The end of our time in the amazing Italy
I am very sad to report that this post brings an end to our Italian adventures. We did spent a total of 18 days in Italy, but I’ve just been hopeless at providing regular updates so we’ve had to cram it all into just 2 posts. The last stretch of our time in Italy took us up the west coast through Rome, Cinque Terre and Portofino.
From Pompeii we made our way to Rome. Our choices for camping sites around Rome were average at best, being far from the city centre and very pricey. Luckily, Maddie found a secure bus park that allows motorhomes to stay. So we ended up a 10min walk from the train station and 15min train ride from the Centre of Rome. Perfect! After getting ourselves set up in the parking we heading into Rome for a walking tour. We thoroughly enjoyed walking around seeing the sights and learning a bit of the very long and turbulent history of Rome. This was dampened a little when our tour guide got into a heated religious debate with a passer by. After standing there listening for a couple of minutes we slipped away to find our train.
The next day we headed into the city again for some more sightseeing. However, it wasn’t the city of Rome we were interested in, it was the Vatican City. We made our way to the entrance in the morning and quickly got ourselves into a walking tour. For anyone that’s been to the Vatican City you know that it is absolutely amazing. The Vatican Museum is by far the best art museum I have ever seen in my life. With amazing sculptures, paintings, and rooms it really was an incredible experience. This all culminated at the end of the tour with a walk through the Sistine Chapel. Incredible! After the tour we had one last stop on our Vatican visit, St Peter’s Basilica. The pinnacle of the Vatican. Not only is the architecture and decoration incredible, but the sheer enormity inside absolutely blew us away.
After a delicious pizza lunch we headed home to get ready for the evening. We had big plans for the evening too. Maddie had seen pictures from a friend of a restaurant that they had tried when they we in Rome not log before us. The restaurant is run by an adorable Italian nona who serves her guests a set menu and kisses them on the cheeks. Naturally, we were unable to resist the temptation to check that out. So we arrived at the restaurant at 8pm and hadn’t even pulled our chairs in before a jug of wine and the first course was placed on the table. And that’s pretty much how the night went. As soon a a plate or jug was empty it was replaced with a full one. There is no menu at the restaurant so you just have whatever is being cooked that night. I thought it might be a bit average not being able to decide what you wanted to eat, but it was surprisingly very fun and made the whole experience out more enjoyable. We ate tomatoes, lentils, prosciutto, mini arancini balls, pasta, roast meat, bocconcini, bread, beans, salad, and nona’s apple tart. It was incredible! And to top of the night Maddie scored herself a big hug and kiss off the nona herself (which I think was her favourite part of the meal). Truly an amazing experience. We also had a chat to our waiter and found out that the restaurant has been here for 120 years and passed from grandfather to father to son, and now his wife. Unfortunately, there is no-one to take over the restaurant when the time comes so everyone needs to get themselves to Rome now to share in our experience.
Day 3 in Rome took us to the old Roman Forum. We got ourselves tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus so we rode this for a while first, hopped off at the monument to Victor Emmanuel II (which is an incredible monument to the kings of Italy and the unification of the nation), and then walked to the forum entrance. The old Roman forum was amazing. Everywhere you look there are ruins of temples and tombs and incredible columns. The forum has, unfortunately, be much more heavily destroyed than the likes of Pompeii, which we saw earlier that week. But that made it quite cool for us to see the contrast. To end our Roman forum experience we headed to the crowning jewel of the ancient Roman world, the Colosseum. It’s crazy to think sometimes of the centuries of history that have played out on the very spot that you’re standing. That’s the feeling that you get when you enter the Colosseum. Not only does the magnificent design impress and amaze, but it’s easy to imagine all the spectacles that the amphitheatre has witnessed throughout it’s history. With so much to see, the Roman Forum is a must for anyone visiting Rome. A couple of highlights for me in Rome would definitely be the Pantheon, the Colosseum and Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and of course, Nona's restaurant.
