Marsala – Sicily

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Marsala  (Lilybaeum in Latin) is an Italian town located in the Province of Trapani in the westernmost part of Sicily. Marsala is the most populous town in Trapani, and the fifth-highest in Sicily.

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The town is famous for the landing of Garibaldi on 11 May 1860 (the Expedition of the Thousand) and for its Marsala wine.

A feature of the area is the natural reserve of Stagnone Lagoon—a marine area with salt ponds.

The Salt Ponds and the Ancient Windmills used to pump the sea water out are so very beautiful…

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Marsala is built on the ruins of the ancient Carthaginian city Lilybaion, and includes the archaeological site of Motya island, an ancient Phoenician town.  See our visit to that marvelous place by clicking HERE.

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As we traveled to Sicily from Malta it was exciting to see the island coming into view…

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We stayed in our favorite hotel in Marsala, The New Palace Hotel

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We love walking the old city of Marsala, so filled with history and beauty..

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As with any ancient city in Europe, one must visit the Cathedral…

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We dart up the steps and enter the enormous doors …….what do we see…….. a wedding in progress…

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….up the side aisle we sneak, in order to obtain a better view of the goings on….

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What fun to observe this very formal event…we hurry to wait outside to see the newlyweds exit…

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What fun that was!

We had walked into the old town and on our way back we found the most marvelous restaurant…. Bucanieri

Look at the view from our table……..marvelous!!

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What a delightful meal we enjoyed, sitting and watching the chefs in the open kitchen….

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Crostini with Lardo and Fresh Tomato..

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Arancini di Riso and Sundried Tomato stuffed with Sardine…

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Octopus Salad

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Wild Boar Meatballs in a Rich Hunter’s Broth

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Delightful Frutti di Mari

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Tuna Steak in an Incredible Parsley Sauce

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Delightful cup of Rich Minestrone Soup

Then a walk back to the New Palace for some pastries..

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Nothing beats Sicilian Pastries…

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We so love Sicily and Marsala is always a delight to visit…..we hope you enjoyed spending some time here with us….

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Tower of Belem : Lisbon – Portugal

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Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent is a fortified tower located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém in the municipality of Lisbon, Portugal.

The Tower was originally built on a small island in the Tagus River and now sits on the shore due to the river being redirected after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site  because of the significant role it played in the Portuguese maritime discoveries of the era of the Age of Discoveries.

The tower was commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

The tower was built in the early 16th century and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, but it also incorporates hints of other architectural styles.

The structure was built from lioz limestone and is composed of a bastion and the 100 foot four story tower.

On the outside of the lower bastion, the walls have spaces for 17 canons with portholes open to the river and an ocular in the north.

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The upper tier of the bastion is crowned by a small wall with bartizans in strategic places, decorated by rounded shields with the cross of the Order of Christ that circle the platform.

King Manuel I was a member of the Order of Christ and the cross of the Order of Christ is repeatedly used numerous times on the parapets.

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These were a symbol of Manuel’s military power, as the knights of the Order of Christ contributed to numerous military conquests in that era. 

 The bartizans, cylindrical watchtowers, in the corners are cover in zoomorphic corbels and domes covered with buds. The corners of this platform have turrets topped by Moorish-looking cupolas.

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The base of the turrets have images of beasts, including a rhinoceros.

This rhinoceros is considered to be the first sculpture of such an animal in Western European art and probably depicts the rhinoceros that Manuel I sent to Pope Leo X in 1515 which was caged in the tower at one time.

This is the same rhinoceros that is mentioned in my post about Marseille : CLICK HERE to see that story….

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As you walk about the area you realize you are surrounded by all sorts of wonders…

Like this bridge….. Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge)

If you have been to San Francisco, California, and this bridge looks familiar……well it should……

  It was built by the same company (American Bridge Company) that constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate, also explaining its similarity in design.

Until 1974, the bridge was named Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar). The name “25 de Abril” commemorates the Carnation Revolution.  It was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999.

