(Italy Flag)


(Italy Map)


In the spring of 2013 my brothers spent three weeks in Italy.
It sounds like they had a great time.
Below are the emails we recieved from their trip.

EMAIL SENT ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 2013
Ciao a tutti da Italia,(Hello Everybody from Italy!)

After multiple failed attempts through the years to get here, we are finaly writing you from Italy!

We decided to try something new on this trip. Following travel guru Rick Steves' advice we are traveling with only one carry on bag each for the whole trip (along with a small throw-under-the-seat bag of odds and ends). This was a big help in one way, as we never had to stop at baggage claim. There was a down side too, since we repeatedly had to open everything up for security.

We took off from Indianapolis at around 1:40pm and landed at JFK in New York a couple hours later. Our next flight to Paris was in another terminal which required taking the "air train." That meant we had to go through security again, and the line at JFK was long! Pull the plastic bag of liquids out of the carry-on once more, off with the belt, watch, shoes, money belt, laptop out. We had a two+ hour layover between flights so this killed some time. We got to the gate and upon checking our boarding passes we found they had changed our seats (which I booked and paid for in November). They assigned us to different rows on opposites sides of the wide-body 777. I got them to change us to the same row but she couldn't get us the aisle/window seat combination I had booked. After going back to my seat to wait for boarding, it just started really making me mad so I went back and, as Kevin put it, got animated. The result was we did get an aisle seat and a window seat next to one another. We took off ahead of schedule. There was some significant turbulence during the first third of the flight. Didn't keep us from eating! The food on the flight was superb, and lots of it. Both dinner and breakfast.

We landed in Paris and again needed to move to a new terminal for the connecting flight. So it's off with the belt, shoes, watch, etc again and pull the baggies out of the carry-ons. There was no line here though and not one question from the customs officer. So after another two-hour layover it was off to Napoli (Naples), passing over the Alps and providing us the first picture to send you.



From Napoli we caught a bus to Sorrento. This took us on a gorgeous drive down the coast and offering us a great view of Mount Vesuvius--two more pictures below.




If the upcoming Amalfi Coast drive is more scenic than this one, wow, it will be something to see.

We're spending the next four nights in Sorrento.

More (much more) to come! Until tomorrow, buona sera.

Dan & Kevin

EMAIL SENT ON THURSDAY, APRIL 11, 2013
Greetings from Sorrento,

It was beautiful weather as we explored Sorrento on Wednesday. We walked through town, stopping at a few shops and then strolled down to the shoreline. Here’s a picture from the promenade:



On the way back through town, we stopped at a grocery store, buying a baguette of bread, some cold meat and cheese. We made sandwiches when we got back to the hotel. Having not slept since we left home, we called it a day.

We began Thursday with a fabulous breakfast in the picturesque sun room of the hotel. What a spread. After that, we grabbed our day bags and walked to the train station. It took over an hour to get to Napoli on the somewhat tired Circumvensuviana train. We kept our eyes open for the often-warned of pick-pockets onboard. There was a plethora of common beggars, roaming musicians and even a woman with a baby passing through the train cars with hands out. Once we got to Napoli we immediately explored the Architectural Museum. Here’s a sculpture that was used as a fountain. It is a representation of a water deity from whose mouth the waters flow:



Here’s a floor mosaic unearthed in Pompei that may have been an ancient KFC sign:



After we left the museum, Rick Steves guided us through the city. He mentioned this Café Mexico as having the best espresso anywhere:



Another highlight was taking the funicolare up to San Antomio for a spectacular view of Napoli and Mount Vesuvius:



Rick’s final suggestion was a stop at a local pizzeria for dinner. After all, this is where pizza was born, along with Sophia Loren and the Mafia. Kevin took a video in the open kitchen of our pizza being prepped--from dough to wood fired oven. It was delizioso. Already well after dark when we finished eating, we headed back to the train station for the long ride home to Sorrento.

Buona notte!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 5 minutes long of Sorrento, Italy.

The video below is 16 minutes long of Naples, Italy.

EMAIL SENT ON FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 2013
Ciao a tutti!

