We are half a world away from home and enjoying the hospitality and heat of Rome.
Our flight was largely uneventful until an unscheduled two hour delay on the tarmac at Hong Kong due to “congestion over South China” – whatever that meant.
We found out it meant that our 11 hour flight from Hong Kong to Rome stretched out to 15 hours – 2 hours on the ground and an extra 2 hours in the air as we flew a course well north of the usual route.
Rome greeted us with a 40 degree day which even the locals said was “molto caldo” – too hot.
We spent the day walking – in the shade, keeping fluid intakes up and shopping. Jean is the proud owner of a new handbag called Louis IV which I’m sure will feature in a future blog post.
All this before the jet lag kicked in and we were asleep around 7pm. We were wide awake again at 4am so for the first time in living memory the Mowday’s will be the first in the breakfast room at Hotel Barocco this morning.
Today we travel north to Tuscany and start our week staying in Chianti – still in temperatures that will top out at 40 degrees. Not that we are, in any way, complaining.
We are less than 12 hours away from starting our trip to Italy and there seems to be numerous things still to do and very little time to do them in. We have an early start tomorrow to make sure we catch the flight to Auckland and then on to Hong Kong and Rome.
It is amazing how the amount, size and weight of the technology we take has decreased over the years. The bulky and heavy laptop of 4 years ago is now a MacBook Air weighing next to nothing. The TomTom GPS is left at home as our phones do the same job, and apart from our phones, a bluetooth speaker, noise cancelling headphones for the plane trip and some cables, that’s it.
We have signed up for Vodafone New Zealand’s excellent $5 a day roaming product to avoid any shock roaming charges. Spark have still not matched this product and instead offer a confusion of call rates, text costs, data rates, caps and excess charges for various parts of the world – including Italy.
Our lightweight suitcases (full sized cases that weight barely 3Kgs each) are packed and well underweight. Passports are in order and tickets issued.
It’s a cold, rainy, miserable night in Wellington. Rome is sunny and hot – we are ready to go.
In the end we will miss by a few kilometres and will be staying, instead, in Matera in the province of Basilicata. So not in the heel of the boot, more in the area between the sole and the heel.
Matera is known as “la Città Sotterranea” (the Subterranean City) because historically many of the dwelling were effectively caves in the hillside. It is one of the longest continuously inhabited places on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Park.
It is only recently that Matera has become a must-see for visitors to Italy and we will be staying 3 nights at Palazzo Gattini Luxury Hotel – breaking up a fortnight spent staying in Positano which is a two hour drive away on the coast.Our holiday is completed by a week in Chianti in a beautiful villa organised by our dear friend Olga, and a few days in Rome – a chance to reintroduce ourselves to this eternal city.
We fly out of Wellington at the beginning of August. Watch the blog for holiday updates.
If you are thinking of heading overseas next year – check out the early bird airfare deals that are available at the moment. We’ve just booked our flights to Italy next August and it cost $600 less than exactly the same flights in 2015.
We’ve also booked Villa Arienzo for two weeks over Positano festival time and plan to spend a week in Tuscany when we will catch up with friends.
The fourth week? We are thinking of heading to the heel of Italy to explore Apulia as we’ve never been to this part of Italy before.
This gallery contains 45 photos.
As we do every January, here’s a quick look back at 2015. Some shots you may have seen and some new ones.
At the end of our holiday we had two days in Rome. It was a chance to visit some favourite places of ours as well as some new places. We stayed at Hotel Barocco in one of their junior suites – which meant we had an outdoor patio to relax on – four floors above Piazza Barberini. It was a real luxury.
As always we were looked after superbly with nothing being too much trouble. Which made it even harder to say goodbye and start the long trip home. The good thing is that we threw a coin into the Trevi fountain (well sort of as you can see from the photo) so we’ll be back.
After 3 days travelling by plane, train and automobile we have arrived in Positano. Along the way we spent 3 hours in Auckland, 4 hours in Hong Kong, 25 hours in the air and a day and a night in Rome.
New Zealand farewelled us with chilling rain on a grey day and Positano welcomed us with sun, warmth and gentle breezes. The delights of jet lag haven’t quite left us yet so currently a late night is 8pm and a “sleep in” is 5am. We know that will change as the wonderfully pedestrian pace of life in Positano takes over.
As always everyone has looked after us superbly – from the welcome sight of the hotel driver at Rome airport to our room being ready for us at 8am when we arrived at Hotel Barocco. The ability to drop our bags and freshen up was a lifesaver – and no mean feat for the hotel as they were fully booked the previous night but still they managed to get our room ready in record time.
The trip south by train was blissfully uneventful and relaxing with none of the hassles that accompany air travel – although recent events in France and Belgium may change that.
The welcome at Eden Roc was as warm as ever with time spent catching up on events of the last year – had the changes to the hotel that were talked about last been made? No, too much beaurcracy and too little time – maybe next year. Were all the staff well, who had left and who was new? All the usual characters were still part of the team – plus some new faces – it has been a good year. Were we in for good weather or was the recent rain going to dampen our holiday? No, the weather had settled and we could expect hot, dry days.
The afternoon was spent enjoying a late lunch/early dinner on the hotel terrace looking out over Positano and the bay beyond. Let the relaxing begin.
For no particular reason I was looking through our photo archives and came across a half dozen shots we took of the piazza outside St Peters a few years ago. I’ve never stitched them together before. But now I have, they actually make a half decent panorama despite being from a camera quite low on megapixels.
As a matter of interest the Pope often gives blessing to the crowds in the piazza on Sunday from the window of the building in the centre of the shot. Top floor, second window from the right.
It was a fun old year at our place. As always there seemed to be a lot happening but when I look back at the photos we’ve taken, our trip in August and those puppies – well Bella mainly – seem to dominate.
One thing Jean was set on buying, even before leaving home, was some form of sleeve or holder for her MacBook Air. She was waiting until we reached Rome so she could visit Via dei Condotti and the Louis Vuitton shop.
Via die Condotti runs from the base of the Spanish Steps to Via del Corso – 4 blocks of premium shopping. Every European luxury brand is on the street. Gucci is on the corner at the base of the Spanish Steps. Valentino is next. Then it’s Prada and Dior. A little further down is Louis Vuitton. It just keeps going.
We headed into Louis Vuitton’s three storey shop and were greeted warmly (well Jean was as she had one of the shops fine products over her shoulder) and asked what we were looking for. Yes, of course they have laptop sleeves and bags. Yes we’d be delighted to follow the staff member to look at some options.
The shelves are full of product all perfectly displayed. The staff (who seem to out number customers by three to one) are immaculately groomed and dressed, and the store is spotless with none of the usual retail clutter you see elsewhere.
None of the bags on the shelves are used as samples. If you are interested in a bag, a sample is available from drawers below the shelves, each bag in a special holder to protect it. The staff also wear gloves to handle the merchandise.
Of course if you purchase an item, it arrives already wrapped from somewhere else in the store.
Our modest “laptop sleeve” rapidly turned into a messenger bag. But which size – there were three – and which pattern – modern or traditional? The price started to climb.
In the end a selection was made, aided somewhat by a glass of champagne, and was charged to Jean’s account. Yes, scaringly, ever since she bought her first bag 6 years ago, Jean has an account.
God help us all.