This one will be short and sweet as I am still high as a kite about a photographic experience I just had in Tarragona, Spain, today (it’s Friday, September 23 as I write this). Besides, our visit to Pisa was not the best day of our trip. Not because the Tower wasn’t leaning, but because it was just kind of a ho-hum experience. After so many days of getting on a “luxury motor coach,” testing our Vox earsets (so we can hear our guide while we walk around), driving to wherever, getting off the bus, having the guide rush away like a madperson, having to go and ask them to slow down, listening to them tell you the history of everything while wearing the headsets, then going from place to place quickly and standing while the guide talks (you would think the guides are paid by the word), it was getting really old.
This was another of Viking’s “included” excursions, so we were on the bus to Pisa at 8:30 am. We are glad we went in the morning (we had a choice of the afternoon as well) because those who went in the afternoon said it was a total zoo with huge crowds. We were able to at least move around the square.
Today’s guide was a speed demon. She went so fast that the people at the back of the line lost track of her leading the group. And worse, there were numerous other groups from bus tours who had parked where our bus did, and we were mixing in with our crowd and we with them. It was horrible. And this was the day the Vox system that we bring from our rooms (headsets so we can hear the guide) decided to fail. We knew it wasn’t our headsets but the guide’s microphone because no one could understand about 80% of what she said—too much static.
So there we were in the square in Pisa, with the Tower and the basilica right in front of us and not able to understand a word the guide said, so we ditched the tour. We just took off on our own, went at our own pace and made our own plans. The guides kind of know you are going to do this because they tell you in advance where to meet to go back to the “luxury motor coach.”
So I shot some pics; it started to rain; we sat by the church and then decided to take refuge at a sidewalk cafe with huge umbrellas and have a cappuccino. It was delightful just to sit and people-watch. After a while, Steve and Jamie joined us, and we started walking back to the “luxury motor coach.” Then we found out that we were just going back to the same place to meet the “luxury motor coach.” If they had told us that, we could have turned the almost mile-long walk into something where Kathleen and Jamie could have rested every so often instead of their version of the Bataan Death March. These guides just do not get it. Usually, I tip our guides quite well. So far on this trip, I have tipped two. Just two. The others have either been rude, in a huge hurry, rambling or worse. Of course, we all tipped Luigi and Alessandro in Cinque Terre, but they weren’t Viking guides.
After the march, it was back on the “luxury motor coach” and back to the ship where I wrote you another blog post and processed my photos, which you can see below. Hope you enjoy them. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
Woke up in Livorno to this beautiful sunrise outside our stateroom.
It only got prettier
See what I mean about the guides getting to far ahead? I can’t even see ours.
Now in the square.
The cathedral of Pisa with the Tower leaning out behind it.
Closeup on The Baptistry
Closeup on the cathedral doors
In another direction.
This one makes me think of someone peeking around a corner.
Looking at the cathedral from the front.
Intricate carvings in the doors.
It really does lean this much.
But it really depends where you are standing.
Just another direction.
It looks like it leans less from this angle.
Peeking over the top.
Inside the government building courtyard.
Read the graffiti on the wall. Thankfully it was leaning when we were there.
The outer wall of the city.
We passed these on the way back to the “luxury motor coach” and loved them.
That was our day in Pisa. Pretty boring, to be honest. I could have done the entire thing in an hour instead of the two-and-a-half that Viking thought we needed. But I truly think that’s because the guide was paid by the word. Too bad we couldn’t hear more than twenty percent of them.
I’ve been to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s a tower, and it’s leaning. You look at it, but nothing happens, so then you look for someplace to get a sandwich. —Danny DeVito
The day after we took our day off in Rome was absolutely the best day of the whole trip from Amsterdam to Athens to that day. The ship was docked in Livorno, Italy, which is the port for Florence. And about 95% of the passengers on board were headed to either Florence itself or the Tuscan countryside and Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. We, on the other hand, had decided to do our own thing.
