63–Under the Roman Sun

I sit at my desk, listening to summer raindrops patter darkly on the leaves outside my window, and my mind wanders to the hot sunny days we spent in Rome last month.

It’s true–all roads do lead to Rome, as this fancy-dress centurion seems happy to point out.

The locals, we found, are very friendly,

delighted to quote you a price for their services,

and, take you for a ride.

Such a good looking people as they are so proud to proclaim,

Though sometimes, “handsome is as handsome does” would leave even the prettiest Roman empress a shade shy of attractive.

Agrippina the younger, empress of Rome, mother of Nero, thought to have poisoned her uncle/husband Claudius and in turn been poisoned by her son.

The bread was plentiful and delicious, the circus–astounding.

The inside of the coliseum with the working underground beneath the stage exposed. These are the passages through which they led animals and gladiators, shifted sets, even had special walkways for VIP guests to get to their seats without having to mingle with the rough and tumble plebs.

And boy did they love their circus. They had time to etch their favorite gladiators in stone, their idea of doodling while they waited for the trapdoors to slide, the stage sets to shift and the next gruesome spectacle to start.

We tended to prefer simpler pleasures, performances of a gentler nature, yet no less spectacular,

or entertaining.

So we gawked at the Forum as we baked in the sun, strolled through the palace of the Vestal Virgins,

The vestal virgins were the only Roman women with rights and privileges approximating those of men.

languished in the beauty of Palatine Hill,

and dreamed of having a Roman villa on high.

We found time to trip down the famous Spanish steps,

stroll by the river,

check out the styles,

hang out with the locals,

take in the fountains, whether famous,

The Trevi Fountain.

so famous they are copied on the other side of the world,

Faux Trevi fountain in Las Vegas.


or downright…strange,

And by the end of the day, we were inspired, overwhelmed, amazed…and thirsty!

A lion-sized thirst,

only quenched with just the right twist of cinammon-scented grappa,

and a wish for a chance to return

for another fun-filled day under the Roman sun.
Hope you will come along đŸ™‚

62–Tuscan Holiday Parte Seconda: Siena

This post is dedicated to my dear friend — Marilyn Donahue.

Her passionate accounts of Siena made it a must-see destination for us. In fact, we made it our hub for other forays into the Tuscan countryside. And aren’t we glad we did!

Siena, as Marilyn promised, makes quite the statement.

On the skyline…,

Siena Cathedral devours the horizon!

…and around every corner.

The Siena Town Hall that looms high over the large town square–Il Campo

Quirkily contemporary…,

They sure are…

…in love with…

…kitschy lights!

…through the ages…,

The ceiling of an inner chapel of the Cathedral.

…and for the future.

Kill the car, Plant a tree!

Common platter…,

It’s clear which nationality tourists this restaurant hopes to attract!

…and haute cuisine…,

Buffalo mozzarella and zucchini flowers stuffed with truffles

that our buddy came down from London to experience. (And you thought he’d come to visit with us. Humph!)


What he thought he was taking:

Too good to forget

What he got. Too bad it wasn’t just desserts.

Popular folk arts and crafts…,

How much is that poppy in the window, the one with the glorious smile?

Candle makers at work and loving it!

…or Renaissance grandeur at its peak.

Fancy lord prancing in a fresco in the Cathedral!

Sometimes that statement needs a little deciphering…,

The sign for tourists at the “panorama” climb from the Museum

Illuminated choir hymnal from the Siena Cathedral Museum.

…while at others, it needs no explanation.

The view of Siena and surrounding hills from aforesaid panorama point that definitely needs its own timeout

Inside Siena’s amazing cathedral

Sometimes the statement is folksy and cozy…,

I love how European restaurants are so welcoming of people and their pets!

…and at other times utterly chilling.

The floors of the Cathedral depict the Slaughter of the Innocents, a strangely popular theme for painting of the time. Dead babies? Ugh. Not my cup of tea. I want them alive and reading my books, thank you very much!

The basilica of San Domenico has the preserved head of Saint Catherine (no kidding, we saw it) the patron saint of Siena and has had it on display for centuries!

At the end of the day with so many statements, all that food…,

Rare pigeon-meat anyone?

…and after all that climbing…,

All ways lead UP to the duomo on the hill

…we were exhilarated, stuffed, and dead beat.

Weary wanderers seek water and wayrest

Though not quite as dead as this guy.

Victim of a cage in the Siena Torture Museum

Thank goodness!

In fact, after a wonderful farm stay we were up and about for another day in Tuscany.

