Yesterday’s tour of Pompeii gave a view of the Sorrento area that is steeped in history, in the devastation caused by the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Today we saw the Sorrento of today – municipalities within Sorrento and the agricultural impact of farming on the steep hills of the area.
While we saw the importance of inlaid wood products and cameos yesterday, today we saw an actual working farm. This region of Italy is lush with lemons, producing any number of lemon products; so of course, we went to a farm that has lemon groves and olive groves (they share the land space, by the way). The lemon trees are supported by frameworks that are covered by nets. The olive trees rise above the nets. The nets protect the delicate lemon skin from the hot summer sun and serve to catch the olives when they are harvested in the fall.
The lemons are used to make limonicello, a lemon liquor, as well as many other lemon-based things – crema di limoni, lemon marmalade, a chocolate lemon liquor, and more.
This farm also makes olive oil, grinding the harvested olives in motorized presses. The olive residue is highly combustible and becomes fuel, the water is fermented and used as fertilizer, and the olive oil is bottled and sold.
We also saw how mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese are made, and then sampled the cheeses with salami, bruchetta (pronounced bru-ket-ta) with an artichoke spread, and a local wine. This was definitely an experience of the local culture!
The ride to the farm and back in a tour bus was an experience in itself. The traffic is heavy and the roads are quite narrow. Bus drivers deserve an award for navigating the winding narrow roads through the communities and along the Amalfi coast. I think the Indianapolis 500 might be an easier drive!
Heading to Sicily tonight…
Well, we’ve been rockin’ and rollin’!! I’m talking about the weather, but it would be easy to do onboard – there’s lots of entertainment. Yesterday there was a live show in the Cabaret and today a first-run movie, “The Hurt Locker,” will be shown.
Online ordering of breakfast ended up being distastrous, as there was a problem with the system and our order wasn’t received; but to apologize for that, the restaurant manager had sparkling wine and sweets waiting for us when we returned from our shore excursion.
Our shore excursion today was wonderful! From the port at Naples, we were bused to Sorrento, where we were shown a demonstration of inlaid wood artwork. From there, we were driven to have lunch. We expected that to be something fast and minimal, but in fact we were greeted with Prosecco, a sparkling wine, and had cannelloni, chicken, potatoes, grilled vegetables, and lemon cake, complemented with wine.
Our next stop was a cameo factory in Pompeii and then a tour of the ruins at Pompeii. It is an amazing place, so filled with artifacts and history; and our tour guide Daniela was very informative. This may be where the commonly-used phrase “older than dirt” originated!
So… how do we rate our trip so far? A, no doubt!! Service, food, tour… this is indeed a trip of a lifetime! What’s next? We actually aren’t sure. We were supposed to go to the Isle of Capri tomorrow, but the rough seas have caused the hydrofoil and ferries to be canceled for another day. So tomorrow remains a question mark. I’m willing to bet it will great, though!
Before I go any further, I need to mention a few things from yesterday’s wonderful tour in Rome.
The traffic in Rome can be horrendous. Many of the streets are very narrow, made more so by double parking, and the motor bikes whip in and out of traffic. Our guide Guido said there are laws and regulations for the motor bikers, but it seemed that they had much more freedom than motorcycles in the U.S.A. Because of the traffic conditions, it is always wise to allow an extra amount of time to get to your destination.
The other thing to be to allow for is LINES! At the Vatican we had reservations, so we were in the shorter line to enter. Those who did not have reservations formed a line that went on for blocks. Our line was unusually long also, but Guido discovered that there had been a power outage and the Vatican museum was hours late opening, because they couldn’t use the metal detectors and screeners. We couldn’t get advance tickets for the Forum and Coliseum; but Guido stepped up in line for us and was able to get us through the line much more quickly.
Now, on to today… our luggage was picked up from our hotel room at 10 a.m., and we boarded a shuttle for the hour and a half ride to the port of Civitivecchia. We had taken several cruises before, so we were prepared for the long and slow process of checking in to get onboard the ship. We speeded up the process by having done the forms online for our stateroom, contact information, and credit card information, but we really were surprised by the Azamara procedures.
We walked in to the embarkation building, presented our documents, including passports, of course, and were boarding the ship within 15 minutes – which included going through the metal detectors. It was wonderful!
Azamara Club Cruises includes some wonderful amenities.
*All coffee, tea, soda, and water are complimentary, as is table wine at meals.
* There is complimentary self-service laundry. For two-week trips like this one, that is very helpful.
