Friday, June 29, 2007

Firenze - The City of Flowers

Florence, Firenze, the city of flowers, greeted us upon our arrival the Sunday afternoon around 1:00 PM, 30 minute hour late (Italian trains aren’t known for always being on time) with a downpour of rain. We had an hour to kill before we had to meet the lady to give us our keys to the apartment. We had lunch at the train station to wait out the rain, bought some umbrellas, and walked the 10 minute walk from the station to our apartment on Borgo Ognissanti in a light drizzle. The apartment was much better equipped for tourists than the one we had in Rome. By the time we unpacked, the weather cleared and we went downstairs and bought the necessary groceries and then we started out to explore Florence.

Florence is a city that oozes old age and is famous, not only as the birthplace of the Renaissance, but also for all its well known personalities that were born or worked here during the ages: the Renaissance artists Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci, the poet Dante, the De Medici family that ruled here for more than 2 centuries, the political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, and many more. We stopped at the Church of Ognissanti, fondly called the Jewel of Florence, just down the road from our apartment, to view some frescoes. The church was first completed in 1250 and totally rebuilt in 1627 in a Baroque style, and boasts works by Botticelli, who is buried inside the church and known for his Primavera and Birth of Venus (which we would see during our visit to the Uffizi Museum) and Ghirlandaio, who was Michelangelo’s teacher.

From the church we walked all along the Arno River, which dissect the city into a north and south side, to the Ponte Vecchio, the famous Florentine bridge built in 1345 and the only bridge in Florence to survive the bombing of World War II. Ponte Vecchio is not your normal bridge. Along one side of the bridge is a row of gold and silver jewelry shops and along the other side, the Vasari Corridor, built by the de Medici to allow for free movement from their home, the Pitti Palace to the government palace, Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi. Click here and follow the path of the Vasari Corridor by viewing the photos. We crossed the bridge, ate some gelato on the south side of the river, then meandered back towards the marketplace on the north side where they sell locally made jewelry and quality leather goods. (Florence is famous for its leather goods and specialized, high quality paper.) Monica bought herself some ear jewelry while I browsed the curios and leather goods. We promised ourselves to come back during the next 3 days.

We let ourselves get lost in the narrow streets, ancient buildings, and incredible architecture, much of it dates back to the 1400 and 1500’s. We were hoping to get to the Duomo, but it was getting late and most of the churches close at 7 PM. We ended up in the massive square, the Piazza della Signoria, the gathering place for citizens of Florence since the medieval times, where the Palazzo Vecchio (the Old Palace) and the Loggia dei Lanzi (an open air sculpture museum) and Italy’s most famous and most important art museum, the Uffizi, are located. Also in this square is where Michelangelo’s original David use to stand before it was moved to the Galleria d’Accademia. Today a replica of the David stands in front of Palazzo Vecchio.

After viewing all the sculptures in the loggia we sat on its steps, amazed at the scene around us and just took it all in. You can look at as many pictures or TV programs you like, but I don’t think you really know what places like Florence would be like before you actually see and comprehend it with the combination of the panoramic view of the human eye and interpretation of the human mind. We decided to make the best of the environment and atmosphere on the square and had dinner on the terrace of Ristorante “Il David”, located on the square next to the Piazzo Vecchio. On our way back from dinner we were at the place the tourist’s books will tell you to be: Sunset at the Arno River and Ponte Vecchio.

Monica with the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River in the background.

The crowds on Ponte Vecchio. Top left is the Vasari Corridor and on the right are the jewelry shops. Monica is the blond with the pink rugsack and her back to the camera on the right.

The Loggia dei Lanzi on the Piazza Della Signoria.
The Loggia Sculptures: Jean de Boulogna's The Rape of the Sabine Women. The amazing thing about this sculpture is the fact that it was created from a single block of marble. The detail work on the sculpture is absolute magnificent.

The Loggia Sculptures: Benvenuto Cellini's bronze of the mythical Greek hero Perseus with the head of Medusa. Cellini worked for nearly 10 years on this sculpture.

The Palazzo Vecchio, the old Palace. It was originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the ruling body of medieval Florence. At the entrance of the 13th century palace is Michelangelo's David and on the left of the picture is the Fountain of Neptune.

Monica at the foot of Michelangelo's David at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio. This is a copy. The original is at the Galleria d'Accademia.

The entrance hall of Palazzo Vecchio.

