"Everyone knows the more you wear pearls, little by little they become real....And isn't it the same with memories?" - The Madwoman of Chaillot

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Arrivederci Italia

The airline lounge in Rome used by Delta members is really nice - best food selection I've seen in an airline lounge and actually nicest public bathrooms I saw in Italy. Good thing since we spent about 4 hours there. Some payback for all the trips Bill takes...

Just a couple of the lunch items, earlier it was as nice a breakfast as some hotels serve.

Last meal from Italy - just before arrival in New York we got a second meal on the plane - pizza and gelato and actually they weren't too bad!

We had a wonderful trip and saw so much - but not all of Italy.

Short review of our reflections (written as I sit through hopefully the last hour in Rome's airport):

Lake Como - want to return and hope for better weather, take Chef Moreno's cooking class and ride the ferry the whole length of the lake but would avoid busy season when the town is packed-it was very charming having it more to ourselves

Cinque Terre - would like to go back to La Toretta - I seriously offer this as a wonderful destination for a family adult outing! Would do more hiking of the "five lands" and also would enjoy it more just on the edge of low season

Milan - we were only in the airport and train station (which IS awesome) but will probably not spend time in the city, there are so many pretty cathedrals and nothing else calls to me there.

Florence - really loved this city - Bill says he has seen it, no need to go back, I wouldn't mind spending time here again but not the top of my list. However it is a must see and should have 2 days - tops are Duomo, Piazzale Michelangelo, St Reparata (excavated under the Duomo), Uffizi Museum, various other churches, David at the Accademia Gallery, would still like to visit the Medici Palace and older Medici buildings.

Venice - we'd go here again if traveling with others who had not seen it but feel the 3-4 days there that we had was enough. Only wish we'd had time to find the two cat stores that Cristiana told us about (selling cute things for cat lovers, not cats). Our tour guide here was superb and we liked the Doge's Palace tour and the Basilica, loved sitting, eating, listening to orchestras and people watching in St Marks (despite the cost) and the gondola ride was surprisingly nice!

Lucca - it was nice but do not feel a need to return

Pisa - it was pretty but not much there - been there, done that

Rome - we really were fortunate to hit SO many of the great spots if Rome that we probably would not feel the need to return unless for something very special. Thanks Flavio and Laura for the extra "Rome at night" tour! What's worth it there in our opinions - St Peter's, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, Forum, Colliseum, Trevi Fountain, view from Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and pretty much everything we saw - spend 3 days there.

Assisi - I would love to go back and spend a few days in the company of two of my favorite saints - Francis and Claire - the town is immaculate and beautifully restored. I'd like to just spend time and get to know it.

Sorrento - we were tired out, Bill had a cold, and our hotel and view were so awesome, we didn't do everything. Would like to go back and see the Ercolano excavation near Pompeii, Capri, and Amalfi Coast - plus get to the two restaurants that Giusy recommended! (or just go back to the one she took us to)

Still to see someday - Sicily, maybe Sardinia (based on Flavio's description), Turin and Verona if I were already in the area.
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The great safecracking incident

We were packed and ready to leave for the Sorrento train station - went to open the room safe to get passports, etc (including all my pictures on memory cards!). This hotel had pretty large safes, big enough for a laptop. But it was totally unresponsive although it had worked for 4 days just fine. So the girl at the desk came with a bag of keys but none would open it. The maintenance guy came next but no luck - evidently they could not find the master key but in "5 minutes" a technician would be there with another master key. Five minutes Italian time - 40 min later they said "5 minutes". After waiting about an hour in all, he arrived and after some discussion decided it had to be sawed open and asked if there was anything breakable in it! Then we waited 5 min for the guy who would cut it open.

After about an hour and a half, it was open! Punch line is that these are brand new safes and when they called the company in Milan that sold them, their suggestion was to "just have them take the safe with them" - I can just see that at security and passport control... LOL!!

