We've been exploring Italy with our guest!
It would appear that I have once again fallen drastically behind in my updates. It’s been over a week since we crossed into Italy and picked up our current guest. I guess I’ve just been enjoying myself too much to think about sitting down and writing it all down. So with that it mind, I’m going to try to cram a weeks worth of adventure into one moderately sized entry. So strap yourself in and here we go!
Our first stop on our Italian road trip was Milan. Maddie and I had decided to arrive a couple of days early so that we could give Frankie a bit of a freshen up, and also have time to look around Milan before Amy arrived. Now I’l be honest, the centre square of Milan was nice, but I definitely wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed with it’s grandeur. There was however 1 exception, the Duomo (cathedral) in the centre square. It was really very impressive and imposing and is, in my opinion, by far the most worthwhile thing to see in Milan. Unfortunately, other than this Milan seemed to us a nice enough city, but I personally wouldn’t be rushing back to see it again.
Now I forgot to pre-warn you that this post would contain a nice portion of drama to keep you on the edge of your seat. And this time it was not Frankie’s fault, although it is about Frankie that we’ll be talking. So strap yourselves in and here we go. On the morning after exploring Milan we had to be at the airport at around 6am to pick Amy up. So we got ourselves up nice and early and made our way to the airport. We arrived with plenty of time so we took our time finding the right car park to leave Frankie in, driving past a few that were sign posted 'bus' or ‘long-term’. We eventually found one that looked pretty good. And it was uncovered so we knew Frankie would fit easy enough. So we approached the boom gate and realised that there was a fairly low roof over just the gates. Nevertheless I was pretty sure we’d still fit. So we took a ticket and crept ever so slowly forward. Inch by painful inch we proceeded until… we emerged safely from the other side! Phew! Unfortunately, that's just me hopelessly wishing that that’s how the story went. As we crept forward we were halfway under the roof and I thought, “we’re ok” and began to accelerate out. That was when we heard the gut wrenching crack with a clap of thunder. Our hatch and 2 air vents, which sat about 2 inches higher than the roof, all hit and snapped cleanly off. By that stage we were already emerging from the other side of the gate so there was nothing to do by grit our teeth and pick up the pieces.
We decided the best thing to do at this stage would be to park, go get Amy, and deal with the rest later. We went into the airport and it wasn’t long before Amy was emerging from the arrivals gate. We sat down for a coffee and chatted for a little while before making the dreaded journey back to Frankie. We had warned Amy of our earlier incident so she wasn’t completely oblivious. Now here comes problem number 2. On our way out we thought to ourselves, “well if those items are no longer attached we should fit out fine”. That was not the case! For some reason that God only knows, the exit gate was even shorter than the entry gate. Go figure. There was no way we were getting out there. So after much difficulty Maddie managed to find someone who worked there. They go us to 4 wheel drive Frankie over some curbs and grass patches until we arrived at an entry gate that didn’t have a roof. At last we were home free!
We were on the road again and headed for our first stop, Lake Como. This was one of the places on Amy's list of things to see, and I'm glad it was. I personally hadn;t heard of Lake Como before so we had a quick google search and found a town called Varenna that we thought looked pretty nice. We didn't spend too much time in Varenna, but what we did we made count. We explored the most amazing little lakeside village, ate some incredible gelato, and even (unknowingly) helped ourselves to someone's private wharf for a swim. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before we had to get going for a big day of driving.
We had decided earlier that once we had Amy with us we'd head straight to Venice and then traverse Italy in a clockwise direction. We arrived at Venice in the evening, got Frankie set up then hit the hay pretty early (Amy's jetlag had hit). The next day we had decided to introduce Amy to our European adventure the only way we knew how. A walking tour of course! Naturally she loved it, as did we, and we really got to see parts of Venice that most tourist would miss. On the whole tour I think we only saw one or 2 busy streets. THis all changed after the tour had finished and we headed to the tourist epicentre of Venice, Saint Marks square. Now I'll be honest. The square and the area around it are all amazing, but it is absolutely impossible to escape the tourists in those areas. I think I enjoyed walking through the back streets and residential districts, and looking at the canals and hidden squares even more than seeing the famous areas. I think I speak for both Maddie and Amy though when I say our favourite part of Venice was definitely the Gondola ride. While it was quite pricey, it is for sure the most peaceful (and romantic) way to see the city and canals. All in all, Venice was a pretty incredible start to our Italian escapades.
