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Vatican City

On a summer morning at St. Peter’s the only picture you can take without masses of people in it is the above one with your camera pointed upwards.

From some windows in the Vatican Museum you can look out to the Vatican Gardens. This photograph captures a piece of the gardens and the exterior of St. Peter’s Dome, which is actually quite difficult to see from the front of St. Peter’s unless you back way up.

On to Rome!

The last stop on our brief tour of Italy was Rome.

Kicking Rome off is a photograph of the Spanish Steps. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of the Spanish Steps before going to Rome. Now I hear reference made to them and see pictures of the Spanish Steps all the time. In fact, an old picture of them greeted us on the wall of our apartment in Copenhagen this past summer.

This picture is a rather unusual one however. Look closely at the Holy Trinity on Pincio Hill behind the steps. You’ll find that isn’t really the Holy Trinity on Pincio Hill, but a covering over the church to make it look like work wasn’t being done. Restoration work seemed to be going on everywhere while we were in Rome, making photography more than a bit tricky.

After seeing St. Peter’s and the Vatican (photos coming in the next few blog entries) we took a walk that unintentionally led us to the Campo de’ Fiori square. Standing in the center was a statue of Giordano Bruno, someone I had previously read about and was happy to stand before. I found it rather ironic that he stands just down the street from St. Peter’s and the Vatican. Of course, that is where he was burned to death by the Catholic Church so it makes sense that his statue is there.

Anyone found guilty of blasphemy, heresy in matters of dogmatic theology, holding opinions contrary to the Catholic Faith, claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds, and denying the virginity of Mary is alright by me. Although the church was opposed to the Bruno monument in the square down the street when it went up in the late 19th Century they finally admitted in the late 20th Century that they screwed up in killing Bruno hundreds of years before. Ya’ think?

Cinque Terre 12-mile walk

The five towns on the Cinque Terre are connected by train, a road, and a foot path. From one end to the other is 12 miles. If you can walk 12 miles of up and down terrain then be sure to use the foot path as you’ll be treated to some fantastic views that can’t be seen from the road or train.

The nice thing about having multiple options is if you get two or three towns (maybe 5 or 8 miles) away from where you are staying you can always hop on the train to get back “home.”

The above photograph is of the northernmost of the Cinque Terre towns, Monterosso al Mare, a most wonderful place to be on a warm summer evening.

One day we walked from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, the southernmost Cinque Terre town. The photo shown above includes, in the foreground, the town of Corniglia as viewed from the north. In the distance you can also see the next town, Manarola, on the next land outcrop.

The little cove down to the right includes a nude beach called Guvano. The railroad tunnel you must walk through from the nude beach to Corniglia is most unusual. It reminded me of a scene from Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.

Anyway, we had a splendid time at Guvano and a delicious lunch in Corniglia on our 10-mile hike up and down (meaning elevation–we took the train back to Vernazza) the coast.

Cinque Terre town of Vernazza

Any trip to Italy is not complete without a visit to the Cinque Terre. We skipped Pisa (but saw it from the train) and spent a few nights in Vernazza on the Cinque Terre after Florence. We were not disappointed. This place is heaven on earth.

Today’s photograph is from my seat in the restaurant (Ristorante Bar Al Castello right next to the castle) were we ate on our first night in Vernazza. The food wasn’t great (like it was just about everywhere else we ate in Italy including our other nights on the Cinque Terre), but who cares with a view like this? With a glass of wine, no food is really that bad anyway. The nice thing about Italy is house wine is about the same price as water, similar to how beer can be less expensive than water in Denmark.

Siena, Italy

Siena’s Duomo was one of our stops as we browsed around Siena on our Tuscany tour mentioned yesterday. While the current cathedral is quite large, there were actually plans (almost 700 years ago) to more than double the size by turning the current church into the cross portion of a new nave. Thanks to the bubonic plague of the 14th Century construction was halted and never resumed.

In the above photograph you can see some of that existing construction on the far, lower right. The structure with the white material was to be part of the new, larger cathedral.

San Gimignano

While in Florence we took our only non-self-guided tour during our travels in Italy. The tour was called something like “Tuscany Day Tour” and consisted of visits, by car, to San Gimignano and Siena. Along the way we stopped at an old winery for an incredible lunch and wine tasting.

San Gimignano is pictured above. San Gimignano is surrounded by walls. It’s a medieval hill town which doesn’t seem to have changed much in hundreds of years.

We had a super tour guide. His name was Michaelangelo, and he got very excited as he told us of San Gimignano’s history.

The views from San Gimignano were amazing in every direction. Since San Gimignano sits on a hilltop, there are classic Tuscan panoramas where ever you look.