Italy in 6 days! Top things to do.

Walking down Via Chiaia in Naples Italy towards the Ponte di Chiaia Arch built in 1636. How did I get here?

A JOURNEY TO REMBER

As any gypsy can relate, I started feeling that anxious, frustrated, & longing to be on the move feeling that’s associated with being in one place without a significant getaway for to long.

Travel is a way of life for me, I started traveling at a very early age, it’s become a regular staple of my life now, a must have, I must go places.

I started a new job recently. After being on my last job for 11 years. I was in the first year at my new job, my vacation days were limited & my trip planning really started to evolve around how I could satisfy my gypsy desire to go & see, yet still not miss work unexcused, or return late & have to call in.

My true desire is to eventually get my foot into the door of a career, where I can earn a living & travel as I do. A on the go worker, who’s office is wherever they can find some free WiFi on the go, but enough about my plans. Let’s get down to travel talk! After all your here to read about Italy right? Naples, Italy overlooking the Gulf of Naples

THE GAME PLAN

Since I live in the Central Standard Time Zone, I checked many places to try & get the most out of a vacation & still make it back to work at 11p.m. Did I pull it off? Long story short, yes. Here’s how I done it.

During my trip planning in August I had to plan for a time Zone that was ahead of my own. Naples Italy is 7 hours ahead of my own time zone, so by going there I lost time going, but gained time returning.

Which helped me get back to work on time without being late, or having to call in, & still spend as much time in Italy as possible. I planned for a 6 night, 7 day vacation & meticulously preplanned an extensive list of things I wanted to see & do in Italy with very little time.

It turned out to be quite an adventure. I had to work until the morning of my departure & got off at 7a.m, before leaving for Atlanta GA, at 11a.m. for what should have been an easy three & a half hour drive, of mostly Interstate the whole way.

First my arrival flight would depart from Atlanta, GA (ATL) & after an 8hr flight across the Atlantic have a layover in Paris France (CDG). For about 1 hour & 45 minutes, or at least that was the plan, but that’s not how it worked out.

As I departed on September 26th, I hit traffic getting from Alabama into Atlanta via I-20 East due to road work, & inclement weather (Very Heavy Rain).

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

Once I made it to the airport my troubles were not over yet, because I couldn’t find the International Terminal due to the storm & being unable to read the signs through the rain, & once I did.

I couldn’t find the International Terminal Parking. Wasted 30 minutes driving loops around the airport. When I finally found parking, it was so far from the airport, that they had an International Terminal Shuttle bus pick us up from the parking lot & drop us off at the Terminal.

My partner & I raced into the terminal. Looking like every late traveler you’ve ever seen in a movie. The classic, I’m late! Wait for me! Traveler

As we ran into the all to familiar bewilderment of a bustling international terminal. With its expansive, sprawling, network of check-in area guide ropes, & entrance gate officials checking to see if you paid the extra $50 to walk through the straight to the counter ropes to the left.

Instead of the normal carousel of twisted guide ropes creating a labyrinth of obstacles to navigate with your luggage to the right. The many different airline logos, & curved hallways that stretch so far into the expanse.

It’s practically impossible to see what’s at the other end without strolling through its full length, squeezing through crowds of travelers all trying to find their correct counter to catch their flight.

TO LATE FOR THE DATE: DAY 1

We finally found the correct check-in area for Air France, & ran through the zig zagging maze of guide ropes to get to the counter & were greeted by a French gentleman speaking English with a strong French accent.

I had to listen very closely & focus on what he was saying, as well as doing a little lip reading to decipher his French English. He checked our passports, & boarding passes, & quickly looked at his watch & saw we only had 35 mins to get our luggage checked, make it through security, find the correct Terminal, & then locate our departure gate.

The airlines system wouldn’t let him check our bags, as there’s a cutoff time before a flight departs when they stop checking bags (most airlines 45mins – 1hr before departure), & with only 35 mins we didn’t make the cutoff.

He jumps on the phone with his superior, & they have a low hushed conversation, with many glances at his watch, & he looks to me & explains that he’s trying to do all he could but we weren’t going to make this flight, he was sorry.

I quickly accepted that fact & hurriedly got him working on the next step in the process, as he offered no alternatives. This wasn’t my first missed flight in my history of travel, & unfortunately (although I would like it to be) will probably not be my last missed flight. I think he was just ready to be done with us, & hoping we just left.

