Italy

Summer in Italy can be HOT! Expecting temperatures in the mid to high thirties was a little daunting but the reality on our first morning was a gorgeous blue sky, light breeze and a peaceful ambiance that set me right into holiday mode from day one.

After the usual gruelling flight from IMG_3033Australia to Europe we were totally fagged. Bordering sleep deprived delirium we caught the ever so convenient hotel courtesy bus for an unscheduled back street tour of suburbia from airport to The Golden Tulip Rome Airport Isola Sacra  Fiumicino. The pictures on Booking.com looked good, but we knew from experience a picture is not always the thousand words it represents, but it looked better than a few others on offer and at half the price. I recommend this hotel to any one and everyone. Rooms with balconies overlook the pool and restaurant and although planes fly over (John loved this aspect, naturally) the sound proofing is excellent and indoors was quiet and peaceful. The garden was like nona’s backyard. Rosemary grew from the balcony flower pots and lemon, olive and pomegranate trees surrounded the pool and restaurant area.

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Dinner in the poolside restaurant was all that a tourist in Italy could hope for. The antipasto was undoubtedly one of the yummiest i have had the pleasure of…and i have had a few…as my scales can testify. Spaghetti with clams for me and grilled turbot for John with grilled veggies and amazingly yummo bread baked in a wood fired pizza oven, beautifully complimented by  a bottle of Italian Sauvignon blanc from the North West, somewhere between Venice and Austria we were told. The staff were impeccable. Friendly, informative and cool to boot.

Breakfast was also by the pool and a very relaxed gorgeous start to the day.  Choices included cakes that put AP morning teas to shame, and for those that i work with, you know that’s sayin’ sumthin’, boiled eggs still in the shell, carrots? a little weird, muslie that tasted frighteningly of coca pops, and hoorah!! real yoghurt. No sweetener or flavour enhancers and texture just like mum used to make. I was overwhelmed. Who needs chocolate croissants when you get fair dinkum yoghurt.

Sorrento

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The drive to Sorrento was easy, for me, i wasn’t the one driving. After stalling the car twice, much to his own surprise, the fella in the captains seat hit the Autostrade without so much as a tremor of a panic.  He nipped and flipped from lane to lane doing a comfortable 120 – 130kms/h. It quickly became obvious that slow drivers caused traffic chaos. The Autostrade travels along the base of the Apennines, a desolate mountain range that gives the impression it has suffered much hardship at the hands of brutal weather. Many abandoned stone houses lie perched close to the verge. It was sad to think they were slowly crumbling before the ugly highway that would have ultimately been the cause of their demise.

We stopped for lunch at Autogrill. Anyone who has been fortunate to do an Italian road trip would  be familiar with these family restaurants that put McDonalds to shame. The self serve oil and vinegar bar was essential for the excellent salads, and well stocked. We need this in Australia!! However, not all of the Autogrill’s have the restaurant, look for the big ones over the road.

 

 

IMG_3161Driving through Naples i was plunged into sensory overload. Dilapidated apartment blocks with higgledy piggledy balconies in seemingly random and perilous positioning were crowned with a tangle of overhead wires and aerials. The outskirts of the city were united by the pink, ochre and rust paint which adorned walls. Amidst clutter and deterioration there are verdant patches of life. Veggie gardens, olive and fruit trees grow and are plentiful. No patch of land lay to waste. Long winding tunnels made me squeal, not with fear, with delight. i love a good tunnel. Emerging from them we found ourselves in Sorrento, the steep hillsides covered in olive trees clinging precariously high above the road. Arriving in Sorrento during the evening peak hour was challenging. He who drives was now driving like a fully fledged Italian and stood his ground, dodging mopeds, buses, trucks and cars with a calm i couldn’t share. This time i was a squealing with fear.
IMG_3198The Hotel Continental was our home for three nights. The awesome fellows at the desk took control of our car and luggage and welcomed us to their very comfortable hotel. Our pleasant room was quiet and clean although  virtually underground in the paupers region and the mattress a wee bit too solid for my liking. Nevertheless, lots of gold and a rather bright bathroom won me over, not to mention the bed is turned down by invisible pixies while the room is vacant in the evening and a chocolate left on the bedside table. Oh, and what looks like a tea towel is put either side of the bed with ‘Goodnight and Buona Notte’ on it. So cute!

