Ravello …..the wow factor

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We had an early start today with Domenico taking the wheel in his Ford Fiesta – the locals have learned that small cars are the way to go on these winding roads – they are packed with Fiats and surprisingly even small Japanese cars, and of course the ubiquitous Vespa – driven by people of all shapes and sizes – I am amazed at the number of Nonnas who get on one and speed away at a rate of knots!

Our first stop was Ravello which we entered via the Piazza Vescovado.  Built in the C11th, the stunning Cathedral in the Piazza was setting up for a wedding so I was reluctant to go in, but Domenico insisted it would be fine. Approaching the entrance the first thing that catches the eye is the sturdy bronze door created by in 1179 by Barisano da Trani. It is reminiscent of the Gates of Paradise doors on the Baptistery in Florence. As we walked up towards the altar past the people dressing the pews and the florists setting up beautiful floral displays, we were able to take in the grandeur and beauty of the church. The pale colour palette is soothing and beautiful. The umbrella rib dome is gorgeous, the pulpit is massive and is supported by ornate marble columns – and strangely, the floor slopes up towards the altar.

Domenico knew the local priest who happened to be on site and were invited to view the side chapel housing a phial of the blood of the martyr San Pantaleone, which is said to liquefy each year in July – in fact we even went behind the altar to see the alcove containing the precious relic. Domenico is Catholic and it was so interesting having him explain church rituals, festivals, the stories surrounding Saints, and relics and much more.

The wedding in the church was due to start so we had to leave and progress on to see the amazing C13th Villa Rufulo. We entered via the Torre Ingresso, which features a stunning ribbed dome:

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Moving on we passed the Torre-Museo, the refurbished tower which has just been opened to the public, apparently offering panoramic views from the third floor.  Before progressing further, Domenico insisted that we watch a documentary in a delightful little theatre and it proved very interesting, covering the history of the Villa until the present day and focusing on the Annual Ravello Music festival, where concerts are held on a temporary apron stage erected just above the Belvedere. Coincidentally,  the stage for the recently held festival was being dismantled as we stood and took in the spectacular panoramic view.

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The apron stage which is used every year for a musical concert

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Having seen the informative documentary, we entered Villa and discovered it has a distinct Moorish influence.

The gardens are magnificent, with many varieties of colourful flowers in bloom, though sadly the bougainvillea had seen a bit too much sun. It contains of course, the iconic the umbrella pine – it was real thrill to see that tree!

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The iconic umbrella pine

We could have spent more time in the Villa but Amalfi was also on our itinerary for the day, and Domenico was keen to take us to the terraced restaurant nearby which provided a wonderful panoramic view.  We had a delicious meal there – the prosciutto and melon was superb and the meal was made even more enjoyable by the incredible vista surrounding us.

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Satisfied guest leaving the restaurant

It would be easy to spend a lot more time in Ravello and I would love to have seen Villa Cimbrone, but time was limited so we had to move on to Amalfi…

Next Post – Amalfi

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Pretty Positano ….

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Our first morning at the villa dawned bright and sunny so we were eager to try taking the bus to Positano. We arrived at the bus stop in plenty of time. stopping to look at the pretty blue artwork on the stone walls along the way. We sat waiting patiently, seeking the shade as it was quite hot and 30 minutes later the bus turned up – due  we think to heavy traffic on the coast road.

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Love this blue adornment

When the bus finally arrived we were surprised at how small it was. The youngish bus driver drove with competence but it appeared we were going the wrong way until we realised it was the final local stop at La Praia beach and that the bus would then turn around. After an ‘exciting’ ride around sharp and narrow bends we arrived at the stop at the top of the hill leading down to Positano.

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Immediately it impressed. Tucked into a small cove with multiple levels of pastel coloured buildings layered up the hillsides, it surely looks like the holiday paradise we have seen in movies and read about in books. We strolled down the road looking at the colourful wares hanging outside the small shops – mainly linens and ceramics.

