Friday Night Wine & Revisiting Italy

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Looking down the Spanish Steps, Rome, September 2018.

I’m going to try to revisit Rome, again.

The above picture is from shortly after we arrived in Italy. We were stubborn and determined to walk from Roma Termini, where we were dropped off by a bus that we’d caught from the airport, to our accommodation, just off Piazza del Popolo.

Google maps is a bit of a saviour. I can’t really imagine having to look at old school maps to get around a city like Rome, with a suitcase, in that heat – 34 degrees celsius. We didn’t really know it at the time and partly followed our noses as much as the map but the route we took was quite scenic, leading us to see some iconic sites of Rome on the way! The aforementioned heat is NOT something we are used to in New Zealand so we had to stop several times on the way, simply to rest. Our walk was probably about 40 minutes, maybe longer with the stops and the uneven cobblestones but we were really relieved to find ourselves safely at our apartment – Al Corso 4.

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Looking down onto Piazza del Popolo, Rome, September 2018.

Our accommodation was just at the entrance to this piazza and we walked down these steps, rested a bit and then realised just how close we were. We were too early for our prearranged check in though, and still had our suitcases which were a bit awkward, but decided to eat our first Roman gelato of many and tried not to melt ourselves.

This was our first lesson in how much Italian we DID NOT learn in advance. We also found ourselves getting stage fright with what we did know. And the conventions of buying things in Italy are not the same as New Zealand. Usually at home, we pay after we have ordered and pay the same person, generally, who served us. We sort of knew in advance that things could operate differently but it was amazing how long we took to get used to this and how intimidating it was at times. We eventually worked it out, after browsing gelato flavours for some time, that we were doing something wrong and were directed to purchase the gelato at a cash register quite far from the gelato. This probably sounds silly but we are just not used to that, and after hours and hours of flights, walking in the heat it all felt quite odd! That said, the eventual cooling gelato made the whole awkward experience worth it!

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View of Piazza del Popolo from our apartment. September 2018.

We checked in to our lovely apartment at Al Corso 4 and I think we just kinda collapsed for a bit. We rested and I had preplanned the route to the supermarket which we headed to later in the day, an early evening stroll, to get essential supplies, coffee, genuine spicy Italian deli meat (I think it was salami?) gluten free crackers, pickled onions, olives, and surprisingly cheap Italian Brie. We basically made a really lame antipasto. With wine. When you are as tired as we were, that seemed amazing.

I am struggling to remember the hazy details of our first day in Italy. We were a bit overwhelmed by the bustle of Rome – so, so different and about a million times busier than our home city Wellington – the smell, the heat, the hustlers (that we observed but were not hustled by on this day), and the language barrier. I want to keep writing about Italy because I am realising that it is fading a little. I have been reliving the experience a little through other people’s photos on Pinterest and of course my own. More to come.

Campania Day 2 – Pompeii

I’ve been quite distracted from continuing my Travels in Italy blogging by many real life activities but now it is time to sit down with a glass of wine and continue, or it may never happen! I want to be able to look back on this trip as it’s unlikely my life will allow for another big trip in the near future…

The main drawcard to Naples, was to see Pompeii. It was a must-see if we were to go all the way from New Zealand to Italy…

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Animal Frescoes at Pompeii – September 2018

Before I will continue I will get my biggest Pompeii-travel-tip out of the way.

TAKE WATER! Don’t fear that you bag with your water bottle in it is too big (unless it is truly massive) and check it in…

We spent half the day at Pompeii but probably could have stayed longer, had we had our water bottle with us. There are a few fountains and we managed to get some water on board through using our hands as cups but this was less than ideal. We missed some final parts of the site and really skimmed over some of the houses because I was really starting to fade in the heat.

Pompeii is EXTRA hot because there is not much shade and the stones in the ground also emanate heat back at you.

Despite not seeing at all, we had a worthwhile and interesting time at Pompeii. It is a mixed feeling being there. You are interested in seeing so much history but also acutely aware of those who lost their lives in the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Photo looking into the Antiquarium. Many amphorae & several casts of bodies found. People throw coins in, honouring those who lost their lives.

