342 – 343: Cinque Terre: 5 Towns and More than 500 Steps

342 – Sunday 27th March 2016:   £evantoomuch at Levanto

We motorwayed from the Siena parking – picking up some breakfast along the way and refreshing our services en route…. some 3 hours later, we arrived at the campsite that K had picked out. The road in/up to the site looked very narrow – I did a recce and spoke to the site team – some doubt expressed about an 8 metre van negotiating their twisting lane…. then with myself and a chap from the site guiding K as driver, we made it up the hill – to the most expensive campsite on planet Earth (or in Italy) – Euro 36 per night!   Reluctantly, we parked – the area is a tourist trap – and it’s Easter…..  About 50/50 Italians and Germans … they can afford these site fees!

Under a greying sky, a tour of the town was de rigeur and off we went – the campsite didn’t charge us for walking on their road!  Nice enough seafront promenade – possible running route for the morrow.   Then, a little moment – a procession and marching band in medieval costumes – lovely.  K captured this angelic chappie swirling his flag – he looks a bit serious – does he know those are the colours of my local football team in Dublin?  We’ll recognise him in 20 years time – when he will be centre forward for Italy (James – you’re showing your age – what’s a centre forward ?)  

The rain came – and we retreated to our £ucsious campsite – with fairly decent £oos… this could go on and on… £ots of vans parked c£everly very c£ose together – enough !

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343 – Monday 28th March 2016:  Cinque Cento Terre – More than 500 Steps!

There is a saying in Italy – “persona qui pedant 500 pedes – descende on arse!”  It’s a recent saying – from today, actually…more later on that.  We Trenitaia’d from £evanto to Consiglia to start the Cinque Terre walk – 3-4 hours estimated by the Tourist Office – quite accurate in our case.  The photos give a good idea of the climbing – the paths were ok-ish in places – however, it must be said that in UK these paths would have been condemned on health and safety grounds. Which is better? Open a path that is narrow and steep with sheer edges – and trust people to be sensible – or close anything that hints of danger? We know the answer – perhaps Italy is not yet wildly litigious on h&s issues…? There was one sign we spotted at the end of the walk “Walking in the park is not recommended during bad weather”.  Oops – it had rained all night and half the morning!  And was very slippery … justification for what happened anon?!

Including a climb of 600 feet (sounds more impressive than 200 metres), we reached Vernazza – jam packed with tourists (it is a public holiday, after all) – and found a spot on the harbour wall to eat lunch – K’s pasta dish and fruit – plenty.  Second leg of trip – more ascending and ascending… spectacular views – some (not just me) quite mature folk walking the route. We had to remark on the wide range of unsuitable footwear on display – everything from flimsy plimsolls (another old word, James) to shoes with heels and suede boots!  Narrower paths – folk being polite in showing passing decorum (isn’t decorum a lovely word?  Decorous decorum decorated decadent descending dallies!)   The path was often so narrow that one waited to allow people to pass.  K asked J what the most common word spoken was .. “Feck” was the answer … No, said K … “Grazie” in a plethora of Italian and very non Italian accents.  

On one section, it was necessary (I swear it) to become quite intimate with passing members of the opposite gender – purely in the interests of – yes, decorum!  A bit like pressing flowers – or, as the Roman might have said – “intimosa floribundance”!  Then came the ‘floribumdance’!  I was blocked by a group of young folk who were not displaying decorum – so I sidestepped and walked on a more slippy side of the path – the ground came up to meet my nether regions – two body bounces and a couple of scratches as a result of the descendarse method… K called for the air ambulance – I was winched up and shot off to the local arsepedale…actually, we nonchalarsely kept on walking – stiff upper lip – and bottom!

Down some very steep steps, and Monterosso reached out to us – with red wine and ice cream!

An excellent walk – stirring views – another superb day – sadly, amongst the last of our present stay in Italy…

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The initial steps up from the train station at Corniglia, along with the masses.

