18th February - 14th March 2019
We left the cold of Norway for southern Italy a little Island called Procida off Naples. We thought we would be warm, wrong but more about that later. To get to Procida we flew to Naples again a long trip with a stop in Austria, in Naples we spent the night in what turned out to be a lovely hotel and we were only there overnight. I should have booked us in for a couple of nights then we could have gone to Pompeii (we ran out of time so did not go). The trip to Procida was by ferry, all very exciting. We had to pay extra for our baggage 6 whole euros and it covered the return as well.
Procida was more built up than I expected, and the taxi driver got lost but we eventually found our lovely pink house on a corner. Mario was very welcoming and explained everything was on bottled gas and it was due to run out!! He said his father would come the next day and fix it. Do not have the heating on all night or there will be no hot water in the morning!! The house was lovely, we decided not to use upstairs just the bedroom downstairs. The house was not warm so we got dressed up and went to find some staples at the little grocery next door, she stayed open for me as they close between 12:30 and 5:00 pm. Back at the house it was no warmer, the floors were tiles and the house was big and the radiators were small and few. We decided to have an early dinner as we were tired and set off to the quay where we had been told the restaurants were. Nothing was open!!!! Then we found the take away pizza shop, great pizza eaten back in the cold house.
The next day father came and would not change the gas bottle until we had used it all. We turned the heating on!! The bottle was duly changed, and we were told not to have the heating on during the day or we would run out again and he was going to Naples so would not be able to help. Mario had already returned to Naples. Father then took us for a tour of his garden and gave me a huge bag of oranges. Fresh Orange juice for breakfast.
We enjoyed Procida, but it would be much nicer in the season. The house had very limited cooking facilities. Eating out was the only option, but most places were closed for the winter. We ate at the same place 4 nights in a row!! Free dessert and drinks became the go.
Procida at Night
Procida out and about
(Hover to change photo)
The beaches are lovely, and we did find a nice place for lunch (only place open). The fort on the hill was interesting and the views all breathtaking. I would love to return in the summer, but for us we should have stopped in Naples.
From Procida we moved on to Rome. The day before we were to leave Procida a storm blew in and the ferries were cancelled. A few messages later we found we could stay in Procida, if we could not get off the Island.
Rome awaits. The next day we decide to go to the ferry and see what was happening. We tried for a taxi no luck so set off to tow our 4 suitcases down the cobbles. We left the house, our luggage stopping the traffic and the first car was a taxi. Our luck is running. The driver of the taxi was concerned about the weather so enquired at the ferry office on our behalf, no one knew what was happening. We decided to wait it out. The ferry was docked so it had either arrived that morning or been stuck for a day or so. Well at the appointed hour everyone got on and we were off. Hurrah or troubles are over….. you think. I had not given us much time to get to the station in Naples. As we were taxiing there, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the Naples Fun Run for Cancer Research!! 30,000 plus runners!! I was glad I could not speak Italian as our taxi driver was very voluble. He was brilliant and got us to the train with 30 mins to spare. I guess it was our lucky day all around.
Off we went to Rome.
What can I say about Rome? Our apartment was great it overlooked a park over the catacombs and was very close to the metro which was a plus as public transport is not the best in Rome. The owner of the apartment won our hearts by having stocked the freezer with gelato.
We were also at the bus stop so on our first trip out we took the bus. Longer and more uncomfortable trip than the metro but it went through all the parts of Rome that one should visit, ending up near the Vatican.
We got off a few stops too far and took a tram back to the Vatican. There we were greeted by a tour guide who said how long we would have to wait in queues to visit the Vatican (hours and hours!!) and if we went with a guide, we could go straight in. We paid and did a guided tour. We walked past some very short queues as it is off season! But there were queues and our guide was very good. The Vatican museum is huge and because we were on a tour, we went around it very fast. Ross speed which is twice or three times my speed. We still saw heaps. Then the Sistine Chapel, again we were given 15 minutes I could have spent 15 hours. The ceiling looks much closer than I expected, and the painting is clear, I would have loved to lie on the floor and just look up. No photos allowed so I took a very fuzzy one from my pocket, but you can see the fingers about to meet (or not). Italy is busy cleaning and refurbishing all the old paintings, they all glow and look like they were finished yesterday. We were taken to the Basilica and allowed to wander around in our own time. This again is larger than I expected but just as wonderful. Ross sat out the crypt where St Peter and all the Popes after him are interred, that proved a problem as it was one way and out of the Basilica. I had to talk my way back and had difficulty walking against the traffic. Our trip on the bus had turned into an amazing wonderful day out.
We decided that booking on line was the go but not guided tours as we (well I) needed more time. We had a day wandering Rome. The Trevi fountain and the Spanish steps made a nice walk. The fountain was bigger than I expected and crowded, I would hate to see it in tourist session. It was glorious, the police were in attendance making certain the tourist behaved. One group got told to move as they were eating. It was impossible to get very close so no paddling at all. Still fun and an icon. The Spanish steps were very impressive, we looked up them took some photos and went off for a beer. More our scene than walking up steps.
