Archive | August, 2018
31 August 2018

Roma (cont.)

Or maybe just starting.

By the time we dropped the car at the airport, worked out the trains and got back to the hotel, Saturday, our first day in Rome, was pretty much over. Besides, we needed a rest so the balance of the day was spent planning the uncommitted parts of the rest of the week.

Sunday, hop a train about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, into the city train terminus (Termini) in about 35 minutes for just $2.40 each each way, then on a BigBus for a 10  stop tour of the cities highlights (48 hours for $62.40 each hop on hop off). We stayed on to sus out what was what with a plan then to eventully hop off at each of those things which attracted us. We had Colosseum/Palatino Hill and Vatican City tour tickets (jump the queue) booked for Monday and Tuesday respectively so it became a matter of priotorising the rest. Well there are a lot of things you see on the bus tour but it actually only stops at a few of them but stops near enough that you can walk to several from the one stop. Put another way, there might be only 10 stops but there are a lot more things to see. We eventually walked and walked and walked.

Rome is an odd city. It is a mixture of old and very old. Old is renaissance,very old is Roman, as far back as 750BC. The very old is mostly ruins such as the colisseum dating back to 40BC. Some ruins are purported to be older but most we saw all seemed to be around 100 – 200BC. Rome is said to have been founded on the Palitino Hill by Romulus in around 750 BC – thats Romulus of Romulus and Remus, brothers said to have been raised by a ‘she wolf’ when abandoned to die by their uncle who wanted no usurpers to the crown (more common belief these days is that the ‘she-wolf’ was in fact a prostitute – I prefer that version) But the brothers fought and Remus died around the time of their attempts to establish Rome as a new city. You gotta love this family fellowship because the next few hundred years are full of acts of patricide, infanticide, matricide and sibling killings all for the sake of a few hills and ultimately the largest Empire the world has known. The tour guides/bus commentaries tell us that the Roman Empire lasted several 100 years until its demise in 476AD (not sure how they can be so specific although they didn’t attempt to give us the month and day) but we’re told its demise was attributable to its size, corruption or even Christianity. Nobody actually writ this so where cometh the Bible?.

Anyway there are great stories to be told and I’m guessing lots of heated debate over the facts of the matter. Nevertheless Rome is a fascinating and beguiling piece of human history. On a more positive note, it is the cleanest of the cities we’ve been to in Italy although the outer suburbs, where we’re staying, are not. There are still beggars everywhere and floggers of everything from battery chargers to hats to cold water to wooden platters at every attraction. Then there are the bloody tourists – they’re in front of everything with their f…ing selfie sticks, thousands of them. You cannot get a decent unencumbered photo for love nor money, but I tried from the height of various buses…

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (back side – see later entry)

guess what

no, wrong, it is a theatre built a bit later than the colisseum (Teartro Marcello)

the current seat of Government (I think) built in the 1800’s on top of old churches

the Castel Sant Angelo where popes hide out

just an interesting 1800’s building in the Piazza Della Repubblica

the ancient city walls from around 150AD

the courts and central law and order centre built around 1850 and referred to as an ugly child

the front of the current government buildings and below, several ancient ruins

the last two being a view of the Palatino Hill and the historic mansions thereon overlooking the Circus Maximus where chariot racing took place back in the Roman days.

Monday, repeat the trip, meet tour guide to do Colisseum and Palatino Hill. So pleased we got a guide – the queue was 2 1/2 hours long. 4 1/2 hours later with no waiting in queue and a lot of walking we’ve got a fabulous potted history of all that surrounds us..

Its taking ages to upload photos through the interwebby thingy and I’m tired so explanations of all the above will have to wait until the next instalment.

