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About Me

  1. Today was our final day in Bolzano and it began with quite a bit of travelling. First of all, we took the Renon cable car up to Soprabolzano, then from there we took the little train to Klobenstein as we had done on Monday. But today we weren't planning to walk to the earth pyramids. Instead, we caught a bus from outside the station in Klobenstein to a small place called Pemmern. Pemmern was only about a quarter of an hour away from Klobenstein on the bus and it's the starting point for a gondola cable car, which goes up to a point called Schwarzsee Spitze at just over 2000 metres. Tim and I discovered we didn't even need to pay, as the cable car was included in the Bolzano card we'd received from our apartment. Unfortunately, the rest of my family weren't so lucky! It was fun going up the mountain in the gondolas; they only seated about 8 so we managed to get one to ourselves Once we got to the top we got our first glimpses of the panoramic views we'd been promised. We were following a panoramic loop trail, which was supposed to have really great views. We did indeed get some great views of the mountains, although sometimes it felt like there was a lot of shrubbery between us and them. It turned out that this area has all kinds of different pine trees. These were mountain pine, which don't typically grow to be more than 3 metres high. The pine trees weren't the only nature we had to admire. We also passed some kind of mountain sheep with very long ears. It really was a very scenic path It hasn't come out very clearly in the photos, but we could even see one mountain that had the remnants of snow or a glacier on top. You might be able to make it out towards the right hand side of the photo below. The other great thing about the panorama trail was that it was circular. As we began to loop round we had some different views... ...and also got to see some different types of pine trees. We hadn't realised as we'd been walking that the path was leading us downhill, but after we'd got about halfway round we realised we had quite a lot of uphill to do to get back to our starting point. The final part of the trail took us past the Schwarzsee lake which the cable car station is named after. It's a slightly unusual lake, not least because it's behind a big fence. No idea why! Once we'd completed the route, we headed to the restaurant at the cable car station for some lunch. We all finished with a slice of this absolutely enormous Apfelstrudel! Then it was time for the journey back to Bolzano via gondola, bus, train and cable car! Tomorrow will just be a day of travelling, as Tim and I have a 06.55 train to catch for the first leg of our journey back to the UK. It's been a lovely trip away though to a beautiful part of the world and it's been fun to celebrate Dad's birthday with the whole family
  2. While Tim needed to catch up on some work today, the rest of us decided to go on an excursion back to Merano. Not because Merano was so beautiful that we felt the need to see it for a second day in a row (although it was a gorgeous place!) but to visit a botanical garden, which is located a bit outside the main town centre. We didn't have much luck with public transport initially, missing the 10.35 train we were trying to catch literally just by a minute when there was a last minute platform train. That meant we had almost half an hour to wait at Bolzano station until the next train to Merano. Fortunately, it was quite a scenic place to sit. Once we made it to Merano, we then needed to catch a bus to the entrance to the gardens. The bus took us up some increasingly steep and narrow roads towards our destination. Having missed the first train and then, by default, the bus which would have connected with it, it was around 12.30 by the time we'd bought a ticket and got inside the Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens. We knew they were botanical gardens, but otherwise weren't quite sure what to expect. I was pleased when one of the first things we walked past was a display of cactuses though. There were some lovely views of the mountains surrounding Merano... ...and as we admired the views we noticed what looked like a rather unusual viewing platform sticking out of the hillside. The gardens were really well laid out, so although they were on a hillside you never really felt like you were going very uphill because the paths were gently sloping. We walked past some really colourful flowers, interspersed with the odd cactus. We soon realised that the gardens were laid out in four different zones, with routes to follow around all of them. We'd started with the route referred to as the Sun Gardens, which was concentrating on Mediterranean plants. We also passed a display of carnivorous plants. As we continued upwards, there were some pretty views down towards Merano. There was also the occasional odd sculpture. And we had a view of Trauttmansdorff Castle itself, the yellow building in whose gardens all this is housed. We were climbing upwards towards the rather spectacular viewpoint we'd spotted from down below. It was quite strange to stand on; it wobbled slightly and you could see a long way down when you looked through the floor! It gave us some nice views though. After the viewpoint, our route continued along a very green path. We were walking towards a rather unusual aviary. There were multiple birds inside, including some rather colourful parrots. I wasn't a massive fan of being inside an aviary with birds, but once you walked through it you could get to another viewing platform. From there you could see down towards what was advertised as the palm beach, although that didn't look like it was going to be the most exciting part of the gardens. We decided not to go to the palms but to retrace our steps downhill to the main restaurant to get some lunch. I had some dumpling soup again and also an affogato which came in an actual coffee cup. I was very impressed! As we left the restaurant I realised we could see up to the precarious viewpoint we'd been at earlier. It's not too easy to make out in this photo, but it's between the lefthand branch of the tree and its trunk. It looked quite high from down here! Our plan was now to explore the second zone of the gardens, which was called Forests of the World. The first sight we came to when following the forest trail didn't involve trees, though. Instead, we found ourselves looking at a rice paddy! That was unexpected. The path continued past small waterfalls... ...little palm trees and all sorts of ferns. At one point there was some artificial steam adding to a jungle atmosphere. Towards the end of the forests trail we came to a large glasshouse. There were some beautiful flowers in here. I was excited to see a coffee plant. There were all sorts of other exotic plants in there. Look at these baby pineapples! Once we'd completed the forests trail, we moved on to the Water and Terraced Gardens zone. I think we maybe took a wrong turning on the route at some point because rather than arriving at the large pond we had been expecting, we found ourselves in what seemed to be more like a cactus zone! There were all kinds of different cactuses here. I loved these little round ones! Although I saw a lot of cactuses in Arizona last year, I'm not sure I've ever seen so many different types of cactuses all in the same place. It was also just such a strange setting to see them in, with Alpine views behind. It was all really pretty though And some of the cactuses were even flowering! I may have taken just a few photos! Once we'd finished admiring the cactuses, our path continued down towards a more flowery part of the gardens. There were so many different displays to look at that it was hard to take everything in. I loved these bright red flowers though. Eventually we got down to the water lily pond we'd been expecting. It was really gorgeous here and the rain was just about holding off for us. We saw what looked like enormous water lilies... ...and turned out to be lotus flowers. There were also some giant water lilies where the leaves had edges. Plus lots of more normal water lilies, of course. It was a really spectacular place and there was so much more we could have seen if we'd had more time. Unfortunately, it was around 4pm by this point and we needed to get to the bus stop, to start our journey back to Merano. It was a lovely day though and I'd definitely come to the gardens again if I was in this part of the world
  3. After celebrating Dad's birthday last night we had a slow start to the morning before deciding to catch a train to Merano. Tim and I had been to Merano when we first came to this part of Italy in 2015, but couldn't remember too much about it beyond a general impression that it was a really pretty place and that we'd walked in some sort of garden with sculptures of animals. Merano is only around 40 minutes away from Bolzano on a regional train, so before too long we'd arrived at the train station there. The first thing we saw when we came out of the station was this statue of Andreas Hofer, a local Tyrolean folk hero. From the station it was a walk of 20 minutes or so into the centre of Merano. The river Passer flows through the town and it's a gorgeous river, with beautifully clear water. Merano used to be a spa town and there's an impressive Kurhaus building down by the river. The flower display in front of it was really lovely. I also loved this square, complete with a few little palm trees. And I was particularly impressed by this flower display of a peacock! The river is crossed by lots of different bridges. We were actually trying to stay on one side of it, but every time we got to a bridge I couldn't resist walking across it to see the view. As we made our way along the river we could see that in some places it was flowing incredibly fast. After a while we reached an old stone bridge. The views were really good from here too. Before too long we'd reached the park we remembered from our 2015 visit. I definitely remember this colourful woodpecker! This hairy snake looked familiar too. We ended up crossing the river here and following a trail on the opposite side. From where we were walking we could see what looked like ruins of a castle high on a rock above the river... ...as well as a more modern tower in the distance. The path we followed took us through the forest, which was nice and shady on a hot day, though didn't give us many views of the river. At one point we passed this slightly concerning sign! Luckily we didn't encounter any explosions, but continued on towards some beautiful orchards. After a while we emerged in a clearing, where there seemed to be a picnic spot beside a small lake. We were feeling peckish by this point, so decided to turn around and head back to the centre of Merano. We found a nice restaurant to get some lunch and then explored some of the bookshops in the centre of Merano. Then there was just time for a final stroll up and down the promenades... ...and a final look at the views of the mountains... ...before catching the train back to Bolzano
