Notes from plane seats and the odd airport lounge part ii / Back in wintery Tasmania

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May 30th 2010
Published: June 2nd 2010
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We woke early to organise ourselves for the trip back to Australia, which involved a 10am bus trip to Salerno, a 11.30am train trip to Rome (Stazione Termini) and a 1.30pm train trip to the airport (Fiumicino). The bus trip from Amalfi to Salerno was amazing, although we almost had to re-think our transport options when a small rock-fall just out of Amalfi left us stranded in traffic for about 10 minutes. Mirroring the trip into Amalfi from Sorrento, there were sections of road where a knee-high concrete fence offered the only barrier between us and a sheer drop into the Mediterranean. We scurried off the bus and got to the Salerno train station with 6 minutes to spare before the train left for Rome. The woman in front us was arguing with the ticket seller, and time was disappearing fast. We eventually got the tickets, ran to the train and boarded just as it left. We collapsed into the nearest carriage and felt quite chuffed that we had not only made the train, but also chanced upon a very comfortable and private compartment. Our delight was short-lived, as we had jumped into first class, and before long people arrived and demanded their seats. We carriage hopped for the next three stations until we found ourselves in carriage 5, the last comfortable carriage before cattle class started down the back of the train. Our ticketed seats were actually in carriage 6, but fortunately no-one arrived to claim their compartment, so we rode out the last hour to Rome in comfort.

We jumped on the first train to Fiumicino and arrived at the airport at 4pm, tired and exhausted. Travel days are often tiring, and this seems incongruous with the fact that for the majority of the time you simply sit and watch the world go by. We found a quiet spot and caught up on our travel writing while we waited for our check-in desk to open. We checked-in, wandered the airport shops and then settled down at Gate 12 with pizza and wine to watch the planes come and go into Rome for the last time. We were on our journey home.

The plane was packed, so there was no option of stretching out on any spare seats. We sat in the same seats for the 10.5 hour flight to Seoul, so we arrived feeling pretty ordinary. We had a quick two hour stopover before boarding our plane to Melbourne. This time the plane was not packed at all, so we both managed to get a row of seats to stretch out and sleep on during the 11 hour flight. After many red wines and a few cognacs, I was ready to settle in for the flight across the Pacific...

We left Rome at 10.45pm on Sunday night and arrived in Melbourne at 6.30am on Tuesday morning. It had been a long-haul flight, but worth every minute for the month we spent in Italy. We had a long wait at Melbourne airport, as our flight to Hobart didn’t leave until 12pm, so we settled into a corner and caught up on our travel writing.

A bus from Amalfi to Salerno, a train to Rome, and a train to Rome’s Leonardo Davinci International Airport...that concludes our ground travel in Italy. 😞

As our travels draw to a close I have been re-living our time here and marvelling at the ease with which we had travelled through a non-English speaking country with only a few ciaos, mi scusas, per favores, grazies, molto bennes, delisiosos and bellisimos to help us. Oh yes, and ‘andiamo’ - which Andrew would have loved to use on me when I dawdled at markets or had option anxiety at the gelataria...

Ok I think it’s finally time to talk about a real passion of mine - gelato! You’d probably gathered by now that I had a gelato at every possible opportunity. Andrew doesn’t have a sweet tooth but was very accommodating when I wanted one, which was sometimes every few hours...and off we’d wander looking for a new gelataria to try. The choice at even the smallest gelateria covers all manner of traditional gelato flavours, creamy custard zabaione, fruity sorbetto, and the widest and wildest assortment of nuts and chocolate variations I have ever seen. As they are very eager to tell you - gelato is not ice cream, it has a milk (as opposed to cream) base and it’s frozen at higher temperatures so it has more flavour, and it can also convey even the subtlest of flavours because it is served fresh... but to be honest I don’t really care how it works, all I know is that it tastes sublime and it is one of my most favourite treats. 😄

Speaking of food, it is probably quite clear by now that we love it in all its forms! We especially loved getting to know the regional variations in core Italian foods such as pesto, pasta, pizza, risotto, steak and gelato. While there is something very romantic and pleasing about savouring these iconic dishes in their indigenous homes, I have to note here that we believe great food is great food regardless of how it is cooked and who cooks it. Even though we enjoyed the regional pride and rivalry, we are quite amazed by the level of food snobbery here. If some of these chefs had their way, regional specialities would not be served outside regional borders and Italian food would be banned outside Italy! I can understand this to a certain extent when you get eggs on Aussie pizzas and pineapple on Hawaiian pizzas! But that aside, when the fresh produce is as brilliant as it is here, when the food tastes so divine, and when the cuisine experience is so extreme - does it really matter if the pesto is hand-pounded or blended? Or if fresh tagliatelle is hand cut or machine cut? We don’t think so...(but I just felt all the foodies the world over collectively groan at me!).

Oh and the cheese...the glorious cheese! My favourites were soft pecorino cheese and fresh buffalo mozzarella. The soft pecorino in Tuscany tastes quite different to any pecorino I have had before - it is wonderfully strong, salty and has a big bite. The buffalo mozzarella in Campania is the softest, creamiest and smoothest cheese I have ever tasted. The satire of Life of Brian really rang true here...‘blessed are the cheese makers’. 😊

Anyway, enough waxing lyrical about we are in Rome for one last time on our way back home. We are both wonderfully wonderfully travelled out and looking forward to getting back home. We have been on the road for more than 30 days now and we are starting to have small bouts of travel weariness...but we were fighting it off with gusto and enjoying our last day in Italy and the trip home. We have missed the four legged babies very much and we cannot wait for the excitement and cuddles and kisses as we drive through the gate…


4th June 2010

Buffalo Mozarella
I still want to know how they milk those buffaloes - they didn't look very prone to milking on Dirty Jobs the oyjer night. And welcome home, by the way!
5th June 2010

Re: Buffalo Mozarella
Hmmm now that you mention it Keith, we did not see a single buffalo in Italy! Might have to investigate further :)

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