Cefalù: Resort Town in Sicily

When people ask me what my favourite place in Sicily is, I give the name of the last one I visited, because each time I go there, Sicily works her magic on me and I fall in love again with the people, the scenery, the ambiance of wherever I happen to be.  Last time it was Cefalù, the medieval town lying just an hour’s drive east of Palermo and located between its own natural bay and the towering rocky granite mass called La Rocca.

El Duomo, just off the main street

I had thought of Cefalù as a touristy town as it seemed to feature in most of the holiday brochures but when I first walked down its winding medieval main street flanked with an array of little shops from artisan bakers and designer boutiques to a beautifully tiled pharmacy complete with ancient fittings, I realised how wrong I’d been.   In between the shops are family-run restaurants serving the freshest of fish and local delicacies, and its unique Norman cathedral is right on the street, although set a little way back, its place in the life of the town assured. Doubly so, as there is a bar and a gelateria on the corner!

Cefalù’s origins go back to the Carthegenians.  It was then colonised by the Greeks (the name derives from the ancient Greek word for “Cape”) but the town we see today was built at the behest of the Norman King, Roger II.

The building of the two-towered Cathedral began in 1131 and is a fine example of what is termed “Sicilian Romanesque”.  There is an exquisite mosaic of Christ Pantocrator on a gold background above the altar, created by twelfth-century Byzantine artists which is twinned with the Palatine Chapel in Palermo and the Duomo in Monreale. If there is a chance to see all three on a trip do take advantage of this, because seeing the trio of mosaics enhances one’s appreciation of each one.

Towering above the Duomo and the town centre is La Rocca, a massive crag which presents an interesting challenge to walkers in the hot summer months. The steep ascent winds up ancient, well worn steps and footpaths but it is well worth the effort to reach the top. A bottle of water is essential. Don’t even attempt the climb in very hot weather,

La Rocca, Cefalu

It is an old Saracen stronghold and near the top there are the remains of a megalithic Temple of Diana which dates back to Sicanian-Greek times (the Sicans were one of the native peoples of Sicily, and Diana, of course, is a Latin name for the Greek goddess Artemis).   Left to decay over time only parts of the fortress survive – fragments of several small castles and a vast medieval wall encircling the mountain.   The crenelated ‘castle’ at the summit is a recent, but faithful, reconstruction and beyond the temple, the mountain is wooded with pine trees and a few indigenous shrubs. 

As well as the ruins of the temple, the climb is worth the effort for the truly spectacular views of the cathedral, town and coast.  Red roofed houses and the ochre and yellow walls of the town are gilded by the sun and on the dark sapphire of the sea tiny white sail boats are bobbing. 

 The harbour area with it narrow alleys and medieval buildings is a picturesque spot. Unlike most of the fishing villages that dot Sicily’s coast, Cefalù had a great and grand past – important enough for Roger II to build a cathedral here.   Worth seeing are the Saracen wash-house, the Lavatorio, and the Osterio Magno originally thought to have been King Roger’s residence but which now houses art exhibitions. 

During the morning the fishermen sit on the quayside by their upturned boats, repairing their nets or getting ready to take to sea again, happy to exchange banter with the curious tourists who are fascinated by the method of net-mending. If it is not a school-day there will be children playing among the ropes of blue and orange and dogs and the occasional brave cat will chase each other around the lobster pots.

Style Italia, even in this small local shop

While its later history was less distinguished, there is still an indefinable air of something important about this harbour.  The beach is indifferent but its position, and views of stunning sunsets through archways in the walls make it a magnet for people at night, to walk along the rocky path that winds along the shore below the sea-facing walls and to drink coffee or wine in dusky bars that hug the waterfront.

Around Cefalù, places of interest include a hillside pilgrimage destination, the Sanctuary of Gibilmanna, and directly south of Cefalù is the Madonie National Park (my own favourite) where holiday-makers will find skiing in winter and hiking in spring and autumn.  The pictuesque town of Castelbuono in the park makes a pleasant day out whether you take a taxi or a bus (a 40 minute journey departing from Cefalù railway station), Palermo is just an hour away by train, and the Aeolian Islands can be reached by hydrofoil in the summer, including Volcano Island with its still live volcano (best seen at night if you have time).

