Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


Trevi At Dawn

On the morning that we flew out, I got up at 5 before the sun was up. I walked though the sleeping city to The Trevi Fountain with the hope that I might have some quite moments with it. I wasn’t disappointed. When I arrived I found myself with 5 or 6 photographers there looking to capture the exactly what I hoped to.

We all hung back at the fringes to stay out of each other’s shots and watched and waited for the light. It was such a lovely contrast from my visit to The Fountain days prior. The throngs of people with the selfie sticks were gone. The city was holding its breath for the subtle ways the light shifts second by second at dawn.

As the sun came up the instagrammers came too. And I needed to get back to our room to finish my last minute packing, and get on a plane. That quiet morning was the perfect way to wish Italy a fond farewell. I hope to see you again one day.


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We Found The Cats

Jeannine thought that cats at Roman ruins were a thing. Until this point in the trip we only saw one solitary cat at Pompeii, and while I was thrilled with everything, the only way to improve the best things for me is to add cats. An ice cream cone is better with a kitten in your lap. A nap is better with a purring furry little buddy. A morning of coffee and contemplation is improved with some lazy cat snuggles.

We found the cats. With the help of our tour guide in Pompeii. Jeannine asked her about the cats and Roman ruins thing, and she confirmed this was not just magical legend. She directed us to a ruin that also houses a cat sanctuary.

This ruin is just smack in the middle of modern Rome. It takes up more than one city block. It’s also the place where Caesar was assassinated, etu Brute’

But cheers to cats in the ruins!

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Pompeii Through Telephoto

We took a bus from Rome that drove up to Vesuvius and then on to Pompeii. You might wonder why we didn’t spend more time in Naples (the closest city to Pompeii, Pompeii is just outside of it.) Putting it simply, our friends who have visited said it was a dump. I’m sure my impression of it wasn’t improved in anyway when I researched how we might take public transit from Rome to Pompeii. According to Travel Advisor users the Naples bus station is flush with characters who are quite skilled at getting money from foolish tourists. We spoke a small amount of Italian, but still had that slack-jawed look about us that most people out of their element have.

When we were thinking about how we were going to spend our time, we didn’t feel that we wanted to sacrifice a night in Rome for a night in Naples to gain a full day in Pompeii. I can confirm all those days in Rome were worth it just for the Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe we had. We possibly missed excellent Neapolitan pizza, but we had already had stellar pizzas in Florence and Rome. How much better could it get? I felt like we were touching the face of God with the pizza already.

We were just trying to figure out who had what camera. Jeannine clearly had this camera, because there are pictures of me.

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Vesuvius and POMPEII

I have been fascianted with Pompeii since first hearing about it, so when a trip to Italy was first broached I enthusiastically said yes and POMPEII. I am fascinated by all aspects of the story. I am fascinated with seeing a city that was stopped in time and preserved across centuries. I am fascinated with the circumstances by which the city was extinguished and why it was forgotten and left untouched for so long.

I loved it. I want to go back and wander in it from dawn until dusk. I was struck with two things. First, the Romans were probably better city planners than we are now. Second, I left Pompeii with the conviction that those people weren’t all that different from us. Ancient history feels really remote, but they enjoyed food and entertainment just as we do. They took pride in their homes and in their work. And they also lived in comfort partially because they eploited people with less power. Not all that much has changed.

Walking the same streets that people walked 2000 years ago, I heard the echoes of the people who once lived there. The whole city felt as though the citizens were just out of sight; they would just duck around a corner moments before I turned it. They would disappear in doorways just before I raised my eyes to them. The armies of French teenagers roving there did a stellar job of throwing this vibe into the trash can.

Our guide Enzo grew up in Pompeii; his dad was a archaeologist who spent most of his career digging there. Enzo pulled no punches with the unruly French teens. I overheard him say bitterly to one of the other guides, “I go to the Louvre and talk in a normal tone of voice and get shushed by everyone. They send their kids here unattended, and they behave like little barbarians.” Although Enzo was very knowledgeable and funny, this was the moment that I knew we had the right guide.

But the obnoxious French teens weren’t enough to tarnish the experience for me. They were a minor annoyance. The next time I go back, I will however avoid field trip season.

