Italia – A visit to Pompeii

We finally had a lovely, sunny day to do some sightseeing on our trip to Italy the day we went to Pompeii. I have always wanted to go to Pompeii since I learnt about it in history when I was at school. The tale of what happened is legendary; what an intriguing place and history.

 

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Mt Vesuvius – standing quietly at the moment overlooking the ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and surrounding areas were buried under about 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. It is such a fascinating story; what did the people of those towns think and feel on that fateful day, on 24th August 79? How did the 8,000 – 10,000 inhabitants of Pompeii live? What were their everyday lives like?

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The remains of one of the many bakeries

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A penis in the pavement pointing the way to the brothel

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Pictures of what’s available in the brothel.

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Now this is a rock hard bed!

Pompeii lay abandoned until it was first rediscovered in 1599 and remained relatively untouched until 1748 when explorers looking for artefacts found that the ashes of Mt Vesuvius had acted as a wonderful preservative. Pompeii is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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While excavation is limited these days – this was happening in the bathing area

The archaeological site that has developed over the past 300 or so years is simply amazing.  The site is vast (an enthusiast could spend days here), with apparently only about two thirds of the 170 acre area having been excavated. While there is still more to discover, what has been unearthed so far is unlike anything else you will see.

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The streets were wide enough for chariots, and are deeply grooved as a result. The stepping stones provided access for pedestrians

The small theatre (Odeon)

The small theatre

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How impressive are these columns?

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At the bottom of the hill, where the poorer people lived.

We did a half-day tour from Naples (and while this was great, the tour guide and information provided was excellent), for me it wasn’t enough. If you just want a taste of Pompeii, then a half-day tour is well worth it. If, however, you are more like me and hungry for more information and keen to see more and discover more on your own, then do this trip independently (it is totally do-able).

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Ah, Roma, Italy 🇮🇹 (part 3) – the rest of Roma

In Roma, I did invest in a Hop-on-hop-off bus ticket (which I highly recommend for any city you visit; it’s a great way to get your bearings and to see what the city has to offer – and you can go back and see what you’re interested in later); we spent an afternoon doing a full loop of the city. It also offers great photo opportunities.

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Previously a stadium, now housing

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The Forum

We did do an awful lot of walking in Roma and after the extensive walking we did in the Vatican, we ventured out and explored, pretty much just following our noses. We managed to visit:

the Trevi fountain,

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the Pantheon,

Piazza Navona (which we later returned to and took a look at the underground, where the remains of the Stadium of Domitian exist).

Our last full day in Roma (and it rained all day) we visited the church that sits at the top of the Spanish Steps – Trinita dei Monti.

We walked aimlessly through Villa Borghese park – saw some famous people:

We went to the Villa Medici – guided tour only available.

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There is so much to see in Rome – it’s a big, old city. Here’s a few random shots:

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One other thing we managed to do, and that was do a pasta making class at a local restaurant. It was great fun and I can’t wait to try making my own.

Because it rained so much, we were a little limited in what we were able to see and do in Roma and we didn’t get to see The Forum or Palatine Hill. Maybe next time (I did throw a coin in the Trevi fountain after all)!

And just because I like squirrels – I’ll sign off this post with an Italian squirrel:

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Firenze, Italy

After 5 nights in Milano, we boarded a fast train to Florence in Tuscany.

These trains are fantastic, and I wish Australia had one or two of these. Very comfortable – and fast (~260km/hr fast)! You even get a drink and a snack for free on board.

Once we arrived in Florence (Firenze), we caught a taxi to our home for the next 5 nights (Stone Lion Exclusive apartment – very nice by the way and definitely recommended). After checking in, we hit the streets for a look around. Saw lots of interesting buildings and architecture and wandered across the Ponte Vecchio,

before meandering through some markets.

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Anyone who has been to Florence will tell you, there is at least one leather outlet on every block and plenty of market stalls to buy your leather goods. There is plenty of variety and prices, I believe seem very reasonable. I picked up a lambswool lined leather coat (as it was freezing), a couple of pairs of shoes and a couple of hand bags. The leather rush may have gone to my head!

