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Our Italy Trip, June 2012

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S: Italy June 2012

BC: Ciao! Wish you were here.

FC: Our Fabulous Trip to Italy June 2012

1: 14th FINA World Masters Championships | Riccione, June 8-12

2: Weary travelers on the train from Rome to Riccione. | Dinner at a Riccione restau-rant where we viewed the parade of swimmers. Kim and 13,000 others from around the world came, set-ting a record. Montreal hosts the 2014 championships.

3: We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto! The Hotel de la Ville was only a short walk to the beach and the main shopping district. Gotta love the Italian style! Below: A local specialty, a piadini is flat bread with assorted fillings. A common bar snack was a green olive and potato chip combo. | Riccione

5: The Republic of San Marino | San Marino, at 24 sq miles, is the third smallest state in Europe, and the world's oldest republic. Situated on the northeastern side of the Apenines, tourists go there for the 360 degree views and to wander the medieval alleyways and shop-lined streets. The capital city of San Marino is only 10 km from Rimini, but required us to take a train from Riccione to Rimini and a 45-minute bus ride. | Top right: A member of the Guard of the Rock, following the Changing of the Guard Ceremony; our lunch. | View of the Apennine Mountains. | Left: The Palazzo Pubblico is the town hall of the City of San Marino as well as its official Government Building. In front is the Statua della Liberta.

6: Ravenna City of Byzantine Mosaics | Our first stop, San Giovanni Evangelista, was built in the 5th century and bombed in 1944. | Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire when it fell in 476; a few decades later, it served as the Italian capital of the Byzantine Empire for two centuries. During these periods, the city’s famous mosaics were created, including eight locations designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The oldest, from about 430, is the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. | San Giovanni Evangelista

7: Basilica of San Vitale The basilica, at 1,400 years old, is an important example of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in western Europe. .... | The panel above, from 548, depicts the East Roman Emperor Justinian I, clad in purple with a golden halo, standing next to court officials. The halo around his head gives him the same aspect as Christ in the dome of the apse. Justinian stands in the center, with soldiers on his right and clergy on his left, emphasizing that Justinian is the leader of both church and state of his empire.

8: Across the courtyard from the basilica, this mausoleum has the oldest mosaics in Ravenna. The light that shines through the thin alabaster panels brings a glow to the very early Christian symbolism (Jesus the Good Shepherd, Mark's lion, the golden cross above everything) that fills the little room. | Mausoleum of Galla Placidi

9: Translated as the Ancient Home of the Stone Carpets, this is an important archaeological site uncovered in 1993 and accessed through the small church of St. Euphemia. Below ground are the remains of a Byzantine palace from the 5th-6th centuries AD with well-preserved floor mosaics. ... | Just off Piazza Garibaldi is the tomb of Dante Alighieri. In exile from his hometown of Florence, the author of the Divine Comedy died in 1321 in Ravenna. His tomb is graced with a marble bas-relief. To the right of the small temple is a mound of earth, now covered in ivy, in which Dante's urn went underground during World War II for fear that his tomb might suffer from the bombings. . | Statue of Garibaldi | Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra

10: Piazza del Popolo, where we ate lunch. | I loved the cobblestone streets. Kim, the wooden doors.

11: Even the street signs were decorated with mosaics. | Pedestrian-friendly Ravenna had more bikes than cars.

12: The oldest monument in Ravenna, this octagonal baptistery was converted from a Roman bath house, beginning around 400 AD. | Battistero Neoniano

13: Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo | The church was built in the sixth century and was originally the palatine chapel of Ostrogoth Theodoric. It's hard to capture the exquisite detail and colors of the mosaics in photos.

