We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Regata Storica 2014

Not a cloud in the sky, lots of sun- it was the perfect day for the Regata Storica. This is one of Venice's most spectacular festivals, the culmination of the rowing season AND a parade down Venice's main street, the Grand Canal.  But this isn't just any parade, it's a fabulous water parade of 16th century style boats filled with rowers and passengers decked out in period costumes. 

This is a festival for and by Venetians, and they certainly showed up for it this year. LOTS more boats lining the Grand Canal and people hanging out of the palazzo windows from St. Mark's to the train station and back this year than in previous years.  This was different- in a good way.  I too, was doing the Regata a bit differently this year.  In years past, I've watched from canal side at San Vio and by the train station. Both were great viewing posts, but not the optimum.   I have also had the pleasure of watching from in a gondola, in the water,  tied up near the Rialto bridge and I thought that was as good as it could get. This year, I got the golden ticket.  This year, I rowed in the historic parade- the Corteo.  Yes, I was not only IN the water, I was in the parade itself.  

For the last few weeks in August the anticipation had been building, and finally the day was upon me. I could barely believe it was true. I was going to row down the Grand Canal along with the Corteo in the Regata Storica.  Sunday morning I was ready. My gym bag was packed by the door. I practically wore a hole in the floor pacing until it was time to leave for the boat yard. 

Finally it was time to go.  As the vaporetto Mike and I were on motored past The Bucintoro, I spotted our dragon boat waiting on the fondamenta and several Pink Lionesses already in their rowing outfits outside finalizing their preparations. In just a few more minutes, I'd be there too.

I think I flew off the vaporetto and raced to the boat house.  As I entered, I was greeted with hugs and kisses from my fellow Lionesses and enthusiastic greetings. Many of them had been away on their summer holidays for the month of August and this was the first time seeing them since they had gotten back.  That's when it hit me. I wasn't just rowing in the Regata Storica this year. I was rowing with my fellow lionesses. That made all the difference.

(Me, with our beautiful dragon)

 Even our dragon boat was ready for a special party! Several of the lionesses had spent the previous afternoon decorating our two boats for the occassion.  We not only had a full dragon boat of lionesses, we also had our smaller boat filled with guests, other women in pink, from Chioggia, Mestre and Montebelluno.  The small boat was lifted into the water, fully loaded with excited women ready to row.
 Next the larger dragon boat was lowered into the water, with  only  4 rowers and our helmsman on board.  The rest of us marched down the street to where we normally board. Today we not only had ourselves loading up, but also Nina, the grand daughter of one of the lionesses, who would be up front beating the drum cadence for us during the Regata, and lots of sacks full of food and wine.

 Finally, we were off, paddling towards the Grand Canal.
 Once on the Grand Canal, we took up our position behind the elegant historic boats, the ones filled with rowers and passengers in period costumes.  As we headed towards Rialto, we passed by the judges stand at Ca Foscari, where we, like every other boat, raised our oars in salute.   All along the route people stood and clapped  in recognition of  the women in pink as we rowed past.   I couldn't have been more proud of my lionesses!

Having rowed the entire length of the Canal, we then turned the boat around, heading back towards the Accademia Bridge searching for the best spot to tie up along the banks to watch the afternoon's races. After slowing down at several possible locations, the ladies finally agreed on the spot they thought would be perfect, just before the San Toma vaporetto stop. We tied up alongside several other boats, and then the party really got started.  The women in the front of the boat dug into the sacks of food, passing plastic cups and plates down the rows from front to the back. Bottles of prosecco were popped open. Amidst lots of  Salute's and Cin Cin's  (toasts) we had ring side seats to view  the historic boats as they completed their return trip down the canal. Next, mortadella paninis (sandwiches), olives, and pizzettes (small pizzas) were passed down the line. When I thought  we couldn't eat more the tortas (cakes) came out.  Peach torta, apple torta and even a nutella torta.  And cookies.  In between it all, the prosecco and red wine circulated from the front of the dragon boat to the rear. Things were being passed from our boat to the boats along side us, and vice versa.  

All along the Grand Canal Venetians just like us were celebrating, eating and drinking in their boats. This is how Venetians do it, and here I was, right smack in the middle of it all.  I had a grin plastered on my face from ear to ear that lasted the entire day. This was beyond my wildest imagination. 

