Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rome II

ThursdaDSC03914y, our second day in Rome we began the day by visiting the Galleria Villa Borghese.  It is on the grounds of Villa Borghese and is filled with art, mostly sculptures and paintings collected by famglia Borghese.  There were works there by Bellini, Carvaggio, and Ruebens.  The upstairs was all paintings, and the lower floor was a mix of both.  We didn’t have time to tour the gardens, zoo, or other museums on the property, since we had a full day ahead.DSC03926

Our next stop was the Colosseo, and then on to the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill.   We went to the Colosseum first and it was immense.  You could almost hear the cheers of the crowd as gladiators fought DSC03958for victory, or the snarls of caged animals waiting to devour helpless people.  There was a cross erected in memory of the many Christians that lost their lives there.  We also got to go up on the second level to look around as well.  

The Palatine Hill and Roman Forum were next on the itinerary.  Our leDSC04002gs were pretty tired, but we wanted to see as much as we could on our final day.  We walked around the loop to look at all the ruins.  Mom and Dad, opted not to climb the hill, but wDSC04024e did and got some good pictures looking out across the forum.   There was even a church, constructed around the remains of an ancient temple.  We missed the jail where Peter was supposedly held, by leaving the site too soon, but were able to find the Church of Saint Peter in Chains.  There is a sculpture of Moses there by Michelangelo.  After looking around, and taking photos of the statue, we headed back to find some gelato and then dinner after a short nap.DSC04055

The next day we went to the beach before saying good-bye at the airport.  One of Mom’s requests was to be able to put her hand in the Mediterranean sea.   We found a beach near the airport and stayed for about 10 minutes or so, before we had to say good –bye and go our separate ways.  We had a wonderful time and were sorry it was so short.  Hopefully, we will return someday and see all the stuff we didn’t have time to see.       

Rome I

Bella Roma, the city of the ancient Roman civilization, is about 3 hours from the Sorrento area.  After a stop on a very foggy Mt. Vesuvius, where we saw a wolf looking down on the picnic area.  We took pictures at the beginning of the hiking trail to the top, but opted not to hike up in the cold and fog. DSC03677

We arrived in Rome in the evening, checked into the Residence Candia, fixed dinner, and went to bed.  Early Wednesday morning we walked up a huge set of stairs to meet our tour guide in front of the Vatican museums, which includes the Sistine chapel.  The nice part about this tour was that after we got inside, we were given a map and allowed to wander through at our leisure.  The area was immense.  We began in a hall filled with Roman statues (although after looking at so many they all start to look alike), then continued though a courtyard to a section that had relics from the Egyptian and Etruscan civilizations.  Then we walked through rooms of paintings oDSC03792n the walls and ceilings by great masters like Raphael, among others.  We saw several rooms of modern abstract religious art before finally reaching the Cappella Sistina. (Just because it is donated, doesn’t mean you have to display it, especially if it is ugly.)  I was able to snap off a picture in the doorway, before the guard requested that no pictures be taken.  It was smaller than I thought it would be and we almost needed binoculars to be able to see details on the ceiling.  It must have taken Michelangelo years to complete the work.  The chapel was beautiful and the detail was incredible, but impersonal and grandiose.  I am so thankful that our God is a personal, and desires a relationship with us, through belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His saving grace.  We spent 4-5 hours and still didn’t have time to see everything for as long we could have.   We went back to the hotel, fixed lunch in our kitchenette, and took naps for an hour.  DSC03810

After a rest, we went bacDSC03849k to visit St. Peter’s basilica.  We were typical tourists, taking photos of the paintings anDSC03854d sculptures, and examining the intricate detail in the church.  We also went up to the dome and were some of the last people allowed to go up before they closed.   The view is worth the nearly 350 steps to the top after a 3 story elevator ride.  You can see out over the city, and no one is allowed to build anything higher than St. Peter’s.  After a few minutes of the view I was ready to go back since heights are not my thingDSC03855.  You wind into the inner section of the dome, filled with gold leaf mosaics.  Mass was being held while we wereDSC03860 up there and the echo of the choir was breathtaking.  After we came down and exited, Mom and I took pictures of the Swiss guards stationed outside the basilica.   We then found the guys and took a few more pictures with them, before realizing we needed to find something for dinner.

