Ancient Pompeii

Near Naples is the well known Mount Vesuvius.  In 79 AD a volcano erupted and buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Before the eruption Rome’s wealthy vacationed in Pompeii. Think summer homes and entertainment.

Google Satellite view of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.

Naples is in the top left corner. Mt. Vesuvius is top center and Pompeii is bottom right before the Google Earth credit. (About 35 km from Naples.) The map below shows where these places are in Italy relative to Rome and the surrounding countries.

Southern Italy showing Rome, Naples and Pompeii.



A central part to the life in Pompeii was entertainment in the Amphitheater.

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Walking around the amphitheater, we could see parts of very large bronze statues.

Solving the 3D puzzle of putting the head back together.

front view

rear view

with a surprise. Peek a boo!

From the arena we started to explore the excavated streets and buildings of the ancient city.

Excavated homes

excavated streets


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Inside the Roman Colosseum

Almost 2000 years old and they are still charging admission to this broken down theatre. Repairs were not started until 2013 and were reported as the first cleaning in the history of the Colosseum. Although they were scheduled to have been completed by 2016, these pictures taken in May 2016 show the progress.

Colosseum – Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome.

Some of the items inside do not look like they are part of the original plan. These columns are not like the others and can you explain the forerunner to the mechanical bull?

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scaffolding still in place

Different construction techniques were used.

old construction, irregular bricks.

later construction with regular brick.

A plaster facade was applied over the rough work.

The entrance arch is in good shape.

Impressive, metal bands hold the top of the arch together.

The arch makes a nice frame for the brighter scene outside.

Look at the size of the people in these pictures. They are regular tourists, not miniatures. The ones in the foreground with umbrellas at lower right appear so much larger than those halfway up on the right. The ones at the far side of the upper level are only noticeable by a pixel of color.

relative size of people show the expanse of the structure.

There were two levels below the arena floor. That space was used to cage the animals and gladiators. The current repair work is adding a wooden floor over that space. The original wooden floor was covered with sand. (Latin for sand is harena or arena.)

was there a roof?

It is believed there once was a fabric strung over the seating area to provide shade and shelter from the rain.

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freestanding backdrop

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Vatican’s Sistine Chapel

Just like the walls and ceiling of your home need to be repainted from time to time, imagine having to repaint the Sistine Chapel. Well, it happens. Most recently between 1980 and 1999. The soot from the candles had reduced the color so much that the fresco colors were looking monochrome. The correct term is restoration not repainting. The process removes the surface dirt without damaging the original pigments, textures, brush strokes and bristles of the original.

Our tour was not allowed to take pictures inside the chapel, and we were hustled through in a mere twenty minutes. (measured by the time stamps on the last picture before entering and the first picture after leaving.) Fortunately the web has many excellent pictures and virtual tours of the interior.

I can deliver a few pictures from outside. Between the chapel and the basilica is a small courtyard with a fountain on the extreme right.

A small courtyard off of St. Peter’s Square

On the left is the Sistine Chapel, through the arch is Saint Peter’s Square and on the right is Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Saint Gregorius the Illuminator of Armenia created the first official Christian nation in 301.

An 18 foot statue of Saint Greorius Armemiae  the Illuminator  sits in a niche in the side wall of the basilica. In the year 301, S. Gregorius converted the Armenian nation from Paganism to Christianity and they are recognized as the first Christian Nation. The sculpture was commissioned 1700 years later in 2001. 


a less seen fountain

Looking up at the side wall and roof of the Sistine Chapel for a chimney.

The Sistine Chapel is used for more than just displaying famous artwork. It is used by the popes and cardinals for meetings such as the Papal Conclave which gathers the cardinals to elect a new pope. At the end of each vote the ballots are burned after they have been counted. Sometimes several rounds are required before a vote yields consensus  on who the next pope will be. To signal when a new pope has been elected, the smoke emitted from the chimney is a different color than when the non successful ballots are burned.

White smoke for a new pope. Black smoke for failed attempts.

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St Peter’s Square

Saint Peter’s Square

The main entrance to the Basilica is through St. Peter’s Square. However, our tour began in the museum, proceeded through the Sistine Chapel, then down through the Basilica, and finally out into the square.

St Peter’s Square from the Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican is called a City State. The Trivia game calls it the smallest country in the world. It does not have its own army to defend all of its treasure, but is guarded by the Swiss Army Guard.

Swiss Army Guard.

Here is a map of the Vatican City State within the City of Rome. At the top center is the Musei Vaticani (museum). These buildings lead straight down to the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel). Then through the basilica and out into the Piazza San Piedro square.

Vatican City State

Here is how it looks from Google’s satellite.

Vatican satellite view

There are two colonnades and two fountains, one on each side. So many people want to mail a post card to get a Vatican post mark on it that the post office has set up a trailer to process all of the outgoing tourist mail. Many people are mailing the post cards to themselves back home. Watch for it in one of the next two photos.


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And one obelisk in the center.


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Looking back as we leave the square to find our bus.

leaving the square

Doug looks happy with what he has seen.


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Vatican Museum

Vatican Museum

The lineups are long to enter the Vatican Museum. Revenues from the visitors are used to support charities. Popes through history have collected art and sculptures to protect it in the Vatican. That is how the museum collected so much.