Another gorgeous day and another ride on the colorful Circumvesuvian train. Friday’s first stop was to the archeological sites in Pompei. Just for reference, here’s a map from our earlier visit to the museum in Napoli:



We started our exploration in the lower left hand corner, walking up the main road to the first open area on the left – the forum.



The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the background in 79 AD caused both the destruction but also the preservation of these structures. The next picture is of a Roman fast food joint. In the countertop you can see the holes that would have held pots of food to be sold. (aka KFC buffet) Everyone ate out on a consistent basis. Household kitchens were quite small.



We explored lots of other buildings finally ending in the upper right of the map above at the “new” amphitheatre.



From here we took the train a bit further north to Ercolano for the smaller but better preserved archeological site, Herculeum. This city was comparable to an upscale gated community in today’s world.



The existing city above doesn’t look all that different from the ruined one below.



It’s bed time so more tomorrow,

Buona notte,

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 11 minutes long of Pompeii.

EMAIL SENT ON SATURDAY, APRIL 13, 2013
Buon giorno,

Rising early at 6am, we headed down to the hotel’s lovely sunroom for another tasty breakfast. The reason for such an early start was an all-day Amalfi Coast excursion. The weather was perfect once again for our exciting trip through the UNESCO Heritage preserved area. We climbed aboard our modern, full-sized bus and set off on a roller coaster of a road with its hundreds of switchbacks and countless postcard views of the Italian coast. At one of many vista points, a merchant was selling the area’s renowned crops--lemons and oranges, freshly squeezed if you wished. The hillsides are covered with lemon and orange groves.



Here is one of over 200 pictures which Dan took of the Amalfi Coast. Included in this shot is the beautiful blue water, one of thirty watch towers used as an early warning system against invaders, and homes built right on the cliffs.



After a couple hours we arrived at the historically important town of Amalfi. Immediately upon arrival, we hopped onto a boat for a cruise along the coast. This provided a wonderful perspective of the many small towns, rugged terrain, and stunning beauty. We were able to shoot more than an hour’s worth of video which will be uploaded to YouTube once Dan’s brother Tim edits and posts it on his website. Google—Hoosier Tim videos. The photo below was taken from the boat.



Once back on land, we did a little shopping in Amalfi and had a delicious limoncello gelato. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the sunshine, mild breeze, delightful town, and tastes of the region.



After a brief stop at the tiny town of Scala, we explored the town of Ravello. This town inspired Wagner’s compositions and DH Lawrence’s scandalous novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. This picture is from just outside Ravello, looking down on the area below and the town of Maggiore.



This was an all day expedition strongly endorsed by Sue King. Grazie mille Sue!

After returning to Sorrento, we charged all our run down batteries (both literally and metaphorically) and packed for our journey north to Rome tomorrow.

Arrivederci!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 35 minutes long of Italy's Amalfi Coast.

EMAIL SENT ON MONDAY, APRIL 15, 2013
Benvenuto a Roma (Welcome to Rome),

We know you must have been disappointed when you didn’t get a journal entry from Italy yesterday. We’ll try to get you caught up. We left Sorrento yesterday about 11am via the Circumvesuviana train. More than the usual number of accordion-playing beggars wandered in and out of the coaches; often playing, for some reason, “Oh How We Danced On the Night We Were Wed.” We transferred to another train in Napoli.



As we comfortably continued our journey, I dove back into “Ahab’s Wife” while Kevin read “The Pillars of the Earth” and shot videos from the train window. In a couple hours we were in Rome. After briefly checking into the very modern iQ Hotel Roma, we walked to the Spanish Steps to catch the Free Rome Walking Tour.



What a crowd! Apparently it was small in comparison to many days. We were guided to numerous historic monuments and through several churches with wonderful works of art. Romans have been able to worship in the Pantheon below continuously for more than 2000 years. It was a temple of worship to the Roman Gods, later Christianized and still used by Catholics today.



Our last stop was at the famous Trevi Fountain. If you launch a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the fountain, legend has it you will be granted your wish to return to Rome. We were too penurious to give this a try. And we were too busy keeping our eyes on our bags and wallets. Just a week ago, our guide had a woman on one of his tours who tossed a coin into the fountain and was pick pocketed. She lost ˆ 3,000 ($3,900)! Now why would anyone be carrying that much money?