 

30 August 2018

Roma

The trip back up to Roma was pretty uneventful. I missed the first turn Narelle directed me to and by default she found a better way which as it turned out was a wider road, had fewer twists and turns and relatively little traffic. Then on approach to Napoli we hit the Autostrada and stayed on it for lots of k’s at 130kph – it was almost a thrill. Our overnight stop on the way to Rome was at Monte San Giovani Campano which I’m sure means a lot to everyone but it was just a convenient dot on the map that had a hotel we could afford. What a place it turned out to be….

and we were the only guests in the place. Dinner and breakfast were a bit (BIT?) limited but it served its purpose and boy did it have a fabulous outlook…

albiet a little misty.

We were in Rome at our hotel by 10.30 Saturday, dropped the baggage and took the car to Romes Leonardi Da Vinci airport to hand it back in. I was never so happy to be car-less. As most of you will know I’ve/we’ve driven Volvos for most of our lives, we’re on our fifth at home but I could not get comfortable or secure in this V40 diesel. It was a major disappointment. The only thing going for it was its economy – average about 6l/100km over nearly 3300 km. I also have to admit at this time that of the 3 different cars we’ve had over this trip the VW Golf was the best to drive. Mind you it was the best of a bad lot. The Nissan Versa we had in the states had electric steering with about 3 inches of play at dead centre so it just upped and wandered at every bump in the road and the Golf didn’t have cruise control and the accelerator pedal angle was all wrong for my foot so I’d get out at the end of  each trip with a crook ankle. The ergonomics of the Volvo were just all wrong…

And we are tired. 3 months on the road has taken its toll. Living out of a suitcase was never going to be easy but we thought we could still do it. Driving on 3 continents (well including one little island), particularly the two on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road has personally been more stressful than I previously recall, although that may be influenced by 4 weeks on the road in Italy.

I think our next trips OS will be of shorter duration and a bit more locale specific. Whilst it was absolutely fantastic to catch up with Gary and Linda Michael in Phoenix and Justin, Jane and Edith in London, we probably should have left it at that. Throwing in the east coast of the US then Scotland and most of Italy has really proven to be a bit much.

We’re in Rome for a week and both of us can’t stop counting down the days until we get on that big jet-plane home. This is greatly influencing our daily activities here. Mind you, so is the heat – it is still in the 30’s and uncomfortable with it. We’re about 15 km east of  Rome city with a rail line relatively close, so access is good. The rail network/service is terrific but the airconditioning and all the sweaty bodies are a bit of a distraction. We’ll survive till next Saturday. We’ve got some tours booked so we will get to see most of the usual tourist hot spots of Rome.

29 August 2018

Amalfi

About a thousand years ago Kelvin Whitford said to me “Europe is much better than Asia” I think mainly cos I’d spent more time in Asia than he had. But in time I think he might have been right. Europe has been more interesting although in different ways. A few centuries later he told me “there are three great drives in the world today, they being the Great Ocean Road, the Santa Barbara Coast and the Amalfi Coast”. At the time I was about to venture up the Santa Barbara Coast in the US. Been there dun dat! so the Amalfi was to be the last of  the three. Our first taste of the Amalfi was frightening – we had come out of Napoli via the Autostrada (toll road) thinking it was the safest way to travel only to find that it ‘don’t go alla da way’. In fact it only got us the first 30 or so Km. From the end of the Autostrada we managed this rearward view of Napoli though….

but the next 70 or so to Amalfi were through mountain passes that would have been tight for donkeys. Oh God I was scared and I now know why Italians are so religeous. I thought our earlier experiences were bad but!!! To cap it off Narelle couldn’t find our hotel and we found ourselves doing U turns in traffic that was bumper to bumper, door handle to door handle with buses and scooters crammed in between and then entering a piazza that was forbidden to traffic. Finally a phone call to  the hotel got us rescued, our baggage carted off and our car taken away, to where we knew not! However the hotelier put in a request to the authorities to refrain from prosecuting us for entering the piazza – I still don’t know if that worked. The hotel was in fact off the piazza but there was no way you could practically drive to it – we nearly did though but we didn’t actually know that at the time. If you can picture a car sitting in a plaza with its nose up against a footpath restaurant with crowds of pedestrians milling around you are starting to get a feeling for our consternation….

