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Italy: Tuscany, the Alps & Rivera


Venice, Bolzano, Italian Rivera, Florence & Rome


May 12 – 28, 2005


Grand Circle Travel



This trip was a fun experience as I was traveling with my friends from two previous trips.  It was a reunion trip as such.  The Gerszewski’s, Jayaram’s, Tangedal’s and Donna Blazevic are terrific traveling companions.  For our 2005 re-union trip we selected this Grand Circle tour of Northern Italy.  The various sights, sounds and foods were very interesting!




The first stop on this trip was Venice, the city of canals.  This city is very interesting because of its total lack of cars and trucks.  There are many miles of canals with gondolas sailing on them all the time.



I am on of one of the many bridges over the Grand Canal of Venice. 



Our only full day in Venice started with a Canal Water Bus ride to St. Mark’s Square.  The water bus we took is like the one above.  They travel the canals on a regular schedule.



When you first enter St. Mark’s Square you immediately are drawn to this magnificent cathedral. 



One of the beautiful buildings located on Piazza San Marco or St. Mark’s Square.



There were many people visiting St. Mark’s Square the day we were there.  This is a side view of St. Mark’s Cathedral.



The bell tower (campanile) at St. Mark’s square.  The original tower fell down in 1902 and was replaced in 1910.  It has held up quite well since then!



The Doges Palace (Palazzo Ducale).  Many consider this Venetian-Gothic Palazzo to be one of the grandest civic structures in Italy.



St. Mark’s square is noted for the hundreds of pigeons who flock to anyone who will feed them.  What a nuisance!



By late morning, we needed so time off from sightseeing for relaxation and refreshment.  We sat in this open air cafe in St. Mark's Square to have a drink.  My Italian beer cost 15 Euros or $19.20.  There was a six piece orchestra playing for our listening pleasure.  While it was expensive, it was great fun!



The Bridge of Sighs spanning one of the canals near St. Mark’s Square.  This bridge links Doges’ Palace with the prison cell blocks near by.  This was where many took their last walk.



When visiting Venice you always get to have a tour and shopping opportunity at one of the many Murano glass shops found near St. Mark’s Square.   In this picture we are getting the “sales pitch” hoping we will buy some of this expensive glass.



There were hundreds of gondolas waiting to carry passengers on the around the canals of Venice.



Here are some of my trip mates sailing off for a gondola ride through the canals.



A typical canal view!



Peruvian Indians performing in front of the Venice railroad train station.  They looked very much like our American Plains Indians.  Like all performers today, they too were selling CD’s of their music.



One last view of a Venice canal.  My stay in Venice was for two nights in a second rate hotel but most of the hotels in Venice fall into that category.   Venice is an interesting city to visit and affords many photo opportunities.



On Sunday morning, May15th, we bussed to Verona.  We had our lunch break there and brief city visit.  It was an interesting city to visit!  




This is one of the gates in the city wall leading to Piazza dei Signori, Verona’s handsome square.



Downtown area of Verona is dominated by the ruins

of a large arena that was used to hold Roman

games.  Today, the arena is used to stage a variety

of musical presentations including a very popular summer

opera season.  On this Sunday, they were holding

a running competition and downtown was

crowded with people.



I am in front of the Verona Castle just off downtown.  The only sight I missed during this visit was the small square where there is a balcony and a statue of Juliet to denote the legend of Romeo and Juliet.  I had visited this square on my earlier trip to Verona.



On to Bolzano!



This is our group of travelers preparing to head out for our Bolzano city walking tour with a local guide.  We were staying at a very nice hotel near downtown Bolzano.



The city of Bolzano is holding its annual Speckfest in the Piazza Walther in the downtown area.  The flowers were in full bloom for the celebration.   The fair was in honor of the local Speck.  This locally cured ham is a flavor that is both sweet and intense, it is smoked and delicate.  It is a unique flavor known in this Bolzano region.  Along with local Speck meats, local beverages were available with lots of live music.  Great Fun!



Like most major Italian cities, Bolzano has its own cathedral (Duomo) located near the Walther-Platz.  The cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady.  It is a very interesting Romanesque and Gothic structure which was built and consecrated in 1180.  A cathedral has an ornate bell tower that rings on the hour and quarter hour.  It can be heard for miles!



This horse and wagon offered rides during the Speckfest.  They were very busy!



I am standing by a local piece of statuary.  Rubbing this one part was supposed to bring good luck.  Here goes my try!




Another view of Bolzano’s flowers in the main square.




