Joined August 2021 Message
  • Day428

    The Vactican Museums

    September 12 in Vatican City ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    By Ruby

    Everywhere is decorated with beautiful things. Mosaics cover the floors, the walls are painted with extraordinary works of art and more often than not, so are the ceilings. Sculptures stand in every corner. The Vatican Museums house the biggest collection of art that any of us have every seen and we are delighted to join a guided tour.

    There is an overwhelming amount of statues, mostly Roman. There is a labyrinth of rooms just full to the brim with them, and it’s hard to believe what we’re seeing. I always thought that an intact ancient statue was extremely rare, but now I know where all the long-lost ones are kept!

    We walk through an extremely long hall next. The floor is mosaic and the ceiling is beautifully designed and divided into hundreds of individual works of art. We are in the hall of maps and there are over forty giant frescos on the walls, each one depicting a different part of Italy. The room radiate wealth and power and in my opinion is one of the most stunning rooms in the Vatican, and that’s saying a lot.

    Another impressive room is the hall of tapestries, each one ginormous. They depict the story of Christ and we follow his life walking the length of the hall. One in particular is very striking, and our tour guide stops to explain that it is ‘The massacre of the innocents’ . This scene is rarely portrayed in the story of Christ because of its brutality. The tapestry is very detailed and took years to make. All of the tapestries once lined the walls of the Sistene Chapel, but were removed during Covid.

    We continue on through a maze of rooms covered in paintings by Raphael. We get to see the famous ‘School of Athens’ and learn a bit about it. It features the face of Leonardo da Vinci painted as Plato, pointing his finger at the sky. Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s faces are also to be found in the painting.

    Now it’s time for the highlight of our tour (You may be able to guess it) . . . . The Sistene Chapel! We are herded into the crowded chapel by security guards. Everyone is standing and staring up at the marvel on the ceiling. It seems almost surreal that I am actually seeing ‘The creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo. I take a few photos forgetting the no photo rule — don’t tell anyone. We also see ‘The Last Judgment’, which takes up one entire wall!

    And so ends our trip around the Vatican Museums. The tour guide said that if we spent a minute at every piece of art here, we would be here for twelve years. We’re not that dedicated and amazing as it is we’re already quite hungry.
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    I’ve just read the last three entries , in my warm and cosy bed and salute the 3 scribes; great variety and all interesting. I wish I had more to read. I’m a glutton for them. Joan

  • Day427

    Ancient Rome

    September 11 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Rome, The Romans’ Home
    In it's day,
    Enemies could seige it, nay,
    The armies were strong,
    And it was quite a throng,
    The gladiators fought,
    For the freedom they sought,
    The Colosseum stood tall,
    As did the magnificent Pantheon hall,
    Up the Tiber their ships came,
    And two thousand years later it still is the same,

    By Colm
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  • Day426

    To Rome

    September 10 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Our alarm wakes us up at 6.30 in Ponza in preparation for the 10 hour passage to Ostia, the nearest port to Rome. A check on the weather forecast shows heavy thunderstorms all over the Italian coast. We stay put and watch lightning and rain roll through the anchorage. The conditions for travelling tomorrow aren’t great either. Today is Thursday and we have 3 days accommodation booked in Rome from Saturday. Ronan checks the forecast again at 10am and the update shows that the worst of the lightning has moved inland. ‘Right, let’s go for it’ and we head out into a grey sea and heavy sky.
    There’s a swell on our stern quarter and the boat rolls uncomfortably from side to side. At times the clouds gather, looking angry and I wait for the sky to crack open with lightning. Mother Nature is kind to us today and holds her fire until we are safely tied up at the marina. It is already dark when we turn off the engine.
    Friday is for housekeeping but on Saturday once we are on the metro to Rome, we turn our tourist dial up to max.
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  • Day423