The hotel was also up a million steps (well nearly)…

and yet its promo when I booked it advised that “self parking” was available. You can’t trust advertising can you?

So our first experience of the Amalfi Coast was anything but exciting or stimulating. In fact it was downright intimidating with police and military with big guns everywhere and traffic like you wouldn’t believe. Yes, the place was unusual with buildings clinging to mountainsides (well perhaps not that unusual for Italy but it was on the water) but how the hell do you get to really see it. Personally driving it is not an option – there is nowhere to stop and take a photo let alone take your eyes off the road long enough to admire the scenery so the answer we thought was… take a bus. We did, but let me assure you it was still nerve wracking.

This road is one you could feature on that TV program “The Worlds Most Dangerous Roads”. It was originally built by the Romans (talking first, second, third centuries here) but it was upgraded in Mussolinis time (1900’s) and is now wide enough for a car and a motorbike in most places. Trouble is it takes cars, bikes and buses all at once. The bus has a klaxon. It is used at every corner. There are mirrors on many corners but everybody ignores them. I couldn’t count how many times the bus stopped to let other traffic past in the opposite direction, let alone the back-up, forward, back-up movements to let other buses past, this usually up against a wall of parked cars or bikes…

The road hangs off the side of the cliffs…

and there are breathtaking drops off the sides…

but the landscape is spectacular with residences also hanging off the sides of precipices…

This being holiday season Amalfi like all of its sibling towns along the coast is bustling with sun-worshippers…

all renting their beach umbrella and spot on the beach.

For all of our trials and tribulations of getting here and finding our hotel our stay was memorable. The scenery, the drive (albiet by bus), the food was terrific and we’re pleased to have done it. It was worth while.

By default the drive out was nowhere near as horrendous as the drive in but that can wait to the next entry.

 

27 August 2018

Pompeii

We moved on from Napoli, just a few k down the road to Ercolano and this trip was perhaps the most challenging so far. Not only are the roads cobblestone and rough as guts the motor scooters are like bees to a honey pot and we’re that honey pot. On top of them, the cars are swerving all over the roads to avoid the motor bikes, usually in streets which are not wide enough for two bikes let alone two cars and the bastards park with their noses into the kerb or side of buildings with their arses sticking out and you have to move over to the wrong side of the road to get past. Then add stupid pedestrians to the mix and by the time we corrected Narelle with the phone and got to our hotel it was all I could do but take a big drink and we’ve only gone perhaps 20 km. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t get the drink either.

But, we were too early to check in so figured we might as well use the time to go on the next few km to Pompeii. UGH!!!! It all worked out but I can tell you I was sitting higher in the seat!

Well we actually got to Pompeii about 12.00 and as it turned out there was a minimal queue. We left the car with its keys with Mr Shifty on the side of the road and traipsed up the hill to the entry to the site and joined the queue. It did only take a few minutes which is better than we’ve experienced elsewhere but then we sought the services of an English speaking guide who directed us to ‘wait over there’ whilst he drummed up some other suckers.

After 20 minutes he hadn’t so we just moved on. Fortunately just inside the entry we stumbled across another English speaking guide who had just one family with him so we were able to tag along for actually less money than the first guy wanted. And he was worth every euro.

This is a fascinating, awe inspiring piece of history. Founded around 6th or 7th century BC it is (or was) a masterpiece in town planning and living standards. What is particularly interesting is that it was a major trading center in its time. For a better history than I have space or talent for please consult Wikipedia – you will find it interesting.

The place is extensive, greater by far than we expected meaning we ran out of time to explore it all. Additionally the weather wasn’t kind to us with heavy rain coming in late afternoon but with our guide and then some free time we covered most of the recorded parts….

 

There are specific streets dedicated to residential, retail, commerce, industry and even brothels. The sign of an erect phallus is the sign of a brothel…

although this one is worn down a little with age (know the feeling). There’s even bars and food stalls..

and bakeries…  where they gound the wheat to make the flour. These are distributed throughout the city.

Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD. Apparently there was fair warning and a lot of people escaped but many died not as history tells us but as recent research has demonstrated through the application of extreme temperature ie up to about 250′ celcius. Ultimately Pompeii was inundated with volcanic ash and upon excavation many cavities created by cindered bodies have emerged. Apparently through an archeological dig in the 1800’s many such cavities were filled with plaster to create some of the moulds shown here…

Similarly so many artifacts survived as is evident behind these moulds and apparently ongoing excavation continues to find more of Pompeii’s history.

This place is intriguing – there is so much “civilisation” here it makes you wonder how we lurched into the dark ages following the demise of the Roman empire in 476.

Anyway, enough of the philosiphying its on to other important matters. We stayed this next two nights at Villa Signorini in Ercolano to which our budget will attest is a residence in decline. It clearly was a mansion of some significance once upon a time but it has definitely seen better days….

Because we could, on our second day here we took a walk (had booked two nights cos anticipated spending a full day at Pompeii but having got in early managed Pompeii on day one) and came across some dreadful streetscape…..

with a surprise in the middle…

the Palace of Bourbon, the summer residence of I think King Charles II and wife the sister of Napoleon Boneparte but what is now the University of Agriculture.The road runs through the middle of this palace and it is only the central facades that have so far been restored but we saw evidence of work in progress. This being more effort than we’ve seen anywhere to maintain/retain some of this incredible history.

There is graffiti everywhere throughout Italy, no less so here in the ancient city of  Herculaneum….

and it is all so mindless and unsightful. Is this just another sign of the decline of what was once a great nation.

There is so much history here – its a shame that it is so diminished by vandalism, poor maintenance and poor behaviour.

 

26 August 2018

Napoli

Naples to us foreigners. But the journey doesn’t start here. From Civitavecchia we drove only 60 or 70 k to Latina. This was just a transit stopover for reasons previously enunciated and well it should have been because we found little of interest in this township. One of the weekly chores is laundry. Latina was to be that laundry day – so, dial up laundromat/lavangerie and we find 6 or 7. First one non-existant, second one closed, third one a laundry service in a private residence, fourth one the same, fifth one some 15 km away and finally some 16km away we find the lucky recipient of our dirty linen. That done, another e-book read and its back to the hotel. Not the most salubrious of places but, oh well, its just a one night stand that saves me from reaching out and strangling some bikie (I’m not sure you can call people on Vespas bikies but what else can you call them – vegans, virgins, mobile garden gnomes, dunno).There was a bright light though – as we walked into the dining room a threesome caught the sound of our ‘Ingleise’ and responded with ‘Oh thank God, someone here speaks English’. With that we had a bit of a chat over dinner then retired to the bar to have a round table with Joyce, Frank and their son Jeff. The two were from Tampa Florida whilst the son came from I think Chicago. They were touring part of Italy to discover some of Franks heritage/lineage and Jeff was playing driver. At least he was used to driving on the wrong side of the road….

We had a great chat about our joint experiences and resolved to keep in touch. I hope we do.

Dirty lined aired we moved on to Napoli. Now, Naples was supposed to be another transit stop but I stuffed up and after the sat-nav (Narelle) finally found the hotel with a lot of help from Google maps and many roundabouts and unplanned tolls we found that we weren’t booked in for this night. Oh dear! Much Italian consternation, misunderstanding and hand gestures and it seemed possible we could in fact get in tonight but ‘you’ve already paid for tomorrow night’. OK, can we just add tonight to the overall bill – no you will have to pay for it in the morning. OKaaaay!!!! It all worked out in the end and in fact it was a quite pleasant stay. It meant then that we actually had a day to see Napoli…

We took a RedBus tour, visited the old fortress which goes back to 900 or so, saw a remarkable photo exhibition therein…

and took some amazing view shots myself….

but no self respecting photo essay of Napoli can be considered complete without a shot of Mt Vesuvius in the background…

We didn’t realise it was this close to Naples and indeed that Pompei was also so close, yet a relatively long way from the mountain, but more on that later.

