from the cross. Rather than creating a figure from a random piece of marble, Michelangelo believed that each piece of marble already had a sculpture imprisoned in it and after carefully selecting his marble, he passionately sought to free that form as he gently chiseled away. The Pieta is a stunning and absolutely stirring piece of sculpture made all the more amazing when you think that its creator was only 24 years old when he sculpted it.
The Vatican Museum is an extraordinary journey starting from rooms that display relics from Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt (think mummies!). A long, vaulted hallway filled with tapestries, statues and maps lead to the Renaissance rooms of Raphael's paintings and finally culminates with the crown jewel of the Museum - the Sistine Chapel.
No photos are allowed in the chapel but it would be impossible to capture the immense detail of Michelangelo's creation. A little history here: When Michelangelo was first asked to paint the chapel by Pope Julius II, he declined. He saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. After much nagging and threatening, he relented on the condition that he could have total artistic license ("I'll do it MY way!")
"Julius had asked for only 12 apostles along the sides of the ceiling, but Michelangelo had a grander vision - the entire history of the world until Jesus. He spent the next four years (1508-1512) craning his neck on scaffolding six stories up, covering the ceiling with frescoes of Bible scenes." (Rick Steves)
The wall behind the altar was painted later in 1535 by Micheangelo and depicts "The Last Judgement" with Christ at the center. The few of us in the Chapel that day sat stunned, and gazing up at that dramatic ceiling we seemed to quietly agree - without exception, this must be the greatest work of art created by any one human being.

From the Vatican City out to the streets of Rome, we wandered around and stumbled upon many beautiful fountains - this one in the neighborhood of our B&B.
Our "Night Walk across Rome" included Campo di Fiori,
the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Colonna (not pictured),
Piazza Navona
and our favorite night spot - Trevi Fountain.

The streets of Rome seemed quiet and just when we were wondering where everyone was, we heard the excitement before we saw it. Turning the corner we were greeted by a large crowd of locals and tourists all playfully taking in the night life by the fountain.

Ahhh...La Dolce Vita! We WILL return!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"The gift of life unwraps itself through time;
All we need to do is sit back and enjoy its contents."

In March, Richard's brother Dan along with other family and friends made the trip across "the Pond" to Italy where we joined them for four days. Dan secured a villa on a hillside near the coastal village of Massa Lubrense just south of Sorrento. The view from the house was spectacular and the surroundings were just like you'd imagine the Amalfi Coast would be like. The first day we hiked down to the sea walk from our "tree house" perched up on the hill. The expanse of water across the Bay of Naples from so high up was almost too much for the human eye and definitely too much to contain in a camera. The sea walk led us to a little fishing port village where we indulged in a cappuccino at Angelo's Cafe.

Sorrento's seaside buildings seem to be ready to tumble into the sea below but for centuries have defied the elements and continue cling to their rocky posts. This bustling town had much to offer in the way of eating, shopping, sight-seeing, people watching and of course, crazy drivers. The roads in and around the Sorrento area are winding little ribbons of pavement that go where no man with any sense should go - the outer limits of insanity. We soon discovered that the car we rented (small by American standards) was too large to negotiate many cramped streets and curves (not to mention parking places). Fortunately, Richard has become quite adept at European driving so we just held on tight and off we went. A word to the wise: DON'T attempt to drive here during peak tourist season unless you're OK with joining the parade of cars moving at a snail's pace crawl for miles and miles.

This area of Italy is famous for its lemon and orange groves. We visited a "limoni" farm where they had a factory producing the sweet, tart liqueur - limoncello.

Dan and Richard in yet another quest for the perfect cappuccino.

During the week, we piled into two cars headed out on the Amafi Coast road. The scenery was spectacular as we traveled in and out of little towns like Positano, Amalfi and Veitre. Dan was our very skillful driver so we could enjoy the white knuckle views over the edge of the roadside. Thanks Dan!
In Amalfi, we stopped for a picnic on the dock. Marty really knows how to pack a gourmet lunch.

...and ANOTHER cappuccino later....
...we headed down the road past a fruit stand with GIANT lemons the size of small watermelons!

The village of Vietre is known for its Italian pottery and beautiful tile work.

But by far, our favorite destination was the island of Capri. A short 40 minute ferry ride from Sorrento, this little island is home to some surprising hidden gems of Italian culture and nature.
Apart from a few roads that link the port with the two villages, the towns are pedestrian only. The skinny little streets weave up and out of the village of Capri between villas and beautiful greenery.
The local streets are just wide enough for people, motor scooters and an occasional "taxi" (little red wagon)

We spent most of the afternoon walking the nature trail along the east coast. It took us up to the well preserved ruins of Villa Jovis built by Emperor Tiberius around 25 AD. It was from here that he ruled the Roman Empire until his death in 37 AD. The narrow path led us through dense forests, endless hillside steps, breathtaking vistas, down to a natural arch high above a hidden cove and back up to the town of Capri - always with an astounding view of the crystal blue water over our left shoulder.

There are just some places in this world that refuse to be captured within a miniscule photo. These are the times when you have to put down the camera, open your arms to the wind and wish you were a bird.

Next stop: ROMA!