On our second day in Bolzano, we had a day long bus tour into the Dolomite Mountains that dominate this region of Northern Italy.


The following photos show the beauty of these mountains.



There were many ski areas located throughout the Dolomites.



A memorial located at the Passo Pordol pass which is 2250m high.




Enjoying the view at the Passo Pordol.





These rugged mountains were very easy to photograph. 



Standing by a neat fountain in a small Dolomite village named St. Ullrich.  All of the towns in this section of Italy had a German name (St. Ullrich) and Italian name (Corvara).



This is a cute photo of a determined 3 year old that has the job of using a feather duster on the windows of his parents shop.  He was dusting with great gusto!



As we ended our day in the Dolomites, then we visited one last small village of Kastelroth (German name) and Castelrotbo, (Italian name).  While there we stopped by a local cemetery to see some unusual grave markers made of cast iron and steel.  Pictured above is one of the grave sites.


We had one more day in Bolzano before continuing our trip.  It was a rainy day, hence no photos.




As our tour group prepared to depart Bolzano, we awoke to clearing skies and a promise of a sunny day ahead.



A last look at the Dolomite’s as we drove southward heading for our next stop on the Italian Rivera.  Note the vineyards in the foreground.  We drove by miles and miles of vineyards as we sped along.



On our way to the Italian Rivera area, we had a short stop at Lake Garda.  It was a beautiful spot!



We had a very interesting drive to Santa Margherita Ligure in the Genova area.  The road was very crooked and loaded with sharp turns.  This is a view of the Gulf of Genova from the highway above the city.  There were several cruise ships visiting Genova.



The original plan called for our tour to be based at Rapallo.  Instead we were located at a hotel in the city of Santa Margherita next door to Rapallo.  The hotel was less than the three stars posted on the sign out front. 



I am at the waterfront of the city of Santa Margherita Ligure outside of Genova.  I am standing in front of the Christopho Columbo statute looking at the Gulfo of Genova.



There was also a statute of Victor Emmanuel III in the harbor area.  He led the government of Italy during the 1800’s after his father united Italy.



This is statute of Saint Margherita that overlooks the harbor. 



Some of the buildings that surround the Santa Margherita harbor.  The stone building in the middle of this photo is the ruins of a watch tower that protected the village.  Many seaports had watch towers to help protect them from unwanted visitors.



As part of our first full day in Santa Margherita, we had a city tour which included a boat trip to Portofino by water bus.  This is a photo of the Portofino harbor as we sailed into town.



Portofino is a beautiful town that serves as the harbor for many small boats.



As we sailed back to Santa Margherita we saw a small sail boat regatta.



On Saturday, we went by train to the seaside village of Riomaggiore.  It was a fun trip and the village was very beautiful setting along the coast.



A view of the coast line at Riomaggiore from the cliff above the village.  The water was very blue and clear.



A view of the village of Riomaggiore.  This village is noted for being one of the most beautiful spots on the Italian Rivera region.



Next stop was at Pisa to see the leaning tower.



The tower (in background) as seen through the wall that surrounds the old area of Pisa. 



The Baptistery located in Piazza dei Miracoli (the Square of Miracles).



The leaning tower.



Pisa Cathedral.  Pisa is the city where Galileo Galilei began his scientific studies.  In the Cathedral you can still view the lamp that inspired Galileo’s theory of the pendulum.  He also used the vantage point of the top to the tower to demonstrate speed and velocity.



Florence is the next stop on our trip around northern Italy.



This is our tour group trying to not get run over on a busy Florence street.  We stayed in a hotel next to the train station.  It was a very busy area with thousands of people coming and going.  The hotel left a lot to be desired.



Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.



On the left is a copy of the famous statue of David in the Piazza Della Signoria.



The Neptune Fountain (Fontana Del Biancone) also located in the Piazza Della Signoria.



The Church of Santa Croce was completed in 1442.  This church is a very imposing structure.  It is famous for the people who are buried or memorialized in the church.    Niccolo Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo have tombs in the church.  There is a beautiful collection of art on display in the church.




After our morning walking tour of downtown Florence, I had an optional afternoon tour to the Tuscan village of San Gimignano.  This medieval hill-town is often referred to as the “Town of Towers.”



This is a photo of the main entrance gate to this walled village.  You can see part of one of the original 42 towers that protected the town.  The taller the tower, the more prestige it was for the family who built the tower.



The Plaza Della Cisterna in the middle of the village.  It was the place to meet if you got separated from your tour.



