Italy Part Three - Taormina to Venice

4th May, 1995
5th May, 1995
6th May, 1995
7th May, 1995
8th May, 1995
9th May, 1995

Thursday, 4th May, 1995

Taormina photograph

Street Scene, Taormina,Sicily

Drop Cap o Taormina today. Unfortunately I seem to have caught traveller's tummy and had a bad night. However, off we went. The bus took us to the bottom of the Funivia, a cable car to the heights of Taormina, a hill top town with a Greek theatre, narrow twisting streets full of flowers and shutters and souvenir shops.

Greek Theatre photograph

Ruins of the Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily

It really was the sort of Italy I have been thinking of, rather than the pathetic slums of Naples and the crumbling grandeur of Rome. We saw all over the Ancient Greek Theatre which is spectacularly sited on the hillside with a view of Mt. Etna, visible today in its snowcapped splendour.

Greek Theatre photograph

Ruins of the Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily

Greek Theatre photograph

Mac at the Greek Theatre, Taormina, Sicily

We had brunch, cappuccino and panini in a sidewalk cafe under orange trees and bought a couple of boxes, one cheap from a hole in the wall stall, one less cheap from a jeweller. Of the two vendors the one who was getting L4000 was more interested than the one who was getting L25000. They seem to resent somehow the need to give service as an interruption in their daily lives. Our hotel here, the Ramada, has the first receptionist I have seen smiling.

Friday, 5th May, 1995

Drop Cap p at crack of dawn for a long day's travel through Greek Mythology. We commenced at Naxos, where Ariadne was dumped by Theseus after she showed him through the Labyrinth. Then along the Cyclops coast where Ulysses met Polyphemus, to Messina between Scylla and Charybdis. Up through Calabria through gorgeous alpine scenery of the Calabrian Appenines, snow capped peaks, slopes covered in new green leaves and carpeted with wildflowers, poppies, iris etc, with crumbling medieval castles on the high crags spilling villages down the slopes. It is incredible how they got the building materials up there.

Sorrento photograph

Port of Sorrento, Italy

Drop Cap e passed by Salerno and Eboli (where Christ stopped) and through tunnels and bridges to Sorrento. Sorrento is named after the Sirens met by Ulysses in Greek mythology. The hotel is well above the town, which leaves you little option but the expensive hotel restaurants. The room is not as nice as the last two nights, I've heard a lot of complaints. There is a Rotary convention on here and I think they fitted us in around them. We were to have had an optional Sorrentine dinner tonight but it was cancelled at the last moment, leaving us all dressed up with nowhere to go. Se we went to the "coffee shop" restaurant in the hotel where we shared a table with John and Anne Russell from Brisbane who were very nice. We had a good meal of prawns and asparagus and grilled chicken (me) and ravioli and scalopppini (Mac) with a bottle of rose and cappuccino. Very nice at L77,000. Tomorrow Capri!

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Saturday, 6th May, 1995

Drop Cap o Capri today, we took mini buses to the wharf and got the ferry, fairly large and seething with the usual school children. The harbour was very misty. Our guide, Enrico, said it was because they had had two fine warm days following a week of rain. Our weather has been great so far. We are very lucky, it was perfect for the Blue Grotto today, no wind and plenty of sun. Arriving at Capri we separated into Pino's group and our optional group and went our separate ways.

Capri photograph

Panorama of Capri, Italy

Drop Cap nrico took us to the pier and we embarked in a launch to the Blue Grotto. It was a pleasant trip up until the Blue Grotto, then we had to transfer to little rowing boats. This was very hard for me and even worse getting back. However, the Blue Grotto was fabulous! The water was a clear and vivid aqua blue - so clear that it was incredible to think that it is 20 meters deep. There were little jelly fish called Medusas floating in it and the boatman and I talked about them in Italian. He asked if I WAS Italian, so it must have been alright. It was really meraviglioso! After manoeuvring ourselves back on board we headed back to the port where we took mini buses to Anacapri high on the crags.

