28.04.2017 - 06.05.2017 24 °C
It is hard to believe we are more than halfway through our trip. Our time in Sorrento and Amalfi was lovely, but our hotels were not in ideal locations. They were on main tourist streets, and thus a bit noisier than we would have liked. They were, however, centrally located and close to everything. We enjoyed our tour of the lemon groves in Sorrento and had a wonderful time on the farm watching mozzarella being made. Pizza making was pretty funny, especially the throwing part.
We had a wonderful cooking class in Sorrento. It was just the two of us with the chef. We made eggplant parmigiana, gnocchi with red sauce, and tiramisu. Dinner at my house when we get home! lol What a fun evening that was!
The day we drove from Sorrento to Amalfi was a holiday, so it was very crowded. Positano was barely walkable because there were so many people. It seemed rather commercialized, too, but it was beautiful there. In Ravello, it was lovely and much quieter. We enjoyed lunch at a small family restaurant in Pantone overlooking the green, lush valley to the gorgeous, blue sea. We ended our drive in Amalfi where we stayed a few days. During that stay we toured another lemon grove.
This tour was led by the owner, Salvatore, making it much more personal. He had left the family business, gotten a college degree, and become an accountant. When the family business was having struggles, he returned to try to save the business. His family has run the same farm for 8 generations. Some of the lemon trees are over Such a wonderful family legacy! Working the farm is very difficult. It is built on the side of a steep hill and terraced to get maximum usage of the land and make use of water drainage from area to area of plantings. I think we walked something like 22 floors that day in a short mile and a half. Gruelling! We learned a great deal about the growth of the lemon tree and some of the struggles to grow all organic fruit. It was a very interesting tour.
After the tour, John and I were privileged to prepare the big midday meal with the family and to sit at their dinner table in the open air patio. We prepared two kinds of pasta, one with a pesto sauce and one with a lemon garlic sauce. We learned how to make orecchiette and scialatielli pastas from scratch. In addition, we made a different type of eggplant dish that is similar to parmigiana, but it is rolled. It can be eaten as soon as it is made because the eggplant has already been fried or heated just enough to melt the smoked mozzarella inside the rolled eggplant. Delicious! We also made dessert which was a small cupcake style of light cake. A bit of the cake was cut out and pudding was placed inside. After that the whole cake was placed in a bowl of cream and pudding mixed, and we put this all over the outside. The cream covered cake was then placed on a serving platter and refrigerator until ready to serve. Lastly we prepared salmon with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. This was placed on a bed of sliced cooked potatoes and baked until flaky. Our meal was delicious, and the wine flowed. What a wonderful time with the family. We were able to see life from the perspective of a lemon farmer and the generations working together to diversify and make their lives successful.
Upon returning to Rome, we arrived at Termin,i the main train station, and immediately got in the long line for a taxi. Taxis are assigned as they pull up. We were not lucky! We got a driver who was so bad! He lied to us and said there was unfortunately a bus strike, so he would have to take a long way around to get to our hotel. It would cost 36 Euros! John immediately said, "Stop! Let us out!" Fortunately, we were wise to him. The buses were not on strike, and we knew our ride should only be 10-12 Euros. We walked back and got in line a second time. Our new driver was very nice but his car was a bit broken down. The latch on the hatchback didn't latch well. John and I reached over the back seat and held onto the luggage the whole way just in case. The ride cost us only 10 Euros.
After we settled into our room, we were off to tour the Colosseum and the Forum. It was terrific! We had booked an underground tour through Walks of Italy. Little did we know, only 800 people are allowed in the underground portion of the Colosseum each day. It was such an interesting tour that I would recommend to anyone coming to Italy, but book in advance because it is very limited. On this tour, you get to go underground where all of the animals were kept. We saw the tunnel where the gladiators were brought over from their training camp. In the training camp, they practiced with wooden swords because it was feared they might use the real swords to commit suicide before making it to the colosseum showing. We also saw a remake of the lift that took the animals to the arena level. What an intricate system they developed! Very sad for the gladiators and animals though. Later we saw the other floors, including the top floor, which is again only accessible to 800 people a day. We were able to look down from the top to see all the way into the underground area. It was quite something. We were fortunate to have a very good guide who had majored in history and was quite knowledegeable in the history of Rome from prior to the birth of Christ to the present. We learned about the different layers of the city that were built on top of one another, who tore down certain areas in an effort to restore others, and so on. We also toured the Forum and Palentine Hill. I learned that the St. John's Church was the true first church of Christianity built here in Rome. I wasn't aware of that, and I'm sure you know how that thrilled John! :-)
Yesterday we took another tour of the "Hidden Gems" of Rome. These were areas that a lot of people may walk through, but they do not get a detailed history and depth of understanding of the importance of the areas historically. We stood in the square near the Jewish Temple where 2,090 Jews were rousted out of their homes by the Nazis in the predawn hours on the Sabbath during World War II. Unjust, for sure! Only 16 people survived and returned to Rome, one female and 15 males. The one female spent the rest of her life taking groups of young students to Auschwitz concentration camp to explain and educate the young about her experiences, so it will never happen again. It is important to remind ourselves that this horrible treatment of human beings happened only a short time ago, about 85 years. Of course, there are still much mistreatment of people throughout the world still today, but the Holocaust was one of the most widely cast injustices in history. This one woman was a heroin of her people for her willingness to share her experiences for the education of others.
During our visit to the Jewish Ghetto, I learned an interesting thing about the top of the temple. It is square as opposed to the domed style of the Christian churches. It makes it easy to distinguish immediately when looking at the buildings as we tour.
We went to the Appian Way and saw the first aqueducts of Rome. It is amazing to me the sophisticated architecture and methods for building complex systems the ancient Romans developed. I am certain I must have learned that at some point in my schooling, but when you see it first hand you can better appreciate the complexity of it all. It's just like standing beneath giant square blocks creating the overhead of the passageways underground at the Colosseum and realizing there is nothing holding them up aside from the pressure of the blocks against one another. Simply amazing!
And so, that leads us to today. Today we rest. We have absolutely no plans. We barely got up in time for breakfast. It feels good to have some down time before we meet up with the photo tour. Since none of that group has already been on the go for almost two weeks and undoubtedly we are the oldest of the group, we decided we needed time to recharge before the busy days ahead. In the past then days, we have been acquainting ourselves with the workings of our Sony cameras hoping to be up to speed. John has used only Manual Mode during the trip which is thrilling. We are excited to be led around for the next eight days by MeRah and Brian and to learn many wonderful, insightful techniques to improve our photography.
And so Ciao for now!