Sicilian cooking has a reputation second to none but those with a nut allergy should be careful. Sicilians really love pistachios.  They eat these green nuts wherever possible and will even smear pistachio paste from a jar on a slice of panettone. They sprinkle them over pastries, create wonderful ice cream with them and make pasta sauce with them. Pasta with prawns, tomatoes and pistachio has to be eaten to be believed – it’s fabulous.    And while pistachio ice cream is not unknown to us in Europe or the USA, that in Sicily has a flavour so intense that most people after the first one, ask for ‘a large one’ next time.

Where better for an aperitif ? Right in front of El Duomo

And Cefalu also has beaches. Most beaches have a charge for chairs and umbrellas but along with this you get clean sands and well behaved people, sunshine, sea, boat rides, and often a cafe. What more could the seeker after a hedonistic holiday ask for?

Cefalu Harbour at Night

CESENATICO AND THE LEONARDO DA VINCI CANAL

Leonardo da Vinci Canal

For years now I’ve been totally in love with the region of Emilio-Romagna in Italy, mostly, I admit, because of its food, but my first flirtation with the area came when I visited Cesenatico.  It was here that I discovered that the canal that runs through the centre of the town, was designed by Leonardo da Vinci and I was immediately charmed.   That the genius who produced so much art could also put his mind to something so mundane, seemed so wonderful. Is there nothing he didn’t design?   How had it escaped me?

Canal and Port

Cesenatico has been a popular seaside resort for Italian visitors since the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until the end of the Second World War when people began to seek pleasure in sandy beaches and sun that its tourist trade really took off :  Cesenatico’s beaches stretch for over five kilometres.  More recently, the town has seen an influx of visitors attracted by the beaches and shallow waters of the Adriatic, the bars, bistros, elegant shops and gelateria that line the canalside, and the near perfect weather. 

Outdoor Museum of Boats on the Canal

This is as medieval as it gets and it rings with names from history.  The ancient fishing harbour was designed in 1502 by da Vinci on the orders of Cesare Borgia, two names to set the mind racing. One part of the canal has been closed off to accommodate the Floating Museum of Marine History in which eight perfectly restored boats of the type that were once used locally for trade in the upper and middle Adriatic are on display.  Painted in the natural colours that were used in the past, each sail represents a different fishing family from the area. This was done originally so that the boats could be recognised at a distance: today they are a lesson in maritime history. 

Alongside the canal the indoor Maritime Museum houses artefacts and documents dating back to the prehistory of navigation. As the port supports today’s fishing industry the canal bustles with working boats, many of which sell their catch from the boat. Weaving in and out are small yachts and leisure craft for the canal has an attraction for all who love messing about on boats.

If it’s a sunny day and being indoors is not to your liking, then admire the collection of medieval boats on the canal while sitting at a nearby café with a glass of the delicious local wine.  If you are there on a Sunday expect to see elegant ladies tottering about on their Louboutins, tiny dogs clutched in their arms, impeccably dressed young men making the passagieta with or without their girlfriends, and old men sitting outside the bars nursing espressos and smoking.   

Cesenatico was the first Italian town to erect a monument in honour of the great Liberator of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, to signify his connection to the town and this statue can be seen in Piazza Pisacane. In August of 1849, the great man, his wife, and other patriots fleeing from Rome were hunted down here.

There are a few other monuments to visit if you can drag yourself away from the port and its charms or the beach and the calm waters.   The birthplace of the poet Moretti is now a centre for the study of 20th century Italian literature with a display of his books and papers, and the Theatre built by the architect Candido Panzani which, having survived damage sustained during the Second World War was restored in 1992, is architecturally very interesting.

But Cesenatico is really a place made for relaxation, for doing what the locals do, chill out with a coffee and grappa, lunch al fresco with local wines, or dine elegantly while watching the world go by. 

The region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy has many lovely towns and villages but none, apart from Cesenatico, has a canal designed by Leonardo da Vinci, running through it.

POMPEII

Most people know about the tragedy that was Pompeii so it would be presumptuous of me to write a post on its history.  I will, therefore, content myself with posting some images I took when I was there in June last when I struggled in the heatwave and the crowds that had disembarked from the 3 cruise ships in the Bay of Naples.   Here are just a few essential details.

It wasn’t until 1594 that the architect Dominico Fontana, discovered the ruins while digging a canal but serious excavations didn’t begin until the mid 18th century.  Of the city’s original 66 hectares, 44 have now been excavated but not all of this area is accessible to the public.

