Italy 20th Anniversary Trip Notes and <100 Photos

New York

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Going in to New York is slow. Even at 5PM all the traffic is in-bound. Seems thermodynamically impossible…Flipping the bird at Yankees advertisements…Dark And Stormies at a hipster bar where a dude in a bowler and arm gaiters played ragtime on an upright…Horseradish-infused vodka:

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This was not necessarily my favorite drink in the whole world. It was made more harsh and bitter by the scorn heaped upon me by the sure-out-of-my-league-even-when-I-was-young-but-c’mon-do-you-have-to-still-be-mean? bartendress.

Wandering Midtown East…flipping birds at Trump advertisements… laughably pretentious Chinese bistro: 11 on a Tuesday, techno blaring, everyone ostentatiously checking their text messages in the bar, a serving area so dark that I could have totally broken out my Foster Grant lighted reading glasses…Seriously, I have had better dumplings… Art Deco 30 Rock … a rather strange amount of excitement at seeing the Today Show set through the windows…


And as we shopped, the treadle wheel spun, the only sound in the hushed shrine of textile… Stainless steel thread …

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The High Line

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Mediocre pizza…Colorful cab driver “Gotta’ let the road rage go.” …

Brooklyn Bridge

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TIL the Brooklyn Bridge is held together with duct tape

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Glimpses of new World Trade …

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O’Brien’s & Arnolds

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Croquet was once an Olympic sport

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Teens are excellent at looking dubious when the camera is upon them…

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Oh, Daisy!

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No wires

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Bye Jake!

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Rome

I expected it to be hilly, but it’s really quite flat. Our first glimpse of Roman building the colossal brick walls of Hadrian’s Baths.

Hotel in Rome just down the via from the Colosseum

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Vatican

Absolutely brutal on the feet. Feet tingling. Massive walls.

The line to get in ran around the country.

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Crowds, especially in the halls leading towards the Sistine Chapel (including a fantastic map room). Gilded ceilings.

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Sistine Chapel: packed. Guards shouting out “Quiet!” The ceiling was fine, but The Last Judgment was awesome. A few patches on the unrestored/cleaned ceiling showed how dim and subdued it all was until recently.

St. Peter’s is the most impressive building I’ve ever been in. 30′ sculptures that seem absolutely fine in proportion to the pillars that are inlaid with every form of marble.

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St. Peter’s Piazza not as impressive as I thought, perhaps because it was so large and the crowds so big.

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Colosseum: much bigger than expected. Gladiators shilling for tourists and working their digital cameras .

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People bring their nice cameras to the C. Worthless guided tour at C.

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Hard to get past the “Oh yeah, it looks just like the pizza box” aspect. (Not as bad as Leaning Tower…)


Forum more compact than expected, barely a neighborhood.

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The Vestal Virgins had a lovely temple.

Saw a falcon at forum

Scale of building is definitely comparable to industrial age

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The Sabines were just on the next set of hills down the road. So the whole “Rape of the Sabines” wasn’t exactly the Trojan war, it was more like a really nasty Hatfields and McCoy thing.


Street vendors sweeping up their goods 20 yards in front of police. They rush away, cutting down staircases and into alleys, and then, three minutes later, creep back out. First one bold one and then all the others quickly. Kind of like fiddler crabs on the beach.


Tina liked her crispy piglet. I liked my peepee cachi pehpey.

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Rougher walking than Inca Trail.

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Sculptures are gorgeous — 500BC wounded amazon

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Revealing exhibition on centrality of Vatican: document after document showing role in events: trial of Templars , excomm of Martin Luther , divvying up world for Isabella, petition to allow Henry divorce. Seals attached to letters. Birchbark letter from Algonquin. Safe passage from Khan.


Throngs of tourists at major piazzas and fountains. But nightlife at our local piazza. Thursday 11pm, 100 people cocktail party.

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Everyplace feels safe. [But eventually we were targeted by pickpockets in Florence…]


The disparity of time: is that door 20, 200, 1000 years old?


So many architectural references — all copied elsewhere .


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Sirens sound cool. Wish US sirens sounded like this.


