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  • Day141

    Torino with Alex

    May 21, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    So my 24 hours in Torino is over and I've had a wonderful time!

    I've eaten my last pizza, gelato and pasta. I've been served a coffee, drank in a bar and saw hail. Alex has a beautiful home (only for a few more hours), which is located in the heart of town. But let's start at the start....

    I arrived at 2:30pm to be greeted by Alex a 4 of her aui Paire friends. Two of them have the crowd a show with one playing the piano in the station and the other singing the songs. It was just awesome!

    We walked through the streets to Alex's house, where I gawked at all the beautiful rooftops from her balcony. Then it started to hail haha. I've never seen hail before.

    The storm passed in time for us to collect the kids from school and take them to their afternoon sport classes. Olivia is 6 and went to gymnastics and Paublo is 11 and went to volleyball. Al showed me some of the big piazzas and churches whole we waited for the kids. We even enjoyed a sneaky G&T in a square.

    For dinner we had basil pesto pasta for dinner, followed by beans and carrots in vinegar and a dried meat with parmesan cheese. I can't remember what it was called, but it tasted a bit like corned beef but really thin.

    There was a big match on the TV last night. One of the local Torino teams vs a Rome team for the Italy football cup. We settled down to cheer their team to victory.

    Two of Alex's friends have offered to let me stay the night, so after the match they picked me up. On the way to their house we stopped in at a food and drink shop, which Molly described as a bit like McDonald's except with booze and cheap food. And it literally was. Beers were in taps in place of soft drink and little sandwiches and olive bowls filled the back kitchen. Almost everything, including pints of beer, for €1.

    Today, Alex picked me up at 11 and we head into the city for a coffee and croissant. She tells me that in Torino, Nutella is the poor man's version of ..... Also the Ferroche office is near here. So for breakfast we have a .... Croissant and tea for me. I love sitting and eating in cafes. This has not happened enough in London.

    We meet Alex's friends at 1pm at her favourite pizza restaurant in Torino. They have a €9.50 lunch euro where you get a pizza, salad or dessert and 1/4 craft wine or beer. They are all nannies and swap stories of how their weeks have been so far.

    After lunch we go to their favourite gelato place, two deserts is a bit much, but when in Italy! We wave off Al's friends before heading back to her apartment to collect some items to take to a Vinnie's bin. We walk through the streets of Torino one last time and pass the church where the holy shroud is currently on display.

    I wave goodbye to Alex as she heads to the kid's schools one last time and her American friend drives me to the train station.

    Bye Torino, bye Italy, it's been fun!!
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  • Day139

    Day 5: HelpX - final day

    May 19, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    Today is my final day as a HelpXer for Helen and David.

    And as it's not raining we're finally getting j to the garden to plant those potatoes! We've got our earliest start yet, breakfast at 7 with croissants.

    Divia and I start in the vegetable patch we started with last week, before moving on to two others. We dug up the dirt, pull out any weeds and then rake it back over the ground.

    I'm responsible for planting the potatoes. I line up the pegs, pull up the dirt, place the potato and burry the dirt. This takes up all of our allocated time for today.

    For lunch we had 5 salads to choose from and muffins for dessert.

    While I pretend to pack up my room Divia is preparing for her nursing interview tonight in Skype with a university in Toronto.

    This afternoon we take a walk up to the ghost village. It's this old town, that looks to be built in the medieval period, that was abandoned by its occupants in the war. They took only what they could carry and everything else was left behind. It's still there now, spoons in walls, bed frames, tables and ovens.

    The view walking down was spectacular. Added bonus was the clear blue skies. That was a 2 hour return walking journey.

    But the walking wasn't over. While Divia attended her interview David and I went for a walk through the forest looking for mushrooms. It was, unfortunately, to dry and to early in the season. But we saw all sorts of plants, beds wild boars had made, badgers borrows and fox's toilets.

    For dinner we had:
    Seafood risotto
    Salad
    Tiramisu and strawberry-misu
    Pink prosecco

    We played uno, but we regular cards and chase the ace. I managed an epic 3 match winning streak in uno to hold off losing to David, but I eventually succumbed.

    I've had an awesome time here. Manual labour is a very different kind of wok haha and I have a new appreciation and thankfulness for all the farmers out there.
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  • Day138

    Day 4: HelpX and Cinque Terre

    May 18, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Today is our day off. So Daiva and I are headed to the cinque Terre coastline for the day. I had no intention of visiting here originally, but as the opportunity has presented itself and I recall several people at work speaking about it, I've decided to join Diva today. The images online do look amazing!