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We came from here…

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Nets in situ to ready for the olive harvest.  

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Euphorbia and Irises – lots of Spring blossoms and flowers.

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Picnic spot at Vernazza in sight.

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Nearly all American tourists … a lot of gelato being consumed (not connected!).

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Looking back at Vernazzo as we embark on stage 2 of the walk.

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No question as to why the Cinque Terre is such a draw for so many tourists.

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A cat sanctuary en route … with a notice asking people to feed the cats with the food provided in a bin.

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 And we came from here too … but you can see how steep the cliffs are.

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Monterosso and the train station in sight.  As well as olives, the cliffs also nurture vines … the farmers use mono rails to get up and down the slopes.

340-341: Seriously Stunning Siena

340 – Friday 25th March 2016:  Siena 1

Our arrival at this free overnight parking could not have been more timely – at about 1:00 pm !  Within a half hour, it almost filled with other motorhomes – we were very lucky to get a spot to suit our longer bus – obviously, the same parking Apps are being used by everyone.  Our local public transport bus driver let us on free – as the nearby Tabacheria was closed – and at a subsequent stop, showed us where to get tickets! And waited whilst K went in to make the transaction.  Would this happen in UK?  Swiftly into the Centro Storico – we assumed our roles – me behind the lens – and K as the Gour Tide – whoops, Tour Guide!  The Piazza del Campo is stunning – but I don’t fancy taking part in the Piazza Grand National (even without fences) – perhaps Mr Tim Leslie might be interested!  The Duomo is impressive – but we must say that Orvieto is the biz when it comes to the Duompetition!  The library and Baptistry contain magnificent works of art – lots by the Sienese School…..  Late afternoon… we had earlier found a lovely small cafe where to coffee was very cheap and good – we now discovered that a glass of vino rosso was all of Euro 2! So, we expended Euro 8 of our daily fiscal allocation. Thus emboldened, we confidently set off on the number 10 bus to home. This number 10 bus didn’t go anywhere near home – K was tracking it on our MapsMe App.  As the photo shows – we were ‘lossppy’ – lost and happy.  When we arrived at the end of the line – I approached the driver and said in my most fluent English “We’re lost !”. I might have said “Nostra divertimento !”  – but it probably doesn’t mean anything even if it sounds good.  Fortunately, our driver replied in very good English that we should stay on the bus – back into Siena, driver change and then home by a different route on the same bus.  By now, I had managed to identify our home by combining “parcheggio camper, Esso and McDonalds” – this produced the resulting location – “FondofBecky” – best way we could remember it.  Chardonnay welcomed us sometime later… and we welcomed the grapes of wrath, or what ever we were drinking.

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It may be easter weekend, but the Italian campers are out in force … the car park really filled up.

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Described as one of the prettiest Italian piazzas  – Piazza del Campo.  The red brick paving was started in 1327 and is in 9 sections to represent the Council of Nine who ran Siena and the triangular shapes to represent the folds of Madonna’s cape.  The bell tower is the second highest Medieval Bell tower in Italy at 102 m.  It is the location for the famous bareback horse race twice a years – Il Palio, which lasts all of 90 seconds.  People lounging in the sun eating gelato … so we did too.

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P. del Campo

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Our first view of the Duomo … similar to Orvieto in that it is alternate layers of coloured stone, however …

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… whilst impressive, the facade is not a patch on Orvieto.

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Part of the Duomo – the Piccolomini Library – frescoes from 1509.

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The Baptistry:  Renaissance font by Quercia, Ghiberti and Donatello … we are getting more familiar with Italian artists and sculptors … for the moment … having sieves for brains they will soon sadly be forgotten.

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Our return bus ride … after 2 large glasses of rosso, we really didn’t care where we travelled!