  4. After updating the blog last night, we went out in Bolzano to try and find something to eat. Bolzano seems to be a place where a lot of restaurants are closed on a Sunday evening, so we weren't wholly successful. Tim and I ended up in McDonalds, which perhaps wasn't the classiest of establishments. But we did get a nice view of the main square in Bolzano by night. The next day was Dad's 70th birthday, so we had a slow start to the day as we went round to give him his cards and presents. Afterwards we took the cable car up to Soprabolzano, from where we then caught a little train to the little village of Klobenstein. Last time Tim and I were here was winter 2019 when everywhere was covered with snow. Today was so different - brilliant sunshine. Back in 2019 it was so cold that this pond was completely frozen over. Today, not only was it not frozen but we had a fantastic view of all the fish swimming around inside it. We'd come to Klobenstein to do a walk towards the earth pyramids, an unusual geological formation. But on the way we had some amazing views of the mountains. Before too long we caught sight of a little church, which looked very familiar. When we came in 2019 this one was almost completely obscured by clouds. From this point we were able to get our first glimpse of the earth pyramids. These unique structures are formed when there are large, hard rocks in the soil. The soil below the rocks is protected from erosion and over a long period of time it forms a pyramid, complete with rock on top. Not all the pyramids still have their rocks on top, but we saw some that did. There were some particularly good views of them from the viewing platform. And there were some great views of the mountains from here too. The benefit of being here in summer was that more of the path was open, so we were able to walk further than we had done before. Eventually we came to a restaurant where we stopped for lunch. I had Speckknödel which were very tasty Then it was time to retrace our steps back towards the train station in Klobenstein. Unfortunately, when we got to the cable car station we found that the cable car was closed for some sort of maintenance this afternoon Some replacement buses had been laid on but there were nowhere near enough for the volume of people trying to get down the mountain. We ended up having to queue until 5pm, at which point the cable car started working again. It was a slightly frustrating end to what was otherwise a lovely day
  5. To celebrate my Dad's 70th birthday, my family decided to book a trip to Italy. Tim was already going to be in Italy, attending the World Esperanto Congress in Turin, for the first part of their holiday. I decided to fly out to meet them in Verona towards the end of their time there, while Tim made his way across Italy from Turin to meet up with us all for the second part of the holiday in Bolzano. My journey started on Friday morning, walking into Nuneaton to catch a train to Birmingham International for my Ryanair flight to Verona. Having heard that there is a bit of chaos at Birmingham airport this summer due to renovations for a new security terminal, I decided to turn up three hours ahead of my flight to make sure I definitely got through security on time. Imagine my disappointment when I got to the Ryanair baggage machines, only to be told that I wasn't allowed to use them until two hours before my flight. That was annoying, but I managed to pass an hour in Costa and then come back for a second attempt. It turned out that I needn't have worried about getting to the airport early; it was a pretty quiet time of day and I whizzed through security in less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, my flight then ended up being delayed for no clear reason, but luckily only by around half an hour or so. The flight to Verona is a fairly short one and before too long I was queuing for passport control on the other side. By the time I got through that, my bag was already waiting for me on the baggage carousel which was a relief; I'm always nervous about flights where I have to stick my own label onto my bag! I emerged into a rather humid Verona, where it looked like it was soon going to rain. Getting the airport bus into the centre of town is theoretically straightforward, but in practice turned out to be complete chaos. Lots of passengers didn't understand how they were supposed to buy tickets, then once people had bought tickets and managed to get on board there was more chaos as it's one of those airport buses that don't have any space for luggage. I spent the entirety of my journey balancing in the bendy part of the bus, where the floor moves every time you go round a corner. Once I made it to the main station in Verona, it was just another short bus ride to the part of the city where my family were staying. My sister met me and led me to their apartment, where I spent the night. The next morning, after a breakfast of croissants and coffee, we headed back to the main station to catch a train to Bolzano. The journey took less than two hours on a regional train, which was surprisingly busy; we were lucky that we were at the station early so that we could jump on the train as soon as it arrived and find space for our luggage. We arrived in Bolzano around 13.30 and I set off towards the apartment I'd booked, where someone was waiting to check me in. It's a nice apartment, in a residential block not far from the cable car station in Bolzano. We've got a kitchen... ...a living room... ...and a bedroom. Best of all there's air conditioning, although it did take me a while to figure out how to get the temperature to go below 25 degrees! I unpacked for a while, then set off back to the train station to meet Tim, who had had a nightmare 9-hour bus journey across Italy from Turin. Once we'd all made it to Bolzano we went out in the evening for a pizza. The weather forecast had been looking a bit mixed for the following day, but when we woke up on Sunday morning it seemed surprisingly sunny. Our first plan had been to go up the cable car to Soprabolzano, but when we all met at the cable car station we found that there was an enormous backlog of people queuing to go up the mountain. We're not sure whether it's always like that at this time of year or whether it was particularly busy today thanks to the good weather, combined with the fact that it's a Sunday. We decided to leave Soprabolzano for another day and instead go with a back-up plan to visit Runkelstein Castle, which is about a 40-minute walk away from central Bolzano. We started by walking through the town, where we got a glimpse of the controversial victory monument erected by Mussolini. From there we turned off and walked along a pleasant trail through lots of greenery. We could hear, although not always see, a fast-flowing river. Every so often we also got glimpses of mountains in the distance. We walked past vineyards... ...and several buildings which looked like castles but weren't the castle we were going to visit. The views of the mountains here were fantastic. As we continued on, everywhere looked so green that it almost felt like we were in the Azores. We passed another building which wasn't the castle we were looking for... ...found the river again... ...and then eventually got our first glimpse of Runkelstein Castle. It was an impressive castle, but quite high up; we still had a bit of a climb to get to it. It was rather steep but we all made it to the castle gates just before a torrential downpour began! Luckily the castle has a nice restaurant, where we were able to sit inside until the weather improved and get some lunch. I was slightly disappointed that they'd run out of apple juice, so couldn't make me the Apfelschorle I was craving, but I managed to console myself with an Aperol Spritz. After lunch, my family stayed to explore the castle which has some impressive frescos. Tim and I are philistines as far as frescoes are concerned, so we decided to walk back to Bolzano via a slightly different route. The weather had massively improved by this stage, which was good. The path led us uphill towards vineyards. There were so many grapes! We could see down towards Bolzano in the distance. This part of the route was relatively flat, but there was a lot of uphill to get to it, followed by a lot of downhill at the end. The views of Bolzano were superb though... ...and as we got towards the end of the walk I was amazed to find that there were cactuses growing by the side of the path! Definitely not what I expected to find in Bolzano The path brought us out not far from our apartment, so we were able to head back there for a while to cool down (and catch up on the blog ).
  6. We've got a flight home from Pisa at 17.50 today, but that meant we had almost another full day to spend in Italy. We needed to travel back in the general direction of Pisa to be in the right location for the flight in the evening, so we decided to visit the coastal city of Livorno, which is around 15 miles southwest of Pisa. We had another fairly early trip to the train station, catching a train at 09.28. Everything went smoothly this morning and we were soon on our way towards Livorno The journey was straightforward; about 90 minutes on a direct train. When we arrived in Livorno around 11am we found that the train station is located on the outskirts of the town, so we had a walk of a couple of miles ahead of us to get to the centre of town and the sea. The first sign that we were getting close to the centre was when we chanced upon this large square. Not far from the square we found Livorno's cathedral. It wasn't quite as impressive as the cathedrals we've seen in Florence and Siena this week! Shortly after that we got our first glimpse of the sea. Livorno is a port city and we could see there was a big cruise ship in town. We walked along the coast for a while, towards a lungomare footpath. The area around the port was a bit industrial in places, but other parts were pretty. We could see there were ferries coming in and out of the port as well as cruise ships. When we got to the end of the lungomare there was a large square with a chequered floor. The views of the coast from here were really lovely The best views in Livorno may be when you're looking away from it Once we'd finished enjoying the views we walked back towards the town and found a restaurant for one final meal in Italy. I had a lasagne which was really good Then it was back through the town to the station, for the short train ride back to Pisa and the flight home. We've had a lovely weekend away and really enjoyed the Italian sunshine This is a part of Italy well worth visiting!