    Cinque Terre, which means five lands, is combined of five small coastal villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. We begin at Monterosso and make our way down the coast line. It is very beautiful.

    Monterosso
    Was the biggest and had the best beaches to swim at, main because it had a beach. It was refreshingly cold to swim in and really weird to stand in stones instead of sand. The water was a beautiful blue colour and the sand on the beach a grey-ish colour. There was lots of little markets and restaurants here. I loved the lemon trees the best. Walkers would also start the trek along the coastline here.

    Vernazza
    Was small and squished. We didn't really like it here, but they may have been because we were looking for a place to lay on the beach and have lunch. There were two small swimming areas, all very rocky and it was crowded with people. We did walk up a section where the walkers would enter the town and take in a birds eye view, then we left.

    Corniglia
    We didn't really visit Island Corniglia. It's the only Island that doesn't meet the waters edge, but sits high above it. After heading towards the town from the train station we stopped after 5 mins realising it would take 15 mins to walk in. We were hot and hungry and not that interested. We walked back to the train station, down some steps and found a little alcove where we set and had lunch.

    After lunch we headed back to Island a for some swim time.

    With time marching on we boarded the train once more and headed to our final two islands.

    Manarola
    Manarola was the wine island, known for its white wine, the hills all around the small village are filled grape vines. After exploring the small town and watching the youths jump off the rocks in the middle into the sea we wandered up to a restaurant that overlooked it all. We sat here and enjoyed some white wine, rosa and nibbles. This is also where you can take some beautiful photos of the classic Cinque Terre look.

    Riomaggiore
    Our final destination is Riomaggiore. This is probably one of the biggest villages. We walk around for a bit trying to find the ocean and evenutal after back tracking and taking a different path we do. I enjoy an ice-cream as we watch the sunset and enjoy the afternoon.
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  • Day137

    Day 3: HelpX

    May 17, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Today we are up at 8am. First task is to finish off the wood chopping job. David drives his tractor and cart down to where we stacked the wood cuts yesterday.

    His tractor is really cool! It has rope curled around the front which is pulled to start, you can see all of the machine sections and it has a little metal stick to turn it off. The cart off the back is a tip loader, but we have to tip it haha.

    We cart the wood up to his wood shed and chop it down, first with chainsaw then with axe, into pieces we can stack. He says he currently has 3 years worth of wood cut and stacked for them.

    For lunch today we are being treated to real Italian pizza cooked in the outside pizza oven that David has made. Bruno, their neighbour, joins us for lunch. It was such an Italian thing to do and such a treat!

    Helen has made the dough balls and we went outside to work on the marble table top. Bruno started and showed us how it was done. First up we rolled out the rough with a rolling pin. We sprinkled Helen's homemade pizza sauce as the base, then chose a handful of ingredients, some vegetables, some cured meats before putting either mozzarella or Gorgonzola.

    In Italy you share your pizza with everyone else. So when we brought our pizzas back from the oven, we sliced them up and shared them out. You might only get one slice of your own pizza. I love this sharing culture.

    Diva and I join David in a little mission late this afternoon. A local from another village has offered David a scooter, so we travel up to his village to collect it. The village used to be the main village of the area, but has since broken down. We wander into the local little bar for a piccolo vino rosa, before heading back home.

    Tonight Bruno has invited us down to his house for apivertor. We drink local red wine (the best I've had so far) and meats cured by Bruno himself. It was delicious.

    Bruno joins us for dinner at our house and a round of chase the ace.

    Dinner is:
    Pasta - salmon and vegetables
    Salad - garden salad
    Desert - mousse and wafer sticks

    I also try some homemade vodka sloth berries. It was good.
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  • Day136

    Day 2 : HelpX

    May 16, 2015 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

    Today the markets are on in the town, so instead of working in the morning, we shall work in the afternoon and visit the markets first.

    After breakfast we head down to the town. Diva and I go fit a walk through the Old Town. We see some markets, the oldest bar (coffee shop) in town, we walk past an old cobbler shop which is thought to be linked to the story of Pinocchio and take photos with the Pinocchio statue. We also visit a local corner store and walk around the seat working theatre in Italy, ___.

    The town is a beautiful, old medieval town. In our way back to meet Helen and David we stop into a local bakery - the smell was just lovely. In most of the cabinets is fresh pasta! Pasta of all sorts. There are also fruit pies, little sweets and a savoury delicacy called .... I had a potato one and it was yummy.

