Italia part 2

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July 26th 2019
Published: July 28th 2019
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And back to Italy.

First stop Verona where we headed out to the Arena Di Verona, a Roman amphitheatre which is used during the summer months to host Opera.

Tonight it was La Traviata a tragic love story ( aren’t they all?) set in France. Starting at 9pm it finished just after midnight! As an open air venue it was brilliant and we had terrific seats which were head on to the stage. The singing and the music were not miked and the acoustics in the arena really worked well. The stage setting was also fantastic and in a similar venue (and to a different opera) I could be persuaded to go again, although I don’t think I will ever be an opera convert. I still prefer a good film or musical with a decent story (philistine eh!). Sue is into it a bit more though and has been to a few live screenings at the Cinema.

We also found out the next morning that our Airbnb host was a violinist who had retired from 33 years playing the violin in the orchestra at the opera.

Then we headed on towards Bari and stopped at Vasto. We found our hotel faster than we found a parking space. After driving round for about 20 minutes and seeing at least half a dozen cars with broken rear windows taped up with polythene we decided it must be a rough area and found a 24 hour parking garage a bit further away for safety.

However when we spoke with the hotel owner he said they had had a huge hailstorm a few days back and that’s why so many windows were broken.

Another lovely Italian town and in the centre that evening we came across an Italian Pink Floyd tribute band which we managed to listen to from a bar just outside the venue.

Not bad.

Back on the road to Bari the next morning stopping at Barletta a town on the coast which had a nice old part. Initially we visited the Pinacotheca de Guiseppe Nittis housed in what was the palazzo Della Marra. An Italian artist, Guiseppe’s works were donated by his wife on her death to the town on the understanding that they should be shown and never be sold. Worth a look.

We were still an hour or so away from Bari so decided to stop for lunch as it wasn’t forecast to rain for a while. Wrong.

Almost as soon as we ordered our food the heavens opened and down came torrential rain - as heavy as I have seen in the tropics and the towns drains didn’t cope with it very well. Eventually the restaurant closed and Sue took shelter elsewhere while I braved the downpour, wading through 3 inches of cold running water as I walked and slipped my way to the car. We had to get to Bari before the car rental place closed. I was drenched so had to get changed. We headed out of the town via the water covered roads which got deeper as we drove through the town but we managed it.

Once in Bari we picked up Sue’s car again ( after the hire car guy mentioned once or twice how heavy the hailstones were). Off we then went nearly a mile into the town itself and stayed in Bari near the old town. Away from the port Bari is a big town with a lovely old town and a buzzing main town.

In the light the next day we spotted that the car had a good sample of dimples across the roof and bonnet, clearly from the hail - now we knew why the hire car guy mentioned the hail! Having said that by then we had read reports of folk putting cardboard and old mattresses on top of the cars to protect the windows and bodywork from the hail, so we got off lightly.

Then onto Positano (via Ravello - worth a stop). We were staying in Le Ghiandhe B&B in Monterpertuso, above Positano. Driving the Amalfi coast was interesting but as we meandered round some of the bends as we got close to our destination I was asked by a passing motorist coming in the other direction to slow down- I felt I had passed my Italian driving test!

However after an interesting, windy and occasionally nervy drive the last thing I wanted was to carry luggage straight up 100 or so stairs. Damn! Fortunately we had already put some clothes in our back packs so we left the suitcase in the car and just took what we need for the night- anything else we wanted we could pick up each time we passed the car. When we got up the step we were greeted by our hosts and had a drink overlooking a stunning bay. A great venue after all.

The thing to do from Positano is the Walk of the Gods and that we did after breakfast on the terrace the next day. An interesting walk taking you up into the hills with spectacular views across the valleys, the sea and of course of Positano. A few hours later we reached the end of the walk and stopped at what was the last bar before Positano if going in the opposite direction and the first one after the walk going our way. Needless to say we stopped for a biteto eat before finding the bus and the drive down to Amalfi.

From there we caught the ferry back to Positano. It was interesting watching folk get off the boat as it moved up and down with the swell and of course we also had to get on it. The movement must have been about 3 foot but the crew were happy enough holding the bridge as we walked, hopped & jumped on. Nice ride back.