 

Travel brochures lead you to believe dinner overlooking the Bay of Naples is common in these parts, but in reality it is a rarity to the commoners who stalk the tourist shops. The rooftop restaurant Terrazza Vittoria at The Continental blew us away.  We thought the privilege of dinner in this amazing location would mean a remortgage of the family home, but the prices were not much more than a mediocre restaurant in Melbourne, and boy, i have never had service or food or a view like this in Melbourne!!

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Who serves bread like this??

A glass of complementary Prosecco on arrival was followed by several complementary yummy bits and pieces that were quite awesome in quality and abundance. They even provided a tasting plate of sweets – after dessert!  The food portions were small, but we were well satisfied. Everything was beautifully presented.

 

IMG_2086IMG_2098.JPGOh and how about this for an added extra i have never seen before! They brought out a little stool for me to put my bag on. Now that’s cool. Night fell and to add to the romance (heheh, not really) fireworks went off, scaring the crap out of all of us. Such a beautiful view from the top. Don’t kid yourself that you ain’t missing’ nothin’ by not finding a rooftop restaurant. It is truly lovely.

 

IMG_3249FullSizeRender.jpgWe woke quite early the next morning and not wanting to waste a beautiful day we decided to have brekky and go for a walk to the port before having a swim at our hotel’s private beach. I have no apologies to make for trying the naughty bits at breakfast. I thought long and hard about being good, but seriously, what mortal could resist that donut??

People watching is possibly one of my favourite pastimes. I watched a not so young pair of first time parents and their fretful child at breakfast this morning. Methodical mum peeled kiwi fruit and sliced grapes with the precision of an overcautious surgeon. Dog tired, her movements were slow as she exerted as little energy as possible, filling a small plastic tub with fruit. Eyes and lips drooped, she and husband barely spoke, made no eye contact and took turns with the child, never forming a complete unit. Each parent spoke to the child only when the other was absent from the table collecting overflowing plates of food. Little was eaten. Dad cooed to the child, mum admonished. The holiday a pretence at normality.

I wore off the delightfully sugary delicious sinfulness with quite a decent walk to the lesser tourist populated part of Sorrento, to the left of the main part of town. The small harbour was sans steep cliffs and not so full of tourists. It looked like a nice place for lunch.

The walk was brilliant. Beautiful alleyways and stone steps climbed and zig zagged behind the seafront and every corner revealed a photographic joy.

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Coming down a cobbled walk, we halted a nona sweeping the front of her fruit shop. She smiled and we swapped bongiorno’s. Giant watermelons awaited purchase on the side of the pathway.

It was getting a little hot, so i had insisted it was time to float in sea water or there would be a marital dispute. He who keeps the  peace led me back to the ‘beach’.

 

I think i like the Italian idea of beaches. Sun loungers to keep you off the sand, umbrella’s   and beach boxes for hire, not to mention you can take alcohol to your sunbed, and at our beach they make a bloody good Margarita pizza. Oh, and safe swimming! No sharks, stingers, rips, jet skies, flying footies or cricket balls…need i say more? Aaaahhh….Italia….

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The tunnel to our beach and the door to get back to the hotel. I found this tunnel crazy exciting. What a way to enter a beach!

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The port at Sorrento quite clearly advises people not to drive off the end of the pier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our last night in Sorrento we had dinner at a reasonably swish dining establishment, even though the waiters dressed casually and treated their customers like family. The senior chappie did however wear a suit and boasted having fed many movie stars including Mel Gibson – whose name he couldn’t remember, even though he remembered many of the movies he had featured in and that he was, a ‘very famous movie star.’ The restaurant filled quickly and became obvious that Americans were a high percentage of the clientele. I was fascinated by a woman who spoke loud enough to encroach on our own conversation. Her thoughts and speech were slow, her face looked as though it had been soaking in bleach. She refused desserts with chocolate and complained everything was fattening, and then guzzled her babas and complained they were too small.

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The food was excellent, the pasta was handmade, and delicious, the baba’s soft and drenched in Grand Marnier, however, the octopus blew my mind. Tender like i have never experienced before, with delicate shavings of fennel all resting on diced buttery potatoes. Oh my god! So yum.

 

 

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We finished off the evening with a Limoncello, followed by a second complimentary Limoncello from our friendly waiter which then rather finished me off. He offered a third but we declined, fearing for our ability to find our way back to the hotel. Holding on to the big fella we made our way along the Corso Italia, which for those
who have not visited lovely Sorrento, is closed to traffic in the evenings.

