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May 18-June 2, 2007

A Roman Holiday, on a hot day from the Pincio . . . . the Vatican in the background . . . . . the inevitable tourists in the foreground

We expected seasonal temperatures of low to mid-20's Celcius in Rome but instead were met with a blast from the Sahara, mid-30's . . . . . and these young ladies availed themselves of the cooling water of Fonte Aqua Paola on Janiculum Hill 

The night time crowd gathers at the Spanish Steps, with the famous shopping lane of the Via Condotti leading off into the distance

Old love in even older places, a mid-afternoon siesta rendevous under the magnolias next to Castel Sant Angelo 

A common scene throughout Rome, young ladies blazing through traffic on their Vespa's . . . . . . the only thing missing in this image is a cellphone clamped to the ear of one or both of them. In London, it's also common to see ladies on their bikes, but those are more likely to be high-powered racing bikes with fairly aggressive drivers, pony-tails hanging out the backs of their helmets. In Rome, the buzzing but low-powered Vespa is far more numerous and a staple of city streets. Strangest thing we saw in Rome was a guy on his Vespa weaving through a traffic jam with a live parrot on his shoulder.

In Campo di Fiori, a deformed begger propels himself over the cobblestones on a skateboard with a shoe in one hand as propulsion and a cup in the other for collections.

Ditto this young lady . . . .

Down Via Sacre to the Colosseum . . . . . temperature a blistering and unseasonal 35 Celcius or so 

. . . . at the funeral of an important person . . . . . we came across several of these processions as Rome's major churches, which seem more likely to be tourist spots, were instead taken over for more solemn occasions.  

Papers please!! A Caribinari cop checks out some immigrants . . . . these fellows were running one of the many silent disguise begging routines at various squares around the city. One of the more humourous incidents of our trip saw us having a coffee at a corner cafe on a nearby side street when we suddenly heard loud protestations of outrage followed by a mad clatter, police whistles and, then, the wild thumping of feet as guys like these carrying their wares AND their tables come thundering past in a mad effort to vacate the scene of what was likely some tourist shakedown.

Although there are many hucksters in Rome and particularly at Piazza Navona, this guy was the best . . . . not even the tourist jerks could knock him off his game and putting a coin in his can was rewarded with a raising and lowering of his eyebrows.

A gypsy street musician . . . . . .

An innocent looking scene with an interesting story. We were having luncheon at a sidewalk cafe in Trastevere district when the fellow on the right pulls up in his car. He gets out and he starts making calls on his cellphone, a gravelly voice identical to Marlon Brando's Godfather with a more gregarious disposition. He disappears down the street for a while and comes back . . . . then the action starts. Someone comes by and hands him a bundle of bills for a plastic bag full of things. A few more transactions happen in similar fashion before the white-haired chap and the guy on the left show up, the latter giving every appearance of being some sort of bodyguard and our man on the right suddenly turning very deferential. The back of the automobile is flipped up and out come some new suits, the older guy inspecting the merchandise and seemingly not very impressed  . . . . . .all of this being very interesting so early in the day from our vantage point of course.

On a single Roman street corner in Trastevere, the above and the next shot were taken, all over a pizza. . . . . the gentleman above owns the establishment while those seated are likely his grand kids as they scampered away as soon as customers started showing up.

A tiny pooch on the opposite corner dominates the scene as the owner of the local grocery, centre, prepares to close up at noon for Siesta . . . .  

A lone runner glides along the Tiber at sunset . . . . . . . Probably my favourite moments of our Italian holiday were getting up around 5:45 to 6:15 in the morning in Rome and hitting the streets for a run, past an empty St. Peter's Square, up Janiculum Hill to see the sun rising over the Colosseum and Palantine, then down into the narrow cobblestone streets of Trastevere before plunging, as above in the picture, down to the Tiber at Ponte Sisto and running along the river for miles off the map, then returning and climbing out of the river at Castel Sant Angelo and heading back to the hotel.

It's a kind of Rome even the natives probably rarely see. . . . . . an empty Rome with little or no traffic, an occasional couple entwined on Janiculum Hill, a band of gypsies snoring underneath one of the bridges near Castel Sant Angelo as a matron rythemically and habitually swept the dust around them . . . . . an ancient drinking fountain to sip in along the way . . . . . 