I already had to much invested in this trip, to just turn around & tuck tail, & accept defeat at the first obstacle thrown my way. He asked could we reschedule the trip for a later date, & I politely let him know, that wasn’t an option.

I then asked what any traveler should ask, if ever a flight is missed & there caught in such an unfortunate situation: When is the next flight leaving for my destination, & can you get me on it? He looked back at his watch & got back on the phone as he typed away at his computer.

He located another flight, but he was trying to discuss with his superior rather he would have to charge us an additional fee, or if he could get us on it for free.

He then located another flight departing in 3 hours, but once again his hands were tied because we didn’t purchase our tickets directly through the airline. I used a secondary ticket issuer, to purchase our trip as a package (Expedia) with the room & rental car included.

PROBLEM SOLVER

So Tired, & Yet So happy to be on the Plane Finally

I got on the phone with them (Expedia), & explained the situation to the customer service lady, & how we got ourselves into such a predicament. She was very understanding, & placed me on hold whiles she talked with her superior to see what she could do.

She periodically checked back in just to let me know she was still working on it, instead of just leaving me on hold the whole time with no explanation. She finally returned & said they had a solution if I agreed.

She explained that they could reissue my tickets for the next flight leaving in 3 hours, but I would have a longer layover in Paris at (CDG) now, instead of just 1 hour & 45 mins it would be 10 hours. This would mean we arrived in Italy at night now, instead of lunchtime.

I had a few things planned to do the first day there, but now I’d just have to play make up & pack more activities into each day of my stay in Italy.

I quickly agreed & got my new tickets at no extra cost, checked my bags for the 8p.m flight & passed through security, located our terminal went to our gate & proceeded to wait on the official start, for me anyway, of my journey to Italy.

ADVENTURES IN PARIS DAY 2

After working a 12 hour work shift the previous morning, getting home & packing like a madman. Then hitting the road for a three & a half hour drive to Atlanta & dealing with the traffic, inclement weather, parking, & a missed flight, I was understandably exhausted.

I slept much of the 8hr flight across the Atlantic to Paris, at least 5 & 1/2 hours of the flight I slept. My partner & I were both so tired that we even missed the meals, & drinks provided during our flight to Paris.

I upgraded our seats to more comfortable seats. With meals, blankets, pillows, & other travel amenities to make our flight more comfortable. Pretty much all we needed was the blanket & pillow.

Landing in Paris, overlooking the city & the Eiffel Tower

NO FRENCH FRIES IN FRANCE

When we landed in Paris. We went through the terminal & immediately started looking for a nice place to sleep as much of the time as I could. Found a little French organic sandwich, & salad shop called “Naked”. My partner & I stopped in for coffee, & sandwiches.

I have an airport lounge access card called “Priority Pass” provided by one of my travel cards & found the Airport Lounge, called “Yotel Air” that the Pass gives you access to.

Once inside they, have couches, chairs, vending machines, free coffee, drinks & adult beverages, they give you a little menu with the prices & they provide you with complementary gift to purchase a few items for free.

They even have showers & free internet for you to use during your stay. My personal favorite are the discounted private rooms located in the back with your own private bathroom & shower, & a queen sized bed with a Smart TV & satellite.

My partner posing with the wooden Eiffel Tower Replica outside of Yotel Air

I quickly got my free adult beverages, a snack, & got my partner & I one of those private rooms for 7 hours, of our 10 hour layover. We used one hour getting through the airport & finding Yotel Air, eating sandwiches & having coffee at Naked.

This way when we checkout of our room we would have 2 hours left to get back through security, & to our correct departure gate for Italy at 8p.m. The room was small, but inside the airport terminal, it was a luxury to have privacy as you slept. Not having to worry about keeping an eye on your belongings as you slept, & being able to refresh with a shower.

I’d definitely recommend using them, if your layover is of any substantial amount of time, your exhausted, & not planning on turning your layover into a mini vacation, which I highly recommend & is a personal favorite of mine, but more on that in a later Blog. Inside of the Yotel Air room for my layover

The Yotel Air rooms, private bathroom

We checked out of Yotel Air & made our way through the airport, & through customs without a hitch, & even had time to stop at a few shops & buy souvenirs.

Once we found our departure gate, my partner & I were both hungry & decided to find some food before we left Paris, because it would be late when we arrived in Italy around 10:30p.m.