341 – Saturday 26th March 2016:  Siena 2

Evening repose was ‘tranquile’ through the night – until….at 5:25 am (K checked her chronometer) – there was a loud banging on the door!  K (in dressing gown) rushed to the door – to shower Easter well wishes on the entire family of the person who had rudely intruded on our somnolence – to be greeted by a chap from the local street cleaning vehicle – accompanied by a Polizia officer!  All 17 motorhomes were instructed to leave the parking area – while the cleaning was conducted.  We (and others) parked patiently on the road outside to await the signal for return and resumption of – sleep!  Bizarre or what?  Tea first then zzzzs.  Somewhat later, I ran – we brekkied (someone stole my favourite breakfast cereal…[someone else had said there was spare!]) and once again bussed into Siena – by the way, a single ticket costs Euro 1.20!   Our dour kite (I’m in trouble now !) – tour guide (I’m not really a cereal killer!) had an App for a walking tour – which took us to a number of churches, Duomo museum, Duomo Baptistry, public buildings – and St Catherine’s thumb!  I’d better explain that, quickly.  St Catherine of Sienna (patron saint of the city) – dedicated herself to God at age 8 – received the ’stigmata’ – some miracles were attributed to her – her head is preserved in the Basilica di San Domenico – and her thumb! This last was a bit gruesome for us…..   K watched some German youths check their own digits as they left the viewing.  

End of tour (we were cereaously thirsty) and back back to ‘our bar’ – of the cheap coffee and wine. A bit later, the number 77 bus took us unerringly to our site – which now contains even more vans – 22 at last count. 

Siena is a most beautiful city, easy to navigate on foot – and we will return…

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Chiesa di San Maria dei Servi – just nice to put up a pic of an unfinished church facade!  The first Rose window obviously needed replacing!

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Looking at the P. di Campo bell tower and the Palazzo Pubblico 1297 from the rear.

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The Museo dell ‘Opera del Duomo houses the original artworks from the Duomo as well as pieces commissioned for the huge, but only partly built, nave expansion … the plague of 1348 killed over half the population and the expansion was shelved.  You can climb to the top of part of the incomplete extension (two pics up – the tall arch by the Duomo), but sadly we were saved from the climb as there was an hour’s queue!  Such a shame!!!

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We really loved the mellow red brick and the fact that Siena is large enough to wander for a day and a half without covering the same ground.


337-339: Blowing through Lazio, Tuscany and Umbria

337 -Tuesday 22nd March 2016: Blowing at Bolsena

From our superb free pitch at Vitorchiano, it was not far to Lake Bolsena – the larger of the two lakes in this area. We had ‘Bradged’ our deadly Navduo to a set of coordinates for a motorhome parking site with services. The journey was fine – and the coordinates did lead us to the correct location – which was – a small muddy area just off the Lunghomare!   There was a regular car park on the other side of the street with a motorhome parked – fortunately the Italian couple were just returning from a bike ride – and assured us that overnighting there was ok – they had stayed the previous night.  Additionally, the chap (in fluent english) gave us loads of advice on areas to visit and other free parkings – yet more Italian friendliness and help!  We lunched – and ambled in the town…. pleasant with views across the lake.  Little to do other than have coffee with the locals …  

Settling down for the evening, we noted that it was blowing quite a lot… But, we’re hardy folk – we’ve been blown about in Nordkapp and Castel del Golfo and other places.  We rocked and rolled through the night – borderline for moving the van – but we stoically stayed put.  Although we did change direction at 5.30 as the rattling the roof lights was keeping K awake.  Now the reader will know that morning is running time (after tea in bed – and philosophising on the day ahead).  I poked my head out of the van – hanging on to the door in the gale!  Cold, gale force winds and rain… Guess what we did? We wimped – and had some more tea!   In bed!!  In the warm!


Beautifully sunny.  Beautiful view (and that’s not just J!).  Beautiful free pitch. Didn’t want to leave. So we had another wander into town before leaving.


The cliff top town has a town wall on the only entry side … with inhabitants.  A few supplies including some lake Perch from a mobile fish van and a coffee.  Total spend only EUR15 but at least we gave the town back something for such an amazing camper stop.


