It’s too darn hot

Early evening when the heat has dropped and everyone is out walking about is a wonderful time and this moment, pausing on Ponte Garibaldi made a sub-optimal day worth it.

Btw, if you’ve had enough of these blogs or you think it’s all pointless, or egocentric or something, please do unsubscribe, no hard feelings. It’s just a rough journal for me and something to do in the evenings to reflect on my day, it’s not compulsory viewing.
People sometimes ask why I’m not travelling with my wife and I think the question says more about the person asking – the assumption that once you’re married you must travel with your partner. I think the question says more about other people’s values. I listened to Suzy Ferguson on RNZ interviewing Lisa Blair who sailed solo around the Antarctic and has a doco out called Ice Maiden screening at the DocEdge film Fest, and she was never asked, “Why don’t you take your boyfriend with you?” It’s because it’s her journey, her challenge and her adventure, and I feel the same way. Travelling on my own focuses my concentration and allows me to pause at things that take my interest and meet new people. So often I see older couples sitting at restaurant tables, both staring off to the middle distance  . . with nothing left to say.
On the other had it can go wrong some days. I had a plan to walk a few km of the Attica Antica, the first purpose-build Roman road, but I gave up. The temperature was 36 degrees and I was over-whelmed. I took a Lime bike into the area where the Road begins but its ‘out of zone’ which means all the power cuts out on the bike and it’s like pedalling a heavy analogue bike except harder. I really needed a hat with a decent brim too – it was all too hard. I found some shade, drank my nice cold water, poured half a bottle over my head and re-grouped.
Later I decided to see some live music but the band wasn’t starting for another 3 hours and they were playing rocked-up versions of the Bee Gees, called The Free Gees, not my cuppa, so I Lime-biked to Trastevere near by and had the worst pizza I’ve ever eaten.  The restaurant I wanted to go had a long line so I went pot-luck, and lucked out.
Time to head back to Appia Nuovo and that lovely air con.
(Sorry about all the pics, they all look smudgy to me, maybe I need to clean my phone lens?)


Giardino degli Aranci

Every day is full of surprises and around every corner is another delight; Rome is wonderful, and even thought the temperature got up to 34 degrees yesterday and forecast for 37 today, it’s good to know there’s air-con back at the hotel – phew.


Yesterday the plan was to post some gear back home that I won’t need (I overpacked), visit the Pantheon and then Trastevere for lunch. All went to plan and I reduced my luggage by 4kg.
It still amazes me how many tourists there are at the touristy spots, funny that. All the outdoor trattoria’s in the popular places like the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon are full, business must be good, but eating on a busy street with scooters and cars racing by doesn’t appeal to me – I prefer the shady back street places.
It’s surprisingly cool inside the Pantheon and it’s such a beautiful round room, no extra bits leading off anywhere – just one big curved room with a big hole in the dome open to the sky, what a clever way to ventilate.

Nanarella in Trastevere served me the best carbonara I have ever had with big chunks of bacon and no eggy slop, a generous amount of parmesan to make it thick and tasty, I was tempted to ask for a second helping.
The La Feltrinelli Bookshop is huge with books in all languages, I was looking for antiquity style maps and a place to chill out for a bit  – it has the best air-con I’ve come across by far!

On the Lime bike back to the hotel I turned off my route and wound up an interesting looking hill to Parco Savello which seems to be thee spot for weddings. Giardino degli Aranci has views out across Rome and the photographers use the distant St Peter’s Basilica as a backdrop for the nuptials.

Must mention I’ve switched over to my Italian TIM sim card. Vodafone/One in NZ charge $8 a day roaming which adds up, for example, 4 weeks would be $240, instead I paid  €20 (NZ$35) for 100Giga bytes of data (yes, 100!) and unlimited texts and calls. The was nothing to update or change and my WhatsApp just stayed as it was  – magic!  The wifi is patchy just about everywhere I stay, in Naples it went down completely for two days at the place I was staying. I seem to get much better connectivity hot-spotting to my phone – yup, loadza data.

Train strike!

It’s 22h10, and it’s 22 degrees but it feels warmer and it’s been a long 8 day in the heat that ended up in Pompei instead of Herculaneum because of a sudden train strike – but I go with the flow.



