split.

Today’s port of call from our Adriatic cruise is Split, Croatia.

If you aren’t familiar with Split, it is the 2nd largest city in Croatia.  Many people enjoy Split for its beaches, but we were much more interested in the fact that Split was built on the remains of Diocletian’s Palace, a Unesco World Heritage site dating back to A.D. 295.

Diocletian was a Roman emperor from 284 to 305.  He was the first Roman emperor to ever voluntarily give up the position and retire.  In fact, only 20 of the 70 Roman emperors died of natural causes, the rest were assassinated, died on the battlefield, were executed or forced to commit suicide (check out this link to read more about the demise of various Roman emperors).  Anyway, Diocletian built his palace in Split to serve as his retirement home.

It took 10 years to build and Diocletian spared no expense, importing marble from Italy and Greece, and columns and 12 sphinxes from Egypt.

They call it a palace, but in reality it was more of a military fortress with an imperial residence and a fortified town within its walls.  There are 220 buildings within the walls.  One thing that Mr. Q really wanted to find when we were there was a small model of the walled complex that he could buy, and lo and behold, he did find one.

That gives you some idea of what it would have looked like in Diocletian’s day.  Back then the waterline would have been at the front door (it no longer is).

Our ship docked just a short walk away from the Silver Gate, or the eastern entrance into the walled city.

The walk from the port to the Silver Gate takes you past a bus station and a strange gauntlet of luggage storage kiosks.  I’ve never seen so many people who want to store your luggage for the day.  Apparently travelers come to Split by ferry or bus just for the day and need to store their luggage somewhere while they hit the beach or explore the town.

But, more importantly, our walk also took us past an ATM machine.  Croatia has its own currency called the Kuna.  We withdrew a small amount of cash just in case we needed some, and lucky thing because the public bathrooms in Split are not free of charge.

We spent a bit of time just wandering around Split and admiring the unique look of ruins within a thriving city starting with the peristyle.  A peristyle is an open colonnade surrounding a court.

Here is my handsome husband with the peristyle behind him.

As you can see, this particular location was a tourist magnet.  How many tourists with cameras can you spot in this next photo?

We had sort of entered the peristyle through the back door.  The front door would have led into the Imperial Audience Hall with its oculus, which is just beyond that arched opening directly opposite in the above photo.  I’m sure the hall was designed to impress visitors as they arrived at Diocletian’s palace.

The building to the left (which is not at all visible in my photo of the peristyle) is the Cathedral of Saint Domnius.  The structure itself was built in AD 305 as the Mausoleum of Diocletian.  According to Wikipedia, it was later consecrated as the Cathedral of Saint Domnius at the turn of the 7th century AD and is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure, without near-complete renovation at a later date (though the bell tower dates from the 12th century, and was totally reconstructed in 1908 after it collapsed). By the way, Saint Domnius was martyred by Diocletian.  Hmmmm.  Such irony.

That bell tower is stunning, don’t you think?

Finally, off to the right when looking at my photo of the peristyle is the Temple of Jupiter.  However, this dude on display inside the temple is not Jupiter …

Instead this is a modern day bronze statue of St. John the Baptist, and I have no idea what he is trying to convey with that hand gesture.

But you have to look up to see the real treasure inside the temple.  It’s this vaulted ceiling which is original to the 300 A.D. structure.

Each of those 64 panels has a face in the middle representing a particular human emotion.  Let me get you a close up so you can see them …

Slightly freaky, am I right?

After visiting all of these spots we just wandered the town for a bit.  I simply had to snap a quick photo of this impossibly chic woman as she walked by …

I felt like I had literally stepped into the pages of a fashion magazine.  European cities simply have the best people watching opportunities!

After exploring for a bit, we came upon a coffee shop and the smell of rich, dark coffee brewing drew us inside for a coffee break.

Comically enough, shortly after we sat down with our coffee the skies opened up and it poured rain.  Honestly, we hadn’t even seen it coming.  It had been a lovely sunny day up until that moment.  Seriously, check out all of my photos above, the sky is blue!