Also nearby is the Monument to the Discoveries  located on the edge of the Tagus’ northern bank, it was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.

The monument is sculpted in the form of a ship’s prow, with dozens of figures from Portuguese history following a statue of the Infante Henry sculpted in base relief.

As we were enjoying all the marvelous sights, a submarine suddenly appeared….

Then, just across the road, is Jerónimos Monastery  located along the Praça do Império (Empire Square),   it was originally built to support pilgrims who travelled in the region by Henry the Navigator; expanded and elaborated from 1501 by architects for King Manuel I of Portugal to serve as a resting-place for members of the House of Aviz; and as a church for seafaring adventurers who embarked during the Age of Discovery, after Vasco da Gama‘s successful voyage to India.

Construction was funded by a tax on eastern spices, and over time came to represent Portuguese historical discoveries, becoming over time a national monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site, housing artifacts and exhibitions like the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum) within its walls.

Just amazing………all these beautiful historical sites nestled together!

Well you know the Tin Man…….an appetite has been worked up and we are off to  Restaurante Triperio

Oh the delights begin………

Marvelous Olives, Famous Portuguese Bread and the Cheese…..France, you best beware….this is good!

Then the Soups…….on the left a wonderful Bean Soup and on the right an OVER THE TOP Garlic and Bread Soup…

Then the most amazing Pork and Clams in a Traditional Broth with Olives and Vegetables….

But Alas, it is time to bid farewell to Belem…I do hope you enjoyed visiting this most wondrous of places with me….

Madrid – Spain

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While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighborhoods and streets.  This reason is perhaps why we so love to visit this magnificent city.  We always stay in the old section near the center so that we can walk to all the interesting places.  We find Madrid to be so clean, friendly and fun.

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Madrid  landmarks include the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain’s historical archives; a large number of National museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

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Many contend that the original name of the city was “Ursaria” (“land of bears” in Latin), because of the many bears that were to be found in the nearby forests, which, together with the strawberry tree have been the emblem of the city from the Middle Ages.  Whatever the derivation of her name, she remains a noble and beautiful city of the world.

When Toledo surrendered to Alfonso VI of León and Castile,

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 Madrid was conquered by Christians in 1085, and it was integrated into the kingdom of Castile as a property of the Crown.

This becomes important to us because King Alfonso has added Augustine’s family (PENALVER) to the Royal Court just before and given them the Cross of St. John, symbol of the Templars as their crest…

….which is also the Flag of the Country of Malta….where the Knights of Templar took possession of the island, a gift of the Emperor Charles V with the approval of Pope Clement VII.,

 including the Knight Penalver from Spain….

The Penalver Family has left their Castle in Penalver, Spain to join King Alfonso IV in re-establishing the Royal City of Madrid….

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Madrid has a beautiful street named after the Penalver’s first Count……

El Calle del Conde de Penalver…

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The perfect place to stop and enjoy a coffee….

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 Christians replaced Muslims in the occupation of the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews settled in the suburbs…

The Calle de Conde de Penalver begins with this iconic street corner…

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On this trip we began and ended our visit to eight countries in Madrid.  From the photos you will see the difference in the weather during those visits.  The initial visit was cold and overcast and the end visit was sunny and fair, as you can see from these photos of the Plaza Mayor…

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We always stay in the Hotel Ibis Prado, which allows us to exit the lobby and find ourselves in the middle of the old city.

The hotel has a Wine Theme, which works perfectly for our tastes!  We always stay on the top floor and have a private balcony, wonderful for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening…

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The colors and art of the hotel are so vibrant and reflect this wonderful city….

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One evening we were sitting on the balcony and suddenly the city erupted in firework, music and shouts from every direction!  We were astounded by the noise.

We had to go out into the streets to see what had transpired………they were PACKED with thousands of happy people…

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Oh……..Madrid had just won the world cup in Soccer ……….how we get it!!  Of course we joined in the fun!

