Italy trip 2001

Day 0 - Travel
Day 1 - Evening Rome tour and dinner
Day 2 - Monte Cassino, Pompeii, Inlaid wood
Day 2 - Capri, Hotel dinner
Day 3 - Capri, Anacapri, Verde dinner
Day 4 - Assisi - Church
Day 5 - Padua - St. Anthony's
Day 5 - Venice - Evening tour
Day 6 - Venice - glass, Piazza San Marco, Burano lunch, boat bus
Day 7 - Montecatini, Lunch, Old Montecatini, Tuscan Dinner
Day 8 - Florence - Duomo, Academy, St. Croche, gold, Medici Chapel,
Day 9 - Sienna - Duomo, Campo
Day 9 - Rome - Evening tour - Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Dinner?
Day 10 - Rome - Vatican museum, Sistine Chapel,  St. Peters
Day 10 - Colosseum, San Paolo fuori le Mura, Santa Maria Maggiore , Good bye dinner
Day 11 - Home

This is a personal account and tends to be a laundry list. Sorry if it's too boring.
I hope you do your own.

This is the story of a man named Rob,
Took his wife to Rome with the whole mob.
Then one day he was cruising for some beer
When suddenly he found he was here.
Rome that is, Capri, Assisi, Venice, Florence...

Off we went early Wednesday morning for our flight to Seattle. It was pretty uneventful. We met Peg, Deb's sister. Jumped on a Northwest flight to Amsterdam. I don't remember night occurring. Between a couple drinks and talking to Abdul the time passed quickly.  We had a bit of a delay in Amsterdam waiting for our KLM flight to Rome. We arrive in Rome, found the luggage area and the greeter. While waiting forever for our luggage we noticed airport security were carrying Uzi's and had police dog's. We watched them hassle some hippie looking guy. After we got our bags we were stranded for quite  awhile waiting for another group who had lost their luggage. We met Roy, Ray and Monica while standing around. Had we known we could have walked to the hotel, instead we got on a bus which sort of made a U-turn and pulled into the Airport Hilton. We got our very nice room and went to the orientation. Later we went on the optional evening tour of Rome. Not much traffic and beautiful sites. Our first glimpse of St. Peters, The Coliseum and many other sites we would see again another time. We went to a "real Roman dinner ". The music was fantastic and the food good, mostly pizza or spaghetti. The antipasti was interesting and good. Deb bought the CD, we haven't heard it yet. Then to bed.

Up at 6, grab breakfast and on our way. Our bus driver, 'Tonino (Antonio), was  a very handsome dude and an excellent driver. We stopped at Monte Cassino where there are some large WWII grave yards. We saw the one for the British Empire. I think there is an American one around someplace too. The Monastery on top was spectacular but we didn't actually visit it. I understand it was destroyed during the war trying to capture it from the Germans. On to Pompeii. Vesuvius was very visible. The top had been blown off. We were told that it's one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Napoli (Naples) lies below it. The emergency plan when it goes is to hand out 800,000 rosaries. Probably as good a plan as any.

   While waiting in line to get into Pompeii  it was about 100 degrees. I realized I was going to die in the heat so I sprinted across the road and tried on a hat a vendor was trying to sell for 20,000 lira. I was in shock over the price but Deb was giving the thumbs up. The lady was happy, I then realized I had gotten a very cool hat for less then $10. As you will see in the pictures I wore it for the rest of the trip. I looked like a member of the Mafia.

Pompeii was hot but interesting. Pompeii has fascinated me since I was in grade school. I was very happy to see it.

   On our way to Capri we stopped at an inlaid wood factory. I wondered where Fran Drescher ended up after "The Nanny". She's making presentations to tourists here - same look, same voice, different accent.

