Part 3 (18 March - 4 April) From Pisa to Castellabate, Italy



We drove from Cinque Terre to Pisa to see the leaning tower, not expecting military security armed with assault rifles keeping a close eye on the crowds every move. Their presence didn`t worry anybody it seemed, and it was really amusing to see the poses people were assuming to get their photo taken (pushing, kicking, leaning into the tower, you name it, it happened) So as good budget-minded Dutchies we took out our self-made sandwiches with peanut butter and enjoyed the show. 



As we drove from Pisa to Florence on the B roads avoiding the toll fees, we were suddenly surprised by a pack of wild Lama’s (yes, the woolly spitting animals, not the comedians) on the side of the road. We stopped for some cool pictures, amazed to see them roam free in the middle of Italy. 







Relieved that we reached our camping without a scratch because of the crazy Italian way of driving (we found almost no cars in this part of Italy without damage of some sort), we chose to use the public transport to visit the city center. We found Florence to be a beautiful city, full of historical meaning with some breathtaking buildings and sculptures.

We visited many museums, churches and basilicas and felt small next to the enormous statues, paintings and buildings (as we are supposed to, us being good Catholics). We thought that we were visiting the city in low season so we were surprised to find it very crowded. The crowds mainly consisted of school kids on a field trip, which was pretty convenient as we could listen in on the teacher’s historical stories in a way that Nicolette never got at school. Jeroen has enjoyed a better education on these subjects than Nicolette, mainly because of his Latin classes in high school (but surely his love for Asterix and Obelix also has something to do with it J.) So he now has a full time job educating Nicolette as we visit places like Florence, Rome and Pompeii with such a rich history.


We left Florence to drive through the Chianti region and found the most beautiful (illegal) spot to camp so far. We pitched our car on top of a nice Tuscan hill, overlooking a valley and surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. Here we could play around with the drone, check out the videos soon!



We left Chianti and visited Siena for a walk through the city center, where we enjoyed lunch amidst lots of students on their lunch break at the famous and beautiful square “Il Campo”, where twice each year a truly mad horse race is being held (the race is mad, not the horses) in a tiny arena. There`s a nice vibe in that beautiful small town, highly recommended!


On our way to Rome we stopped at a nature reserve in San Lorenzo Nouvo, half way to Rome from Siena. We again found a sweet spot to camp for the night in a field near Lago di Bolsena, with only a dirt road to reach it and a nice view overlooking the region from up the hill. When Jeroen got out of the car the next morning he had an encounter with a “barking deer” as it is called, which came to investigate what our car was doing in his territory.  


The next day we drove for almost an hour on a B road connecting Florence and Rome when suddenly there was a road block with a sign “Road Closed”. No sign explaining an alternative route, no left, no right, our only option seemed to go back the way we came. Figuring what to do, we stood there a bit lost when an Italian man drove up to us and started talking to us in rapid Italian. We couldn’t understand a word of it which he eventually figured out from our bewildered faces and simply said: ‘Rome? You follow!’ We followed him up a very steep mountain road through a couple of mountain villages and half an hour later we were back on track to Rome. Without the help of this friendly Italian guy it probably would have taken a lot longer!

Road closed....
Road closed....



In Rome we stayed at a very luxurious camping (it`s still vacation guys Jjust 4km from the Vatican. We took the bus and the metro to visit the city and walked to the famous Spanish stairs, and we couldn’t believe the crowds there! For our Dutch readers; it kind of looked like Amsterdam on Queens Day! We forgot that it was the weekend before Easter and there were many tourist and officials from all over the world getting ready to see the Popes Urbi et Orbi at the Saint Peter square. This meant long lines at the Vatican, helicopters ferrying people above Rome and loads of military forces in the city, not the best time to visit.

