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CBBH Photo Challenge: In the Pink

Well it’s the last day of the month and I decided I’d better get my skates on and do Marianne’s ‘Pink’ Challenge.

In Italy, I wore my pink sun hat almost every day. It goes so well with gelato, don’t you agree?

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Outside Starbucks, we spotted this sparkling pink Jag. I wanted to hang around to see if the driver was a woman or a man, but hubby wasn’t as curious as I was, so we’ll never know.

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I wonder who is wrapped up so warmly in this pink doggy bath towel. Can you guess?

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It’s none other than my sweet little granddaughter Taylor, who undoubtedly loves the colour pink.

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I’ve found out over the years, that some of the nicest things come in pink packages.

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In Great Grandma’s pond, there floated the most beautiful pink water-lily.

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Sultry Bali nights can be a really magical pink,

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but at the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like a pink Florida sunset.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my pink pics. To see more, click on the badge to hop over to Marianne’s blog.

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The two blogs which I would like to share with and recommend to you this time, are:

Babsje Heron, who posts about her marvelous experiences with the Great Blue Herons in her neighbourhood. I love seeing her photos, and reading about her encounters with these beautiful birds.

Lynne Mayhew  is a writer, who travels “on and off the beaten path” with her photographer husband Ron. Her posts are both fascinating and educational, and I always look forward to the next one.

Do pop over to see them, and tell them I sent you.

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The Oldest Bridge in Florence, for Jake’s Theme

Jake’s theme this week is ‘Bridge’ and as I’ve shown you many bridges for previous challenges, I decided this time to single out only one. The Ponte Vecchio is the most famous bridge in Florence, and also the oldest, being the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days. Other bridges in Florence were destroyed in World War II, but legend has it that Hitler really took a liking to this particular bridge and therefore ordered it to be spared. This structure with three stone arches replaced a wooden bridge which had crossed the Arno River at this spot since Roman times. The original bridge was destroyed by flood in 1117, and was reconstructed in stone, but was once again swept away in the terrible flood of November 1333, when according to the chronicles of Giovanni Villani, all but the two central piers, was swept away when huge logs in the rushing water became clogged around the it, allowing the water to build and “leap over the arches.” It was rebuilt in 1345.

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The bridge has always had shops along it, and initially these were butchers’ shops, but it is reported that the Medici family, who used the corridor on the second level as a pathway across the river, decided the smell of raw meat was too nauseating, so in the late 16th century, the meat was replaced with something much less offensive to the nostrils; gold, silver and jewels.  Today, as well as jewellers, there are also art dealers and souvenir sellers.

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Along the bridge there are many padlocks to be seen, affixed in various places. This  is a quite recent tradition which has also sprung up  in Russia and in Asia, and is popularly connected to the idea that by locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river, lovers become eternally bonded. In the case of the Ponte Vecchio, it is suspected to have been the bright idea of a locksmith who just happened to have a shop on the bridge. :) Thousands of such ‘love locks’ have had to be removed because they were damaging the metal rails on the bridge, and a sign was put up forbidding the practice and warning of a hefty fine for people caught, but nevertheless people still  do it.

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Hubby and I have no doubt that after all these years, our love will last forever, so we didn’t need to risk the fine. :)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my bridge photos and the bit of history too. To see more entries for Jake’s theme, just click here

Jake’s Theme: Hope

Jake’s theme this week is Hope, and in my ‘Shadows’ post for Ailsa’s theme, I had a photo of a street in Pompeii. Whilst looking through my photos from this trip, I came upon two which I find very moving.  The first is a plaster cast of a man, one of the victims of the disaster which overtook that ill-fated city, when Mount Vesuvius erupted in August 79 AD. Had he gone to bed the previous night hoping to wake up to a new day on the morrow, or when he realised what was about to happen did he  just given up hope, and lay himself down to wait for death?

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Of course the opposite of hope, is despair, and I found this particular image even more disturbing. This is obviously someone who had given up all hope, and was hunched over waiting for the inevitable catastrophe to envelop him.

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(When the ruins were discovered, the archaeologists found a large number of holes in the volcanic deposits, which represented the corpses of people and animals that had been buried underneath the hot ash. The ash had petrified before the corpses decayed,  so that there was a good mold of the deceased. It was found that filling these molds with plaster, resulted in remarkable casts of  the victims, even including facial expressions.)