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Since we had arrived later in Positano than expected, we decided a quick lunch would be in order. We were being jostled by tourists from every side as we wound our way through the narrow lanes, so we took the chance to escape into the beautiful garden restaurant of Hotel Palazzo Murat, which was once a Benedictine Monastery – it was a shady oasis of calm.P1100810fullsizeoutput_2ba7

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Feeling cooler after our delicious lunch in the shade (Lambs’ lettuce and smoked salmon salad for me), we exited out into the busy lane leading down towards the water. Under shade supplied by overhead vines, we passed many street merchant stalls, where artwork and jewellery are on display – while interesting and colourful we were not tempted.

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Soon we were standing outside the Church of Santa Maria Assunta housing the famous Byzantine painting of then Black Madonna, but sadly it was closed so we continued on down through the pretty lanes, where Frances and I took a shopping break in a classy store selling high quality linens while the boys waited patiently by the shore.

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Frances checking out linen wares

Walking a little further on we finally reached the ‘beach’ (read for that the stony foreshore), and the jetty where the boats for Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi and other coastal regions leave. Looking back at Positano the true majesty of its position was evident. The iconic cove looks exactly as we expected, with its luxurious waterfront hotels – flowers pop out of baskets and troughs perched on walls and hanging off balconies, and colourful apartments sit precariously on the hillsides behind the commercial centre. I loved the place. It has a relaxed vibe despite the frenetic movement of tourists and locals in the busy lanes .

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After taking in the view of the vibrant hillside behind us we ventured on to the jetty to check out the ferry booths, in particular their charges – there are several companies and all were doing good business:

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Looking Capri way

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Making our way back up to the bus stop, we found a grocery store near the church to top up supplies. The wait at the bus stop proved to be interesting – there was only one bench seat for the ever-increasing line of passengers and it was getting rather hot. Phil and I walked further up the hill to find a seat to wait, and did a bit of a survey while we sat there … two thirds of all the cars coming down the hill past us had scrapes and dings on their right hand side – surely a legacy of the narrow and winding coastal roads.

We returned to the bus stop to find a much bigger group of passengers waiting for the bus – Phil nipped over the road to buy delicious gelato to cool off while we waited. When the bus finally arrived at the stop it came so close the wall we were nearly squashed and then we had it to jostle to get on the bus which was full to overflowing. The dangers of being a tourist in Positano – I can only begin to imagine what it like in the high season, but I think I would love it just the same…

Enjoy some more Positano colour:

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Flower boxes

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Interesting array of models

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The ceramics are colourful

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Uiquitious lemon products

 

Having survived the bus trip, dinner back at the villa was another chargrilled success…

Next post – Ravello and Amalfi

 

Villa Horizon in Praiano – perfetto!

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While we arrived early at this beautiful place during a spectacular thunderstorm and had to wait a couple of hours to get into the villa, we could instantly see what a perfect position we had chosen as our base. The villa literally sits on the side of a hill, with the tiny disused Capella di Santa Maria di Costantinopli perched below it.

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Cappella di Santa Maria di Costantinopli the day we arrived in the storm – from the top gate of the Villa

The stairs down to the villa are quite steep but manageable, and once at the bottom the area surrounding the house is flat. While the tiled terrace was wet from the storm we could immediately see what a huge asset it is to the villa – very enticing in the sun!

But I digress, once we realised our host Domenico was actually in the villa, we unloaded the car with his help and could finally see inside. While the villa is not modern and the decor is a little dated (and that is in no way a criticism), it is obviously a well-loved family home and has a truly relaxing ambience. The kitchen dining room is well-equipped and the church pew seats that act as dining chairs are a nice touch. The living room has a dining table, comfortable sofas, television and wonderful dual aspect views. The two double bedrooms are large with plenty of storage and they both have wonderful terraces facing out towards Salerno. Waking up to dual aspect views of the Gulf of Salerno each morning has been a highlight and we have seen the most wonderful sunrises and sunsets.

