Category: Uncategorized


Image

Elba in the distance

We headed north after departing the Amalfi Coast, our ultimate destination being the Italian Riviera, but we broke up the drive with a stay in Tarquinia.  I’ve rarely been as happy to leave a place as I was the Amalfi Coast.  What a relief to be on level ground again!

I’d never heard of Tarquinia, but I was eager for a place off the beaten tourist path but with some interesting history.  Tarquinia was a big win on both fronts.

It’s the site of an Etruscan Necropolis, with tombs dating back almost 2500 years.  They are located under a large grassy field on a hilltop just outside of town and at first sight are unassuming mounds of the earth.  However, each tomb is reached by entering a shelter adjacent to the mound and descending a staircase about 30 feet, where the burial chambers are carved into rock and brightly colored paintings depicting Etruscan life still adorn the chambers.  The entire site was very quiet–just a few other visitors–which was such a welcome change after the crowds of the prior weeks.

Etruscan tomb mounds in Tarquinia

Etruscan tomb mounds in Tarquinia

Etruscan tomb paintings over 2000 years old

Etruscan tomb paintings over 2000 years old

The town itself was also lovely and populated primarily with Italian tourists.  A perfect place to while away a few hours in one of the town squares cooling off with some of the local frizzante.  It’s the type of town that it is easy to imagine spending a few relaxing weeks (or months) in.   On the way home from dinner, we met a Swedish woman and her teenage daughter (out walking their cats on leashes (!)) who have lived a nomadic life for years, but are currently calling Tarquinia “home” (a cave in Spain was another recent abode).

Pisa

As we headed north the next morning, we stopped for coffee in the seaside town of Piombino, where we could see Elba in the “not far enough” distance. (I hadn’t appreciated how close to shore Elba is and it clearly wasn’t remote enough for Napoleon’s exile.)  After we fueled up, our next stop was Pisa and its leaning tower.  The contrast to the Etruscan Necropolis couldn’t have been greater, with busloads of tourists and day-trippers from Rome.  Still, it was surprisingly cool to see in person.  Interestingly, we learned that when Jonathan visited in 1988, it had leaned nearly twice as much as it does now, as they closed it in 1991 for about eight years to stabilize the tower after another one nearby unexpectedly toppled and the stabilization included some necessary straightening but not enough to take away the tourism appeal!

Image

Image

Acrophobia in Amalfi

The Amalfi Coast had long been on my “must see” list, with its cliffside towns and crystalline blue Mediterranean seas, but eleven days there was just too much.  I know I don’t love the place.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous.  Colorful villages are improbably propped up on the literal edge of cliffs, hundreds of feet above the sea (see “Problem list below”).   Stone staircases weave up across the lemon-tree filled hillsides, as many of the villages have extremely limited car access.  Numerous beaches dot the coastline (although we didn’t spot any sand ones).  The sea really does sparkle and luxury yachts cruise the coastline.  The sun shines brightly and strongly (although we did have same rain–in July!).

So what is there not to like?

Problem #1: We drove.  Driving the Amalfi Coast is not for the faint-hearted (or, arguably, the sane).   Especially at the height of the tourist season where you compete with massive tour buses, local buses driving at breakneck speed, hordes of Mercedes minivans (also loaded with tourists), other hapless tourist drivers and pedestrians, and local  drivers (many on mopeds) who seem to have a tenuous regard for their own longevity, all on narrow (and I mean one car width narrow), windy roads that hug the cliff. Suffice to say, the first few days my nerves were shot from the drive there and a subsequent day outing drive to Sorrento.   My hands sprouted callouses from my tight grip on the steering wheel.  After a couple of days, we realized that this was a coastline best explored by boat.

2013-07-06 10.15.38

An inch to spare

An inch to spare

Problem #2:  As I mentioned, houses are improbably propped up on the literal edges of cliffs.  The cliffs are limestone and the building sites seem to have stood the test of time, but my incipient Acrophobia was in overdrive. Even copious amounts of Chianti couldn’t relax me. Thus, I had to resort to the local treat, Limoncello (the liquor, not the gelato).

Limoncello

Limoncello

Problem #3:  We like to walk.  On the plus side, we could walk to town within 20 minutes.  The big minus was that half of that walk involved braving the main road as a pedestrian.  The only other place we could walk was up, which we did a couple of times, but it proved to be primarily an aerobic workout rather than a relaxing stroll.

Walk to Amalfi - one of the few sections with a sidewalk

Walk to Amalfi – one of the few sections with a sidewalk

Problem #4: We love Italian food.  However, we don’t love ONLY Italian food, and we’ve learned that we can reach our Italian food limit  rather quickly.  There just aren’t ANY other options in this area.

But enough of the complaining.  There was a lot we thoroughly enjoyed.

We stayed in a unique 1-bedroom “villa” on the famed 163 road connecting all of the towns on the Amalfi Coast. The owners were a truly generous couple who went above and beyond in making us feel at home, showering Zara with gifts, us with food and wine and not allowing their limited English to get in the way of sharing their enthusiasm for Amalfi with us.

