Wednesday, May 09, 2001

Okay, I got the pics back and as I suspected, the film ones are much better than the digital, but I haven't given up on the technology, it will continue to improve and it saved us money since we haven't printed any of the 120+ digital pics yet.

Images from Venice are Here
Images from Rome and Pompeii are

Friday, May 04, 2001

Okay, it'll take a while to get some pics up, the film ones will be done saturday. In the mean time I wanted to put some thoughts about Italy into the ether. These follow no coherent structure:

Food: Unless you want to spend a lot of money, the food in Italy is so-so. You can actually spend a lot of money and still get so-so food, its a crap shoot. If you don't want to spend a lot your choices are limited. Pizza are and Sandwiches. Thats it. There are NO Taco Bells in Italy. In fact, any ethnic food you find has a strong Italian slant to it. Pizzas are thin crust and wanting for toppings but are of good size and are cheap. Sandwiches are ham and cheese, no matter what its say it is. It is ALWAYS ham and cheese. It seems that the only meat in the country is ham.

Driving: Italians know how to drive. Really. They drive like maniacs, but they know what they are doing. I can only guess that the bad drivers are simply killed by their own ineptitude early on. A Darwinian solution to a problem that has plauged our contry. They have a car there called Smart, check it out at I wish we had these here, they are well suited to Italy, where driving space is limited and gas is real expensive.

Weather: Nice

Clothing: Fashionable

Train System: Even the Italians don't understand it, but once you are on a train, things are pretty good.

Catholicism: Every few blocks it cities, there a small shrines. They are unassuming and humble. Old, but never forgotten. There are coins and candles in front of the faded images of the Madonna or Jesus. The churches are nice. They feel secure and reverent, not like the glittering, tacky "Crystal Cathedrals" here. Some of these churches were around when this whole "Jesus Cult" thing started. Saw a lot of priests, nuns and monks in Rome, they seemed to be having a fun time as tourists in their very own Christian Theme Park.

Mass Transportation: In Rome, it transports masses of masses. Packed full, unable to breathe, stifling. The system is good, is based on the honesty system, its just overburdened.

Wednesday, May 02, 2001

Every single goddamn plane after the first outta Cleveland has been late. Every one. I realize this as I sit in an unfinnished microiterminal in Toronto. Why am I waiting? Because as we are about to take off, there is a problem, we have to go back and get another plance because this one is broken. Jesus!

Another hour delay. But Air Canada comes through and we get a plane, board it and go. Get picked up by Ed at the airport in his stunning new Cranberry (another word for purple) PT Cruiser.

It's late, only TGIFridays is open, I order the biggest burger they can serve by law. I enjoy it. I enjoy having my iced tea refilled over sixteen times. I enjoy the fries and the company. It is nice to be home. After some regaling we get home to a cat that actually seems happy to see us. I shower and fall into a coma. omorrow is work. I hope I remember where it is...

Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Last day in Italy...

Find a newsstand with English papers and mags,
Find a great Restaurant with good prices and service (crap)
Find metro stops and short cuts that might have saved up 2 to 30 hours of walking (double crap)
Lost mail I have been trying to send since Venice (F%ck)
Am being charged 150 lire per MINUTE at this internet point (double f&ck)

We fly out today, all packed with no where to go since it is a major holiday here. Oh well, we finally got the tv to work in our room and can watch CNN. Maybe the riots have started in London.

Oh year, went to the Vatican Museums yesterday, but that bit of hate filled commentary will have to wait until I get home and can posy without being robbed blind.

Pax Uscita (Pack is outta here)

Sunday, April 29, 2001

Its now the end of two very long days. Yesterday we took our first package tour to Pompeii. This was a little bit of hell, from the terrible english spoken by our first guide to the lack of any exploration time in this massive city. You could easily spend three days in Pompeii and not see it all. Amazing place. We did meet two great Aussies however. Cattle Ranchers on a three MONTH vacation. Great people.

Today was a visit to the Appian Way, the mother road in and out of ancient Roma. This is actually a picture perfect countyside. I would love to live in such an area. (The Appian Road was also where all the slaves in Sparticus rebellion were cucified, they went on for many miles) We visited the Catacombs where some 500,000 early christians were buried. A nice Scotsman took us about, my only gribe is that the tour was too short, there are something like 5 kilometers of tunnels running all about and in every direction. Super cool and creepy.

