Italy
Italy

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1,406 travelers at this place:

  • Day4

    On arrival at the ferry terminal at San Giovanni, there was no need to disembark - the train rolled on to the ferry in two halves - one of the few places where this actually happens. It was exciting to watch, with the train rolling on, then our half reversing off and then travelling back on to lie parallel with the front half. We were able to leave our belongings and go up on deck as we crossed the Straits of Messina to one of Sicily’s main cities, Messina. It was good to get some fresh air and a walk about. The crossing only took about 30 minutes, just like going to Bute, although Messina had a bit more life about it and a good deal more sunshine than Rothesay usually does.

    The train reunited, we journeyed down Sicily’s east coast, passing the lovely Taormina and the shadow of Mount Etna, the most active volcano in the world, apparently - I think I’ll just stay on the train. Olive and orange trees and giant cacti lined the tracks here. As we pulled into our final destination I felt, like that Rodgers and Hart musical, one of ‘The Boys from Syracuse’.
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  • Day4

    Sleeper to Sicily

    June 7 in Italy

    At 20.10 last night, I boarded the overnight sleeper train from Milan all the way to Sicily. A marathon journey of some 19 hours 38 minutes. And if I was expecting a luxurious travel experience, I was about to be sorely disappointed - the Venice Simplon Orient Express this was not. The train resembled the kind of graffiti-decorated transport that you might expect of Italian railways on a short local journey from Roma Termini to San Pietro. My 2 berth 1st class compartment had certainly seen better days with little by way of creature comforts. Unlike the meticulously uniformed crews of the Polish and Russian trains last year, with their peaked caps and efficient welcome, this train attendant resembled an overweight and unkempt Reg Varney from On the Buses. With an ill-fitting uniform and grubby shirt which was too tight to fasten, he sported at least two days of grey stubble.

    And if I had expected fine dining in the restaurant car washed down with a glass of Valpolicella, again it was not to be. Not a buffet car nor even a trolley appeared to exist - and on a journey which was to take the best part of 20 hours. How glad was I that I had had that McD’s earlier when accessing their free WiFi. All that was left for dinner was a half eaten packet of crisps, a bag of Mint Imperials and a bottle of water so warm I could have easily have made a cup of tea with it - if only I had a tea bag.

    My travelling roomie embarked at Genoa. He was a tall, bearded Italian who spent some time rearranging our tiny space, with a great deal of moving luggage, ladders, toiletries etc, while parading around (if one can parade in such a tiny space) in his briefs - why have Italian men never heard of boxers?

    Our Trenitalia ‘Welcome Pack’ included amongst other bits and pieces, an eye mask. After being dazzled by the evening lights outside our blind-less window, I decided to make use of them to get to sleep. The underside of the bunk above me was covered in a full-length mirror, and when I awoke I was startled to see who looked like Lady Isobel Barnett from ‘What’s My Line’ staring down at me.

    In spite of this, my lower berth was remarkably comfortable and I got a reasonable night’s sleep. After devouring the last of the Mint Imperials for breakfast, I was amazed to discover by accident that refreshments were available from a cubbyhole at the end of the compartment. A long-life apricot croissant and an espresso later and I began to feel human again. Even Reg Varney came up trumps in converting our two berths into a relatively pleasant sitting area with a few clicks and pulls of levers.

    My Italian friend disembarked at Rosarno in Calabria at 10.00, and I had the compartment to myself for the remaining leg of the trip. The train hugged the coast all the way with terrific views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This wasn’t so bad after all.
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  • Day5

    Chaotic Catania

    June 8 in Italy

    Back on the rails again. Got chatting to a couple from Melbourne who had spent 8 days in Syracuse. ‘Don’t get me wrong’, he said, ‘we loved it, but it does need a bit of TLC and some of these old buildings want demolishing’. Ah, the Aussies…

    Today’s trip involved taking the train to Catania where after a 2 hour break there was a connection to Sicily’s capital, Palermo. The first train was brand new, with comfy leather seats and welcome air-conditioning. The only problem was that it was packed with over-excited teenagers on their way to Rome, and an even more excited teacher who screamed at the top of her voice, constantly waving her arms, pulling passengers from their seats, waving bits of paper and yelling at her charges to sit in their assigned seats. After about 20 minutes her pupils were all finally seated when the train conductor arrived to break the news that they were in the wrong carriage. More yelling and waving of papers, but at last they departed.