As I said about Rome in my last post, you can’t see Rome in one day. I also believe you can’t do justice to Florence in one day. If you really want to see the Uffizi or the Academia, you need half a day in each. That leaves no time for the Duomo, the baptistery, the Ponte Vecchio, or so much more that is Firenze. Besides, we had been there before. So we opted out. But sadly, that was the only place that Viking was offering tours to. So we created our own.
About three months before the cruise, I started looking for someplace else to see in the general area of Livorno that we had not seen. We had never seen the Leaning Tower and the rest of Pisa, but that was a two-hour tour, and we would be in Livorno for two days and would see that on the second day. So where to go? I searched maps and Cruise Critic for ideas, and in doing that, I looked up the coast, and lo and behold—Cinque Terre. We had heard so much about it but had never been there, and we really wanted to see it, but for some reason, Viking does not do any tours in that direction (although it took us the same amount of time to get there as it did to get into Florence). That meant I had to find us a tour. So off I went to Google, and the first tour that popped up was a “Tour to Cinque Terre from the Port of Livorno” by BellaItalia Tours. That sounded like just what we were looking for, so I contacted them.
Like most tours, this had one price—the price of the tour. Actually, there were two possibilities—a tour with a driver who got you there and got you off on your way into the first “land” and then picked you up and took you back to the ship after you finished touring everything. The other option was a driver AND a guide. The driver got you there, but the guide accompanied you throughout the day from village to village telling us all about them on the way. We wanted to do this because we were looking for someone to walk us through the entire thing.
If you got the driver and the guide, the price was just about 800 euros for two people. But if you could find more to join you, the price went down because you were paying for the car, driver and guide no matter what. Up to 8 people could come along. To find someone else to join us (the other four in our party had never been to Florence, so they were going there), I went on Cruise Critic to our roll call (click here if you need Cruise Critic and Roll Calls explained) and found Corky and Larry from Maui who said they would love to join us. This meant our price was basically cut in half. And not only did that make this tour a bargain, but we made two great friends in the process.
As soon as the ship had been cleared by the port authorities, we were off and looking for my name on a placard being held by our guide, the amazing and hilarious Luigi. And he and our driver (Alessandro) were waiting right where they said they would be, we jumped in their Mercedes van, and we were off. What joy it was to ride in a van and not a “luxury motor coach.” It meant that there were two of us to a seat, with plenty of legroom and Luigi giving us non-stop play-by-play as we drove along.
On the way, we got to see some things we hadn’t expected, like the famous marble mountains of Carrara. I suppose if I had thought about it, I would have realized that the Carrara marble that makes up so many buildings in the Mediterannean or our very own tile floors at home comes from a huge mountain of marble. The mountains are magnificent to look at, as you can see in this small gallery. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
The Carrara Marble Mountains
Just a lot of marble.
A little while after passing through Carrara and some amazing hilltop towns on either side of the AutoStrada (Italian for freeway), we reached La Spezia, a coastal community that is the gateway to Cinque Terre. You climb far above it and that puts you about even with those hilltop towns, so here are some views from the hill above La Spezia and some hilltop towns we had seen between there and Carrara. Don’t forget; they can be viewed as a slide show.
After passing Carrara it was…
One hilltop town after another.
Then we reached La Spezia…
…and climbed high above it.
As soon as you have seen La Spezia go by, you go over the hill, and you are looking down at the first of the five “lands” of Cinque Terre (literally translates to “five lands”), Riomaggiore. It’s a beautiful little village built into the side of a very steep hill. Alessandro dropped us off, and we walked down into the town itself. We would next see our illustrious driver at the other end of Cinque Terre. From this point on, our transport was the Cinque Terre ferry. Luigi led us down through the town, pointing things out to us as we went. We all took a much-needed restroom break and then met Luigi to board the ferry to move to the next land.
Luigi was a font of knowledge all about the region. We all learned a lot, especially that we should wait for the fourth village, Vernazza, to get gelato because they had the best, then have lunch at the end of the journey in Monterosso because they had the best food. We liked that—eat dessert first.
The second stop on our visit was to the village of Manarola, which might have been the most picturesque. The photo at the top of this post was taken there. Luigi was more than thrilled to help me find my shots because he said we had something in common. His real vocation in life was a guitarist, and he loved it. He told us it was “his art.” And he said photography was mine. I truly appreciated his interest, and from that point on (he had this conversation with Kathleen on the ferry while I was outside taking photos) he took me to what he thought would make great pictures…and he was right.
