Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Night in Venice

Last night, I took a free traghetto ride around Venice courtesy of a perky American backpacker who was happy to gift me her 12-hour pass since she was off to her next destination. That's a €13 value.

Cruising the Grand Canal was absolutely amazing! The lights glowing from buildings that appeared to float on the water was magical. It was like living in one of those postcards you see back home. With the help of my Rick Steves guidebook, I was able to pinpoint major sites along the way, making the ride more meaningful.

Click pictures to enlarge.

St. Mark's Cathedral on Piazza San Marco, "the drawing room of Europe" - It is the only great urban space in a European city where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic, which is confined to Venice's waterways. 

Cruising the Canal

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) is a favorite with people and pigeons.

No cars, scooters, or bikes allowed. Instead, boats are used to get around. Everyone has one and parking spaces are assigned for LIFE.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Train and Rain to Venice

I'd better write this quickly because I'll soon be asleep. I'm sitting on a train to Venice & rain has begun to fall. Moving vehicles (train, plane, boat, car, carriage) always put me to sleep and the addition of rain serves to heighten the sensation.

I have this section of the train to all myself and it's so peaceful sitting here watching the green hills and mountains, tucked around sleeping villages, roll by.


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Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Piece of Pisa (A Pizza Pisa)

Dinner in front of the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa sounded very enticing, so I hopped on a train from Florence (35 minutes) and was on my way. You'd think I'd be tired of trains, since I took the morning train from Sorrento back to Rome, then another one on to Florence. That's okay. I'll rest well tonight in my Italian villa converted to hostel when I return to Florence this evening.

Buona Notte! (Good night!)

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1. Leaning Tower of Pisa
2. Tower from afar
3. Villa Camerata - Hostel in Florence where I stayed
4. View from my balcony


Friday, May 11, 2007

Today's Itinerary

Breakfast: Croissant & pineapple/
lemon juice in Sorrento

Walking the ruins of the lost city of Pompeii

Pizza in Naples, the birthplace of pizza

Ciocolatta gelato in Sorrento

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Exhausting Rome

Four exhausting days in Rome was sheer heaven! Jam-packed with activity, I can now say I have truly seen the birthplace of Western civilization up close & personal.

While dodging cars & motorscooters (even on sidewalks) and being jostled along by hurrying Romans, I was able to accomplish the following:
  • Colosseum
  • Roman Forum
  • Pantheon
  • National Museum of Rome
  • Vatican Museum
  • St. Peter's Basilica (Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel)
  • St. Peter-in-Chains
  • Arch of Constantine
  • Mammertine Prison
  • Trajan's Column
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Santa Maria della Vittoria
I tried to make the Capuchin Crypt, but it was closed for renovations. That would have been quite a site! The thought of seeing 5,000 decoratively arranged bones is both chilling and exciting.

With all there is to do in Rome, it's enough to call it a day and head back to the USA. I'm certainly tired enough. However, the ghosts of Pompeii, the birth place of pizza, and Michaelangelo's David await my arrival. Who am I to disappoint?

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1. The Rise & Fall of Rome (The white represents its growth)
2. The column that St. Peter was chained to at Mammertine Prison
3. The chains that held St. Peter
4. YWCA: My haven at the end of the day
5. Davi from Brazil and me
6. Free, cool, refreshing water from public fountains
7. World's most luxurious McDonald's
8. In front of the Colosseum
9. The Vatican
10. Cobbled streets of the Roman Forum (same streets walked by Julius Caesar)
11. Grave of Julius Caesar with fresh flowers on it
12. Severus Alexander and Septimius Severus - African rulers of ancient Rome (National Museum of Rome)

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Pantheon by Night

It's 9pm and I am on the steps of the Pantheon, erected in 125 AD. I saw it yesterday afternoon, but there's a surreal magic sitting here as its formidable presence glows in the dark of night. Across from where I sit looms an ancient obelisk, brought from the Egyptian Temple of Ra. The fountains at the bottom, are high enough to block my view of the McDonald's behind it, its running waters tranquilizing me, allowing me the pleasure of imagining this place as it was thousands of years ago.


A Brotha Ruled the Roman Empire?!

As I was walking through the expansive National Museum of Rome, I ran across this bust and thought, "Dang, that could be a brotha." As it turns out, it was! Severus Alexander was the last ruling emperor of Rome from the dynastic family Severus. Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211) was an African by origin and was the first emperor of the dynasty, followed by sons Caracalls & Geta.

When people ask pro-black me, "Why Europe?" this is one of the primary reasons, aside from being relatively safe to travel alone. The influence of Africa, a short long swim away, is evident from the Moorish rule of Spain to the torrid love affair and ultimate conquest of Mark Anthony & the beautiful Cleopatra (the real one, not the Liz Taylor one) to the impressive obelisks that dot Rome to the ruling Severus family. The African stamp on European history is clear and present.

Stolen from Africa
At least 8 obelisks were taken from Egypt after the Roman conquest and brought to Rome. They still stand today throughout the city, and they are beautiful. There was one from Ethiopia, but it was given back to the Egyptian government in 2005.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Airport, Rome

When I got to Rome, I was a bit apprehensive about venturing out into the city. So much so, it took me full 3 hours to leave the airport. It was my first time stepping into Europe alone and I'd heard that Rome was overwhelming. As long as I was in the airport, I was assured someone spoke English and I was only a gate away from going home without a hassle and help was immediate. Once I stepped outside of the sanctuary of the airport, I would be all alone amongst 1 million Romans and its many tourists. No one knew my name or cared and I couldn't simply call someone to come & get me. It was a big, unknown world out there.

Initially, I wasn't aware of my feelings until I realized how much time had passed. I'd spent the time trying to get money from the ATM, exchanging money, looking for a calling card, finding the restroom, discreetly tucking money into my moneybelt, etc. After I'd run out of things to check or do, there was nothing to do but leave. Leave. Go outside. I'd wanted this for much of my life and here I was. Now I knew how agoraphobics felt; afraid of the unknown outside world. I took a deep breath & stepped into the pulsating, moving, panoramic, 3-D picture of Rome.

I have since found my bearings and stepped bravely into traffic, belted hardy Buon Giornos, and moved about the beautiful country of Italy as I was born to do.

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