Thursday, July 21, 2016

Italy's tourist traps

We had committed to the tourist route up the coast so we came down out of the mountains and found ourselves in the chaos of European and Italian tourists. We fortunately found a campsite south of Salerno (coastal Campania) which was great value.. Very cheap and connected to a hotel - so we had the camp ground to ourselves, use of the pool (we snuck in without swimming caps :) and beach.

Cycling along the west coast was hot, busy traffic, smelled like rubbish, and every 3rd to 4th corner had a pair of prostitutes waiting for a lift... (To suit all tastes...Tim claims no knowledge of the trade in Australia...does it exist in the street-pickup form and are they as "unappealing"?)

We managed the Amalfi coast in one day... ALIVE!! Stopping for the occasional photo was beautiful but peak tourist season did not encourage us to stop for a swim. Perhaps not noticed with other transport, the amount and smell of rubbish/urine was almost overwhelming even with the amazing views at every corner. Safety = easy...narrow road = yes... but not as narrow as the Stuart Hwy feels when a road-train is overtaking!

Pompeii - one of those places to check off the 'to do' list. It was incredibly hot and we enjoyed people watching as much as the ruins...amazing what some people choose to wear to outdoor/dusty/uneven ground attraction! We saw lots of old ruins and half a dozen casts of people smothered by Vesuvius ash. The inside wall paintings were quite well-preserved. It felt like 70% of the buildings were still under construction/surrounded by industrial fencing being "restored" (as though they haven't had time previously for this?? - things happen quickly in Italy).

Setting off the next morning was slow as we had navigational glitches on almost every corner. We eventually left the city (decided to avoid Naples chaos) and headed back to the mountains. We were rewarded after a 110km day with an authentic gelateria in San Gregoria della Matese and had some really cold, rainy weather but good food and nice road gradients through the less-touristy centre.

We enjoyed a great lunch of the freshest cheese we will ever experience...Buffalo mozzarella!

Waking early yesterday morning from our campsite - somewhere between a vineyard and an olive grove, we made the journey into Rome. A slight detour led us down the Appian Way which was beautiful and historic but the cobblestones were a pain in the bum... literally!!!

Despite the traffic and the disrepair of the roads (especially that little strip right on the edge!!) we arrived safely at our campsite. Swimming pool and bathroom were very welcome - came with hot water AND toilet paper!!. We did the majority of sites in the late afternoon and evening for the best lit up conditions. Our particular favourites were the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. We also visited the Spanish Steps, lots of palaces and some cool old stuff we couldn't figure out the name of.. We were quite impressed with the random church that had painted its walls to look like marble - great from a distance!! but don't look too closely.

Today was the Vatican museum with Sistine chapel, St Peters Basilica and inside the Pantheon. Paying extra to jump the queue of the Vatican was well worth it but considering it was the biggest museum we'd ever walked through, we were exhausted... Our favourite room was the geographical Cartology room with paintings of Italian regions and an incredibly intricate painted ceiling. Speaking of ceilings... The Sistine Chapel was not the best we saw - sorry Michaelangelo! Obviously it's a matter of taste but we were not even close to being arrested by the camera police!

Moving on we made sure we conformed to the dress code for St Peters but Tim was told that his head was unacceptable - we soon realised it was his hat not his head but 'off with it' while pointing to his head did leave us dumbfounded for a second. St Peters was genuinely spectacular! Not surprisingly, it was the most extravagant of the churches we have visited....ever - a tremendous amount of marble and stone! Have we mentioned Tim likes rocks?
The Pantheon was also a pleasant surprise... We were exhausted after the Vatican and St Peters but we went back (during opening hours). Great piece of architecture!

Painted red marble!

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