Published: August 7th 2012June 22nd 2012
Anna and I organised our delicious breakie of yoghurt, muslie and slice banana ready to have on the bus as it was an early 7:30 start. We weren't the earliest so were left to be the back seat bandits with Dan from Adelaide and then Terry and Alan the only mature age couple joined us up the back. Anna and I cracked out tubs, started munching only to discover that our new guide, Ereni's first rule was "no eating on the bus". Whoops! Haha Big chats and we discovered the 'oldies' were really super cool to hang out with and not afraid of being overun by a busload of about 30 twenty somethings. At our first service stop Terry and Alan met Teagan who decided as they were the 'olds' then we should fully adopt them and they were then forever known as Mum and Dad. Anna and I, being the first to meet them became the older sisters and so began our family of 5! After 3 months without family and a recent bout of homesickness while looking forward to my own parent's immenent arrival an "Italian family" was just what I needed in the meantime. Funnily enough we had many of the other passengers convinced that we were actually a real family for a while!
Our first stop on our southern Italian adventure was Pompeii, the ancient ruins of a long lost civilization. It is amazing but their entire town is built on 50 acres in total! That is only 10 acres bigger than my family farm back in Wamuran! The map of the village looks like a fish, sorry my photo is slightly blury. We visited the market square, had a sing in the original amphitheatre and headed to the shops where they used to store oil. The cobble stone streets are amazing as they still have indents in the rocks where the carriges used to drive and they also had "speed bumps" which had the duel function of slowing the carriges and allowing people to cross the road without getting their feet dirty in the muck of the road. The original people of Pompeii were far ahead of their time, in building structures, plumbing and artistic decoration. It is unfortunate their civilization was destroyed and left undiscovered for so long. Anna has finished her degree in archeology and I could only imagine how exciting a place like thia would be to discover.
In the bath houses they used to heat the water and then use the water to insulate the floor so it wasn't cold in winter, they are my kind of people! The family rooms had decorative mosaics and beautiful paintings on the walls, it is amazing that so much has survived til today. The roads are also very wide, almost 3 cars could fit side by side in some sections. The result of the volcano on the people that were there is incredible. You can see the expressions on their faces, the details in their skin. We stopped at a water point and so did our guide (who was gorgeously handsome). There were a number of photos taken when he decided to dip his head under to get a drink, including Mum who managed to get the best shot. Haha
Which brings me to the funniest place, the house of ill repute (or one of them, there was 10 in the whole area!) . Funny mostly because the beds were concrete and had paintings above the doors. Historians aren't sure whether it is just for decoration or rather an indication of the special skills perfomed within. There is even an indication on the building outside of a "ahem member stone" to show what building you are close to, kind of like the red light district in Amsterdam.
My favourite part was seeing the renaissance architecture in the main square on the boarders of HUGE pillars which frame the view near Mt Vesuvius. This kind of decoration was then not seen again for another 400 years! Incredible! Anna and I shared our first margarita pizza and ordered a fresh lemonade as it was stinking hot by this point. We didn't realise it was made from lemons, not lemonades...so 3-4 sugar packets later and it was almost drinkable and very refreshing! I wanted a postcard so I headed for the stalls outside only to be quite affronted when the Italian seller said "hey blondy you want to buy this?". My first horse was called blondy...not me! I skipped the postcard and instead had a giggle at what one of the other girls bought...a souvineer, action figures, menage a trois keychain! Clever but not something I could ever hang my keys from.
On the bus again and we were introduced to Sophia Limone, Ereni's mascot for our trip, who then went everywhere with us. Including our tour of Sorrento! We all walked through the tiny laneways in a giant snake line heading for gelato and cheap beer. Anna and I voted for gelato first and then hadnto catch up with the gang who went for beer. Geez, priorities! Haha There are so many shoe stores with ready made or made to order shoes. Luckily the soles were a bit too hard for long term backpacking! Otherwise I would have spent up big! We did find the cutest earings which had animals doing sports...very funky. We all pilled into a tiny shop for a limoncello and chocolate tasting run by the most amazing guy who was such a character! He flirted with all the girls, made fun of all the boys and we all had such a good laugh at his antics and wonderful operatic singing. You could tell he loved what he was doing and although it wasn't to my taste, I tried everything!
Next was the group dinner at a local italian restaurant. The food and wine was pretty ok but not the amazing taste I was expecting. We headed to a bar afterwards but then decided we were all pretty exhausted and headed back into town to find the bus stop, via a quick stop to dance like crazy people with a local band at a different restaurant. We got some funny looks from their patrons eating dinner but the musicians appreciated our support of their playing!
We arrived at the bus stop and waited, and waited, and waited...then we had random gamily discussions where the girls and I disagreed or ganged up on eachother with various philosophical debates, worked out the order in ages, who was the eldest (me) who was the middle child with a complex (Anna) and who was the spoilt youngest (Tegan). We also had a discussion about Rome and religion, where upon Mum decided to say "Geez, it's just the Pope, who cares about the pope!" rather loudly....so fits of the giggles ensued when we all realised we were still in Italy, and yes, most people here care about the Pope. Honestly we were all so comfortable and relaxed it felt like we were at home relaxing and having a chat amongst the oldest (no age refernce meant) of friends and family. There was a number of other people who were waiting for the bus having a quiet giggle at our ramblings.
