Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Italy Part 2

As far to one side as my brother’s request for “nothing touristic” was, our itinerary for Nathalia was: “Everything touristic!” I think we honored them both. 

If you tilt the camera up just a tad
you can hide the hundreds of people just in front of you


Rome is a ghetto built on the foundations of the most noble of all cities. There are some gorgeous sections but it’s their adjacency to history that make them compelling.  What began as a city state grew to encompass the known world in what was one of civilizations longest runs…. But make no mistake – the splendor of Rome is in the past and its exposed ruins are the highlights. New discoveries are opening to the public occasionally and it’s why I will always return. 

The Roman Forum is huge and so very fascinating.
Nathalia (Aleja's sister) joined us for 2 weeks in Italy. A great time was had by all

Those who know, count their aging days with an ever-dwindling number of return trips to Rome. It is the eternal city but none of us are. How many more times will you walk the Roman Forum or climb to the top of the Palatine Hill? There have been recent memes about how often per day men think of Rome. I thought it was only me. I’m happy to know I’m not alone. The real question should be – “How many times will you return to Rome before the chance eludes you? Stop at nothing: Rome now! 

There is no "checking Rome off your list". The archeological excavations are forever ongoing and won't be concluded in your lifetime. They recently reopened the Tiberiana palace on the Palatine hill shortly after we left. It had been closed for 50 years. We missed it. New marvels continue to come to light. There is always good reason to return to Rome.

This archeological spot just opened to the public.
We were some of the first to be allowed access

It's believed this is where Julius Caesar was assassinated

We stayed at a campground on the outskirts and took a train in each day to join the mobs of tourists all doing the same thing. 

I took this picture from the Colosseum

This is the interior of the Colosseum. Those aren't cannon holes.
The marble casing stones have been stolen and used for the Vatican.
(The correct name is not the Colosseum but the Flavian Amphitheater)

Alejandra has a Roman name and it is Pompis Maximus. I’m not going to elaborate on that joke. You’ll have to meet a Colombian and ask them to explain it. 

I know you are supposed to be focusing on the Pantheon but take a peek at those thighs. That's Colombia's space program. Those are the thrusters that can put satellites into orbit

The Pantheon

How is the Pantheon not the most interesting building on earth? Originally built by Agrippa sometime between 27BC - 14AD. It later burned. Hadrian rebuilt it in about 126 AD but kept the original dedication stone to Agrippa (full respect for his humility). It is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome after almost 2000 years. It’s the best preserved of all the Roman buildings because it’s been in continuous use since its inception as a temple for the Roman gods. It became a Catholic church in 609 AD. The granite columns were quarried in Egypt, floated down the Nile, sailed across the Mediterranean, hauled from the port in Rome and lifted into place. 

Its front side boxy exterior belies its grand internal globe shape. The open oculus in the center demands you to look straight up. Cue the orchestra. Mind blown. I always wanted to see it in the rain. We got lucky.

There is a drain in the floor and they just squeegee it away

The doors (4.5 meters x 7.5 meters) are the oldest in Rome. They were once thought to be medieval replacements but metal analysis proved them to be original. Sometimes you get the double win!

Without a doubt –The Pantheon is the most interesting building in the world. 


We headed south and parked in the shadow of Vesuvius. We toured both Heracleum and Pompeii in 2 consecutive days. It was over kill. There is no reason to see them both back-to-back. Especially after 3 days of scouring every inch of Rome like a bloodhound. 

Pompeii is astounding. There are actually ruins from older cultures below these
but they are laser focused on 79 AD

The ruts from long before

That's the volcano in the background. You can see how much blew off the top in the eruption.
8000 souls lived here in AD 79. None of them died peacefully in their sleep.

Fortunately we woke up just fine

The following pix are actually Heracleum. This was a smaller village near Pompeii that was also wiped out. In some ways it was even better preserved.

The sisters in the spa

See the skeletons? They originally thought the people made it out but they later found their bodies down by the seafront waiting for rescue

Do the modern buildings in the background look like improvements?
Nah - I don't think so either. Italy's best days are behind her

You saw it in the opening scenes of the James Bond movie “No Time To Die”. Though it looks like Jerusalem with that white biblical limestone it’s actually a much older city. Inhabited for maybe (it’s debatable) 12,000 years, Matera might be the longest continuously inhabited city in the world. What started out as caves hewn into the soft chalky stone called calcium carbonate have had houses built around, over and under them. It’s fascinating to walk all the little alleyways and gain the photographic vantage points that are in no short supply.

As fortune would have it our friend Serena was living here.
She was one of our besties in Alicia Argentina

Wonderful town with kind locals


We parked at a nice campsite within walking distance to the harbor and the historic section of town. If Italy is shaped like a boot - this is the bottom of the heel, and our extreme southern point of this excursion. It’s a scenic little spot that as well as Matera, is on the Borghi Piu Belli list. On a long enough timeline there will be eras of misery but this city has a particularly gruesome chapter.

In 1480 the Ottomans captured the city. They immediately slaughtered all the male inhabitants over the age of 15, and all the toddlers and infants. This amounted to over 12,000 people. The archbishop was beheaded and his priests were sawn in half. The women and children were hauled away to be sold into slavery. They made a ceremony of offering salvation to anyone who would convert to Islam. None did and 800 were publicly beheaded. One by one. It went on for many many hours.  These people were later canonized by the pope and made into saints. So they got that going for them. 