14: Bologna is a lively and historic city, home to the oldest university in the world (University of Bologna) founded in 1088. Famous for its towers and lengthy and elegant arcades or porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical center. Several weeks before our arrival, Bologna was rocked by large earthquakes, and the damage was noticeable to the iconic towers. We stopped for only one night on our way to Venice. That was a pity, as we needed more time to explore the city and sample the food! We dined at a fabulous restaurant and ordered -- what else? -- tagliatelle Bolognese plus the local specialty, mortadella. | Bologna

17: Our hotel was just minutes from the Piazza Maggiore, and overlooked a canal flowing past the backs of houses and shops. The canal system, built between the 12th and 16th centuries, was paved over with roads and parking lots in the post-war boom of the 1950s, and this canal was uncovered only recently. There are 5 main canals still running underneath the streets of Bologna. The canal is visible from a bridge and a small window cut into the wall of the porticoes on Via Piella. | Zan Hotel Il Canale

18: Venice

19: Hotel Villa Igea | Built in 1875, Villa Igea is located in Campo San Zaccaria, one of Venice's loveliest squares. It is only steps away from the hotel's main building and its restaurant where we enjoyed lunch and a few bottles of wine. Venice was filled with hordes of tourists (like us), but the city is unlike any other in the world.

20: St Mark's Square is the principal public square of Venice. It is dominated by St. Mark's Basilica, but also includes the Doge's Palace and Campanile or Bell Tower, which was originally built of wood. The tallest Venetian structure, the tower burned down, then was built of stone, then collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt again. | Piazza San Marco

21: Above left is the Clock Tower. On the rooftop, two bronze giants pivot, swinging their massive hammers, to bang the bells on the hour. Above is our local guide for the Doge's Palace, the headquarters of the rulers (doges) of Venice. He is a native Venetian and introduced us to the culture, art, and history of the city. The palace has walls of white limestone and pink marble with ornate decorations. | Doge's Palace

22: Antique gondola. All gondolas by law must be painted black. The oar is held in an oar lock known as a fórcola, which has a com-plicated shape, allowing several positions of the oar. | The ornament on the front is called the ferro (meaning iron) and serves as decoration and as counterweight for the gondolier standing near the stern. | Above: Lavishly decorated Scala d'Oro (Golden Staircase). Center: Flat tile floor that looks three dimen-sional. | The court and prisons were originally in the Doge's Palace. A famous inmate, Casanova, es-caped in 1775. A guard mistook him for a civil servant and unlocked the doors; he stopped for a coffee in the Piazza before heading for the border. | Doge's Palace

23: Built in 1602, the Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed bridge of white limestone with windows with stone bars. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. The bridge name, given by Lord Byron, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. Below: One of the shortcuts that our guide led us back to our hotel. | Photos weren't allowed inside the palace. Truly remarkable was the size of the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, where up to 2,000 elected officials of the Venetian government conducted their business. Tintoretto's huge "Paradiso" is at one end This 177 ft. by 82 ft. hall is the largest space in the medieval world without supporting columns. The wooden beams of the larch timbered roof were bathed in salt water for months, which fossilized and made them as hard as stone. The residual salt also prevented woodworm from destroying them! | Bridge of Sighs | Local specialty of sardines and onions. Delicious!

24: After the Storm Dinner Canalside

25: Carnevale di Venezia | The Medico della Peste, with its long beak, is one of the most bizarre Venetian masks. It originates from a 17th-century French physician, who adopted the mask while treating plague victims. The complete costume requires a black hat, long black cloak, white gloves, and a white stick.

26: Crazy Shoes, Crazy Bar

27: Gondolas Galore

28: The San Zaccaria Church, from our hotel's terrace. The church has one of the most famous works by Bellini, the San Zaccaria Altarpiece. | Everything is transported by boat, including the garbage. | A fountain in our hotel's piazza with cool refreshing water.

29: The Grand Canal | The Grand Canal is a major water-traffic corridor in the city. You can take a water bus (vaporetti) or an expen-sive gondola, which many tourists do at least once. We bought a two-day pass giving us unlimited rides on the vaporetti. In a very expensive city, this was a bargain. | The canal makes a large S-shape through the central districts; the canal's banks are lined with 170+ buildings and palazzos, most from the 13th to 18th centuries. Only one bridge crossed the canal until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge. We shopped and had a mid-afternoon Prosecco stop at a cafe along the canal.

30: Morning when everything was quiet. | And evening, in St. Mark's Square.