The ferry to the next of the five lands (actually four because the ferry does not stop in the middle land of Corniglia as there is no place for it to dock—it is only accessible by train) comes just about every hour, so once we landed in Manarola for instance; we had an hour to take photos and look around before we got back on the next ferry and left for Vernazza.
Vernazza was the village where we heard about the awesome gelato, and again, Luigi proved to be correct. He had advised me that if I truly wanted to try what the locals loved, I would have basil gelato (seen at right). So I did, and it was wonderful. Kathleen had lemon, and when we put the two together…perfection. Vernazza was a great village for photography, so again, I took more shots until the hour went by and we boarded the ferry for Monterosso.
Monterosso was the final village and is the most commercialized of the five. It has bigger hotels, sandy beaches, etc. It also has amazing food, and this was where Luigi said we should get lunch. He was all set to drop us at a restaurant to fend for ourselves when we insisted he join us for lunch—our treat, which he did. He said that like the gelato I had tasted, the people of the five lands believed their basil was better than any other basil in the world and therefore, their pesto sauce was the best anyplace—hands down. So, of course, we had to try it. The traditional pesto pasta is improved in Cinque Terre by the addition of potatoes and green beans to the mix. This came about when they started making pesto at a time when those things were plentiful, and the recipe stuck.
Besides the pesto, there was one more thing I wanted to try while we were having lunch. It is something that Rick Steves had mentioned in his Cinque Terre video—fresh anchovies. Rick said that if you come here and order them fresh, you would be amazed how little they would resemble the anchovies you see on a pizza or a caesar salad and he was right—almost. I ordered (with Luigi’s help) “Tris di acciughe del marinaio” or Lemon, salted and stuff anchovies. The salted looked very much like what we put on pizza but bigger. It tasted like you might think but much less salty. Luigi told me that this is what it should taste like when brined, but it is much saltier when we get it because it has sat for weeks in a can on its way to America.
Then there was the stuffed version, filled with some rice, some veggies and who knows what, but it was delicious. But the winner of the three was anchovies marinated in lemon juice and olive oil. I could eat those every day, all day long. Delicious.
After we finished lunch, we walked around Monterosso for a while longer before we walked up a hill (thankfully much less steep than the one we walked down in Riomaggiore) to the top of the village to be met by our faithful driver Alessandro and transported back to the ship. This was around a nine-hour trip from ship to ship, but I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it.
This brings me to the subject of shore excursions. One of the reasons Viking appealed to us was that they included a free shore excursion in every port. But we are just not sure if that is a selling point anymore. After our day in a van with a guide and being able to move at our own pace, we think if (probably when) sail with Viking Ocean again, we will book our own shore excursions again. We had pretty much always done that in the past until COVID came along, and you couldn’t book a lot of private excursions. Now you can again and we likely will. It is so much more personalized, and you meet incredible guides. We had done three tours on this entire trip with private guides (in Amsterdam with Hans and Athens with George), and those were the best tours. Far better than being put into a “luxury motor coach” with 26 other people and a guide who is just a monotonous voice in your “whisper headset.” This really hit home with us after touring all day with Luigi and Alessandro. Luigi became a part of our group. Just look at the photo at the top of this post. Don’t we look happy? Cinque Terre—what a day. And here are the photos from that day. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…ESPECIALLY THESE!
The view of Riomaggiore from the top of the hill near La Spezia
A more wide angle view of Riomaggiore
There are hiking trails to all the “lands” so you can walk the entire way.
It is recommended to take a day between each if you walk.
Our first glimpse of the kind of ferry we would be traveling on.
The mountainsides above the villages were terraced.
This allowed the villagers to grow all their food nearby.
We have arrived in Riomaggiore
Walking down the long hill to the ferry.
The village is a delight.
Lots of great photo opportunities.
Everywhere I looked.
Everything in the villages seems vertical.
Finally the sea where there was a protected harbor.