    David took us to his local pizzeria where we tried local focaccia and .... It's like a pizza based made from chickpea flour.

    While I was eating my ... In the street David asked if I still had the receipt. He said, that in Italy you must always haves receipt to prove to the police that you bought the item. If I couldn't show my documents to prove I'd paid for it I could be fined as would the suite who sold it for not giving me one. It's crazy!

    After lunch we worked in the forest cutting up trees that had fallen over for firewood. David would cut the trees with the chain saw and Diva and would carry them up the hill to the house.

    For dinner we have:
    Entree - pesto, tomato & cheese in squares of fill pastry
    Pasta - pest pasta, the pesto is made from stinging nettles
    Dessert - fruit salad with a coconut yogurt semifredo

    Tonight we are watching a movie that David and Helen really like called 'brother, where out thy?' It's a Cohen brothers film. It was really funny and enjoyable.

    We have a fire going again tonight. This time putting the wood in means a bit more haha. More wood = more chopping!
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  • Day135

    Day 1 : HelpX in Pontremoli

    May 15, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    For the next week I've decided to try my hand at HelpX (exchange). It's a website that was recommended to me when I originally at home. The premise ... "HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts."

    I'm staying in Northern Tuscany, way up in the mountains, in the town were Ponocchio is famous . I'm staying with a retired English couple, who have lived here for almost 11 years. They have their own house here and prefer to live off the land. So they have lots of vegetables gardens, fruit trees, wood stocks, animals etc.

    I arrived yesterday afternoon and was given a short tour, by my hosts David and Helen, of the small town before heading up to the mountains. Pontremoli was the last Pagen viillage in Italy and it also has the oldest working theatre here.

    David and Helen live in a beautiful old home, which they are constantly renovating or changing. The houses here all live on top of each other and there are no dividing yard lines. It reminds me of Beatrix Potter's farm and I forget sometimes that I'm in Italy. They have a double storey house and upstairs is a 3 bedroom apartment, which myself and a Canadian Helper, Diva (pronounced Diver) are staying in. The view from our balcony over the valley are just glorious!

    Last night we had apivertors downstairs before enjoying a lovely meal of pasta with local prochinni mushrooms, second course was a salad and third course was dessert. We also drank local red wine. The wine is served in those typical Italian wine bottles and has a dry cork on top. Due to the dry cork, when bottled, oil or vasaline is put in the neck of the wine to prevent the air reaching the wine. David tells us that when the wine is ready to drink they used to put horse hair (but he used paper towel) into the neck to scope out the oil.

    I have a lovely huge room with a massive bed and am basking in all it's glory at night!

    Today it's raining, which is a problem as a lot of the work David needs help with is outside. We have a delicious breakfast of croissants and cereal before we tempt the weather and head outside to dig up the patch for the potatoes.

    Unfortunately, the weather has other ideas and so we head inside to break up a concrete floor with a drill.

    Tonight we play some card games; scoupa, chase the ace and one other.

    Dinner is:
    Soy fillet in rescue of chicken
    Vegetables
    Peaches in liqueur with a cream thing & biscotti biscuit crushed in

    I also handsome lemonceklo

    http://ciaolunigiana.com/activities-children-pontremoli/
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  • Day133

    Rome Masters 1000

    May 13, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    One of my dreams of coming travelling was to follow the tennis circuit in Europe. There are many more tournaments on here throughout the year then at home, and it's the reason why I've come to Rome this time.

    Although all the big names are here I've come to see Federer and he plays his first match in the second round tonight. So I am off to the tennis!
    I catch the metro and the bus to the grounds. All around the grounds are these giant marble statues of Gods all looking fierce and powerful. The grounds are really nice. It's a small area, but there are lots of flowers, little sponsor shops set up, eateries all mostly selling pizza, but a few American hotdogs and burgers as well.

    When I arrive Dimitrov Grigor is on his way to losing to an Italian, so the Italians were like 4 rows deep around the stadium. It was a cool stadium. It was set in the ground so you could walk past it and look in. It felt Colosseum like.

    Tonight I see Federer vs Pablo Cuevas and Petra Kvitova vs Karin Knapp, an Italian women. The Italian audience is nothing like I’ve seen at a tennis match before. They are loud, talk through sets, and get up and leave whenever they feel like it. It feels like they all interact with one another, one side will respond to the other side if they yell out, or if they feel someone is being nosiy the stadium will shhh them. It' really interesting and fun.

