Sunday, 26 May 2019

road trip

Amalfi Coast here we come, all nine of us in a mini van!

missing are Vincenzo, Valeria and Giovanni in the front
The day started early, we were the last to the picked up at 7am. Vincenzo (who drove trucks, buses and then tour buses for many years) was in the drivers seat. We passed through Abruzzo, then Molise and into Campagna, past Mount Vesuvius and towards Napoli, turning left and making for the Amalfi Coast. Green hills and snow capped mountains in the distance, villages perched atop rocky outcrops gave way to plains and eventually the outer edges of the city.

To say the Amalfi Coast is stunning would be an understatement. It is truly amazing and words and pictures don't do it justice. Sheer cliffs, houses and buildings perched on the edge, seeming to emerge from the very rock itself, blue water and a winding road. And people. And cars. The road itself is narrow and winding, one lane each way, barely wide enough for cars to pass. The traffic was horrendous, a slow crawl at best, stop start stop start the norm. Tour buses, cars and motor bikes edged their way along the route, passing with only centimetres between. At times I could have put my hand out the window and touched a stone wall and often there was a very vertical drop with a simple guard rail as a safety precaution. Luckily Vincenzo is an excellent and experienced driver! There were few places to stop and take a photo or admire the view and literally nowhere to park. We managed a couple of quick snap shots out of the car window but soon gave up and just 'enjoyed the ride'.

It was impossible to find a place to park so we ended up taking one of the side streets in Amalfi and pulling over to have a quick bite to eat (picnic style) from the back of the van. A police car drove past and asked us to move on, luckily we were finished anyway.

Vincenzo dropped us in the main part of Amalfi and we wandered in the piazza and the shopping strip (full of tourists and generally tacky shops). I'm not sure where Vincenzo went or where he parked while he waited.

Amalfi piazza
We headed into and over the mountains, taking a short cut to the autostrada. Everyone was giving Vincenzo a hard time about his choice but the mountain views were amazing and we passed small country towns perched in the most unbelievable places, orto's (blocks of land where people grow stuff), old houses and patched up roads. I thought we were heading home, but no, next thing I know we are in Napoli, a chaotic, busy, bustling alive city. I did close my eyes a number of times as Vincenzo 'merged' into traffic and crossed roads where there were no traffic lights. We stopped (well Vincenzo kind of parked on the street) so that Anna and Giovanni could go to a particular shop that sells Italian confetti (small almond sweets covered with a crisp sugar coating, given to guests at important occasions such as the upcoming baptism of their youngest grandson). They are delicious, we bought some too! Vincenzo managed to manoeuvre the van into the centre of Napoli and 'kind of park' (that means just stop where there is a space and stay with the van) while we looked at the piazza, a shopping strip and tasted some local pastries.

piazza plebiscito

Galleria Umberto

Then it was 8pm and time to head home. An unforgettable experience, made all the more precious for sharing it with family.

Friday, 24 May 2019

birthday and more

Colin arrived on my birthday, just in time for lunch! (almost 30 hours of travel and straight into it) Giuseppina went above and beyond in the food department, happy birthday was sung in Italian and English, I blew out the candle on a beautiful cake and received an Italian leather handbag. A special way to celebrate this year, just being here and having Colin arrive was the best thing.

Tuesday we (plus Pietro, Teresa and Vincenzo) headed north 3.5 hours to Rimini. Pietro and Teresa's oldest daughter goes to Uni there. It was great to meet her, eat some local pasta and walk around the 'centro'. That's a 2000 year old bridge in the background there!

with Teresa and Alessia

We also visited a church, the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna (40 minutes north). It is famous as it is one of the few surviving examples of early christian Byzantine art and architecture (547AD). The tiny mosaics making up the frescoes were truly amazing.

trying to take it in

Wednesday was a Pollutri day.

the big boys, Antonio, Samuele and Riccardo

the littlest boy, Ruggero
Missing are the one year olds Anea and Francesca (photo next time!)

Giovanni's tool shed

arrosticini, an Abruzzo speciality

next year my tomatoes are going to have stakes like this!