Races in several categories - children, older youths, women, six man teams and finally two man teams round out the rest of the afternoon. The last race, the two man teams of gondoliers in gondolini (shaped just like a gondola, but specially constructed for competitive racing) is much anticipated all year long. Everyone in boats or on the sidelines cheers madly for their favorite team, and the competition is fierce.

I had the perfect perch from which to observe all the action!  And "action" is not quite the appropriate word to describe the last race. It was a nail biter! The two rival boats were neck and neck as they passed me on their way up the Grand Canal, and they were within inches when they came back past me towards the finish line. The race ended in a photo finish. It was that close. The sheer muscle and athleticism required to perform at this level is indescribable.

Add to that, if you can just imagine, the setting: the Grand Canal, empty except for these boats, with the pink hues of the setting sun behind the palazzos as these racers headed for the final few feet at Ca Foscari.  An amazing ending to an amazing day.

For me, it wasn't quite over yet. We had to row back to the boat house, in what suddenly seemed like rush hour at Grand Central Station.  Every boat was back on the canal, rowing at the same time!  Bedlam!  It only took seconds for the local police to be directing traffic so we all got to where we were headed safely.

After putting the dragon boat away for the night,  we headed up to the locker room to change clothes. Reflecting on the day, and not really wanting it to end, all I could think about was how different this experience was from the year prior.   I've somehow, miraculously, gone from being on the sidelines to being right in the thick of it. I'll take that.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Two Americans in a boat

Yesterday, I was a little late arriving at the Bucintoro for our Wednesday afternoon rowing practice. As I was just about to the door, I could see that  most of the Lionesses were already out on the street with oars in hand, getting ready to climb into the dragon boat, and they were all making a fuss, yelling to me "Karen, Karen, hurry up, hurry up!"  (Note: YES, the lionesses ALL call me Karen!)

I ran upstairs, changed quickly, grabbed my paddle and life vest, and ran for the boat. I was nearly tackled by lionesses, all clamoring at me, all at the same time. They were all trying to tell me that we had a special guest rowing with us that afternoon, a fellow breast cancer survivor dragon boater from Philadelphia.  The head of our group, Anna, wanted to make sure that I understood I would be the one rowing next to this woman, Lynne, and that I should translate for the rest of the group as we rowed.  Oh, this should be a lot of fun, I thought.  When all of them get speaking a mile a minute at the same time, I don't do so well with my Italian. I said a quick prayer to the patron saint of Italian language learners and hoped for the best!

While in the boat, Lynne explained to me that she and others from her Philadelphia group had been competing in dragon boat races in Ravenna during the previous week, and now she and her husband were wrapping up their vacation with a brief two day stay in Venice.  On Tuesday afternoon, while taking a walk down the Zattere, they happened into the Bucintoro and noticed photos on the wall of the Pink Lionesses. Lynn asked someone at the clubhouse about the lionesses, and was directed to talk to Marissa, one of our lionesse who by happenstance was also there at the club at the same time. Marissa doesn't speak any English, and Lynne doesn't speak any Italian, but somehow they managed to communicate for about 30 minutes, during which time Marissa invited Lynne to show up on Wednesday to row with us.

What a happy coincidence this must have been for Lynne!  Isn't it wonderful when worlds collide unexpectedly?  The lionesses were ecstatic to be able to share some rowing time with a fellow cancer survivor.  For Lynne, it might have been an opportunity of a lifetime.  As we rowed the boat onto the Grand Canal, she was as awestruck by that moment as I am every time I get the chance to row on that canal.  Something about it just takes your breath away.

While we rowed, Lynne bombarded me with  questions about our group. She was particularly interested in our boat, commenting on how beautiful it was compared to the boat her group rows in back home, and also that this was the first time she had been in a boat with cushions on the seats. What a luxury!  I agreed wholeheartedly! Those cushions are a godsend after you've been rowing for about an hour. Another first for her was to be seated in the boat while it was being lifted in a crane to go in and out of the water. Lynne thought we had some high tech methods over here!  They normally push the boat into the river where they row.