There were also runs along the Arno River in Florence and past the Duomo in Milan at the same time of day.

Compared to North American cities, there are relatively few runners in Rome . . . . or they're not readily visible.

A Friar fries under the mid-30's temperatures at the Roman Colloseum

Lazing the afternoon away with a cigarette . . . . . in Trastevere

A nun checks out her tourist guide book outside the front door of the Vatican

The power and the glory . . . . . . a silhouette inside the Vatican

The 66 foot high Baldacchino is dwarfed by the 448 foot Dome of St. Peter's inside the Vatican

A merchant cleans his hands at Campo di Fiori market, an outdoor food market that miraculously rises and falls on a daily basis. These water fountains are scattered throughout the city and provide safe, clean drinking water to anyone who wants it. Rome is one of the few major cities in the world with an abundance of underground water. 

At a cafe on Via Cola di Rienzo, matrons both observe and gossip as the street and the day passes them by. Carol and I were ensconsed in a nice hotel on this street which had only a scattering of tourists and was refreshingly pure in giving us a view of Roman life.

Rome can give you that closed in feeling . . . . .

Ice cream in the window!!!

Under the shade of magnolias near the Pincio and Villa Borghese, an immigrant woman demonstrates her craftsmanship in coming up with the seemingly endless variety of what can only be described as crap to pawn off via illegal vendors to tourists on Roman streets.

The local metrosexual brute squad . . . . . not quite carrying off the effect with those pants, near the Via Condotti and Piazza del Popolo

We witnessed this guy actually make a sale with his gut hanging out like this . . . . . although when it came to the point where the hook was in the mouth of the sucker, he did lower the shirt to write up the credit card  . . . . . at Piazza Navona..

Until Carol pointed it out, I hadn't notice the common fascination Roman men had with orange pants . . . . . and then they were suddenly leaping out from everywhere.

Having conclusively established her whereabouts, a tourist lady seems to be particularly pleased with the advice given her by the two handsome Caribinari behind her.

Night dinner scene . . . . . near the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti

Carol inside the Pantheon, the rest of the tourists buzzing around like crazy.

From the Pincio, a view of Piazza del Popolo, Via Cola Di Rienzo (where our hotel was near the other end) and the Vatican. . . . . .  The obolisk in the foreground is 3200 years old and orginated in Egypt, dragged to Rome as a prize by Emperor Augustus and was originally erected in the Circus Maximus. One can only imagine what that piece of chiselled rock has seen through those ages. As an example, this Piazza was once a common spot for executions, often by hammering the condemned in the head. Now they have rock concerts here . . . . and plenty of political protests.

Along the Via Sal Babuino . . . . . no shortage of Gypsy musicians as the chic crowd passes them by towards sunset.

Evidence Rick drank wine while in Italy . . . . . . this was a fine Merlot . . . . . but that only reminded me of Miles' rant in the movie Sideways . . . . "Fine, I'll stay. But if anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving. I am NOT drinking any (bleeping) Merlot!!!"

New friends . . . . . on the train between Rome and Florence

A rare break in the clouds leaves Florence bathed in sunshine as seen from the Ponte Vecchio crossing the Arno River . . . . . . and then it poured. 

Inside Florence's impressive Duomo . . . . . and also a much needed source of heat for the drenched souls outside

Remorseless rain in Florence

Tuscan poppies in the hilltop village of Greve

The rugged Tuscan countryside from the hilltop village of Radda In Chianti, where we stayed after driving here from Florence.

These individually painted cows were everywhere in bustling Milan, just as they were everywhere in Calgary at one point as well. Not sure what the connection was. The famed Gothic Duomo is in the background. We drove to Milan from Tuscany, a combination of a high speed Banff/Golden run (Florence to Bologna over the twisted spine of Italy) and then a high speed, straight-as-an-arrow Calgary to Edmonton run (Bologna to Milan).

The way it ended in Italy . . . . . a mellow but fleeting moment in a day in the life of a Milan cafe  . . . . . reflections in a window. Lots of stories in this picture if you take the time to dissect it.  UPDATE: This picture appeared in the September, 2008 issue of Photo Life Magazine as a contest winner in their "Reflections" competition.