Thursday was a local exploration day. Anna and Giovanni took us to Roccascalenga so that Colin could see the Castle and beautiful hill top towns. A few different views of the castle, from the top and the bottom. We still get blown away by how old things are here, and you can climb on them and touch them and people have done so for centuries!

After a refuel of seafood for lunch we explored part of the Trabocchi Coast, a 70km stretch of Coastline from Ortono to San Salvo. The star attraction are complex working fishing platforms made of wood that sit over the water. Few are still used today and many have been converted to seafood restaurants.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

gira d'Italia

Stage 7 of the gira d'Italia was from Vasto to L'Aquila. The cyclists left around midday from Piazza Rosetti (middle of town and round the corner from my apartment) so today was a holiday here, no school and most shops closed. The piazza was awash in Rosa (pink), the colour that is associated with the race and the colour of the jersey the leader wears. There was merchandise galore.

not sure what these people dressed up were doing or even if they had anything to do with gira d'Italia
The crowd was huge and in true Italian style there was minimal respect for barriers (when they existed) and verbal instructions. We waited for around an hour to see the riders depart.

As usual it all happens very quickly and there was a bit of jostling by the crowd to see and to take a photo or video.

And just like that it's all over. And then most people head home for lunch!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

alleys and doors

It has been unseasonably cold and wet here, all the locals are complaining. There have been snow falls on the mountains and floods in other regions. I spent a showery Monday with Anna and her family, took myself to the nearby museum on Tuesday morning (it was warm and dry inside) and then had lunch with Vincenzo and Giuseppina. Today was cloudy but not showery and the possibility of getting out and about was appealing. I haven't had a day to myself since I arrived so planned an excursion by bus to a local town.

Taking the bus here is not quite as straight forward as you would imagine but my limited Italian got me where I wanted to go. I had to rush to catch the bus (only one each hour or less) and missed breakfast, so on arrival in Casalbordino I found a bar to have an Italian breakfast - an espresso and cornetto (croissant). I was a bit unsure if I should go in or not as there were quite a few blokes standing outside chatting, maybe this was a blokes only kind of place. But when I looked inside I saw a couple of females so decided it was ok. I am developing a taste for an espresso each day (along with pasta and dolce/biscotti). It is amazing how easy it is to adapt to a multi course lunch each day!

I went for a walk with Anna around the country roads near her house. That is Casalbordino in the distance
There wasn't much open in Casalbordino so I spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around the alleys and laneways taking photos of all the amazing old doors.

one of the many alleys I wandered through
And here are some of the old doors that captured my eye (nothing appears straight in the alleys)

I turned up early to catch the bus back (didn't want to miss it because the next one was a two hour wait) and ended up chatting with an old lady who had lived in Canada and the US for 14 years and spoke English. We used a mixture of Italian and English as she hadn't really spoken English for the last 20 years and my Italian is rudimentary. She was also going to Vasto and ensured I caught the correct bus home!

Monday, 13 May 2019

mother's day

Mother's Day in Italy is pretty much the same as anywhere else, gifts, flowers and lunch together as a family. Although I did notice that gender roles appear quite fixed here (not sure if it is just my limited  experience or whether it is more generalised), no males helping in the kitchen or cleaning up afterwards. The kitchen (and cleaning) is definitely the domain of women.

It was nice to be back home around 6pm (along with my take away for dinner - not left overs but stuffed carciofe that Giuseppina had prepared earlier that morning for dinner that evening!). In true Italian style I took myself for a passeggiata (walk) around the piazza's. Despite the very ordinary weather people still take their evening stroll, stopping to talk, have an apertivo or a gelato and just 'hang out'. It was nice that despite being alone I could go out into the streets and be alongside other people and feel a part of the town. It also fills in the hours until you are ready to eat again and go to bed. I decided to leave the carciofe for tomorrow and had gelato and cherries (picked yesterday) instead.

a very grey/blue vista this evening

wandered through the labyrinth of laneways and discovered this little gem

and this