Saturday, March 31, 2012

Italy: Naples Bound

After a couple of days, we waved goodbye to Rome and headed to Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  We reserved spots on a three day tour with a company that Ben found on the Internet. The tour company's website promised fun and plenty of sightseeing. The feedback provided by vacationers on the website seemed real. Everything seemed legit. We crossed our fingers and prayed when Ben entered our credit card information and the charges appeared.

You can imagine how we rejoiced when a big, white charter bus actually did arrive at our hotel.  We cheered!  We high-fived!  We sighed with relief. The tour company was real! Our fear of being ripped off while abroad proved unfounded. Whew.

The tour bus drove a few hours and first stopped in Naples.  We walked around for a bit and viewed some old buildings.  Checked out an old castle or two, the norm by now.  Like Rome, ancient structures intermingled with new construction.  Naples was nice, but one afternoon satisfied me. Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast were waiting...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Italy: Unholy Art Thou... Again

On our last day in Rome, we visited a cathedral close to our hotel. Again, as we entered the church, an officer at the door shook his head and motioned to my outfit. Sigh.

I did not doubt that Italy would rejoice in my departure. 

Fortunately, this cathedral provided a basket of free scarves for those improperly dressed... like me. I grabbed a couple of scarves and instinctively wrapped them around me.  Been there, done that.

We toured the cathedral with Ben always a couple of steps ahead of me.  I had wrapped the white, gauzy scarf tightly around my legs, which left little legroom to walk.  I shuffled from painting to painting and kept my hands in a prayer position to keep the top scarf from sliding down my shoulders.

I not only looked holy, but felt holy.

I quickly shuffled behind Ben and happened to look up as we passed a large group of nuns.  As I passed the last nun, she slowed her pace and carefully examined me. I slowed, too, bowed slightly and met her gaze. We studied each other for a minute and then both nodded.

It was as if we acknowledged each other's holiness, accepted one another as sisters. We shared a moment. She considered me nun material.

I then realized I just may have missed my calling.  

Can't get any holier than this.

Inside the cathedral.

Ben by the alter.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Italy: Unholy Art Thou

We visited Vatican City in Rome.  First, we moseyed around the outside and took pictures.  Then, we joined the line to enter St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican.  We stood in line for only a couple of seconds before a random woman ran over to proclaim that I was dressed inappropriately.

Didn't this already happen to me?  Yes, yes it did.  Ben and I looked at each other.

The woman pointed to my tank top and bare shoulders.  She shook her head "no."  Then, she waved her hand toward my shorts and exposed knees.  Again, she shook her head "no." I was too risque for Venice and now too risque for Vatican City. Basically, I was just too risque for Italy.

Ben shook his head.  We asked the woman what to do.  Naturally, she recommended purchasing one of the $20 scarves draped across her arm.  I immediately responded... "No way.  I live in New York and they sell those on the corner for five bucks."

Ben threw up his hands and shot me a look that I interpreted as "you'll spend that much on ice cream, but you won't pay that to get us in one of the greatest cathedrals ever built."  I shook my head.  We turned and walked a couple of blocks before finding a small gift shop that sold me the exact same scarf for $5.

So, I bought two.

I bought two, but not because I wanted to buy two.  I needed one to cover my shoulders and another to cover my knees.  My Puma sneakers complimented my old peasant woman getup pretty nicely.

Thankfully, my new outfit did the trick and allowed me access to St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican.  I believe even St. Peter would let me pass through the Pearly Gates of Heaven in that outfit.  I do believe.

Ben in front of St. Peter's Basilica

Fashion statement

Inside St. Peter's Basilica

Inside St. Peter's Basilica

Inside St. Peter's Basilica

Inside the Vatican

Ben joined the line of great men in the Vatican

View from a Vatican window

Stairs in the Vatican museum

View of St. Peter's Basilica from a Vatican window

View of the Vatican from another part of the Vatican

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Italy: No Crybabies in Rome

Tears trickled down my face as I boarded a train with Ben and we waved goodbye to Sebastian, Megan, Cortona, and probably the best couple days of my life.  Thankfully, Ben didn't capture that on film. My face pressed to the window, my ponytail askew with red and puffy eyes, as I waved goodbye to Sebastian who stood on the platform and probably thought "good riddance."

Our train sped straight to the next stop on our journey, Rome. I started to get excited for Rome, but it took work (so ungrateful sounding, I know). I wasn't ready to trade a small town for the big city.

The train pulled into the station in Rome and we trekked about a half mile to our hotel. Ben compared the area to midtown in NYC, and I agreed.  Busy, loud, and full of tourists. People set up tables and sold everything from "I Love Rome" T-shirts to plastic magnets to scarves with a city map printed on them.

I had to immediately adjust my perspective because no one in Rome was going to bring me a fresh plate of prosciutto and melon or wave hello like they did in Cortona.  Nope, definitely not.  Probably pickpocket first and greet later. Hence, I gripped my suitcase handle a little tighter.

We found our hotel after a few wrong turns and lugged our suitcases to our room. Clark Griswald, I mean Ben, listed the planned events of the day.  First, a bus tour.  Bus tours, I agreed with Ben, proved the best way to see and learn about a new place.

The problem was that my brain continually equated bus time to nap time. I conked out on every bus, whether we boarded for 5 minutes or 5 hours.  Once again, Ben voiced displeasure about my narcoleptic moments when in such a magnificent part of the world, and I responded with my usual line of "I'm on vacation." I then mentally thanked Ben for his efforts to keep me awake because, without him, I would have looped endlessly around umpteen European cities on tour buses and never saw anything. But, I couldn't admit that. 

We hopped on and off the bus tour to see some pretty fantastic and mind blowing sights.  Pictures below.

Awoken from a nap on the bus tour and forced at camera-point to smile in front of the colosseum.

Rome (and the colosseum) made Ben giddy.

The colosseum shone at night.

We glimpsed the Vatican "from a distance" (cue Bette Midler's song...).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Italy: Model Mania

Just wanted to share a few more photos of Megan and Sebastian. It's funny how the camera really captures personalities.  How the lens views them.

You can glean from photos that Megan has a sweet disposition and calm personality. She radiates a soft light that soothes you.

Sebastian, on the other hand, is more like disco ball that comes in 40 different colors and spins in 20 directions.