A Travellerspoint blog

Capri

sunny 25 °C
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I'm running out of adjectives to describe what I'm seeing - Capri, like a lot of what I've seen to date was amazing, surreal, actually better than what I'd imagined it was going to be. I thought it was romantic, and I loved the way you could explore the island relatively undisturbed by crowds of people.

I don't know what it is with me, but I'm getting lost all the time. On Capri it was a bit scary cause I ended up winding my way around the island on relatively deserted tracks that went up for seemingly hundreds of steps then back down again - it ended up being a good thing though because I stumbled across some breathtaking views that I would have probably not found otherwise.

The hotels on top of the island were idyllic, their courtyards sitting on the edge of the cliff overlooking the bay were out of this world. The shops were fancy, very pretty and the clothing very chic , I could see how Capri would be a popular holiday destination for the rich and famous.

The funicular was an experience. Going up was fine, I was with a couple who had kind of taken me under their wing for an hour or so. But coming down was dreadful. It was hot, there was no air circulating where we were queuing to get onto it, and there were heaps of people all pushing to get on first. I started to feel a bit panicky, it was really claustrophobic. Then when I managed to get onto a car, there was no where to sit so I stood where I could hold on to something but I got pushed back and had to just manage balancing myself - it was getting hotter and hotter and I was pretty relieved to get off at the bottom uninjured! And without giving someone an earful!!! I rewarded myself with a cold beer while I was waiting for my ferry back to the mainland - all was well after that :-)

I didn't go on the optional excursion right to the very top of the island - you could go up to a look out point on a chair lift - I heard that it was amazing - and the views spectacular - so that'll be something I make sure I do if I ever get back there.

The weather has been amazingly kind to me, it was raining the morning we went to Capri, but it cleared up within half an hour of us arriving, and the rest of the day was just perfect - it's been like that the whole time :-)

Posted by Julie's blog 00:36 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Assisi and Pompeii

sunny 29 °C
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The list of things I've lost on this holiday is growing - the latest addition is my notebook ... not a major, but disappointing as I had notes in it to transfer into my blog. Changing hotels every day or second day certainly has it's challenges.

Assisi is a really special place, and our visit was even more special because Pope Francis was visiting at the same time. We missed seeing him by twenty minutes, but we did manage to see his white helicopter flying overhead, and that in itself was pretty exciting. It's an exceptionally well preserved and presented medieval town, most famous for being the birthplace of St Francis.

The Basilica of St Francis was out of bounds due to the Pope's visit, but we did manage to get some photos of it as we drove up the hill to Assisi itself.

As we've travelled through Italy, I've been interested to see only two sheep farms, and not a single dairy farm. The country is covered in vineyards, olive groves and market gardens (tobacco, sunflowers and tomatoes were three significant crops I saw).

It's considered good luck in Italy when you see a sheep to wave to it and say 'ciao' - I couldn't quite bring myself to do that one - Ursula (our tour director) was very keen on it though - it made me laugh.

I was really looking forward to going to Pompeii, I've heard so much about it - and it was really amazing to see. We had a local guide escort us around, and tell us the story of the city. Again there were HUGE numbers of tourists trying to see the same things as us at the same time. It's really exhausting trying to deal with so many people in such big crowds all the time... and it makes taking photos really difficult. I think because I'm new to travelling, the rudeness of people has been quite shocking for me. I can't count the times people have elbowed their way in front of me, or squeezed me off a path so they can get through. There was an altercation between a Frenchman and someone in our group - over pushing in... it really is quite bad (the French are particularly bad for it we've found).

I saw three plaster casts of bodies found at Pompeii, one of a child, one of a man and one of a dog. Even though they were plaster casts, I was moved to see them. It really bought home to me the magnitude of the 79AD eruption of Vesuvius.

Next stop Sorrento...

Posted by Julie's blog 09:34 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Genoa, Milan, Lake Maggiore, Lugano and Verona

sunny 24 °C
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Genoa is the birth place of Christopher Columbus, and the locals are proud of it!

It's picturesque, built around the port, with the typical mazes of alleyways and piazzas.

In Milan I kept an eye out for celebrities, but didn't spot anyone I recognised ...it's very fancy there, I saw all the high end stores,and the shopping arcades were a highlight in themselves with all their marble and glass.

