Tag Archives: traffic


Yikes, I’m a little behind.  I blame it on the wine.  By the time I’ve had a glass, I’m not much up for sorting photos and writing a blog.  So, sorry for the delay!

On Sept. 24th, we went to Capri for the day.  We caught a taxi to the port . . . and it finally happened; we were in a car accident.  It was supper minor, the two cars just scraped their rear ends together as they passed, but it sure ticked off the cab driver! It happened in a spot where the road (only about 10 feet wide) made a hairpin turn — and I mean a sharp U.  Even little cars, if they don’t approach just right, will have to back up to properly complete the turn. Did I also mention the road is two-way and only one car can pass through the bend at a time?  In our case, the taxi passed through the U but the oncoming car didn’t wait for us to clear and he wedged himself into the U and started to turn which made the back bumpers of the two cars scrape together.  Given crazy Italian traffic, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.

Anyway, our trip to Capri was a little shaky because it was pouring rain.  It wasn’t a big deal on the boat, but it was a different story on the bus we boarded to take us from the port to Anacapri.  Unfortunately, the bus had many holes — the skylights, the windows, the door, everything leaked.  It was bad that our tour guide, who was standing in the stairwell by the door, had water up to his ankles!  By the time we got to Anacapri, no one was dry.  Another thing, the busses are designed to move as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  They literally have 7 inches between the seats.  Everyone had to sit with their knees slanted into the minuscule aisle, or up by their ears.  I’m not even sure children would fit well on that bus. It’s a good thing we were with a cheery group!  Luckily, by the time we were ready to explore Anacapri the rain stopped and the rest of the day was sunny and beautiful.

When I think of Capri, I think “beautiful island” and “shopping.”  Well, both are true.  However, the shopping wasn’t very interesting because most of the shops are also common in the States.  I checked a couple of places and found the prices weren’t very different, either.  So, we stuck to wandering around and enjoying the views.  We definitely can’t get those at home!

While doing this, we met some really interesting people.  Actually, we’ve met many people on this trip so far.  Most have been from London or Boston — probably because Bob wears his BU hat everywhere so people stop him on the street to ask if he’s from Boston.  The Capri trip was no different.  For some reason, it is often the case that the people we meet have kids around Abby’s age.  I’ve really enjoyed hearing people from all over talk about their everyday lives and finding they are absolutely no different than our experiences in the US.  People are people no matter their religion or nationality. Of course, I knew this, but it is an absolute delight to see the evidence first hand. My favorite example is the couple we met from Glasgow.  They left their 16 year old son home for the weekend and they were absolutely gleeful about the fact they arranged for grandma to stay with him, sort of against his will.  They had lots of stories of wild parties and stupid teenage behavior, all to familiar to parents the world over.

So, back to Capri.  It’s a small island with rugged shorelines, amazingly blue waters, a couple of old towns (Anacapri and Capri Town), and lots of history.  It’s not easy to get around; the roads are very narrow and they climb steeply up the craggy slopes of the island.  You can walk around quite a bit of it, but that involves literally hundreds of stairs, so wear comfortable shoes!

Here are some pictures to help you imagine.  : )


Okay, I’m starting with breakfast.  Have I told you about the breakfasts we’ve had on this trip so far?  All of our hotels have breakfast included and the one in Sorrento was exceptional.  It started with fresh-squeezed orange juice (sometimes complete with a seed or two), then fruit, a small Caprese salad, and a selection of cheeses and smoked/cured meets.  After that is a frittata or omelet of the day and a beautiful selection of pastries.  We had to leave early for the trip to Capri so we only had 10 minutes to eat. I grabbed the pastries and brought them with us to enjoy in leisure.  They were still warm and absolutely divine.


Finally, a view of Capri from Anacapri.  The land in the distance is the Sorrento peninsula, with Sorrento on the left side and the beginning of the Amalfi Coast on the right.



Some views of what the cities are like.  Like the Amalfi Coast, they are built on a steep hillside, so stairs and steeply sloping walkways are the best way to get around.  It was also very crowded in places.


At first, I thought this might be a new-fangled Italian fashion (some of them are really weird!) but then I realized it was an art gallery.  : )



We found lots of beautiful spots walking around the shopping districts.



These photos were taken from the Gardens of Caesar Augustus.  The shoreline was breathtaking, but the path leading to the next little village along the coast was also spectacular.  The village is just around the first cliff and tucked into the cove. In these pictures, you  can see how the curve in the road in the first picture is the same as the one in the second picture. Together, they fit together to give you a picture of the whole coastline.



