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Zurers in Italy 2019

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday, May 6: Day 1

The brilliance of the plan to fly from Newark (for the cheap airfare) was compromised somewhat by rain and traffic and the trip took longer than expected. Combined with incredible lines for security--even with TSA Pre-check-- and we only had time for quick sandwich before boarding. The flight was full but uneventful ... I slept a few hours and Diana watched three movies.

We land on time in Rome to sunny skies and cool temperatures. Luggage pickup and car rental go smoothly and we are on the road headed south without a problem. We do spend some time unsuccessfully trying to figure out the built- in GPS in the car and end up using Google Maps on my phone.

Once out of Rome, the drive is easy--little traffic and beautiful scenery with snow capped mountains in the distance. We stop at a busy Autogrill for coffee and cornetti...our traditional first stop in Italy. We find our hotel in Caserta with only a little difficulty...one wrong turn gives us a 15 minute tour of the center of town.
The Hotel dei Cavalieri is a modern building on one of the main piazzas...Piazza Vanvitelli. As will become clear in subsequent reports, Luigi Vanvitelli is an important figure...he designed La Reggia...the massive 18th century Bourbon Palace that is the main tourist attraction in Caserta. We check in (have to wait a while until the room is cleaned), park the car around the corner in a lot and get settled. I go out for an orientation walk while Diana takes a nap.

Caserta doesn't have the best reputation as a tourist attraction but the parts of town that I walk through are quite nice...mostly commercial streets with many shops, restaurants and bars. I am taken with the views through entrance gates as I walk....

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Back at the hotel, I give in to the jet lag and take a nap.

We are in Caserta to meet our Swedish friends Ulf and Elinor who are staying at a nearby hotel but just before we are to get together, the sky opens up and a tremendous thunderstorm rages for about 45 minutes.
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When it lets up, they walk over to our hotel and Elinor slips on the wet pavement, hurting her wrist quite badly. After much discussion, they decide that they should go to the emergency room and get it checked out. After that, the sun re-appears so I go out to explore a bit more of Caserta before dinner.

We decide to have dinner at the hotel restaurant...La Bougainville. The hotel has a special deal for guests....Euro 25 (about $28.00 US) for two courses, a glass of wine and dessert. Not only is it a bargain but the food is quite good. Diana has a plate of prosciutto and local mozzarella, followed by an okay risotto. (My mistake ordering risotto in this part of Italy, I know.) I enjoy my fried stuffed anchovies and then baccala (reconstituted dried cod) served on a bed of spinach puree. The local white wine (Falanghina) was excellent. I have a pistachio semi-freddo for dessert that is delicious. A very pleasant first meal in Italy....

Ulf sends us bulletins from the hospital and we learn that Elinor has a couple of fractures.

We make our way upstairs and quickly fall asleep...hoping to make it all the way through to morning and cure our jet lag.

Jim and Diana
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Ulf sends us bulletins from the hospital and we learn that Elinor has a couple of fractures.
Sorry to read this! It is so easy to injure yourself when you are traveling. Many years ago in Naples I was having back pain problems already but I tripped on a cobblestone and really wrenched my back. I had to take several days in Rome to recover and then used a cane for the rest of the trip! Today walking around Naples, I was looking up instead of down, and did a bit of trip. Steve said - "Don't do that again!" and I remembered how easily it happened before. Now I am concentrating on my footing more!!
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Tuesday, May 7: Day 2: Caserta

We do sleep through the night and wake up to sun and blue skies...but chilly temperatures--about 44 F at 7 am. We have not yet heard any additional news from Ulf and Elinor.

Breakfast at the hotel is very good...the room is bright and spacious, the service is attentive and there is lots to choose from.

After breakfast, I try to get in touch with Ulf and he finally tells us that they had been in the Emergency Room (Pronto Soccorso) until 3 am and that he will come over soon and fill us in. We move down to the lobby and I do some work while we wait.

Before Ulf arrives, Diana and I go out for a stroll on the main street (Caserta takes a bad rap in many guidebooks but we find the center lively and attractive) and get our first glimpse of La Reggia.

