Today’s Wheel of Adventures stopped at 2014, so here we go.
MiceChat’s June 2014 Mediterranean Magic Cruise organized by Teresa Cory of Fairy Godmother Travel set sail from the fabulous port of Barcelona in the autonomous Catalonia community of Spain. After a relaxing first day at sea, the first stop was the port of Villefranche to visit the storybook village of Eze and the tiny principality Monaco. Continuing the cruise, Florence and Rome were the first two Roman adventures.
After a two hour bus ride from the port of La Spezia thru the very scenic Appanine Mountains, source of the Carrara marble used to build so many medieval structures, we arrived at the historic center of Florence in Tuscany. Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is a World Heritage Site filled with classical architecture, statuary, and art. Today, Florence is important in fashion design as it is noted for it’s cultural creativity from the 14th to 16th century, hundreds of years before the birth of the US.
Our tour started with a view of the Ponte Vecchio bridge, interesting because the bridge is actually a shopping street, famous for it’s gold jewelry. Being a warm summer day, no one can pass up a large helping of the famed Italian gelato ice cream. Since the historic city center is very pedestrian friendly, the day is one where a visitor can wander the numerous plazas, enjoy museums, or just lazily study the exteriors of dozens of the most important architectural treasures. You’d better love crowds – millions of visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the beauty that is Florence.
Especially popular is the Piazza della Signoria with it’s shady Loggia die Lanzi. Finding a peaceful spot to rest, in one’s view is not only Michelangelo’s David, but other classic statuary; Bandinelli’s Hercules and Cacus, Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and much more. (See photo captions for more.) Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore is amazing. Built starting in 1296 and completed in 1436, the dome was built by a self-taught engineer, still after 600 years the largest brick and mortar dome in the world, built with no scaffolding! After a long wonderful day in Florence, we MiceChatters were again treated to the vistas of the Tuscany countryside on the way back to our Disney Magic to compare our day over cocktails.
After a short night cruise, the Magic reached Port Civitavecchia to begin another Roman conquest, the Tourists of Rome! Another bus ride and soon we were jammed into the back of giant trucks, big tour busses, cars, and those completely mad scooter drivers. It’s more like a TV stunt show; how close can you dash through closing gaps and still emerge alive. Soon we emerged from the cool underground bus terminal out into the sultry hot sunlight right into the middle of the Saint Peter’s Square at Vatican City where Pope Francis was on a shady stage giving a friendly talk to anyone interested – lots of big screens and speakers. Due to this morning event, St. Peters Basilica was not open to tourists until later in the day, so we simply enjoyed the dramatic panorama of the Pope and his hundreds of guests in the vast Square before moving on.
Like Florence, Rome is somewhat pedestrian friendly, but the main streets require extra care to cross – traffic is fast and the cars rule, but if you know the right gesture, they’ll stop for you. Even in the narrowest alley one can see a Ferrari creeping thru the throng – sure does seem like such a waste of horsepower. Rome is vast, spectacular history at every turn, and populated with very dressy business men and women in contrast to the hot and sweaty tourists. It’s a mystery how none of the local business folks seem to show a single drop of forehead sweat in coat and tie on even the hottest days.
From Vatican City we wandered towards many of the important sites not to be missed; Plaza Navonna, the Pantheon, and the large white Capitolino buildings next to the Forum. Certainly the Forum shows what ancient Rome, founded in 753 BC, really looked like, some of the ruins are unrestored and show design and construction techniques of the structures built over 2,000 years ago. Many temples and shrines are visible in the sprawling ruins. Just adjacent to the Forum is the Coliseum, probably Rome’s most recognizable attraction. What remains today is only a portion of the whole structure, stripped bare of it’s gorgeous marble facings. Use a bit of imagination and you can just see this fabulous showplace of ancient times when it was in it’s glory, or gory, days depending on what was staged at the time.
I’ve been to Rome a half dozen times this past decade and never tire of all the majesty and chaos of this fascinating place. If one has the time, say a week or so, no other city has so much to explore, and imagine what life was like here over so many centuries ago. Especially impressive are all the ornate ceilings in so many different period churches. For a more thorough view of some of these places, you can watch my 2009 HD video “The Treasures of Rome” below.
Some of our gang were just about shot at the end of the day and started dreaming of a cool sunset libation back abroad the Magic. Next up is our last long tour day starting in Naples with a drive along the spectacular Amalfi Coast followed by an informative walk thru the ruins of Pompeii.
Join us on an exciting MiceChat 7 night Alaska Cruise on the Disney Wonder – June 1st, 2015:
We sail toward the top of the world on the delightful Disney Wonder. We’ll hold all sorts of special MiceChat meet-ups on board, suggest group excursions you might want to join us on, dine as a group to discuss our adventures and more.
Ask us for more details on any of our upcoming MiceTrips or for Disney adventures of your own by emailing us at [email protected].