We walked through the various airport terminals looking at the food choices & sniffing the air (like a hunting dog hot on a fresh game trail) to see which restaurants culinary aromas attracted us the most.

Finally we both agreed on a place called “Frenchy’s Bistro” & after only cold food & snacks for a day, it was a very welcomed meal, & the food was excellent.Dinner at Frenchy’s Bistro

We ate & still got back to our gate with plenty of time to sit & wait on on them to start calling the boarding order.

THE WARDROBE MALFUNCTION

After a quick trip to the bathroom I pulled the zipper out of my pants, leaving me in the awkward situation without a proper way to close my pants. I tried to fix the zipper in the bathroom stall, but was quickly running out of time until our flight boarded.

I finally decided the best thing for me to do was just “Steve Urkel” my britches & pull my shirt down low & make a run for the plane. I knew that once we landed in Italy & got out of the airport it would be dark & I could use the cover of night to make it to the hotel room, where I could change my pants.

WHEELS DOWN IN ITALY

Finally after our last flight & many delays we landed (NAP) in Naples Italy. First thing I found interesting is the plane never approached the airport for a gate, as is the custom in most big cities.

Instead they had a stair truck drive to each of the doors on the plane at the front & Rear of the cabin, & we unloaded the plane, & crammed ourselves tightly into a waiting airport accordion style shuttle buses.

The phrase “packed like sardines” comes to mind & we were literally packed in with standing room only, elbow to elbow (Pre-Covid 19). Once we made it through the airport & to the baggage claim. We waited, with no explanation as to why our luggage was taking so long to arrive.

After 45 mins people were starting to get antsy as we waited on our luggage, especially after seeing other planes arrive after us, & the passengers claim their bags almost immediately on the other baggage claim carrousels around us.

I was starting to worry myself, if I was going to catch the rental car agency we used before they closed. As it was quickly approaching midnight in Italy.

Our luggage finally arrived & after a long an arduous trip. We finally made it & with everything! We were unable to do a currency exchange the first day, as we flew in so late the exchange booths had closed. I decided to come back the next day.

We headed outside the airport to try & track down the rental car shuttle & building, after some wandering & a phone call. We finally got a local taxi driver who was willing to take us for free.

He ran us to the building & we waited in line until well after midnight (Thanks to the old guy, who had a million questions for the rental attendant & wanted to make his way around old school with only a paper map).

At long last we finally had our car a Citroën C3 diesel. After getting our GPS loaded we were at last on our way across Italy. We headed straight for the Hotel & quickly found out how crazy the driving was in Italy.

The Rental Citroën C3 Diesel, 60 mpg

HITCH DA WAGON WE GOING TO TOWN

Being from the U.S. I judge all traffic on some of the crazy & most hectic driving situations I’ve ever been in, & New York is my go to standard. Driving through Naples even this late at night, quickly made me wish for New York traffic.

Rules of the road pretty much don’t apply, outside of general direction. Long as you had your vehicle pointed in the correct direction, anything went. If you were on a scooter, or moped even direction apparently didn’t matter.

After reaching the hotel, although an extremely nice hotel, its main entrance was conveniently located in a narrow, dark alley, on one way streets. I talked to the Hotel Desk Manager & learned that the parking deck the hotel used was already closed for the night & wouldn’t reopen until morning.

He gave me a map to another parking deck about a mile from the hotel which was open 24 hours. As I was to quickly learn about driving in Italy, expect to park about a mile, or more from your destination, & be prepared for a walk. This was only the first of many walks.

I dropped our luggage off in the hotel lobby, so as not to have to drag it through the city streets late at night attracting undue attention. Drove to the 24 hour parking deck & dropped off the car, & my partner & I proceeded to walk back to the hotel.

The Hollywood Runway Staircase

We finally made it to our room (Partenope Relais). Entering the staircase I walked into a gleaming crimson walled, polished white stairs, with individual lights for each step, & stainless steel hand rails, worthy of a Hollywood Movie Star Entrance.

We saw our room for the first time & upon opening the door, it was a welcomed sight for sore eyes. The room was very comfortable in size & quite beautifully decorated, with a tiny little balcony perfect for seating two.

Just outside of a huge swinging glass door, which opened to an amazing view of the Gulf of Naples, & the city of Naples along the waterfront road Via Partenope.

