Friday, 3 March 2017

Amalfi and Rome 2016


We left Naples on an early train to Sorrento, from there we caught to bus to Amalfi. The bus was extremely crowded and we had to strap hang for 2 hours around the coast with its nail biting corners and a narrow road.

Our accommodation Amalfi Hotel was in the centre of town and easy to find. We were only staying two nights so just thought we would relax rather than go hiking. The town is touristy but has a great atmosphere. Who couldn’t love staying here? We were just happy to experience the atmosphere and just wander around for the rest of the day.
Amalfi Coast

The next day we went to the Amalfi Paper Museum, which was very informative. Amalfi paper is very famous as it is made from cotton and is used for all the government and Papal documents as it doesn’t deteriorate like wood pulp paper. Then to the Duomo, what town in Italy doesn’t have a church or two?

In the afternoon we took a little cruise to the Emerald Grotto and around the coast a very relaxing afternoon.

The next day we were leaving for Rome our little R&R break would be over.


We caught the bus to Sorrento and were able to get a seat and sit for the return journey. We retraced our journey to Naples then to Rome. The Hotel Capri was close to the station and easy to find. I read that Rome is a city of 900 churches and I decided to count them down as we walked around.

Close to our hotel there was a pleasant café so we decided to have a coffee to revitalize ourselves after our travel. The barista was gorgeous and oh so charming, so Italian.

I had been to Rome twice before so I was happy to give all the big tourist sites a miss. Our first afternoon we just walked around to re-orientate ourselves. We found a restaurant close by where to have dinner on our first night.

We woke up to a very loud church bell a block away from our room window plus rain. To add to this the other downer and we’re not fussy but the breakfast supplied by the hotel was terrible it would have been better if breakfast was not included like other places we’ve stayed.

We decided to head for the Jewish quarter, they had been in long before the Christians arrived. Rome has the longest surviving Jewish community outside the Holy Land. I read about this in the Melbourne The Age, Traveller section on June 11th 2016 and wanted to visit the area. The tour of the synagogue was very informative and the accompanying museum is noteworthy and we managed to spend some time looking at all the displays.

After our visit we had lunch at the restaurant recommended in the article ‘Ba’Ghetto with its ‘specialty Jewish cuisine from the Rome area’ and didn’t disappoint.

We meandered around the market gazing with great interest at all the produce wishing we could buy some to take home, but it wasn’t a practical proposition. We were amused by packets of pasta in the shape of the ‘Star of David.’

Before we knew it the day had disappeared.

The following day no sleeping in the ‘alarm’ from the nearby church bell was on time. Apart from the bells, thunder, rain and hail greeted us. This morning we decided not to have the breakfast at the hotel. Across the road to the café where the charming barista was serving. We had our typical Italian breakfast of coffee and croissant each but had bill shock it cost 16 euros, considering in Milan the same breakfast cost only 5 euros for two, and to add to the insult to it Mr. Charming didn’t even serve me!

As the weather wasn’t conducive to going to the gardens we went to the Liberation Museum instead, which set out about the history of the liberation of Rome after the Second World War and though it is not one of the major tourist highlights it certainly is worth a visit.

The weather cleared and we caught the metro back to a more central station, ambled around then went to the Napoleon museum assembled in 1927 which holds a collection of various objects and memorabilia of the extensive Bonaparte family. There was also a temporary exhibition of modern mosaics with the minutest pieces to make up the pictures.

Totally weary after walking around all day.

We breakfasted a lot cheaper today. The weather was fine on our last day so we decided to the Villa Borghese, we meandered through the park and finally made our way to the Museo e Galleria Borghese which has some wonderful art works on display. Not reading the information correctly I found out I should have booked as we were unable gain entrance for about two weeks. There was a museum shop and café, I looked at some of the items and was interested in buying some and we were also thinking of having a coffee there also. However I wanted to go to the toilet, but only those who had an entrance ticket could use it. I offered to pay and even went to the ticket counter. Too bad by now I REALLY needed to go. I was told there was a toilet in the park 10 minutes away. But where? It is like Hyde Park so you can’t expect to use the toilets in the museum, though I can’t recall an Art Gallery there.
Gardens near Villa Borghese

We left, I didn’t buy anything, then found a small café, bought a coffee and was able to use their toilet!

