From Formals to Gum boots: Cruising Rome-Rio and Forays into the Amazon, Part 1 – Italy

Here is a 5-part series of my vacation – a cruise from Rome to Rio and sojourn to the Brazilian Amazon last X’mas. We left on 12/2 and, despite misgivings about a 50 minute connection in Lima, returned as scheduled on 12/29. Of course one of our bags decided to take an extended vacation in Brazil, but that’s a separate issue…

Embarkation – Rome

Since we just spent 5 days in Rome last year, we decided to arrive a day early and stay in Trastevere across the Tiber River this trip. The next day’s quest was to take in the local sights while checking out bakeries and gelaterias before heading to the port of Civitavecchia at noon. For a few hours in the morning, we were tourists on steroids, snapping pix as we tore through the neighborhood.

Building façade in Trastevere

Building façade in Trastevere – No idea what this building is, but I love the stone and metal work of its imposing edifice.

Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere dates back to 4th century AD. The octagonal fountain in the piazza is an ancient Roman original.

Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in the evening

The mosaic tiles of the Romanesque church and tower look their glittering best at night when they are illuminated.

Chair in Furniture Showroom Window in Trastevere

Saw this thru a showroom window on our whirlwind tour. There’s an amazing array of patterns on the chair – but the mirrored symmetry of the back and seat patterns, with help of the neutral palette, pulled everything together.

Cappuccino and chocolate croissant at Cafe

My goal of sampling croissants and gelato fell short because most of the shops were either not yet open, or closed for the low season. But I hit jackpot at the venerable Checco er Carettiere, which sells both. Here’s my cappuccino and chocolate croissant. Another patron got a Christmas tree on her coffee! I tried the gelato and the marron glace was also excellent.

Kitten on a roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof??

Port 1 – Livorno

Our first port was Livorno, the gateway to Florence – if you like a long ride and hurried visit amongst cruise ship crowds.

Having visited the city before, I decided to take the train to the laid back Tuscan town of Lucca and return via Pisa for a more leisurely trip.

Unfortunately, Europe was hit by a cold spell, barely topping 37F at Lucca. So after a stroll around the town, we retreated to the roaring fireplace of La Buca di Sant’Antonio to defrost and enjoy a well deserved lunch. There were some gelaterias but it was too cold even for a gelato fanatic to be tempted!

Inside restaurant La Buca di Sant’Antonio in Lucca

Happy diner with a glass of great local wine and wonderful lunch. Luccan food was touted to be the best in Tuscany, and our meal at La Buca di Sant’Antonio was exceptional. The cinghiale (wild boar) stewed with olives and served with polenta was both hearty and flavorful, while the spit-roasted kid (carciofi ) came with a sublime crackling-crisp skin and juicy, tender meat. Yummm!

View from top of Lucca's city wall

View from atop Lucca’s medieval city wall. The town was practically deserted on this wintery Sunday morning.

Teddy Bear in Window Display

Teddy bear in a Christmas window display along Lucca’s main shopping promenades. Wouldn’t you want to take one home?

Duomo with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in background

Duomo in Campo dei Miracoli with the Leaning Tower (campanile) of Pisa in the background. With the latest stabilization effort, the tower is a mere 13 feet off-kilter.

Tourists posing with the Leaning Tower

It’s truly entertaining to watch the tourists posing with the tower – it looks like a tai chi class in full swing!

View of the Arno River in Pisa

View along the Arno River. Pisa is actually very pleasant and quiet if you wander beyond the tourist mobbed Piazza del Duomo.

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