New Hats photograph

In our New Hats, Capri

Drop Cap efore that I bought Mac and me hats - his tweed cap is very hot and I need something. So he got a little white Gilligan hat with Capri on it and I got a white cap with Italia, Capri on it. Up to Anacapri, twisting round the bends of the narrow road. We walked to a panorama spot, passing San Michele, the home of author Axel Munthe who wrote about it here. Then we minibussed to Capri town, half way down the hill, where we had lunch. Sitting at an outdoor table with a great view we had pizza (our first in Italy) and orange juice. The pizza was delicious - the crust much lighter and crisper than at home and just a simple tomato and mozzarella topping.

Capri photograph

Residential area, Capri, Italy

Drop Cap e went for a walking tour after lunch to the most attractive prospect in Capri, and it was lovely. Capri, like Katoomba, has a lot going for it in natural beauty but man has not been kind. It is so built up and built over you can hardly see it. Mac and I got hopelessly lost in the residential sector while returning from this walk and only just made the funicular for the descent to the port. Our boat this time was an airconditioned hydrofoil (I think) a much faster and more comfortable trip. Home to the hotel to crash. Dinner in the coffee shop again this evening and early start tomorrow. Pompeii!!

Sunday, 7th May, 1995

Drop Cap ff early to a wood inlaying factory and workshop. They do the most intricate intarsio (marquetry) on wood but it is a bit overpowering at first sight of the showroom. It's really not my style - too ornate and the boxes were all too big.

Pompeii photograph

Our local guide, Pompeii, Italy

Drop Cap hen on to Pompeii! We met a local guide here and he was terrific. He knew his subject and was most enthusiastic and interesting.

Pompeii photograph

Pompeii, Italy

Drop Cap t was rather hard going, especially after yesterday but worth every puff. The frescoes on the walls, little details like white pebbles incorporated in the street paving to light up at night like catseyes, the fast food joint (apparently one character owned a huge number of these pavement eateries with coals under one hole to keep food hot and ice under some for cold drinks - talk about McDonalds) There were sit down restaurants and tavernas too so these were genuine fast food outlets.

Pompeii photograph

Fast food Outlet, Pompeii, Italy

Drop Cap was flipping over all of it. We had to leave far too soon for such a huge complex but I bought a book on it to read when I get home. We had lunch in a motorway service area and that's when things started to go wrong. I developed pains in the stomach, cold sweats and felt I might even be sick, so Mac asked Pino if we could manage another stop. He did and it got somewhat more manageable but I have a terrible fear of being sick in Venice.

Peristyle photograph

Peristyle Garden in Pompeiian House, Italy

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Drop Cap e arrived at Assisi in time to see the Cathedral, St.Francis' cell and chapel. Assisi is a very pretty town, all ups and downs. We had to leave the bus outside the town and walk through the medieval archway to our hotel, the Giotto. Our hotel is strange in shape. We went down two flights from the lobby and our room is still at least two floors up from the ground. We have a tiny balcony with a wonderful view.

Assisi photograph

Panorama from our Balcony Assisi, Italy

Drop Cap hile taking a panoramic shot the camera seized up so we thought it might need new batteries. We went out to have a walk and see if we could get some when a child materialised from under a cobblestone and handed us a pamphlet of special Kodak offers. It seemed like a sign from the gods so we followed her and got the batteries and a film. Came back and had dinner, which I probably shouldn't have done, hope all will be working properly tomorrow. Venice!

