More museums, monuments and interesting places

Italy

Pompeii

http://pompeiisites.org/en/

In 2021 I visited Pompeii for the first time and I’m still in awe.  I was staying in Sorrento and took the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento to Pompeii.  From what I could see of the schedule for the Circumvesuviana train, not every train stops in Pompeii so make sure you’re getting on one that stops at Pompeii Scavi-Villa dei Misteri.  There are lots of stops so even though it’s a fairly short distance, the train normally takes about an hour.

And don’t make the same mistake that I and most of the other people on the train made.  As I wrote in my journal:  As we came through the station, a guy told us to go upstairs to buy tiicets and like lemmings we all went up.  The sign said 16 euros which is the same as the official site but I realized on the way back that I was charged 18 euros.  Don’t understand why the official entity that runs the site doesn’t do something about that.

And I’m still unclear what that entity is.  Officially Pompeii is called the Archaeological Park of Pompeii and Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism is in charge of some aspects.  But based on this article in the NY Times https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/25/travel/pompeii-restoration-overtourism.html, no one really seems to be in charge.

From the Scavi station it’s a short walk downhill to the gate.  I started at Porta Marina which you can see in the map of Pompeii which I’ve scanned in here, map of Pompeii From there I climbed the hill to Regio VIII, taking photos near the Santuario di Venere.  Then I walked through Regio VII, taking pictures of Tempio del Genius Auguste and Maccellum, continuing all the way to Castellum Aquae. 

I returned to via dell’Abbondanza, walking along the ‘houses’ of Regio I to the Anfiteatro and Regio II.  I, then, followed the signs to Regio VIII and finished near the theaters.  I did  get turned around as I left from the gate near the theaters and tried to ask someone in Italian where the train station was.  Like most Italians, he answered in English and gave me clear directions back to the station.

But I thought Pompeii was incredible and because it was early November and there were relatively few tourists, I was able to walk from one end to the other with no problem.  I spent between 2 ½ and 3 hours there and still felt like I’d only seen 1/2 to 2/3 of the ‘park.’  I would have stayed longer but as you can see in the photos, it was beginning to look stormy.

My favorite parts of  Pompeii were the ‘houses’ with frescoes or mosaics, the statues, the arena and the ‘theaters.’  The views out over the valley are spectacular although it’s a bit distressing to see the entire valley filled with apartments and houses.

Naples

Museo Archeologico

https://mannapoli.it/

I also visited Naples for the first time in 2021 and while I had some experiences I could have lived without, overall I liked the city and would go back.  One of the reasons is the Naples Archeological Museu.

I walked first to the Duomo then took the first street past the Duomo, via Anticaglia, going left or west (according to my map).  I thought I’d screwed up because it wound around forever and changed names several times but eventually it came out on via S. Maria di Constantinapoli.  About two blocks up (north I think) the street ends at Piazza Museo Nazionale, with the museum on the other side.  The street that runs west from Piazza Museo Nazionale past Piazza Cavour is via Foria. 

Mama mia, the museum is colossal–rooms and rooms of artifacts from Pompeii, a special exhibit on gladiators, several floors of  pre-historic artifacts, rooms and rooms of huge sculptures from Villa Farnese and other villas….  I ran out of time to see the Egyptian collection which was disappointing but otherwise loved it.

And the museum itself is beautiful; frescoed ceilings and a central courtyard with palm trees and other tropical  plants.         

 

 

Rome

The Spanish Steps and the Pincio Gardens

In 2021 I spent 5 ½ days in Rome and lucked out getting a beautiful afternoon for this walkabout.  I walked from the hotel to the Spanish Steps (about 15 minutes) then took some pictures of the piazza and La Baraccacia, the boat shaped fountain.  At the top of the Spanish Steps you can see one of the obelisks, the Sallustiano Obelisk.

I hiked up the steps taking more pictures, then walked along viale  Trinita dei Monti past  Villa Medici eventually going up a short flight of steps then turning right on viale Villa Medici, I think.  I spent at least an hour walking through the Pincio Gardens which are absolutely beautiful.