I'm still having quite a lot of trouble at the bars (like our cafes), there's different systems wherever you go... most people have alcohol with their lunch here too and I've seen loads of people sitting at tables with their beer and spritz's even before lunch... its going to take me a while to readjust to NZ customs I think!

Road rules... here you have to be 18 to sit your licence and on the main highways (autostrades) the speed limit for cars is 130.

Our tour director says down south the driving is even worse than up north, and it's not uncommon to see 3 or 4 people on a single scooter all without helmets...I shall have to keep an eye out for that!

Lake Maggiore was lovely also, it's one of Italy's largest lakes, and the views of the Swiss Alps are spectacular.

A highlight of this leg of my holiday was daytripping to Lugano in Switzerland. The views from the lookout point were hard to capture in my photographs they were so breathtaking! We had lunch at Lake Lugano. I have to say the food was pretty average compared to what we've become used to in Italy. I didn't know what to expect when we crossed the border but it turned out to be pretty straightforward - in saying that it was made very clear we were not to take photographs of the border control officials doing their work (they don't want to have an image of being tourist attractions - I get that).

Verona was pretty, and we had a bonus commentary on the bus from a retired Canadian English teacher. What she doesn't know about William Shakespeare isn't worth knowing! I didn't do the optional excursion here, but still managed to easily find my way to see Juliet's balcony. It was one of the few things on this holiday that have to be honest underwhelmed me. Maybe it was because I've been told it's a fake, and not even in it's original position. (but according to my new found expert on all things William Shakespeare , he perhaps is too!)

Ciao, ciao, ciao xxx

Posted by Julie's blog 08:46 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice

sunny 27 °C
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I was wowed by my first view of Venice. It is really a place that you have to see to believe. It's incredible to think that it's made up of over 115 small islands and contains over 150 canals. Apparently Venice is visited by over 15 million visitors a year. It must be really hard to manage such a huge volume of tourists, and hard for the locals to tolerate too I imagine. Apparently they've been picketing recently calling for restrictions on the number of people being let into the city... to be honest I don't blame them.

I didn't realise Venice was sinking either - at the rate of 1 - 2 millimetres a year. I can't imagine the current system of putting out ramps for people to cross St Mark's Square on to avoid getting wet during high tides is going to be a viable long term solution.... how in the world are they going to raise Venice? I think it's going to be a major problem.

It costs E $1.50 to use a toilet in Venice so it really pays to buy something in a bar (cafe) and use theirs!

I did enjoy the absence of cars and scooters, that was a relief - but there certainly HEAPS of tourists. The arched bridges were pretty, as were the gondolas. I found my way to the Rialto Bridge on my own - and yes it was pretty, but jammed packed with people it was impossible to get a decent photo of it. I enjoyed the glass blowing demonstration that was an included part of our excursion - and I really did like the Murano Glass products.

I would have had a look at the Doge's Palace, but the entrance fee was E$19 - and I thought that was a bit steep. Instead I went up to the top of the Bell Tower (I confess in the lift) and I was pleased I did that, the views from the top were amazing.

It was fun exploring Venice, the alleyways and piazzas were cute, and yes the city is romantic, in a very touristy way. It's confusing too - you really need a good map. I nearly missed my boat back to the mainland one night cause I got confused about how many bridges I had to cross to get to our meeting point (I had to ask a policeman for help and when that didn't work because we couldn't understand each other I had to make an 'emergency' call to our tour director!) it was all okay in the end thank goodness :-)

Posted by Julie's blog 10:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Ravenna

overcast 24 °C
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Silvio Berlusconi's name has been coming up a lot with our tour director. She's very proud of her country but talks a lot about how Berlusconi let the people of Italy down with his scandalous behaviour and business practices ... not cool 😡

There are A LOT of tunnels in Italy! We cross the country by driving through the mountains not by driving over them I've discovered.

One of my favourite churches so far has been the San Giovani Evangilista in Ravenna. It was originally built for use as a monastery, but became a Church in the 18th century. I really liked the gothic architecture and mosaics.

The toilets at our comfort stop this morning were of the 'old style' i.e. holes in the ground - I wasn't expecting that!

Grazie to everyone whos been spurring me on with my blog, grazie grazie xx ( yes I am using all the Italian phrases I studied up on before I left NZ)

Oh and 'pronto' is used when answering the phone (like us saying'hello') - in this instance it means 'I'm ready' or 'I'm ready to talk to you'... interesting...

Posted by Julie's blog 01:40 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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