Apr 04


maybe i’ve written before about how my neighbor’s kids aren’t the brightest in the world…

anyhoo, today i came home to find them swinging from the vines in the trees in their back yard, in much the way tarzan would.

except, i think tarzan might have chosen vines that weren’t poison ivy.

Apr 04

Girl With Pearl Earbuds

Girl with Pearl Earbuds (with apologies to Vermeer)

inspiration struck me the other day, so i took a moment (well, a few moments) whilst waiting on some work to render, to put my thoughts into pixels. the result is Girl with Pearl Earbuds (with apologies to Vermeer).

click above for a larger version. share and enjoy.

Apr 04


in milan, finally. i had a premonition that my train would be late getting to my connection in genova (hell, that was an easy one – all the trains were late leaving la spezia) so i made sure i had enough time to get another train to milan from there, and there were plenty. still, i didn’t get into milan until nearly 10pm.

anyhoo, the cinque terre. long hike from vernazza to riomaggiore, with stops at each town for a glass of the local wine and a refill of my water bottle – in case you’re planning a trip to italy, bring a plastic water bottle with you, and you’ll never have to buy water while you’re here. there’s spring-fed fountains, or those running with aqua potabile, pretty much everywhere. in rome, i was able to keep my recycled gatorade bottle full the whole time i was there.

so. cinque terre. beautiful. ocean view to the right, sheer cliffs to the left, and on most of the hike, not much in between to walk on. plodding along the route that, thankfully, went from extremely vertical to mostly horizontal and finally, paved, with my backpack and messenger bag, slightly exhausted, and by the end of the hike, a little tipsy, it was a pretty full day – hiking from around 10am to 3pm, filling up my camera with pictures, my feet with blisters.

then, dinner at a pizzeria in la spezia, and a lovely conversation with some american girls on the ‘grand tour,’ six weeks and, from their itinerary, around 20 cities. i shared some of my travel tips with ‘the note-taker’ and they shared their experiences in paris and madrid. from what they tell me, the french are as bad as everyone says, to americans anyway, and madrid is the armpit of europe. a quote they attribute to one of the locals in vernazza ‘if madrid is the armpit, then naples is the crotch.’ i’ll leave it at that.

so, milan. great hotel, not too far from the station, though the nearest metro stop seems to be closed for some reason. i noticed this getting up late on monday and wandering into the city to do some window shopping. with no traffic, none of the shops near my hotel open, and no trains or buses rumbling past, it was eerily quiet. i know it’s the day after easter, but it’s still monday, after all. at 10:30 there was still almost nobody on the street, and i didn’t see significant numbers of people until i got to the duomo, and that was because there was a service about to start. creepy.

anyhow, it’s lunchtime now, and people are starting to come out into the light, the shops are opening up, and it’s starting to remind me of a city again. actually, the place reminds me most of koln/cologne in germany. the gothic cathedral and piazza slowly filling with street performers are part of it, but i’m not sure what’s at the root of it. maybe it’s that this place is more german than italian, by way of being so far north. i’ve certainly seen the contrasts, as i had intended, between the south and north.

so. window shopping, maybe a few designer souvenirs (though i can’t guarantee anything) and then a plane in the morning. this is probably my last entry from italy, as i’ll be home soon, so for those of you playing along at home:

ciao, arrivaderci.

Apr 04


cinque terre. hiking with all my kit, as the la spezia baggage check has been closed ‘for security’ and according to the lady at the info desk, they’re closed all over the place. good thing i packed light.


so, i’m hiking for real, not just strolling.

then, off to milan for tonight and a full day tomorrow. shopping, i think, and maybe a museum or two. i’m pretty much churched out.

i’ll check in again when i get to milan. access is expensive here…

Apr 04


as you can see, i’ve made it out of rome alive, and have landed in florence.

already, there is a marked difference between this, northern/central italy, and the south. the countryside on the way here, through the train windows as it sped past, was of a different cast. a deeper green. the mountains, a few of which still had snow on top even at this late date, seemed older, softened with time. in sicily, there were mountains, and certainly tall and impressive peaks, but they seemed fresher, as if they had just been shoved out of the ocean in a fit.

