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Friday, September 30, 2016

Napoli (Naples)

Aloha Everyone,

We took an express train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale. Due to an hour delay in Roma, our journey lasted a little over two hours. But this is Italy and everyone is happy as long as the train arrives safely.

Napoli is located on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy. Compared to Rome, this is a poor country cousin, but its attraction is Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano. Pompeii and other Roman towns that were buried in volcanic ashes from the August 79 AD eruption are also the big draw for tourism.

This afternoon, we went to look for a laundromat near our hotel. Typically many business establishments in Italy close between 1:00 to 4:00 pm for lunch and siesta. We went back at4:00 when the laundromat reopened. We dropped off our laundry and an hour later went to pick up clean clothes. Seeing the kind proprietor beginning to fold our clothes for us, J.J and I jokingly said to each other that we should have returned 1/2 hour late. We gave him €10 for 16 pounds of clothes washed and dried inclusive of soap, fabric softener and tip.

Our 6th floor room in the Hotel Garden Napoli has a balcony from where we can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the city -- all the way to the Bay of Napoli. This balcony is an enchanting place and the longer I sit there the more I see things for me to sketch.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Castle Saint Angelo & Piazza San Pietro

Aloha Everyone,

Castel Sant'Angelo, distinctive cylindrical tower was initially commission by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Later used as a fortress, it is now a museum.

From the Castel, JJ and I walked to Piazza San Pietro (Sr. Peter's Square) in Vatican City. During a previous visit, this large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica was empty and covered with snow and few 
Imaginative people were enjoying skiing. Today the area was barricaded and hundreds of visitors were in line to enter or exit the cathedral.

On a Hop On Hop Off bus stop, we met a group traveling from Hawaii. We found out that a couple of them live in Koolani, located in the Kakaako neighborhood. Surprise that they also know our good friends Jeff and Laura. Small world. They travel about 4 months out of a year. They will be returning  to Honolulu in December. I promised to stay in touch. Who knows where we might see each other again.

Back on Hop On Hop Off, we circled around the city enjoying the familiar sights of Victor Emmanuel, the remnant of the Circus Maximus and Palatiine Hill. Colosseum was especially magnificent in the evening light.

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sightseeing Rome via Hop On Hop Off Bus

Aloha Everyone,

Rome is chaotic, congested, noisy, irrational yet magnificent, beautiful and absolutely amazing. We LOVE and ADORE her!!! Rome has countless major attractions. On our first visit over four decades ago, J.J. and I stayed 10 days. The month was January, cold and rainy and often miserable. The two of us wore matching bright yellow parkas and trudged on wet, slippery streets determined to see every church, archeological site and museum.

Today, J.J. and I prefer a more leisurely pace.  We each purchased a 48 hours Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus tickets and paid €28 per person (approximately US$36.60). Using  a map from Rick Steves' book on Italy, our focus today was East and Ancient Rome including the Appian Way, Capitoline Hill, Colosseum, Roman Forum and Arco Constantino.  

Beauty of Rome endures, but the tourists who come to see her has vastly increased and changed. Hawkers selling items are noticeably foreign born -- Nigerians and Bangladeshi in particular. Their wares are gadgets to take selfie, bottled water, iPhone, iPad cases and some even audaciously place a hat on your head, if you have none, trying to extract €5 -7.

The Colosseum is the number one most visited site with 4 million tourists a year. Nearby Roman Forum makes the 5th place with 2.5 million tourists a year. J.J. and I avoided the crowd and walked on the Palatine Hill giving me a chance to do quick sketches of distinctive Umbrella Pines.  

We stopped at a charming cafe near the Colosseum for tiramisu and sparkling mineral water.

Here are some photographs of our day's adventures:

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Santa Maria Maggiore

Aloha Everyone,

Our first main activities for today was to activate our Eurail Pass. The month-long pass allows us to choose any 6 days to travel within Italy.

One has to live the Italian way of getting things done. First step is to line up to ask which is the correct line. It took us 40 minutes waiting in line to activate our passes. Thereafter, we had to get into another line and wait 40 more minutes to get our reservations to Naples for Friday.

With that accomplished, we returned to our hotel for lunch and a much deserved nap.

A visit to the Santa Maria Maggiore was our second main activity. The entrance to most of the largest churches in Italy is free. However, you have to line up to undergo bag screening and security check.

Aside from seeing beautiful, famous mosaics, our main objective was to say prayers for Paolo, the late husband of Niké who is buried in the church within the family crypt.

Giorcio, a gregarious Italian man charmed us with his "Buona sera" greetings. And we are glad that he did. The antipasto, JJ's Spaghetti alla Carbonara were both excellent. I loved my Spinace al burro (spinach cooked  in butter) plus broccoli with garlic and chili.

Colin and Mandy from New Castle, UK sat next to our table. They try to take 4 to 6 holidays per year. They are wrapping up the Italian segment of their trip and leaving for Costa Brava (Spain) tomorrow for 5 days before returning home. Colin would like to travel through the United States next year to visit San Francisco, Las Vegas and some national parks. We invited them to contact us if we could offer any input.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back In Roma, Hotel Archimede

Aloha Everyone,

What a wonderful 3 days in Artena. We squeezed three yoga and meditation practices and chance to meet Pier Luigi, a martial arts teacher and Chinese healing practitioner.  

Last night, J.J. and I prepared sukiyaki using locally available ingredients -- some quite unusual vegetables including sweet peach-colored pumpkin. We also substituted white Italian wine for Mirin or sweet Japanese rice wine.

With hugs and kisses and promises that we will see each other in a month, we parted company. Niké joined us for a snack of Cappuccino and biscuits at a cafe with a panoramic view of the Northern section of the city. Niké told us that this is one of the most affluent residential area of Roma.

For the next four nights, J.J. and I are staying at Hotel Archimede on a quiet street only a couple of blocks from Termini. This mid-size hotel with 150 rooms is classified as 4 Stars and charges €6 per person per night city tax in addition to room and taxes. Being greeted by smartly dressed English speaking clerks was a big give-away that we have stepped up in our hotel selection.

Tonight we plan to go to bed early.

Aloha -- Cathi