Daws.ca
Monday, September 25th, 2006

Italy, September 2006

The water around here is a stunning green-blue color and it is crystal clear! (this picture doesn't do justice to it, but its the best one we got). We wanted to jump off the boat and go swimming, but the tour operator would have probably just driven off hehe

note: Tony's additions are in blue....

 

 

WOW!!!!  Italia e molto bella!!!

 

First impression of Italy was in Rome, walking to the Vatican we walked past the “Altare di Patrio” (tomb of the unknown soldier), it is a giant building with statues and carvings in the wall. Very impressive. We must’ve stood looking at it with our mouths open for quite some time, we were very impressed. Would have watched longer had we not been trying to beat the lines at the Vatican, which we were very unsuccessful at :P Got inside though, saw the Sistene Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, both very nice and impressive.

 

ITS BLOODY HOT HERE IM DYING!!!!!! ARRRHG!

 

We spent our days finding the shadiest routes trying to get places of interest. It was too hot in the shade and in the sun we would melt and we slow down to a crawl hoping to make it to the next shady patch before collapsing of heat stroke and dehydration….  I think we have acclimatized to Glasgow weather…where we live under a grey cloud that protects us from that ball of fire in the sky…where in the summer you still wear a jacket at night (and occasionally during the day)….

 

Crossing the road here is mad! Since we are pedestrian’s 100% of the time here we had to get used to it, or at least try. Our first experience crossing a round-a-bout, where there were no lights we figured we would follow a pedestrian. Sure, safe right? They know what they are doing, they’re used to it. Especially since it was on a zebra-crossing. Not at all!!! Felt like we were going to die!!! Its basically wander out into the street trying to dodge cars as they fly past you on either side. Made it across the 3 or 4 lanes safely only to find we had to do it again. Hearts beating, we decided to follow her again as she was obviously very skilled and calm. Survived once again. We decided to stick to routes with traffic lights and little green men after that :P hehe

 

IM MELTING!!!

 

Spent my birthday in Rome! Man, was that a good day!!! Tony spoiled me, had a nice lunch, wine on the house! :) (mom, tia marilu I had a caprese insalata!! mmm) We had to change hostels in Rome due to lack of availability in our first one, when we checked into our second one they read on my passport that it was my birthday and upgraded us to a private room with private bathroom!!! Very nice indeed! :)  Spent the day wandering the streets, had some gelati in front of the Fountain of Trevi, amazing! The detail and the size of it are incredible! Wandered over to the Spanish Steps, which were mildy impressive, they were renovating so didn’t look as nice as on the postcards, and after the fountain I don’t think they compare. Then Tony treated me to a nice dinner in the Piazza Navona, pasta, pizza, juice, and there also happened to be a girl playing guitar and singing right in front of the restaurant. A nice treat for sure!

 

Veronica was attempting to eat a bruschetta or something or another, and things were flying from her plate!  Our waiter noticed and came up to the table… to watch and laugh at her!! Hahahahaha!  Afterwards he made up by bringing her a sharper knife :) 

 

Coliseum was great! I loved it! I now understand why when my dad came to Rome for a conference many years ago he ended up skipping the entire thing when he saw the Coliseum on the way to his conference… ended up going back to the hotel room, grabbing my mom and exploring Rome, never setting a foot in the conference building :P hehehe  Pantheon was cool too, the inside especially, the dome is enormous!

 

I think one of the best things about Italy is the food and the gelati! Really going to miss having gelati every day and the delicious pasta and pizza, not sure what the rest of the world is doing wrong, but pasta in Italy is delizioso!! Gotta fill up on it before heading back to Glasgow in just over a week!

 

Summary: Gelati GOOOD. sun BAD.

 

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SOUTHERN ITALY:

 

Headed over to Ischia next, one of the Islands off the coast of Naples. Beautiful there, our favourite place! Beautiful glowingly green and blue waters, crystal clear and full of fish.  Colourful flowers and fruit trees everywhere.  Had wonderful weather here, and was slightly cooler since we were on the water and were also able to go swimming or wading to cool off. Walked around the town of Forio, where we were staying. Saw a passionfruit plant which was very cool! Tony split one open and ate some to see if it was a passionfruit or not.  The flowers are amazing, never seen anything like it (will have a picture of it on our website soon)! Had a chance to go kayaking one day, very nice, explored some of the coast line this way. We went along the coast of some sandy and rocky beaches, then along some cliff faces where we went into a little cave and got out cuz the water was only up to our waists. Watched the sunset from the kayak which was lovely.