And many colorful buildings everywhere.
Looking back up the village of Riomaggiore
Such great colors.
The ferry arrives.
There is no beach so sunworshippers just lay on the rocks while waiting for the ferry.
You get on the ferry on a very wobbly ramp.
And you sail away to Manarola.
The view looking back is stupendous.
Did I forget to mention that the travel gods were smiling on us.
The weather was perfect.
Had we come a day earlier or later, we would not have been able to take the ferry…
but we would have had to take the train that goes from village to village.
Coming into Manarola.
All off the ferry.
Manarola has some great swimming areas…
with very large rocks that people braver than I jump off of.
Luigi told me that for the “money shot: that would crown my photography of Cinque Terre, I should climb this hill.
He was right.
In so many ways.
I can’t imagine I would have done it if he had not been there to advise me.
This is the one I love the most.
But back in the village, the colors were wild.
As were the colors of the boats.
Looking in almost any direction brought you a different viewpoint of the villages.
And now we are back on the ferry going to Vernazza.
But on the way we pass some hilltop towns.
And terraced farms.
And the one village that cannot be accessed by the ferry.
Only by the train or on foot.
The village of Corniglia.
As you can see there is very little near the water in this village.
But it was still very photogenic.
No matter the angle.
Nor the distance.
From the ferry you could see it all.
I loved the rock formations as we headed into Vernazza.
This medieval church is in Vernazza
As is this tight and small but colorful alleyway.
And this staircase. Can you imagine taking groceries home this way?
There was a very cool opening to the sea below…
an apartment house.
I also found a small chapel.
And some very busy streets.
Larry and I had run off to take pictures while Corky and Kathleen finished their gelato.
Everywhere you look in any Italian town, there are churches.
The inside was just as beautiful.
As you can see here.
Back at the harbor…
One more shot of color…
And off on the ferry to Monterosso.
As we approach you can see…
the umbrelllas on the only sandy beaches in the villages.
A much more commercial village than the other ones.
With fortifications above the small harbor.
Our first goal was lunch here at this wonderful restaurant. Pesto and anchovies.
Then we went to take photos with Luigi.
There is a whole story that must be told orally…
About these three pictures.
And of course there was a church.
And the inside was beautiful. It reminded us of the churches of Tuscany.
And my last shot before Alassandro picked us up—some colorful laundry.
It took us about 90 minutes to get back to the ship, but after the day we had, the time flew by. I truly hope I did a good job expressing my joy about this day and my gratitude to the amazing Luigi, who took such great care of us. I can’t recommend him more highly. If you decide to go, book with Bella Italia tours and ask for him specifically. You will not be sorry.
I think people in Italy live their lives better than we do. It’s an older country, and they’ve learned to celebrate dinner and lunch, whereas we sort of eat as quickly as we can to get through it. —George Clooney
That headline was my feeble attempt at humor and to explain why we decided to stay on the ship when Viking Sky arrived in Civitavecchia, the port for the city of Rome. We have been to Rome at least three times before, and as much as we love the city, the idea of leaving the port at 6:45 am, driving the 45 minutes to an hour into Rome and then just driving around looking at the sites from the outside is just not something we wanted to do.
So this post is about pretty much nothing. We did some laundry. Stop! Let’s talk about that—laundry on a ship. Most cruise lines no longer have laundry facilities on board or never did. Our long-time old favorite, Celebrity, never has. If you needed something washed, you either did it yourself in your stateroom sink, or you sent it out to their fairly expensive laundry. On our January Holland America cruise, we were in a Neptune Suite, so we had laundry included. But being newbies here on Viking, we weren’t sure how the whole laundry thing would work out.
It turns out it works wonderfully. On each deck, there is a small “laundrette” with three washers and three dryers stacked on top of each other. There are also two ironing boards for passenger use. If you decide to use the machines, you drop in your load, push a button to add the free soap and softener and then start it up. A timer on the front of the machine tells you how long until it’s done. I set a SIRI timer on my Apple watch for that amount of time and then I come back to change the loads. Only a couple of times when we have tried to use the machines has there been anyone else using them.