The next day we sadly bid farewell to the incredible city of Rome. Our sadness, however, was soon overtaken by our excitement about getting to our next destination. Cinque Terre. Before leaving for our trip we had seen hundreds of photo’s of Cinque Terre and heard numerous people raving about how amazing it is, so we were naturally very keen to see it for ourselves. Naturally we had a stop off on the way to get our classic tourist picture at the leaning tower of Pisa, and then continued on our way. Unfortunately, our first order of business on arrival at Cinque Terre, finding somewhere to stay, didn’t go exactly as planned. We had found a spot specifically for motor homes that looked really good so we headed there first, and after an arduous journey up a winding mountain road we were dismayed to find that the site was completely full. So we turned around and headed back down the mountain to the town we had driven through, Levanto. On we way we were google searching and calling campsites. We found a total of 6 sites including the one we had just tried. We were starting to get a bit worried, however, as we were noticing numerous other vans driving around the town. And after calling 3 of the 5 remaining sites we realised that they also were looking for somewhere to stay. Needless to say, we were getting worried. We arrived at site number 5 of 6 and Maddie and Amy walked in to ask the question. As they returned to Frankie I looked at them and Amy just gave me a thumbs down. Oh dear. Site number 6 of 6 was just around the corner so we headed there and started to discuss our options. Maddie wandered in alone this time, leaving Amy and I feeling very nervous. As she return a giant smile lit her face and she let out a big cheer. To our amazement, we had gotten the last spot in the site. With a feeling of sheer relief we settled into our site and prepared ourselves for what was to come the next morning.
We faced the next morning with a feeling of both excitement and dread. We had planned to do the Blue Path hike which, by all accounts, was quite difficult. Nevertheless we set out to see what we could find. We started the path at the town of Monterosso heading to the end point at Riomaggiore. Setting out on what was supposedly the most difficult section of the path we quickly discovered that this was not going to be a nice easy stroll. Unlike our nice gentle downhill hike at Amalfi, this was hundreds of stairs, up then down, then up again. All of the aches and pains were beyond worth it for the incredible view we were met by as we approached the town of Vernazza. Absolutely amazing! We took a drink break on the breakwall to recuperate, and after losing and recovering my GoPro in the rocks, we were on our way again. Now this next section supposedly got easier than the first section. We would like to thoroughly disagree with whoever said that! I think it was just as hard as the first section, only that we were already exhausted, but we soldiered on anyway, and again were met with an amazing view of the town of Corniglia where we had another drinks break. To our absolute devastation (but my secret relief) the path from there on had be blocked by landslides, so we were forced to take the train for the final 2 stops. How terrible!. But I think by that point we were happy to sit for a bit. At the end of the train line we found my favourite of the 5 towns we saw, Riomaggiore. An amazing little town on a steep cove with brightly coloured houses lining the cliffs and the most incredible clear water. That being said all the towns there are amazing in their own right. Despite the difficulty of the walk I would strongly recommend it to anyone going to Cinque Terre and would definitely do it again one day.
The next day we opted for the train and spent a lazy day lounging by the beach at Monterosso and snorkelling at Riomaggiore. Absolute relaxation. But the night is what brought the highlight for that day. We went looking for a restaurant for dinner and got a recommendation of the receptionist at our camp. Unfortunately her suggestion was closed that night so we had to choose one for ourselves. We had a wander around and remembered a restaurant we had walked past the night before that looked really good. And it was! I realise that a lot of my highlights are being food related but when Maddie says she had the best fish of her life how could I not mention it. Safe to say we're loving our food tour of Europe.
Again we were sad to be farewelling another amazing place, but also again we were soon to be amazed. This time we were headed for the town of Portofino. We found ourselves an amazing free camp spot hidden under the trees with a view of the coastline, then, with much difficulty, caught the bus to Portofino. Now if Cinque Terre is the classic Cadillac convertible of Italian towns, Portofino is the Rolls Royce. With exclusive waterfront dining, expensive shopping, amazing waterfront, and immaculate yachts it's safe to say that's where I'll be holidaying once I get rich and famous. Unfortunately we only had the one afternoon there but Portofino really left quite the impression on us Absolutely amazing!
The next day was sad indeed as it saw an end to our time in Italy. It was time for us to head the the French city of Nice. Oh how nice!