Couldn’t avoid the haziness in all of these pics. It seemed to hang around every day, all day. We’ve struck this throughout the trip as I’m sure you’ve noticed in many photos. Don’t know why – maybe its the red mist descending over a declining nation, maybe its just summer and humidity.

I say ‘declining’ because everywhere we’ve been there are any number of derelict and abandoned factories, some of them really substantial as well as thousands of residential properties falling into ruin. Naples was no exception although on our bus tour it was pointed out that many of the older industrial areas were the subject of residential rejuvenation although it is difficult to see what one could do with this….

Naples is Italy’s third largest city coming after Milan and Rome. Its a bit over 3 million people and is quite a sizeable place. Like so much we’ve seen though the buildings all cling to the side of precipitous hills and it is hard to comprehend how they were in fact built way back when. Some of the larger buildings are architectural and engineering masterpieces.

And boy are we having fun in the sun…

26 August 2018

Civitavecchia

and there it was – my dream car – an all electric, remote controlled Maserati. And we had to come to Civitavecchia to find it. Only the little shit wouldn’t give it up.

I put this place on the itinerary cos I thought I’d seen that it had some sights to offer. It didn’t. We stayed in a B&B which was quite nice but was a bit out of the way. The streets here are narrow and the motor bikes/scooters are a liability. Both nights we heard heaps of ambulances hoping they were for these pests of the roads but each day seemed to dawn with more of them. Adding to the congestion is the annual holiday season. It seems Romans in their millions come to the beach…

and leave their mark. The above shots are all taken out front of some of the biggest and classiest hotels seen anywhere.

The beach umbrellas in the above pictures don’t tell a complete story – further down the road not only can’t you park you cannot see the sea for the seas of umbrellas. All this on stones for beach, no sand.

The city itself seems to be predominantly apartments or hotels primarily to accommodate the holiday makers…

with more and more being built up in the surrounding hills. Well one of those being built is a boat but it looks like work stopped a year or 3 ago.

Not to be to perturbed we decided to look a little further afield. Some Roman ruins seemed to be calling and according to my limited research weren’t too far out of town. We never found them but came across some other interesting things…

like what we presumed to be the remains of a Roman viaduct only to find it was new (well nearly -1709). Still, it doesn’t work anymore.

But then we found Orte…

a city of the 1300’s atop a mountain. There is one road in, winding up the side which I was unprepared to take in case I found us in a position as we have previously of having to find someway to turn around to get out of trouble. As it turned out I needn’t have worried – just fold the mirrors in and pray. Anyway, parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up…

this is living in medieval times with a few mod-cons thrown in – like power and water and of course cars. How about the extensions hanging out over the sides of the cliff. I didn’t actually see any donkeys but I’ll bet there are still some around. Judging by the appearance of the few people I saw they had helped build this city. Its truly fascinating that in this day and age people still choose to live like this although it is increasingly hard not to see Italy as an emerging 3rd world country – all the trappings of a first world nation but squalor and disintegration and diminishing living standards all around.

Most travel days so far have been limited to perhaps a maximum of 150km, with many being as little as 50 or 60 but you can’t relate distance to travel time. Any journey takes hours and I must add, a toll. Some of these days after just 60 km I’m stuffed – the narrowness, the bends and the other bloody motorists and motor bikers all seem to come together, usually on blind bends. Its horrendous. Jude draws breath audibly at most corners. Speed is generally around 30 kph if that. Most cars on the road wear battle scars. Cars are parked wherever theres no space, often double parked and they just swing the doors open in front of you or pedestrians just emerge from between cars and walk in front of you even if there is a pedestrian crossing 20 feet away. Motor bikes don’t give way to pedestrians on crossings and anytime we did the bikes would roar past on either side of us. UGH!!!. Its hard to believe that there are any Italians left alive but somehow it all seems to be incident free – whilst we’ve seen obvious signs of traffic trauma we haven’t actually seen an accident.