   On to Capri - technically pronounced CAP-ri not ca-PRI. We drove to Sorrento which is spectacularly beautiful, hanging on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The bus negotiated the narrow roads down to the docks where we waited for our hydrofoil. The trip was uneventful though beautiful. We had to take a funicular up to the area of Capri where our hotel is located. A funicular is a little cable car/train designed to take you up steep hills. We found our very nice hotel located just a few steps from the center of the shopping action. We were right behind one of the main luxury hotels in the world. We had dinner with the group then walked around and looked at the elegant shops. The next morning we took a short walking tour to see some spectacular sites. Many people went on a boat tour around the island. We opted to go to Anacapri which is a town higher up from us. We took Mr. Toad's wild taxi ride to the top. Holy Shitsky Batman! Narrow roads and going lickity split. I took a few pictures to keep from praying or swearing loudly. At Anacapri we hiked around and saw the sites, including a church  (web page). After asking directions in Italian we found the chair lift that takes you to the highest point  on the island. WOW! Afterward we stood in the line and took the public bus back down the hill. That was also an experience. We stood and swayed  and sweated and prayed as we careened down the mountain.

   That evening we went to the Villa Verde restaurant for dinner. It was suggested by a bartender. We were the first people there by about 30-40 minutes. Crazy Americans. The Italians often close up their businesses during the afternoon then reopen about 4 until late. They have dinner later. I guess they sleep in two shifts and stay up very late by my standards. It was a nice and interesting meal. Later while waiting for Deb I struck up a conversation with a lady who was tending her grand daughter. She was from Argentina. Her daughter works for Armani. They were staying in $500/night rooms at the fancy hotel. She said her daughters dress was over $500. Whew! Deb, Peg and I had a drink on the patio of the fancy hotel. I think this is when Deb bought a ring.

Up at 6, grab breakfast and on our way. Another beautiful boat trip to Sorrento and a long but interesting bus trip on our way to Assisi. Assisi was interesting. We hiked around a bit. Our hotel was spectacular. Beautiful views and really beautiful rooms. Dinner was good.

Up a 6, grab a breakfast and on our way. We went to Padua which has a lot of very nice stuff. We visited the church where St. Anthony is buried. This was actually one of the highlights of the trip for me. The church was packed with fabulous things, including  St. Anthony's esophagus and teeth. Yes! It's true! The esophagus looks like some black blob, but there it is! I actually had to sit down and carefully look around to see a fraction of the beautiful items in this church. The guide books indicate there was much more to see in Padua and deserves another visit.

   We proceeded on to Venice. We stayed in Mestre off of the islands of Venice itself. We took boats over. There is a bridge to the main island that carries mostly bus and train traffic. We took an optional evening boat ride to Venice for our tour of Venice at night as well as a night tour of the Grand Canal. Beautiful. We had a drink in St. Mark's Square and listened to music. The weather was perfect.

   The next day we arose and took a boat back to Venice and a guided tour which took us to the Murano glass company. The glass tour was quite interesting and certainly colorful. Deb bought a small item. We then took the advice of a friend of mine, Doris Cole, to go to Rialto bridge and have a Cappochino at the coffee place next to the bridge. It was very nice drinking coffee and watching the traffic on the Grand Canal. So romantic! There were some guys there unloading boats. The walk to the bridge and back to St. Mark's Square was through twisty narrow streets and over many canals. Yes there were many gondolas. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. Many shops along the way, including several mask shops. So romantic!

Venice is a world treasure. It should be preserved at all costs and contributed to by all countries. It's the most beautiful and romantic city that I've ever seen or could imagine.

   Later we took a long boat ride over to the island of Burano for lunch. The island was quaint. We ate under a tent/awning. All the food and wine you could hold. I held quite a bit. I visited a couple small churchs while Deb and Peg shopped.

   After returning to Venice and shopping for a while we decided to hang out with Reed and Corrine from San Jose for more shopping. They had experience with the water busses. The bus was quite an experience. We waited for what seemed a long time for the correct bus to arrive. The dock was floating so it kept bouncing up and down like a cork. We were packed like sardines and worried about fitting onto the bus. Finally it came along. After pushing our way through to the back we found it not too packed. We finally got seats and took a surprisingly nice tour of the Grand Canal. It was about 25 minutes to our destination. We then packed onto a real bus for the trip back to the hotel. We were like sardines! We got home and everything was fine. As I recall we ate and had an early night.

Up at 6, grab breakfast and on the bus. This time we are off to Montecatini which is about 40 minutes from Florence. Montecatini is a resort/spa town. We stayed in a very nice older hotel. I didn't get interior pictures. Many took the optional tour to Pisa. We stayed in town. Deb, Peg and I had a nice pizza lunch under a tent structure. We walked around. Deb and I took the funicular up to the old town of Montecatini. Quite interesting walking around and looking over the valley. I took a picture of one of the teeny cars they drive. Apparently  they are especially good in the hill towns. Actually the cars look quite nice inside. They are designed by Mercedes Benz. We returned to the hotel for a nap.