As you can tell I am sold on Villa Horizon. It is perfectly placed to visit the larger Amalfi Coast towns like Positano and Amalfi, without being in the crowded hustle and bustle of those places. It has a regular bus service to Positano, around twenty to thirty minutes away, depending on how busy the coast road is, and there is a local bus service a few metres away from the door. Alternatively you can walk down the lane beside the chapel below to reach the bus stop for Positano and also the delightful but very tiny grocer’s shop, run by Maria, an ex-butcher. The shop’s tallying system is wonderful – Maria calls out the price to a chap we assume is her son and he adds it up. We enjoyed this when we went to stock up with Domenico on the first night and have been back a couple of times since – for us, sharing time with local people is all part of the magic of travel.

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Praiano itself does not have a compact centre like Positano and Amalfi – it sprawls out along the hillside on either side of the villa which truly must have the best view in this town.

It is a little hard to explore by car because of the very narrow roads, the extremely tight switchbacks and lack of parking. This is a good reason for taking the local buses as it eases the pressure of getting from place to place and we have really been enjoying it. The bus drivers and taxi drivers here have to be very skilled as we have seen – there can be virtually just an inch or two between passing buses!

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The bus stop to Positano at the bottom of the stairs

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walking back to the villa from the bus stop

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Not sure how we will get past this bus – oh yes pull in the mirrors and inch by

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The is a bigger gap to get through here, but it is still tight on the narrow winding roads

To finish the story, on our first night, having stocked up at Maria’s, and been well-versed in the workings of the villa by our helpful host Domenico (including how to use the cute little charcoal burner),  we completed our eventful day with expertly cooked chicken, steak and chargrilled vegetables, knowing we had so much more to look forward to in this little gem of a place…

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The tiled charcoal burner works a treat

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The cooks

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The light of Praiano look across to Paestum and Salerno

Next post – Positano

Saturated in Sorrento …

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In the morning the attention we received as we breakfasted at Palazzo Montefusco was superb. A very attractive middle-age woman attended to our every need and the hotel owner introduced himself to us, even offering to make us scrambled eggs!  As we sat for a short while on their terrace seeking a Rome hotel (we have decided to spend a day and night there rather than stay at Pompeii on our way back), the attentive breakfast lady came and offered to make us tea – we simply couldn’t fault the service in this lovely hotel.

After our cuppa we went in search of a grocery store to get a few basic supplies for Praiano and took a final stroll through the nearby streets and down to the great viewpoint by San Francesco church but as we left it was starting to rain.

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Eejits in the grocery store

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Beautiful statue in San Francesco church

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San Francesco

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Wet day out in Sorrento

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Wet!

The viewing point was not looking so attractive in the light rain, so coffee was in order before we left for Praiano. We happened upon a very nice cafe/gelateria – ‘Davide’ – with outdoor seating and large shade umbrellas so we sat down to enjoy a coffee and cake and big fat meringues- wrong! All  of a sudden the skies opened and there was a torrential downpour and thunderstorm- showing no signs of letting up, and with the wind suddenly swirling around us, the cafe owner herded all the outdoor customers indoors…. it was quite exciting!  The rain continued to pour down and the owner had to lower the door as the rain and wind were making even being indoors unpleasant.  An English tour party walking by asked to take shelter – they were literally sodden – but he refused and I can’t say we blamed him – the shop was packed and dripping wet people would have made the floor extremely slippery and encroached on the limited room available to his paying customers!

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Rog and Phil at Davide’s gelataria before the rains came

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Not a bad meringue!

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The shutter came down after we were herded inside

The change in the weather told us it was time to exit Sorrento as it wasn’t great being out in that rain, so we raced off to the parking garage to pick up the car and hit the road in search of Praiano – in a storm…..

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Escaping Davide’s when there was a short break in the storm

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Freshly watered produce

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We made it to Praiano in the storm …..