  7. We had planned to make a day trip to the town of Siena today and that meant an early start. Although it seems like there is normally one train per hour between Florence and Siena, on Sundays the timetable is less frequent with the result that there is a gap in trains between half 8 and half 11. We decided our best bet was to get the 08.28 train and set off towards Florence's main train station well in advance of 8am to give ourselves time to buy tickets and find the correct platform. It was lucky that we did because when we got to the station and attempted to buy tickets for the 08.28 from the ticket machine, we were greeted with a message saying that the train we wanted had sold out I'm quite baffled by this as I didn't think it was possible for regional trains to sell out in Italy! It could have been a disaster, but it seemed like tickets were still available for a slightly earlier train, departing at 08.10. We hadn't expected to be at the station early enough to catch this one but we were - just about - because it was approximately 08.04. We faced a battle against time to get the slow Trenitalia ticket machine to sell us tickets, then locate the correct platform for the train. It turned into a bit of a sprint across the station, weaving in and out of the hordes of people with suitcases who filled the concourse, but we made it in the end with about 60 seconds to spare. Phew! What we hadn't had time to do was to validate our train tickets. That's quite important in Italy so could have presented us with a problem. Fortunately, Tim had a pen in his bag and was able to write the time of the train we'd boarded on the back of the tickets. When the inspector came around to check them, that turned out to be sufficient The journey from Florence to Siena took around 90 minutes. When we arrived and exited the station in Siena we were initially a bit unclear about where to go but everyone else who'd got off the train seemed to be crossing the road and entering a large shopping centre, so we opted to follow them. That turned out to be a good decision. The town centre of Siena is situated significantly uphill from where the train station is and by entering the shopping centre we were able to travel on a series of escalators and travelators which took us up the hill with little effort. I think there were at least six escalators in total, so it was quite a hill! Once we eventually emerged into the daylight again, we had a beautiful view of the countryside surrounding Siena. We passed through what looked like a large gate into the old town. Once we were through the gate we found ourselves walking down the narrow streets of Siena. We passed little squares... ...tiny churches... ...and the odd statue. It was all really beautiful. As we walked we noticed there were lots of green and red flags adorning the streets. We assume this is the local city flag. Some of the street lights were painted in matching colours too! At this point we heard what sounded like a loud drumming noise, so we decided to follow it and investigate. Following the drumming took us towards Siena's main square. A procession was passing along the far side of the square and that's where the drumming noise had been coming from. We've got no idea what it was about, but it involved a lot of waving of flags! The main square itself is enormous. The huge building at the centre of it is the town hall. Amazingly, the tower was built in the fourteenth century. It was designed to be the same height as Siena's cathedral, to show that the state and the church were equally powerful. We hadn't seen the cathedral yet, so we continued our explorations. Eventually we got our first glimpse of it at the end of a narrow street. It's hard to be impressed by a cathedral having just seen the enormous Duomo in Florence the day before, but this one is pretty amazing too. It has a really beautiful facade... ...and we could see some gorgeous stained glass inside too. The baptistry on the other side of the cathedral was worth seeing too. We walked around the town a bit further, passing a more modern brick church. The church itself wasn't that exciting compared to the others we've seen so far, but just around the corner from it we had a fantastic view. Not only did we have a spectacular view of the cathedral, but we could also see the tall tower of the town hall. The heat of the day was building up by this point so we found a nearby cafe to relax with a drink followed by a restaurant for a nice meal. I had pappardelle with wild boar ragu, which was amazing! After lunch we had a hot and sticky train ride back to Florence, where we arrived just on time to track down a sports bar to watch Leicester's final game of the season. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for them and they ended up getting relegated. We ate at the bar and then had a final walk through Florence, with some more beautiful views of the Duomo
  8. It was a lovely sunny day when we woke up in Florence this morning. After yesterday's very early wake-up we had a more relaxed start to this morning, having a bit of a lie in before heading out to explore the city. From where we were staying we walked through narrow side streets until we got down to the river Arno. We walked alongside the river for a while because we wanted to see the Ponto Vecchio, a medieval bridge across the river. It looks great when you see it from a distance, though from memory it is quite claustrophobic to walk across because it's lined with small shops! There were plenty of colourful buildings on the opposite river bank. We crossed the river by a less historic bridge and started to climb uphill. We were heading towards a square called Piazzale Michelangelo and the route there was rather steep. As we climbed, we started to get glimpses of the view through the trees. It was hard work climbing uphill in the sunshine, so we stopped partway up for a drink at a little outdoor cafe with a view. From there it wasn't too far up to the square and once we got there it was well worth the climb. The views of Florence from up here are incredible. While it's the huge dome of the Duomo which dominates the skyline, you can see lots of other churches and buildings too... ...and if you look in the opposite direction you can see the countryside outside of Florence as well. We stood there for ages admiring how beautiful it was. Then we climbed back down through the trees and found a restaurant in the old town where we had some amazing pasta for lunch. After lunch we set off to explore the main centre of town. We quickly found ourselves in a large square, outside the Palazzo Vecchio, which is Florence's town hall. As you can doubtless tell from the photos, this was a pretty busy part of town! We walked a little further through crowded streets and reached the cathedral itself. It looks just as impressive from this level as it does when you're up on the hill. And it's so large it's hard to fit it all in one photo! There was one more church I wanted to see and that was Santa Maria Novella, which is not far from the train station. It's an unusual church because it has an extremely ornate facade on this side, but then it's just plain brown bricks from all other angles. The heat has been scorching all day, so at this point we decided to head back to the apartment and cool off in the air conditioning for a while. It's been a lovely day in a lovely city
  9. Another bank holiday means it's time for another trip! This time we've headed to the Tuscany region of Italy, accompanied by Tim's cousin Baden, who has had Italy on his bucket list for quite some time. We had an early start to the weekend this morning with alarms set for 3am to enable us to get down to Stansted on time for our 07.45 flight to Pisa. Stansted was pretty busy - not unexpectedly, as this bank holiday corresponds to school holidays too - but we weren't checking in bags so we made it through the airport with time to spare for a breakfast in Wetherspoons. The flight was on time and before we knew it, we were touching down in a warm and sunny Pisa Pisa is one of the most unusual places I've ever flown to, in that you can walk straight from the airport into the town without needing to take any form of transportation. Admittedly it takes half an hour or so until you get to the part of town with the famous leaning tower, but it definitely makes a change from squeezing on to overpriced airport buses. After a bit of walking the streets began to look more scenic... ...and we soon found our first pretty square. We crossed over the river Arno, which runs through the centre of Pisa... ,,,and found our second pretty square. From there it wasn't far until we got our first glimpse of the famous leaning tower of Pisa It leans an incredible amount in real life, so much so that it's hard to understand how it's still standing. I struggled to capture it in photos, but Tim got some good ones. This is the second time I've been to Pisa. I remember being surprised the first time I came how many other beautiful buildings there are surrounding the leaning tower. We did a circuit around the vicinity of the tower, admiring it from different angles. Before we came I'd been debating whether I should buy tickets to climb to the top. I didn't in the end and when I got here, I was glad I think if you're on the top you must feel like you're standing at a really funny angle! The area around the tower was obviously very busy and there were lots of people trying to get the perfect shot. We were hungry after our early start to the day, so soon headed off to a quieter part of the town centre where we sat outside in the sunshine with some drinks... ...and the most enormous pizzas! The intention was only ever to make a flying visit to Pisa and so after lunch we set off towards the main train station, Pisa Centrale. For the bargain price of €8.90 each we were able to catch a regional train to Florence, which only took around an hour. The apartment we're staying in in Florence is around a kilometre from the main train station, so it didn't take us long to find it. It's nice and spacious We've got a big living/dining area... ...as well as two large bedrooms and two bathrooms. The one thing which is not great about the apartment is the WiFi; it seems inexplicably slow this evening, hence only a brief blog. Hopefully it will be a bit faster tomorrow and I'll be able to upload some more photos from Florence!
  10. It was a beautiful bright sunny day when we woke up in Menton this morning. After breakfast on our balcony, we decided to walk into the centre of town and explore a bit more. We walked down to the beach. It was pebbly, but perhaps less so than in Nice. The views of the old town were spectacular with the blue sky behind them. In the other direction we were looking towards Italy, which is where we were planning to go later in the day. Menton turned out to be quite busy today, with a Sunday market clogging up the streets. We stopped for a coffee, then walked along some quieter streets towards the town hall. From there we passed through some pretty gardens, on our way to the train station. Menton is only a few miles away from the Italian border and the trains which come from the direction of Nice terminate not in Menton but in Ventimiglia, the first town on the Italian side of the border. Knowing that we were so close to Italy, we couldn't resist the temptation to pay it a quick visit The train journey to Ventimiglia only took around 10 minutes, barely enough time to get used to the idea of being in a different country. Ventimiglia maybe wasn't quite as well-kept as Menton, but it was still a pretty little place. We enjoyed the views in the local park... ...and were able to look back down the coast towards where we'd just come from in France. Then we found a very scenic spot to sit outside and have lunch Ventimiglia wasn't actually our final destination. Once we've finished eating, we headed back to the train station and caught another train a couple of stops down the line to a town called Bordighera, which we'd read was worth a visit. When we arrived in Bordighera, first impressions was that everywhere was rather wet! It seemed to have been raining quite heavily here. Luckily, things soon brightened up I'd never heard of Bordighera before I started planning this trip, but Tim was familiar with it because it used to be home to a man called Clarence Bicknell. Although a street in Bordighera has probably been named after him because he was a famous botanist, Clarence Bicknell was also a well-known early speaker of Esperanto. The Clarence Bicknell museum in Bordighera doesn't open on Sundays, so we didn't get to see if there were any mentions of Esperanto inside. That didn't matter though, because Bordighera turned out to be a really pretty place. We followed signs towards the old town, climbing upwards. There were some beautiful views. I've been surprised at how mountainous this part of France/Italy is. The route towards the old town led through these shady gardens. I love walking along and seeing cactuses growing by the side of the path We enjoyed the views out to sea... ...then carried on through the woods towards the old town. It turned out to be tiny... ...but a really pretty place nonetheless. We walked back downhill towards the newer part of Bordighera and attempted to have a walk by the sea, but unfortunately the clouds had converged again and we got caught in a rain shower. Luckily we were quite close to the station, so we were able to jump on a train and head back to France and Menton. We can't complain; most of the day has been beautifully sunny and we've visited some amazing places
  11. When we woke up on our final morning we found that it was actually sunny outside for a change We had breakfast and Tim managed to track down the owners of the hotel to pay for our room. Once we were all settled up, we set out for a final walk to the cable car station. It felt warmer in the sunshine and the snow had thawed to some extent, but the paths were still slippery in places. I found it difficult not to keep turning around as we walked, because there were some beautiful views behind us. This was definitely the clearest day we'd had, and I was hopeful of some good views from the cable car too. Luckily we managed to catch one which wasn't too busy and had plenty of space for our suitcase, plus managed to get a seat on the side with the best views The views were indeed spectacular. We've been up and down in the cable car lots of times over the course of the past few days, but a lot of the time we just travelling through clouds, and even on the slightly clearer days we couldn't see all these mountains. As we got further down we could see the lower slopes which would be covered in vines during the summer. Soon we were down in Bolzano. Because we were staying up in Oberbozen, we hadn't actually seen very much of the main part of Bolzano, so we'd decided to come for a walk around before catching our train back to Verona. We bought our train tickets, left our suitcase in the left luggage office at the station, and set off for a stroll around town. I was keen to get over towards the river which I remembered as being really pretty when we were last in Bolzano in 2015. Even in winter, the countryside looked really lovely We passed the victory monument, controversial because it was erected by Mussolini after Italy acquired South Tyrol from Austria following WW1. There's a good network of footpaths and cycle paths which criss-cross the river here. Once we were on the far side of the river we had a good view back towards the snowy mountains We walked alongside the river for a while. We knew we couldn't afford to walk too far, because we had to back at the station for our train at 12.31. We were catching the last possible train to the airport for our flight at 16.40. With views like these it was definitely tempting to keep going rather than turning around though Eventually we had to turn around and head back to the town centre. We had a final walk through the main square and made it back to the train station with plenty of time to collect the suitcase and catch our train. We've had a wonderful holiday in Bolzano and would definitely like to come back to this region again one day
  12. One thing we hadn't done during this short break is visit the Christmas market in Bolzano in the evening. We'd got back to the hotel early enough today to be able to go out again in the evening, so after night had fallen, we put our coats and boots on, and headed out the door. Soprabalzano was pretty in the dark. It had its own Christmas market outside the cable-car station. It appeared that we were going to be the only people taking the cable car at the point we boarded. Yes, the doors closed without anybody else coming through, so we had it to ourselves. About 7 minutes into the journey. an illuminated Bolzano appeared in the distance. There were two very handy landmarks standing out. There was a Christmas market alongside the Big Wheel, and another in the main square, which had the cathedral on one edge. The first cabins were enclosed by trees with beautiful fairy lights and large red baubels. And the street had lovely lights suspended above it. The edge featured reindeer and lights. The cabins happened to be closing at the point we arrived, so we said goodbye to the reindeer and walked towards the main square. We knew we were nearly there when the cathedral appeared. Each side of the square featured a light show of moving stars. We were really pleased to see that one of the cabins housed a nativity scene. There was a beautiful tree at the side of it and a lovely view of the cathedral and its roof above it. We stopped beside it to have a small mug of Glühwein. Although it was time to head back home, we decided not to take a direct route, leaving the square from the end opposite the cathedral. It took us up a street we'd already seen in the daylight. We knew where we were going. We'd seen that the nearby streets had decorations up, and wanted to see them at night. There were plenty of trees in the nearby square, surrounding some more cabins. And some Christmas lighting guiding our way back home. It was a fun evening to a fabulous day, before we fly back home tomorrow.