Lynne is competing in the International Breast Cancer survivors regatta in Sarasota, Florida which will be held in October. One of our own lionesses, Tiziana, will be making her very first trip to the US to compete in that race with the Rome team. Lynne got a chance to connect with Tiziana during our row, both promising to meet up again in Florida.

At the end of each of our normal practices, the boat is lifted out of the water, and we all pitch in to wash and dry the boat in order to get all the salt water off of it before it gets stored in the boat house.  Lynne was invited to join with this task.  Her group never  has to wash their boat off.  While we were washing, the lionesses wanted to explain to Lynne what we were doing.  In sort of mime fashion, they demonstrated  hosing down the boat and using the  sponges to soak up the water inside the boat. Lucia, one of the lionesses, asked me how to say that we were cleaning and drying the boat with sponges, in English. (Fyi, sponge, in Italian, is spugna) As I got the word "sponge" out of my mouth, Cristina, working  next to me, started repeating what came out like "Spuuun-ge"  "Spuuun-ge", making a very Italian sounding end to the word every time.  We all had a little English pronunciation lesson right then and there, with everyone saying "Sponge" "Sponge" "Sponge",  in between laughing and drying. Sort of a little like "Whistle while you work"... lioness style.

Lynne certainly had a unique Venetian experience Wednesday afternoon!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Unlock your love, Venice

Beginning today, locals will begin attaching a sign on those "Lover's Locks" that are attached to bridges all over Venice.  It's a grassroots campaign initiated by Alberto Toso Fei, a well known Venetian author, to enlighten visitors to our city that locks on Venice's bridges are illegal.  

For one week, people will be posting the poster in shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, as well as attaching them directly on the locks. It's an ingenious idea. I too, will be out with my handfull of signs tomorrow and Wednesday, doing my part. 

I ask you to please, pass the word for Venice. The more people who know that it is not ok to put a lock on a bridge here, the better.  One small step for Venice... 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blame it on my mother!

Recently, while eating at one of my new favorites on Via Garibaldi, I had a lovely little conversation with one of the owners.  Towards the end of our chat, I introduced myself with "My name is Karen".  He says "Nice to meet you, Carol."  I wasn't surprised, that's a very common response here. No one can pronounce Karen.  I repeated my name to him a second time, to which he replied, " Yes, Carolina, like my girlfriend's name."  At that point I gave it up as a lost cause and went back to eating my meal.

Two days later, at the same little place, the same man greeted me with "Ciao, Carol."  I just grinned and gave him a "ciao" back.

I routinely get the "Ciao, Carol" all over town. I suppose I should just be happy to be acknowledged. It's not their fault they can't pronounce Karen. It's all my mother's fault for not giving me an Italian name!

My mother, Giuliana (now isn't that a beautiful Italian name?) was born and raised in Italy. She moved to the US when she was 19 after marrying my father, who was an American soldier stationed in Naples during the end of WWII.  When my mother had us kids, she named us American names so we would fit in.  Charlotte, Karen, Denise and Charles could have been Carlotta, Camilla, Daniela and Carlo, but no, we had to  have American names!

And so I suffer with most people not being able to say my name. I'd even answer to "Hey, you", I think.

PS.  Mom- I really just want to fit in now!  Is it ok with you if I change my name to Camilla, or Carmella, or Carolina?

Friday, July 25, 2014

A boat, a bus and a schlep on foot.

For those of you unfamiliar with the word "schlep",  let me give you some examples. If it's really hot and you have a long way to walk, you are schlepping.  If you have a lot of things to carry and you have to go up several flights of stairs, you have to schlep the stuff up.  If it's hot, you have a lot to carry, and a long way to walk, you are really schlepping. Ok, so now you can imagine me schlepping.

My Monday involved a 40 + minute boat ride from my end of Venice (way down in the tail part of the fish) to Piazzale Roma, a 10 minute wait for the 24H bus, a 35 minute bus ride out to the hinterlands of Mestre, and then a walk to several shops.  And it was hot. I avoid taking the bus to Mestre like it was the plague. For me it's like going to another planet. I have no idea where I am and  there are tons of cars, buses, motorcycles.  I am afraid I will get killed crossing streets, I always forget to stop and look.  I've gotten so used to not doing that in Venice, and I go to the mainland so infrequently  I just plain forget.

