Posts Tagged With: churches

Exploring Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Buongiorno a tutti!

I’ve been on holiday 🙂 A good friend of mine who used to live here for several years came for a long visit to Italy. We both have long lists of places that we’ve been wanting to visit and so we tried to incorporate them all. We had two “legs” to our holiday. We started off in Naples and headed down the Amalfi coast and then our second leg, a couple of weeks later, took us to the Ligurian coastline and Sardinia. In this post I’ll tell you about Leg 1!
Naples

I do love Naples. It was my second visit. You can read about my first one here. It’s so full of life and atmosphere. I drove from my house. It was about 4.5 hours to get to our apartment by the port, skirting around Naples as opposed to driving through the heart of it. That was stressful enough but then I made the mistake of listening to the sat nav to get to the airport to pick up my friend. I think I had more near death experiences in those 20 minutes than in my entire 38 years. People and motorbikes were coming at me from all angles like they were actively trying to get run over. It was like playing a real life game of Space Invaders, continuously having to take evasive action to avoid killing the suicidal Napolitanos that were trying to do death slides under the car. There were entire families balancing on scooters like they were involved in motorcycle circus events and all without helmets. I’ve decided that’s why there are so many churches in Naples (almost every other building!): it must be to cope with the excessive number of road deaths! My advice: Never, ever drive in central Naples.

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Naples is ‘unkemptly’ colourful

We discovered the underground world beneath the church San Lorenzo Maggiore entirely by accident really because we had wanted, and indeed thought, we were going to Naples Sotterranea (Naples Underground) which is another big tourist attraction. It wasn’t until I was writing this post that I realised we’d made a mistake! Anyway, it was an interesting tour all the same. Basically, Naples gets higher as the centuries pass! Archaeologists have dug down a few meters to reveal Greek ruins from the 5th Century BC. These were at some point covered in earth due to a mudslide/flooding and the next population (the Romans) built a market on top using them as a sort of foundation and nicking a bit of the original Greek stonework. After the next covering of mud, the Christians came to the party and built on top of that. I can’t help but think that if I dug down to discover several levels of ancient buildings which had been catastrophically covered in mud, I would reconsider the position of the thing I was building. Between that and the supervolcano all around Naples, I don’t know how they get house insurance.

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The tour also included things above ground including the chapels. One of the things that intrigues me about churches and religious buildings in Italy is how they ask people to cover their shoulders in order to go inside when the inside is often painted with scantily clad women with their breasts out and nude children. Clearly nobody mentioned the “no shoulder” policy to them.

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She doesn’t have a bag… Perhaps that’s where she keeps her keys.

Breasts covered but what about the shoulders!

We also tried a Napolitan delicacy which I’d never heard of before (though my mum has and has apparently made them!): the Rum Baba. Italian’s do a number of things very well, but in my opinion, cakes are not one of them. The cakes are generally dry and bland but oh no, not the Rum Baba! The Rum Baba drips with so much sugary rum that I think you could probably get drunk from eating a couple. It’s so unlike every other Italian cake and biscuit that you can even swallow it without having to dip it in your drink like the others. If you go to Naples, I thoroughly recommend giving one a go.

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This one must be a chocolate one – the traditional Baba’s are made with rum!

From Naples we drove to Sorrento to experience the Amalfi Coast. This will be controversial, but my lasting impression of the towns and landscape here is: dry and arid coastline dotted with the occasional town (not as colourful as one imagines) that are extortionate to park in (25 euros a day) with an unbearable number of tourists and where everything costs 5 times as much as it does everywhere else in Italy. I realise that I am perhaps the only person in the world that isn’t that impressed with the Amalfi coast so take my summary with a pinch of salt if you’re considering visiting!

There are good bits of course. If you ignore all of the above, Sorrento is lovely. There’s one main street with lots of little alleys off it with interesting shops.

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The views over the sea from Sorrento are gorgeous and overlook Vesuvius and Naples.

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We walked down to the harbour and had a nice meal on the seafront. Look at the amazing boat in the middle!

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I think the Cloister of San Francesco was my favourite thing in Sorrento, I even went back to paint there before we left.

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Perspective all wrong and it’s blurry but you get the gist!

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This was taken our first evening when the heavens opened just before a concert was due to start…

The other thing in Sorrento that I thought was quite interesting was this building which I guess must have been an old mill?

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The following day we took a tourist boat along the coast, stopping at Amalfi and Positano.

Amalfi was pretty, but even more bustling with tourists than Sorrento. If you’re thinking of having a swim there, don’t… Not unless you want to pay for a sunbed and umbrella as there are no “free” beaches apart from a thin sliver of pebbly beach and slipway between boats.

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I preferred Positano which seemed cleaner somehow and they had a slightly larger bit of beach, though it was so busy that you could touch your neighbouring beach-goers if you stretched your arms out. Alas, by the time I got to Positano I was too hot and bothered to take any pictures so here is a much nicer one than I could ever take from Pixabay…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think that about sums up Leg 1. I’ll report back on Leg 2 shortly.

Meanwhile, in other news, one of my walk reviews got published by Cicerone, you can read it here.

I hope you’re all well.

x

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The Nine Circles of Hell, Sightseeing in Ravenna and Photo Expeditions!

Buongiorno a tutti!

How’s everyone? I’ve had a very good, though largely unproductive, few days!

