How much is enough? The packing dilemma again!

Did I take too many clothes or just enough?  I think there were possibly too many, although my case only weighed in at just over 16 kilograms on the way home.  All my tees and shirts would make the cut again.  Even though there were 10 shirts in  various sizes and colours I wore them all.  Some did need an iron after being washed but that wasn’t  too much of a problem and at a pinch could have been worn unironed.
Of the bottoms ( 4 capri pants in white, grey, black and denim) I would only take three pants and leave the white ones at home (and possibly put in another skirt especially if I knew if it was going to be very hot ). I basically wore a skirt or a dress for the last two weeks (except at night or when flying). The grey and denim capris were by Sportscraft and kept their shape well after multiple wears.  The black pants were from Ambre in Cambodia and they were fantastic. Never creased, always looked good and being black didn’t show any dirt. The black and white skirt was from Blue Illusion, and like the black pants, never creased and lasted five weeks of wear (and no laundry) and still looked good.

denim2 grey pants 2 black pants2

The one dress I did take (from Elsewhere in Phnom Penh) was possibly too light a colour.  It needed to be washed it twice whilst we were away.  But on the plus side it is light weight cotton and very cool.  I just need to more careful when eating ice creams!

dress

Most of my clothes (and shoes) were in blue, grey, black  and red colours with white backgrounds  so they all mixed and matched very easily.

skirt2tops 2

Shoes –  I’d take them all again.  I was so impressed how good my USD35 shoes from Phnom Penh were that I will be looking for another pair when I am in Cambodia next year. The red Frankie 4 sneakers did not get as much wear as I thought they would, mainly because it was just too hot.  They were worn more than the photos would indicate though, as I put them on for specific activities such as walking down into the cave or climbing over ruins.

Of the extras (underwear, scarves, jewellery etc) I had too much.  Anyone who knows me well probably never thought they would hear me say I had too much jewellery and too many scarves!  A scarf for the plane (and one more) would have been enough.  I also bought a scarf in Trani and another in Rome.  The latter was a forced purchase as I turned up for the Catacombs tour wearing a sleeveless dress and needed to cover my arms. I took a lot of jewellery, and although I did wear all of  it except for one pair of earrings and some bracelets. About half the amount I  took would have been enough. Bathers and the sarong I wore twice but they are something you need to take just in case.

IMG_0256 (2)

Underwear – I took 12 pairs of knickers and four bras.  I was glad of that many, although I could have taken less and washed and dried  them overnight. I  took two camisoles to wear under shirts if it was a bit cool (one black and one white). They  did not get much wear as we were in a heat wave some of the time.

The red leather hand bag was used most of the time and the  fabric green/grey bag I used on particularly hot or humid days.  I also took a small black leather cross body bag I thought would be good for evening – which it was – but it was not really necessary.

My wearing on the plane clothes were good although I did not wear those pants or cardigan at any other time.  That’s the problem with starting out in one climate and holidaying in another.

So in summary if I was going on a similar holiday in summer to southern Europe again I would take:
One pair of long loose pants for the plane
One long line cardigan for the plane
10 shirts of various styles including one to wear on the plane
3 pairs of capris or 7/8th pants
Either two skirts and one dress or two dresses and one skirt
One short sleeved cardigan
One long sleeved loose knit jumper
10 knickers
4 bras
2 camis
Bathers
Sarong
Foldable sunhat
3 pairs of socks
A good leather cross body bag and a fabric bag

I’ve  been asked for more info about my case.  It was a So Lite 4 wheeled  61cm case from the Australian Luggage Company and I paid about AUD90 for it.  On the plus side it was light and easy to wheel on smooth surfaces and the interior bottom is fairly flat making packing easy. On the negative side it was not easy to wheel on carpet, rough surfaces or cobblestones.  I would have preferred it to be smaller, (ideally about 55 cms) but they do not seem to make that size any more.  I also took an quite old carry-on bag (also from the Australian Luggage Company).

IMG_2338

In summary thanks for reading this and for your comments.  Actually documenting my packing list and travel wardrobe has made it easier for me to clarify  what worked and what didn’t and make planning for next time easier.  Next time will be Cambodia and Vietnam in January/ February 2016!  I hope to see you all again then

Home again!

We’ve been home for a few days now after too long in the air. Milan to Dubai is about 7 hours and then Dubai to Melbourne is another 14 hours,  That’s a long time to be enclosed in a large metal container with lots of other people.  At least I got to see four movies!
Jet lag has never really been a problem for me but this time it has really affected me so I have had plenty of sleepless nights to reflect on this holiday, what we did and what I wore.  I am going to spread this out over two blog posts because no-one wants to read an essay from me!