  13. The weather forecast for today had been really positive, consistently stating that it was going to be sunny. I was quite surprised then when Tim opened the curtains this morning and found that it was snowing outside When we stepped out of the apartment after breakfast, we were the first to walk in the fresh snow The plan for the morning had been to go and see some different earth pyramids near Oberbozen. The path towards them started just outside our hotel. When we attempted to follow the route though, we found that the path was quite steep and slippery, with rocks just about covered in snow. We made it part of the way and I was hoping that the path was going to flatten off after a while, but it continued to go quite steeply down, so in the end we gave up and climbed back towards the road. The road itself was beautiful; we were the first people to walk in the fresh snow here too We decided to walk up to the station and catch the train to go and revisit the earth pyramids we'd seen at Klobenstein on Friday instead. It seemed like a good idea to stay high up, because if it had been snowing up here then it had probably been raining down in Bolzano. The walk to the station was very scenic in the snow We walked past the cable car to the train station. It was a lot busier than it had been on Friday; there seemed to be a tour group of Italians. We managed to squeeze on and get a seat though. The whole landscape which we travelled through was covered in snow and when we got off the train in Klobenstein, this was the view that awaited us. Wow. We hadn't been able to see these mountains at all when we were here on Friday! We walked on snowy pavements towards the pyramids. A pond which we'd passed on Friday was now almost completely frozen. The ducks looked rather cold! I was excited to get to a roadside viewpoint where the entire view had been covered in clouds the other day. There was still a bit of cloud today, but we could see a lot more We could see the church in the distance more clearly too, and now it was completely surrounded by snow We'd had no idea that all these mountains were here when we'd walked along the path the other day It didn't take long to get to the viewing platform for the earth pyramids. They looked really cool with snow on top of the stones that sit on top of them The views of the mountains from the viewing platform were amazing too. We were lucky that the cloud was just in the right position not to obscure the mountain tops. We even caught sight of some mountain goats in a field below us. They must have been rather cold! Then it was time for us to head back towards Klobenstein. It was nearly lunch time by this point, so we walked back towards the village to see whether there was anywhere we could get food. There didn't seem to be a lot of options, so we caught the train back to Oberbozen and the cable car down to Bolzano, where we ended up going to the same restaurant (and having the same meals!) as we did the other day. The food genuinely was really good! Bolzano itself seemed really busy, with lots of people out shopping. It all looked very festive though and there were some lovely Christmas decorations. We decided to go back up to the hotel for a while, then head down to Bolzano in the evening to see the Christmas lights switched on There was still a fair bit of snow in Oberbozen once we got back up on the cable car. The roads had been gritted though, so it was easier to walk back to the hotel. Once back in the hotel, we were able to watch a beautiful sunset from our window
  14. The weather forecast for today had showed torrential rain all day in Bolzano. I was hoping it would turn out to be incorrect, but when Tim came back from buying breakfast looking rather damp, it seemed like we had to accept the inevitable and make a wet weather plan. Tim suggested that we go down to Bolzano and visit the archaeological museum, which is home to an exhibition about Ötzi the Iceman and which we visited the first time we came to this region in 2015. Meanwhile I was googling what transport we could use for free with our Mobilcards, and established that we could travel on regional trains between Brenner and Trento. When I looked up the weather forecast for Brenner, I found that rather than raining there it was supposed to be snowing The chance of seeing some snow was too big a temptation to resist, so we decided to catch the 11.02 train from Bolzano to Brenner. As we were eating breakfast, it looked like the precipitation in Oberbozen was changing from rain to sleet. In fact, once we got outside we found that it was turning from sleet to snow. By the time we had walked to the Ritten cable car station, it was snowing properly I was covered in snow It was very misty, so we had zero view as we travelled down in the cable car to Bolzano. It was pouring with rain in the town itself, so we were rather damp by the time we arrived at the train station to catch our train to Brenner. The journey took around an hour and twenty minutes and looked like it would have been really scenic if the cloud hadn't been so low. About two thirds of the way through the trip, the rain turned to snow and by the time we stepped off the train in Brenner it felt like a blizzard. Brenner (or Brennero in Italian) is a pretty small village, stretched out along one main road. I knew it was close to the border with Austria, but I hadn't realised quite how close until I got a text from EE welcoming me to Austria When I'd seen on the weather forecast that there was going to be snow here, I'd imagined that there might just be a few flakes falling. But it was actually already pretty deep The snow-covered trees above the town looked really beautiful. As we walked along the main street we passed the local church, which had a rather colourful clock tower. We suddenly realised that we'd accidentally walked as far as the border. You can't make it out in this photo, but there's a square blue sign on the building behind me saying Republik Österreich. The main feature of the border seems to be a large shopping centre, which I'm standing next to here. Having reached the limit of Brenner in this direction, we turned around and walked back the other way. When we got to the far end of the village, we caught sight of a waterfall in the distance. You really can't see it very well in this picture because it was snowing so much, but it was just in between the trees We were feeling rather cold by this point, so we found a restaurant to get out of the snow. I had a lovely Hawaiian pizza, while Tim had schnitzel and chips. For pudding, I had tartufo, which was icecream drenched in espresso Tim had a dessert called cuore fondente (melting hearts) which consisted of little cakes with melted chocolate in the middle. We had a while before we needed to catch the train back to Bolzano, so we went for another stroll after lunch. It was still snowing really hard. It was hard to tell exactly where the border was, but this bit definitely seemed to be Austria. I got a picture with the Austria sign We also found a stone marking the border; Austria on one side... ...and Italy on the other. As we got the train back towards Bolzano, the clouds started to lift a bit and we began to get glimpses of the mountains which had been hidden from view this morning. The sky was a lot clearer in Bolzano as well, as as we caught the cable car back up to Oberbozen we finally got a good view of the snowcapped mountains in the distance (the photo is a bit blurry because it was through the slightly wet cable car window!) Darkness was falling as we travelled up on the cable car and when we arrived in Oberbozen, everywhere looked very Christmassy. As we began walking back towards our hotel we got some really great views of the sunset. It was amazing now that it was finally clear enough to see the mountains properly It had obviously continued snowing here during the day too and everywhere looked very white. Unfortunately the road which we needed to walk down towards our hotel was a bit slippery as a result. And it was hard to look at your feet when the views were like this in one direction... ...and like this in the other. We may have taken just a few photos By the time we got back to the hotel it was properly dark. It turned out to be a really great day, especially for one which started out by promising to be so rainy
  15. The weather forecast for today hadn't promised great things, and it was a little bit damp when we stepped out of our hotel this morning. It was also quite misty, and we couldn't see any of the higher mountains in the distance. We walked up through the village, which looked pretty with its Christmas decorations. We could see that there had been a reasonable amount of snow here in the not-so-distant past. Our plan for today was to catch the Ritten train, which travels along the plateau towards a town called Klobenstein (Collalbo in Italian). The journey was free with the travel cards we bought yesterday, which was a bonus We had a pleasant journey in a train that was nearly empty, and it wasn't long before we were stepping off the train in Klobenstein. We had come here in search of earth pyramids, and it wasn't long before we saw a sign pointing towards them. We walked past a house which had some enormous gnomes... ...and then down through the village. One of the hotels had a rather unusual nativity scene outside Signs led us to the the neighbouring village of Lengmoos/Longomoso, which looked like a really pretty little place. From there we passed what looked like it was supposed to be a viewpoint, but there wasn't much of a view today. Before long we caught sight of a little church in the distance. It looked like it was in danger of being obscured by the clouds... ...and soon it actually was! We were following the path that was supposed to lead us to the earth pyramids, but I was starting to get a bit worried that once we got there we wouldn't actually be able to see them with so much low cloud! We also passed a sign which said that the path was only open as far as the first viewing platform, so we weren't sure how much we were going to be able to see. We reached the viewing platform and it was indeed rather misty! It looked like this might be the best view I was getting of an earth pyramid When we looked over the railing, we could just make out something which might be earth pyramids behind the clouds. It was very atmospheric, but I had hoped to have a clearer view! Luckily, once we'd been standing there a while, the cloud started to move The church became visible again and we even got a glimpse of the higher mountains in the distance. Now we could see the earth pyramids better too! Once we could see them properly it became clear what unusual structures they are. The info board explained that earth pyramids were formed by rainwater eroding soil which contains large rocks. The soil under the rocks is protected from the erosion and - over the course of thousands of years - a pyramid of earth is formed beneath the stone. The process requires a certain type of soil, as well as periods of heavy rains followed by drought in which the earth can solidify. All of this makes the earth pyramids which are found here quite rare. Seeing the stones balancing on top of the pyramids is really cool - it doesn't look like it ought to be possible! By the time we were leaving, the weather was an awful lot better than when we had arrived. We walked back towards Klobenstein, to catch the train back to