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On our walk on Via Mazzini, we saw a Jewish man sitting on the side of the street. He is wearing a black hat and a tallis, has a beard and is displaying a sign in Italian that says "Italy is an antisemitic country." He has a plate to receive money. But when we stop to talk to him on the way back - Diana tries Yiddish and English - he won't engage--saying (condescendingly, we thought, in Hebrew) that he speaks Hebrew. Diana replied in Hebrew that she didn't. We shrug and move on. (He is still there in the late afternoon and I see him looking at his cell phone.)

When Ulf finally arrives, he gives us a detailed report. They spent from 7 pm to 3 am...waiting for doctors (who spoke very little English), being sent for x-rays, making their way to orthopedics and getting a cast put on Elinor's arm. And then, when they were ready to leave, it took a long time to get a taxi.

We agree to meet for a late lunch around 2 pm in town. After scouting for a convenient place to meet, we decide to get in the car and take a ride. Our destination is the Acquedotto Carolino as it crosses the valley a few miles outside of town. Constructed by Vanvitelli (completed in 1762) to carry water to La Reggia and the extensive series of fountains as well the waterfall in the gardens, it is quite a striking sight as you approach it on the highway.

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(From the Caserta News)

Here is a broader overview from higher up.

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(From the Touring Club Italiano)

And for a sense of the size of the aqueduct, here is Diana in front.

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We drive back going over the mountain--a much more scenic route than our going out--and arrive back in Caserta with time to spare. Ulf and Elinor are already at the restaurant; she is understandably tired and depressed about the fractures but, in spite of that, we have an enjoyable lunch.

The restaurant--the Osteria Nunziata--is a small attractive place and the host is very welcoming. We enjoy the food and the atmosphere....calm and quiet--making it easy to talk and catch up. (NOTE: We had met Ulf on line at Pompeii (the ticket line) in 1994 and have become good friends in the years since--he has visited us in DC several times, we have been to Sweden to visit him and we have made it a tradition to meet for a short visit whenever we are in Italy at the same time...which has turned out to be quite often.)

The food: Diana and I share a salumi and cheese plate to start. Ulf has the rabbit (a specialty of nearby Ischia), Elinor has the meatballs (no spaghetti with them in Italy) in ragu, Diana has a plate of linguine with olives, capers and garlic and I have what the menu called pasta misciata (different types of short pasta) tossed with potatoes and provola cheese--Campanese comfort food. We easily finish a bottle of the local red called Aglianico.

The men have dessert--tiramisu for Ulf and a lemon ricotta sort of semifreddo for me.

We go back to our hotels to rest and agree to meet later for an aperitvo.

Before that, I go out for another exploratory walk--strolling around Italian cities is endlessly fascinating for me--and visit the Duomo and get to see some new areas of Caserta.

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Ulf comes over without Elinor and we sit outside a bar off the Piazza Dante and talk...we move inside for our second prosecco (it's a bit chilly and breezy--what happened to the sunny and warm May in Italy?) and then head back. We say our goodbyes to Ulf and head to the room.

No dinner tonight after our late lunch.....I hook up the computer to the television and we watch the final episode of Season 5 of Line of Duty. Now we can discuss it with Pauline and Steve when we meet on Sunday.

Tomorrow, a visit to La Reggia and the gardens and then off to Naples.

Jim and Diana
 
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joe

500+ Posts
Our destination is the Acquedotto Carolino as it crosses the valley a few miles outside of town.

View attachment 19404
Simply amazing, I just had to read more about this...
When you consider that this has been standing 250 years, even through earthquakes, and that the bridge in Genoa collapsed last year after standing only 50 - it certainly gives you food for thought. Both are almost the same height (the aqueduct is ten meters higher).
Hope I get to see this one day.
 
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Valerie

100+ Posts
We also like Caserta, the Reggia, the aqueduct, Caserta Vecchia...lots of unsung things in that area. We stayed a castle about 20 minutes from Caserta, a fairytale experience!
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Wednesday, May 8: Day 3: Caserta-Naples

We must have been tired...we sleep to 9 a.m. and have to rush to get to breakfast which is again excellent. Back in the room, we pack up and check out, leaving our luggage at the hotel so we can go over to La Reggia. We don't have time to do both the palace and the gardens and since it so nice outside, we decide to leave the palace for our next visit.