 

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The invisible man was there, just as he was in our 2010 visit! Good bye Sorrento. We enjoyed you an the acres of olive trees along the freeways. It is hot, and even the cacti are dying on the roadsides, but the olive, fig and oleanders are green and plentiful.

 

Matera

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Matera is in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy. During summer is it crazy hot. Fortunately, staying in caves gives some respite from the heat that beats down on this amazing city perched high above a deep ravine.

The white stone paving can be quite IMG_2219slippery, even with our sensible Sketchers granny shoes. This town is not for the obese, mobility impaired or whiney lazy people – (possibly i come close to this last description). There is no parking in the old town, but it was only about 500metres away and reasonably cheap, about 12 EUR a day.

We stayed at new B & B that has only been operational since March 2017. Our hosts were a lovely young couple who offered outstanding accomodation both in the wonderfully restored cave and the well stocked kitchen. They even had a fresh pizza waiting for us as we arrived at lunch time!

 

If you happen to decide to visit Matera, i strongly recommend Il Geco. They even have a world heritage listed underground well from 1773 we were told, glassed over so you can view it, in the bedroom.img_3350.jpg

Every corner of this quite large city has an interesting sight. Stone stairs and alleyways seem to be endless and there is always a different twist and a pretty courtyard. It is quite an astonishing place. As with most places hoping to profit from tourism, there is also an abundance of eateries at reasonable prices, and a small but sufficient supermarket.

 

The old caves are across the deep ravine. There are walking paths for the fit and perhaps  better in the cooler months.

 

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This is the doorway to our rooms. Much of the old city is still in the throes of restoration, but it looks amazing and it is quite fun peeking down into unrestored caves barricaded by mesh, waiting their turn. Leaving Matera was weird. I felt very comfortable there, regardless of the heat, it has a quiet calm about it and the people are ridiculously friendly, and it hasn’t been overrun by tourists yet. I was a bit freaked out by the seismographs in the museum, and fear for any earthquakes in the area.

 

The camera lens can’t capture this IMG_3443place like the eyeball can. At night, the lights glow softly and it it quite pretty, but in daylight, it is like a difficult jig saw puzzle you can’t put down. Get there before the tour buses find a place to park.

 

 

 

 

 

We left Matera early for our longest drive to Dozza,  following the beautiful blue of the Adriatic sea for most of the trip.

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John did a minimum of 130km most of the way, making me squeal a few times when he ‘tested’ our little Renault Clio.

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It can’t always be Prosciutto and vino…

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Dozza

Dozza is in the province of Bologna and is rather hot during July.

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We based ourselves in Monte Del Re, a 13th-century convent which has been converted into rather nice accomodation with fortunately a big pool, and a poolside bar that serves complementary nibbles with the drinks. Happy hour had so much food we didn’t need dinner.

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View from our room and night view of the pool.

 

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The Aperol spritz was probably the best i have had the pleasure of, and at 14%, i was pretty happy that evening after downing a bucket of the orange stuff. This one is for you TK!

 

 

 

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It seems as though all we are doing is sitting by water eating and drinking, and yes, there is a great deal of this occurring, but we have also managed to visit some cultural sites inbetween water time.

Every two years in Dozza they have the ‘festival of the painted wall.’ Famous artists from around the world come and paint straight on to the walls of the houses. It is a beautiful little town, so very clean, and we were largely alone as we walked around looking at the paintings. The locals must have thought we were ‘Stupido Inglessi,’ for being out in the heat. Actually, I will digress for a moment. I have told many, many Italians we are Australian, not English, it is quite funny how a frown breaks into a grin when they find out we are from Australia. The gorgeous girl in the supermarket, who speaks four languages but works as a check out chick because she needs a job, threw her hands up in the air and said, ‘Australia! What are you doing in Italy? It’s the other side of the world!’ The deli lady once she found out we were travelling Australian’s, made up sandwiches for us. We didn’t tell the people in the chemist we were Australian, and they actually repeated ‘Inglessi, Inglessi,’ to each other and rolled their eyes and scoffed. We didn’t bother to explain, their rudeness was unnecessary and quite out of character with the rest of the Italians we have come in contact with. Interesting. Now back to the touristy stuff. Here are some pic’s of Dozza and the paintings. Pretty neat eh? Every two years they just paint right over them.