31: F | Florence | The capital of Tuscany, Florence is still my favorite city in Italy, with the iconic River Arno, Giotto’s Campanile (bell tower), Brunelleschi’s Duomo, and the Basilica di Santa Croce. The city’s artists and sculptors, supported by the Medici dynasty, included Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Giotto, and Botticelli.

32: This hotel was comfortable and luxurious with huge rooms and a rooftop terrace that offered our own private view of the best of Florence's skyline. The location was perfect too, on Via del Proconsolo near the historic center of the city and Piazza Vecchio. Kim and Nancy's room had a huge room with a separate seating area. | Grand Hotel Cavour

33: Uffizi Gallery | The Uffizi ("the offices") contains the world's finest collection of Renaissance art, thanks to the patronage of the Medici family (above are busts of the various Medicis). With its 50+ rooms crammed with masterpieces, long lines, and crowded galleries, the museum is a challenge. | Above: Botticelli's Birth of Venus. A rooftop cafe offers a break and a cool drink, plus amazing views of Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio It was very hot for our visit. Above left is the Palazzo Vecchio, next to the Uffizi.

34: Piazza della Signoria | My afternoon treat of espresso and panna cotta ("cooked cream") with strawberry sauce. Zero calories, I'm sure. | Next to the Uffizi is the Palazzo Vecchio, which serves as the city's town hall. In front is a copy of the David statue, which was moved inside in 1873. | Above: The Neptune Fountain with Neptune's face resembling that of Cosimo I de' Medici.

35: Our tour continued to view the octagonal Battistero di San Giovanni, one of the city's oldest buildings, built between 1059 and 1128. It's known for Ghiberti's bronze doors called "the Gates of Paradise." Interestingly, the bronze doors on San Francisco's Grace Cathedral are a direct casting of these original doors. Adjacent is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and its famous dome engineered by Brunelleschi. The interior is vast and strangely empty. | Our guide, Simona, took us to see the real David at the Galleria dell' Accademia. The sheer size of the sculpture, and the outsized hands and head are awe inspiring. Michelangelo carved the 16-foot high block of marble in 3 years. At the academy is also the treasured collection of original Stradivarius violins. We couldn't take photos. | Above the main door is a colossal clock with only one hand, one of the few clocks of this time that still work. it shows a 24 hour period of time ending with sunset at the 24 hour mark.

36: The Arno & Ponte Vecchio | The Arno rises in the Apennines and flows through Florence and Pisa to the sea. The river regularly flooded the city, most recently in 1966. This devastating flood killed many people and damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books. It is considered the worst flood in the city's history since 1557. The Ponte Vecchio is an arched bridge over the River Arno, lined with shops. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir shops. Built in 1345, the bridge was the only one in Florence saved from destruction by the retreating Germans in 1944.

37: Our first coffee and wine break of the day, near the Ponte Vecchio. Florence is known for its leather goods, and Nancy is shopping for a new purse. I can't decide on a Murano glass necklace. At right is an elaborate store candy display. Drat! I didn't meet my goal of enjoying gelato every day. Apparently, we just missed the Firenze Gelato Festival. Did I mention it's still hot? One of the many bottles of sparkling water we ordered; they all had different labels. Below left: The city of Florence has a special fondness for Pinocchio, whose creator was born here.

38: The world's largest Franciscan church, Santa Croce dates from 1294 with a newer facade of poly-chrome marble. It is the burial place for Galileo (top left) Michelangelo (top center), Machiavelli, and Rossini, among other notable Italians. | Basilica di Santa Croce | Above: Vaulted ceiling, stained glass and fres-coes by Bardi. Left: A statue that looks much like our Statue of Liberty; it is part of the memorial monument to the poet Giovanni Battista Niccolini

39: In Nov. 1966, after days of torrential rains, the Arno River flooded Florence and its environs. The debris and mud from the countryside hit the district of Santa Croce the hardest. The water reached more than 22' in the piazza, and inside the church was left a muddy mess. The U.S. Committee to Rescue Italian Art, chaired by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, assisted in restoring frescoes around the city. Volunteers in these efforts were called "Mud Angels." | Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School) was created after World War II by the Franciscan friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and families of Florentine leather artisans. Their mission was to give orphans of the war a means to learn a practical trade to earn a living. You can buy the school's wares, including the purses above, made by the leather craftsmen inside the Monastery of Santa Croce. | The Piazza is the site of the annual soccer game in medieval costume, the Calcio Storico. These cos-tumed actors were part of a film being shot.