I suppose our favorite part of visiting Madrid is the food……..TAPAS……..TAPAS………TAPAS……..

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One of a fast, fun, favorites is el Museo de Jamon, located near the Plaza Mayor…..there are many other locations; however, this one is always the best…

Here is the inside…………a world of culinary delights…….

We had to order EVERYTHING…..

Then of course there is Meson el Jamon de Gran Via…….with the best croquettes EVER….

………….oh and then there was this place…….I have forgotten the name!

…..but the Serrano Jamon and Seafood Delights were amazing…..

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Perhaps some crepes at Cerveceria Santa Ana…..

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At the heart of the old city lies the Plaza Mayor…..a center of continuous activity and to be entered through these marvelous arches….

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Once inside the world changes………

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the street performers delight and entertain…

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Here are some more shots of this most beautiful city…..

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…..one of our most FANTASTIC dining experience of our lives took place just outside the Plaza Mayor…

El Rincon de Madrid…an unassuming small place with a typical Tapas Bar….the difference…at the end of the bar is a stair case leading down into a vaulted chamber that dates to Knights Templar…

europe2 895The staircase open into this most marvelous dining area with four small tables….the owner shows us around…europe2 891

We have the place to ourselves………..

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The food is wonderful……….but the experience is over-the-top!!

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The Paella from his Grandmother’s recipe……..he said he is still trying to perfect it to what she prepared….a true passion and love for food…

We so love visiting this most wonderful city and look forward to returning again soon….

Marseille – France

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Marseille

- the second largest city in France, after Paris,

-  located on the southeast coast of France, Marseille is France’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast and largest commercial port.

- the capital of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region,

- the capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department….

We spent little time visiting this wonderful lady and found her street cars to be pure whimsy…

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King Francis I of France visited Marseille, drawn by his curiosity to see a rhinoceros that King Manuel I of Portugal was sending to Pope Leo X, but which had been shipwrecked on the Île d’If.

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His visit becomes important because in the 16th century,  he builds a fort on the hill in Marseille to resist the 1536 siege of Marseilles by the Emperor Charles V.

This for becomes the foundations of the current Basilica known as Notre-Dame de la Garde  – literally Our Lady of the Guard

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 This Neo-Byzantine church was built by the architect Henri-Jacques Espérandieu on the foundations of that ancient fort located at the highest natural point in Marseille

It is a major local landmark and the site of a popular annual pilgrimage every year on Assumption Day, August 15.

 The basilica was consecrated on June 5, 1864 and replaced a church of the same name built in 1214 and restored in the 15th century.

We found the a Café across from the Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles, a most magnificent train station

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The Brasserie de la Gare provided us a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the Mediterranean view….

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We dined al fresco and had some delightful dishes….

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The seafood so fresh and marvelous and the Salad Niçoise absolute perfection….

Hope you enjoyed our brief and wonderful visit to Marseille

Grosseto – Italy

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grosetto3You always know when you are entering Tuscany……the surroundings suddenly begin to look sculpted, as if you were walking in a work of art…

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Our destination is Grosseto, whose origins can be traced back to the High Middle Ages.

Grosseto was first mentioned in 803 as a fief of the Counts Aldobrandeschi, in a document recording the assignment of the church of St. George to Ildebrando degli Aldobrandeschi, whose successors were counts of the Grossetana Mark until the end of the 12th century.

Grosseto is enchanting, in part, due to the fact that the city is surrounded by ancient Medicean Walls.

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The walls embrace this beautiful city and no vehicles are allowed!  Peaceful, quiet and simply divine!

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  Grosseto has a long and turbulent history.  In 1137 the city was besieged by German troops, led by duke Henry X of Bavaria, sent by the emperor Lothair III to reinstate his authority over the Aldobrandeschi.

In the following year the bishopric of Roselle was transferred to Grosseto.