 

Also at Dozza is the Fortress, reconstructed during the 15th century and was actually lived in until 1960!! They have a gallery and apartments open for viewing and you can climb up into the round towers. The brickwork is quite lovely but the dragon confused me a little.

 

We went for a drive to check out another castle and museum, in Castel Del Rio,  a chestnut growing community,  but got side tracked by Ponte Alidosi, an interesting little bridge with a great deal of history.

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Beneath it, heaps of people were lying in the pools of coppery green water.

 

 

 

 

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We used google translator to try and decipher a sign at the bridge and i nearly wet myself laughing over the bridge with halitosis.

 

 

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There are some crazy mountain ranges in Italy. It was very unexpected to see these desolate scary valleys in a land i always believed to be largely farmed.

 

 

 

 

 

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The breakfast room was a covered in courtyard. Very peaceful, with a gorgeous central piece where condiments and bread were placed and looked like it may have been an old well or something, if anyone knows exactly what it was, i would love to confirm its orgins as i was weirdly attracted to it and felt a need to walk around the smooth stone step and be near it.

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Every morning, a nice young fellow offered eggs of various description made fresh to order, but there was plenty to choose from on the buffet and i felt bad at refusing him. It was not busy and he looked quite at ill ease with nothing to do.

 

 

Our last night in Dozza we had dinner beside the fortress. A delicious ravioli with salad and roasted vegies. Reasonably priced and yummy.

 

Bergamo

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He who slashes and obliterates weeds did well choosing Bergamo as our next stop. The old city is incredibly lovely. Our lodgings were Antica Dimora, a 16th century Palazzo that in the 1900’s was the residence of the King and Queen of Savoy when they stayed in Bergamo as guests of the Countess Suardi. Our room was the Royal suite! How posh. It looks like one of those museums you visit, but we got to sleep in it!

 

 

It was stinking hot in Bergamo but it was a matter of suck it up, and armed with a bottle of water, we hit the paved streets and headed uphill. Walking up and up and up, we followed the city wall, passed through the arches  that once protected the city from invaders and then up and up again. It felt about 500 degrees celsius by now, but as we entered the old city it was worth it. The town square is surrounded by brilliant architecture and has a rather lovely, and well used fountain as its centre piece.

The churches in Bergamo are extraordinary. Now, i’m not what would be considered a religious person, but I was filled with awe and had to cover my mouth as i kept saying, ‘oh my god, oh my god’ every time i walked in the door of the three we had a look in. They are truly beautiful. The art work, sculpture and architecture are stunning. I have heard many people say you see one cathedral, you have seen them all, I have seen quite a few in my travels but the Bergamo churches blew me away.

 

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The 12th century Colleoni Chapel has a coat of arms of three testicles on the gate which are meant to bring good luck if you rub them. They are VERY shiny. There  appears to be a lot of rubbing of testicles judging by the shine on these little fellas.
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In memory of Mum, Dad, and the beautiful Vesna and Funche, I lit four candles.

 

Feeling like a gelatinous mess of sweaty flesh, not ladylike but true, the only thing to make me feel better was lunch and i wanted cold beer! No more water. No wine. BEER! IMG_3630We found something that resembled a small pub with a good menu. After a bit of discussion with the publican, we settled on a beer that we were promised was made in Bergamo. La Bergamasco Bionda. It had a lovely lemony yellow colour with a floral aroma. It was quite fresh and inviting. And it was cold. Unfortunately the bottle size was a wee bit bigger than our standard 330ml so i was pie eyed by the time lunch was over.

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I love this label warning pregnant women not to drink!!
Or is it that drinking beer will make me fat?? Oh well, too late for both warnings.
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Our choice of lunch was perfect with the beer. Lots of fresh lettuce topped with roasted artichokes, olives, mushrooms, egg and a soft yellow cheese. Very nice. If anyone is fed up with hearing about food, i make no apologies. Travelling is all the better for the different cuisines we are able to sample along the way.

The entrance to our rooms – Antica Dimora.

Check out the breakfast room. And the dag having breakfast. We have stayed in the most incredible buildings this trip.

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I have to tell about the most brilliant initiative in Bergamo. We were having dinner in the town square and all of a sudden a crowd of fluro lycra clad young people appeared splashing and chattering around the fountain. They started doing warm ups to music and soon all took off for a jog around the town. it was incredible. There were heaps of them and all chatty and happy in the crazy heat. It began at 10pm just as the church bells started. We began walking back to our room amidst the joggers and i joined in for about four steps amid cheers of encouragement and shouts of ‘señora.’

