Love Across the Ages

Amor vincit Psyche

During our trip to Italy, one of the amazing places that we visited were the Excavations at Ostia Antica (Scavi di Ostia Antica).  We spent most of a day exploring this magnificent museum and definitely did not get to see all of it; what you find in these excavations is a sense of what life was like in this ancient harbor of Rome, not through depictions and descriptions, but by the raw footprint and beauty that has been uncovered.

Walking through neighborhoods gives a feeling of what was being done in each of them and how this evolved over time.  People lived and worked in these locales and left their imprint through their buildings, statuary and mosaics.

Cupid and Psyche

This statue of Cupid and Psyche was located in the Domus di Amore e Psiche near the temple of Hercules.  This house was excavated in 1938.

As I get time to go over all my photos, there will be much more from these wonderful excavations.

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Round Up 58

A lovely set of streets!

Welcome to the 58th round up of the Tuesday Photo Challenge!

You took to the streets and provided a great deal of wonderful insight!  I really appreciate the great posts that you provided and particularly enjoyed your creative way to approach some of the subtleties that make for great photographs of streets and street photography.

Thank you for all those wonderful posts and providing me with some inspiring posts to read!

Now that I’m back (and spent a good part of the day off-loading my images and organizing them), I took a quick stab at this view of one of the streets in Volterra…

Streets of Volterra

Volterra is a town that should be on everyone’s must visit list in Tuscany; it has a true charm and great variety of sites to visit all well within walking distance.  From Etruscan to Roman and Renaissance, there is wonderful representation within Volterra.

The following were this week’s participants in the challenge with links to their posts:

  • Starting this week’s entries, theonlyD800inthehameau brings us to Carcassonne in Southern France to explore the old city!
  • Une Photo, un poéme shows us of Bucharest’s changes, as the city is moving more towards modernity.
  • Charles captures some of the color in Puerto Rico in his post in; I agree that it definitely is a photographer’s paradise!
  • pensivity101 brings the pleasures of travel to the agoraphobic in a rather clever poem!
  • A very different view of the world is provided by iballrtw‘s post that shows us a bazaar in New Delhi.
  • Wow, ladyleemanilla, what an impressive array of streets and awesome music to accompany them!
  • Bullyboy shows off the bends and slopes of the streets in an impressive set of photos in Travel387.
  • Mostly Monochrome is an impressive blog with amazing photography done the old-fashioned way (do you remember film?); go check it out!
  • Susan captured a beautiful street in Amsterdam, as you can only find them there, in her entry in Musin’ with Susan.
  • Miriam’s post in the Showers of Blessing takes us to some great locations for streets.  I particularly like Seville, Spain!
  • Leaking Ink takes us into the city of Lucknow with a view of the Rumi Darwaz.
  • Ron’s post in Progressing Into Solitude talks of the promises of streets of silver in Virginia City with a great photo!
  • Stella’s post in Giggles & Tales shows us streets in various cities; there is wonderful character in these streets!
  • Justine shares lovely views of streets in her beautifully photographed entry in Justine Taylor Photography.
  • Bushboy’s street is probably not your average, run-of-the-mill street, particularly when he finds a herd of cattle being driven past his driveway in bushboys world!
  • Cee brings us a wonderful set of photos in her post in Cee’s Photography!
  • Judith brings us closer to some of the wonderful art that is in the streets in here post in Nature Knows Best; it truly looks magnificent!
  • Debbie’s post in ForgivingConnects has happiness written all over it with the prospect of Colorado!
  • Khürt’s post in his blog Island in the Net takes us to the streets with wonderful images!
  • Ron brings us a variety of streets in his cool blog Locating Frankenstein’s Brain!
  • Grace might not look forward to driving on winding roads, but she certainly got some nice photos of them in her post in Following Him Beside Still Waters.

This is another great set of images, posts and participation! Thanks to each of you for taking the time and being creative!

Massa Marittima and beyond

Climbs and views!

As ost of our explorations have been further into the hills, there was definitely room for a trip that used the other direction, toward the Mediterranean.  Relatviely close to where we are staying, we found Massa Marittima, a lovely little town with some seriously climbing streets!

Upon entering Massa Marittima, we found ourselves in a lovely piazza with the main palazzo and the cathedral of San Cerbone, who was a bishop in this region during barbaric times (6th century C.E.) with the rather unpopular habit of saying mass at the break of dawn on Sunday rather than waiting for a respectable hour.  This got him in trouble with Pope Vigilius, who recalled him to Rome.  During his trip to Rome he performed several miracles, such as healing and taming wild geese by making the sign of the cross.  In Rome, he woke Pope Vigilius up early stating that it was time for mass, as the angels were signing; Vigilius agreed that he heard heavenly voices too, and allowed Cerbone to perform mass at any time of his choosing after that.

The lower part of Massa Marittima is wonderful, but the best views are found by going up toward the Torre del Candeliere and taking in the view from atop this tower; the climb inside the tower is not for the faint of heart, but you are rewarded with a phenomenal view.

