Been back 3 weeks now and the post holiday depression is really kicking in...We had 3 weeks in Italy as part of a 6 week holiday that also included Paris, London, Dubai and a cruise around the greek islands....Heavenly....I have written some of the highlights and a few little things that werent so great from each place in Italy. I would also like to thank you all for your constant patience in answering all of my questions. They were vital in us having a smooth and wonderful holiday..
Arriving in Pisa, we managed to find the right bus to the tower, stopped at Pisa central, left our luggage at the station and jumped back on the next bus and continued on.. I am glad we went to see the tower but it was a bit of a let down. We found it to be a huge tourist trap, having to pay to go into the tower, baptistery and church.. The queues were long and it was hot so we didnt bother going in or up but took the usual photos holding up the tower and made our way back on foot to the station. The train trip into Florence was a bit of an eye opener as the amount of graffiti on the buildings was not what i expected to see and a bit unsightly... I know there is graffiti everywhere but i really dont understand why the government doesnt do something to clean it up as its not the best introduction to Italy for those tourists just arriving into the country. Florence is a big interesting city that was also very very hot in late August.. Our hotel "Il Perseo" was in the best position, 5 mins walk from the station and 2 mins from the Duomo and the staff were fantastic...Perfect... The Duomo was huge and just beautiful, sitting right in the middle of Florence...we loved wandering through the many cobblestoned streets that cross over one another, lucky we had our trusty map in hand.. Here we had one of our most expensive coffees of our trip. Sitting next to the Duomo at night to enjoy the vista we paid $20aus for 2 coffees and one cake...hhmm expensive view but what the heck, we are in italy! Mostly I loved venturing out into the country of Tuscany. Spectacular and a true highlight. One of our favorite towns, Fiesole, was just a 20 min bus trip away, beautiful views and it was so special watching the city lights of Florence turn on at sunset. We also stumbled across a wine tasting overlooking the Teatro with the best views over the mountains. I dont know if we were meant to pay but the guy pointed us to the glasses so we said thank you and attempted to blend in...Our first few days in italy were turning out to be very nice! Beggars and flower sellers are in Florence but not as annoying as in other parts of Italy. Sadly you become oblivious to them after a while and learn to ignore them. We did a day in the Tuscany wine region visiting San Gimignano which we loved and Sienna. .Both are simple little villages with stunning views. The people so far have been very friendly and appreciate our bad attempt at speaking italian to them.. We caught a tram to a local market and also took the advice of some of you and took a train to Lucca where we road bikes around the huge wall. We tried to get away from the touristy areas as much as we could and i must say the Tuscan country side is so pretty, it reminded me of Australia quite a bit. One thing no one speaks about is the amount of people that smoke in Europe, something else i wasnt expecting. Smoking is frowned upon in Australia so it really bothered me that many people didnt think twice about blowing the smoke in my face or just dropping their dirty butts on the ground. Not the best but we took the good with the bad and this was only a minor thing compared to the many wonderful things we have seen so far.,
This place was a highlight and i knew it would be. Have wanted to go there since i saw a documentary on the area about 10 years ago. Much slower pace, views to die for, very relaxed. Our hotel,'Hotel la spiaggia', was right on the sandy beach of Monterrosso. So glad we picked this town as it is the only flat one and only one with a sandy beach, also right next to the train station. We had gorgeous views from our balcony, a lovely way to start the day.. All 5 villages were small but had an intimate charm of their own...We caught the ferry to Porto Venere which not only gave us beautiful views along the coast line but this pretty little town was just stunning with its very long skinny houses and church and castle on the hill. We also went to Portofino which everyone raves about but we found it to be all high end designer shops and extremely expensive. Wish we had kept this day to the beach in Monterosso as we felt it was a day wasted. I also wish i could have just a little of the confidence of the Italian women when it comes to string bikinis. I am not overweight but have decided we must be highly strung in Australia even with our beautiful beaches as we tend to cover up unless we are sporting the fittest of bodies. I take my hat off to these women and my tankini....Lol
Not so great...those damn cigarette butts all over the beach are just plain ugly and ruin the look of this very pretty area. not attractive! Here we also discovered what everyone means about travelling light. This was the first place we had to struggle with our suitcases up and down stairs at the station...why oh why didnt i listen and take a smaller case...Mine was huge as i figured i needed lots of clothes for 6 weeks but it very quickly became a huge thorn in my side..
Venice was exactly as i expected it to be from what i had seen in the movies and on tv. Our first night was spent near the Station as we had to catch the cruise ship the next day. Our hotel 'Hotel Arlecchino" was not bad but not great for the money we paid for it. From what i am told most Venice hotels are small but their was going to be no swinging from the chandeliers in this room. We had a nice view of a small canal out of our smaller window. However it did serve its purpose as it was a few minutes walk to the people mover that took us to the cruise port. Why, oh Why, dont they build some ramps over the bigger bridges??? My arms are slowly starting to look like Arnold Schwarzeneggers and i am starting to worry that the wheels on my suitcase might buckle under the pressure. We walked over to St Marks square from our hotel and loved just wandering around through the tiny alley ways and exploring the many shops. Unfortunately there are thousands of tourists during the day and it was hot so not much fun but once they went it was easier to wander around and take it all in. After the cruise, which was magnificent, i might add, we stayed 2 more nights next to St Marks square at Hotel Lisbona. This was in a great spot but the room at this hotel was even smaller than the last(I didnt think that was possible) It also smelt musty and had stains on the carpet and more expensive than the last. We really enjoyed wandering through the residential part of Venice away from the tourists and also loved going over to Lido beach. We visited Murano and Burano with its pretty colored houses.