 

Our hostel here on Ischia was the best we’ve stayed at yet! We stayed at the Ring Hostel which is run by 3 brothers.  They treated all their guests as family (Well not everybody.  Some of the pretty girls were not quite treated as… family). We stayed in a 12 person room divided up into 3-4 different sections, all of which had like 6 foot ceilings or so which is really low, and that was the highest point… they were all rounded… like a cave!  A big white cave.  We got to know at least a dozen people there as the brothers took us to their family restaurant where their mom cooks awesome food, including the best pasta we’ve ever had, and their dad makes wonderful wine that cost 4 euros for a half litre or 10 euro for 3 bottles!!!  Incredible!!  Very very nice people.  Oh and their dog, Ringo, whom the hostel is named after, looks like a small lion!  Crazy thing likes running through the insane Italian traffic.  They also took us to some hot springs at night, although we didn’t end up going “skippy dicking” as one of the Italian brothers suggested (sometimes their English would skip a beat hehe).  They also owned another hostel on the waterfront and a hotel which we were allowed to use whenever we wanted at no extra cost (which is how we got the kayak). Every night all the guests would squeeze into their minivan as one of the brothers would drive us through the tiny little island streets to the restaurant attached to the hotel. The driving was crazy! He was driving at about 50km/hr, which we know doesn’t sound fast, but factor that into tiny little streets that twist and turn and that honestly don’t look like you can fit a car through them….they are just wide enough so that there is an inch to spare on either side. One of the turns was 90 degrees, which we still don’t understand how he managed to squeeze through! And these streets are two-way, so if there is a car approaching you it basically ends up being a show-down with each car slowly inching forward until the other gives in and decides to back up the winding street to a turn so that one can pass the other….  We’re sure the brothers do some of this at least in part for a better chance at the pretty single girls who stay at their Hostel, but it works out great for everyone else!  They are one talented family, making everything from scratch: olive oil, bread, pizza, pasta, wine…etc… all very very good!

 

Explored the Island one day, spent part of the day in a town called Sant’Angelo, a little fishing village on the other side of the island where no cars are allowed, nice that it is pedestrian only. We found a nice little private area outside of the normal swimming area, past some storm-blocking rock barrier things they use around here. It was very deep water but we could still see the bottom most of the time up to like 20 feet or so down.  So refreshing to swim here! After awhile of swimming Tony had some piercing pain in his arm… He yelled and headed for shore since everything still seemed to work fine.  No idea what had happened.  When he got out we looked at his arm… there was a big red smear across the inside of his forearm that had just appeared.  Soon it bubbled up into yellow little bumps… kinda gross.  Lorenzo, one of the three brothers who drives like a madman down tiny tiny tiny 1-car width roads with crazy 90 degree turns missing walls by less than an inch, guessed it was a jellyfish. Then as V was trying to get out of the water she stepped on a corally / seaweedy walk of many colours… couldn’t really tell what was under there… the waves caused her to loose her balance and she fell back in the water which we were laughing at, but in the process she managed to bang her foot on some coral or a barnacle or something and cut it up a bit which made walking difficult for a couple days.

 

Took a day trip out to Capri, a much more touristy and expensive Island than Ischia but it was beautiful, and it is definitely understandable why tourists flock there! The cliffs and rocks are impressive, unfortunately none of our pictures do justice to them, something you have to see in person. The water is incredibly clear and so blue. There are little caves around the entire Island, some which reflect the light so well that the green and blue colours that result are unreal! So many little lizards running around too.