The Vatican Museum Building

When the museum was opened up to the public, reconstruction was required to provide entrance lobbies for the visitors. Crowd control and security require a lot of security personnel. Clean up requires another staff team.

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Although pictures are allowed in most of the museum, some halls, such as the Sistine Chapel do not permit photos or videos.

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Sometimes minor repairs are required, and sometimes major updating is done. Recently each of the popes has focused on restoring a particular hall. Most of the paintings and frescoes have been restored including the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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Although interest in preserving history became an official office in the Vatican around 1935, in 1970 more technology became available and space was dedicated to specific laboratories for metals, stone, textiles, pigments and more. More were added in the 1980’s and now there are more than 8 labs doing research on preservation.

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What is it with preserving body parts of dead popes in Cathedrals all over the world? In some cases the whole body is preserved and on display below the altar. Answers.

the body of Pope Bl. John XXIII, under the Altar of St. Jerome

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The sculptures are immense. To get a feeling for the relative size, look at the size of the people in the last image below.

St. Peter’s Basilica



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Click to the official Vatican Museum website


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Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Your stop will not take long unless the crowds are not cooperating and letting you get a picture. When I arrived it had just stopped raining so the crowds were not too bad.

An umbrella open at the fountain? Of course.

Water from the Tiber River has been flowing to this fountain since 19 BC making it the oldest  fountain in Rome. The fountain was recently refurbished (November 2015) with the addition of over 100 LED lights to improve night viewing.

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Now if you are thirsty, there is a place where you can get a free drink of water. If you do not have a cup with you, no problem. Just put your hand over the bottom of the tap where the water is flowing out. There is a small hole about 3 inches up from the end, near the bend, where the water will start shooting out. Don’t stand too close.

Not the Trevi fountain but a good fountain to get a drink.

To learn nine facts about the Trevi fountain, click.


Here is a quick view around the tiny square.  https://www.youtube.com/embed/FGT2baB2-tw

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Piazza del Colosseo

While the Pacific Princess was docked in Civitavecchia Italy, I took a bus tour into Rome to see the Colosseum also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Here are a few photos from the Piazza del Colosseo.

Follow the pink umbrella so you do not get lost.

Here is a birds eye view:

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As we walk up the street to the Colosseum, watch your step, the stones are wet and slippery and uneven.

original stones?

The rain is making it a little miserable, but I think I can get enough pictures to make it worth while.

They are washing the streets for us.

the famous Colosseum (Amphitheater) in Rome

the who’s who of ancient Rome

Restoration is a continuous project, across the street as well as around the Colosseum.

Rest room for those doing the restoration.

There are other historic structures in the Piazza.

Ruins of Temple of Venus and Roma.  Look at that dome.

The Arch of Constantine  – 315 AD

There is so much emphasis on the Amphitheater that there is almost no information on the arch over the entrance to the square. Google  – Arch of Constantine.

The environment is still working on bringing it down.

Concern is for safety of the visitors.

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San Gimignano Courtyard

San Gimignano Courtyard

Our tour has been invited into the inner courtyard. I hope it is good. Are those people leaving with ice cream cones?

follow the lady with the sign.

look at all of the people

I hope it gets wider soon. I’m not getting any bars.

Is that the town hall?

How do you feel about living in one of these tower homes?

Where does that go?

Now I see where the cones are coming from. The line up is long because this is a world class Gelato Champion.

So this is where the cones are coming from.

Click here for a video tour of the courtyard.

the bus circle

After the tour, it is back to the bus circle for a SCAN while we ride back to the ship.

A “S-C-A-N” is a senior citizen afternoon nap. (An unadvertised feature of a bus trip)

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San Gimignano

The Towers of San Gimignano

At one time as many as 72 towers adorned the hilltop. Now only 14 remain in spite of  political pressure in the past to reduce them to the height of the other houses.

The next stop on our bus tour is at the top of the hill.

San Gimignano

The view from the top is impressive.

looking over the rooftops

once forested, now farmed

Imagine a sunnier day

Olives and grapes

After leaving the bus, we were lead up to the castle courtyard. There were lots of picture opportunities while we waited for the crowds to leave the courtyard.

a modern home

In the past some of the towers were homes for the nobles. The height of the tower was an indication of the owners wealth or power. Some of the towers were left empty. They were called vanity towers. Two of these still stand and are called the twin towers (sisters).

When they were built, about 700 years ago, there was a restriction that vanity towers could not be built taller than the city hall at 170 feet; so the Salvucci family built two towers to 130 feet each.

waiting to get into the inner courtyard

a quiet place to rest

Now we can move into the courtyard.

You will find a lot more information with a Google search.

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Tuscany countryside

Carefully blending the natural countryside with some grooming and adding a few homes with character, this province earns the fame and acclaim that visitors are spreading around the world.

Vacation in Tuscany

As we leave the city of Pisa we glimpse this famous landmark.

What’s wrong with that tower?

along the Arno River in Pisa

So many crops grow well in this climate.

The advantage of a bus tour is that  when we stop for lunch, it is always a new location with new things to see.

Our path leads to lunch

Maybe there will be some wine to sample.

The sky cleared and promised a lovely afternoon

Everything looks so beautiful in spring.

We bought souvenirs of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and wine of course.

After a cheerful time of wine tasting we were back on the bus for a ride to our next destination.


next stop, San Gimignano

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