Sunset over the Arno River.

Andre standing at the window of our apartment looking down at the busy street below.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Capitoline - Treasures from the Genesis of Rome

Of Rome's seven hills, the Capitoline is the most sacred. Its importance stretch far back into antiquity. We climbed the hill towards the Piazza del Campidoglio using the steps from the Roman Forum instead of using the gentle rising ramp of Cordonata (the “official” entrance to the Piazza, which faces away from the Forum towards St. Peter’s.) The Piazza del Campidoglio, a perfectly proportioned square was redesigned by the Florentine artist, Michelangelo in 1536, who positioned the ancient bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center of the square. The original statue has now been moved inside the museum for protection from pollution (a copy was placed on the pedestal in 1997).

The Piazza is flanked on three sides by the Palazzo Nuovo (the New Palace), the Palazzo dei Conservatori (the Palace of Conservation.) and the third flank is taken up by the Palazzo Senatorio, which was built upon the ruins of the ancient Tabularium, a place where they kept records and which was originally erected in 78 B.C, (also see the first picture in my post A Day Among the Ruins of Rome). These three building is now home to the Capitoline museums. This specific hill, the Capitoline, which
was home to the most important temple in the Roman world, The Temple of Jupiter, the main god of the Romans, overlooks the Roman Forum to the south, the Palatine Hill to the southwest and the Forums of Julius Caesar, Trajan and Augusts to the southeast, and the Piazza Venezia to the north, certainly saw it fair share of history. Oh boy, if walls could talk…

But let me start at the beginning of the day. Today was a relative quieter day in terms of number of places we visited. Actually, travel fatigue was setting in or jet-lagged was only acknowledged now. The past 4 days was a blur. All of us were rather tired and by 2 PM Monica was half asleep on her feet. Even my feet, especially my ankles were sore. Nevertheless we still walked from Piazza del Campidoglio to the Pantheon looking for a new shoulder bag because mine broke that morning. We never found a bag in town, but upon our return to our neighborhood we found a good one at a Chinese shop near the local supermarket. Baffling! What we should have done was to pop into that Irish pub just off Piazza Venezia, had a beer and lunched and watched the 1st rugby test between South Africa and England as was advertised on the walkway. We would have saved our feet some walking and gave them much needed rest. But hindsight…

First thing in the morning we tried to go to the Palatine (once the residence of emperors and aristocrats and where Romulus is said to have founded Rome 753 B.C.), which we did not visit two days earlier when we were at the Roman Forum. (The Palatine Hill is just above the forum.) Upon arrival we noticed that several of the ruins were closed for restoration, among them the Palace of Septimius Severus and the House of Livia (Caesar Augustus’ wife.) These were the highlights of the Palatine and we thought paying the €11 entrance fee was too stiff for what was left to see. So we went to our next planned destination for the day, the Piazza del Campidoglio and the Capitoline museums.

The Capitoline museums, in my humble opinion, are by far the best museum we visited in Italy, and we visited some good museums. The museum contains some of the oldest collections, not just in Rome but in the world, with a wealth of classical sculptures. Founded in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV, the Capitoline Museums were subsequently enriched by the donations of some of Rome’s most famous popes. Some of the excavations inside the museum (behind glass and locked doors) go back to when Rome was originally settled as a village in the last Bronze Age. The Palazzo dei Conservatori houses exhibits and artifacts reflecting the history of the Italian peninsula and excavations from around the Forum and greater Rome, as well as paintings from Italian and European masters, while the Palazzo Nuovo focuses on Roman statues and copies of ancient Greek statues. By the way, if you don’t see many pictures of exhibits in most of Italy’s museums then it is because cameras and taking of pictures are prohibited in many museums. Sometimes you can take pictures but a flash is not allowed. However that did not always prevented me from taking a few stolen shots. On the other hand, sometimes I simply just put my camera away to enjoy the collections.

Later in the day, while Monica and Lamar rested and eating gelato on a low wall behind the Pantheon, built around 27 AD by Agrippa and dedicated to all the Roman gods, I walked over to a Gothic church, Santa Maria sopra Minerva on Piazza della Minerva, which contains works of Michelangelo and
Bernini. In the center of the piazza is Bernini’s whimsical sculpture of an elephant supporting an Egyptian obelisk.