Oberbozen. The return journey wasn't quite as peaceful, because the train was full of children on their way home from school! Once we got to Oberbozen, we caught the cable car down the mountain to Bolzano. It was so cloudy that we could barely see a thing! It was around 2pm by this time and we were rather hungry, so we had come down to Bolzano with the aim of finding lunch. I expected there to be lots of restaurants in Bolzano, but somehow we struggled to find one. There was a restaurant near the main square (but the prices were quite expensive) and a couple of pizza places (but we had pizza last night, so were hoping for something different). There was the added complication that we'd missed the official lunch time, so not everywhere was still open and serving. We walked around for what felt like quite a while, before eventually finding a restaurant that seemed promising Tim had Wienerschnitzel with potato salad and cranberries. ...while I had a turkey schnitzel with fried potatoes The food was really delicious While we were eating the rain in Bolzano seemed to become a bit heavier though. We had a brief walk around, finding the cathedral with its colourful roof. The centre of town was looking quite festive. There was a little Christmas market in the main square... ...a beautiful Christmas tree... ...plus a ferris wheel in the distance. As we walked back towards the cable car station, we passed some more lovely decorations. There was a tree covered in red baubles beside an ice rink... ...plus these rather cool reindeer The cable car back up to Oberbozen was very cloudy again and the rain seems to have got worse this evening. The forecast for tomorrow isn't very promising, but we've certainly made the most of the weather today and had some fun
  16. We haven't been away before Christmas for several years - not since 2013 when we last went to the Christmas markets in Ljubljana and Zagreb - so booking a trip to Bolzano before Christmas this year was something that happened quite spontaneously. We were watching the Eurovision song contest... or, at least, I was watching the Eurovision song contest... and Tim was sitting in the same room watching it under sufferance... and somehow he managed to get so bored that he started playing around on Skyscanner and found cheap flights to Verona in the week before Christmas. Admittedly they were from Gatwick and would require quite an early start, but the temptation of a cheap flight was too much for us to resist. When researching where we could go, Tim found some pictures of Bolzano in winter which looked really pretty, and so we soon had a plan When the alarm went off at 02.30 this morning I was admittedly slightly less excited by the concept of an early flight from Gatwick We had a smooth journey down though, arriving at the airport by 6am and with plenty of time to have breakfast at Wetherspoons. Our plane boarded quite early too, but unfortunately it ended up taking off around 50 minutes behind schedule. Unbeknown to us, there is some sort of industrial action going on in France at the moment which includes French air traffic controllers being on strike. Because of that, lots of flights were being rerouted to avoid flying through French air space, and that was causing congestion. I ended up falling asleep before we took off, although take off itself did wake me up because it felt like the plane was being blown from side to side as it raced down the runway! There was a bit of turbulence during the flight itself and overall the skies seemed quite cloudy. We didn't have much of a view because we had middle and aisle seats, and the person next to us had the window blind closed for a lot of the flight. It was around midday by the time we touched down in Verona, where the pilot announced that it was a rather mild 12 degrees! It certainly didn't feel freezing cold when we stepped off the plane and I started to regret having brought so many cold weather clothes with me. We've been to Verona before but never to Verona airport, and first impressions were that it seemed pretty small. We had to queue for ages at passport control because pretty much the entire flight had to pass through three automatic passport control gates, but the upside was that our luggage was already coming round the conveyor belt by the time we got out There is a frequent bus service from the airport to the main train station in Verona, with tickets costing €6. There was a bus outside the airport when we arrived, but there was quite a big queue and it already seemed pretty full. We decided to give it a miss rather than try to push our way on and wait for the next one instead. That turned out to be a good decision; the next bus came within 15 minutes and it wasn't more than half full, which was good because it was one of those airport buses that doesn't have anywhere to put your luggage. We arrived at Verona Porta Nuova around 13.15 and went to a ticket machine to buy our tickets to Bolzano. It cost around €15 each on the regional train, which didn't seem too bad considering it was a journey of nearly 2 hours. The next train was leaving at 13.50, so we purchased tickets for that and then had a look around the station to see whether there was anywhere we could get a quick lunch while we waited. The eating options in Verona's station turned out to be a bit limited, and so we ended up getting a snack from Burger King (I know, this sounds like a dreadful thing to do when you've just arrived in Italy, but we were hungry ). All the signs and railway announcements said that our train was running late, but confusingly it actually turned up early and we were soon on our way towards Bolzano. Once we had left the outskirts of Verona behind, the journey quickly became really scenic. Although it was quite a grey and cloudy day, the mountains still looked beautiful (The photos aren't very good because there was a lot of reflection in the train window!) We passed through lots of interesting little places, and within half an hour or so we were getting our first glimpses of little bits of snow on the mountaintops. We arrived in Bolzano just after 15.30 and made our way from the main train station to the station of the Renon cable car. Our hotel is in the village of Soprabolzano/Oberbozen, which sits on a plateau above the main city of Bolzano at an altitude of around 1200m. Because we anticipated that we might be travelling up and down the mountain quite a bit over the next few days, we invested in a Mobilcard; this cost €28 each for 7 days and allows us to travel on most of the public transport in the region. The choices are 1, 3 or 7 days and it made sense to buy for 7, even though we aren't here for that long, because it was only €5 more than for the 3-day pass, and a single journey on the Renon cablecar would otherwise cost €6 each. This is the first time we've ever caught a cable car to our hotel and so I was quite excited As we got higher up we could see more snow in the distance. Soon we were at the top and only had a walk of a few hundred metres to get to our hotel. There were tiny little patches of snow on the grass, which suggested that there had recently been snow up here but that it had now thawed. We found the hotel without any difficulties but it was all shut up and there was a sign saying that reception would be open again at 18.00. Luckily, the owners had left us a note with our key... and luckily we were able to read German to follow the instructions We found our room and it is really beautiful It's more like a studio apartment than a hotel room. And the views out the window are fantastic I was in definite need of a nap by this point, so it was early evening by the time we set out to find some food. Everywhere was looking very festive There aren't loads of restaurant options up here, but we found a little pizzeria and shared a four cheeses plus a salami pizza. Then it was back to the hotel for an early night! The weather forecast isn't great for the next couple of days, but rain-permitting I'm definitely looking forward to exploring more tomorrow
  17. We were woken up at 07.30 this morning by the bells of the church outside our apartment ringing rather loudly! The price of our room included breakfast, which had been arranged for 9am. Promptly at 9, our hosts arrived with a tray for us. We had a big croissant each, plus some sugary little pastries which are a local speciality, and more coffee than we could drink After breakfast, the lady who owned the apartment had promised to give us a tour of Naro. Although it was only about 09.30, it was already extremely hot when we stepped outside. We started with the church just opposite where we were staying. This was the Chiesa di Maria Santissima Annunziata and it was really beautiful inside. It had a really old baptismal font, I think from the fifteenth century. Our guide Francesca was speaking in Italian with Tim translating for me and there were a lot of dates, so I may not have them all right. The font had previously been in another older church before it was brought here. Once we'd finished admiring this church, we stepped outside into the sunshine again. We passed this balcony, which has four masks carved on it, looking in different directions to ward off evil spirits. We walked down from there to a second church, which Francesca had the keys for to let us in. This was the Chiesa di Santa Caterina. It's normally only opened for weddings, so we were really lucky to be able to see inside There were some beautiful scraps of frescoes on the walls here. Apparently the entire church had originally been covered in them, but that style of decoration went out of fashion and at some point the church was white-washed. Years later, people have scraped the white paint away in the hope of finding frescoes underneath. The church was also home to a chair which Pope John Paul II had sat on when he visited Sicily. The third church we visited was the Chiesa di San Francesco. The church is situated in a square called Piazza Garibaldi, but apparently the locals aren't too keen on Garibaldi (because they would have preferred to keep their independence rather than be unified into Italy), so locally they refer to the square as San Francesco rather than Garibaldi. Although we have seen a lot of baroque buildings on this holiday, this church is very special because - unlike most of the other towns we have visited - Naro wasn't destroyed by the big Sicilian earthquake in 1693. Whereas most of the other churches we have seen were designed and rebuilt after that date, this church was built before then and survived. This means it is older than all the baroque architecture we saw in Noto earlier this week. It was really stunning inside. The most exciting part of the visit was that Francesca had keys to the sacristy and opened it up for us. It was very grand, with the most amazing paintings on the ceiling... ...and lots of intricate wood carvings around the walls. It was such a fascinating tour and we learned so many things that we definitely wouldn't have done without the benefit of a local guide There was more that we could have seen in Naro too; we didn't have time to visit the castle, for example. That means we'll have to come back one day and stay at Casa nel Barocco again. We couldn't have hoped for more helpful hosts; when it was time for us to leave, Francesca's husband even volunteered to drive ahead of us and show us the best route out of town to the main road. We would have been completely