40: Our Tuscan Wine Tour | Our guide, Olivia, picked us up at the hotel for the two-hour drive to Montalcino, a medieval town south of Sienna, and home to the vineyards that produce Brunello wine from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes. Prized for their full-bodied complexity, these wines are expensive to buy here. | Our first stop was le Pottazine, owned by Guiseppe Gorelli, who comes from a long line of Brunello producers. Potazzine is the Italian name for a small, lively bird found in the Tuscan countryside. It is also used as a nick-name for small children, including the owner's daughters. Kim bought some bottles to be shipped to San Fran-cisco. Even with shipping, the price was less than in the U.S.

41: Olivia next drove us to a charming restaurant in a small village some-where in the middle of nowhere. It would have been ideal to dine under the Tuscan sun, but the day was so hot we ate indoors. Too bad I suddenly felt ill and couldn't enjoy the feast, nor the second winery stop. Below: The rolling hills of Tuscany. | Il Cocco Winery | Il Cocco ("the coconut") is named for a military general Cocco Salimbeni. In the 1400s, il Cocco was the military outpost on the southern slope of the Orcia Valley. Since 1700, the farm has been in the Bindi family. Today it's run by Giacomo Bindi, who is passionate about using only organic farming for the vineyard. This winery is small, a one-man operation. Of all the tasks involved in wine making, he said the task he hates most is labeling each bottle. He also complained about the tight controls and burdens placed by the Italian government on wine makers.

42: Farewell, Florence | One of the many beautiful wooden doors we saw while walking the city streets. Il Duomo at night. Donatello's David Donatello's statue of David (c. 1440) is the first unsupported standing work of bronze cast during the Renaissance. It depicts David with an enigmatic smile, posed with his foot on Goliath's severed head after defeating the giant. The statue is in the Bargello, across from our hotel. The museum houses master-pieces by Michelangelo, and a fine collection of ceramics (maiolica), textile, tapestries, ivory, silver, and old coins. Bottom left: A tiny postal vehicle, useful in navigating the narrow streets.

43: Ciao, Rome! | After checking in to the hotel, we used our advance reserved tickets (a necessity) for the Bor-ghese Gallery. It has a huge collection of paintings, sculp-ture and antiquities, begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese and patron of Bernini. This was the first time ever that we had to check everything, even our purses. No pics, as a result. Bernini's Apollo and Daphne is exquisite, with Daphne's trans-formation into tree branches. Who knew that marble could look so dainty. | Rome, the "Eternal City," is the capital of Italy, as it was the capital of the Roman Empire. The aver-age high temperature in June is 81, but it was much hotter for our visit in June. The heat, plus the intestinal illness that I shared with my traveling companions, cut into our tourist time and ambitions. | For our last train trip in Italy, we felt we had finally mastered the platform and seating on Italian trains. The medicine from the local friendly pharmacist which got us all through the remainder of the trip.

44: Top left: That's a Burger King on the same street as our hotel. Center: Bronze statue of Emperor Caesar Augustus on the broad Via dei Fori Imperiali, filled with traffic that is damaging the ancient monuments. Via dei Fori Imperiali was built by Mussolini in the 1930s for military parades. This controversial avenue split the remains of the Forums and paved over many ancient structures. The fight to remove the street continues. | A Funny Thing Happened ... | Enterprising Romans dress as ancient soldiers and offer to pose with tourists. This one asked for 20 Euros (about $25). I said, "In your dreams" and offered a 2 Euro coin: "Take it or leave it." He took it.