From the Pantheon we took a taxi home and decided to do some shopping in the neighborhood and to make it an early night before the trek to Florence the next day, where more walking is installed for the next 4 days.

The Cordonata, dramatic entrance to the Piazza del Campidoglio, flanked at the top by statues of Castor and Pollux
The Piazza del Campidoglio with the replica equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

The original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius inside a airconditioned room in the meseum. This is the only bronze equestrian statue to have survived from ancient Rome, mainly because it was thought for centuries that the statue was that of Constantine the Great, and papal Rome respected the memory of the first Christian emperor.
La Lupa Capitolina (The Capitoline Wolf) - a rare Etruscan (the civilization that lived in central Italy before the Romans) bronze that could date from the 5th century B.C. (Romulus and Remus, the legendary twins who according to legend, were suckled by the wolf, were added at a later date.)

The excavated foundations of the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, which originally stood on the Capitoline Hill and towered over the Roman Forum below. This temple was originally build in 6 BC but rebuilt many times due to lightning strikes, always using the same foundations but changing the attributes with each rebuilt. It was still intact by 600 AD but by 12th century only recognizable by its ruins. In the 16th century most of the marble was carried off for statues. All that is left today is the foundations. For an artist’s impression of what the Temple looked like originally, click here.

There are several colossol statues in the Capitoline museum. Here is Monica at one of them: The statue of the war god Mars by Pyrrhus, dated 1st Century AD.

In a special gallery all her own is the Capitoline Venus, who demurely covers herself. This statue was the symbol of feminine beauty and charm down through the centuries. This charmingly prudish portrait of the goddess of love, whom the Greeks called Aphrodite and the Romans Venus, is a marble copy from the late 1st century A.D. of a 3rd Century BC Greek bronze sculpture, which is probably the most widely reproduced female statue of antiquity.

The view of Rome from the Capitoline Hill looking south. This was the view the ancient Romans would have seen from the Temple of Jupiter. The building on the far left is the Senate, then the Arch of Septimius Severus in the front, in the middle back is the Arch of Titus, The three columns on the right is the remains of the small circular Temple of Vesta, one of the oldest and most important holy places in old Rome and on the very far right, in the back one can see a glimps of the Palace of Septimius Severus and the Palatine Hill.

The view of Rome from the Capitaline Hill looking north. After Michelangelo redesigned the square the focus was away from the Forum, thus symbolically away from the old religion of pagans towards the current religion of Christianity, St. Peter's church is the whitish dome in the center of the picture at the back.

The Piazza della Minerva (Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom) with Bernini's whimsical sculpture of an elephant supporting an Egyptian obelisk. In the background is the round temple to all gods, the Pantheon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Doors in Tuscany

A small collage of doors in Tuscany. Most of the pictures were take in the tiny medieval town of San Gimignano.

Click on image for a larger view.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Artistic Enlightenment in Vatican City

Everyone tells you the Vatican is a must and I can confirm that. Saint Peter’s basilica is absolutely incredible. I thought Westminster Abbey was spectacular and it is, but so is St. Peter’s. The artwork inside the basilica, the spectacular dome and especially Bernini’s high alter are well worth the visit. Monica thought Pompeii was going to be the highlight of our trip, but she said after the Vatican visit that this was even better.

Early morning we took a taxi to the Vatican and got in line for a visit to the museum and the Sistine Chapel. It was only just past nine and the line was already very long. To our surprise the people in front of us was South Africans from Johannesburg and speaking to them in Afrikaans, discussing each others travels, made the hour long wait in sweltering heat more enjoyable. Actually, we heard Afrikaans spoken in Pompeii, in the Roman Forum and in Venice.

Art is like wine to me. Don’t describe a red wine in terms of bold blackberry, red plum, kirsch, tobacco and minerals flavors with undertones of cedar and stone and a lingering after taste of mocha and expresso. It sounds like someone has made me a cocktail. What is kirsch? And how should I know what is the taste of cedar and stone? It’s not like I walk around licking trees and stones and file those tastes in my memory banks for them to be recalled when I sip a red. I know when red wine is just good, or when it has real class or when it was made from grapes grown in the backyard and from a recipe obtained from the Internet. Art, to me is very similar. To try and describe the Vatican’s art collection in grandiose terms is not within me. I can appreciate good art when I see it and the Vatican museum and chapels are packed with good, some brilliant art. Some of the statues and pieces d’art are simple magnifico.