lost without that, because some of the roads in Naro were closed today for a market. Our ultimate destination for today was a town called Enna, but on the way we wanted to stop off and see some mosaics outside a place called Piazza Armerina. There was about an hour or so to drive from Naro, but as we progressed through the hilly Sicilian countryside we realised that there was a problem with the rental car. Ever since we picked it up, an intermittent warning had been flashing up about us needing more of something called "AdBlue". Tim realised while driving today that the warning was actually a countdown, telling us how many more kilometres we could drive before our lack of "AdBlue" meant we would no longer be able to accelerate. Neither of us had any idea what AdBlue might be, so when we next passed a petrol station Tim decided to pull in. Our rental car runs on diesel, and the people in the petrol station (who thankfully knew what AdBlue was!) explained that it's some sort of fluid which needs to be poured into diesel cars. Having now googled it, it seems to be some sort of diesel exhaust fluid. Luckily they managed to find some and poured litres of it into the car, after which the error message went away and we were able to continue our journey. We had to pay €13 for it though, which we'll be taking up with the rental company when we return the car, because according to the car instruction manual (which we had some fun reading while we tried to figure out what the error message meant!) the warning about AdBlue first appears when you've got 2,400 kilometres left to drive, and then when you've only got 1,000 kilometres to go it pops up every 20 kilometres, which is what was happening to us. We'd only driven about 400 kilometres on this trip so far, so the notification had clearly been showing for ages and the rental company should have sorted it out before giving us the car. Anyway, with that problem solved we continued towards the mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale. Villa Romana del Casale is fourth century villa, with one of the largest collections of Roman mosaics in the world. We parked, bought our entrance tickets for €10, and then made our way along signposted paths towards the mosaics. As we got closer to the entrance to the villa, there were some beautiful pink flowers We passed through the entrance gate... ...where we could see the remains of some frescoes... ...and then we were inside, getting a glimpse of our first mosaic. We followed a series of constructed walkways, from where we could look down towards the mosaics. Sometimes the walkways were constructed in a way which meant we were looking at the mosaics from slightly odd angles, but they were still really impressive. I thought there would be a few mosaics here but I was completely unprepared by how many there were! Some had geometric patterns... ...while others depicted really elaborate scenes with people. Some of the larger mosaics depicted hunting and, specifically, the capture of exotic animals to bring back to Rome. In this scene I think the animals have been caught and are being loaded onto the boat. It was fun trying to work out what the animals were. This one was definitely an elephant... ...and I think this one may have been a rhino. Another of the most famous mosaics is the so-called "bikini mosiac". This one depicts a number of scantily-clad women engaging in various sports, like throwing the discus... and something which looks remarkably like beach volleyball I think the encounters with wild animals were probably more exciting There was so much detail! Though sometimes it was hard to work out exactly what they were showing. A carriage drawn by pigeons? This mosaic was showing an aquatic scene... ...and I was rather excited when I spotted a mosaic duck There was so much to see, we could really have spent all day looking at mosaics. The reason there are so many and they are so well-preserved is that the site was covered by a landslide in the 12th century and only rediscovered again in the nineteenth century. I think any other mosaics we go to see are going to be a disappointment after these! It was late afternoon by this point, so eventually we headed back to the car to find somewhere to get lunch. We'd passed a restaurant not far away from the entrance to the mosaics so we headed back there. It was a lovely location to sit outside and eat We both had a dish of tagliatelle ragu with some of pork in it. The sauce was really tasty and it was a nice big portion From there it wasn't far to get to Enna. We were supposed to be staying in a B&B near the centre, but I'd had a message from the owner a couple of days ago saying that due to a technical problem she was going to have to relocate us to a different B&B that she owned. We didn't have a lot of choice in the matter, so said okay, but we weren't quite sure what we were going to find when we got there. We also weren't sure where we were going to be able to park. Enna is a hill town and we ended up having a bit of a nightmare, with Google maps trying to direct us up some very steep and narrow streets, which ultimately proved to be too narrow for our car. Some rather stressful reversing later, we found some flat ground to park the car on and climbed up the hill on foot! When we eventually arrived, the room turned out to be really nice and spacious The lady explained that there was a problem with the plumbing at the other property, hence the change. She was slightly horrified at the way we'd tried to get here, as apparently there's a big wide road we should have taken. I guess Google Maps must have decided that the steep and narrow way was shorter We were rather hot and bothered after our exertions, so decided to sit in the air con and do the blog, saving our exploration of Enna for tomorrow!
  18. It was another beautiful sunny day in Sicily when we woke up this morning. We had breakfast outside on a terrace slightly lower down in the same building as our apartment. As we had some time before we needed to check out, we tried to sit and read a bit in the sun. It soon got too hot though! Our plan for today was to drive from Castelbuono to the seaside town of Cefalù, which is on Sicily's northern coast. We had a beautiful drive through the mountains and then along by the sea. When we arrived, parking in Cefalù was a bit tricky, with lots of narrow streets to negotiate. It looked like a really pretty place though. We could see a fortress on the hill behind the town, but didn't fancy climbing up to it. We walked through the streets of the old town... ...getting some more great views up towards the fortress. Down one of the side streets we passed we could just get a glimpse of the sea. We passed the church of St Stefano, which looked very old... ...before arriving in a large square which is home to Cefalù's cathedral. A cathedral was first built here in 1131 by the Normans, in a fortress style. It certainly looked very big and imposing. From the cathedral we walked down more colourful little streets... ...until we got to the sea I read in the guidebook that the beach at Cefalù is one of the most popular in Sicily, because it's very sandy. It certainly looked busy today! It was lovely looking out to sea... ...and back inland towards the town. When we got to the end of the pier, we could just make out the twin towers of the cathedral in the distance. We walked back into the town in the hope of tracking down somewhere to get lunch. After so much meat yesterday, we had a vegetarian day with a margherita and four cheese pizza After lunch we had a long drive along the coast toward the B&B where we are spending the night. Because this seaside part of Sicily is so popular, I couldn't find anywhere affordable to stay along the coast at all, so had booked a place which is a few miles inland from the town of Tindari. We've got a lovely room... ...and our own terrace to sit on There are amazing views, both of the nearby vineyard... ...and of the mountains behind. We couldn't have hoped for a more beautiful place to spend our last night in Sicily
  19. My day was going to be an early write-off. We arrived at our spectaculary good apartment at about 16:30, around half an hour after finishing a colossal steak which was far more than I would normally be able to eat but the expense of which compelled me to attack. In a sweltering hot country and with a beer and some wine in me, that was a recipe for a food coma, and so I was immediately asleep as soon as the host left us. More or less. Clare wanted the photos for the blog preparing first, so I did those with my eyes partially closed and then had a cold shower. It didn't work and I was soon a curious combination of asleep and feeling sorry for myself. Clare is much more disciplined than I am and set to work on the blog. When it was finished a couple of hours later, she asked me whether I felt it was time to go out and see the town. As far as I was concerned but it wasn't fair to give her cabin fever, so I agreed to go out too. cursing myself for still being too full to be able to even consider buying some beer or wine to enjoy on our rooftop. It turned that I needn't have felt so full at all. You see, when we arrived around 2 o'clock looking for a meal, we went to the only place we'd encountered stating that it was a pizzeria/restaurant and tried to order. It wasn't open, aside from its cafe. So I asked the lady whether there were any other places open. In her opinion, that was very unlikely, although she suggested we head down the main road. That was how we found the restaurant offering our very expensive meal. It turned out all she would've had to say is 'There are about a million restaurants in the Old Town. Why don't you head there?' We didn't even know there was an Old Town until we headed down the main road this evening and went further than the restaurant we'd visited earlier! We espied a spire in the distance and so headed towards it: We saw a sign pointing out that there was an Old Town and so headed into a side street: And look what we found: a busy square! The mountains in the background were a sight to behold: It had a large clock tower: There was a small section of portici: And the church whose spire we'd glimpsed earlier: We headed down a street in the direction of the castle: There was a couple getting married: We thought we'd leave them to their privacy. Or didn't want to pay the entrance fee. Delete as applicable. And so we turned around and headed back to the square: Emerging from that direction presented us with the mountains again. We'd driven along them earlier to get to Castelbuono: And so we began the journey home, heading up a small street with an attractive tower beckoning us: Soon we passed a lovely fountain: Before we knew it we were a two-minute walk from our appartment with an ice cream store next to us, so we picked up a large mint ice cream apiece and retired to our rooftop to see the soon fade away behind the mountains: I'm really glad that we ventured out ... but can't help but feel slightly aggrieved that the lady we spoke to earlier in the day didn't tell us about the Old Town. I'd have loved to see it in proper daylight, plus we wouldn't have been compelled to eat so large a meal that we were effectively denied the chance to sit on our rooftop with a nice bottle of wine to end the evening. There's always a wineless tomorrow morning, of course, when I inevitable wake up early and need somewhere to sit whilst reading!