The hotel was great about it though and removed our one room service charge and reduced the last day by 50 euro.

Started out almost 2 hours later than we meant to but the rest was without problems - 25 min walk to the train station, took the Circumvesuviana train to Naples, Eurostar to Rome, Leonardo Express (10 min walk from the ES train), and then through the airport to the hotel shuttle - I was glad to see the hotel room and put down my backpack. We walked around Ostia which is kind of a Rome suburb, normal downtown, not touristy at all. Found a sandwich and beer and went back to bed. Got up early to take 7AM shuttle to the airport only to find our flight delayed for unexplained reasons for 2.5 hours....hoping we will still make our connection in NY - although the airlines said, no worries, once they know the exact time they will take care of any changes needed.... :)

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The final sunrise at Sorrento

Do the kids kicking a soccer ball on the sand know what a beautiful place this is? Or, like my nephew Michael who no longer is awed each time he walks by the Florence Duomo and sees it as "a place to meet up with friends", do they just see this as home, nothing special?

I guess I have snow, ice, the Winter Carnival, the Mall of America, my wonderful family alrhough some have inexplicably left for warmer climates, ocean beaches and palm trees....you know who you are and we'll be visiting soon!

We leave here today around noon for our 4 train oddessey and maybe a hotel van or taxi and one last night near Fiumicuno airport.

We met people we hope to keep up with by email, from Australia, the US, Italy, England, Switzerland. Spent precious time with wonderful family members. And encountered many characters along the way - some stories will show up later...

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Almost done

We decided to be lazy the last day here - my husband definitely needs to be babied when he has a cold and the energy to run and see more pretty places is just not there... So sat in the sun and read Dan Brown's latest book (one of a huge collection of books available in the "living room") - shown below

Out to door

To this ...

Can't complain. Went to the kitchen where they made me hot tea, and a plate of fruit and cookies...

Have only seen the photo below on my tiny phone screen but it's an attempt to do a panoramic shot that the phone merges together - but in the very bright light it was hard to get each picture lined up with the last one. But gives you an idea of why we might just sit here all day...
Tomorrow the local train to Naples, train to Rome Termini station and then to catch a flight early Sunday.

But first another restaurant I'm going to put in at least the top five of the trip -


I had a wonderful pasta dish with buffalo ragu and Bill had a good sausage and potatoes dinner with very good oil & vinegar dressing. Yummy chocolate mousse and chocolate and walnut cake and a very lemony limoncello.

Loved this !!

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First views from the breakfast terrace

Was going to label this day "another old ruin, another pretty church" since we were going to Pompeii and figured we'd seen it all.
Pompeii is amazing. For those who don't know, Pompeii was a thriving commercial port city for several hundred years until Aug 24 in 79AD when nearby Mt Vesuvius blew, burying Pompeii under ash and rock. It was no longer near the sea and undiscovered until the 16th century. Some people escaped but others remained or returned for their belongings and died of the poisonous gasses. Where bodies were found they were able to fill in the spaces where decay had taken place under the ash and debri and get a plaster cast of the people complete with an outline of clothing.

About 2/3 of the site has been excavated so far.

Ok, this is not just another ruin or old building. This is partially at least a picture of a city that just went to sleep one day. Artifacts found in each store or house identified what they were- we can see bakeries, fast food stores, public baths, wool merchants, fish sellers, even the identity of the owners of some houses. It was a town of 20,000 and with such "modern" conviences as running water, sliding doors, reflective pieces in the road to illuminate the road at night, system of weights to regulate and establish standards for weighing. They did run waste water to the streets but they were flushed daily and stones at "crosswalks" allowed people to avoid stepping in the sewer. Baths were taken daily and these people lived to be 80 yrs old if they survived childhood - much like us. Statues found here rival the best of the Renaissance - so much was lost in the dark ages!! Think where we might be had that not intervened.
So two pictures but the best are coming. One point - at the time of the eruption, buildings were all covered with Mable facade and often adorned with paintings and statues - much of this was removed by early scavengers who used the marble for new buildings.

