A day trip to Orvieto! Orvieto is a small “hill town” north of Rome an hour or so by high speed train. Called a “hill town” because the town is built atop a hill, a bit like the acropolises in ancient Greek and Roman times. This one dates back a couple millennia, but was abandoned for a few hundred years after the Romans defeated the native Etruscan people.
It’s a quaint little town with winding, slightly hilly streets, all with a lot of charm. There are a lot of cars considering how tiny the roads are – I expected almost no automobiles, it seems like a perfect pedestrian-only little city, but cars zoom by through one-way alleys. For lunch I decide to try a kind of “pizza” I’ve been seeing for a while – it has meat and… French fries… on it. And no red sauce. I’m not sure it can actually be called a “pizza”. The taste is, well, about what you’d expect. The cat who joins me as I sit on a bench seems to like it more than I do.
I make my way over to the Duomo di Orvieto – the Orvieto Cathedral, the main attraction in town due to its very fanciful facade.
I have always wanted to see ancient Rome, and though time traveling is not currently an option, today I wander through the ruins of it, starting with the double amphitheater known as The Colosseum. I shall avoid describing it as… colossal… but it is big, and a lot of the original is still standing despite the years of earthquakes and of locals using it as a “quarry” for gathering stone to build other (also now famous) buildings. Though there is no longer a floor and we can see directly into the basement, they used to hold all sorts of interesting shows here, from naval battles when they flood it, to hunts when they fill it with trees and pop dangerous predators up onto the field through trap doors, to, of course, the many popular forms of government-sanctioned murder entertainment. When someone asks if I would rather be a gladiator or someone watching the thousands of killings that would happen in a day here, I respond I’d rather be one of the engineers building the ingenious devices they used to spawn lions, tigers, and, yes, bears, onto the field.
From the Colosseum, I get a view of the Arch of Constantine and the remaining half-niche of Temple of Venus and Rome. Apparently two giant statues of Venus and Rome stood in the space that can still be seen here, and the circling inscription read, palindromically, “AMORA ROMA”. Continue reading “Ancient Rome”
My first sight of Rome is as I leave the metro station, and see, through the stairway, great, columns of stone. This pretty well sums of Rome – majestic stone buildings everywhere.
My train to Rome had free, unsecured WiFi. But, to use it, to identify myself, it wanted me to put in my name, a password, and a credit card number, and submit it (without SSL) over unsecured WiFi. No thanks. I was really tempted to start a sniffer just to see how many credit card numbers of others flew by, but realized I didn’t have one installed, and I’d have to expose my credit card number to anyone listening in order to download one ;). Continue reading “All Trains Lead to Rome”
I decided to stop in Milan due to, mostly, the fact that it was the cheapest flight from Istanbul, and had an express train to Rome, which was my real next destination. Apparently feeling money-conscious that day, I also booked a bed in a hostel instead of a normal hotel room. The hostel is quiet nice. They put me in a more private room with two beds and a bathroom (I booked a cheaper room with four beds), whether through accident, or benevolence, or clever planning, I do not know. To my delightful surprise, there’s no one else staying there my first night, so I have a nice, if simple, room with a private bath for about a fifth of what I usually pay for a room! The second night, however, I will get a roommate, and he was a nice Polish guy, but I decide I’ll probably stick to hotel rooms from here on out.
Milan, like most of these old cities in Italy, is gorgeous. Even the train terminal (of which my photo did not turn out) is beautiful – big, massive, stone columns and arches. Continue reading “Short Stop in Milan”
Wanting to see a little more of Northern Italy while in the area, I take a day trip to Verona, a little town about an hour and a half out of Venice known for having a large ancient colosseum, and for being the setting of Romeo and Juliet. The train is quite comfortable, and I get some work done on the ride there. Once in Verona, I follow a walking tour from my guide book, which first takes me to the aforementioned colosseum, which is, I think, the second biggest Roman Colosseum in existence. Most interestingly, it is still used for holding regular events. The tour book promised I would be harassed by an Albanian gang outside the colosseum, but they appeared to have the day off. Apparently they are usually outside the colosseum, dressed as ancient gladiators, charging tourists way too much money to have their pictures taken. The police say they’d rather have the gang doing that than what gangs usually get up to, so they leave them to it. Continue reading “Verona Day Trip”
In Venice I’ve felt like a tourist every day, due to the whole place being oriented towards tourists, but today my friend Daniel (also most recently from California) arrived in Venice, so, after a great calzone for lunch, we set out to see some of the more poplar sites which I had avoided until now. We start with the Basilica dei Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari church, which is just two blocks away from my hotel, and has a pretty good free audio tour through Rick Steves’ Audio Europe app. Lots of pictures are taken, apparently a bunch of work by famous sculptors and artists. I particularly like the lazy lion. The winged lion is a symbol of St Mark, the patron saint of Venice, so shows up everywhere, including the flag of Venice. Continue reading “Tourist in Venice”
Thursday through Sunday update. Quite a few quiet days. I’ve been enjoying doing a little bit of sight seeing (usually just as I seek out an interesting place for lunch) each day, and spending some time working, and a lot of relaxing before my upcoming whirl of activity. I have had very poor luck finding any kind of cafe in which to get work done – all of the ones with good views along the canals are expensive, and all outdoor seating, so quickly get either too hot or too cold depending on the whims of the Venetian weather (it’s been almost 80 one day and cool rain the next), and most of the others have rather uncomfortable seating, so I have resigned myself to my hotel room for doing work in Venice. I’m definitely going to book a desk in a “coworking space” when I roam over to Rome in a few weeks.