Summer of 2010

Cheung Family trip to Italy

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July 1 - Day 1: Rome, the Eternal City

Our transportation for the two weeks would be this nearly new Globus bus.
It has two entrances, plenty of leg room, and rides very high up for a
great view.  It also has a front viewing camera for those in the back.
The name of our bus driver was Fabio.  A remarkably capable person
that manuevered this huge vehicle in crowded areas.

In addition to Nicholas, we also had a local tour guide for the major city.  Marco, seen
here on the left, was the one for Rome, and would be our highest rated local guide for
the whole trip.

Quote from Marco: "Rome was not built in a day, so it cannot be seen in one day.  However, we will try anyway".

At the entrance of the Vatican Museum.  There is an impressive wall all around the Vatican
for historical security reasons.  The Vatican is a separate state from Italy.

For this trip, Globus provided us with headsets, which allowed us to hear the tour guide
in the crowded halls without him or her shouting.  It was an excellent way to see the
sights in the large crowds.

One of the first rooms of the Vatican was this one filled with sculptures.

A second large room is this Gallery of Maps.  The maps are extremely good in detail and
accurate even today.  This despite their lack of satellite imagery at the time.

The room is decorated very ornately in rich carvings and paintings.

I shot this through one of the windows in the Gallery of Maps.
This is the Vatican Courtyard.

Sign showing the way to the famed Sistine Chapel.  Flash photography
is prohibited, and one is supposed to be very quiet.

Although no photography is permitted, Stephanie snapped this one of the ceiling showing the famous fresco by Michelangelo of God creating man.

The tour guide told us a joke that someone wrote him to complain that they only saw one of the "Sixteen Chapels".  8-)

Once we left the Chapel, we went to St. Peter's Basilica.  Its dome is visible in the background.

Here inside the Basilica.  It is richly decorated in the baroque style.
Much more ornate than Michelangelo intended.  This is the
largest church in the world.

The highly ornate altar made from solid bronze.  All the past Pope's
are buried in this Basilica.

Just at the inside of the Basilica is Michelangelo's "Pieta" sculpture.  It marks
the end of his first period.  After this he sculpts figures with less
clothing and more muscle and body tone.

This is in front of the final painting of Michelangelo's biggest rival: Raphael.
After the Sistine Chapel, Raphael adopts Michelangelo's style of
painting the human body.  It is quite apparent on this painting.

Here we are all gathered in front of the St. Peter's square.  This is where the Pope
celebrates Mass on important occasions.

After St. Peter, we headed to the Colosseum.  Here is our first look of it through the front
window of the bus.  You can see the rear-view mirror in the middle of the image.

The medieval Romans did not appreciate the Colosseum and removed the metal brackets tying the stones together.  This caused all the small holes you see.

The whole structure is huge and imposing.

Here we touched history.  How many thousands of ancient
Rome passed here?

Here I stand on the level of the arena.  In ancient times, there was a wooden floor with
trap doors and lifts.  Part of it is recreated in the far right.  Below this level, they
kept the exotic animals that would battle the gladiators.  History states that the
emperor would decide the fate of the fighters with a thumbs up or down.

There used to be a large canvas roof supported by wooden beams to provide shade for the participants.

In the afternoon, we went to the famed Trevi fountain.  This is the point where
three viaducts (three vias -> trevi) join into a fabulous fountain.

We all threw a coin into the fountain to ensure that we would return one day to this spot.

Here is the entire group of 13.  Woohoo!

There were a lot of tourists and locals there enjoying the cool shade and having some

Video of the day: Trevi Fountain.

Just before our next stop below we decided to have some
Italian ice cream ourselves at the Cremeria Monteforte.

Our final stop of this day was the Pantheon.  It is a construction feat that
was unmatched for two thousand years.

The inside is fabulously preserved, better than any ancient building in the world.  You can
see the marble panels and the sculptures.  For centuries, the Romans tried to copy
and analyze this building, but could not replicate this single dome construction.

The secret of the single dome is that it is thinner as it leads to the top.  It is also
cast with more porous volcanic stone at the top, and it has an opening in the very top.
This means no weight to support, and also that some water comes in when it rains.
It also provides light during the day.  A very amazing building.

The first day in Rome would be our most strenous, with plenty of walking.  That night we were quite exhausted, and we had a simple dinner of pizza in the hotel room.  It is a little different than American pizza and a nice change.

It is only the first day, and we are exhausted.  What would the next two weeks hold?
Click below to find out..

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