Monday, August 22, 2011

Palio di Seina

This video was shot at the Palio that I was at. It gives you an idea of the intensity of this event! I would love to see it again, and would recommend it to anyone who is in Italy during that time (June or August). BUT I would also recommend planning ahead, and purchasing either seats, or if you can a balcony to enjoy the race. The video shows a bit of it, but at the end a fight broke out between the different neighborhoods. It got very intense.

Sunsets - fater & son fishing - sharing wine with two Austrians

Two beautiful Austrians I met

Cinque Terre - Beautiful pain

My hopes of relaxing on the beach in Cinque Terre were quickly dashed upon arrival. While I knew Cinque Terre was built into the mountain side, I was under the impression my hostel would be at the bottom of the mountain. Needless to say it was closer to the top. Think of walking up 500 meters of stairs, but you had no stairs, it was mainly uneven cobblestones, and some asphalt. Eitherway, I was here, and determined to enjoy. My hostel was on the 4th floor of some very steep steps as well, but as luck would have it, I was able to secure a bottom bunk. The hostel was a converted one bedroom apartment crammed with 4 sets of bunk beds, and big furniture that served no purpose.  My first day in Cinque Terre, I stayed in my villiage, Riomaggiore. It was the southern most village of them all.

When arriving in Riomaggiore, you exit the train station, and to the left are stairs you can climb. About 20 meters above the train station is the start of the walking path that runs north along the cost. From one end of Cinque Terre to the other it is approximately 18 kms, and most of the villages are not easily accessible by vehicle.  To the right of the train station is a walkway that takes you through the mountain. Sharing space with the train tunnel, you walk about 200 meters til you come out into sunlight, and from there it is all up hill...Literally. As you wander up the hill there are small grocery stores and souvenir shops everywhere, and then you start finding various restaurants. I believe Riomaggiore had 7 or 8 small ones. Instead of going up hill, you can go down some stairs and cut under the railway, and then you have found the Marina. It is filled with small craft that are used on a daily basis to go catch what will be served on the dinner tables and in the restaurants that evening. 

A view from above the Marina

There is a small area with in the Marina that the locals call a beach. It is a rocky beach and can be rather rough on the feet, but what I learned is simple...As soon as the water is deep enough, dive in, and swim/float to deep water, cause walking on those rocks is a bitch! (I ended up with many a cuts before I figured this out) The water on the otherhand was clear, cool, and very refreshing! It was worth the few cuts I did receive. Another wonderful thing about Riomaggiore was the cliff that jutted out to the north of the Marina. The locals and a few fearless tourists were able to dive from high above the water.  This I did not bother trying, after all I came here to relax, not break my neck or back.

Oh and did I mention after jumping in, they climb barefoot up the rock face to do it all over again. Yea, I was content floating in the refreshing water watching it all happen.

So as some of you may know, or may not know, Cinque Terre means 5 lands. It is made up of five different villages, and I visited all of them but one. (I will explain) The five villages each seemed to have a different personality about them, and they all were very charming, and their gift shops all sold the same damn things.

Monterosso is the northernmost village, and it is the most commercialized/touristy area of the 5.  It has the largest beach by far, and it is mostly sand. The downside - Its the tourist beach, 80% of the beach is classified as a private beach, which I never did figure out how to be allowed at the private beach. I went there a few times, locked everything in my backpack, and dropped it and my towel where I could see it from the water. I would go for a swim, lay in the sand and have a smoke, then go back in the water. It worked out well, but as it is the tourist beach, kids were everywhere. As for the actual village its self, there is a road/boardwalk lining the beach with shops and restaurants. They seemed to not differ to much from what I saw in Riomaggiore.

Vernazza was my favorite for a few reasons, first of which is the walk to the water. You get off the train station and it is a gentle downhill walk all the way to the cove. As you walk down this street you can not help but take in the smells of fresh bread baking. My favorite site while walking through Vernazza was the gentleman who just came back from fishing that morning, with a bucket full of eels. Still swimming inside the container, I could only wonder who's dinner they would be. When you make it down to the cove at Vernazza, you see the fishing boats attached the buoys in the middle, and there is a small sandy beach. Then there is a walkway that goes all the way around the cover, providing plenty of space for you to lay out your towels. If you do not enter the water at the sandy beach, you must be careful as you climb over the large rocks to get in. The rocks above the waterline are not bad, those below are slick as  could be. This was the best swimming area simply because the cove was protected from any sort of waves. The water was deep and refreshing, oh and did I mention this is the area I found the most topless women? Unfortunately due to the possiblity of getting in trouble with my host, I will not share those photographs. haha

