See Naples and Die (misquote)

I really am very lazy when it comes to blog writing. It’s been at least a year since my last posting. It’s not that I’ve nothing to write about and indeed, I’ve had 3 trips to Italy since then. Venice and Florence – my two favourite cities – but hey, I’m open minded to new experiences!

My husband wanted to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, so we planned around that. A stay in a villa in Campania (Calvanico) that was fairly remote (and far too big), which took us ages to find late at night in the dark and rain. Thankfully our host was patient and kind.

The following day, we headed to the coast for a meander (not me driving!) trying to avoid the larger towns. We arrived in Positano late afternoon to discover it was closed! Siesta is taken very seriously. Still, a macchiato and gelato and we were on our way again.

Day 2, and we aimed for the port and the fast ferry to Capri. The ferry trip was amazing. By the time we arrived, it had clouded over and it was too choppy for the boats to visit the blue grotto – which was a shame. Capri was overrun with tourists and was extremely expensive. We took the little funicular up to the the town. I was assured by some locals that it was worth spending at least a week there and visiting Ana Capri. (Perhaps next time). Back on the ferry to Naples and a quick walk into the piazza del Plebiscito (grabbing street pizza on the way – yum) before a long drive home.

Day 3. Chilling out in our home from home (which was the former kitchen of a grand crumbling mansion) Husband decided to build a fire in that great big fireplace – despite the extractor, it took hours to clear the smoke! We’d found a great little restaurant up the hill (il rifugio) which we went to nearly every night. Very good quality food and very reasonably priced.

Day 4. Pompeii. A stunningly beautiful place that is sad, poignant and fascinating all at the same time. We spend the full day here and sturdy walking shoes are definitely required. It is so much to take in.

Day 5. We were packing up and had a very late flight out, so we decided to visit Herculaneum this day as doing both is too much. It is more compact a site (as most of it is still under the current town) and very different to Pompeii. Again, it was quite sad to see. We then headed along the coast again. The driving was scary, and we missed the airport parking to take a 10 mile detour (through Naples, in rush hour!) Well, we saw Naples and lived through the rush hour traffic to tell the tale.

I’ve ticked off another Italian region and I’m going to check the map for next year!




Italy my muse

I purchased a little green leather-bound sketchbook in Florence a few years ago. It had thick handmade paper and a leather thong that wrapped around the outside. I’ve always been creative, but shied away from the blank page. I started doing ‘scratchy’ drawings with a pigment liner. Some successful and some, not so much.

Last year I took the plunge and decided to start to paint. I’d dabbled once or twice over the years but didn’t have knowledge or technique. A friend once remarked that I needed bigger tools, and I replied that if you give me a paintbrush – I’ll decorate your house!

So, off I went to an art studio. I had a subject in mind. It was a place where my family had stayed in Venice five years ago. A beautiful palazzetto in Cannaregio. It was above our budget but when my husband contacted the owner, just to comment on how beautiful it was, she offered him a half price deal as it was empty the week we wanted.

The lovely people at the art studio got me set up but suggested I paint two canvases at the same time. So, here are ‘Fuori’ and ‘Dentro’. (Along with some of my scratchy sketches).



A week in Venice

It’s been a while. I’m still struggling with health issues. However, when my friend asked me to go on holiday for a week with her last July. How could I refuse? Out of all the options available, she decided on Venice. It was a very special birthday for her so we ‘pushed the boat out’ figuratively speaking.

Venice never disappoints and we had a magical week! Taking in the sights and, as it was her first time in the city, the tourist spots. Bang in the middle of the Biennale too, which was great. We were taught how to make a proper Aperol Spritz by our barman at the hotel. Grazie Andrea! We now know that if you want it dirty, you’d better put an olive in it. On her birthday proper, chiccetti were sampled, Afternoon tea at Caffe Florian, a gondola ride, aperitivi at Harry’s Bar and some Baroque opera made it a special day.

We took the opportunity for a day trip to Padua, to experience the Scrovegni  chapel which contains a fresco by Giotto. We had to take refuge from a thunder storm  and ended up in Caffe Pedrocchi sampling a green aperitivo going by the name of P31 – oh well, when in Padua…..

We returned to a stormy Venice and enjoyed some Vivaldi – appropriately, the four seasons! Thanks also go to the staff at the hotel La Fenice et Des Artistes, for making my friends birthday a time to remember. I’ll see you soon!


