We Carmen Sandiegos hid out in Tuscany, gained two accomplices in Rome, then headed to our next destination of Naples.
Our earliest tracks could be found at the secluded castle of Montegufoni in Chianti, Tuscany. Here we made vege soup, sipped red wine, and listened to rolling thunderstorms crack overhead. When we could get out amongst nature, we drank in the tear dropped Cyprus trees, heavy branched olives and measured lines of grape vines. We saw a squirrel with a nut shoot up a tree, watched miniature bats flutter at dusk, and poor Maia brought all the mosquitoes out from their stagnant lairs.
With the autostrade as our backbone, we visited petite and cultured Florence, her cityscape an outdoor gallery, buildings works of art. Other drives took us to the circular heart of Siena, steep brick lanes of San Gimignano, and rental nightmares of curb grinding.
Tuscany to us was a magnificently timeless region of Italy, it’s small villages, artisan products, and proud locals nested in the lush countryside. It was a place that encouraged you to slow down and enjoy yourself, and we loved dumping our backpacks on the floor and doing just that. (Thank you Dad, it was perfect).
Footsteps then leading to Rome, we euphorically met up with Mum and Aunty Ange. I had been so nervous to meet them that I paced the train station for hours, oblivious to their messages that they’d already checked in at the hotel. We excitedly joined forces and skipped to the hugely impressive Trevi Fountain then to the Spanish Steps, both lit up spectacularly at night but, unfortunately for our sightseeing eyes, under works. After, we endured the worst meal in Rome – scrambled eggy pasta, owner embarrassingly berating kitchen staff, and Maia and I cringing as Mum and Ange offered the establishment ‘constructive criticism’.
Our next day was considerably more successful, as we toured the wow-worthy scales of the Vatican City and Colosseum. They were sensational. Maia was able to navigate with some dexterity, thanks to the educational qualities of none other than Assassin’s Creed (offering to continue the tuition when we get home. I see what you’re doing there, Solomon!).
After a quick pit-shop, we metroed to Hotel de Russie (featured in Alex Polizzi’s Italy) for pre-tea drinks. Permitted entry at the door, we scooted through to the garden before security realized their mistake, and enjoyed every sip of the three cocktails (one gratis!) and note of the waiter’s serenade that followed. It was an occasion to treasure (thank you so much, Ange), and we stayed so long in this oasis that we axed dinner and jogged to our next booking of Billy Elliot at the theatre. Though a great show, we significantly overestimated our immersive Italian experience to date, and our peepers began to blink closed from interpretation efforts, so at half time Ange refused the pass out ticket (the remainder of us accepted them, feigning return) and we all sleep walked back to our accommodation.
Having made magic memories in Rome and with pockets full of boiled eggs from the breakfast buffet, the band of merry folk went south to Naples. The Jekyll and Hyde of Italy, the city has a bit of somethin-somethin, but it is imperative you are mindful of safety. Rough and ready, Naples is alive, busy, grungy, loud, and young. There is heaps to admire, taste and visit, and a big walk around the city revealed beautiful churches, concert set-ups, palaces and scores of pizzerias. On these rounds we also saw an old dear icing her knee surrounded by police post-mugging, which reminded us how volatile the place can be. Italians love Naples, the city on the bay pulsing under the mighty Mt Vesuvius. Though it wouldn’t be our first choice of Italian destinations, it was a distinctly and surprisingly likeable rogue for these four Kiwis – just watch your back.
Today we all begin a week long bike and boat tour of the Gulf of Naples and Amalfi Coast. With Maia’s busted back and my throat infection, we’ll probably be scooped up by the dreg-collecting van at the rear of the pack, but the itinerary looks amazing and it will be lovely to continue the trip with some family company.
Take care until next we chat.
Photos below (cred to Ma and Angie for their snaps).