The gardens in back of La Reggia stretch for over a mile

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but fortunately a shuttle bus runs continually around the grounds. We hop on and ride to the major fountain at the top of the gardens...the Fountain of Diana and Actaeon.

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Above the fountain there is an over 200 foot high waterfall....the aqueduct we visited yesterday was built in part to supply water for the fountains and waterfall as well as the palace.

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After admiring the statues, the sweep of the pools and the green space stretching down to the palace, we go into the English Garden, a large part of the grounds with walking paths, plantings and faux-ruins including a skillfully designed wooded pool--The Bath of Venus (or Aphrodite)

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and a small lake with a "temple" in the middle.

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After a pleasant stroll in the garden, we go to catch the shuttle back down to the entrance. There are a lot of people lined up for it - it's a longish wait and I suspect that one of the drivers was on his lunch break but after a while, the bus appears.

Instead of heading for Naples directly, we take a detour to the nearby hill town of Casertavecchia, which is supposed to date back to the Etruscans in the 9th century BC but its "modern" history dates to the 9th century A.D. and Lombard roots. We walk up the steep road from the parking lot to the center which is lined with African vendors selling trinkets and cloth. The centro storico is largely unspoiled by modern touches, save for the many restaurants, as it has become a popular weekend tourist attraction. It is very pleasant to walk on the narrow streets between the austere stone buildings.

In town we are stopped by an Italian-speaking woman asking if the road we just walked in on is passable with a car. We reply, in Italian, that it can be. She realizes we aren't Italian and switches to English. It turns out that they had driven their car into the town and are now confronted with a very narrow passageway and they want to confirm that when they get through that portal they will be able to continue down the hill. We smile with sympathy, having often been in similar scrapes and it is somewhat heartening to see that it can happen to Italians as well. (Diana is somewhat flattered that she thought we were Italian. At least until we started speaking in Italian.)

We stop at one of the many bars in town for a nicely prepared prosciutto and provola sandwich.

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The 12th century Romanesque cathedral dominates the main square and its interior is refreshingly (for us) severe and largely unadorned save for wonderful floor tiles and an impressive stone pulpit.

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On our way out of town, we notice some signs on the walls of one of the restaurants in town.

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I suspect that the wedding scene in My Brilliant Friend may have been filmed there.

The drive to Naples takes longer that it should...due to an unfortunate choice of route (trying to go on back roads) and a serious traffic jam, caused by a combination of a level train crossing and a traffic light at a busy intersection. But all that pales against the challenge of getting the last five miles from the autostrada to our hotel, the Grand Hotel Parker's. It is rush hour, we are driving a fairly large SUV and it takes patience and calm to negotiate the hilly, narrow, winding streets that pass for main thoroughfares in Naples. And that doesn't take into the account the motor scooters constantly weaving in and out, to the right and left of you or the crazy Neapolitan drivers who try to take advantage of every hesitation as well constantly swerving into the incoming traffic lane if an advantage presents itself.

In any case, we make it and immediately garage the car for the rest of our stay.

We get an effusive welcome from the desk staff and a tour of the hotel before we go to our room....which is very attractive with a window with a great view of the city, Mt. Vesuvius, Capri and the Bay of Naples.

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After we get settled, I head out to explore the neighborhood and find a place for dinner. I soon remember how hilly the city is and how it is built on many levels on the sides of the hills. Stairmasters are not necessary here because pedestrians can just head straight up and down the hills, using the many stairways or "gradinos".

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I check out a place for dinner and make a reservation at L'Osteria, just down the hill near the waterfront. When we arrive by taxi, the place is empty but we get a warm welcome from the boss. The place is very attractive and nicely lit. No menu however so the boss tells us what is available, which is initially confusing but works out in the end. The meal is excellent....a plate of fried appetizers--squash blossoms, arancini (rice balls) and potato croquettes and a (ultimately unnecessary) seafood antipasto--fried small calamari (delicious), fried stuffed anchovies, octopus salad and stuffed octopus. I have a very nice plate of spaghetti alle vongole (my favorite) and Diana have a delicately sauteed spigola. The ricotta crostata is a hit as was the easy to drink Falanghina white. The whole dinner comes to Euro 68.00 (just over $75.00)....really worth every Euro.