   This evening we went on the optional Tuscan dinner. It was at a villa on a hill and had a great view. We had many interesting things to eat. There was a guy at a keyboard who was talented at doing what the crowd wanted. We danced as pairs and as groups doing the chicken dance, the Macarana and others. It was a blast. The about 3am the olive oil and garlic soaked toast didn't agree with me - erp.

The next morning we rode the bus into Florence. Our bus driver is quite a guy. He was so good looking that when some female cops stopped him he smiled and flirted and told them that we were not coming in but going out. They let us go - we were going in. This time, if I remember, he dropped us off in some illegal spot. Our guide took us to the front of the Duomo. A spectacular church with an external baptistery. The baptistery had copies of the famous gold doors by Ghilberti. We didn't go in. Most guide books advise not to go in unless you have time. At one time you couldn't enter a church unless you were baptized, that's why the baptistery was not in the church. We walked past the oldest building in Florence which is now part of a hotel. We entered the Academy of Arts where the real David by Michelangelo is on display. We saw several sculptures by Michelangelo before moving on to the David. After a bit of a lecture we were allowed to look at the David as much as we wanted. It is all it's cracked up to be. It's still the tallest free standing marble statue ever made. To think it was done about the time Columbus was discovering America! We then proceeded to the Plaza della Signoria where the David had stood until sometime in the eighteen hundreds. There are several large, famous and important sculptures here. You would recognize them. A copy of the David is here in its original location. Peg has a spectacular picture of it.

   We proceeded to the church of Santa Croce. No, Jim Croce is not buried here. This is where Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli are buried. Beautiful, with many historical things like paintings by Giotto, Gaddi and others. This square became our center point. We toured a gold shop here. Deb then took me and Andy, one of the guys on the trip, on a hike back to the tomb of the Medici which contains a spectacular chapel and in the burial chamber several famous Michelangelo statues. Wow! It was worth the hike! We went back to the square where Deb shopped for gold. Had we known we could have easily visited the Ponte Vecchio - the famous Forence bridge. 

  Our bus took us back to Montecatini. We had a group dinner at our nice hotel.

The next morning we started back to Rome. However Sienna was not too far off the path so we stopped there for a couple hours. Quite a nice old city. They have a deadly horse race there twice a year. They were preparing the Plaza del Campo for the race so it was closed. We visited the  Duomo. Possibly the ugliest church I've ever seen. It's done with black and white horizontal stripes. The front is ok but inside is ugly! The streets were narrow, the gelato good and the famous tower spectacular.

   Back on the bus to Rome. We checked into a hotel that is a 500 year old rich persons house. It was so newly opened that it didn't have a sign. Once again a beautiful modern hotel directly across the street from Santa Maria Maggiore with it's tall column with Mary on top. As I recall we had an evening tour of Rome. After driving around the seemingly empty city, most residents are on vacation and gone. We walked down the famous Spanish Steps where painters would pick up models. We threw our coins in Trevi fountain. Deb had her picture taken with a handsome cop. We visited the plaza in front of the Pantheon. The Pantheon was huge. The dome is a meter wider then St. Peter's. To think it was built 1500 years before St. Peter's! We couldn't get in but did peak through a crack in the door. We hung around the Piazza Navona which contains some nice sculpture and spectacular fountains by Bernini.

The next morning we got up at 5:45 so we could be among the first groups to enter the Vatican museum and The Sistine Chapel. We were first in line. We were taken through the museum which is beautiful and full of art stuff - tapestries, paintings, sculptures and probably more. You could easily spend a month here. Then on to the Sistine Chapel. We were the second group in. It is as fantastic as advertised. After about a half hour lecture we were given about a half hour to hang around. I took a couple illegal pictures. This needs several visits, you can't grasp it in one. We then went into St. Peters. It's huge! Very high quality art here including Michelangelo's Pieta. Unfortunately the Pieta is behind a plastic wall and you can't get close. That, of course, is because some idiot hit it with a hammer and broke some things off. St. Peter's square is large and beautiful. It will hold up to 150,000 people. We hung around the square and had lunch. I sort of goofed up the lunch order so we got too much and paid too much. Mostly greasy roach coach food. Deb remembers it as great sandwiches and pizza. I have a great picture of us having lunch with St. Peter's in the background. Fantastic.