florence, from what i’ve seen so far, is also a different kind of city from naples and rome. no city can compare to rome, but so far florence still strikes me as a little sleepy, quieter than the frantic rome streets would be at this hour, and i doubt it’s entirely due to the overcast skies and rain-streaked streets. things are closer together here, as they were in naples – none of the wide roman streets or hulking ruins in between – but it still doesn’t have the crowded feel of that place.

i managed a decent hotel, again on the cheap as those things go, but it’s only for one night. it’s even one in the guidebook i have, though i booked the reservation through the tourist office. i haven’t made up my mind whether to pursue another for tomorrow night, or take it as a sign to move on the the cinque terre as soon as i can tomorrow for a vacation from my vacation. i have reservations for this afternoon at the uffizi, and tomorrow at the academie, so i’ll be here for two days. i think, though, i’ve seen enough of the italian city scene. i’m ready for the small towns, beaches and cliffs i’ve read about in the guidebooks.

off to grab a late breakfast, then check into my room – it was not yet free when i got there at 9:30. then off to the uffizi to lay eyeballs on some more renaissance masters. nothing, i think, will compare to the gargantuan vatican museum or the amazing sistine…

Apr 04


wow. where do i begin?

all day yesterday, my first full day, from sunup to well after sundown, in the eternal city. the night before (after my last posting), i took a walk by trevi fountain, and, even packed with tourists and vendors of various trinkets (who all seem to be related, or at least know each other) it was a serene end to my arduous day.

the cool spray off the fountain, the happy conversation in a dozen languages, laughter, gypsy music, the cold, cold beer from one of the street vendors… everything about the place seemed to seep into me and melt away all the disappointment i had in naples, all the sunburn i’ve had since palermo, my sore feet and muscles, the stench of train travel (have i mentioned that i’ve learned through experience and travel to no longer be sensitive to my own BO?)

whoosh. sigh.

and walking back to my hotel, i look to my left. oh yeah. colisseum. dig.

and yesterday morning i made my way back there before the crowds started showing up and did a couple of laps. from there, it was a full day – st. peter in chains, pantheon, capitol hill, museums, forum and palatine hill. from imperial rome to medieval rome in about 6 hours. more square meters of michelangelo and cubic meters of bernini than i expect to see in the rest of my life (except for tomorrow in the vatican)

and look, over there… spanish steps.

a little bit of a problem this morning, tho. the crypt of the cappucin is closed ‘for works’. and apparently has been since december of last year. oops.

but i was able to secure a reservation at the borghese museum – and during holy week, no less. no wonder, they move people through there so efficiently, i think the rome metro system should take some lessons. they say you’ve got two hours, and they’re not kidding. i could have spent the whole day there, but i felt a little rushed to get through all the most notable bits before the loudspeaker proclaimed ‘the tour time is over. make your way to the exit’ and the attendants started closing the doors behind me.

anyhoo, i took it easy today, as tomorrow, i take the vatican. st. peter’s and the museum, anyway. the pope is being wheeled out at the coliseum on friday, for which there are massive preparations – tv cameras, lights and sound systems – already underway, so i doubt i’ll catch a glimpse on thursday.

if you don’t see anything from me in a while, look in the papers for a picture of me being escorted in chains by the swiss guard.

Apr 04


rome. and naples was finally growing on me. of course, the little ‘porter’ i couldn’t shake in the train station, who got in my way while trying to help me to my train, didn’t take my bags (thank goodness. if he’d made a grab for them, i’d have surely broken his neck, i was so fed up with him), spoke mostly gibberish, and who finally demanded i give him something to go away (per caffe’?).. that was naples’ final offense.

anyhoo, rome.

much better reception than in naples. for one, i was able with no problems (or language barrier) to reserve a room for 4 nights, right by the train station, for about the same price as the pensione i stayed at in sorrento.

