Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Italian Blog - Epilogue

So ladies and gents, the final Italian blog is here. Sorry it's been so long but things couldn't have been busier since I've returned and a recent bout of insomia has created the best opportunity to post this.

The photos from the trip have bene flickr'd and can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robbies/sets/ look for the Italy set.

We booked all of our hostels from hostelworld.com, most of the hostels were fine except for a most unhelpful guy at the hostel in Milan (which was bloody miles away from the city centre). However, I'd really recomend the 'Italy Farm Stay' (http://www.hostelworld.com/availability.php/ItalyFarmStay-Pescosolido-11332) hostel in Pescosolido a few hours outside of Rome. If you were looking for somewhere out of the way, I'd really recomend this.

Speak to you kids soon.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part VIII

Bloody socialist Italians! First they vote in a former communist as the new president, then they decide to go on strike the day we planned to take a boat trip up lake Como. It wasn't just the boat people that went on strike, it was also the buses, trains, and metro.

We had actually planned to do the boat trip on the Thursday, but the weather was pretty poor and visibilty was low so we decided to do it Friday. At that time we didn't know about the strike. We walked through Como town which was pleasent although not a great deal to do. We went up the top of the hill on the funicular and there was even less to do there!

Knowing that the stike was now on from 8.30 to 4.30, we got up extra early to go to Milan where we saw the science and technology museum, did some shopping and went to an art gallery. We finished off with a local favourite, fried calzone (panzarotti), ice cream and sitting in the sun in the park before heading back to Como for the evening.

With more luck, we'll be doing the boat trip tomorrow and then off to Milano in the evening... see you all soon.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Champions League Final Review

Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal

Key Moments:

Lemman sending off: Can't really argue against this, the ref should have played on to allow Barcelona the goal, we were lucky he didn't. With only 10 men we played too deep and there was never any support on the counter attacks.

Campbell goal: It looked to me like Eboue dived for the free kick. I was disapointed at this as it looked like he could have created a good opportunity. Saying that, Barca didn't put a man on the post and we're pusnish.

Eto'o hits the post: A great save although it looked like he hit the post outright.

Half Time: We got to half time 1-0 in and defending well. It was feeling like the Parma game in 94, I thought we had a good chance of doing it if we continued to defend well.

Larson substitution: Larsson turned the game, until then Barca had only really created half chances, but Larson had a hand in both goals.

Henry missed chance: Through on goal, Henry hits a pour shot straight at the keeper, we had to take our chances.

Eto'o goal: Silly defending let Eto'o in too easily and Almunia got beaten on his near post, which no goalie should ever be guilty of.

Belletti goal: Once again slack defending and awful goalkeeping. To be honest, when they equalised it was all over from that moment as heads dropped and the tiredness really kicked in.

In summary, Im disapointed. This was our biggest game, our greatest chance and a sending off and silly mistakes cost us the game. Henry had two great chances and had he put them away we could have come away with the trophy. Larson changed the game when he came on, I didn't really see much of Ronaldino or Eto'o, I thought we contained them well.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part VII

So we arrived in Santa Marghertia and although drinks wern't exactly flowing, the sunshine kind of was! In Italy, everything closes between 1-4, adn we arrived during this time. After we checked in we went for a walk and it was empty, as most things are during these hours. There was little to do but go back to the hotel and have a nap and wait for things to open.

Santa Marghertia is a holiday resport, but it seems for the older generation. There are plenty of really nice boats in the habour but not too many bars. The following day we went to a little beach just outside of Portofino. The beaches here were really nice and we sat in the sun, read and dipped in the almost still sea, with the most gentle waves caressing the shoreline. The waters there are so clear, you can see at least 20 meters to the sea bed and the littles fish come right to the shore so that you can see them swiming around your legs.

We're staying a 3 star hotel and you would think this somewhat luxury compared to hostels but it certainly didn't feel like a 3 star hotel. We had to share the toliet and the shower was two floors above us!

We're moving onto Como now, an hour or so north of Milan in our penultimate stop. We had to stop in Genova once again to wait for the Milan train - a painful 2 hour wait for the train. It's a big night tonight in the football, Arsenal are playing Barcelona in the Champions League final. We haven't found many bars around the country that have football on, I just hope we can find one tonight in Como.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part VI

Ciao once again!

