Category Archives: Italy

On This Day – Rome (Twice)

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 26th June 1976 I was in the city of Rome in Italy.  I was 22 and this was the very first time that I had travelled abroad and due to a girlfriend/relationship breakdown I ended up going with my dad on a two week holiday to Sorrento.

Here he is at the Trevi Fountain…

96 Rome

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By chance as I have been looking through my picture files I discovered that exactly thirty-five years later on 26th June 2011 that I was in Rome again, this time with a silly hat…

IMG_9178a

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Thursday Doors – Bari in Southern Italy

Bari Doors

Despite almost being put off by the guide books we liked the city of Bari with its mazy old town and eclectic night life and one thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Puglia then do not miss out the capital city of the region and don’t be scared off by the reviews.

We especially liked the old town in the evenings where the pavements were flowing with people like lava spilling from a volcano, the piazzas were packed, the pizzerias overflowing and the gelaterias noisy with babbling chatter.  With some difficulty we found a traditional trattoria with a vacant table and enjoyed a first simple but excellent meal and then walked it off with a stroll around the moody streets of the old town lined with bars and restaurants and late night diners lingering over a final espresso.

Those unfavourable guide book descriptions need to be reviewed.

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Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

An Alternative World Showcase at EPCOT

In my last post I took you to Disney and World Showcase at EPCOT.  There are eleven countries showcased at the theme park and some time ago I wondered why it was those particular eleven and speculated on an alternative selection.

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On This Day – The Roman City of Herculaneum

While the current travel restrictions are in place I have no new stories to post so what I thought that I would do is to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 21st April 2018 I was in Naples and took a train ride out to the archaeological site of Herculaneum.

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Entrance Tickets, The Fortress at Castelsardo in Sardinia

Castelsardo

“(Sardinia) reminds me of Malta: lost between Europe and Africa and belonging to nowhere. Belonging to nowhere, never having belonged to anywhere.  To Spain and the Arabs and the Phoenicians most.  But as if it had never really had a fate.  Left outside of time and history.” D H Lawrence – ‘Sea and Sardinia’

After lunch we made our way towards the old town and the fortress set at the very top of the rocky outcrop.  At the lower levels there were souvenir shops selling usual tourist trash and after ignoring these we tackled slippery steep stone steps worn down by the passage of time and feet.

At the top we paid our 3€ entrance fee and passed through the gates into the recently restored castle and centro storico where waiting for us at the top there was a breath-taking 360° panorama of the land and the sea.

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Entrance Tickets – Castel St’Elmo in Naples

Naples Castell St Elmo

Admission to the once mighty fortress was free (which is always a bonus) so we climbed to the top and enjoyed views of Vesuvius on one side and the waterfront of Naples on the other.  On the down side we had to pay to go inside the Museum.  Let me say however , no one should miss visiting Naples, it was once part of the Grand Tour of Europe and surely it should be again.  Just my opinion.

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Thursday Doors, Balcony Doors of Naples

Naples Balcony 1

Naples Balcony 2

Naples Balcony 3

Travels in Portugal, Across the Alentejo to Beja

Beja Landscape 01

After three excellent days on the south-west coast of Portugal we were rather sad to leave before setting off inland so after we had settled the bill and driven away we first of all headed north towards the smart seaside resort of Vila Nova de Milfontes where we stayed for just about an hour or so before reluctantly setting off east.

After a short while we stopped for coffee in the delightful village of Cercal where they were preparing for a festival, a tomato festival as it happened, which was to take place next weekend.  The region is famous for tomatoes as it happens and this was another narrowly missed party.

Now we were in the Alentejo Region and soon we were in an Iberian wilderness with miles and miles of open countryside and barely any inhabitation.  One of the poorest, least-developed, least-populated regions in Western Europe, the Alentejo has been dubbed both the Provence and the Tuscany of Portugal. Neither I would say is entirely accurate, it is more subtle and nowhere near as busy as the poster regions of Italy and France and the charms of this land are made up of wheat fields, cork oak forests, wildflower meadows and tiny white-washed villages and absolutely no ‘A’ list celebrity villas..