What we did is the easiest part to consider. Five and a half weeks is a long time to be travelling and although I am glad we only went to to Italy (instead of Italy and Croatia as we had originally thought) we still did quite a lot of travelling (especially internal air flights).  Next time I’d take the train.  Not only because Airitalia are very inefficient, but also because there’s a lot of time wasted getting to airports early, going through security and waiting.  A train in contrast usually leaves from somewhere in the central city area and does not require the passenger to be there much more than 30 minutes before.  It also arrives in the central part of the next city.

We stayed at airbnb apartments in Milan, Sardinia and Rome.  Whilst I like the philosophy (and prices) of this sort of accommodation we did feel a little isolated.  There’s no concierge to ask about where to shop or eat, or to advise regarding the best sites (and what to avoid). An up side of these apartments however was the washing machine.

Our first ever organised tour (by Amber Road) in Puglia and the Amalfi Coast was a big highlight of the holiday.  However I think it was partly luck that we were on a tour with so many like minded people all around the same age.  It was also a small group tour with quite a good balance of free time and organised and guided tours.  We also visited places slightly off the general tourist route (such as beautiful Trani and Ostuni) and stayed at smaller independent hotels.  There were no early morning starts either, and we always stayed at least two nights in every place.  Sicily with a car and driver was also a good move although we did try to see too many things in not enough time!
IMG_0526 IMG_0535

Trani in Puglia on the Adriatic Sea was such a lovely peaceful town.

IMG_0954

Ostuni – picture postcard perfection.

Two organized tours one straight after the other was a mistake too.  We would have liked some time for R&R in between.
These are however good problems to have!

Arrivederci Roma!

I am sitting at Dubai Airport and my body clock isn’t too sure of the time.  It’s almost midnight here, almost 10 in Italy and almost 6 in the morning in Melbourne, our next stop.

Our last two days in Rome were very hot.  In fact Rome was sweltering through an unprecedented heatwave.  It was either the hottest July in 10 years, 130 years or 150 years depending on from whom the information came! We were very glad to have an  apartment with great aircon.
A quick Google showed that a visit to the Catacombs was a good thing to do on a very hot day.  We joined a half day tour that also included a visit to part of the Appian Way and to a still standing aqueduct. No photos were allowed in the Catacombs but it certainly was cooler down there.

IMG_0863IMG_1898

Here we are at the end of the Appian Way in Brindisi three weeks before with our Amber Road group, and in the second photo we are near the beginning in Rome.

IMG_1903

The aqueduct was an amazing structure.

IMG_1886

Out for dinner in Rome.  I am standing near the entrance to our apartment which was at the back and on the roof of an the apartment block.

All roads lead to Rome.

Since my last post we have flown from Sardinia to Rome and are now in a spacious apartment near the Parthenon. We know from a previous visit that Rome is a very walkable city but with the temperatures in the high 30s it is a bit too hot to walk in the afternoon. Although since it is barely reaching double figures Celsius in our home town right now perhaps this is not a good time to complain about it being too hot.

We went on a tour of Cagliari in Sardinia on a rather unique form of transport in a Fiat 500 car which belonged to the tourist guide’s grandmother. Cagliari is quite a hilly city and several times we thought we may have needed to get out and push.

IMG_1675IMG_1706
We saw some of the popular beaches near the town and the pink flamingos in the wetlands area.

IMG_1685

IMG_1736

Out for dinner our last night on Sardinia.

Our last day was spent walking around the old town and in particular the old Jewish quarter.  The Jews were exiled from Sardinia by the Spanish monarchs in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition. In more recent times most Sardinian Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

IMG_1719IMG_1733

The rear of the Sardinian parliament buildings.  There is lift that connects this old part of the town to the newer parts of the town quite a way below!
IMG_1737All ready for the flight to Rome.

We are beginning to think that no Alitalia plane leaves or arrives on time, and our flight from Sardinia to Rome was no exception. Because we had quite a wait at Cagliari airport we took the opportunity to buy shuttle bus tickets from Rome Airport to the central railway station. We were very glad we did because the shuttle bus ticket booth and bus stop were chaos at the Rome end of things! We finally reached our apartment which is very  good – well air conditioned and spacious, although you do need to have a bit of mountain goat in your genetic makeup to access it via stairs, and then through what appears to be a window.