  20. It was another bright sunny day when we woke up this morning. From the window of our room, we had a view of Enna's main street where we'd seen the lights last night. We didn't take any photos of breakfast this morning, but it was the biggest selection we've had on this Sicily trip. A selection of cheese and meats, as well as an impressive array of cakes When we'd finished eating, we went out to see some of Enna by daylight. In one of the squares we found a viewpoint from which we could see down towards the lower town. We'd left our car somewhere down there We continued walking up through the town... ...until we got as far as the castle, which sits at its far end. This is Castello di Lombardia, which was built here in 1076. We walked around the edge of the castle, admiring the views out across the surrounding countryside. In particular, we caught sight of a large mountain in the distance. Could that possibly be Etna? As we came around the far side of the castle... ...we saw a large rock which looked like it might provide an even better viewpoint. We climbed to the top of it and wow, the view was really amazing! In one direction we could see the little medieval village of Calascibetta, perched on the top of a hill. In the other direction, we had a really clear view towards Etna. When we looked back, we could see the castle too. Meanwhile the big wide road we could see cutting across the countryside was the motorway to Palermo. We'd be driving on it a bit later (though not as far as Palermo!). Climbing down from the rock was a little bit harder than climbing up. We made it down though and got back to the B&B on time to check out at 10.30. It was really good value, at just €60 for the night. Then we just needed to walk back down the steep and narrow roads which Google Maps had made us try and drive up yesterday. We retrieved the car and set off towards our destination for tonight: Castelbuono. As we left Enna on the nice wide main road, we could see back up towards the upper town where we'd been staying. Soon we were driving far below the town. There were some beautiful views as we made our way towards the motorway. We were driving towards the hilltop town of Gangi, which became famous a few years ago when the mayor started giving away abandoned houses for a Euro (on the condition that purchasers spent lots of money restoring them). It was difficult to get a good photo from the car, but you can make Gangi out on the right of this photo. When we arrived we found that the driving was crazy, even by Sicilian standards, and it was quite difficult to park, so we only had a quick look around. It looked like it would be an interesting town but we felt too hot to climb all the way up this hill. Soon we were back on the road. To get to Castelbuono, we were driving on little roads through the Parco delle Madonie. This is a nature reserve, which is home to some of the highest mountains in Sicily. There were some amazing views as we drove, but unfortunately there weren't very many laybys or places to stop, so most of the photos are taken from a moving car. A lot of the time the landscape looked very dry and barren... ...but in other places it was greener At times Tim had to drive rather slowly because we got caught behind the local traffic It was around 2pm when we began to approach Castelbuono, which is situated to the east of the national park. We were a bit early to check into our apartment, so decided to get lunch. The only difficulty was trying to find a restaurant! We walked around the town for a while, failing to find anything, and eventually found a sign pointing towards a pizzeria. That sounded promising, but when we tracked it down the waiter told us that the pizza ovens weren't switched on yet so pizza was off the menu. That was a shame, but I was hopeful that I could have some pasta instead... until I looked at the menu and found that all the pasta dishes either involved fish or mushrooms In desperation we looked at the meat section of the menu (which was quite small compared to the fish section!) and ended up ordering a large steak to share. And when the waiter said it was large, he meant large! After we'd ordered it, it occurred to me that we hadn't been asked how we wanted it cooked ... and my worst fears were confirmed when Tim cut into it and we found that it was the opposite of well done It was actually really delicious, if you closed your eyes and tried not to think about what you were eating! By the time we had finished we were extremely full, so I was glad that we didn't have to walk too far to find our apartment. When we arrived and checked in, we found it was one of the best places we've ever stayed We've got a large living/dining room with a kitchen... ...a spacious bedroom... ...and, best of all, a roof terrace with amazing views Not bad value for €70 - it's a shame we're only staying in Castelbuono for one night!
  21. Today was such a full day that we were wiped out and didn't want to do much other than go to bed once the blog was finished. We started the day with a guided tour of three churches in Naro, had a lengthy stopover at a garage when it transpired that we were within 120km of the car breaking down, drove for a couple of hours to Villa Romana di Casale and saw perhaps 30 or 40 mosaics, drove to Enna, were sent up some very steep streets by Google Maps, which were so narrow that we eventually had to reverse because our car was too wide, so instead had to park the car elsewhere and then follow Google's indications up those same steep streets for over a kilometre with our backpacks and suitcases. Nonetheless, we hadn't actually seen anything of Enna since we got here so forced ourselves to go on a stroll. Our hotel is on Via Roma, the main street. The main street that we would've reached had Google Maps not taken us on a 'shorter' detour. From our window we could see that some lights had been switched on: We followed the lights, which soon became a second type: We soon reached a square: It overlooked the old town. You might get an idea of how narrow and steep the streets we'd been driving earlier were: We turned around and left the square: The next stretch of road featured lights in the shape of candelabra: We then reached the Duomo. Unfortunately, it's all covered up for the renovations so there wasn't any point in photographing it. On the other side of the road was a square named after and featuring a statue of Giuseppe Mazzini: Via Roma is a one-way street because there is another road running parallel to it. We walked through an archway to get to it: We're quite high up! The building in the distance is the Palazzo del Governo, so we headed down to see it: And with a quick crossing of the road, we were back in our hotel two minutes later.
  22. The place we were staying in in Ragusa last night was a bed and breakfast, but we weren't entirely sure what was happening with the breakfast. When we woke up this morning, we found it had been laid out for us in the communal kitchen outside our room. It was a very sweet breakfast, featuring croissants and chocolate cake Once we'd finished stuffing ourselves, we went out for a walk to see Ragusa in the morning sunshine. The view towards Ragusa Superiore was much better in this light We walked along the narrow street towards the cathedral again. The cathedral looked beautiful with the blue sky behind it. We hadn't realised when we booked to stay in Ragusa that some of the Montalbano TV series is filmed here. We found one of the views from the show, but I don't think I can quite pull off Montalbano's look We had time before we checked out to walk a bit further through the town, towards the gardens. We passed Ragusa's other church, San Giuseppe. It was already another hot day, so it was nice to get under the shade of the palm trees for a bit... ...and enjoy the views out across the countryside again Then it was back up through the town for a final look at the cathedral before setting off towards our next destination. The main place we were visiting today was Agrigento, but as that was over a two hour drive away from Ragusa, we were planning to break our journey in a seaside town called Licata. As we set off in the car, we had a good view up towards Ragusa Superiore. As you can see in this photo, we managed to get stuck in a queue behind Ragusa's tourist train, so we ended up having longer than expected to admire the view It took about two hours to get to Licata in the end and there wasn't much of a view of the sea because there was a port in the way, but it turned out to have a pretty old town. We walked through some gardens... ...where I found an impressively large cactus... ...and then we caught sight of the town's main church in the distance. The church had a beautiful dome, although like everything in Licata it looked a bit faded. Once we were at the church we weren't far from the main street. We had a view from there up towards the castle above the town. We came to a square, with what I assume must have been the town hall. As we'd been walking around we'd been looking for a restaurant to get lunch, but failing to find anything more than a cafe that was open. We eventually found a place just past the town hall, where the waitress told us that they were the only restaurant open in Licata today. We'd just started looking at the menu when she reappeared to say that there was a smell of gas in the kitchen and so they were only able to offer a handful of items on the menu. Luckily this included pizza, so we were fine They didn't have much on offer in the way of pudding, only something called "semifreddo" which we didn't really understand what it was. Tim decided to be brave and order one anyway; it turned out to be a bit like ice-cream, but not quite. As we were walking back to the car after lunch, I caught sight of a thermometer on a pharmacy which confirmed that it really was very hot! From Licata, we continued onwards towards Agrigento, which was another half an hour or so drive. We didn't actually want to visit the town of Agrigento itself, which according to the guidebook isn't terribly attractive, but an archeaological site outside of the town called Valle dei Templi. Although the name suggests a valley of temples, we soon discovered it's actually more of a hill with temples on it After paying €12 each to get in, we climbed a sandy path uphill and soon got our first view of (part of!) a temple. There were originally seven temples at the site, which were constructed by the Greeks in the fifth and sixth centuries BC. Today they are some of the best preserved examples of ancient Greek architecture outside of Greece, although not all of them are still intact. We followed the path past several ruins, with views in the distance towards the modern town of Agrigento. After a while we came to the remains of the temple of Heracles. This one is believed to have been built in the sixth century BC. From there the path proceeded steeply uphill towards the best preserved temple. This is the temple of Concordia. As we got closer we could see how absolutely enormous it is. Here's a picture with me for scale In the distance we could just make out the tantalising remains of another temple, the temple of Juno. Unfortunately it looked like a bit of a trek and we didn't really have time because we'd arranged to be let into our accommodation at 5pm. We turned around and began our walk back down to the car park. I'd definitely like to come back here one day and explore further, although maybe in October when it might not be 35 degrees! As we started driving back onto the main road, we got a final view of the temples Because the guidebook wasn't very complimentary about Agrigento, we're staying overnight in a nearby town called Naro. It took us about 20 minutes to drive there and another 10 minutes to drive around very narrow streets trying to find our apartment! We found it in the end and it's nice and comfortable inside There's a cosy area with a table/chairs and a fridge... ...which then leads into a bedroom that features a bunk bed as well as a double bed. It's got great air con and the wi-fi is working okay. The lady who owns it was very friendly and gave us a bowl of cherry-flavoured granita to cool us down, which was a really lovely surprise We seem to be right next door to the local church and have already heard the bells ringing a couple of times. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't start ringing really early tomorrow morning
  23. Clare worked hard to bring you today's blog and then after a day of 35-degree heat and accummulated sand needed a bath, so I had plenty of time to do some reading. It's a shame that I'm so slow at it though; I'm two pages from finishing so will get there before lights out! Having moved our car from its temporary location to the square recommended by our host earlier (and having conquered again the one-way system and streets which were narrower than the car), I had noticed how pretty the yellow stone looked illuminated by the streetlights and suggested to Clare that we nip out for a stroll. Just standing in the doorway, we were treated to a sight: And our street was very pretty too: After a couple of minutes, we passed our hire car: We knew we'd hit the local hub when the street became wide enough to accommodate cars in each direction. There were a couple of cafes open but I quite liked the sight of a pizzeria on the street corner because there was lots of empty space. We ordered a jug of wine and a large beer: I was feeling a little peckish so ordered a burger. The server called it a 'Luxembourger', which confused me, until I realised on the second occasion that she was saying 'deluxe hamburger'. It was big: So big, in fact, that I couldn't fit it into my mouth. It was sliding all over the place, most of it finishing on my hands and face. Fortunately the waitress had seen it all before and brought me out a stash of serviettes. There was an unfortunate moment when a freak blow of wind blew up the paper sheet she'd added as a second tablecloth, which began a chain reaction starting with an empty beer bottle toppling into a wine glass, the contents of which spilled, with the result that a poor ant which we initially believed had drowned was a few minutes later zig-zagging across the table. We chatted for a while and then I asked for the bill: 10.50€! Yet again, we'd benefitted from paying the price the locals do by speaking the language! I'm not sure it's much of financial return on the hours invested but I always love it when it happens. We then had a slow walk home, culminating in the lovely yellows on our door step: Today was a busy day with lots of road driven and a few towns stopped in. Tomorrow promises to be much easier. Because there's less on the agenda, we didn't have any qualms in accepting the offer of a post-breakfast guided tour from our host for tomorrow. Fingers crossed I'll have finished my book by then.
