Kia Ora guys and gals. Time for you to here a little bit about Italy
So after Switzerland we drove south into unfamiliar territory. And wow what a change it was. All of a sudden the temperature jumped 10degrees, the roads became shambles, people became very loud, pizza and pasta was everywhere and drivers were…….. well lets just say it cant be very hard to get a licence in Italy.
Our first stop in Italy was a nice little spot on Lake Como. Apparently George Clooney has a house on the lake there somewhere, but who needed George while I was around. Spent our few days in Lake Como hanging on the lakes little beach and doing bombs and dives off the diving board into the lake.
From Como we headed to Venice via Verona. In Verona we experienced our first taste of ancient roman ruins and Italian food. We went inside an awesome amphitheatre which was still very much intact, visited Juliet’s house (Shakespheres, Romeo and Juliet), and had our first Italian pasta dish. Nat opted for the pasta pomodora while I went for the spinach and ricotta ravioli, which was just one huge ravioli stuffed with all that goodness. We kept on driving for Venice and ended up picking up two tired French hitch hikers who had been sitting at the services all day waiting for a ride to anywhere. We ended up taking them back to the campsite where they had left that morning in Fusina. From our campsite it was just a quick ferry trip into Venice. Venice itself is full of character, with narrow little alleys, cool old buildings right on the water and heaps of canals winding themselves through the city. While we were here we let ourselves get lost among the many hidden streets and canals, had our first real Italian gelato ice cream, visited the main squares and a few of the 120 churches. But best of all we spent a small fortune on a romantic Gondola ride through the canals. Our skipper was super cool and sung us a few notes and would then go onto yelling out something every time we approached a bend to make sure we weren’t going to have a collision. Our campsite in Fusina (Venice) was pretty cool. Cool bar, cool restaurant, met a cool Aussie couple also van touring, and had several buses of party going Kontiki goers to keep us entertained at nights.
From Venice we did a quick stop into Bologna. We were never really planning on going there, but when we heard it was famous for its bolognaise it was a must. In Bologna we were learnt that you must have the exact change on a bus to buy a ticket from the little machine. We were very lucky to avoid a big fine from the ticket inspectors, who jump on random buses, as they were fining the women in front of us while we did a sneaky out the back door. We did eventually get to try the bolognaise and check out Bologna’s old style town and rustic buildings.
Our next stop took us to back onto the coast and down to the coastal town of Marotta. On the way we stopped off at busy a beach called Riccone for lunch and a swim. Nat unfortunately managed to lose her glasses and shell ring to the ocean. I think she is on her third pair of glasses in Europe now (I shouldn’t have wrote that). Marotta wasn’t the prettiest of beaches, but was a typical umbrella/deck chair beach that we started to notice down most of the coast. There are a few small areas down the beach where you can lie on your towel for free, and everywhere else you have to pay to use the deck chairs and umbrella that have been set up in neat rows all over the place.
After Marotta we decided to drive inland further to try and experience the real Italian countryside. The countryside was really beautiful with awesome little towns tucked away into valleys and on top of hills. We spent one night at a campsite in a tiny town called Preci, before deciding the heat was too much for us and the best place to be was the coast. So we headed south and back onto the coast and spent the next few days beach hopping down the coast. We eventually drove across country to another beach town called Eboli, to set ourselves up for the west coast.
From Eboli we adventured our way along the Amalfi coast. For those who don’t know, the Amalfi coast is a picturesque stretch of coast surrounded by steep cliffs and small terraced towns nestled into the steep terrain. The road taking you along the coast is cut into the side of the mountain, winds continuously and is only as wide as a single car most of the way. It took us over 2hours to drive 50ks, which eventually saw us make it to Sorrento.
We ended up establishing ourselves a nice little spot in Sorrento up on the hills overlooking a small fishing village. While we were here we spent one day visiting the island of Capri, which is supposedly a popular spot with the celebrities. We caught the ferry over and spent the day exploring the island. It was getting pretty hot down this part of Italy, so we spent most of the day trying to find cool swimming spots in the nice blue waters. While we were in Sorrento we also did a day trip into Naples on the train to discover where pizza really came from. Our trip was very short lived. First we were quite blown away at the poor state of the city. It was dirty and there was a lot of poverty and beggars and was just rough around the edges. Second we tried our luck at visiting a museum. We soon discovered a museum full of ancient, hardly recognisable artefacts wasn’t our cup of tea. Then finally we got a pizza and ran back to the comfort of our little van. It wasn’t really all that bad, I think we were just scared the mafia were going to come after us.
Next stop saw us making our way up to Rome. On the way up we stopped off at Pompei to see the ruins of a Roman style town, which was once covered in volcanic ash and has now mostly been excavated. We got to see the old roman style houses, theatres, amphitheatres, bath houses and even a brothel. There were hard stone beds in there though so can’t imagine it was very comfortable. We eventually made it to Rome and checked into a cool campsite on the outskirts. Turns out it was another Kontiki stop over. Think they are following us around. On our first day in Rome we saw the famous Colloseum (awesome) and we visited the roman ruins/remains of what was left of houses and buildings belonging to emperors and a whole heap of important people. Second day in Rome saw us visiting the Vatican, which proved to be quite an experience. From the centre square, to the Basilica, to the Vatican museum and the all the architecture, everything was pretty amazing. The Basilica (Big massive huge famous church) itself was just so massive and built to impress. While we were in there we went 550 steps right up into the top of the cupola, which gave us an awesome view looking down into the church and out over the Vatican square and the rest of Rome. The Vatican museum was quite impressive also filled with famous paintings and housing the Sistine chapel. Even I recognised some of the art in there. Our third day in Rome saw us powering through all the remaining significant sites we hadn’t yet seen, including the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, the Pantheon and even rowing a boat on a lake filled with turtles. Thanks to the super cheap wine and the company of Charlie and Jess (cool English couple we cut some shapes with on the d-floor), we spent an extra day lying around the pool with sore heads. But after 5 nights in Rome we made tracks for Florence.
Florence was a quick stop. We checked out the town, which had a cool cathedral all made of marble. Was actually someone standing at the top of it and people and a crowd of people and security were at the bottom pointing up at them. For a while we were starting to think they were a jumper. Turns out they took a wrong turn and ended up on a balcony they weren’t supposed to be on. Thanks to an awesome recommendation, the best thing we did in Florence was order a Florentine steak. Turns out you order it per 100grams and the minimum order is 1kg. 40 euro later we were pretty full and pretty happy.
From Florence we briefly stopped at Pisa to do of course the leaning tower of Pisa photos that everyone does. Was a nice little town but just a quick stopover. After snapping away we headed to a small coastal town called Bogliasco to finish our last leg of Italy. From Bogliasco we took the train to Riomaggiore, which is the first town of the Cinque Terra. The Cinque Terra is 5 small villages dotted along the coast and only really accessible by train. We checked out the villages and made a point to have a swim at them all. I even managed to find a half decent jumping rock.
Next stop, French Riviera.
Ahhhhhh, sorry that was so long. If you made it to the end I’ll buy you a beer.