We did not go to all the rooms, for example, we skipped the Egyptian rooms, but concentrated more on the rest. I also have to mention that we spent only about 5 hours in the museum and it was not all that much fun either, because the place was packed with people. In some areas it felt like you are on a conveyer belt as the crowd pushed and shoved forward and, in others the heat and number of people in the room made it not impossible, but uncomfortable to really appreciate the art. An example of this was the Raphael rooms. In the Sistine chapel (it seems everybody is just focused on getting to the Sistine chapel) it was so jam-packed I swear you could try to fall down but the bodies would keep you from reaching the floor. Luckily I found us a place to sit in the center of the chapel where we could rest our feet and appreciate the ceiling in relative peace. But to really appreciate the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti I would suggest you bring binoculars because the ceiling is too high to see the fine detail. Fortunately I brought my Eyewitness Travel Guide on Italy with me and we could see the ceiling paintings in close up and we also had our rented audio information guides for comments. Then there is also the Fresco of the Last Judgement which covers the complete wall behind the altar. Apart from the magnificence of the actual paintings, Michelangelo’s understanding of religion and the way he was able to express that understanding is simply masterful and that at a young age of 33. If you add the fact that he sculptured David and the Pieta before he turned 30 you understand why he is so revered as the greatest artist in the Western world.

After we had a terrible and expensive pizza in the Vatican Restaurant we sent a postcard to family in South Africa from the Vatican Post Office and then made out way to St. Peter’s Basilica. The line to go through security was not too long. I will let the pictures tell the story about the basilica.

Afterwards we took a taxi home, rest for an hour or so and then Monica and I rode by bus to Piazza Venezia and went on a casual, pre-dinner Rome walkabout. The evening air was cooler and we walked to the Pantheon (the best preserved building from the Roman period in Rome,) then to Piazza Navona (unfortunately the famous fountain was being repaired), ate gelato on our way to the Trevi Fountain (she liquorish flavor and I cappuccino flavor) and then to the Piazza di Spagna or the Spanish Steps (we knew beforehand is was not going to be anything special and it wasn’t, but more a case of been there…done that. We caught a taxi home and I made us a quick dinner of tortellini carna con pomodoro e basilica and a mixed green salad with an herbal sauce. I lit some candles out on the terrace of the apartment and while Monica enjoyed a Bicardi Breezer I enjoyed a few glasses of a Poggiatico Chianti. It was not the best Chianti in the world, but it was about the food and the atmosphere. The end of a perfect Roman day!

Saint Peter's Square and Basilica. A place of pilgrimage not just for Catholics, but many other Western religions too.
Closed off hall with gilded ceilings near the Vatican Museum shop.

A Double Helix Staircase designed in 1932 by Guiseppe Momo. One spiral to walk up to the exhibits and one to exit the museum.

Vatican Museum - Maps Gallery with incredible ceiling paitings in vivid colors.

Vatican Museum - Floor Mosaic.

St. Peter's - As we entered the church a ray of sunlight streamed through the dome windows on the altar. No picture can really convey the enormity of the church, the largest in the world.

St Peter's - High altar designed by Bernini in1624. The baroque canopy stands over the tomb of the St. Peter. Personal opinion: The most striking piece of art in St. Peter's. It is simply magnificent.

While we were standing in front of the altar, looking down to St. Peter's tomb, a little gilded box, I guess containing his bones, a woman standing next to Monica, shivering and her arms covered in goose pimples, said to her traveling companion, "I am experiencing a religious moment right now."

St. Peter's - Michelangelo's Pieta, another one of the many masterpieces in the church. It is hard to believe one can create such delicate art from a block of marble.

St. Peter's - The Vatican Guards at a side entrance.

At the Trevi Fountain - Andre & Monica. Picture taken by a kind Indian man.

The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy. Well worth a visit. More so than any of the other fountains. The fountain, designed by Nicola Salvi in 1762 in elaborate baroque design, is centered by Neptune, and flanked by two Tritons, one trying to control an unruly seahorse and the other leading a quieter beast, symbolizing the contrasting moods of the sea.

