Friday, March 06, 2015

Capri, Italy

On our final day we decide the weather is perfect to explore the island of Capri. It is the destination of the rich in the summer season. I have no idea what to expect.
We arrive in the Capri marina via ferry and are inundated with tour operators wanting to sell us their whistlestop tour of the island. Instead, we catch the bus to the first of two town on the island, Capri Town.
The main piazza in Capri Town overlooks the the cliffs, water and the hill the bus just climbed. The older Italian men are all gathered and lounging in the sun.
The view below is amazing and dotted with white houses.
We wander away from the main square to find the side streets lined with luxury shops and beyond that quiet gardens.
We follow our guide book to Certosa di San Giacomo, an old church that is now used as a gallery for a permanent collection by a German artist. It also features the fragments of frescos from the original church itself.
The church is empty except for the main alter and a grand piano The walls seem recently plastered and everything has a white dust on it. We are wearing black.
Our little munchkin believes it is his new play room and toddles from room to room gleefully spreading the white dust.
The emptiness of the space paired with the modern upkeep (new plaster and paint) alongside the fresco fragments make it the most beautiful church I see on our trip. The simplicity feels so authentic and devoid of all the clutter that modern life and consumerism cram in.
The church yard.
We wander off a little further in search of a famous garden.
We find the small but amazing Gardini di Augusto. It is so well manicured with statues, benches, and views. We eat our packed lunch here.
The views look down to the sea where we see Capri's famous faraglioni (rock formation) that boats can drive through.
We spy a nude bum.
On our wandering I am surprised to find a very contemporary art gallery. I looked it up later and see it carries a well known Calgary artist. I decide then and there I must have a show there. Any excuse to come back to Italy.
Next we take a bus to the second higher village on the island, Anacapri.
From there you can catch a chair lift up to the peak of the island. We gulp, strap our toddler to us, and step out as the seat sweeps us up. I take a picture of Nigel and our little munchkin on the single-seat lift ahead of me.
The views from the top are great.
The water looks so swimmable. Too bad it is still wintery.
On top of the island.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Amalfi Coast, Italy (Ravello & Amalfi)

There is a bus we catch that drives up the Amalfi Coast and stops in the villages along the way. Our host suggests we take the coach to the end, the town of Amalfi, take a further bus to the little hill village of Ravello, and work our way backwards. We arrive in Amalfi and take a quick look around while we wait for the next bus. The main square has the most beautiful Amalfi Cathedral.
The gold detail above the front door.
The views are spectacular of the coast as we take a winding coastal road to reach our destination.
In fact, I don't recommend this bus ride if you are prone to car sickness. I don't and I did!
We arrive finally in the small village of Ravello and I immediately love it. It reminds me of Assisi (my favourite Italian place), only smaller. it is tiny, sunny and peaceful with a sprawlingly large piazza (central square) that you can relax in. There isn't much open as we arrive at siesta time. But the local gelateria is selling gelato and paninis.
The next bus back to Amalfi is not for another few hours so we wander the streets and let our toddler run wild in the piazza.
After much ignoring of the local taxi driver who tells us there are no more busses back, the bus back arrives. We take the short ride back to the coastal village. Amalfi is not as peaceful and most of the places we think look good to eat are either shut down or closed for the off season. It is far better to travel in the off season, but I remember from living in Italy that the italians shut down many of the businesses for the winter.
We decide given we have an hour and half bus ride back that we should leave right away so we can be back at a decent hour for dinner in Sorrento.
The views back are incredible.
I would love to go back to Ravello and paint there for a month. It has such a nice air about it and would be a retreat away from everything.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Naples, Italy

The next day we take the train to Naples. The weather is dreadful and we think we might as well do the city as it is more likely we can do things indoors. We have lunch at the recommended Pizzeria Brandi. This restaurant is over two centuries old and invented the Margherita Pizza in honour of Queen Margherita of Savoy. I am not clear if it actually invented pizza itself or not
but you can read the history at The pizza was delicious!
The kitchen is on one side of the outside walkway and the seating on the other.
It is a fresh day outside and the Italians love their BIG umbrellas!
We reach the main square and church just in time for it to close for siesta. We are not sure we are going to last long enough to see it reopen.
We decide to explore the area and find an indoor area.
Viola! The Galleria Umberto I is perfect. A large indoor space that our little munchkin can practice his walking in, chase the pigeons and amuse the onlookers. It is a short visit to Naples, but that is fine with us.
The weather drives us back to the train station early so we can catch a train back to Sorrento in time for dinner. We stop and order a Chocolata Calda while standing at the station's cafe bar. What we are served makes our eyes open with delight. A thick "dense" hot chocolate that you can spoon into your mouth on a cold wet day. We decide to find it at the local supermarket and take some back to London with us.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Pompeii, Italy

I was warned by several people that Pompeii is not the best place to see if you have a toddler with you. Ever since pouring over the National Geographic on the uncovering of this place as a child I have been fascinated by it. I am not accepting defeat.
I do not recommend a stroller. We strap our munchkin to us in a baby carrier and wander the streets. We tour it a bit faster than we may have on our own, but I think this only means we are not utterly exhausted by the end. It is a good day out with a very well behaved child. Lucky us.
One really gets the idea of what living in this Roman town might have been like as far as the layout and meandering the streets.
The Roman bath house is in a well preserved state.
It has one of the only original ceilings left in Pompeii.
There are casts of the bodies found in the baths.
Outside the baths is a courtyard with grass. I think this is the essential key to seeing this place with a toddler. We have to let our munchkin run around and let off steam. He is fascinated by all the little stones and inadvertently puts one in my pocket which I find when we return home.
I love the Roman speed bumps. I wonder if the UK copied the idea of the three bumps to slow traffic from the Romans.
The deep grooves made by the Roman chariots are quite evident.
This would have been one of the entrance ways into a house. It would have been enclosed with the roof slanting inwards to a hole that would pour rain into the small pool below. The water would be used for household use with a table on the far side. Many of the houses in Pompeii had remnants of this setup.
I was very interested in some of the frescos that had been preserved through the years.
A marble counter.
These receptacles on the counter were used to keep food warm.
We come to the coliseum on the edge of the town.
We enter from one of the two main gates. There is only one other small entrance that leads into the arena and I wonder if animals and gladiators passed through it.
We nip over quickly to the new town of Pompeii to see the grand church there before heading back to the Pompeii ruins.
There are two well preserved theatres in Pompeii. Above is the small one.
A statue adorns the seating.
We head back to the exit as we see the rain clouds coming in and are about to make a dash for our train.  It is a very easy direct train from Sorrento to Pompeii.
On the way out we spot all the artefacts piled high.