We decided to go to a restaurant that a friend recommended from when she visited Rome.  On the way we stoppedDSC03889 at the Spanish steps, and then continued on to see the Trevi Fountain.  At the Trevi fountain, the legend is that if you throw a coin in backwards, someday you will return.  Shawn had thrown a coin in last time he was here.  We also spotted a shoe store across the street, the name, Sore.  Mom and I took a picture right below it, since our feet were feeling it.  We gotDSC03894 to the restaurant and were happy to sit down and finally have dinner.   The Ristorante Nautilus is located on Via dei Serviti 28 (largo Tritone) not far from the Trevi fountain.  They offer Sicilian dishes, as well as local specialties.  The food was delicious, and we met another English speaking couple who were touring Rome and then going on to Venice.  It was nice to meet some fellow Americans.  We headed back to the metro station and passed the Spanish sDSC03901teps again.  It was less crowded, so Dad and I walked up to the top and had our picture taken.  Then we hopped on the metro and walked back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep, first stopping to take a picture next to an aptly named ristorante.        

Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast


Monday evening and Tuesday we stayed near Sorrento and drove up part of the Amalfi coast.  We spent the evening relaxing and looking at the sunset over the Mediterranean sea, and then did a little shopping in Sorrento.  The area is known for its crafting of inlaid wood products.  Mom and I found some beautiful things in a store called Rita’s Shop.  It was a family run business, that had their own workshop which provided the store’s inventory.  We didn’t have time to tour the workshop. Perhaps next timeDSC03608.

We decided to find a pizza place since Naples and the surrounding area is well known for its pizza.  We went to Tasso’s on the recommendation of Rick Steve’s travel advice.  We had to ask some of the locals for directions. The pizza was fantastic and well worth stopping there.  We walked around a little more and then found a gelato shop that had a wide variety of flavors.  The store was full of pictures of the locals, celebrities, and contests.  It reminded me of the old Spanky’s restaurant back home.  The gelato was some of the best I have ever had and most likely made on site.   DSC03618

We stayed at the Albatross hotel in Piano di Sorrento and after breakfast, we packed up and headed toward the Amalfi coast. The view was DSC03623breathtaking and a little dizzyingDSC03665 looking out across the coastline.  We couldn’t finish driving all the way down because they were doing construction work on part of the road. We even found a waterfall hidden around one of the curves. In spite of a spattering of rain, we enjoyed the beauty of God’s creation. DSC03646 (Photos include: sunset at Sorrento, view of Mt. Vesuvius, the front of our hotel, taking turns posing overlooking the sea,  rocks along the coast, a retreat center of some type, and the waterfall)         DSC03661


Monday we spent the day at Pompei, an ancient city at the base of the volcano Mt. Vesuvius.  It was covered in layers of ash from an eruption in 79 A.D.   It was so well preserved that when it was uncovered by archeologists the city was basically intact.  The streets still have ruts from chariot wheels and many of the structures still have the original frescoes inside.  There are also political advertisements written in Latin still on the walls of the city.  We walked the streets of Pompei for 5 hours, trying to see as much as possible.   The villa Misteri was a large mansion of the era with many rooms and a garden in the center.  There was also a replica of a battering ram in one of the rooms.  Scattered throughout the city were glass cases with the forms of people who were incinerated by the ash and gases emitted from the volcano.  We also saw the amphitheater, theater, many shops, villas, government offices, and temples to different Roman gods.   The day ended with pizza and panini sandwiches for lunch overlooking the city.  We went back to the hotel for a much needed rest.

Photos include: columns, ruts in the road from the chariots, looking into a temple, part of the city wall, and overlooking Pompei..

