Postcards From Italy

I have been very fortunate in my short time on this planet to have holidayed in some wonderful places and seen many sights around the world. However, most of these vacations have tended to take place out of Europe and involved crossing an ocean or two.

No oceans had to be crossed during the trip to Italy, just a couple of seas. What is, by the way, the difference between a sea and an ocean? Furthermore, at what point does a large lake become an ocean? Anyway, anecdotes to share.

2:30am and the alarm sounds. Today's alarm anthem comes from France Gall, the French singer (in case you were wondering), and marks the beginning of our adventures in Italy. Every flight I have every been on has caused me to wake sooner than I would normally - no flight time has ever been "nice". The first of our flights, Manchester to Naples, is no exception. We are flying within Europe so only have to be at the airport two hours before the flight takes off, oh great (please note the sarcastic cadence within this sentence). Why do we have to be there so early? "Security measures" they say. That's just silly, two hours is plenty enough time to concoct an explosive device*. Or is it all part of an elaborate plan to make us spend more money in overpriced airport stores, but who am I to make up conspiracies?

Does anybody know what one is supposed to do during the wait at an airport? The usual routine for most people is to peruse the duty-free for a short while, buy nothing, do a sudoku or two and then have an occasional glance at your iPad.

Eventually it is announced that we can begin boarding our flight. As ever this means that a large drove of humans all pile towards one solitary airport worker like we were bulls at Pamplona. Ticket torn, I head on down the bridge, as I believe it's called, to the plane to find my seat.

Plane announcements over and the adventures in Italy can begin. I had already prepared a playlist of songs that would last me throughout the entire flight that consisted purely of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music.

Once we had landed and collected our bags (which took a good half an hour to do), we met our driver who had the typically Italian name of Gennaro. He was a small, portly chap in his mid-fifties who was very nice and light-hearted. Driving out of Naples airport he switched on his tour guide demeanour, pointing out our surroundings like a human satnav. Past Pompeii and its foe Vesuvius, along the Autostrada, cutting through the mountains that lay before us. Whilst in a tunnel we passed a truck which has recently come to an unhappy ending with a solid concrete wall. Then thus flowed the fated Italian words from Gennaro's mouth, "mamma mia". I was more encapsulated by those two words than I was by the scene of the accident outside of the vehicle. I didn't think anybody actually used those words next to each other in a sentence, except maybe Benny and Bj√∂rn. I thought the use of those words by an Italian was just an urban myth like yetis or the Loch Ness Monster. That moment shall remain with me forever.

Blimey! I've written so much yet we've only just left the airport, I shall try to hurry along the rest of the tales. We part ways with Gennaro at Sorrento where we are staying for five days. My simple run down and review of these five days are as follows:

- The Isle of Capri - blisteringly hot with a lot of steps
- Pompeii & Vesuvius - where they do the documentaries and things
- Wandering around Sorrento - wandering is what I do best
- Herculaneum - not worth all the hype
- Positano - a town planner was never consulted

As always on a holiday abroad I was sunburnt after the very first day meaning I had to cover up for the rest of the holiday's duration. This included me getting sunburnt on my neck, collar bones, upper arms and, comically, my hands. Who gets sunburnt on their hands?! 

With blistering hands and in blisteringly hot weather, we made our trip back to Naples airport. This time we were flying to Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily, for the second leg of our adventure in Italy. After a four hour delay, the iron bird takes us to our destination. We were hiring a car for the seven days whilst in Sardinia so that we could further our adventures; that's the kind of people we are. We adventured far and wide from our villa in the middle of the Sardinian countryside visiting Neptune's Grotto (which is a must whilst on the island) and having a mosey around Stintino and taking in its incredible views. The beaches around Stintino are amazing; turquoise waters, sandy shores, sun sun sun. However, you'd be lucky if you can find a spot to lie in after 10am. So a tip from me to thee, get there early.

Our seven days was up, it had consisted of a little bit of sightseeing with a heavy emphasis on relaxing by the pool. This lounging around was greatly needed after walking an average of twenty thousand steps per day during our time in Sorrento. Now we would take our penultimate flight back to Naples airport to stay in Amalfi for a total of two nights. We were staying in a hotel that was right next to Amalfi's gorgeous coastline, opposite from Duomo di Amalfi (an enormously elaborate cathedral). Two nights in Amalfi means, in layman's terms, we have one full day in which to explore our surroundings. This singular day involves a visit to Ravello which is dubbed as having 'the best view on the Amalfi Coast'. This awe inspiring view can be found at Villa Rufolo - known as Villa Gruffalo by my younger brother - in its stunning and extensive gardens. Taking place on that fateful day was an exhibition by famed Italian photographer Guido Harari and featured shots of acclaimed musicians, including three of my favourite artists Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno. Close to Villa Rufolo was Villa Cimbrone, another ancient house with immaculate gardens which is famed for its Terrace of Infinity. This terrace offers panoramic views of  the mountains of Cilento and the tip of Licosa and the varied and multi-coloured Coast of Amalfi with its lemon groves. This took us until late afternoon when we returned back to our hotel weary-eyed and hungry. It's hard to move in tourist areas of Italy for restaurants all trying to push their "authentic" pastas and pizzas down your throat. Its like an orgy of carbohydrates trying to eat in Italy with an obvious lack of vegetables which, as a vegetarian, I found hard. Our evening was finalised with a short walk around Amalfi's narrow market streets which were steeped with hawkers and pedlars all trying to sell you Lemoncello and tacky souvenirs. We went to bed early that night due to hour early awakening for our flight home at 9am (see, I told you we never get nice flight times).

Thus concludes our adventures in Italy. It was fun, it was tiring, it was, above all, hot. The pretty pictures don't represent how uncomfortably hot it can be at times and how downright annoying flies and mosquitoes can be. I missed the cold of England and vegetables, yes, I actually missed vegetables.

View the photo album here.

*Dear the Authorities, this is a joke, I will do those occasionally. I just thought I'd clear this one up. Thank you.
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