45: Above: Trajan's Column, north of the Roman Forum. Completed in AD 113, the freestanding column depicts the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians (101–102 and 105–106). Trajan's Forum was the last and largest of the Imperial Forums that formed the political and governmental center of the Roman Empire. The complex consisted of an enormous basilica, two libraries, markets and a large temple. | Above: A panoramic view of Trajan's Forum. Author: Grenouille vert at wikimedia.org.

46: Colosseum is from the Greek word Kolossos, meaning huge statue. The largest building con-structed during the Roman Empire, it is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. | The Colosseum | This amphitheatre seated 50,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, and re-enactments of famous battles. | Today, it's filled with hordes of tourists, many from cruise ships. We realized too late the after-noon would have been better to visit. We had no idea since our Roman trip in 1986 had no crowds and we didn't even need a ticket. We just walked in.

47: Nancy takes a break. It was so hot, and we wasted valuable energy just trying to find a ticket office. We finally stumbled into a tourist office and bought a Roma Pass for 30 Euros. Right: Part of the original floor. | Typical toilet at the Colosseum -- no seat. Should I sit or squat? | The arena's wooden floor was covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena). An elaborate under-ground structure, called the hypogeum, is still visible. It consisted of a multi-level subterranean network of tunnels and cages where gladiators and animals were held before contests began. | Most of the outer wall has collapsed following earth-quakes and only the north side is still standing. The remainder of the present-day exterior is actually the original interior wall.

48: The west end of the Colosseum overlooks the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. For centuries, the Forum was the center of Roman public life. Today, it is open for foot traffic along the ancient Roman streets, which are restored to the late Imperial level. | Above left: The Arch of Constantine, and to the right of the arch is the Sacra Via leading past the Temple of Venus and Rome to the Arch of Titus. This was the largest temple in Ancient Rome. Archaeological excavations continue, along with constant restoration and preservation. This looked to be very hot and dusty work. | The Roman Forum

49: Right: Remains of an ancient aqueduct. The marble Arch of Titus, built in the 1st century, is the model for many of the world's trium-phal arches, including Paris' Arc de Triomphe. Umbrellas carried by Asian tourists that day were not for rain. Colorful poppies and a refreshing water fountain on the Palatine Hill were welcome sights. | Above: The Via Sacra was the main street of ancient Rome, leading from the Capitoline to the Colosseum. The road was part of the traditional route of solemn religious fes-tivals and the magnifi-cent triumphs of victorious generals.

50: The Palatine hill is the most central of Rome's seven hills. In mythology, it was the site of the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf that kept them alive. Above: An olive tree and, below, vendors appear wherever the tourists are. | Above: Remains of the foundation that Nero had constructed to surround his colossal statue (120' high). Nothing remains of the Colossus of Nero, which was moved next to the Colosseum, (its name derives from this statue). Below: My shoes covered in ancient Roman dust!

51: Piazza del Popolo | This Piazza, the "People's Square," is a large car-free square that's great for people watching. An Egyptian obelisk of Ramesses II stands in the center. There are twin Baroque churches. At the right is the Bolognese restaurant where we ate. The last of our group to succumb to the intestinal distress, Nancy had to take a taxi back to the hotel. | The Porta del Popolo, the start of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern day Rimini) and the most important route to the north. Before the age of railroads, it was the traveler's first view of Rome upon arrival. For centuries, the Piazza del Popolo was a place for public execu-tions, the last of which took place in 1826.

52: The Vatican Treasures | The Vatican Museums is the largest such complex in the world with 1,400 rooms and miles of walking. A guide, or at least a plan, is a must. Our guide took us on a 3-hour tour (no bathroom stops), beginning with the courtyards, where he explained what to see in the Sistine Chapel. No talking nor photos are allowed in the chapel. Nancy wasn't feeling well, so she wisely didn't come. | Above: A view of St. Peter's from the courtyard. A colossal bronze pine cone in the Belvedere Courtyard. A pine cone is often used as a symbol of enlightenment, and one is atop the sacred staff carried by the Pope himself. | Above: The Braccio Nuovo is a long gallery with classical sculptures and busts of notable public figures in the ancient world. This marble statue of Augustus Caesar was originally painted with bright colors, as shown at left.