    On arrival at Catania with 2 hours to kill, I asked at the Customer Service window if there was any left luggage facility. Without lifting her head from her Bella magazine, the Customer Service representative said ‘no’. Do you have any WiFi in the station? ‘No’. Well, do you know anywhere nearby where I might be able to access WiFi, such as McDonalds or Starbucks? ‘No. We have nothing like that. Nowhere.’ I wondered if she had contemplated a career with the Catania Tourist Information Service.

    I had a hot but interesting walk into the city centre, laden with luggage. The main Duomo Square was beautiful, but the rest of Catania looked like a poor relation of Syracuse, only bigger and more built up - and the litter - cigarette butts everywhere - where were the Glasgow Central Fag Police when you needed them?

    As it was a few hours since breakfast and I would be on the train to Palermo for the next 3 hours, I decided to take a packed lunch on board, given my experience of Trenitalia catering. I found a nice little coffee shop with a smiling senorita who explained she cooked everything herself and it was all health foods. By this time it was too late to make my escape, so I opted for a spinach and ricotta cheese flatbread. She cut me a square with the precision of a surgeon and carefully packed it in a crisp white grease proof envelope. ‘Van ov my desserts, perhaps?’ she suggested with the insistence of Frau Blücher from Young Frankenstein. I pointed to the least offensive - one of her whole meal chocolate and pistachio nut offerings and thought she wouldn’t win any prizes from Mary Berry. A bottle of home made Sicilian lemonade later and I started cramming the goods into my already packed backpack. ‘Oh no’ exclaimed Frau Blücher, ‘you must carry eet like thees’ and held the package up flat on her outstretched palm, a presentation worthy of the adoration of the Magi.
    I returned to catch the train balancing my precious goods and found an unoccupied table seat for four. As I reached for the luggage rack, my precious bakery item slipped from the envelope and landed ricotta side down on the floor. The two girls opposite thought this highly amusing, but I thought what the hell, and picked it up, dusted it down and ate it. Well it was either that or starve.

    I had bought a half kilo of cherries from a fruit stall outside and then proceeded to devour them instead of the nut tart. They were delicious, but the juice from an overripe one squirted over my shirt. By this time the girls were biting their lips and giggling helplessly. I couldn’t quite catch what they were saying, but it was something along the lines of ‘Poor old soul, he really shouldn’t be let out alone’. All I could think of was the lyric from that Francie and Josie song ‘Dae cherry stains come oot?’

    I enjoyed the journey to Palermo - lovely countryside with more oranges and lemons. I hadn’t realised how big Sicily was - the largest island in the Med, with a population similar to Scotland’s. Regrettably there wasn’t time to see much of the capital city, but I would love to come back. I found my way to the docks and boarded the GNV Ferry - Atlas - and was pleased with my cabin accommodation for my overnight sailing to Naples. So long, Sicily, it’s been good. Mostly.
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  • Day6

    Ferry - Train - Ferry

    June 9 in Italy

    The 4 berth cabin I had booked on the Sicily - Naples crossing was only made up for 2 - yes, no fighting for space. However, on catching sight of my bunk mate I suddenly wasn’t so sure. A hefty built Sicilian wearing leathers and chewing gum, I assumed he was one of the many bikers I had seen on boarding at Palermo. He was monosyllabic and made no attempt at conversation, despite my best efforts in pidgin Italian. He sported a permanently startled look with high eyebrows - wait a minute - he didn’t appear to have any eyebrows - could they have been painted on, like a bus conductress of old? Surely not - and yet if I closed my eyes I could just hear the gallus announcement of an SMT matriarch ‘this is a country bus, ye cannae get aff afore Faifley’.

    The sail away from Palermo harbour was beautiful. It was a lovely sunny evening as we pulled away from our moorings and the splendid back drop of rolling hills that surrounded the capital. I felt guilty I hadn’t seen much of the place, but the purpose of the trip was as much, if not more, about the travelling experience itself, and doing a bit of a recce for places I would like to return to. Arrivederci, Sicily.