Firenze was amazing, I loved it from the moment we got there, even though the weather wasn’t kind. So many little streets and great architecture.

Our first full day in Firenze, we wandered aimlessly and visited San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Firenze, consecrated in 393).

On the way back to our apartment we managed to get lost. The streets of Florence twist and turn and I found it easy to become disoriented in this city, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Day 2 we did a day trip to San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Sienna, which also included a stop at a local family run winery for some wine tasting and lunch.

Day 3 we went to see David at the galleria dell’accademia,

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Michelangelo’s David

and checked out the Duomo (which I thought was more spectacular on the outside).

Day 4 we woke to snow ❄️ it was a freezing day, with snow, sleet and rain. We managed to visit the Bargello museum and see some more impressive sculptures.

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Donatello’s David

 

Later we went through the church across from where we were staying, the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei are buried. This was an amazing church and very impressive (I personally liked it better than the Duomo).

And finally, did you know Pinocchio was born in Florence?

It would be lovely to one day return to Firenze, and spend a whole lot more time there, as there is so much more I would like to see.

Our last days in Milano, Italy

There is of course plenty to see in Milan, as in every large city. Just 5 days is not enough to discover all there is to see. I had a list of a few things that I prioritised as things I’d like to do. As I love history, and I’m a fan of old architecture, I thought a visit to Castle Sforza and a viewing of Leonardo’s Last Supper painting were worth the effort for me.

Day 4 – we really had nothing planned, so we caught the metro to Cairoli station, which is just a short walk to Castello Sforzesco. It’s free to get into the grounds and just €5 to get into the museums.

Heaps to see here, and the music museum is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, quite extraordinary.

I also particularly liked the tapestries!

Day 5 – what an interesting day for our last full day in Milan! First on the agenda was a visit to Leonardo’s Last Supper. If you want to see this famous painting, I highly recommend you book a tour. It’s a bit more expensive, but worth it; you get a good commentary on the painting, it’s history and restoration. To view the last supper, you are allowed into the room where it is displayed in groups of 30 people at a time (don’t worry – there is plenty of room and readily viewed from anywhere in the room) and for 15minutes only. Because visitor numbers are limited – this is another reason to book a group tour ticket. LastSupper-1LastSupper-2

After viewing the painting (which is housed in the refectory of theSanta Maria delle Grazie church), we took a look inside main church.

During our walk home we stumbled across some of the craziness that is fashion week in Milan.

And immediately after, we were witness to some street protest march (?political rally).

It was an event filled 5 days and we had a great time in Milano. Next stop Firenze!

Experiencing some classic culture

This past Tuesday, I experienced a wonderful day of culture!

I was invited by a friend to tag along on a day out with a friend (and a friend of hers) who were going to take in some of exhibitions at a couple of museums in Fort Worth. I saw things that I would not have experienced in Australia, and have to admit, I had a lovely day!

We drove down to Fort Worth, which is almost a 2 hour drive from where I live in Sherman (so, about the equivalent of driving from Newcastle to Sydney). We took in the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and then the Kimbell Art Museum, where we also enjoyed a delicious, light lunch.

I have experienced quite a few museums and art galleries during my travels, but I must admit, the art I took in on Tuesday was noteworthy; I saw quite a few paintings from artists that I have only seen once before (at a special exhibit in Canberra), or not at all.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is not an overly large museum and we were there primarily to see the special exhibits – Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art and Audubon’s Beasts. The Amon Carter museum opened in January 1961 and was established by Amon G. Carter Sr. (1879–1955) to house his collection of paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The museum contains only American art and artists (to the best of my knowledge) and “aims to collect, preserve, and exhibit the finest examples of American art; and to serve an educational role through exhibitions, publications, and programs devoted to the study of American art”.