 

Here are are a few of my favourite things in Bergamo other than the brilliant buildings.

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Hahah! I love this sign on the public toilets. It cost .25c to use the toilet, i only had 2EUR in coins. The man at the entrance was very well pleased with me. And possibly hoped i would be back soom.

 

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Heheh. Yeah, I know it’s gutter humour but it’s funny.

 

 

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OK, I have to admit that we spent a couple of hours in the local shopping centre. Largely to escape the heat. The toilets are set up for families, with a little basin and mirror for the kiddies next to the big ones.

 

Never take a man shopping…

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I found my shop!

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Another attempt at Google translate while trying to work out if a pack of wet wipes were for hands or bums. I didn’t know they came specifically for umbilicals? A nice lady confirmed they were for hands.

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Just loving’ the colours in this homewares shop.

 

 

 

 

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Lunch at the Orio shopping centre was excellent. Restaurant quality pasta cooked fresh on order. None of the stodgy gluggy stuff sitting in Bain Marie’s that are offered in Aussie shopping centres. And a glass of cold fizzy red Lambrusco to go with it. A drink i haven’t even clapped eyes on since i was about eighteen, but somehow, it worked.

 

Hot dog. Unfortunately, this fountain is used constantly by hundreds of people who wash their faces and drink from it. There were several unhappy older ladies watching the dog bath.

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Sadly it was time to leave Bergamo. I think this is a place that goes on my revisit list. I have found much beauty and friendly locals that actually enjoy their tourists, unlike some towns that only want to exploit visitors. I also had quite a few laughs, which warmed my heart towards this wonderful city. A guest book in our room had about four pages of Italian proverbs which i will share with you throughout the rest of this blog. They are too good to force them to jostle for attention and need to be supped individually to appreciate them individually.

Quote 1 of 6. This one quite mystifies me.

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And finally, i bid farewell to Bergamo with more food…

We had dinner two nights at Cafe Del Tasso in the square. The staff were great, and very friendly. On our return visit they acknowledged us, and we were given even better service. Excellent food at reasonable prices in a terrific location. And a few choices of artisanal birra. The Baladin Rock’n’Roll birra we enjoyed with dinner is refermented in the bottle and has floaty bits in it. I check with my darling beer niece Emily who confirmed floaty bits are all good. It went extremely well with the antipasto and garden salad we chose for a hot evening.

 

Portofino

The drive to Portofino was only a short distance but the traffic was ugly. Last time we were in Italy, i only had a fold out paper map. How much easier is life with all of the navigation aids at our disposal these days. I have to acknowledge my champion left hand drive chauffer. No way could i have entered and exited all of the those roundabouts, squeezed down so many overly narrow streets, while narrowly dodging mopeds, cars, trucks, pushbikes, buses and at times, pedestrians. Go Jonno.

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We had a few stops along the way for lunch and pee breaks. Where else but Italy would you get a full sized chandelier in a roadside stop? Happily, the tempurature dropped to a low of 30 Celsius as we neared the coast. A heap cooler that the 38, 39 and 40’s we had been experiencing.

 

 

 

Portofino is south east of Genoa on the Ligurian Sea. Once known as a fishing village it is now a mooring spot for rather large and expensive yachts, with a history of being the place for the rich and famous to visit. The small harbour isn’t suitable for swimming due to the amount of boat traffic but the water is very clear, a gorgeous colour and full of fish. It was hard not to just slide in off the harbour side and have a bit of a swim. It would have caused quite a stir in town if the crazy Australian señora went for swim dress and handbag still attached. Heheh. If some of you guys did it with me, i would!

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We stayed at the Hotel Eden, somewhat reminding me of Fawlty Towers Italian style. Our room on the ground floor meant we didn’t get sun pouring through the window, so the air conditioner worked a treat. So happy! Brekky was laid out in the garden on a deck with loose boards but a nice setting. It’s quite comfortable, but nothing is cheap in portofino. Don’t even think about a sea view unless your grandpa left you a squillion dollars.

 

 

Fishies, seagulls big enough to roast, and boats boats boats in beautiful Portofino.