Today we spent most of the day at the Vatican. While we were waiting to enter the Vatican Museum, we encountered a lovely lady from British Columbia and spent the next few hours as a threesome. Because of time limitations, we briskly explored several kilometers of rooms and hallways filled with priceless treasures and gorgeous frescos. This ceiling is from the Gallery of Geographic Maps.



We ultimately arrived at the Sistine Chapel (no pictures allowed) and enjoyed Rick Steves’ explanations on our iPods. Then it was on to St. Peter’s. We unwittingly got in the line for the cupola and ended up literally climbing hundreds of steps to the very top of the Basilica of St Peter’s dome.



When we finished panting and sweating profusely, we spent time photographing and video recording the city of Rome for the best vantage point available. Then we zigzagged our way back down into the Basilica. The bronze canopy below surrounds the main altar used only by the Pope himself. A service started in the apse behind this altar, but was not led by Pope Francis.



Michelangelo’s Pieta is at the other end of the world’s largest church.



Kevin is standing in front of a holy water font. After all the sweating up in the dome, it would be nice to jump in and take a bath!



We have many more pictures we’d like to share but it will have to wait until another time.
Right now we’re in our hotel doing laundry. Well, as the famous saying goes:
Quando sieta a Roma, fate come i Romani
Ciao Ciao!

Kevin & Dan

EMAIL SENT ON TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2013
Hi from Rome,

Today we spent most of our time in two museums. If you do not wish to see uncensored Roman art, you might want to delete this journal entry.

After another bountiful breakfast, we took a bus to Piazza Venezia. This piazza is a major public transportation hub today. Supposedly they are in the midst of constructing Rome’s third subway line below this area. The excavating work has resulted in historic archeological discoveries but that has caused repeated delays. The piazza is dominated by the monument below dedicated to united Italy’s first king, Victor Emmanuel II. The family name appears on many streets and monuments throughout Italy.



After you walk around this monument on the left-hand side you come to Capitol Hill, seat of government in ancient times and now. Today must have been field trip day as there were multiple herds of youths in their variously colored hats. These youngsters are in front of the mayor’s palace.



To the left and right are the two buildings of the Capitoline Museum connected by an underground passage. This bronze statue “Capitoline She Wolf” has become a symbol of Rome. You see this image reproduced many times throughout the city. The twins Romulus and Remus were added during the Renaissance.



Another great roman sculpture is “Boy Extracting a Thorn.” Ahead of its time, this statue led to many attempts to produce similar works.



Below the statue of Marcus Aurelius is said to be the only surviving equestrian statue from antiquity. A copy sits in the middle of Capitol Hill Square where this original used to sit.



There is a fabulous view of the Forum from one of the museum’s terraces.



We jumped back on the hop-on-hop-off bus to get us to the next museum. This scene is also prevalent throughout Rome. Scooters about to run you down everywhere.



These busts depict various Roman emperors in the National Museum of Rome.



We walked back to our hotel from here, later having dinner at a restaurant recommended by, guess who? Of course, Rick Steves.

Ciao Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

EMAIL SENT ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17, 2013
Ciao,

Today was our final day in Rome and it was once again sunny and warm. We’ve been very lucky so far. We began our day by taking a relatively short walk to our first site. The route included a “street” that was mostly a long flight of stairs (63 steps to be exact!). At the top and around the corner we followed a narrow cobblestone street which curved and led us to the Church of St. Peter in Chains. The chains that supposedly bound St. Peter are on display in a glass case below the center altar. Michelangelo’s Moses sits off to the right.




Another short walk along narrow cobblestone streets took us to the crowded Roman Forum. (No funny thing happened on the way to the Forum). It’s hard to pick from the mass of pictures taken. The picture on the left represents ancient Rome at its peak; the one on the right was a gift to Rome by their conquerors. One grand column served as a stone cold reminder and poke in the eye that Rome and its vast empire were no more.




From the Forum it was just a short walk to the Coliseum that was filled long ago with lions and tigers and bears, OH MY! However, historians are dubious about the execution of any Christians occurring in the coliseum. It is clear that Christians were persecuted and killed in Rome by Nero, but more likely in his grand Circus or burned in his palace garden.