I shall tell you what I’m supposed to be doing – I’m supposed to be editing my book. And yet it seems I’ve spent most of my time doing more interesting/inspiring things instead. I’ve only managed two editing days in the last fortnight. I must, must, must finish!!!

The weekend before last I went to see “Dante’s Inferno” in the caves in Camerano where I used to live (to be clear, I used to live in Camerano, not the caves!). It was probably one of the most unusual plays I’ve seen – rather than sitting in one place it was a sort of group walking tour of the 9 “circles” of hell. As a quick summary, Dante and Virgil (of Roman poetry fame), take a tour of hell which is divided into 9 circles with increasing levels of torment in line with the increasing seriousness of the sins committed. In each larger cave (they’re all connected by small candlelit passageways), there were two or three actors that would recount what was going on in that specific circle of hell. Anyway, it was very good, though in a very difficult form of Italian (passato remoto – it’s not very common and more often used in the written form!) so I had to fill in the gaps with trusty Wikipedia after the performance.

I was also invited to Ravenna last weekend by my lovely neighbour to stay with her just as lovely family. I think it’s probably my most ‘full-on’ Italian language experience to date. I think I have a sort of weekly brain usage quota and as a result, I feel pretty brain dead – I’m unable to string more than a couple of words together now. Ravenna is absolutely spectacular though. I didn’t know anything about it before I went but it’s in Emigia-Romagna, the region north of Le Marche (the region where I am), and on the coast. It’s well-known because it has an extraordinary number of mosaics, some of the oldest in the world and most of them are in the churches. Ravenna is basically built upon a massive lagoon. If they hadn’t filled it all in over the years and sucked out all the water, it would have been like Venice. As it is they’ve had to keep building Ravenna up because it seems the entire city is suffering from subsidence! As a result, when you go around the old historic sites, you kind of walk down to them. It’s got a fascinating history; all recounted by my neighbour, her niece and niece’s partner. This sort of knowledge and patriotism about the area you live in and its history and artwork is something I love about Italy. Alas I have a terrible “in one ear, out the other” tendency for all things of historic importance, which is un-reflective of my level of interest so apologies for my lack of educational information on this blog but have a look here if you want to look into it! If you visit Ravenna yourself it’s well worth buying a sightseeing ticket which will get you into the main sights (tombs and churches mainly!) for just under 10 euros.

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Mosaic somewhere in Ravenna – I should have made a note! Perhaps we can call it an interactive, “guess where this mosaic is?” sort of competition. The winner gets credited in the caption.

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Now…. this is in the tomb of Galla Placidea. I was thinking about having my tomb decorated similarly. There is solid gold in all of these mosaics. SOLID GOLD!

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SEE THE GOLD!!!!!! GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is the Mausoleum of Theoderic. He was a big deal in Ravenna. He was worried about getting captured so there’s rumours of a secret tunnel that goes from one of the churches in Ravenna to this mausoleum (they liked to build their mausoleum’s whilst they were still alive – I guess if you want to make sure something is done right, do it yourself!) and at that point, it was right on the seafront so he could have made a quick get away.  It’s very difficult to imagine how Ravenna must have looked a few hundred years back!

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And here there were a collection of mosaics dug up from around the area…

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And, you guessed it, more mosaics – this mosaic covered a massive area in a large church… all telling the history of Jesus.

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And this is in the crypt of another church. I said how Ravenna was built on a lagoon – well you can see here how it’s been quite difficult to keep the water out!!! There’s actually fish swimming around in it!!! It makes me feel better about the damp problem in my house at least.

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And there’s a little ferry that takes you across the river to get to the harbour…

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And this is the harbour…

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And this church is still in Ravenna but further out. It was my favourite – nice setting (you have to pay 5 euros to go in. The churches in Ravenna must make a fortune). The mosaic around the altar was amazing. Still with solid gold – the churches in Ravenna it seems are wealthy!

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This is a close up of above the altar. All these mosaics must have taken decades!!!!

On a different note I was up in the mountains taking pictures of the stars last week. It’s a lovely idea in theory – it’s absolutely stunning up there at night. But there is NOBODY around and the problem with star pictures is that you have to leave your camera out taking photos for half an hour (because it’s so dark you need to have a long exposure so that you can get enough light in). So I ventured into the pitch blackness, set up the camera, waited in the car and then started worrying that there might be an axe-murderer on the loose. Next time I’m going to take a photography buddy with me!

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I also got up at the crack of dawn the other week to take photos at the beach in Civitanova. It feels like I’m always awake at the crack of dawn but I usually stay in bed willing myself to go back to sleep. But the sunrise was so lovely it inspired me to actually get up early again (for all of about half an hour).

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Yesterday I was very cultured and went to a Schubert and Chopin piano concert in Macerata. Very good indeed.

Finally, it’s chestnut season!!!! I’ve been having a great time harvesting stuff this month. My friend who has a house nearby has been visiting for the last week or so and we found a great spot a couple of days ago for chestnut picking. So, inspired by none other than Frank Sinatra, I have been roasting my chestnuts on my (non)open fire. They’re EXCELLENT!!!! I still have to perfect the timings but the recipe largely goes: 1. Score the chestnuts, 2. Put them in a tinfoil little parcel with a spoonful of water, 3. Chuck it in the stufa/wood burner for 20 minutes, 4. Peel and eat them. I think Mr Sinatra would have been impressed. Mmmmmmmm.

I think that about sums it up.

I hope you’re all having an excellent week. Buona giornata da Sarnano!

xxx

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