We tried to get a look at the Trevi fountain but because of the crowds this almost impossible and decided to return on Monday; the picture on the left was taken on the much quieter Monday. So we decided to go off the beaten track (in Rome, yeah right) and went to a cinema to see the only English-spoken movie in town, appropriately called “Hail Ceasar”. The movie wasn`t that good, but what did make our evening were a couple of Dutch kids (between 18 and 20 we guess) sitting behind us whom obviously didn’t expect anyone else to speak Dutch. As soon as they sat down the queen-bee of the lot started gossiping about us (and others) complaining loudly about having to look at Jeroen`s bald head (she had a point there J), the fact that we were cozying up to each other (again, she had a point) but then, let’s just say, she took her comments a bit too far: time for action. Jeroen turned around and calmly said in proper Dutch: “Young lady, we are Dutch” then paused briefly to wait for the reaction, which came instantly. The girl sank back in her seat, eyes wide open and put her hand in front of her mouth. As she turned chalk white fearing what would come next, Jeroen continued ”But we really don’t care, enjoy the movie” and turned back around. The comments stopped instantly and we had a good laugh, knowing that she had learned a valuable lesson that evening. 

The next day, just before leaving the city we visited Saint Peter Square to see if we could arrange tickets for the Sistine chapel the next day. It was almost 6 in the evening and we saw people going into the Basilica. We followed this crowd and found that we were immediately granted admission. There was a mass going on we could witness from a short distance. We have visited a lot of beautifully build and decorated churches, but Saint Peters Basilica is absolutely amazing, and being able to attend a mass here certainly is one to strike from our bucket list. 

Purchasing next-day tickets for the Sistine chapel was not possible, so we tried the next morning only to find a two hundred meters long line! So we decided to go to the Colosseum instead. It was very nice, we rented an audio-video guide that contributed a lot to the whole experience and gave us an informative history lesson on how the people were entertained in those days. The Colosseum, which seated 50.000 people, has a very bloody history when you realize that at one point during a period of 123 days over 10,000 men (gladiators and prisoners sentenced to death) and 11,000 animals (from chicken to lions) died in publicly accessible games. With the Colosseum tickets we could also enter the Roman Forums (market places) and the ruins of the imperial palace, the Palatino. Dating from the 1st century AD, the forums and the Palatino occupy a massive area in the middle of Rome, good to see that this is being preserved for all to see. 

Pompeii & Herculaneum


In Pompeii we visited the well-preserved ruins of the old city which was devastated by an eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The place throws you back 2000 years ago, and you can easily imagine what life was like back then: many beautiful mosaiced floors and artifacts, and also grooves carved in the road from the many carriages. Pompeii made a big impression on us, so the next day we visited Herculaneum, a city that had undergone the same disastrous faith as Pompeii, but was even better preserved. What got our imagination going was that a substantial part of the ancient city is still buried under the city of Ercolano, which was build on top of it. The streets in ancient Herculaneum suddenly end into a wall, on top of which the slums of the Ercolano begin. Because excavations of Herculaneum started in the early 1800`s and many of the early finds were stolen or carted off to some private collection one can only imagine the richness of history that is still waiting to be found. 



From Pompeii we went to Castellabate were we had arranged a villa owned by a friend of Nicolette’s mother. We knew there was no heating in the house and were warned by the owner it could get pretty cold in there, but we figured it was the south of Italy so really, how cold could that be? Well apparently the owner was right: very cold! So for the first three days we were not able to relax, fortunately we had some chores to keep us busy & warm. By the fourth day the house had gotten a little warmer and we arranged a heater, nice!!!


In Castellabate we met with Nicolette’s brother, his wife and two kids and had a lovely time together. Because it was Easter, Nicolette and her nephew Jelmer played hide and seek with 22 chocolate Easter eggs for about 30 times. Again, again, again they went. 

Kids are great for a day or three ;-) but now aunty Nicolette and uncle Jeroen are going to relax before heading off to Montenegro!

Reactie schrijven

Commentaren: 3
  • #1

    Annemiek (maandag, 04 april 2016 15:45)

    Superleuke verhalen!

  • #2

    Vlo (dinsdag, 05 april 2016 20:17)

    Cool stories! Did you show your beard to the young lady after gossiping about your bold head, Jeroen ;-) ?!

  • #3

    Ellen Bernards (vrijdag, 17 juni 2016 12:39)

    Leuk hoor dat jullie elkaar ontmoet hebben, en wat een fantastische reis tot nu toe!



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