    September 7 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    We have a great sail from Ventotene to Ponza, the largest of the Pontine islands. Today’s weather conditions lead us around to the north of the island. We anchor in a gorgeous bay of white cliffs and rocky shores with a little port tucked in at the far corner.
    I make the happy discovery that we are within swimming distance of one of Ponza’s gems, the piscine naturali. In the morning we put on our snorkelling gear and swim over to explore it.
    We swim under an arch in the cliff and are now inside a large pool with a big circular opening on top. It’s incredible. Swimming under another arch we come into a bigger pool with a cafe perched on the rocks. There are parasols and sun loungers for rent on the low flat rock which separates this pool from the sea. We swim though the natural tunnel that small boats use to come in and out of here. We find a deep dark cave and dare each other to swim in as far as we can. Ronan wins. He finds another dark cave to explore and sees a light in the water beyond. He dives down and disappears and after a few (slightly worried) moments, returns again. This time we follow him down into the light and we emerge in another pool. We explore several more little caves and tunnels here and later we snorkel again, this time under the high white cliffs. I often pause to watch Ruby and Colm swimming into a cave or diving down to swim amongst the fish, it’s magic.
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    The photography is excellent, whoever is responsible. It is an amazing place. Joan

  • Day421


    September 5 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Ventotene is a gorgeous little island, 25 miles north of Ischia and is part of the Pontine archipelago. The town which rises up from the port is full of pretty yellow and pink buildings.
    The island is steeped in Roman history, starting in the little port we are tied up in. Several of the quay walls, the store rooms (which are now shops) and and some of the bollards have been in use for over 2000 years.
    Emperor Augustus developed the island during his reign between 31 B.C. and 14 A.D. He built a massive summer home here even though there was no natural harbour and no fresh water. These difficulties were nothing to a Roman Emperor who had an endless supply of slaves to build and dig for him.
    Inland he had a number of large cisterns built to collect and store rainwater. The Port was entirely dug out of rock. 60,000 cubic metres of tufa rock was excavated and removed to create a safe harbour for his ships to dock. That is about 6,000 lorry loads if it were to be excavated today, its hard to believe they did it 2 millennia ago.
    Roman ingenuity and ambitious didn’t stop at the port, the slaves continued digging and made the peschiera nearby.
    We put our masks and snorkels on and jump into the sea to explore some of the channels and pools of the fish farm that were dug into the rocky shore. The sea levels have risen over a meter since the peschiera was built so much of it is under water. It is crazy to think such complex systems were installed just so that the Emperor could have his choice of fish whenever he wanted.
    We walk out to see the ruined remains of his holiday home. There is little left on the headland except for the enormous footprint of its foundations. It is called Villa Giulia, named after his daughter whom he exiled here because of her excessive adultery. What a beautiful place to be banished to.
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  • Day419

    The Bay of Naples

    September 3, Tyrrhenian Sea ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Over a few days we visit Sorrento, the Isle of Capri and Ischia island in the bay of Naples.
    First we anchor under the cliffs in Sorrento and sleep through a thunderous rainy night before moving into the marina in the morning ( €170 a night and no showers or toilets!)
    The town of Sorrento is up on the cliff and is hidden from view from the water. We take the elevator from the port up to the town and when we emerge the view of Mount Vesuvius is stunning. The town is gorgeous to walk around with pedestrian streets full of interesting shops and friendly people.
    The next day we leave the boat in Sorrento and take the ferry to Capri. The sailing blogs are scathing about mooring on the island so we opt for a busman’s holiday. On arrival we go straight on an island boat tour as we want to visit the Blue grotto. Unfortunately the sea swell means the grotto is closed but the tour is still very enjoyable. The scenery is spectacular and we are brought in close to the cliffs and caves and in under the sea arch, something we would never dream of doing on Régal.
    When we return to the port in Capri, we are overwhelmed by the crowds. It feels frantic and there are people everywhere, queuing for tours, ferries, taxis and the funicular. We go to the stony beach and there is hardly room to sit down and when we walk up to the hilltop town, it’s busy and crowded. Capri is not for us and we are all happy to return to lovely, calm Sorrento on the earlier ferry.
    We sail across the bay of Naples and anchor in a bay on the northern side of Ischia Island. We are looking in at beautiful green hills which look tropical. It rains all the next day but we make the most of it and catch up on some school work. The weather dries up in the evening and we watch as an unusual looking little platform is towed and then moored beneath the hotel on the headland. We all guess what it might be but none of us are right, as we discover with a bang at midnight. We are woken up by a very loud noise and all race up to the cockpit. It’s a fireworks display launching from the moored platform. We have the best seats in the bay to watch the show.