Next post – Praiano on the Amalfi Coast

Herculaneum to sweet Sorrento…

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From Naples on way to Sorrento, we decided to call into Herculaneum, an ancient city buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D – it was a wise decision.

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Herculaneum from the top level

Herculaneum is a World Heritage site and contains extremely well preserved and impressive ruins, but is a much more modest size than Pompeii, which we will visit from our Villa. The initial digs began in 1738 and continued sporadically until they recommenced in 1927. The town was covered by 16 metres of pyroclastic rock which led to its amazing preservation – including at least 300 skeletons.

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Skeletons in the barrel arches at Herculaneum

Above the arches is a large piazza in front of the suburban baths where you can see the funeral altar of M. Nonius Balbus – apparently a good citizen.

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The funeral altar of M.Nonius Balbus – the marble statue is the man himself

There is no way you could fail to be impressed at the advanced “town planning” on show here. The Romans were incredible architects and engineers but it is not until you witness a site like this that you understand what an advanced civilisation it was. Look at these amazing roads..

Impressive columns and colours feature in the ruins – these ones below are stunning –

There much more to see but with limited time we felt we achieved a lot and after seeing Herculaneum we are all looking forward to Pompeii, which we will visit in a couple of days.

From Herculaneum we travelled on to Sorrento. Unfortunately our hotel had no on-site parking so we parked temporarily while Rog and I ducked into a little lane  to search for the hotel entrance – luckily it was easy to find and Vincenzo, the very obliging receptionist, insisted on coming down three flights of stairs to fetch our luggage! It was extremely hot and while the boys went off to park the car, Vincenzo loaded up all the bags and pushed them along the road, somehow managing to get them up to reception. It was a very impressive start by the staff in Palazzo Montefusco and the excellent service continued throughout our short stay.

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The suite we had was modern, pristine and very comfortable. The breakfast room had a wonderful variety of glass art works which complemented the all-white decor. Once settled in, we went in search of lunch and found a very nice ristorante on the main square, where we relaxed with a lightish lunch. As we only had once day there, after lunch we jumped on the little tiki-tour train for a 30 minute ride to help orientate ourselves. Phil and I wandered the narrow lanes alone for a while – they were packed with cheap and colourful ceramic wear, some nice linens, tacky toys, shoes, clothes and bags.

For dinner we decided to go down to the restaurant recommended by Vincenzo – we had a wonderful walk at twilight down the narrow streets towards what appeared to be almost a little fishing village on Via Marina Grande.  The few restaurants were very busy but luckily we got a table in the very traditional, no-frills family ristorante. The meal was excellent – fish fresh from the sea to the plate – delicious sea bass or me.  Post dinner we explored the place to walk off the meal and returned to the hotel to enjoy the ambiance of our room.

Naples in the afternoon..

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Caterina bid us farewell in a nice area, advising us to go for lunch in a risorante close by. As the sun was blazing down we took her advice to escape indoors from  the heat.  We all chose pizza, being careful to order one between two as we have discovered the pizzas are far too big for one person. Phil and I had a white pizza with zucchini, anchovies, mint and mozzarella. It was divine, refreshing and not too heavy.

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The Piazza where we took lunch – Caterina concluded the tour at the momunent

A word here about the food and coffee so far. The serving sizes are enormous and with almost every meal we have been offered large chunks of very hard-crusted and dense bread, usually with olive oil for dipping. Pizza is touted everywhere to tourists as waiters try to entice you from the roadside to eat in their establishment, though I am always happy with a good bruschetta with tomato and basil like this one…

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The fish meals are outstanding- the fish is so fresh and sea bass is becoming  favourite for me, though I have had one meal of my all time favourite, prosciutto and melon – prince melon seems to be used here rather than the rock melon which is the norm further north, but this could be a seasonal thing I guess. Wine lists here are extensive and excellent so far, but the coffee has been average. Espresso is served with a glass of cold water to be drunk first to cleanse the palate. Flat whites of course are not available, so cappuccino is the next best choice, but these are have generally been served warm rather than hot.