If you would like to see more happy interpretations of Jake’s theme, just click here.

 

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Italian Walls for Ailsa’s theme.

Ailsa’s new travel theme is walls, and so many of my photos have buildings in them, so this challenge called for a bit of restraint, or I’d be posting a gallery of hundreds.

I really loved the Italian architecture when I visited in October 2011, so decided to feature some of the walls I saw there. Click on any image to be taken to the photo gallery.

To see more bloggers’ interpretations of Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

“If music be the food of love, play on.”  ~ Shakespeare

Whilst roaming in Rome, we were on our way to view some archaeological excavations, when I heard beautiful music and went to investigate. There under a shady tree, was a young clarinetist serenading the passersby. People dropped a few Euros into his case, as they literally danced past. An elderly Italian couple, obviously still very much in love, stayed and danced for quite a while, as he played the wonderful love song, “Besame Mucho.”

Besame, besame mucho,
Each time I cling to your kiss, I hear music divine,
Besame mucho,
Hold me my darling and say that you’ll always be mine.
This joy is something new, my arms enfolding you,
Never knew this thrill before.
Whoever thought I’ll be holding you close to me,
Whispering it’s you I adore.

They seemed oblivious to everyone except one another and the music, which obviously evoked for them, wonderful memories. I stayed and watched them dance, and I really felt the love.

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To see more entries for this challenge, just click here.

Jake’s Sunday Post: Splendid

Jake’s Sunday Post challenge this week is “Splendid,” so I thought I would tell you about the splendid and charming jewel of a Tuscan town called Lucca.

It’s the only town in Italy which is entirely surrounded by walls, and these massively thick walls built in the 16th century to protect the town from invaders, are 4 km around. Today they are very well-preserved, and you can walk right around on top of them, although we didn’t have time to do that.

Our local guide was a diminutive young woman who was so enthusiastic about her splendid town. What she lacked in height, she made up for in energy and verbosity. She kept rising up on her toes as she waved her arms around, extolling the virtues of her home town.  She knew that we had just come from Pisa, and told us that the Pisans and the Luccans have been feuding since Medieval times and were not about to stop any time soon. She made us laugh when she said that compared to the splendour of Lucca, Pisa was just a “dirty nappy town.” This was obviously the ultimate insult. :lol:

Her pride was certainly well-founded, as we were to see on our walk around this lovely place. This 13m tall Renaissance entrance, leads to the ‘Piazza Anfiteatro’,  which is built on the site of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, dating back to the 2nd century AD.

The amphitheatre was built on an elliptical plan with two rows of fifty-four arcades, and had a maximum capacity of 10,000 spectators. It was of course originally used for the staging of gladiator fighting, of which the Romans were so fond. There is a beautiful fresco painted inside each of the archways.

The town features some of Italy’s finest Medieval and Renaissance architecture and the colourful piazza was restored in 1830. It has many shops and restaurants around it, and is widely used for cultural activities, music festivals, and fairs. The amphitheatre was built on an elliptical plan with two rows of fifty-four arcades, and had a maximum capacity of 10,000 spectators. It of course was originally used for the staging of gladiator fighting, which the Romans were so fond of. During the Middle Ages, houses were built over the ruins, and today one of these three-roomed homes, with each room on a different floor, over the top of the shops, will set you back about 500,000 Euros.

As with most Italian towns, the streets are narrow lanes with very tall buildings on either side. There is hardly room for two vehicles to pass one another, and pedestrians quite often just have to take their chance, pressing themselves hard up against the walls to avoid getting brushed by vehicle wing mirrors. As you can see, the bicycle is the favourite mode of transport.

The town of Lucca  gave birth not only to composer Luigi Boccerini, but is also the birth place of Giacomo Puccini, born 1858. He frequented this coffee bar, “Di Simo Caffe,” and as a young student, used to earn a bit of pocket-money playing piano there.

His family house, is situated off the Piazza Citadella, at no. 9 Corte San Lorenzo, and outside there’s a statue of the great composer, very typically portrayed holding a cigarette in his hand.

Just around the corner is a small restaurant, cashing in on Puccini’s name.