   We then rode over to the Colosseum (Italian spelling?). It was pretty hot. The line to get in was long and we were discouraged from going in. We could peek in though. We walked around and looked at all the old stuff. They were charging about four times as much for water around here. There were guys around dressed as Roman soldiers and other characters who got paid for being in a picture with us tourists. You could take a horse carriage ride. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at another large church, San Paolo fuori le Mura. It's alleged that St. Paul was once buried here.

   We then went back to the hotel where most people took a nap. I crossed the street to Santa Maria Maggiore to take a look. Fantastic! In one of the side chapels a group of, apparently priests, were singing what sounded like gregorian chants. There are four large church's in Rome we had seen two and this is another. I can't believe most of our group missed this.

I tried to take a nap but gave up, went down and had a beer sitting outside watching the passing scene.

   I had been looking at the news kiosk's since arriving to see if I could pick up a copy of an Italian Playboy. I finally asked if they were available. The guy grinned, came out of the kiosk, led me around to the back where he unlocked a drawer which contained adult magazines. I got the Playboy. Interestingly, it contains a few more nude pictures, most of them had been published in earlier US editions.

   This final evening we went for our Roman good bye dinner with good food and opera in a quaint place. On the way out I talked to a lady who had been upstairs in the restaurant. Turns out the opera singers, and probably the waiters, were performing upstairs and down stairs. That's ok it was very good and a lot of fun.

   The next day we were given a ride out to the airport. While waiting around I went into the book shop and bought a copy of "Pictures of Italy" by Dickens. He had toured Italy in the 1850's. I read it on the trip back. The trip was uneventful. In Minneapolis  were able to change plane to go to San Jose instead of San Francisco thereby saving a couple hours. Once in San Jose we had to notify the airlines that our bags were in SF. Nope, they were lost. Wednesday we got our final bag, it had been opened and gone through - probably customs.

Comments -

- This was truly a taste of Italy. We need to go back during off season, and when we can spend more time.

- The group tour makes everything easy. No looking for the hotel, no parking problems, no fiddling with maps, guides for nearly everything and we saw much more then we ever could have seen on our own. They also moved our bags for us.

- We met lots of nice people from across Canada and the US. Everyone was interesting.

- I'd like to make comments about the people we met but it would make this twice as long.

- The money kept fooling me. I carried my money and passport in a money pouch and just a few dollars in my pocket. Every now and then I'd look and think "holy cow! I've got 10,000 lira in my pocket I better put it away!" Then I'd realize it's less then $5. Next year everything will be Euro's

- The wine with dinner was cheap, like it should be. The most expensive bottle I paid for was about 25,000 lira or $12.50.

- I wish I had commented more on driving around Rome. There is so much to see that it's impossible to describe even half.

- Even though we saw plenty of leaning towers I sort of wish we had gone to Pisa. I think you would even get a glimpse of the Carrrara marble quarry.

- The truck stops where we sometimes had lunch were suprisingly good! I think we had the best spaghetti carbonara of the whole trip in one. At one place I had a small steak that was delicious - I was suffering from meat withdrawal.

- The optional tours certainly drove the price up. I wish a couple more items were included. We hadn't budgeted as much as we spent.

- I should have eaten more gelato. It was everywhere and delicious!

- My ankles swelled up on the flight over and never went down. My right ankle is still swollen. Several people had the same problem.

- Our tour guide Telly was excellent. She talked a lot but told interesting and sometimes hilarious stories. She kept us well informed.

- About the second day I gave up on those low drinking fountains in the bathrooms. ;-)

- These digital pictures were taken with a Fuji FinePix 1400. I set it to 640x480 and "fine" quality. I'm quite happy with them. Using a 64MB memory you can store about 350 pictures.

- You can steal copies of the pictures from this web page by using the right mouse button on the PC, or hold the button down on a Mac.

- You can get digital pictures printed at If you do please mention that I sent you - Rob Imerson - thanks.