I walked to the lookout over Piazza del Popolo (Piazzale Napoleone)  where there was a young violinist.  Among other songs he did an incredible rendition of Viva la Vida, the only Cold Play song I like.  I tried to take a video but apparently I don’t know how.  In one of the pictures below you can see the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo.

I would love to return and see the sunset from the Piazzale.

Pantheon

https://www.pantheonroma.com/pantheon-history/

My first morning in Rome I walked to the Pantheon and since the line was a mile long, I just did a walkabout down to the river and back to the hotel.  When I checked the website, it had a link to reservations for 10 euros which I was seriously considering.  But then I realized the Pantheon itself is free, ergo the long lines.  So Thursday morning, I walked to the Pantheon again, getting to the Piazza della Rotunda around 9:10 am. It took me about 25 minutes to get to the entrance of the Pantheon but it was worth it. (And at that time you had to have your ‘Green Card’ and to have your temperature taken.)

I have written about the churches of Italy and France that are special to me in my Cathedrals and Abbeys post.  I’m especially drawn to churches that are unpretentious and let the architecture and history speak to you.

So I thought the Pantheon was stunning in its simplicity, in contrast to many churches that seem to have every corner decorated.  Granted the Pantheon began as a Roman temple but I was impressed that the Roman Catholic church had retained its original elegance.    Given the crowds and that much of it is blocked off, it’s difficult to linger but the oculus is amazing and being in a building that’s close to two thousand years old gave me chills.

Raphael is buried there as is Vittorio Emanuele.  I saw Vittorio Emanuele’s tomb but didn’t see Raphael’s, or more accurately I saw it but didn’t realize what it was.

There was also a special exhibit of religious art such as pearl encrusted bibles and crucifixes which you can see in the gallery below.

The Piazza della Rotunda and the façade of the Pantheon are beautiful also.  The Macuteo Obelisk, which comes from the Temple of Ra during Ramses II reign, rises from the fountain.

Museo Barracco

http://www.museobarracco.it/en/il_museo/la_collezione_barracco

My last day in Rome I decided to take a break from packing and do a walkabout.  I walked through Piazza Navona and as I waited for the light at Corso Vittorio Emanuele, I noticed a sign on a building across the street, ‘Ingresso Libero’ or Free Admission.  I continued through Campo Fiori to Piazza Farnese and then to the river.

From the Tiber, I retraced my steps to the building on Corso Vittorio Emanuele and walked up the stairs into an anteroom. From the signs and pictures there it appeared to be an antiquities museum.  A ‘docent’ or staff member confirmed that the museum was free.  I just had to show my ‘Green Card’ and have my temperature taken, then I was free to wander.

I walked upstairs and was stunned and amazed at the depth and breadth of the exhibit–Egyptian, Phoenician, Etruscan, Roman and Greek antiquities from the private collection of Giovanni Barracco who acquired the antiquities in the late 19th century then established the free museum.

I’m generally opposed to taking pictures in museums but I couldn’t help myself.

Leaving aside the morality of cultural appropriation, it’s incredible to me that one man could have collected more than 200 works of this quality.  My pictures don’t really do the museum justice so I’ve included a video.

https://youtu.be/SF93yKUIwBA

Firenze

OrsanMichele

In 2019 two of my classmates in the 50+ class at Istituto Michelangelo (IM) opted for Art History rather than the cooking class.  One of their afternoon itineraries was a trip to Orsanmichele which is both a church and museum.  They both raved about it so I put it on my to do list for 2021.

The back of the church sits along via dei Calzaiuoli where there is a ticket office for both Orsanmichele and other museums in Firenze. The entrance to the church is on a small street on the other side of the building and the entrance to the museum is across from the chiesa.

The Tuesday of the week after I had finished with classes at IM, the forecast looked good so I walked up to the church.  Getting into the church and the museum was something of a cluster.  Here’s what I wrote in my journal:  I overshot the location of the museum/chiesa and had to double back to via dei Calzaiuoli.  There’s a state museum ticket office there but it didn’t list Orsanmichele so I walked around the building to the entrance to the chiesa.  The guy there waved me off indicating I should go back to the ticket office.  The guy there said it was closed (or full).  Seeing my dismay he agreed to sell me a ticket and I bought an Uffizi ticket too, getting royally screwed.  It’s only supposed to be 10 euros but he charged me 16!!  (In retrospect that was because I chose a specific day and time which I regretted later.)