This is the recently restored Arch of Constantine. It is the symbol that clearly stands as the historical marker and primary reason that Christianity became a dominant, world-wide religion. Emperor Constantine needed a unifying force/focus for a vast and divisive empire. He made a political choice which allowed him greater influence on the development of a national religion. A special exhibition on the 1,700th anniversary of Constantine’s Edict of Toleration in 313 AD is on display on the third level of the coliseum this year. It was quite interesting and informative.



Having finished our pasta this evening, we are now packing for our journey onto Florence tomorrow. The forecast ahead for Firenze looks good for the first two days, then rain for the weekend.

Arrivederci Roma!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 42 minutes long of Rome, Italy.

EMAIL SENT ON THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2013
Benvenuti a Firenze! (Welcome to Florence)

We’ve journeyed on to the third Italian city, Florence, from which we will explore more of Italy during the next four days. We continue to enjoy an unbroken streak of warm and sunny days. Checking out of our very modern hotel in Rome and walking the few blocks to Termini station, we arrived in plenty of time. Checking the departure panel for the binario (platform) from which our train would depart, we headed over to binario 4 to await the train’s arrival. A couple minutes before departure time we heard an announcement that the train was preparing to leave from binario 2. So we dashed across the terminal and just made it as the doors were closing and train started to move. Other than having to evict the people who were in our assigned seats, it was smooth sailing from then on. The fast train got us to Florence in an hour and a half. The Hotel Fiorita is just a block from the train station. It’s the delightful antithesis of the iQ Hotel Roma. We rode the metal cage elevator that looks just like ones in old mystery movies, to the third floor. The heavy door key was actually a real key, not like our previous two plastic cards that must be slipped into the wall slot to get anything to work in the room. The room is charming, with a small balcony overlooking the Duomo.



After a brief pause, we took a bus over to the Pitti Palace. It was bought by the Medici family in the 1500s. It was the residence of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It is packed with priceless paintings and frescoes from the likes of Raphael, Titian and Peter Paul Rubens, none of which you’re allowed to photograph. Sorry we cannot share the sights with you. In the center courtyard of the palace, construction is underway for a grand wedding on Saturday. We are told it is for the family of a plastic water bottle tycoon. Here’s one of the floral displays. That is a cornucopia spilling out flowers. Note the scale!-a twelve foot opening. The entire courtyard is being built as if it is a giant movie set. Twenty piece orchestra, baby grand piano, entire covered stage three times the size of IRT’s main stage. Out in front of the palace there are two major light stands constructed with numerous spotlights to track celebrities entering the palace grounds. And along the “driveway” are uplights and follow spots. This appears to be an Oscar worthy production.



After a long wait, we caught a bus to take us to the other side of the Arno River to the Church of San Miniato. The church was beautiful but the most interesting aspect was hearing the monks leading evening mass in Gregorian chant.



Final stop of the day was Piazzale Michelangelo, where we watched the sun set over the beautiful city of Firenze.



As you can tell, we were not the only ones to have this idea.

Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

EMAIL SENT ON FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2013
Greetings from Florence,

I hate being repetitive but it was, in fact, another warm and sunny day today in Tuscany. Breakfast was in a nice little sun room on the top floor of the hotel from which one can overlook the neighborhood rooftops. After Kevin finished his daily cappuccino (or two), we took a short walk to the famous and crowded Duomo. Its actual name is Cattedrale di Santa Maria dei Fiore. The Duomo exterior is more interesting than the rather spare interior. Having climbed to the top of St Peter’s Dome in Rome, we decided against another exhausting climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s famous dome. As you can see below, some people did.




The dome is more famous than the church upon which it sits. Likewise, the bronze doors of the baptistery (a separate ornate building) are the focal point rather than the building. Ghiberti made an artistic breakthrough with these bronze doors, which are basically flat but give the illusion of depth.




The picture with another “David” next to the entrance is the Palazzo Vecchio (old palace). It currently functions as Town Hall, but in 1540 Cosimo I de’ Medici made it his personal palace. Right next door is the Uffizi Gallery which has the largest collection of Italian art in the world. Works by Giotto, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Michelangelo and a room full of Botticellis can be viewed, but not photographed. Just to the south of the Uffizi is the equally famous Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). Across the entire span, it is lined with shops on both sides, mainly jewelry stores.




