Published: April 23rd 2012April 23rd 2012
Korcula, Croatia to Civitavecchia, Italy
Our tour in Korcula (pronounced Kor-chu-la) was both good and bad. Our tour guide was wonderful: the weather; raining and “cool”. We started with a walk through the old town walls into the ancient part of the city. The town claims to be the home of Marco Polo. What they do know is that there was no family Polo in Venice at the time, but there was a Polo family in Korcula back then. We sought refuge from the rain in both the museum and cathedral where we saw a magnificent Tintarello (sp?) painting above the altar. The painting had recently been restored and the colors were brilliant. Another of his paintings hung on the side of the church and it was very dark and difficult to make out. It is scheduled to be restored next, and it is easy to see what a difference the restoration makes.
From the old town we drove out into the countryside of this rather large island that lies off the mainland of Croatia. The island is volcanic and the beaches have black sand. We stopped in a small village at a bakery full of delicious homemade sweets –baklava to Easter cookies, and savories like cheese filled puff pastry or small “pizzas” with bacon, cheese, and tomato sauce. We bought one of the savories and a couple of cookies for lunch. From there we rode to a black sand beach and walked on it as the rain stopped for a while. We also stopped at a winery for a sample. The wine here is primarily sweet, but they have a couple of nice, dry whites. Bruce bought a bottle and wishes he had bought a couple. After that, we returned to the port and boarded the tender for the ride back to our ship. All in all, we had a very nice day.
On to Venice. The sail into Venice is remarkable. We saw the Doges Palace, ST. Marco Square, all the beautiful parks and buildings, some of which are tilting a bit, but romantic nevertheless. We docked not far from the train station, and Bruce took the people mover over to check out the trains and Vaparetto system. We took a tour around some of the smaller islands and out to the Lido. The weather was sunny and lovely for a boat ride. Since we had been to Venice on other occasions, we didn’t venture forth far from the dock. The sail away was wonderful, too. The ship often has sail away parties on the aft deck complete with music and local food – bruchetta, olives, etc., and two for one drinks (happy hour).
We sailed from Venice around the “boot” to Taormina, Sicily. Again we had to tender in to a port about 7 km. from Taormina. We went on a tour with cruise critic friends Karen and Brad. There were about 28 of us. We went to Mt. Etna – to the 7,000 ft level which is about as high as they now allow people to go. We stopped at a ski area. Those who wanted, walked to the rim of one of the craters. I chose not to as it was very windy and cold. Instead, several of us went inside and had tea or cappucinos. Some even had cannolis. Let me tell you, the cannolis here are out of this world! We came down from the mountain and went to Taomina. The driver left us off at the lift and we rode up to the street level and entered the arch into the old town. The area is primarily pedestrian, but taxis and cars with special permits are allowed, so we had to watch our step a bit. Many shops line the streets, and entering the large town square, there are many cafes and bars. It is interesting that the bars sell sweet pastries, coffees and liquor. So anything you want is there. We sat at a table overlooking the beautiful bay and just savored the ambiance. Of course, what is Italy without gelato! We passed this time, but we heard that it was very good. Then it was time to return to the tenders and go to the ship. On our return, we learned that a coule we had met were getting off in Taomina because he was having breathing problems and high blood pressure they couldn’t control. I hope they got back safely.
We were supposed to stop in Sorrento next, but the Captain came on the PA and said the report is for heavy seas, so we docked in Naples instead. We were on a cruise critic tour and there were six of us in the van. We went to the Amalfi Coast to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. What a spectacular ride! We now understand why this road is so famous. First, we stopped in Positano where the traffic is one way in and another way out. Cars were parked for at least one mile before the entrance to the town because there is so little parking inside. Our driver took us to the beginning of what was supposed to be the beginning of the pedestrian walk ways. For about two blocks, cars kept coming on the narrow road, but then the signs were only for pedestrians. Shops lined both sides displaying all sorts of merchandise from key chains to $600 string bikinis. Lemons grow in abundance, so limoncello is the best in this area of Italy. They even make limoncello ice cream, not just plain limone, one with a kick.
Driving on to Amalfi is indescribably beautiful. The hairpin turns have a short stone guide fence so the view is not obstructed. The water below is very blue, and the houses hug the hillsides along every turn. Amalfi is similar to Positano but not quite so touristy. We walked around and it was not as crowded because it is just a bit further away from Naples. Our visit to Ravello was calm. The six of us ate at a family trattoria in Ravello. Mama was the cook and she took our orders even though she didn’t speak any English. We all had some pasta and agreed it was special. After lunch, some people went to Villa Ruffillo, a large villa now used for concert venues and tours. We decided to walk around and in the process found a jewelry “factory” run by Mama, Papa, and their daughter. He spoke quite good English, and was very proud to show us a picture of Hillary Clinton who visited his shop and bought something there. He has been in the jewelry business for 62 years, and has beautiful coral, amber, and precious stone jewelry. I did buy a necklace of amber that he had “carved” a C into. It is quite pretty, and, of course, he gave me his “best price.” By this time, we were getting tired so we headed back to Naples and the ship on a different, faster return route.
Our ship left that evening for Civitaveccia, the Port of Rome. Two of our table mates were leaving us in Rome, so we had a nice farewell dinner complete with a special chocolate cake ordered by Beth and Norm. We will miss Marie and Mark’s company as they were fun people. We had lots of laughs with them.
Since Bruce and I had been to Rome on different occasions, we took another Cruise Critic tour with two other couples. Dave arranged this one, and we headed into the countryside to go to some of the small villages off the tourist route. We saw some old, old buildings with lots of history. Many walled towns with narrow streets and interesting towers with bells or clocks. Dave had researched this very thoroughly, and had picked a restaurant on a large volcanic lake. We invited our guide/driver to join us for lunch, and we really had a super delicious lunch with the local wine. Most had the special local fish, grilled with herbs and , of course, olive oil. I had veal scaloppini with artichokes. Yummy. We continued our drive as we headed back a different route, stopping along the way for gelato. It was a wonderful relaxing day and quite memorable.
We sailed about midnight so there was not a chance of seeing the Costa Concordia that is about 2 to 3 hours north of Civitaveccia. I think everyone is just as glad not to see that. Now we are on our way to St. Rafael, France. The weather is windy and the waves are high. If this continues, we will not anchor there as we couldn’t tender to shore with strong winds. We’ll just have to wait and see.