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  • A 3 hour trip ( no autostrada for me) for the 200 odd kms to Alessandria. Once you leave the Aosta Valley, and head into the province of Piedmont, the country side really does start to flatten out. Piedmont literally means at the foot (pied) of the mountain (mont). Look at that, a free linguistics lesson ✏. Not too much to say about the road except that there are a lot of rice fields in this part of Italy. I stopped off in Casale Monferrato which is the area Dad was born and sent a pic to my mom and sister while I was there.

    Alessandria, again, is a typical Italian regional city with great architecture. Fun to walk around for the afternoon after booking into a very nice, for the price, hotel with safe and secure underground parking for the bike. Europeans, including Italians, are generous and very friendly people but there is a percentage of the population that would steal the skin off 5 day old milk. But then again you can say that about every country!!!!!!! Why are there two sinks in the hotel bathroom? The second one is so low to the ground it's very hard to use!!!!

    I did say I was going to fast for at least 24 hours before eatng solidly for the 5/6 days of staying with relatives. The hot chocolate and pannini was too much of a temptation.

    Right, next stop will be 5 days of talking, eating, sleeping, eating, sightseeing, eating, and then to finish off...more eating.

    Asti here I come (ohh, and my relatives don't even know I'm in the country let alone that I'm going to visit and stay for a while. They will be (pleasantly?) surprised 😲
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  • This blog is just about the road from Bern to Aosta in noryhern Italy. The route I took goes close along the shore of Lake Geneva and the Great Saint Bernard road that includes the pass over the mountain range separating Switzerland and Italy. It also includes the 8 km long Saint Benard tunnel, part of which is through the mountain range and part of which hangs off the side of the mountain. The pass itself is just under 2,500 meters high. This means a couple of things. 1. Fantastic views and 2. Bloody cold. Had to stop to put on winter gloves and just about every bit of clothing I had until I looked like the Mitchilin man. The road is mostly good and very very windy!!!

    This is hard to admit, but I was glad when the road straightened out - I needed a rest!!!!
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  • I've really been looking forward to getting to Italy to visit my parents' birth place, catch up with relatives that I've only ever met once before (previous trip with Anne) and the ability to speak the local language - well a bastardised English version anyway. I won't see the relatives and mum and dad's old stomping grounds until I get to Asti in Piedmont, but can't wait to have a conversation, without having to resort to mime, even if it is with a total stranger.

    Aosta really took me by surprise. I stayed in a cheap (because it isn't ski season yet) hotel about 15 minutes walk from the centre and the "old town". It's a lot bigger than I thought and it's bilingual French/Italian. Most of the town signage is in both languages and streets often have straight out French names. There is even a lift from the town that takes you to close-by ski slopes. The old town was just fabulous with, lucky me, lots of (American) tourists visiting. I got to speak Italian (even when people wanted to talk in English!!!). I'm sure they wondered why a simple request for a hot chocolate turned into a 1/2 hour conversation about what a great day it was. Aosta has beautiful buildings (some back to the middle ages), the obligatory huge piazza & large Cathedral and the best gelato I'd eaten in 10 years (eg. last time I was in Italy). The streets weren't too busy so it was a safer introduction to some of the craziest drivers and riders in Europe.

    I also love Italy's ability to meld old and new together in a very practical way. There are 3 photos below of APM (that's an automatic pizza machine for the uninitiated) 2. a condom vending machine and 3. the local Aosta Cathedral. The two vending machines were almost next to each other on the same building wall which, in turn, was a very close walk to the Cathedral. It was explained to me that this was the practical dating solution for young un-married catholics. With 1 you both got a a cheap meal. With 2 you both got the dessert that you both wanted but couldn't ask for at home, and with 3 you got the immediate forgiveness needed to have an other date next weekend!!!!!

    Next stop Alessandria. I need to fast for at least one day before I go stay with relatives - boy do Italians like to feed you 🐷
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  • Florence was beautiful!! The Duomo was by far the prettiest building I have ever seen. We climbed to the top of the cathedral tower for a great view of the city. We also love the food in florence! We went to Ross' favorite pizza spot, had tons of gelato, and ate as much pasta as we could fit!

  • We made it to 4 out of the 5 cities along the coast. Each city was beautiful! Ross and I loved hiking along the coastal paths between each destination. We got to enjoy the outdoors for a change!! We had gelato by the sea and enjoyed the relaxing locations.

  • Well...We had our first travel hiccup! When we got to Rome at 1 am because of a train delay, our hotel was closed! We almost had to sleep on the streets of Rome last night, but thankfully found an alternative! After a good nigh'st sleep, we got up bright and early to tour the Vatican. We were thankful that we signed up for a guided tour - it's a huge museum!! Next we headed to the Colosseum for our last Italian adventure. We are back in London now. We had such a great trip!!!Read more

  • After a little hesitation about heading into the mountains we found one of the quietest and most spectacular roads of our journey. Not only was the road up a nice constant gradient, but the new dual carriageway half a mile away meant no one was on it. We then had 25 miles of blissful and mostly uninterrupted downhill!! A brief inner tube change was all that we paused for. (And a caprese salad for lunch!) One of the best days yet.Read more

  • After 1 month, 800 miles, 45 pizzas, 65 bowls of pasta, 30 caprese salads and a spectacular wedding we say goodbye to Italy......and hello to a luxurious (in comparison to the last three!) cabin on our ferry to our next destination.

  • We spent a few days Rome-ing around the eternal city which is full of history around every corner! We enjoyed walking down small alleys to come across big plazas where locals were enjoying a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

    Over 2,000 years ago the ancient Romans built the city and many of its wonders that still exist today. We toured the Colosseum and Roman Forum which gave us a glimpse into the lives of the Romans. It's pretty impressive to think that they could engineer such amazing buildings and structures with the basic technology they had. Our favorite though was the Pantheon which was built as a Roman temple and is the best preserved ancient building to this day because it has been in use ever since; today as a church.

    We also visited the Vatican which consists of the Vatican museum full of ancient art (and lots of tourists), the Sistine Chapel home to the Pope and Michelangelo's famous ceiling painting and the St. Peter's Basilica which is full of ornate marble statues and mosaic art work all over.

    Lastly we can't forget to mention that we ate a lot of Italian food and gelato to start off our visit to Italy!
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  • After spending most of our trip in major cities, it was nice to enjoy a slower paced more scenic stay on the Italian coast. We stayed in an apartment with a beautiful rooftop view where we enjoyed drinking wine and planning the rest of our trip.

    We took a 2 hour public bus along the Amalfi Coast and enjoyed visiting a beautiful quaint town called Ravello and the town of Amalfi as well. We were lucky to get a seat both ways as the buses were packed and some people had to stand for the whole ride! The bus ride along the edge of the cliffs was more exciting than most roller coasters - we were thoroughly impressed by the bus drivers' skills of navigating the roads that sometimes turn into one ways.

    Lastly we enjoyed some limoncello a liqueur drink made in this region from organic lemons! 🍋🍋🍋🍋
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