Monday, 8th May, 1995

Assisi photograph

The Town Gate, Assisi, Italy

Drop Cap ff and away from beautiful Assisi en route for Ravenna through the rugged Appenine Mountains. We used a mountain road as the Autostrada is not yet finished, but it was lovely scenery, eroded peaks, forested slopes and shallow streams bubbling over the stones. It was a shame to get back on the motorway. Ravenna is a Byzantine centre and we saw two churches, San Vitale, built in the 5th century and decorated with mosaics all over the altarpiece and the most fabulous marble pillars and columns. It glittered with gold and the mosaics were very colourful. Our guide assured us that they had not been touched up and were as they had been back in the 400's. Unbelievable! Then we saw the Mausoleum of the Empress Galla Placidia, mother and regent of the emperor. Her little chapel where the stone sarcophagi lie is a Byzantine jewel, all mosaics in shades of blue and gold, surmounted by a dome with a sky full of stars, twinkling in the light because of the Byzantine practice of setting the mosaic stones not entirely flat. It was quite lovely! After lunch in Ravenna at a sidewalk cafe we drove on to Venice via the Po valley, sacred to the memory of Don Camillo. It is a huge river and a very fertile valley.

Grand Canal photograph

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

Drop Cap enice!! The bus couldn't get to the hotel which is on the Grand Canal so we stopped outside the town and carried our hand luggage to the water bus. We went one stop then out and walked a short distance to the Grand Hotel Principe. The lobby is alright but the room is VERY small. No view except across a garden to the windows of Ed and Betty Lusk, lovely people from Tennessee. I was hoping for a view of the canal. We went for a walk after we settled in, halfway to the Rialto and bought a calendar with views of Venice for L9000. The jewellery shops are tempting but we will wait until after our tour tomorrow before committing ourselves. Our gondola serenade tonight was postponed until tomorrow but it doesn't seem the same. At least we can photograph in the daytime, I suppose.

Hotel Principe photograph

On the Terrace, Hotel Principe, Venice, Italy

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Tuesday, 9th May, 1995

SanMarco photograph

Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy

Drop Cap fter a not very appealing breakfast this morning Pino gathered us up and took us to the Ferrovia ferry stop to pick up our launch for a quick jaunt around the canals to St.Mark's Square where we got a local guide who told us about the square which is huge and full of coffee tables. We saw the Church of St.Mark,(the Apostle) whose bones lie there after having been smuggled out of Egypt.

San Marco photograph

Cat Among the Pigeons, P.San Marco, Venice

Drop Cap t had a clock tower which had two statues banging a bell for the hours and both the mechanism for this and the clock were original, (600 years old). Another mechanism also told the time in digital fashion, increasing by 5 minutes each time and showing the hours in Roman numerals and the minutes in Arabic. It's over 100 years old! We saw a demo of Venetian glassblowing and lots of showrooms. Not my style - too much gold, too ornamented.

Bridge of Sighs photograph

Bridge of Sighs, Venice, Italy

Doges Palace photograph

Facade of the Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy

Venice photograph

Roundabout, Venice Style

Drop Cap fter coffee in St.Mark's square (L16000 - $15) for two cappuccinos! we went off for our gondola ride. I had expected this to be a highlight, but somehow in the broad light of day it loses something. Some of those back street canals are a bit sinister. However, we had about an hour and we could get some photographs. I hope they come out well.

Venice photograph

Canal, Venice, Italy

Drop Cap hen we walked from San Marco to the Rialto, a bridge covered in shops and Shakespearian connotations, and from there back to the hotel, via a sidewalk cafe for lunch. Very tired.

Venice photograph

Decorated Drain Pipes (Reverse Gargoyles?) Venice

Venice photograph

Vertical View of Venice, Italy

Drop Cap t five o'clock we forgathered for our excursion across the lagoon to Burano Island, famous for lacework and the fresh fish suppliers for Venice. This is a most picturesque place, all the houses are painted in different strong colours, Reckitts blue next to lime green next to brick red. Here we looked at lace for sale, amazingly cheap for the workmanship and had a fabulous fish dinner of the specialties of the island. Unlimited wine, water etc. We had a good night out.

Drop Cap omorrow we have another early start for the Italian lakes, Stresa, Isola Bella etc. Straight out of the language series I used to watch, Buongiorno Italia, set in Stresa.

Burano photograph

Burano, Italy

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