Ostica Antica was Rome’s main harbor for more than 600 years until commercial competition brought the city into decline. The city was well preserved by silt. As far as the eye can see, the main street was the Decumanus Maximus and the ruins of the buildings were those of multi-story apartments complete with shops, baths, and bars on the ground floor. It was undoubtedly very cosmopolitan for its time. Continue reading
- Piazza Navona
- Castel Sant’Angelo
- Bartolucci (Pinnochio shop)
- Trevi Fountain
- Piazza de Popolo
- Spanish Steps
- San Lorenzo Church
- Roman Forum
- Museum Capitalino
- Ostia Antica (June 2)
- San Luigi dei Francesi Church
- Santa Maria della Vittoria
From May 31 to June 4, we stayed at a boutique hotel in Piazza Navona, the district within walking distance of St. Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo. The area is very peaceful and away from most of the busy tourist crowds. The Piazza contains fountains and buildings that are influenced by the Baroque style. Several cafes line the Piazza and provide an interesting place to people watch and observe street artists. We had lunch at a pasta shop. The pasta is cooked al dente—the noodles were not as soft but the sauce was rich and flavorful.
On May 31, we visited the Pantheon, which is located in the financial and governmental district of Rome. The Pantheon is a well-preserved building from 1st century AD.
The circular oculus of the Pantheon has inspired several neo-classical, governmental buildings in America.
Next as we wandered the streets nearby the Pantheon, we visited Bartolucci – a renowned woodwork company by Francesco Bartolucci. This woodwork shop has an exhibit of Pinocchio (the famous marionette puppet story) complete with Geppetto’s workshop. All the pieces in the shop are handcrafted in Italy. Continue reading
- Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
- Vatican Museum
- Peter’s Basilica & Pietá
Upon our arrival in Rome on May 19, we were given an introductory tour of the city by our Trafalgar Tour Director, Vittorio; we passed by major landmarks, such as the Colosseum, Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus. Afterwards, we rested and ate at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner.
The following day on May 20, we began the tour with an early visit to Vatican—the world center of Catholicism. Vatican City is a sovereign state that has a population of about 500 and its own facilities, such as post office, banks, judicial system, radio station, shops, newspaper, and currency.
The Vatican Museum houses the treasures of art by Michelangelo, Raphael, and other famous artists. Of course, we visited the Sistine Chapel but unfortunately photos were not allowed in the esteemed room. In the same area, St. Peter’s Cathedral is located beyond the Piazza San Pietro. We would visit this site near the end of our tour. Continue reading
- Piazzo del Campo
- Palazzo Pubblico
- Fonte Gaia
We stopped briefly at Siena on our way back to Rome. This hillside town is where horse races took place. We entered the town at the Piazza del Campo, where we admired the medieval Palazzo Pubblico’s bell tower and the Fonte Gaia.
We briefly stopped in a café for a latte. Afterwards, we explored the narrow streets. Old buildings lined the street and displayed brightly colored flags with animal symbols; each flag symbolizes the ancient rivalries of the influential families of the town. Continue reading
- Galleria dell’Academia
- Piazza della Signoria
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Ponte Vecchio
- Palazzo Pitti (Palatine Gallery)
Upon our arrival to Florence, our tour director took us to the Galleria dell’Academia, where we met our local guide. Founded in 1563, the Academia was the first school of drawing, painting, and sculpture in Europe. Today, it houses several Renaissance pieces by Florentine artists, including Michelangelo’s David and Boticelli’s Madonna del Mare. After hearing and reading about these famous works, it was a breathtaking experience to walk and gaze up at the magnificent works of art made by the local Florentine artists.
Afterwards, we were taken to the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)—the iconic cathedral of the city—and briefed on the history of the cathedral but we did not go inside. Then we were allowed to spend the rest of the time on our own.
We explored the streets of Florence and visited the Piazza della Signoria, where the David was originally placed before being moved to the Academia for safekeeping. It now exhibits sculptures of Roman emperors. For dinner, we tried the famous Florentine steak at Ristorante Boccadama in located in the Piazza di Santa Croce. It was seasoned perfectly! Continue reading
The Tuscany region of Italy is known for red meat, pork, and olive oil. The people of the Tuscany region are also known for their broths and soups that are usually made from beans.
On our way toward Florence, we visited Pisa—an ancient medieval city. The most famous is the Leaning Tower (Torre Pendente).
Construction of the tower began in 1173 on sandy subsoil but the tower tilted before the third story was completed in 1274. The entire structure was completed in 1350 but it became dangerous for the public to venture in.
Today, the tower has been reinforced and the lean decreased by 14 inches. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was known to have performed experiments on the velocity of falling objects at the top of the tower.
Unfortunately, we only had two to three hours here, so we had a quick lunch and only got to explore the grounds near the tower. We were not able to climb to the top of the tower or visit the Duomo and Baptistry.
Machiavelli, F., Martin, S., Townsend, H., & Tyrrell, N. (Eds.). (2014). Italy. New York, NY: DK Eyewitness Travel.
The Isola Isabella (Isabelle Island) is home to a few wonders. The Borromeo family built a Baroque and Neoclassical palace that took 150 years to complete. Inside there are several paintings and sculptures that the family collected. Also, it is said that Napoleon and his entourage once stayed at the palace for one night but left the rooms in a disorganized state.
On the bottommost level, there is a grotto made of volcanic rock from Pompeii and several pebbles from the local surroundings. The grotto is dedicated to the Lady Isabella Borromeo and houses a sleeping Venus statue as well as several artifacts.
The sculpture garden at the back of the palace is built on several layers of stone with twisting vines. It also is home to several white peacocks and peahens that shrill indignantly when one walks close by. Continue reading
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Opera House)
- Castello Sforzesco (Sofrenza Palace) with Pietà
Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region of Italy—the region begins at the Alps near the Switzerland border and goes down to the River Po. The Lombards, a Germanic tribe, resided in the area in 6th century AD were adept at trade and commerce, giving rise to the fame of the region. Today, Milan is still the financial and fashion center of Italy.
We only spent half the day in Milan, so we were only able to visit a few places with the local tour guide. We met our guide at the Palazzo Marino, which is central to the main attractions in the city.
Then we walked to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II—an ornate shopping center built in the shape of a Latin cross with mosaics representing the four continents of the world. Filled with designer brands, the Galleria is a shopping paradise for the wealthy.
As we exited the Galleria, we entered the Piazza del Duomo, where we had a grand view of the Duomo of Milan.
The Duomo is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world and originated from the 14th century.
The outside of the cathedral is made of pink and white marble; the façade is elaborately decorated with several spires and statues. Admission costs 2 euros per person to the cathedral and crypt. We were allowed free time to explore on our own. Continue reading