Friday, May 31, 2013

Amalfi Coast Cruise

Our port was Naples, but our destination was the Amalfi Coast and then a visit to the ruins of Pompeii. We had two options - we could do a road trip on the narrow winding road that runs from village to village or we could do a boat trip along the coastline.  We opted for a taking a cruise on our cruise.  What can we say...we're water people!  It turned out to be the perfect option as the roadway was clogged with stop and go traffic but the sea was, well, clear sailing.  It also gave us an up close view of the sheer, rocky shoreline and the rugged mountains that form the backdrop for this world famous stretch of coastline. We departed from the busy seaside port in Salerno and traveled west to the village of Amalfi.

Salerno's bustling harbor is a huge cargo shipping port... 

....but there are plenty of expensive pleasure boats docked there too.

Groves of olive trees are terraced up the mountainside.

Elegant estates and remnants of fortifications dot the coastline.

A picture perfect day on the water.

A more modern home takes advantage of an old fortification for its foundation.

The valleys and mountains create stunning backdrops for the coast.

The little port at Amalfi. 

Notice the line-up of buses behind the boat.  The narrow coast road wasn't built with
large tour buses in mind and their hair raising driving maneuvers are legendary.

Amalfi's cathedral dominates the main piazza.  Built in 1000-1300 it
is believed to house the remains of St. Andrew.

Most of Amalfi is dominated by tourist shops, cafes...

...picturesque vegetable stands and little markets...

...but it is the Limoncello liquor that really sells.

Amalfi may have given most of itself over to tourism but there is still the flavor of
a traditional village if one is willing to take a stroll beyond the waterfront.

Influences of Moorish and Byzantine styles on the cathedral
combine into what Rick Steve's cheekily describes as "Amalfi Romanesque." 

Another viewpoint.

Next post, we'll continue our visit to Naples with a tour of Pompeii.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sailing from Venice to Dubrovnik

We've been traveling via train, bus and car thus far during our time in Italy.  It's time for a little change.  We're sailing round trip from Venice, the city of canals, gondolas and romance with stops in Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, Naples, the islands of Sicily and Malta, and Koter in Montenegro.  First port of call - Dubrovnik!

Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic, the centuries old walled city of Dubrovnik is back on the tourist route after years of devastation by bombs and artillery incurred during the war between Croatia and Serbia in the early 1990's. Walking the 15th century walls that encircle the city, it's hard to imagine bombs dropping from the sky.  But here, and there, are reminders.  A foundation without a home, a crumbling wall, and most noticeably the bright new roof tiles sitting atop the weathered old stone buildings.

Below the fortress walls, tourists fill up the main Stradun shopping for bargains, while the hardier visitors climb the steep cobblestone streets lined with cafes featuring fresh caught seafood.  We managed to finish our walk along the ramparts just minutes before an hour long downpour turned the steep stairways into waterfalls.  We didn't mind.  We watched the deluge from the shelter of a little enoteca.  The proprietor, happy for the sudden windfall of customers, hosted an impromptu seminar on local wine making and we all waited out the rain together sipping fine Croatian wine.          

Rocky Adriatic Sea with Dubrovnik, Croatia's old city walls
The dramatic old city walls of Dubrovnik and the Adriatic Sea.

Dubrovnik, Croatia's fortress walls
A formidable fortress, wouldn't you say?

Tourists walking the walls of Dubrovnik's ramparts
Wall walking is the number one tourist activity in Dubrovnik.

Pleasure boats dock in the old city.

Dubrovnik's old city may be the tourism mecca of the moment, but for many, it's home.

Remnants of walls damaged in the war contrast with the beauty of this rose garden.

In a city of stone, plants still manage a rooftop foothold....

and seek the sun in narrow stairways.

Arial view of Dubrovnik, Croatia's old town main street with tourists
The old city's Strudun is the popular tourist destination, but...

View of steep stairways with tourists in Dubrovnik, Croatia's old city
if you're willing to walk some stairs, there's much more to see in the old city.

And you thought we were taking literary license
with the stairways turning to waterfalls description! 

View of rooftops in the old city of Dubrovnik, Croatia
Brand new roof tiles...old stone buildings.

No wonder it's called the Pearl of the Adriatic.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Verona Views

Our last stop, before we boarded ship for our Med cruise, was Verona.  As we mentioned in our Castlevecchio post - everyone associates Verona with Romeo and Juliet.  But, as you can see, there is so much more to this Italian city to enjoy.

The River Adige winds through Verona.

Remnants from the 16th century when Verona was called the painted city.

Verona's Roman arena dates from the first century.  It is still in use today as a venue for concerts.

Modern cafe in the ancient atmosphere of the Piazza dei Signori.

Wall frescos and balcony greenery make walking around Verona a pleasure.

Piazza Bra (which means "big open space") is a popular spot
for day time strolling and the evening passeggiata.  

A Venetian Lion hovers above school children visiting the Piazza Erbe.

Verona's Church of Sant'Anastasia dates from the late 13th century.

Detail of an alter at Sant'Anastasia

Each hand painted ceiling panel at Sant'Anastasia is unique. 

Not only is the pipe organ at Sant'Anastasia beautiful to behold...

but so are these unique holy water basins....

and the intricate marble inlaid floors.

Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore is dedicated to Verona's patron saint.

San Zeno's exterior details.

Remains of frescos from the 1300's.

San Zeno's 11th century doors are made up of 48 bronze panels. 

Interior courtyard at San Zeno.

San Zeno wall fresco details.

San Zeno ceiling details.

Piazza Erbe is a popular spot for an aperitivo and alfresco dining.

Medieval nobles showed their wealth and power by constructing towers.
This is the last remaining tower at Piazza Erbe.