Borghese villa — Bernini great, house itself, Titian. Parrots in the park


Swifts through oculus and in square.

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Pagliacci at Pantheon with Mars overhead. And a mime.

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St. Peter’s more “awesome” but Pantheon my favorite building. Geometrical. Apparently the dome at St. Peter’s is bigger, but proximity helps at Pantheon.


Few chain stores


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You think things like “ah, a lugubrious totem of death.”

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Rome is a midden of western civilization, the heap visible in the foundations of more modern buildings. Everywhere you see a hill, you see arches dating to some era of brick. Certainty beyond that is not available to the lay. Every architectural cliche seems to have been born here, from the facade flanked by columns to the carved coat of arms above the entrance. So when you see a bronze door flanked by columns, it could be 20 years old or 200 or even, at least in the forum, 2000.


Perhaps because the Colosseum is so well preserved, it was the least interesting. Every sports stadium shares it’s design and even many of its details. Yes, this is what the outer galleries are like, this is where they sold t-shirts, this was where the crowd queued on the way in, catching their first glimpse of the action below. The main difference seems to be that their stairs were steeper, their benches wider, and their seeming lack of regard for handrails.


The great buildings — the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the mall in the forum — are as colossal as industrial-age


Rome brutal on the eyes and soft tissues — had to pull my contacts.

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The primacy of the Church is everywhere.

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For whatever reason, the Baroque stuff is not as off-putting as it is in other places. Doesn’t seem vulgar. Maybe that’s more the Rococo-era?

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Assisi

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At least in Rome the crowds are fitting to the theme. At Assisi, the crowds are more oppressive. But the souvenir quality is appreciably higher.

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You can buy morningstars here. Real, honest-to-goodness helm-piercing spiked-steel-ball flails. Not sure if TSA approved.


Assisi on a Sunday night is weirdly raucous. Kids screaming and shouting and playing soccer. Camping trip? On a Sunday?

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There is a turtle (tortoise I suppose) wandering between tracks 6 & 7. The tracks are taller than he is. Has he lived his whole life in this narrow track?


Surprising (amazing ) lack of suburban sprawl. Heart of Europe yet big stretches of, say, 50 acre farms, woods, and hills with small castles on them. The castles are so iconic that when I first saw them, I thought they were recreations.


Siena: not terribly well preserved, but the street plan is charmingly complex, circular and divided into the commune’s neighborhoods (goose, owl, etc). The piazza where they run the palio is quite bowl-shaped, which perhaps helps the horses. The photos from the race show horses banked like fighter planes.

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The cathedral is white-and-black striped and that thrilled T, but I liked most the marble inlaid floor panels, which had a great effect, like a vast etching. The chapel had a great mosaic and there was a room of illuminated manuscripts that, later, I found out to be the basis of many calendars.

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A fine meal of rabbit with truffle pasta. Eventually, I had all types of truffle; I decided that it’s a little too rich for me. It’s great and then you’re like “Oh my god, if I have another mouthful of this I’m going to hurl.” (I suppose most people don’t think that.)

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Florence

For all their greatness, English pubs have those damn regulators on their alcohol bottles. You go to Italy and go into an Irish pub and order a mixed drink and you get a drink of stunning strength. In other words, I recommend going into an Irish pub in Italy.


Throw a dead body in here and it will rot all the way to Pisa.

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Just dandy.

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Empirical perspective Giotto — early. Compare to mathematical basis of computation.


Tina loved walking up Brunelleschi’s dome. I did not. Big time vertigo; it’s like you think you’re suddenly going to pitch over.

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I think this was one of the highlights of the trip for T. I had to glance sideways at everything, my shoulders up around my ears. Oh well.

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Uffizi shakes like earthquake.


Tina should do a painting called “The adoration of the adoration of the Magi.” It would depict a tour group gathered in total sheeplike hypnosis in front of some piece of art. There would be a guide with a headset and all would be listening in their headphones. Detached figures would circulate listening to handset audio tours. In the corner would be a guard on a chair, texting.


Occasionally, stylish women ride by on rickety bicycles.


