Below is one of the smaller temples on the Acropolis.Before this trip I had never been outside of the U.S. and its territories. Ok, I did cruise to the Bahamas once, but I don’t feel that really counts. Regardless, the last weeks this January my oldest friend, my newest friend, and I hit Europe for an adventure, and oh was it an adventure… gypsies, Greek cab drivers, and drunk Italian guys in the streets – oh my!
We began in Rome.
This is a view of Rome from the St. Peter’s Basilica. Below are pictures of the inside of the Vatican Museum. We also saw the Sistine Chapel while we were here, but unfortunately pictures are forbidden. Let me tell you it was a sight to see!
Looking out from St. Peter’s Basilica.
Above, is inside the basilica. The detail was incredible, and the pictures absolutely do not do it justice.
The Basilica (above).
(Below). Next, we hit Sorrento, Italy where we stayed in the most adorable yet horribly frigid little flat surrounded by orange and lemon trees. We came to Sorrento specifically because it was an easy train ride to Pompeii (you know that ancient city that was wiped out by a volcano AKA THE COOLEST THING YOU’LL EVER SEE).
What you see above is a city street (top left), another view of the street with stone blocks used to stop carts from going further (top right), and what’s left of what used to be a temple (bottom). The temple was used as a church, a marketplace, and as a gathering place for political events.
This is one of the theaters in Pompeii. The only remaining original seats are the ones in white marble which you can see the bottom and middle left images. The rest of the seating was rebuilt by archeologists to give us a better idea of what the theater would have looked like. The stage, the floor, and the outer structure of the theater are mostly original. By the way, this used to have a removable roof to shield spectators from the elements. It also has incredible acoustics!
The inside of one of the Villas in Pompeii. Someone used to live here! The pictures above are all of what’s left of the paintings on the walls. How incredible that the colors have lasted 2000 years.
Below is a view of the villa’s courtyard from inside the villa. Our tour guide told us that the archeologists were able to identify the plants that were once grown here by the root structures they uncovered, and decided to replant the very same foliage that was once grown here in the very same pattern. Am I just crazy, or is this not completely fascinating?!
Below is another view of a Pompeii street. However, this one is very one that people arriving in Pompeii would have taken to get into the city. Thus, this street was lined with little shops and bakeries. You can see the ruins of the shops on the left and right side.
This is one of the bath houses. Ornately decorated and painted walls and ceilings in the entrance, and the bottom 3 images show the actual bath and its domed ceiling. This bath house was for the wealthy and elite.
Oh, this one. Well, the ancient Romans really liked brothels… In fact there were phallic shaped symbols carved into the street stones that acted as arrows pointing travelers to where the brothels were. I also took some pictures of the “menu” painted on the wall of this brothel, but I dare say they are quite lascivious. However, I will share with you the below image of one of the rooms of the brothel complete with a concrete and stone bed and pillow…
As you can probably tell by now, I am completely obsessed with this city! Even more so I am in awe of the volcano that is responsible. How can one thing be so beautiful and yet so destructive. Friends, meet Mount Vesuvius. Named mount and not volcano because the people of Pompeii did not know it was a volcano. Back then the top was not destroyed and crater like but rather looked like a mountain top.
So I may have taken a few streets pics… Ha! this is Hannah walking across the stone walkway. You see, the ancient people did not have great sewer systems, but they also did not want to get their feet dirty. So, since there was sewage running through the streets they made sure to build sidewalks and, of course, a way to cross from one of the street to the other keeping their feet clean and sewage free.
Mount Vesuvius again, because….obsessed (above).
View of the outer part of Pompeii (above).
You guessed it! Vesuvius…
Later the same day, we took a ferry to the island of Capri. We had intended to take a tour of the Blu Grotto (a cave in the ocean), but the water was too choppy and no one was giving tours that day. Instead we gave ourselves a tour of the island and essentially hiked to the top.
Of course, along the way I made everyone stop about 19800210.2 times because I need to photograph something. Below is the my two friends waiting while I walked down some pretty stairs to capture the next two images.
Below are some incredible views we saw as we climbed further up the island.
A beautiful non-catholic graveyard established in 1878 that we just happened upon!
More photographs of our walk around Capri and yes that’s me (above)!
(above) my sweet friend, Hannah!
You can see Vesuvius from Capri..told you…obsessed.
From Sorrento, we venture to Athens, Greece. We stayed in a little flat which was again, frigid! We only had space heaters and the bathroom sitch was…awkward. However, considering we didn’t see any nicer looking buildings than the one we were in I think its pretty safe to say that all of Athens lives in a similar fashion. Ya’ll while this city is marvelous in its own way, it is by no means beautiful or sparkly clean. Among many other things, Greece’s economy has not been doing well in the last several years and as such many are unemployed. Further, we learned from our Acropolis tour guide that the archeologists are all out of work, and the country has not been able to fund more archeological excavations thus leaving many projects at a standstill.