Then we hopped the lido train out of town to the old port city of Ostia. This is another huge city, nit as well preserved as Pompeii but everybit as facinating by the fact that trees and vines grow over about half of the ruins. One can (and we did) get lost among the hundreds of tiny roads, allys, baths, temples and apartment complexes. We even poken around in a few places we werent supposed to but Ostia isnt the hotspot that Pompeii or Herkulaenium is.

TOmorrow is (da da dummmm) the Vatican. It is f£cking huge so we will only be able to se a part of it. We also hope to view an armory nearby. I must go now, I am tired from the Appian way and must find pizza of Chinese food to sustain me. Tuesday is our return. Bummer.

Friday, April 27, 2001

Rome is a fantastic city that is practically bursting at the seems with art, architecture, roman ruins and churches. Unfortunetly there is a whole city surrounding it. A city full of Italians. Italians who do nothing but talk on their cell phones. Who drive as if they just learned they had a terminal illness and safety didnt really matter any more. The city also seems to have only three kinds of shops. Eateries, tourist gift shops and clothing stores. (with an occasional laundrimat/internet cafe mixed in.)

We toured the Coluseum yesterday. Simply awesome. It stands as a vestige of a once truly great empire, although to see it today it seems only to want to fall over in peace. To expire gracefully as all the other ruins have, having seen the best and worst of their times. The forum is a jumbled mess of several centuries all laid out and rather confusing. Impressive nonetheless. But one of the most impressive sights is not frequented by the throngs of Japanese tourists or sweating Germans. It is across the street. Trajans market was a massive place of commerce with hundreds of stalls spanning a vast courtyards and a three story building. It was, in every sense of the word, a mall. This is where I would have been spending all of MY time as a citizen of the empire. The sight is also in very good shape.

Today its off to the Catacombs to see piles of dominican monks laid out in interresting geographical patterns for reasons that escape even catholicism. We have books a tour out to Pompeii tomorrow. I have never in my years of travelling been with a tour group. But it will save a LOT of hassles, fighting with the trains, getting a guide etc. We think we will try to get to the port city of Ostia on Sunday before hitting the Vatican on Monday.

Veni Veggi Victels

"We came, we had a salad, and a nice sandwich"

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Made it to Rome. So far, I have been unimpressed. After the serene tranquility and lack of and kind of traffic in Venice, Rome is like New York with an accent. The Spanish steps? What the hell is the big ass deal with those? The Trevei fountain however was very nice. Weve just finished touring the Colloseum, awesome. We are going to have to hold off on touring the Forum and run back to our hotel to meet the manager, the room safe is fòcked up and won't open, so we must get back to yell that that idiot. Hope we get it open.
It has our tickets and money. I told Rossana we should have transferred our money into small gold ingots and swallowed them. But she never listens.

We are going to get out of the city on Saturday and go to Pompeii. Should be nice.
Steven and Rossana
Pax Imperium!

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Last day in Venice.

Yesterday we toured the Doges palace. Very swanky digs them. The armory had some of the finest examples of swords and polearms Ive seen in quite a while including polearms and maces with muskets built into them. There was also a fantastically crafted key that shot a poison dart into the hard of the bearer when inserted into a lock! I MUST get one of these.

After a wonderful dinner on the Grande Canal I spent approx four hours convincing my wife to take a gondola ride with me. She takes to water like cats do to full immersions baths. After sedating her and finding a nice French couple (who knew such a thing existed?) we finally took the ride and it was magical. We silently glided past the home of Marco Polo, Casanova and a house where Napoleon got indigestion after a heavy meal.

Today is a national holiday, not much open so we will be travelling to Roma to take part in the vast gladitorial games Circus Maximus!!

Victa Roma!