Capodimonte on Lake Bolsena.



338 – Wednesday 23rd March 2016:  Orvieto Sampled

We had planned to cycle around part of the lake, but easily came to the conclusion that we could never pedal compete with the wind.  People have told us how pretty the lake and the towns are … yes, but you need some sun!  Fair winds ‘blew’ us towards Orvieto – hill town with (Guide Book recommendation) possibly the most beautiful cathedral in Italy. And into Umbria, via a corner of Tuscany.  Another identified free motorhome overnight parking with services – not free though. We arrived to see? An awesome motorhome park – with services – and WC, showers, shop – and open air cinema with padded armchairs and drinks service!!!   Ok, I made up the last bit… but a superb site – and quite ok for Euro 18 per night.  When we had parked our Chard – there were 3 vans on site. Later in the evening, 27 vans had cosied up together – and the site was still not full.  Any road up (Yorkshire-speak ?), our footsteps took us to the Funicolare – the town had located the rail station and Funi – right at the van parking area – how good is that ?  Or was it the other way around ?  We Funic’ed up the hill and perambulated (that word again) to the Duomo (more later) – and the narrow Vicolo’s (K has ascertained that  a ‘Vicolo’ is a narrow street – we have ‘Vicolo’d our way around Italy).  Somehow, our pramrelations (Italian wine is good!) took us to – a bar. Really good local red – and snacks…  After wine, K headed underground – this was not a wine effect but a desire to see some subterranean pigeon homes!  I retired downhill – to the van, late sosta – and chores….   


War memorial overlooking the Umbrian rolling hills.


Vicolo.  The stone blocks are tufa, along with the pozzuoli stone (makes cement) were dug out from underneath, giving each house a Medieval cellar.  In the 1970’s part of the hilltop subsided and residents are not allowed to make alterations to their cellars and additional columns have been added in some places and concrete is used to infill cracks.  House insurance?!


Other cellars were used as pigeon coops.  Pigeons replaced chicken in the Medieval diet – They came home each night.  They fed themselves.  Bred every 28 days.  And the poo made good fertiliser!  An all round win, except for the smell!  Apparently some restaurants still serve pigeon.

339 – Thursday 24th March 2016:   Orvieto Imbibed Some More

Morning – tea – and run (not timeulsaneously though) – a good romp for about 4-5 km. Brekkied, etc and again to the Funi – better weather for walking but still quite a chill in the air. Duomo closed until 2:30 (this was at !:00 pm)  – dilemma ! What to do?  How about lunch? – we said simulsomethingorotherishly (how about that for word mangling?).  We agreed with each other (funny that) and – the photos show the result.   The (post-lunch) Duomo is quite amazing – very much one of the most impressive we have seen in Italy – the reliefs, frescoes and paintings are stunning. Well worth a visit.  Back downhill to our van, we see there are now 30+ vans in situ for the evening – and the site has a few spaces left….. 

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Morning run:  The view back to hilltop Orvieto and J striding ahead.


St Patrick’s Well was dug for a Pope in 1527 who feared a siege.  It has a double helix (twin) staircase … 248 steps down and 248 steps up.  We elected not to do it just to be able to say we’d down it!  Named after Ireland’s patron saint … something to do with how deep down towards purgatory they had to dig.


I think this is the interior of Sant ‘Andrea; it had some C15 frescos, but I liked the pulpit and the columns.


A shop window …


… and inside another!  Titter!


We weren’t planning a proper lunch, but best laid plans, and all that.



The side of the Duomo.  A massive building nearby was built to house the workers and a clock tower to help them keep time.  The Duomo was started in 1290 and took 300 years in total to build.  We paid to listen to the audio information, which was like an architectural lecture and ended with ‘This is the end of the description”.  Really felt we could have done with more information as we went around the interior, but guided walks do not start till the weekend.


The pics just do not do the exterior justice.




There were 4 panels with scenes from the Old and New Testament from 1320.


Unusual to see so much marble used as an opaque window.