Crickey, there’s so many words to remember, so many place names, so many stations, so much Italian, I wish Luca was here, he remembers this stuff, me, they just go in one ear and out the other, thank god for the iPhone. I carry two power packs and a second phone.
Today I wanted to go to Herculaneum, a new alternative to Pompei but the train strike meant limited services, I sat at the station reading my book for an hour wondering if this strike would end. Took a stroll through the local market with all that food out in the open, there don’t seem to be any flies, but NZ H&S would definitely be shutting this down, pronto. Could not believe there’s wine for NZ$2.50. Some Treni services did commence, but Pompei was the only option, no stopping at Ercolano for Herculaneum.
It’s overwhelming walking through Pompei, it seems much bigger than when I last visited with Julia 30 years ago. I wonder what was really going on here pre AD79. There’s a new exhibition focusing on the underclass, the slaves, and it’s no surprise that it’s easy to build an empire if you have the benefit of free labour. Infant mortality was 40%. Yes, I did stumble upon those fresco’s. I also visited a grand house just outside the Pompei  walls, where they made wine, and I chatted to the people working there. Generally, the people of Naples see themselves as separate to other Italians, it’s mentioned often. I eves-dropped on a few of the audio-guide people, but who needs that? For me it’s all about enjoying the moment, of just being there, gulping down water and wondering how long I can last.

Forgot to mention the bike tour, not quite what I was expecting, mainly on urban roads with wine session under the pergola, but a friendly bunch of Sarf Africans, Brits and Norwegians.

Vomero is it.

I’m over galleries and basilica’s so I took the Funicolare to visit the Castel S. Elmo at the top of the hill and discovered there’s fewer tourists up there, and a nice local vibe.

It’s an area called Vomero with the massive Spanish fort dominating the skyline. The Spanish had a big hold on this part of the ‘Italian’ peninsula for quite some time. These days Vomero has a different atmosphere than down on the lower streets full of crowds, I found a nice record shop with a restaurant and bar playing good jazz, we got talking.
I found a rare release of a pre-Ziggy Stardust album on vinyl with demos and out-takes, not sure what’s on it actually, the cover is a bit vague,  but it’s clearly collectable.
Once up top on St Elmo I walked along the turrets of the fort, glad I took the binoculars because  . . . whoa!, I could see all the way to Sorrento, Capri and Pompei  – was up there for hours, absolutely knock out 360 degree views of Napoli and beyond.
I realise now that a scooter is the only way to go in Naples and I’m planning to hire one for Wednesday, my last day. Tomorrow is Tuesday and my 4 hour pre-booked e-bike tour. Hope there’s not too many hills.

Streets of Napoli

I had booked a seat for Donezetti’s Maria Stuarda in the magnificent Teatro San Carlo which was just 5 minutes walk from my digs, but I still managed to be late.

Maria Stuarda is tragic opera with a story loosely based on the lives of Mary Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart) and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, [1]and although they confront one another, the two Queens, in fact, never met. Sung in Italian there are plenty of references to Dio. They spent most of the Second Act asking God to get involved in one way or another; for redemption, for forgiveness, for permission, will he accept her in heaven, will Liz change her mind about the execution – of course she won’t. It’s a bit like watching the Titanic movie, you know what’s going to happen. But no blood or gore in this show, not a chopping block or axe in sight – it’s all about the pathos – it’s pretty dark, and I loved it.
Interesting how they use microphones for the orchestra and singers, about 20 tiny condensor mics scattered about, lots of those super expensive NEUMANN KM183s – only NZ$1,200 each, (this is a research business trip, remember)
Naples is a wonderful place to wander around, a labyrinth of alleyways, it’s a bit filthy and run down, but so charming and this morning I went out for a coffee and returned 4 hours later thinking I should get a  Maradona shirt, but on the other hand, it might be one of those things you look at when you get home, and think,‘ . . why the hell did I buy that?’

Barberini & Cabaret

Weaving through the cobbled streets and alleyways of Rome on a Lime e-bike is the best fun, and in this heat it’s cooler than walking because you get the breeze.


