Sunday, May 27, 2007

Positano, Italy Sunday 27 May

Karen and I spent a very long day visiting one of the villages of Pompeii.

Volcano Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, and when the event was later recorded, it was thought the world had come to an end. The ruined city is now dug out from layers of dried lava that once swept through it. It was rediscovered by Pompeians / those who escaped / returned to their city when the ashes had cooled and removed some of the most precious treasures from the resort. But they left plenty behind to be uncovered at a later date and carted off to museums throughout Europe and America.

After a long medieval sleep, Pompeii was again brought o life in the late 16th century, quite by accident. However it was in the mid18th century that large scale excavations were launched.

We decided to visit a nearby village in Eculano, called Herculaneum, as we were told by others that Pompeii is now completely overrun by continuous tourists and most of the artifacts have now been moved to nearby Naples museum. It took a 6 hour round trip to the sight and home and although fascinating, it wasn't one of my favourite places to visit. But each to their own as some find it very interesting.

Off the bus back in Positano after another hair raising bus trip along the cliffs, and our daily gelato was quickly inhaled on the way back to the hostel.

Tonight will be dinner in a restaurant to farewell my new travel friends, then im taking the 4 hour trip back to Rome tomorrow. There I will meet another friend I met along the way for dinner and revisit some sights I visited a few years ago. I will inhale the last of my Italian experience before my 2 day trip back to Aus that starts Tuesday morning.

Positano, Italy Saturday 26 May

My movements have not been planned since in Italy, and ive decided to spend my last days in Positano. Ive met some great girls here who also love eating and relaxing, so id rather be spending time with like minded people in the sun before heading home to what sounds like may be chilly weather.

Our trio turned four today, when we adopted another solo traveller, an American named Jennifer who wasn't yet feeling the love of Positano after her first couple of hours of arriving. We took her downtown for breakfast in the patisserie cafe and by the time it was over, she was sold. Ready with beach wear and plenty of sunscreen for the day, we found our little motor sailboat and were taken to a private beach for the day where we rented sun lounges, swam and relaxed all day.

There was an elevated restaurant called Da Adolfo / / on the beach with pebbles as flooring and a delicious menu all in Italian. We figured out what most of it meant between the four of us. I ate a fresh peice of swordfish simply grilled and drizzled in olive oil and balsamic, that was caught that morning. We drank litres of locale vino blanco out of ceramic jugs and glass cups, took some down to the beach and had a smashing afternoon of bliss.

By around 6pm we headed back on the little boat with the red fish on the mast, and once we reached shore after 15 minutes, it was straight to the patisserie again for the hugest cream and chocolate profiteroles. We merrily took the bus back up the giant hill to our hostel and later walked back down to eat dinner, then up again to walk some of it off.

We ate our daily gelato, ready for bed!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Positano, Italy Friday 25 May

Woke to a gorgeous breakfast on the terrace, overlooking the ocean. The clouds were low and overcast but this did not detract from the beauty of my surroundings. We took the steep walk down town, walked around for a while then walked up and around to find a private beach. We could only see men on the beach and assumed it was a male only beach. I decided to check before we stepped foot on the beach, after reading some beaches are segregated in Italy. The woman I asked didn't speak english, and after a few minutes of yelling she found a bronzed young stud who laughed at us and said it was ok for us to go to the beach.

We swam in the glorious Mediterraen for a long time, and as the water is much saltier than home, we could float high and pretend we were olympic ballerinas. After a great swim, of course it was time for more food, so we headed back into town and to the delicatessen for some delicous homemade Italian treats. We sat on the water front to eat, whilst watching various artists painting the scenery, people dining in restaurants and children eating rather large, dripping gelatos.