In 1151 the citizens swore loyalty to the Siena, and in 1222 the Aldobrandeschi gave the Grossetani the right to have their own podestà, together with three councilors and consuls.

In 1244 the city was reconquered by the Sienese, and its powers, together with all the Aldobrandeschi’s imperial privileges, were transferred to Siena by order of the imperial vicar.

Thereafter Grosseto shared the fortunes of Siena. It became an important stronghold, and the fortress (rocca), the walls and bastions can still be seen today.

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In 1266 and in 1355, Grosseto tried in vain to win freedom from the overlordship of Siena. While Guelph and Ghibelline parties struggled for control of that city, Umberto and Aldobrandino Aldobrandeschi tried to regain Grossetto for their family. The Sienese armies were however victorious, and in 1259 they named a podestà from their city. But Grosseto gained its freedom and in the following year and fought alongside the Florentine forces in the Battle of Montaperti.

Over the next 80 years Grosseto was again occupied, ravaged, excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, freed in a republic led by Maria Scozia Tolomei, besieged by emperor Louis IV and by the antipope Nicholas V in 1328, until it finally submitted to its more powerful neighbour, Siena.

The pestilence of 1348 struck Grosseto hard and by 1369 its population had been reduced to some hundred families. Its territory, moreover, was frequently ravaged, notably in 1447 by Alfons V of Sicily and in 1455 by Jacopo Piccinino.

Sienese rule ended in 1559, when Charles V handed over the whole duchy to Cosimo I de Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany.

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Later you will see that we had the privilege of dining in an ancient Medici building that was an amazing experience.

In 1574 the construction of the Medicean Walls was begun and we are so glad they survived and protect this beautiful city today.

We knew that our visit to Grosseto would include staying at the marvelous Grand Hotel Bastiani

grosetto4We had stayed here once before and fell in love with the old world charm and elegance of the hotel

It is located just inside the ancient Medicean Walls and on the Piazza Gioberti, in the shadow of the Cathedral of Grosseto…

grosetto6I do not usually gush on about hotels; however, this one is on the top of the list of our favorites…

A beautiful staircase….

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europe2 161Our suite was so very luxurious and comfortable…

europe2 163…..and nothing……….nothing beats an Italian Breakfast……..nothing….

europe2 160Okay, enough gushing…………..onto the city….

The Romanesque cathedral, the main monument of the city, is named for its patron St. Lawrence, and was begun at the end of the 13th century, by architect Sozzo Rustichini of Siena.

It was erected over the earlier church of Santa Maria Assunta, it was only finished in the 15th century (mainly due to the continuing struggles against Siena).

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The façade of alternate layers of white and black marble is Romanesque in style, but is almost entirely the result of 16th century and 1816–1855 restorations: it retains decorative parts of the original buildings, including Evangelists’ symbols.

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The layout consists of a Latin cross, with transept and apse.

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The interior has a nave with two aisles, separated by cruciform pilasters. The main artworks are a wondrously carved baptismal font from 1470–1474 and the Madonna delle Grazie by Matteo di Giovanni (1470).

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The campanile (bell tower) was finished in 1402, and restored in 1911.

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The Church of San Francesco is located on the Omonym Square, it was built in the Middle Ages.

It was an important Benedictine convent, before moving to the Franciscans.

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At the center of the cloister stands the characteristic Pozzo della Bufala (Well of the Buffalo) in travertine; another well is located in the square outside the church.

Then there is the Church of San Pietro. the oldest religious building in Grosseto, it was built along the stretch of the Via Aurelia that crossed the center and was originally a plebeian and stational church along the old consular road.

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The beautiful Palazzo Aldobrandeschi whose origins are medieval.  It is now a Neo-Gothic edifice with ogival mullioned windows and merlons in the upper part of the walls.

It houses the seat of the province of Grosseto. The architect was Lorenzo Porciatti.

europe2 165The city is filled with marvelous shops and the people are all so relaxed and friendly……………

…..I do believe it is the absence of vehicles!