On a lighter note, the Acropolis is freaking cool. Below is a picture from the Acropolis overlooking the ancient theater of Herodes Atticus and the city of Athens. Today, the theater is still used by city during the Athens art festival for concerts and plays. Apparently, its use is controversial. In my opinion, it was built to be used, and what better way to honor one’s ancestors than to sit where they did and be entertained as they were. Just…chills right?
Above is one of the smaller temples on the Acropolis.
Below is the Parthenon; a temple dedicated to Athena, the Goddess of the city. It is 2500 years old and was built in only 9 years and took 6 years more to complete the decorative sculptures and carvings. It is 65ft tall and the foundation goes just as deep. Had it not been destroyed by the Venetians, explosions, earthquakes, and various religions attempting to turn it into a church, mosque, etc. it would still be standing in perfect condition today.
A view from the Acropolis of the city of Athens and the ruins of the temple of Zeus.
One night in Athens, we decided to check out this hilltop restaurant we’d heard about. It was supposed to have an incredible night time view of the city. It was not within walking distance so we grabbed a cab. Except we should have told this guy to pull over the second we smelled pot…(yep!) first he took us to the wrong place (there’s only one hilltop restaurant so not sure how that happened) then while sitting in traffic on a hill he stalled the car several times and started praying and crossing his heart. Finally, after we’d almost been hit several times due to his awful and intoxicated driving, we were finally there. Except he got us one more time by pulling a switcheroo on a 50 Euro note saying we gave him a 10. Yargh! At least we didn’t die, haha!
Below is the view from that restaurant. It did not disappoint.
Next Stop: Venice!
From the airport we had to take Venice’s version of a metro – water style. Basically, they have small ferries that run all day and drop people off at various “stops”. Below is the sunset we saw on our way to San Marco Venice from the airport aboard our water metro.
Oh, the Gondola ride… did I mention it was COLD in Venice?! Like unbearably cold. Naturally, we took a gondola tour in the morning during the coldest part of the day. Why? The gondola tour guy talked us into it when we passed him on our way to a museum, haha! Below are the photographs from the ride.
P.S. We asked our guide why he wasn’t singing for us, and he said that was only in the movies!
“…And we’re the three best friends that anybody could have”
Still in Venice, we toured the Doge’s Palace and San Marco’s Basilica.
FLORENCE: best city so far despite that one guy trying to mug me when I wasn’t looking when we first arrived. Don’t worry, I awkwardly yelled in his face and scared us both, ha! Anyway, back to the city – Florence is simply gorgeous and full of art and a much slower paced vibe than the larger city of Rome.
Below is a the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore. It’s said you can get a great view if you visit the Dome of this Cathedral, but the tickets were sold out. So, we hit the bell tower. All claustrophobic 414 steps of it.
View from the Bell Tower.
As if our legs weren’t spent enough after the never ending steps of the tower, we decided to cross the river and walk around Tuscany which led us up a GIANT hill. Beautiful little town 🙂
After Florence, we headed back to Rome for one night to see the Colosseum and catch our flights back to ‘Merica.
The Colosseum is roughly 2000 years old, used by the ancient Romans as a place to hold gladiator games. The games consisted of person to person combat, animal to person, and animal to animal. The gladiators were mostly slaves fighting to win their freedom. The games were free to attend for everyone of every social status. It took between 6 and 8 years to complete and could seat more than 50,000 people.
The ancient Romans did not take very good care of the Colosseum. The arena floor was filled with sand and after each game/battle the blood and whatnot was not cleaned up, but rather they just put in more sand to absorb it. This caused the floor to eventually rot and collapse. Today, there is no floor and we can see straight into the basement area where there were two floors full of cages that held animals and slaves/gladiators.
Eventually, the Colosseum fell out of use and the ancient Romans began pillaging building parts from it to use for new buildings. Problem was they made holes in the stone and removed the metal hooks that stabilized the Colosseum during earthquakes. Once too many of these had been removed the Colosseum began to crumble leaving what we see today. The archeologists have now rebuilt parts in order to stabilize the Colosseum, so we can continue to tour it.
All of the seating has eroded away except the few rows towards left center near the modern built floor you see in the below picture.
The arch of Constantine.
The forum; the heart of the ancient Roman city.
Below is is Temple of Romulus (located in the forum). The doors are made of Bronze and are nearly 1700 years old. They still have the original key and the lock mechanism STILL WORKS.
The temple has two pillars, one on either side of the door. These are made from incredibly rare Egyptian porphyry marble which was only used for royalty back then. The fact that this marble is used on this temple tell us that Romulus must have been a pretty elite guy; he was emperor Maxentius’ son. The temple was dedicated to Romulus when he passed away.
Fun fact: I waited quite awhile to get a shot of this temple without people standing or walking in front of it. I just had to have a picture!!
The next morning we woke up at 3am to make our flights (one in which any person’s worst flight nightmare came true…. smelly person, smelly person, what are they feeding you?!) and stayed up nearly 24 hours to make it home.
We were tired, we were hungry, but we were so happy. We got to do something many never have the chance to do, and it was exhilarating and surprisingly relaxing! Until our next adventure 🙂