    The stadium is full for Federer and he wins in 2 sets, although Cuevas is great competition. I then saw that Nick Kyrgios was playing double with Sam Sock from the USA on one of the outside courts, but by the time Federer had finished Nick and Sam had also completed their match and made a awesome come back and fought hard for the final set and win.

    As I wandered around the stadium between the two matches I realised that a number of the sponsors had masses of people standing out the front of them with a TV playing. I realised it was soccer, there must've been a big match on. Soccer seriously rules everything over here, even, apparently, at another sporting event.

    Rome Masters 1000: http://www.internazionalibnlditalia.com/en/l

    Star Wars music for players entrance to court
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  • Day133

    Living out my biking dream in Roma

    May 13, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    I've come to Rome to see the tennis. It’s the reason I’m in Italy to be honest. Being able to travel around Europe following the tennis is one of the things I really wanted to do while here, so here I am.

    It is the Rome Masters 1000 and all of the big names will be here, including Federer. I think this may be the final tournament before the French Open. this will be my first real tournament outside of a Grand Slam. So I’m of course very excited! And today is tennis day.

    As Federer is playing tonight, I’ve decided to participate in a free (tips requested) bike tour of Rome. The Americans from last night raved about it, they had done the night bike tour on Monday. The night tour sounds awesome, but today I do the day one. Biking through Europe also interests my a lot, so here we go.

    It turns out that I am the only person today interested in the free bike tour, I suppose everyone else is at the Papal mass. But the guide takes me anyway, a private tour for me. As I told him I had already seen the big sights, he takes me on a different journey through Rome. We pass sites not well-known, go into free museums and pedal along the quieter streets of Rome.

    It was great fun. He showed me of local places to eat and drink at, explain the Roman water system in great detail and took me to see a giant pyramid tombstone. For lunch we stopped in the Jewish quarter and enjoyed a pizza base of sorts. He tells me that this is a local spot and it’s a meal that locals often enjoy.

    It was great and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a lot of Rome in a short period of time. Biking in Rome is an experience in it’s self. But as in Naples, you just need to push out and people generally stop for you. You can keep the bike for 24 hours once the tour is over and pedal around yourself.

    After the tennis (see other post) my time in Rome ends, and I’m kind of glad. Rome is full of tourists, and tourists attract people trying to sell you everything under the sun, it’s hard to find good meals and the overpriced tasteless ones are coming at you from every corner. Or maybe this just me.

    What I do love about Rome, and Italy in general, are the water fountains that are all through the city. They have free (woohoo) and have fresh cold water streaming out of them all the time. It’s lovely and just what you need.
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  • Day132

    Roma : Take 2

    May 12, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    I've made it to Rome! I’m here staying near the Termini station, but we’ve already had an accident and I’m currently limping my way around this historic city. But let me start at the beginning.

    I arrived yesterday from Naples and settled into my hostel, the Freedom Traveller hostel. I am really enjoying this hostel. The rooms are massive, there are lots of bathrooms, we get a free breakfast in the form of pure sugar (well sugar coated pastries) each morning, there is a little garden out the back and free wine and nibbles are put on every night, which makes the place very social indeed.

    My favourite bit is the windows. I’m on the 3rd floor and get to open up the wooden doors out onto the street below. I can hear the street artists playing music, see people sitting in restaurants eating pizza and watch travellers wander up and down trying to find their hostel. I love hearing the music wander up into our room. It’s so Italian!

    After exploring the local grocery shop this afternoon and purchasing some olives, cheese, prosciutto and fizzy red wine (I do not recommend this) I sat in the garden and chatted with all the new visitors to the hostel. As I’ve already been to Rome before and seen the major sights, I didn’t really want to see them again, but I did want to see the Colosseum at night. So after saying goodbye to my new friends I walked down to the Colosseum, it’s about 25 mins from my hostel.

    It was just beautiful. All light up and standing tall. There were just enough people sitting around to make to feel really comfortable and fun. Everyone was enjoying the view and the fact that they were in Roma. After walking around a few times and taking some pictures I headed back to my hostel.

    I was walking down a set of beautiful stairs that was partially in the dark. As I walked down admiring its beauty, literally just thinking how it wasn’t that unsafe to be there, I slipped on some pasta and fell down twisting my ankle as I went. The people ahead of me turned to see me fall and then just kept walking – very lovely I thought.