Alentejo Map

First we drove through endless miles of cork oak plantations, bark stripped trees with vivid orange scars and without any sign of human activity and then the cork gave way to olive groves.  It is an interesting fact that olive trees only grow well in the Mediterranean region (there are some attempts to grow in the Americas and the Far East but these are not especially successful) and Portugal is one of the leading producers (Spain is the World’s largest producer with annually over five million tonnes).  Interestingly (or not) I have an olive tree in my garden in England which continues to grow quite vigorously but sadly without fruit.

After the olives then the grapevines twisting away like Chubby Checker until giving way further east to open countryside where fields of golden stubble stretched out forever all around us as far as the eye could see until they finally met the yonder big sky.  Long straight roads took us between towns and villages and for a time through the mess of marble quarries where spoil heaps decorated the countryside in an unsightly sprawl.  This area of Portugal is the second largest source of marble in Europe after Carrera in Italy.

This is what it looks like inside a deep mine marble quarry.  I didn’t take this picture of course…

Alentejo Marble

We arrived in the city of Beja just as the siesta was beginning and doors and shutters were closing tight as we walked through deserted streets searching for our hotel we eventually came upon it and it turned out to be a delightful family run place in the middle of the busy city.

We liked it, we only had one night in Beja and we were already regretting that it wasn’t two so with only limited time to look around the place we set off immediately onto the street. In mid afternoon the temperature was rising and there was a stifling heat so we weren’t surprised to learn that Beja is statistically the hottest place in all of Portugal.  Later that day someone told me that if it was 40° in Lisbon then it would be 45° in Beja.  Thankfully it wasn’t quite that hot today.

Beja Street

Away from the modern city shopping centre Beja was a delightful place with a labyrinth of old streets with flaking wooden doors and rusting iron balconies, it is a place of classic elegance even though it perhaps gives the appearance of being slightly past its best.

The walk took us past Roman excavations and remaining parts of the medieval city walls with detours into churches and museums and an interesting art gallery but all the time we were making our way to the highest point in the city and to the tallest castle in Portugal.  There were one hundred and fifty steps to climb to the top of the granite and marble tower but that didn’t bother us, last year in Bologna in Italy we climbed five hundred to the top of the Asinelli Tower and two hundred and fifty at Milan Cathedral.  It was a climb well worth making because from the top there were massive views in all directions across the Alentejo plains.

Beja Castle 01

A town like Beja is a real find, not really on the tourist trail so booking an overnight stay in a place like this can be a bit of a gamble but this one really paid out.  From the castle we explored more streets as we began to look for somewhere suitable for evening meal later.  We found what we were looking for close to the hotel, a simple sort of place with plastic menus and good Portuguese food so we had no hesitation in returning there later.

Kim ordered beef ribs and I had pork with clams which seems to be a popular combination in Portugal.  We had walked seven miles today.

We should have stayed an extra night and spent more time in Beja but the next morning we had to leave soon after breakfast because we were driving to our next destination, the town of Estremoz.

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Entrance Tickets – The Trulli House Museum in Alberobello

Trulli Museum Alberobello

On account of the thousand or so Trulli houses and because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Alberobello is vulnerable to severe tourist overload so Kim’s plan was to get up early to beat the crowds and go and get some photographs of empty streets

We debated this before lights out and I suggested seven o’clock and Kim said six which I said was too early, so we agreed on seven and Kim set the alarm for six!

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Entrance Tickets – The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Entrance Ticket - Leaning Tower of Pisa

There are two hundred and ninety four steps up a spiral staircase that take visitors up and which due to the absence of windows, and therefore orientation, is reminiscent of a fairground wacky house attraction, especially when although you know that you were ascending sometimes according to the extreme angle of the tilt of the building it feels as though you were going down at the same time, which, believe me, is a very unusual experience.

Mark Twain described it like this: “The winding staircase within is dark, but one always knows which side of the tower he is on because of his naturally gravitating from one side to the other of the staircase with the rise or dip of the tower. Some of the stone steps are foot-worn only on one end; others only on the other end; others only in the middle.”

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