Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Blue Grotto

Basically a hole in the side of the cliff that is the Isle of Capri. The big boat arrived with small rowboats in tow. The group got into the rowboats, 4 people each. We each rowed into the hole in the cliff, ducking all the way flat as we went in. On the inside, it was a totally dark cave, except for the beautiful glow of the water. The sunlight comes in under the cave walls and illuminates the crystal azure waters of the Mediterranean. The guides' stories were that the ancient Romans swam "au naturel" in here. No doubt an inspiration for Hugh Hefner centuries later, with intentions of lesser nobility.

Friday, April 17, 2009

and..."remember the Alamo!!"

Love this Tweet from Texas Monthly magazine about Rick Perry's comments on Texas seceding from the union - sound familiar? "when I get that feeling I want....Secessional Healing" (apologies to Marvin Gaye) @TexasMonthly Secessional Healing begins with John Cornyn:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

STAIRS of Horror!!

Yeah, that could be the title of my new book...hmmm. In Florence Italy, the icon of the city is the Duomo (dome) which towers high over the city, the tallest building. No doubt city zoning has ensured it will remain the highest peak. Naturally the Duomo crowns the cathedral Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. First stone laid September 8, 1296! Dome completed in 1436 - we're talking 15th-century stairs to the top, folks. Other than the sad proliferation of "Squiggy loves Laverne" type graffiti in 20 languages throughout the entire stairway and even on the marble columns at the top, the Duomo is essentially in its original state, save for a bit of electrical lighting and the occasional handrail. At right is just one shot - I tried to document the journey. The reward is a view from the top of all Florence and surrounding mountains, quite an Italian vista.

The Italian high school students were not daunted in the least on their way to the top. A few years ago I would have been the same, but at this stage of my life I think whether I have enough insurance to cover any mishaps. Don't worry I'm not a total scrooge, I did appreciate the view and the beauty - it's just that the trip up was like a medeival dungeon that kept on going! NOT for the faint of heart or medically-challenged! I did it!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Buon Giorno!

I finally crossed "the pond". Now back from a 10-day trip to Italy. The group was following the 400th anniversary of Galileo's telescope with Astronomy magazine. Thus, we started with 2 days in Rome, followed by 3 in Florence. 4 of us opted for an additional 3 days in Sorrento to see Pompeii and Capri. I feel I basically saw much of the history of mankind, including an extensive exhibit in Florence covering the history of astronomy, with artifacts from the earliest conceptions of the universe. Star constellations played a major role in the development of answers to the question "how did we get here", with the creation of astrological signs and gods to explain the forces of nature.

On a very secular note, along with the prominent and profound art and architecture I saw, one of the highlights was visiting the "Pizzeria da Michele" made famous in the book "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. This visit was certainly not part of the tour, but devised by me in the quest for finding the best pizza in the world. As we landed at the Naples airport, we besieged the poor driver to diverge from his assigned task to take us to Pizzeria da Michele on the way to Sorrento. Happily, the driver knew how to get to it and we found it to be a very unassuming facade on a small street that almost no one but locals must know about. As I expected, there was a line waiting outside the door. Undaunted, we went in to ask for pizza "via" or to go. We were able to order it at the cash register and then stand inside to wait. Sadly, I got the abbreviated version of the whole experience but I did get to witness the guys making the dough and putting the pizzas in and out of the wood-fired oven. It is a small place, hence the line waiting outside for table space. While waiting, a very nice older man dressed in a white outfit and apron chatted with us, albeit in Italian. He was so friendly. Eventually in my broken Italian I said that I spoke a little French. He said (in French) that he also spoke French - so then in my fragmented high-school French phrasing I asked how long he'd worked there and he told me he was the son of the founder of Pizzeria da Michele! Then I asked his name - Luigi - and I finally understood I was talking to the proprietor! He was so sweet and one of my prized photos of the trip is of me and Luigi...

I took about 3000 photos from the trip, so after I get them organized I will post a few here.