From the website I thought we went directly to the museum but you go in the chiesa first which is lovely.  The ceiling frescoes are especially beautiful but I had difficulty getting good photos partly because the light from the high windows tended to create a glare.

At that point in time, due to COVID restrictions, you waited in the chiesa until the staff decided you could go in the museo, then walked across the street. (The building that houses the museum is also home to the Societa Dantesca.  In 2019 I attended a concert there and I noticed that the ceiling frescoes in the Chiesa are almost identical to those in the concert hall. )    frescoed ceiling of Sala Mazzoni, Societa Dantesca

  From the entrance you hike up about 4 flights of stairs, then walk through a door to an outside walkway.  There are beautiful views of the skyline of Firenze from the walkway.

On the other side of the walkway is a room with huge sculptures.  These sculptures were originally made for the niches on the exterior of the church.  I’ve looked at several websites for information on the church and the sculptures and found that the various sites weren’t  always consistent.  However, the information at this website seems accurate. http://www.bargellomusei.beniculturali.it/musei/3/orsanmichele/

According to the site referenced above, the church was originally a granary and was consecrated in the 14th century at which time, the niches on the exterior of Orsanmichele’s impressive building in pietra forte were adorned with sculptures commissioned from the most famous fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Florentine artists. Today, the versions you see outside are copies, and the original sculptures can be found on the first floor of Orsanmichele’s museum. On the museum’s second floor—the highest point of the structure— visitors can enjoy a unique and unparalleled panorama of Florence.

The various guilds of Firenze including the Cloth Merchants, Physicians, Wool Workers and Stonemasons commissioned the sculptures and competed with each other to acquire the best of the best artisans.

Finally, as noted in the quote above, there’s another flight of open stairs to a huge empty room with windows looking out over the Duomo.

Boboli and Bardini Gardens

I’ve written about my love for the gardens in several posts (Florence and Fiesole, Florence and Fiesole, parte due, and Firenze, old and new)  and it wouldn’t be a trip to Firenze without visiting them.   In early October 2021 my sister, niece and I went to the Bardini Gardens for our traditional prosecco.  But it was cold and windy so we didn’t linger.

Weirdly enough it was nicer in early December.  In fact, after a rainy Saturday, it was quite mild. So after my morning cappuccino and some cleaning and packing (since I only had 2 more days in my apartment), I decided on a visit to the gardens.

I walked from my apartment near Piazza Ferrucci along via San Niccolo to via Bardi and then via Giucciardini, following it up to the Pitti Palace where I bought my combined ticket for both gardens. I first went in the Palace/Garden bookstore, thinking to buy another Christmas ornament but couldn’t get waited on.

By the time I headed up the steps from the courtyard to the garden, it had started to rain lightly so I put up my umbrella and walked along the paths I love taking pictures of the fountains and trees and views.

I, then, hiked up to the Rose Garden where there were still some beautiful roses blooming.  I took photos of the surrounding hills and the gardens, although no matter how hard I tried, I ended up with puddles in the pictures.

I had to take shelter for a few minutes when it started to rain again but it didn’t last long.  After it stopped, I walked back down the steps to the garden and long the path that leads to the back entrance, meaning to walk past Ft. Belvedere to the side entrance to the Bardini.  Nope.  It was closed.

I hiked back down the somewhat slippery paths to the main entrance and the piazza then back to via Bardi.  I took the steep street up from via Bardi, Costa San Giorgio, and wasn’t sure for a while if I’d taken the right one.  But I finally spotted the upper entrance to the gardens.     

Bardini
Bardini Gardens

  That entrance brings you out next to Villa Bardini, just below the ‘Kaffeehaus’ with views of the city. 

 

After taking some photos, I walked up to the café.  Unfortunately it was closed. So I walked around the open area below the café where you can see out over Firenze and then up the hill a ways where there was still some fall color.

 

 

From the Kaffeehaus I followed the path through the ‘Pergola of Wisteria’ which eventually comes out below the ‘Baroque Stairway.’  There were also roses blooming here.   While to some people my pictures may look gloomy and dark, I thought  both the Boboli and Bardini gardens had a melancholy beauty  which provided the serenity I needed for the coming week. 