* Shuttle bus service in ports is complimentary (where applicable).
With approximately 800-passenger capacity, there is not the same feel of crowding that is sometimes found in the larger cruise ships. Even the required lifeboat drill was very organized and efficiently conducted.
The beautiful sunny climes of the Mediterranean have gone into hiding, unfortunately, and we are sailing on rough seas. Tomorrow’s tendering at Sorrento has been changed to docking at Naples. Hopefully the skies will improve, the wind will calm, and our scheduled sightseeing tour will be successful.
Very near the Hotel Savoy is Borghese Park, a beautiful respite from the incredibly busy streets of Rome. It is reminiscent of Central Park in New York City, from that respect.
From an impromptu soccer game to sunbathers to tourists, the park is teeming with people but doesn’t seem crowded.
Our destination, Galleria Borghese, is a villa built in the late 1600’s. It houses the collection of paintings and sculptures of Cardinal Scipione, nephew of Pope Paul V. The villa itself is a work of art, of course; and the collection contained within has grown to hundreds of pieces of marble and granite sculpture and beautiful paintings.
On our second day in Rome, we toured a few of the major tourist destinations. We had gotten a recommendation for J & J Services Italy, and had contracted with them for
an English-speaking guide and driver for this full-day tour. That was some of the best money spent! Guido Airoldi is an Egyptologist and an articulate guide. His depth of knowledge about the history, the politics, the economics, the art was superlative! All six of us agreed that we would never want to try to do sightseeing on our own in Rome!
Definitely, the two destinations in Rome that must be on your itinerary are the Vatican and the Coliseum. The Coliseum actually registers more visitors, but that is probably because you must go through a gate-counter, whereas there are visitors through the Vatican who are pilgrims and those who attend Mass, who are not counted in the total of visitors there.
The artwork within the Vatican Museum is a collection of much that has been pillaged from all over. Because of how it was obtained, there are not definite dates and artists labeled on many pieces but the beauty of the montage of artwork is unmatched.
The Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly one of the most visited locations. The history is inspiring, and the views are beyond anything I had experienced previously. Most of us were aware of Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; but Guido gave us far more background on the Old Testament and Gospel frescoes on the walls, the painting by Michelangelo of “The Last Judgment” on the wall behind the altar, and of course, the frescoes on the ceiling.
It was a bit disconcerting to enter the chapel, which was crowded with tourists, and hear attendants constantly shushing people; but the incredible feeling of being within those walls was well worth it.
From there we went to the Forum and Coliseum. While both are steeped in antiquity, we were constantly reminded that the huge stones and bare bricks were originally covered in marble and was beautifully decorated. The Coliseum was built to serve 60,000 to 70,000 people.
The floor of the Coliseum is long-since gone, so what you see is the areas under that floor that were where the gladiators, the slaves, and animals were held until being transferred by elevators to battle on the floor.
As we headed to our last destination, we passed Circus Maximus. This was built to hold 15 0,000 people to watch horse races and chariot races.
Our tour for the day ended at Trevi Fountain. Made famous by “Three Coins in the Fountain,” this site was also quite crowded but definitely worth the time and effort to get close and toss in a few coins.
Tomorrow – time to go sailing!
Yea! We (and our luggage) have arrived in Rome and we’re comfortably settled in Hotel Savoy! Of course, no trip would be normal without a few hiccups, and we certainly experienced those.
On the day prior to departure, we printed out our boarding passes, only to discover that our reserved 24A/24B seats had been changed to 17E/41F, in spite of having paid extra for United’s Economy Plus seating, which gives more legroom. We immediately called customer service where a very nice young man named Chet said he was sorry, that he couldn’t reassign our seating, since that is turned over to the airport agents 24 hours before departure. He promised that he would tag our reservation for the airport to review the first thing in the morning. Imagine our pleasure at arriving in Washington, D.C. and finding that we had been reassigned to 18A/18B. Thank you, Chet!
We traveled from Oklahoma City with our friends Mickey and Tana and met Jim’s sister Sharon and her husband Mark (from Columbia, MD) at Dulles. Our 5:55 p.m. flight departure became a 6:15 p.m. departure. Once we were all settled in our seats, however, the captain informed us that the weather had taken over cockpit controls and we wouldn’t be leaving too soon.
The flight attendants were very nice and all passengers on the 777 were thrilled when we finally departed at 8:50 p.m. The flight itself was uneventful, though the 8 ½ hour trip was decidedly tiring. Pillows and blankets were provided, and first-run movies were on the entertainment channels.
