So...sorry for the long break between posts. It has been a busy and somewhat emotional couple weeks.
We started at our WWOOF site on June 10th. The plan was to go from the agriturismo to Castegneto Carducci. However, our host, Marina, contacted us a few days before and asked to meet us in Florence instead. She needed to be in Florence where she and her family actually have a house. That turned out to be easier for us transportation-wise, so we agreed. That actually gave us an extra day in Florence to do the things we had cut out before! Yay!
We visited the Bargello Museum.
And climbed up a giant hill to go see the church of San Miniato.
We stayed in our WWOOF host's Florence house that night. It was actually somewhat interesting, because we stayed in the lower level of the house also known as her dead father's apartment. We don't think they've cleaned or changed anything since he died two years ago. It smelled old and was super creepy. The, what we think is, Etruscan urn near the door didn't help. Nor did the medieval style lantern hanging just outside the door. It felt invasive to take pictures, so you'll have to take our word for it. Here is a picture of the front of the house.
WWOOF Florence house
We moved onto the farm the next day. Now, some of you may be wondering what WWOOF is. WWOOF stands for WorldWide Organization for Organic Farming. The premise is that individuals volunteer to help work on these small, often family, farms in return for food and lodging. There are WWOOF sites all over the world, but we focused on Italy. This first site was a Tuscan vineyard near the west coast of Italy. It was beautiful.
WWOOF Farm_Castegneto Cardduci
We were greeted by Marina's dog, Ginger, and her two cats.
Ginger and cats
There were actually other "WWOOFers" there when we got there, so we had some company past Marina. (And others to learn from, because Lord knows we had no clue as to what we were doing). It seemed like it was going to be a good experience. We started that afternoon with wrapping grape vines to, sort of, organize and clean-up the rows. Madi was moving particularly slow trying desparately to avoid spiders (which were everywhere! That is not a great time to be an arachnophobe. :-/ But the work itself wasn't too bad.
At least, we thought it wasn't. After a few hours, Madi's shoulders started to really bother her, and it turned out that we didn't get along with Marina. We think it's more clashing personality types than anything else. Marina made it clear that if Madi couldn't handle wrapping the vines (aka-the easiest work on the farm), than how on earth will she be able to do other work? The other WWOOFers left a few days after we had arrived, and almost immediately after the personality clashes got more frequent and more intense. We ultimately decided that between Madi's shoulders and not getting along with Marina (now just the 3 of us on the farm) that it would be best for us to leave. It was not an easy decision to make - or to share with Marina, but it was necessary. She had another trip back to Florence on our 6th day there, so we told her in Florence and headed to Rome 10 days early.
So, we're sure you can imagine that we've been kind of busy. We got an apartment last minute in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome and settled in. This is a very long post, and we apologize - but Rome ended up being a bit longer. Now, you may not know this, but there are a ton of things to do and see in Rome...
Which basically means you're going to have to go to our gallery to look at most of the photos.
We started by doing a walking tour of the Testaccio neighborhood in which there is a pyramid, a fortified wall, a mountain made entirely of broken terra cotta vases from Roman times, a cemetery for the non-Catholic population and fantastic views of Rome.
Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners
The Angel of Grief
We began to wander a little more around downtown Rome and seemed to find monuments and ruins everywhere.
The next day we went to see the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. They were okay. ;-)
Arch of Constantine
We spent the next day at the National Museums and the Etruscan Museum. A lot of old stuff. So cool!
Walking along the Tiber river was gorgeous.
And it was both neat and sobering to see the Jewish Ghetto. There were reminders of the Jewish community's time of forced isolation in medieval times and their oppression during WWII. It was a vibrant and unique community, so resilient. Their synagogue was built (originally, obviously) during ancient Roman rule and then rebuilt when forced into a ghetto 1500 or so years later.
Our next day we took a day trip to Ostia Antica which is an ancient port city. How cool to walk around roads and go into buildings that once had people walking around in the first centuries AD. Spend some time with the pictures; the ruins are amazing.
Our next morning was one we had specially set aside. Wednesday mornings are for the Papal Audience at the Vatican. We went to go see Pope Francis!!
Afterwards, we went to the Vatican museums. Besides the Sistine Chapel, the exhibits we most wanted to see were closed, so that was disappointing. However, we still enjoyed the visit. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed in the Chapel, so we have none of those to share. There are a few of some other works of art in the photo gallery.
Going inside the Pantheon was next on our agenda. We headed to downtown Rome from the Vatican - not so easy of a task, actually, and went inside the famous work of architecture.
An item on Madi's Rome to-do list was to go to a major piazza and fountain, wear her "piazza dress" (a 1st anniversary present from Colin - and yes, that's the name of the dress style), and get her photo taken while eating some gelato. So we had a little photo shoot. Madi had fun. Colin stressed about helping Madi get good pictures before the camera battery died. Yeesh. It was a quick but fun side-bar from our rush of site-seeing.
On Saturday, we visited St. Peter's Basilica. As well as doing the famous basilica upstairs, we were able to do the much rarer trip to the St. Peter's Necropolis. This is the lower stratum of the basilica, where the original old basilica was built before the Renaissance. It was very neat to be able to see the ancient cemetery that was the original burial site of St. Peter. We unfortunately could not get any photos of the necropolis for conservation reasons, but we have some of St. Peter's Basilica.
We were then able to join a food tour through the workaday Roman neighborhood of Testaccio. Testaccio has long been known for it's blue-collar meat workers, so it has some of the best, down-to-earth Roman food in the city. We toured the entire city, being shown some of the best restaurants, It was a great tour, and we were glad to be able to get to know a less touristy neighborhood.
One of our final destinations was the Appian Way. This was an ancient Roman road that still exists and is used. It was the site of the crucifixion of Spartacus and those who joined his slave revolt, and is also one of the oldest sections of road still in existence. We walked along it, and saw the various sites that were along the way.
We'll be posting about Naples and Dubrovnik soon.