The Reliquary of the Corporal … the Miracle of Bolsena where “real blood fell from a consecrated host onto an alter cloth”.  The alter cloth is stored here and only comes out on special occasions … a notice told us to apply to the Bishop to find out when it would next be aired.


The Capella Nuova on the other side had the most amazing frescos from 1499 depicting the Last Judgement.  They had been seriously restored and just glowed.





This Dumo is just huge … possibly one of the tallest we’ve seen. 

334 – 336: Sleeping With and In Memory of the Dead

334 – Saturday 19th March 2016: Sleeping with the Dead

Having largely got ourselves ready to move yesterday we both put in good runs around the slightly hilly campsite and then breakfasted outside.  Being able to sit out and enjoy the sun and the blue skies is truly one of the pleasures of a campsite, but, of course, it does come at a price.

A Few Rome Reflections

We would possibly have stayed in Rome longer, but the campsite put its price up from the ACSI rate of EUR19 to 28 to take advantage of the Easter holidays.  We’d stayed one night at the higher rate and witnessed the general clearing out of most motorhomes.  We both liked Rome a lot more than we expected.  This was my 4th visit, J’s second.  We had a 3 day honeymoon here 5 years ago but it had been too hot to do much sightseeing.  It was a honeymoon afterall!  I was last here for Maddy’s 16th Birthday two years ago … on being asked what she wanted for her birthday, she did not hold back and asked for a trip to Rome.  I had refused based on price and J and my parents had not held back either and told me to book it as it may be the last time she wanted to come away with me!

This trip we explored further afield than the main tourist trail … which can leave you feeling a bit Roman and Museum’d out.  We really felt that seeing the Mussolini EUR project and Garbatella helped us see Rome as a living city.  Our campsite was a 5 min walk to the Due Ponte station on Rome’s Northern Line – an Urbana train totally covered in graffiti and with green plastic seats BUT it ran every 10 mins.  Only EUR1.5 for 100 minutes once the ticket was stamped, so effectively the ticket covered the whole city.  Eat your heart out London Underground!  The bike tour was just fantastic at getting us through small streets and seeing some of the lesser known sites.  


Our destination for today was about 50km north – up to Cerveteri to the Etruscan Necropolis.  The town had been a major commercial centre, trading with Greece, Egypt etc since 9BC.  However, as Rome grew, Cerveteri declined and by 358 (precisely!) it was annexed by Rome.  A few KM from the town, the Etruscans built a massive necropolis for the wealthy to be buried in.  The poor were just cremated.  The necropolis is essentially laid out like a town with streets and the tombs resemble house that the families lived in.  There are over 400 tombs carved out of the tufa rock with stone blocks and mounds of earth.  The tombs are now empty, many have been raided over the centuries, but remaining artefacts are … in the Vatican and the British Museum!  Whilst in Italy we have visited many ancient sites, mostly Greek and Roman, but we think this may have been the oldest as the town went back to 9BC.


The Tumulus tombs.


They went sqaure when they needed more space for the middle classes … J is directing traffic at a street intersection.

P1100189Some were quite a climb down.  Once buried, the entrances were sealed up but then had to be dug out again for the next family member.  So unlike the Christian necropolis we’ve seen, no visiting your deceased relatives.


Tomba dei Rilevi is the only tomb here to have the internal decoration survive … The plaster reliefs are of food, utensils and tools, games and mythical figures.  As with other civilisations, the dead were buried with everything they may need for the afterlife. 

We did check and we are OK to park in the car park over night, surrounded by the tumuli … sweet dreams!


335 – Sunday 20th March 2016:  The Sunday Lunch Habit

A really peaceful night and the only other occupant was another British motorhome.  They kept themselves to themselves and since they had a small daughter, so did we!  In the morning we both ran around the site, passing tombs and no traffic :).  Over breakfast we watched the people come, by car, motorhome and coach – to visit the tombs, walk dogs and watch a small boy bomb about in his new mini quad bike.