After spending all morning in the gardens we walked back to the centre of the city and had a pizza lunch. We then went Keats-Shelley Memorial House which overlooks the Spanish Steps. Keats, Shelley and Byron were Romantic-era poets who lived part of their lives in Rome. My mother loved their poetry and it was great to go to the house and see documents, letters and copies of publications. It was sad that I couldn’t relate this experience to my mother as I know she would have been rapt.

Inside Keats-Shelley Memorial House
When we were leaving here the hordes of people milling around the Piazza di Spagna was unsettling, I hate being in crowds like that. So we continued down the street glad to leave the crowds behind.

The day was disappearing fast another coffee break and made our way back to the hotel to collect our luggage to start our trip home.

One thing on this trip to Italy and Sicily was the pervasive presence of security everywhere, especially around railway stations and top tourist attractions which is probably no surprise in this day and age.

Last point my counting down of the 900 churches as I wandered around I ended up with I about 728 to go which meant I counted 122 churches without even trying!!

Thursday, 2 March 2017


We arrived in Napoli at 6.00 in the morning. Cars, trucks and people disembarked the ferry. As we walked to where there were many taxis I asked the Italian woman just behand me about the cost of the taxi into the city. She was more than friendly as she said the taxi drivers rip off everyone, but said she was going to the central railway station and we could share the taxi and fare with her. Major problem solved. She negotiated the fare and even than she was not happy with the taxi driver. So what hope would we have had with my minimal tourist Italian?
Napoli Street

Our hotel Europa Grand was just around the corner from the station, easily found. We dropped our bags at the hotel and with a map went to explore Naples. We wandered in and out the streets. Of we visited all the major churches and cathedral. We discovered subterranean Naples, Roman archeological remains of a town on which the modern city has been built. In the museum shop we were given a brochure for a recital by a well-known singer of traditional Neapolitan folk songs.

Seven Works of Mercy- Caravaggio
We also visited Pio Monte della Misericordia which is famous for its art works especially the wonderful Caravaggio painting of The Seven Works of Mercy.

Unfortunately on our first day walking back to the hotel Alan was unlucky again and had his camera stolen from his backpack, the problem being it was sitting on top of clothing so easily accessible.

On our second day we visited Pompeii, the tourist infrastructure around and in it has certainly changed since my last visit in 1989. It was a great day. I had forgotten how large the site was we walked around for hours. Some areas were fenced off for restorations. One can’t go to Naples without visiting Pompeii!

On our way back on the train was very crowded and at one of our stops it was announced we all had to get off the train which remained at the platform and go across to the next platform. I and everyone else thought there must have been mechanical problems. We all dutifully arrived at said platform and waited for about 5 minutes then another announcement and we all trouped back to the original train on our way back to Naples. Go figure!!
Pompeii dog

That night we went to the recital of Neapolitan folk songs which was very enjoyable.

Day three we visited the 13th century Castel Nuovo which overlooks the ferry port as well as the Museo Civico within to castle. From there we headed to the palazzo Reale but unfortunately it was closed and we could only view the magnificent Opera House from the outside. After lunch we went to take the funicular but it wasn’t our day as that was not running, closed. Notices gave directions to the metro which we took, but still didn’t make it to the castle on the hill. We walked around the district Leopoldo, but it wasn’t the most productive sightseeing day, although it was interesting to see areas outside the usual tourist places.

Our last day in Naples we woke up to rain, so decided to go to the Archeological Museum. A very long line at the entrance, so quite a wait. We spent hours in there all so very fascinating.
Magnificent Roman mosaic

Had lunch just opposite then went to St. Elmo’s Castle which provided a great view of the city. Quite a steep climb from the station.

Naples is a noisy, chaotic and some say dirty city, but I love its vibrancy, the noisiness reminds me of Asian cities. Even the new metro trains are noisy, just prior to the doors automatically opening a sound like a starting gun is heard. In spite of the theft of my husband’s camera (which can happen anywhere), we never really felt unsafe, no more than anywhere else I’ve travelled.
Naples from St Elmo's castle

The next day off to a quieter, relaxing two days in Amalfi.