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Day two of Venice. Yesterday was amazing. Travelled the enitre city. Visited the Palazzi Grasi and saw an amazing Etruscan exhibit (Etruscans ae the guys who predate Rome. The Romans eventually wiped them out for being decadent) Saw returned to St. Marks square to hear a five piece archestra play Queen and Michael Jackason tunes. Surreal. At least hey followed with some Vivaldi. Then the square began to flood. Slowly, mind you, but it was flooding. It seems the tide was coming it quite hight, so it was time to go home. Venice is as beautil at night as during the day, perhaps more. I thumbed through a book in a shop shat showed Venice 100 years ago and today. There is practically no difference at all. Some of this city has remained unchanged for 3 and 4 hundred years.

Today we visit the Doges Palace, maybe the island of the glass blowers Murno. And of

I will show them no mercy...

Monday, April 23, 2001

Venice! At long last the city of watery streets. It is stunning. There is no place you can look that wouldnt make a great picture. We spent the day shopping all over the city. Masks, glass, books, art it doesnt end. We also went to St. Marks Basilica (lots of gold and body parts of saints) and a huge Etruscan exhibit at a museum. Tommorow is the Doges palace and more. We sat in St Marks square today at the Cafe Florian drink very expensive coffee and listening to Vivaldi. At last I can say "Ah, to be in Venice in Springtime!" and actually mean it. I want to came back at Carnivale. It looks surreal and decadent. (In fact for quite a while it was TOO decadent, when Napolean came along he cancelled the TWO MONTH long event because it was debaucherous).

Well its off to a late dinner. Ciao!

Saturday, April 21, 2001

Florence! At long last! We have arrived in horrible weather after a six hour ordeal trying to leave Sicily. The details will have to wait as they are somewhat unbelieveble. But we are here. While in Sicily we got to visit the Roman VIlla and the Vallry of temples. Stunning. Check them out for yourselves on the net.

The small town we stayed in was unremarkable but very pleasant. It is from here that Rossanas family departed over a century ago. Some going to Morroco some to America.

Te rain has stopped now and I think we will take in what sites we can. We deprt tomorrow if a rail strike isnt called. Every day here is a suprise.


Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Departure day and it has snowed. Sweet fanciful Moses is SNOWED. It's been in the seventies. Winter is OVER. And yet, this one last stab at us as we attempt to depart. Last minute stuff. Got an mp3 player that fits into my Visor. I couldn't do this trip without at least SOME music. My limited selections? Gladiator, some Laureena MCKinnet and some stuff from Nordic Roots vol 2.

Had wings last night with Ed and Duff, watched 'Men of Honor' good film. I'm gonna miss my old and slightly deaf cat. I go now to pack up the last of the last.
Tomorrow is the big day. I am almost nausious from anticipation. It has been a long road, and now we are prepared to begin the adventure. We have worked throught a thousand logistical details from reservations to currency to train passes. Yet I am positive we have forgotten something. And it's probably a pretty big something. But there's nothing for it now. Tomorrow gives us a few scant hours to find and fix anything we need to. It has been a bittersweet weekend. On Thursday I received a call from my old boss, Mrs. Martindale, or "Mizzem". I worked for her family and company as a puppeteer and touring Shakesperean actor for five years. One of the many people I worked with was a young kid named Doug. He was all of 16 when I last worked with him about 10 years ago. In that time, he'd grown up, and had gone to live in Spain. He was even engaged.
Then he returned to the US for a short visit and to see why he was having terrible headaches. He is finally admitted to the Cleveland Clinic and is diagnosed with a very rare and quite terminal form of cancer. According to Mizzem it is inoperable and incurable. He is not expected to live long. All that can be done is to make him comfortable, and manage his pain.
I visited him on Friday. He looked, in all honesty, very well. He is a man now. With a fiance' and a job. We talked and cought up on what we'd been doing with our lives. He told me of Spain, and how beautuful it was. It was a cheerful conversation. He said that they were working to get him discharged so he could go home and have a bit of a party. I am both relieved, and terribly dissapointed that I won't be able to attend. Our meeting has stirred many emotions in me which are too deep and too personal to relate here. But I have decided one thing, that I will see the sun set on the Alhambra in Spain. I am told it is one of the most stunning sights in the world. And when I do visit that place, I will think of Doug.

By the time I return he may be gone. And if he is, I will take comfort in knowing that he has has ended one journey, only to begin another.