Thursday, July 16, 2009

Roma Pizza

Our feet were so tired and we were so exhausted, I thought we were going to have to take a taxi to our dinner restaurant, however, we were pleasantly surprised that our restaurant was located just about 3 blocks from our hotel.

We had requested delicious Roma Italian style pizza. Joey and I did order pizza, however, Michael and Sammy both ordered veal...
Michael's Veal Picatta
Sammy's Veal Saltimbocca
Kari's Pizza Quattro Formaggi
Joey's Pizza with Funghi

Pope: Denied

No Pope today: Out of Town...

Day 2 in Rome was dedicated to a visit to Vatican City. I decided to hire a personal guide to take us around the Vatican. It was definitely an expensive luxury. It was really great, however, as we could ask him any question, on the spot, and get an answer. There was just the 5 of us in our little group on the streets of Rome and we asked a lot of questions. The guide suggested we do the Vatican in the afternoon to try and avoid the crowds. I am not sure what the crowds would have been like in the morning, but there were sure plenty of people in the afternoon, so who knows.

We had read that Rome is wonderful in the morning and it is true. We got up early and headed for the Spanish Steps. So peaceful in the morning compared to the party atmosphere the night before. The temperature was comfortable and we headed in search of some breakfast.
We figured restaurants would be open serving breakfast, however, that did not seem to be the case. We stumbled upon a small farmers market about a block from our hotel with delicious looking fruits and vegetables.

We opted for some breakfast pastries, coffee and tea, and farmer's market fruit...

It was delicious although Sammy and Michael were still hungry and also ordered a grilled ham and cheese sandwich

Our guide met us promptly at 11:30am at our hotel and although we had decided to take the subway to the Vatican area, he talked us into walking so he could talk casually about the streets of Rome and anything interesting we might find along the way. He chose the path of the pilgrims. The streets had been constructed by Popes of the past to lead people straight to Vatican City. We meandered along shady quiet alleys taking in the sights and talking about repurposed sculpture, via del Coronari (the antique street), Rome school schedules, Roman life and just about anything we could think of.

Here we are approaching the bridge heading into Vatican City with Castel Sant' Angelo visible in the distance. This is the location of Hadrian's tomb and was also a fortress used to help protect Vatican City.

A view from the bridge of the St. Peter's Dome in the distance
Our guide took us on the route of the pilgrims oh so many years ago... not a straight path with an obvious view of St. Peter's Basilica, but the original route which enters from the side, under Bernini's marble pillars so that when you do reach the Piazza, it is a surprise, an ominous sight to behold.
St. Peter's Square with one of the 13 Roman Obelisks in the background
St. Peter's Square

On our way to the Vatican Museums, we passed back under Bernini's pillars. Here is a view of three different architectures coming together as one... Bernini's columns, The Vatican Museum and the beginning of the Pope's Quarters
Inside the Vatican Museum, there were so many amazing artifacts, gorgeous frescos, paintings, sculptures and murals, however, our time was limited and we could have spent weeks in there. Our guide stopped us periodically to explain just some of the significant elements relative to Rome's history, Baroque and Renaissance Sculptures, a room full of animal sculptures from many different centuries, gorgeous mosaic tile floors....

When we got to the original Pope's Quarters between the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, we spent a great deal of time in discussion regarding the murals and frescos in the Pope's Quarters. So fascinating.

Below is a small section of a fresco painted by Raphael at the same time Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel many floors below, known as the school of Athens.
There was no photography allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but it was amazing to hear the history of Michelangelo's struggle with doing these paintings and at two different & distinct junctures in his life, first as a young man painting the ceiling and then later as an older man painting the large "blue" wall. It was wall to wall people chattering on in many different languages. Such a sight to see.

We then venture into St. Peter's Basilica. There is no way for pictures to even begin to describe it. THE largest church holding 60,000 people. Unlike Westminster Abbey, it is open with huge wide walkways. Again, inside there are thousands of pieces of art and Bernini had his hand in designing some of the most over the top pieces inside.

