Furore, Italy

From Rome the first three hours of driving to Furore were a piece of cake, basically four lane highways with minimal slowdowns due to one lane being closed for construction. The fun ended once we hit the mountains.  The switchbacks were challenging and seemed to go on forever.  Ella and Rachel complained about car sickness.  Marcia was feeling a bit queasy too.

The final road to the apartment was essentially a single lane road with occasional spots where two cars could pass.  Bottomline is that we made it without putting a scratch on the car.  After being in Rome, Furore is a significant change of pace. The entire mountainside is terraced and planted with olive trees, tomatoes, lettuce, berries, and lemon trees.  Sitting on the deck , occasionally we can hear chickens, and two mules.  The mules communicate with each other.  The one directly below us will bray and then the one down the coast to the south will answer.

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View of Amalfi Coast from our apartment in Furore. Negotiating switchbacks by car it takes about 25 minutes to arrive at the coast.
There is no shortage of churches in Italy
Bell tower of the church, Amalfi, Italy

Instagram magic

We had just extricated ourselves from the crowds around the Tivoli Fountains and found a quiet restaurant to grab a quick lunch. Sarah noticed there was free wifi.  Marcia checked her instagram account and her niece Madeline had posted a picture of herself in front of the Tivoli Fountains. IMG_1087The timestamp said it was posted two hours ago.  Madeline is studying in Copenhagen for the semester.  She had visited us several weeks ago in Paris.  With no prior planning, it seemed unlikely that we would be at the same fountain about an hour or two apart. Marcia contacted Madeline via Facebook Messenger.  In disbelief, we traded messages and arranged to met later that night for dinner.


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Jack and Marcia at the Tivoli Fountains – an hour or so after Madeline was here

In the interim, we headed to the Colosseum. This time we opted to skip the line and get a guide.  Although we were a few euros lighter, it was a good decision.  It took a few minutes to get through security, but the guide was excellent. The girls listened intently to descriptions of the brutality of the Romans.  There 80 arches that surround the  Colosseum each served as an entrance gate.  The said that 50,000 spectators could exit within 15 minutes.  DSCN1599 (1)

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Team Oklahomies – Three girls from Oklahoma State competing in the Red Bull Challenge

Outside the Colosseum, were three girls dressed in togas.  They were being photographed by a couple of guys with high end camera equipment.  I just had to ask what they were doing.  It turned out that they were completing the first day of the Red Bull challenge. 165 teams from 50 countries, each team started with 24 cans of Red Bull, and no cash. Their challenge was to get from city to city in Europe trading cans for rides.  The three girls of Team Oklahomies were able to get from Florence to Rome by trading three cans of Red Bull for 3 train tickets.  A lady from Phoenix said buying them tickets was her good deed for the day.  More info see Team Oklahomies.

It took us a while to find the restaurant where we were to meet Madeline.  Google.maps let us down.  We walked past the restaurant, and then walked in circles.  It was worth the extra 30 minutes of searching.  We agree with the Lonely Planet,  “Freni e Frizione draws a young spritz -loving crowd that swells onto the small piazza outside to sip well-priced cocktails.” By buying one drink, the buffet was free.  Marcia posted the picture in Instagram and a number of people mentioned that Britney (sitting between Marcia and Madeline) certainly looks like one of the family. It was a fun get together.

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We met up with Madeline and her friend Britney, who is also from the University of Wisconsin and studying in Copenhagen.  The restaurant was not the white table cover place that Marcia hoped for on her last night in Rome wanted, but turned out to have a great vegetarian buffet. Sarah jumped up to take the picture.  Ella was ready to leave.

At about 10:00 we walked along the Tiber River to return to our apartment.  Fortunately at one point in the journey, Sarah said, “Dad, that would make a great picture.”

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Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica

The word was to get to the Vatican before 10:00 am.  Our goal was to be out the door by 8:00 and be in the queue by 8:30.  Well, best laid plans…  I think we arrived at the queue by 9:15. Everyone else had the same idea.  When we entered the line, Rachel started her stopwatch and let us know how much time had passed at multiple points.  Even before we reached the queue there were many tour guides saying we could skip the queue with a guide.Eventually after 1 hour 10 minutes we passed the security screening (as timed by Rachel).

Once inside the line for tickets took maybe 2 minutes.  With tickets in hand we proceeded to follow the arrows.  At one point there was a fork in the road.  To the left up stairs was the short path to the Sistine Chapel, to the right was another arrow to the Sistine Chapel.

Perseus with the head of Medusa

The short way had the most people, so went to the right.  The right arrow took us to gallery after gallery starting with with mostly structures of Roman gods and occasional Greek gods, e.g., Hera shown with Marcia below.

Marcia and I had the same reaction upon entering the Sistine Chapel. “Is this it? It seemed smaller than the immense buildup given by Rick Steves and the various guidebooks.  We stood there near the center of the chapel and craned our head upward.  It took some time to find the panel with god’s finger about to touch Adam.  Eventually we found it but after 10 to 15 minutes standing and looking up, our necks were reaching the uncomfortable point.  Michelangelo spent four years on scfolds looking up and working quickly before the plaster dried.  The colors were vivid and we were glad we saw it after the restoration/cleaning that was done from 1990 to 1994.  As a New York Times article mentioned the result were richly hued frescoes.
IMG_1403 The entire floor of the chapel and benches on both sides were full.  Even standing one’s personal space was a bit tighter than comfortable. Photos within the Sistine Chapel were forbidden.  Appropriate for a place of worship there were multiple signs requesting silence.  Unfortunately, neither request was honored by the crowd. We honored the requests by not taking photos, we could hear shutters clicking left and right.  To calm the voice volume, the guards would occasionally yell to be quiet. The above photo is Marcia in front of Hera.  Hera is the god of matrimony and wife of Zeus.  Three years ago I drove up to Ann Arbor, Michigan to pick up a small sailboat.  It was a gift from Jack to Jack, but since it was the day before Mother’s day, I sent Marcia a picture of the boat and said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Next up was St Peter’s Basilica. If the size of the Sistine was smaller than we expected, St Peter’s was grander than either of us imagined.  Designed by Michelangelo, the dome is the length of a football field off the ground.  The scaffolding alone must have been an incredible engineering challenge.  Built 500 years ago without the help of cranes or motors.

The view from the top of St Peter’s Basilica

Below are two small sections of mosaics that are reached after about 300 steps up to St Peter’s dome.

The Pieta by Michelangelo
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Pope John XXIII in the wing of St Peter’s