Next stop on the Italian road trip was Florence. There wasn't a whole lot that we had planned to see in Florence but we thought we'd check it out anyway. We spent the first afternoon just lounging in the park reading our books and generally doing a whole lot of not much really. The next morning we had planned the one thing that I was really excited for, Michelangelo's statue of David. Unfortunately we did have to wait for a bit over an hour to get into the museum to see it, but it was definitely worth the wait. Now none of us are particularly interested in art as such, but we all found ourselves staring at the 5 meter tall statue with a sense of wonder. Although I wouldn't necessarily say I loved Florence, if you're in the area I would definitely recommend going to see that statue. For the rest of the afternoon we wandered around the streets, had a look at the leather markets, and then hit the road for the wine regions of Tuscany. We figured seeing we were passing through it would be rude if we didn't sample some local wines. And it was honestly one of the most enjoyable things we've done on this trip. Sitting on a balcony, overlooking some Tuscan wineries, sipping on a glass of the most delicious red wine I have ever tasted. Absolutely the best way to end the day.
The next day saw us doing quite a lot of driving. I think we ended up on the road for around 8 or 9 hours. And what a drive it was. We were headed for the town of Sorrento, on the Amalfi coast. I would have to say that is some of the sketchiest driving I have even done in my life. Not only was the road between Naples and Amalfi barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass comfortably, but there were full sized buses passing us a frequent intervals, and in Frankie that we next to impossible. To top that all off the road winds it's way around the cliffs with motorbikes and scooters weaving across the road everywhere and people parking in the middle of the lane to capture the view. As you can imagine, we thought we were done for many times. By some miracle we made it to our camp site for the night and got ourselves settled in for an early night.
The next day we had big plans. We were going to hike the Path of the Gods. So after an hour and a half of bus rides we arrived at the starting point in Agerola at around 10:30, and off we went. To be honest this hike wasn't all that difficult even for those of us who are particularly used to strenuous physical activity. If you start at the point we did it's pretty much downhill the whole way as the path winds it's way from the mountains above Amalfi down to the coast at Positano. The one difficult bit (although it looks easy) was the final descent. From the town of Nochelle we took the 1,700 steps straight down into Positano. By the time we'd reached the bottom all our legs we shaking from the constant steep descent. The hike itself was absolutely incredible giving panoramic views of the breathtaking Amalfi coast. Naturally, after our strenuous hike we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the beach.
The next day we had the pleasure of meeting up with Tasha and Mandi, 2 of my friends from highschool, who just so happened to be floating around Italy at the same time as us. The group of 8 of us caught the ferry to the island Ischia for the day. Now we had big plans for the day, some sun baking, some hot springs, and maybe some shopping and sightseeing. Let's just say we didn't get past the first item on the list. We started with around 3 hours of lying on the beach under our beach umbrellas, then, after a brief and failed attempt to find the hot springs, we hit up the beach for another 2 or so hours. Despite the fact the we didn't really achieve much, we thoroughly enjoyed have a nice relaxed day on the beach and catching up with some old friends.
The one last thing I must mention about Sorrento was the gelato. We had already experience a number of excellent gelato's while in Italy so when Tasha and Mandi mentioned that they had found the most amazing gelateria we were a little sceptical. Nevertheless we found our way the Raki's gelato in the centre of Sorrento despite all 3 of us being full and not really needing anything else to eat. I went first and ordered a small coconut gelato and the second the girls tasted it they were both in line debating how many scoops they would each be able to fit in. The gelato there was so good that I ended up standing with an American family try each others flavours while the girls were in line. Needless to say, we went back. And with the memories of the amazing gelato fresh in our minds, we left Sorrento the next morning, bound for the ancient city of Pompeii.
Now I wish I was able to adequately describe how amazing Pompeii is, but I simply can't. When you're there it's so easy to imagine how life would have been for them. It's just one of those places that if you're in the area, you have to go and see. We spent around 3 hours on a walking tour and just exploring the city by ourselves.
Altogether we are loving Italy so far and can't wait to see more of it.