This excursion took us 25 min to walk to the Circumvesuviana train, 15 min wait for the train, 30 min ride, 2 hour tour, maybe an hour more on our own (seeing everything would have taken 6-7 hours), 30 min back and probaby an hour to walk back UP to the hotel including a gelato stop and one for some groceries - we just had wine, cheese, meat and some bruschetta crackers and relaxed watching the sea. Then there were big fireworks in Sorrento - again other camera worked better on that.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sorrento and dinner with Giusy

Views walking to town

Our hotel from below - the dark building with white tip area at the top of picture.

Tuesday night Giusy and her husband and daughter picked us up and drove us to a restaurant where they treated us to a wonderful dinner. First an incredible array of antipasto (appetizers) and then pasta and a wonderful mix of seafood.

I didn't even get all the appetizer plates...

And also dessert - a special cake for Easter and limoncello.
We got some pictures of Capri and the sunset but they are on my other camera so will add later.

Tomorrow Pompeii


After the train ride we weren't too sure just how far up the cliff our hotel was so wanted to take a bus. We walked into Sorrento from the train station to a place recommended by a guide book. Asked a policeman where to catch the bus to via capo and were told a spot, tour guides working in that area told us busses were not running on that road that day and to wait across the street, but no bus came after waiting a long time, so we asked again and were told to wait in the next piazza. Eventually a bus did come on that street! Sorrento was just packed with people on Easter Monday as it was a holiday still for Easter. It turned out the walk was not so bad and now we have been walking back and forth.

Our room hotel and terrace have wonderful views of the Bay of Naples (Mediterranean), Mt Vesuvius, Naples, Sorrento and some snow capped mountains we think are in Slovenia. The best pictures are on my other camera - coming soon.

Monday night we walked to the fishing village right below us and ate at Taverna Azzurra - where the catch of the day is advertised to be mermaid :)
Nearby Capri is the area of the song of the sirens - so lots of Mermaid references.

Really delicious avocado with shrimp and pear

Spaghetti with clams

Fruit de mare - this one was just clams and oysters

Cakes from Easter - we had a selection if these Monday night at the hotel, La Minervetta

Tuesday morning sunrise from our room

Tuesday Bill had come down with a cold so we just walked into Sorrento where we walked around, had lunch at a British pub (there are some British, Irish and German restaurants/bars here)
Below views of the hotel - La Minervetta

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Italian trains

We walked about 15-20 minutes to the Rome Metro and took the subway to Rome's Termini train station, and got the next train to Naples,a very nice ES train. After the serenely quiet and smooth Eurostar to Napoli we then got the noisy bumpy local from Naples to Sorrento, passing by Pompeii which we plan to visit later. Both rides are about an hour - I alternate between watching scenery and writing my blog. Ok, sometimes I sleep...

The trains here have varied a lot. To go from Rome to Naples we had the choice of ES train - expensive and fast (1 hour), IC train- less expensive and almost 2 hours, or R train - cheap and many stops - 3 hours.

Most Trenitalia trains have been quite nice. On one we even had a compartment made for six all to ourselves. Snacks were brought around for sale. The train to Naples we ended up taking first class and it had nice motorized reclining seats, free drinks and snacks. The IC and ES trains require reservations with assigned seating. The R (regional) trains are nice but not quite the comforts if IC(intercity) or ES (eurostar). The Circumvesuviana train we are on now is more like an urban train, small hard seats, bumpy and noisy and full.

Then twice a month at least some areas are on strike and either no trains run or more often they run 1/3 of them withall regional cars and tickets are not checked. But no guarantees you'll get there either.

After awhile we have learned to shrug and say "it's Italia" - we have found most trains to be on time but other things run "on Italian time" - meaning probably late or not at all.

Below the Eurostar we took to Naples from Rome.

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