There are so many shoe shops in this town, which was a very big plus for me, and I was thrilled to find my lovely Italian leather boots waiting patiently for me in one of them. :)

The Piazza San Michele has a magnificent 7th century church which was built on the ruins of a Roman temple. There are sculptures of the devil on the outside, but of course, the angels all get to reside inside,

except for the Archangel Michael, who is perched right on the very top, keeping watch over the citizens.

We sat for a while at the “Da Gherado Cafe,”  watching the world go by; one of my favourite relaxing pastimes,

and whilst I rested my feet, I couldn’t resist a slice of their delicious “Frutti di Bosco” tart, a fragrant pastry, filled with Chantilly cream and decorated with choice blueberries, blackberries, red currants, raspberries and strawberries. A splendid dessert indeed.

When I went inside to use the toilet, it was up a steep flight of wooden steps, and I was able to sit looking out of the open window, right across the rooftops of the town. I found in Italy that none of the public toilets have seats, which might be acceptable for the gents, but is rather cold for us ladies.  It also took me a couple of minutes to work out how to turn on the tap to wash my hands. You had to step on this foot pedal thingy on the floor; very strange indeed, but I was very proud of myself (being blonde), to be the one to solve the mystery which was baffling  a couple of other tourists too. ;)

We spent a very happy couple of hours in this splendid town of Lucca, before setting off on the long drive to Venice, our last stop on this fantastic tour.

AD goes roaming in Rome

Buongiorno everyone. I decided that it’s time I shared my Italian trip with you, and Gilly did ask so nicely, so for the next few days my posts will be about will be about all things Italiano.  Last October, we were on our way from South Africa to Florida, and after a stop-over to see my MiL in England, we decided that a little detour across to Italy would be rather nice.

We arrived in Bella Roma, on a late afternoon flight from Heathrow, and took a taxi to our hotel through the Sunday night rush hour traffic. It was dark by the time we arrived, and we were most impressed when we pulled up outside the Boscolo Hotel. I had no idea it was going to be so magnificent.

The lobby and lounge were equally grand; so much marble everywhere!

After unpacking our cases, we went out in search of dinner, and found a little Pizzeria, run by Egyptians. We were offered lobster, and were introduced to the two choices, either Peter or Michael. I felt sorry for those poor little lobsters, and so we decided that they could “Die another day.” I wasn’t going to be responsible for depriving either of them of their best friend in the tank, so we settled for a pizza instead, washed down with a bottle of Frascati  wine, which was very tasty indeed.

The following morning, after a sumptuous breakfast, we strolled down to the Trevi Fountain, and of course I did what all tourists must do; I threw in a coin and made a wish.

On our walkabout we passed this lovely sculpture of Romulus and the wolf.

The narrow cobbled streets are quite a challenge for both cars and pedestrians alike. There are so many scooters around, which isn’t really surprising, as they are much easier to park, and to drive around. We remembered from our last visit here, that to cross the road, you just have to walk purposefully, and fix the motorist with your “I dare you to run me over!” look, and they will stop for you.  There are so many leather shops, and quite reasonably priced too, although I really didn’t think I needed to add to my luggage so soon, so we rather concentrated on the beautiful architecture.

This building is the Pontificia Studiorum Universitas, and was definitely worthy of a pic. It looked so magnificent against that blue sky. I wish I could have moved that white van out of the way. ;)

This typical example of Italian architecture, had been turned into a restaurant.

As we were on our way to view some archeological excavations, I heard beautiful music and went to investigate. There, under a shady tree, was a young clarinetist serenading the passersby. People were literally dancing past, and dropping a few Euros into his hat. This elderly couple, obviously still very much in love, stayed and danced for quite a while, as he played “Besame Mucho.”

I saw something I hadn’t seen in ages;  a roast-chestnut seller on a street corner. I didn’t like to take a pic unless I bought some though, and I just wasn’t hungry enough, but they did smell good. There are very few new buildings in Rome. Most are either old or ancient, and many have been built on top of old Roman ruins. Some are being excavated now, and here you can see all the bits and pieces of beautiful columns and statues that they are discovering.

Later, we went to meet our tour guide and the rest of the group, over wine and snacks. There were forty of us, from all over the world. Many folk had just flown in from the USA, Canada and Australia, and were somewhat jet-lagged, but when we all went out for dinner, they seemed to recover, and we  had a lot of fun and an excellent meal at The Cabiria Restaurant on the Via Veneto. We ate a four course dinner, sitting up on the roof deck overlooking the city. The evening was so mild and there was fortunately no wind either; a perfect meal, lovely company, and even an Italian singer/guitarist to serenade us.

