Vatican City – 8/24/04

Another big day as we head to Vatican City. One of the brother’s Tonino and family was our guide today. Not growing up Catholic, going to Vatican city was never an aspiration of mine. As I met my wife, going to a Catholic church, getting married in a Catholic church, I was definitely more aware of the religion. As I planned and told people about our trip, I got more information on it and as I read and discovered what was there, I got more and more excited about it. Pino was really excited to see the Sistine Chapel and is a great fan of Michelangelo. He opened up my eyes to some of the magnitude I was about to discover.

We took the Metro in again to the world’s smallest nation. We headed for the Vatican museums first. We went to the side where the museums are first.

I was first off impressed what a great system they have there. They should run the airlines hehe. We got our tickets and headed into these massive museums. I read how decadent the museum is and how overwhelming they are for effect and they truly are. Room upon room we saw the extremely impressive collections of the museum. You couldn’t possibly take enough pictures or spend enough time here the two huge long halls of displays both arrive at the crown jewel, The Sistine Chapel.

I really did not know what to expect. What the size of the room was? How far up the ceiling was? How long it was? You walk in to Michelangelo’s masterpiece and you are completely in awe. Pino showed me a book in the morning and pointed out a bunch of points in the paining that I truly amazing. Two cool points were Michelangelo’s self portrait and a drawing of the pope that constantly pressured him to finish his master piece. Another point was a part that was destroyed and could not be restored in the 90s and he pointed out a few areas that were so faded, they could not be restored. The room was huge and the ceiling was very tall. It was probably 5 times taller than I thought it was. You can see why it took 4 years to complete and why his eyesight got partially impaired. It was truly stunning.

You are not allowed to take pictures or video at all in the room. Anyone that knows me knows I couldn’t follow that rule!

I sneaked in a few bad shots and some video you can see here. I see why they don’t want any because light could damage this already restored chapel. With the amount of traffic in there even the mistakes could damage it some more. Every 5 minutes or so they clap or yell no cameras and or to silence the room. I think I even got scolded once. At one point it really got nuts in there and an alarm went off with a pre recorded warning message, they do not mess around. Of course the highlight and famous piece in the room is the creation of Adam with the fingers. Truly amazing. There are a lot of other pieces around the room by other artists, but are practically ignored by everyone. This was an amazing experience and was defiantly one of the highlights of the trip.

Lunch break, not so good pizza!

From the Metro you come across the side entrance to the museums first, so we did not even see the main entrance to the Vatican at first St Peter’s Square.

This huge piazza was beyond any size I imagined. It was very huge and very impressive.

On one marked point in the square, you can look at all the columns that are 4 deep and it appears the are a single column, pretty cool. There is an Egyptian obelisk in the center and 2 fountains on each side.

The main gates are guarded by Swiss guards, who are curiously uniformed. I was told early on at war the Swiss people were neutral, so that’s why they are Swiss.

Entering St. Peters Basilica was another spectacle. This was another site that was larger than life. It is the biggest Basilica in the world. I could never have judged the size and magnitude of it.

Michelangelo’s Pieta is off to the right as soon as you walk in. It is behind glass because some nut in the 70s who claimed he was Jesus stormed in and damaged some of the statue. It was created in 1499 when he was just 25. This is one of the world’s greatest statues. Way too much to write about. You have to see my pictures to believe it.

Michelangelo’s Dome

This was an awesome day. We went to our tour guide Tonino’s with his family for dinner. Another beautiful house with a great dinner as well. Tony is a funny guy. He really knew a lot of detail and was a great guide. He showed us his 3D artwork which was pretty cool he created in PhotoShop. His other hobbies included magic and collecting coins. He was a good magician and his coin collection was very impressive. These last 2 days have been the highlight of the trip!

Rome Day 1 – 8/23/04

Huge sightseeing day. We headed out around 10:30 to downtown Rome. We took the Metro in and it took around an hour. I was pretty impressed with their subway system, although I had that song “Metro Train” in my head all day from the group Berlin. Today’s tour guide is Giuseppe. One of the brothers with his family. He is a great funny guy. Also Rosanna and Ilaria came along to show us Rome.

Our final stop on the Metro was The Coliseum, which was our first stop on today’s adventure.

Coming out of the subway, there it was, as huge as I always expected it to be. Of course I got some real good shots of it. Unfortunately it was extremely packed although we did attempt to go in and just look around real quick. I am hoping to come back another day to go inside.

We headed down the main street and saw the fields of old ruins what was left of old Roman times, the Roman Forum.

We bought a book that overlaid what is left of today’s ruins with what existed today. Seeing it live and also seeing the book, definitely puts you back in those Roman times.

At the top of the main street we visited the Vitorio Emanuele Monument, built in the late 1800s to honor the first king of Italy. This massive structure now holds the Italian Military museum and was very impressive that seems to be just opened real recently. Outside in the center of this massive structure held the tomb of the unknown soldier. In our books there is not a lot of info on it and the Romans generally do not like the structure because it does not fit in. I think it was pretty cool and the museum was well done.

We then headed for lunch at were else, McDonalds hehe.

I know you thinking we are nuts but you have to remember 1/2 our group was teenagers and I have not had a hamburger in almost 2 weeks.

Like in Pulp Fiction the quarter pound burgers are really called Grand Royal with cheese, so I had one of those.

The McDonalds was really big and had a coffee / pastry section up front. They also had like a flattened like ham and cheese sandwich and a latte shake, pretty interesting.

We headed out and went past the equivalent of the Roman White House and the Parliament. At the end of the street was the Pantheon, again another site I had in my head was Rome.

