Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Endurance and Patience



Today is a two word day – Endurance and Patience; endurance to make it up and down all the hills and stairs in Asissi and patience with ourselves and others when things happen that are frustrating or distressing, like forgetting a wallet at the hotel or thinking you have lost it somewhere…both were found and retrieved.
 Leaving the hotel

Our hotel in Asissi was beautiful and the town is very picturesque, perched on the side of the hill…that should have been a clue that walking might be difficult.  For the superstitious among us, just after we left, a black cat crossed our path.

We were only a short drive from the parking for the Basilica of San Francesco, the mother church of the Franciscan order, named after St Francis in the town where he was born and died.  He was born the son of a very wealthy family and after experiencing a personal call from God he gave up everything taking vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.  


The church is built into the side of the hill and is actually two churches, the Upper and Lower as well as a crypt where the remains of the Saint are interred.  Both churches are decorated with frescos by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools.  Our guide was a font of knowledge about the church. We were not allowed to take any pictures inside the churches.
To get in required walking up a steep hill followed by multiple sets of stairs, up and down.



 Following the visit to the church we had to walk to the town square – it was a long, slow, uphill climb.  It was a testament to the endurance of our group, especially the ones over the age of 80 that we all made it. Those who walked faster and wanted to see more went with the local guide to the other side of the town to see the other important church in the town, while the rest made their way to the square. 

Lunch in the square, sitting at tables was a well-deserved and needed rest – but it required a bit of patience as the single waiter was not very speedy; a drink was spilled, orders forgotten, but in the end, we enjoyed the ambiance of the place and marveled at our endurance and the beauty and history of the place.  When you travel in Italy and walk the streets of Asissi as people have done for thousands of years, Canada’s 150 years of history pales in comparison.

It was a shorter walk to the bus and Silvia, our guide assured us there was an escalator so we wouldn’t have to walk all the way down – there was an escalator, but only one and it was coming up!  Oh well, endurance and patience – to the bus we went.

Leaving town we stopped at a ceramic factory and store where we sampled wine, olive oils, truffles and chocolates. Then it was time to rest on the bus as we made our way to Pistoia, outside of Florence in Tuscany.  Today is the half way point of the trip – we left home last Wednesday and we will return home a week from tomorrow.  May our endurance and our patience, carry us through…along with a healthy dose of laughter and friendship.




Amalfi



After days of walking Tuesday, was a bus driving day.  We checked out of our hotel early and boarded a min bus for a trip down the Amalfi cost to the town of Amalfi.  It is less than 25 km but because the road is narrow and filled with hairpin turns it takes more than an hour to drive. 

 
It is a testament to the skill of the bus drivers that there are very few accidents on the road. It is a positively beautiful drive, even as it might be a bit hair-raising for those who don’t like heights.  The road is built over the edge of the cliffs and the houses and hotels are built on terraces, seemingly carved out of the rock.  The water is a beautiful green and the flowers are stunning.

We stopped for photos overlooking at the village of Positono and the little stand where I bought spices 7 years ago was still there so I was able to replenish my stock of Italian spices.

We had a short stop in Amalfi and then made the return trip to Sorrento where we met up with Fabio our driver and got back in our regular bus to make our way to Assisi. 

Part way we stopped at Villa Adrianna, the ruins of an estate, built by Emperor Hadrian in the 1st century bc.  Unfortunately it was not a very tourist friendly spot since they closed the washrooms in the visitor center, where they used to be, and to get to the washrooms and inside the ancient walls it is at least a 300 m walk uphill and it was hot.  For those in the group who were up to the walk it was enjoyable to wander among the ruins but for others it was disappointing that there was nothing in place for tourists with reduced mobility.

We were late getting to our hotel because there was lots of traffic. Our hotel is magnificent with beautiful gardens and a panoramic view. 

 We are only spending one night in Assisi so tomorrow we will enjoy a visit of the town, learning lots about St Francis and then we will continue to our next hotel close to Florence where we will stay for 3 nights.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

History



We walked into history on Monday as we went to Pompeii an ancient Roman city that was buried under 6 meters of volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted on Aug 24, 79 BC. Our guide Monica was exceptional.  She had a degree in archeology, shared her knowledge with enthusiasm and humour and made sure we saw the highlights of the site.  She was quick to remind us that Pompeii was active 150 years before the Colosseum was built.   


At the time Pompeii was buried it was a sea port and now it is miles from the ocean. As hard as it is to believe, Pompeii was actually forgotten for 1700 years until it was discovered by accident in 1748 by a poor man digging for a well and he came upon an artifact.  Excavation went on for 200 years till 1948 and still 1/3 of the site is still buried.

We walked those ancient streets where you can see the ruts created by chariot wheels.  We perused a bath house and the red light district, where you can still see the fresco's above the doors in the brothel showing the services offered by each prostitute.  


 One could stay all day and roam the site and still not see it all.  It was an amazing morning.

We concluded our visit to Pompeii with a pizza lunch

a bit of shopping and then back to Sorrento where we had a chance to wander around, taste lemonchello, a local lemon liquor and other local products. 

Then back to the hotel where some of us went for a swim in the salt water pool. It was a fabulous day.


Milan

Our last day in Italy was spent in Milan visiting 4 very impressive sites. We started at the Cathedral which is the 4th largest in the wo...