My laptop died over the weekend. Well, that's a slight exaggeration. It didn't quite die, but it would not boot up Windows Vista, the operating system on my laptop.  Mike tried using a restore disk, that didn't work. Nothing worked. I was very tempted to throw the darned thing in the canal. It was 5 years old, and had been giving me problems for quite a while already- it fried power cords 3 times a year. With what I've spent on replacement power cords I could have had a new computer 3 years ago.  My now dead laptop is the reason I had to make a trek to the mainland.

I went online and checked a few of the shops my friend Cat recommended.  Having  found a model laptop with all the features I needed and also in my price range at the Marco Polo Express, I set off Monday to buy it. First on boat, then bus, then a walk.  I figured this should be a piece of cake. Wrong.  I just should have known this was going to be difficult.

Inside the shop, I checked out all the laptops they had on display. The model I wanted was not there. I flagged down a store employee, who explained that the model I wanted could only be purchased online. It could be shipped to the store, or shipped to my home. I decided I wanted this particular model so much that I would do as he suggested, so I called Mike at home and asked him to go online to make the transaction.

Since I was out in the hinterlands and there were other large shops in the vicinity, I spent some time perusing a few other stores. I even purchased 2 pink tank tops!  Yes, I went where Karen had never gone before-- pink clothing.

Feeling good about my adventure (another opportunity to speak only in Italian), I waited for the next 24H bus back to Venice. At least finding a bus stop wasn't too difficult. Once back in Venice, I boarded a boat for the almost 45 minute ride to Sant'Elena, then the schlep to the apartment.

Once I got in the apartment, the nightmare part 2 began.  Mike had been unable to make the computer purchase online because the website wouldn't accept our US credit card.  We've been using this card all over Europe for years now, and this website wouldn't accept it.  I tried also, no luck. I called their customer assistance. Shockingly, they actually answered the phone without having to go through a ridiculously complex phone menu system.  Again, I had a great exercise in speaking Italian with the customer support rep. She also could not make the transaction over the phone, but advised me to go to the Rimini shop, where they had one of the computers I wanted in inventory. I thanked her and hung up.  I was NOT going to Rimini on the train to buy a computer.  I needed a Plan B.

Plan B involved another boat, bus and schlep to Marghera (another city on the mainland not far from Mestre) on Wednesday morning, to a different store.  My mission this time was to come home with a computer in my hand, no matter what. Mission accomplished- after another boat, bus and schlep.

My new laptop, an ASUS, runs Windows 8. It's foreign to me.  Everything is in Italian. Not good. First task was to attempt to switch the language to English, which thankfully was done fairly easily.  Mike was able to load all of my files and photos onto the new machine, and I am still reloading several programs I use. The keyboard (Italian style) is kicking my ass big time. Between figuring out how to navigate Windows 8 and locating keys on the keyboard, it's going to take some getting used to.

Nothing is easy here. I had moments when I was daydreaming I hopped in my car, drove to Best Buy and had the whole thing accomplished in 30 minutes.  But, it's the price you pay for living where we do. I'm not complaining, just laughing with myself over another one of my silly adventures.

I'm past this bump in the road, my new laptop is up and running, and I'm back online.  Life is good, aside from  the boat ride, the bus ride and the schlep.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hemingway in Venice update

Hemingway has a very distinctive screech. For such a little guy, he is VERY loud. And that's a good thing, because we've been able to hear him every night since we put him back out in the trees in front of our apartment, so we know at least that he is still alive.

We've had some torrential downpours since the day Mike spotted Hemingway in the grass.  It was probably a bad storm that knocked him from a tree in the first place. Because of the bad weather, we've kept a close eye out for him, just in case his little self was blown off a limb and down into the grass again. So far, he's been ok up in the trees. Clearly he is flying better. We hear his screeching from quite a ways down the park from our apartment, and then he returns closer.

Last night we didn't hear him around his normal time (around 11pm), and of course, I started to panic. Mike was ready to take his flashlight out to begin searching for Hemingway again.  Being the worried parent, I had a tough time falling asleep wondering what had happened to him, hoping he was ok.  Hours passed.  Nothing. I finally went to bed, thinking the worst had occurred to Hemingway. I reminded myself that he's a wild bird, and nature needed to take it's course, whatever that may be.

