Rome was a whirlwind! We didn’t want to spend too long in Rome having both being there before and also being keen to get out and see greater Italy!
One thing we definitely wanted to see again was the Colosseum – we paid the admission and also for the audio guide and were glad we did, soaking up the information. With the all-day travel pass in hand, we also stopped in at St Peters Square, Spanish Steps, Trivi Fountain, Pantheon and Piazza Campo de’Fiori, where, after a big day, we finally sat for a well-deserved drink. Here, we got talking to Jay, a 39 year old American guy; archaeologist, translator and food and wine connoisseur who has lived in Rome for 12 years. Such an interesting guy, he spoke to us for hours over a few glasses of red wine, something he was more than passionate about! We were also introduced to who, in Italy, is a very highly-regarded man who works for the equivalent of the FBI – something which Jay was very excited about.
Our accommodation in Rome was also great. We had heard and read the warnings about dreadful, dirty, and rip-off accommodation in Rome, however, our pension – Oasis B&B was run by a lovely Italian family and our room was really nice. Each morning breakfast was provided and two of the ladies in the family chit-chatted to us non-stop in broken English/Italian laughing the whole way through. So if you are reading this and going to Rome, looking for budget accommodation, we absolutely recommend Oasis B&B.
Naples / Sorrento / Amalfi Coast
From Rome we headed south on the train towards the famous Amalfi Coast. We ended up staying in edgy, dirty, gritty Naples (because accommodation in Sorrento was too expensive). We explored Naples on the first afternoon, and were keen to try Pizza as Naples is where it originated from. As we stood looking at our map we were approached by a local women who offered us directions. It turned out that she was headed the same direction as us, and asked us to follow her. She could not speak much English so our chatter was restricted, she did however recommend to us her favourite pizzeria for lunch which is where she was headed, and to our delight she ordered the same pizza for us and insisted on paying for it too! She then bid us farewell and headed back to work, leaving us both stood in the ally eating our yummy traditional pizza with a big smile on our faces, stoked by her generosity…This place wasn’t so bad after all!
We spent most of the time in the shops and alleyways leading down to the sea, well away from our not so nice (creepy) accommodation by the grotty train station.
The next day, we were up early to catch the short train past Mt Vesuvius and Pompeii to Sorrento. We walked off the train and headed straight to the moped hire shop which we had researched, picked up a moped (all day for just 32 Euros from Jolly Rentals) and were off to ride down the famous Amalfi Coast which runs along the sea for 50kms from Sorrento. This experience was high on Ian’s to-do list and was just awesome! Riding free brought back memories of Asia, just the scenery was completely different. The road winded along the cliff edge from town to town, we stopped at Positano and Amalfi, and made baguettes for lunch on a little beach somewhere between. The scenery was stunning, although the Italian drivers were a bit crazy on these narrow roads. We were told a few times by other tourists doing the route by bus that we were brave to be on a bike – apparently the locals call it the ‘Mamma Mia Road’ as this is supposedly what they constantly shout throughout their near-misses! These tourists have clearly never been to Asia…
We also checked out Sorrento which is much nicer than Naples and also a lot more touristy.
We were really keen to get into the countryside of Italy around Tuscany, and while we didn’t end up staying in Tuscany itself, the farm stay in Umbria, next door to Tuscany was just as good!
Our accommodation was an old farmhouse/hostel about 20mins outside of Perugia (Perugia Farmhouse Backpackers Hostel). The farmhouse itself is a 200 year old stone building on top of a hill with a huge pool, horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, geese, and dogs. There were a great group of travellers staying while we were there which made our stay even more enjoyable. One day we visited a winery about 30 mins walk away where we tried five of their wines for just 10 euros. Followed by a night of drinking games with red wine and port…We also spent some time in Perugia itself enjoying more Italian pizza, and finally trying some gelato!
We stayed in the tiny village of Taisten, outside of Monguelfo, around 20kms from the Austrian border amongst the Dolomites mountain ranges (Italian Alps). Our accommodation was an amazing apartment owned by Roland and Carmen, two of the nicest people in the world, who put us up (through couch surfing). During the day time we walked on trails through the mountains that reached up above the tree line (then hitchhiked back to town). The views were incredible and our photos don’t do it justice!! By night we ate with Roland and Carmen in their home, laughing and sharing stories.
Taisten and Monguelfo are such pretty little towns with ski resorts all around – we actually looked straight at a ski lift from our bedroom window! All the homes have pretty flowers hanging from the windows, the streets and air is nice and clean and everyone is friendly. It really is like something out of a storybook, we have never seen anywhere like it. What a beautiful part of the world! We wish we could have stayed longer and can’t wait to go back again one day in winter.
See next: Austria