Yesterday I went on a food walking tour of Travastere an old neighborhood (yes they are all old!) on the other side of the river.  By then I had discovered a great app for taxis that allows us to book a cab without having to attempt to do so over the phone in Italian. (Mr L who visited a contemporary art gallery, managed to find a taxi by the old fashioned way of walking to the nearest taxi rank.).

The food tour was excellent and allowed for large tastings of cheese, biscuits, small goods, bread, fried risotto balls, fruit, gelato, pasta and sweets, plus a few glasses of wine in about three hours. Sadly I do not think there was enough walking to counteract the  effect of all that food. Prior to dinner we did as the Romans do and enjoyed a few aperitifs of Spritzs and a Campari and soda. Dinner for me was a very small affair of grilled veges and a salad.

IMG_2526 (2)

No explanation needed!

IMG_2535 (2)

It’s easy to buy pizza by the slice for a snack.  We’ve never needed to do that because there is so much food with each meal.

IMG_2531 (2)

Enormous wheels of local pecorino cheese.

IMG_2528 (4)

This is a pork smallgoods meat (guanciale) made from the jowls of the pig.

IMG_2542

And lastly one of my favourite fruits.

This morning we did what I called our own Roman icons tour.  We set out earlyish when it was only in the mid 20s and walked to the Trevi Fountain, (currently without water and undergoing restoration) and then the Spanish steps.
Only one and a half more days in Rome and then we start the long journey home.

IMG_1807IMG_1811

The Spanish Steps made famous in the movie Roman Holiday. Not too many Gregory Pecks around today, and even less Audrey Hepburns.

Clothes wise I just wish I had more dresses and skirts as it is too hot for pants or jeans.  My black and white skirt from Blue Illusion is getting a good work out as is my new Noto dress.

Italian islands

Sicily and Sardinia are the two largest islands in Italy and we are lucky enough to have visited them both.

We spent our last two days in Sicily looking at the towns of Noto and Sircasa and had a trip up the volcano Mount Etna. In Siracusa we had a great guide Denise who has a pHd in archaeology – this is a great example of Sicily’s unemployment and underemployment problem.  Apparently unemployment is at around 30% and youth unemployment nearer to 50%. Underemployment is common.

IMG_1432IMG_1396

At the Greek theatre in Siracusa with Denise and the cathedral in Noto.

IMG_1455

On the slopes of Mount Etna

We can greatly recommend Paolo and his team from Handy Sicily who organised our five day tour aroud the island

I realised a few days into our Sicily trip that wearing pants and a shirt was not the best way to stay cool  so in Noto I bought another dress. It was linguistically confusing but we got there in the end with a mixture of my Italian and the owner’s daughter’s English. Of course the Mastercard payment is universal.

IMG_1534

When I was about 10 we were holidaying in Tumut, Australia, and my mother bought me a new dress that was forever know as the Tumut dress.  This one pictured just outside our apartment in Cagliari will be now known as the Noto dress.

After the inevitable Alitalia delays, cancellations, missed connections and lost luggage we have settled into our Airbnb apartment in the old town of Cagliari the largest city in Sardinia.  The town is quite hilly so our leg muscles are getting good work outs.  There are even public lifts to assist the townsfolk to get from the low part of the town to the higher part. We went on a day tour to see the nuraghi which are Bronze age buddings common on Sardinia. Our trip also included a visit to the Giara  a plateaued area where there are Sardinian wild horses and  picnic of Sardinian goats’ cheese and salami.

IMG_1610IMG_1578IMG_1537IMG_1614

Food glorious food!

Throughout Sicily we have generally been very impressed with the food.  Much pizza and pasta of course, but also seafood dishes and many vegetable combinations. The quality and abundance of fruit and vegetables is fantastic.  There are fruit and vegetable sellers everywhere (at the moment selling especially cherries, water melon, plums and peaches.)

For the carnivores there is pork, chicken and cavallo (or horse).  Most of the beef and steak on menus seems to be from Argentina.  Generally there is not much meat in  dishes.  For instance last night I had a pasta with sword fish and cherry tomatoes but there were only small cubes of the fish.

IMG_2456IMG_2459IMG_2454
In Palermo the local street food delicacy is panelli, little deep fried chick pea fritters.  We made these in the cooking class and I will be trying to replicate them once we are home.
Pasta alla norma is everywhere.  The composer Bellini was born in Catania  and this pasta celebrates his opera Norma.  It is pasta with tomatoes,eggplant, ricotta and basil.  Again this should be easy to make at home.
Caponata in various forms is very common as part of the antipasto course.  Not only the traditional eggplant version but also with capsicum (bell peppers), carrot and celery.

salad
Sicily is famous for cannoli and other sweets.  Thus far we have resisted and only had one each.  But they were chocolate filled and very delicious.

