Day 18. Luzern, Switzerland a bit of Adventure today

Fairly high up in Switzerland

Today is Sunday 25th September. We’re having sleep in, we’re not leaving for Mt Pilatus until 8am, but the signs aren’t good outside, its drizzling rain and about 8deg C. The Navigator sprint/walks to the train station afraid a) that I’ll get lost b) we’ll be late for ferry and c) Option a) and b) which means I’ll really be in the gun. Its helpful that I actually know where I’m going, despite the commentary from the side suggesting otherwise from the real Navigator. This is proven later in the day when we are walking home and Genelle and Liz would have turned left and ended up back at Mt Pilatus rather than right to our apartment, but I say nothing, discretion means I might live another day. Normally I’d make a point but today isn’t the day, the glare in her eyes early in the day tells me that I need to be very careful.

First job is finding out what wharf our boat to the cog railway leaves from, initially we are told 5 but then its changed to 2. We chat to an elderly couple from San Franciso who look to be in their mid late 70’s and still doing interesting travel, good on them I say. We board our ferrym there are a lot of Asian’s, not sure where from but the language sounds Chinese so maybe Taiwan or Korea, not sure, and Americans. Lots of Americans, one woman shoved her hands in the toilet hand dryer above The Navigators at Mt Pilatus, its a wonder she still has a straight nose and all her limbs pulling that stunt – she clearly missed the signals.

Its pissing down rain as we wind around Lake Luzern towards the starting point of the cog railway up Mt Pilatus. Mt Pilatus cog railway was opened in 1889, at 48 degrees incline its still the steepest cog railway in the world taking about 30 minutes to get from the ferry at Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm (the top). The ride up the railway is safe but anyone who struggles with heights might have a bit of anxiety when you look down, it rises up to a bit above 7,000 feet. The location and the gondola ride down the other side were used in a James Bond film On Her Majesties Secret Service, its also a Swiss military base as well as tourist destination.

The cog railway ride up Mt Pilatus

When we get up the top the clouds sort of clear, we can see over Lake Lucerne and Lucerne itself but clouds keep rolling in. There is no ice or snow up there so Liz is a little disappointed, she still hasn’t experienced snow but that might happen tomorrow when we go to the Jungfraujoc which is 11,500 feet high. The views are spectacular, we are so high.

A sandwich we made does for lunch, then the cable car ride back down the bottom. Its spectacular, with a small change in the middle. At the bottom of the mountain we walk for about 10 minutes to get the bus back to the Lucerne train station.

A little church on the mountain

Before we walk home, or Pt Pilatus if certain people had their way, we go to the Swiss Railway travel office, we were told they are excellent and this proves to be correct, they sort out tomorrows trip to Jungfraujoc which involves 2 trains, a cog railway and cable cars and as well as that they change our train frm Lucerne to Basel on Wednesday to a more civilised leaving time from 5:30am to about 7:00am, a job well done.

There is a little shopping for dinner at the COOP supermarket in the train station before the walk home which could have been awkward if we’d taken Genelle (The Navigator) and Liz’s direction, but never mind all is good, no points to be scored, or is there?

Dinner is in house, pork and chicken, salad, a beer and a cup of tea.

Guten Abend from Luzern, Switzerland – Pauolo


Day 17. Florence to Lucerne (Switzerland)

5.30am start, Genelle is well again, just feeling a bit doughy, probably the drugs she took to kill the migraine.

6.30am we’re out of the hotel, bag wheels clatter on the cobblestones, echoing in the almost empty dark street.

Florence SMN train station is quiet, you can actually get a seat while waiting for your platform to come up on the board. Soon enough our train to Milano is on the board and we load up, walk, board the train, lift bags and sit in our seats. The two hours to Milan at up to 300 kmh, passes pretty quickly, the country is farming, looks like productive country, no spectacular scenery or villas to stay in.

We’re not in Milano Central, we’re in one before it called Milano Porta Garibaldi where we change trains to Lucerne, a one hour wait. Not an attractive place, we’re a bit edgy and tired and maybe we just want to get on last leg into Switzerland.