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Church Dinner

Sunday morning we were proud to introduce my parents to our local church family.  We enjoyed having them participate in our service, although Shawn had to translate the sermon, and I did my best with the other parts.   It is a lot easier for me to translate when I am one on one with someone or in a small group.   After the service, we pulled out the ping-pong table and covered it with plastic tablecloths for lunch.   (It’s the only table that fits everyone.)  Shawn fixed lasagna for the first course and then the ladies of the church brought the meat dishes, fruit and salad.   There was also a yummy cake for dessert.   The dinner was delicious, and I don’t think my parents were too overwhelmed by the culture and the language.  Shawn and I took turns translating for them.  We all had to go home and take a nap, then repack for the next leg of our journey to Napoli and Sorrento.  No one left hungry at all.  Our church was very welcoming and were happy to meet my family.  They had been asking me when they were coming.

Picture include: cutting the cake, “my” lasagna, serving the food, more food, fellowshipping around the table.

Whirlwind Tour of Palermo and Surrounding areas

Saturday that my parents were here we really wanted to take them around to see sights in and around Palermo, Sicily.  It happened to be cold and rainy and actually snowing in the higher elevations, which is highly unusual here for winter, much less at the end of March.    Anyway, our first stop was the Cappuchin crypts where the mummified remains of many wealthy Palermitani and clergy are kept.  It is a practice unique to this area and the result has something to do with the combination of air and lack of moisture in the crypt area.  It was discontinued in the late 1800’s, except for a small child done in the early 1900’s, who looks like a sleeping doll.

Then we were off to the theater for our refund from the night before, and stopped to take pictures on the steps, although DSC03398not in our elegant theater clothes.  We had sandwiches for lunch and headed out to tDSC03402he Segesta, a doric Greek temple that you could walk inside.  We got there, just as it really started to rain, making the walk cold and miserable.  When we got to the top of the steps we found a fence around it.  (Very frustrating, because we came in December and were able to walk around inside and take pictures.)We opted not to take the bus to the top of the hill to see the amphitheater, and settled for some hot chocolate in the bar instead.  We found out that the fence had been put up the previous week. 

We decided to visit the Duomo at Monreale, to see the intricate gold mosaics inside.  Different scenes from the Bible are beautifully crafted in detailed gold leaf mosaics, covering the walls and ceiling of the cathedral.  There is also an enormous pipe organ that encompasses the front of the church.   Outside there is a fountain in the square, with a mythical sea creature.  As artists and musicians, my DSC03439parents appreciated the beauty and craftsmanship of these works of art.DSC03448

Since thDSC03454ere was still time before dinner that evening we drove up Mt. San Pellegrino, mountain of the pilgrims, to see the church at Santa Rosalia.  She became a hermit who lived in a cave on the mountain after becoming disgusted with the lives of the nobility.  A church was built in front of her cave.  She is honored as a  saint in Palermo, mainly for the end of a plague.  Pilgrims can walk a path up the side of the mountain to the church.  The very devout make the trek on their knees.  We looked around inside the church and saw some other tourists that we had seen at the theater as well.  After chatting and some laughter, we were promptly shushed by the priest who was getting ready to lock up for the evening.  Outside, we finally saw the clouds beginning to clear away and the sunset break through.  In the distance we could see snow-capped mountains.

We drove back into Palermo to the church where we were hosting a spaghetti dinner so that my parents could meet our friends  and  “family” here in Sicily.  Many in the youth group attended also.  We enjoyed the fellowship, and my mom and dad got to see how special everyone here is to us.  We ended the evening with a stop at the cornetti stand, which no one complained about.  We went home tired, but happy we got to see as much as we did.    

