Archive for December, 2012

December 27, 2012

Ancient Capitals Journey – Israel

Our Middle Eastern Voyage of Discovery continued…. Israel and Palestine, the heart of our Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, docking in Ashdod and Haifa.  We walked in the footsteps of the founders of the worlds great religions, on paths dating back several thousand years. We visited ancient holy places; Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gethsemane, Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism, the Way Of  The Cross, Nazareth, and Cana. We boated the ‘David’ for a tour on the Sea of Galilee, and visited churches built at the request of the Roman Emperor Hadrian’s mother in 325AD at the sites  of  the Nativity, the Crucifixion, and the tomb of Jesus.  Lunch in the ‘old city’ near the Via Dolorosa…fascinating architecture.

We experienced the walls that separate the Israeli and Palestinian states, and the difference in the two cultures.  It is truly amazing to see the transformation from a desert region to an oases that has been accomplished by the Israeli people in just over sixty years. In Jerusalem the beautiful architecture, the modern transportation systems, and the wonderful living spaces built along side ancient history with such careful consideration to antiquity is an example for all the world.

December 21, 2012


Buon Natale 2012 e Felice Anno Nuovo ~ 2013 !

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December 12, 2012

Next stop on my Ancient Capitals journey – Egypt

After a wonderful visit in Athens, it was time to board our Oceania cruise ship, the Nautica for the next 11 days of our Ancient Capitals journey.  Our congenial small group is prepared for a very port intensive experience, spending eight full days ashore exploring the highlights of Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem, Behtlehem, Nazareth, Rhondes, Ephesus, and Istanbul.    The Nautica warmly welcomed us ‘back home’ after our extensive explorations from each port.  Our personal knowledgeable guides and their attention to detail helped us to be able to appreciate and see a great deal in each of our days ashore.

It is a truly amazing experience to follow in the footsteps of King Tut, Cleopatra, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, King Richard & the Crusaders, Saladin..the savior fo the Arab world, St Paul, Suleiman, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Turks, the Israelites and the Byzantines.

It is mind-boggling to see how advanced these civilizations were from 4500 years past.  From the Antiquites Museum in Cairo, the Solar Boat at the Giza pyramids, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Acropolis in Rhodes, the Parthenon of Athens, the Terrace Houses in Ephesus, the St Sophia Basilica in Istanbul to mention only a few of teh fifty historical sites we visited.  To see their beautifully designed cities, their architecture and art…just leave one in awe at the brillance and sophistication of the times.

solar boatTut's second coffin

Upon arriving at Giza, our visit to the Pyramids, the Valley Temple, and the Sphinx did not disappoint.  We then visited a relatively new Pharaonic discovery,  the Solar Boat, housed in it’s own museum, just near the pyramids, where it was uncovered. The storage pit had been airtight and the boat was in a remarkable state of preservation, arranged in thirteen neatly piled layers, complete with ropes for rigging and pieces of matting.  This 4500 year old boat built primarily of cedar, was fully reassembled – all 1200+ pieces.  A very remarkable sight!  The Pyramid Texts clearly state that at the end of the pharaoh’s life on Earth, his soul ascends to the heavens in the solar barque to join his father Re.  And hence the vehicle.  On to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquites, where a few of the highlights include the treasures of the Tomb of Tutankhamen and the extraordinary Mummies Room with incredibly well preserved 3000-year-old faces !

To read the next installment of my Ancient Capitals Journey check out Ancient Capitals Journey – Israel

December 11, 2012

Brunello di Montalcino

case basse brunello brunelloIn a move to increase wine tourism, the Brunello di Monalcino Consortium recently launched a free app for travelling iPhone and iPad users. Called iBrunello HD, the app features a host of information on the area and its wineries, the different types of wines produced in Montalcino, plus news, events, photo galleries, and more. App users can also personalize a travel itinerary in the area. ‘We’ve launched the tool to meet the needs of the new “smart” tourists and wine lovers, who want to visit an area quickly and easily,’ said Fabrizio Bindocci, president of the consortium.

On a sad note, Wine Spectator covered the story about last week’s vandalism at a Montalcino winery  –  Late at night Dec. 2, someone entered the cellar of Gianfranco Soldera’s Montalcino winery, Azienda Agricola Case Basse, and opened all the spigots on his casks of aging wine. Soldera lost more than 16,500 gallons of wine, his entire production of wines aging in botti, spanning six vintages from 2007 to 2012. Italian authorities are investigating. “You can imagine the damage, because six vintages are involved, but it’s not just the economic damage, the present, it’s the future,” Soldera told Wine Spectator.  Il Poggione’s Alessandro Bindocci, son of Consorzio president Fabrizio Bindocci, expressed solidarity for Soldera on his blog Montalcino Report: “The territory of Montalcino is a small and tranquil territory where many people still leave their doors of their homes unlocked. To find out about these sad events is shocking and it brings forth the spirit of solidarity that distinguishes the producers of Montalcino.”