The room was very clean, furnished with a comfy sofa, & chairs, a queen sized bed, with a high vaulting ceiling, approximately 12 -15 feet in height with an impressive crystal chandelier hanging directly over the bed.Inside of our room Partenope Relias

ADVENTURES IN ITALY DAY 3

Being tired as we were from the previous days travels we decided to stay in & around the city of Naples. We got started with an included breakfast from the hotel, which was decent enough to get the day started, consisting of eggs, toast, bacon, sausages, cheese & corn, with coffee.

We needed to get Euro currency, so day one started off with a quick trip (nothing in Naples traffic is quick) back to the Naples Airport to get our currency exchanged into Euros, so that we had cash in hand for the trip.

After that we preceded to make our way back to the room, parked & headed off to see the city on foot. Walking to visit Castel Nuovo Castel Nuovo

A 13 century royal fortification built in 1282. It was the royal seat for the Kings of Naples, Aragon, & Spain until 1815. It was quite a sight to see with huge arching gateways, horse & buggy rides around the block. In a scenic location right on the harbor of Naples.

Walking to Castel Nuovo was a treat in itself. It was the first time we got to walk through the many, busy hustling & bustling little market streets of Naples set up on cobblestone paved streets in between the alleys of tall closely knit together buildings, very well architected & beautifully sculpted buildings with ornate designs.

Getting to hear the local tongue & see the many different personalities & cultures merge into the city streets was quite an experience. A lot of the streets were walk, or bicycle only streets.

After leaving, we headed to the historic Marina of Naples, where they have many restaurants built right on the waters edge, bordered by yacht clubs & sailboats. It makes for a very scenic experience. At Porticciolo di Santa Lucia Marina

We had a quick bite to eat for lunch, a few drinks & more coffee (did I mention they give you very tiny coffees in Italy? Very Tiny). Had quite the experience just listening to & observing the locals go about there everyday happenings.

The locals were equally as entertained to hear my very strong southern (Country) dialect in action. After leaving the marina, we went on to visit the seaside Castel Dell’Ovo which is the oldest standing fortification in Naples built in the early 12 century around 1140 & remained one of the most important structures in Naples until the building of Castel Nuovo. Castel Dell’Ovo

WHATS A PARKING SPOT?

After leaving Castel Dell’Ovo, we had one more destination in Naples to see for the day. We headed back to the car & drove deeper into the heart of the city to visit the Naples Museum of Archeology, the traffic getting to the museum was daunting to say the very least. It took an hour & a half just to go 3 city miles.

We finally ended up parking about a mile & a half away from the museum, & hiking the rest of the way. There was no getting through traffic, & even if you could, there were no available parking spots near the museum except Bus parking.

After walking through the streets & dodging soccer balls as the local kids played soccer in the streets, it was fun to see them enjoying their game so much.

We finally made it to the museum & once you walk into the museum, it’s a huge, spacious building filled with sculptures, domed ceilings, covered in frescoes, & more art then a person can view in a single day.

There’s so many cultures, history, & time periods covered, that it’s difficult to believe that any one single person could be an expert on all the treasures housed within it’s walls.

We walked through the museum, & marveled at the sculptures, & artworks from ancient times. Such as this porphyry, & marble sculpture of Apollo from the Farnese collection. Sculpted in the 2nd Century A.D. Apollo seated with lyre. 2nd Century A.D.

After viewing more artworks & marveling at the detailed cultural histories the museum covers, we decided to call it a day & beat a hasty retreat back to the car before it got dark, as the sky was quickly dimming.

Upon completing our walk about tours for the day. We decided to have dinner in one of the many sea front restaurants along the historic Via Partenope street & call it an early night, because the next day we had a journey ahead of us.

ADVENTURES IN ITALY DAY 4

The next day we were up bright & early at 4:30a.m to get the day started. We got out the hotel & walked down the street to a local pastry shop in Naples & had a breakfast croissant with yet another tiny coffee (I’m serious the coffees are tiny!) & hit the Italian highway heading to Rome.

It was roughly about a 3 hour drive, but on the interstate the traffic flowed much better then it did in the city, so we made really good time. Our Diesel rent a car got excellent fuel mileage the whole way.

I was very thankful for the the updated maps on the GPS once we got in Rome. Once you leave the interstate & enter the city of Rome there are many narrow one way streets, & Rome is the land of round-about’s at every other intersection it seemed.