We take a taxi up the hill...the distance is probably half a mile as the crow flies but the hills and the street patterns force cars to go far out their way...maybe 4 miles to get to the hotel.

Tomorrow we are not yet sure of our schedule....depends on the weather.

Jim and Diana
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Thursday, May 9: Day 4: Naples

We wake up to a not very nice morning....overcast and chilly as I look over the Bay of Naples from our small balcony. The hotel's breakfast room on the top floor has a fabulous view...but the service--very disorganized--and the offerings are disappointing...especially in comparison to our hotel in Caserta.

We decide to stay inside this morning (it has started to drizzle) and take a taxi to the National Archaeological Museum. There is a short but slow moving line to buy tickets...if we had known earlier that we were going to the museum we could have bought them on line.

We first head to the Farnese sculpture collection...a staggering array of Greek and Roman pieces (often copies of Greek sculptures) spread through over 20 rooms. Alexander Farnese, later Pope Paul, was an inveterate collector and bought up many collections during the 16th century. The collection was moved to Naples in the 18th century when the Bourbons were in charge.

Here are a few of the most amazing pieces that we saw....

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the Farnese bull and the Hercules from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome

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Venus Kallipygos

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Harmodius and Aristogeiton

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The Farnese Cup

The collection is overwhelming....if you want to see more, here is the link to the Museum's web page.

We are already experiencing some sensory overload so we leave the sculpture section for a quick walk through the Pompeii holdings...which are also extensive. We especially like the wall paintings from Pompeii buildings that are on display...some seem so modern even though they are more than 2,000 years old.

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I am taken with this scene of workers, which I think--if the men were wearing clothes--could be from modern labor movement art.

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This couple--a baker and his wife dressed up--could be walking down the street today in Naples or Rome.

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And I love the perspectives from this painting...which reminds me of one of our favorite local DC painters, John Aquilino.

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We don't want to leave the museum without a quick look at the mosaic collection, especially the large depiction of the battle between Alexander the Great and Xerxes....

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But there are so many amazing pieces that we find it hard to leave.....

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We are now ready for lunch....we walk into the old section of the city with its characteristic narrow streets, crowded with people--both residents and tourists.

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Our destination is one of the most famous pizzerias in Naples...Gino and Toto Sorbillo on the via Tribunali..the old Roman street that split Naples in two--Spaccanapoli. We are not the only people to have that idea and we find crowds waiting outside the door listening for their name to be called. We walk a bit further down the street to a cousin's place (also called Sorbillos) and enjoy a typical Neapolitan pizza...simple, tomatoey with a soft tasty crust. It is not our preferred style of pizza but we enjoy it anyway.

We take a taxi back to the hotel and rest up after our expedition. Later in the afternoon, I walk out with the intention of scouting out some places for dinner and end up walking through the other famous old neighborhood of Naples, the Spanish Quarter. After wandering up and down narrow crowded streets, I suddenly find myself on a broad, fashionable pedestrian street with upscale shops and a lively passeggiata. I walk back to the hotel through Via Chiaia, Piazza dei Martiri, via dei Mille and others (all of which figured prominently in the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels.)

Since the weather has turned much nicer, we go out again by cab and join the passeggiata, strolling the length of the via Chiaia and I am surprised to find us on the Piazza Trento e Trieste..one of the busiest squares in Naples. The geography of Naples is now making some sense to me. We stop for an apertivo at the Cafe Gambrinus, an historic Naples cafe and then decide to walk a bit further to have dinner at the Osteria da Antonio where we had eaten on our last Naples visit in 2003. When we get there, we are disappointed to learn that they are full so we continue walking to Europeo di Mattozzi, recommended to us by our friend Maureen Fant.

Dinner there was delicious and also a lot of fun. Diana had her favorite prosciutto e melone followed by a just okay pasta with genovese sauce (the pasta was very al dente). I really enjoyed my spaghetti alle vongole and fantastic fritto misto--one of the best I have ever had. The Falanghina didn't disappoint.