It’s all about the timing. If you go in the evenings, I have heard it can be very crowded. But we have done laundry three times. First when we got on board because we had been traveling on land for six days, then in Rome two weeks later because we were running short on some items, and today we are doing a quick load while we are here in Marseilles. All three of those times have been during the day when most of the ship is on shore.
Another great thing we found that kept me away from the ironing boards is that the type of stateroom we are in (a Penthouse Verandah) has free pressing included. So I wash the shirts I have been wearing to dinner and then toss them in a bag, and they come back tomorrow ready to wear, hanging on hangers. I love it.
In case you are wondering, we both pretty much do our own laundry at home, but she does the linens and other household stuff, and I do most of the cooking. Onboard I have to do the laundry because the way the dryers are situated above the washers, she can’t see into them, let alone reach them. This surprised a couple of the women I have run into while washing clothes.
Lots of places to relax
Another thing I want to mention about the ship is that is VERY evident when you are on board in a port but still very true all of the time. This ship has a lot of great places just to sit and relax, to have a conversation, to play cards or games, to do just about anything you want to do. At first, I thought it was that way because they just built in those spaces, but then I realized that there is another HUGE reason all these great spaces exist—the Nos. About a week before we sailed, I wrote a post about all the reasons we were sailing on Viking Ocean for this cruise and not one of the other lines we had used before. You can check it out by clicking here.
In that list, you can see that Viking has:
No children (which means there is no space for a kid’s club).
No art auctions (which means that space is not needed).
No casino (which means an extra room where a casino would go)
No ship’s photographers (which means you can use that space as well).
When you add up all the space that is revenue producing for other cruise lines and take it off the table, no wonder they have such awesome areas all around the ship that are just for passengers to relax. Here are some quick picks of some of my favorite places on the ship. You can go ahead and look at these with your phone…they are just onboard photos of some of my favorite spots.
Some of the spaces are outdoors.
This can be awesome in great weather but it was generally too hot to be out here during the day on our cruise.
Inside there are spots everywhere.
This one alongside the Wintergarden is really nice.
This is the three-level Living Room. On each level there are great places to sit…
…and relax or have a conversation.
There’s a GIANT jigsaw puzzle table
And I haven’t sat in a single chair that wasn’t totally comfortable. Wish I could say the same about the beds.
The areas are lighted by table lamps.
There is a free book exchange on deck 1.
Everywhere you go there are places to sit..
Books you can borrow…
In the Explorer’s Lounge you can either relax or have a bite at Mamsen’s. Some of the best snacks on the ship.
I love the Explorer’s Lounge.
The second floor of the lounge is where you can find me when I am writing this blog…most of the time.
These spaces are the best part of this ship.
That just about concludes our Roman day onboard the ship. We probably ate in The World Cafe and watched Downton Abbey. It’s funny that someone on Cruise Critic asked us what the nightlife was like. We can’t tell anyone because that’s not us. We finish a long day touring, have dinner someplace, go back to our room and collapse. Between my getting up at 5:00 am to walk my miles on deck two and the lousy sleep we have been getting, that’s about all we can manage.
Rome was not built in one day. —John Heywood
You can’t see Rome in one day. —Jim Bellomo
Before I get to the fun/destination part of this post, here are a few more observations about onboard life.
Yesterday, while we were in Rome, a large part of the ship’s passengers got off and another group got on. As I mentioned earlier, this three-week cruise we are on is actually three one-week cruises stacked one on top of the other. It is actually four one-week cruises (starting in Istanbul). The very large group that got on board in Rome was much louder and party-types than the group that got off. For that reason has become a more raucous ship. Something we did not expect from Viking. Kathleen was awakened a few times that first night by the person above us talking loudly and walking heavily. We would have called down to Guest Services, but we couldn’t tell if the noise was coming from directly above or one of the staterooms on either side of it.
