This entry is made by a very exhausted traveller. There is so much I want to take in about Rome. However Rome wasn’t built in a day and nor is my ability to take in it’s vast history. The first day I got myself orientated to the city. Much to my horror I caught a red hop on hop off tour bus purely out of necessity to see the major sights rather than taking the role of common tourist. I was taken back by the size of the Coliseum. I am struggling to find words worthy of describing Vatican City. It’s ornate and extravagant beauty is unmatched. Although the heat was intense I relished the opportunity to walk up the steps of St Peter’s Basilica were I was rewarded with breathtaking views of Rome. The Sistine Chapel glory sent shivers down my spine, even after the splendour of the earlier section of the museum. The food is exceptional with pizza, gelato even fried zucchinis. The tour group I am with is 10 in total, mostly female and older but the conversation is pleasant. Like the Egyptian tour they are all Aussies with two couples. A walking tour today started at the dark beauty of a crypt. It then extended to three churches. I enjoyed the gothic one with painting my Michelangelo. The pantheon was impressive and I really needed to see it with my own eyes to realise what an engineering feat it is. The Spanish steps had a great lookout and nice vibe with the fountain at the bottom. I scanned the exclusive shops along Via del Corso. Being surrounded with such beauty inspires me to dress like an Italian. After struggling in insanely high heals for 30mins in a shop while being fussed over with various outfits I realise I do not have the feet or pain threshold to pull off the high maintenance look.
As soon as I entered Lucca I felt my whole body relax. No one in this walled Tuscany community ever hurries. It is the safest place I have ever travelled to. A bike ride was a fantastic way to discover the outer boarders of the city and a spot by the waterfall allowed a place to picnic. We sampled local specialties of cheese, ham and bread, the fruit is so full of flavour. Lucca is truly a place I would like to live in with narrow cobbled paths, terracotta buildings lined with potted plants on each windowsill it is a place to die for. We are privileged to stay in an apartment rather than the boring hotels so we get the true Tuscany experience. I appreciate the Intrepid tour approach- we are encouraged to interact with a locals. My Italian is not good enough for a conversation but I managed to pick up some more local produce.
Florence- welcome Uffizi museum. A large monotone renaissance style collection of paintings were displayed. Some famous works presented but my knowledge of art is probably too limited to appreciate. In the courtyard stood Michelangelo’s David copy. The heat in the markets lessened my tolerance to queues. However my reward was granted when I purchased three paints- hopefully as inspiration to buy my own house some day. A lovely picnic overlooking the river of Florence was worth the numerous steps. Relooking at the pictures on my camera are a fantastic reminder of the busy days of stunning sights. Still history is no compensation for reality.
A train trip took us to Piza where we could see the leaning tower. Alas the town didn’t have anything more to offer than the obligatory tower pushing photos. A walk through the Lucca garden demonstrated how hard it is to grow flowers in the hot day conditions. The Mancini concert in the evening was a wonderful way to end our stay in Lucca. It is a year-round festival and it a fitting place to host the events as it was where he was born. As a tribute to his controversial and colourful life there is a year-round festival held. The church was a pretty backdrop to the lovely sopranos and talented pianist.
After three trains and a couple of delays our “amazing race” team made our way to Levanto on time. I was glad there was a vehicle to take our bags which lightened the load to the hotel. The Levanto beach was a perfect temperature. I didn’t want to get out and brave the scorching pebbles on the shoreline. In the evening we took part in a pesto cooking lesson. The lady’s gorgeous personality made up for her lack of English. She discussed the isolation of the Italian communities and how that contributed to varied recipes between towns. Sea salt was an important trading commodity up till a generation ago when roads and rails between the towns were established. I trialled a tasty lemon liquor with a biscotti style cake that is their equivalent of the ANAZC biscuit. It was used to sustain the men for long boat journeys
A wonderful walk along the Cinque Terre trail showed us the costal views while making our way through 5 towns. Clear skies following even clear seas was affronted by dramatic cliff-faces. The vineyards were scattered amongst the quaint villages with colourful houses scrambled closely on the terraced terrain. I was disappointed on the walk very few people responded to my hello. I am getting myself accustomed to the Italian life of an afternoon sleep and late leisurely dinners. The swim and gelatos have remained a tradition. It is sad to see the stereotype line-up of hire umbrae and sunbeds along the beach/stone front. Girls seem to go topless till a much later age here and occasionally continues into adulthood. They have a lot more liberal culture. The hotel we are staying in has a wooden charm with 9 foot studs. The best part is the balcony to rest at the end of the day.