(I’ve included a map of the Bardini Gardens to show where I walked.  Bardinigardens )

The Uffizi Galleries

I was a bit annoyed that I had purchased a reserved ticket for Friday December 3rd, partly because it was a nice day and I wanted to spend it outside and partly because there were so few people visiting the galleries that you could purchase a ticket there and walk right in.  But everything worked out for the best.

I hadn’t visited the Uffizi since 2015 (see Museums, monuments and interesting sights) when it was so crowded you could barely move much less see the art through the crowd of  ‘photographers.’  So it was wonderful to visit when there was hardly anyone there. Once I reached the second floor where you start your visit, I could wander at will and initially spent a lot of time in a room with religious art, mainly paintings of the Madonna and child.  That’s not usually my favorite art but the beautiful colors and gold leaf captivated me.

From there I walked to the rooms with Botticelli’s painting and wrote in my journal: It was wonderful to be able to stand in front of the Botticelli Venus for as long as I wanted and truly absorb the beauty. In the same area there is also a beautiful Fillipo Lippi painting of the Madonna and child.

It was so peaceful and lovely that I started taking photos of the ceilings thinking that they are as much a part of the art as the paintings and sculptures.  I also took a really pretty picture of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio from one of the windows. view of the Arno from the Uffizi Galleries

 

 

 

 

There’s a beautiful and interesting new ‘sala’ for Leonardo da Vinci’s works, that seems to be a work in progress, and some rooms have a new style of exhibit that reminds me somewhat of il Museo dell’Opera.

After walking through the ‘sala’ for Michelangelo and forgetting to take some photos, I continued down to the lower level.  None of the works on that level really spoke to me and I started getting a bit stressed that I wasn’t sure how to get back to the ‘guardaroba’ and get my backpack.  But a nice guard gave me directions and from there I continued through the bookstore which was a bit of a maze and out into the nice afternoon.

 

France

Paris

Picasso Museum

https://www.museepicassoparis.fr/en/collection

In fall 2021 my sister, niece and I spent three days in Paris.  After a somewhat futile trip to the Paris tourist Office, trying to get information on how to make reservations for museums on the Paris Museum Pass, we gave up and decided to wing it and just head to the Picasso Museum in the Marais.

And we were glad we did.  We just showed our Paris Museum Passes and our health cards and walked right in.  The museum was having a special exhibit of Rodin and Picasso and it was wonderful. I thought the museum itself and the gardens were beautiful also and like this description at Paris Insider: The museum’s home, the 17th-century Hotel Salé, is in the Marais district, with a garden, a courtyard, and a stunning two-story, entrance hall. What strikes us about the neighborhood is its calmness and peacefulness. https://www.parisinsidersguide.com/musee-picasso-paris.html  It was built in the 1650’s and I would describe the architecture as Baroque.

Tour Eiffel

Our first evening in Paris (2021) as we had ‘dinner’ in the hotel garden, we made reservations for Tour Eiffel for around 1:00pm Thursday (and for Musee l’Orangerie on Saturday).  My sister insisted she was going all the way to the top so she bought her own ticket and my niece generously bought tickets for the first level for the two of us.  (And tickets to the top are more expensive than those for the first level.)

We metro’d from the area near the Picasso Museum, then walked from the Bir Heikem metro stop to the Parc du Champs de Mars in front of the Tour taking lots of pictures.

We were a little early so after walking around, we sat in the park, at which point my sister couldn’t find the link to her ticket.  Somehow my niece found it and we got in line for the appointed time, getting right in and on the elevator.

The elevator goes up at an angle and just getting to the first level was terrifying for me and apparently for my sister because she decided not to go to the top.  It was totally worth it though; the views are spectacular.

Seine Evening River Cruise

 https://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/ 

Prior to our 2021 trip, we  looked at several websites and finally decided on an evening cruise with the Vedettes du Pont Neuf company was the best. The tour we chose, with wine and an aperitivo was a nice trip for the price, 18€ I think.

