Sight Seeing

Boisterous Bari

I was intrigued by Bari, but I don’t believe the right word for it was “excited”. At least not the same way that I’ve been excited to visit other cities. Boy was I wrong. I checked in and dropped off my luggage at the Albergo delle Nazionali, which is just across the street from the sea. I set off on foot toward the old town, having no plans but to find myself some lunch in a piazza where I could do some people watching and sipping on local wine. It’d been a busy last week and a half, so I opted to just see where the wind took me.

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As I walked along the edge of the water on the sidewalk, I came up to a small port where I could see fishermen cleaning up their catch of the day. It took me a whole 3 seconds to recognize where I was. I’d seen it many times before, but not personally. Elizabeth and Sophie Minchilli visit Bari often and when they do, one of their main stops is at this port to taste test the local fish. In that moment, I sure wish I liked fish! There were tables set up, with plates full of different kinds of fish, each with a wedge of lemon on it. I sat there staring at the fish, with my camera clutched in my hands, when all of the sudden two fishermen weren’t going to let me go without asking me to buy something. When I turned them down, one of them came back right away with “buy a fish for your mamma.” I told him my mamma is in America and I don’t think the fish would like that long of a journey. By the look of surprise on his face, I think he liked my very strange response.

I bid the fishermen farewell and looked at the skyline to see which way was one of the tall towers or churches that I knew I’d probably plant myself in front of for a while. I passed a group of tourists on a walking tour, then Italian families that you could see where on holiday, pointing at a map that they had in their hands. I saw tourists on a bike tour, their fearless leader hardly looking in front of himself as he shouted back to the people behind him, in a strong German accent. By then I had made it into one of the main squares, where each restaurant is packed, side by side to each other, most with seating in the glass containers that make me feel like a fish in a fishbowl. If you’ve been to Italy, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. In one corner was an old fountain and people were lined up filling their water bottles. 

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I found a small restaurant that served only meat and cheese plates and panini. No menu on the tables to be found, everything was written on chalkboards, which were hanging on the doors of the place. I took a seat, ordered a spritz and panini. I was more thirsty than hungry, but I couldn’t resist when I saw a panino go by me, the fior di latte cheese dripping from the bread. I sat and took my time at this place, I could tell it was family run and the women behind the counter were inviting and kind. I ordered a second spritz and bantered back and forth a bit with the owner. She was stunned when I told her how much aperol costs in the states! (Double that it does in Italy).

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My next stop was to visit the churches in the old town. I rounded the corner and came upon my first church, which was the Basilica di San Nicola. I was immediately drawn to the entrance of the church, which still had the impressive external details, such as the two lions that are carved out of limestone. I circled both of them, in complete awe that these have somehow withstood so much time and so much ware in the weather. There they stood, intact and still fiercely guarding the doors of the church. I walked into one of the side doors and was floored at what I was looking at. Finally, a differently designed church. The arches which crossed from one side to the other of the church, were slightly off set, but obviously on purpose. It drew me in and had me gapping, literally with my mouth hanging open saying “woooow” until I realized I said it a bit too loud and a lady in front of me turned around and giggled. The ceilings were a brilliant red and gold. The paintings seemed fresh and new, so vibrant against the stone of the structure it was painted on.

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I saw someone walk down a staircase to the back right of the church and proceeded to follow them, hoping that the crypt was open. It was open, but there was currently a church session or mass happening (and in Russian I believe), so I stood by the door and gazed across the crypt. Others passed me and walked straight through, taking photos without even a slight bit of hesitation. Though I’m not religious, I believe we should all have the same respect for each others beliefs and with that comes space. I took a couple of photos of the entrance, but I took my leave pretty quickly.

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From the church I zig zagged through the small alley ways, making up each turn as I went. I passed by grandmothers that were planted in their folding chairs, each wearing a decorated apron and they were in their house slippers. They were chatting with someone either in the house across from them or to another person in a balcony nearby. I call those people the “Italian security guards”, always silently watching from above.