Caterina had pointed out the funicular station during our tour saying this would take us up to one the best vantage points in Naples – Certoso di San Marino – previously a monastery it is now a museum, sitting just below the large castle on the top of a hill. We decided this was a must, so we took the very modern funicular up the steep hill, and paid the small entrance fee to gain access to the terraces where the views were spectacular – my camera’s battery ran out at this point but I did get a couple of shots inside the stunning church, and from the terrace.

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An aside – the walk from the funicular up to San Martino provided with us an interesting encounter. When were trying to decide which direction to take once off the funicular, we saw an extremely stylish woman walking ahead of us. She overheard us discussing the route and stopped, offering to help. She was one of the most beautiful women we have seen here – she was 45ish, petite with tanned slender legs, and wearing and immaculate knee-length black dress, the fabric and cut making it a designer dress for sure. Her shoulder-length hair was beautifully coiffed, her beautiful perfume wafted around her, and lipstick was her only adornment. She was carrying a designer shopping bag, the contents of which could be seen -perfectly placed inside the tissue paper which billowed over the edge. Softly spoken, with perfect English, she pointed us in the right direction, even offering to let us walk with her. Rog was keen, but we went on alone, as this classy epitome of  Italian style and elegance walked on. It was a “wow” moment for me.

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Entrance to the funicular station

Once we had seen the spectacular view we had a much needed drink in a shady bar which also boasted a fantastic view, and decided to taxi back to the hotel… it was a spectacular  downhill ride – with the driver constantly honking his horn and squeezing through the tiniest gaps – we could have been in a scene from The Italian Job!

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View from the bar terrace

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My Aperol Spritz

Dinner on last day in Naples was in a restaurant nearby the hotel as we were pretty tired from the long day. We allowed a very pretty Maitre D’ to entice us in, where we took ringside seats on the road frontage – perfect for people-watching…..

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And goodbye to our lovely Marilyn suite!

Next post – Herculaneum to Sorrento

Naples – by Caterina …

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Ah Naples – what an interesting, zany, frenetic city! Since we had only a couple of days there we decided a private guide was the way to go and she was outstanding. After taking breakfast in the smart breakfast room of Partenope Relais, we set off in a taxi for a short ride to the Piazza Municipio to meet our guide at the Fontana del Nettuno. Taxi rides in Italy are proving “interesting”, or perhaps hair-raising would be a better description – in many places there are no road markings, and pedestrians take their lives in their hands trying to cross the road -the rule for all vehicles seems to be “see a space and go for it”. However we made it the the appointed place and soon we saw an attractive woman, with paper in hand who turned out to be our guide, Caterina.

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Fontana del Nettuna

What a find Caterina was- she has a PhD in archaeology and when not guiding she runs an archaeological consulting business. She is knowledgeable, personable and speaks excellent English. She wasted no time in leading us straight across the road to the Castel Nuovo, a Renaissance castle which is currently surrounded by chaotic works to complete the New Metro Line. The white marble triumphal arch looks quite odd, squished as it is between two towers but it contains wonderful relief works. We didn’t enter the castle as we had much to see but Caterina explained that the remains of three first century Roman ships had been found nearby which is a great discovery as it proves the harbour was originally much further inland than it is now.

Next she walked us past the huge Royal palace (Palazzo Reale) then on past the Teatro di San Carlo, the Opera House where lovely posters adorned the facade.

Poster on the facade of Teatro di San Carlo

Opposite the Theatre stands the Galleria Umberto I, a huge glass and iron roofed shopping arcade. Currently the exterior is being refurbished, so scaffolding screens the magnificent sculptures on the facades from full view, but it is obvious that when complete, it will be a restored two its former glory.

Having passed one side of the Palazzo Reale we exited onto the Piazza del Plebisicito, and could see the grandeur of the imposing Palace.

 

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The Palazzo Reale facing on the Piazza del Plebiscito

Directly opposite the Palace stands the Chiesa di San Francesco di Paola, which is modelled on the Pantheon in Rome. It is magnificent, but lacks the grandeur of the Roman church.