Corniglia is probably a beautiful village but I would not know. 382 European stairs stood between me and Corniglia. I call them European stairs because anyone that has traveled through Europe has no doubt learned that unlike in America where steps tend to be a uniform height and distance apart, that does not apply here. I got off the train at the Corniglia stop in the early afternoon, after spending a few hours in the sun already, and I was in flip flops. I looked up at the stairs leading the way to the village, and I looked down the path going to the water. I choose to go to the water. That too was a BAD idea. After following a path for about 1.5 km, I finally came to a stair case that led down to the ocean. It was a pretty long stair case but I came this far, I was gonna go for a damn swim. Well ladies and gents...the beach at Corniglia has NO SAND! It is all rocks, some the size of my head, some the size of my feet, some smooth, some jagged. I dance along the rocks til I find a place to set my bag and towel down. While drinking my water I light a smoke and contemplate my next move. (How do I get from here, into the water with out breaking my ankle or looking like a fool)  Well I made it to the water, did not break or sprain my ankle, but I probably looked like a fool. Walking over the hot rocks that were baking in the sun all morning was hard enough, but as you get to the ones that stay below the waterline, now they are slippery. I took the same approach to the beach in Riomaggiore, once I was in deep enough water that I could float, I dove in gently and used my hands pulling my self across the rocks til I was in water that was above my head. It was very refreshing and at one point even got a little chilly...But then I was faced with the problem of getting out of the water.. Not an easy task. I survived though with only a few scratched to my legs. After driving off, I had to make the walk back, and that was something I was not looking forward to. 

The Steps up from the Corniglia beach

Manarola - I really do not have much to say about it. It is very large, and it was alot like Vernazza, but their dialect was nothing I had every heard before. I had been able to understand some Italian up until I visited them. 

Cinque Terre is an amazing area, and if you like hiking they have aww inspiring trails that will lead you to private lagoons that you will fall in love with. The food was amazing. My favorite dish I had there was pasta with Inksauce and cuttlefish. I was scared, but it tasted great!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

100 days of Bloodshed

No, I am not talking about WWII, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, I am talking about the opening of the Flavian Amphitheater, or as well all know it today, the Colosseum. Construction started under Emperor Vespian (I think the Vespa scooters are named after him) in the year 70ad. His son soon took command of the Roman Empire, and the construction was completed under Emperor Titus.

  • 76 public entrances, 4 private entrances
  • built to fit 50,000
  • Entire amphitheater could be emptied out in 5 mins.
  • Seating was based on social status.
  • Senators were awarded seats for life.
  • Their name would be cared into the assigned seat
  • The expression "I do not see your name on that seat" comes from this
  • Inaugural games lasted 100 DAYS 
The Inaugural games had three daily parts.
  1. The animal games - Animals vs. Animals for example it is documented that an elephant defeated a bull
  2. Execution of prisoners - sometimes by human hand, sometimes by animal
  3. Gladitor contests - We have all seen the movie Russel Crowe starred in.
 It is said that in the first 100 days, over NINE THOUSAND animals were killed, and that in the lifetime of the coliseum's use, over 700,000 people were killed there. Yet today it is celebrated for history, and beautiful architecture......Its amazing what time does to a viewpoint.
 Interior - Partial reconstruction of the floor, below is where the animals and prisoners were housed


Everywhere you go, there is amazing architecture, and statues. Museums seem to be dotting the city every kilometer. I got very luck! I met a gentleman from France who was originally making his trip to Rome with a friend. His friend canceled, so he had an extra ticket/reservation for the Borghese Gallery. (it turns out the only way to get into the Borghese Gallery is to set a reservation well in advance) The Borgehese Gallery houses a collection of art that could rival the Vatican. It houses many pieces by Bernini, Raphael, Titan, Carvaggio, and many more. It art is something you enjoy, this is a must see!

My favorite piece in the Gallery was by Bernini. It was titled "Apollo and Daphne." Since no cameras were allowed in the museum, you will have to settle for a photo from the Gallery's own website.Below is the web link to see the statue and the description of it. Enjoy

Marble Columns - fasle advertising

Ever wonder how the Italians made everything out of Marble? The buildings, the columns, etc. etc. Well contrary to popular belief most of those things are not made out of a solid piece of marble. The structure was constructed out of bricks, and then a marble facade was applied.

Talk about misleading

For the record I want to state THIS IS NOT true for all columns and marble faced structures. There are a fair amount that are made from SOLID marble.

Sistine Chapel

It is a must see. Photos were not allowed, but I am sure you can find photos of it on the internet if you would like. I stood there for 20 minutes looking upward at the ceiling, contemplating what I knew, and then it dawned on me....It must of been a miserable project for Michelangelo. This project took him 4 years. Do me a favor and look straight at your ceiling for 4 minutes. Tell me how your neck feels. Could you do that every fucking day for FOUR years? On top of your neck hurting, add in the fact (and its documented) that on a daily basis you will have plaster fall from the ceiling into your eyes. I thank Michelangelo for his hardships, for he truly did create an amazing piece of art. As you look up at it, just start on one end and move to the other. My favorite panel was the panel where Noah got drunk and was caught by his sons. It injected some comedy into an otherwise religious scene.