This brings me to going back to the Main Dining Room. Our new friends Corky and Larry said they had an outstanding server, and if we came to dinner with them, we would have amazing service. They were right. They have a waiter (whose name I believe is Joku0) who takes great care of them. Not only that, but we met THE wine steward. We asked him if he was the ONLY wine steward on board, and he said he was not. There was one in Chef’s Table and in Manfreddis, but he told us, “I am the only one in THE Restaurant. Therefore, I am THE wine steward.” But we still did not have that great an experience. The food was “fine” (we still had much better in the WorldCafe), but the noise was off the charts. Corky and Larry are not overly quiet people, but I thought I heard about half of what they said. And my friends know that I am not exactly a quiet guy, but Kathleen had to ask me to repeat a couple of things—and she was sitting right next to me. I felt like you needed to shout to be heard, and obviously, so did everyone else. There is no sound deadening when the room is full, and it was slammed.
Back to our previously scheduled port excursion tour, on Thursday morning, we woke up in Messina, Sicily. Or I should say Kathleen did. I woke up REALLY early (even for me) at 4:45, so I could see us sail through the Strait of Messina. The last time I sailed through this strait, we were in a storm so bad that waves were breaking over the top of our 13-deck ship (Celebrity Century). I had never heard that being there to take pictures as you go through was that great, but the cruise director RAVED about it the night before, so I decided to get up and get out there to take some photos. 😴
Yup, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Here is the only photo I took that morning that I would even think about bothering with. Not sure why I am even showing it to you.
See what I mean? I should have stayed in bed. But that’s OK because the day got a lot better as we were booked to head down to Taormina and then up to Mount Etna.
Messina is a pretty nice port to sail into. It doesn’t take long, and there are lots of things to take photos of if you are on the right side of the ship. Since we would be on our excursion to Taormina and Mount Etna for the rest of the day, this was my only chance to get some shots of Messina. Here are those pics. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
First the pilot comes aboard
As the boat swings in…
He just steps aboard
The harbor is full of ferries that ply the strait between Calabria and Sicily
I loved this guy. I call this shot my Study in Blue.
A huge column with a statue of the Madonna on it
That cathedral in the distance is pretty cool.
This is the seat of government for the city
Loved this big church that dominated the skyline
See what I mean
The yacht harbor is pretty cool.
And I loved all the boat colors.
The clock tower gets closer.
So does the big church.
This is a very traditional pair of statues you see everyplace in Sicily.
After breakfast, we headed down to get on our “luxury motor coach” to tour Taormina and Mount Etna. The drive was most interesting with a bunch of tunnels to pass through, some very tight curves that our driver did an amazing job of negotiating and just beautiful coastal scenery to see. After about an hour’s drive, we arrived in the beautiful mountainside village of Taormina. It reminded us a lot of our previous trip to the Amalfi Coast. Lots of beautiful villages above cliffs that lead down to the sea. You will see that when you check out the Taormina photos below.
Besides a beautiful Italian village, Taormina is home to a huge Greek theater set on the side of a cliff that dates back to 301 AD. It is still in use today, as you will see from the photos. I am amazed at how many of these open-air theaters built almost 2,000 years ago are still being used. We saw one on the side of the Acropolis that was even older and was hosting a Sting concert the night after we were there.
To learn and see more of our Taormina experience, check out my pics below. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
From our perch above the parking garage in Taormina looking down at the coast.
The Hotel Excelsior.
Mount Etna in the distance.
Another shot looking back down the mountain.
The fortress above the city.
An arch…I love arches. We have one in our new house and it is one reason I loved it when I saw it.
Kathleen spotted this really cool wheel.
The fountain dominates the square.
And these steps lead away from it.
This was at the very top of the fountain. Not sure what it was.
This drooling horse was actually a fresh water fountain that people were filling water bottles from.
The local library. Still in use
The top of the library
And the doors.
Here’s the sign.
This old sign brought back a lot of memories.
We are up higher and looking back at the Excelsior Hotel
The village clock tower.
The cross at the top of the city.
And another. This is a VERY holy country.
Another glance back down.
In a different direction.
Mount Etna still steaming.
Another view of an earlier church
Our Viking crowd about to move again.
Our guide said this was the narrowest streets in Italy. Two people can’t pass and it’s all stairs.
I loved this verandah which our guide described.
Lots of representations of Sicilian families.
