A Travellerspoint blog

POMPEII

Wild dogs and and marauding school kids

sunny 25 °C

Headed to Amalfi via Pompeii. It's an amazing place. The scale of it is massive. It did seem that a lot of the areas were closed, but you got a pretty good impression. As with most of the tourist traps we've been to, in comparison to Australia, I'm still amazed at how reasonable the entry and on-site catering prices are. There were lots of stray dogs, some of them were pretty big too but they were docile enough. Couldn't say the same for the school groups. Seemed like there were thousands of them, and every single one seemed to be jumping up and down in front of the various ruins so their mates could take silly photos. I reckon the next generation's family albums (electronic of course) will be hilarious - and probably hidden! Initially I was a bit disappointed with the frescos and things, they all seemed a lot duller than the promo pics, but lo and behold, when I looked at the photos, they were bright as well. So the flash does a good job! It was fascinating to see little glimpses of life back then - like the wheel ruts in the cobbles. And listening to people walking around, regardless of where you where, they all seemed to think they were on the street with the brothels in them! What with the abundance of wine shops, they seemed to live pretty well! We stayed for about four hours, but with the sun beating down, it was sort of enough. Overall it was fantastic, although I would really like to see it with a few less people there. But I doubt that that will ever happen!

Posted by barrylogan 01:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

ROME

It mightn't have built in a day, but we only had two to see it.

rain

After a fairly trouble free drive out of Cinque Terre, we headed for Rome. Our apartment was at the top of some pretty shabby looking flats about a 10 euro taxi ride outside the city. Actually, the place was very good. Had an amazing bathroom with a spa and an outside with a jacuzzi. Which we didn't use. Had just two nights there, so went and had a look around on the first afternoon and got tickets for the tourist bus and a Roma pass which gets you into the various historical places. We had a fairly ordinary meal that night. Whole shanks of pork roasted to the edge of eatability served with roast potatoes and a very unusual bottle of wine. If you'd seen the colour on a minesite and matched it against the chart on the wall, it would have told you to drink water without delay and stay in the shade. The taste sort of confirmed the prognosis. It also ended the shared role of selecting the wine! The bus was a good idea, we got our bearings and worked out what was on the cards for the next day. Which was essentially the Colosseum. I'd always wanted to see it so it was pretty special. It was very crowded, but considering that it was built to hold 50,000 people, I suppose it was pretty appropriate. Mind you, I'm not sure that the Romans would have been in groups following quite strange looking people waving umbrellas with flags. It is quite a place. I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't go downstairs under the arena, but regardless it is an amazing environment to wander through. I left Jennie sitting in the shade and spent a bit more time by myself just taking it all in. We went from there to the ruins of the forum across the road. The size and scale of it is simply amazing. And the lessons we've learned from Timeteam helped to give us a far better understanding of what we were seeing! We'd been warned that the restaurants on the piazzas could be a bit of a rip off, so we chose one further up a side street. Not such a good idea, they served us our meal and told us we had 30 minutes to finish before they closed. So we forgot that rule from there on. Got adopted by an Armenian waiter (Italian food though) in another place who insisted on helping us with our choice of food and wine. He wasn't wrong, we had a great meal. He also insisted that we drank sparkling water, not still, with our wine as it complimented it. Right again. Am now a convert to wine and sparkling water! Went past the Vatican three times, each time it started to rain and looking at the crowds, we'd have had no time to see anything else, so stayed on the bus. As a final fling we thought we'd go and see the Trevi fountain. We came at it from the street the Armenian's restaurant was in and the access was very quiet, until we got the the square. What a tourist coup! There must have been thousands of people all fighting each other to get to the fountain. It was hilarious. Overall we had a great time, didn't find it overpriced, amazed by the way that the old city has been integrated into the more recent and found people in the shops and restaurants to be very helpful and friendly. Arriverderci Roma!