Along with the Coliseum, this one of the only remains still standing. Its gone through hell and it looks it! The sides of the building looked burned out.

Inside it has an dome with an opened 22 foot hole that allows light from this 142 foot high dome, that had scaffolding inside and is being restored. It was truly an amazing site inside.

Pino took a great shot of the light coming in so I went back and got the shot, very stunning.

A Lil Break!

We then headed to the Trevi Fountain.

I love fountains and statutes, so I was really looking forward to seeing this and it did not disappoint.

I threw my traditional coin in the fountain to ensure my return to Rome. I have heard and seen this fountain forever and it has always been a dream of mine to visit it. I even bought a book at a garage sale when I was a kid, for La Dolce Vita having that famous picture of Anita Ekberg in this awesome fountain. It was a truly amazing site.

As the day came to an end, we arrived at the Spanish steps.

At the foot of the stairs was another fountain.

This was a fountain of a sinking boat, it was small but cute. The metro stop was nearby, so we headed out back to our tour guide Giuseppe’s house for dinner.

2 cars and a boat in his garage!

Very nice house with a great dinner. So far this was the best day of the vacation.

Alcamo Beach – 8/14/04

Not so lucky with internet access in Alcamo. Its ok though. Doing the work I do makes me Jonez a little to be on the web. Technology is not as current as the US that’s for sure.

The hotel turned out to be pretty nice. It is fairly modern and it was pretty new. It is named La Battigia – A few culture differences to get adjusted to such as our midget shower, the mysterious string in the wall after pulling a few minutes later we found out is an emergency string, and the way they do things but all was well.

We found out today that they filmed Oceans 12 close by and that we are in the same room Catherine Zeta Jones stayed in (room 201) hehe so if it was good enough for her it is good enough for me.

Brad Pitt stayed in room 204 hehe and I was also told Julia Roberts was here.

I had to take the pictures of their photos.

We defiantly had a nice day of relaxing on the beach. The water was pretty clear and was pool temperature. It was pretty rough and we found out later a 13 year old girl drowned, very sad, so we were careful.

I must admit the food here is awesome. I have not had anything I have not liked. My 2 rules for the trip were to take a siesta (nap) every day and to at least have gelato at least once a day. I have so far accomplished this.

Today was the eve of an Italian holiday, Ferragosto which what I gather is their Labor Day. It is a pretty cool holiday where everyone parties all night and lights bon fires on the beach and then just relax and celebrate the next day.

We had gone to this amazing boat port with my mother in laws cousins. It was like out of a scene in a movie.

We had dinner there near a castle and had some gelato and we had a great time. We took a ride to the top of the hill and overlooked the port.

What an amazing view. You could even see all of the bonfires along the beach.

Italy Journal – 8/12/04 – 8/13/04

Welcome to my adventures from Italy. I will be doing my Blog during various points of my vacation. We will be in Sicily for 10 days and Rome for 5.

I knew I was in trouble when the shuttle bus was late to go to the airport. Good thing the it was only 20 minutes away. As soon as we got to there, we found out the flight was delayed. A women in line said her friend the night before was delayed from her 7pm flight until 1am! I was hoping we did not have the same fate.

As I looked around, I kept thinking of Tom Hanks in the movie “The Terminal”. They really did capture JFK really well. Unfortunately, that lady did jinx us and we were delayed until midnight ! It went from seeing the Hanks environment, to living it. My fellow passengers did not take the delay well. During our wait I walked over to the runway around 10ish to see a dozen or so fire trucks coming back to what appeared to be a false alarm! It wound up we were waiting for a “part” for the plane from Newark Airport and we were off. We think the “phalange” was broken, but we will never know. People started yelling at the people who worked for the airline. They even brought out drinks and food for everyone. Come on people, its not the end of the world. We got on our flight like 12:30.

We just flew over France as I type this update and we are almost there! The plane was huge. Although I did sleep most of the trip, I did enjoy the personal TV screen that lets you choose your movie and play video games. Lets hope we get our rescheduled second flight from Rome to Palermo. Landed in Rome around 2:30.

Found a free WI-fi hotspot so I posted my first post! The hotspot was really cool and wish they had areas like that in the US. I was gonna pay, but I got a 24 access card. I got to talk to a few buds and check my email.

It is awesome here. Getting off the plane a lot of Josephine’s family were there and brought roses for Josephine and Margherita and a single rose for Pino and I. My mother in law (mamma) had been here for a month all ready so it was good to see her. I was instantly spoiled and proclaimed that every time I get off a plane I will need that treatment. We picked up our Mercedes, NICE and headed out to the hotel.

Our adventure has lasted 24 hours so far, but we had plenty of rest on the plane, so we were holding up pretty well.

We rested for a little while had dinner and went off to meet all the relatives. They were all nice. Mom had planned a gathering so we could meet everyone.

Wildwood Part 2! 2004

Hey, still in Wildwood with Josephine and my parents! The second annual trip is a lot of fun 🙂 Had a very nice fathers day! Weathers been great up until today, kind of windy and a threat of rain, but we still had a lot of fun!

My dad beat Jos and I in Mini Golf today TWICE 🙁 very upset 🙁 o well!

Self Portrait Photo By Rob Fuzesi

I am very tan any many parts burnt beyond belief. Ok off to dinner and a killer Sundae! at my favorite Ice Cream Pallor 🙂 TOMORROW I AM GOING TO SEE VAN HALEN! Full report on Thursday! I ma VERY excited! The Boys are BACK!