On the first night, we tool a pleasant walking tour of Rome, Piazza Novona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, and then ended it with a great dinner and entertainment at the Canova restaurant. Starting at the Piazza Navona, a plaza with a grand fountain and with statue of Neptune and other Gods. It was filled with vendors , drawing charactures, selling art work and many other tourist items. Next we arrived at the Pantheon, created 2000 years ago by Augustus Caesar for his daughter Agrippa. The hole in the dome has never been covered. The building was impressive especially the 70 ft columns that were mined in Egypt and brought to Rome.
From there, we walked through the crowded streets of Rome, dodging the multitude of street vendors selling all the tourist items, to the Trevi Fountain. Most of the group performed the traditional ritual of throwing coins into the fountain. After dodging more vendors, some seemed to be the same ones as were at the Pantheon, we proceeded to the Spanish Steps. Sara and Dick among others walked all the way up to the top and then back down. By this time we were tired, and ready for dinner.
At the Canova Ristorante we were entertained by a singer, who sang all the standard Italian songs such as "O Sole Mio" as well as the Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra songs. It was an enjoyable evening.
On the Saturday morning before Easter, we toured the Vatican, which was crowded with tourists and workers preparing St Peter's plazza for the Easter services. We first walked through the Vatican museums, where each Pope added to the beautiful collection of art works, from statues, paintings, and beautifully drawn maps. The ceilings of the halls were covered with lovely works of art. We next entered the Sistine Chapel with the amazing frescoes of Michelangelo covering the ceiling. After exiting the Sistine Chapel and its frescoes, we then entered the massive St Peters, with all the art work being mosaics. While walking through the church, we saw the Pope officiating a mass attended by many Cardinals and bishops, in a chapel. Once outside the basilica, we saw the thousands of chairs, and truckloads of flowers being placed for the Easter Services.
After a short bus ride from the Vatican to the Coliseum, we found that the wait to enter the Coliseum was more than 2 hours. Since we were to leave for Monticatini after lunch, we didn't enter the Coliseum. Some walked around the ancient Roman ruins, while others had lunch. Then we took the bus to the Monticatini
On Easter morning, we rode the bus to Sienna, and walked from the city gate to the Campo, the piazza where the annual Paladio races are held, we then wandered the various streets to see the some of the many interesting medieval and renaissance buildings. The Duomo is being renovated, and because of Easter services, admittance was limited. Many had lunch in the various bars and cafes around the Campo. After lunch, we boarded the bus to take a short ride to San Giminigno
San Giminigno being smaller, much more of the town could be be seen. The many towers still standing are he most impressive features. Many of us tried the outstanding Italian gelato made fresh in a gelateria on the main square.
On Easter Monday, a holiday for the Italians,
we took a ferry boat from La Spezzia to Portovenare in which we
stopped to take a short walking tour of the town. We visited the
church at the far end of town, then meandered around, until it
was time to board the next boat to Riomaggiore.
After a short 30 minute ride, we debarked in Riomaggiore and took a longer walking tour of this first and southern most of the Cinqueterra towns. Dick walked out of town into the terrace vineyards and was able to see one of the small monorail engine and flat bed cars used to carry the grapes from the vineyards during the harvest. Boarding another boat, we then have a 45 minute ride to Monterosso, the northern most and largest of the 5 towns. WE passed but did not stop in Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazzo, before arriving at Monterosso. At Monterosso we toured the larger and older church, and walked around town, before having lunch in one of he many restaurants and cafes. Garay, Sara, Karen, Lisa and Dick had a fantastic lunch of the local seafood, gnocci, and pasta with pesto sauce. Following more walking and shopping, we went to the train station to take the train back to La Spezzia. It was about 45 minutes late, and at first filled, but it was a welcome sight for the weary travelers. The bus ride back to Monticatini took much longer than expected because of the traffic jams caused by the many Italians returning to home from their holiday.
For the Florence day trip, we left Monticatini
early on Tuesday morning to beat the expected heavy traffic. Arriving
in Florence, we met our guide (name?) who walked us to the Academia
to see Michelangelo's statue of David, and many of his other unfinished
statues. This gallery also has one of his four Pietas, one in
St Peters, one is here, a third one destroyed, and the last one
he created is in Milan. He took a is very different approach with
each. The gallery also contains many painting of the Renaissance
masters, in addition to the sculptures.
next we walk the old streets to the magnificent Duomo. The facade was impressive with its statuary and carvings. The Bronze doors of the Baptistery were also very impressive. We then broke up and had lunch in one of the many cafes.
After lunch, we gathered to enter the Ufizzi gallery. It was amazing to see so many master paintings in one place. The special De Vinci exhibit showing models of his inventions and some of his drawings and writings was very interesting.
We gathered in the Piazza dela Signoria with its many statues created by the masters. We then received demonstrations at a gold and leather shop. and tastings of olive oils and wine at a wine shop. Then many went shopping in the multitude of shops in Florence,
With the shopping and viewing at the art and architecture completed, we than walked to Baldavio's for a dinner, before returning to Monticatini and the Hotel Malta di Cruce.
We visited the leaning tower town on Wednesday morning, weaving our way through hundreds of street vendors selling touristy kitsch. The leaning glasses, and cups were specific to this locale. After taking a few pictures of the tower, the favorite is to pretend to hold it up, we returned to the bus and headed for the seaside town of Forte di Marme for lunch and walking along the beach. The town was almost empty, since the holiday had past, and April is early in the season. It was a pleasant respite from all the crowds found in the other sites.
Wednesday evening, we had a lovely dinner at the picturesque Villa Pasquini in the hills near Monticatini. The Ristorante occupies and old villa situated on a small hill with views of the country side. The short walk up the tree lined lane from the parking lot to the villa give one the feeling of the understated old world elegance. Starting with drinks on the terrace, we could enjoy the lovely garden landscapes and views of the country side, and take pictures. The dinner was the usual 2+ hours, multi course affair, with an abundance of wine. We were serenaded during dinner, by the usual Italian music, including songs that Frank and Dean recorded. Finally the night was capped of with dancing.
On Thursday, we slept in until late in the morning, and took a short ride to the Fattoria Il Poggio in the Luca commune of Montecarlo. The farm has large vineyards and olive groves. They make and sell their own wine and olive oil. We ate the multi course lunch in their old wine cellar. Of course plenty of wine was provided for tasting. After lunch we took a short tour of the vineyard and olive groves. Many of us purchased olive oil and wine for ourselves and for gifts.
Thursday afternoon was free and many used the time to explore Monticatini shopping, or using the services of one of the spas. A few took the funicolare up to explore the old hill top town of Monticatini Alte.
Leaving Monticatini for the last time, we headed back to Rome with a stop in the Umbrian town of Assisi, home of St Francis the founder of the Franciscan order of monks. There we had a quick lunch, and then took a guided tour of the two churches that make up the Basilica of St Francis. After a short walk around the town, we headed for the Sheraton hotel resort outside of Rome.
Arriving at the Sheraton we finally met up with our cousin Jim who spent several days in the hospital in Rome after falling and breaking his ribs. He was able to to join us for the final dinner at the Ristorante La Carovana in Rome. At dinner, we were entertained between courses of the meal by two tenors and a mezzo soprano. A special tribute was held for Paul and Marissa's celebration of their first wedding anniversary.
This site is under construction. I will add pictures and captions as I receive them from the other participants of the trip.
The pictures shown have been supplied by