A flavour of Perugia

Perugia is anothet hill-town with a mediaeval centre. Narrow, dark streets spread down the hill from the main piazzas with an almost Dickension feel as tall tenament terraces reach up to the shy and compete with each other & bell towers & spires for the available light.


The town hinges around a single wide street with the duomo at one end and a view over the valley at the other. At street level modern facades house a range of cosmopolitan shops, bars & cafes and 4/5 floors of offices & apartments & cultural exhibitions tower over them.



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Locals go about their everyday business.

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The local radio station houses some quirky images in an old wine cellar

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On the way home we discover the delights of the Girasoli di Sant Andrea restaurant. They make their own wine, they press their own olive oil, rear their own beef & cure their own ham. This all makes for a magnificent meal topped off with dessert – ‘The Five Deadly Sins’.


Start in bottom left corner & work your way around clockwise. The last element is a cocoa covered profiterole with 72% chocolate. Heaven! Stuffed!!



Umbria – ‘the green part of Italy’

Umbria – a beautiful region of rolling hills, woods, streams & valleys with classic hill towns each completely individual & crammed with artistic & architectural treasures. Our base to explore the region from is just outside Umbertide on the western edge of Umbria bordering Tuscany.

Some images of the house which has a definite medieval castle feel with thick stone walls, huge, dark rooms including two vast sitting areas with equally vast open fires.

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The terrace is shaded by a rambling vine and overlooks the Umbrian hills & our own private view of the neighbouring castle. Mind you it is like a 2 km hill- climb over stoney tracks to get to the place.

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And then, when those colossal lightening storms come over and the Etruscan gods start to shout at each other and pour their urns over the Umbrian hills, there is the opportunity to replay the 1966 table football world cup.



Moving up through Tuscany

The last few days in Lazio bring Italian life to the fore. Firstly dinner at Il Ponto restaurant overlooking the stranded village of Civita do Bagnoregio linked to the ‘mainland’ by the long pedestrian bridge.

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The following day is spent enjoying the space that is Vittorio & Beatrice’s home- they live in the far side during the summer & leave their guests in privacy to enjoy the rest of the house & the pool.



They ask us to join them for the evening at Beatrice’s parents home across the valley. A group of young opera singers have joined their mentor to train their voices and family & friends are treated to a performance on the terrace under the stars. A bass sings four cantatas and then we all join in with a song sheet in Italian – not quite to Rock Choir standard! This is followed by a traditional meal for the 17 of us including lasagna, potato & beetroot & copious amounts of the local red wine. I am now a convert to cow mozzarella.


It is with sadness that we leave Vittorio & Beatrice the following day. We came as guests and left as friends.

We drive across the farmland of Lazio, the scenery becoming less wooded as we move north via the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore providing a haven of shade from the parched landscape of southern Tuscany-not that there were many monks in evidence; just the well heeled clientele at the exclusive restaurant.

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It is then across the dry scraped landscape of Tuscany towards Umbria. Parched rolling farmland split only by lines of telephone wires, clusters of olive trees & vines, bubbles of mixed woodland, farm buildings ancient & modern and that quentissential feature of rural Italy – the lines & rows of cypress trees. But then on a hill in the distance appears the silhouette of a tower or a spire or fortifications with modern houses & flats huddled around its base. Around the next bend another similar settlement appears to continually reassure that life has gone on in this way for centuries.

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The drive ends in Umbria where the scenery changes yet again with wooded hills leaving wide fertile river valleys in between and large fields of tobacco & corn.


A chance sighting opens up Montefiascone



Driving through the Lazio countryside we catch a glimpse of Montefiascone through the olive & fruit trees. The duomo rears up high, perched on the rim of an old volcano and dominates the skyline. The car seems to turn in that direction automatically.

Taking the lift up from the carpark (yes, lift) the small Etruscan old town is like going back in time. Up close the 17th century duomo is equally impressive as it is from a distance. This is yet another landmark on the pilgrim route that links Canterbury & Rome – the Via Francigena.

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Everyday life of modern Italians is evident throughout the mediaeval streets that crowd around the duomo.

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The surprise, having snaked a route through the shadows of these narrow alleys is arriving at the western gate to see the whole of Lake Bolzano & surrounding countryside spread out before you in the glorious colours of the setting sun which sets up shadows to give an extra dimension to the landscape & atmosphere.