The scenery gets more interesting after Monza, Lake Como, Lake Lugarno, the mountains, lush paddocks with actual cattle eating real grass. The mountains are getting bigger, more grass, more cows and the odd sheep in drizzling rain. Its a Swiss train so we arrive in Luzern spot on time. The Navigator is debating whether to taxi to our apartment or walk, she cant decide but I can tell she wants to take a taxi so I say lets walk. Luckily she’s agreeable and its only a 10 minute walk past the bridge up a few streets, our host is waiting in the carpark which looks a bit mingy but the apartment is lovely, 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a living room, warm cosy, modern, clean, we picked a winner I reckon. Our host gives us a lot of tips on local living, top marks for the intro and friendly guidance.

We gather ourselves after the long train trip, shopping at Aldi is next, we spend 80 swiss franks (1SF = $1.56 AUD, about the same as Euro’s), a few nibbles, lagers, breakfasts, dinners, the women get some fruit and some bread from the bakery downstairs. Its a local neighbourhoood where we are located, on the edge of “old ” Luzern, our address is Kasimir-Pfyffer- Strasse 2, Luzern. There are funky shops in the streets, bakeries, barbers, 2nd hand shops and others that will temp a world class shoper like the Navigator.

Dinner tonight is in house, a few 59c lagers from Aldi, a chicken dish and salad for dinner is planned and a good sleep before we attack the cog railway up to Mount Pilatus tomorrow then we now have a plan for the/ Jung Frau on Monday, Tuesday will be rest and shopping day, before we head to France on Wednesday.

So for 4 days the following is translating basics for Swiss German ;

Goodbye = Auf Wiedersehen, Entrance = Eingang, Exit = Ausfart, Good Morning = Guten Morgen, Good Evening= Guten Abend, piss off = Verpiss Dich (same as for f…. off), Thankyou = Danker, toilet = toilette, pretty easy for a multi linguist like Il Maestro who we’ve been travelling with in the south and Tuscany, but now he’s in Sardinia and not with us, we’ll do the best we can.

So Guten Abend from Luzern, Switzerland tonight – Pauolo


Day 16. – Cortona to Florence with a sidetrack.

This bloke trained in Pisa

5.30am rise, for a 6.30am transfer with Enzo to Camuchia – Cortona train station. Enzo arrives early in the black Mercedes van, we arrive at the train early so coffee and croissants are procured at the train station canteen. It’s cool, dark , and there are others waiting. A few trains whizz through the station not stopping, they are at pace. Our 7:02am train arrives on time, we get seats and then snooze until Florence.

Florence is warmer, but not hot, not yet anyway. A short walk from the Florence SMN train station to the Hotel Globus where we check in drop our bags, drop the bags as we can’t check in yet, its only 9:30am, then walk back the train station, buy tickets to Pisa.

Lets just say that Pisa is about 4 hours of my life I’ll never get back. I can’t say I enjoyed it, maybe I did for about 5 minutes of looking at the tower and the cathedral from the outside as we didn’t have enough time to get tickets to go inside the cathedral and take a 12:30 slot available, its free but you have to book.

The Navigator is just holding it!!!!

The history is roughly; Tower of Pisa is more accurately referred to simply as the bell tower, or campanile. Building commenced in about 1175 and continued for about 200 years due to the onset of a series of wars. Till today, the name of the architect is a mystery. Good thing because it appears he buggered it up a bit, didn’t do his soil testing and undercooked the footing a bit because the 185 foot tower is a bit over 5 metres off the vertical, its also a bit bent due to attempts to straighten it.

The Pisa tower is one of the four buildings that make up the cathedral complex in Pisa, Italy, called Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means Field of Miracles. To be fair the building are beautiful white marble and inside the cathedral looks stunning with a gold or bronze ceiling.

Take a step back, we got off the train, The Navigator turned left, we should have turned right, then back tracked through the tunnel to the correct side of the station, then walking with Google mapped we made our way with a gazzilion other tourists for 25 minutes to the tower and cathedral. Our return train to Florence is at 1pm, so after a cursory look, the obligatory photos pretending to hold up the tower we walk back through the ugly grubby streets, over the Arno river towards the train station. A quick food stop is abandoned when we think we’ll miss the train back to Florence. Hot tip – don’t miss the train out of Pisa, except for the tower and cathedral (book a free ticket at the office over behind the tower first thing when you arrive – it looks worth seeing), everything looks dirty, unattractive and largely unappealing.