Enough waiting, we decided to abandon the bus and walk back up the hill to the hostel. For the first part there was a tiny footpath big enough for one but the view was so worthwhile, by the time we got just a little higher and saw the beautiful twinkly lights of Sorrento and the surrounds we were all glad the bus had forgotten us. This was until the footpath disappeared and we had to walk on the road, the very narrow, barely wide enough for 2 cars, let alone 2 buses, kind of road! Mum bravely took the lead with me following, then Anna and then the complaining Tegan and Dad were last. It was rather nerve wracking as there was no room for error and a few scary moments with fast moving buses and typical Italian driving which was scary for us as pedestrians.
I was glad I had Anna to share my tent as it was very 'basic' and had camp showers, not my favourite option. Today we were all off for a walk down to the bottom of the hill to catch a boat that would take us out to the Island of Capri! The boat was packed so the family joined forces to make two teams so we could take a tour into the blue grotto. Ereni told us it is now illegal for boats to enter but it makes for so much tourism that the boats near the grotto do it anyway. Our big boat motored into the cove to swap into the smaller boats to take us in. it was decreed illegal because a girl hit her head on the entrance and died as a result of her injuries. It was quite choppy and I had no idea how low the entrance would be. It is literally a metre from the sea level at its lowest wave and lapping the top of the entrance with a big wave, it is also barely wider than their tiny boats.
They enter by rowing up to the entrance, grabbing a rope and pulling the boat through on a low point in the swell. Anna and I saw this and said 'hmmm, maybe not, it doesn't look safe'. Luckily Mum said 'don't be a wimp, hurry up and get in the boat'. What Mum says goes! So off we went. Mum, Anna and I in one boat, Dad in the other, Teagan took a boat without us (independant youngest child...so not cool to spend all her time with us! Haha) It was scary getting in as the three of us had to lie completely flat in the boat and the boatman had to squish himself to get in. Once we got in and sat up it was so very beautiful, one of the most special things I have seen on my trip so far. Our boatman even sang for us inside the beautiful cave inside and the echos turned it into something just magic! Back out again and we were back on the main boat to head to the main cove of Capri.
We were all starving so we stopped at the local bar for our first Caprese salad (on Capri! Italian dream come true!) and a big magarhita pizza. So delicious, much better than last nights dinner and so much more amazing than I imagined Italian food would be! Finally I felt like I was eating Italian the way it was supposed to taste!
We took the bus to the town of Capri somewhat higher in the island (I wasn't expecting Capri to be so big, or so high). Walked the town, fell in love with clothes I couldn't afford, discovered my favourite vintage cameos are actually made from shells and then generally just drooled over the amazing jewellery. We took another bus to Ana Capri another level higher again and walked around town, tasting frozen lemonaide and following our 'spidy senses' to find cute photo spots, hidey holes and a very cute church. We had all decided we didn't need to go all the way to the top of the island on the chairlift. That was until half a dozen people had come down raving about how incredible the views were. So off we went, 5 little dickie birds all in a row, off on a chair lift, don't fall out! Here we go! Our fellow travellers were not mistaken, it was definately worth it. Amazing views of the whole island, birds to talk to, funny statues to mimic, jumping photos that look like you are flying! Fun fun!
We tried singing Australian songs back down the chairlift but it was so relaxing we almost fell asleep. Not for the first time, and definately not the last, I feel so amazingly blessed to be able to have the opportunity to do this, to travel, to see these fantastic creations in the world. Not only that but I have the most amazing and special people to share it with. Turns out I get all reflective on chairlifts...must be not enough oxygen! Hahaha Mum and Dad organised us a group open top taxi for the trip all the way back to the bottom of the mountain to the cove where we met the boat. We took a swim, started the 'up stream salmon' dance so that Mum could take photos of us in the water, which then resulted in fits of the giggles and more attempts and near drownings when we laughed with a mouthful of water. It was a beautiful area to swim but there was a lot of suncreen, muck and yuck stuff in the water simply due to the sheer amount of people swimming around. Dad was mean and threw a clump of wood at us and yelled "it's a poo!" Of course we screamed and swam away...whereby I happened to look to my left to see a REAL poo floating next to me!! Ahhh! Lots of fast swimming back to shore...time for cocktails for a speedy recovery.
I decided I had enough of my stupid shoes which were not good for showers or beaches and so splurged on 28 euro haviana's, my first real thongs! (I don't usually do thongs, so casual, but I have realised so effective for backpacking) So much more comfy and I got a Capri towel as well...Cinque Terre, Greek Islands and Croatia was coming up and microfibre towels don't do well on sand.
