Italy Part Four - From Verona to Rome

10th May, 1995
11th May, 1995
12th May, 1995
13th May, 1995
14th May, 1995

Wednesday 10th May, 1995

Verona photograph

Roman Arena, Verona, Italy

Drop Cap very early start today, first to Verona, scene of the star-cross'd lovers' tragedy! Apparently there is a 90% chance of the story being based in truth. We saw the Casa Capuletti and the so called Juliet's balcony. It is definitely 13th century. Pino told us that the Capuletti (Juliet's mob) were Ghibellines who supported the German Holy Roman Emperor and the Montacuti (Romeo's push) were Guelphs supporting the Pope. At least it explains the family hatreds, that particular schism split Europe for years.

Balcony photograph

"Juliet's Balcony", Verona, Italy

Drop Cap e wandered through the ancient street markets where I bought a shawl, scarf thingy from a stall, speaking fluent Italian (huh!) to the elderly lady who ran it and being understood. We bought some lunch to take with us and went on to Milano. The atmosphere in the bus today has been pretty poisonous with some sections refusing to take their proper places in the bus. The system seems to have worked so far, I don't know what has been happening today.

Milan photograph

The Cathedral, Milan, Italy

Drop Cap n Milano we saw the outside of La Scala Opera House and a fabulous glassed roof shopping arcade (ancestor of Penrith Plaza, it even had its own Savini's Restaurant, reputedly one of the best in Milan). We explored the beautiful Gothic cathedral and a modern fountain then got back into the bus where the atmosphere got even worse for the drive to Stresa on Lake Maggiore.

Fiat photograph

Fiat 850 with Delusions of Grandeur, Stresa, Italy

Drop Cap his is quite beautiful, Lake Maggiore is very big and lovely and the far shore of the lake is Switzerland. Our hotel, the Milan au Lac, is facing the lake (unfortunately we don't have a view of the water but we can see the hillside behind) The Borromean Islands of Isola Bella and Isola Madre are quite close. We see them tomorrow before leaving for Pisa and Florence. After dinner we walked through the old section of town to a sidewalk cafe for coffee and amaretto - nice. We are acquiring quite a taste for amaretto.

Stresa photograph

Lake Maggiore, Stresa, Italy

Thursday, 11th May, 1995

Isola Bella photograph

Mac in the Gardens, Isola Bella, Italy

Drop Cap long day today. Up and away early for our optional tour of Isola Bella. We went around both Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori, both madly picturesque, to Isola Bella where we saw over the gorgeous Borromeo mansion, shown by a family retainer whose family had served Prince Borromeo for 400 years. His was one of 5 families living on the island and they all worked for the Prince. The mansion was really lovely and the guy was a scream. The gardens were a sight to behold, all massed azaleas, topiary and white peacocks.

Isola Bella photograph

The Gardens, Isola Bella, Italy

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Pisa photograph

Pisa, Italy

Drop Cap hen we returned we headed off for Pisa, stopping at 1.30 at a motorway restaurant and arriving at Pisa about 4. We went to the Campo dei Miracoli to see the Cathedral, Baptistery and of course the Leaning Tower. This, although so familiar to us all, was quite beautiful and a sight to cherish. It would be a real shame to let it fall.

Pisa photograph

Saved! Pisa, Italy

Drop Cap he weather was not so good today, very fine misty rain at Stresa and overcast and wet until we crossed the Appenines when it cleared in time for Pisa. At Florence after dinner there was a short sharp thunderstorm with a lot of rain. We have a walking tour tomorrow so we hope it clears. It has been generally excellent though. Florence was a madhouse coming in, the traffic unbelievable. The carabinieri had to help Maurizio around one narrow corner and spilled out of their car clutching machine guns!

Friday 12th May, 1995

David photograph

Michelangelo's David in the Accademia, Florence Italy

Drop Cap nother storm this morning with a lot of rain, it pelted down in the night. Lightning, thunder and squalls of rain on and off all day. However, our walking tour was managed without too much dampness. Our optional took us to the Accademia with a local guide to see Michelangelo's unfinished figures and his wonderful "David" which I have been waiting half my life to see. It was so beautiful, standing there in its own room, so beautifully proportioned that you don't realise how big it is. It was marvellous.

Florence photograph

The Duomo (Cathedral) Florence, Italy

Gates of paradise photograph

Gates of Paradise, Florence, Italy

Drop Cap fter that, a short walk to the Medici Chapels in St.Lorenzo. The first room is completely over the top in expensive marble and precious stones but the Michelangelo designed tombs for Lorenzo the Magnificent and his son were more austere and beautiful. Then on to the Duomo, Baptistery and Bell Tower, fantastically decorated in different coloured marbles, all pink and green and white, I thought of the gingerbread house of the fairy tale.

The "Gates of Paradise" on the Baptistery were reproductions, as the old ones were being restored because of the pollution damage. They were just as lovely, though, being cast from the originals.

Drop Cap n again to the Signoria Square, an outdoor sculpture display with a reproduction of "David" but some originals, like "Neptune" , "Perseus" and "Hercules". Our next port of call was Santa Croce Basilica, a huge old church which holds the tombs, if not the actual graves, of Michelangelo, Dante, Macchiavelli, Galileo and umpteen others less well known to outsiders. Very ornate, but good to see. Then to a leather workshop where they showed us how they gold emboss leather and tried to sell us more expensive pieces. We bought a belt for Geoff, a tooled bookcover embossed with his initials for Neil and a little box for me.

Santa Croce photograph

Santa Croce Basilica, Florence, Italy

Drop Cap ack to the bus and a short jaunt up to Piazzale Michelangelo for an incredible panoramic view of the city and a group photograph. It was after two by the time we got back to the hotel and so we asked the receptionist about confirming our flights to London and he did it for us! Very kind. We bought some stamps and posted some cards, had lunch in a little bar where we found a phone so called Geoff, also speaking to Neil who was visiting. Great. We had dinner in the hotel.

Saturday, 13th May, 1995

Trevi Fountain photograph

Trevi Fountain, Italy

Drop Cap ur last day! We set off from Florence and headed through the rain to Siena in the Tuscan hills. We almost decided not to get off the bus, but I'm glad we did. Siena is a medieval town with a cobbled square overlooked by a town hall bedecked with gargoyles. We had a coffee and situation break in a lovely little coffee shop, like a cave, all up and down steps with a couple of tables on each level then headed through little twisty cobbled streets to the Cathedral. This is a remarkable building striped in black and white marble like licorice allsorts. The town was clean and pretty and we both liked it. Rather like Assisi only bigger.

Drop Cap hen on through the hills of Umbria, every hill crowned with its little town of red roofs sweeping down from a tower, church or fort (or both). Fascinating country. We got into Rome about 4 o'clock, and went out for our farewell dinner and a couple of sights. We went to a Sardinian Restaurant (friends of Pino's I think), ate far too much of the huge plates of assorted food then went to toss the obligatory coin into the Trevi Fountain. Because of tomorrow's train strike, several of us are getting a minibus (organised by Pino) to the airport at 830. It is madly early for us but better safe etc.

Sunday, 14th May, 1995

Drop Cap arewell to Rome and Italy. To the airport early and it's off to London!

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