    I slipped in the pasta getting back up and hobbled home thinking, aside from the pasta now all over my pants, I’ve got away scot-free here! Unfortunately no. I woke in the middle of the night in a lot of pain. So I texted mum haha, help me!! So my foot is now strapped and I hobble everywhere. This has slowed me down quite a lot.

    And I’m a fast walker! Limping around only makes you more of a target for all of the pesky 'do you want a selfie stick’ or ‘can I sell you this tour’ people. But I did have a little laugh to myself at the irony of what had just happened. It’s a story at least!

    Instead of exploring the city and hitting up a number of food places that was recommended, I very slowly made my way to The Vatican today. I took the Metro and tried desperately to weave past every person trying to sell me a ticket to the fast queue.

    I sat in the St Peter’s Square eating my lunch and taking in the view. The line never stopped growing for entry. I went to the post office and posted a couple of cards home – keep a look out for those, and wandered around a bit, but in the end I gave up and headed back to the hostel to rest my foot. Tonight I enjoyed the company of a few Americans and other hostellers in the free wine and sharing stories of the day.

    Where I stayed
    Freedom Traveller Hostel - Via Gaeta 25, Rome, Italy

    Fab hostel that is close to the main train station. Staff are pretty helpful. There is a little garden, social area, coffee machine, free computer and kitchen for use downstairs. I was on the 3rd floor. The room was huge and had 4 single beds in it, plus a desk and cupboards. We opened out our windows on to the street below. Bathrooms were good. Breakfast is free, but is coffee and pastries - the Italian way. Also free wine and nibbles from 7pm each night. It makes for a very social evening with the other hostellers. I was happily stay here again.
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  • Day131

    Napoli - a sum up of this great town

    May 11, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    After 4 wonderful days in Napoli it is time for me to pack my bags and head north on my journey once more. I was warned by several people about coming to Naples. Be careful they said, it's dangerous, you’ll be pick pocketed - blah blah blah. Well I have to say how wrong everyone was. Napoli has been amazing! It beats to it’s own drum, has a vibrant rhythm running through it’s streets, beautiful food, lovely scenery and wonderful people.

    The city is everything you imagine an Italian city is like. The streets are cobbled, the buildings are painted bright colours with their balconies a complementary colour. The washing is hanging out on lines that crisscross the city and children call out to each other in the windows. Homes mix along side businesses and you could often families, grandparents, parents and children, sitting around tables together.

    The traffic in Napoli has a mind of it’s own. Vaspas whip around the streets, cars push and shove into every nook and cranny and pedestrians try not to get run over. There is no such thing as a pedestrian only area. If a vesper can fit and the traffic is moving to slow the vesper will mount the curb and start beeping at you.

    Pedestrian crossings are more a decoration then anything else. Nobody stops for you; you just have to walk out saying 'gratias’ with a hand up haha. At first I waited for more experienced or braver people to cross with me. In the end I was leading the others!

    Some things I saw on vaspas:
    - a dog
    - a child standing in front of the ‘driver’
    - a passenger holding onto 3 boxes of vegetables
    - a driver holding onto their sports gear with one hand and driving with the other
    - some people wore helmets others didn’t. Sometime parents had helmets and children didn’t

    Everyone loves to talk on their phones and drive a car, bus or vaspa. They love to smoke to. But everyone, and I mean everyone LOVES their horn! Beep, beep, beep = out of the way, beeeeepppp = move! Sometimes they just beep because they haven’t beeped in 5 seconds haha. It gives a melody to the humming traffic as you walk around the streets. Oh, and vaspas don’t go slow. Oh no, they whip around the corners and speed through streets full of pedestrians, you move or the vaspa moves you! Their brake systems here must be amazing!

    Taking the train down from Roma to Napoli reminds me of the Tully / Ingham area. There are mountains all around, it’s green, the houses are of similar colouring and design, there is agriculture everywhere and it’s warm. The people are happy and loud and loving. I miss that.

    The one thing that I think sums up Napoli perfectly is the graffit found all around the city, espeically on the monuments. The past meets the present. Napoli was once a influential, wealthy town and for whatever reason it has descended into something else. I liked it. It was like, yeah you might be old, but we're making your ours #grafitt tag ... or something like that.

    Recommended pizzeras:
    Gino’s Sorbello
    Starita

    Temperature average while I was there: 27-15 degress

    Food is cheap! €3 for a beautiful margerita pizza
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