The juxtaposition of old and new alongside the church and the surrounding the Piazza is colourful and Caterina pointed out that the oldest cafe in Naples can be found on the corner, the historic Gran Caffe Gambrinus.

Caterina led us on towards the Via Toledo, one of the main shopping streets in Naples, stopping at places along the way to impart all sorts of information, some historical, some anecdotal and letting us get a feel for the place, in such an authoritative but interesting way.  As we came the Centro Storico, she pointed out tiny alleys full of tourist tack and the ubiquitous nativity scenes for which Naples is famed.

Naples is also famous for its sweet delicacies like sfogliatelle- iconic shell-shaped pastries which we were able to taste when we stopped for coffee- delish!

Naples is a city simply bathed in history and it is impossible to take it all in on a half day tour, but I was delighted with the churches Caterina took us to view. Gesu Nuovo is the most stunning example of ostentation – see for yourself:

Strangely,  directly opposite is the Chiesa di Santa Chiara which is austere in comparison:

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There is so much more I could relate but it is getting late – below a few more photos to illustrate the vibrant and crazy place Naples is, but I must add we never felt unsafe there, as there is a large and obvious police/army presence.

Next post – free time on a hot Naples afternoon.

 

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Cassino, Pt 2 – a puncture, a stroke of good luck and arriving in Napoli …

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After lunching in Cassino, we drove the short way back to collect our bags which were still at Le Ninefee. As we drove up the unpaved and very rocky driveway we slid a little off the drive and there was a loud noise  – but we continued on.  While in the town I realised I had left my Fitbit at the house so I went hunting for it -but I couldn’t find it, even with the hostess and one of her employees helping us to search.

Putting aside my frustration at losing the Fitbit (well OK panic), we packed the car ready to travel to Napoli but when we got to the bottom of the drive, the car’s computer alerted us that we had a puncture. We pulled into the nearest drive and the boys set to work, but the mechanics of it all took a bit of figuring in an unfamiliar car with only a French manual. Nevertheless they sorted it … meantime I went through all my bags unsuccessfully looking for the missing “equipment.”

 

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Trying to release the spare tyre

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Phil changing the tyre dressed in the obligatory vest

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Contemplating the job how to sort the jack

Once the tyre was changed and we were on our way again,  we called into the local bike shop and asked for directions to a garage or tyre shop.  As luck would have it, the bike shop bloke spoke English and said there was one quite near – quite true but we discovered his directions were somewhat wayward. While waiting for Phil to get the those directions, a person from Le Ninfee who spoke English rang Roger to say the Fitbit had been found – yay – so the puncture, while a nuisance, was also lucky as we would have been well on the way to Naples had it not happened.

When we eventually found the tyre shop the guys were very helpful and efficient and quickly had us back on the road again, for an easy trip into Naples. Finding the hotel wasn’t quite so simple but once found it proved to be in a fabulous position with our rooms looking directly out on the Bay of Naples.

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Room with a view

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Love the decor

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View from our terrace

The hotel is quirky and modern and we love the rooms which are all named after famous film stars – as a great Marilyn fan, I am thrilled we are in the Marilyn suite. It is still my birthday of course so when we were refreshed and spruced up, we strolled off in the direction of the castle around the bend, where we had been told there was a great seafood restaurant, for a birthday dinner.