 

We skimmed through Napoli, which is known for the best pizza in the world (not sure about that) and for crime – lots of drug users and thieves galore.  Instead of staying there we stayed in a nice hostel in a nearby town which was much nicer!  Wandered around Pompeii which was amazing! The city is over 2000 years old and is in amazing shape even though it was completely covered by ash and rocks from a volcanic explosion around 79AD. You can still see paintings and colour on the walls from long ago – The city was built over the time of Christ, and you could walk through it and take a fairly good glimpse of what a city was like then, impressive, an archeologist’s dream. Hiked the volcano (Mt. Vesuvio) that was responsible for the destruction of Pompeii and the other cities. The hike ended up being a lot easier than we expected as there is a bus that drives you most of the way up, which was ok by us because it was quite warm that day. Got to see some steam rising out of the side of the crater which was neat. Went to Sorrento later that day and spent the day wandering the streets and eating gelati.

 

 

TUSCANY, CINQUE TERRE, and VENICE

 

Florence was next which we also enjoyed. Saw the main tourist sites like the Uffizi gallery, the old bridge (Ponte Vecchio), and the Accademia museum. Didn’t think seeing Michelangelo’s David would be that different than seeing it in videos or in pictures but it really was impressive seeing it in person. The detail and the reality of David is crazy. You can see the tendons in his hands, he looks so real, truly is a masterpiece. The price of admission was a little ridiculous though and the guards are intense, if they catch anyone taking a picture of him (I was good, and resisted) they go up to them wave a bag in front of their picture/camera and make them throw their camera into a plastic bag! The poor tourists, the expressions on their faces were priceless. Of course they get to keep their camera’s but I think they learned their lessons hehehe

 

Siena was lovely, still has a medieval look to it which makes it a great town to stroll around. Went up a bell tower to enjoy a nice view over the city. Unfortunately we got caught in the rain here so were unable to enjoy it fully….

 

Stopped by Pisa so we could see the leaning tower, had fun taking photos of us holding the tower up, pushing it over…etc… Pisa in general was a nice little town but really not much more to do than see the tower hehe

 

Spent a few days in Cinque Terre, a beautiful part of Italy. It is made up of 5 small towns lining the western coast of northern Italy. The towns range in size from 100 – 400 people and they are set on cliffs high above very nice clear blue-green water. They all tend to be long, with one main street that ranges in length from 1-3 blocks and a marina at the base. We walked along the trails connecting the towns, which ranged from nice wide coastal paths to narrow rocky mountain paths. This area was so green and lush, we loved it. There are vineyards all around, lemon trees, tomato vines…. I think our favourite town had to be Vernassa, a small town edged by cliffs all around. The town was just very nicely laid out, with a nice plaza by a small beach with interesting wavy patterns in the rocks. Spent some time swimming/cooling-down in the warm water of Monterosso’s sandy beaches…luckily no direct jellyfish encounters this time! (although we could see them in the water, so they were around). Sad to let this place go… good pesto, great wine, excellent gelati, and beautiful green landscape!!!

 

Headed to Venice next. Spent our days wandering through and getting lost down their little winding streets, eating lots of gelati, looking at their jewellery, listening to many musicians, and watching the many gondolas navigate through the canals. Love the streets of Venice, how they are not grid-like, and how they are car-free! Very nice! And all the little canals, well you just can’t beat those. Ran into a couple girls we had met in the Ring Hostel on Ischia, so we teamed up with them and managed to get a really cheap gondola ride!! That was tons of fun, especially going down the little canals and under the bridges. The grand canal wasn’t as nice to take the gondola down as motor-boats were zooming past on every side, but it was still nice because the operator was pointing out lots of buildings and giving us a little tour and explanation of Venice. Loved Piazza San Marco, especially Tony. Weren’t expecting anything, but when we got there we found that there were thousands of pigeons and they were landing on the tourists which we thought was amusing. We realized that they were attracting the pigeons by feeding them corn, the pigeons were swarming them and standing on their arms, shoulders, heads…you name it. Tony tried to fool some of the pigeons to land on him but most were too smart to fall for his trap, he could usually get one or two on him. We watched many people, laughing at their reactions to the pigeons. A few people trying to escape the pigeons eventually gave Tony some corn so he could try too. I guess the other man thought he had too many pigeons and Tony didn’t have enough so he started throwing corn at Tony hoping to lure the pigeons to him hahahaha  Normally you think, gross, pigeons, (fft speak for yourself I like em!) but somehow these ones in San Marco’s square just didn’t seem as bad… it was fun!!!  Went up to the top of the tower in San Marco’s square and we got a lovely view of all of Venice.

 

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