So, what was only going to be a quick break for one cup ended up turning into a 2nd cup (and the use of a complimentary toilet) while we waited for the rain to subside.  In the meantime a lovely young couple ducked inside with a small baby sleeping in a baby carriage.  They sat at the table next to us and we struck up a conversation.  I have to tell you guys, this is Mr. Q’s favorite part of traveling.  He loves to meet people and just talk to them, he is a true extrovert.  The young man was from California, but his wife was from Split.  They lived in California, but had brought their young baby to meet the family in Split.  They told us that they actually got married in the Cathedral of Saint Domnius.  I bet that was a beautiful wedding.

The rain eventually passed and Mr. Q and I said goodbye to our new friends and headed out to stroll around some streets that were a bit more wet now before eventually making our way back to our ship.

We stopped off at a little kiosk along the way to spend the rest of our Kuna on some pop (FYI, that’s Minnesotan for soda for those of you not from around here) and a bag of chips (or as the British say, crisps).

By the time we got back to the ship the sun had come back out.

So we were able to sit on our balcony with our feet up, relax and enjoy the view before our ship once again set sail.  Next we are headed back to Italy, this time to Ravenna.  Be sure to check back next Wednesday to learn more about Ravenna and its beautiful mosaics.

made for each other.

One question that comes up rather frequently on my blog is ‘where do you get your inspiration?’  I’m betting that most of us find inspiration on pinterest, Instagram, in magazines and home decor books, and even in our friend’s homes … oh, and hopefully on your favorite blogs too 😉

But I want to add one more thing to that list for me, my travels.

Back in 2017 I was inspired to paint some things in what I called Norwegian Blue after a trip to Norway.

That’s actually Miss Mustard Seeds Flow Blue on that stool, which I thought made the perfect Norwegian Blue.

I was inspired to make my own Christmas wrapping paper after seeing some gorgeous velvet fabrics in Venice on our recent Adriatic cruise.

I also found some inspiration in Montenegro.  On Wednesday I shared our visit to Our Lady of the Rocks in Perast where I was very much enamored by the painted trim inside the chapel.

I love that combination of blue and gold.  It provided the perfect inspiration for revamping this thrift store frame that I picked up last year.

Naturally that slightly creepy picture of a girl was the first thing to go.  But the frame needed a little work too.  Here’s a close up ‘before’ photo …

The gold paint on the inner frame was barely hanging on by a thread.  Initially I was just going to brush off the loose paint, seal the rest, and call it good.  But most of the paint came off when I touched it.

So plan B was to give the frame a new look inspired by the chapel at Our Lady of the Rocks.

I used a small piece of sandpaper to remove as much of that flaking gold paint as possible and then I repainted the middle section of the frame using Prima Marketing’s re.design chalk paste in a color called Buxton Blue.

Are you wondering what exactly chalk paste is?

It’s basically a very thick version of chalk paint.  It is more commonly used in combination with a stencil to create dimension, but it can also just be used as a thickly textured paint.  It was the perfect choice for this frame because it left behind a textured, layered, aged looking finish with just one thick coat.

Once the Buxton Blue was dry, I pulled out the re.design decor wax in a color called Eternal, which is a gorgeous metallic gold.

Using a q-tip, I applied the wax to the inner-most section of the frame to brighten up the gold a bit.  Then I also used it to highlight the detail on the outer-most silver part of the frame to tie it in with the gold.

The final step was to toss the creepy girl picture and replace it with this water color over a Minneapolis plat map.  This was also a thrift store find, but it came framed in a really cheap and tacky modern metal frame.  And by the way, this is a print not an original artwork.

But it looks so much better (and more authentic) in this vintage frame, and can you believe how perfectly it fit!  It’s like they were made for each other.

So, what do you think?  Can you see where the inspiration from Our Lady of the Rocks played a role in this makeover?  Anyone else tempted to try a blue and gold color scheme on something?

our lady of the rocks.

Last Wednesday I shared part of the day we spent in Montenegro on our cruise in November, but I saved our morning tour to Our Lady of the Rocks and Perast for today.

As you may remember our ship sailed past these two spots in the early morning hours on the way to our dock in Kotor.