We were very lucky with the weather is was sunny everyday making walking a joy. The Navona Piazza was great we were impressed. The Leonardo Da Vinci museum was close, that man was a genius. What did he not think of aeroplanes, tanks, scuba gear, and so much more. We were impressed again and went for a beer! After refreshments on this particular day we walked to the Vatican to get our Metro and passed the most amazing buildings including the Castel Sant’Angelo. The queue was long so having seen a few castles now we decided to walk on. I was impressed by the bridge to the Castle which had lots of statues on it.
On another day we just had a walk in our park, lots of rabbits and sheep, in the center of Rome how great. We then decided gelato was the go. It is very good here I shall have to walk more. While talking food and I do love my food. We were given the local restaurants to visit that were local and not touristy. The first one we tried made the best spaghetti carbonara I have ever tasted, up until now Ross’s was the best, this was exceptional. Ross said the Pizza was good too. And I will not say much about the tiramisu except I am off for another long walk.
We got off the bus one day next to a place called the Largo di Argentina. Largo di Torre Argentina is a square, with four Roman Republican temples and the remains of Pompey's Theatre. It is in the ancient Campus Martius. The name of the square comes from the Torre Argentina, which takes its name from the city of Strasbourg whose Latin name was Argentoratum. It is said to be the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination. It is also were the cats of Rome are fed and allowed to roam around there are signs saying do not feed them and that they are all looked after.
My Aussie passport needs renewing, a visit to the Australian embassy was in order. It was a long walk (that’s good) we got there to find that a new passport had to be sent by registered post to an address in Italy – not going to work we do not have an address. I can get one in 24 hours for a lot more money and have to return with a copy of our itinerary, but the passport does not last until I leave England so I will have to go to London for another one – that’s not going to work. Then they decided they could send the passport to Embassy in London, but that would be extra cost and I need to return with my itinerary – not very practical if I have to go to London I might as well do the whole renewal thing there. Total waste of a day, and now I have to travel as a Pommie!! Good thing I have a British passport.
The Park next to the Roman Forum was free, how great we knew there was some days when things were free. The forum was a bit ho hum but the park was amazing full of ruins from 400 BC. Imagine shops and apartments built in 400 BC they looked as if they would be very comfortable with bathhouses etc and very colourful. We had some great views of the Coliseum, we would not be visiting as it is quite expensive and we have seen a smaller version in Arles, with less tourists.
The Basilica Di San Giovanni had the most beautiful paintings almost, but not quite as good as the Sistine Chapel. I wandered around with my mouth open. Ross did a quick walk and went into the sunshine (at least I got him into the Basilica).
We then got lost, so saw a bit of Rome many people would not have. Eventually we got to our destination Caracalla Baths. We got in for free and then found out the past week was Culture Week in Rome and everything was free. We had not taken full advantage of this not knowing but a couple of free things was great. The Caracalla Baths were huge, and again built 400 years BC. Can you imagine a many roomed bathhouse, with private rooms and public areas and a huge swimming area. There was even evidence of games the Romans played while wiling away the hours lounging in the pool. Lots of examples of the tiles from the floors, the columns and statues that adorned the place are around the area as it is also a museum.
The Pantheon I am an ignoramus I thought this was a ruin too. No, it is a fully functioning church.
“The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a church, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by
Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about
Then came my Trip to the Villa Borghese. Ross came with me although he did not want to go inside. When we arrived, he realised he had had his wallet pinched on the Metro. What a disaster, he went back to the apartment to cancel cards etc. I went on to the villa. To say that I could not concentrate was an understatement. I took the little train around to get my bearings while waiting my turn to go into the Villa. I was the only one on the train which then broke down and I got to change trains, still they did not charge me. I was slightly disappointed in the gardens I am spoilt by all the English gardens we have seen. I entered the Villa and the amazing paintings, statues etc I quite forgot about Ross. Some of the statues looked like they could climb down and talk. I kept changing my favourite as I walked around. This and the Sistine Chapel was a highlight of Rome.
Back at the flat we regrouped and worked out how much damage had been done. One lost wallet a few cards that will need to be replaced in Australia more money than I had realised. Ross had been carrying our left-over US $, left-over Colones from Costa Rica and some English pounds as well as the euros we were spending. Oh well as someone said at least he was not beaten up for his money. All fixed and Pat will send his new cards to England.
Florence was lovely the taxi driver did not rip us off unlike the first one in Naples. The apartment where we were met by Lavinia was up on the second floor and the stairs were very steep; a nightmare with our suitcases but well worth it once we got up. The apartment was charming with lots of character. The bathroom had curved walls very quirky. No view except an inner courtyard which meant it was very quiet. The only issue we had was flooding the shower twice!! Got it fixed by removing the lint catcher that seemed to be a water catcher.
We where one street from the main street to the Pointe Vecchio which was about 5 mins walk away. Everything else was a few minutes’ walk from the other side of the Ponte Vecchio. The shops had the most beautiful clothes and shoes. But all a bit pricey. We soon found the gelato shop and got to know Alex the waiter in the restaurant quite well. The supermarket had everything we needed including some ready-made food at the deli that made great snack meals when we had overindulged in pork sandwiches or gelato or on the day that we had Steak Florentine a huge rib roast for two as it was 1.3 kilos cooked to perfection with chips and artichokes. I better stop talking about the food and tell you about Florence.