Let's learn a few more words of Italian that may come in handy during your visit to Italy!

            Bagno                                         Restroom/Toilet

            Dove è il bagno?                          Where is the toilet?
            (DOUGH-vay eh ill BAHN-yo?)

            Il mio nome è...                            My name is...
            (ill ME-o NO-may eh...)

            Io ho una prenotazione.                I have a reservation.
            (EE-o oh OO-na pren-NO-ta-zee-o-nay.)

            Dove posso comprare...?              Where can I buy...?
            (Do-VAY PO-so COM-prar-ray...?)

            Io vorrei...                                     I would like...
            (EE-o VOR-ray...)

            Biglietto                                        Ticket

            Museo                                          Museum

             Mi può aiutare?                            Can you help me?
             (Me Pwoh AYE-u-tar-ray?)

             Oggi                                            Today

             Domani                                        Tomorrow

             Ieri                                               Yesterday




Love Rome? Love cats? Then make sure you stop by the Largo Argentina and see the Roman Cat Sanctuary.

What? A cat sanctuary amid the ruins of Rome? Yes.

Largo Argentina is located in a square just off the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II between Chiesa Gesù and Chiesa Sant'Andrea della Valle. Walking along Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, you can't miss the tall columns of the four ancient temples sticking above street-level amongst the trees.

Given that the ruins are located some 20 feet below street level, the columns must be 40 feet tall. But this post isn't about the ruins themselves; this post is about the cats who call Largo Argentina home.

Look down at the ruins. As you're amazed at seeing these 40-foot tall 4th century B.C. pillars, you may notice a few cats asleep in the grass:

then one or two asleep besides an ancient ruin:


then one or two asleep on top of an ancient ruin:

Or some just walking amongst the ancient ruins:

Located down the stairs at the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina is the Torre Argentina Roman cat shelter. In 1929, excavation began in the area of Largo Argentina. It is also when stray and abandoned cats began seeking refuge in the protected area below street level. Up until 1994, the cats were cared for by "gattare", a not-so-nice term the Romans called the women who fed the cats.

Then in 1994 three women together tried to care for the ever-growing population of abandoned cats in the cave-like, damp, underground ruins with no electricity or water. Finally in 1995, they were able to enlist the help of the AISPA (Anglo-Italian Society for the Protection of Animals). Through the help and teachings of the AISPA, the women began to collect much needed charity donations, at first by simply asking the multitude of tourists who were more interested in the cats than the ruins. As word spread about the shelter, more and more people, including high-ranking military and diplomatic persons, generously donated their time and money.

This no-kill cat shelter is home to over 250 homeless felines. The shelter is run completely by volunteers who feed, clean and take care of the cats. Visitors are welcome to stop by between 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to tour the shelter and browse through the CatShop.

Read more about the shelter, how to donate, volunteer or adopt a cat (either in Rome or via long-distance) at their website at http://www.romancats.com/.



Monet landscapes. Water lily gardens. Where else but Giverny.

Monet's Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare (1877) in Art Institute of Chicago

Less than an hour's train ride out of Paris' Gare St. Lazare is Giverny, the village home of Claude Monet.  Monet permanently moved to Giverny in 1883.  He would live there for 43 years and is buried there.

The surrounding countryside of farmland, orchards and low rolling hills, plus the abundance of water inspired Monet to paint many of the paintings that we have come to know and love.

PLEASE NOTE: The house and gardens of Claude Monet are only open April 1st through November 1st.

To visit Giverny, take the Mètro to Gare St. Lazare. Follow the "SNCF-Grandes Lignes" signs to purchase a roundtrip ticket to the village of Vernon. The Voyages-SNCF website currently shows direct trains departing Gare St. Lazare every two hours beginning at 8:20, then 10:20,12:20 and so on. The current roundtrip ticket price is €25.80.

Once you arrive at the Vernon train station, walk to the parking lot to the waiting T.V.S. shuttle bus.  The 15-minute bus ride will take you to Giverny.  The current roundtrip bus ticket costs €4.00.  You can check the bus shuttle timetable for the times the bus runs on specific days.  The bus will drop you off in the Giverny parking lot.  To reach the village you will need to cross the road via the tunnel path under the road.  The current entrance fee to Monet's house and gardens is €6.00.  In Giverny, you can:

Stroll down a country lane:


Tour Monet's home:

Meander down the garden's paths:

Marvel at nature's beauty in Monet's garden:

Stroll around the actual water lily pond:

Admire more gardens...

Eat lunch at The Terra Café:

My lunch was so colorful that I had to take its picture!

Visit the country church where Monet and his family are buried...

Pay homage to the genius.

Aren't you glad that Claude Monet discovered Giverny and decided to permanently move to this village? Judging by the paintings below, it was the right decision.

Poppy Field-Giverny (1890-1891) at the Art Institute of Chicago

Water Lilies (1917-1922) at the Art Institute of Chicago

Water Lilies (1906) at the Art Institute of Chicago

Branch of the Seine near Giverny (Mist) part of the Mornings on the Seine series (1897) at the Art Institute of Chicago
Le Bassin aux Nymphéas, harmonie rose (1900) at Musée d'Orsay

Le jardin de l'artiste á Giverny (1900) at Musée d'Orsay



Galleria Borghese.