Pompeii wasn’t destroyed by Vesuvius in AD 79: it was buried under a layer of burning pumice stone which means that much of it is remarkably well preserved.  Today the visitor can walk down Roman streets, peer into what we know were brothels and bath-houses, snoop around houses, temples and shops and sit in the amphitheatre and pretend to be an ancient Roman.  Some of the frescoes are in a remarkable condition, the colours vibrant and the figures well defined. Those in the the brothel are quite explicit as they were there to provide visual inspiration for the clients and they were a cause for scandal in the Vatican when they were first revealed in 2001.

There had been severe earthquakes in the area for two days previous to the volcano’s eruption so many people had left the town for safety, otherwise the number of lives lost would have been a lot more.  Nevertheless, 2,000 men, women and children perished. Plaster casts of some of the bodies that were excavated are on display but some are still under renovation.

My first visit to Pompeii was many years ago in late autumn and I would recommend that time of year.  The number of visitors visiting the Naples area in late spring, summer and early autumn and ticking Pompeii off their bucket-list makes it a less enjoyable tour for the serious lover of history or archaeology.  Besides the crowds, there is the heat, and Pompeii offers no shade whatsoever.

Recommended Reading

There are many histories of the destruction of Pompeii but the best must surely be Robert Harris’s Pompeii (2004) published by Hutchinson which reads like a thriller and is a true page-turner.

The original account is by Pliny the Younger who was there at the time and most accounts are based on this, another very exciting read.

Photo by king kurt, Pixabay
Photo: Pascal, Pixabay

Sorrento – Pearl of the Neapolitan Coast

Many years ago I visited Sorrento but wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I returned again this year and I am still not sure what it is that makes it tick, but tick it certainly does. 

Sorrento has been a popular tourist destination for almost two centuries, having been an essential stop on the Grand Tour in the 19th century, the poet Lord Byron being one who sang the praises of the Sorrentino air.  Of course it does have the brooding volcano Vesuvius, but somehow this doesn’t make one uneasy as does say, Mt. Etna in Sicily.

Cruise ships in Sorrento the Bay of Naples with Vesuvius in Background

The perfume in the air is one of the things that makes this town different from most other resorts.  Sorrento smells of citrus because the streets are lined with orange and lemon trees and there are at least 3 lemon plantations right in the town which can be visited and where you can sample their homemade Limoncello.  We popped in most days for a tasting as one was opposite our hotel, and it was hard to resist.

Lemon Tree in Sorrento

The town is perched picturesquely on a plateau above the sea and there are spectacular views over the Bay of Naples and towards Vesuvius from most of the terraces around.   Despite many of its old buildings having been demolished most of the historic town centre remains reasonably intact, the mellow old buildings giving the town an authenticity that many other towns lack.  Along with its sister towns, Sant’Agnello, Piano di Sorrento and Meta di Sorrento which spread over land that was once primarily agricultural, visitors will find here an experience second to none. 

However, it must be said that Sorrento caters overwhelmingly for the English-speaking market – although it has its fair share of visitors from other countries.  Menus are in English and everything seems to be geared towards English-speaking travellers.  Sometimes the crowds of cheerful tourists thronging the streets and sitting at the bars in the Piazzo Tasso made me feel as though I hadn’t left home.  But then along would come a couple of smiling Italian troubadours, the plaintive notes of “Come Back to Sorrento” or “O Sole Mio” plucked from a couple of mandolins would fill the air, and the Italian atmosphere would be restored. 

Figures I coveted like I’ve never coveted anything before! Exquisite porcelain but many more thousands of Euros than I could afford.

I got used to hearing these two tunes throughout my stay, they are in the DNA of the place.  As in Sicily where every other shop is playing Speak Softly Love the haunting tune from The Godfather trilogy, in Sorrento the shops offer accordions, mandolins and Neopolitan songs.  Music is everywhere.  Bars belt out arias from popular operas, the market stalls entertain with the latest Italian pop songs, and Neopolitan songs are everywhere because the Sorrentinos themselves are proud to have such a legacy of world renowned melodies and like listening to them, but it never gets too loud. 

Statue to the poet Torquato Tasso after whom the Piazza is named

The main square, Piazzo Tasso, is named after the poet Torquato Tasso and is the focal point for the evening passeggiata where the locals come to see and be seen.  This is when you know you are in Italy, when everyone is in their finest clothes and sauntering up and down streets – many paved with lava from Vesuvius – that radiate from Tasso into the old town and down to the Port. 