Our strategy when heading to “touristy” sites, is to try to arrive early and miss some of the hordes. We did this reasonably successfully but some parts seemed to be packed most of the day. My number one must-see within Pompeii was the Villa of the Mysteries, and I am so pleased to say that we struck it so lucky there. There were barely any other people there when we visited it. I’d studied it in high school and it is still surreal to me that I have now been there myself. It’s funny though because I was also very taken by the huge Rosemary garden on the site. I had to put my face into it, I cannot deny it.

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Fresco in the Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii, September 2018.

Pompeii is extremely interesting and made me wish I’d revisited my school materials and re-learned things about it before going. That said, it wasn’t really a regret and I still got a lot out of being there. I definitely want to go back if I get the opportunity. Something that really struck me about Italy is that excavations are still happening in all of these famous sites, so I’d love to go back in 20 years or so and see what is new, armed with more knowledge to really soak it all in.

Time travel, History, Now

I think I am still digesting the fact that we went to Italy. The whole time that I was there it felt quite surreal despite things being so different to life here in New Zealand. I theorise that the sheer amount of people & tourists made it feel unreal or perhaps that so much of what we saw, I’d seen before, through school books, and online.

We originally were going to go to Prague. I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw a travel show about it when I was 18. Then we thought about it – and both of us are interested in the history of Rome and I had studied it at school and at university – both in classical studies and art history. It started making a lot more sense to go to Italy.

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Piazza Barberini – Late Medieval square with Bernini’s 17th-century Triton Fountain. Sept 3 2018

The above fountain is one of the first I saw in Italy and was certainly the first that made me stop and take a picture, despite the heat and dragging a suitcase across cobble stones.

Everyone tells you that Rome is dirty. There was definitely a hint of rubbish stench in the air and a lot of rubbish discarded around the streets. It’s odd though because I don’t really recall seeing anyone littering as such, so perhaps it is more that the infrastructure just cannot cope with the population, both resident and tourist.

And the weather was hot. It was 34C for a lot of the time we were in Rome. I’m not certain that I had ever experienced that before though it was a different heat to what we get here at lower temperatures. It was a lot more bearable and less searing.  I guess that is what having an intact ozone layer gives Europe. And I have to say, I liked it. I liked it even though it was wearing and we took afternoon breaks most days.

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Finding shady relief on a walk up Janiculum Hill, overlooking the heat of Rome. Sept 14 2018

Considering the conditions, we did a great, huge amount of walking. I think that is the best way to travel, particularly if you allow yourself to get a little bit lost from time to time. We saw a lot – tourist sites and things less well known – but we could have seen plenty more. I already have things saved in a list in case by the good graces of the gods we get to go back one day. Two weeks at a time is the best amount of time away from home for us but it does also place limits.

Here is a list of what we did see (just in Rome – we went to Naples for a few days too) :

  • The Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Del Popolo – we stayed in an apartment overlooking it.
  • The Pantheon
  • Hadrian’s Column
  • Largo di Torre Argentina (Ruins & Cats!)
  • Vatican Square and St Peter’s Basilica (though we didn’t go into the Basilica)
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Lots of walks along the Tiber and the various bridges
  • Villa Borghese – a beautiful park with an old villa full of breathtaking art.
  • The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
  • The Colosseum – we honestly only needed about 10 mins here… will elaborate in a seperate post.
  • Trajan’s Column
  • Fontana della Tartarughe – Turtles!
  • Capuchin’s Crypt and Church
  • Piazza Navona
  • Piazza Venezia
  • Fontana Di Trevi – I have NEVER seen a photo that can do it justice
  • Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • A church that we randomly went into – Igreja de Jesus e Maria
  • Stayed in and dined in Trastevere
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Walked along part of the Appian Way and got lost into a park.
  • Capitoline Museums
  • The Vatican Museums
  • Villa Farnesina – Beautiful villa with amazing art
  • Crypto Balbi Museo
  • Walked along many streets…

I’ve undoubtedly missed things that looking through my over 1300 photos will remind me to add to the list. I still look at the map of Rome and see things that I would like to have been able to see but we took the path of caring for ourselves and making sure that we were able to do something significant every day.

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A street in Trastevere, early one morning. I love the foliage taking over the buildings. Sept 2018

More Italy to come ❤