A couple of tips about long flights like this one:
* purchase one of the semi-circular neck pillows. They provide support and make it much more comfortable.
* use earplugs if you aren’t going to watch the video or listen to music. Blocking out all the extra noises of hundreds of people will make sleep a better possibility.
* take along a snack or two. The dinner was typical airplane food, as was the continental breakfast; so some snack mix or fruit to snack on is a help.
Heard in the airport: “I did it! I switched to a window seat! And the ticket agent said it was a good window. I asked her ‘What’s a bad window?’ The answer? ‘OPEN!’”
We’re still laughing about that one.
Now the sightseeing begins.
With all the planning for a 20-day trip, one of the hardest things to plan has been what to pack!
Airline requirements on baggage have become an issue on very short trips, so you can imagine what it must be like for overseas flights! This is another item that can be researched online and we found that United would not charge us extra if we each check a bag no larger than 62 linear inches (measure around the perimeter edges) and weighing no more than 50 pounds. An additional bag would be $50 at airport check-in or $45 if checking in online. Overweight baggage can cost as much as $200, so packing just one 50-pound bag each was our goal.
We researched temperatures in some of the larger ports and came to the conclusion that it will probably be a little cooler than it is here. Of course we know that the weather couldn’t possibly be any more erratic than Oklahoma weather — in the last 48 hours temperatures have ranged 40 degrees with rain, hail, and devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma. We have been warned, however, to be prepared for rain. So here are the basics in my 38-pound bag:
Rain gear: that means rain jacket or poncho and what about an umbrella? Friends who have been there said umbrellas are inexpensive, to save that packing space for other things.
Shoes: good comfortable walking shoes are a must, of course. We shopped for leather shoes with good support and soles. I ended up with a pair that are sandals, and of course, the rain will play havoc with those, so I’ve packed a pair of tennis shoes as well. Because our cruise doesn’t have required formal nights, I’m not taking dressy heels, just some dressier sandals. And of course, a vacation requires flip-flops.
Clothes: pants of preference would be capris and I’ve included several pairs in denim and in cotton. I have also included regular full-length pants in standard colors — black, white, tan. Coordinating colors in shirts and tops will allow them to go with any of the pants. A couple of the tops are dressier for evening dinners, but I was happy to put the dresses away. Adding in lingerie, a cardigan sweater, a jacket, and of course, some jewelry pretty well completes my packing, right?
Unfortunately, the weight in my bag probably comes more from all the other things: cosmetics and haircare products. Travel-size products are a great plan — I can toss the container when empty and have extra space for bringing home those wonderful Italian trinkets. I also made sure to include prescription medications, those that I take daily and a few for just-in-case situations.
Yea! My bag is packed!!
Sometimes taking a trip requires days of planning and sometimes it is a spur-of-the-moment and we just grab and go. My husband Jim and I are about to embark on our dream-of-a-lifetime trip to Italy, and it has taken hours and hours of planning.
For years we have talked about this trip. There are so many places we want to see and only so many days and dollars for it. We have often planned trips on our own, using recommendations from friends and family and using travel sites on the Internet. For this trip, however, we decided a travel agent and lots of planning would be in order.
After doing a lot of research on cruises to the Mediterranean, we found a sailing that appears perfect for us on the Azamara Quest. We have used an online vacation site (Vacations to Go) several times and have found it to be a good resource with efficient agents. Past cruises to the Caribbean and Alaska booked through Vacations to Go were very successful. For this trip, though, we decided to use AAA Travel.
Many people have told us they never heard of Azamara, but its parent company is Celebrity Cruises. The Azamara ships are considerably smaller, with about 800 passengers, which allows them to enter many more ports than the large ships.
Selecting our desired stateroom (with veranda), booking the cruise and adding travel insurance were the easy parts, of course. We were able to select a cruise that departs from and returns to Rome, so our flights from Oklahoma City to Washington, D.C. to Rome and back were simpler than trying to return from a different destination.
Included in the planning for such a memorable trip have been the flights, transfers to a hotel in Rome, tours while in Rome, and timely transfers from the hotel to the port to begin our cruise. In addition, we have planned excursions for some of the ports and have left others for last-minute decisions.
I will be posting more about our plans and about getting ready for this trip — especially how to keep our luggage under the weight limit. Between clothes and electronics, we’ll be pushing that to the max! And once we’ve arrived in Rome, I’ll be talking about all the incredible sights and posting pictures. Hope you’ll join us on our trip!