    We have a less pleasant wake up in the early hours when a swell comes up and Régal starts bucking up and down. None of us get much sleep and in the morning there is nothing for it but to move on. We are sorry not to have seen more of Travel +Leisure Magazine’s 2022 ‘most beautiful Island in the world’
    Ischia is added to the growing list of places we want to come back to.
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    absolutely living the dream 😎

  • Day416

    The Amalfi Coast

    August 31 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    ‘This could end up being an expensive little trip out to see the Amalfi coast’ whispers Ronan as he winds down the window of our rental car.
    The policeman informs us that we had driven through a red traffic light a while back. He is cross and exasperated, ‘You don’t even stop when you hear my siren?, Why?’
    We apologise profusely and explain that we hadn’t noticed the traffic light. We go on to say that when we heard the siren we supposed it was for someone else. We are surprised when he is satisfied with this and lets us off, we can’t believe our luck. As we continue snaking around the narrow cliff road we keep an eye out for traffic lights and cop cars.

    The driving is slow with lots of hairpin bends and oncoming traffic, I never go beyond third gear. Around ever blind corner there are incredible mountain views and beyond ever drop off there are spectacular sea views. Houses and hotels grip on to sides of cliffs above us and below us.
    We stop an hour out the coast road; we have already had a big day in Pompeii. This is far enough for us to get a feel for driving the Amalfi coast. We picnic on roasted corn and chocolate crepes from the promenade stalls in Minori and then wind our way back to Régal in Solerno.
    In two days time we will sail past here hugging the coast so we can savour the stunning views from the water.
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    As a retired Traffic Corps Garda, I’m keeping my lips sealed 😂😂😂


    Your Italian must be really improving if you can wheedle your way out of a traffic penalty xx

  • Day415


    August 30 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    This blog is written by Colm

    Today Mom, Ruby and I get into the rental car and head to Vesuvius. As we drive up the steep road to the Volcano we see two girls thumbing so we pick them up. They had taken the local bus to Vesuvius but were dropped off near the bottom.
    We arrive at the parking which is half-way up the volcano and catch the shuttle bus up to the entrance. After a twenty minute walk with amazing views we are at the crater and join a tour.
    We find out that the eruption that buried pompeii was in 79 AD. The Roman city of Pompeii was buried in ash, whereas the town on the opposite side of Vesuvius called Herculeam was destroyed by mud slides.Back then the volcano was 3000 metres tall, as apposed to its current height of 1200 metres.
    We look hundreds of metres down to the bottom of the crater and I can imagine lava shooting out of there. We walk as far as we can around the crater, taking it all in, it’s spectacular.
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    Great description Colm...I can't believe how much higher Vesuvius was before.


    Kathleen and I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy all the photos and the accompanying descriptions. A family of writers. I’m thinking that the apples don’t fall far from the tree, Joan Meade! ❤️

  • Day414


    August 29 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    We have hired a car because the direct train from Solerno to Pompeii isn’t running this week.