On our way home to Sorrento the boat took us on a tour around the island to a few other photo stops, we saw the green grotto, the famous red coral of capri growing on the edge of the water, the three massive rock formations called the Faraglioni and also had individual names too, Stella, Mezzo and Scopolo. For lovers it is supposed to be good luck to kiss as you go through the arches. Mum and Dad had a pash! There is a stalagmite cave which has formed a statue in the shape of the Madonna, I thought this was a joke but it really does look like it! There is 2 elephants kissing on a clif amongst the rocks, the white grotto and a tiny statue of a boy waving us goodbye.
When we got back Mum, Dad, Tegan and I decided to go for a quick swim, another hilarious, but mostly failed attempted at up stream salmon (from now on known as USS). Followed by ta,ing the wrong turn walking back up the hill and walking around the campsite for half an hour. Haha oh well, we all got ready quickly and then headed back down the hill for our last night family dinner. This was first preceeded by the walk down the hill. It was day light so now we could see the cars, but I am not sure if this made it better or worse?! The corners are so tight, I was in the lead and no one could see us before we came around corners so we started yelling BEEEP!!! as we approached a corner. Crazy as this may seem, it appeared to work quite effectively. There are many tiny utes that are used by the Italians in the hills, which got Anna and I started on that 3 wheel car that use to be Mr Bean's nemisis. Oddly, just as we said this, a Mr Bean 3 wheel car came around a corner! I was so excited I started yelling "Mr Bean car! Mr Bean Car!" the Italian guy driving didn't appreciate my excitement, beeped at me, shook his hand and swerved as if he was pretending to run me over. Perhaps this had happened to him before?!
We found the restaurant that Anna had scoped out for us from Ereni which was called Buffalo or something similar. It was the most amazing food, just delicious, a perfect ending to our weekend in the south. We went back to the gelato place for dessert and went down to the terrace fof some night time family shots before heading back up the long walk to our camp ground at the top of the hill. We even managed to stop traffic at one point to get us all across the road!
Next morning was a struggle to pack up and get ready but Anna and I had a quick breakie before I realised it was Amalfi coast road day! Opps! Noelene had given me the heads up that unless you got on the bus early, you would be stuck on the wrong side of the bus and miss most of the amazing views....and here we were still having a leisurely breakfast! I told Anna, who was helping someone locked in a toilet that I would grab us seats and raced up as fast as I could with my stupidly heavy backpack. I am not normally very cut throat, but I overtook 4 people and beat team Canada by racing up as surruptiously as I could, dumping my bag and checking to see if there was any spots on the right side left....there was just 2! Sweet! Anna arrived and we were on our way on the most beautiful road I have ever been on. We left really early and managed to see the sun as it capped the mountains, it was stunning. I only hope my photos do it some kind of justice. Put this one on your bucket list!
We stopped at Positano, the town of way too many steps, we went into the ceramic shop, where I finally found a nice and reasonable priced set of red coral earings and some tiny salt and pepper bowls. We then stopped further on for a group photo, fresh fruit and packaged herbs before spending our morning in Amalfi. We stopped for a coffee break, Mum won the award for best pastry picker, we all shared, it was divine. We all hopped on a boat to see the amalfi coast and houses of the rich and famous before a quick swim stop. Anna and I weren't going in, and then the water (and Mum and Dad) were calling to us. So the lovely Kim from Canada took photo for us of the family attempting our final attempt of Up Stream Salmon. It was so lovely, none of us wanted to get out! We wandered the shops in town, Anna, Teag's and Mum and Dad got Capri perfume (it didn't suit me), filled our water bottles and washed off the salt water at the boob fountain (water flowed from the female statue's boob's - the guys were all facinated) then we hopped back on the bus for a quick trip up the hill to Ravello
Ravello was quite simply spectacular. Views of all of the coast, all of the mountains, vineyards,olive groves and beautiful villa's. I wish we could have stayed. The lunch Ereni recommended was absolutely delicious and we sat in the town square to soak in the view. Anna and I wandered the town and found a cute art gallery with a flower garden, walked up the hill to find icecream and then had to race back to town to ensure we were on time. Luckily the cameo shop which had been closed for siester was open when we returned and I managed to find a very small but sweet cameo as a souvineer of our adventure.
On our race back to the bus I was stopped by a policeman on a scooter (I was horrified it was goin to be a repeat of Morooco) but it turned out he wanted to tell me not to leave, I should go visit the villa and stay in Ravello. Haha How lovely. Ereni told us this place was home to some amazing wedding proposal stories and she even had a couple propose on her tour last year! Definately a beautiful and romantic spot. On the way home we drove a different way to see the very vast city of Naples which is sitting dangerously bellow Mt Vesuvius. It is overdue apparently for an erruption, but Ereni ssures us there are evacuation procedures in place.
We got back to the camp ground and had family hugs (nearly some tears) before everyone went their seperate ways and Anna and I had a lovely dinner with Kim before calling it a night. All in all, southern Italy was quite amazing, I would love to go back and spend more time in some of the coastal villages. Beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and particularly on this trip, beautiful company! Xoxo Miss my Italian family already! :-)