The exhibit of Audubon’s beasts was a collection of maybe 20-24 (I can’t quite remember how many there were) of hand-painted prints of some of North America’s four-legged creatures; these were extremely detailed and wonderful to see. John James Audubon (1785–1851) was a famed scientist and painter, best known for his work depicting the birdlife in America in The Birds of America, a book of 435 images – portraits of every bird then known in the United States.

The Indigenous Beauty exhibit was fabulous too – there were plenty of native American Indian art and craft works, with some excellent examples of textiles, pottery, basket weaving and beadwork. It was very impressive and I am glad to have seen it – if you get the chance – go see it!

Again, the Kimbell Art Museum is not large, but it does have some quality works, all housed in a fabulous, modern, noteworthy building. The museum is especially noted for the wash of silvery natural light that enters the building through its vaulted gallery ceilings.

The reason we went to the Kimbell was to see the special exhibit: Botticelli to Braque – Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland. There was some very fine art in that display by famed artists such as Titian, Pissarro, Degas, Botticelli as well as Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Rembrandt. However, before we got to this exhibit, I was very excited to have witnessed works by some of the great masters that exist as part of the Kimbell’s permanent collection where I saw works by Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Cezanne . Like I mentioned, I saw paintings that you just don’t get to see the likes of in Australia, unless they are part of a special, travelling exhibit. These paintings were part of the museums regular, permanent collection – available to view in downtown Fort Worth, Texas!

If ever you find yourself in Fort Worth, Texas, I can recommend a visit to these two museums!

If you made it this far – sorry for the long post and the absence of pictures, but I did think it was worth writing about! 🙂

A visit to Newcastle Museum

Newcastle Museum Entrance

Newcastle Museum Entrance

Before I left Texas I visited the Sherman Museum, and since I was in Newcastle city, with some free time, I decided to re-visit the Newcastle Museum; so here is some information about the museum of my Australian hometown:

Originally established in 1988 as a bicentennial project the Newcastle Museum was initially housed in the former Castlemaine Brewery in Hunter Street and remained in that location in Newcastle West until 2008, when it closed so that it could relocate. In 2011 the museum re-opened at its current position (and incidentally, the original preferred site), occupying 3 National Trust buildings at the Honeysuckle Railway Workshops in Newcastle (namely: the Locomotive Boiler Shop, the New Erecting Shop and the Blacksmith and Wheel Shop). The museum is located just one street back from the harbour front and is close to some excellent harbour-side dining.

The museum hosts several temporary exhibitions which change regularly (check the museum website for a list of current Special Exhibitions) and is home to 3 permanent exhibits.

  • Fire and Earth – in this exhibit, two of the main industries that have played a part in shaping the identity and culture of Newcastle are brought together in an interesting display: the coal industry and BHP steel making. Included in this display is the BHP Experience – a dramatic presentation using “very theatrical sound, lighting, vision and mechanical effects to create an absorbing, up close experience of a steel pour”. 1.

    Part of the Steelworks display

    Part of the BHP Experience

Newcastle was known as the “Steel City” because BHP played a huge part in the development of Newcastle. BHP existed in Newcastle from 1915 to 1999 and was probably the backbone of the city employing thousands of Novocastrians. In Newcastle, you either worked at BHP or knew someone who did (both my parents and my husband worked for BHP). However, BHP closed down its steel making operations in Newcastle in 1999 and although traumatic for many at the time, the city is arguably better for it now!

 

Supernova – a hands on science centre (great for the kids)

  • Arnott's Biscuits - A Famous Australian brand - founded in the Newcastle region

    Arnott’s Biscuits – A Famous Australian brand – founded in the Newcastle region

    A Newcastle Story – examines Newcastle’s history, from early aboriginal history, convict origins and its cultural development through war, immigration, sports, etc. There are displays depicting famous Novocastrians, our sporting feats, our lifestyle and also a display relating the devastating earthquake Newcastle suffered in 1989.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Entry to the museum is free. The museum also has an excellent café “Sprout Canteen”, open from 8:30am serving breakfast and lunch.

1. Newcastle Museum