After a strenuous day of looking at archeological sites it was time to pack the Green Machine up and head north towards Rome, having the only campsite inside the ring road motorway we opted for one with a swimming pool, of course would be silly not too! This campsite was perfect for catching the train into Rome and we set of for the Vatican city, one thing of course and we timed this abit too well and not planned! It was St Peters and St Pauls day a public holiday for the people of Rome, well most of them got out to a beach! Rome is said to be 3000 years old and was the centre of the Roman Empire also the centre for the Catholic origin. So we made our way to the Square of the Vatican City and the amount of people were nuts, the whole square was full with a queue to The St Peter’s Basilica reaching all the way round the perimeter of the pillars. So in the queue with the searing heat we wait to have a look at one of the biggest Basilica’s, 45 minutes later and we were in, but before that there was abit of commotion in the middle of the sqaure looking up to a building to the right of the Basilica. People around us talking saying the Pope is coming out to give a speech, well Karen held our spot in the queue and I took a look and indeed his little cloat ? ? ? red towel hanging from his window everyone waiting to see the man himself. Took awhile for him to come and I joined the queue as it was moving quicker and had security checks coming, we are next to the big screen at this point and bang on 12 oclock he comes out talking to the crowd, talking for a good 10 minutes. And that was a spontaneous way to visit the Vatican City with the man himself having a word, just casually… So arrive in the Basilica and basically quite short in words to describe it, the place was massive for a start it was quite a stunning piece of architecture, a little info on the place this is the church built over the spot where Saint Peter was buried, originally here was a church built in 4th century and replaced by what we see now built in 1503 and took 150 years to complete. Walking around it was quite cool to see many of the paintings were actually mosiac works, they were so detailed it was incredible to see, below the photos will tell the story better than I can, it’s worth a visit if even you’re not religious, the architecture is outstanding. The Vatican city itself is the smallest sovereign state in the world and is a good thousand years old.
So moving on towards Colosseum we hop on the train and head to the other side of Rome, Wow! Walk out the train station and it just looks over you, just trying to grasp how big this is, then thinking it was built since 72 AD. The Colosseum seated 50,000 people and was the most feared arena of that time. Tickets paid for and we walk around the inside of the stadium, clear to see is the underground structure and passage ways where the Gladiators and beast would wait to come on and fight. Reading one of the many information boards I forget the insane amount of people and animals killed in the first 100 days. Just standing there over looking the whole arena and to imagine people and beast getting slaughtered to rapturous crowd cheering on the Gladiators, it’s also so numbing how many beings died here over the entire existance of this stadia. But what a sight to see this monsterous building that housed so many people, you hear bout it, you see it on tv or read it but to see it for yourself is quite something! Simply see this is very well worth the visit. We call that for the day jump on the train back to the campsite and ready ourselves to come back in for day 2 of looking around Rome.
We once again train into Rome and taking in a packed lunch and plenty of fluids to walk a large chunk of the city. We walk down many of the lanes of old cobble streets Rome make no mistake is another city and heaves with tonnes of tourist, easy to see why but hearing that they will eventually charge people to see the Trevi fountain, unfortunately for us this was under light construction with scaffolding around and no water and has been said to not have water for awhile. When all up and running it would be pretty spectacular, from here we walk towards the Piazza Navonna this is not far away from The Pantheon, here is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the 4 rivers) for 300 years this Piazza was Romes main market, we perch on a step and stop for lunch before heading towards The Pantheon. As you walk through all you see is building after building and then wamo there it is, The Pantheon this huge dome like structure just dominates the square. This is a 2000 year old temple with its current form dating back to 120 AD the original temple which was built ontop of was 27 BC, it was the largest temple in the world till 15th century. With the pillars towing above as you approach the entrance you come into a dome structure with amazing art work and an opening at the top of the dome with the sunlight striking through, it was so jaw dropping and just sent shivers up your spine. Once again I will let the pictures tempt your mind.
From here we walk towards the Piazza Venezia this is a show piece built upon a hill called the II Vittoriano, it’s quite impressive to see and was built in 1885 to commemorate Italian Unification and honour Victor Emmanuel II. Here you can get stunning views over Rome. From here we head to Palintine hill and walk the area, it is said this was the area Romulus founded the city in 753 AD here most of the ruins are from the era of Emperor Domitian’s vast 1st century complex. Walking to one side of this area offered awesome veiws over the Colosseum.