This is more of the same shoreline as the pictures above, but it shows more detail.  If you look closely, you will see a little hut, a stairway hewed out of the rocks, and the roof of a small round structure.  Can you see the two structures and the stairs in the first picture?  If not, I zoomed in for you.


Another view from Caesar’s Garden. Once the rain stopped, it was a beautiful day!


I got a kick out of this necklace. I also love jellyfish, so it was tempting. : )


This is an ad on the back of the bus, but these watches, known as Capri watches, were everywhere in the stores.  They’re kind of whimsical.


Another view of the marketplace. Just lovely.


Hot dog and apple pie: American dinner, Italian style.

The Streets of Rome

Palazzo Doria-Pamphilij

Getting lost was the goal today and we managed that within blocks of our hotel. I swear, navigating Rome’s streets, alleys, and even pathways, is like trying to find your way in a rabbit warren.  No rhyme or reason, certainly no grid pattern, and no map to be found that has all the streets labeled.  I thought that was a problem with the maps, but I think it’s because those streets have no signs at all!  But I have to say, getting lost was the best thing that happened to us because we happened upon many really great things.  I think the story is best told in pictures, so here we go!



The Palazzo Doria-Pamphilij wasn’t the first place we found, but it was one of our favorites.  We stumbled off the hot, crowded street, into this beautiful, cool courtyard.  We also needed a bathroom, so buying an entrance ticket was a no-brainer. I think it turned out to be my favorite thing in Rome, so far.


The Palazzo was built by the Doria-Pamphilij family in the 1600s and its been in the family every since.  It’s a huge building and even though part of it is open to the public, the family still lives here.  The room above was the first we entered (after the bathroom : )  The ceiling must be 20 feet, or more, so the room feels enormous.  The walls are completely lined with paintings that were commissioned for this room.  You can get an idea of just how big everything is in this room by looking at the chairs and sofas up against the walls.


This is the only galleria where there are windows on both sides.  Instead of paintings, they lined the walls between the windows with mirrors, so light is reflected everywhere.  The incredible ceilings are well lit and absolutely mind boggling in their beauty.  It was a magical corridor.


This is one of the many galleries.  They are hung with paintings collected by members of the Doria-Pamphilij family for centuries.  Many were purchased directly from the artist or commissioned by family members.  Somewhere in the past, an ancestor found a way to prevent a member of the family from inheriting the art if he/she didn’t agree to keep the collection together.  The current owner says it is both a blessing and a curse because the responsibility for keeping the collection is huge.


I loved this room because its the ballroom.  It is actually two rooms, both covered in beautiful silk wallpaper.  The floor is parquet wood, perfect for dancing.  On the far left side, you can see the little area where the orchestra would have sat.

We saw many other incredible rooms of the Palazzo (which means “palace” in Italian), but taking pictures wasn’t allowed.  Most I’ve included here came from the web.  If you ever get to Rome, you must plan a visit here.  It’s well worth a couple hours of your time.



Next was the Pantheon, or as it’s known today, the Church of Saint Mary of the Martyrs.  It is the best preserved building of Ancient Rome because it was converted to a church during the 2nd century.  If you were curious about where all the bones from the catacombs we visited the other day, many were moved here.  It was thought appropriate at the time because they believed many of the bodies buried in the catacombs were martyrs.


This is the alter inside.  It’s one of the few churches we’ve been in that actually has pews and a posted Mass schedule.


The church is also the burial place of Raphael, yes, THAT Raphael.



Here’s my attempt to show you just how big this building is.  Its either the largest dome, or the second largest, in the world.  It’s an engineering marvel that the Emperor Hadrian was said to have personally designed.  The scale is huge and the opening at the top, known as the oculus, is 9 meters wide and completely open to the elements.  When it rains, it rains in a perfect circle in the church.  Yes, there’s drainage that appears to work well, because it doesn’t seam to be a problem.

The second photo above is actually three separate photos, all hooked together. It was the only way to get everything in one shot.  If you overlap them in your mind, you can get an idea of what the inside of the Pantheon looks like.



This is the fountain outside the Pantheon.  As you can see, it is another Egyptian obelisk.  These obelisks are real.  They were made in Egypt about 1300 B.C. and brought to Rome around the time of Christ.  You can tell that this one was “exorcised” of any demons because a Christian symbol has been added to the top. But up close, you can still easily see the Egyptian markings. I think this one used to be in Helios and was also at Circus Maximus for centuries.