It had been a chilly rainy day which continued into the evening but we had a great time.  It was a short walk from the Bastille metro stop to the embarkation point along the Arsenal Port.  After everyone had boarded, we moved from the port into the Seine, traveling slowly past Ile de la Cité and L’ile Saint Louis.  We also passed Hotel de Ville and the Louvre and turned around, I think, near the Place de la Concord.

Not long after we headed out, I noticed two men sitting together, who looked absolutely miserable. I nodded at them and asked, ‘Bad Tinder date or Russian assassins?’     We decided they were Russian assassins and became mildly hysterical, to the point where I knocked over my niece’s wine and she had to buy another one.  We had calmed down when the Captain, while giving his tourist spiel, said, ‘The reason the light from Tour Eiffel is pink is for ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Week.’  Is that how you say it?’  I looked at my niece and we lost it again.

That said, I think we got some great pictures.

 

 

Musée de l’Orangerie

https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/fr/collection

I didn’t look at the requirements for the Paris Museum pass carefully enough and we didn’t realize until we arrived in Paris that we needed to make reservations for all the museums and other sights.  We made reservations at the musée for 11:30 Saturday but the morning did not go as planned.  We took the metro to a stop near the Louvre, planning to have a coffee and brioche.  But unlike Italy where there’s a bar on every corner that serves coffee and pastry, we could not find one café open in the area.

So we strolled around window shopping, then walked to l’Orangerie which sits at the far end of the Tuileries.  It was maybe 11:00 am by then but even though there didn’t seem to be many people around, the staff wouldn’t let us enter early.  So we walked around the Place de la Concorde, taking pictures, then walked back and tried again.  Nope.  So then we had to sit in the park for another 10 minutes, but at least it was relatively mild and not raining at that point.

When we finally got in, we were stunned and amazed.  I had always wanted to se Monet’s Water Lily paintings, but didn’t realize there is a special exhibition room for them with curved walls so that the paintings look more like a mural.  Les Nympheas de Claude Monet, as they are called in French, are breathtaking; so huge you can’t imagine how Monet painted them.  We sat for quite a while just taking them in, then moved to the other exhibits.

In addition to a substantial collection of other Impressionists, there was also a special exhibit of works by Chaim Soutine and Willem de Kooning, whom the museum refers to as abstract expressionists.  I wasn’t familiar with either artist but according to the information in the brochure Willem de Kooning was influenced by Soutine, who died during World War II while hiding out from the Nazis.  I didn’t get any photos of their works so I have scanned in the brochure. Musee de l’Orangerie brochure

Arc d’Triomphe

After l’Orangerie we took the metro to see the Arc d’Triomphe which had been wrapped, a la Christo, in 25,000 square meters of recyclable polypropylene fabric in silvery blue, and with 3,000 meters of red rope.  According to this site https://christojeanneclaude.net/artworks/arc-de-triomphe-wrapped/  Christo had designed the project many years ago and his estate paid for the exhibition.

The area surrounding the Arc was crazy crowded but we got some interesting photos.

Cannes

A Day on Ile St. Marguerite

When my sister and I stayed in St. Raphael in 2015 (see The Riviera for the Uncool post) we did a day trip to Ile St. Marguerite and absolutely loved it.  So our third day in Cannes (October 2021) my sister, niece and I headed out between 9:00 and 10:00 am, stopping first for cappuccino, espresso and pastries at a cute little ‘bar’ between the hotel and the promenade. 

The Riviera Line has regular trips to the island (see http://www.riviera-lines.com/en/ferry-cannes-sainte-marguerite-island/ for times) and I think we caught the 11:00 am ferry.  I was glad we had scoped  out the location the day before so it didn’t take as long to find the ticket office.  As we waited for the ferry, we took pictures of the harbor.

It’s about a 15 minute boat ride to the island and after we docked, we checked the map to figure out our route.  There’s a paved street that leads directly from the dock to Fort Royal, so we decided to go there first.  In 2015 we walked to the fort but didn’t go in.  This time we bought tickets which allow you to walk around the grounds and visit the museum.  I’ve scanned in the brochure for the fort which has some interesting background information.  FortRoyal

It was a gorgeous day although a bit windy (and, as we learned later, a bit muddy) and first we walked through the grounds taking pictures of the views as well as the interesting buildings.  The views of the Cote d’Azur are spectacular which must have made imprisonment even more bitter.