Day 32: Il Papa Ha un Occhio Nero

Following Father Levi’s advice, we were up at the crack of dawn, and cabbed our way over to Vatican City to get in line for the Papal Audience.  While it didn’t officially start until 10AM, we arrived shortly after 7, and stood with hundreds of others waiting for the security gates to open so we could go through the metal detectors and try to grab some good seats.

Early morning, an emptyish St. Peter’s Square…

Security started screening people around 7:30, and it was a push and shove mayhem event, with people from all over the world in an epic mosh pit style shove fest to be the first inside.  Mom, Dad and I stuck to the outer edge and got in relatively quickly, grabbing seats to the audience left of the stage, about 20 rows back, right next to the barricade separating the crowd from the route the Pope would take in his lap in the Popemobile.

It was early as crap, and the sun was right in our eyes…

So then we sat for a couple hours, chatting, watching the crowd, trying to identify the people who came in gang colors… I mean, traditional costumes of their homelands.  Turns out they were there to sing.  Every choir came dressed in full traditional regalia.  It was actually kinda cool.

The empty square filled up pretty quickly…

While we waited, I did some research on the Pope.  Turns out that before entering Seminary, he was a Chemist and a BOUNCER AT A NIGHTCLUB.  Best. Pope. Ever.

Around 9:30, Il Papa made his appearance, doing a lap (more of a figure 8) around the square in the Pope mobile.  Of course, everyone pressed towards the edges where we were to get a better look.  A few little old Italian ladies pushed in front of mom to get right up next to me.  Because they were barely 5 feet tall, I didn’t say anything, but when one of them tried to stand on my chair, I looked right at her and said quite loudly, “NO!”  She blinked, and I repeated myself. Then she stopped trying.

A picture of a picture of the Pope’s black eye…

I have to say, I really like this Pope guy. After his lap, he spoke (in Italian) at some length about his recent trip to Columbia (where he got the black eye). The focus of his trip was human rights, and the steps Columbia was taking to bring themselves into the modern age, especially in terms of human trafficking. Once that was done, he welcomed people, reading from his prepared list of who was there.  As he got to each of the large groups, if they cheered loud enough, he would smile, look up from his notes, and wave.  He was very human.  It was… awesome.  There were then, the translations of his opening remarks into SEVERAL different languages.  Then he blessed us, and we (and thousands of other people) went on our way.

OUR way took us to food, and then the Vatican Museums.

Holy crap there are a lot of Vatican Museums.


We spent the next several hours walking EVERYWHERE we could, and we barely scraped the surface.

The day ended with a visit to the Sistine Chapel (no photos please!), and then a cab ride home to pack.

It was truly an awesome day.

Stanley couldn’t come, so I left him staring out the window at the school across the courtyard…


Categories: Calabria

Day 31: Up One Side Then Up The Other

Sorry for the posting delay.  Between travel home, jet lag, and sickness, I’ve been neglecting my photoblog responsibilities.


Tuesday morning, we left the house early, stopped for breakfast at RomAntica, the restaurant downstairs, then began our wanderings of the city.  Our eventual goal was to stop at the Pontifical North American College to pick up our tickets for Wednesday’s Papal audience, but we figured we’d make a trek out of it.  Silly us.

We may have been overly optimistic in our planning…

The first leg led us through the southern edge of Parco Del Colle Oppio, near the Coliseum.

Stanley demanded to come along.

We made our way around to the south side of the Coliseum, near Arco di Costantino in order to approximate the spot where dad stood in 1959 to take a photograph.  We were mostly successful!

58 Years Later…

Then we wandered up towards the Forum.  We got to see the Arch of Titus, but we didn’t get any farther because the line to get through security was SUUUUUPER long.  So we marched onward, up Via del Fori Imperiali, past Foro di Augusto, where we stopped for some photo opportunities.

You’d never know they weren’t biologically related…

A quick circuit of the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the Altar of the Fatherland, and we were on our way to Trevi Fountain.