An extended weekend…

My husband organised tickets for a concert, which was, in itself very nice, until he told me it was in Florence. It became a weekend, then a week! As it was a late flight into Pisa, we decided to stay the night there. This would allow us an early start before the hordes around the Torre Pendente. We had a lovely B&B just around the corner. We made it to the top (which was pretty impressive for me as I’m still getting over my broken knee injury, 284 steps – and please note that the marble steps are uneven, slippery and canted whichever way that particular floor was leaning).
Next: pick up a very small car at the airport and head for Lucca, a charming town. A little hairy driving round the narrow streets to our hotel! B&B Rezidenza di Fontana. A lovely place and the two Irenes were so helpful.
We landed in the midst of the jazz festival, not our scene man, but music is music.
We headed south after a couple of days (via Volterra) to San Gimignano. We’d stayed in a lovely self catering place outside the town (Villa Del Sole)that we’d stayed in two years ago. A key attraction being a fantastic swimming pool that had swifts swooping over your head in the late afternoon.
Fantastic scenery and medieval town over the hill. Wandering up the strade bianche under the shade of dark green cypresses, listening to the sound of crickets (I think – every time you get near, they stop!)
We headed to Florence via Fiesole and although it was a long way round, it was worth the view over the city and very hot!
Two passes around the city to get in over the right bridge, and we made it to the car park! A trundle to our apartment (although top floor wasn’t such a good idea) The concert was pretty good although I do have to say that the queuing for tokens and drinks was a bit frustrating.
Ciao Firenze, I’ll be back for longer in September.

My first visit.

My first Italian holiday was not until 1994. Lido di Jesolo on the Adriatic, a holiday makers town if ever there was one. We were naive so it suited us well, interspersed with jaunts into Venice and Lake Garda. The holiday was not quite a disaster but as my husband and I went on holiday with a female friend of mine and a male friend of his, who were not a couple but decided to share a room to save money, things didn’t quite go to plan and I won’t elaborate as everyone involved is still alive!
I did like Italy and could’ve spent ages in Venice. On one occasion, I was standing on the Rialto bridge looking out over the grand canal and sighing at the beauty of it all. A little suited man approached me and started talking in italian to me. My italian was limited, but I understood that he was a writer and historian. He wanted to show my friend and I the oldest church in Venice which was not far away, so we casually followed him to the church and I was trying my best to keep up with what he was telling me. I figured that we’d been away a long time and should get back to meet the guys – who were running up and down the steps of the Rialto looking for us and we got an ear bashing for walking off with a stranger, anything could’ve happened etc. A valid point and one that I’d instill into my teenage daughter (I was 32!)

Another memorable day out was when our male friend and I decided to visit some of the islands together. We stopped off in Murano, had lunch (including the murder of a pigeon by a cat) and wandered around the glass shops as I was looking for THE glasses. We were in a little shop when the ‘gentleman’ took me through to the back of the shop to show me the antique glass. He asked me to remove my scrunchie and let my hair down. I duly obliged and he oohed and aahed over my Titian hair. He asked if he could drive to my hotel (?) and take me out. I explained that whilst that was a very kind gesture, my husband would object quite a bit, so let’s leave it there.
Meanwhile, at the front of the shop, my male friend was being questioned by a little man curled up on a little chair by the door
‘You her husband?’
‘No, friends, amico’
‘ hmm, if you her husband, I give you a big knife and you stab him’
We fled, laughing, with two rather nice glasses (which was all I could afford!)

First blog post

This is my very first post! I can’t remember when I fell in love with Italy. As a child I had a toy topo gigio (mouse). My love has grown, and with it my travels to various parts of Italy from my native Scotland. Like most Italophiles, I love the language, the food, the colours, the cars, the music and not forgetting – the people. I’d like to share my journeys and observations….so come along, you may fall in love too.

I’ve just returned from a solo trip. A week which took in Florence (my spiritual home), Parma, Riomaggiore – one of the Cinqueterre and Viareggio. A couple of excursions: by boat to Monterosso al Mare past the other cinqueterre towns, Portovenere also by boat and Torre del Lago Puccini included. This was done with the help of Trenitalia and a rather sturdy (but required) walking stick, as I’m recovering from a broken knee.