All the Caravaggio paintings are at the Barberini Gallery, it is the principal national collection of older paintings in Rome with Raphael, Filippo Lippi, Bernini, Borromini and many others, and it occured to me there was plenty of blood and gore in ancient times, sudden death was an everyday part of life.
That evening I found a last minute Jazz Club with singers performing the American Song Book that I enjoy, only 20 euro admission and a glass of vino for 8 euro in a part of Rome I had not visited before. The singers had incredible voices, huge stage personality and flair, and absolutely delivered – they sang traditional Italian pop songs and opera, quite a show.

Let’s eat . .

There are so many little trattoria’s everywhere it’s hard to know where to sit down, but I really like CONAD, the supermarket with everything.

Sorry this blog is a bit shit, I can’t figure out how to make it look all classy and cool, I think you need plug-ins and a bit of time to figure it out – I’ll get there. I used to resize all the pics but now I just cut’n’paste, bit like rock’n’roll.
I’ve figured out a pasta and a glass of wine is about  15 euro in a restaurant, and a visit to Conad getting flatbread, some meat, a salad or fruit, some cheese and a bottle of wine (going for the specials) comes to 15 euro as well.
Conad has a wall of prosciutto, a big display of (uncovered) seafood, (I really hope people are buying it), and a ton of cheese including those big ones the side of a small coffee table.
After a morning out to visit the Barberini Galleria Nazionale with all the Caravaggio paintings and a whole lot more, I Lime-bike back, it’s hot with blue skies and after an hour or two on the streets, I’m done. Back to the aircon on 22 degrees, ahhhh (-;

Road trip Costa D’Argento

Would you like to come up the coast in the Audi and catch the train back to Rome tonight?


How could I refuse. After the car ownership business had been done Jack invited me to join him in his new car for a trip two hours up the coast to a beautiful part of Italy where the people of Rome go for their holidays in the picture-postcard village of Porto Ercole. He was visiting his aunt Judy and her husband Phil in Orbetello; she originally from Dublin and he from Seattle, but they had lived and worked in Rome for decades before retiring to the idyllic seaside on the Costa d’ Argento.
Jack had spent the summers of his youth with his family in this area for years and knew all the best swimming spots. We drove through the village and were soon picking our way down the gravel steps to Spiaggia L’Acqua Dolce – and the water was divine. Jack is a fountain of local knowledge about the Spanish forts that sit high on the hills, and we visited Braccio Beach and breezed through the town of Porto Ercole.
Finally, a Vermentino on the roof terrace with Judy and Phil before catching the train back to Rome Termini.

Audi Long Term Parking

Guess how much you’ll be charged for 6 months parking at Fiumicino Airport?

Well, I’m too embarrassed to say but it’s over a NZ$ grand – ouch.
We bought the Audi when we had exciting Italian plans back in October but a few spanners were thrown in the works. Luckily, a buyer appeared, Jack from Dublin, he saw my ad on Subito, an Italian used car website and the process began. Meanwhile, messages in Italian from the car park people said La meccanica non funziona  – which doesn’t need much translation. And more spanners; the car park company we used had gone broke and this one had inherited their cars – and their rates were ‘different’ and they were talking ‘penalties’. So, as I sat on the plane to Rome I had all sorts of questions on my mind about the condition of the car and the cost of parking. And Jack had paid a deposit. Would I have to refund him?
Hey, there’s a happy ending, I managed to get a shuttle to AIR CAR Parking, which took a while because I was waiting at the ARRIVALS area by  the Terminal and they pick up from the DEPARTURES level, who would have guessed!  We poured some petrol in the beast and started the car with jumpers. A young Italian guy there helped me. I bought a new battery, washed and vacuumed it at the local ESSO and headed into Roma Centro repeating to himself ‘Just keep right, keep right . . .’
Italians drive fast, they crowd in close, they toot if you’re too slow, and there’s a lot of them packed-in on the road. Temperatures are in the 30’s, but 40 minutes later I arrived at my hotel in San Lorenzo, and luckily, found a park. The next day I was to meet Jack Mulcahy and change the ownership papers, but for the evening, I went for a wander around the local parks and breathed a huge sigh of relief . . so far so good.