You can ALMOST see Stanley in this one. He’s too short for selfies.

He doesn’t always like riding on my back.

After some quality time resting the feet at the fountain, we headed to the Spanish Steps, where we stopped and had a nice lunch, and met some nice (if needy) travelers from Ireland.

You can kinda see the Spanish Steps in the background there…

And then onward, towards the Pantheon, with a surprise stop at the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

At this point, we were all dog tired, but we had to get to the Pontifical College by 6 to get our tickets, so we headed across the river to St. Peter’s Square.

Stanley goes to the Vatican…

I left the folks to sit at St. Peter’s Square while I did the last leg of the trip solo.  I didn’t KNOW it was uphill, but I’m glad I trusted my instincts, because it was uphill.  Twice.


Oh yes.

Google Maps failed me.

The blue dotted line is where it was SUPPOSED to take me. The red dotted line is where it actually took me…

I departed St. Peter’s Square and headed south, finding a very difficult street to cross, that required an underpass.  But on the other side, the route became very clear, and I headed up the hill, thankful that I had left the parents (and Stanley) sitting in the square, because it was a pretty significant hill.  As I approached my destination, I got a bit of a foreboding feeling, because on my left, where there should have been buildings, was a 30 or so foot high wall.  And sure enough, when I reached my “destination” I was greeted with nothing but a brick wall.

I frustrated search on the internet later, I realized where Google Maps had steered me wrong, girded my loins, and went back DOWN the hill, through the tunnel UNDER the hill, then back up the other side of the hill, where I finally reached my destination.

The nuns, and Father Levi were all SUPER awesome.  They got me my tickets, I sat through orientation, and Father Levi spilled all the secrets about where to sit and when to get there, and then I headed back to find the parental units.

We took a cab home, because feet.

And we all slept REALLY well that night.

Categories: Calabria

Day 29: Colosseo Roma

The skies opened up and dropped enough weather on Rome to close one of the airports and cancel a bunch of flights from the other, leaving E in quite a predicament.

I ventured out in the morning, in the downpour, to try to find something for breakfast, but the little store across the way wasn’t quite open.  I did get a nice “in my clothes” shower, though.

Eventually the storm broke, and I managed to get eggs and fruit to bring back.

It downpoured again, and the next time the weather broke, we raced out for a walk through Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, where we say Porto Alchemica and Ninfeo di Alessandro Severo, which was totally owned by cats. Like cats EVERYWHERE, looking at you like “What? This is OUR house. Back off.”

We sauntered around towards Arco di Gallieno (the Esquiline Gate in the original city walls) and then started curving back towards home because the rain was brewing again, stopping off at Cafe Gatsby for lunch.  They opened this cafe in a former hat shop, and still sold hats, along with food.

Once home, folks napped, and when the rain broke again I took a test walk down towards the Colesium to see how bad the hills were.

Look what I found!!

They weren’t that bad.

Headed home, picked up the folks, and got back just as the sun set for some AMAZING photos, and this selfie:

From the Facebook original, flipped for correct orientation…

Which was taken pretty much dead center in THIS photo:

Photo by Dad in 1959.

Once the sun was down, we headed back home and had dinner at RomAntica, the restaurant pretty much right downstairs from the apartment.  Quite tasty.  Great staff. Much goodness.

Anyway, there are a ton of pictures in this Flickr gallery.  Look at them.  Enjoy them.

Categories: Calabria

Days 27 & 28: One Last Sunset & One Long Drive

We spent most of Friday recovering from the hike up Stromboli, packing our stuff, and putting the house back together. There were quick runs to the store for foodstuffs, and P made another great risotto for dinner.

Everyone was up early on Saturday for The Caravan to Roma.

Rest stops not shown…

Due to a SNAFU with their rental car, E and one of the babbies ended up having to fly to Rome from Calabria, while P, the other babbie and mom rode in their “too small for a family of four and all their luggage and babbie stuff” mobile.  Dad and I rode in the Smart car with all OUR luggage and the back deck cover from the “tsfafofaatlabs” mobile.

