Meet me at the Trevi Fountain… my favourite place in Rome

 

There are few places that literally take my breath away, but the Trevi Fountain in Rome is one of them. You hear the rush of water just before you round the corner to the tiny little piazza where the Trevi Fountain is, and the sight is so magnificent it gives you goosebumps. I arrived in Rome yesterday around lunch time after a relatively painless train trip from Naples, especially considering i’d had a very late night the eve before … saying goodbye to Sorrento and new friends at the local hangout Insolito. So while not overly impressed when told that my room wasn’t ready at midday (I would’ve done anything for a little lie down!), I changed shoes and went to explore the area around my hotel. I knew I was close to the Trevi but was completely surprised when I stumbled across it (i’d left the hotel without a map so was wandering aimlessly) in all it’s glory. And so after declining a photo with a bunch of 70 year old Italian men, I tossed a couple of coins over my shoulder (one for you and nan mama!) and slowly made my way back to my hotel, stopping in at the Gran Caffe Roma on Via Veneto for a tuna salad.

After a guilt free siesta I freshened up and hit the Pantheon for an apperitvo and a bit of people watching before going to a stroll to find a little restaurant off the usual tourist track. And that I did and had a delicious risotto con scampi. My original choice was fettucine with mushrooms but after an initial conversation in Italian with the owner, who was more than pleased to be having a chat in his native tongue, I was then bought a small starter of the mushroom pasta to begin! A couple glasses of house red and a gratis limoncello later, I declined staying for another limoncello and began my wander back home, via the Trevi so I could find thegelateriaSan Crispino which so many people had told me about. And I now know why. Step aside Sorrento, this gelateria is better than all of yours put together!

Today I have explored Rome by foot for 6 hours checking out Villa Borghese (beautiful gardens), Campo di Fiori (plenty of hidden trattoria’s to explore for dinner I think!), Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo and all surrounding areas. The weather is boiling hot – over 30 degrees with blue skies and sunshine, so once it cools down a little I’ll head off for an early evening run around Villa Borghese and might keep it local for dinner tonight.

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Arrivederci Sorrento… and thank you for the time of my life

A hidden beach I found on my run this morning – Regina Giovanna near Sorrento. Stunning.

At the secret beach

(Firstly, apologies the photos arent the right way up! More IT problems but I figured i would put them in sideways rather than not at all… I had heard about this gorgeous little beach near Sorrento so took off this morning at 6.30am to find it, about 20 mins run out of Sorrento.. the photos dont do it justice but it was certainly a beautiful goodbye present from Sorrento)

Since leaving Merrill Lynch back in March, what should have been, or perhaps I’ll say, could have been, a confusing, maybe depressing and potentially demotivating time of my life, has instead been exactly the opposite in every facet. In fact, I don’t remember ever having such clarity on a number of aspects, issues and topics. Each and every day I wake up looking forward to it, particularly since arriving in Sorrento.

At 6:30am in the morning, I find myself giggling at the number of scooter beeps that I get while out on my morning run, and chuckling at the cyclists in the peloton as they just about crash into one another while turning their heads to look back at me as they pedal past and call out ‘EXCELLENT, BEAUTIFUL’ in English with their Italian accents and then give me the thumbs up.

After a quick discussion post breakfast with Annamaria to see if I’ll be home for dinner that night, I then get excited to stop in at my favourite pasticceria on Corso Italia – Rita’s, where not only does the barrister make the very best cappuccino that I’ve ever had, he knows my order senza zucchero and puts a cocoa smiley face on the top of my froth and always bids me buona giornata as I leave.

On my way to school my fruit lady spies me coming down one of the narrow cobbled stone alley ways in the historical centre and has my apple and pear ready to go as I rush past and exchange a euro for my goods, and I like it that she speaks to me in Italian despite me hearing her talk to other tourists all day in English.

At school, most days, I get a thrill out of being able to actually construct sentences and hold a conversation in Italian in present and past tenses. In fact this morning I was happy to meet my favourite teacher, Lucia, near the station on my way to school and be able to grab a quick stand up caffe with her and carry a conversation for the 20 minutes it took us to walk to school.

I love walking through the town as though I’ve lived here for much, much longer than I actually have, and in a funny way getting a bit bugged by the hundreds of tourists who meander along the narrow streets speaking German, English, and French.