Our destination today was Lake Bracciano, one of the volcanic lakes where the Romans escape to, when not flocking in droves to the coast.  We parked up along the lake just past Anguillara: Medieval and apparently the prettiest on the lake.  We had coffee in Chard whilst we weighed up our options.  The town is not big.  There is not much to do or see.  One of the guide books said there is a plethora of good trattorias … decision made…. Lunch.


Eel / lake themed fountain … won’t be picking that on the menu … too greasy.


Typical narrow street.


On a door … for the non-Irish speakers it means “A hundred thousand welcomes”

P1100204Our selected Trattoria was listed high in TripAdvisor and obviously popular … no room inside, so the waiter put a table together (literally stuck the legs on) on the balcony apologising that the season had not yet started.  They obviously had not expected the other 5 tables that joined us.  It was a memorable meal… this starter had 8 types of cheese and 8 salamis, served with a red pepper relish, honey and a strawberry & balsamic jam.  Our main were J:  ricotta ravioli with tomato and lemon and K:  lake Perch with a sweet and sour orange sauce.  All yummy and washed down with a litre of red.  We retired to Chard after for a huge nanny nap … or did we just pass out?

336 – Monday 21th March 2016:  Bizarre in Bomarzo

The morning run was down to the lake, which meant a steep up on the return, but really lovely to be along the lake shore in the sun.

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Going out …

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… and the return view. 

We lunched on soup in the carpark at Bomarzo’s Parco dei Mostri, although the founder called it Sacro Bosco (sacred wood).  At EUR10 pp it was a bit pricey, but different.  The garden was created by Duke Vicino Orsini 1522-1580 in memory of his wife, one of the Farnese’s.  Grotesque giants, faces, dragons etc were carved out of the existing stone, designed by the bod who finished off St Peter’s Basilica after Michelangelo died.  Once the Duke died, the garden had been largely forgotten and was discovered by Dali and other painters in the 1930’s but not restored until 1953.  

The pics say it all …


J trustingly putting his head into it’s mouth…. ‘cos I asked him to!


In keeping with the ‘Mannerist’ style, buildings were lop sided.





We have driven a short distance to Vitorchiano – not because it is in the guide books, but because my Parking App said it had a motorhome parking with services and free electric.  And so it does 🙂  And a superb view of the town. 🙂  But is also has very noisy workmen on the road behind us and I reckon we can expect them back tomorrow … it may be a very early run for us!

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Our View … and for free!


329 – 333: Capitol Time in Rome

329 – Monday 14th March 2016:  Cyclelogical Rome

K (as the supreme navigator) reckoned it would be 8 km cycle ride into Rome from the campsite – it was 15 km! (K:  campsite staff told me so!!!)  We arrived just in time at the cyclelogical meeting place. Simeone (our guide) led us through alleyways and back streets – and over three and a half hours – we discovered and understood much of ancient Rome – an excellent visit – as described in the photos. (K:  our TripAdvisor Review says more about the tour).  All the exercise obliged us to have a hearty lunch with wine – to prepare for the 15 km cyclenotlogical return trip….  Oddly, the return trip was faster than the morning journey inbound – wine-fuelled? 

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The Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto does not originally have negative connotations).  We found our way back here for a booze laden lunch.

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Excellent view of the Forum from Capitoline Hill.

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And across the City to the Vatican from the terrace at the museum – free to climb up to.

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And another view.

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Most ancient bronzes have been smelted down and recycled.  This is a copy, but the original survived as it was thought to be Emperor Constantine (he who sanctioned Christianity), but it is actually Marcus Aurelius.  This is in the Michelangelo designed piazza; two sides are the Capitoline museum and one is the town hall.

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Trajan’s Forum (i.e. market and meeting place) AD107.  These windows were probably the first multi storey massive shopping mall complex.