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Bari certainly lacks in the rain department, so the streets aren’t as washed down as you’d hope. Though the only smells I was experiencing were coming from the kitchens with their windows open. I smelled sauces being cooked, espresso being brewed, I could hear chopping on a cutting board and a voice asking for someone to get something out of the fridge. Each of these small moments made me feel relaxed and so at home in this foreign place. There’s one thing that Italy does to each of it’s visitors, even to people that don’t claim that they are foodies- they become foodies while they are in Italy. If you ever travel to Italy and don’t eat well, you’re doing it all wrong…somehow. It’s not just about a fancy dinner reservation that you make at a Michelin star restaurant, food is a way of life, it’s a daily enjoyment of flavors and mainly of balance.

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I was walking along, thinking about which way I should head next, when I came across a woman sitting outside of her home, making pasta on a table. Her head was down and she was focused, but you could tell this was a rhythm that her hands knew well. She pressed and pushed, pressed and pushed and then grabbed the next set of pasta dough that was on the side and began the same repetitive motions. Pressed to make the shape, pushed it to the side to dry. She looked up from her work and greeted me. Not in the most welcoming of ways, but more cautious as she looked from my camera to me and then at her work. She probably knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, but she asked anyways. I told her that I was still traveling for a while, otherwise I wish that I could buy the whole table of goodies. I asked if I could take a photo and she nodded and went back to work.

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I continued on and just a couple of unknown turns later, I saw an old column, then two, then I realized it was a small courtyard with 6 of them. Not all completely intact, but there they stood, surrounded by apartments and cars parked next to them. Like they weren’t there at all. I walked closer and realized that the ground where the columns were, were made up of very well placed and beautiful tile. Not mosaics, but just tiles that were all placed quite differently, never mimicking the last pattern. The shapes and colors all different as well. I looked around for a sign, some kind of explanation of what this fantastic find was, but all I saw were two men, sitting on the side of the courtyard, drinking beers and passing the time. 

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Just like this small courtyard, I felt like I had found a special place in Italy as well. I really enjoyed my time in Bari and I look forward to my return. Possibly even in 2019?

Towering & Tranquil, Table Mountain

It's just one of those things, you can't take your eyes off of. Wherever we were in the city, I wanted to know what the view of the Table Mountain looked like from a different angle. Unless it was completely covered by the clouds, it was truly a spectacular sight to take in and I'm sure the locals never tire of it either. 

Don't only stand below it, looking up, get on top and look below!

Don't only stand below it, looking up, get on top and look below!

Well don't just look at it, go to it! I was so excited to get on top of Table Mountain to see the views, that I hadn't thought much about the how we're getting up there part. I knew we were going via cable car, but the day we headed up there to the ticket station, there was a huge race going on. People were running around it's base and up and around it's paths. If you're a dare devil and an in shape one at that, I would highly recommend getting a guide and hiking to the top! There are plenty of companies that offer this.

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Once at the top (however you decide to get there), just stop for a moment. Don't take your phone out for a selfie, don't grab your friend to keep walking around the corner to see another vantage point, just....look. Look to the ocean, peer out to Robbens Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Let your eyes drift back to shore and take in the view of the Cape Town Stadium, which was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Then look at Lion's Head, which for some reason I keep calling Dinosaurs head...oops. Though I know why, because the rock on the mountain reminded me of the dinosaurs that had sailbacks. Fun Fact: You can hike Lion's Head also!

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It was the perfect day. The weather was spot on, not anything stronger than a soft ocean breeze. It was serene standing there, looking down at the city and everything so still around and below us. 

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I was on the back side of the mountain, walking slowly, taking the view in and I will never forget looking down the path and locking eyes with this guy, photographed above. I shrieked, yell-whispered over to the person closest to me in my group. You know what I mean by yell-whisper, wanting to be quiet so I didn't scare away the creature, but actually yelling with excitement. As it turns out, I wasn't the first person to see one of these little guys. They are referred to as a "Dassie"- one of the most unbelievable facts about Table Mountain’s Dassies is that they are the closest related relatives to Elephants. Despite the enormous difference in size between the two, research has claimed the dassie is the African elephant’s closest living relative. I. Kid. You. Not.

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On really good days, both sides are clear and you can look down the coastline on the other side of Table Mountain. Unfortunately we missed it, maybe even by just a couple of hours, but I have this feeling that I will be back someday! 