 

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Night fell. Temperatures dropped and lights came on. We were serenaded by a 75 year old crooner, who was very insistent that every table forked out a coin or two. No one refused! For my muso buddies, this guy could teach us a thing or two about singing for supper.

 

 

A cool bottle of wine on a balmy evening in a beautiful location. But we lack the sophistication of the sunbaked, linen clad riviera holiday makers at the neighbouring tables. Discussion got a bit silly and  giggles erupted.

 

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We watched a group of kayakers set off for a paddle. No life vests, just a head torch and they quietly slipped inbetween the moored vessels and disappeared into the night. If they had double kayaks i would have so done that. But my natural cowardice kept me on the land.

 

The hot sun was replaced by a full moon and we went for a walk to the lighthouse. Following the easy path to the lighthouse was really lovely, as there was a gentle breeze and the temperature was no where near as hot as the daytime. Although i say the walk was easy, meaning well lit and paved, there are quite a few stairs and inclines that would impact our unfit or mobility impaired buddies. Under the lighthouse, with a view over the water is a bar, open between 11am and 10pm. Nice in the evening but cops the full sun in the daytime. We decided we would do the walk again in the morning to see the views in daylight.

The daytime walk pics…up up up…It’s not too hard a walk, only 1km, and half of it is down down down.


I hate to do this, but Portofino, you let me down. The food is rather of fast food tourist quality, and a tad overpriced for what is served up. Waiters expect effusive thanks and eyes narrow when you stare into the contents of your plate with undisguised discontent. A waiter at a waterside restaurant recommended the seafood pasta with glowing exaggeration. When it was set down, i forked through the spaghetti looking for seafood and found only scrapings of fish, perhaps the left overs from the boned fillets served grilled?? There were a couple of tips of either baby squid or octopus, it was hard to tell, and there were a pile of clam shells but only two of three actual clams, fingernail size at best. Although the spaghetti tasted well enough, quite flavoursome in fact, for a town that boasts a history as a fishing village the food is a major fail.

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Lunch was worse. i know the photos in the menu are never close to the reality, but a simple spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil can’t go wrong, can it?? Oh yes it can. What was served must have come straight out of jar. It was Sugar and tomato puree with a few bits of onion and a sparse sprinkle of dried herbs. At first look, it resembled tinned spaghetti. Seriously Portofino, how much effort goes into slicing a few fresh tomatoes, and tossing them with some olive oil and fresh basil? And to finish my food rant, 6EUR for a 330ml can of coke!! Nah. This was a major slam on a beautiful destination.

 

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. This darkened corner looked like a smugglers cove. The real little fishing boats were anchored here. Away from their majestic neighbouring vessels of light and fantasy.

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Saturday night in Portofino brought in to harbour bigger and flashier boats and larger crowds jostled for waterside tables. Eastern European voices mingled with American and suddenly Portofino felt overcrowded. Swarms of families with well dressed but overactive children filled the harbour. Take note! Make your stay weekdays. We opted for a light dinner purchased from the French patisserie.

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After another late walk at 10pm, we enjoyed a glass of wine while watching the lights reflect off the water. Aaah. So nice. Oh, and the good old complementary nibbles were plentiful if not of quality. My faith in Portofino was slightly returned. And the waiter was lovely.

The next morning we woke to rain. It was a lovely warm soaking rain and the first we had seen since leaving Melbourne. It explains why the gardens are so green and lush. We enjoyed another excellent coffee with breakfast from our ‘inn keeper’ as his look and manner suggested no less title. He had a locomotive of a coffee machine. A big chrome masterpiece of engineering from which he pumped  out great coffee’s.

Time to hit the road. We headed for our next adventure in Tuscany via mentally narrow winding roads where you literally breathe in to avoid on coming traffic, buses, cars, mopeds, bikes and bloomin’ pedestrians! Driving in Italy is nothing like Australia where you go for a road trip and at times not even see another car for an hour or more. In Italy you have to be soooo focussed. Constant lanes changes without indicators being used creates a kind of organised chaos that seems to work. We saw no instances of road rage, no honking horns, swearing or anyone giving the finger. Amazing.

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There is no mistaking P platers in Italy.

 

 

 

Here are quotes 2 and 3 of 6 from Bergamo. They don’t believe in working on relationships methinks??

 

Tuscany

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Based just out of Florence, I Parigi is a historical 14th century structure which was initially a military control tower for the territory. We spent  a few days doing a bit of walking and a lot of sitting by the pool, which offered a rather glorious view of the Tuscan hillsides and was set in a very comfortable garden with heaps of olive tress, lavender and rosemary. Felt a bit homelike actually…but possibly on a grander and tidier scale.