Around 4 am, Mike and I were awakened by a loud screeching just outside our window. We looked at each other, each of us saying at the same time, "It's Hemingway, he's safe!"  And then I wanted to give that owl a serious talking to for having stayed out past his bedtime!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hemingway in Venice

Yesterday one of my Facebook friends made the comment "There's never a dull moment in the Henderson household!".  Yesterday she was so right!

Sitting along the canal while enjoying a lovely lunch at Gam Gam restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto with friends from Baltimore who were visiting us in Venice, our friend Mike turned to me and said " Hey, you just got an owl!"  Huh??? He handed me his phone to show me a photo. My husband Mike had just posted a photo on Facebook explaining  he had rescued a  baby bird . Sure enough, it was a baby owl.  My husband then sent me a message telling me I had to go buy some beef baby food and a syringe so I could feed the owl. Before our conversation was over, I had already given our baby owl a name, Hemingway. Looks like I was in for a fun afternoon!

In the meantime, we'd heard from another friend who was kind enough to check out some local sources for what to do with the bird. She was able to identifiy it- it's a baby Assiolo owl. And it didn't need to be fed, but it did need to be put back up in a tree or low branches  that evening so it's parents could find it.

My husband put the bird in our downstairs magazzino (storage room) to be  in a safe place. After bidding our friends goodbye, I rushed home to check on Hemingway.

 This is what I found - one very frightened little owl!  But what cutie. One look at him and I knew I wanted to keep him. How could you not? Just look at that little face?  He was totally petrified, so I just whispered to him that he would be ok, he was safe, and we'd do our best to get him reunited with his parents later on when it got dark.

Mike took a photo of Hemingway out where he found him, in the middle of a big open grassy area just in front of our apartment. It's in a place where lots of cats and dogs were, we were sure Hemingway would have been in one of their mouths if he was left on the ground. It was also blazing hot. Mike couldn't have left the bird there. He did the only thing he could think of, he scooped him up into a container and took him to safety.

Mike and I joked about Hemingway, our new family member, during dinner and while we waited for the sun to go down. We wondered what kind of owl he'd grow up to be, made plans for his future, all the things new parents typically do! As soon as the sun went set, Mike went down to the magazzino to get Hemingway so we could try to get him out into a tree.

Shortly after, my phone rang. Mike was on the phone telling me to run down so I could see where Hemingway was.  The little bugger could fly!  He wasn't in the plastic container anymore, he had flown up and landed on a metal bed frame we have stored along a wall in the magazzino. There he was , perched up above my head on this metal frame, just looking down at me.  He's no bigger than my hand, but looks exactly like a big owl, in minature.

We got him scooped up into the plastic container and took him back out to the park area in front of our apartment. The trees that he had fallen from earlier that day have limbs about 30 feet off the ground, there was no way we could climb up there. Fortunately, for us, and for Hemingway, there are several young pine trees recently planted in that area. We were able to let him loose on one of the closest of these smaller pines to where Mike found him.  We said our goodbyes, wished him a safe and happy life, and went inside.

A few hours later, Mike went back out with a flashlight to see if Hemingway was ok out there. Hemingway was not where we left him. He was no where in sight. Hopefully he had reunited with his parents. We already missed him, the little bugger!

We wondered about him all day today. Every time I passed through the park area, I checked out both the ground and the surrounding low trees. No sight of Hemingway.

We had another storm rolling in tonight. Of course, we worried about the owl.  Just as it was starting to get dark, I heard some loud screeches coming from the trees. Mike took a flashlight and went out searching. We immediately thought Hemingway might be in trouble out there.

Guess who was making all that noise tonight?  Yup, our boy Hemingway! Mike followed the sounds of the screeching, which was moving around, so clearly Hemingway was flying from tree to tree. He actually found Hemingway, perched about 20 feet up on a branch. The tiny guy is ok.

He'll probably  keep us up all night with his screeching, too. I imagined that his mother, if he's been reunited with her, has been giving him what's for for being out later than 8 pm last night.  That's our boy!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vogalonga 2014

Sunday, June 8, is the 40th annual Vogalonga in Venice.  The 30 km rowing event draws participants from around the globe. This year, 1800 boats are registered. Based on last years numbers, that should be around 7,000 rowers.  