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europe2 173As we venture about town we stumble upon an ancient structure whose upper portions have collapsed over the years…

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The Ristorante Locanda de Medici de Peccianti…WOW……….we must eat here!

europe2 176We find the entrance into the ancient Medici cellars that now house this fantastic restaurant…

We learn that these ancient cellars were used as bomb shelters during World War II…..

europe2 168We venture into a world of culinary delight….

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Leonardo, the Chef – Owner waits on us!  The pasta is hand made………no machines….

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grosetto14What a delightful and enchanting visit we have had here in Grosseto…….now it is off to bed to dream of the rest of the journey ahead….

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……….until next time ciao!

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The Alcazar of Segovia – Spain

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….and so it begins, our journey to The Alcazar of Segovia

She sits upon the hilltop guarding over the town, her steady gaze upon us.

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Rising out on a rocky crag above the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores near the Guadarrama mountains, it is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces in Spain by virtue of its shape – like the bow of a ship.

The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy since then.

The castle is one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The Alcázar of Segovia, like many fortifications in Spain , started off as an Arab fort, which itself was built on a Roman fort but little of that structure remains.

The first reference to this particular Alcázar was in 1120, around 32 years after the city of Segovia returned to Christian hands in the days of  Alfonso VI of León and Castile

Throughout the Middle Ages The Alcazar remained one of the favorite residences of the monarchs of the Kingdom of Castile and a key fortress in the defense of the kingdom.

It was during this period a majority of the current building was constructed and the palace was extended on a large scale by the monarchs of the Trastámara dynasty.

Below is a picture of The Throne Room…..

In 1258, parts of the Alcázar had to be rebuilt by King Alfonso X of Castile after a cave-in and soon after the Hall of Kings was built to house Parliament.

The Hall of Kings is a most majestic place and carvings of all the Kings adorn the walls and these ancient Monarchs look down upon the visitors of today…

However, the single largest contributor to the continuing construction of the Alcázar is King John II who built the ‘New Tower’ (John II tower as it is known today).

In 1474, the Alcázar played a major role in the rise of Queen Isabella I of Castile.

On 12 December news of the King Henry IV‘s death in Madrid reached Segovia and Isabella immediately took refuge within the walls of this Alcázar where she received the support of Andres Cabrera and Segovia’s council.

She was crowned the next day as Queen of Castile and León.

There is a very large painting of the Coronation that is just breathtaking…

The interior of the Castle of Segovia is in perfect accordance with the magnificence of its exterior. Many apartments are decorated with delicate traceries and pendant ornaments, in the style of the Alhambra

The Templar Iglesia Vera Cruz (Church of the True Cross) is the most interesting of several splendid Romanesque churches in Segovia and is visible from the windows of The Alcazar

The Church was consecrated in 1208 and built by the Knights Templar to house a fragment of the True Cross

Inside, the round nave centers on an unusual two-story gallery, where the Knights are thought to have kept vigil over the sliver of wood, as it rested on the altar below….

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The Church is patterned on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where according to legend the True Cross was found by St. Helena in the 4th century.

Such enchantment and history surrounded by snow capped peaks……

Wandering about The Alcazar, one is swept into the history that took place within her walls….

The ancients gaze upon you as you pass from their frozen images in the stained glass…

A world of enchantment…..with the most amazing views…

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Temple of Debod – Madrid, Spain

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While visiting Madrid, we had the great pleasure of visiting the Temple of Debod

The Tempolo de Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple and was originally built just over 9 miles south of Aswan in southern Egypt very close to the first cataract of the Nile and to the great religious center dedicated to the goddess Isis, in Philae.

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In the early 2nd century BC, Adikhalamani (Tabriqo), the Kushite king of Meroë, started its construction by building a small single room chapel dedicated to the god Amun.