Back in Florence we have a lunch near the train station, rest for 30 minutes, then hit the cobblestones and do the cooks tour of Florence for Paul, the Duomo, Santa Croche (inside ), Palazzo vechio sculptures, walk through the bottom of the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vechio, and back via the Piazza where the carousel is. Florence is a beautiful city, easily walkable, and so many things to see and do and so many food options to choose from. You need at least 3-5 days to get a good go at it really. The Navigator has picked up a migraine due to lack of food and too much walking so retires to the room to lighten the drug stash in her bag. Paul, Liz and I head to a nice restaurant around the corner from the hotel for dinner. The drugs obviously work because I can’t wake the Navigator when I knock on the door, so I head to reception and chat with the nice receptionist who is a music fan, we talk about blues and roots music then she gives me a spare key to the room.

A long day, ciao from Italy for the last time this trip – Pauolo


Day 15. Cortona and a little bit of Umbria thrown in for good measure.

We’re the first ones in the breakfast room, its not full of German travellers today, the view hasn’t improved on yesterday but it probably couldn’t really. Anyway, we get first chop at the croissants, first cappuchino’s and a monopoly on the view until some American’s turn up. They look at us strangly when we say “gooday”, and we get no response, they must think we’re Russians, dunno?

The plan is to head out of Tuscany into Umbrian, the border is only a few k’s away but I’m trying to make it sound a little sexy so give me a bit of lattitude. I’ve got used to driving the little Renault Clio, its auto (my demand to the Navigator if I’m to drive (and a good demand that was), its four door despite what I initially thought, its diesel, and turns and accelerates quickly, good for getting out of trouble.

The drive cross into Umbria is very interesting, through villages, around the edge of Lago Tresimeno where its industrial and mostly not as ancient as the tourist areas, but still interesting. First stop is Panicale. The reason we came here is because many years ago friend of ours, no names mentioned (Dave & Ali) stayed here with their children Eleanor and Tim for some time and they were the ones who recommended we stay at Cortona the next year when we were coming to Italy, and we thought a return visit to Panicale would be interesting to see how it looks now. Well, It hasn’t changed much at all, the cafe/ restaurant was in the hands of some younger people but the place is drop dead beautiful, quiet, hardly any tourists (maybe 5-6 other than us), neat, seems friendly. I could be tempted to spend time here, if I could or was allowed to.

The next port of call is Castiglione del Lago (castle on the lake or soemthing like that) somewhere we haven’t been before. I make a small navigation error but its inconsequential as the town is small, find a nice park and we wander here for some time. Its a pretty town, The Navigator buys a few things, checks out the jewellery she can’t afford, we skip lunch thinking we’ll have some when we get back to Cortona. Its really worth stopping here. Its right on the lake, lots of nice shops, good restaurants, and looks like a slow pace.

The drive back up the hill to Cortona is via a narrow road, often close to the edge of the road, a little stress when we end up in via Nationale but a quick left 160 degree turn gets me out of it down the hill and on to the road up the mountain to Santa Margherita. Its a beautiful church, blue blue with Saint Margaret there in her glass coffin looking a bit off. Next stop is back down the hill to the cemetery, its kept immaculately, and almost every grave has a photo of the occupier – I think its a great idea. Enough of dead people, we then fill up with diesel, 40 euros, not bad for 4 days and lots of km’s I think.

Lunch is not lunch, not even a late lunch, its a drink and some pastries, we’re in the food twilight zone between lunch and dinner so we’re lucky to get anything.

We pick up some art prints, The Navigator goes shopping and I go to hand over the car while Paul and Liz have a look at the museum (they were impressed). The lovely Laura checks the car, takes the keys then loses them in her bag, sounds like The Navigator (I wonder if she spills food down her front as well?), then proceeds to ask how we enjoyed Cortona, where we went, how Allister and Jaquie enjoyed it and their driving, she enquired about Australia, where the wine regions were etc etc until The Navigator calls wanting to know where the f… I was. Oh the bloody Laura, she distracted me.

In the middle of this we run into Ian Dixon (the former Orange City master of the dark arts of forward play) and Deb in Piazza Signorelli, a final chew of the fat, remember old times and other important stuff, he tries hard to convince Deb to drive to the top of the hill but she has none of it, walking is her only option and it appears its now his only option.

Dinner tonight is at Teatro Signorilli in the Piazza Signorelli, The building started as a church in the 1400’s or earlier, then they tried to fix a bottleneck for horses and carts where the piazza links with via Dardano and knocked down what I think were grain storeage buildings ( I might have that wrong). The resaturant was recommended by the artist who we bought the prints from (the Englishes know who he is). Mamma and a young 20ish girl run the place, the food is home style food, delicious except for The Navigator’s veal dish which she felt wasn’t up to the standard she now expects of her Italian cuisine.