Thank you again, Marilyn! Here’s wishing you a speedy return to sunny Siena đŸ™‚

P. S. Happy Bastille Day to one and all. May your revolution be successful…and bloodless đŸ˜›

61–Tuscan Holiday Parte Una: Firenze

NOTE: This post is another edition in the continuing dialog between the two faces of rilla. The identity crisis is explained (if such a thing is possible) in the first post. Click here to read: 1 — Introduction

Rilla: Think I’m going to fly.
To Italy.
Todayeeeee, yeah!
Have me a little Tuscan holidayeeeee. Yeah!!

Close-up of a sculpture that used to adorn the Florence Cathedral. Now it is in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo for safekeeping.

rilla: What’s that? Italy? Today? You could have given me some warning. Time to pack?

Rilla: Erm…it’s just a song. You know. I’m not going today. Not really. I mean…I…

rilla: Oh no. Not again. You’ve already been. Haven’t you? Haven’t you? You went without me.

Rilla: Well…now that you say so.

rilla: Why didn’t I know? You didn’t give me a chance. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair.

Rilla: I tried. You were busy. You know. You were working on that darn manuscript of yours and when you get involved, why, I can’t even make you look up, let alone hop on a plane to Italy.

rilla: Huh. If you’d shown me what I was missing…I’d have taken a break.

Rilla: Shown you? What do you think I’m doing?

rilla: After the fact…what good’s that anyway?

Rilla: You mean you wanted me to show you the pictures I took before I took them?

rilla: Well. Well, yes. Why not?

Rilla: Hey! Look! Isn’t that the cat walking all over your keyboard again?

rilla: Where? Oh no. Sha-do! Sha-do………..

Rilla: Whew! Oh, joy! She’s gone…

The Singing Gallery by Luca Della Robbia for the Florence Cathedral, now in the Museo Dell’Opera del Duomo

Now. Where was I?

Oh, yes. Italy.

Stopped off in Firenze where they have a little dome…

Staying downtown,
made it easier to roam.
Peeked in at all the windows lighted,

The styles, so ooh la la,

and that rainbow shoe…how much?

Mama mia…OUCH…

…checked out the food instead!

So, so much to see,

The view of the city and the campanile from the gallery atop the Cathedral Dome on the cupola tour

no time to sleep at night.

Night view of the river Arno taken from the Ponte Vecchio or “old bridge”, the only remaining covered bridge in Florence.

Great masters at every corner,
Like Donatello,

Donatello’s controversial bronze sculpture of David victorious above Goliath’s chopped off head was the first free-standing sculpture created since classical times.

in the Bargello,

The Bargello museum is a grim gothic palace/fortress where at some time prisoners were held and executed in this yard until capital punishment was abolished in 1780.

Celini and Fellini…

Close-up of Celini’s bronze Perseus with the head of the Gorgon which stands tall in the loggia in the Piazza della Signora. He signed his name on the strap across Perseus’ chest.

…even street-art’s a delight.

Colored chalk on sidewalks, though copies of great masters, are amazing. One artist did a new one every day. Each one takes him 8 to 9 hours to complete.

All that viewing takes its toll,
Time for another gelato,

Gelato and gelato and gelato makes the world go round…or just me.

cheese by the round,

Farmer’s market in the Piazza Santo Spirito.

and nougat by the pound…or a tenth of a kilo,


Then, back for Michelangelo,
so sad his pieta,

Michelangelo’s last pieta designed for his own tomb in which the melancholic Nicodemus, one of the soldiers who took Christ down from the cross, is meant to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo who became very religious at the end of his life. He smashed the sculpture when he found an impurity in the marble. Lucky for us, it was restored and completed.

and heavenly mosaics that tell,
of a ghastly, gruesome hell.

Detail of a mosaic of the devil eating sinners in hell inside the ceiling of the Florence baptistery.

rilla: So. Taken care of the cat. What did I miss?

Rilla: Oh, nothing, nothing.

rilla: What’s this?

Detail of the “much-reviled” fresco inside the majestic dome of Florence’s cathedral, built by Brunelleschi and painted by Vasari and his student..

Rilla: Just a painting from the inside of the Florence Dome where we climbed up into it and stood right below the frescoes. It was awesome…

rilla: You know what it reminds me of?

Rilla: Hell?

rilla: That’s what your pathetic attempt at rhyming does to my head. AND, what will happen to you, if you leave me at home next time you go wandering around the world.

Rilla: Humph! That’s what it’s like when she tags along. And when she’s not there…nothing but paradise!

The Gates of Paradise–east doors of the Baptistery of the Florence Cathedral carved by Ghiberti after he won a competition against Brunelleschi, his main competitor.