3.5 weeks of forgetting what hungry even means, staring wide-eyed at wondrous historical sites, jaw-dropping views and, of course, inspiring menus.

 

I went on two tours – G Adventures Ultimate Italy to explore the medieval, grandiose north, and Intrepid Amalfi Coast Sailing Adventure to explore the modest, rustic coast. By the end, I left with such a fondness for this beautiful country.

 

Behold, the North…

 

Rome – In the summer, Rome is too hot which honestly did make it difficult to get the best out of each day. Luckily I visited again the following year, pre-summer and it was perfect. As a city, it’s not one of the prettiest I’ve seen. What’s most impressive in Rome is its historical significance.

 

First stop, this gelateria with a line out the door!

 

 

This old thing on my walk!

 

 

The Roman Forum
The old office of Benito Mussolini and the balcony from where he delivered many speeches

 

The Spanish Steps

 

Trevi Fountain

 

 

St Peters Square!

 

 

The best pasta dish I ate – a simple carbonara from a takeaway joint near the Vatican. 5 euros!

 

 

 

One of many shops with hams casually hanging from the ceiling.

 

 

 

Siena – It’s a big call, but I think Siena may actually be my favourite place in Italy. A well-kept UNESCO site, it’s quintessentially Tuscan, charming, laid-back and a throughly enjoyable and memorable place to eat and drink.

 

The town square, for eating, drinking and general lounging.

 

 

 

Tradish panna cotta.

 

This super groovy church!

 

Ok hold up. This is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. It’s from the humble little Osteria Nonna Gina. Cheese-filled gnocchi dumplings in a creamy, nutty secret sauce. I tasted pistachio!

 

 

From the top of the duomo!

 

 

Chianti tasting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A light show about the history of the town, projected onto the walls of the main church

 

And the view of the town from the outside. Gosh.

 

Florence – A walk through Florence is a walk through the Renaissance. Staggering architecture, cobblestone streets, iconic artworks and the resting place of some of history’s most illustrious Italians.

 

The Duomo

 

Which we climbed….

 

View from the Ponte Vecchio!

 

And sunset over the city with a picnic!

 

 

 

David

 

And other art…
And perhaps one of my favourite attractions in Florence, the Basilica di Santa Croce. The resting place of some very illustrious Italians including Galileo and Michelangelo.

 

 

 

Lucca – a surprisingly green, walled town. Tiny and cute. We went to the Puccini Opera. Opera is not for me.

 

 

The teeny tiny town centre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pisa – iconic no doubt, but somehow I kept tilting my camera to make the lean look more dramatic.

 

 

 

Cinque Terre – This is a feast for the eyes, so incredibly picturesque. So much so, that I went on a hike across the coast, through three of the five towns, which says a lot because I simply do not hike.

 

 

 

 

The view from above of Vernazza, one of the 5 towns.

 

 

Crema di cafe, a wonderful, ice cold, creamy concoction somewhere between a slushy, gelato and a coffee.

 

Lake Como – Awesome and beautiful surrounded by lavish and posh.

 

 

 

Bellagio

 

 

 

 

 

Venice – Ah Venice, a tourist’s dream. Popular yes, but there’s nothing quite like it. Medieval and unchanged, colourful buildings, tricky laneways, cute little bridges everywhere. I actually found the city so beautiful, despite all the warnings I received that it is overrated. However, I did find it difficult to navigate. I’m not directionally challenged in any way, and this was a challenge.

 

 

 

 

We went to Harry’s bar to the taste the Belini in it’s birthplace. It’s a delightful drink of Prosecco and white peach puree. At Harry’s bar, it costs 16 euros. This 3 euro alternative is a great imitation and the ultimate roadie.

 

 

This dark-as-the night squid ink pasta in squid ink sauce with squid is absolute quality, from Ristorante Casa Bonita.

 

 

 

 

 

And now, the South…

 

Procida –  Caught in a time warp, complete with parked vespas, and old men convening at the docks discussing affairs of the day. It’s a tiny island that’s been used for filming a number of movies, including The Talented Mr Ripley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resident Nonnos getting together for a chinwag

 

 

Along the coast, simple seafood pastas are abundant and delicious.

 

Ischia – A volcanic island about 30km from Naples. I didn’t have a lot of time here, but apparently it’s quite popular for its hot springs and volcanic mud. Like much of the coastal region, the seafood is fabulous.

 

 

 

Sorrento and Pompeii – The town of Sorrento looks impressive from the sea, with colourful buildings perched high up overlooking the water. Also, Sorrento is where Limoncello is produced, a lovely digestive made from lemon rind, alcohol sugar and water.

 

Pompeii is popular in the summer, however I think I expected more from it. It is sill quite incredible – if not for the historical significance then at least for seeing a real-life example of nature’s awesome power. Funny, a couple of days later we saw a fire on Mt Vesuvius – from a distance it was just an orange glow, and we were foolish enough to think we might see a little lava!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amalfi – the locals in Amalfi seem a little frustrated with tourists coming and going, at least this is how I’m trying to explain away some of the rudeness we encountered. Don’t let this be a deterrent. Venture a little further up the main street, past the town and it gets very green. 20 minutes of trekking and we came across a beautiful waterfall, amidst wonderfull country side scenery, not what you’d expect right near the coast. I also picked up a really cool clock from a vintage shop just outside of the town centre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Capri – high-end shopping, expensive food. Capri is a rich and famous destination. It’s spread across a large hill, so a half hour climb to the top produces some great views of the bay. It’s also the nears town to the Blue Grotto. It’s a pricey attraction, but not one you want to miss.

 

 

 

 

Pasta melanzane prepared by our talented skipper!

 

 

And finally, Positano, the very last destination of my whirlwind 3-month trip – in many ways it was an ideal choice, given that it’s such a laid-back destination, a great place to relax and unwind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy, you have my heart.

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