Posted by barrylogan 09:03 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

CINQUE TERRE

Up Hill, Down Hill, Up Glass, Down Glass

sunny 25 °C

We departed from Milan without my phone or ipad, hopefully we'll get them back, but other than that it was a pretty smooth departure. Not sure I'd worry about another trip to the place and we were happy enough to set off on the next leg. Good old Sat Nav took us out of the city without an issue. The drive across to Cinque Terre was fine across the motorway, but it got a bit hairy on the drive down through the mountains into Montorosso. Regardless of the width of the road, on-coming traffic or pedestrians, Italian drivers have only one speed and it's flat out. They also have a bit of an issue with addresses. The Sat Nav took us to the address given, but a few frantic calls to our host next Federico established that he'd come and find us, which actually meant he'd stand on the side of the road and wave if we managed to find him. By pure chance we went up another road and he jumped out in front of us. Turns out that the property goes between the two roads and the gate to the place is not on the road he gives out the address for. A bit confusing. Still, when we finally got into the place it was lovely. It was the attic of a huge place that looks out over Montorosso, built into the side of a hill. Trouble was it wasn't built with anyone over 5 foot in mind! From the look on Federico's face when he took us up the stairs he saw the problem! We spent three days bending over as we moved around and getting dressed standing under the skylight! Regardless, the unit was amazing, lounge area, little kitchen, fantastic views out over the lemon groves on one side, the sea on another and the mountain side off the terrace. They even threw in a bottle of homemade Lemoncino! We had three nights in Montorosso which is the largest of the 5 villages that make up Cinque Terre. From what we saw, it's the best one to stay at. Seeing all of the houses just hanging out the side of the cliffs was quite fairytale like. Went on a ferry to visit other towns along the coast the sense of history is fantastic. Weather was great, very warm, no rain. Just wandering through the narrow little streets was fantastic, always something new to see. Hundreds of people go there to do the walks between the villages. It's actually quite fun to sit with a bottle of wine and watch them coming off the tracks, cooling vests, intravenous drink bottles, walking poles, backpacks, oxygen masks (well maybe not oxygen masks). Perfect way to ruin a good holiday as far as I'm concerned. Actually we did one of the shorter walks and it gave you some amazing views of the very rugged coastline. Not sure I'd be into the full trek, might cut into the available eating and drinking time! The quality of food and service in the restaurants was also amazing. We ended up eating in the same place for the three nights, the seafood just kept getting better. It was about a 15 minute walk up and down what seemed like a thousand steps to get to and from the town, but that meant we could eat a bit more! It was the Lemon Festival while we were there which made it pretty busy, but even so the place didn't lose it's charm, which is sort of slightly shabby, haphazard, very welcoming and breathtaking all at the same time. Good place to go back to I think.

Posted by barrylogan 23:37 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

VENICE

Bloody Gondolas

Made our way safely through what seemed like 100's kms of roadworks and finally arrived in Venice, well a 30 bus ride from Venice actually. But it seems to be a good way to do it. The quality of food and service in restaurants here is very good, has been all over Italy so far. And they also don't charge like wounded bulls (except for the main square in Venice where we paid 38 Euros for a beer and gin and tonic). The B&B wasn't too bad. But I think that the white clouds painted on the ceiling explain why the owner is an ex-graphic designer! We went straight into Venice for a look around when we'd unpacked. You can't help but be impressed. Parts of it look a bit tired and there's tons of re-building going on, but it's really quite enchanting. We bought passes for the buses (they don't sell tickets on board the buses, so we stole our first ride until we bought the pass, a few stops down we saw the driver refuse some more tourists a ride for the same reason, so we just stayed quiet. The pass was really good, let you ride all the town buses and the water transport around the island. Good way to get around. Unfortunately there are some very good shops too. We haven't exactly kept to our budget. We just sort of wandered around, (couldn't follow the maps) did some shopping, looked at a load of souvenirs that we didn't buy to take home for everyone and followed no particular plan. Some areas were more crowded than others. We went back the second day quite early and paced the day out, had a really good meal and ended up with a Gondola ride as the sun was setting. The Gondolier told us he was the oldest and most senior gondolier in Venice (have to have the gullible tattoo removed from my forehead) but he seemed to know his stuff and got a bit upset when he realised we weren't exactly listening to his commentary! But is was a great way to end our time in Venice. Next stop Milan.

Posted by barrylogan 01:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

MILAN

Fashion and Graffiti Capital

sunny

Getting a bit behind with these blogs, internet access isn't always that easy! We spent to nights in Milan and I think it was plenty. Our hotel was pretty convenient to everything, so we went out and about. What surprised me most was the graffiti everywhere. (The constant smell of dog droppings didn't because I'd already been warned!) Beautiful old buildings covered in scrawl. None of it particularly intelligent and certainly not attractive. The local attitude seems to be that it's young people expressing themselves. (I think that's more accurate for the dogs!) Lots of clothes and shoe shops, so a good place to exercise the credit card! I did comment to Jennie that with all the fashion hype, the shops were all pretty old fashioned looking - same with the restaurants. On our last night we actually found a restaurant that belonged in the 21 Century. Decisions decisions. Immediate thought was that the modern looking place might be expensive and over the top. Should we go for traditional? Given that I'd already commented on the old versus new, we thought we'd go modern. Boy, what a great meal! The first course was a simple pasta with clams, but it came out under a glass dome that they'd injected with with wood smoke. It was brilliant. Seeing as it was a holiday and my jeans were still doing up, I ordered another main course. Jennie ordered a desert. The waiter came out, gave me a spoon and Jennie a knife and fork, which we promptly swapped round. Wrong. The spoon was for my beef cheek... Wow, it simply melted, best I've ever had. It rounded off a very pleasant stay in Milan. But not sure I'd be worried about going back. I'm sure there will be other beef cheeks! Next stop Venice.

Posted by barrylogan 10:47 Archived in Italy Tagged milan Comments (0)

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