  24. Today it was time for us to leave Catania behind, picking up our hire car and exploring some more remote bits of Sicily. We'd booked to pick the hire car up from the airport, mostly because it will be convenient to be able to return it to there at the end of the week, and so we set off to catch the airport bus back there this morning. We'd realised when walking outside our apartment the other day that the airport bus actually has two stops on our road, so the good news was that we didn't have to walk all the way to the station to catch it. The bus wasn't as busy as it had been on Saturday morning and we had a relatively pleasant journey, arriving at the airport just before 10am. 10am was the time we had booked to pick up our hire car, so I expected that we'd just be able to walk in, show the documentation and drive off. Every time we've hired a car previously it's taken about 10 - 15 minutes to sort out the formalities. It turns out hiring a car in Catania takes a lot longer When we got to the hire counter we found we had to take a ticket to wait to be served. We got number 83 and they were currently on 72. I've got no idea why, but dealing with each person seemed to take an extremely long time and we stood there for what felt like forever while the numbers edged slowly forward. Some people must have either given up or taken several tickets, because a couple of times they'd call a number and there would be no one there, so we were able to skip forward a bit. In the end we stood there for over an hour and it was after 11am by the time Tim finally had the hire contract. When I was researching hire cars in Sicily prior to the trip, they all seemed like quite good value but the thing which really made us nervous was the level of the excess which the rental companies wanted to hold on our credit card. I think the most we've had before was €800 in the Azores, but it seems that hire companies in Sicily routinely ask for €1,200 and sometimes even €1,500. Because Sicily felt like it had the potential to be a challenging location in which to drive, we ended up taking out a separate insurance policy which we can claim on if we end up having to pay any of the excess to the hire company. That added on to the overall cost, but gives us a bit more piece of mind. When we eventually located the place to pick up our car from and got the keys, it turned out that we'd been given a Polo; a bigger car than I had expected! The rental desk was so chaotic that we definitely weren't going to go back and question it There was plenty of space in the boot for our suitcases and soon we were on our way, only about 90 minutes later than I'd expected. Our first stop of the trip was a place called Cava Grande del Fiume Cassibile, which our guidebook had described as being like the Sicilian version of the Grand Canyon. It was included in the list of the top 18 things to see in Sicily at the front of the guidebook, so I'd deliberately worked it into our itinerary for today. When we got there, we ended up being a bit underwhelmed by it. There was indeed a canyon, but because the weather is so hot and dry there wasn't very much water to see. We could just about make it out if we zoomed in Luckily the canyon hadn't been too great a diversion, because it was only a few miles outside the town of Noto, which is where we were heading next. Noto has existed since Roman times, but the original town was destroyed during the Sicilian earthquake of 1693. The town was rebuilt, but in a completely different location about 8km from its original site. Today Noto is one of the best examples of Sicilian Baroque architecture and a World Heritage Site. The most impressive building is undoubtedly Noto's cathedral. The construction of the cathedral was completed in 1776 but part of the building, including the dome, collapsed in 1996 and had to be rebuilt, opening again in 2007. You wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at it today We walked around Noto for a while, admiring the views. We stopped to have lunch at a restaurant under some shady trees. We both had penne with ragu which was really nice, but not the largest portion in the world, so we ended up ordering pudding as well There was a bit more of Noto to see before heading back to the car to travel onwards to our ultimate destination of the day: Ragusa. Ragusa is located about 30 miles inland from Noto, so it wasn't the longest drive in the world. What did take us a while was trying to track down our B&B once we'd arrived! We did several circuits around the old town before I got out of the car and tracked it down on foot. It turned out to be exactly where Google had said it would be, but the sign was very small Our room is in a B&B in Ragusa Ibla. In what seems like a familiar theme, most of Ragusa was destroyed in the 1693 earthquake and a new town, called Ragusa Superiore, was built higher up the hill. The original town, Ragusa Ibla, was also eventually reconstructed, and when I was researching places to stay this definitely seemed like the most scenic location. Once we'd settled into our room, we went out to explore. The sun was in the wrong location to take good photos, but we could see Ragusa Superiore in the distance. We soon got a good view of the Duomo of San Giorgio. We'd already driven down this narrow road and seen it once when we were looking for our B&B! We came around the side of the cathedral into a square. Again, the sun wasn't in the best possible position, but from the end of the square we could look back towards the cathedral. Further on we found another beautiful church too We walked towards the edge of the town where I'd read that there were some gardens. Sure enough we found them and walked down a beautiful alley lined with palm trees. From the far edge of the gardens we had views out over the surrounding countryside... ...in several directions We'd walked as far as we could now, so we turned around and set off back towards the B&B to make a start on the blog
  25. Our plan for today was to take a daytrip to the town of Siracusa, located about 40 miles south of Catania. There is a regional train service connecting the two towns, but the trains don't run very often. We had a choice between 08.45 and 10.45 this morning, so decided to have a leisurely start to the day and take the 10.45. We left our apartment around 10am and walked towards Catania's main train station. It was already baking hot, even in the shade. We got to the train station with plenty of time to spare and bought our tickets from the machine. As ever in Italy, the regional trains are really cheap and the trip to Siracusa - which takes just over an hour - only cost €6.90 each. It turned out that we needn't have hurried to the train station because every single train on the departures board was delayed, including our own, which was due to arrive on platform 1. When we stepped out onto platform 1 I was surprised to see how busy it was, only to later realise that most of the people were waiting for a train to Rome... which was delayed by an hour and 50 minutes We were quite lucky in comparison that our train was only advertised as having a 10 minute delay, although that was gradually extended to 15 minutes and then 20. We had a change of platform, to accommodate a train from Messina which was also delayed, and eventually, around 11.10, our train finally appeared. Hooray! There was no attempt to make up for lost time, as the train sat in the station for a bit and then made other, seemingly random, prolonged stops along the way. The journey took us through some countryside, then along a bit of coastline which seemed quite industrial, before finally arriving in Siracusa around 12.30. Better later than never I guess! Siracusa, also known as Syracuse, is famous for having been an important Greek city in ancient times and was the birthplace of Greek mathematician Archimedes. Most of the sights of the town are located on the island of Ortigia where Greeks from Corinth originally founded the city. Today the city has spread out onto the mainland, which is where the train station is located, so we needed to walk from there to Ortigia. There weren't many helpful signs to follow, but we knew we were on the right track when we came to a bridge across a small body of water. On the far side of the water, we came to the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. The temple is believed to have been built by the Greeks in the sixth century BC. We walked through a pretty square with a fountain... ...and then began to make our way through the narrow streets of the old town. It was a really beautiful town We soon came to a huge square... ...which is home to Siracusa's cathedral. The cathedral was built on the site of a Greek temple to Athena, originally in the 7th century, but significantly rebuilt after Sicily's big earthquake in 1693. From the cathedral it wasn't far to the edge of the island. The beach looked incredibly stony, but there were still a fair few people sunbathing on it. The water was beautifully clear... ...and we had some great views, both of the town and out to sea. We found a lovely walkway to follow along by the coast. Once again we found some really pretty flowers, which seemed to be flourishing despite how hot the weather was. After a while we came to a little park which provided some welcome shade. It was home to some enormous trees, which looked very old. By this point we'd managed to do a circuit of the island and were back at the bridge where we'd started. We headed back into the old town, now on the lookout for a place where we could get a late lunch. After a bit of walking we eventually found a place with scenic views out over the sea. We had some delicious pizza... ...followed by an americano, which came like this: an espresso, with hot water to dilute it After lunch we walked back along the coast... ...crossing back over the bridge towards the newer part of town. Our regional train back was supposed to be just after 4pm but guess what, it was delayed! It actually set off more or less on time, but after a few unexplained stops somehow still managed to arrive in Catania over half an hour late It was also incredibly hot and sticky, which made me glad that we're not relying on public transport for the entire holiday. Tomorrow we will be picking up our hire car and leaving Catania behind, heading towards the town of Ragusa.
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