Anyway, we spent two relatively uneventful nights in Civitavecchia before heading further south towards Naples (Napoli) and onwards to the Amalfi Coast.

22 August 2018

Siena

From Pisa its on to Siena, mainly so we can traverse Tuscany, said to be one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. Not sure it is that much different to lots of other areas we’ve seen so far. There are certainly lots of little villages clinging to mountain sides but we’ve seen all of this everywhere else however here are a few select shots of sameo….

and are these streets tight.

And then we found Monteriggioni, an ancient walled city….

where we enjoyed some local rabbit for lunch. The whole place comes as a bit of a surprise – its free entry. They only charge if you want to walk the walls.Its pretty, it is intact and it is well maintained – this last aspect is unusual here. Most of what we’ve seen so far has been depreciated by lack of maintenance and theres heaps of rubbish everywhere.

We only anticipated Siena as a night stopover on our way through Tuscany but found we had time to go into the city to have a bit of a look. Traffic was unbelievable and a 5 km journey took us the best part of an hour. Then we had to find parking – wow! Anyway we got to walk the walls of the ancient Medici castle, now a public space and most impressive it is…

as are the views from its ramparts…

but we got caught in the rain and had to go home.

This night however we met up with Steve and Carol, Peter and Marion from Howrah in Tas. God it was good to converse in Oz over a few drinks after dinner. Next morning, over breakfast we also met John and Jan from Bacchus Marsh in Vic. We’re in danger of creating a “small(er) world”. But it was really good to hear OZ. Most of the Italians try to communicate but we have trouble deciphering.

19 August 2018

Pisa

This is another place thats always been on the ‘bucket list’ if only for the fact that it is one of the “Wonders of the World”. It deserves to be. It is exquisite for its singularity.

Pisa was and to a large degree still is a walled city. Whilst so much of it has grown outside the walls most of the original walled area still exists and the tower and the cathedral and other elements are still clearly contained…

but of course the star attraction in all of this is ‘The Leaning Tower of Pisa’. Without trying to diminish its signifigance it is just the ‘bell tower’ for the cathedral (completed 1092)- it was started in about 1173 but not completed for a further 200 years as it started t0 lean as the builders reached the fourth level. Sometime later its lean stabilised so they started again but it leant further and so construction was stopped (although there are some politics involved in this stop/start) again. During a third attempt to complete it they built the next levels at a cant to try and counter the lean but over the ensuing years it took on a greater lean and actually sank into the ground so that level one is actually below ground level..

Various shots from different angles put it into perspective…

but the tower is but one element of this remarkable place…

there’s the baptistery, the Piazza del Duomo (Pisa Cathedral)  and the Camposanto Monumentale a monument to the dead which was added in 1278 but not completed until til 1464….

This place is awe inspiring (and no, we’re not dead yet). The cathedral too is no less impressive…

although the baptistery is somewhat more austere than its counterpart in Florence…

Yet again it is late at night as I piece this report together and I tend to forget those things which should be included. One of those things is the bizarre nature of the bazzar that surrounds this icon of history…

where dark skinned men try to flog you anything from  handbags to watches to umbrellas and all kinds of trashy memorabilia – it demeans the signifigance of the area. Mind you, we’ve encountered these black fellas everywhere flogging something along with some personal sob story.

A bit more of Pisa as we travelled some back streets to get a bit of a feel for the place…

built on the banks of the river Arno. The walls of the city end at the river. Its an attractive city spoilt like so much of Italy we’ve seen so far by its dereliction and dirtiness. Rubbish seems to accumulate everywhere and nobody seems to care or notice.

On our way to Pisa from Genova we came across some typically spectacular landscapes, some of which Jude photographed with the iPad…

There is no doubt that much of Italy is scenically fabulous.