There were many narrow sloping streets in the village.  It made for many interesting photo opportunities.



A view of two of the town’s remaining 14 watch towers.  They helped to defend the town in olden times.



At the very top of the town was a small park and museum where one could rest before heading down to exit the village.  This modern statue was placed there and it made for a photo opt for me.




Our next stop was a visit to Castello Di Oliveto for dinner. 



This is the entrance to the Castello.  It was a very picturesque spot and the meal was delightful.  Lots of the Castello’s fine wine was consumed.



There were beautiful flowers everywhere on the Castello grounds.


Thus ended another day of touring and sightseeing in the Tuscan countryside.   The sights were many and the photo count grew dramatically.


The next day was spent poking around the various markets in Florence.  Tomorrow, our last full day in Florence, we are scheduled to visit the Academy Gallery to view the statue of David and other works of art. Unfortunately, the taking of photographs is not allowed in the Medici Chapel which is attached to the back of the Church of St. Lorenzo and the Academy Gallery (Galleria Dell’Accademia).  Both museums had extensive art works that were beautiful.  The statue of David is breathtaking due to its size and delicate treatment of the male body.



This is the front of the Church of St. Lorenzo.  The large dome of the Cappella dei Principi is in the background of this photo.  Under this section of the chapel is where the Medici family tombs are located.



After our stay in Florence we were bussed to Rome.  Along the way we visited a small gold jewelry factory which was a waste of time.  With the U.S. dollar so low in value compared to the Euro there were no bargains to be had at this stop. 



We arrived in Rome about 2:00 pm and after checking into our hotel we were quickly whisked off for a visit to St. Peters Cathedral and Square.  It was a beautiful day for a visit to this famous landmark. 



St. Peter’s Cathedral was still set up from the recent events of the death of Pope John Paul and the election of a new Pope.  Our visit went well as there were few tourists at the time we were there.



St. Peter’s inside is very large with many windows high up in the structure.  This photo was taken when a sun beam struck our tour group.  We were being lectured by a local tour guide who was a specialist on St. Peter’s.



I am standing in front of one of the beautiful fountains in St. Peter’s Square.  Our first day in Rome ended with the usual bus tour drive around the city.  Rome is a crowded city to drive in.  Thousands of motor scooters make auto traffic a challenge.



You cannot visit the St. Peter’s area and the Vatican without admiring the Swiss guards who protect the Pope and the Vatican.  Crazy uniforms!




On Friday morning, a group of 6 of us decided to do a walking tour of Rome.  It was our last day in the Eternal City before flying home.  The day was beautiful and so were the various sights.   We walked by the large and imposing Palace of Justice.  Then on to the Spanish Steps.



It was a busy morning at the steps in Piazza Di Spagna and there were flower vases on the steps for an upcoming flower show we were told.



I am taking a typical tourist’s pose in front of the steps.



Fontana Di Trevi.  Unfortunately, the fountain was not running and there was little water in the fountain pool.



Three coins in the fountain!  Well here goes my coins.


Our  next stop was the large Pantheon, one of Rome’s great buildings.  It stands in Piazza della Rotunda.  It was built in 27 B.C. by Marcus Agrippa and is truly an architectural wonder in its use of a large, high dome and inside space concept.



After the Pantheon stop it was time for a beer, then it was on to our next stop.  As we traveled in this great city we marveled at the many sights we came upon.



This is the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument in Piazza Venezia.   This is described as the most flamboyant landmark in Italy.  It was constructed in the 1800’s to honor the first king of Italy.  It is also the site of the eternal flame that burns at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.



I am resting on the edge of one of the two beautiful fountains at the Vittorio Emanuele III Monument.  Great place to take a break from our walking tour.




As we walked along the Via dei Fori Imperiali we saw many ancient Roman ruins.




The Forum of Augustus. 



At long last we have arrived at the Colosseum where often cruel games were the entertainment. 



It was busy and crowded at the Colosseum and we decided it was time for a late lunch.  I had visited inside the Colosseum on my earlier trip to Rome.  After a delightful lunch in a sidewalk café, I decided that I had had enough walking for one day.  Back to our hotel by taxi was a perfect end to a great walking tour. 


As I loaded my photos on to my laptop computer the last evening in Rome, I discovered I had taken 909 photos with my digital camera.  After editing, I was down to 678 shots that were keepers.  Aren’t you glad that I did not include all these shots in this web page?


An interesting trip and it is time to head home.  Flights were on schedule and I was home in Owego as planned.