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Trevi Fountain.  Dodgy pic as the small instant camera did not cope with the sun on the white stone.  Our guide Simone was quite scathing about the quality of the work compared to its popularity.  He also explained that it has been ‘restored’ 3 times in the last 5 years due it’s iconic status, but that each time they remove a layer of the stone.

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Spanish Steps.  Fortunately we’ve seen the steps before not blocked off and under some kind of works.

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This was one of the ‘you’d never find it yourself’ sites – the Olympic Theatre, under other buildings with FREE view accessible through a small doorway.

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Navona Piazza.  Used to be race track, like the Circus Maximus from AD1.  Then a street market until in C17 one of the Pope’s had it cleared so he could build his Palace here.  Real Estate prices shot up – good if you already owned here.

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Yep – we’re both in leggings.  Look the part, what!  Actually think we may have been the sole cyclists with helmets in Rome. J with Star Trek hair style…

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A Bernini designed fountain – Fontana dei Quattro Fiume. Simone really liked this one … hollow rock that holds up a whopping obelisk.  Four rivers and four statues to represent the four (known then) continents.  Quality carvings … wind in the palm tree and muscular forms….

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Doesn’t look much, but is actually the site of Pompea’s Amphitheatre – time of Ceasar (the one that got murdered).  These buildings are built on the curve of the amphitheatre and would have been seating.  Alley ways radiated out where the amphitheatre entrances would have been.  A real hidden gem.

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SYLVIE – THIS IS JUST FOR YOU!!!!  We both had one and it was YUMMY.

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On the bike ride back we passed some works being done.  These images are created by putting up massive stencils and then jet washing!

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Sorry, think I’m becoming more anal about bridges than James.  We went under and past so many on our cycle ride to / from the campsite to the centre.  A couple, like this one, had hollow gaps between the arches.

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When running, all I see is his bum.  Same cycling and similar skinny tights!  Most excellent bike track below road level, but apparently it often floods.

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IMG 2986The last bridge pic … houseboats.


330 – Tuesday 15th March 2016:  The Ides of March 

On the occasion of his demise, Caesar ignored the soothsayer’s warning – and so did we… We attended at his ‘murder’ spot – but a dense crowd prevented us from seeing very much. Interestingly, on the fateful occasion, the Senate met at this location away from the Forum for some reason. It was the law that no weapons could be taken into the Forum, but as this was not the Forum, knives were taken – and used…”Et tu, Brute ?”

Off to the Vatican to see St Peter’s Basilica… however, our arrival time was 5:30 (K the Navigator got us lost in a gelateria and then lost in a massive multi storey carpark) and it closes at 6:00 pm – so, another day…


Wedding Cake aka Vittorio Emanuelle Monument – it destroyed lots of Roman remains in its building.


 This is believed to be the spot where Ceasar was murdered.  Four Temples were uncovered here in the Sacred Way.


We actually couldn’t see this much of the performance … pic achieved holding camera high.


We walked to St Peter’s Basilica via a gelato (of course!), so we were too late to go in.

331 – Wednesday 16th March 2016:  Capital Time at the Capitoline Museum

We often take a picnic and since we both like to chop our apples, we carry a large knife.  Security at the Museum was interesting – we ‘fessed to the knife before it was scanned.  Efficient though, we were given a token and told to collect it on exiting.

We were in two minds about this visit originally, as we’re bit ‘statued out’ – although highly recommended by Simeone and TripAdvisor… To miss it would have been a big mistake!  The cultures and art are amazing – and 2000+ years old.  Do we produce art like this now in the 21st century?  Ok, it’s unlikely that David Cameron will appear on a horse in bronze in front of the Palace of Westminster, but….

To pick only two – the statue (the original – could I have detected the difference?) of Marcus Aurelius is immense in size and artistic expression – and the simple sculpture of the boy taking a thorn from his foot (1BC) – simply genius. A total of 3-4 hours in the Musei and we just about covered the main parts…  Artistically drained – almost too much to take in…  


The copy outside the museum taken with a proper camera and to compare with the original inside the museum. 


