A Travellerspoint blog

Naples and Sorrento


View Chris and Jade Taylor's 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

After Rome we continued south spending the night in Naples. We decided to stay in Naples, mainly to try out the famous pizza napoli. Naples is a rather rough town with quite a bit of litter (recently there had been riots about the lack of waste disposal) and a number of buildings looking rundown. One closed down McDonalds had 'f*** America!' graffitied on the door. Before heading to Naples, we had heard many negative viewpoints of the city, and while there where some really dodgy looking areas (and people), overall the city didn't appear to be as bad as all the hype. The pizza was good, although Jade didn't rate it as good as the pizza in Rome, and some of the medieval style alleys had some interesting shops including wooden models of nativity scenes. Underneath the grime, Naples boasts some great 17th, 18th and 19th century architecture.

After one night we left Naples for Sorrento by train, which took about one hour. Sorrento contrasts greatly to Naples. The town is at the edge of the Amalfi Coast, and is picturesque, clean and safe. For lunch, we tried Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, which is a traditional version of gnocchi from Sorrento - we both loved it. The next day we took the train to Pompeii, where we spent the next seven hours exploring the ancient ruins of the Roman town. Pompeii was one of the most amazing sites we had come across so far on the trip. Pompeii is unique in that it is a completely preserved working Roman town which was left undisturbed until the 1600s, after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius around A.D 79 . The best thing about the site of Pompeii is that about a third of the entire site is open to the public and a large number of the buildings with magnificent frescos are also open.

On our last day in Sorrento, we took a bus to Amalfi to explore some of the 50km stretch of the Amalfi coast. The trip took about an hour and a half and offered some great views of the rugged coast line, while winding through towns and up and down mountains. Amalfi is a small tourist town, situated on the side of a cliff and boasts a long history, including a fair while as a slave trade headquarters. The only building left in the town that can attest to the towns wealth as a trading port in the middle ages is the cathedral, which has many Byzantine style works of art.

Posted by CJTaylor 20.12.2010 20:20 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rome

With great excitement we took a train from Florence to Italy's capital - Rome. This was on Chris's list of "must-see" destinations, with him having had a long-time interest in the Roman Empire. Jade had just finished Colleen McCullough's book 'First Man in Rome', and she was keen to see the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. We checked into our B&B accommodation, expensive for what it was, but opposite the Vatican walls and a central location to many of the famous sites. We had booked for 5 nights, just enough time to scrape the surface of the city really. On our first night, Jade took Chris out for a glimpse of Rome by night - Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. We noticed a few Catholic Australian groups walking around with pictures of the Australian nun Mary MacKillop, and found out that she was to be canonized in a public ceremony at Saint Peter's Square on the 17th of October. We did not attend the ceremony, but felt lucky to be near the Vatican on that day, considering that she is the first and only Australian to be made a saint. Jade bought her mother a pendant to commemorate the canonization - though not a Catholic, her mother had grown up close to where Mary MacKillop had started her career in South Australia. During our time in Rome, we went to the Colosseum, the Forum, the Palatine Hill, the Capitol Gill, the Vatican museum, Saint Peter's Basilica, up the Spanish Steps, around the gardens of Villa Borghese, and along the Tiber river. We also spent an afternoon walking around the Trastevere neighborhood, which had a different feel to central Rome, and up the Janiculum hill for beautiful views. Roman drivers are so funny. We watched with amazement as one woman tried to reverse park next to a public hospital, holding up traffic for 10 minutes, then proceeded to use her little Fiat to nudge (i.e. bang her car into) the parked cars behind and in front. Another time a pedestrian bravely crossed a road before the signal and a guy on a scooter managed to stop just in time in front of him, before verbally blasting him with wild gesticulations - the pedestrian responded with equal animation, and neither cared they were causing a traffic jam! After long days walking about, we worked up huge appetites for what we consider to be the best pizza in the world (even better than in Naples) - crispy thin Roman pizza margheritas, a pizza that has been said to resemble the Italian flag (colour-wise, not constitutionally, that is).

Posted by CJTaylor 14.12.2010 18:55 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Florence


View Chris and Jade Taylor's 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

