Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sicily Tours Experience Mt Etna's Awe

Recent tourists to Sicily have been treated to Mt Etna's volcanic eruption show.  Europe's most active volcano has been rumbling for a few weeks now. 

"We are so happy to see this amazing show," said Connie and Mack Lewis along their Sicily tour.

Mt Etna is always active.  The last big eruptions were about 10 years ago.

"Today no one is at risk," said Sicily volcano experts.  Nevertheless ash showers have become common over Sicily since the latest eruptions began in October 2013.

There are towns along the slopes of Mt Etna that should be cautious.  But no one is expecting a poison cloud to come down the slopes.

Air travel from Catania has be re routed so as to avoid ash clouds. Otherwise, it is business as usual on the gorgeous Mediterranean island known for its vast beaches, ancient Greek Temples, fine food, and storied history.

"It is always a good time to visit Sicily," said Gianfranco Pierro from his home in Taormina overlooking the exploding mountain. "For 2500 years this mountain has given us life, good food, fine wine, and spirit," he said while sipping a local Sicilian wine from grapes grown right on Etna's slopes/ "These wines are made from the most fertile soil on earth. And now she is giving us yet more bountiful soil to fertilize our land."

Those planning a vacation to Sicily may keep watch on the volcano but should not be too worried.  Sicily tours have been running for thousands of years with Mt Etna one of the main Sicily sightseeing highlights.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is the Rome Colosseum Leaning?

Is the Rome Colosseum leaning like the Leaning Tower of Pisa?  Well...., the answer is yes and no.

Rome's Colosseum is not leaning as much as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Yes Rome's Colosseum is leaning.

Rome's Colosseum might be leaning slightly but its stability is not in danger, said officials who on Tuesday announced that the ancient amphitheater is about to undergo its first comprehensive restoration in 73 years.

Experts first noticed the incline about a year ago and have been monitoring it for the past few months, Rossella Rea, director at the 2,000-year-old monument, said in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The paper reported that the Colosseum, famous for hosting bloody gladiator fights in the days of the Roman Empire, is about 40 cm (16 inches) lower on the south side than on the north.

The Italian media described it as the "leaning tower of Pisa effect".

Prof Giorgio Monti, from La Sapienza's construction technology department, said there might be a crack in the base below the amphitheater.

"The slab of concrete on which the Colosseum rests, which is like a 13-metre-thick oval doughnut, may have a fracture inside it," he told the newspaper.

He said intervention could be necessary if the concerns are confirmed, along the lines of stabilization work carried out in Pisa, but he said it was too early to judge what kind of intervention would be most suitable.

"There is no problem with its stability," Mariarosaria Barbera, Rome's archaeological superintendent, told a news conference.

"We are talking about a structure whose foundations are 13 meters (40 feet) deep. Roman constructions do not only stand up to centuries, they stand up to millennia," she said  In fact, the Colosseum in Rome is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and Roman engineering.

"We are monitoring it but there is no Tower of Pisa effect," Barbera said at the unveiling of the 25 million euro restoration project which will start in December and end in 2015.

The project will include the cleaning and restoration of the entire Colosseum, known in Roman times as the Flavian Amphitheater.

It will be carried out in phases so that the Colosseum, which receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, will remain open. Only part of it will be covered by scaffolding at any one time.

"The monument is so big that there won't be too much inconvenience for visitors," Barbera said.

An underground visitors center will be built under an adjacent piazza, freeing up more areas inside the monument, which are currently used as meeting points and ticket stalls.

Overall, some 25 percent more of the Colosseum will be open to visitors after the restoration, particularly the underground network of tunnels, storerooms and cages.

Two thirds of the underground parts are currently not open to the public.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the traffic around the Colosseum will be re-routed by the end of the restoration to decrease damage from vibration. He said at a news conference it would be the first major restoration in 73 years.

"There have been various small projects but nothing of this level has been carried out in all this time," Alemanno said.

The work is being sponsored by Tod's, the luxury shoemaker and leather goods company.

Diego Della Valle, chairman of Tod's said the Colosseum had to be taken care of because "it does not only belong to Italians but to every citizen of the world."

Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.

Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit "Way of the Cross" procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.

For more about traveling to Italy visit

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ancient Rome Sightseeing: A Cobblestone for the Road, Shall We?

It would seem obvious that just about every cobblestone in ancient Rome is part of its patrimony, but it does bear repeating as more and more Rome tourists help themselves to a loose cobble stone or piece of mosaic they have found while wandering around sightseeing in Rome and decide its a souvenir to take home.

Ancient Romans used volcanic stone to make the cobbles for the roads that led away from the city and they date back 2,000 years. On Sunday, police in Rome put on display a vast collection of the cobblestones and artefacts that they have seized from passenger luggage in the first six months of this year. And it was quite a collection.

"They then put it in their luggage and take it home with them as a souvenir of their holiday – we have also found large milestones made from marble in suitcases that have been taken from the Appian Way."

Although the items have no real monetary value, Mr Del Greco said it was technically still theft and they are "taking away part of Rome's culture and heritage".

Mr Del Greco added that those caught were left "highly embarrassed" but were not arrested, instead they were cautioned and allowed to return home and their ancient souvenirs returned.

Umberto Broccoli, superintendent of culture for Rome city council, said: "I should warn all tourists that the city's rich heritage should not be touched. What these people do by stealing these items is show their ignorance."

"I can understand the legend and splendour that is Rome but that does not mean bits of it should be stolen by all means tourists should take as many pictures as they like but they should not help themselves to cobblestones or other items even if they appear to be discarded. If they want a souvenir of their visit then they should buy something from a shop."

So the next time you are in Rome enjoy the city, take lots of photos, but leave Rome's stones where they are. Buon viaggio!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Where to Buy a Train Ticket for Italian Train

With Rome police reporting today the confiscation of 28 million euros of fraudulent train tickets it makes sense to remind Italy tourists where to buy a train ticket ticket for Italian train service.

The tickets were on their way from China to Italy to travel companies to use with tourists or to sell on the street.

You should always buy a train ticket from a certified Italian travel agency. This can be done in the United States from your travel agent before you leave. or in Italy you may find official travel agencies with offices around various cities including Rome, Florence, and Venice.

In Italy you may also buy a train ticket at a local train station from a vending machine or from a live person at the kiosk.  

Whatever you do, do not buy a train ticket from someone on the street. And always get a receipt if you buy your Italian train ticket from a travel agency. This way you have proof you believed you purchased an authentic Italy train ticket.

For more about riding trains in Italy check out this video.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Spring in Rome

Spring is in full bloom here in Rome. The weather is already summery the families have arrived for summer vacation and all around the Rome tours have begun.

This week Jennifer Aniston was spotted sightseeing in Rome. Rome is always a favorite place for lovers, falling and being in love. With the flowers and trees in full bloom, Borghese Gardens overflowing with people and chirping birds it is now wonder.

With Madonna and Radiohead Rome concerts complete you may want to check out Lang Lang the pianist who is playing in Rome June 19, 21, and 22.