Summer Holiday (19-30/8/11)

Back after a wonderful trip to Italy. I have written a ‘travel journal’ but it is very detailed and probably a bit long for a single post, so I may make a separate blog if this short synopsis tickles your interests!

We had a relatively stress free trip to Naples and arrived mid-evening. We plonked our bags in the hotel we were staying in for one night and headed out into the Neopolitan night to, rightly, visit our first gelaterie. The array of flavours before my eyes was tantalising but I chose to relive my youth and try Kinder Bueno ice cream, I wasn’t disappointed.

We then headed to a restaurant we’d been recommended by the concierge – it was a delightful, small place – exactly how you’d imagine an old Italian pizzeria. On the menu was no less than 15 varieties of the normally considered plane ‘Margarita’, including one entitled ‘Margarita DOC’. DOC, Denominazione di origine controllata (‘Controlled designation of origin’), I was told by my father, is an abbreviation used on some wines and formaggi to infer that the food or drink in question reaches a certain level of quality. Naturally this sounds appealing but is surely expensive? Not so here, the pizzas were four euros each and this special one was seven – less than you pay for a Pizza Express meal here! It ended up, for me, being the best pizza of the entire holiday.

It must be said I didn’t think Naples was the prettiest area of Italy. Part of its scruffiness was charming but I think seeing copious amounts of prostitutes at the train station when you arrive is a bit off putting for anyone. We caught the train from Naples to Sorrento, and went through all thirty-six stops, including Pompei Scavi and Ercolano Scavi – the ruins (scavi) of Pompeii and Herculaneum famously covered for hundreds of years by ash and lava respectively.

It was then a short bus ride to the villa in Sant’Agata. It was a truly beautiful spot with a balcony overlooking the bay of Naples and Vesuvius – especially exquisite at night. We spent some days simply relaxing in the villa playing chess or a variety of pool games my brother invented and it was wonderful to simply relax and enjoy each other’s company.  However, it would be catastrophic to not make the most of our surroundings, and we went to the local area often. We visited a picturesque seaside town called Positano and rented a boat out into the lovely turquoise blue sea, saw Pompeii and Herculanium, the beach and went swimming in the Mediterranean and had a vast number of incredibly pleasant meals out! Truly spoiled, but it was an excellent occasion.

We then split as a family somewhat and headed to Rome. I had been there before but I was still taken aback by how beautiful it is. The cobbled streets and vibrant colours of the buildings are spectacular. London’s grotty side streets are put to shame by the wonderful pockets of undiscovered streets linking landmarks with exquisitely carved stone facades. It was a pleasure to be in the city. We saw the traditional sites; the Colloseum, Pantheon, Typewriter and Trevi fountain as one would expect. My casual writing does them no justice, though. What was new was a visit to the Vatican Museums which was truly mind blowing. Never have I seen so much art, so detailed and rich in meaning in such vast, vast quantity. It seemed every painting, small or large, had a huge story to tell and would have taken years to do, yet there were thousands. It was all topped off, of course, by the Sistine Chapel and Michael Angelo’s creation of man. We also went into St. Peter’s Basilica which also served to take my breath away, the sheer scale is mind-boggling.

We had a relatively sane trip back and I am now trying to work through the two thousand odd photos on my camera!

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