Our Lady of the Rocks is that little island on the left and St. George island is on the right in the photo above, and here is Perast …

Shortly after our ship docked in Kotor, we disembarked and took a short walk to another dock to board the smaller boat that would take us to Our Lady of the Rocks.

As I mentioned last week, the water in the Bay of Kotor was as smooth as glass.  As we were heading out, this beautiful sailing ship was heading in.

I believe this ship offers some sort of day excursion but I couldn’t find any info about it online.

Although it was a little chilly on the water, the sun came out and the scenery was amazing.

Our Lady of the Rocks is situated on a man-made artificial island.  There is a legend that the islet was created over the centuries by local seamen who kept an ancient oath after finding an icon of the Madonna and Child on a rock in the sea on July 22, 1452. Upon returning from each successful voyage, they laid another rock in the Bay. Over time, the island gradually emerged from the sea. Apparently the custom of throwing rocks into the sea is still alive. Every year at sunset on July 22, the local residents take their boats out and throw rocks into the sea, widening the surface of the island.

Initially a tiny orthodox chapel was built on the island, but in the 1600’s the Venetians took over this region and they replaced it with a Catholic chapel in 1630.  However, the current church was built in 1722.

The church contains 68 works painted by Tripo Kokolja in the late 1600’s.  According to Wikipedia, the paintings on the ceiling were badly restored by Josip Rossi in 1883.  If you look closely, especially at some of the faces, I think you’ll agree.

There are more of Kokolja’s paintings all around the perimeter of the chapel.

Above the painting hangs a collection of over 2000 silver votive offerings.

These are thin sheets of silver embossed with a design, in this case mostly of ships, that were presented by sailors to give thanks for a safe journey at sea.

There is a natural island (not man made) near Our Lady of the Rocks called St. George island.  It contains an abandoned monastery, but it was also used as a cemetery thus giving it the nickname ‘the island of the dead’.

I bet that would be a creepy place to visit at night, but I think I would have enjoyed seeing it by daylight.  However, our tour did not stop there.

Instead we headed over to Perast.

We could have stayed with our group and toured the local museum, but we were ready to just wander around on our own.  Passageways that look like this just call out to be explored!

We climbed up to the higher points in Perast to check out the view.

Then we headed back downhill and walked the length of Perast’s waterfront.

Along the way we encountered a local who was giving free samples of some Montenegrin pomegranate wine,  and naturally after test tasting it we had to buy some.  We still haven’t popped the cork on that bottle, I’m saving it for a lovely summer evening when we can enjoy it on the deck while fondly reminiscing about our day in Montenegro!

montenegro.

Before we get to the next stop in the line up from our Adriatic cruise last November, I have to tell you guys about the sea day in between.  When I originally posted about this trip I mentioned that we were going to be on the smallest ship in the Princess fleet, the Pacific Princess.  This ship only holds around 680 passengers.

Here’s a photo I borrowed from the web to give you a visual.  That is the Pacific Princess in the front and the Grand Princess in the back.  The Grand Princess holds 2,590 passengers.

There are definitely some pros and some cons to being on a small ship.  First the biggest pro of all in my opinion, there are no crowds.  Pretty much ever.  No crowds, and no lines for anything.  As far as I recall we never waited in line for anything, even at embarkation.  No lines at the buffet, and it was rare to have to wait for an elevator.  We never had to arrive early for entertainment, there were always plenty of seats available.  There were also always plenty of chairs available around the pool.  This is definitely not the case on the larger ships.

And this also translates to the ports of call.  There is a big difference between a ship unloading 680 passengers into a small medieval walled city like Kotor, and a ship unloading 2,590 passengers into that same small area.

Another pro, less tendering.  Some of the bigger ships are too large to dock in the smaller ports so your ship drops anchor and you shuttle to land in little boats called tenders.  Tendering can be time consuming, and a lot less convenient than being able to walk right on and off the ship.  On this trip we were able to dock in every port, no tendering at all.

There are some cons though too.  For one thing, there aren’t nearly as many amenities on board the ship.  There is no rock climbing wall, water slide, ice skating rink, giant movie screen under the stars or zip line.  There was only one small pool, although we never went in it so we weren’t missing anything there.