After working up an appetite, stop by il Gatto e la Volpe (the cat and the fox), in one of many alleys for a phenomenal meal.  The Etruscan style rabbit was amazing and dessert was simply stunning.

After some further driving around and dipping toes in the Mediterranean by Follonica, we were looking for some gelato and wound up in Scarlino; this sleepy little town is the home of the Rocca Aldobrandesca, an old fortress built by the Aldobrandeschi family.  Getting out of town was an adventure, as I got to go down some steep, narrow streets that were made for nothing much larger than our little Fiat 500.

Under a Tuscan Sun

Perfect weather and sights!

One of the things that we always expect to happen during our vacations is that the weather is perfect!  So far, Tuscany has delivered just that with gorgeous, sunny days that are not too hot and nights that are cool enough for comfortable sleeping.  With this weather, every road trip has been a pleasure and today’s was no exception, as we headed into the direction of Montepulciano.

Driving through the landscape, it is just a joy to behold all the gently rolling valleys and cross the hills that separate them.  The winding roads give a clear indication why Italians would love their supercars, as these roads are made for powerful, highly maneuverable vehicles.

Our first stop was in the small town of Pienza, which is simply gorgeous.  Its small, highly walkable center is filled with little restaurants, such as the one in an alley where we ate a  fantastic meal in an atmosphere where the owner enjoyed our presence.

Little streets and a beautiful church (go check the labyrinth) really show why Pienza is a world heritage site.  Among towns, this is a relatively new settlement, as the entire town was rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance city by Pope Pius II and named after him.

Montepulciano is the larger of the two towns that we visited today.  Sitting on a limestone ridge, this town is a hill climb in just about every direction, as streets are steep each and every way.  The medieval fortress is very much in evidence in many sections, as the heavy walls dominate any time one gets closer to the edge of town.  Wine merchants are everywhere and many indicate that they ship acorss the globe.

On our return trip, I stopped to get some landscape shots, such as the last image in the series; plenty of work to do in editing images when I get home, as these landscapes are just beautiful to see.

A Day in Siena

Hills, beauty and tourists!

As Siena is about 45 minutes by car from where we are staying in Colordesoli, it clearly is a must visit on our list of hill towns.  It is a well-known stop on most tourists’ travels throughout Tuscany, as it generates in excess of 160,000 visits per year.  Even during the pre-season, it was clearly very busy, as can be seen in the image of the Piazza del Campo.

We found a convenient parking lot near Santa Caterina; parking lots are well-indicated, if you come into Sienna from the west side with signage that shows how many spots are still open in the parking lot.  A short uphill trek from our parking lot, got us to the escalators into the center of town.  These escalators took us up about 9 floors to within a 100 meters or so from the Siena Cathedral.

This catedral is another example of the usage of black and white marble in construction, just like the one in Volterra.  Our first stop was the Piazza del Campo, famous for the Palio horse race, which is run twice a year (early July and mid August); I can only imagine what a madhouse it will be during those races.

Sauntering around the streets that surround the Piazza del Campo, it is easy to keep your bearings, as many of the streets have little alleys that lead back to the main square.  Lots of these streets have great shopping opportunities and fantastic leather products of excellent quality.

Siena is also well-known for its cuisine, and I have to say that it lived up to it, as lunch was truly outstanding!

Overall, I think that Siena was well worth the visit, particularly, as the crowds started thinning out after lunch.  A lovely city with great food and good places to visit!

A Day in Volterra

A quintessential hill town

During our vacation in Italy, one of our driving goals is to get some time to relax and not hurry from location to location in an effort to get as much viewed as possible.  Rather, spending some quality time in a smaller number of locations, which gives us a better feel for what these places are really like (and were like).  As we’re focusing on hill towns in Tuscany, that means we have to make some decisions about which ones we want to visit; one of these choices was between San Gimignano and Volterra, both of which are well known towns.

Volterra became our first choice, as it is eminently walkable in relaxed fashion and has a great variety of points of interest.  We parked in the free lot (#3), which does require a considerable number of steps to be ascended in order to get into town.  In town, there are lots of quaint little streets, each with their own character and occasional vehicular traffic (locals only!).

The Basilica on the main square is beautiful in its construction of alternating rows of black and white marble, and impressive to see form the inside.  It’s located next to the town hall, which is a rather lively piazza with lots of places to have an espresso or shop for alabaster ware.

After a delicious meal at Torre del Porcellino (I enjoyed my wild boar!), we sauntered over to visit the Etruscan excavation, which is an active archaeological site.  Pay to enter and you also will get access to the Roman amphitheater at the other side of town.  The excavation is of a site with several temples and surrounding houses, and also includes a descent (8 m) into a cistern from Roman times.

The Roman amphitheater is also very impressive, as it leans back against the old town walls and well worth the visit.

The atmosphere in Volterra was very relaxed and provided lots of great shopping for leather and alabaster carvings.  The gelato at Isola del Gusto was fantastic!