Most popular bar in Sorrento – Cafe Fauno

A smaller Piazza, S. Antonio, named after the Basilica of the same name which is in the square, is less crowded but a good place to sit and watch the Italians park their cars (a whole post could be written on this alone). 

And just a few steps from here and you come to the road that leads down to one of Sorrento’s two ports, the Marina Piccolo.

Marina Piccola from above

There are two ports in Sorrento but no footpath between them so they each have to be approached from the town separately.  Marina Piccola is no great distance from Tasso and is a pleasant walk but as it has 130 steps leading down to the beach it may be advisable to think about getting the bus back – or down to it for those who find steps difficult. 

Private Beach on Marina Piccolo
Jetty for Ferries to Capri and Ischia

Although Piccola means small, it is actually the bigger port (Italians love to confuse tourists), the port from where the ferries to Capri, Naples, Ischia and Amalfi depart and the port at which the cruise ships dock.  

Marina Grande

The more picturesque port of Marina Grande may be smaller but it has a village-like atmosphere and is where the majority of the seafood restaurants are to be found (one of them a fishermen’s co-operative where the fish is truly great).  Nestled into a cove on the Amalfi Coast it is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Italy, homes and shops rising above the curve of the rocks, creating a harmonious, rustic charm. Sheltered by the promontory which separates it from the town, the harbour community retains time-honoured customs and maintains its primary source of survival – fishing.

The scene in the port at sunset when the day-trippers have gone and the fishermen clean their nets and drink wine at open-air tables by the sea is evocative of an age which has all but vanished.  The best way to visit this port is to take the bus down to the main square, walk along the seafront and then take the elevator back to the town when you are ready.

There is not much sand in Sorrento unfortunately, and access to the sea is mostly from wooden boardwalks built out over the water.  Both ports have small private beaches where entrance fees are usually around €10 and there is a small public beach on Marine Piccola but this is always crowded.

Best if all, Sorrento is well placed for visiting the surrounding areas, for trips to Pompii, Herculaneum and Naples, which are all accessible by train, bus or organized tour, or less taxing perhaps, Amalfi and Ravello, along the magnificent coastal drive.   

Lifesize Ceramic Figure from Commedia dell’Arte

AMALFI – Italy’s Gem

Amalfi, tiny and expensive is one of the easier coastal towns to walk around as it rises gently up the hillside from the waterfront rather than clinging vertically to it, like Positano for instance. 

Centreville, Amalfi

It is hard to believe that this very small town had a glorious history as a maritime republic on a par with Venice and Genoa, but Amalfi was a trade bridge between the Byzantine and western worlds for centuries with a population exceeding 70,000 (today, less than 5,000).   Unfortunately, there are very few historical buildings of note to see as most of the old city, and its inhabitants, slid into the sea during the 1343 earthquake.

There is a delightful promenade along the waterfront and a marina full of colorful boats but the focal point of the historic center is the Piazza del Duomo with its striking cathedral dedicated to St. Andrew. There are sixty steps leading up to the Byzantine-style church with its Moorish-influenced arches and decoration and inside the church is a forest of columns and Arabesque arches and the hidden Cloister of Paradise, dating to 1266.  The Piazza is lined with bars, cafes, gelaterias, artisan and tourist shops, and is a perfect place for people watching – if you can bag a table.  It seems to be permanently busy. Don’t forget the water if you decide to walk up the steps, those 65 can feel like 100 when the sun is out.

The Duomo

Famous for the manufactire pf paper, the Paper Museum (Museo della Carta) is well worth a visit to see how the products were made by hand. There are still some family-owned paper mills that carry on the tradition of hand-made paper which can be bought in some of the high-end shops – good, if expensive buys, for that special present for someone who still likes to write letters. 

How Many G & T’s could that Lemon serve?

However, the primary product of the area is lemons, enormous in size, picked fresh to make limoncello liqueur and to be used in local dishes.  Lemon ice-cream features a lot in restaurants and gelaterias, the one by the town gate serving quite the biggest lemon sorbet I have every seen (or eaten). 