It makes me so happy to see an Italian’s face light up when I say I’m learning to speak their language… as though no-one ever came to Sorrento to do such a thing! Especially not a single Australian female travelling da sola (alone).

Come 5pm, people watching is always at its prime and I get excited to suss out a new bar or café, order my glass of vino bianco and have a chat to the waiters who in general smirk at me drinking wine, while all the locals are taking their afternoon coffee shot.

It is comforting to arrive back at the apartment in Parco Verde to a real ‘home’ (as opposed to a hotel room), where Annamaria will be standing in the kitchen and always greets me with a huge smile and energetic ‘Ciao bella!’. While I have complained, well let’s call it commented, on my 2-3 course meal every evening, I actually always look forward to seeing what she has on the menu and hope that one night she will once again cook that magnificent, mouth-watering pasta napolitana but alas, it is always something different. Always.

After dinner I love to get a little dressed up in my jeans and boots, do my hair and makeup and wander around town, usually with ferrero rocher gelato from Primavera Gelateria in hand, and window shop at the fabulous negotzi (shops) on Corso Italia. Or else meet up with some new friends – Erica from New York, Nerissa from London, Irina from Moscow, Pablo from one of the Sorrento beach clubs, Daniele who owns the nightclub, Anne from Helsinki, Joanna and Ton from a little town in Holland, Marcia from Florida, Antonio from the Sorrento Theatre… and many, many more, for a drink or 10 and faccio le ore piccolo! (stay out until 2 or 3am!).

So as I prepare to leave Sorrento, as you can imagine mi sento triste, I feel sad! But the memories I’ve made here will stay with me for life. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the experiences I’ve had have all changed me and my outlook on life. I leave Sorrento completely energised and excited about Rome (tomorrow!), Porto Cervo, Monaco and beyond. If only I could fit a little more Sorrento in my suitcase than a small bottle of Limoncello… but that said, I’m carrying a few extra kilos (at least!), have a fantastic, deep tan and don’t think I’ve ever felt better.

Before I left Sydney, I printed out a poem Badge sent me a couple of months ago so that I could read it over and over again. I had it stuck to my computer screen at home and read it every day, particularly as I was booking my Italian adventure! I’m not sure of the author but I love it and have made it my mantra. Thanks Badgerygarfield.

This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often.If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analysing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is, and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them. Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.

The Wedding of Elena & Vincenzo

The groom – Vincenzo, and his mama

 

The ceremony

I arrived at the Cathedral San Michele in Piano di Sorrento just before 11:30am where my language teacher, Elena, was getting married to her fidanzatoVincenzo. Of course the location of the church was not as per Google Maps. Typical! Vincenzo waited out the front of he church, alongside his mother, to welcome all the guests who were predominantly family Elena had told me… 80 of them in total. Vincenzo was then quickly ushered inside moments before Elena pulled up in a black BMW sedan with her father. In Italy, the don’t tend to have bridesmaids. If you have young nieces they are sometimes flower girls, but as Elena had none, it was just her and her dad.

I would estimate it took Elena under 2 minutes to get out of the car, walk up the stairs of the cathedral (it was huge), and walk down the aisle. She was gone in a flash.. hence I have very few good photos as you can see! She didnt even pause at the start of the long aisle she had to walk down, she just kept on going like it was a sprint!

Being such an intimate wedding, I chose not to stay for long. She was a very traditional bride as you can see, in a long white gown with a substantial train. After the wedding, the reception was being held in a villa called Villa Clairmont up high overlooking the Bay of Naples. The feast apparently includes over 10 courses including antipasti, pastas, fish and meat. And of course dessert! Elena and Vincenzo are now off to New York and Miami for their honeymoon for 2 weeks.

Meet me in Piazza Tasso

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Ciao from Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento. I’m on my way home from a lovely day out and about and thought I’d post a piccolo blog about my day from my iPhone. So excuse the mistakes!

My day began with a run at 6.30am and already I could feel it was going to be a warm one. School is intense this week with only 2 of us in my class so I was happy to escape early to head to Piano Di Sorrento, the next town, to see my teacher get married! I will post more on this tomorrow along with photos.

After the wedding I dropped in to Nello’s puteca, my favorite salumeria for lunch (see photo!) and a chat, then bolted home, changed into my togs and hit the beach. Now that im abbronzata I’m going home for a shower and to change before meeting my friends for dinner and drinks later tonight.