The original – Marcus Aurelius.  Originally covered in gilt.  Placed low in a new extension to the museum so visitors can get closer.


Marcus Aurelius again, but included in this post to show the quality of the relief.


All the rooms were sumptuously painted in the Conserators’ Apartment.  Many depicted the history of Rome.  This is the Rape of the sabine Women.


One of the ancient treasures, I forget who, but his eyes are silver.


BC1 – a buy trying to remove a thorn from his foot.


According to legend, Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, who had been nursed by a she wolf … the cherubs were added later.


Bernini’s Medussa


Just more seriously high quality carving on a sarcophagi.


Another view of the Forum.


A drunken Roman lady, still clasping the wine container … not fallen over yet!

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Capitoline Venus … had her own room … was this to cover her modesty?



A Roman copy of the Greek BC3 statue of the Dying Galatian.  You can see the pain in his face.

332 – Thursday 17th March 2016:  Saints Peter and Patrick

St Patrick’s Day – and as an expatriate son of Ireland, I decided to be a bit stage Irish on our travels – green shirt, green fleece – and green Rugby World Cup 2015 (no good memories there). Thank goodness I don’t have green trousers!  The morning run was a bit green – according to my pace – static… But, off to the Urbano and Metro and walk to the Vatican. The SN (supreme navigator) did not take us through a multi storey car park this time – but directly to Piazza St Pietro.  Our queue wait was a mere 18 minutes – airport style security negotiated successfully no knife today in backpack! – and in we went. K took an audio guide which was really essential.  Again, the photos talk – but in summary, we were awed by the size – and again, the word ‘immense’. It may sound contradictory – but neither of us felt a great sense of religion – probably because of the huge numbers of tourists around.  The Basilica of All Nations in Jerusalem (to me) maintains the sense of religion and piety alongside the swell of tourists. Maybe tourists in Jerusalem are likely to be more pius…?  However, this really is the classic case of the photos telling the story – and reflecting the scale of the Basilica.  It is interesting that Pope Francis has eschewed all the pomp and circumstance traditionally associated with the Papal office – and lives in a Vatican B&B – not in the lavish Papal apartments. He wears simple clerical garb – and has (anecdotally) a good ‘managerial’ style of sorting things out. Whilst accepting that the Vatican needs the tourist revenues, which style is more likely to get the message out to the faithful – the opulence of St Peter’s Basilica – or the simplicity and directness of Pope Francis’ approach?   Back to the day in question…

Speaking of piety…..on departing the Vatican – something magical occurred – actually, it’s called ‘MapsMe’ – programmed to take us to “The Abbey Theatre Bar” – named after the home of the Irish National Theatre in Dublin which was rebuilt in the ’60s after a disastrous fire.  Red wine (not Guinness) – and the best potato crisps on the planet – “Tayto” !  The prices seemed to reflect the fact that both the wine and crisps were imported from Dublin. The bar was in full flow, but we left to head for the Metro – some distance away…..

Super was a version of Irish Stew – not being able to buy lamb (just not seen it in butchers or supermarkets … someone please explain why not) and having some buffalo steak in the freezer… it seemed an obvious swap!  Guinness was used as the sauce, of course.  Accompanied by colcannon.


Michelangelo created the huge Dome.



Michelangelo’s Pieta: 1499 when he was just 25 years old.


 Part of Bernini’s last work, think he may have been in his 80’s.  Monument to Pope Alexander V11


Bronze of St Peter … you couldn’t get close now, but apparently it is good luck to rub his foot.


Hidious, but you notice it.  Bernini’s Baldacchino (canopy) which stands over St Peter’s tomb.  Huge and made of bronze. 


Wall and ceilings are mosaic copies of painted master pieces, most of which are in the Vatican Museum.


Piazza St Peter – laid out by …. Bernini.

333 – Friday 18th March 2016:  Pottering

We ran, pottered and relaxed.  Two lots of soup bagged and in the freezer.  We are rested and will move a little further north tomorrow.