Monday, November 16, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 5 - Rome

On the fifth day the ship docked near Rome. We took an early bus ride to the city.

This is a picture of the courtyard at the Vatican Museum.

Our first stop was a walk to the Trevi fountain. The fountain is under reconstruction so no pictures. It was filled with scaffolding instead of water.

This is a street sign near the fountain.

Later we headed to the center of ancient Rome. This is the Forum of Peace from the late imperial period. It was built by Emperor Vespasian between 71 and 75 AD to commemorate the Roman victory in Judea of 70 AD. Some of these ruins just came to light during  excavations in 2000.

The sort of block buildings are part of the Curia Julia built in 44 BC. It is the Senate House built by Julius Caesar. It survived more or less intact because it was incorporated into the basilica of Sant'Adriano al Foro in the 7th century.

This is, of course, the Colosseum. It was finished in 80 AD. The exterior is being cleaned. If you click on the picture you can see to difference in the before and after. There were a lot of people waiting to get in.

This is the Arch of Constantine built in about 315 A.D. to commemorate a victory. It had a similar function as the Arc de Triumphe in Paris. The emperor and his army would march through when returning from battle.

These modern day gladiators were posing for pictures.I assume they will put the cell phone away if you ask for them to pose.

Sue and Bob at the Colosseum.

Margot and me posing.

I don't remember the name of this area but the open area in front of the ruins was used for chariot races.

I took this picture from the bus as we crossed the Tiber river into Vatican City.

We didn't see any of the Swiss guards in their fancy dress. This guy was controlling access at Via Sant'Anna.

This is the Vatican Museum or I should say one tiny part of the museum. The amount ot statuary and other art was incredible. There were a lot of people there, too.

Many of the ceilings were beautifully painted.

Click to enlarge.

Lots of statuary. If you can read Latin please click on the picture and let me know what it says.

Another ceiling.

This is a tapestry from Brussels.

I assume it is Jesus leaving his tomb on the 3rd day.

The entire ceiling in this corridor was painted.

We had to rush through. You could spent days, weeks, months studying all the things there.

This is the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. They are terrible photos since I had to sneak them. Photography is strictly prohibited. Not sure why but probably to keep the visitors moving. It was very crowded. Or maybe somebody decided it detracts from the decorum or somehow desecrates the chapel. Anyway there are a lot better pictures online if you want a refresher in the iconography of Michangelo's work. He painted the ceiling from 1508 to 1512.

 More from the Sistine Chapel.

This small statue was a gift to one of the Popes.

I thought the stained glass was just stunning.

This is Piazza San Pietro or Saint Peter's Square.

 This is Saint Peter's Cathedral. That is the Sistine Chapel just to the right with the peaked roof.

I was a beautiful day.

This farm was along the road back to the ship. Those are colorful beehives I believe.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 4 Afternoon - Pisa

After lunch at a small cafe on the street in Lucca. We got back on the bus and headed to Pisa.

This is the view that greeted us as we entered through the wall around the Piazza dei Miracoli.

Everyone talks about the leaning tower but the first building you see is the Pisa Baptistery of St. John. I was completed in 1363. It has a slight lean to it also.

There is a large cathedral between the baptistery and the famous tower.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral. I hadn't thought about this before but the tower leans in only one direction. As you walk around it the amount apparent lean changes to almost imperceptible.

It is harder to see from this angle but if you click on the picture above you can see that an attempt was made to straighten the tower after the first few floors were built. The results in the curved appearance. However the tower continue to lean more as the higher floors were built.

The tower used to lean 5 degrees but after some restoration and preservation work in the 1990s the lean is about 4 degrees. That means the top is about 13 ft off from the base.

We stopped for a break under this olive tree in a small cafe.

The tower construction start in 1173 but was halted for almost 100 years in 1175. The long break was because of almost constant wars between the Republics of Pisa, Genoa, Florence and Lucca.

In 1272 construction was restarted and the curve was added to compensate. Construction halted again in 1284 and the 7th floor was finally completed in 1319. The bell chamber was added in 1372.

This is the wall neat the entrance. There is Piazza dei Miracoli includes a huge lawn around the buildings.

This is the wall on the outside. I thought the plants growing out of the wall were interesting.

There is additional interesting history from modern time at Wikipedia.

If you missed any and want to catch up on the other postings in this series here are links.
Day 4 morning - Lucca
Day 3 - Cassis
Day 2 - Palma de Mallorca
Day 1 - Barcelona

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 4 Morning - Lucca

On day 4 we docked in La Spezia in northwest Italy. It is the jumping off point for visits to Tuscany. We chose a day trip to Lucca and Pisa.

The bus ride was interesting in itself. We passed by a number of these incredibly picturesque hilltop villages.

Lucca dates back to Roman times but is most famous for its intact Renaissance era wall.

