As I mentioned in a previous post, several years ago we spent a few days in Siena, Italy. This photo, taken from a tower you can climb, shows the old part of the city, with Piazza del Campo in the middle. As you can see, Siena is compact enough that it is easy to explore by foot and small enough that from above you can get photos that capture both the city and the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside in the background. Siena has everything you would expect from an Italian city you would want to visit: beautiful historic buildings, towers rising high above the city, an impressive cathedral, and Italian food so delicious that thinking about it years later will make your mouth water.
Many photographers post photos of St. Peter’s Basilica with a completely empty St. Peter’s Square. I’m not sure how they do it, whether the secret is getting there super early, taking multiple photos and merging them to remove people from the photo, using the erase tools in their photo editor of choice, or just getting lucky. Regardless, the times I was there, it looks pretty much the opposite of those photos, packed full of people. So, if there are going to be people in the photo, why not just go all out and get a photo when it was about as crowded as possible? This photo was taken shortly after The Pope had finished speaking, so St. Peter’s Square was filled with people, many of them making their way out as I was attempting to capture a photo that I liked.
San Gimignano is a small medieval town not far from Siena, Italy. The town is known as the “Town of Beautiful Towers” due to the 14 towers that dominate the town’s skyline. The town sits atop a hill and provides wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. San Gimignano is surrounded by a medieval wall and is a very compact town, making a great place to visit for an afternoon or to spend a few days escaping the hustle and bustle of the larger tourist cities in Italy. On the day we visited, these beautiful tall clouds provided the perfect backdrop for a photo of this charming town.
Italy knows pizza. I know this isn’t a groundbreaking revelation, but the pizza in Italy is unlike the pizza anywhere else in the world. It’s not overly complicated. Fresh, thin crust. Fresh ingredients. Delicious sauce and cheese. Done. No stuffed crust. No greasy crust. No crust flavors. Simplicity. No need to cut the pizza into pieces, just throw it on a plate and serve it. There are many things I miss about Italy, and the pizza is definitely near the top.
This is a bad photo of a great pizza. The composition is not good, with the knife and fork both getting cut off on the sides of the photo, the bottoms of the glasses and the basket of bread above the plate are distracting, and the depth of field isn’t deep enough for the entire pizza to be in focus. But with such a delicious pizza in front of me (and taken many years ago before I really considered composition), can you blame me? This pizza was photographed then eaten in a restaurant in Taormina, a quaint village along the coast of Sicily.
Several years ago we spent a couple days in Siena, a city in the Tuscany region of Italy. While not as well known as more popular tourist destinations like Florence and Pisa, Siena is a beautiful town with tons of charm and impressive sights like the cathedral and main piazza. This photo is of the Basilica of San Domenico. The outside of the Basilica is not very aesthetically pleasing in my opinion, so when we got this wonderful sunset the night we were there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a silhouette photo. There are so many great places to visit in Italy that it is hard to see them all, but Siena is definitely worth a visit. Rick Steves, who I have always found useful when planning travel to Europe, has some good information about Siena on his website.
This is not one of the best photos I have ever taken. However, the adventure behind this story is worth telling. But before I get to that, I want to point out something funny I noticed about this photo. It was taken back in the summer of 2010. If you look closely at the crowd (if you click on the photo, you can view the full resolution version), you can see that everyone taking a photo is using a camera, mostly point and shoot cameras which have almost disappeared in the 8 1/2 years since this photo was taken. I would imagine if I took the same photo today, almost everyone would be using their cell phones to capture that magical moment.
The adventure to (and from) Trevi Fountain
In 2010, my wife and I worked for one of the major cruise lines. We signed off the ship we were working on in the morning in Rome, Italy but our flights weren’t until the following morning. So, after dropping off luggage at our airport hotel, we spent the day exploring Rome. After sightseeing all day, we had some dinner, then returned to see a few of the sights at night. The last of these was Trevi Fountain. We took the metro to the stop nearest Trevi Fountain on the line coming from near the Colosseum, thinking it would be easy to find from there but we were wrong. Eventually my wife used her limited Italian language skills to ask someone how to get to Trevi Fountain and we were on our way. But it was late, around 10:30pm and the final train leaving Roma Termini to get back to our hotel by the airport departed before midnight. This was before Google Maps and cell phones with GPS were common, so we had no idea whether we were 10 minutes or an hour away and no clue of how to get there other than retracing our steps to the metro station we had come from.
My wife looked at the fountain for about a minute then started walking back towards the metro station. I spent a couple minutes taking photos then ran after her. Our timing was not good, we just missed the train we needed at the metro station and had to wait 10-15 minutes for the next one, time we didn’t have to spare. We arrived at the Termini metro station which is connected to Roma Termini a little over 5 minutes before our train was supposed to depart and realized how incredibly massive the train station is. As we ran towards the platform our train was leaving from (conveniently as far away from where we were coming from as possible), we heard an announcement in Italian, not knowing what the announcement was but knowing just enough Italian to know it was about our train and assuming the announcement was that the train was about to depart.
Our run turned into a sprint, believing we had seconds, not minutes before the train would pull away. I made it to the train first and jumped on, looking back as she continued to run towards the train, still not confident she would make it before the train started moving. Fortunately, she did, and we had a seat on the mostly empty train and caught our breath. It turned out that the train departed several minutes late. We chatted with one of the few people seated near us as we waited for the train to depart. He was from New York and had come to Italy to visit a woman he had met online. She lived a couple hours from Rome and he had flown from New York to Rome but somehow didn’t see any of the sights in Rome which I found a little strange, but to each their own.