53: Four Raphael rooms are famous for their frescoes, painted by Raphael and his workshop while Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel. His most famous fresco is The School of Athens, and includes every great Greek philosopher, as well as Michel-angelo, the scruffy character shown in the center foreground. Plato (likely a portrait of Leo-nardo da Vinci), in the center, debates a point with Aristotle. | Our guide's English was excellent except when he referred to Rafael's "helps," to mean his students or assistants. We tried not to laugh. The Greek Cross Gallery, with Egyptian sculptures, contains two fine porphyry sarcophagi (burial caskets), one for St. Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine. | The long and impressive Gallery of Maps has a lavishly decorated coffered ceiling and 40 maps frescoed on both walls showing various parts of Italy from the 16th century.

54: In the Gallery of Tapestries, the ceiling looks three-dimensional, but it's actually a flat painting. Exquisite mosaics adorn the floor. | Above: Another of Raphael's frescoes, in which he depicts heaven and earth. Our last stop in the museums was the Sistine Chapel, famous for the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. It's also where Cardinals meet to elect a new pope. The chapel was too crowded to move, let alone gaze in awe at the masterpieces. Our guide whispered to us, but periodically, the guard would yell, "Quiet!" We shuffled through the crowds to escape. What a huge disappointment.

55: St. Peter's Basilica | St. Peter's Basilica, built on the site of a church covering the apostle Peter's tomb, is one of the largest churches in the world. Its dome is the tallest, rising 448 ft. Michelangelo's famous Pieta and a canopy over the Papal Altar, designed by Bernini, are in the church. | St. Peter's Square has the requisite Egyptian obelisk of the 13th century BC. This obelisk is thought to have stood witness to the crucifixion of St. Peter. Its removal to the present location in 1586 nearly ended in disaster when the ropes holding the obelisk began to smoke from the friction. The problem was noticed by a sailor, and his village was granted the privilege of providing the palms used at the basilica each Palm Sunday. Panorama by Francois Malan (wikipedia.org).

56: The Panthenon | A marvel of ancient architecture and one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings, the Pantheon is still a func-tioning church. It is also a tomb, and Raphael and two kings are buried here. Its coffered, concrete dome, has a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. | Just behind the Pantheon is Piazza della Minerva. The centerpiece is a statue of an elephant by Bernini with an ancient obelisk on its back. Behind the statue is Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where Galileo recanted his scientific theses in 1633 after being tried for heresy in the adjoining monastery. | The interior, lit by the spectacular oculus.

57: The Trevi Fountain | Not far from the Pantheon is the Baroque Sant' Ignazio. The ceiling frescoes include a trompe l'oeuil dome by Pozzo. | The Baroque Trevi Fountain, famed for starring in a lot of movies, is mobbed by tourists. On such a hot day, I wouldn't have been surprised to see some actually in the fountain. The legend is if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome; it's estimated 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day. The money has been used to subsidize a super-market for Rome's needy. Well, that's a good thing.

58: In the Piazza Colonna on the Via del Corso is the Column of Marcus Aurelius, one of the war monuments from ancient Rome. Modeled on Trajan's Column, it tells the story of Emperor Marcus Aurelius' German and Sarmatian campaigns (A.D. 172-175) in spiral reliefs. Beside the piazza's northern edge rises the Palazzo Chigi, official residence of the Italian prime minister. The Via del Corso is a street of fine shops and runs to the Piazza del Popolo. Hot and weary after roaming the streets, we retire to our hotel and repack for the last time. Our final dinner is at a pizzeria just down the street, and it is perhaps not surprisingly very good. Nancy doesn't dare risk eating, so we are only three. | Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II or "Altar of the Fatherland", location of the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, who represents the 650,000 Italians who died in World War I.

59: The Return Trip | This was not Alitalia's finest hour, with worn-out seats (so old they had ashtrays in the seat arms), bad food and little leg room ... but the views of Sardinia and the mountains out the window helped pass the time. Traffic from Toronto was bumper to bumper but at least we didn't get stranded in Philadelphia, as Kim and Nancy did, and they returned a day late. USAir provided unimaginably bad customer service. Misery.

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