That being said, the Pacific Princess is a beautiful, if somewhat more traditional, ship.  The cabins were all refurbished about two years ago and the new design was by none other than HGTV designer Candice Olson (I always loved her show).

The other con to the smaller ship that I want to point out is that you can definitely feel a bit more movement.  Which brings me to our day at sea.  We crossed the Mediterranean from Malta to Montenegro during a bit of a storm with 50 mph winds and 15’ seas.  I’m sure we would have felt those waves on any size ship, but on this small ship it was pretty significant.  Fortunately I had taken some Bonine when we left Malta because the captain had warned us that the seas would be rough, so I didn’t have a problem with sea sickness at all.  But it was a bit difficult to get around.  Having lunch in the buffet was quite the experience as dishes were crashing to the floor right and left, and it was tough to get to your table with your plate of food intact.  In addition, all of the exterior decks were closed for the day.  But that was OK.  We were worn out from constantly being on the go, so a day spent reading in bed was perfectly fine with us.

By evening things had calmed down quite a bit and there wasn’t any dish crashing heard at dinner, but there were quite a few empty chairs due to people who weren’t feeling all that well.  There were only 5 out of the normal 8 at our table.

By the next morning when we sailed into the Bay of Kotor the water was as smooth as glass.  The difference was night and day.

Much like last week when I didn’t precisely know where Malta was located, the same was true of Kotor, Montenegro.  What can I say, I skipped geography in school (really, I did, it had to do with moving from Minnesota to Florida between school years, long story for another time).

But I know where it is now!  And just in case you don’t, here’s another map to put it in perspective for you.

According to Wikipedia, “Montenegro has both a picturesque coast and a mountainous northern region. The country was a well-known tourist spot in the 1980’s. Yet, the Yugoslav wars that were fought in neighboring countries during the 1990’s crippled the tourist industry and damaged the image of Montenegro for years.”  However, the tourist industry has been recovering steadily over the past 18 years and seems to be going strong now.

Sailing in to Kotor reminded me a lot of sailing through the Sognefjord and the Aurlandsfjord to Flåm, Norway.  I can’t really do justice to describing the feeling of waking up in your cabin and seeing mountains slipping silently past as your ship glides through the water.  We sleep with our curtains open just so that we can wake up and see our surroundings without even getting out of bed.  It really is a spectacular way to start the day.

On our way to Kotor we sailed past Our Lady of the Rocks (on the left) and St. George Island (on the right).

As well as Perast …

It was fun to see them knowing that we were headed back to these spots on our morning excursion.  Speaking of which, I’m going to wait and share that with you next week because this post is getting rather long and I still have lots of great pictures to include.

Instead I’m jumping ahead to the afternoon that we spent in Kotor after our excursion.

The old town part of Kotor is a fortified city and no one knows the exact timing of the first settlement there.  It was first fortified in the early middle ages, 535 A.D. and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our Rick Steves’ guidebook said that the old town part of Kotor was very small and it would be easy to do a self-guided walking tour in only a couple of hours, and that was true (his book on Croatia & Slovenia also includes Montenegro).

There isn’t a ton of stuff to see, but if you enjoy wandering around narrow, cobble stone alleyways admiring ancient buildings then you would love Kotor!

And if you’re a fan of the amazing patina on old painted doors, then this is definitely the spot for you.

And finally, if you are a cat lover you will enjoy this town as well.

Kotor is known for having a large population of stray cats.  Apparently many of the residents and shop keepers leave food out for them.  Kotor even has a Cat Museum.

The cats make themselves at home everywhere, including snuggling up for a cat nap on a park bench.

Strolling around Kotor was a perfectly lovely way to spend an afternoon, but would not have been enough to keep us occupied all day.  Be sure to check back next Wednesday to read about the tour we took in the morning!

the rest of Malta.

Last Wednesday I shared just the morning of our recent visit to Malta.  After enjoying a little coffee break at Caffe Cordina, we met up with our driver and headed toward Ħaġar Qim next.

We made a quick pit stop along the way to see the Blue Grotto, a collection of sea caverns on the south east coast of Malta.

According to Wikipedia, ‘the location of the caves, combined with the rays of sunlight, lead to the seawater mirroring and showing numerous shades of blue on the cave walls and ceilings.’