We made four rest stops along the way, and let me tell you, rest stops along the Autostrade are AWESOME.  The bathrooms are disgusting, but everything else is great.

  • Stop 1: Coffee and pee break
  • Stop 2: Poosplosion diaper break
  • Stop 3: Benzino (gas) break
  • Stop 4: Hey, it’s 2PM and we’ve not had lunch yet break

We made it to the house, met up with V, L (back from vacation in Schmetterlinglund) and babbie, got all the stuff unloaded, and got the cars back to the airport with little trouble.  We all crashed hard Saturday night.

Briatico did, however, give us a spectacular farewell Sunset on Friday.

Categories: Calabria


Jaunt to Tropea for lunch, then down to the docs to await the boat which would take us to Stromboli.

Porto Tropea

The trip took about an hour and a half, and we arrived with about 2.5 hours to kill on the island before heading out for the nighttime show that would hopefully happen.

We climbed to the top of the town, stopping to window shop along the way, and ended up near the church, because Ingress portals, and had pizzas and beverages at Bar Irene.

On the way back down the hill, there was granita, more shopping, and then a wait with a bunch of other pushy tourists for our boat to arrive.

We sailed out and around Strombolini, the little crag with a lighthouse off the coast of Stromboli.  It’s kinda cool, actually.  Then, as the sun set, we came around to the back side of the island and waited.

You could see the glow of the lava reflected off the smoke… it was kinda pink in the darkness.  There really wasn’t enough light to get decent photos of it, though.  Everyone was sort of quiet and just talking among themselves when the tour leader come on and announced (in German and Italian) that Stromboli must be sleeping tonight.  The boat began to turn away from the island, and just as it did, a quick geyser of lava shot up out of the mountain, causing many oohs and ahhhs from all the gathered boats.

So we waited a little longer, and weren’t disappointed, and a big fan erupted and sprayed the slope with fire.

Stromboli says “Oh hai!”

Not a HUGE show, but super cool, nonetheless.

The trip back was another hour and a half, and then a short ride home and sleep after a long, long day.

Categories: Calabria

Day 25: Fancy Food and Fancy Sunsets

The day started off with a run to La Trecciotta, the local produce market run by Antonio and his family.  The first time mom and I went in, there were samples to taste in our face before we were five paces inside the market.  He helped us carry stuff around the store.  He and his wife fed us more. And at the register, when he found out we were from California, he talked to us for 20 minutes about his honeymoon to San Francisco, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Hawaii just a few months ago.  We’ve been trying to shop there when we could, since.

So. Many. Onions.

We got some supplies, and picked up some local wine to carry home with us, and headed back to the house, where P and E had come up with lunch plans.  La Rada, in Vibo Marina.  It was on the house’s restaurant list in the “A little more expensive, but well worth it” list.  And they were not wrong.

They even have a fancy sign…

The view from the patio where we ate…

An amuse bouche of fish brandade with pureed beets beneath.

Breadsticks to die for. Olive oil of the gods. And tasty tasty bread.

Appetizer of thinly sliced goose and duck with black truffle.

Fileja ‘nduja with ricotta on top.

Dad’s Cut of Vitello with Rucola, Parmesan chips and chopped vinegar…

Mom’s Calamarata di Gragnano with Bacon of Black Piglet of Calabria and Onion

And finally, doppio espresso…


The lunch wasn’t all that more expensive than what we’d spend elsewhere. And it was worth every single penny.

After lunch, Mom, Dad and I went off to find supplies for dinner while P & E took the babbies home.  Except that it was not-Siesta, so everything was closed.  Instead, we ended up meeting P & E and babbies in Parghelia for more granita to kill time before the grocery store reopened so we could pick up some chicken cutlets for a simple dinner.

And then there was sunset.  I took all these photos while I was on a work call.  Hopefully the shutter going off didn’t bother people too much.

