Sorrento & The Island of Capri

Today we set off by train to Sorrento which was only about ½ hour away from Pompei (or Pompeii) as there appears to be two ways of spelling this town.

We didn’t know that Sorrento was on cliffs, but as ever we migrated down to the port which was really busy – but it’s not really suitable for yachts.


Coastline off Sorrento


As the Island of Capri was only a short ferry ride away we decided to go over for a quick look around. Now in our heads we had visualised Capri as being a lovely quite undeveloped island. Boy did we get a shock as it was absolutely manic with throngs of people and nonstop ferry traffic bringing more people in and others leaving……..pop went our wee bubble!

Arriving at Capri


The local Taxi’s are kind of neat with their bimini’s instead of roofs!


While in a cafe we got chatting to a couple from Brisbane in Australia, and they suggested as we were only over for the day to get a ½ hour boat trip to the Blue Grotto where you transfer into small rowing boats and go through a really low entrance into the Grotto. We weighed up going round Capri town, but with the place being so busy we opted for the Blue Grotto.

This turned out to be a lot of fun, as the boat took us along the coastline where there are no roads, and we duly arrived and had to wait for our turn to get into a tiny rowing boat and had to sit on the floor, both for ballast and balance and also lie back to get in through this really low entrance.



As you can see from the following photo it’s easy to see how it gets its name.


The other thing that was neat today was seeing the “Royal Clipper” as I remember watching a TV programme about this boat, and how an old steel boat was purchased and then lengthened. It’s quite remarkable that the square rig is fully electronic and controlled via a console with no need for hands to go up the masts. The last two masts double up as funnels and I think it would cost a pretty penny or two for a holiday aboard her……


Really good day, but we were both a bit tired after walking about Rome and Pompei so it was a really nice change to have an easy day.

Pompeii – by train

Our train trip from Rome to Naples on the regional train was only 10.50 euros each and took around two hours. The faster train which only takes one hour costs 45 euros each. Then the train from Naples to Pompeii was only 2 euros each – so all in all 12.50 euros per person from Rome to Pompeii – really good value.

We had booked ourselves into the Forum Hotel which is really handy as it’s only about 100 metres from the entry to the Pompeii site, and if you are ever visiting it’s a hotel we would happily recommend.

We spent the whole of today walking around Pompeii and were amazed at, not only the scale of the site, but also how much of it remains intact and some of it with so such detail still remaining.




The way the city managed it’s whole plumbing system was quite remarkable, and from the following photo you can see through the exposed part of the wall, one of the water pipes.


Also up on one of the walls, there was an ornamental Amphora (?) which was adorning the front of a house that still survives to this day whilst the one next to it has been broken off at some time, we both thought this was quite incredible.


Then we came across one of the most amazing things; window shutters that have “turned to stone” and are still in situ….


The bodies that were uncovered during the excavation, and are part of the tourist bit we both found to be a bit macarbe – but they do form part of the “Pompeii experience”.


It was really hot again today and you might think I’m pulling your leg, but there is a Cafeteria in the middle of the site – all modern and noisy like a works canteen. However there is a much better option than going here for refreshments/food and that is to go to Villa dei Misterie and just outside there is a delightful family run restaurant all shaded and cool – really good atmoshpere and food.

Finally here is Mount Vesuvius which caused this tragedy on 24th August 79AD, and lets hope it sleeps forever.


Rome (last full day)

This being our last full day in Rome we up and away early this morning to explore more places of interest and revisit some others.

Spanish Steps………all sing together “..this is the self preservation society” – and I’m sure I heard Michael Cain’s voice!


Piazza Navona, in Sara’s mind second only to the Trevi Fountain. Pity the barriers were still up from yesterdays protests…


Readers of Dan Brown will recognise Castel Sant’Angelo used on the cover of his book


We tried to slip in a side door to the Vatican, but the Swiss Guards were having non of it….


If ever you visit Rome to do the tourist bit, it is eminently walkable. Just have comfy shoes, a good street map and off you go. It’ even fun getting “lost” as you always find something of interest.



