Italy 2014

             ...and this year, some of our family came too

This year, Astrid, Kyle and Aidan joined Sky and me for the first three weeks of our visit to Italy. Sadly, Ian couldn't come as he had to work. But for his two homeschooled sons it was a wonderful opportunity to learn some geography and history 'on the hoof.' So he hugged them goodbye at the airport and off they went.

Meanwhile, Sky and I were making our slow way overland. First, a bus and two trains to London. Then the Eurostar to Paris and a train to Geneva, where we stayed overnight. Here's a picture of me by Lake Geneva.

Then came the scenic journey through the mountains, from Geneva down to Milan, where we checked into the Eco-Hotel La Residenza. What a great hotel! Comfy, nice rooms, helpful staff and terrific food. Definitely recommended.
And Milan is where we met up with Astrid and the boys. They had tickets to see Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' fresco. And we did some sightseeing together. Here's Sky with Astrid and the boys with the breathtaking architecture of the Duomo in the background.

I tried singing an aria outside La Scala. Sadly, however, they didn't invite me in.

The next day,the three of them took a ride in a 4WD vehicle almost to the top of Mount Vesuvius and hiked from there right to the lip of the crater. It was a bone-shaking ride but an experience I am sure they will never forget.
After Milan, we caught the train south to Rome, where we rented a large, ground-floor city apartment on the far side of the Vatican. It turned out to be a little shabbier than its pictures, but comfy enough and a good base for Astrid to use while she took the boys on a comprehensive, educational tour of all the important Roman landmarks.

After five busy days in Rome we headed south again, this time to Naples. The next stop on the agenda was, of course Pompeii. Aidan and Kyle have been learning Latin and their textbooks featured the story of a family that lived in Pompeii before the eruption. Much to their delight, they were able to locate the exact house and to recognize all the landmarks they had seen in their book. So Pompeii really came alive for them.

They went to Herculaneum as well. Lots of history was absorbed on this trip!!
Our base for all this Vesuvius-related sightseeing was not in Naples itself, but in the pleasant little town of Vico Equense, on the way to Sorrento and one of the stops on the Circumvesuviana railway line, which made it very convenient, even though the trains seemed much more crowded than the last time Sky and I were there.

Our rental house, Casa Andreina A, was absolutely delightful. Perched on the side of a hill, it had a big terrace, overlooking the harbour, with a view right across the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius. 
  Vico Equense Harbour (arrow marks our house)                         Coming home with the groceries                               The nearby cliffs at the start of sunset

As well as the trips to Pompeii etc., there was time to explore the town, visit the museum and climb the steps to the castle. After which, we set off for the next big adventure. Back to Naples, back on the fast 'Frecciarossa' train to Rome and then the local train out to the port of Civitavecchia, where we boarded the ferry for an overnight sailing to Cagliari, in Sardinia. Arriving in Cagliari early in the morning, we left our luggage at the hotel and went for an Italian breakfast of coffee and cornetti con cioccolata (or marmalata or crema, depending on one's preference.) It was fun to show Astrid and the boys the sights of Cagliari. We climbed the many, many steps to the top of the Bastione, from where you can see for miles. Visited the incredibly ornate cathedral. Explored the narrow streets and shops...

                       ,,,And of course we took them to La Isola di Gelato -- our favourite gelateria in the whole world!
From Cagliari, we took a train to Macomer. And a  bus to Bosa (which was quite an experience, as school was out, and a sqillion kids crowded on to the bus in front of us!)

In Bosa, we stayed in one of the apartments belonging to our friends Marco and Alessandra. This one had a terrace, overlooking the River Temo. After a hectic schedule, it was now time to kick back and relax, drink coffee in the piazza -- and of course eat gelati every day.

 Before Astrid and the boys went home, we wanted to show them Alghero. And we were keen for them to take the boat trip out to Capo Caccia and the wonderful limestone caves, as we had enjoyed that trip so much when we did it ourselves. This worked out well. We were able to have couple of delightful days in Alghero. And the boat trip was a great success.

Here they come, back to port after visiting 'Neptune's Grotto.'

After which, of course, it is time for a nice lunch in one of Alghero's many harbourside cafes.

Then, sadly, it was time to say goodbye again. How quickly those three weeks had flown!! We saw the others off at Fertilia airport for their flight back to to Milan, from where they would fly home to Boston.

We watched their plane take off and gradually become a speck in the darkening sky.

Now it was just us again.

Back we went to Bosa, where we stayed another week, resting and trying to recover from the respiratory virus that had been dogging us - and Astrid too - ever since Naples.

And then it was time to do some more exploring. First, we went to the little town of Castelsardo on Sardinia's north coast. An ancient, medieval town on top of a hill, with a modern town below.

Stayed at a sweet little B & B called Il Tramonto, where Manuele, the owner,  made us very welcome. Delicious breakfast on the roof terrace.

From Castelsardo, we caught a bus to Santa Teresa da Gallura and another bus from there to Palau, in Sardinia's north-east corner - part of the famous 'Emerald Coast,' where all the yachties go and where rich people have built million-dollar mansions that nestle among the rocks.
We climbed up to the castle, explored the old town, enjoyed the views...

...and came down again in time for a nice dinner at Edoardo's.

Down at the harbour, we climbed aboard the sleek little sailboat 'Citt di Palau' and set off for a whole day exploring the glorious La Maddalena archipelago, its islands, its beautiful rock formations, crystal clear water and pristine, white sand beaches.

Our small group (seven young people, our Captain Carlo and his wife Monica and the two of us) sailed all around the islands, stopping to swim, snorkel and sunbathe on several of the beautiful beaches. Monica served us lunch on deck, complete with chilled white wine and mirto. What an absolutely wonderful day it was.

We sailed back into Palau harbour as the sun was starting to go down. Carlo and Monica waved us goodbye. 

We spent the next day pottering around the extensive foreshore areas of Palau. And then it was time to turn our faces towards home and start on the long, overland journey back. Another great Italian trip was coming to an end. 

Arrivederci Italia! Forse ci vediamo l'anno prossimo...?