One is in Rome. The other is in The Hague.

Both were homes to wealthy men of completely different professions who were connoisseurs of fine art.

Who were these men? One was Cardinal Scipione Borghese and the other was Count Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen.

Scipione Borghese was a cardinal and nephew of Pope Paul V. Johan Maurits was a military hero and great nephew of William I, Prince of Orange.

Cardinal Borghese, although supposedly a man of God, was not against using foul means to acquire a piece of art that he coveted. Johan Maurits was scorned for perhaps profiting too much off of the slave labor in the sugar fields of the newly-conquered (over Portugal) Dutch colony of Brazil where he had been elected governor-general.

Cardinal Borghese, born into the wealthy Italian Borghese nobility family, was simply given the title of Cardinal by his uncle, Pope Paul V. Johan Maurits, from a successful military family, was related to Dutch royalty.

Cardinal Borghese built a splendid summer home outside of center of Rome. Johan Maurits built a home in The Hague that is considered one of the finest and most perfect examples of Dutch classicist architecture.

Cardinal Borghese spared no expense in building his home to showcase his collection of art, and the opulent decor of his home rivals the collection. However, Johan Mauritis was not attached to his collection and was known to have given away hundreds of prints and sketches, many to the then Kings of Denmark and France.

Now, both homes are world-class art museums.

Galleria Borghese has what most critics describe as the finest collection of Baroque sculpture anywhere. Mauritshuis' collection totals nearly 800 paintings, the oldest part of which are paintings owned in the 18th century by the stadholder, Prince Willem V of Orange-Nassau.

Galleria Borghese has three stunning Bernini sculptures including:

Apollo and Daphne       Photo: Web Gallery of Art                                      The Rape of Prosperina    Photo: Web Gallery of Art
Mauritshuis has three stunning Vermeer masterpieces including:

    Girl With A Pearl Earring                                                                                                       Photo: Web Gallery of Art
Galleria Borghese owns several paintings by Caravaggio such as:

David With the Head of Goliath                                                             Self-Portrait as the Sick Baccus
Photo: Web Gallery of Art                                                                     Photo: Web Gallery of Art

Mauritshuis owns several paintings by Rembrandt such as:

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp                                                          Self-Portrait (his last)  
Photo: Web Gallery of Art                                             Photo: Web Gallery of Art

NOTE: Neither one of these museums allows you to take photos; thus, I had to "borrow" the pictures of the artworks from the Web Gallery of Art.

Only 360 persons are allowed in the Galleria Borghese every 2 hours, so reservations are mandatory. Go to the website http://www.ticketeria.it/ticketeria/borghese-eng.asp and follow the prompts to pre-purchase and print out your reservation confirmation. If you are already in Rome, you can call 0039 06 32810. You may be able to make a reservation on the actual day you want to visit. Tickets are €11.50 plus a €1.00 reservation fee.

Absolutely purchase the audioguide for €5.00! It will make the visit that much more rewarding.

Galleria Borghese does accept the Roma Pass. The Roma Pass costs €25 and gives you:
  • Free entry to the first 2 visited museums and/or archaeological sites of your choice;
  • Reduced ticket prices to all other museums and/or archaeological sites thereafter; and
  • Free use of the city's public transport network.
Galleria Borghese is located in the middle of the Villa Borghese gardens, but public transportation options to Galleria Borghese are limited. You can catch Bus 910 from the Termini train station (get off at the PINCIANA/MUSEO BORGHESE stop) or Bus 116 from the Piazza Navona area (get off at the last stop--PORTA PINCIANA). If you are close to missing your reservation time, this might be one time to just take a taxi. The fare should be no more than €10-15 from anywhere in Rome.

If you have purchased the MuseumPass, you can use the pass to enter the Mauritshuis. You only have to pay an extra €1.50.

Once you arrive at the Den Haag train station, walk out to the street to the Tram platform. Take Tram #16 (Destination: Wateringen) to the Buitenhof Stop (the second stop). Remember to use the terrific Netherlands travel planning website http://journeyplanner.9292.nl/ or the other website I have just discovered:
http://www.htm.net/Pages/DEF/245.html which gives you an interactive map of all the tram lines in Den Haag.

You can use your strippenkaart strips for the tram ride.

NOTE: I went to the Netherlands in May and used strippenkaarts for public transportation. I have just read on the http://www.denhaag.nl/ website that the strippenkaarts are being discontinued at the end of 2009. Obviously they have extended the use of strippenkaarts into 2010, so strippenkaarts are my suggested method of transportation expense in the Netherlands--so easy to purchase and use).

Exiting the tram, you will have to walk back down the street (Lange Vijverberg) in the direction you came from until you reach the opposite end of the Hofvijver, the rectangular pond located in front of the government buildings. At the end of the Hofvijver, turn right down Korte Vijverberg which will lead you to the Mauritshuis.

The government buildings facing the Hofvijver.  Down the street to the left of this photo is Mauritshuis.

I have put a link to the Mauritshuis in my sidebar. However, the Galleria Borghese's website has been redflagged as a possible harmful site, so at this time you cannot access the site except at your own risk.