Here again, the Moor mask.
And the Italian woman. The two married to create the Siciliano.
This mosaic honors film starts who have come to Taormina for their annual film festival
The red plates are very traditional colors in Sicilian pottery. We have one just like this hanging on our wall.
A typical wall adornment in Sicily.
Our guide Antonia. Her job can be likened to herding cats.
The fortress on the hill.
The Grand Hotel Timeo sat right at the gates of the Greek theater.
The Grand Hotel Timeo’s gardens
Entering the Greek Theater
ditto. They had lots of signage and videos.
Inside the theater.
Looking out from the back of the theater towards Mount Etna
Some more views…
…of the theater…
…from various points inside…
… and outside.
a lot of stairs for these.
I hope it as worth it.
Looking back from the top level of the theater you can see the coast we had driven up on.
Just like Amalfi, right?
On to Etna
After about two hours in Taormina, we were back on our “luxury motor coach” to head upwards to Mount Etna. If we had thought the first part of the trip was a windy road, we had seen nothing yet. This was the most amazing piece of “luxury coach” driving we had ever seen. I am still not sure how our driver negotiated some of the turns he did. We finally wound up at the highest point that “luxury coaches” can go. There were a couple of restaurants, a few gift shops and the bottom station of a gondola ride to the top of the volcano.
Etna was not erupting when we were there (thankfully), but she was letting off a lot of steam. And we did see plenty of lava lands and craters. Our first stop at the top was for lunch, where we were served a nice lunch with appetizers, pasta, bread and wine. It was all great, and they offered us much more than we could possibly eat. Especially when you are on a cruise. Some of it suffered from having been prepped way too early in the day, but it was all “fine.” I forgot to mention that the restaurant we ate in had displays showing that it had been rebuilt twice after being burnt down during Etna’s last two eruptions.
After lunch, we had a few minutes to shoot some photos before we were back on the “luxury motor coach,” and we drove about a mile or so away, where there were five smaller craters that opened up in previous eruptions. We had the chance to hike up and take photos. Kathleen stayed on the bus while I did my usual run-around thing, snapping away. Here are the pics I got as we approached Etna and at the top. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
Looking towards the Mt. Etna from the Greek Theater
Starting to get into the lava files
Looking back you can see small craters with smoke.
As far up as we went.
The gondolas that take you to the top.
Sorry, I just liked this shot with the lava in the background
Lots of lava
But amazing stands of trees that the lava just flowed around.
The gondola going up the mountain.
Part of the five craters
I had to do one in black and white it looked like a moonscape.
Looking back from the lower craters
You could see people at the top of the fifth crater
Looking back at where we had lunch from the five lower craters
Another shot looking down.
That was our day, and it was a long one. Took the “luxury motor coach” back to the ship, got on and collapsed. Quick dinner in the buffet and off to bed after another couple of Downtons.
I feel like a person living on the brink of a volcano crater. —Agnes Smedley
I overheard an interesting discussion about Crotone, Italy. If you are unfamiliar with Crotone, it is located on the sole of the Italian Boot. It’s the red dot on the right.
It is a sleepy little Italian town that really isn’t really anything special until you look at it in a different way. On a bus back from a later excursion (I think it was in Messina), I overheard other passengers talking. One lady said, “That Crotone was the most boring port ever!” But another gentleman piped up with, “To me, it was the BEST port on this cruise. It was the real Italy. A small town. No tourist shops, no crowds (Viking Sky was the only ship there), a town square you could walk to, parks everywhere, winding streets with cars parked at crazy angles and then trying to drive up those NARROW streets.” And I guess I have to agree with him. The town itself took a little climbing to get into, and it had its share of ruins, but mostly, it was just a tiny, real Italian town.
How tiny? Viking didn’t even do any city tours there. The included tour was a walking tour of the village without guides. But all through the city, there were members of the community who would tell you about some feature of their town or their history and send you on to the next person. It was great meeting those locals. They were excited that we were there to hear about Crotone. So, all in all, it was a pretty great day. Viking did provide a free shuttle service that you could take up to the top of the village, but Kathleen wanted to save all her walking for the next day when we would be in Messina and going to see Taormina and Mount Etna, so she told me to go walk to my heart’s content. And that’s what I did.