The video above is the official video of last year's 39th Vogalonga.  I watched from the sidelines here at Sant'Elena as boat after boat rounded the corner headed out towards Vignole in the pouring rain. Tomorrow's forecast is sunny, in the low 80's. Should be quite a much better experience. 

If you have been reading along with my blog recently, you know I've been spending a bit of time on the water myself. I've been paddling in a dragonboat, first as a guest of the Pink Lionesses of Venice, and now, as a full blown Lioness (albeit one with supporting member status).  I will not be rowing tomorrow, however I plan to be at the boat house early to see the Lionesses off.

Forza Rosa!  Forza Tutti!

Look for me in 2015! 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Think Pink

A big "Grazie mille" to everyone who lit candles, sent up a prayer to the heavens and/or extended positive energy on my behalf yesterday.  Your efforts were very much appreciated.  Many of you have sent emails and messages asking if I had received any word on how the voting went. Again, thanks so much for keeping me in your thoughts. I spent a very anxious day yesterday waiting to hear something.

I mentioned that I had zero expectations. I take that back. I fully expected the results of the vote to be a big resounding rejection. They had no good reason that I could think of to take me into the group. I had not had breast cancer surgery. Even though according to the by-laws they could vote in "supporting members", in my opinion I didn't cast a compelling reason to grant me that status either. I am not Venetian. Why in the world would they need to have an outsider in their midst?  And, I am not fluent in Italian, nor in Venetian.  Why bother to deal with someone who can't readily communicate with you?  If I were them- seriously- I would have cast a negative vote. So you can see I had convinced myself there was not going to be a  happy ending out of this for me.

Late yesterday afternoon, I received an email from Donatella.  I almost had a heart attack when I read it. Donatella's note announced that  the ladies had voted to  welcome me into their squad. That's right. I am now Venice's newest Pink Lioness. We celebrated last night.

This morning, there was another email from Donatella, this time she opened the message with "Ciao, Lionessa".  That's me- a lionessa!

I need to buy something pink.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Baglioni Hotel's The Great Beauty Experience

I rarely, if ever, blog about anything other than my life in Venice. Today is different. I'm writing about our recent weekend in Rome. I've been to Rome before. Several times. I've done all the touristy spots- the Colosseum, the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Forum, the Spanish steps, and more.

This trip was different, a very special experience.  I had been invited along with a small group of bloggers to be the guest of the Baglioni Hotels for a weekend at their hotel in Rome, the Regina Baglioni, to participate in a special 2 day package they offer, The Great Beauty Experience,  in celebration of the recent Oscar winning film, La Grande Bellezza.  How lucky can I be?

La Grande Bellezza, a film by Paolo Sorrention, starring Toni Servillo as Jeb Gambardella, showcases well known locations around Rome, in addition to a few that are off the tourist radar. In many ways, the city has a starring role in the movie. Baglioni's 2 day experience includes a special tour featuring many of the locations featured in the film.

There is so much to say about our weekend Roman holiday, I am going to have to break it up into several posts. Today I'll focus on the tour.

Saturday at 9am we gathered in the lobby of the Regina Baglioni  for a brief meet and greet, then were escorted to a luxury vehicle to begin our day long adventure.

First stop- Piazza Navona.

Beata, our expert guide for the day, shared information about the history of the Piazza, the sculptures and their famous artists.

We made the short walk from Piazza Navona to Campo dei Fiori, then to Palazzo Farnese, the current home of the French Embassy, and on to Palazzo Spada. Inside Palazzo Spada we got to see the corridor, a famous optical illusion designed by Francesco Borromini, up close. Until you see it close up it's almost impossible to believe that what appears to be a life size statue at the end of the corridor is only 60 cm high in reality.

Because no photos are allowed inside the gallery, this photo was taken from behind a glass window, so you cannot see the statue at the end of the corridor well.

Back in the car, our next stop was up on Aventine Hill where we visited the scowling face fountain of Giacomo Della Porta, located near Via di Santa Sabina.  In the movie, Jeb stops here at the fountain to wash off his face after a long night of partying Roman-style.