So… Some news… Plans have changed and lucky for me, I won’t be leaving Europe this Sunday after all! I’ve extended and will be heading to Rome this Saturday where I plan to spend 5 days doing all things non-touristy and practicing my Italian. Then I hop over to Porto Cervo, Sardinia, where I’ll meet my friend Yezzy who is sailing a 60m yacht for a few days. Tough I know…! After that I’m off to Monaco for another few days then finally back to Rome then home on the 16th of June.

All exciting and with the weather warming up again it’s a huge blessing not to have to leave Europe and this country just yet.

(photos are from my iPhone so not sure about clarity. The shot of the bride is not my teacher, but another random English wedding in Sorrento which I’ve just seen now and quickly snapped. The other shot is Sorrento by night… Spectacular.)

The Inexplicable

A local on his motorino with pooch! Piazza Tasso

If I were to add it up, I’ve spent many months, maybe even close to a year of my life living in Italy. But somehow, each time I leave, I quickly forget many of the little things that I love, love to hate and those things that I am just totally confused by, many of which you only experience when you live here. Perhaps they aren’t as interesting to you, or perhaps you can’t relate to these if you’ve been to Italy but haven’t stayed for longer than a week or two at a time, but since I have your attention, here are a few observations (note: some of these i’ve already mentioned, so apologies for the repetition):

  • Tourist offices are closed on Sundays – …because tourists don’t visit attractions on this day and stay in their hotels?!!
  • Water pressure is always poor – yesterday I washed my hair under the tap. Yep, it was a far better alternative than standing naked and freezing for 25mins trying to use the trickle that comes out of the shower head (which I have to hold to use)
  • Every second man wants to give you his number – is this just a ‘numbers’ game (so to speak), and they figure if they give it out to enough women odds are that they’ll get at least one call?
  • The Italian Men – need I say more?
  • Italians don’t exercise – I know I’ve talked about this one already. Please explain how you eat Annamaria’s dinners and stay thin without spending 3 hours in the gym each day.
  • Denim on denim is considered acceptable – for a country known for its style, how is it that so many Italians are stuck in the 80’s when it comes to fashion?
  • You’re given half a loaf of bread with your main meal – does my huge bowl of pasta followed by fried potato, meat and vegetables not seem like enough carbs already?
  • Toilets don’t have seats – When I first arrived I thought Annamaria’s must’ve been broken and waiting to be replaced. But it’s never arrived…
  • I drink my water from a disposable plastic cup – why can’t I have a real glass at lunch and dinner time at Annamaria’s house?

Giuseppe, one of my teachers comes from Napoli. The Napolitani are very superstiziosa and he shared some of their superstitions with us in class:

  • The black cat – I know some of you also feel the same way when you see a black cat: ‘bad luck’. For Neapolitans, if you see one you must stop in your tracks, even if you’re in a car – slam on the brakes (partly explains why Naples is so chaotic – many cars, and many cats!) and wait for several people (or other cars) to pass in front of you before you proceed.
  • To say ‘good luck’ is very bad luck! Very, very bad luck Giuseppe tells us. Instead, you say ‘in bocca al lupo’ which translates to ‘in the mouth of the wolf’, to which you must reply ‘crepi il lupo’, ‘the wolf is dead’.
  • Don’t take the salt! If you are at the table and ask for the salt, someone must get it and put it on the table in front of you, you cannot ask someone to hand you the salt. To take the salt from someone else is considered extremely bad luck.

Today in class we learned all about the public holidays celebrated in Italy, and how they celebrate – what they eat and who they eat with. Of particular note was Christmas or Natale and Easter, Pasqua. In Italia, Christmas is ALWAYS spent with family, not friends. It is a grand feast known as a cenone, and consists of several courses (really not unlike ours at home!) cooked by the women of the family. But always always spent with the family… that is until midnight when everyone is then released from the family home to go and party with friends. Easter is different and is spent with family and friends, although apparenly your mama or nonna will always try it on and encourage you to stay at home with the family. For this reason there is a saying in Italian: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”, which loosely translates to Christmas with your family, and Easter with everyone else!