Several caverns also mirror the brilliant phosphorescent colors of the underwater flora and fauna.

Even just looking down from above we could see the brilliant blue color of the water.  You can take a boat into the caves and I imagine that is quite beautiful.

But we didn’t have time for a boat ride.  We were headed to Ħaġar Qim.  By the way, Ħaġar Qim has an interesting pronunciation.  The “Q” is silent.  Mr. Q got a big kick out of that for some reason, apparently he thinks the “Q” should be silent more often 😉

This megalithic temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates to 3600 to 3200 B.C.

Obviously no records exist that explain how these temples were used, but it seems to be widely accepted that rituals of some kind took place in them whether they were fertility rituals or some other sort of ceremonies possibly involving animal sacrifices (numerous bones of animals have been found, but I like to think that they were just having lots of barbecues!).

 One of the prehistoric chambers at Ħaġar Qim contains an elliptical hole which is hewn out in alignment with the Summer Solstice sunrise. At sunrise, on the first day of summer, the sun’s rays pass through the hole and illuminate a stone slab inside the chamber.

So maybe they weren’t just hosting barbecues after all.

It’s fascinating to see these sort of structures and to wonder how in the world people managed to build them without any sort of power tools whatsoever.  Compared to that, my little home decorating to-do list from Monday seems like a cake walk, right?

Leaving the temples behind, we next headed to the small, traditional fishing village of Marsaxlokk for lunch.

Unfortunately, the day had been growing steadily more overcast and it started to rain just as we arrived in Marsaxlokk so I didn’t get very many photos.

Their traditional fishing boats called luzzu were very brightly colored.

We had lunch with our guide in a local restaurant and of course we had to order the fish.  I’m not usually a fan of fish, but this was delicious.

After lunch we headed to Mdina.  Mdina is a fortified city that was founded in around the 8th century.  It was the capital of Malta until 1530.  We entered the city through the Mdina Gate, designed by the French architect Charles Francois de Mondion in 1724.

 

Once again, since I don’t actually happen to have a drone, I am going to borrow a photo from the world wide web to show you just how amazing this walled city looks from above.

The church that you can see on the right hand side of the photo above with the big dome and two belfries is St. Paul’s Cathedral.

You may remember that last week I wrote about the Co-Cathedral in Valletta and explained that there was already a cathedral in this diocese which is why that one is called a Co-Cathedral.  Well, St. Paul’s is the first cathedral.

Mdina is nicknamed The Silent City, and according to Wikipedia that may be partially because the number of vehicles allowed inside the city walls are limited to residents, emergency vehicles and ‘wedding parties’.  I found it amusing that the Wikipedia entry specified ‘wedding parties’, and thus I’m guessing that St. Paul’s Cathedral is a popular spot for weddings.  Can’t you just imagine the gorgeous wedding photo ops in this lovely place?

OK, just for fun I had to google some.

Yep, just as I imagined, gorgeous.

I didn’t happen to see any wedding parties while I was there, so my street shots are mainly empty.

Between being there in the off-season, and in the rain, Mdina certainly deserved its nickname of The Silent City during our visit.

While wandering around the labyrinth of passages we passed a door with this absolutely amazing knocker …

That patina is so fantastic, I just had to share it with you guys.

We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Mdina, and the rest of Malta.  Now that you all know where it is, maybe you’ll put it on your travel bucket list.

If you are enjoying these travel posts, be sure to check back next week when we head to Montenegro!

a maltese morning.

Before I get to today’s travel post, congrats to Laura who is the winner of last week’s giveaway.  I’ll be shipping her prize off to Canada later this week.

It’s a tad embarrassing to admit, but prior to planning our cruise last year I didn’t exactly know where Malta was.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t realize it was an island either.  Just in case any of you are equally clueless about it, here’s a map to put it in perspective for you.

Malta is about 50 miles south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s only 122 square miles in size but has a population around 475,000 making it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.  There are also three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and nearly 8,000 years of fascinating history crammed into those 122 square miles.