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It was built and decorated on a similar design to the later Meroitic chapel on which the Temple of Dakka is based.  Later, during the reigns of Ptolemy VI, Ptolemy VIII and Ptolemy XII of the Ptolemaic dynasty, it was extended on all four sides to form a small temple, which was dedicated to Isis of Philae. The Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius completed its decorations.

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From the quay there is a long processional way leading to the stone-built enclosure wall, through three stone pylon gateways and finally to the temple itself.

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In 1960, due to the construction of the Great Dam of Aswan and the consequent threat posed to several monuments and archeological sites, UNESCO made an international call to save this rich historical legacy.

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Spain sent a large team to assist in the relocation of the monuments and temples.

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As a sign of gratitude for the help provided by Spain in saving the temples of Abu Simbel, the Egyptian state donated the temple of Debod to Spain in 1968.

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The temple was rebuilt in the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid, and opened to the public in 1972.

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  It constitutes one of the few works of ancient Egyptian architecture which can be seen outside Egypt and the only one of its kind in Spain.

This was a most amazing and touching experience….

….but as always with The Tin Man…..an appetite has been worked up!

To celebrate being able to visit such an ancient monument, we have decided to dine in the oldest restaurant in the world………….Restaurante Botin’s…

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Francisco de Goya worked at Botin’s  as a waiter while waiting to get accepted into the Royal Academy of Fine Arts

The first floor has all the original cabinetry from when Botin’s opened in 1725

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The staircase leads to dining in the basement which once held all the ovens in which the suckling pigs were roasted…

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Now a marvelous dining area…..

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still serving that wonderful sucking pig………roasted to perfection…

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….especially when served with roasted new potatoes and Amstel Beer…

Syracuse – Sicily

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Syracuse  is a historic city in Sicily, the capital of the province of Syracuse.

The city is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres, architecture, and as the birthplace of the preeminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes.

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This 2,700-year-old city played a key role in ancient times,

when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world.

Syracuse is located in the southeast corner of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Syracuse next to the Ionian Sea.

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The city was founded by Ancient Greek Corinthians and Teneans and became a very powerful city-state.

Syracuse was allied with Sparta and Corinth, exerting influence over the entire Magna Graecia area of which it was the most important city.

Once described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”, it later became part of the Roman Republic and Byzantine Empire.

Our trek to Malta took us to this enchanted city for only a brief time…

on our way we passed by Mount Etna,  the tallest active volcano on the European continent, 10,922 feet high.

It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity, which was quite amazing to watch…

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We had met a lovely couple in Messina, who suggested a stop in Syracusa to visit the Piazza Duomo

We stayed in the Hotel Roma which is actually part of the Temple of Athena, now the Syracuse Cathedral….

We arrived at night and the city was magical……with all sorts of promises for daybreak….

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We stayed in the Hotel Roma…….which was once part of the Temple of Athena..

in one section of the hotel you could look though the glass floor and gaze upon the Altar of Atena….quite literally walking on history!

Our room had a marvelous balcony with views of the Piazza Duomo …

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In the morning we dashed off around the corner to see what treasures were hidden at the back of the hotel…

There it was the Temple of Athena, now the Syracusa Cathedral…..

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The charm of this construction of a modern place of worship upon a much more  ancient one is heightened by the fact that some of the columns “trapped” within  the walls have been tilted and twisted by earthquakes that the cathedral has endured  during its history.

In these deformities one can see “frozen” in time the awesome  force of nature that shook Syracuse in its ancient history.

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The temple of Athena in Doric style was erected in the fifth century BC the tyrant Gelo after the victory against the Carthaginians in the Battle of Imera.

The Athenaion had six columns in front, with 14 columns along the sides. Part of the temple is currently visible on the left side of the cathedral…

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In the seventh century the temple was converted into a church by the bishop of the city Zos.

The church, of Byzantine style, was dedicated to the Nativity of Mary.

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The floor dates from the fifteenth century and in 1518 the nave was covered with the wooden ceiling still preserved.

