Posts from the ‘Italy’ category

Comparing Churches

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

During our trip, we visited several churches that I had been to a few times before. I already have more than a few photographs of these beautiful places, so I decided to try something new this time. At every church we visited, I stood in the exact center of the main aisle, with my back to the front door, and tried to take a perfectly centered shot looking straight down the aisle towards the altar. The unique character, grace and immense beauty of each church is crystal clear from this spot.

Day 11 – Civitavecchia

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

‘Day’ 11 was more like 1 hour for our last breakfast on the ship, and our last gorgeous sunrise, then eighteen hours of travel. These photos are of the sunrise as we arrived in Civitavecchia, and of the Alps as we flew from Rome to Zurich for a quick layover before heading home.

Day 10 – Palermo, Sicily

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

We had signed up for a guided tour that would take us all over Palermo, and up in to the hills to a town called Monreale. The only good thing about having to get up early on vacation is being able to enjoy the sunrise, and it was a pretty incredible sunrise.

Here’s one of my favorite photos from our trip – the sunrise as we arrived in Sicily


The story of our morning in Palermo is an easy story to tell: two towns (Palermo and Monreale), two cathedrals, an incredible view, shopping and gelato. Our tour guide was great – she filled us in on lots of fascinating details about Palermo and Sicily while pointing out beautiful buildings left and right. We arrived with several other tour buses in Monreale, and climbed up many steps to the piazza and the cathedral. The Cathedral of Monreale is a masterpiece of mosaics that depict the biblical stories, with a massive mosaic of Christ above the altar. Absolutely spectacular.

After we visited the cathedral, we had about an hour before we had to be back on the bus. That was plenty of time to buy four gifts, and take in an incredible view of Palermo. Back on the bus, and back down the hill for a drive-by of a few more gorgeous buildings and piazzas. Our last stop was the cathedral, which is far more ornate on the outside than the inside. We started our trip with a church that has massive sculptures of the 12 apostles lining the nave, and Palermo’s cathedral has statues of female saints lining the nave. Very beautiful.

Then, we returned to the ship to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the view before heading back to our cabin to pack our two massive suitcases.

Day 9 – Cagliari, Sardinia

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Originally, the cruise itinerary included a day in Tunisia. We were supposed to set foot on the continent of Africa for the first time together, and we were supposed to explore gorgeous seaside towns and the ancient ruins at Carthage. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a misunderstanding between a few major world religions, and things in Tunisia have been a tad violent recently, so our cruise went to Sardinia instead.

Cagliari Cathedral

Cagliari Cathedral

What we knew about Sardinia, we had learned the night before. It’s a part of Italy, sort of. After visiting Italy’s two big islands, Sardinia and Sicily, it seems to me that centuries of invaders routinely skipped over Sardinia and conquered Sicily. The town of Cagliari was old, quiet and beautiful. Built into a hillside, Cagliari is a maze of hills and stairs, with incredible views to reward you for the climb.

We started out morning just wandering through the Marina district, and predictably, we soon found ourselves visiting a quiet little church — Sant’Eulalia, which had a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Then, more stairs, and we found ourselves at Bastion di St. Remy, which we were probably supposed to know something about. It was a wide open piazza, and an incredible spot to take in the beautiful roofscape of Cagliari.

Further up the hill towards, yes of course, the cathedral. I can understand why Florence’s cathedral is covered in gorgeous white, green and pink marble: it’s right near the quarries in Carrara. But how do you manage to get that much gorgeous marble up to the top of the tallest hill on island? And why?

More wandering, then eventually made our way back down the hill through narrow streets for a late lunch, then back on the ship to enjoy the view as we pulled away from Sardinia.

Day 5 – Florence

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

dsc03503 Our first port of call is Livorno. The cruise offered several opportunities to explore various Tuscan towns such as Pisa, Lucca and Siena, but for us, it was a no-brainer. We signed up for the bus ride to Florence, an hour and a half inland. We only had five hours of free time to wander Florence before we had to get back on the bus, but there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to introduce my husband to the city where I lived for my junior year. Florence is a beautiful dreamworld, and it was simply mind-blowing to take this five-hour journey to my past. This is my handsome husband in front of il Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.

Brian was not completely unfamiliar with Florence – three of my paintings in our house are of three of my favorite things to see in Florence, including one that we saw a copy of in Williamstown, MA (see photo). Plus, we had been to an exhibit on the Gates of Paradise in NYC a few years ago, so he had become familiar with those gorgeous gilded panels before seeing them in person.

We had an incredible lunch before making a dangerous but inevitable venture in the nearby¬† mercato nuovo. Can’t go to Florence without buying leather, so we did.

Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo

We wandered and explored some more, then all too soon, it was time to go. I knew it would be hard to leave, but it was harder than I thought. Fortunately, our tour guide read my mind, and added a little extra treat to our visit. We got back on the bus, then drove up a nearby hill to Piazzale Michelangelo – the best place to get an incredible view of the whole city, and especially its spectacular cathedral. Not enough time for us to go up there on our own, although I had really wanted to, but I was extremely happy that the bus took us up there on our way our of town.

We got back on the boat just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset before dinner.


The sunset as we left Livorno

Day 4 – Rome & Civitavecchia

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Some of my favorite churches in Rome are right near our hotel, so before leaving Rome, we visited five more churches. The first three all have something in common, and they’re all very different from so many other churches: they’re round.

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane

First we visited San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, better known as San Carlino because it is tiny … tiny but gorgeous. Designed by the Baroque architect Borromini, San Carlino is a masterpiece of geometry and curves and it makes incredible use of a small space.

Next, Sant’Andrea al Quirinale — beautiful gilded dome — and then San Bernardo. This one is much easier on the eyes after seeing so many overwhelmingly ornate churches. San Bernardo is a plain round room of gray stone, with pale yellow walls and large sculptures in niches all around. Perhaps one of the quietest places in Rome.

The last two were Santa Maria della Vittoria, famous for Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, and a rather violent scene in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Warm golden brown tones all around, and a gorgeous ceiling. Last stop was Santa Susanna, the American Catholic Church of Rome, and the only Roman church covered in frescos. One of my favorites because it’s like walking in to a book – you can walk around and ‘read’ the story of Santa Susanna.


The view of Civitavecchia from the Noordam

And then our trip to Rome was over. It was around 1pm, and it was time to catch a train to Civitavecchia and board the Noordam. We got settled in to our cabin fairly quickly, and then spent the afternoon exploring the ship. Ten decks of dining options, entertainment, pools, bars, comfortable chairs and incredible views. Hands down the biggest boat I’ve ever been on: three laps around the promenade deck is one mile.

We had an incredible four-course dinner with some lovely people, then continued exploring the ship. The shops were a bit distracting, and we were eager to sign up for internet access so we could let our parents know we had set sail!

Day 3 – Rome

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Day 2 – Churches of Rome

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

The view of the ancient Roman Forum

The view of the ancient Roman Forum

First full day in Rome, and we covered A LOT of ground. Rome is full of piazzas, fountains, museums, cafes and churches, and (maybe not a surprise?) I tend to focus on the churches. We went in to eight churches on our first day in Rome, five on our second day, and we finished off with six churches on our last morning in Rome.

That said, one of my favorite pictures from this day is of the forum. After a long day of walking around, we picked up the pace once we noticed that the sun was setting because of I know of a great spot to catch a view. We climbed up to Piazza del Campidoglio on the top of the Capitoline Hill, and viewed the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum (including the Colosseum a block away) just after the sun finished setting.

Day 1 – Vatican City

Friday, October 12th, 2012

As I’m writing this on October 15th, we are aboard the Noordam somewhere in the Mediterranean.

St. Peter's Square

Brian in St. Peter's Square. As we made our way down Via della Conciliazione towards St. Peter's cathedral, it started to rain heavily. Fortunately, we were able to buy umbrellas from the ever-present street vendors, but we still got a bit wet. But St. Peter's Square is pretty impressive even in the rain.

We arrived in Rome on Friday, October 12th around lunchtime, settled in, napped off the jet lag, and made our way over to Vatican City. The Vatican Museums offers the option to the tour the museum at night on certain Fridays in the Fall, and since it fit in perfectly with our itinerary, we jumped at the opportunity. First, we visited St. Peter’s Cathedral – we got a pretty wet (see photo) because it started pouring, but still completely worth it. There is absolutely nothing more amazing in the world.

Then, to the Vatican Museums. I’ve been to there a few times before, and it was AMAZING to see the galleries at night. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the Raphael Rooms, especially the room that has the School of Athens, so it was pretty incredible to be able to share that with Brian. I’ve been in that room 6 times before, and it still floors me to see it in person. Brian was really awestruck by the Map Room, and of course, the Sistine Chapel Ceiling is a must see.

Sidewalk cafe for a very late dinner, back to St. Peter’s Square to see the dome lit up at night, then back to the hotel to pass out.


Us (just before the rain started), just moments in to our Roman adventure, jetlagged and failing to take a photo of ourselves that includes the largest cathedral in the world right behind us.

Us (just before the rain started), just moments in to our Roman adventure, jetlagged and failing to take a photo of ourselves that includes the largest cathedral in the world right behind us.