Next day a lazy start looking out from our balcony to the sea then after the 1000 steps down we were in Positano. A bit cooler than it had been recently at 29 degrees - very welcome.

After a wander round the town we found our way to a local beach away from the main area & had a rest after the hilly walk yesterday. A few hours later we headed back and had supper on the balcony before heading off to Rome the next morning.

On the way we stopped at Herculaneum and joined a group on a guided tour. We had previously visited Pompei on another trip and this was just as interesting albeit smaller. The guide brings it all to life.

Then on to Rome to meet Munchie the cat we were looking after for a few days. The place itself was in a good location but clearly a single man lived here and it wasn’t as clean as it might have been but after sorting a few things it was fine for a few days. Clearly this was his first time with house sitters.

Once sorted and the cat fed we walked to an area near the city where Sue had found a restaurant with a good reputation. She was a tad surprised thought when a place called ‘Bir & Fud’ ended up being a craft beer bar that sold food - worked for me.

We spent a few days in Rome and because we had already been and ticked off the main tourist sites we just wandered and with no real agenda kept almost falling over both the tourist highlights and other historical sites off the beaten track.

We also visited the Maxxi Museum If you are into art it’s worth a visit but it is a little way outside the main city. We got a taxi back towards the colosseum and stopped at A Vespa and bike hire shop that also housed a small museum with a collection of Vespas through the years.

Final full day in Rome. We had booked a cycle tour for the evening so wandered in via the Pyramid of Cestius built as a tomb for a wealthy Roman about 12bc. You can book to go inside on the 3rd and 4th weekends of the month but we got our timing wrong.

Anyhow off then to join the bike tour from ‘free tour Rome’. It turned out to be an enjoyable 3 hours spent cycling the back streets of Rome seeing some of the main sights and visiting many of the ones that we would otherwise have missed. Our guide Simone was fun, erudite and both anti Vatican and occasionally pro Church! An interesting and entertaining mix. A quick pit stop at La Callisto towards the end with the cheapest beer in Rome and then a cycle up to Capital Hill and the senate with a view across Rome before heading back to our startpoint next to where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March.

One great thing about Rome that seems to have changed since last time we were here is that in the centre most of the roads are closed off to traffic other than taxis and scooters which made it really easy to both walk and cycle round.

From Rome onto San Gimignano and our lovely B&B hosted by a lively Italian couple who couldn’t speak a word of English but were so friendly and welcoming and even mentioned that I was the perfect husband to Sue! At least that’s what I understood.

The town itself was 15 minutes walk away up on a hill and was encompassed within old walls with great views across the countryside.

We went into Torre e Casa Campatelli an 18th century palazzo encompassing a Mediaeval tower from mid 12th century. An interesting look at how the family lived in the house over the years.

We then climbed the Torre Salvucci Maggiore Dimora Storica del XII Sec to get views across the town. As we went up we were surprised to see each level laid out as if it was part of an apartment or a bed on one floor, a seating area on another, a kitchen in another and a bathroom on yet another. All linked by circular iron stairs. After getting to the top and coming back down again( worth the view) we found out that you can book the tower and stay overnight.

We had spotted that there was a concert in the square later that evening and after grabbing something to eat we wandered down to get close and listen. As we got close, rather than paying 30 euros each we lay down outside on the warm paved flooring and watched the stars as the musicians played - brilliant. We weren’t the only ones!

The following day we shot off to Santa Margherita near to Portofino for our last 2 nights in Italy. Great choice to finish, Santa Margherita is a great jumping off point for Portofino as it enables you to approach it from the sea and entering the harbour by ferry with the sun shining is wonderful.

As with seemingly all small coastal towns in Italy it’s multi coloured and multi layered housing surrounding the harbour and its bars and restaurants looks fantastic. The short trek up to Castle Brown is also worth it. Great views and an interesting history. We also managed to find some time to go swimming in the bay before heading back to Santa Margherita.

Even though we had to return to Italy to swap the cars over it turned out to be a real positive as we thoroughly enjoyed being back in Italy and taking in more lovely Italian towns.

But now a few weeks later than planned we were off to France

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29th July 2019


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