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In the sixteenth century was also erected the bell tower. In 1728 the façade was reconstructed.

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We found being in this structure that survived so many years and served so many people in different capacities so very interesting…

Now off to the markets……..

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The city is brimming with beauty….

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We come upon the Fountain of Diana……

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……so this Siracusa, known to English speakers as Syracuse, was a wonder to behold…..

One of the great ancient capitals of Western civilization, founded in 734 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth which soon grew to rival, and even surpass, Athens in splendor and power.

This magical place became the largest, wealthiest city-state in the West and a bulwark of Greek civilization.

Rulers such as Dionysius filled the courts with Greeks of the highest cultural stature—among them the playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides, and the philosopher Plato

We are left, sitting on the Piazza Duomo, sipping our cappuccino, preparing for the next leg of our journey……

…..suddenly the air if filled with beautiful music…..and there he is…

a young boy sitting on the steps of the Temple of Athena with his accordion….

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……….like a dream, I say…………..like a dream…….

ciao

Berne – Switzerland

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In 1983 the historic old town in the center of Bern/Berne became a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Berne is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life

The train from Zurich to Berne provided the most amazing vistas and we knew we were in for a delightful treat…

The structure of Bern’s city center is largely medieval …..

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Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge , an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets.

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It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Munster…..

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The festive May Pole in the Munster…….

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Thanks to 6 kilometers (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe….oh yes we walked them all….several times…..

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The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited…..

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Albert Einstein lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published….

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There are eleven Renaissance allegorical statues on public fountains in the Old Town.

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Nearly all the 16th century fountains, except the Zähringer fountain which was created by Hans Hiltbrand, are the work of the Fribourg master Hans Gieng.

One of the more interesting fountains is the Kindlifresserbrunnen  or Child Eater Fountain

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All along the street, each building has a set of Cellar Doors….

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These are actually the entrances to cafes, shops and clubs…..under each establishment is another one!!

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Every corner we turned held another beautiful view….

Have you noticed that it is very quiet in the town??

Well we chose the perfect time to visit Berne….there was a giant Family Expo being held….

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We had the entire town to ourselves!  Marvelous!

We fell in love with all the beautiful fountains and statues throughout the town…..

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Berne is just enchanting……

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The fresh crisp air off the snow covered Alps was just divine…..

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……..We were ready for some great Swiss Food….

europe2 669……since it was a holiday of sorts, finding an open restaurant was not that easy…..

We found the wonderful Ringgenberg with a beautiful patio for al fresco dining…

Oh what delights awaited our palates…..

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Cream of Asparagus Soup with Mushrooms topped with Asparagus and Delightful Tiny Pancakes…

….of course since we are in Switzerland, the Cappuccino is topped with Marvelous Chocolate….

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We fell in love with Berne and hope to come and visit her again one day….

europe2 647europe2 656Hope you enjoyed this visit to Berne with us……..until next time……

Napoli – Italy

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100PX-~1Naples is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world.

Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the Naples area in the second millennium BC.

The city was refounded as Neápolis in the sixth century BC and became a lynchpin of Magna Graecia, playing a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society and eventually becoming a cultural center of the Roman Republic.

Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816.

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 Naples became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861. During the Neapolitan War of 1815, Naples strongly promoted Italian unification.

Naples was the most-bombed Italian city during World War II.

As the train neared Napoli, the sights became more beautiful…

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We had booked a room at the Hotel Mecure while we were in route…

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….we never expected these views……..

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…my goodness a Castle with excavation in progress with much older sites…..and that with just from the bathroom balcony!!!

As the sun began to set we looked down and saw this marvelous restaurant ….

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Off we went to find some of the most delightful food…Mussels, Squid, Octopus….

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followed by the most marvelous pizza…

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just delightful………….

In the morning we found breakfast on the hotel roof…..

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……we dined looking out at this marvelous view…

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Layer upon layer of history…….

It was a short visit to Napoli this time around, but she continued to delight and inspire us.