Wednesday, March 28, 2007


After a 2 hour train ride from Rome and enjoying the beautiful countryside, I arrived in Florence (Firenza in Italian) and made my way to the hotel in the rain on foot. Upon exiting the train station I encountered a man looking like a carbon copy twin of Johnny Depp in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. I would have taken a picture but who really wants to be the guy who gets gutted by a pirate at a train station? ;-)

The hotel was one of the nicer ones that I stayed in with a Bed and Breakfast type of feel at a very reasonable rate. It had a nice view of the city from the top of the roof.

Florence is a neat town to just walk around and check out the sites. There are lots of art museums, cobblestone streets, a nice river walk, and loads of bridges over the river. Michelangelo's David sculpture is housed in a museum here and is fairly huge 17 feet tall. The example of craftsmanship is pretty amazing. One bridge is called Ponte Vecchio and houses numerous gold and silver jewelery shops. In World War II, the Germans preserved this historic bridge though they blew up the others when they retreated from the Allied advance.

One enormous church in Florence that I went inside was called Santa Maria della Carmine. I also saw Dante Alighieri's house of Divine Comedy fame as well as his home church.

There were several street painters doing chalk drawings. One that was fairly impressive was a copy of a Carravagio painting. I also enjoyed listening to the violinists throughout the city.

I think I preferred the food in Florence slightly more though it may have been due partially to the less crowded nature of Florence at night vs. Rome. More gelato was consumed in addition to a fabulous tasting calzone.

Florence Street Scene


Arno River

A Church in Florence

Dante's Church

Santa Maria della Carmine

Florence Town Hall

Florence Street

A Cafe in Florence

Via Maffia

Ponte Vechio from the river

Ponte Vecchio inside

Street Painter

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Vatican

I went on a tour of the Vatican with a tour company called Romeing Tours and thought the information provided was quite thorough and insightful. We stood in line for around 45 minutes to get in but I made good use of the time by picking the tour guide's brain on Roman combat strategies. The Vatican is around 100 acres and is actually it's own country with approximately 550 citizens. The Vatican City is said to have one of the most reliable postal systems in the world. I mailed a post card to try it out and it successfully reached its destination.

The parts of the Vatican that I saw included some nice architecture, great examples of art which culminated with the Sistine Chapel as well as the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica. Several pope's lie are buried there with a few being embalmed or bronzed for the viewing public.

On Sunday, I went back to the Vatican at noon where the Pope gave a blessing to all in attendance in something like 12 languages. There was a massive number of people there, similar to a crowd at a football or basketball game. I could see the pope but he was but a small spec far off in the window he stood in to address us.

The Vatican is guarded by a group of 100 Swiss guards who are trained to kill with a battle ax and sword. I didn't see the battle ax but they were definitely armed with swords. Swiss guards must be Catholic, single, between the ages of approximately 20 and 30, male, have Swiss citizenship, and be fluent in 5 languages. Their uniforms are a bit court jesteresqe in appearance.

The Pope Giving a Blessing

St. Peter's Square during Pope's blessing

St. Peter's Basilica

Andrew in St. Peters Basilica

Pietra sculpture

Pope Innocent XI

Nero's Bathtub

Vatican Paintings

Swiss Guards

Pope's Throne

St. Peter's Basilica Dome


Bongiorno. The following entries on Rome, The Vatican, and Florence are the last in the Adventures of Dre on his sojourn in Europe. Never fear, for more adventures are bound to be around the corner.

Rome was one of the highlight places that I was interested in visiting during my journeys. I've been fascinated with the Roman empire for some time including their military might, long lasting dynasty, and extraordinary technology for the time period.

The Coliseum was pretty incredible. It is not in quite the condition it was shown to be in the movie Gladiatorbut was impressive nonetheless. Gladiatorial games were in fact held there. I actually got to go inside and take a look around. There is no longer a floor and one can see the various basement infrastructures where combatants and animals were kept until their time.

Quite a few objects around Rome are labeled with the initials SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus) which mean property of the Senate and people of Rome. For those who have seen the movie Gladiator, Russel Crowe had a tattoo of this on his shoulder and subsequently scraped it off.

Interestingly, the president of Italy resigned from office and then came back all within the time that I was in Rome.

The Circus Maximus was a massive hippodrome which was used most commonly for chariot races. It is an enormous structure but is little more than a massive oval track now.

One fun thing that I did from time to time was simply wander the streets with no particular end goal in mind. This allows a good feel for the city streets and the
musicians, street vendors, and people there. One thing encounter during such an expedition was a wood working shop in the style of Gepetto with Pinnochios and even a life size wooden motorcycle.

I also walked down Via Condotti, the premier shopping street in Rome located just in front of the Spanish Steps. There are fine apparel stores such as Prada, Gucci, Armani, Cartier, Ferragamo, etc.

The food at all times was of high caliber and being a lover of Italian food, I much enjoyed my culinary experiences there. One interesting thing that restaurants/outdoor cafes do is have someone stand by the door or menu and if you slow down to look at the menu they promptly invite you inside and encourage you with very persuasive salesmanship. It is a bit endearing and all a part of the culture.

I partook of an ice-creamlike (but better) substance called Gelato on an almost daily basis. This tasty desert has the consistency of something between ice cream and custard with a smoothie thrown in the mix. If you ever get to go to Italy, you must try some. There are a plethora of Gelaterrias around the streets so ample opportunities avail themselves for consumption.

There were random orange trees in various gardens throughout the city. They looked quite tasty but I resisted the temptation to sample some.

The Pantheon, not to be confused with the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, is an ancient structure built originally for the worship of pagan gods but now utilized as a Christian church. The building is fairly impressive in architecture and contains a nice circular skylight in the roof.

The Roman forum was kind of neat and was basically a set of ruins which much of the nobility lived in during ancient times. When entering it, one felt as though entering a hidden and secret city. The Imperial Forum was another area which competed somewhat with the Roman Forum in majesty.

I'm convinced that hitting pedestrians is a competitive sport in Rome and Italy in general. Italian drivers drive with fairly aggressive tendencies and don't tend to yield to the poor souls who travel on foot. In his book The Broker, John Grisham noted the seeming paradox in the culture, and I concur, of enjoying a leisurely meal of several hours then jumping in the car and driving at break neck speeds. Pedestrians are advised to bring their running shoes and a healthy dose of bravery when crossing streets.

Check out the Bath entry for previous Roman information.


Roman Soldier

Arch by Coliseum

Andrew at Coliseum

Inside the Coliseum

The Pantheon at Night

Inside the Pantheon

The Italian President's House

Roman Road

Trevi Fountain

Gepetto's Motorcycle

Orange Trees

Roman Forum

Roman Forum Fountain

Roman Forum 2


Chamonix Pictures

Here are a few pictures from the beautiful French Alps. See here for the original commentary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Geneva, Switzerland Pictures

Here are a few pictures from Geneva, Switzerland. See here for the original commentary. To see a larger version of the picture, simply click on it.

Geneva Flower Clock

I'm pretty sure this says something to the effect of the Red Cross was started here. If there are any French scholars out there, feel free to post a translation.

Gulls at lake in Geneva

Jet d'Eau

Return of the Jet d'Eau

Andrew with Jet d' Eau in background

Some cool looking trees by the lake side

There were quite a few of these massive chess sets in a park in Geneva

Island where Rousseau hung out

Place where Calvin lived

Place where Calvin sat

Place where Calvin preached
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