A great day, we saw a lot, had a nice dinner and tomorrow we head into Florence for one night before we head to Switzerland when I think the rain starts and the weather gets colder.

Ciao for now from Cortona for the last time this trip – Pauolo


Day 14. Touring and Cooking in Tuscany

Breakfast upstairs at the 4th level of the Hotel Italia has a stunning view over Lago Tresimeno and the valley looking south. The breakfast is ok too, cappuchino, warm tasty croissants, fresh fruit, cereal, tea, a cosy room that you could sit in all day. But we can’t, the Navigator insists we must move on.

The little Renault fires first start, and with only a few minor driver errors we’re heading to Pienza for the morning. The country, the creamy clay looking soil, has been ploughed up ready for winter crop planting, grapes are being picked, the recent rain has greened up the country and the pencil pines follow roads up to villas sitting on Tuscan hills. Bit hard to take really!

Pienza is our first stop, what a beautiful village, smaller than Cortona, not a big hill, it would be a nice spot to stay but closest train stop is Chiusi so you then would have to catch a bus or hire a car to get there. The markets are on, food, groceries, clothes , and wait for it, hand f….g bags, the Navigator appears nonchalant but underneath I know she finds pleasure in just looking at handbags and shoes. There is a walk around the town wall which overlooks the surrounding Tuscan countryside, just like the postcards and paintings show, but it’s real and right in front of you.

We find the little Renault and head for Montepulciano, a larger hill town not far away. The grapes are being picked in the vineyards, tractors with bins full of juicy purple ( I think) grapes heading for crushing slow traffic down a bit. A white Merc sits so close behind me I can see the whites of his eyes, I’m doing 15 k over the limit, and he’d be doing 40 to 50 k’s over when he overtakes me. Obviously the speed limit is arbitrary, a flexible think like a lot of things are on the Italian roads.

Montepulciano is busy busy busy, the car parks are full. I have to do a three point u turn at the gates to get back out of a situation I shouldn’t have been in. Eventually I get a park in carport 7, the Navigator wanted to get closer so things are tense for a short time while I recover from the stress of driving in Italy and she gets over having to walk a bit further than she planned.

Montepulciano is not a highlight but ok, some others think a little less of the place. But, it needs more time than we give it I think.

It’s  lovely drive through the backroads to Cortona, we need a break before our cooking class tonight.

We are doing a Tuscan Pld Recipe cooking course then eating it with Fattoria Bistecca   It’s run by Lapo and Ilaria who teach cooking and cheese production and other things. Ilaria is a force. We cook a meat ball and stuffed tomato  thingy entree, a pork and panchetta main with roast veggies and doughnut biscuits and dessert wine. Delicious.

We cruise back to Cortona in 2 black Mercedes vans, like a CIA operation, alight in the Piazza for a photo shot on the Cortona town hall steps. It’s been a great night.

Tomorrow there are some heading to Sardinia, some to Croatia and we’re staying one more day then heading to Switzerland, France and the UK.

Ciao for today – Pauolo


Day 13. Florence on a train

An early start again, we’re out the door at 8, 3 croissants from the kitchen, heading to the carpet for the first drive down to the train station. The Navigator has a real navigation job, my job is driver, Liz can comment from the back seat as long as she doesn’t criticise me. The Navigator had one job, one f….g job, and things don’t start well when she sends down a dry gully, however a quick three point turn with a truck up my arse causes a little bit of tension. Anyway, we’re back on track, then we’re off track then we’re back on and by some miracle we find a park in the train station car park, run to the platform where the others are waiting. L’agente has sent the train tickets just in case we miss it, thankfully we don’t.

Florence is a beautiful place with beautiful and interesting things to see. We’ve been here quite a few times and I love visiting here. My one job is to get the group to The Accedamia to see David, they have an 11am slot. A tip – if you haven’t seen David and you get the opportunity then make the effort, it’s a special piece of art.

The walk from Santa Maria Novella train station via the leather markets to the Accedamia takes no time and they are ready waiting for Elvis their guide in plenty of time.

The Navigator and I leave them and find a coffee and something to eat. Then a reconnaissance mission into the leather markets before heading to the Duomo where we catch up with some of the group. The sun is warming everything up but it’s pleasant in the shade, a pizza for lunch washed down with a beer before we head to the Arno River  via the sculptures in the Piazza, through the middle of the Uffuzi and over the Ponte Vechio.