While we were here, I snapped this photo of a group of nuns who had taken a minute to wash off in the fountain also. Do you think they also been up all night painting the town red?

Just beyond the fountain is the Giardini degli Aranci at Parco Savello. From the garden you have a grand vista over the rooftops and domes of Venice. This view is simply spectacular. I can understand why this garden is a favorite spot of romantics.

A short walk down the street from the Giardini degli Aranci  brings you to the Piazza dei Cavallieri di Malta
(Knights of Malta) and the famous keyhole in the wooden door.  If you peer through this keyhole, you can see St. Peter's Basilica framed by the trees in the garden.  My photo doesn't do this view justice. You just have to come see for yourself. Better yet, take the tour.

The Tempietto San Pietro in Montorio, said to be the site of the martyrdom of St. Peter, is the location of a wonderful scene in the movie. A  mother searches for her lost daughter, who is  hiding on the lower level of the Tempietto, and can be seen through the hole in the mosaic floor (see  photo below.).


Gianicolo hill (Janiculum, in English), said to be Rome's eighth hill, has lots to see and beautiful overlooks of the city from several spots. The Fontana dell'Acqua Paolo, one of Rome's largest fountains, also called il Fontanone- the big fountain- was built in 1612 to mark the end of the Acqua Paolo acqueduct, which was restored by Pope Paul V, after whom the fountain is named.  One of the film's early scenes is shot at this fountain.

A short walk from the fountain is the canon at Gianicolo hill. The canon is the very first scene in La Grande Bellezza. Because the canon is fired daily at noon, we chose to save this location for later in the tour rather than begin here, so we could be there when it was fired off.  If you do the same, remember that the canon is very loud when it goes off!

Just above the canon is the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi. There are never enough statues of Garibaldi, and this one is one of Italy's finest.

From Gianicolo hill we returned back to the Regina Baglioni hotel on Via Veneto for a gourmet lunch in the Brunello Restaurant and lounge More on this in my next post. 

Following the gourmet meal prepared for us by the chef, we continued the second portion of our day long excursion. Next stop, Terme di Caravalla, or the Baths of Caravalla.  The baths, built between 212-216 Ad during the reign of Emperor Caravalla are the second largest public baths in Rome. For me, the baths were one of the highlights of the day. I would love to return to explore inside. 

In the movie, Jeb encounters a giraffe at this location. Today the baths are used as a venue for the Rome Opera. Can you imagine enjoying an opera here on a perfect summer evening? 

Clearly the most breathtaking sight for me was our visit to the Roman Acqueduct. Said to be one of the greatest achievements of the ancient world, I was awestruck standing along side it, in absolute amazement at the sheer scope of this massive waterway, and the ingenuity it must have taken to build it. This portion of the acqueducts near the Appian Way was built in 312 BC,and was part of the complex waterway that carried water into the city of Rome.

The tour wouldn't have been complete without a drive-by of the Colosseum. This is the view from the rooftop terrace of the apartment used by Jeb in the film. Who wouldn't want this view while having morning coffee on the terrace?

We had one last stop to cap off our incredible Great Beauty tour, and that was to catch the view from the Penthouse suite of the Regina Baglioni.  In the movie, there is a fantastic party scene on a rooftop deck in Rome just overlooking this famous Martini sign.  See the movie, you'll know just where we were at. 

 The day wouldn't have been possible without the three people you see in the photo below, our charming companions for the day.

Grazie mille to Beata, Stefano and Raffaella.

Beata, our guide, expertly wove Rome's history, art and the film, La Grande Bellezza into an educational, informative and hugely enjoyable adventure. 

Stefano, driver extraordinare, managed to maneuver us in, through, and around Rome's traffic laden streets all day with efficiency and good humor, getting us to exactly where we needed to be, when we needed to be there. 

Raffaella, the Regina Baglioni's Sales Manager, worked tirelessly to put the weekend package together, allowing us to be treated like royalty.

Grazie mille to Baglioni Hotels,and the entire staff of Regina Baglioni for an incredible weekend. 

Could it get any better than this?  Yes, in fact, it does. Check my next blog for more of the Great Beauty Experience.