 

 

18 August 2018

Genoa (Genova)

Due to the time constraints imposed by the nature of this venture we have but one day and two nights in most of the places we want to visit. Genoa is no exception.

In order to get our visiting priorities right, if the option presents itself, we take ‘Big Red Bus’. And so we did in Genoa. The most obvious aspect of Genoa is its built history – there are some glorious buildings….

all of the above being more than 300 years old, the twin towers some 800 years old.

And for Bobs benefit they can grow luverly nandinas in the main streets…

Genoa is a port city with a long seafaring history although none of that was too obvious to us in our brief stay. Like so many European cities though it does have its share of mediaeval churches…

this one being deceptively plain on the outside but incredibly ornate inside.

Yet another church said to be built by a wealthy family for their own personal benefit some 400 years ago financed by the interest alone from their banking deposits…

and it takes up a city block. It is difficult to comprehend the wealth of some in those days as it also was back in the UK…

Even this fountain was donated to the city by some wealthy benefactor.

“and the figurehead was…..?

but it is only a film set for the movie “Pirates” moored permantly in the harbour.

No doubt you have heard of the bridge disaster that has beset Genoa in the last few days. It must have happened just after we left cos we only heard about it from some of you back home. We don’t have photos of the affected bridge, didn’t see it, don’t know it or where exactly it is. Similarly the explosion in Bologna happened just after we were there. I hope this is not a pattern!

I have to point out here also that we have not seen much in the way of TV let alone news broadcasts. Everything is in a foreign language and not one set yet has allowed translating subtitles and what we have seen is mostly imported shows with Italian dubbing.

The other thing that continues to astound here are the road rules. There seems to be one set for us poor tourists and none for the locals. Motor bikes, scooters, cars speed past usually over double lines or painted traffic islands weaving in and out of traffic like they’re invincible. Then they poke out of side streets and you have to veer into oncoming traffic to avoid them, all with microsecond responses. Parking is whever you like, easier if you just get the nose of the car into the kerb without having to worry about the back end sticking out. Again all you can do is veer into oncoming traffic which the oncoming drivers just seem to accept as par for the course. Then of course there are the pedestrians – they all seem to have a death wish. They just saunter across the roads in front of cars, buses and trucks and everybody just seems to ignore them. And the motor scooters – they attack from both sides in numbers then line up in front of everything at the lights (when they do stop for the lights) and then just dawdle off. And all of this is happening on the wrong side of the road. Streets are so narrow in some places you can’t avoid crossing into oncoming traffic lanes to just get past the parked cars and many of the roads are so poorly defined you don’t actually know where you should or need to be let alone going in the right direction. Its a bloody nightmare. I’ll be glad to give the car back, hopefully unscathed (or maybe I’m too old for this shit!)

Genoa once was a walled city, like so many others of Europe but with the effluxion of time the walls have outlived their usefulness and have almost disappeared, but some remnants and reminders of a different time survive….

The car sat idle in a paid carpark for the duration of our stay in Genoa (as it did for our 3 days in Venice) and that was a big relief. I don’t know how the bus drivers cope with the traffic in these cities -I guess they don’t grow old in the job.

 

15 August 2018

Vicenza to Milan

It is with some personal regret that we have left Venice and we are moving west across the top of the boot. Next stop for the night is Vicenza, of interest because it is a city of the Venetians although there is nothing obvious on that front. If I remember rightly it was part of the islands supply chain….

but we did stumble into a David Chipperfield Architectural Exhibition, presented in the local Duomo…

Quite an impressive portfolio of many architects works from around the world. I must make mention here that we did attempt to visit the Architectural Biennial in Venice, a huge international event but were locked out cos it was Monday…

and they clearly can’t afford quality signage.

Vicenza was really just a stopover on our way to Milan but we’ve started to bump into Italys holiday period – so much stuff is closed and it is getting difficult to find accommodation and meals. Having to book ahead has accelerated our itinerary somewhat and we’re not getting much time in any one place although most of what is on offer is either another church, a Doges palace or some form of historical architecture, repeating much of what we’ve already seen.