Mom and Dad in Sicily

We were so excited to have my parents come visit us for 8 days in March.  We picked them up on Rome and flew to Palermo on Thursday.  They were happy to see us, but pretty jetlagged from the trip.  We let them sleep in some on Friday and then, I took them to see a little of our town while we waited for lunch to be ready—a roasted chicken and potatoes from a local shop.  We walked down to the Friday morning street market.   It is a 15 min walk down a long hill and quite a few steps, coming back up takes a bit longer.  The scenery is typical small town Italy and you can see people cleaning or coming back from the market or the older men standing  around in the square or near a bar chatting.  We wandered around the market and bought fruit and candy from the food vendors.  After we finished it was a long climb back up to pick up lunch and then go back to the apartment.  We ate lunch and then took a nap before leaving for Palermo and a night at the Teatro Massimo with Andrea Boccelli in Faust.  Unfortunately, after we got all dressed up, we got there and found out the theater union was on strike and the performance was cancelled.  The orchestra was protesting the protest so they played a concert in the piazza in front of the theater.   We decided to go back to the Cornetti Caldi stand and console ourselves with food.   Perhaps one day we will get to the theater…….. (Pictures include: at the top of the steps, looking down the steps, yummy cornetti, coming back up the steps, and “all dressed up with no place to go”)

Spring has sprung in Termini

Spring is finally here after a very cold winter for the area including a rare snow.  The pictures include: a local monument (unfortunately, covered with graffiti), a “bird of paradise” plant, a tree covered avenue in a local park, and a train along the shores of Termini.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Youth Service at Brancaccio

The youth at Shalom church in Brancaccio have been preparing for a youth Sunday since January.  It was held March 15 with a fellowship dinner following the service.  After careful preparation, the youth were responsible for the entire service.   Shawn helped with the song service, and I was the camera woman.  (I didn’t play with the zoom as much and the picture was much better.)  The youth alternated responsibility from the first greeting to the reading of the day’s Scripture passage to the message itself.  They even had a skit that corresponded with the sermon.  I was very proud of the time and effort that they put into the service and hope they will continue to find ways to serve and be a blessing to others.

We also enjoyed a delicious dinner afterward with each family bringing in a main dish.  We were invited to share lasagna with the youth leaders at their table.  Unfortunately, we forgot the cardinal rule at church dinners - “leave a little room in your tummy or food on your plate.”   Shawn had a very large second helping of lasagna followed by steak and potatoes, and  chicken breast with mushrooms.   He couldn’t finish it all, but made a valiant attempt.  I sampled everything I was given, but had to leave food as well.  Sicilians are fantastic cooks and always want to make sure you don’t go hungry. (We haven’t yet.)   After the meal, instead of a nap the guys watched the Palermo vs Lecce soccer game, while the girls chatted and waited for the game to be finished.  We had dessert during the game, even though everyone was still a bit full.  The strong Italian coffee with the cake and cookies helped the sleepiness a little, but we were still in need of a nap after the day was finished.  


One of our favorite places in Palermo to hang out is the 24 Hour Cornetti Caldi stand.  This place specializes in hot croissants with a wide variety of fillings including: Nutella, white nutella, pistachio creme, ricotta, and many others.   We go there with the youth to hang out, celebrate, or say good bye to someone who is moving away.   We were there recently to say goodbye to a young man from our youth group who was moving to the US.   We also took my parents there several times in the 2 days that we were in Sicily.  My dad really enjoyed sampling several different kinds.  They also serve coffee and hot chocolate as well as other beverages and snacks.   It is definitely a place to visit if you are ever in Palermo.

Feste delle Donne

March 8 is a national holiday in Italy for women.   The Feste delle Donne or Festival of Women dates back to factory workers who were fighting for fair treatment.   It’s a day to celebrate, and we had a party at the church to honor women and have an evening out. We enjoyed pizza and an assortment of yummy deserts, followed by games.  There was also a speaker discussing the origins of the day and what it has turned into and how to celebrate as women of God.  Unfortunately, many use it as an excuse to indulge in inappropriate behavior.   We had a good time of food and fellowship, with skits and silly games. 


We have many friends here and enjoy having them visit for dinner.  Unfortunately, some live 30 minutes away so it’s a little bit of a challenge to arrange schedules, but we manage.  We had a chance to host dinner for a friend who moved to the States in March.  He was a part of our youth group and will be greatly missed.  We fixed a “real American meal” including: hamburgers, homemade french fries, and macaroni salad.   One of my friends was gracious enough to bring dessert, a lemon cake with yellow cream.   We really enjoyed the food, fellowship, and fun.