Coming into Rome the first sight your greeted with, are the high ancient Aurelian city walls built around 273 A.D. enclosing 3,500 acres. As you drive down a walled street in awe of the ancient walls, they bring you to an even more impressive sight.

As the street brings you to the largest & best preserved gate passing through the Aurelian walls into Rome “Porta San Sebastiano” originally constructed in 275 A.D. Porta San Sebastiano

1 OF THE 7 WONDERS OF THE WORLD

As we proceeded on to our first destination in Rome, gazing upon & admiring many ancient structures along the way. The first thing I noticed is that even though Rome’s traffic was crazy, it was nowhere near as bad as Naples.

Which I was personally quite grateful for. After following the scenic city streets through Rome we finally rounded one last turn, & were greeted with a view, that takes the breath away, as it hits you, that your actually there in person, & to see it with your own two eyes.

One of the most iconic, & what has come to be known as the most visited & photographed ancient structure in Rome, the Roman Colosseum. 

The Roman Colosseum. Built in 80 A.D.

The construction of the Colosseum was finished in 80 A.D. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built. It could contain approximately 80,000 spectators during a fully packed venue. It was a place to entertain the spectators with gladiator battles, animal hunts, executions, & re-enactments of famous battles.

Standing at its base (after dodging many ticket peddlers, some shady) it’s truly amazing to see the immense scale of the ancient structure. Being an Alabama football fan of course, it reminded me of an ancient Bryant Denny stadium (insert Roll Tide here 👈🏽).

We walked around the grounds of the Colosseum to see the other near by historical landmarks such as the Arch of Constantine, built in 315 A.D. We headed uphill from there to see the Arch of Titus built in 82 A.D. Also the Temple of Venus & Rome built in 135 A.D.

After walking the grounds we headed back across the street from the Colosseum to have lunch at one of the many street eateries located right there on the block, & had lunch in the open air dining area of a restaurant called the Binario 4 taking up a lane of traffic on the street with a view of the Colosseum.

We both had lasagna which they prepared & cooked in a little clay dish in a stone fire oven. It was amazing, one of the best lasagna’s I’ve ever eaten. Once our meals were completed & souvenirs bought, we headed back to the car for our next destination.

NARROW ROADS ANYONE?

All narrow roads lead to the Pantheon!

As we drove to our new destination, the GPS took us deeper into the city, & in between tall buildings on ever narrowing streets, which even by Italy’s standards, these streets were the narrowest. In a city known for its narrow streets.

As the buildings seemed to close in all around us, we drove down streets, just barely wide enough for the car to fit, with a continuous flow of pedestrian foot traffic on one side of the car in between the building walls & the car mirror on one way streets.

My only goal became focusing on making sure I didn’t drive the wrong direction up a narrow one way street ( which I was pleased, that I only did once during my exploration). After finally locating our target destination, the Roman Pantheon.

It was peaking out from in between the gaps of the closely knit buildings. We were faced with yet another, all to familiar Italian problem. Where to find parking? After driving back in between the buildings, we found parking a little over a half mile away, which by Italy’s standards, was quite close.

I quickly stuffed the car into a parking spot, which I wasn’t quite 100% sure, rather or not it was for us, or the Police as it was in front of their office. Some of the spots being clearly marked police & others not. We grabbed one of the unmarked spots & headed off on foot to visit the Pantheon.

The Pantheon, built around 125 A.D

A sight to behold, the Pantheon, not to be mixed up with the Parthenon in Athens Greece, was well worth the trouble to locate.

Having the world’s largest, & oldest unreinforced concrete dome as its ceiling, built from an ancient Roman concrete recipe that only hardens with age, is a wonder to behold. With one of the many ornately sculptured water fountains of Rome located outside the building in the main court.

From the Pantheon, we were on to our next destination, so much to see & so little time. We made our way deeper into the interior of Rome, crossing over the historic Tiber River.

As you drive across the “Ponte Umberto I” bridge you come face to face with an impeding & breath taking building the Palace of Justice in Rome, just to the east of & neighboring the equally impressive ancient fortress Castel Sant’Angelo (built in 139A.D).

The Palace of Justice is the seat of the Roman Supreme Court. The building is topped by a great bronze Quadriga (a Roman chariot) being towed by four horses abreast. Palace of Justice, built in 1910

THE WALLED CITY

On from the Palace of Justice we were off to our final & most impressive destination inside of Rome, known the world over & once the seat of World Power, the Vatican! Although it’s inside of Rome, the Vatican is not actually part of Rome.