Sorry – I can’t bring myself to pull any punches. This place is an unworthy tourist trap. Sometimes you get duped. Aleja loved it cuz it’s Instagram cute (wait in line to take the same shot everyone else is taking and then go order pizza and beer) Enjoy the pix below and cross this town off your list.

Canosa De Puglia

There is no reason to go to this town for anything above ground. It’s a complete dump full of trash and vacant of charm. The allure are the tombs that filled the museum with pristine treasures. 

2500 years old and paint still on the walls

Not Mexico....Italy

While excavating for a school, the back hoe broke into a chamber. Work was halted and the board of antiquities was called. It turns out it was a Daunia tomb that predated the Romans and was completely intact and never looted by grave robbers. That’s not unheard of, but very rare. This means the items in the museum weren’t glued back together with missing fragments. Tiny but great museum. 

Napoli drop off

May you never have to drive a big rig in Naples. I thought Lima, Peru was tough. This is close to that. The Italians are wonderful people but they have no generosity behind the wheel.


We parked among the pines and planned our upcoming Albanian trip. Cute little village with great views of the surrounding lands steeped in history. Our ferry was only a couple days away 

The Ferry to Albania

They demanded Aleja exit the vehicle. I drove in reverse into the bowels of the night ferry that would take us across the Adriatic. That was a little unnerving for me. I’m not used to driving in tight confines down a steep grade in reverse while a man yells at me in Italian. Once the parking brake was engaged, we found our sweaty windowless cabin and settled in for the night. And thus concludes 40 days and 40 nights in Italy. It was wonderful!

Your man on point,

~ Roberto ~

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Italy Part 1

Our First Morning in Italy 

We awoke beneath the granite megalith of the Alps. Early August and it’s 44 degrees (7 Celsius). We had packed the camper with French delicacies for my brother, whom I was picking up in Milan the next day. We had less than 200 KM to drive but lots of cleaning to do. With hot coffee in hand, we embraced a new country and a new adventure. 

Ah Italy – the staccato sound of that octave active language, the smell of the roasted espresso & second-hand smoke. The art, architecture and history – second to none. Italy is tremendous for so many reasons. 


The airport pickup worked smoothly and we drove to our first parking lot. The lower town is not worth commenting on but the upper town of Bergamo is a highlight. We were here last year and knew it would not disappoint. 

How many Americans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
3. 1 to screw in the lightbulb and 2 to make the t-shirt

We met up with our friends Mike and Nat and may have had a drink or two while catching up on interim adventures since we saw them last in Morocco and Spain. 


Agriturismo spots are my new favorite. It’s jumped up glamping with a high euro resto attached. We ran the aircon full time and focused on the food and camaraderie. 

As I write this Aleja is working on a crossword puzzle. Welcome to the family AB!


We traded in the lovely campsite for a bombed-out parking lot but the medieval town and castle of Pontremoli was a pleasure to stroll.  

Bronze age stele from the 3rd millennium BC


Our climb to elevation didn’t help. It was scorching hot. We found free parking with a power plug for solid 240 volts. The aircon saved us and we decided to get serious about our Italian liquors and the promises they whispered. 


Italy has a state sanctioned list of the prettiest villages in the country. It’s not short. It’s called The Borghi Piu Belli (The Most Beautiful Villages) and there are 349 of them. The criteria are almost as long as the list of hamlets but the one that grabs me is the “No cars in the historical center” requirement. Walking hubs in ancient villages make me smile. Gives me an idea too… why not try to hit them all? I got a motorhome in Europe and it feels like a worthy endeavor. Who better? 

Aleja schools her minions


When I invited my brother to Europe last Xmas he was very clear that he didn’t want to join the hordes in playing tourist at packed museums, crowded cities or steaming beaches. He just wanted to hang out with the 2 of us. You’ve got to remember that even though Aleja and I have been together for 7 years they had never met. He lives in Tokyo and she’s never been to the States. After a couple nights I asked him what he thought of her. He said, I’ve seen the videos and photos for many years and now to finally meet her it’s like coming face to face with a celebrity. They got along famously. 

Ruscello is nothing to speak of. We spent 4 nights parked in a nice campground with all the amenities. We focused on eating and drinking and playing a Swedish game called Kubb. The brothers got loaded and listened to an old playlist from our formative years when we were vital and daring. Music and memories and laughs and reforging of bonds.

Goodbye Skinny

We’d had our last meal and it was time. We dropped him at the Rome airport and headed for the hills. We had a week until we needed to return to Rome and pick up Aleja’s sister and decided to use the time in between to decompress in the mountains where the weather man was predicting cooler climes. 

I only have the one brother and he means everything to me. I’m grateful for those 2 weeks and that he’s willing to take long flights. We’ll meet again in December at LAX, and in Feb I’ve rented an apartment in Medellin Colombia and he’s flying over for a couple of weeks. Family!

Near Opi

From Rome to this area was a very pretty drive. We tucked into another great campground with the promise of doing absolutely nothing. We got that and more. It usually starts with me petting some stranger’s dog. This was no different. I’ve had a few bites and rabies shots over the years but it’s all been worth it. The Italians parked across from us immediately invited us to dinner and once the drinking commenced, we became best friends with plans to do everything together. There were a lot of them and one was friendlier than the next. They fed us and we imbibed deeply. The singing and dancing at the end were the bow on a perfect Italian gift. 

Part 1 of Italy was spent with my brother and part 2 of Italy will see the arrival of Aleja’s sister. Stay tuned…

Your Man On Point,

Captain Bobby


When you drive around Europe, you begin to see a pattern: Hard scrabble peasants colonized by the civilized Romans. From England to Spain, F...