Every morning we breakfasted out on the patio which offered a picture perfect view of Amalfi town.

View from our patio

View from our patio

We took a wonderful walk up the hillside to the town of Pogerola, where we had drinks and dinner at the delightful Gerry’s Pub.  We sat outside on a patio with beautiful views of La Scala and Ravello and Gerry was so friendly he let me wear his cozy motorcycle jacket when the weather cooled.

Walk to Gerry's Pub

Walk to Gerry’s Pub

Gerry's Pub

Gerry’s Pub

Walk "home" from Gerry's Pub

Walk “home” from Gerry’s Pub

We swam in the Mediterranean several times.  We took a ferry to the picturesque Portofino.

View down towards Amalfi town

View down towards Amalfi town

Relaxing on our patio

Relaxing on our patio

Walk down to Duoglio Beach - 400 steps

Walk down to Duoglio Beach – 400 steps

Lido on Sorrento

Lido on Sorrento

Cliff architecture

Cliff architecture

Swimming - Zara's favorite activity

Swimming – Zara’s favorite activity

View from ferry

View from ferry

We also did a day trip to Capri (unfortunately, on a day that rained during the first half), took a boat to the Emerald Grotto and had an interesting day trip to Pompeii (separate post pending on that).  Five or six days here would have been perfect.

 

 

 

 

ImageImageImageImageImage

Image

Image

ImageImage

Image

Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of walking. We’re a walking family, happiest when we can trade car transport for our own feet, and Wellington is a walker’s nirvana.  That was the one downside of SE Asia. The heat was too oppressive to allow for walks much further than to dinner on the beach (but what a gorgeous walk that was). Two miles can feel like twelve in 95% humidity.  

 
Wellington, on the other hand, was designed for walkers.  In Wellington’s temperate climate and with the wind at our backs, we have been criss-crossing the hills and valleys of Wellington and its environs.  What we love about walking is that, like slow travel, the slower pace affords the opportunity to really get to know a place. To let it seep into your soul.  As we walk through the lush, forested woods, crossing charming neighborhoods and across local parks and playgrounds, we stumble upon cricket games, uniform-clad school kids walking home, 100-year old cemeteries, tui birds, nature reserves and totem poles.  Each time we summit a hill, we are rewarded with far-reaching views of Wellington’s fabulous harbor or coastal bays.   We’ve been greeted by rainbows and drops of rain, but no downpours.  
 
Wellington’s parks and trails are its birthright. Its founders, fleeing the industrial blight of England, were forward-thinking enough to foresee how public green spaces could enhance the well-being of its people. In 1840, they required that the city be separated from the country by a protected “town belt”.   This town belt continues to serve as the backbone of Wellington’s walkways 170 years later even though the city’s limits have surpassed the belt.  
 
From the heart of the central business district, one can walk to several celebrated walkways within minutes.  There is the City to Sea walkway, the Southern Walkway, the Skyline Walkway and even a section of the Te Aroroa trail (which traverses the entire country).  
 
A couple of weeks ago we took all day to do the City to Sea Walkway in reverse, starting at the coast in Island Bay and heading back towards the city.  The walk is 13km, but the path hops from hilltop to hilltop, necessitating repeated stairway climbs and descents so that the entire walk is the equivalent of climbing and descending the tallest mountain in England.  
 
We’ve walked a portion of the Southern Walkway, which took us past roaring animals in the Wellington Zoo.
 
We walked the Eastern Walkway which started outside the suburb of Seaton, and carried us above charming bays, past an Ataturk Memorial and deposited us on a pebbled beach where my mom and Zara collected armfuls of new treasures.
 
Today we took the ferry about 20 minutes into the middle of the harbor and walked around Matui/Somes Island, which has been used as both a people and animal quarantine in its past and now serves as a predator-free reserve affording stunning views of Wellington.   
 
Others days, we have just wandered with no particular destination in mind, focused solely on the journey and the next chocolate break.  
 
Tomorrow, we may tackle the more strenuous Skyline Walkway.  We are down to our last four days in this marvelous little city.  We already know that we’ll sorely miss its trails.  
 
 
World Travel Family

Family Travel Blog

CARROT QUINN

dispatches from the wild

Mike Adamick

Follow a family of three as we travel the world exploring and learning more about the world, ourselves and our family

OurTravelLifestyle-LatestBlogPosts

Follow a family of three as we travel the world exploring and learning more about the world, ourselves and our family

Family Travel Blog

Follow a family of three as we travel the world exploring and learning more about the world, ourselves and our family

A King's Life

Follow a family of three as we travel the world exploring and learning more about the world, ourselves and our family

EscapeArtistes

Just another WordPress.com site

Travel With Bender

Follow a family of three as we travel the world exploring and learning more about the world, ourselves and our family

Worldschool Adventures

Follow a family of three as we travel the world exploring and learning more about the world, ourselves and our family

Edventure Project

Education and Adventure for Everyone

Lonely Girl Travels

An Oakland Girl in the World