December 10, 2012

Italian News Bites

sistine chapelFLR biking Sistine chapel celebrates 500 years

Welcoming 20,000 people a day-5 million per year-the Sistine chapel is the most visited room in the world. The Vatican recently celebrated the 500th year of its most precious treasure, Michelangelo’s masterwork on the chapel’s ceiling, with a special Vespers held by Pope Benedict XVI.  Michelangelo’s magnificent frescoes, which depict scenes of the Old Testament on the 1,100 square-metre vault of the chapel, were first unveiled to the public on October 31, 1512, All Saints Day, when Pope Julius II celebrated Vespers to mark the event.  It took Michelangelo four years to complete the ceiling frescoes, while the most recent restoration, completed in 1994, took 14 years. AntonioPaolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, stated that the Sistine Chapel would not put a cap on the number of visitors anytime soon: ‘Although there are a set of concerns about the conditions in the chapel, we won’t be setting any quotas.’

Direct connect to Bologna airport

 A new shuttle service began  between Florence and Bologna’s G. Marconi airport. Called the Apennines Shuttle, the service offers 10 departures daily from the Bologna airport and 10 from the Firenze Fortezza and Calenzano Carrefour stops. With tickets priced at 19 euro (reduced prices for children), each coach can seat 51 passengers. Find more information and purchase tickets at Tickets are also available at the Bologna Airport website (

Biking in Florence

With the nation’s unemployment at a record 10.7 percent and facing the prospect of deepening austerity cuts and rising inflation, many Italians are trading in their more costly cars for cheaper two-wheelers. Recent statistics indicate that new car sales are falling below bike sales in Italy for the first time since World War II.  There are many reasons why biking is better than driving, but there is still room for improvement. Biking in Florence (and other Italian cities) is still a far cry from the high safety levels of pedalling in more bike-friendly cities across the Atlantic, such as Portland, Oregon. I can attest to this fact, having cycling in both cities.  Though I must admit, I feel safer cycling in the Tuscan countryside than the rural roads outside of Portland.  The Italian rural drivers, young and old alike, seem to feel the country roads are to be shared by all.
December 5, 2012

My recent journey to the Ancient Capitals

2012-05-12 11.21.122012-05-12 08.41.34I have just returned from an incredible journey to the heart of ancient civilization: Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Palestine, and Turkey.  It ranks as one of the highlight trips of my 30+ years of traveling!  From a geo-political, archeological, antiquities, and ancient history perspective the trip exceeded my expectations in everyway.

The journey for our sympatico group of 15, began in Athens…renowned as one of the greatest cities of the ancient world and the birthplace of western civilization.   I have visited Athens many times, but the thrill of stepping out on my balcony to a magnificient view of the Acropolis is reason enough to return to this city time and time again.

Our expert guide escorted us to many of the world’s masterpieces….the Temple of Apteros Nike, the Erechtheum and the eternal Parthenon.  These marble monuments and temples built in the classical times remind us that the Acropolis is more than the living history of Greece, it is the western world’s prototype of aesthetics.  To walk in the steps of Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates is mightly powerful (old friends from college as a Philosophy major).

A highlight for three of the runners in our group, was to run some laps around the track at the beautiful Panathenaikon Stadium early one morning before any tour buses arrived. In ancient times, the stadium on this site was used to host the athletic portion of the Panathenaic Games, in honor of the Goddess Athena. During classical times, it had wooden seating. In 329 BC it was rebuilt in marble.  In 1895 the stadium was refurbished a second time for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.  Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek  stadium, the Panathenaic is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble.

Lovely all city view from atop Lycabettus Hill, which is basically the center of Athens, where the beautiful white stucco Agios Girogis Church sits.

Another highlight was a visit to the recently completed New Acropolis Museum. The museum is located by the southeastern slope of the Acropolis hill, on the ancient road that led up to the “sacred rock” in classical times.  The winning design revolves around three concepts: light, movement, and a tectonic and programmatic element. Together these characteristics “turn the constraints of the site into an architectural opportunity, offering a simple and precise museum” with the mathematical and conceptual clarity of ancient Greek buildings. The museum itself is elevated on pillars over an extensive archeological site.  The structure is remarkable.  It opened in summer of 2009 and houses artifacts from the Acropolis and is prepared to house more when they are returned to Athens from other museums around the world.     Check out my next post, Next stop on my Ancient Capitals journey – Egypt


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