Almost a year later and I’m finally finished my travel posts on the places we visited over our year abroad, this will be the last until we get to travel again! The blog has been the best souvenir we could have brought back for ourselves, it’s a living memory of the adventures we had and I’m a little sad it’s all done. I do have a few ideas for some additional posts; ‘what it costs to travel for a year’, ‘what to pack for a year of travel and all 4 seasons’, ‘how to plan a long trip’, ‘how to travel cheaply by housesitting’….so stay tuned.
We ended our trip in Palermo, Sicily for five days before flying to London and then back to Calgary, wrapping up this incredible year at our most exotic locale to date.
As I’m sitting by the window watching the snow fall outside during this endless winter, my mind starts wandering to warmer places. Homesick for the warmth of Sicily I pull out my pictures of Agrigento and our tour of the Valley of the Temples deciding I have to render my video and do a post as I finish up the last of my Sicilian blog pieces.
Good Morning Sicily! We awoke from our first night in Campofelice di Rocella and it was already getting hot early in the morning, we were having a spell of high 30’s/low 40’s but luckily our bedroom had air-conditioning or we would have melted. We couldn’t even leave the windows open at night because we were surrounded by orchards and all kinds of creepy crawlies that would try to make their way in despite having screens on some of the windows. Janet would spray the perimeters each night with insecticide and in the morning I’d have to sweep the carcasses away before she got up so she wouldn’t see what was trying to bunk down with us. If she saw the bodies she’d be screaming all the way to the nearest Hilton and that wouldn’t be good for our budget.
Our Slovenian adventure had come to an end and now we were excited to start the last leg of our 10-month odyssey in the south of Italy on the island of Sicily. At the crack of dawn, we dropped dad off at the airport in Ljubljana for his journey home and continued towards Venice, Italy where we would return our rental car and board a 2 ½ Hr flight for Palermo, Sicily.
Catching up on blog posts from over a month ago…Slovenia and Sicily to come. Leaving Florence and arriving by train we were back in Venice with our kids. It was much warmer than when we last visited in February during Carnivale but no less crowded and already feeling a little overwhelmed with the mobs of tourists and heat surrounding the city.
The day after Caserta we left our apartment in Naples and caught the train to Napoli Centrale (also confusingly referred to as Girabaldi), it’s central train station where we bought tickets for the Circumvesuviana line to Pompeii.
On our last day in Vico we did a day trip into Sorrento for some sightseeing and shopping that was enjoyed by all. The weather was outstanding, we had lots of variety from walking through the beautiful grounds of a hotel/villa to sampling local foods and shopping for souvenirs. We were looking at Sorrento as a place to base ourselves for touring the Amalfi Coastbut picked Vico, it seems to be downplayed on sites like TripAdvisor but all of us really enjoyed it. We returned with the kids to Sorrento on our itinerary with them, we spent the day at a beach club and some sight seeing. They also really enjoyed spending the day in Sorrento. Here is a link to the Sorrento, photo gallery.
Our few days in Rome quickly came to an end and we were off to Naples via the high-speed train on a pleasant journey traveling to the south of Italy. As soon as we arrived in Naples we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore surrounded by the noise, smells, crowds and chaos that is the fiber of this busy city! We rented a car and I was so thankful that Vyse had elected to do all the driving as it was nuts navigating this city, honking, swearing, swerving, breaking…..and that’s just getting out of the parking lot! There are no rules, it’s a free for all and a big game of chicken when driving in this part of Italy. The four of us with all our luggage jammed into our little rental looked like a comical frat prank on how much can you cram in.
Bologna definitely left us spellbound and bewitched, I can’t shake it out of my head with a yearning to return like a homesick child. It’s a modern metropolitan city but at the same time you feel like you’ve been dropped into one of Shakespeare’s Italian plays; Romeo and Juliet, Othello or a Midsummers Night Dream. Its architecture is medieval grandeur at its best that will have you spinning trying to see everything around you in 360 degrees. It’s a little rough around the edges, beautiful and boisterous, raw and gritty but elegant and grand. Try as I might to describe it you’ll just have to come see for yourself one day, if you’ve been you’ll know what I mean.
Astonishing Assisi, although we were only able to spend an afternoon is the small medieval town we are determined to return one day and stay for at least a few nights in this enchanting place. We’ve said it more than once but this town is at the very top of our favorites in Italy, it gripped our attention with so much character and ambiance. Perched on a hill in the region of Umbria it is famous as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi and holds much religious as well as historical and artistic significance.
Sensational is a good word for San Marino as it effects all the senses with it’s otherworldly atmosphere. Arriving in this fifth smallest country in the world you feel like you’ve almost left the planet for a land that lives in the sky, with castles and fortresses like something from a Renaissance fairy-tale.
We visited San Marino by bus from our school in Recanati, it was one of the weekend tours included in our school programs and started with a stop in the small university town of Urbino. We began our adventure here in this walled city in the Marche region south of Pesaro, nestled in the hillsides of the pre-Apennines. We had a few hours to tour the town, its famous Palazzo Ducale and museum but we opted to wonder the town taking some pics of the surrounding countryside and visiting one of its many excellent cafes to try some local delicacies. It was a quick visit but we thoroughly enjoyed our stop here.
Every year Venice celebrates Carnivale in a big way, attracting revelers from all over the world to partake in the pre-lent celebrations that happen all over the world. This year the kick off was on Saturday the 11th with the water parade starting festivities that will continue until the 28th. We mis- calculated the dates as most of the activities peak next weekend with all the big costumed balls and events throughout Venice reaching a climax on the 24th for Fat Tuesday but nevertheless we are having a ball! Don’t miss my video on the spectacular Water Parade and Carnivale kick off in Venice, Italy- bottom of this post.
The last town we visited before starting school was a town called Imola which turned out to be a big surprise. We hadn’t expected much and were a bit worried as we knew nothing about the small city. We had booked an Airbnb there simply as a base to explore Bologna, Ravenna, Ferrara and Verona, some of the towns we had wanted to visit. We weren’t finding any accommodations in Bologna within our budget so we moved our search to Imola and found a great apartment there. Well our apartment turned out to be fantastic and the town even more so!
If you find yourself in the Italian Riviera, you must take a day trip to the picturesque towns of Santa Margherita and Portofino to see how the other half lives. It’s a playground for the rich and famous where the well heeled pull in on their yachts for the upscale shopping, cafes and restaurants. It was one of our favorite stops and incredibly beautiful, just how you’d imagine a quaint, Italian seaside town. Check out the video of our day trip below, then continue to read about how it unfolded and how to make the trip yourself. At the bottom is a link to our picture gallery of Santa Margherita and Portofino.
We arrived by train from Florence following a little over an hour journey. Our Airbnb host was gracious enough to pick us up at the train station and in minutes we were at our new temporary residence. The train station is conveniently located near the center of the city and a few minutes’ walk into the old walled center where most of the exploring is to be had.