Categories: Calabria

Day 24: Torretta Briatico

If you look west from the back yard, there is a lump on an outcrop that is all that’s left of Torre Sant’Irene.

All the Torre. All the Time.

Dad and I were hoping to get out there to take some pictures, but from the maps, it looked like the only access was through one of the resort areas in the village there.

Not feeling up to the challenge of bluffing our way through a resort, I turned to the Joogles and asked them about other ruins nearby.  Turns out there is a ruinous turret right in Briatico, about a mile and a half east.  And so, Mom, Dad, P and I jumped into the Smartmobile and headed to Briatico.

Briatico did not disappoint.

After circling the turret and walking out on to the jetty, we adjourned to the Pearl of the Sea for a tasty seafood lunch.

Mussels and Clams.


The “Chef’s Fantasy.”

Naps were the post lunch order of the day, followed by work time for me, and then some sunset and toying with some long exposure shots of the night sky.

Categories: Calabria

Day 23a: Adventures in Granita

We set off on a journey to Zambrone (named for the guy that drives the Zamboni) to see if we could find a seaside lunch place.  Zombrone, however, is ENTIRELY resorts and (beautiful) beaches, with some lunch shacks along the beach.  So we opted to bounce back to Tropea to the lunch spot from the day before for some tasty, tasty vittles.

Doppio, for reasons.

Insalada Tropea

Fileja Tropeana

We wandered a bit before picking up tickets for a Thursday adventure, and found a shop that sold… this…

Can you see it? It’s not blue…

Then it was off to Parghelia in search of their famous granita.  And we found it.  I started with pineapple, then moved on to India Fig, then finished my trio of deserts with a Tartufo Nero.

Cocoa powder on the outside, then Hazelnut gelato, then cherries and crushed pistachio in the center…

Then home for naps, more naps, and roasted chicken for dinner just after a previously mentioned OUTRAGEOUS SUNSET!!!

Categories: Calabria

Day 23b: Sunset

So, normally I would wait till tomorrow to put up today’s pictures, but tonight’s sunset was GLORIOUS, so I’m going to share them now, because I can.  After the rain, the humidity (and the haze) are mostly gone, so we had a great view of Stromboli.

PREVIEW!!! Stromboli.

Categories: Calabria

Day 22: T3 – Rise of the Monastery

The morning after the big rainstorm, the wind was still out of control.  It really stirred up the sea, and made it the most AMAZING colors.

Took the babbies out for a mid-morning drive with P because they refused to nap. We, of course, Ingressed a bit while we drove, finding some off the beaten path Portals and a pastry shop with sfogliatella in Parghelia on the way.

Cannons protecting Parghelia

This totally SHOULD have been a Portal…

Sea side shrine.

Once the babbies had both napped, we headed to the grocery store on the far side of Tropea and got supplies for dinner.  I found the three most perfect red bell peppers for use in our dinner that night, but somehow, by the time we got to the register, they had vanished from our cart.  Someone stole our peppers!!!

Made our way home, then hopped back in the car with the parents to hit Tropea for lunch, stopping along the way to take some seaside photos.


We parked in our usual lot in Tropea, but this time ventured down a side road that had TONS of shops and restaurants on it.  Picked a nice little spot and had a spectacular lunch.

Fried Anchovies

Fileja ‘nduja


Pizza w/artichoke, olive, mushroom and cheese.

After lunch, we drove down the side of the cliff… literally… crazy switchback hairpin turn road that went from all the way up top to sea level pretty quickly.  We parked at the base of what was once a mountain, and began the trek up to the Monastery of Santa Maria dell’Isola.

Mom and Dad in the Monastery Gardens.

We made it home relatively early, napped, then dined on sweet peppers and sausage.  Yet another super tasty P designed meal.

Pickled red Tropean onions.


Calabrian beer!

Despite thievery, peppers!

The two and a half Euro bottle of local wine…

The meal was great, the local wine was spectacular, the local beer was really really nice.

Today was a good day…

Categories: Calabria

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