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The location was perfect, right on the water on the Marina, the seafood was good (not great) but we had very surly, unhelpful waiters – no matter, a “strolling minstrel” (read for that nuisance), did sing me happy birthday (only after Phil gave hime a few Euro to get rid of him.) We watched the sun go down as we ate then strolled back among the ever-growing throngs of people who walk this promenade in the evenings – the colours, the sights, the sounds and quirkiness of Naples fully on show …

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Tomorrow – we get ready to explore Naples with our private guide…

 

 

Cassino, Pt 1 – a busy birthday morning …

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We think we are finally back on track with our sleep patterns which have been quite disrupted. We slept like logs in the beautiful bedroom of our Cassino B&B, Le Ninfee. We awoke to a fine, very warm morning – my birthday in fact and after a light continental breakfast in the pretty rustic dining room, we enjoyed a stroll around around the property.  We could see the Abbey on Montecassino beckoning us in the distance but once on our way our first stop was to be the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

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What a moving experience the first stop was – standing in the beautifully-kept grounds looking at row-upon-row of headstones (more than 4,000 soldiers are buried here, with over half being British, and including 457 New Zealanders),  it certainly brings home the cruel cost of war.

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Personally, I felt very sad and sombre walking in this pristine place, as I am sure we all did. Having looked at the register of names we determined to find the New Zealand soldiers plot where we stood to pay our respects while contemplating the devastating loss this was for their families, and rueing the fact that so many of them may never be lucky enough to come and pay their respects, as we have been able to do.

From the cemetery we drove the winding 8 km road up to the Abbey. What amazing place! The Abbey was rebuilt in 1953 with finance from the Italian state, after its destruction in the Second World War (1944). The original which was built in about 529 endured several rebuilds over the centuries, including after an earthquake in the 14th century.

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Pretty path leading to the Abbey

The building is imposing and pristine and offers magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, and across to the Polish Cemetery, where over 1,000 Polish soldiers are buried, having lost their lives in the battle to liberate the Abbey in 1944.

Below is the heavy door way at the entrance to the cloisters ….

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Walking through the cloisters you see a couple of beautiful mosaic works on the walls, and continuing on, you reach the wonderful open square leading to the stairs which take you to the Abbey.

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If you have followed my posts previously you will be aware that I am a bit of a fan of Catholic churches, and The Abbey did not disappoint. It is magnificent and despite having rebuilt in the twentieth century, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the original. The pictures will tell the tale – it is stunning.

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The centre vault below the main abbey contains the incredible mosaic works on the walls and roof – the workmanship and beauty of the these works is impossible to describe.

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Visitors

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Blue and gold mosaics on the roof

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The peacock

We felt we did justice to the time we spent in Cassino this morning and left feeling we had seen some really special things in both places. Our tums told us it was time for a break so went into the town and had very underdone “toasted” sandwiches and coffee at at cafe where we could sit on the pavement and enjoy the warmth. I did manage to slip into another beautiful church which I happened upon as we searched for a place to eat.

Chapter two to follow….

 

London – Rome – Cassino

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Yesterday was a trip-filled day. We left the London hotel bright and early so we could take advantage of the BA Business class lounge facilities – quite a good brekky available there! We travelled out to the plane on a bus to the tarmac – it was rather long ride!

The flight to Rome was smooth and fast – just on two hours, and we were served quite a tasty meal, but on arrival  (in 35 degree heat) we found the customs queues were long – not quite as bad as LA though!  Once out of the terminal we contacted the Eurolease people who were friendly and efficient. They arrived to collect us as arranged and the car was ready and waiting – slighter more upswept model of the Renault Grand Scenic we had last year.

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Flying over the coast coming into Rome

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Ready to land in Fiumicino airport

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This is how we roll in the Grand Scenic…

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Phil parking the wagon at Le Ninfee

Phil took control of the wheel and after only one wrong turn in the narrow lanes leading to this gorgeous place, we arrived around 6.30pm. The property is idyllic! Beautifully appointed, it is a perfect place for an agritourism business – it is larger than we expected, rustic yet stylish, and while the owners have very little English they have been very obliging.

We had dinner in a local Osteria – very simple food, but a huge wine list – New Zealand wines were even available, but Frances I chose a very smooth Chianti to have with the huge wood fired pizzas we ordered. While we were the first to arrive, the little place quickly filled up with locals. It was a very relaxed way to complete a pretty stress-free arrival in Italy….

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Next post – Cassino War Cemetery and the Abbey…