Italy 2007

So now what?These journeys never get shorter! Travelled uneventfully apart from an hours late departure from Auckland and Mary's plastic bag of liquids being too large. Worse yet she had a larger than 200 ml container of hair spray (not full I should point out), clearly this was a real threat to the plane but readily solved by leaving it in the bin next to the security point.   If this stuff is really a potential threat rather than the whole thing being a make work scheme then surely a better disposal system would be required? I know what conclusion I have to draw.

Finally arrived at Rome at 05:50 tired but pleased to be here. Missed the first train from the airport into the city due to trying to get into the train on the wrong side. Next train was easy and the transfer to a taxi painless, he even understood where I wanted to go. Good old lonely planet......

So there we are in Largo del Pallaro at 8am sitting by the side of the square on top of our bags. Luckily we had an email from Carlo (our Host) advising to go to the local restaurant and get the key form the owner at 9am and how to open the vey difficult doors. This we did but there was some confusion about about if the 3rd floor was american or british standard, i.e start from 1 or from Ground. Turns out it starts from Ground....... Bugger. Only 60 steps up (and down) or so someone has written in the visitors book, I must remember to check.

The flat was rented via and can be found here

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Read more: Tuesday 22 May

It's Pope DayUnsurprisingly up early but a good nights sleep for us both.

Since an early start for the Vatican was recommended we thought this would be an ideal opportunity so a quick breakfast, healthy fruit followed by an unhealthy but delicious chocolate croissant on the way.

Turns out Wednesdays are the days when the Pope come out to address his flock in St Peters Square (it's not, it's round). The faithful were there in numbers (8:30 for 11) and the church is closed for the occasion.

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Read more: Wednesday 23 May

Woring out Palatine HillEarly starts are again de rigor due in no small part to the jet lag.

We set off for the Palatine Hill and immediately got lost. Luckily the Tiber is clearly marked even on our map so we were able to get to the Circus Maximus and thence to the entrance.

This time pre warned by the Blue Book we bought a Roma Pass (three days access to the museums and public transport). The Palatine Hill was not very busy and we had a superb walk through it, well worth a look see, mostly for the views of the city and Forum areas.

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Read more: Thursday 24th May

St PetersA really early start today, just woke early luckily. Strange that the first night we were here we had to get up and shut the window in the night as it was too cold now last night all the windows open and the air conditioning would have been a better idea.

I think giving the house red at the Trattoria Pallaro a miss next time would also be in order, it's a touch rough (or so says my head).

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Read more: Friday 25th May

Our stairsBig day out but only a few pictures as both major spots did not allow pictures.

First off were the Catacombs at Sant' Agnese fuori le Muri and as a bonus a wedding in the church at the same time. The guide was a bit on the quick side but after 15 minutes down there we'd pretty much had it. Only one other on the tour so no crowds, a very good thing as there is just no space down there.

A quick look at the Porte Pia was only justified as we had to change buses there and then on the the Villa Borgese. Lunch in at the cinema cafe in the park was ok and the service excellent. Above all the toilets were clean and top notch, very important due to a very urgent need.

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Read more: Saturday 26th May

Now what can I do with this?A big day out to the ruins at Ostia Antica. these are a bit of an afterthought in the Lonely Planet but oh my! It's a full hour and half journey to get each way but the ruins are incomparable and uncrowded, perhaps I shouldn't tell you. Be warned that the trains are shit holes and why the locals would want them like that is a mystery to me

Forget Pompeii, Herculenium is ok but Pasteum (South of Naples) and Ostia Antica are the business. Believe it.

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Read more: Sunday 27th May

Onboard the trainUp early to clear up the flat, pack the huge range of stuff back into the suitcases, (how we got it all in is beyond me) and organise a taxi to the station

Predictably the call to the taxi service was a bit confused but it got straightened out. The taxi arrived on the dot of 8:45 and of course there was no traffic (on a monday morning, how do they do that) so we had lots of time to kill.

Anyway we found the train listed but no platform number. Someone with a poor sense of humour waited until there was only just enough time to get to the platform before putting it on the board. Then the train was late!

This trip was arranged with ATG Oxford and details are here

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Read more: Monday 28th May

A wet start in Pitigliano First day of the walking trip and we wake to rain and cold(ish) winds. Hum.

We stalled over the usual inedible Italian hotel breakfast but in the end had to set forth, luckily the rain did ease, after a bit, and cleared up for the most part. We got caught for about half an hour or so later in the day but "otherwise fine".

We estimate that we eventually finished up with around 10km walk and a really good day, despite the rain

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Read more: Tuesday 29th May

Bad weather loomsA day off but not really. There are some seriously elaborate tombs just down the hill so after some effort we gathered enough food for a picnic lunch. The shops seem to open randomly and even if they say they will be open they may well not be.