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The Vatican & The Colosseum

Our guide at The Vatican was a lovely man. But he pointed out, too many times really, each time something was painted to look at though there are three dimensional decorations. While we lumbered through The Vatican we were regularly treated to him pointing to something and saying “It’s painted.” We got used to this familiar refrain, and we found ourselves reflexively saying “it’s painted” every time he drew our attention to something.

His consistency made it remarkable when his repetitive statement changed once we entered St Peter’s Basiclica. St Peter’s has had a history with fire and has had several of them over the years. Some wise guy during a rebuild had all the paintings replaced with mosaics. Have you guessed yet? It’s mosaics. It’s all mosaics.

And these two statements have come home with us.


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The Vatican And The Colosseum Is A Lot For One Day

I think I am sensitive to echos of the past. I have seen ghosts, and have lived haunted places. I am honestly not sure I believe my own experiences, so I completely get your skepticism.

Regardless, my life goes better when I take some care in going into spaces that have held big human emotions for decades and centuries. I get fatigued in antique stores. I love them, but I need to monitor my energy level and leave as soon as I feel fatigued, otherwise the emotions attached to those objects can overwhelm me.

So, I needed to be mindful going into the ancient places in Rome, like the Colosseum, the crypts, and catacombs. I have a grounding ritual where I envision sealing myself with white light, and I made sure to do that before entering any of those spaces.

Does it actually work? Who knows. The placebo effect works around 50 percent of the time. So maybe it works because I believe it to be so. That’s good enough for me.

So, in addition to that at The Vatican there’s the mental fatigue that comes from reconciling the raw political power and wealth of the church with a poor rebel who said things like the meek shall inherit the earth. I don’t even really ascribe to these beliefs anymore, but the ostentatious display of wealth at The Vatican still made me feel nauseous. Further, it was difficult for me to see these riches and then think about how the church in its response to abuse allegations clearly moved to protect these riches and its reputation over protecting children.

As if those aren’t reasons enough to feel drained, we also walked over 30,000 steps on this day. So. I am so thankful for this experience. But this day was hard on multiple levels, and I feel bad in no way whatsoever to say that I will never go back to The Vatican again.

On thing of note: we have no pictures of the Sistine Chapel. Photography is forbidden in there. It was amazing, but kissing the papal ring and giving them an offering of money once was enough. I will not do it again.


First Day In Rome – The Pantheon & Trevi Fountian

On our first day in Rome, we walked around and got our bearings. We checked out The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Rome at a population of 2.8 million is quite a bit bigger than Florence, a mere 300K. It felt it.

We learned that the Pantheon was originally a pagan temple that had been turned into a memorial for Christian martyrs. This became a theme in Rome. Pagan temples seemed to be frequently re-purposed churches. Which doesn’t feel weird to me until I think about what would happen if the Church of Satan bought up St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and flipped all the crosses around.

One thing that might not be apparent in all our pictures was that most of the places we visited in both Florence and Rome were jam-packed with people. And The Trevi Fountain was no exception. But I just adored it. It’s oddly tucked away, and it feels like you emerge from a unremarkable alley right into it. I liked it so well that we circled back to it later, so we could get some pictures of it at night. I think it’s partially that its placement in the city feels like so much of a surprise, and partially that some of the marble is unfinished and provides such a dramatic contrast to the sculpted stone.

Forgive me because, I just wanted to share all the pictures we took of it. I just loved it.

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Last Day In Tuscany

On our last day at Salvadonica we rented bikes, and explored the area checking out the closest town and the surrounding wineries. Jeannine got an e-bike and I got a regular hybrid. I am a cyclist, and ride to and from work in the nice weather. The ride has hills and its about eight and a half miles each way. Yet, those Tuscan hills kicked my butt. I was cursing my decision while watching Jeannine motor up the hills with ease.

We ended the day with messages and a lovely dinner at the restaurant on the premises at Salvadonica. The servers at the restaurant were a bit slow, even by Italian standards, but the food was excellent. It was a great way to wrap up our relaxing stay in the country. Tomorrow we checked out and started our busy, and exhausting Rome adventures.