I`m writing this while we`re getting ready to move on from Genova, but only 20 minutes down the road to Santa Margherita. I hope the drinks are as good as the name of the town suggests.

Yesterday, we went to the Chique Terre, the five villages by the sea. They were feet achingly beautiful and Ive got the feet to prove that! There is a trail that goes through the five villages and Katie and I walked yesterday which ended in Monterosso where we rewarded ourselfs by sitting on the beach and having a swim in the crystal clear waters of the ocean.

Italians have a similar saying to the Brits, "Italian trains eh?" - we found this out yesterday with a few of our trains delayed but we got over this by finding a nice waterside bar, having some wine and something to eat.

Pesto is said to have been invented in Genoa as a way of having a food substance that wont go off whilst at sea. This was an aid to prevent scurvy. Pesto is still a regional favourite and yesterday I saw lasagne alla pesto. My curisoity got the better of me however and I ordered it only to find sheets of lasange with pesto in between. I was disapointed, but I suppose I got what I ordered.

A little note from Katie: Just to let you all know I´m not coming home - I´ve decided to stay here with the sunshine and the pizza. Mmm, pizza..... no, just joking obviously, I´ve finally got a bit of a top tan so i´ll be back to show it all off to everyone!!!!! Lots of love :)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part V

Thoughts on Genova. Some may think that this is a very English thing to think, but we`re we happy to find a town that liked a drink! There are bars a plenty in Genoa, as opposed to stuggling to find something to drink, and even eat in Florence. No such problems here! Whats even better, is they love tapas here more then what we experienced in Spain. When we`ve ordered a few drinks we`ve always been greeted with peanuts and a plate full of bread, cheese and meat! Wonderful.

Genova itself is a strange town. All the streets are narrow and the nice parts are indistugable from the run down parts, the only telling part is the smell! On the whole, its a fairly run down town, but it has some charming characteristics. Its definitely a walkable city, although the streets are like a labrynith!

We met a nice guy today whilst shopping. An older guy who regaled us of stories of when he, from a strict Catholic family, came to London in the swinging sixties, following a girl and how now his son and his friends some to London for the night to visit the 100 Club on Oxford Street. I didnt even buy the t-shirt, too small, although it was bloody nice.

Something I just remembered was when in Florence, a few girls as part of a school group had to wear paper dresses to cover themselves as they were deemed to be not sufficiently dressed to enter the church. I found this most ammusing!

tomorrow we`re going to walk the chique terre, more to follow...

The Italian Blog Part IV

Hey everyone!

Not a usual start I know, but this is a most unusual keyboard. I couldnt sign in for ages as a few of the keys had been swapped around. Try and guess from this post, the first correct reply will get a fresh fish from the Genova harbour (of course it wont be so fresh when we get home - your loss)

So, a fair amount has happened since the last blog. We moved onto Firenze (Florence) and it seems the weather moves with us whereever we go, it just so happens that at the moment the weather is grey skies! Florence in itself is a wonderful artful city, and just about every other person visiting Italy seems to think so too. They have a wonderful gallery there, the Uffizi and on DEs advice we attempted to book tickets which to our suprise where twice as much as the listed price and the only tickets we could get was for the day after we left.

Netherless, we attempted to queue to get in. It semed like a smallish queue when we arrived in the early afternoon, but our attempts were thrwarted as the only times the queue moved was when people left it! We eventuallz gave up after a while of not moving.

We went to see the other sights that Florence has too offer, Santa Croce, Piazza Michelangelo and of course the Accademia to see Micaelangelo`s David. It was a shame really that the only thing of offer at the Accademia was David, nevermind.

In our plotting to Genoa, we noted that we had to change in Pisa. It actualy worked out cheaper to get tickets to Pisa, jump on a bus, snap-snap the tower, have a quick lunch, jump back on the bus and get the train to Genoa. So, thats what we did.

Today, we`re going to check out Genoa old town, tomorrow we`re going to Cinque Terre and Monday we move onto Santa Margherita and hopefully the weather will be better...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part III

Picture the scene: Our hostel room (and pretty much the apartment) doesn't have any windows. We get ready for a day at the Vatican and much to our suprise when we're about to leave - it's raining. It's only a fine rain and it doesn't look like it will hold up, but by the time we've been waiting in the non moving cue at the Vatican, the downpour is relentless!