This is San Michele in Foro in one of the main squares of the city. The church dates to 795 AD and was built on the site of the Roman forum. This facade was added in the 13th century.

This is a close up of St. Michael the Archangel on the top of the church.

There are a lot of churches in Lucca - about 100. I believe our guide said that the large number of churches for the size of the city was because it was on the pilgrimage route from France to Rome.

This is the interior of the church above.

Click to enlarge.

This style of double door is common in Lucca.

This sculpture is on the facade of the Cathedral of St. Martin. The Cathedral of St. Martin is one of the most important churches in Lucca.

This statue depicts St. Martin cutting his cloak in half to share with the poor man. It is probably the first in-the-round statue in the history of Italian art. This one, covered in moss, is actually a replica. The original is inside the cathedral.

This is the inside of the cathedral.  It is really beautiful. The cathedral dates back to 1070. The interior was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries.

This representation of the Last Supper is by Tintoretto and was painted in about 1592.

I'd never heard of him, either.

This is the Volto Santo ("Holy Face") of Lucca. It is inside the Cathedral of St. Martin.

For my Catholic friends this has an interesting story. The story goes that the wooden statue miraculously arrived in Lucca in 782. It was allegedly carved by Nicodemus, the biblical figure who helped Joseph of Arimathea remove Christ's body from the cross in John 19.

This a 13th century copy of the statue which was necessary because relic seeking pilgrims chipped away at the original until it was no more.

Get the details here - Holy Face of Lucca

There are scenes like this all over Lucca.

A small narrow street again.

This kid might have been on the tourist board payroll. Too cute.

This is the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro. Its oval shape reflects the fact that it was built on the site of the 2nd century Roman amphitheater.

The city walls around Lucca are completely intact. The modern city has grown around the ancient city with out overwhelming it.

This is one of the gates through the city wall.

You can learn more about Lucca here - Lucca

I felt like we could spend several days there exploring around the city. I would highly recommend it if you have a chance to visit Italy.

I just thought the light was nice in the trees.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Day 3 - Cassis, France and Provence Countryside

On our 2nd night at sea we sailed from Palma de Mallorca to Marseille, France. Margot and I chose a trip to Cassis, France for a shore excusion. This is a shot of the small harbor at Cassis.

This was the sunrise that greeted us as the ship pulled in to the port. The excursion started fairly early in the morning so we were up early for breakfast.

This harbor boat was used (I think) to help handle the lines from the ship to the pier. I was amazed that the ship never used a tugboat in any of the ports. The ship has bow thrusters to push the front of the ship in either direction. In addition, it does not have traditional engine-shaft-propeller arrangement. Instead it has 3 azipods in the rear. The main engines run generators that provide electricity to motors in the azipods that are below the hull in the water. The azipods can rotate 360 degrees. As a result the ship can move sideways as easily as it moves forward and backward. Azipod

The Provence countryside was very pretty.

If you are unsure how to pronounce Cassis I think it is pretty close to American English ka-see. I also heard ka-seese but very light on the final "s" sound. Maybe it is a regional difference. Perhaps Amanda can explain.

There were a lot of terraced vineyards. The geology was pretty dramatic as well.

This is a view of Cassis from the highway.

Our first stop was Cap Canaille. It is one of the highest marine headlands in Europe at 1293 ft.

Click to enlarge.

That is the town of Cassis at the left center of the picture.

The harbor was very picturesque. A number of working boats but mostly pleasure boats. There is a small beach as well and restaurants and bars all along the harborfront.

The only thing I learned at the beach was that you are never too old to sunbathe topless.

We decided on the spur of the moment to take a boat trip to see some of the calanques along the coast between Cassis and Marseille. A calanque is a steep sided valley formed in the limestone cliffs.

This is a view of some of the homes just outside the harbor.

The coast is very dramatic.

The waves were tossing the boat around pretty good. We initially sat in the bow of the boat but were advised we would get wet if we sat there.

Click to enlarge.

Over the years there was been various quarry activities. The stone for the base of the Statue of Liberty was quarried in this area.

Another bluff.

This is calanque is called En-Vau. It has a beautiful beach at the end but it is one of the most difficult to reach.

You can learn more here.

Calanques of Cassis

There were a couple of guys practicing their rock climbing skills on the side of the calanque.

A building in Cassis.

This farm was very pretty, I thought. I took this from the bus as we passed by.

Click to enlarge.

We did not go up to Chateau de Cassis but this has been a defensive location since the 5th century. It has recently been restored into a very nice hotel.

Cassis Castle

This is a monument in Marseille that we passed on our way back to the ship.

This cathedral overlooks all of Marseille.

This evening we went to a presentation of Mamma Mia! after dinner on the ship. It was very well done. I'd say typical of touring off-Broadway productions. It might have been even better than the version we saw in Roanoke several years ago.

Another scene. I think this is from the finale.

These sculptures? are hanging in one of the atriums between the elevator banks on the ship.