On the way back to the hotel, we found a little shop that sold pandinas, freshly made sandwiches like displayed at the bottom of the picture. There is a nice small dining area in the rear of the shop where we ate the enormous and quite good pandinas. Though we didn’t have any today, we passed countless shops selling gelato.




Right now we’re watching CNN catching up on the tragic events in Boston.

Ciao Ciao,

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 39 minutes long of Florence, Italy.

EMAIL SENT ON SATURDAY, APRIL 20, 2013
Florentine greetings,

This has been a sweet, relaxing day. We did go out today under cloudy skies. We saw Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David, but weren’t allowed to take pictures once again. The Galleria dell’Accademia is very small and probably wouldn’t attract the large crowd it does except for the magnificent David. Rick Steves, naturally, gave us an excellent commentary. From the Accademia we walked around the corner to the Precious Stone Museum. Because we’re such game players and because we’d yet to get photos, these 18th century paintings depicting game playing seemed worthy of a shot.




From there it was just around another corner to yet another Medici palace. It was later purchased by the Ricardi family. Maybe that’s why it’s known as the Palazzo Medici-Ricardi. The Ricardi family transformed the palace from Renaissance style to Baroque. In several rooms there were displays of Vietnamese art.




Another brief walk took us to the Medici Chapels. Even though they are undergoing some restoration, they were quite impressive. Several Medicis have been laid to rest here. Sorry, again no photos.



We got back to the hotel very early and are enjoying relaxing on the balcony catching up on our reading. Hope you enjoy your day as much as we’re enjoying ours, il dolce far niente (sweet doing nothing).

Ciao Ciao,

Dan & Kevin

EMAIL SENT ON SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2013
Buon Giorno,

It was a cool and cloudy Sunday today. We journeyed out from our Florence hub to two other Italian cities. First, we took a regional train to Pisa. A local bus took us to the Field of Miracles which is mostly surrounded by the ancient wall. The first thing you see inside the wall is the largest Baptistery in Italy. On the half hour a vocalist gives you a sample of the building’s great acoustics. A person can sing three part harmony by them self. The dome allows a note to echo for about ten seconds, thereby allowing a person to sing a full chord on their own.




Continuing on from the Baptistery you come to the Duomo. It is quite large. A chapel off to the right contains an altar with the body of a local saint displayed behind glass.




And next, as anticipated is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It does lean, to be sure. After massive restoration work in the late 90s and 2000s, it is now supposedly safe and not sinking or leaning further. We watched some very informative videos on the history and restoration of the tower.




It was only a 30-minute train trip to our next city of Lucca. Lucca didn’t suffer the World War II damage that a lot of Italian cities did. Its historic center is entirely surrounded by the intact ancient city wall. We rented bicycles and rode on top of the ramparts making a complete loop around the city. We arrived back to the bike shop minutes before it started to rain. That’s Kevin taking videos most of the circuit.




We’re packing now as this was our final day in beautiful Florence.

Ciao Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 14 minutes long of Pisa, Italy.

The video below is 14 minutes long of Lucca, Italy.

EMAIL SENT ON TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2013
Venetian greetings!

Water, water everywhere! We left Florence yesterday at noon on a fast train that was filled with loud teenagers, students from Padova. The queen bees sat across the aisle from us, and all the drone bees swarmed around them. Two hours later, with a light rain falling, we arrived in Venice. But by the time we collected our pre-arranged transportation passes (due to less than helpful ticket agents) it was pouring. Lugging bags, holding an umbrella, trying to read a map, all while surrounded by scurrying tourists and Venetians--we finally found the extremely narrow ”street” that led to our hotel (below, from today). By the time we stepped inside, we were soaked. The weather postponed our original plan for our first day in Venice. When the rain subsided a bit, we decided to use the down time by going to the laundromat and doing a couple loads of laundry. Two washers and one dryer cost more than dinner! We had our readers with us to help pass the time. Today’s weather was much better. Our hotel is only steps from the Grand Canal making it easy to catch a vaporetto (water bus). On the ride to Piazza San Marco, we passed all kinds of boats on the canal including police boats, UPS boats and, as you can see below, a hearse hauling a casket.