 

 

 

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I love the fact that the first family to own this building, the Corbinelli family, had a crest which is on all of the crockery, wine glasses and pool towels.

Tall stonewalls, terraces, great views and a big clean pool. And books! They have books, in several languages, so i had to search to find any written in English but i was well pleased with the choices. A very appealing residence with a quiet dignity that welcomes you and then gives you the privacy to relax without interference. Our room was waaaaay up the top of the building. A few more stairs than i cared for but i reminded myself how good the exercise was for me and clumped up and down the stairs without moaning too much.

We had a private courtyard with a mezzanine floor set above it so you can choose to sit at the top and enjoy the view over the stone wall as well. Really lovely idea and great for drying washing!

 

The view from the mezzanine in our courtyard.

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IMG_3946The pool has loungers, deck chairs and little coffee tables scattered randomly between the olive trees, with sails for shade over some of them. It is casual and comfortable with enough space that you are not side by side with others. It’s quite lovely. i think i keep saying lovely. But it was.

Breakfast is served outside, beside the pretty courtyard. The calm serenity is overwhelmingly wonderful in comparison to Florence, so close, about 6km’s away, yet so intense.

The constant high temperatures in the high 30’s got the better of us at times, so we chose early evening to explore Florence, just before the sun began to set. Walking around the jostling crowds was not pleasant. The thought of fighting through them to visit the Duomo or Uffizi was frightening and we have to admit, visiting the popular tourist destinations was not for us. Incredible as these large edifices are, and i would dearly love to see them from the inside, the crowds impacted my ability to savour and absorb the beauty and we scuttled back to the peaceful zone, sad that the opportunity to wander freely in your own timeframe is not available. Guided tours  errgg. No thanks. Tour bus routes have eroded the pleasure of visiting quite a few beautiful places we would have liked to see but Italy has so many lesser frequented towns with charm and delightful architecture that are nice to explore.

 

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A stroll through the Boboli Gardens early in the day was rather nice. Considered the ‘green lung’ of Florence, it was a nice walk with lots of statues and fountains and plenty of benches to sit in the shade and contemplate. Lots of hills and steps again!

 

 

Great view from the top. There is no food or water available in the gardens but they are just a stones throw from the busy streets of Florence.

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Heheh. Italy continues to amuse me unexpectedly.

 

 

 

 

 

Bergamo quote 4 of 6. i am beginning to think they like things passionate in Bergamo. Rightly so.

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Speaking of tour buses! Hahah. Classic karma pay back for our whining about tour groups. We went to a restaurant at the bottom of our street for dinner, and voila, from nowhere, a Contiki tour of young Australian’s and American’s rocked up, filling the place with chaos. It was a crack up. Our host sang opera and classic Italian songs to his captive audience and then sold his CD! He is the fellow in the grey suit in the middle of the girls. The music ramped up after they finished their meal and dancing and singing abounded. It was actually very entertaining watching it from a far corner. I can’t upload the video as i am using the tight arse WordPress free version, but my Facebook friends can catch the action. cheers.

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On our last day in Tuscany we chose to stay put and enjoy our beautiful surrounds. We didn’t feel a need to go stampeding around trying to see everything when the view from the pool was so delightful. Today, I Parigi satisfied our needs completely. We needed to re-energise before hitting Rome tomorrow for the last few days of our holiday. I plonked myself in a deck chair under shade and read between swims, keeping one eye on ‘compulsive swimmer lady’ who spends what feels like hours breaststroking up and down the pool without stopping. She is a machine. Head up like a water snake searching for prey she slowly moves with no hint of swimming style, using pure determination, up and down, up and down. The only time i saw her stop was when she inadvertently gulped water and after a few minutes of choking and honking she recovered and continued ploughing away. In contrast, young love glided silently into the silky waters and attached themselves to the steps like coral on a reef. Clinging to each other, their giggles and kisses echo across the water. We had to excuse ourselves and wade through their privacy to gain access to the pool.

This chap sells watermelon and drinks at the bottom the street we were in. Poked onto the side of a rather busy street, he had customers at his ‘bar’ every night, backs to the traffic, sitting almost on the road. And why oh why Italy do you insists on feta brine on cantaloupe and watermelon?? Errrk! Shocking surprise when i took a bite of cantaloupe and tasted salt old feta. Noooo. DOn’t do it. It’s hot and we want sweet fresh unadulterated fruit.