Here are the photos I took of the seaside village of Crotone, a truly lovely place. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
A panoramic stitch shot from the ship of Crotone
To get there I just walked all the way down to that building in the upper right and crossed into the park
But not before I shot a pic of Viking Sky
Now I have crossed the street to the seafront promenade.
Found a ancient church on my way up
And cute cat that could not have cared less about me.
Finally the castle I had seen from the ship.
Inside the castle
Looking back at the ship from the castle
Other parts of the castle
A view of the village from the castle
The old cannon
From the highest ramparts
These held the cannons
Looking down on the back streets of the town.
Now a walk into town isn’t as crowded.
Loved this winding stairs and streets
Just a sleepy Italian town
With great captures for me
These tracks had great angles
The buildings were sometimes colorful.
Kathleen found that Vico is Way. So this is purgatory way.
A beautiful church façade
These next few pictures are for my two best buddies, Mike and Bob.
Mike because he loves to shoot in churches…
And Bob because he won’t even go in one.
Here you go guys! Enjoy.
Standing in the town square looking west
Your typical Italian business man hard at work.
A beautiful façade
Another church, just up the hill
And some more shots for Mike and Bob
Inside that gate
Just up the street, another church.
And back down the street
Love this nonna off to market.
Lots of great places to shoot
Not sure what this is, any guesses.
I loved this verandah
Steps back down to the park and ship
The ship from the castle
This sure looks like Oregon Grape to me but it can’t be. Can it?
That was our (kind of my) day in Crotone. We finished up with dinner in the World Cafe at Nanci’s table again and then off to bed. Between Kathleen’s food poisoning and getting worn out from our days touring, we have spent most evenings in our stateroom. Viking has excellent television choices, but since we were onboard Viking, we decided we had to rewatch the entire Downton Abbey series. We just finished season 3 last night (Naples), so I am not sure we will make it. Viking does have shows, and they put them on television, both live and recorded. We watched a few for a couple of minutes (one was a Beatles tribute), and they were pretty bad. If we wanted a show, we would have sailed Royal Caribbean. The Mama Mia we saw on Allure of the Seas in 2019 was Broadway-worthy. On this ship, it’s all about travel.
As I write this, a new group of people are coming on board. This is actually not a three-week cruise but a series of four one-week cruises, one after the other, and we are on three of them. Our new buddies Corky and Larry have been on since Istanbul, so they are starting their fourth week while we start our third. A great deal of the people on board got off today in Rome, so it was very quiet until around noon, when the new folks who are doing a one-week cruise to Barcelona with us got on. We have never carried over like this before, but this day was great. Most of the carry-over people are in Rome, so that we could do laundry, I could take photos of the interior of the ship that I will share in a future post, and we could just rest. We are about to head down to the spa to try out the thalassotherapy pool and the rest of the relaxation stuff down there. Got to go. Next up for you are Messina, Taormina and Mount Etna. Not sure how soon I will get to that as we leave early tomorrow for an entire day in Cinque Terra.
You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world. —William Hazlitt
Since I have some time today while we are docked for Rome, I will try and do a couple of posts covering the next two places on the cruise. So watch for another one later in the day.
The day after our restful time in Sibenik, we arrived in Bari, Italy—a port I was really looking forward to. We both felt great so off we went on a shore excursion labeled “Alberobello, the Trulli Village.” Alberobello is about an hour away by motor coach (a fancy term for bus). The ride was a good one and the walk from where the bus parked to where the village started.
A trullo is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut so more than one is trulli. The village of Alberobello is the home of a whole bunch of trullo/trulli and they are very cool. Our day consisted of a bus ride from Bari to Alberobello, a walk tour of Alberobello followed by a visit to a nearby conference-type place where they fed us appetizers and some wine. Kathleen tried the food but I just wasn’t up to it. The food didn’t look that good and there was plenty of good calories to waste my caloric intake with onboard. After about an hour it was back on the ship and on our way home.
Below are the photos I took that day. Hope you like them. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…