It is the smallest sovereign nation in the world, independent from Italy, it is it’s own country ruled by the Holy See. Once we arrived at the Vatican, we were once again faced with a with the all to familiar Italian problem of trying to find parking.

I finally found a parking place just to the south side of the Passetto di Borgo, which made for one epic parking space. Being an ancient still functioning escape passage for the Pope built around 1277, it’s an elevated passage that runs from the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo. Picture from my car of the Passetto di Borgo

THE GOLDEN ARCHES

Once parked & off on our adventure to the Vatican on foot, we needed a bathroom break before entering the Vatican. We walked by one of the famous American trademark fast food restaurants, & saw the Golden Arches, & decided to stop.

Upon entering it quickly became apparent that in Italy they take their desserts seriously, & that fast food Restaurants there have a way better selection of desserts never seen at the U.S locations.

Back at home we have the classic selection of the McFlurry, Apple Pie, & Ice Cream Sundae (The ice cream machine works 50% of the time). Being located on Via del Mascherino just outside the Vatican Walls, this restaurant was packed with a dessert selection to make the mouth water.

It was complete with: Cheesecake, a wide variety of croissants, muffins, donuts, & pies. Coming from a guy with a sweet tooth, I want to know why I can’t walk in one back home with the same variety? Inside of the Golden Arches, & Dessert bar display in Rome

Feeling fresh after relieving the ole bladder, we were off to visit the Vatican. As we approached the entrance of the Vatican just outside the high & impressive walls, with trees growing on top of them, we met the line.

Being a holy site known the world over, there were people in line speaking every language, from nations & countries all around the world. There were also, the to be expected street peddlers selling their own tours into the Vatican & garments to cover up, for people who may be exposing to much skin to enter into the Vatican.

DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS

I may have pulled an infamous tourist mistake, after many, & persistent street peddlers talked to us. I finally let one lure me away from the main line to what sounded like an epic tour of a lifetime into the Vatican.

He said we needed to follow him to his office, as we walked away from the line he carried us toward an increasingly sketchy looking neighborhood. There was trash strolled all over the ground, & dingy looking streets with dilapidated buildings, & streets empty of pedestrian traffic.

The classic call sign that even the locals know not to walk there. I quickly changed my mind once I saw the situation unfolding before me, the setting started eating at me, & I got that eerie feeling in the pit of my stomach.

That well traveled & hard learned felling when you know you’re in a sketchy situation.  I told the “supposedly tour guide” that I no longer wished to be part of the tour & would return & wait in line.

He was quite upset, becoming angry & I’m pretty sure if I could speak Italian, or Arabic as he appeared to be of middle eastern decent that he was cussing me out.

His demeanor went from nice, to violent quite easily which only reassured me that I made the correct call, before we became a statistic. I decided the area we were heading appeared to be way more unsafe then I felt comfortable with.

Waiting in line outside the Vatican City Gates

We returned to the Vatican Line, & not a moment to soon as the Vatican City Guards said they were getting ready to shut down admittance for the day & we were one of the last to be allowed admittance into the city.

Once inside we went through the equivalent of Vatican CBP security, before we could get to the ticket counters. Once inside, you immediately walk into the Vatican gift shop & we set out to find my lady a shoulder covering as we had gotten the 4-1-1 from more then one street peddler, & the Vatican signs.

That her spaghetti strap top was exposing to much shoulder for the Vatican. We found her a Shawl to cover her shoulders in the gift shop & off into the Vatican we went.

We toured some of the many halls & museums of the Vatican, but I was especially anxious to get to the Sistine Chapel & view the ceiling. I wanted so badly to see the the Genesis story, painted by the hands of the great artist Michelangelo over the course of 4 years.

I’d studied about it in school, seen it in so many documentaries on T.V., but none of that prepares you for the breath taking scenes depicted inside the Sistine Chapel when you walk into chapel & witness the frescoes with your own two eyes.

MEETING THE VATICAN GUARDS

As we made our way through the Vatican & saw many impressive creations, artworks, & ancient artifacts collected from more countries then I can count from around the world.

We were allowed to take pictures in every place we visited along the tour, although in some places we were asked to turn the flash off on our cameras, so as not to damage the precious artworks. Like when you walk through the great Gallery of Maps.