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As always, the town square is the hub of all the streets & alleys and of town life. The omnipresent fountain provides the focal point for whiling away time or chatting or just sitting to contemplate the day. I like this guy- people come to him!!20140828163200_IMG_2750






Lago di Bolsena has it all

We have the sat nav to thank for discovering this place. Having decided to drive towards the coast we drop down to Lake Bolsena, the largest in Lazio & occupying a broad volcanic crater with its own microclimate around its shore where vines & olive trees grow in the fertile soil. The town of Bolsena has elegant avenues of huge deciduous trees leading to the shore, mediaeval nooks & alleyways running off the main drag and a 14th century castle perched over the western edge of a ridge overlooking the lake. The history dates back to Roman & Etruscan times. Dante praised the quality of the eels caught by local fishermen along with perch & pike, all of which feature highly on local menus!

So enjoy these images of the town & the lakeside.

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As dusk falls  & the sun starts to set a quiet promenade is required through the avenue of large trees to the lakeside. A quiet beer on the ‘beach’ to watch the locals fish & catch the last few rays before dinner in the trattoria on its own small pier over the water. Aaaahhhh!!!

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People watching in the Piazza delle Erbe in Viterbo

The old town of Viterbo is contained within tall walls & towers. Streets lead down from the gates, which take cars in single file, through dark, narrow streets fronted by tall terraced buildings to the ancient heart of piazzas, churches, town offices & the duomo.





The old mixes with the new – look closely at this one; which Tom is peeping?


The Piazza delle Erbe is a small square at the centre of the town with a fountain in the middle where five streets meet, including the main shopping stretch, and edged by cafes & gelateria. Locals of all ages pass & settle & gossip & chatter on their evening passeggiata dressed to kill in their classy glad rags and many with the indispensable accessory of a gelato.

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On our doorstep – the village of Bagnoregio

After a day chilling out at the house (more another time) to get over the days of driving, a small journey is called for to the nearest place of any size which has supplies – Bagnoregio. This is an ordinary, busy place which hides a nugget at the far end. Tatty houses & simple shops line the main road and up from here stretches a cobbled street along a ridge with narrow streets branching off on either side. These play host to the houses intermixed with simple churches & piazzas and to the local population of all ages who hang about chatting in the shade as all Italians seem to do – the men together at the bar, the older ladies on benches in the piazzas, people hanging out of windows watching the world go by and families pushing prams & children riding around on bikes linking it all together.



“Well I’m going this way”






And then the nugget – the tiny village of Civita do Bagnoregio high above the surrounding canyons on a pillar of soft rocks that are being eroded away. The only way to reach the precariously balanced houses is by a 20 minute walk along a viaduct. More on this another day.


Italy revisited – Tuscany, Umbria & Lazio

Driving down through France heading for the tunnels through the Alps, the first sign that the splendours of Italy await is the rear of Mt Blanc standing guard on the border. Once through its dim, subterranean dual carriage way the glories of the Italian Alps beckon you further in.



The first thing that has to be done once over the border is to find the prettiest of places & stop for lunch & explore.



Rabbit salad with a glass of ice cold rose on the shore of Lake Orta. This is one of the smallest of the Italian lakes, surrounded by mountains. It is as if Walt Disney has taken the place over to typify all that is Italian beauty. Picturesque old villages nestle around the shore cry out to be expored.





The pivotal sight is that of the island of San Giulio which can be seen from every spot on the shore. Only 275m x 140m it oozes  a mixture of  scruffy elegance & class & history & religion & the Italian way of doing things.


Early ferry across the Bay of Naples to Napoli

Have a quick espresso while waiting for the midday ferry at the port at Sorrento


What an ancient city Naples is! ! Full of narrow, haunting streets, full of history & stories. From the sea, domes and crosses compete with tall, elegant, apartment buildings, those flaking & crumbling in juxta position to renovated classy restaurants & shops, for sky space. Layers of muted coloured buildings, all between four & seven stories high, stretch up the hills around the harbour.






A walk around the corner and crowds are watching power boat race around the bay. A real spectacle.


I cannot say goodbye to Naples without leaving you with an image of Vesuvius!


Hotel Riccardo Francischiello

Some images of the hotel – highly recommended in all aspects. Good inexpensive but high quality restaurant, friendly, helpful staff, wonderful roof top pool and scenery to die for overlooking the island of Capri.





Local buses to Nerano Cantone

A few more images of Sorrento.




From Sorrento buses dash around narrow windy lanes hugging the coast or clinging to hillsides. The driver eats a choc ice in one hand and steers & blasts horn at every bend with other. Then he sorts out his headphones!

Two local buses, change at San Agata, takes you through Termini to the stoney beach at Nerano. Plush hotels & restaurants hug a small bay of pebbles and stones shadowed by tall cliffs at each end.



Amongst the sunseekers and sun loungers some locals still find time to work & fish.


Hello Italy

Just an hour down the coast from Naples – the coastline jewel around Sorrento.

The view of Capri from the hotel. It’s the same from the balcony that greets the morning as the shutters open.


Sunset last night over the Bay of Naples & over the island of Ischia.