and on the way here, i had a nice conversation with my neighbor on the train – a lovely young lady who is on her way to quit her job, move out of her apartment, and move to seattle to be with her boyfriend (who, i think, works at pixar. or disney. something like that) she told me all about growing up in naples, working in milan, and the bizarre courtship she and her boyfriend have had. i was able, with only some small difficulty, to explain why americans are… well, the way we are. paranoid, xenophobic, reactionary… and i think there was something about how taxes work in the US vs the EU.

and on the way, i ate my neapolitan pizza (take-out from the original pizzeria) – a primordial pie. misshapen, burnt at the edges, and cooked in an oven older than most buildings in the US. this is the coelocanth of foods.

damned good pie.

anyhow, off to see rome by night.

Apr 04


in naples for less than an hour, and already, i hate it with a passion. the ‘tourist info’ office is completely useless – though i probably expect too much for them to help me with a booking in rome. in england it was ‘how may i help you’ and ‘certainly, sir’ here it’s ‘you in napoli. no roma.’

well, fuck you too.

anyhoo, off to the museums and some pizza for lunch – and it had better be fucking good. the morning i’ve had so far, makes me want to get to rome and get this town behind me. and i had such high hopes. up this morning with the sun, first ferry from sorrento. got to the TI before it opened…


pompeii was a full day, lots of walking, and fascinating. i could have spent even more time, but i was feeling pretty pooped. then yesterday on mt. vesuvius took way too long. the bus didnàt come on time, and wasn’t running a full schedule – being sunday, of course. then there’s the whole ‘this train goes this place, not that place, and there’s no telling which one you’re on until it’s too late’ thing.

the buses to amalfi were the same, so i was unable to make it to amalfi yesterday, unless i wanted to spend the night. i’m tempted to go today after the reception i’ve had in naples, but i must see the museum – it’s where all the stuff from pompeii and herculaneum ended up. and this is where my train to rome leaves from, so i’d hate to get stuck in positano.

long, drawn out sigh.

rome. tonight. and it’s holy week. no hotel reservation.

god i love traveling.

Apr 04


do you remember when you were in elementary school, and you first studied pompeii?

you know, the city that was buried under volcanic ash and preserved, like it was stuck in some prehistoric tupperware casserole and burped for that eternal seal of fdreshness?

remember the grisly story of the remains of the people covered in ash, who left perfect molds for archaeologists thousands of years later, the sick bastards that poured plaster into the voids left by the decomposed remains, uncovering the poses of these pompeiians at the exact moments of their death by suffocation under tons of volcanic ash?

yeah. those.

i saw those today. was close enough to touch them. those and the frescoes, mosaics, and everyday parephernalia left behind at pompeii. and then it hit me.

well, two things. so ‘they hit me’

one, despite how the ruins of pompeii today were full of people – school groups and tours, families and spring-breakers – it was once, well, full of *people*. it was, despite the noise, stray dogs, and children who had escaped their leashes, a very lonely place.

which is where the second thing struck me, and i needed to leave, to get back to my pensione and regroup, needed to drink wine, and lots of it.

i’m here.

in italy.

with the clusterfuck of delays, half-assed plans, and missed trains, i had almost forgotten the whole point. i’m not at home any more. i can’t stress over that kind of stuff, because my promise to myself was to act more italian. eat and drink only the local fare – no pizza until i get to napoli (day after tomorrow) and, for the love of pete, no mcdonalds, even if i’m dying in a gutter of hunger and grease deprivation. to forget for a while how to be the ugly american i saw in the newark and amsterdam airports.

after all, mi familia – il mio nonno – d’origine italiano.

(anybody who speaks italian, feel free to correct my spelling or grammar, but i’ll give you the italian equivalent of the bird and tell you in my defense that i’ve already had a bottle of the vino rosso locale for dinner)

and, as they say, when in rome (or naples, or sorrento, or palermo…)

Apr 04


overnight ferry from palermo to naples. another short hop to sorrento. and now, off to vesuvius!

more verbose entry later. bus leaves soon.