It was painted in 1580 depicting cities around the world as they were known at that time, many of which no longer exist. The whole tour I hung out at the back of a group of a few hundred tourists walking through the Vatican until at last we reached the doors of the Sistine Chapel.

I quickly & excitedly made my way through the crowd wedging myself in between people, & groups with only elbow space until I made my way up the steps of the Sistine Chapel, & stood at the front of the group just behind the guide telling us about the chapel.

Not a warning was given about not taking pictures, or even a flash & as the guide opened the doors of the Sistine Chapel I excitedly burst inside, with my camera in hand & rapidly snapped some photos of the breath taking ceiling.

Before being quickly met by, hands crossed, black suited, ear pieces with the curly cord guards of the Sistine Chapel telling me that no pictures were allowed, & quickly ushering me through the Chapel pointing me in the direction of the exit & urging me to continue in that direction.

What I didn’t realize is that the Sistine Chapel is still an active church until this very day, & at that very moment we were there I looked around at ground level for the first time & instead of seeing an empty building. There were rows of pews filled with people actively worshiping. Epic first look as I entered the Sistine Chapel

The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel were painted by Michelangelo between 1508 – 1512. The Chapel itself was built in 1480. Having come, saw & admired the great artwork I was ready to exit & find my way back to the hotel & relax for the night.

Although, not before one last photo in the infamous St. Peter’s square outside the Apostolic Palace. It’s rumored to be the location where Simon Peter of the New Testament, the apostle of Christ was killed by Roman Emperor Nero (around 64 A.D).

At the center of the plaza stands a huge Egyptian Obelisk brought to Rome, from Alexandria Egypt, by the blood thirsty Roman Emperor Caligula in 37 A.D. The obelisk is over 4000 years old & was placed directly in the center of St. Peter’s Square & used as a functioning sun dial.St. Peter’s Basilica & St. Peter’s Square

ADVENTURES IN ITALY DAY 5

After resting up & eating good we were back on the road again. This time heading off to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, which became a Roman city around 80 B.C before being destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mt. Vesuvius around 79A.D.

Although the city itself is much older being mentioned in history during the Second Samnite War, during a failed Roman attack on a neighboring city in 310 B.C.

Once you get through the admissions line at Pompeii & into the ancient city. One of the first things your greeted with is the old city entrance. Leading to the Temple of Apollo. The city was advanced for its time, complete with running water. Entering Pompeii

We toured the many sites, including the house of the dancing faun, named after the basin at its entrance with the bronze statue of a dancing Faun resting at its center (a Faun is a wild woodland spirit from Roman mythology).

One of the richest residences discovered in Pompeii, being a luxurious aristocratic residence complete with ancient mosaic floors. The place where most of the Pompeii artifacts we viewed on day 3 at the Naples Museum of Archaeology were discovered.

We viewed the many, somber death casts, the outline left in the ashes, long after their bodies were decomposed, the only remains of the ancient citizens, as they lay in the throes of death from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

We walked through the impressive city. All the while your reminded of what happened there in 79 A.D. as at every corner you turn within the city, you see the still active Mt. Vesuvius looming high & mighty over the horizon, demanding its due respect.

Mt. Vesuvius looming over Pompeii

After an adventurous day, in the heat of Pompeii exploring the ruins. I figured that the best way to end the day was a cool relaxing dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea, so off to the Amalfi Coast we headed.

THE CURVY WAY IS THE ONLY WAY

The Amalfi Coast is a beautiful coastline rising steeply from the sea, transforming quickly into a steep, & mountainous terrain. The roads are extremely curvy with blind curves, with no way to bail out in case of on coming traffic, road hazards, or vehicle problems.

There’s a sheer rock cliff to one side of the road, quite literally starting at the lanes edge, & a steep drop from a unknown height from well above the surrounding city & sea. Driving along Italian route SS163 the views are breathtaking. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful routes you can drive.

Don’t be in a rush though, because due to the extreme height, & curviness of the road it takes double the time to go anywhere. The switchbacks reverse any progress you make in the direction towards your destination, by taking you equally as far back in the direction from which you came.

The curves are so sharp, that they mount blind spot mirrors in each curve, so that you can see oncoming traffic from the other direction. The Amalfi Coast is an extremely popular tourist attraction, therefore buses drive the route too, & local etiquette always gives the right of way to the buses.

