Sunday, 28 August 2011

Our journey home - days 11 to 14, Spoleto and Spello

Wow, those days since I last updated have gone quickly!  Just two weeks today and we will be home in Australia; but we have a few things to do before then.

Our last few days in Spoleto were very lazy ones.  We lounged about and relaxed a lot!  Richard's shoulder was really giving him strife and the bed in Spoleto didn't help it, nor I must say did the driving a manual on very twisty windy roads when the gear changes had to be done with the right hand.  He had to drive because my English license says I have only been driving for one year and the insurance for me to drive was ridiculous!

I will see how many days I can cover with this blog.  The uploading is very slow so it may take a few goes for me to catch up!

On Tuesday we went for a drive up into the mountains (Monti Sibillini) around Umbria and the border of Le Marche.  In the winter this area is a snowfield and there were chairlifts and ski lifts on various hillsides.  It was incredibly beautiful but we did not take many photos because it was too hard to stop!  Here is a typical view though:

On Wednesday we stayed in Spoleto and went for a walk to find the Roman Theatre.  There is not much to see there other than a small stretch of the wall on the outside and the occasional glimpse inside through  the broken boarding that is on all the windows.

We also visited our favourite gelateria - the pear with grappa and the chocolate orange were divine!!

One night, out the front of this shop, we were treated to the sight of a guy dressed up as a Roman Warrior with a boom box karaoke machine singing along to Robbie Williams 'Real Love'.  It was hilarious!  He then handed out little credit card size fliers to groups of young men.  I think it was for a gay club because one of the young men very happily gave his to me when he heard me saying I wanted one for my journal!

On Wednesday night we visited the most fabulous little restaurant and I am so sorry that I didn't take my camera out to dinner that night!  It was gorgeous and the food was fabulous too!  We had a pasta that was done with bacon and green beans....ohhh!!!

On Thursday we visited a little town called Spello.  It is an ancient village and the home of many artists.  They had a gallery there devoted to Norberto.  It has some of the coolest paintings of flying monks!  Just loved it.  The photo of the statue of St Francis on the horse in Assisi on my previous blog is one of his works too!  Spello was lovely, but it was hard work making our way up the hill in the heat, so again first stop was a gelati! It was well worth the trip.

There was an embroidery display in this hall and the chariot and the mangonel that follow were the displays in the front foyer.

A sundial.  It was a work done by a local artist as a memorial piece. 

Porta dell'Arce (a gate from the Roman ages)

San Severino a 7th century church!  When we went inside there was a nun and another young woman playing the guitar and singing.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Think Enya meeting with angels! 

The wall and tower connected to the church.

Some of the fabulous roadways in Spello.

The main gate into the village.

Friday morning I started the day with coffee and a chocolate croissant in the artists' cafe near our apartment.

Again we had a lazy day, went for a walk and had a very late lunch in another restaurant just near our front door.

We were the only ones eating at this time, but we had walked past many times and seen it very busy.  We had a pizza that was not the best we have had on this trip, but still better than many you would get in Australia!

On Friday night the lady who was our host invited us to join her, out at her family property for 'cake after dinner'!  We drove out there (about 20 minutes out of Spoleto in a village called Poreta).  She had guests from her two other apartments there as well as us.  The other two couples were lovely people.  One couple were from Milton Keynes (just out of London), but were both born in Halifax, 7 miles down the road from where Richard was born.  The other couple were from Bavaria and were both special needs teachers!  You can imagine that we all found a lot to chat about!  The cake was delicious - zuppa inglese and an apple cake followed by watermelon! It was a great night.

I will leave this here and follow up with Rome soon!  Bye for now (Richard says I have to add 'too busy admiring my new shoes!').

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Our journey home - days 8 to 10, Spoleto and Assisi

On Saturday we drove from the Amalfi Coast to Spoleto in Umbria.  Once we were off the coast, the roads widened and straightened out considerably and we were able to make good time.  We arrived about four, but had arranged to meet the owner of the apartment at five so we did a little bit of grocery shopping, had a cold drink and then waited for her. The apartment is right in the middle of Spoleto and so that means we have to park the car on the outskirts of town and then walk in!  It’s OK until you consider we are moving half a house with us!  So we did two trips to get most of it into the apartment! 

Our three front doors!
Door 1

Door 2 

..and Door 3 behind Door 2! 

The first night by the time we had settled in we just went for a short walk in the immediate area and then had dinner at a restaurant that is almost at our front door! 

On Sunday we stayed in town.  Richard’s shoulder was hurting from all the driving around bends on Friday and we were both tired.  We did boring things like some washing and just lazed around and read and snoozed!  In the afternoon we went down to the piazza at our front door and had gelati.  The best we have had so far on this trip!  There was a lemon one that was just superb!

Later in the evening we went for quite a long walk and took some fabulous photos of the area:

Nearly every village we have been in has had a stage set up.  This is the first performance we have seen though!

The clock on Piazza Mercato 

One of the many lane ways! 