(Today.. more IT issues so I only have the one photo, taken by some lovely dutch friends I met and lunched with a couple of times – Joanna and Ton… CIAO! xx)

Meet me in Naples… and discover the beauty within

Arrival into Napoli by boat

Leaving Sorrento – My friend Nerissa

Archaeological Museum – setup for a function tonight

As I type, i’m sitting in a piazza nearla casa miain Sorrento with a glass of Primitivo and some mini bruchetta with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil to nibble on (like I need anymore food after today’s indugence, but more on that later), pondering what to say about a day which I had been anticipating since I’d arrived – my day trip to Naples.

I’ve been to Naples several times before, particularly while working on the boats as it was the last major commercial port where you could refuel, carry out maintenance and provision before picking up guests to cruise around the Amalfi Coast. I’m sure Sandy and Pete you will agree – that port is pretty ugly with stray cats, scarey looking mutts and homeless and desperate people sleeping in houses made of cardboard boxes. And so, with this and Napoli Centrale, the main train station where professional thieves will throw baby dolls at you in an attempt to have you abandon your bags to catch it, thinking it was a human baby, only to have them pick up your belongings and run, being my only really experiences in Naples (and don’t worry the doll/baby story didn’t happen to me but does happen!) I was absolutely determined to find the well hidden beauty that many speak of in this city which is run by the Camorra (essentially criminal gangs).

And today, I found it. I think the thing about Naples is that it’s just not obvious like it is in many European cities, particularly those of Italy and France for example.You have to work hard to find it, and in some cases just be lucky enough to get lost in the Centro Storico, take a wrong turn and find an empty church with frescos that easily rival those in Rome which we queue up for hours to see. Seeing ‘the Veiled Christ’ in SanSevero was an experience I will remember forever and I still get goosebumps now visualising this masterpiece. The findings from Pompeii and Ercolano exhibited in the Archaeological Museum are truly facinating too, as the ‘best bits’ really have been removed from the excavation sites which i’ve already seen to be looked after in the Museum.

While at the museum, there was a very formal function being setup with dinner served on the top floor surrounded by paintings which previously decorated the ‘mansions’ of Pompeii 2000 years ago, while ‘welcome drinks’ were being set up to be served amongst rows and rows of marble statues excavated from ancient Roman baths. No-one would tell us what the function was for but I sure wish I had an invite!

After the museum we spent some time wandering through the Spanish Quarter and found a dodgey pizza joint to have our mandatory pizza for lunch – we’d been informed that the uglier the place looked, the better the pizza would taste. We found a terrific ‘dive’ and grabbed a seat with a view of the open tiny kitchen and watched the guys work their magic, and it was truly heavenly to taste. Almost indescribably good. Dad – you would argue the base was too soggy but somehow the soggy, mushy mess that ended up all over your face was better than even I had imagined.

Of course we left room for a gelato, also delicious, then headed back to the boat to get the 5:30pm back home.

Napoli is certainly a filthy, dirty place where poverty stares you straight in the face at every corner, but sometimes true beauty is less obvious on the outside and you need to look beyond the ugly exterior to find it. And when you do, it just might be the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in a long time.

A short post: Friday Arvo in Positano

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After school this morning I decided to jump on the bus and head to Positano, arguably the most spectacular town on the Amalfi coast. After just 40 mins on the bus I arrived and am now sitting in one of the cafe bars down on the beach. For a Friday it is surprising quiet here but the weather is perfect and with few tourist aroun, possibly scared off by the last few days which have been cold and wet on the coast, I’m enjoying a glass of rose, some Sicilian olives and a casual chat with the waiter in Italian (having learnt the past perfect tense this week I feel like I can really carry a conversation without only speaking in the present tense and feeling like I speak like a 5 year old!).

School is going really well and I feel I’m becoming more confident every day with the language which is an exhilarating feeling!

This week a great friend Yerin came to Sorrento from Monaco on business to meet clients in a shipyard so I was able to have two fun and very late nights with him in Sorrento. While I haven’t been lonely at all since I’ve been here (as a single female foreigner in this country you are never really alone!) it was still fantastic to see a familiar face and especially one of such a good friend whom I havent seen for years.

Tomorrow I go to Napoli and I am determined to find out what is special about that seemingly dirty and ugly city! Hopefully I’ll return to tell the tale (I’m kidding mama I’ll be fine!).

Ciao from Positano. I’m going to finish my rose and go and scope out a dinner venue… Yes things continue to revolve around food in Campagnia!