When In Rome

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Saturday, June 2, 2012

When in Rome, do as the Romans do!! Well, we reckon the Romans wouldn’t be so dumb as to do what us silly tourists did, but as with 3 million other people each year, it had to be added to our list of ticks. That is, hand over copious amounts of Euro to the Catholic Church. It cost us 140 Euro for 11/2 hours at the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Having said that, the artwork is extensive and there could be no value placed on it. Our only disappointment was that we didn’t see more of it.  

Michael Angelo was a total dude. Not only for his artistic talent, but for his sense of humor.  He’s most famous, of course, for having painted the interior of the Sistine Chapel (being the building used for when the Pope’s elected and that’s about it). It’s considered, by the Catholics, to be the most Holly of hollies. Anyway Micky started the project when he was 29 and laid on his back, by himself, all day, for 4 years painting the ceiling. The story goes that toward the end he was starting to go blind so painted at night with his eyes closed - now that’s talent.  

When he was 60 he was called on by the Pope again to paint the walls. This took Micky another 5 years. Toward the end of this project old Micky was getting a bit ‘jack’ of the Pope and painted him on the dark side of the judgment day mural. When the Pope asked why, old Micky said, “cause the Pope’s job would be to judge the sins of mankind.” Was that a well rehearsed response or what?  Micky also painted a self-portrait on the judgment day wall. He appeared as his flesh alone - no bones or innards, as if all rung out to dry and draped over a stone. Perhaps that’s how he felt after 9 years in the employ of the Pope. 

At the Vatican Church Alo wanted Bill to jump inside a confession box and fess up so she could take a photo, but he wouldn’t. He wasn’t into the kissy kissy of the feet thing either.  He would have preferred to pull his pants down, bend over and let people kiss his bum and then pay him for the privilege. Shame he didn’t cause it would have made for a better photo and we could do with the $’s - har har!

The Colosseum was truly spectacular. Prior to it having been built there happened to be an emperor named Nero. Nero loved beautiful things. He had a golden house built and around its grounds a large man made lake which was then overlooked by a big golden statue. The statue became known as one of the seven ancient wonders of the world - ‘The Colossus of Rome’. Having all that lavishness to himself, the people of Rome started to get peeved with Nero, thinking he was getting a bit too full of himself, not to mention selfish and greedy.

The next Emperor came on the scene and he wanted to win over his subjects. To prove he was a much better bloke, than ‘up himself’ Nero, he had the man made lake drained and an amphitheater built over the top. Its real name was Flavian Amphitheater, but the Citizens of Rome didn’t know what an amphitheater was so they referred to it as the Colosseum after the statue Colossus next door.

The Romans actually nicked the idea of its structure from the Groovy Greeks. Not to be outdone however, the Romans added ‘archways’. These were a very clever initiative. The ‘key stone’ in the center of the arch was the counter balance to hold the rest of the arch stones in place. The workmanship was so precise that no cement was, nor needed to be, used to hold them in place - phenomenal.

The games in the Colosseum were predominately the fighting Gladiators. But what we didn’t know was that they weren’t all slaves. As there was quite a bit of muller to be made, an average Joe (or perhaps Luggie - teehee) could choose to train as a Gladiator. So it was death or dollars for them. The games were all FREE to attend. The Romans were happy - they loved it, they loved their new emperor too so he was a happy chappy and they all lived happily ever after, well most of them did. Some of them had to die or nobody would have been happy at all - gruesome lot.

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On noticing the walls of Siena Ariel stated, “it’s like the great wall of China!”, seems they had an issue with rabbits there as well - ha ha. Siena reminded us of Venice, without the canals.  We strolled through the cobbled streets on dusk, taking snapshots as we went. In hindsight we ought to have recorded the sounds.Pigeons taking flight, a motor scooter puttering down a potholed lane, the click of a lock being opened, the pop of a cork from a bottle of bubbly, the squish, squash of food scraps between our toes, the hum of chatter and cheeriness of laughter, these were the sounds that will always remind us of Siena.

Siena's within Italy’s Tuscany region, it was easy to see why artists and poets go Joe bonkers banana’s around there. The only way to express its beauty adequately is to be arty farty. We’ll try our best and then steal a couple of quotes. (No sense in reinventing the wheel).