Eventually we make our way back to the train station, work out how to buy train tickets, pay for a toilet break and find Binnario 16 where our train is waiting. It’s a double decker train, only a couple of stops to Cammucia. The sight of Cortona on the hill as we come into the station is pretty nice.

The little Renault fires up and I immediately I’m directed down another dry gully, when I recover my composure I see a lady in a wheelchair in a street where I think I have to go, mild panic and sweat breaks out, but we go one street further to recover, then a driver error ( unusual?) when I exit a roundabout too early and then have to recirculate back to the road up the hill to Cortona.

A few fellow travellers are in the Piazza sipping spritzers and wine in the cool late afternoon air.

Tonight we use the laundromat, €14 does the Reid and Murphy washing, we’re ready to go again.

A late dinner, then finally bed T about 11

Ciao from Cortona – Pauolo


Day 12 – Rome to Cortona in Tuscany

Today is Monday.

Last night’s dinner was great, another restaurant, great food and good company. The restaurant had some musicians playing in the alley, I guess cost shared by the 4 or 4 other restaurants. There are 2 guitars and a beautiful gypsy waif dancing seductively shaking a tambourine. They play, Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, Santana, the Eagles, the lead guitar plays finger style like Mark Knopfler, he’s very clever, his voice though is a bit non descript like Knopfler as well, not in a bad way but not a strong big voice. We could stay all night but we don’t. The woman sitting next to us is from Brisbane, a Virgin hostee, sorry steward, and a real estate agent, her father is Italian so she’s visiting family. She loves this part of Rome because it’s so lively, I must say I agree with her.

A gellato then home for a cupof tea, preliminary pack ready for our 6:15 pick up.

Ok now to today, which is Mond. It’s a bit eiry (sic) on the dark quiet streets of Rome as the €50 black Mercedes van whisks us the Termini train station. The train to  Cortona is on platform Est 2, not easy to work out where that is, the Trenitalia staff are not that helpful then we find one that is, so then we  make the long trek to the rattler train taking the back track to Florence.

We find there aren’t many people on the train, thats good, so after fanging along at up to 160 km/hour we get to Cortona a few minutes late. Enzo, our van driver, and possibly related to Enzo Ferrari by the way he drives, meets us and gets us to run, he’s late for his next job, and tears up the hill and drops us in Piazza Della Republica right near our accomodation the Hotel Italia. The lady at reception is nice but vague, our rooms change a few times, but when we get to them they are quiet nice. Paul & Liz have a great view over the Tuscan Valley towards Lago Tresimeno.

Paul and I go and pick up our little Citroen Clio, a little blue speed machine. The walk down and up takes a bit of energy even with the elevators.

Breakfast is up in the next piazza, pastry and coffee.

Now I still find it hard to comprehend that you can be on the other side of the world and run into somebody you know, even though initially you don’t recognise the face. Well that happened today. The Aussie in the black Kathmandu puffer vest behind us leans over and says( he’s clearly and Aussie) and the discussion goes something  lije this – ” where are you from?” , Answer ” Dubbo, where are you from?” The answer ” Adelaide but I used to live in Orange” , I say ” we used to live in Orange, played a bit of rugby, then came to Dubbo”, ” who did you play with?” , ” Orange City” I replied, he said ” Unbelievable, I played for Orange City, when did you play?” , Answer ” Late 70s”, ” what’s your name?…… and so on…… Anyway between 1977 and I think 1980 I played rugby with Orange City and it was a great club, I played with well administered club with a great bunch of blokes and women involved in the club.

Oh I forgot to tell you, his name was Ian Dixon (aka “Dog”), a master of the dark arts of the scrum and he’s here in Cortona with Deb (his wife) for three months. He tells me another of our team mates Ian Sinclair (aka “Stinky” – can’t explain why?) lives about two hours from here. Anyway lucky buggers spending time and living here in Italy.

We do an orientation walk with the Murphy’s, then lunch, we walk some more, find an artist who does exquisite, fine pen and ink drawings, the originals would need both my kidneys to pay for one, and the numbered prints are way cheaper but still worth a few €’s. Wandering the streets of Cortona is so nice and such a good way to pass the time.

Drinks in the Piazza is at 6pm, a few beers aperitifs before we walk to Dolce Maria for one of Paola’s dinners. The food is great but takes a long time to arrive, the two nurses misbehave with a little cooee noise from the balcony higher up. Bloody nurses and their party party party! It’s about 11:30pm when we get to bed.