We finally managed to get in, soaked to the bones. I discovered that trying to dry your jacket and shirt under a mens room hand dryer is pretty futile. The museum was however, amazing. I was especially awestruck by the Rafello galleries and the Sistine chapel.

So now what do you do with the time, whilst your clothes are in the laundry? I choose to blog! This evening we're going to be boring and go to this mad resturant that we read about and went to on our first night. The service is a bit rushed, but the food was really good. Katie was in especially high spirits as the waiter deemed it suitable to give me a bib for my pasta!

Ciao for now.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part II

Ciao from Roma!

It's been a busy few days since the last blog. We finished up in Napoli, moved onto the remote mountain village of Sora and then moved onto Rome.

When we finished in Napoli, I left with mixed feelings. The city was starting to grow on me and I felt as if there was more to see. I still haven't changed my mind about the area in which we were located, but there were also some very beautiful parts of the city. Something I've found quite amusing is how I've approached crossing the roads in other parts of Italy. For though who remember from university, road rage rob is back when vengeance!

We had to get the only bus of the day to Sora which was quite an adventure in itself. There was no organisation as all of the buses pulled up outside the main station wherever they could and moved on when they were ready. We nearly didn't notice our bus. Not that it nearly didn't matter as the kind conductor said he would let us know when we needed to get off. We arrived not in Sora, but in Cassino, an hour away from Sora. At first we walked around with a sence of something not being right. We went to the train station and noticed that it was Cassino and then rushed back to the bus. Luckily the driver was taking a coffee break, otherwise we would have been in trouble!

We arrived in Sora and went to the farm where we were to stay for two nights. The place was beautiful and over the next few days we went hiking into the hills to see a beautiful waterfall (Katie fell in the river on the hike, hehe) and went to this fantastic restaurant where we had a five course meal!!! The food was amazing the price was just as good, coming in at €34 for Katie and I. We made some friends who were also staying there, and we felt part of the family.

We arrived in Rome in stark contrast. Our hostel was a horrible, dingy, smelly and dirty place. We actually spent some time looking for somewhere else to no success. We eventually decided to just get on with it and enjoy our time in Rome. We've seen most of the tourist traps, the Spanish steps, Trevi fountain (yes, I threw some money in), the fantastic Pantheon, the Flavian amphitheatre (aka, the colosseum) and the forum. Today we went to the Vatican and the line was depressingly long. At best guess it would have taken 3-4 hours to get in. We decided against it and instead when to Anzio, a small coastal town and sat on an empty beach and typically got burned! Bloody stupid English!

We're going back to the Vatican tomorrow and then off to Florence the following day.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Italian Blog - Part I


So arriving in Naples was no real problem, the flight was easy, the bus into town was easy, getting dropped off in Galibaldi Piazza was not. It was like getting dropped off in the ghetto. There was guys flat on the face in the gutter, the streets smelt of piss and this was where our hostel was.

Saying that, the hostel is fine. What more do you expect from a cheap hostel in europe? The first night, we went to a family run pizzeria, these can be found everywhere, much like Star Bucks or Maccy D's at home except nice. Pizza's range from 3 euros up, which is great if you're skint.

The second day we headed off to Pompeii. This place is fantastic, but like the rough guide said, one ruin begins to look much like another after a while. We did see some cool stuff, like ancient graffitti outside a "house of disrepute", an unstatisfied client so it would seem. There's really so much to see there, definitely worth checking out.

That evening we headed into the "nicer" area of town. We misleading believed this was a nice walk away and we're suprised that the journey took us through some not very attractive areas, and that it took bloody ages. In the end we found the nice area and got some nice pictures and strolled around for a while. We ventured to find a resturant that the rough guide had highly recomend and although we found it, it was closed. We wandered round to find something else and stumbled across a nice little place. I didn't really fancy a pizza, but Katie struggled to find much on the menu, the Italians are veggie friendly, alhtough the waiter did his best.

The following day we ventured over to Capri, which is a beautiful island about 45 minutes by jet boat. Quite an expensive day out, but worth it as the island was fantasitc. We found some really fantastic spots to admire the view and crowded onto a stone beach for a few hours. In true British style, I ran into the water, the freezing bloody water with loads of stones and then ran back out again pretending to Katie that it wasn't really that cold.

Tomorrow we're off to our next adventure in a national park...