    By the time I was tucked in my comfy berth, my room mate was getting ready to hit the nightlife of the Atlas, with a garish outfit which, coupled with the aforementioned eyebrows, gave him an uncanny resemblance to the drag queen, Divine. In the process of his ablutions, he managed to break the shower head off, leaving it in pieces on the floor. Ah well, I thought, it’ll be a Paisley boadywash for me in the morning.

    After the usual Italian disorganised disembarkation, I made my way to Naples Central and caught the train across the width of Italy to Bari on the Adriatic coast. Like most Italian cities, Bari grew on you with a little perseverance. Newly pedestrianised streets lined with designer shops, and a lovely old town complete with the ubiquitous cathedral. And then on to another ferry - this time from Bari to Patras in Greece. Here’s hoping Divine doesn’t have the same travel itinerary.
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  • Day5

    Surprising Syracuse

    June 8 in Italy

    On arrival, Syracuse proved to be a bigger city than I had imagined. A bit careworn and unkempt, I was glad I was not staying near the station but across a short stretch of water in the attractive Old Town area of Ortigia, a 15 minute walk away. The Terre & Mare B&B was contained within an old palazzo just off the main drag. I pressed the buzzer and was told to come up to the 7th floor - you’ve got to be kidding, I thought, no lift and this heat and this luggage! However a charming young Sicilian rushed out to meet me - ‘sorry, I mean 2nd floor’. Grazie al cielo! He proceeded to provide me with a map and a suggested walking tour of the main sights of old Syracuse. He showed me my single room, small but perfectly formed, complete with WiFi, air-conditioning, ensuite shower room, designer toiletries, and bidet - all of which I put to good use within 10 minutes.

    The suggested walking tour was a hit, and I loved walking about the Old Town with its beautiful Duomo, Temple of Apollo, Castle and fabulous sea views, in the early evening sunshine. Syracuse was the birthplace of Archimedes, and they don’t let you forget it. The restaurant I ate in that night was called Arches. ‘It’s pronounced Arkes’ pointed out the owner, ‘after Archimedes’. And here was me thinking it was named after the 60s pop group who had a hit with Sugar, Sugar.

    I was struck by how many of the more mature ladies looked so glamorous, even when well passed their sell-by date. One particular lady out walking her small dog, looked like a latter day Marilyn Monroe, had she lived. Aged about 80, her hair was coiffed in a platinum blonde 1960s style, with pale makeup and ruby red lipstick. She even had a similar full-skirted white dress à la Seven Year Itch, the only saving grace being that there were no subway gratings nearby.

    The breakfast was a delight - served on the roof terrace with terrific views, and the staff were so friendly. The teenaged girl who giggled and brought endless coffee told me her dearest wish was to visit Scotland, where all the pretty houses had geraniums in their window boxes. Not the last time I was in Govan, senorita. I giggled back and left her to her delusions.

    I could certainly recommend the Terre e Mare B&B if anyone was visiting the area.
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  • Day2

    Just love Italy!

    May 12 in Italy

    Enjoying the Italian vibe - fab air B and B right in the middle of the Spanish quarter, over a Trattoria and a famous fish shop!!
    Great meal with the locals, cheapest food and wine for months!!
    Off to Pompei and the Amalfj coast with one of the waiters mates as a taxi driver and guide!!

  • Day2

    Well we have had a day that just worked!
    Luca picked us up st 9.30 and was our taxi driver and guide all day!
    Pompei was fab and just mind blowing - the Romans were a truly amazing civilisation.
    Then onto Sorrento and the Amalfi coast road. Stunning coastline - then feeling hungry Lucas took us to a restaurant overlooking Positano, with amazing views snd great food.
    Took a gamble with the home made pasta and sea food but really glad I did 😊
    Wine only 10 euros s litre 😊😊
    Back to crazy Naples with tickets booked for the ferry to Capri tomorrow.
    Now just for more food, a recommended restaurant.
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  • Day3

    The island of Capri

    May 13 in Italy

    Set off this morning for the island of Capri, a stunning island populated by the very rich and famous!
    Expensive shops and restaurants, but we managed to find a restaurant tucked away!
    Sandy bought a pair of custom sandals so very happy!
    Lots of window shopping, now planning our evening meal from the trattoria underneath our apartment!!!

You might also know this place by the following names:

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