First off was a visit to the 11th Century Duomo which is a great place. Somewhat spartan but all the better for that. many of the places we have visited have been wildly ornate for our taste.

Mary has made a friend of the little dog that wanted it's tummy tickled yesterday. It followed us up and down the street and had to be shooed away or it would have come with us for the day.

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Read more: Wednesday 30th May

More tombsNot an early enough start and we left the hotel at 9:15 or so to go to San Quirco via Sorana. The weather was warm and sunny and a modest breeze helped to keep the temperature down.

Arrived Sorana about 2pm (we are much slower than the guide book times) and the book has no map of the place, luckily it's very small and we found a snack bar that would sell us some pizza slices, very welcome. Some discussion about whether to catch the bus to San Quirco (5min ride) or walk 2.5 hours.

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Read more: Thursday 31st May

Maremma sheep dogs take an unhealthy interest in usBreakfast was functional and al least we did not have to try the croissants preserved in plastic bags which pretend they will last for months. Of course they probably do but only because the croissants are plastic too. Anyway there was real fresh bread and salami and cheese.

We bought some more pizza bread over the road for our walk and set off pretty early, at least for us. Weather overcast windy an cold in the wind.

About mid morning we were walking along a road section of the route and a truck pulled over. Turned out it was our host from last night and he was very concerned (we think) that we were on the wrong road. Some discussion with him and his passenger convinced him we were right, or at least he should leave us to our own devices.

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Read more: Friday 1st June

Waiting for enough victimsThe optional excursion of a 20km, 6 hour walk was clearly entirely out of the question. Just no way either of us would have done that so a day of seeing the sights.

After getting up, one at a time, and an excellent breakfast we headed  out to look at the boat trip to Capodimonte on the other side of the Lake. Turned out this required at least 10 patrons who were eventually press ganged from the passing foot traffic. We met a most interesting Italian chap with excellent English on board and his wife (Theresa) and passed a most entertaining three hours.

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Read more: Saturday 2nd June

A Fiat RallyBack to the walking and today it's off to Orvieto. The booklet says this is just under 19km and should take 5 hours. Yeah Right.

Left just before 9 and had no problem buying a picnic lunch and took until 4 to get to the lovely town of Orvieto. Lovely that is until you look around and discover it's full of tourists buying things in tourist shops, mostly ceramics and snow domes of the Pope, honestly, yes we saw one.

In fairness we did not see the town at it's best as the rain which had been on and off all day decided to go for it. We'll take another look in the morning before we pick up the rental car.

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Read more: Sunday 3rd June

OrvietoLeft to our own devices again we deferred the rental car until the afternoon so we could have a look around Orvieto. We did worry that this might take more than a morning but no, that was quite enough, the place has become a tourist trap. Bus loads of Germans and Americans fill the streets in some cases swopping tales of property values in Sun City wherever in the USA that may be.

Despite Orvieto's very scenic nature unless you have been overcome with a desire to pay twice the going rate for tourist tat that you will throw away within 5 minutes of your return home then give the place a wide berth. Best plan? Give it a wide berth anyway!
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Read more: Monday 4th June

Market DayDecided to breakfast independently in the huge market that had miraculously set up overnight in the piazza. The place was awash with people buying and selling stuff in stalls of all types, quit amazing.

The Lonely Planet had recommended we visit the Basilica di Sant' Ubaldo on top of the big hill at the back of the town, not because of the basilica (which is interesting) but because of the method of transport. This is the Funivia Colle Eletto, a hanging wire basket affair for one or two persons that you get pushed into by the operator.

Mary and I shared on the way up but she soloed going down. I think she only went down in it because the walk was too intimidating. The basilica has the saints body laid out in a glass coffin. Since he died in the 12 century he's understandably not looking too flash, we found it a bit spooky to be honest.

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Read more: Tuesday 5th June

Wild flowersThe groups at the Hotel Grotta Azzura had wolfed the breakfast and it had not been replenished so we had a delightful coffee and custard filled cornetto at a cafe.

The programme for the day was mostly a drive through the charms of the National Park (truly fabulous scenery)  then a push back to the coast for tomorrows departure from Rome. Started with post cards for Mary and an Italian haircut for me. We were both very pleased with the results of our handiwork.

Mary had a drive on the little windy roads but had problems with steering and changing gear at the same time. We returned to male driving in short order.

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Read more: Wednesday 6th June

Port' Ercole The Bi Hotel and Port' Ercole turned out to be a real delight. The best (and most expesive) dinner of the trip was at the improbable La Lampara where our waitress spoke excellent english and we had fresh sea bass (or some such).

Rather reluctantly we headed off for Rome and the joys of steerage with Alitalia. We'd given this plenty of time which turned out to be unnecessary.

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Read more: Thursday 7th June