Me - Happy
I'm back - exhausted, happy, grateful, and of course, jet lagged beyond belief. We were very spontaneous on this trip -- we left the U.S. with hotel reservations only for the first few day in Rome. We used kayak.com to book hotels after that, with a tentative idea of where we wanted to go and a good guide book in hand. We took trains from one city to another and taxis within cities themselves, and I highly recommend both. (We didn't get involved with buses or subways as the more knowledgeable local people do.) The train system is a very civilized experience in Europe. You can choose an express train that bypasses the local stops, and on there you can select first class or second class tickets. (It's possible to buy tickets in advance online but not strictly necessary.) There isn't a big difference between 1st and 2nd class in price or quality - either is fine and you get a reserved seat -- no scrambling once you get on the train to try to find a place to sit. The bottom line is that you absolutely do not need to do one of those tours. In fact, we signed up for a one-day tour the day we went to Pompeii and we didn't like the feeling of being herded around like cattle after all the freedom we had experienced up to that point.
Pictures. If you've been to Italy, our pictures are interchangeable with yours - just change the faces. I've posted a few of my favorites here, and I'll put more on facebook. I don't want to bore you with travel pictures, so there aren't many...
The picture below was taken in Venice, and you see a typical neighborhood well in the center of a section of town. All the streets are set up like this - a maze of streets that seem to center on a well - not a solar system but an aqua system. It was such an extraordinary feeling to stand in those small, empty squares and realize that so many generations must have gathered there to fetch water, wash clothes, eat, drink, celebrate and mourn. The open square that enclosed the well was clearly the heart of each neighborhood.
When you climb to the top of the Spanish Steps and turn around, the view below is what you see. It's expansive and impressive.
This is a kitchen in Pompeii. The spool-shaped stone cylinders were used for grinding wheat or corn into meal to make bread, and they were turned by slaves who walked round and round them. The brick oven in the center had openings on all sides and several chimneys to keep the loaves of bread coming and going.
And what happy little town would be complete without it's local house of ill repute? Certainly not Pompeii. These two images are from the Bordello. The image on top is one of the friezes still left on the wall - something like early day porno I suppose - of a prostitute performing some act on a client. The lower picture is of a client room with bed. The rooms were small and those stone beds looked uncomfortable. I'm guessing they must have used pillows on them.
And I leave you with an image from some of our happiest moments, at an outdoor cafe in Florence called Gilee (I think that was the spelling) at the center piazza near the carousel. We loved sitting there, sipping limoncello and watching the people and the pigeons walk by. When we weren't discussing clothing or hairstyles on the passersby, we were talking about how lucky we were to have met in our 40's and how happy we were to be there together now. Ciao!