Saturday, April 29, 2017

Random sightings

I have only four months left in Rome and I'm starting to feel the pressure every time I look at my Italy 'bucket list'. How will I ever make it back to Sardinia and Venice, to four new regions, San Marino, the plains cities (Bologn! modena and Parma) and a whole pile of Tuscan hill towns? Not to mention all the other European countries I haven't visited yet - Portugal and Sweden, Malta and Hungary, Iceland and Greece... I'm starting to think something might have to give. Especially since I stuck around town this weekend to be on-call for a visit and the next long weekend I'll be in town as duty officer. So future officers assigned to Rome - beware, your two years will fly by before you know it so make them count!

I still have some time of course and have a few little trips planned here and there. Mostly though I'm focusing my energy on my life back home - my little house will be under construction this summer and as always there are lots of family comings and goings to keep me busy. And all the transition planning for work inevitably pulls my mind toward the future - arranging housing in DC, planning my home leave travels, setting up doctors' appointments, renewing all my documents, shipping my effects, furnishing my house and hiring a property manager... And answering the important questions, like can I start my road trip in Canada if I'm only out of the US for the weekend? So much to do! Even though four months sounds long I've started on the checklist already. 

And in the meantime, life in Rome continues as usual. On weekends I go running in the park, meet my friends for coffee, pick up flowers from my Bangladeshi friend and fruit from the Indian 'fruttivendolo' (fruit-seller). I'll usually hit a restaurant or cultural site if I'm in town. Weekdays are mostly just about work, but I've been better about cookingwhen I get home lately and of course, practicing the 3.5 songs I know on the piano. (Wonder if the neighbors would chip in for a piano tutor if it meant I would be able to play something new?) Not a bad life at all.

And now for some random photos...

Cafe at the Villa Medici

This reninds me, Happy Easter!

Love these - they lasted two full weeks

One of my favorite trees in my favorite park

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reggia di Caserta

... otherwise known as the Palace of Caserta or the Versailles of Italy. It's actually the largest royal residence in Europe and boasts some impressive grounds as well.

A friend and I visited over the Pasquetta holiday (Monday after Easter) which I mistakenly thought would be quiet. Come to find out, a picnic at Caserta is something of a local tradition. There were some serious crowds.  Luckily we arrived before the majority and had a nice walk through the grounds and the historic apartments indoors.  It wasn't quite as interesting as expected - no famous art and nothing very interactive - but it was beautiful and I'm glad we got out and had an adventure.

From the front

And the back... the way back that is

To give you a sense of the scale this is not even half way between the waterfall and the palazzo.

Here are the falls up close. They really are gorgeous and if you have any mobility issues you can take a mini bus from the palazzo for 2.50 or a horse drawn carriage for 10 or rent a bike for somewhere in between. Also, the English gardens (closed for Pasquetta) are at the very end by the falls so it's worth your time - promise!

Even though the monarch would have needed binoculars to see them from his house, these statues at the base of the falls were just lovely.

Back in the palace these stairs are famous (and you can spot them in several films including Star Wars Episodes I and II.)

There were lots of huge chandeliers...

And frescoed ceilings...

 I really like this "little" changing room! 

Here's the front lawn before it hit peak craziness. See that line off to the right? It actually continues all the way around to the front door out of frame off to the left (meeting up with the main sidewalk). Judging by how long the line was when we arrived and how long it took to get inside I'd say that's a two hour wait. Easy. Yeah, Italians are serious about their history. Also, Vesuvius!

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Well, it only took me a year and a half but I finally made it to Capri with a little help from my long lost cousin B.

I am happy to report it was well worth the wait and definitely should make your short list if you get the chance to visit. My only caveat is that we didn't visit during the high season so it might be a good deal more crowded if you want to arrive in say, July.

Marina Grande - your entry point to Capri via ferry. We took a train from Rome and from Napoli central train station it was an easy hop on the metro Line 1 to Piazza Municipio where we bought tickets on the 50 min ferry. Upon arrival there are regular buses that will deliver you to the town of Capri at the top of the hill. Total travel time is about 3 hours. 

Best Airbnb I've stayed in so far. The view was just intoxicating. Pro tip: aim for lodging that comes with a kitchen. Restaurant meals were overpriced and in my opinion nothing special.

Our first afternoon was spent at the rock beach down at Marina Piccola (a 20 min downhill walk from Capri town).

The water was so beautiful. Ice cold, but beautiful.

We also had a nice long walk around town to see the main piazza and window shop. We loved these flowers which were everywhere.

Day 2 I was up at dawn to catch the sunrise over the island.

We caught the bus to Anacapri and, after some exploring and cappuccino, we caught the chair lift up to the top of Monte Solara.

The views were kind of nice, if you like that sort of thing. ;)

We then made our way down the trail back to Capri. It started as a beautiful meadow walk ...

And took a seriously crazy turn where we ended up basically rappelling down this cliff. 
Really, this was not remotely safe -  don't try it with kids or anyone who has even mild mobility issues.

In the end we did get to walk through some beautiful, serene forest. I have to admit that it was a real treat to have all this nature to ourselves in such a popular vacation spot.

Our afternoon was spent sunbathing some more and shopping. If Gucci and Prada are a bit out of your price range consider a perfume - this brand is special to Capri and the scent is just lovely.

Our last morning in Capri was spent visiting the Gardens of Augustus. 

The gardens were lovely, and after all the stair climbing of the past two days the low impact stroll was just right.

And the views weren't bad either.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fools!

Returned from a lovely few days out of town with my cousin to find a very Italian "prank" on my balcony.  

Spaghetti Attack!

Don't worry. The spaghetti attack was probably not malicious given the fact that my upstairs neighbor is suffering from dementia.  

Just another day in my favorite beautiful and quirky Italian city... I'll post some pictures from our trip soon.