Lunch finished, we boarded a jet boat to Amalfi, a 25 minute boat ride away past glorious scenery. The only imaginable scenery possible here is the best your imagination can conjour. We only spent a gelato, a punnet of strawberries and an hour in Amalfi, as unfortunately it was very touristy. We caught the bus back to Positano which took a hairaising hour, and of course was eventful. A large truck and bus, and about a million vespas and cars blocked our course at one stage, and an old Italian guy who was riding the bus with us decided to shove his blaring whistle in his mouth, get out of the bus and take care of the situation. There was an actual police officer sporting her own blaring whistle to take care of the traffic, but the old guy seemed to feel he was more equip for the job. All it took was the truck to reverse, our bus to move slightly past the truck and let the oncoming bus and traffic through, but this sequence took at least 20 minutes to figure out. Nothing is ever a rush in Italy.

After getting home it was siesta time, then beer oclock, then homemade ragu dinner, then Kaz, Kath and I did the 1.5 hour trek downtown, then back up the hill to work the days food off. Or at least the beer. Another relaxing day in heaven.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Positano, Italy Thursday 24 May

This morning I left Rome on a 9.45am for a 2 hour train trip to Naples. There I had to tackle the train station to find a ticket for the next train to Sorrento. After lining up for a while in the ticket line, I was told I was in the wrong place, and luckily another girl had just been told the same thing so I ended up following her and her new husband to the correct ticket office. The couple had just married on the weekend and were on their honeymoon. When the wife was purchasing their tickets, the husband told me, through gritted teeth, that he had told his wife to pack lightly. He was carrying 4 big suitcases and having a hard time battling to carry them through the station and onto crowded trains. Poor guy. She didn't seem to have a worry in the world.

The train took around an hour to Sorrento but it was a quick ride as I stood in what seemed to be the travellers section of the train, with 3 American couples. Once in Sorrento, I had to take a 40 min bus ride to Positano. Whilst buying my bus ticket, I heard the broadest Aussie accent behind me, it turned out to be a guy from Perth and his wife. About the sixth person from Perth ive met in Italy which is unusual as its usual Sydney siders or Melournites I meet.

I had been warned by a couple of people that the bus ride to Positano would be a sickening one because of the winding hills and steep narrow roads. I had no idea how sickening it would be, and I had started off holding the hand grip on the seat in front of me while using my second hand to balance my luggage. I ended up gripping the seat tight with both hands, and by the end of the trip my knuckles were white. If you can imagine a huge crowded tourist bus, hurtling down a road with oncoming traffic of vespas, trucks and cars taking up three quarters of the road, whilst turning a sharp corner that is on a cliff face and drops hundreds of metres into the open sea and other tourists gasping with fright behind you, this was my hell.

It soon ended when we reached Positano, and I truely believe i've found heaven without dying. Positano is villas spattered all over a massive cliff face that is situated directly over the Mediterranean sea. My hostel is high upon the cliff with a gorgeous terrace that we sat at for dinner and beers, overlooking the Med. As I got off the hair raising bus, I met a Aussie girl Karen who is travelling solo and staying at the same hostel, so I think we have adopted each other for the next few days.

We checked in to one of the best hostels i've stayed at with a 27 year old Italian owner, Chrissiana, who is truely Italian and loves to talk. The hostel has marble floors and stairs that lead up to the rooms, with the terrace out the front overlooking the sea. After checking in we walked down to the centre of town, which was an experience in itself. There is only one road in Positano that seems to be on a 90degree angle. We took the stairs down through the villas, which is faster than following the road down, and ambled through shops, past the most delicious patisserie that displayed the most delicious looking Italian desserts, past restaurants and down to the ocean. We forgot our bathers and didnt swim, but wont forget them next time. We found the most refreshing homemade lemon sorbet in a cup, sold by an old guy on the street, the best drink for a stifling hot Italian day.

Then there was the walk back up the hill. My goodness! It took around half an hour to walk back up the stairs, and I was the colour of a beetroot and in a lot of pain once we made it to the top. I will do one walk up and down per day to work off at least a little of the food I haven't been able to stop eating in the last month, but will take the bus if there are any more trips in the day.

Chrissiana made us a typical Italian dish for dinner which was a divine shrimp risotto. By this time Karen the Aussie, and I, had met another Aussie Kathleen, an English guy Andy, and an older Aussie couple John and Margaret. We all ate risotto together on the terrace then walked around the corner for dessert of gelato with the locals.