Dinner by candlelight on the terrace of Apartment Morandi in Rome.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Day Among the Ruins of Rome

Late on the 3rd day of our Italy excursion, after we did some shopping at the local supermarket, we took a bus to Piazza Venezia, as close as you will probably get to a center of Rome. We tried to get on an open, sightseeing bus, the red 110 as advised by most visitors to Rome, just for a familiarization tour of Rome. We did the same in London and New York and it is usually well worth the money. You see the city from a different viewpoint. But after an hour’s wait and 2 buses later, we gave up. They only wanted to sell us 2 day passes and no 2 hour tickets even though the buses were only half full. Well, I was not going to fork out €20 a ticket just to comply with their “marketing strategy” and be taken for a ride, excuse the pun.

From the Piazza I explored the Il Vittoriano, the Monument Victor Emmanuel II, climbing all the way to the top to snap photos of the Rome skyline, while Monica and Lamar waited in a shady spot.

The Monument Victor Emmanuel II, Piedmont king that became the 1st king of the unified Italy in 1861.

We walked around the monument to explore the Roman Forum, starting from the Capitoline Hill in the north to the Colosseum in the south. We entered the Forum through the Arch of Septimius Severus, crossing Via Sacra numerous times from west to east as we looked into the reconstructed Curia (Roman Senate), discovered the Temple of Castor and Pollux, passed the House of the Vestal Virgins, ogled the heap of ground where they claim Julius Caesar was cremated, stopped and watched a group of young archaeologist excavating more historical facts or another treasure from the past, explored the Temple of Venus, passed through the Arch of Titus, then on to the Arch of Constantine in front of the Colosseum. At this world famous landmark we decided to take a paid tour because it also included a tour through the forums of Augustus, Trajan and Julius Caesar.

The backside of the Palazzo dei Senatori on the Capitoline Hill seen from the Roman Forum. One can clearly see how new buildings are simply build upon older ruins. The bottom layer dates from about 100 BC and on the inside we saw some of the excavations. The next picture was taken standing in the center arch above.

The Roman Forum seen from Palazzo dei Senatori. On the left is columns of the Temple of Vespasianus and on the right is columns of the Temple of Saturnus.

It is quite common that one emperor will undo the work of a previous emperor (that’s what emperors do), but it is such a pity that so much of the various ancient forums were destroyed by Mussolini when, in a moment of self-indulgence, he ordered the building of Via Dei Fori Imperiali so that he could have a direct line of sight of the Colosseum from his office in the Palazzo Venezia.

Me, Roman Soldier! At the Colosseum you can have your picture taken with these guys for a Euro. If you take a photo of them without their permission they will come after you and demand you delete a picture from your camera. Any which way to make a buck out of tourists.

Highlights of the day were the Colosseum, the reconstructed Curia (Roman Senate building), the view from the backend of the Capitoline Hill overlooking the Roman Forum and the 3 remaining ancient Arches in Rome. Late in the afternoon, after all the walking, we rest our feet in the cool waters of a fountain in front of the Victor Emmanuel Monument while eating gelato.

The Colosseum from the top level. All that is left of the arena floor are the walled passages that were below the floor level.

The Arch of Constantine seen from the top of the Colosseum.

Inside the Colisseum - Monica and Andre. No smiles? It was hot! We just climbed many steep steps to walk around on the top level (like taking the previous photo), walked down again and there was still an hour's walk ahead of us down Via dei Fori Emperiali through the Forums of Augustus, Trajan and Julius Caesar.

After taking the right bus, but in the wrong direction, we ended up in Trastevere on the wrong side of the Tiber River. A little bit of “travel experience.” With a little help from a friendly Italian gentleman we got off our incorrect bus, took another back to Piazza Venezia and then caught a cab to our apartment. From then on we used cabs extensively as we did on previous travels to New York. It is not always more expensive and it certainly doesn’t waste our time waiting on buses, taking detours, etc. When you travel you usually have limited time and you must use the time to the best of your ability and try to save on the legwork.

Rome's ancient center is very imposing. This was the Rome we came to see. Walking the ancient street of Via Sacra, standing at the wall on Via Della Curia overlooking the Forum, wondering what it was like 2000 years ago, imagining how Trajan’s Forum really looked in its heyday filled with hundreds of shops and vendors and thousands of shoppers, and visualizing what it would have been like to be part of 55,000 people watching a gladiator contest in what must have been an extraordinary building, the Colosseum, with its imposing layers of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian tiers. Tiers which inspired so many Renaissance architects, but they also plundered the building to build other masterpieces like St. Peter’s basilica, our destination for tomorrow.

Excavation inside the Forum area still continues today.