IMG_1089IMG_1155IMG_1156

Greeks and Romans and other assorted conquering armies.

We were picked up in Palermo by Luca, our driver for the next three days. After struggling though the stop start traffic out of Palemo (it was Sunday and everyone was going to the beach) we finally reached our first destination of Segesta and by this stage it was VERY hot out in the midday sun. There is well preserved Doric temple and a theatre, both accessed by climbing and walking on lots of rough ground. They  are both worth the climb!  After Segesta, and more driving, we had a visit to a mountain town called Erice which appears to have been settled and  conquered by almost everybody.  The photo however is of a Norman church.

IMG_1130 IMG_1146IMG_1170IMG_1151

It was an early night for both of us after a dinner at the hotel.  The restaurant there  is apparently quite famous because of its celebrity chef Peppe Guiffre. He was not working that night but we still had an enjoyable meal.

Th next day we drove to Marsala (where they do make the famous wine) past salt pans and windmills,  There is an island called Mozia which belonged to an Englishman Joseph Whitaker and is still owned by a Whitaker Trust.   My grandmother’s family name was Whittaker, but I think no relation.  The salt from here is what you would be eating if the restaurant in Australia was offering Sicilian salt.  Marsala itself is a lovely town, conquered, and settled, by the Carthaginians, and in later years by the Spanish , the Normans and the French.  It is of course famous for the locally produced Marsala wine.  We had a tasting and it’s not like the marsala we used to buy in flagons in the 1970s!  More like a sherry.

IMG_1197

No it’s not Holland, but the salt pans, where the windmills were once used to pump out the water.

IMG_1216 IMG_1225

After lunch in Marsala we were on the road again heading for Selinunte which was an ancient Greek city on the south west coast of Sicily. There were originally five temples but only one has been re-erected.  Luca, realising that we were flagging through temple exhaustion, decided we should use a little golf cart arrangement.  This was greatly appreciated as there would have been three or four kilometres of climbing and walking otherwise. The temple is again magnificent on a high point overlooking the sea! Those Greeks certainly understood the first rule of real estate.  Position, position, position.

IMG_1250IMG_1249IMG_1256IMG_1290

We then drove to Agrigento on the south coast to a hotel where had an an enormous family room  All my attempts to get an iron were in vain.  Guests do not iron, they must pay someone to do it for them was the message.  Needless to say my dress went unironed. Agrigento is a very ugly town, but it is near one of the most important archaeological sites in Sicily – the Valley of the Temples. Dinner that night was at our hotel.  We find that most dinners are antipasto (lots of it), a pasta dish, then meat and then sweets.  Waiters are surprised when we opt for only one of the courses. IMG_1297\

Photo taken from our very large balcony.

IMG_1299

The temples taken from our balcony with the late  afternoon haze.

The next morning we had a tour of the temples with a very knowledgeable guide – Michael – who spoke fantastic English.
The Valley of the Temples is one of the most outstanding examples of Grecian art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are the remains of seven Doric temples, the best preserved one being the Temple of Concordia.
IMG_1318 IMG_1327 IMG_1343 IMG_1360

Were we templed out?  Probably, but our intrepid driver Luca took us inland to a well preserved Roman villa at Piazza Amerina.  This is a Roman villa from the 4th century BC and contains apparently some of the  richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.  The mosaics are beautiful and quite intricate giving a good picture of Roman life at that time. If anyone thought the bikini was designed by the French think again!

IMG_1385IMG_1374IMG_1387

Here I am with Luca by his car.  Let me  give the info before the inevitable questions.  Mid thirties, married eight months to a very gorgeous girl in apparently (according to him) a very fancy and expensive wedding!IMG_1389

After Piazza Amerina we drove to our next hotel, an agriturismo (a bit like a farm stay) near Noto.  Our dinner that night would have fed our entire family (and the rest of the street).  Much antipasto, followed by pasta, then meat, some  fruit, and we refused the sweets course!  It’s a source of amazement to us that obesity is not a national problem in Italy!  We said arriverderci to Luca as our driver for the next day would be Bruno.

Sicilia

After our tour of Puglia we flew back to Rome from Brindisi and then down to Catania in Sicily.  Catania was really just a place to stay one night, but we did manage a walk though some of the town the next morning.  We then caught the train to Palermo our home for three nights.

IMG_1042

Mr L’s comments were that this combo would not work well at home but looked fine in Italy!