I had booked to stay Friday night here as well and was then planning to go back to Naples to meet Ruth and Rebel but im pretty sure I will just spend the rest of my time in Positano, until I have to go back to Rome to start my trek back to Oz.

This is heaven!!

Italy - Thursday 24 May

Heading south today, via train. About a 4 hour train ride to Positano staying at

More soon.

Rome - Wednesday 23 May

Today I toured some of Roma with the two Aussie girls I met the previous night, Ruth and Rebel. Our hostel was a 5 minute walk to the Colosseum so we started with a tour of that. It was surrounded by tourists and Italians dressed up as Gladiators, trying to get tourists to pay for a photo with them. Its summer here and the temperature has been around 30c each day, glorious!

The Colosseum
Stands as the enduring symbol of the Eternal City, a hollowed out ghost of travertine marbel that once held as many as between 40,000 and 70,000 crazed spectators and now dwarfs every other ruin in Rome. Within 100 days of its AD 80 opening, some 5000 wild beasts perished in the bloody arena, and the slaughter went on for 3 more centuries. The wooden floor underneath the sand once covered a labyrinth of brick cells, ramps, and elevators used to tranport animals from cages to arena level. They used to make some people fight in the arena without weapons if they were due punishment. Spectators were seated according to social status, the most important including senators and aristocrats were seated at the ground level and the plebs at the highest level. The Colosseum was open to the public with free entry, and there was a fight with each festival or party. There were about 170 of these each year, so obviously the Colosseum got a lot of use.

The Palatine Hill
We took a tour of the hill which was so relaxing, and we could see some of the best panoramic views of Rome from there. The Palatine was where the first walls of Rome were built and was the most fashionable residential quarter where aristocrats and statesmen, including Marc Antony, built there homes. Emperors capitalised on the hills prestige and built gargantuan quarters. By the end of the first century, the imperial residence covered the entire hill, whose Latin name, Palatine, became synonymous with the palace. Much of it is now in ruins. There is a fresh water supply running through the hill, and we filled our water bottles with freezing cold fresh water. Also lovely orange trees everywhere.

Next stop was to buy the most delicious gelato which was so big it took at least 20 minutes to finish. We also got away from the touristy areas and found a traditional Italian restaurant for lunch of veal cutlet and spinach with olive oil and fresh lemon. Yum!

Trevi Fountain
Legend has it that a traveler who throws a coin into the fountain is ensured a speedy return to Italy, one who tosses two will fall in love in Rome, and three coins you will marry that person you fall in love with. I wont tell you how many I threw in!

We shopped like tourists, then stopped at a traditional delicattesan on the way home to purchase the most delicious olives, cheeses, cured sausage, limoncello and Italian beer. Later we were invited to a pub crawl but soon left as the others were a lot younger. We found a crowded pub to watch the football game, then I left for much needed sleep after having only 5 hours the previous night due to so much noise outside the hostel window, and I expect the excitement of being in Rome.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rome, Italy - Tuesday 22 May

We spent until 1pm walking around Helsinki, packing our bags and lunching until the taxi arrived to take us to the airport. We all took flights in different directions but of course my flight to Rome was delayed by almost two hours due to an air strike in Italy. It meant I arrived in Rome in the dark, but all was fine and without hassle.

I sat next to an Italian businessman on the flight, who gave me some great touristy tips, and also gave me directions of where to find real Italian pizza where the Italians eat (not the tourists) and a seafood restaurant. I took the Metro to the city from the airport and followed my directions to find the hostel. What an interesting place - full of character and travellers with interesting stories. One of the owners was giving all the guests shots of some kind of rum, with a chaser of peach juice which sounds terrible but was actually delicious. After a couple of those and sharing my bottle of red with some of the guests, it was off to bed. They tried to put me in a room of 5 guys, but luckily after explaining I had booked a girls only room, they understood and quickly found me another room.

Amongst others, I met two Aussie girls (one from Perth) who I will be sightseeing with today. Everyone is heading to the Vatican as the Pope is making an appearance today.

Ps. My phone finally works should you need to text.