Ciao from Cortona – Pauolo


Day 11. Roma Walking Tour

The early risers are up sipping tea, and toasting toast so I have to get up. First job was to finish the previous days blog and tidy up Day 9 Part 2 photos. The wifi here is a bit slow at night, maybe its when the schoool kids are home, not sure so things on the tablet take longer to load up than they should

Oh, and today is Sunday, its supposed to be a day of rest, so why are all these people out walking?

First stop is Campo de Fiori. I love this place, its full of life, the name means something like “field of flowers”, a hangover from what it was in the middle ages, a paddock with flowers. Its lively, there are fresh flowers sold in the morning, fruit, herbs and vegetables as well as clothing and other stuff. Its on the edge of the Jewish Quarter and not far from the funky Trastavere area. There is one store I’m looking for, it’s a cap and hat stall that I’ve bought a number of caps from over the years. I hoping that I can replace the cap that I lost in Bangkok a bit over a month ago when a gust of wind took it off my head while I was riding in a tuk tuk in heavy traffic. The linen cap I’m after isn’t there so I settle on a lighter coloured cotton cap. I still have one navy bue linen one from the second last time I procured caps from this stall. He’s there, Covid didn’t get him, and I buy a light coloured cap. The Navigator buys clothes and a scarf, IDT (aka the Theatre Nurse) gets mentored through the purchasing process and negotiation with Italian stall keepers, she’s a shopper for all seasons, if she was a footballer they”d call her a “utility” player. The Theater Nurse successful buys stuff at a reduced price.

Next stop is the Pantheon, the crowds are bustling, its coolish in the alley ways as we walk. Unfortunatley the Pantheon is closed and one thing we didn’t know is that its only open on week-ends by booking and there is a sign saying all slots for today are done. Hot tip, if you’re here on week-days its open and free for anyone 9:30am to 6:45am but week-ends check the website and book in, its closed for a church service on Sunday mornings.

Next is Trevi Fontana (The Trevi Fountain), its crowded but Genelle and Liz get space to do the obligatory coin toss.

The walk to The Spanish Steps (Spagna) is via a cafe we visited 10 days ago, a coffee and tea for caffeine to stimulate the mind to push through the pain of sore feet and backs. The Spanish Steps is crawling with people, I’m not sure I’ll be walking up this way again.

We head to the Tiber River, cross to the Pratti side, walk past the Italian High Court building, following the river heading towards Castel Sant Angelo (Castle of the Angels) and Pont Sant Angelo (Bridge of the Angels). St Peters Square is busy and quite warm and I decide to rest my feet while the others walk up towards St Peters. Scintillante (aka the Electrician ) is afraid that the building won’t cope if he walks inside, so keeps his distance. I’m trying to think of what you call a Lapsed Irish Catholic Agnostic.

It’s a slow walk back to our residential area for a late lunch at a nearby restaurant. Its around the corner, its a busy place, locals and tourists, its after 3 and we get drinks, 2 pizzas and a caprese salad. The food is simple but beautiful, sounds Italian to to me.

The women head to find a taxi to take them to a view over Rome, the Electrician and I head back to the apartment for a rest.

Genelle & Liz in Piazza Navona

Tonight we’re having a quiet dinner and packing for the early start to Termini Train Station to get to Cortona. A car is organised to pick us up at 6:15am, train leaves at 7am and we should be in Cortona about 9:30am

Ciao from Rome – Paulo


Day 10. Sorrento to Rome

7am start, the bus is at the front door ready on time, all travellers are ready

The train, Frecciarossa 9524 from Salerno to Milan but stopping in Naples and Rome (not just for us), arrives on Binnario 18, the group has split with some going to get food, some saying goodbye to family and some boarding the train.

The train ploughs aong at up to 280-300 km/hour through the countryside. Its green, lush and hilly. We decide to get off at Rome Termini rather than Tibbertina, its closer to our apartment and will save us about 30 minutes.

The taxi from Rome Termini train station is easy to find, and the 15-20 minute trip to our accomodation is not something I would won’t to do on foot. I have noticed that the Rome taxi drivers, the official ones in white taxi’s with prices on their doors (including 50 euros to Fumicino Airport) are good, seem friendlier than I remember and prices seem reasonable. Except for one clown when we first arrived a week ago when he left us standing in the street.