We took the #2 fast boat and in 25 minutes we arrived at Piazza San Marco. This is the Times Square of Europe, both in terms of the number of people passing through but also because you’re likely to see just about anything. This is what we saw today. Venice is also referred to as the Vegas of Italy.




We toured the Correr Museum for a thin slice of Venetian history; the Basilica di San Marco to view its gold mosaics; the Palazzo Ducale for a look at the power and wealth of the Venetian Republic; and the Bridge of Sighs leading into the Prison. Finally we took an elevator to the top of the Campanile tower for an expansive view of Venice.




The final stop for the day was prescribed by Dan’s dentist, Dr. Nicholson. We stopped by Harry’s Bar, frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and famous for their Bellini drink. Dan had one, Kevin had an espresso. (I’ll bring you the receipt on my next visit Doc.)




Returning this evening, we hopped on the #1 slow vaporetto back up the Grand Canal. It makes all the stops, the Rialto Bridge above is but one. Those yellow topped objects on the right are an example of the vaporetto “bus stops.” It was a wonderful day in a magical city!

Ciao Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 36 minutes long of Venice, Italy.

EMAIL SENT ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 2013
Buon Giorno,

We had another gorgeous day in Italy. We branched out from our Venice hub today with a trip to Padova. We walked down the narrow little “street” from our hotel and then around the corner to Venezia Santa Lucia train station. In less than an hour we were in Padova. It is known as “the brain” of the region. Its university has hosted Galileo, Copernicus and Dante. Today we walked a short distance from the train station to Scrovegni Chapel. It is decorated with nearly 40 Giotto frescoes that were quite ground-breaking for their down-to-earth images. The three tiers of frescoes that line the walls on both sides of the chapel tell the stories of Mary and Jesus in chronological order. Giotto depicts the Last Judgement at the chapel’s rear. Only 25 visitors with reservations are allowed in the chapel at a time for 15 minutes after they have been in the anteroom for 15 minutes prior to entry. No bags or cameras are allowed inside.




In was a short tram ride to the next stop, the Basilica of St. Anthony. Guarding the basilica is Donatello’s life-size equestrian statue which was the first cast from bronze in a thousand years. Rising from the altar inside is Donatello’s famous crucifix along with six bronze statues of Padova’s favorite saints. One of the main reasons people makes pilgrimages here is to visit the tomb of Saint Anthony, whose remains supposedly have been held here in a chapel to the left of the nave for 800 years. Well, most of him anyway, as bits and pieces of him, like his tongue and vocal chords are held in reliquaries behind the altar. Many areas of the basilica were closed off for restoration. Once again, no photos were permitted inside.




Our last stop in Padova is adjacent to St. Anthony’s. Prato della Valle was once a Roman theater and later St. Anthony’s preaching grounds. Today, the 400-yard-long oval piazza claims to be the largest in Italy. It is lined with dozens of statues of eminent local citizens and filled today with living citizens playing, picnicking or relaxing. It must have also been filled with something to which Dan was allergic as he wouldn’t stop sneezing while there. Before heading back to the train station we grabbed a couple of thick slices of pizza and a lemon gelato. We’re getting ready to pack up now as we move on to our final Italian city tomorrow.

Ciao Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 10 minutes long of Padova, Italy.

EMAIL SENT ON THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 2013
Greetings from Milan,

We have arrived at our final Italian destination, getting to Milan by train at 2:30 this afternoon. That late arrival and the fact that today is the Italian holiday Liberation Day limited our sight seeing. Liberation Day commemorates the end of Mussolini’s reign in 1945. We did go to the Piazza del Duomo for a brief visit. It was crowded with those celebrating the holiday and also those demonstrating for their various political points of view. There was a very large police presence around the square. We walked through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (remember him?). This shopping mall was built in 1870 during Italian unification and was the first building in town to have electric lights.




Walking straight through the Galleria brought us to the Piazza della Scala. In the middle of the square is a monument to Leonardo. He spent many years in Milan working for the Sforza family. They were as predominant in Milan as the Medici family was in Florence. Leonardo is looking at the world’s most prestigious opera house, Teatralle alla Scala. We checked the posters to see if an opera was being performed while we’re here but our hopes were dashed. The ballet Gisele is on stage.