The aquaduct 

As you can see it is breathtakingly beautiful.  After our walk we went out for dinner and both had rabbit casserole.  Again it was fabulous and for desert I had pineapple and basil sorbet!  We are getting an ice-cream maker when we get home so that I can experiment!

Today, Monday we went to Assisi.  We started off at the Chiesa di San Maria sopra Minerva Tempio di Minerva.  The paintings in there were breath taking.  There were no photographing signs everywhere.  We find it really strange that as atheists we respect that but a lot of the obviously catholic people were madly clicking away! There are signs also asking for silence, yet so many do not respect that either!  Here is a photo of the outside:

Next we went down to the Chiesa Nuova.  It was built in 1615 on the remains of the building believed to be the house of St Francis’ family.  We were able to take a few photos in here and some just at the door.

St Clare and St Francis

The dome in the Chiesa Nuova 

The Oratorio di San Francesco Piccolino is a tiny chapel where it is believed St Francis was born.  Here is the doorway to the chapel, but again it was not appropriate to take photos inside.

Our next stop was the Basilica di Santa Chiara.  It is an example of Italian gothic architecture built between 1257 and 1265.  It has paintings from the 12th-14th Centuries and the body of St Clare is preserved in the crypt.  Again no photos, but again people taking them!  A bit macabre if you ask me!  To top it off they make the sign of the cross as they leave.  Do they need to then go to confession after that? 

We had lunch and then trekked down to the Basilica di San Francesco.  This was fabulous.  I actually found it very moving and more so because in here people seemed to have more respect.  Is that because there were quite a few nuns and priests around?  I don’t know.  The interiors of both the upper and lower churches were fabulous.  The most glorious paintings and it all just felt so, so peaceful.  

We went down to the tomb of St Francis and I have to say that I found it very moving.  It was incredible seeing the reverence of the visitors compared with other places we had visited.  They filed past the tomb and touched it.  I saw two old ladies touch the tomb, and then turn to each other and hug with tears in their eyes.  It brought the tears to my eyes.  Visiting the tomb obviously meant a great deal to them and here the respectful silence was palpable.  Walking away from the tomb I spotted a young couple with a baby with obvious disabilities sitting in the chapel saying their prayers.  The mum had tears in her eyes, again I welled up.  Although I don’t believe, I did have a thought for some of my dear friends who do and sent my wishes of well for them.  I wonder if they count?

I have found a cafe very near where we are staying with wifi!  It has a great atmoshpere and I have eaten breakfast and am sitting drinking and iced tea as I do this.  Richard is or was still at home in bed.  The music playing is fabulous.  I will say bye for now and post this.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Our journey home - days 6 and 7, Positano and Ravello

Yesterday and today have been two absolutely gorgeous days.  Initially Plan A had us going to Naples yesterday, but as we did not want to drive into Naples and we had no internet access to plan our alternative route we decided to catch the bus down to Positano again and go to the tourist information centre to get some advice so that we could head into Naples today.  On the bus trip down we got chatting to an English woman.  She said she had been to Ravello on the previous day and that she would absolutely recommend it.  We didn't really give it another thought at the time....well maybe we did, but we didn't discuss it with each other at the time.  We went into Positano and the Information Centre and found we could drive or catch the bus to a town called Meta and then catch the train to Naples.  Job done, off we went to find some lunch (well for the past few days it has been our one and only meal of the day!) We decided to walk around the headland a bit further than we had previously.

The harbour area of Positano.

The view from the harbour back up to town. 

.....and this is the view back to Positano and the harbour as we walked further around the headland. 

The place with the arches on the right in the centre is where we ended up eating lunch. 

The view towards the west from that beach. 

After lunch we wandered through town a bit more, in and out of galleries and then had yet another gelati and came home!

We woke this morning and Richard 'admitted' to me that he didn't really feel like going to Naples and wondered what I thought about going to Ravello instead.  I breathed a big sigh of relief because I was going to put the same suggestion to him!  So we lazed about this morning and then headed off for Ravello and I am so glad we made that decision.  Ravello is just gorgeous!  Where the pace everywhere else on the Amalfi Coast has been somewhat frantic, Ravello was incredibly relaxed and quiet.  It is inland from Amalfi and is incredibly charming.

The view across from town as we arrived.  I just love all the terraces that are filled with fruit trees and vegetables!

The view across the town square when we first climbed the stairs into town. I just went 'oohh!'

Today's restaurant view as I ate the most delicious tuna cooked in citrus honey and grilled vegetables and enjoyed 250ml of white wine! 

Maybe this is why it is such a relaxed place! 

Notice how quiet it is!  That was one of the things that made it so lovely! 

There were many of these pottery galleries and other art galleries in town! 

... and some gorgeous towers! 

I am so glad we went there today rather than Naples!  

I may not be able to blog for the next week or so as I do not think we will have internet access, but I intend to 'journal' on my computer so that I can download it as a blog or two, or three from Rome!  Tomorrow we head up to a little town called Spoleto in Umbria.  Until next time keep safe and lots of love!