Our apartment is Hi Suite Rome, viadi monte giordano 19, 0186 Roma. Its 3 story, modern, renovated, very contemporary style, in an ancient building, 1 ensuite bedroom upstairs, 1 ensuite bedroom in the basement and a kitchen/living area on the ground floor. there is a grocery store, cafes, restaurants and other shops right at the front door. The windows I think are double glazed so we don’t pick up any noise at night even when the restaurants are in full swing. Other than a little test getting our bags up the stairs we’re very happy with it.

We get a coffee/tea and some pastry for a late breakfast at a nearby cafe and wait for the the Murphy’s Paul aka Scintillante and Liz aka IDT) to get back from a tour of the Coleseum. I watch the Cronulla v Souths NRL semi final on my phone. Now there are 4 teams left Penrith, Cowboys, Souths and Parramatta, for anyone that cares. I’d like to see Parramatta win, they were Tim’s team

The Murphy’s arrive back, they’ve had a good morning, still buzzing with excitement and that “thing” that Rome can do to you. Even though its easy to get lost in the winding alleys and crushing crowds around the main tourist sites, people talking waving hands, scooters rushing past, its a place you can feel comfortable in, the people are friendly and helpful, although there are a lot who don’t speak English, so having a few basic Italian words can help. Handy when you have a master linguist like Il Maestro in your group – not.

We walk to the piazza Navona, its only a few minutes away, then after missing the Pantheon because I think I had Navona the wrong round in my navigation brain cells we decide to head to Galleria Borghese for our 5pm slot. The walk takes longer than expected, The Navigator is a bit whingy but coping, just, any further and I’d have got a good lecture about taking a taxi next time.

The Borghese is full of ancient and modern sculptures, bas-reliefs, mosaics and paintings and has masterpieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, Bernini and Canova. The value of the collection is priceless. The villa was built in the early 1600’s by a favoured nephew of Pope Paul IV, Cardinal Scipione. The villa was renovated by Marcantonio Borghese in the 1770’s. The decorations of the ceilings are magnificant, worth the visit to see the building, let alone the art. My favourites are the Bernini scultures, the Carravagio paintings and Raphael where his style seems to be the start of a new way to paint. I don’t know much about art but I know what I like.

The Galleria Borghese was acquired by the Italian State in 1902 and opened as a gallery in 1902. Its well worth the effort to see, but you have to book, you cant take water in, no flash cameras and no backpaks or large bags – they must be checked into a cloak room – The Navigator takes issue with these rules, she’s a little tense but gets over it, and I think she can take or leave the gallery visit, she spends a lot of time sitting in the chairs with a far away look (of shops maybe?) in her eyes.

Unlike the walk there, the walk back via Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon is slow and relaxed, although we’re all a little foot and leg sore. Its a shame the pantheon is closed when we get there , it closes at 7:30pm, so a ander back to via di Monte Giordano for a dinner next door to our accomodation.

We are welcomed at the restaurant, the food is fantastic and the the Murphy’s and The Navigator clean their plates, we do 3 courses and Scintillante and I do a large Italian beer. To much f…g beer for me, but its good. A great dinner, time for bed to rest our weary bodies, its been a long day. A small niggly itchy nose feels a little like a cold, I need to nip that in the bud.

Ciao from Roma – Paulo


Day 9. Sorrento Last Day – Part 2

So lets go back to yesterday and add some detail.

A coffee and pastry at the bar next door with Regazzo and Il Banditore. The coffee is good, so bloody good. The place is packed with school girls and the odd boy buying mostly cigarettes but some buy pastries and some buy coffee to go with the smokes. Its humid inside, its raining outside, the atmosphere is good, the proprietor gets our coffee as a priority over the kids, seems like after a week that we’re looked on sort of like locals. The locals drop in for cigarettes, espresso, a quick chat with the proprietor, never sitting, hands flapping, talking like its an argument, but it doesn’t actually seem to be one.

A one minute walk back at the villa, a bit of solid food for breakfast then upstairs to the first floor living area, where I spend some time getting my phone set up to watch the NRL semi final between Parramatta. The tv apps for Australia dont allow you to watch Australian TV shows so you have to trick it into thinking you are in Australia. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) does that, I think, so with fingers crossed I kick Nord VPN into gear and presto we’re watching The Eels v The Raiders. The Eeels are very impressive and win easily. Regazzo (the accountant) joins us, reading us the scores off  the NRL live stream score site before we see it on the phone. F….g annoying, we tell him so, and he stops doing it for a while. Then he commandeers my tablet and watches separately on that, same thing again so he’s threatened again and complies. I’m glad I tried this, I worked out a bit about technology having a crack at it.