Florence — red tiled buildings, a low city, Brunelleachi’s great dome, the spear-like Palazzo Vechio tower, and construction cranes redoing the Uffizi arcade. Proportions seem wrong compared to other places — piazzas are not intimate, not as many surprising glances revealing details.

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Uffizi is tiring — perhaps not Vatican-tiring, but close. Several rooms of Gothic and then it seems like every decade of the renaissance. For all that, perhaps due to the crowds, not many jaw-dropping delights. Medusa’s head, on a shield, by tk, perhaps, after the worst of the crowds cattle-cared their way back to the cruise ships. And then, you get to the “foreign painters rooms” — a seeming afterthought, and it’s just glorious painting after glorious painting from Northern Europe. Of course the R was the revolution, but they seem to just be piled room-after-oppressing-room.


The doors of Ghiberti included a pyramid in perspective. Now wee teach the basic concepts in middle school. In yet-another museum, we saw the contest panels of Ghiberti vs Brunelleschi — B lost but built the dome.


Brothers Cryptkeeper, Lazarus, and Paul Giammatti. The weak “amens” in response to Brother Giammatti’s chants, the sound of another brother upstairs, stationed there to provide the sound of choirs of Angels? They have been saying mass there for 800 years…


Boobs with a view …

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Poppies. Mustard.


Pollen blowing from the viewpoint above Florence

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Pisa underwhelming in all ways. You cannot see past the associative memories even though you can see that the architecture of the tower, cathedral, and baptistry is beautiful.

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Cinque Terre

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Whole train gasps when train exits tunnel


Clay colored water . Looks cold. Not Chile-cold. Drunk Americans at 330. Seagulls hawing at 7am. The ocean occasionally makes thundering noise like rearranging chairs on a slate floor.

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Cat-in-heat moans of the seagulls outside our window.

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If I was rich and could spend half a year shut away writing a novel, this would be where I’d like to do it.

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4 o’clock is Gelato-clock. After that it’s time for Americanos and appetizers. Dinner around 9.

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Obligatory romantic walk is romantic.

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Dante’s hell updated for manufacturers of automatic cappuccino makers: Lights blink but don’t effectively warn when they will be scalded with steam. And once every 34 years, they will be given a mediocre small cappuccino.


The shipping channel to… Africa ? Sardinia? Ah, the rock bound Ligurian sea.


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Germans listening to portable speakers as they hiked.

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They rake the beach and, after high tide, shovel the gravel off the wrack line. M is my least-favorite place so far — a Riviera beach town. It’s supposed to be high season, but many stores and hotels are still closed. Loud Americans getting drunk (staying). More French.

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This is Tina’s “over it” look DSC_9391


Service cart in train preceded by its jingling bell


Carrara mountains look like they are covered in snow but it’s just the marble.


It’s spring, but the sun sets at 7:30 or so and there is a significantly long twilight. Makes the “eat at 9″ routine easier.

Venice

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Once you start humming “It’s a small world after all,” it’s difficult to stop.

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Tina asked “what are you exclaiming about?” “Simply the fact and contingencies of my own existence.”

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Musashii, Larry Ellison’s soul-less yacht.

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Venice — air pollution.


Every doge has painting of Mary and baby Jesus blessing the doge. Far more secular power than Rome. A swift flying through the cavernous room depicting the triumphant Siege of Constantinople.

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So much Byzantine and Moslem influence in architecture and decoration.

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Many Wiener dogs.


Street artists working on a piece. I keep remembering my HS friend who would carefully lay out his traced-from-Boris-Vallejo drawings and spend the study hall shading some small portion of one. Effective way to attract the girls, as it turned out.


Obligatory Venice shots

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Pisa my ass: every building over 3 stories has a noticeable lean. The floor of St. Marks rolls like the ocean.

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Important street vendor items: purses, sunglasses, gooey ball that splats and then reforms, purple LED things that shoot into the air and helicopter down.

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“Bar Tour”

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These people hated us.

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Hey! It’s Rick Steves. Or, as I called him after 4 drinks, Rick James. Damn, I wish it had been Rick James.

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Last Americanos, last day.

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I love Tina with all my heart. 20 years.

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Escaping Venice in a torrential thunderstorm at 3AM. Last photo of trip.

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