Sunday, 11 September 2016


We had opted for a trip to Pompeii and this included Sorrento as well. Some very fine inlaid furniture is manufactured here and of course we were directed through the premises of one such place.
The quality of workmanship - no doubt about it - was superb but while we could admire the finished pieces, we were happy to leave and spend an hour or so browsing the small streets before it was time for lunch.

Beautiful little boutiques held some really gorgeous linen ladies clothes and some serious money could easily have been spent here, however I restrained myself and only bought a few small gifts for family.

Heading back north we came to Pompeii and so joined the throngs of tourists following their little flag carrying guides through the ancient and astonishing ruins.

We had visited Pompeii in 1973 and found, that while some more excavation had been carried out and more areas opened to view, we thought that some areas where before wall frescos still had fairly bright paint, now they had faded considerably.

We were also not impressed with the giant 'antique' statues that had been placed in various areas supposedly to enhance the ruins - but in our minds were a distraction. I did my best to take photos from different angles to avoid them. It was an extremely hot day with hoards of other sightseers so after several hours of walking around, it was a relief to finally be driven back to our ship in air-conditioned comfort.

With only one more night before we finally disembarked at Civitavecchia we had a last 'dress-up' gourmet dinner, visited the live show one last time and said goodbye to the wonderful "BB King All Star" blues band which performed each evening and which we usually dropped in to listen to for an hour before bedtime. Great music from this band!

Cases packed and left outside our door for transporting off the ship, we slept well in our comfortable cabin (ahem, 'stateroom') and sailed through the night to dock in the early morning. We finally left the ship about 9.30, picked up our baggage and took the shuttle bus to the rail station for an hour's trip to Central Rome. 

Piazza Navona

By 1.30pm we were checking into our small hotel and were delighted to find that it is literally just around the corner from the wonderful Piazza Navona. On our own, we 'did as the Romans did' and had an afternoon rest in the heat of the day and ventured out later to explore the Piazza and sit outside the Cafe Bernini with delicious thin crust pizza with glasses of beer and rosé. 

Cooling off with an Iced Coffee - Roman style
Later after sundown, the Piazza comes alive with the surrounding restaurants spruiking for business, street sellers trying their best to sell you 'selfie-sticks', buskers playing accordians and singing and street artists sketching. Tourists and locals promenade all around and it is just a great place for people watching.  

The second last day of our trip was a day to ourselves in Rome and after breakfast on the hotel's rooftop terrace we headed out for a "Hop on, Hop off" coach tour around this amazing city. We had visited here in 1973 (as well as Venice and Pompeii) and again noticed many changes. Where were all the Vespa motor scooters (a la 'Roman Holiday') whizzing around the cobbled streets? It seems the Italians have up-graded and now either ride bigger motorbikes or drive small cars. Why was it so quiet with no horn tooting and impatient gesturing? In 1973 it was a cacophony in the city centre. No more although the traffic was just as heavy as before.

Rome still astonishes, though. Narrow cobbled streets lead hither and thither and often you turn a corner to find a building centuries old nestled in amongst modern structures. We turned another corner to find ourselves facing hoards of people gathered around the Trevi Fountain, so many that it was impossible to get near it.  We remembered throwing a few coins in the fountain in 1973 - so I suppose the tradition was fulfilled as we had indeed returned to Rome.

Our walk continued and soon around another corner was the astonishing Pantheon, built by the Emperor Hadrian in 110AD as a temple but which has been a church for the past 1400 years. It is just jaw-dropping - amazing architecture and beautifully preserved and a great pleasure to visit.

Our flight home didn't leave until evening next day, so our final hours were spent - you guessed it - at the premier Roman attraction, the Colisseum. 
Of course there were thousands of others all queuing up in the morning heat to tour through this amazing and iconic site. We managed to save a bit of time by booking tickets online, although we still had about a half hour queuing. 
Much restoration work has been carried out and I was amused to find that when we visited in 1973 the place was over-run by stray cats, but these days - not a kitty to be found!

All too soon, but only after we had a farewell pizza at Cafe Bernini, we were headed for the airport and and an uneventful flight home. Leaving Rome in 30 deg heat - we arrived home in Melbourne twenty-four hours later to a very chilly 7 degrees. Back to winter weather with memories of heat and such wonderful trip experiences to make it all worthwhile. 

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