ROMA

fullsizeoutput_a82Our accommodation in Rome, Navona Rooms is quite in contrast to the grand hotels we have stayed in. It is ultra modern and very swish. No children allowed and it is quite small. Very much a boutique hotel.  I highly recommend it for anyone coming to Rome. And the staff are brilliant.

The lift was rather original, more in keeping with the age of the building. We didn’t bother using it. I didn’t trust it, quite a relic. The building goes up several stories above us, so i guess people do use it.

Navona Rooms are located ridiculously close to everything!!

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Dinner was recommend at a nearby restaurant, La Pollarola. Our host rang and booked and they were waiting for us when we arrived, and it was awesomely home style cooking. We had grilled octopus followed by baked Turbot with potatoes. The staff were again, brilliant.

Now i know i said i am not a fan of cities, but Rome is an exception. The buildings are so awesome. Every corner, every skyline, every back street is an art gallery. Wandering around and getting lost is easy, and a great way to discover hidden beauty. So many piazza’s and fountains, ornate buildings, sculptures, frescoes, and then there are all of the excavations and restorations, archeological digs. There is no end of things to see, for free, without lining up. Sorry, but no way am i lining up for two hours to see anything. I would have loved to see the Sistine Chapel, but it’s a circus, so i didn’t.

Fountains everywhere! Some very well known, some not so, but all gorgeous. I love fountains.

Buildings. Of many styles and ages. And beautiful mosaics.

Excavations and restorations. I wonder how much of Rome they can dig up before everything collapses into what is below the current city? There are archeological digs everywhere. It’s fascinating. Massive jigsaw puzzles slowly pulling together.

The courtyard of our building. I can’t resist peeking into courtyards when those beautiful big doors are open. A glimpse into the private lives…

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The mental crowds heading to the Spanish Steps. It is quite mystifying why so many people feel the need to photograph the steps? I am not sure they knew why either, but the selfie sticks were in full force.

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John and the giant mortadella at the bakery next door. The old Nona nearly walloped him when he gave her a 100EUR note for 4EUR worth of cakes. But he stood his ground. We needed to break the note and we know she had enough change. Apparently they are suspicious of 100EUR notes as they are often counterfeit.

Spot on!! Delicious. What luck having this bakery next door.

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Dinner across the road. There is no shortage of eateries. So far we have struck it lucky in Roma. I was desperate for pasta. John was licking his chops over grilled vegies and fresh salad. Every need was met.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our room is called ‘Flussi.’ I am going to believe  this is Italian for floozie. Each room is named. I wonder if it was after the owners girlfriends??? And which one was the Flussi??

 

 

 

 

And of course everyone has to see this grand structure. Cheers Froth! 

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Italian graffiti amuses me somewhat.

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Horror! My dress matches the carpet…

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting how the taxi drivers are protected in Rome. They warned us not to take the ‘black’ taxi’s, only the ‘white’ legal taxi’s. Cost from the airport into Rome is now set rate at 48EUR. The black taxi’s are sleek, windows tinted too black to see into, the drivers dress smartly. Tempting, but we supported the legal taxi drivers with their scruffy cars and clothes. Uber is also a no go.

 

Beautiful round eggplants in the supermarket.

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Trastevere was a bit of a travesty. I am sure it has a lot of charm in the evenings when the graffiti is hidden by subdued light and the roller shutters are up but in the naked light of afternoon it was a wee bit squalid. So much broken glass around that i am not sure it is the place for a middle aged pair of old fart Aussies…one part of which is very Macedonian. The church however, was quite different, with darker colouring and intense burnished gold. A baby was christened and we heard it’s wails of despair. Mum dipped in the holy water and crossed herself, tattoo’s peeping out from the formal frock suitable for a religious event.

 

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Trastevere bar making sure everyone understands they have a garden.

 

 

 

 

Bergamo quote 5 of 6. Yeah, I kinda like this one.

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Farewell Roma and Italia. It has been a wonderful trip. We are already planning the next one. Southern Italy beckons us, but never again in July. I miss the children. Home soom.

Last Bergamo quote 6 of 6. How can you not love Italy. Even they have jokes about ranga’s. By the way, personally, i love red heads.

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