After our visit to Vatican City, our guide dropped us at a little restaurant to grab a late lunch and then we strolled to Piazza Navona. As it was so hot and we were tired, we decided to come back to this most amazing Piazza at a later time, but we did capture a picture of the cutest horse and buggy with the cutest little hat.
Back at our hotel, yay! Air Conditioning, yay!
Everyone congregates in our room to relax and use the wifi...

Another great day....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gelato Mania

Whoa, fun signing into blogger in Italian!
We made it, yes we did. Its too bad it takes so long to get here and the planes are so incredibly uncomfortable, but it is worth it. What an awesome city... I know I am not saying anything profound. I'm sure anyone that has been here would say the same thing. Although I was accosted by cigarette smoke in the women's bathroom as soon as I got off the plane and there are SO MANY PEOPLE here, it is just so unbelievable.

We found our limo guy, who found our hotel and it is in a great location and this time to Europe we only took a couple hour nap before getting out and exploring the city.

The first thing we did was walk to the Pantheon, an almost 2000 year old Roman temple. First off, I love the Piazzas. So many cool things are situated in little Plazas called Piazzas. Even though there are so many people, it feels cozy.

Piazza del Rotunda.
Sammy in awe of the Oculus.
Planning our next move

Dinner at Il Grano. I am SO tired. Seriously people, everything was funny

Joey is appalled by my putting olive oil and balsamic on a plate to eat with my 6 euro bread. Apparently this is SO not the right thing to do... kinda like when I put soy sauce on my rice in Japan ;)
Sammy enjoying a little wine with dinner
Michael is not sure it is appropriate
Joey's pasta: tubetta with swordfish, olives & sundried tomatoes
Kari's spaghetti carbonara
Sammy's steak and potatoes
The second round of Gelato for the boys... this time they were sharing, but Joey does not share well, never has, probably never will
Joey is happy with his crazy hair and Gelato cone
Rome at night off the via Corso
Trevi Fountain at night... SO CROWDED
And the Spanish Steps at night, right around the corner from our hotel.

I'm loving it here... okay everyone is yelling at me to go get some breakfast. Gotta Run!!!!

p.s. triangle sandwiches are what Sammy calls the sandwiches cut in triangles and packed in triangle shaped plastic containers that we desperately ate in the Amsterdam Airport and then again on the flight from Amsterdam to Rome. Not bad when you are that hungry.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Good Ol' Summertime

This is what happens when teenage boys are supposed to be packing for a family vacation, but spend too much of their summer break staying up half the night playing video games with their friends:

and guess who has most of her fur back....


A couple things I WILL miss

Well, its no secret that we are heading to Rome and the Mediterranean soon... VERY SOON. Less than 48 hours away actually. So today I was working out in the garden making sure everything will survive and thrive without me for... oh, about 20 days, and thinking--I am really going to miss my garden.

Here's a few reasons why:

Beautiful Hot Pink Zinnias in Pots
Yellow Rose Buds in the Cutting Garden
Delicious Cherry Tomatoes in the Veggie Garden
LOTS of little Cherry Tomatoes in the Veggie Garden
Tomatillos, yum!
Purple Thistle Flowers in the Cutting Garden
Green Plums on our Baby Plum Tree
(just waiting for the day they turn purply red)
Hot Orange Flowers in the Cutting Garden
Friendly Little Hummingbirds That Stop by to Say "Hi" while I am taking pictures of Hot Orange Flowers in Cutting Garden
Betsy's Wedding Bouquet Hydrangeas. If I had to choose a favorite flower, the hydrangea might be it, but who can choose a favorite flower?
I will even miss our unfinished, unplanted garden boxes....
and the beautiful glass garden art I received for my birthday from Tiff and Danny
The Japanese Eggplants with the pretty purple blossoms
Our brand new baby asparagus patch
and all the wonderful Echinacea.
but most of all...

I will miss Lily. We had to drop her off this morning at doggie boarding and although she was happy as a clam, I am so so sad. 
She was a little unsure of what was going on what with all the planning and packing, but I think she figured if she planted herself next to my purse and on my iPhone, that certainly she would not miss the excitement. When we eventually dropped her off at boarding--the same place she goes for doggie daycare--she had no idea today was any different than any other day.
But it is!