Maltese dogs are thought to have originated in Malta, and there really is such a thing as a Maltese Falcon (Falco peregrinus brookei).  However, Maltesers (which are the British version of malted milk ball) are not related to Malta in any way.  They are one of my favorites candies though (and are much tastier than Whoppers), and did you know that you can get them at Target now?

Anyway, fortunately Mr. Q has a much firmer grasp on both geography and history than I do.  As soon as he saw that Malta was on our itinerary he suggested we figure out how to see as much of it as we could on our one day in port.  So once again we hired a private guide.  Joan Sheridan came highly recommended on TripAdvisor.  We booked both Joan and her driver, Chris (who as it turned out is her husband), for the full day.

We’d heard that the sail in to Malta was quite lovely, so we got up early that morning so that we could watch it from the top deck.

We definitely weren’t disappointed, isn’t it a fascinating looking place already?

Joan and Chris met us just outside the pier area.  We hopped in the car and took a small driving tour around the perimeter of Valletta, the capital of Malta, where we were docked.  Then Chris dropped us off at the Upper Barrakka Gardens.  It was incredibly convenient having a driver and a guide, we never had to worry about finding parking and the car always magically appeared to pick us up after touring each site we visited.

Although the gardens were pretty enough …

Joan had really brought us here for the panoramic view overlooking the Grand Harbor and Fort St. Angelo.

From there we headed towards Saint John’s Co-Cathedral on foot.  Along the way, Joan took the opportunity to educate us about the Auberge that we passed by.  An Auberge was a hostel that provided accommodations for the knights of the Order of Saint John.

The Auberge de Castille was completely rebuilt in the Spanish Baroque style between 1741 and 1744.  Apparently the knights required some rather posh digs.

We also had the opportunity to check out some of the famous balconies of Valletta on our walk.

Ironically, even though I had no idea that Valletta was the capital of Malta (or even where Malta was), I had pinned a photo of the balconies of Valletta a couple of years ago.  It was totally cool to find myself seeing them in person.  If you want to learn more about these balconies, check out this link.

You can see a glimpse of the Co-Cathedral at the end of that street above.

I wasn’t terribly impressed by the rather plain exterior, and I have to say both Mr. Q and I were skeptical about spending much time seeing a cathedral.

And by the way, I had no idea why everyone kept calling it a Co-Cathedral so I finally asked Joan why that was.  Apparently when there is more than one cathedral in a diocese, the 2nd one is called a Co-Cathedral.  In this case, the original cathedral for this diocese is in Mdina (which we’ll visit in next Wednesday’s post).

I also have to mention that this was just one of many instances during our tour of Malta where it really paid off to have an experienced tour guide.  There was a long line of people waiting to buy tickets and get inside, and Joan took us to the head of the line and slipped us right in with pre-purchased tickets.  She knew that large tour groups would be showing up soon and she wanted us to see as much as we could before the church became crowded.

Clearly the incredibly ornate interior more than makes up for that plain exterior, huh?  That will teach me to judge a book by its cover!

The ceiling was painted with scenes from the life of John the Baptist by Mattia Preti in the 1660’s.

There are nine chapels around the perimeter of the church, each one was sponsored by a specific division of the knights, and each one attempted to out-do the others with ever more elaborately gilded decoration.  Those knights were a competitive bunch, always wanting to have the most impressive auberge or the best chapel.

However, the real pièce de résistance of the Co-Cathedral is in yet another room.

This is Caravaggio’s painting depicting The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.  It was painted in 1608 and is the largest painting he did at 12′ x 17′.  Caravaggio was most famous for his use of chiaroscuro (the use of strong contrasts between light and dark) and this painting is brilliant example of that.  Honestly, this painting was breathtaking in person.  I know my photo does not do it justice.

While we studied the painting, Joan told us about the tumultuous life of Caravaggio.  He ended up in Malta in 1607 after fleeing Italy and a death sentence for murdering someone in a brawl.  He was hoping to secure a pardon for his crime.  However, he didn’t change his brawling ways and was arrested and jailed for assaulting someone else in Malta in 1608.  But somehow he managed to create that beautiful painting in between skirmishes.

After being rather overwhelmed by the interior of the Co-Cathedral, we needed a breather.  We stopped off at Caffe Cordina next for a delicious cup of coffee.

