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After breakfast we decided not to try the hillside road again so we went South to Salerno and up the freeway. We went on the mainland side of Vesuvius to avoid the town of Naples, which has horrendous traffic, and shot straight up the freeway to Rome and around the beltway.
We had booked a B&B outside Rome with the idea that it would be easy to get to and we could take the train into Rome and avoid all the hassles of traffic and parking. That was exactly right. The house was just inside the Belt Way, think FM1604, with a train station down the hill. It had been the residence of the American Ambassador until six years before and was a spectacular Japanese style, round house on top of a hill with a large garden, swimming pool and gazebo. Breakfast was always served in the Gazebo. Great value.
The gates to Abacus - our B&B
The place was run by a housekeeper, Maria, from Transylvania and her son Alex. Alex spoke English quite well. The owners were nowhere to be seen until the last day - more on this later.
We settled in and asked for restaurants in the area. Alex told us about "Casa del Lone". It was fantastic. Probably the best food we had in Italy and we escaped with $40-$50 for two including wine and tips. The restaurant was a large, old, country cottage right by the expressway but had a series of patios out back with canvas covers. As you went in past the aviary in the parking lot there was a sort of buffet of raw meat and a very large selection of cold grilled verdura (vegetables) that could be served warm or cold. Choose what you want and they'll cook it. Or order off the menu. We ate there three times in three nights! One of them was take-out pizza which was great, the others were at the table served by friendly, efficient waiters.
The next morning we had breakfast and met a couple of nice Spanish girls - chatted about where they had been and so on. Then the bombshell... the trains and buses had had a stroke!!! Alex's English was good, but not quite up to the nuances. Our only recourse was to take the car, and given that every Roman would be doing the same thing we were not too keen on that idea. So we re-planned and went to Hadrian's Villa about 25 miles to the East - away from the traffic.
Hadrian was the Roman Governor of Britain in 125 A.D and built a long wall across the country to separate England (semi-civilized) from Scotland (totally wild). His governorship was so successful that he became Emperor and built an enormous Villa outside Rome in the foothills.
Hadrian's Villa was probably the most interestingly spectacular set of buildings we saw. They were all in ruins, but there were still five-storey buildings!
|The valley behind the Villa|
|The valley behind the Villa||The 'main square' at the entrance had...|
|...a large lake with a promenade around it.|
|Listening to the recorded guide|
|The lake was on top of a three-storey storehouse with a large number of individual rooms|
|Norice the way the bricks were laid diagonally in this and other pictures - this seems to have been the standard way of laying bricks in ancient Rome. Several frescos remain on the interior walls.|
|Note the marble still remaining above the arches. Most of the valuable materials here and elsewhere have been removed during the 1500 years the buildings have been in ruins|
|Another cavalry room. Different carpet.|
|This is the room of three cavalry men. Their beds went in the three alcoves, the central floor emulated a carpet!|
We returned in heavy traffic, only getting lost once, and after eating pizza from our favorite restaurant we slept. Next morning, breakfast, train, Vatican.
The journey was surprisingly easy. We parked (free, we thought, but later we had to face an attendant who demanded $1. We were not sure if he was for real or just aggressively begging. But the next night he was there again, so maybe he was supposed to be there). We bought two tickets at $1.70 each. These are only valid AFTER they are stamped by a machine on the train, and then they are valid for 45 minutes on any train, subway or bus. So we took the train for six stops, changed to a subway, changed subway trains and, less than 45 minutes later were at the Vatican metro station.
The Vatican has two major attraction other than the Pope. St. Peter's cathedral and the Vatican Museum. We decided to go to the museum first while our walking and standing legs were fresh. It's a half-mile walk from the metro through crowded streets.
|Lots of motorcycles||Must get food|
|Naturally there was a line but it was moving swiftly|
The vatican museums are actually a bunch of rooms in a three storey stone building.
The building is surrounded by beautiful gardens with a special tour to see them. We figured we didn't have time for everything so we opted for the museum. Next time we will go for three months, not three weeks.
The interior is awesome. The ceilings were totally decorated.
The walls were just as splendid
|At the very end of the shed is the Sistine Chapel. Pictures are not permitted so Diane, of course, managed to take one as the guard watched her mistake the shutter button for the off button - "Mi Scusi, Signore"|
The Chapel was totally awesome. We were unable to figure out, for instance if the arches in the last picture were painted or actually three dimensional. And we had binoculars!
The exit from the museum was quite a surprise - a double helix with the up ramp interspersed with the down ramp.
After the Museo, the Duomo. St. Peter's cathedral is fronted by a magnificent square where the quarter-million people gather for the Pope's blessing or to watch for black or white puffs of smoke from the Sistine depending on the occasion.
|The whole square is surrounded by a facade||In the middle of the square is a lovely fountain|
|With lovely people ...||...standing in front of it.|
|The whole ensemble was guarded by the Swiss guard.||The Swiss Guard is the official protector of the Pope ...|
|...and is composed of Swiss citizens.||The REAL protectors are, of course, the fashion police. They stand fiercely guarding the entrance to the cathedral ready to stop anyone who has bare shoulders or is showing too much leg. Of course, cantilevered cleavages and midriffs that are naked from the breastbone to the bone lower down are just fine.|
|The first stop inside the door is the Pieta. Now protected by plastic after the vandalism a few years ago.||In the middle was the huge pulpit cover. Very dark, very strange carving, very big.|
|Behind was the high altar...||...with a beautiful, modern looking window|
|Then the statue of old whatisname||And decorations to the Pope|
|And St. Peter himself. Everyone lined up to stroke his foot which by now is highly polished and half gone. Looked like a leper victim.||Our vote for best went to a tomb...|
|...that was a blanket of orange marble about thirty feet wide...||...beautifully folded and lifelike...|
|...with death peeping out from underneath|
We hoofed it back to the metro and went home. Someone who shall be nameless really needed to look at her business on email so we went down to the local internet cafe and logged on. It started to rain and quite quickly became a major gully-washer. Strangled frogs were everywhere. With business done all that was left to do was get the car out of the alleyway. The rain was so heavy that the rear end of the car, ten feet away, was almost invisible and a dozen Italian cars whad been parked to create the usual haphazard obstacle course. After a while the car was wangled out of there with one minor scrape that left red and white paint on it from a roadside post.
Dinner at our local restaurant again. The only problem was that the rain had flooded the car park and most of the restaurant - remember, it was patios with canvas covers. Luckily the inside of the main building was dry and we had a great meal.
Continue with our days in Rome 2