Rome (cont)

The weather today was absolutely scorching – mid to high 30’s, therefore we thought it wise to jump onto an open top bus and nab the seats with the shade above our heads. This was fine but there was a “technical hitch” with the commentary so we didn’t quite get all the information we wanted.

However as the bus approached the Vatican it was clear that there was some kind of service being conducted by the Pope…


Later on in the bus tour we hit total gridlock so decided to jump off and walk. The reason why initially I was surprised at how light the traffic was when we arrived v todays traffic, is simply that there is some kind of congestion charge being operated.

Yesterday there was a strike by the Unions over the Italian Governments austerity package to try and balance off their 1.7 trillion euros (or whatever it is) debt. This being the case we couldn’t get into the Colosseum, but today when we arrived the queues looked huge. Now those that know me also know that me and queue’s don’t exactly go hand in hand.

However this looked worse than it turned out to be. The reason for most of the queue is that people arrive at the payment booth to rent an audio guide, only to be told that they must leave either their passport or a credit card !!!!! Yeah and everyone is keen to do this – NOT. This causes untold angst and confusion, and also the delays.

If ever you go simply buy a ticket that includes an actual human guide as this is only a couple of euros more, but they don’t tell you this when trying to hire the audio guide. Both of which are booked at the same window!! So people leave the queue until they find this out, then rejoin to book the human guide………staggering in this day and age.

Anyhow our guide was really good albeit there is a limit to what they can impart in 1.5 hrs tour. I really enjoyed our time spent with the tour and then our own time exploring the rest of the arena. In this shot you can see the structure/chambers that were under the actual floor, and part of the reconstructed floor at the far end.


This photo shows the activity that would have been taking place down there during the games. I couldn’t help think of all the anxiety and fear that would have ran through those who were to meet their end on the arena floor.


The rest of the day was spent walking and exploring and I’m sure my legs were three inches shorter when we got back to the hotel.

Barcelona to Rome …… Plane

This morning we were up and away early to catch our “el cheapo” flight to Rome. Landing in Rome we checked out that the train would have cost us about 30 euros, but taking a shared taxi we could get dropped off at the door of the hotel for 40 euros – easy decision.

On the way to the hotel we just turned a corner in the taxi and suddenly there was the Colosseum – a chorus of oo’s and ahh’s were spontaneously emitted by all. At that point we then felt for sure that we had actually arrived in Rome.


What we were expecting was wall to wall traffic and noise, and we were astonished at how light the traffic actually was in the centre of Rome. Perhaps it’s just the time of year?

We quickly checked in to the hotel and then out to do our initial sightseeing. Given that the Trevi fountain was within short walking distance away this seemed like a logical starting point, so off we toddled. I’m sure you will agree it’s rather impressive.


As I sang “Three Coins in a Fountain” (well I would have done if I had known the tune and the lyrics) Sara was throwing her coin to ensure, as the legend goes, that she will return to Rome. Two coins would mean falling in love with an Italian, and three would mean marrying said Italian………I did have a quick look to see what she had lifted out of her purse! 🙂


The balance of the day was spent looking at a number of interesting places, with for us the most interesting being the Pantheon. It’s truly amazing it is still standing in all it’s glory after all these years, especially when one considers that Hadrian’s Wall and the Pantheon were built in the same era.




So today consisted of breakfast in Barcelona and lunch in Rome – not too shabby!!………sometimes we do have to pinch ourselves, to make sure it’s not a dream.


Our love of this city has not diminished since the last time we were here, and we have enjoyed visiting some of our favourite places, which tend to surround the work of Gaudi.

The last time we were here the queue to visit the apartment block La Pedrera was so long that we decided to give it a miss.


This time there was no queue at all and we had a great time, starting off up on the roof terrace with the famous “Warrior Chimneys” which we both thought were amazing, and we had a real buzz at finally seeing them up close.

This photo shows the inside part of the building


Here are some photos taken on the roof.




Down from the roof terrace there is the attic where one can see the support structure for the roof, which in itself is almost art. The following photo of a model taken inside the attic is the only real way one can see the complete building.


Then it’s down to the next level where there is an apartment fully furnished in the period of the building which was also extremely interesting.

Now rather than me sound like the Barcelona Tourist Board I’ll leave it there and finish off with a photo of Casa Batllo.