Regazzo has some redeeming features, he arrives back after the football with a pizza and generously shares some with John and I. Its a very tasty pizza, fresh, tasty, melt in your mouth pizza. I hear his wife Della (aka Jane) ask him where the pizza was, he responds I ate it. John and I are a little embarrassed that we ate pizza that should have been Janes, but as the Newcastle song says, never let a chance go by, my guilt moves on quickly.

I go for  nice long walk up the hill away from the water, to local shops along the main road and back down the hill to the villa, Its a nice walk, quiet, leafy streets, locals talking, drinking coffee.

The shoppers return from Sorrento, sore feet and smiles on their faces, with a plan to return to buy more bags and clothes later on before dinner at a restaurant reccomended by the other travellers when they came down from Naples to Sorrento. The rest of us chill in the garden  and have a few drinks, some of us have a few more than others before the walk to the dinner venue. The night is balmy, the mosquitos are small and bite hard, rain feels close.

At 4:30 the Williams clan leave for a night in Naples, a car and driver take then all the way in to their hotel.

The walk to the restaurant is brisk, but Helen & The Architect lag behind, Helen has been working on rehydration all afternoon and doesn’t feel the need to rush, her brother comments that she’s never been early in her life, harsh maybe, dunno, could be true.

The afternoon handbag shoppers have a table organised before we get there, the centre of the room, beers and wine ordered, then food, the waitress is the boss’s daughter, she seems in control and has a lovely smile. I order an entree of deep fried calamari, The Navigator orders hers, my neighbours order a convivio something or other and the mood is festive and we’re all hungry, some hungrier than others as will become apparent.

Entree’s begin appearing, the waiter delivering the food has a sweat on his forehead, he drops food and runs and a brown paper bag with deep fried sea food is given to my erstwhile neighbours (Helen & Rob). They dive in and start shovelling the delicious looking food into their mouths assuming that it was what they ordered, Helen is adamant that it actuallt is what they ordered but her memory is slightly dulled by the vino from the session in the garden at the villa where we inhaled mossie coil and swatted the dirty biting little black blood suckers earlier, all combined with alcohol. After a while, when a poor orphan looking entree dish, which I advised is clearly not mine is recognised by Helen as being what she had actually ordered. Her face turns red as she comes to the realisation that her and Rob had hoed into my food without hesitation or consultation. Of course she blames the waiter, she blames the guests, she blames God for not telling her she was about to make a huge mistake but the responsibility clearly rests with her. The next mistake is then trying to placate me while I gazed dismayed at my half nibbled half gobbled entre. I swear she looked that hungry I was surprised that she didn’t eat the brown paper bag or at least suck the grease out of the paper in the bag. Food is offered to me as a reconcilatory gesture, other things yet to be clarified what they are are offered, but my integrity says to me that I won’t enquire further what that might look like.

I’m feeling OK about having half of my ordered entree eaten by a thief, however Helen is still struggling with her guilt and decides that alcohol and dance therapy will help her through rehabilitation for commiting this gastronomic crime.

The restaurant starts some music going, we start singing and Helen decides to reenact Olivia Newton-Johns leather suit dance (You;re the One That I Want) with John Travolta when Grease comes on. Helen is accompanied by Ciclista Dismountus, mainly because he’s afraid that her extreme hip swininging and arms flaying may endanger a customer or worse still one of us. The locals and travellers dining at the restaurant get their phones out, I think they are concerned about evidence should their ear drums rupture from the loud and poor singing or from Helens flailing arms. As the DJ adds some old Italian classics and other songs on, our group take over the restaurant and start a conga line, knotted hankies on heads, dancers from America and Italy join the pulsing dance floor. Not me, I don’t dance and I don’t cook, and besides its fun watching the action on the floor.

Dinner is a success, great fun on our last night in Sorrento.

The walk home from Sorrento to Sant Agnello is slow, Helen seems to have sorted her guilt issues out but it won’t be forgotten, who said revenge is a dessert best served cold? The great entree crime, a felony of fish, will not go unavenged. The rain starts to fall as we turn into Via Coccumella, our street. Patience Pauolo, the day will come.

A quick tidy up before bed and an early start tomorrow morning.

Ciao from Sorrento – Paulo