Trajan's Forum

Monica: At the end of the day, a moment in thought, on Via della Curia overlooking the Forum,
wondering what was it like down there 2000 years ago!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The City of Pompeii

Planning Italy is one thing, doing Italy is something else. But one has to make adjustments to plans as the real situation changes. In that sense, I guess, doing Italy and for that matter any other foreign country is doing life.

We are back in Rome and I must still figure out how the buses work here. By the way, on the Internet some people write that Rome is a small enough city one can walk everywhere. Bullshit! Rome is a massive city and walking in 30 Degree Celsius heat for miles is crazy and a total waste of precious time.

Day 2 started badly. I took the wrong train from Naples to Pompeii. I planned to take the Circumvesuviana (isn't that a tongue twister) train to Pompeii Scavi, but ended up taking the Trenitalia train to Pompei station. (Pompei is the modern day city and Pompeii is the ruins.) What's the difference between the stations? A little bit further to walk and missing most of the curio sellers and on renting an audio device which provide information about the ruins as you walk through it.

Nevertheless, Pompeii was impressive, even in 33 degree Celsius heat. The city, destroyed in 79 AD by a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius was rediscovered in 1748 by archeologists. We bought a “Then and Now” book before entering the ruins and it helped a bit to figure out the ruins. In some places bright and colorful frescoes still survived against the walls of some houses. I will let the pictures do the talking. However, much of it was carted off to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, which leaves Pompeii today as a massive, empty, tourist-ridden “Times Square.” But, it is still very interesting to see the structure/layout of the city, the architecture of the buildings (or what's left of them…in some cases guesswork is very much required), the beauty of the artwork (these people were very color-minded and I would also say very colorful people), which all make for an unforgettable visit. Walking the streets and just being there among the ruins is rather mind-boggling.

Honestly though, it is good to go there, but then also watch a DVD or a Discovery channel program on the subject. You get to see so much more, close-ups, with lots more information than being at the ruins. It is a vast place and although we were nearly everywhere in the ancient city, we would never have completed it all if we had an audio device and if we stopped and listen to all the details at every point. Simply too much! One day at Pompeii is not enough. Unfortunately we were on a schedule and had to catch a train back to Naples and then onto Rome.

There was no time to visit other sites in Naples, like the National Archaeological Museum or the Capella Sansevero with it highly recommended statues of alabaster.

The train trip back to Rome and the subsequent taxi ride to our apartment in Via Licia were uneventful. We went to do some shopping at the local supermarket and then went to a bar, the Robbivecchio, for dinner. Monica’s Margarita (that's the Mexican drink not the pizza) quickly too half her head off and send her swimming in her own Roman sea, while I finished two Peroni’s. Rome was just as hot as Naples. The food and the service were generally terrible. I couldn’t even refuse to tip the bad service because a 12% service charge was included in the price. The waiter was more interested in watching the AC Milan – Liverpool European Champions League final than serving us. But then what did I expect? After all, this is Italy where football is a religion.

Via dell'Abbondanza. One of the main streets of Pompeii. The sidewalks were modernized with concrete for easy walking (still at the same level as in the ancient time), but the cobbled-stone street is the real thing (about a foor below the sidewalk level.)

The fountain inside the House of Fontana Piccola with a colorful wall frescoe.

A close-up of the fountain inside the House of Fontana Piccola.

A close-up of the frescoe in the House of Fontana Piccola.

A beautiful mosaic floor of the House of the Tragic Poet.

Inside the House of Vettii.

Wall Paintings just inside the front door of the House of Vettii. The house was closed to public (locked gate), but I could take this picture through the gate. It was locked due to restoration. Luckily only a few areas in Pompeii was locked for restoration purposes. I think the oversize penis symbolized prosperity of the house's owner. Erotic pictures were all over Pompeii when it was rediscovered, and although some remained, most were taken to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

The Grand Theatre at Pompeii.

Inside the Stabian Baths, me wiping away sweat, Lamar, who was our "researcher" for the day browsing the "Then and Now" book to see what the place looked like before the eruption.

Inside the Stabian Baths.

Stabian Baths. A foot of a Plaster cast. The foot bone are still clear visible.

A plaster case inside the storage facilities. The "mummies" or plaster casts were created when the rediscoverers of Pompeii realized that the lava body forms where hollow inside, it became a mold, so they poured plaster inside.