Monday, July 3, 2017

November 2016 - Trip #4 - Relax, Explore & More

This trip was more about learning to "let my little girl go" more than anything. She's all grown up now, but a mom can still worry.  We shared a plane ride as far as Germany and then she and her BFF Jessica split off from us and went to Warsaw, Poland of all places.

Mom and I continued to Guardia to see our Italian friends and get our casa straightened up and get the power turned on, propane for the heater, etc.  And then meet back up with the girls in Rome two days later and bring them back to Guardia.  We caught the outgoing bus leaving Guardia around 7:30 am.

Helpful tip: The bus stop we use isn't too far past Pasquale's Tana dell Orso.  With your back towards La Meridiana, the Municipo, the Gran Caffe, etc., walk straight past Tana dell Orso.  At the major street on your left, turn left and walk until you see the covered bus stop on the right side of the street. Not far, you can see it pretty much immediately.  There are usually school kids there waiting for their bus. When their bus comes, you can get on it if you want, but there is a second bus that comes afterwards. That's the one the local adults use. It only costs 1 euro, 10 cents. Take that bus into Telese. Get off and if I remember correctly, when you exit the bus, take a right.  You should be on the street called Via Roma.  You are looking for the street called Viale Minieri.  That street dead ends at the train station. Maybe a 10 or 15 minute stroll.  The first train doesn't come until a little after 9am.  There is a coffee bar next to the train station. They have a restroom, the train station does not.

We checked into our Rome apartment we found on Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and headed to the Pantheon to meet the girls.  The girls got a really good rate on Ryanair from Warsaw to Rome (Ciampino Airport), like 35 euros.  They took a cab from the airport to the Pantheon where we were waiting for them (50 euro).

Restaurant near Pantheon,Yay! The girls made it safely!

Helpful Tip: Buy your Vatcan tickets online (20 euro) in advance @ Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. You can purchase your tickets 2 months in advance and skip the line. The Vatican Museums entrance is not located in front of St. Peter's, but around the right-hand corner and towards the back.  They even held our bags for us and we picked them up after existing the Sistine Chapel. (We'll find out next trip if they will hold luggage as well)
 Photos/cameras are allowed everywhere EXCEPT the Sistine Chapel
The colossal Coliseum:
You can just see it between their heads.        The Roman Forum (up top, looking down)

Jessica spent the morning of her 21st birthday in Rome, Italy and then the afternoon of her birthday in Guardia Sanframondi, Italy.  How cool is that?

 Birthday cake in the morning, Rome. Birthday dinner at Vittoria's, Guardia Sanframondi.
Last night before leaving Guardia, dinner at La Meridiana's, with our friend Giovanni Sanzari. Yum!

 Old friends and new friends and neighbors in Guardia:  Thank you to our new neighbor, Michel, for installing our mailbox and address placard!  Looks fantastico! We miss all of our Guardia friends!  See you again in August 2017!

Old Friends, Glenn & Lil Man; New friends, Michel & Angela

Spent a few days together in Guardia and then off to Naples, where the girls split off from us again and headed to Sicily and mom and I took a day trip to the Amalfi Coast and then another day trip to Sorrento & Pompeii.  The Amalfi Coast is so beautiful and picturesque.  Naples is a great central point to visit the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii or Capri, and more.

Helpful Tip: Buy your train tickets in advance before leaving USA or home, especially the overnight trains. We had a problem with Trenitalia's website. It wouldn't let us set up an account to purchase tickets in advance. Poor Courtney ended up paying almost double for the train ride to Sicily from what it was 3 months ago. Since then, I've found a new train ticket website called Trainline (Captain Train).  At the time of the posting of this blog, I've already purchased our train tickets well in advance for our August 2017 trip. I'll be sure to post any issues from that trip in the next blog entry.

Train to Napoli
Off to Naples, to stay at our favorite Hostel/Hotel, Bella Capri. We book through It's clean, safe, friendly staff, share a kitchen, free breakfast each morning, cheap, and you can't beat the view of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius...and did I say cheap? Bella Capri Hotel Hostel  Its not fancy, but adequate. We don't like spending a lot of money on a room we don't spend much time in.

Once again we took the Alibus to the Molo Beverello port stop. Short walk and checked in with the same friendly gentlemen as our last stay.

Where else can you get a cold beer with your burger and fries at 10:00 in the morning?  Naples, Italy! That's where!


Then we met up with our guide for our Free Walking Tour of Naples at Neptune's Fountain.  Carmen, our guide, was very informative.  We booked this free Royal Naples Walk walking tour through Napoli That's Amore Free Walking Tour

Our guide, Carmen, showed us around Naples and provided historical and interesting facts.  Castel Nuovo, the Russian Horses, and even a military celebration in Piazza Plescito, that was really interesting to watch...very patriotic.

Castel Nuovo

Galleria Umberto

Seaside Lunch after the walking tour

Then we attended our very first Italian Opera in ITALY!

Grotto di Trofonio opera at the Teatro di San Carlo
I saw the girls off at the train station after the opera. The girls took the overnight train to Syracusa, Sicily.

The next day, mom and I embarked on a Viator day trip tour of the Amalfi Coast,  We opted for a Viator tour, rather than try to do it ourselves the first time.  So glad we did.  The van picked us up and dropped us back off again at our hotel/hostel and as luck would have it, she and I were the only passengers.  You can do the ride cheaper by taking the SITA bus (be sure to sit on the right-hand side of the bus on the way there), but this was a reasonable splurge at $97 each.  If interested in taking the same tour, Viator calls it the "Sorrento and Amalfi Coast Independent Day Trip from Naples".  We spent one hour in each of the 4 seaside villages....Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello.  You can only travel up the Amalfi Coast one way (seaside) on the way there, and down the other (backside of the mountains) on the return trip, but it was lovely.  Our guide dropped us off, we explored independently on our own, and he picked us back up where he dropped us off at one hour later.  He also stopped at various spots on the way for pictures.  The Amalfi Coast is breathtakingly beautiful!

We even met a University of Florida Gators fan in Positano. His family owns the Positano Cafe in Apopka, Florida. Amazing!  Mom says he kinda looks like Tim Tebow.

The next day we took the ferry from Naples to Sorrento (15 euro?, I think). Then took the train from Sorrento to Pompeii.  Spent a few hours in Pompeii and then took the train back to Naples. Less than 10 euros.

Helpful tip:  You don't have to rely on guided tours. Travelling by ferry and train is very affordable and convenient, for those who want to strike out on their own and explore at their own pace, like us!  Just be aware that pick-pockets target tourists (especially on trains) and keep your valuables and money protected.

On the Ferry to Sorrento:  Mt. Vesuvius and beautiful church in Sorrento.

Pompeii:  For hours and ticket prices (approximately 13 euros), visit Pompeii website

Just our luck, on the day we were scheduled to return to USA (before Thanksgiving), Lufthansa pilots went on strike for 3 days and we spent Thanksgiving Day in Naples, Italy.  There are worst places to be stuck, though, right?

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Holiday Inn Naples, Italy

Me and mom had to fly to Rome, and the girls had to take the train to Rome, even though we wanted it the other way around.... anyway, we all made it to Rome safe and sound and then home to USA.