Bought take away pasta from Alfreds which was the best meal we had in our 3 nights here. Another thing I have never seen before and found a tad strange was that they let pet dogs come inside the restaurant and sit under the table while its owner ate. The jury was out on this one. Didnt like it at all..I prefer not to dine out with our furry friends specially in an expensive restaurant. We put it down to another one of the 'different' things we experienced on our travels...We were aussies to the rescue in Venice. We were walking along enjoying the night with some friends we met up with, when a well dressed elderly woman came running out of a hotel calling for someone to help her as her husband had fainted and she didnt speak italian. Some young italians that were next to us yelled to the man behind the desk to call the ambulance and told our friend not to go in as it might be a scam. I looked in the door and saw a very old man white as a ghost lying on the floor so told them not to be stupid and went in to help. My husband, Paul spoke to the desk clerk in italian, i ran next door and asked the lady in a shop to call the ambulance, we managed to calm down this lovely canadian couple and stayed with them until the water ambulance arrived. She was so grateful and gave us blessings as we left. Its quite sad that we have become such a scared society that we wont go to the aid of someone for fear of being ripped off.
Rome - Well this very busy city was one of my favorites. Its buildings reminded me of Paris. Grand and old! Loved it. I also loved staying near the Trevi fountain at hotel 'La fontana di trevi' which was buzzing with people late into the night. We walked almost everywhere here although we did jump on a few buses and hoped for the best. The people were happy to help with directions even with my very broken italian. As my understanding of the italian language is limited i was very grateful to have Paul who was always there to translate for me as .. it was a tad embarrassing that i could ask for things but not understand them when they answered me at 100 miles per hour but i always gave it a go. St Marks Basilica took my breath away. Amazingly Beautiful inside and to think it was all built by hand so many years ago was incomprehensible. The Colloseum was huge and interesting. There are so many piazzas, churches and beautiful places to explore we really enjoyed our 4 days here. Not quite sure why they have traffic lights here as no one really adheres to them...drivers are a bit crazy but there are a lot of them so i guess that's why.
Things that really rubbed me up the wrong way and spoiled this great city for us was the beggars in your face. They have no money but can afford a mobile phone...What the??The flower sellers, photo takers and everyone else who is trying to make a quick buck, they are so annoying and just dont go away. Sadly i had to resort to being abrupt with some of them specially the taxi driver at the station who wanted to charge me 30 euro for a 10 euro trip. I told him where to go and how to get there...literally!!! how many poor unsuspecting tourists must get ripped off.. The cigarette smoke is starting to smell good...did i just say that?
Amalfi Coast- well what is there to say about this place. After the 1.5 hour train trip from Rome and the grueling 1.5hr bus trip from Salerno being squashed in the back of a very crowded , hot bus, we finally arrived in Amalfi. At this point i was a little green around the gills, I am still not sure how i didnt throw up on the annoying lady in front of me with her massive suitcase taking up the seat. The views along this coast line are spectacular and some of the best you will ever see in your lifetime, however the roads are very narrow and the buses have to honk and slow right down to let each other pass with all of 6 inches between them. A little hairy! There was very little air in the bus and with a huge drop to the side of the road I am not sure how they do this trip daily but i prayed and hoped we would arrive in one piece without any vomit and we did. Amalfi is a pretty little bustling beach town but that has loads of tourist buses pulling in and out and heaps of motorbikes and people but it is high season after all...We loved our little 'hotel Anticco' even if we didnt have ocean views, it was in a great spot right in the center of the shops. We only stayed one night. Positano was our next stop and there was no way i was getting on that bus again so we caught the ferry. It was a lovely day and a smooth transition. Just what i like, also the views of Postino from the water were just beautiful. Positano was one of my 'must see' places and it did not disappoint. I just stood at the bottom on the sand and looked up and couldnt believe my eyes that i was actually there. The colored houses and hotels set into the cliff are spectacular.. We walked up and down those stairs and walk ways and i was very glad that i had changed our stay from 5 nights to 1. I dont think my knees would have survived but our hotel, 'Villa La Tartana' was close to the beach so we only had around 20 steps to walk up, opening our doors to step out on the balcony with the most magnificent views was a beautiful way to start the day and so worth the money we paid. I am so glad i didnt over look this place as we almost took it off the itinerary....well Here we go again, aussies to the rescue. As I was standing waiting to buy an ice cream a young italian woman came up to the drink machine next to me looking a bit off. I asked her if she was ok as her eyes rolled back in her head and she fell to the ground..I might have to start charging if this keeps up. Paul and i once again elevated her legs and got someone to bring water. She was fine before long but another adventure to write in our travel books. WE caught the ferry to our Next stop, this time it was not so great...very rough seas and one very green, sweaty looking husband...Now im not sure which is better, the bus or ferry. Think we might get a private transfer to Naples airport...lol..Sorrento is another beautiful beach town set high on the cliff. Our hotel 'Hotel Sorrento' was one of the best we stayed in. Set high up with beautiful views from the rooftop of Mount Vesuvius and the bay of naples. 10 mins walk to the station. Very close to Lots of little shops down very interesting little alley ways. Paul loved the many shops that offered free Lemoncello tasting...great way to kick off the night. It was nice not to be hassled by beggars along the coast...
Not so great....the crowded train and beggars on the way to Pompeii. Im becoming quite cynical which is sad as I am not sure anymore who is really in need and who is not.
All in all we loved italy, each city different from the last. Yes it has graffiti, cigarettes and beggars but if you look past these things it is a wonderful country with so much to see. Would i go back? yes but I would venture to different places that i haven't already seen. It is a wonderful cultural experience and one i will never forget...