April 2017 Italy-Rome-Bari-Amalfi Coast
Day 1:Rome
We made it to Rome without incident.With the help of some pills, I actually got about 5 hours of sleep on the plane.  Some snow in Zurich, where we changed planes. It is easy to take the train from the Rome airport to the main train station and then take the metro subway to within a few blocks of out hotel. We are staying about 1 minutes walk from the Trevi Fountain. It seems to be a constant scene of activity, like Times Square. While we were there, someone proposed to his girl and everyone around the fountain wildly cheered. I got a good deal to get a local SIM card for my iPhone so I get cell phone internet locally for minimal charge and can use google maps when driving, later this week.



Day 2: Rome
Our last day in Rome we took three long walks in different directions from our hotel. Seeing many of the familiar sites that we first saw 44 years ago when we were last here. My impressions of how it has changed: the infrastructure seems to work much better, more pedestrian areas, and the metro subway is a great way to move around. BUT, Even in the off season, big crowds everywhere, but we managed to avoid lines with strategic timing. Last time here we literally drove right up to every monument and walked in with little or no fees.
Bottom line is that Rome remains one of the great places to walk around and visit.
The pictures are:
Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish steps and watching the sunset, high above Rome at the Villa Borghese.




Day3 Bari
We took the high speed train (but it is not as fast as the Madrid train) south 4 hours to Bari, an Adriatic port town located just north of the heel of the boot. We are staying in the old section of town which just may be the most confusing maze of streets I have ever experienced. A map is useless but iPhones using google map is wonderful. It is kind of strange having to stare at your phone to navigate from place to place.
We have had 2 AMAZING MEALS HERE! Very few non Italian tourists. Last night at dinner we took the recommendation of our hotel receptionist. The restaurant was very cozy and inviting but nothing in English and most of the menu items I could find no translation. So, we placed ourselves in the hands of the waiter and he served us a great meal with many items each about the size of a tapas. We liked everything and the total bill was only 30 euro.

everything in town is a jumbled puzzle that seems to fit together and work.

The main town piazza had nobody in it last night, but tonight is Saturday night and there are at least 1,000 kids, mostly under 21, having a great time.




Day4 Vieste
We want to explore along the coast so we have rented a car. How did Marco Polo find his way around without an iPhone and google maps? The phone really helps navigating as you can never really find and read street signs until you have missed the street, while google clearly tells you, turn here.

We headed 2 hours north from Bari to Vieste. A town we had never heard of, but Rick Steves guide book raves about it. The last hour of the drive was outrageously beautiful. The road hugs the cliff which steeply drops off to the ocean as you twist and turn your way around the coast. Italian drivers make NY cabbies seem meek and mild. Even if I was already going 20 miles over the speed limit they would blow past me on curves.

We negotiated the roads safely and even found a parking spot near the old town and explored the old village which literally clings to the cliff side. Found a great place to eat with a spectacular view. Almost no tourists in town.

We are staying in an apartment hotel that has enormous rooms and they bring breakfast to your room!





Day 5:Lecce.Alberobello

Today we headed 1.5 hours south from Bari to Lecce.  It's known for its ornate buildings in the old town. 

A Colorado/Florida friend who owns an international  tech business shared this with us:
"Our lead programmer, comes from Lecce.   His parents still live there... both in their upper 90s...  His father, Spartacus,  represented Italy in shot put in the Olympic games.. .not sure what year... it's possible was in the German games before WWII...    ..... He must return to Lecce to vote... and had to post a sign on a wall and in the Lecce papers letting the world know that he was going to marry...  in case others wanted to come forward to stop the marriage for some reason....  old Italian customs that shock  us Americans..  "

On the way back to Bari we visited Alberobello which is a World heritage Unesco site due to its unique building construction, the trulli homes, that look like hobbit's live there. They started as a tax evasion gimmick 300 years ago to save the feudal serfs from paying taxes  by building the houses with dry stone without the use of 

Tomorrow we drive across Italy, to stay along the Amalfi coast in Positano.