We’ve booked a walking tour for tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have better weather than what is predicted. The forecast calls for rain for the entire weekend.

Ciao Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

EMAIL SENT ON FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013
Ciao a tutti!

This is our fifth Italian hotel of this journey and it gives a perfect five for five on hotel quality. It’s always questionable when the only thing you know about the hotel is what you see on the internet. But if I do say so myself, I did an excellent job finding good hotels. Of course I worked on this Italian vacation literally for years, if not a decade. The breakfast buffet here at the Hotel Berna is massive. Our habit has been to have a big breakfast at the hotel and have one other meal, usually around 8 PM.

There was a light drizzle as we walked to the Metro station for the short trip by subway to the Duomo (cathedral). There we met up with the other members of our walking tour. Our guide first led us inside the immense Duomo, the largest church in the country. Trivia question: is this true? Isn’t there a bigger church in Italy? Answer tomorrow. Construction began in 1386. This is actually the third or fourth church to occupy this location. Construction stopped many times, sometimes for decades. It took centuries to become what it is today and construction/restoration is still taking place. The Duomo is surprisingly dark inside. You may not be able to tell from the picture, but the red light above the altar supposedly marks the spot where a nail from Jesus’ cross is kept. The statue is of apostle St. Bartolomeo, skinned alive by the Romans. It’s not a great picture but he’s shown draped in his own skin.




We proceeded out of the Duomo, through the Galleria, past Scala Opera House and the Leonardo statue (all of which I told you about yesterday) and to the Sforza Castle. It was built as a military fortress in the late 1300s and later became the Renaissance palace of the powerful Sforza family. Now it houses several museums. From the castle we moved on to the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie to see the reason we took the walking tour in the first place – Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.




This picture is of a copy as no photos were allowed. There’s so much written about the masterpiece, I won’t waste your time with additional speculations. Our tour disbanded here. We moved on to Milan’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park, Parco Sempione. On the north side of the park is the Arch of Peace built facing Paris to welcome Napoleon’s rule. The picture below actually faces Milan. They turned the horses around to have the back sides facing Paris when Napoleon didn’t turn out to be what they were hoping for. Again, you probably can not tell from the picture, but the people you see on the left are doing a professional photo shoot for sunglasses worn by the two male models. From here we walked through the park and castle at the south end onto Via Dante. This pedestrian only street leads to the Duomo and is a popular shopping street.




We finished our day by walking through the spires on top of the Duomo. There are good views of the city below plus a different perspective of the cathedral as you walk through the jungle of spires.




The forecast for rain was incorrect and allowed us one more day of sight seeing and picture taking. The forecast for tomorrow is 100% chance of heavy rain. We may just have to send you pictures of our bright shiny faces. Or maybe I’ll do a journal entry on the bathrooms of Italy. It’s a complete mystery what facilities will be behind that stall door.

Ciao Ciao!

Dan & Kevin

EMAIL SENT ON SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2013
Ciao!

This is the final journal entry of our Italian vacation. The rain kept us indoors all of yesterday. It was nice to have a down day to rest and read. We both finished our books. Currently, we’re having a thunderstorm. But we were able to go out for our last bit of sightseeing this morning to the Monumental Cemetery here in Milan. The cemetery was built right after unification to give the rich and famous a place to rest. It’s a large garden of angels, soldiers and grim reapers. We spent 2½ hours roaming among the monuments. The cloudy skies added to the macabre atmosphere.














We wrapped up our afternoon by doing a little shopping in this city known for high fashion. We didn’t buy anything. In fact, we haven’t bought anything but a scarf and some postcard books since we arrived in Italy. On the way back to the hotel we ran across another photo shoot of some of Milan’s models wearing some intriguing fashion choices.

The trivia answer from the last journal entry: the reason why Milan’s Duomo can truthfully claim to be the largest church in Italy is because the largest church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica, is in Vatican City--its own separate country.

The travel journal has been an enjoyable part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thanks for traveling along with us.

Arrivederci Italia!

Dan & Kevin

The video below is 35 minutes long of Milan, Italy.

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