Una caminata in Roma

Images and altars to Madonna can be found all over Rome. Romans know the Madonnelle (little Madonnas) and pay respect to them, regardless of whether they're religious or not. Currently, it's possible to count more than 500 of them in Rome! See how many you find during your time in the city. They are usually placed on the corners of buildings, the Madonnelle are made in individual ways, such as mosaic, wood, and marble; some even have vases for flowers and candles placed around them. In the past, the candles provided some protection by keeping the streets safe from the dangers of darkness.

Piazza del Campidoglio, from the founding of Rome until its fall almost one thousand years later, the Capitoline Hill symbolized the epicenter of Rome's might and many of the city's most important buildings stood on this hill. Pope Paul III Farnese asked Michelangelo to design a new square, which was the Piazza del Campidoglio (Capitoline Square). The project also included a redesign of the existing buildings surrounding the square.

A traveler must visit the worlds smallest country while in Rome- Vatican City of course! It really is the world's smallest country, Vatican City occupies 0.44 sq km (about .2 square miles) and is completely surrounded by the city of Rome. Vatican City serves as the spiritual center for millions of practicing Roman Catholics worldwide. St. Peter's Square is bordered on two sides by semi-circular colonnades which, according to Bernini, symbolize the stretched arms of the church embracing the world. Pretty well thought out, if you ask me! All which in the end was created by Bernini and his students. They depict popes, martyrs, evangelists and other religious figures. One of the most impressive halls within the Vatican is the Hall of Maps, with murals of old maps of the papal lands. This is one of my personal favorites at least, but really there are so many rooms to choose from! St. Peter’s Basilica was built on the site of a church covering Peter's tomb, it's one of the largest churches in the world. Entrance to the church is free but visitors must be properly dressed, with no bare knees or shoulders. Saint Peter's Basilica is open daily, 7AM - 7PM (until 6PM October - March). Masses, in Italian, are held all day on Sundays. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be there while a choir is performing!

The Colosseum is probably the most impressive building of the Roman Empire. Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, it was the largest building of the era. The monumental structure has fallen into ruin, but even today it is an incredible sight. The Colosseum could accommodate some 55,000 spectator- that in itself is impressive! Emperors used the Colosseum to entertain the public with free games and to gain themselves popularity. For those of you that don’t just want to see this from the outside and really want to set up a great tour- go all the way, splurge a little and do something like this: Skip the Line: Ancient Rome and Colosseum Half-Day Walking Tour Make sure to book any type of tours ahead of time- months or weeks before, so you can be assured that you will have a spot in a tour while you are in the city!

Built more than 1800 years ago (take that in for a second), the magnificent Pantheon still stands as a reminder of the great Roman Empire. The name Pantheon refers to the building's original function as a temple for all the gods.  With its thick brick walls and large marble columns, the Pantheon makes an immediate impression on visitors. But the most remarkable and memorable part of the structure, is the more than forty seven yard high dome. It was the largest dome in the world until 1436 when the Florence Cathedral was constructed. This site is free to the public and open from 9:00am to 7:30pm. 

Piazza Navona is a wonderful place to grab a gelato, find a bench or just simply wander the square and people watch. It's big enough to do some laps! The large and lively square features three striking fountains and the baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. The central and largest fountain is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. It was constructed between 1647 and 1651 on request of Pope Innocent X.  The two other fountains around the piazza are the Fontana del Nettuno at the northern end and the Fontana del Moro at the southern end of the square. 

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme - a museum without the crowds! Located near Termini Station, the museum features impressive frescos and bronze statues, like 1st-century BC Boxer and Prince, as well as mosaics, jewelry, coins, and marble statues of gods and emperors. Admission to the museum also includes entrance to three other excellent museums—Palazzo Altemps, Crypta Balbi, and Baths of Diocletian—which are all close by.

The Trevi Fountain is situated at the end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. The aqueduct brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approx. 21km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic center of Rome with water. The central figure of the fountain, standing in a large niche, is Neptune, god of the sea. He rides a shell-shaped chariot that is pulled by two sea horses. Each sea horse is guided by a Triton. One of the horses is calm and obedient, the other one restive. They symbolize the fluctuating moods of the sea. The statues were sculpted by Pietro Bracci.