My first impressions of Palermo were that I have not seen such broken uneven pavements or bad drivers since we were in Phnom Penh in Cambodia last year.  The Sicilian capital is noisy, smoggy and chaotic.  It has been conquered over the years by the Phoenecians, the Greeks, the Arabs, the French, and the Spanish.  And that’s just the ones I can remember!

Our first full day we took the Hop on Hop off bus and saw an overview of the city.  We did get off in a lovely part of the town for lunch and also went to the the Royal Palace and the Palatine Chapel.  The latter was built in the 12th Century and is quite magnificent with its detailed mosaic scenes.

IMG_1043

All ready for  hot day’s sightseeing in Palermo.

IMG_1056 IMG_1049

Out for dinner in Palermo.
IMG_1062

Our last day in Palermo I went to a cooking class.  We were staying in a converted palazzo and the duke and duchess (aka Nicoletta)  live in the other half.  She runs classes highlighting Sicilian cuisine. We began at the local market buying tuna, olives, fruit, vegetables and herbs.  We also saw a lovely church at the side of the market.

IMG_2466 IMG_2452 IMG_1081After the class we all ate together and Mr L joined us as well as a publisher from New York and the duke (aka Giacomo).

The end of the Amber Road and farewell

Our last full day of the Amber Road tour took us to Alberobello to look at the unique trulli houses. These houses are constructed of bricks (with no concrete or cement) and could be quickly dismantled when needed. There are many theories behind the origin of the design. One of the more popular theories is that due to high taxes on property the people of Puglia created these dry wall constructions so that they could be dismantled when inspectors were in the area. The conical rooves are quite distinctive.  I am wearing a cool linen top I bought in Sorrento when we were on the Amalfi Coast. IMG_0964IMG_0992IMG_0983IMG_1001   An afternoon visit to a nearby cave was interesting but for me a bit scary, especially when our guide started talking about earthquakes! IMG_1008IMG_1022 A farewell dinner in Ostuni with lots of farewells and email exchanges finished our organised tour. We were eating outside so I am more rugged up than usual. We can highly  recommend Amber Road Tours as the entire trip was well planned, interesting and with a fantastic guide Anna, who is in the picture below.  We were also very lucky to be travelling with a great group of people. IMG_1029IMG_1033

Between the seas

Lecce in Puglia is inland on the heel of Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Taranto, part of the Mediterranean. Our first  morning we had a guided walk with our guide Emanuella who took us to the Basilica, the Cathedral, the church of St Irene, the town square and the old Roman amphitheatre. She also suggested we all tried the local coffee specialty – cafe in ghiaccio con latte de mandorla i.e. iced espresso  with almond milk. We headed to a nearby cafe with our South African travelling companions and gave it a try.  The verdict? Delicious.  We’ll be asking Adam at the Bendigo Corner Store to put this one on his coffee menu.

IMG_0764 (2)IMG_0774IMG_0788

IMG_0755

The bus, with Maurizio our driver, then took us to Otranto, the easternmost point of Italy, where we had a seafood lunch.  Albania is only 70 miles away to the east.  Prior to the fall of the socialist regime in Albania in 1991 refugees attempted the crossing to Otranto.  Some were successful but others perished. There is a memorial to those who died located on the Otranto seafront.

After lunch the inevitable church tour  followed.  Who knew there were so many saints? The Otranto Cathedral has a 12th century mosaic floor and in the crypt the remains  of the Martyrs of Otranto, Christians who were executed in the 15th century during an Ottoman siege. Following that we visited another village Galatina where we looked at frescoes in the church of St Catherine of Alexandria built in the 14th Century.  Very fine frescoes but by then we were well and truly over cathedrals and saints!

IMG_0795

This photo shows the memorial to the Albanian refugees who lost their lives on the sea crossing.

IMG_0741 (2)

Dinner that night was some very  nice eggplant ravioli for me and a pizza for Mr L.

The next day we travelled to Brindisi a naval base and fishing port.  There were also  some seriously large yachts moored there. In ancient times Brindisi was  at the end of the Appian Way from Rome. Arriving in Brindisi it was time for a  coffee break.  We went to Betty’s Cafe.  As some of you know this is my mothers name so many photos were taken. Emanuella then took us on a walk of the town. More cathedrals and churches and more mosaic floors and frescoes!

IMG_0856IMG_0870IMG_0866IMG_0897

Later in the afternoon we drove to Ostuni, known as the White City, because of the whitewashed houses, where we will stay for two nights.  The view from out hotel terrace is pretty impressive spoiled only by TV antennas.  Dinner was local Puglian delicacies followed by another gelato.

IMG_0961 (2)IMG_0941IMG_0945