Due to there length they require both lanes in order to navigate the sharp curves. If you encounter a bus as you are entering a curve, you have to stop & reverse backwards around the curve until the bus has enough room to successfully clear the curve.

We visited two beaches, one to take pictures, & one to swim. The first beach we went to carries a nickname as the most photographed beach in the world. The famous Fiordo di Furore.

It can only be accessed from the sea currently as the walkway’s down the cliff to the beach were closed due to hazards caused by overhead falling rocks.

It offers a view of the bridge above the beach, that has Lamborghini’s driving across it at a regular interval. This allows you to hear the sound of their V10 & V12 motors echo down through the cliff walls on either side of the beach. The beautiful Fiordo di Furore

From here we walked back the customary Italian mile to our car, which I left parked in a niche in the cliff wall on the side of the road, as there was no parking close to the beach, & the road isn’t wide enough in many spots for pulling over.

Once back on the road, we were off to probably one of the most beautiful, & picturesque beaches I have ever swam in. We drove through many more curves, & tunnels through the mountain until we arrived at the beautiful Spiaggia Grande of Positano Italy, on the Amalfi Coast.

The road takes you right to the cliffs edge, where parking is located & you receive your first glimpses of the majestic cliff side beach. Once again, as is customary in Italy, you park & then it’s about a 3/4 mile walk down stairs between beautiful cliff side cottages to the beach.

Once on ground level you have to take time to look around at the cliff covered in colorful cottages & admire the beauty of the beach.

The beautiful Spiaggia Grande

The water is clear & clean. The smell of the sea air is crisp, & refreshing. After relaxing until sunset, we started our climb back up the stairs to our car at the cliffs top. Stopping to shop at a few of the shops that lined the cliff as we passed.

Once we were back on the road heading towards Naples, we ran into congested traffic as we neared the highway leaving the mountains.

There were street peddlers making the most of traffic being backed up selling many traditional snacks, & as it had been awhile since we ate I bought a few, & we snacked on our way back to the room.

ADVENTURES IN ITALY DAY 6

Our last & final full day in Italy came far to quickly, but due to my new job. It was all the time I had, & alas the time was nearing for me to return to work. After a quick breakfast we were out in full Gypsy mode & exploring again.

I know you wouldn’t believe this, but we parked exactly 1.1 miles from our destination, as it was the nearest parking spot to be found at the time, you know, the customary Italian mile.

Our first stop for the day was a tour of the San Gennaro Catacombs of Naples Italy. They divide you up into groups by language spoken & send you down into the catacombs with a guide who speaks the same language.

The lower level of the San Gennaro Catacombs

The catacombs are quite impressive, & the minimalistic style of lighting they use brings out the beauty of such an eerie place, when you can see the loculi carved into the catacombs wall.

The loculi are the individual chambers, where a number of the dead were laid to rest. Dating back as far as the 2nd century A.D. There are underground basilica’s used for worship, & even baptismal pits located inside the Catacombs.

You can visit the tomb of St. Januarius (San Gennaro) on the upper level of the catacombs where the tour starts. It’s most definitely a must see in Naples.

On from here, we went on to visit the Palace of Capodimonte. Because Naples is a city filled with castles, & palaces at every turn. In ancient times it was known as the city of seven castles, because it was the only city in the world at that time to have 7 castles in one city.

Although the Palace of Capodimonte is relatively new compared to some of the other castles in Naples, being built in 1757 by King Charles VII of Naples.

It is still worth a visit just to admire the beauty of the Palace & it’s grounds. It is also an art museum, which houses several very important paintings, & ancient Roman sculptures. The Palace of Capodimonte

Upon leaving the Palace, we were off to see our last & final item for the day before retiring to our room, relaxing & enjoying our view out over the beautiful Gulf of Naples. We walked down the historic & beautiful Via Partenope to visit Fontana del Gigante.

The Fountain of the Giant is a monumental fountain originally designed for the Royal Palace of Naples. It was designed in 1601 by Michelangelo Naccherino, & Pietro Bernini. It gained its name from its original position where it stood beside a colossal ancient statue. Fontana del Gigante

We were out of time to tour any more, all though there was still much I wanted to see. The way I look at it, from the standpoint of the Roving Gypsy, I now have an excuse to return.

There’s still much I would like to see & do in Italy. Such as a tour of Pisa, Sicily, Sardinia, & Venice. It was great visiting Italy, & experiencing the Italian culture firsthand. Until next time Italy!

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