We were constantly rewarded with the colours and shapes of the hillsides. Its various crops were mingled with a plethora of wildflower. Our favourite were the poppies that seemed to have exploded into their scarlet blooms. Fields were dotted with these most splendid Tuscan enchantresses. Wild, vivacious, untamed, free, they pranced and fluttered joyfully in the summer sun.  Alo Hughes

The emotions were so tantalized, it wouldn’t have done them justice to say, “we liked the wildflowers, our favourite were the red ones.”

Mario Luzi expressed perfectly the feeling and emotions Tuscany congers. 

So the day takes leave for men and all life, abandoning the hollows of the hills and eclipsing among the crevices of arid mounds, the soul is filled with nostalgia for loved ones and contact with the human world: because it is precisely in isolation that wholeness may be best appreciated. Universal generosity is born of an acute perception of the frailty of humanity, life and beauty of all that is hoped for and promised.”

Francesco Redi was poetic about the quintessential Tuscan wine, 'Chianti'.

Good Chianti, that aged, majestic and proud wine, enlivens my heart and frees it painlessly from all fatigue and sadness.” 

Tuscany was and is a land of artistic splendor and great wines and we became intoxicated with both. We cannot quite recall which we preferred more (or perhaps that ought to read ‘consumed’ more - Ahh ha ha - hicup!) 

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The leaning Tower of Pisa was much smaller and on a greater lean than we had supposed. We took the cheesy touristy shots - holding it up and pushing it over. Everyone finds it entertaining and so did we. We then took a mooch through Pisa City and stopped for a bite to eat. Brandi-Chanel had the stringiest cheese in her croquet. It stretched the full length of her arm and then Bill stretched it out beyond the length of our table before it snapped. Thus we have fond memories of Pisa’s cheesiness - he he!! Now sadly, that’s very cheesy.

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It was voted that Bill’s wardrobe needed an update so off we chooffed to the fashion capital of the world, Milan for a sophisticated shopping spree. Two shirts and a pair of shorts was all we could afford, but woohoo - we now have a very fancy shamancy Billy (not to mention a much depleted bank account).

Whilst at the van park in Milan, we met fellow Aussie (well Taswegian to be exact) Cathy Foale and her 5  daughters on a three month tour of Europe. What a women!! Ariel and Brandi-Chanel were delighted to have friends their own age that spoke AUSTRALIAN - yah!!  And the adults enjoyed a very Aussie drink (or few) - double yah!! Cathy’s husband at the last moment decided he needed to stay at home and take care of the family business. Cathy decided not to disappoint her children and thus embarking on a solo parenting adventure.  Hats off to Cathy, one incredibly brave Aussie chick!!

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We motored from Milan south to Genova. As we were driving through town Brandi-Chanel exclaimed, “It’s a city of stripy buildings!! Cat in the Hat must live there!!” we wager that if the sun is not sunny they could have fun. Lots of good fun that is funny. he he. We took in the sights east of Genova along the coastline from Santa Margherita to Portofino. Whilst on the bus, we met an 84 year old, single, gentleman. His home town was Argentina, he enjoyed traveling and had done so all his life. When we met him he was on his annual vacation to Portofino. How incredibly inspiring.

The camping ground we stayed at was quite a challenge to get to. It was more like terraced roadways on the side of a cliff.  Each van was parked on an periphery and that was your lot. Poor old Bertha was put through her paces getting there, not to mention poor old Bill!!

On the second evening of our stay we were invited to have a per dinner drink of ‘Prosecco’  with a Dutch couple. Joke (pronounced Yoka) a traveling journalist who had written a book in Dutch, ‘A Paris a Velo’ (like a lonely planet guide for cycling through Paris). She'd recently had it translated into French. Joke's husband, Adri was a Special Education Professor, who’s work had taken him around the world, in particular extensively through Africa. He was reading a book ‘Conga’, about 18th century Belgium’s ownership of Central Africa. They were an absolutely fascinating couple. 

We dearly love meeting new people with experiences different to ours, we never know who we’ll meet next or what their background will be. We find it so stimulating and refreshing. Thanks for the evening Yoka and Adri, it was a pleasure to have met you and we will always remember you whenever we drink Prosecco. Bottoms up!!
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