Does anyone know what type of car this is, we saw it in the old town of Lecce.





Day 6 Bari to Salerno
Bari to Salerno, is 150 miles, crossing  the mountains to get from the Adriatic coast to the Mediterranean in a fast 2.5 hours . It seemed as if all the towns inland were perched on top of the hilltops rather than sprawling across the landscape as we do in the US. MAYBE, due to the past feudal nature of the country, the lords kept the serfs close to the castle and all the land was available for farming.

From Salerno to Positano is a mere 40 miles passing along the coast on a road hanging off of cliffs through places like Minori, Ravello , Amalfi, and Furore.I am an experienced driver, having driven cabs in NYC, 4-wheeled along old mining roads in Colorado and have driven on the 
Champs-Élysées, around the Colosseum in Rome and Hyde Park in London and But OMG, the 3 hours it took to drive the 40 miles was easily the scariest driving I have ever done. For about 2 hours it felt like I didn't even have time to breathe. The road was built for older, smaller cars and is a NARROW 1.5 to 2 lanes wide with a cliff on one side and canyon wall on the other side. That's ok, I can deal with narrow roads BUT, people are parked anywhere they want, taking up a lane, motorcycles are passing left and right of you at any time and the constant hairpin curves, where you meet a bus with a car already parked on the side of the road means you both have to stop and kind of inch past each other, all the while holding your breath. AND, if that wasn't bad enough, about 2 hours in, I had to pee and I was running out of gas. There was not anything that remotely looked like you could simply pull off the road and find a bush and I had not yet seen a gas station for at least 2 hours.
BUT, life is good and as I passed a traffic polizia and questioned gas?? He said 4 km on the left. So I thought no problem. But 5 km down the road I was starting to get worried and was not breathing again. Finally, 6 km on the right a gas station appeared like a mirage in the desert and it even had a bathroom.

The payoff is we are staying high on the cliff above Positano at the Hotel California with a nice balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. After a bottle of wine I was breathing again.

Tomorrow we will NOT drive anywhere on these crazy roads but will take a ferry to Capri for the day.

The first picture does not fully convey the road chaos; imagine a car parked on the side of the road, motorcycles passing left and right and an enormous bus meeting you at the curve, now you are getting close......






Day 7-9 Positano-Capri-Amalfi

I have kept the car parked at the hotel for 2 days as we can explore up and down the coast using the ferries. Much faster and safer than driving.

Positano really is a picture perfect postcard kind of place. The village spills into the ocean flowing down both sides of a ravine. There are no flat spots. It is interesting how they fit in so many bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, into such a tiny place. Surprisingly, Positano is less crowded than Amalfi as it is further down the road and no places for a bus to park. The down side is everything is expensive. Whatever crowds there may be from about 10-3 they just disappear and the place really quiets down for the evening. Yesterday was a national holiday but when we asked people about it, we got lots of evasive answers. So, I just googled it and it is celebrating the time in 1945 when the Italian rebels overthrew Mussolini and the fascists and started to form the Italian republic.

Yesterday we spent exploring Capri. We took the funicular to the top of the island and just wandered around. Great little island with lots of places to eat, stay, shop and simply hangout. From Capri, across the bay, Naples and Mt Vesuvius are visible. The seas were rough but the jet ferries go so fast, you don't really feel the motion.

Today we took the ferry 25 minutes to Amalfi (the other day that was a life threatening 1.5 hours by car). Found a place for lunch and just people watched.

The first 3 pictures are around Positano, then 2 from Capri, 2 from Amalfi.
The last picture is a ceramic table top I saw in Amalfi, can you identify all 9 images on the table? I am pretty sure I have.

Tomorrow, contrary to the Eagles song, we will checkout of the Hotel California and make our way to Pompeii and stay, for our last night in Italy, close to the Naples airport.

BTW, the coffee has been great everywhere in Italy! We did try a limoncello here, it packs a big kick.



Barry & Bette