    We can’t believe we are here in Pompeii, a place we have all heard about for years.
    It is more impressive than we could have ever imagined. The size and scale of the city, how well preserved it is and how sophisticated things were 2000 years ago. We love the stepping stones across the old roads that kept the residents feet up out of the dirty roads. The shops had sliding doors as well as counters with built in storage. The homes they lived in were beautiful and had courtyards, water features, mosaics and sculptures.
    Ruby and Colm enlighten us about different Greek and Roman gods when we see a statue of one or walk through a temple dedicated to another. I am amazed how they can recall complicated background stories and family trees of the different Gods they have read about in the books by Rick Riordan and Stephen Fry.
    Throughout the day I find myself looking towards Mount Vesuvius and thinking about the twenty feet of ash that fell and buried this entire city. We visit the casts of bodies found in the garden of the fugitives. It is moving to see them lying down, as they were when their died.
    We stay for most of the day, taking in as much as we can until our minds and bodies are overwhelmed.
    We head to the nearest Gelateria for the cure.
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    Looks amazing Margaret-on my bucket list.

  • Day411

    One big day

    August 26 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    I am leading the charge towards an unknown point off a tiny island. We are swimming against the current and doing our best to dodge the jellyfish. It’s at times like this I question why I persist in googling ‘the ten best things to do’ wherever we go.
    We left Panarea this morning and motored three miles out to these two small uninhabited islands Bottaro and Lisca Bianca. The bottom is rocky and the anchor hasn’t dug in. The conditions are mild so Regal should be fine while the four of us are off snorkelling. We are looking for the under water vents that google suggested are a ‘must see’.
    I eventually call off the search as we are making no progress. I am disheartened but the feeling is fleeting as Colm has spotted an Octopus. We watch as he hunts in tandem with four or five other fish. We are mesmerised, the exhausting snorkel has been worth it.
    We take a break and fortify ourselves with fresh brown bread - then we are off again, this time in the dinghy. We head towards 2 small boats that are idling in the channel near some swimmers, this must be the place. Ronan stays in the dinghy, while we three jump in and we land right into the natural jacuzzi. Columns of bubbles rise up through crystal clear water from the vents on the sea bed, seven meters below us. There is a slightly sulphurous smell but not as much as in Vulcano. We dive as deep as we can and swim through the bubbles, feeling them gently pop on our skin. We swim with lots of Chromis chromis and other fish too, there is so much to take in, it’s magical. I swap out with Ronan before Ruby and Colm are finally full of bubbles and we return to Regal.
    We raise the anchor and sail towards Stromboli. She is a perfect volcanic island, a pyramid with a little puffy cloud of smoke on top. It feels like we are in the pacific islands.
    We stop off at Basiluzzo, another tiny Island, for our third snorkel of the day. We see lots of fish in amongst the amazing volcanic rock formations. Some of the rocks are stacked like the giants causeway. We see a Moray eel and a big peacock wrasse as well as the usual underwater suspects. Back on board we soon haul anchor and as evening approaches we motor towards Stromboli.
    It is dusk when we round the western headland and glimpse the first red sparks at her peak. We continue on towards the twinkling lights out at sea. These lights are from speedboats, tour boats, yachts and super yachts in the safety zone.
    Boats are advised to keep at least 1 mile out from the island’s northern coast to avoid being hit by pumice rock and other debris from the volcanic activity. We join the other boats in the safety zone and watch Stromboli’s eruptions which become more vivid as the darkness descends.
    There is a constant red spot of fire or lava at the top of the Volcano and then every seven to ten minutes there is a burst of sparks that shoot up in the sky. Sometimes we can see lava flowing at the peak which disappears as it cools. The size of the explosions differ and we can hear the bigger ones; like an airplane or thunder in the distance.
    I am surprised at how quickly the tour boats leave - we stay for more than an hour drinking tea and eating chocolate as we watch Stromboli’s sparks fly.
    When it is time to leave, we head north into a spectacular sky full of stars. We are beginning an overnight passage to Solerno on the Italian coast. There is no wind and the sea is flat calm, it’s a beautiful night. The red light on top of Stromboli is a constant companion for the next five hours - it’s easy to see why it’s called the lighthouse of the Mediterranean.
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    Amazing underwater photos


    I agree with Pat, the underwater photos are really good. Who is taking them? And with what kind of camera? Joan


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