Okay, so we're officially back home. But out of principle, and because we'd like to finish something we've started, we are going to keep going with the entries. Florence was the second destination we went to in Italy. Jade had visited there last in 1997, as part of a school trip. We took a train from Venice and arrived in the late evening. Unfortunately, the hotel we had booked through Booking.com had not received our details, and were fully booked. Luckily they found us a room at a hotel nearby, close to the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, known as the Duomo. Walking through the narrow streets of the city, the Duomo looks like a 2D cut-off plastered on the sky, an amazing sight and somewhat of an optical illusion due to the style of architecture and paint colours used. Residents of Florence are very fashion conscious - with a number of high-end boutiques and Italian fashion houses in the city. It was amazing the amount of men and women who had Prada, Louis Vuitton or Gucci handbags/manbags. Leather jackets are big, helped by the local leather markets. Otherwise, there is always the blackmarket sellers, who are constantly on the look-out for the police, and can quickly move away and set back up again whatever they are selling. We stood in line for over an hour to get into the Uffizi, considered to be one of the most important art galleries in the world. With paintings and sculptures by the four Ninja Turtles - Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael (haha). Our favourites were Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus', da Vinci's 'Adoration of the Magi', Caravaggio's 'Medusa' and van Honthorst's 'Adoration of the Child'. We also went to see Michelangelo's statue of David at the Accademia di Bella Arti, and marveled at how big the sculpture (and certain parts of the sculpture) actually were. This gallery also had some other good collections, such as a musical instrument collection, a plaster models collection, and early Christian paintings and icons. One afternoon we had a nice walk along the river (via the tempting Ponte Vecchio 'gold-sellers' bridge) up the hill to the look-out known as the Piazelle Michelangelo. There is a very beautiful church on the hill called the San Miniato al Monte. It was a pity that tourists were making a bit of a racket in the church, but this was sorted out by an angry looking priest who started closing the doors. Another day was spent at the Palazzo Pitti (palace), bought by the Medici family in 1549, and used through the centuries as a grand residence of the Tuscan nobles. In one display of original clothing worn by Medici family members, Jade was shocked when looking at what is known as a 'cod piece'. As with Venice, in Florence we had some great pasta meals, and a particular favourite was a trio of Tuscan soups.

Posted by CJTaylor 13.12.2010 20:27 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice

Given the price of trains and ferries, we decided to take a Vueling flight from Barcelona to Venice. After arriving at the airport, we took a bus to Maestre which is a neighbouring city to Venice on the mainland. We had a bit of 'fun' catching a local bus to our accommodation. First, we couldn't buy a ticket from the driver but needed to buy one at a cafe/bar. Second, the bus broke down. Third, the bus stop signage was a bit lacking so we were lucky to get off at the right stop. It took us about an hour to find our accommodation - Villa Crispi, even though it was about 500m from the bus stop. That night, all was forgotten when we were enjoying Italian food including a buffalo mozzarella pizza with porcini mushrooms called 'Corte Sconta'. For the next couple of days we took the local bus into Venice to explore the city and try to find Silver Fox (a.k.a Francesco de Mosto). We had a good time getting lost in the alleyways and coming across interesting finds, beautiful canals, and churches. The best value food wise in Venice is grabbing a foccacia or panini in a bakery and having coffee 'al banco' - at the counter. We went into the Bascilica of San Marco on a platform because the nearby square was flooded. Many old buildings require restoration and look as though they are sinking. We liked the Arsenal of the Venetian Navy and found a part of Venice that was like a ghost town except for a lonely dog and a trio of cats looking on at a flock of pidgeons through a fence. The prices in Venice were out of this world including entrance fees for museums, walking tours and gondolas. That is why we needed Silver Fox to show us around. But alas, he didn't seem to be in town. Venice is an amazing city, which has kept a sense of grandiosity from the old times when it was a powerful naval base and empire of it's own.

Posted by CJTaylor 31.10.2010 05:10 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Barcelona


View Chris and Jade Taylor's 2010 Europe trip on CJTaylor's travel map.

Due to the price difference between the bus and train over a large distance, we decided to take an overnight bus to Barcelona from Cordoba. We hardly got any sleep on the bus. However, we stopped into some interesting Spanish towns where it appeared as though the whole region was celebrating a fiesta. Several towns had fairs on, with many people out in the streets, and the towns decorated in lights, and men and women wearing traditional dress. We were lucky enough to see fireworks at about one o'clock in the morning, that lit up the otherwise dark sky, at the most fantastic angle as the bus passed along the highway. We got into Barcelona at 7am, waking like zombies. We took the metro into the centre of the city - La Rambla, where we were able to drop off our bags at Hostal Campi, where we would stay for the next three nights. Barcelona is in Catalonia, where Catalan is predominately spoken. They have an independant cultural identity and there will be a referendum next year to decide whether Catalonia will break off from the rest of Spain. They are against bull fighting and have banned the sport from the region, and they have their own dance where they gather in a circle holding hands and intermittently lift their feet up. Barcelona can only be described as a strange city. One moment you're walking past a street party with a brass band and drums, the next winding your way down the dark narrow streets, dodging George Orwell square where itinerants pass the time waiting out the 5 years they need to stick it out to be given nationality. We went on a walking tour through Barcelona with this outlandish young Australian guy with a crude but funny sense of humour that had Jade laughing for most of the 2 hours. Jade had half a mojito before she was out for the count and had an early night. We pre-booked tickets for Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Church, that started being built in 1882 and is due for completion around 2020. Architecture like you've never seen, with tree like supporting structures and angular sculptures. Chris took the lift up to the top of the church where he took some photos of the Barcelona panorama. On our last night we went for a walk up Montjuïc Mountain to the castle and enjoyed our last look at Barcelona, and Spain for that matter, before leaving for Italy.

Posted by CJTaylor 30.10.2010 11:38 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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