Biggest Lemon Sorbet I’ve ever eaten

If you don’t spend too much time over lunch or coffee, there will still be time to visit hilltop Ravello, full of historic, artistic, monumental and architectural treasures – another expensive town but exquisite in its layout, and its 13th century Villa Rufolo which has breathtaking views from gardens overlooking the sea.  Famous names you’ll hear mentioned a lot in Ravello are Richard Wagner who was inspired by the Villa to compose some verses of the Parsifal, Boccaccio who stayed here while writing the Decameron, D. H. Lawrence who supposedly got inspiration for Lady Chatterley’s Lover while holidaying in the town and Gore Vidal who came for a visit and stayed for 30 years! 

Ravello

Shopping is rather special in Ravello too, as there are many craft and high-end fashion stops where you will find one-off garments – at a price, of course. Even the ice-cream advertises as ‘gourmet’ gelato though what that is I have no idea. 

Ideal spot for lunch in Ravello
Interesting items for sale in Ravello- Wine and Drugs. I hope it doesn’t mean what it says!

Restaurants bars and bistros abound, but walk around the interesting narrow backstreets of cobble-stones, peering in at dark interiors, looking over dry-stone walls fronting overgrown gardens and vegetable plots, if you want to see what this hill-top village is really like. Ravello is a great starting point for walks in the surrounding Lattari mountains along ancient paths.

Amalfi’s trading importance may have declined but its maritime importance continues, as you can hop ferries and hydrofoils to Capri, Salerno, and Positano.   For me, the best way to view Amalfi is from the sea and the best way to do that is to take a boat trip around the bay, either in one of the 45-minute trips or by hiring a boat to take you to hidden coves to enjoy some private sun and surf.  You will see the homes of Gina Llolabrigida, Sofia Loren, George Clooney (before he moved to Como I presume) and other famous names, smaller than you’d imagine because of their position built into the rocks.  In the above slide show of scenes from the sea, the blue and white house set ino the hillside is that of Sofia Loren.

The Amalfi Drive

White Houses Clinging to the Rocky Hillside

Known as The Amalfi Drive (formally Strada Statale 163) the coast road along the shoreline from Sorrento to Amalfi (and on to Salerno) is one of the most poular drives in Italy.  Originally built by the Romans, it is one of the most photographed coastal routes in the world, seen in countless films like Under the Tuscan Sun and the Humphrey Bogart classic Beat the Devil (1957) featuring a young Gina Lollobrigida. Gamers may recognize it as a setting for fictional tracks in Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo 4 games.  UNESCO actually named the Amalfi Coast an outstanding example of Mediterranean landscape and gave it a place on the World Heritage List.

So far down the boats are hardly recognisable

Carved out of the side of the coastal cliffs for the greater part of its route, the road gives vertiginous views down to the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the towering cliffs above. It passes through Positano, the village of the rich and famous where fabulous villas accessible only on foot from above, by helicopter from the air, or by yacht from the sea, are built into the sides of the mountain, making it a major tourist attraction.

We originally took the guided tour by coach as this seemed the easiest way to experience the drive, and we were right, but we enjoyed the trip so much that we took the local bus a few days later and enjoyed it even more.  

Positano

 We decided against stopping off at Positano however, having been warned against this by a fellow hotel guest who had been left standing for hours as the buses returning from Amalfi were all full when it reached Positano so no chance of getting on one.  Amalfi filled the day however, and we managed to fit in a trip to Ravello as well.

I have no argument with those who say that the 50 Kilometre Amalfi Coast drive is probably the world’s most beautiful and thrilling, piece of tarmac-ed sightseeing in Europe.  If you can ignore the hairpin bends, the crazy Italian driving, the narrowness of the road that means your vehicle could possibly plunge into the churning sea below, the views are spectacular.  The road is built at a very steep angle, zigzagging backwards and forwards and from the window of your vehicle you can see craggy rocks thrusting through the foamy waters below.

One of many Medieval Watchtowers on the Amalfi Drive

Despite the heavy traffic, all fighting for space on hairpin bends, the Amalfi Drive is a fascinating trip with every corner revealing an even more stunning view protected by Unesco.  Pastel-coloured villages are terraced into the mountainside, medieval watchtowers guard the coast, and here and there huge colourful ceramic urns In yellow, blue, green and red, announce a “ceramic factory”.  Among the green slopes of the cliffs are scented lemon groves and a profusion of pink and white oleanders, and enticing restaurants locate on precipitous corners daring you to stop for a coffee. This white-knuckle ride is one of Italy’s greatest wonders but it is not for the faint of heart. It is 80 kl of narrow, S-curve roadway strung halfway up a cliff with the waves crashing below.

