I'm baaaaaaack! So, as probably everyone who has ever heard my name knows by now, I was in Italy recently. George and I hopped the pond and spent three beautiful weeks touring the middle of the country. Our itinerary took us from Rome to Naples, then we hired a car and drove through Tuscany, before spending an entire week in Florence soaking it up. We finished up the trip in Bologna before one last day in Rome and a plane ride home. Weird that I can sum up our trip in two sentences. Probably better to show you some photos before I go on. We start, naturally, at the airport. We arrived in Rome on Christmas Day and so figured everything would be closed. We just wandered on down to the Colosseum to find it not only open but free! It was our first lovely surprise of the trip. This is also one of the only "snapshot" photos you'll see here. I'm not big on the "gotta have it" photo of whatever big site we happen to be exploring. You've seen plenty of pictures of the Colosseum - why would you want another lesser copy from me? This is not the photography I'm interested in - and you'll see that shortly. St. Peter's and probably the only other "gotta have it" photo. We didn't go in the day I took this - there was an enormous line - but we did come back at the end of the trip. That post will come later. On the "Archeobus" - the top half is a reflection in the bus window. We took this tourist bus to go see the catacombs in Rome off the Ostia Antica - one of the oldest roads, ever. It was a neat part of the trip - we got to go down and see where they put all the dead people back in the day. Every single person, even the poorest, got a little slot in the wall! There are something like 500,000 graves in these catacombs. The streets of Rome. And because I only let one person attempt a picture of us the whole trip (I brought my expensive camera!), here's a little snapshot to prove we were both in Italy at the same time. At the Pantheon. We hopped a train to Naples, which we loved. Everyone the whole trip kept telling us Naples wasn't a place many tourists go, was dirty, etc. etc. We thought it was great. Super-cool "subterranean Naples" tour. They took you underneath the city and showed you what basically the entirety of the ground below you looks like - filled with old Roman buildings. Basically every large city in Italy seems to be built upon layers and layers of other cities. One church we went into had an archeology area where they had uncovered remnants from 300 BC up to 1200 AD - just layers and layers of church. Earthquake-proofing in Roman times. And here some apartment complex just put a window into this incredibly old theater - just dug a window into a chamber that happened to be 2000 years old. Pompeii. So when you think about Pompeii you know it got decimated by Vesuvius and covered in dirt. And maybe you conjure up some images of well-preserved bodies cringing. Yeah, it's that, except it's also an enormous, astoundingly well-preserved archeology area. I mean huge. We were there alll day and I was seriously losing it at the end while George wanted to go see every single mosaic and fresco. It was really seriously awesome. This thing was way off the beaten path. My apologies for the super-creative composition - I literally held my camera over the side of this thing to see what was there - and *this* was it! This fresco is nearly 2000 years old. Naples is a bit of an oddity. There is graffiti everywhere - covering what seems like the entire town, such that it is a definite part of the landscape. But the town has some real character and very good pizza. After Naples, we hired a car and drove through Tuscany. One of our first stops was the Civita di Bagnoregio - the "dying city". Tuscans love the hell out of building impossible cities at the top of mountains. Despite its promising name and even more promising long-shot view, this city doesn't seem to be dying at all and is instead filled with tourist restaurants and gift shops. Oh well. The beard is actually working for George. Sorana, another impossible city-on-a-mountain. Pitigliano, where we spent New Year's. Our hotel stay included mandatory New Year's Eve dinner. The food was just okay but the wine was free-flowing. We chatted up some Americans, some lovely Dutch girls and a whole group of very intoxicated Italians. They didn't speak much English, so we spent the night translating for each other with a mix of English, Italian, Spanish. At one point, they decided George looked like David Crosby. It's the beard. Pitigliano has a "sausage district." We supported the local economy. And last but not least - a "relic"! I can't remember what tiny Tuscan town I took this photo in, but we just wandered into a church as we were exploring and came across this super-creepy skeleton in a box. It's some martyr or famous guy or something... staring right at you. There were "relics" all over Italy - tons of bones and scraps of cloth or "skin" in big gold things. This was the only full-on skeleton (in view, at least). Well folks, that is your first installment! Thanks for playing look-at-my-travel-photos and I'll have another set for you pretty soon.