When Christianity rose in Rome, many of the obelisks were removed from the city’s older buildings and put in front of churches. It was sort of an ancient map quest device. It let pilgrims know which buildings were important to visit.


Here we are!  And yes, that’s a horse-drawn carriage behind us.  I can’t even begin to imagine taking a carriage ride through Roman traffic.  It’s completely horrifying.  That’s also the entrance to the Pantheon behind us. We are standing on the steps of the fountain in the pictures above.


This is Piaza Navona.  It has several fountains by Bernini, a very famous sculptor and architect.  It is said that in his lifetime, Bernini created over 3000 sculptures, including the Tevoli Fountain.  He also had something like 11 children, so he was a busy guy.


Another fountain in Piaza Navona.



This is the famous fountain in Piaza Navona.  It represents the four great rivers of the world.



We found a little goofy gladiator fun along the way.  : )


Okay, this one had me in hysterics.  Only in Rome would hot priests make it in a calendar!


We saw signs for McDonalds everywhere.  They always had an arrow and “3 minutes” if you walked that way.  But we could never actually find one.  Well, we discovered why.  The one we stumbled on by accident was just a doorway that lead down steps, like you were walking into a subway.  The McDonalds was way under the building and way back off the street.  It was also enormous — like the size of a high school gym.  There were many walk up counters and I couldn’t see the end of the seating area.


There were also about 20 of these self-order stations.



And what’s up with the menu?  We only get cruddy fried apple pies.  I want what the Romans get!


The Spanish Steps were more involved than I originally thought.  I thought it was a staircase.  No, it’s actually a series of staircases.  At the end of a long day, it about did me in.


So I stopped on one of the landings to take a picture.  My favorite part is the father patiently letting his son wear himself out by climbing and climbing and climbing.  I predict that kid will sleep well tonight!



This is Piaza Del Popolo.  It’s huge and was full of people, but there wasn’t much else here.  Well, except for another obelisk.



Bob meets Barbie!  She invited him to her house.





Apparently not all Italians are known for their pride.


When I took this picture I thought “Italian Westie!” but after chatting with the owners, this is actually a Swiss Westie on vacation.  We got it on good authority that he really hates Rome and is looking forward to going home.

Roman traffic and everyday things

IMG_1300Roman traffic is not to be believed.  I don’t think I can adequately describe how bad it is, but I’ll give it a shot.  First, you have to understand that traffic signs, lane lines, and even lights are mere suggestions, often to be ignored completely.  It isn’t uncommon to, in the course of one block, straddle lane lines, drive up the wrong side of the street, and even hop onto the sidewalk if that’s more expedient.  It seems the goal of every vehicle is to claw its way in front of the vehicle in front of it.  It’s like a wild game of leap frog.

To do this, the cars never follow along behind the car in front.  Instead, they drive helter skelter all over the road and when they have to stop, it looks like they’ve been scattered at all angles across the road.  It’s not uncommon to have three cars in front when there are only two lanes.  Just as likely is one car in front that straddles all the lanes.

Imagine the traffic pattern at passenger drop-off at MacCarran Airport, only the traffic is going as fast as it can.  Throw in a bunch of Vespas that dart and weave through the cars and pedestrians who think nothing of just stepping off the curb whenever the mood strikes, expecting all traffic will stop for them.  Then, just to make it interesting, consider that some of that traffic is trying to turn right or left and they’re making those turns from the far lane where they have to cut across all lanes of traffic.  Of course, almost every cab driver we’ve had so far was also texting furiously during our entire drive.

Oh, you also have to know the roads are filled with traffic circles, public squares, narrow alleys, and ancient roads that curl around willy-nilly.  No wonder Romans make great Grand Prix drivers.

I’m always curious about how other cultures manage the details of their lives.  So, here’s the scoop.

First, if you want the electricity to work in your hotel room, you have to put your room key in the slot by the door.  Power is expensive, so this is a way to conserve it.


Abby suggested we install this in her room since we’re constantly complaining about her not turning off her lights.  : )

Next is the bathroom.  The toilets are different but the Italians may have solved the seat-up-or-seat-down controversy.  Also, the shower is hand-held, but there isn’t much of a barrier to prevent the rest of the bathroom from being drenched.  It requires extreme self-control!


The flush is on the wall above it. You can choose a regular flush or an industrial sized flush : )


Here’s our tiny little half wall in the shower.  Maybe Italians take baths, not showers.  That would explain a lot.