Vicenza is quite a picturesque town with a stunning piazza as the above will show but by and large it is equivalent to many other small towns we have so far passed through. We’re on our way to Milano, a two nighter so we can see a bit of what the city has to offer during the day. What we in fact found was a city in shutdown. It seems the whole place has gone on holiday. Even the hotel we’re in is closing the morning we leave for a 10 day break. Went searching for restaurants and found nothing open. Drove around town on the afternoon we arrived and even the traffic was light. With nothing but some more churches to see we decided to head to Como on our one day here.

We’d heard of Como, Lake Como as being a favourite spot for the rich and famous so we thought we could just blend in. We did. Every other person or car on the road was another one of us – gawking tourists looking to blend in with the rich and famous, none of whom we saw (well I don’t think so but maybe they were Italian rich and famous). It is however another picturesque spot….

Parking was impossible. The roads around Como are so narrow there is little passing room, let alone parking space so we headed out of town a little to Taverna for lunch and then decided we were so close to the Swiss border it would be madness to not cross over. So, following a line of traffic we eventually crossed into Switzerland. There was no fanfare, no fireworks so thinking this is just another EU country we get lost in the village of Chiasso then eventually find our way back to the Italian border to find the border CLOSED. Swiss border guard says “do you have any money?” I say “bullshit I’m not gunna pay bribes here” to which he says “pull over there”. Uh Oh! Jude says “shut up you’ll get us jailed , how much do they want?”. We park, border guard  man says ” did you buy anything?” No says I, forgetting the fuel we bought. “Ok” says border guard man “open boot”. He then rifles through Judes undies and says “OK you can go” I don’t know about border guard man but I got a bit of a chill. Jude just got angry with me.

OK so after brush with border control at which I’m always pretty bad we head back to Milan(o). Everything is still shut down – we walk the streets looking for a better meal deal than the hotel offers only to find that the city is still shut down. Back to the hotel for another over the top dinner.

Then its on to Genoa (Genova). This is a port city – there is a fair bit to see. Again we’ve got two nights one day in which to explore the town. I think I’ve mentioned that we don’t take the tollways but rather the back roads so we get to see the country so the trip of just 180km from Milan to Genoa takes several hours. We pass through villages where the buildings close in on the road leaving a one lane width around blind corners. Oh, this is fun! By the time we hit Genoa I’m knackered. Judes been reading the corners like a rally navigator from the sat-nav but this doesn’t tell us where the blind spots are so its a case of ‘approach a corner and try to see around it’, but we did see some fantastic countryside…

All of these villages clinging to mountainsides begs the question – “what do people do?”. One thing in the above photos is a granite quarry – perhaps everyone here about mines, processes, sells granite. Dunno! But every building is similar, seemingly little room for individualism, a bit like all of the UK villages we went through. Anyway we finally made Genoa(Genova) and the sat-nav, cunningly programmed to the hotel postcode took us everywhere but our hotel. I don’t want to remember how many times we went around the same block probably in the wrong direction once or twice asking so many people including the caribinieri how to find this hotel. In desperation I used the phone directions to nearly get us there until we eventually spotted the name of the hotel from a distance – the sat-nav wasn’t even close. But we did see a lot of one small part of Genova.

We check out hotel restaurant prices and decide out looks like best option. At 6.30 pm we head out to nearby restaurant and are told “come back in an hour or so when we are open”. Well, stuff them – I want to eat now! So off into the city we walk. Same story – no eaty till 7.30 or so, so by the time we take this all in its 7.30 so we go back to first place near the hotel and manage to get a seat. At least the meal was good. I actually decide that Italians could be a bit more civilised than I perhaps had previously given credit.

Genova is an historical city and in many ways quite beautiful but the next instalment will perhaps illustrate. We’re now in Siena and have just met a bunch of Aussies from Tas. so its drinkies time and I can’t finish this entry. Genoa continues soon.