We also struck up a lively conversation with the charming French couple sitting next to us which made the evening that much nicer.

We had a bit of an adventure in the cab on the way back to the hotel....our taxi was rear-ended. No one was hurt but the driver was very upset.

Tomorrow more exploring...depending on the weather.

Jim and Diana
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Friday, May 10: Day 5: Naples

Another late start...but the sun is shining. Breakfast confusion is compounded by the fact that the service was moved to the ground floor restaurant and we didn't find out about it in advance. The staff was also thrown by the change and service is ragged and breakfast offerings are meager. For such a grand hotel with major pretensions, this is disappointing.

We take a taxi down to the waterfront area called Mergellina...it is still an active fishing port, some ferries leave from there and it is also a popular dining destination for Neapolitans. We walk out onto the jetty, enjoy the warm weather and view the city and the bay from a different perspective.

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We decide to take the city bus along the water to the Castel dell'Ovo, the massive fort/castle in the now touristy fishing port of Santa Lucia. The tickets are bought, the bus comes along and we are on our way. The only complication is that the bus route back toward the center doesn't go along the water.....but a few blocks parallel.

The castle in now used mostly for special shows and exhibitions and for us just a place to climb around on the battlements and take pictures.

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We do get a view of the cruise port from the Castel...we later learn that there were five cruise ships docked there today.

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The stroll along the waterfront from the Castel dell'Ovo is very pleasant...we stop for a freshly squeezed orange juice and enjoy the view.

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Back in the center, we make a detour to locate the synagogue which is at the end of a pretty cul-de-sac...but it is closed up tight and guarded by three armed soldiers. We stop for a light lunch at a bar on the via Chiaia--sandwich and a salad--and, while we are eating, the French couple we met a dinner last night walk by and stop to say hello.

Back at the hotel, we sit on the roof terrace and enjoy the warm weather. Later in the afternoon, I go out for another walk to scout out dinner possibilities.

We walk to dinner at the Mediterranean Bistro, which advertises itself as place for jazz and conversation. We arrive early (Italians seem to arrive c. 9 pm) but the staff is very welcoming, there is nice, peaceful recorded jazz playing in the background and the food is mostly very good. We share an excellent fried appetizer plate and Diana has the paccheri with ragu and delicious meatballs while my paccheri with genovese sauce is a bit sweet for my taste. Diana has a piece of crostata for dessert and we finish a bottle of Aglianico from Benevento without a problem. We unfortunately miss the live music...a pianist will be playing later.

Tomorrow is our Elena Ferrante tour....

Jim and Diana
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Saturday, May 11: Day 6: Naples

Another late start for us and another haphazard morning in the hotel breakfast room....

Diana notices feedback from one of her hearing aids so I locate a hearing aid store in the Vomero, the fashionable residential neighborhood higher up on the hill. I had planned to go there in any case to explore and enjoy the even more panoramic views over the city and bay.

The taxi driver is the first one that we have had this trip who tries to rip us off...he wasn't using a meter and wants to charge us a fixed price which seems a bit high. We hold out and perhaps pay a bit more than we should have.

The Vomero is jumping on Saturday morning...families walking to the park, people shopping and sitting in bars...the traffic is extremely heavy. We find the audiologist but the doctor isn't in so nothing can be done. Luckily the feedback stops.

Our goal is the overlook of the Certosa San Martino but, between miscalculating the distance and taking a few wrong turns, we don't make it and settle for a less expansive view of the city.

Since we have to meet our Ferrante tour guide at 2 pm at the Cafe Gambrinus in the center, we take the Metro down to Dante station on Via Toledo and get to see some of the famous art installations in the Naples Metro.

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We walk into the old city, have an orange juice at a cafe on the Piazza Bellini with its Roman excavation and enjoy the people watching.

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Continued in next post (too many photos for one post).
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Saturday, May 11: Day 6: Naples
(continued)

We meet the guide, Dolores, and the driver, Diego, and start out on the tour which focuses on the locations written about in the four Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante, as well as the television series. We have read all four novels and have watched the HBO series based on the first book, My Brilliant Friend. We make a last minute decision to hire a car and driver because we will be able to cover a lot more territory during the afternoon. We start by driving to the neighborhood where the two main characters, Lenu and Lila, grew up--the Rione Luzzati.