And that’s been Rome for us, one very well known city for the seasoned travellers or just your weekend away to see alot of spectacular sites. For us Rome ticked the boxes of seeing old architecture, history/ancient sites for what was a very important city back many years, it’s a place I’ve seen now and glad to have seen but I’m not sure I need to come back. It is a city after all and once you have seen the main attractions I feel I have done it justice.
Heading further north we stop at a lake in the Tuscany region, this place is called Lake Trasimeno and we park up for a day in the sun and swim , drive further around the lake to a camper carpark that is situated nicely out the way at the back of an old village. Here we are parked with a Polish couple, German couple and a Italian family. I night planned with socialising and exchanging stories to recommendations for what to do next, we met some really nice people and exchanged details to hopefully catch up again in the near future.
We move further up and decided against seeing Florence and opted for Sienna a city ontop of a hill surrounded by a fortified wall, this place was stuff of medieval. So it happens the weekend we are there that once a year they have a horse race on the sloping square of Piazza del Campo called Il Palio, this place was a busy little city with a real charm to it. The square was very cool but the standout thing for us was The Duomo originated from 1196 has a stunning black and white architecture pattern to the church, walking around this so far has to be the best I’ve seen yet, absolutely thrown back how cool it looked. This city is a must see it has everything you need to do in a small medieval town just like Urbino but cooler, more wine purchased that is grown in a nearby area red and pinot gri bought from an underground cellar we call time on Sienna.
Moving to the coast we stop north of Livorno and chill on the beach for the afternoon, sadly it’s becoming quite common to have a beach occupied by hotels or simply decked in chairs with having to pay at least €20 to be on that part of the beach. Only miniscule parts of this long stretch of beach is free, and they are heaving. I feel really sorry for the locals because I don’t think it benefits the locals because all the money just goes to those people with the ownership on the beach fronts, try and lay your towel down on one of those patches and you will be moved along quick fast…. How can you even own a piece of beach? Sad really and I’m glad the beach business in NZ didn’t take of about ownership because quite simply the beach is for everyone!
Enough ranting and we head to La Spezia and base ourselves before training into Cinque Terre that contains 5 picturesque towns on the rugged coastline of northern Italy that stretches 18 Km. What a gorgeous spot and we walk the first path from furtherest town to the next on the available pathway as heavy rain and floods have closed walkways and won’t reopen till 2017. Colourful adorned seaside buildings with deep blue sea in the hot tropic climate was really a sight to see. We stopped off in Vernazza for lunch a very nice local bakery this was the walk done from Monterosso far to hot to walk! We then stopped in Manarola which to me was the best village of the lot, the harbour looked so inviting for a swim so we did! Memories like that of swimming there will be forever lasting. With our last stop in Riomaggiore taking in the last seaside town they are all very unique and a worthy visit for any traveller, the trains are regular from town to town and when all tracks are open it would be cracker of a walk to do too, beautiful seasides. Head back into La Spezia and a shop that caught my eye so we venture on down, why? Because we need Mosquito net to keep the mozzy’s and flys out of the camper ’cause quite frankly becoming a real pain in the ass! So this shop turned out to be perfect and over the next few days would see us invent the Mozzy gate and netting for our windows and door made of bamboo and some seaming stiches. Photo’s will show you how awesome it is and we have kept bugs out ever since!
So we head along the coast and stay at one more beach before setting out towards France. This place was Celle Ligure and it was a nice spot to recharge and get some washing done, we stayed at an Agritourismn place here. Unfortunately the same scenario with the ownership of the beaches was here and the free beaches that were available would nearly be the size of a cricket pitch. Plenty of pizza had and that was our time coming to an end in Italy.
What a journey that was, all throughout Italy has offered such vast variety from stunning landscapes to beautiful beaches, old roman ruins, with city’s and towns all so different to each other. The time allowed for what we did was no where near enough to experiance Italy, there is so much to do and see here and feel we only scraped the barrel. Food is second to none and the wine is simply delicious. Fond memories here as we move on into south France.