Believe it or not we weren’t even halfway through our day in Malta yet.  Chris picked us up at the end of the street (this cafe is in a pedestrian only area) and next we headed off to see the Blue Grotto.  But I’m going to save that, along with the rest of our visit to Malta for next week.

In the meantime, I have a desk do-over to share on Friday so be sure to check back!

 

 

an offer you can’t refuse.

When Mr. Q and I were planning out what to do in the various ports of call on our Adriatic cruise last November we tried to schedule in a bit of variety.  As we were researching our options, it seemed like we were ending up with lots of visits to ancient archaeological sites like Herculaneum, Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the temple of Hagar Qim in Malta.  So when it came to Messina, Sicily we wanted to do something a little different.

We narrowed it down to either a wine tasting tour or a ‘Godfather tour’.  I would have opted for the wine tasting, but Mr. Q doesn’t drink wine so that seemed a tad selfish on my part.  So the Godfather tour it was.

Ironically, neither of us are fans of the Godfather movies.  In fact, we could barely even remember having watched them.  But the tour went to two small hill towns in Sicily that looked absolutely charming and that’s what drew us in.  We did watch The Godfather a few weeks prior to our trip just in case we needed any context for the tour, which as it turned out we did not.

The first stop on our tour was the town of Savoca, a tiny hilltop village that was reached via a narrow, winding road.

This was the rainiest day of our entire trip and going up that wet, narrow road in a huge bus was maybe a tad nerve wracking.  I kept imagining the newspaper headlines at home, American tourists die in tragic Italian bus accident.

I’ll admit, I had to close my eyes a few times.

But it was definitely worth it.  Savoca was utterly charming.

The first site in Savoca was the Bar Vitelli.

In the film this bar is owned by Apollonia’s father.  Our guide told us that at the time of the filming this wasn’t a bar at all, but rather a villa.  Francis Ford Coppola turned it into a bar just for the movie.  Once the movie became a blockbuster, Bar Vitelli was there to stay.

It now functions as both a bar and a small ‘museum’ (ie. tourist trap) with a collection of photographs taken during the filming.  It was a tiny little place though, and there definitely was not enough room for both a bus load of tourists looking at photos and patrons trying to get a drink.  Since it was raining cats and dogs at the time, the crowds were struggling not to spill out onto the patio.  Mr. Q and I gave the inside of the bar a pass and headed to the next site while huddled under our umbrella.

Maybe the rain was a good thing because as you can see, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

We headed uphill to the Chiesa di San Nicolo/Santa Lucia where the wedding scene between Michael Corleone and Apollonia was filmed.  If you scroll back up the beginning of this post, this is the building that can be seen at the top of the hill in my first photo.

After seeing inside the church we had a very short time to stroll around the tiny village before returning to the bus to head to our 2nd stop, Forza d’Agrò.

Forza d’Agrò is another charming little hilltop village, and it required traveling even more super steep and winding roads to reach it.  Once there we trooped around after our guide for a bit, first visiting the Church of Sant’Agostino.

To be honest, I haven’t found any reference to this church actually having been used in the film.

  It was a lovely spot though.

Next we stopped in front of the Cattedrale Maria S. Annunziata e Assunta which was another filming location for the movie.

Isn’t that a gorgeous old church?

I was also fascinated by this building opposite.

There is just something about that crumbling stucco and those old wooden doors that appeals to me.

We were getting more wet and cold by the minute at this point though, so I made Mr. Q an offer he couldn’t refuse.  I suggested we stop in at a little cafe for a cappuccino.

I left him there enjoying a 2nd cup while I wandered around and took a few more photos of this picturesque little town before we had to head back to the bus and return to our ship.

No need for faux finishes here, these are genuinely chippy or rusty!

They definitely provide some inspiration for creating a faux finish though, don’t you agree?

I loved this fountain that was in the middle of the town square.

I wish I could get moss like this to grow on my own fountain.  I suspect it would require a slightly warmer climate than we have here in Minnesota.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to Sicily and some of the filming locations there for the Godfather films.  I’m hopefully back on track with my Wednesday travel posts and next week we’ll be heading to Malta!