Italy/Western Mediterranean Cruise
My friends and I spent two nights in Venice before going on a Western Caribbean Cruise on the Splendour of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. We had a Royal Family Suite which gave us access to the concierge lounge. The suite had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one with a tub. The concierge lounge offered us the concierge service to make dinner reservations, had a special presentation for shore excursions, and it was a quiet spot to have a continental breakfast, bring your breakfast or lunch from the buffet, and at dinner time, they had d’oeuvres, coffee and drinks. A very nice perk with a suite.
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We stayed at a great hotel, Best Western Hotel Olimpia. The water taxis were on strike, so we took a mini-van to the Piazza Roma. The Hotel Olimpia was directly across the canal from the Piazza. The hotel had been completely remodeled and it was beautiful. The breakfast room overlooks the canal and they offered a nice selection of items daily for breakfast. If you stay at other hotels in an area that cannot be reached by a water taxi, you will have to drag your suitcases.
We visited the Ca Rezzonico Mansion. This magnificent palace is now a Museum of 18th century Venice on the Grand Canal. The building was fully completed in 1758 and is owned by the Venice Town Council since 1935. It was fascinating to see how people used to live. We continued on to visit St. Mark’s Cathedral, Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, Rialto Bridge and Scala del Bovolo. The Scala del Bovolo is a small palace in Venice, Italy, best known for the external spiral staircase, with a plethora of arches, known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (of the snail). The palace is located in a less-traveled side-street near the Campo Manin, near the Rialto.
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We took a walking tour in Split with our guide Leo who was an Art Historian. We walked from the ship into the old walled city where Emperor Diocletian retired. It was a walled city so the people who lived here were well protected. The Diocletian Palace had two wells of fresh water which was brought by Roman aqueducts 4 km from the mountains. People still live in the walled city and the houses are passed down from one generation to the next. If it is to change hands out of the family, the city must approve it. Leo was fantastic and very knowledgeable.
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Pompeii was a one hour drive from the ship. It was great to walk around and see the different areas and things that they had – amphitheaters, homes, shops and the red light district. I love these historical sites. The shops in Pompeii had metal tracks for the doors to be rolled open on and they had shops which had round holes with wood burning under them and they would set the pots of food on top, making it one of the first fast food shops. Pompeii had fresh water brought in by aqueducts and delivered by lead pipes. They said that the Romans actually died of lead poisoning. You could actually see the ruts in the stones which were made by the chariots.
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After Pompeii, we drove to Sorrento which is beautiful. With an hour and a half of free time, we had a wood fired pizza for lunch at Ristorante La Lanterna, which was excellent, we then did some shopping before heading back to the bus.
We were supposed to leave Naples port, but were delayed. It turned out that they had found a bomb from WWII in the port while they were working that day and we had to wait for the authorities to come and disarm it.
We drove to a local farm in the hills where 2-3 women started a cooperative, bought four acres and have now added two more acres on the hillside. They use every inch of land and grow fruits, nuts, olives, and make mozzarella cheese. It was very interesting. They gave us samples of the mozzarella with tomatoes and prosciutto with herbs, wine and lemon cake. I bought a bottle of lemon crème from them.
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It takes 1.5 hours to go each direction from the ship into Rome. We took a tour of the Coliseum, Glories of the Gladiators. It was unbelievable! It was hard to imagine that the Coliseum was only used 4-6 times a year for special events. When they discontinued using the facility, people began taking the building materials to build homes and some actually lived within the walls of the Coliseum. From there we walked to the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Rome is very walkable, but the signage is not easy to follow.
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This was a beautiful port. We took a boat into the city from the ship which took about 15-20 minutes. We visited the Maritime Museum which offered phones where you choose your language. You would then enter the number of the display and it explained what you were looking at. This was an excellent museum. From there we walked around and visited the St. Louis Church, walked past the Cathedral and ended at the Provencal Market.
The Market was about 3-4 of our city blocks and had everything for sale. The sights and scents were wonderful and very fascinating.
This was a fabulous trip. My favorite places were Split and Pompeii/Sorrento.
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