When it was time to leave, rather than wait for the lift, which could take only seven people at a time, some of us opted to go down this spiral staircase. I counted 186 steps…. a long way down. Imagine falling over the balustrade as they sometimes do in the movies!

Tomorrow, I’ll take you to the Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel, as well as the Colosseum and Michelangelo’s steps, so for now, it’s “buono giornata,” everyone. ;)

Ailsa’s travel theme: Night

Ailsa’s travel theme this week, is “Night.” I thought that I didn’t have any photos actually taken after dark, but then I remembered our Italian tour last October, so here are some pics from our two nights in the fascinating city of Venice.

On our first evening, we had a half hour private motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and many of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past all the apartments, restaurants and churches.

Every so often, we heard church bells ringing in the distance. So awesome, but unfortunately too dark for any decent photos.

After the boat ride, the two of us found a small pavement cafe where we shared a pizza, a bottle of wine and  a delicious Tiramisu, before meeting up with the rest of our group at the “Chirggia Bar,” in the Piazza, for drinks and music.

I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Here I was, sitting in the famous Piazza San Marco, surrounded by beautiful architecture, drinking a delicious ‘Bellini’, and listening to a great jazz trio playing really romantic songs, such as “The way you look tonight,” and the theme from “The Godfather.” They did hot it up a bit with their fabulous rendition of “Hey Mambo,” and people were soon up and dancing in the square. Such a very happy evening.

The following day was the final day of our tour, and in the late afternoon, we left our hotel for a ‘taxi’ ride across the lagoon. We’d booked a night-time Gondola ride.

The sun was setting behind the church, as we sailed across.

Here is San Marco’s Square on the left, with the Doge’s Palace in the middle, and The Bridge of Sighs on the right.

Our Gondolier was waiting for us, and I gingerly stepped in first, half expecting it to capsize, but fortunately, although it rocked like crazy, I made it to the ‘love seat’ at the front, and then hubby and our four friends got in too.

We pulled away from the pier,

and set off under the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, so-called because it was the bridge over which prisoners were led before being incarcerated in the prison. They usually died there, as the conditions were appalling, and the cells barely even big enough for a person to lie down. It was being seriously renovated, hence all the scaffolding.

As you’ve probably noticed, our boatman was not the most cheerful looking guy. We asked him to sing to us, because surely that’s what Gondoliers do when they’re sailing along?  He just glowered at us, and said it would be extra, but when the guy in the gondola in front of ours started to sing “Buona sera senorita,” ours decided to join in, albeit somewhat halfheartedly. A local man walking along the path, called out in Italian, “He can’t even sing. Why don’t you just tell him to shut up?” We had to laugh, but he didn’t even smile. ;)

We passed between really tall, old buildings, some with the stone steps half hidden under the water, and were told that in winter all the ground floors are flooded. The plaster had fallen off the outside walls long ago, and they looked extremely ‘distressed’.

We could see into the living rooms of people’s apartments as we sailed past.

It was now getting dark, and a church bell was tolling in the distance. I couldn’t help imagining those unfortunate prisoners of long ago, cooped up in their tiny cells, hearing that same bell, day after day until they died. It really was very spooky, and in some parts, the smell was really awful. When there was a sudden gushing of water from an outlet at the base of one building, I wondered if someone up there had just flushed the ‘loo’.

Here is a restaurateur waiting to welcome diners, who would be arriving by gondola.

Our ride was for about half an hour, and then we suddenly emerged out of the gloom, into the bright lights again, where more tourists were waiting to take our place.

Our guide led us through the streets to our restaurant, the “Trattoria Do Forni,” which was absolutely wonderful. She told us it was one of the best in Venice, and I’m sure she was right.  I had the most delicious four course meal; Prawn cocktail in Aurora sauce, Linguine with seafood, Fillet of sole with zucchini, and last but by no means least, the best Tiramisu I’ve ever eaten. The decor was very elegant, and don’t you just adore these Venetian glass, wall lights?

It was a fabulous farewell dinner, and a wonderful evening to end our Italian tour, which I think I must share with you all soon.