At the end of the Drive you have Amalfi, tiny, expensive but one of the easier towns of those strung along the coast to walk around.  It rises gently up the hillside from the waterfront rather than clinging vertically to it like some of the other coastal towns, like Positano for instance.  Hard to believe that this very touristy town had a glorious history as a maritime republic on a par with the better known Pisa, Venice and Genoa. 

Nevertheless, Amalfi was a trade bridge between the Byzantine and western worlds for centuries with a population exceeding 70,000 (today, less than 5,000).   Unfortunately, there are very few historical buildings of note as most of the old city, and its inhabitants, slid into the sea during the 1343 earthquake.

Rome: The Spanish Steps and The Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps

I’ve often wondered why people flock to the Spanish Steps, a stairway composed of 135 of the widest steps in Europe, but they are an institution in Rome so never one to miss out on an institution, I took myself off there.   I know the popularity of the steps has a lot to do with the William Wyler film A Roman Holiday which starred Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, just as The Trevi Fountain owes much of its popularity to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and its stars Anita Eksburg and Marcello Mastroioni, but nevertheless, I struggle to see the attraction here when the nearby gardens of the Villa Borghese are almost empty.

Built in the 18th century, this ultra-wide staircase was called the Spanish Steps because although designed by an Italian architect and financed by a French diplomat, it took the name from the Piazza di Spagna at their foot, in turn named after the nearby Spanish Embassy.  The steps were built to connect the Embassy with the Trinita dei Monti church which stands in the Piazza at the top of the steps.

The English poet John Keats once lived in the building at the bottom of the steps in what is now the Keats & Shelley Museum to the left of which is Babington’s, the famous tea-house serving homesick Brits since 1893.

The steps may seem the perfect place to tuck into a takeaway, a sandwich or an ice-cream but this is something you must not do. Roman regulations forbids consuming anything on these steps, part of an effort to keep them looking pristine. After the latest restoration this rule is being vigorously enforced.

Rome city buses are too big to negotiate the narrow streets around the Spanish Steps so if you are not going to walk to it, take Linea A (red line) on the Metro and exit at Spagna. The station is right next to the Spanish Steps.

The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain in June, so crowded impossible to get near

The Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous fountains in the world having been featured in several notable films, including the above-mentioned Roman Holiday, Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, the eponymous Three Coins in the Fountain, and Sabrina Goes to Rome.  It is a non-stop photo opportunity from early morning until well after midnight, with a never-ending mass of people milling about, most of them with huge selfie-sticks and a disinclination to make room for others.  If you need peace and quiet plan to visit very early in the morning.

The fountain is said to date back to ancient Roman days, to the 19th century BC in fact, when the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome was constructed, at the junction of three roads (tre vie) which give the Trevi Fountain its name.

It is is almost 50 metres across and heavily adorned with sculptures of Roman gods, tritons and horses, and is packed with visitors from morning till night. 

The Trevi Fountain is alwlays crowded with people, difficult to get near.

The Trevi Fountain

Approximately €3,000 is thrown into the fountain every day as people follow the tradition of throwing in coins. Legend has it that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome, a legend that dates back to the ancient Romans who threw coins in water to ensure the water gods would bring them safely home. 

The coins are collected every night and given to the Italian charity Caritas which has a supermarket program giving rechargeable cards to Rome’s needy to help them get groceries.

The streets around the area are lined with trattorias, gelaterias and restaurants, most serving food and drink at reasonable  prices, despite its touristic position. Many shops sell wooden toys of the sort we don’t see nowadays, including Pinocchios from miniature to life-size.   Nearby Via di San Vincenzo and Via della Dataria will lead you to the Quirinal Palace, as well as the Piazza del Quirinale with its obelisk and fountain of Castor and Pollux.

Most of Rome’s famous sights are within walking distance of the centre but there is a hop-on hop-off bus that leaves from the left-hand side of Vittorio Emmanuel ll every 20 mintues or so and this is an excellent way of getting to know where things are. Vittorio Emmanuel ll and The Colosseum are quite near each other, so can be visited at the same time and the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain can be reached in about an hour from there, taking it at a leisurely pace.

Bougainvillea, a bike, a pretty girl and a bottle of wine: Italy.
Busy Trattorio
Pinocchio