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The actual neighborhood is a bit more run down than the set used in the television show but it is recognizable...60 years later there are more trees but it is still quite remote from the center of Naples....a point made often in the books.

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The neighborhood has recognized the popularity of the novels and has painted this mural on the side of the library that the girls had gone to as students.

From there, we cover many of the locations that are important in the books and television series....the Piazza di Plebiscito, the Galleria Umberto I, the Piazza dei Martiri where Lila starts her fancy shoe shop,

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the university district which is located in the middle of the old section Spaccanapoli--full of old palazzos, impressive churches and monuments and crowds.

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The highlight of the tour was the serendipitous happening upon a location shoot for the second series based on the book--The Story of A New Name--in the middle of a busy Neapolitan street. We stop and walk around seeing all the old autos and the actors dressed in period clothes.

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We finish off the tour by visiting more locations where characters lived and worked...with the benefit of getting some more vistas of the city and bay from different vantage points...including the one we had missed on the Vomero in the morning.

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Here is a picture of Diana and our guide, Dolores, in front of a shop called Ferrante...no connection to the author that I know of.

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All in all we enjoyed the tour and appreciated all the ground we were able to cover, seeing many parts of the city that we hadn't been to before.

For dinner, we follow the advice I give to clients about going back to restaurants that they have liked. We go back to L'Osteria which we had enjoyed the first night in Naples. We get a very warm welcome from the staff who seem genuinely glad to see us again. As before, we the only customers at 8 pm save an older gentleman who seems to be a regular and takes a shine to Diana.

The meal is again very good....we both have fettucine with shrimp and tomatoes and an orata in a lemon sauce--delicious. We drink the same Falanghina which is fast becoming our favorite Italian white...at least in Campania. We say our goodbyes and take a cab back up the hill to the hotel.

Tomorrow we leave Naples for the countryside of Basilicata...it will be a dramatic contrast.

Jim and Diana
 

susan

100+ Posts
Enjoying all of your trip posts & photos, Jim! I just looked up the HBO series based on the book, My Brilliant Friend and it's available at my library. Excited to check it out! Will be fun to look at your photos again after watching it.
 

LoveItaly

10+ Posts
Hi Jim,

Been enjoying following along. Can you give me the name and contact for the guide you used. We have a port stop in Naples on June 4 and been trying to decide what to do. I posted on the Italy forum and got some great suggestions but your tour sounds like a good option. I also read all four novels and watched the HBO series. We leave the US on Tuesday and it would be helpful to have the contact info beforehand so hope you see this post.

Carole
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
I booked the tour through Tours by Locals.....the tour guide was Dolores Caparaso.


Her direct email is dolores.caparaso@gmail.com
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Sunday, May 12: Day 7: Naples

After breakfast we get packed, check out, load up the car and set out for Basilicata. The day is overcast and threatening. We are visiting Valerie and Bryan Schneider, fellow Italophiles, who have actually moved to Italy to the area where Valerie's family comes from.

The drive out of Naples along the water is uneventful...Sunday traffic is blessedly light and we don't have to deal with the hills and narrow roads we experienced on our arrival.

We get on the autostrada and head south....passing Vesuvius on our left.

The skies are dark and there's some heavy rain as we leave Campania and enter Basilicata. The scenery however is stunning.....rugged mountains with lots of green foliage.

We miss our exit for the agriturismo where we are staying but recover quickly and are soon climbing a largely unimproved road. We don't pass many houses on the way...this is a lot more remote than we are used to.

We finally arrive at La Foresteria di San Leo and are greeted by the owner Peppino and his wife Maria Giovanna.

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They are very welcoming but we learn that neither of them speaks English so our very inadequate Italian will be challenged. After we go to our room and get settled, Maria Giovanna prepares a plate of salumi and cheese for our lunch....we hadn't stopped on the way and it's now 3 pm.
I walk around outside and admire the stunning views from the agriturismo...

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We try to contact Valerie and Bryan and learn that she has come down with something and is not feeling well. We get back in the car and drive to their village of Trivigno and meet them for coffee at the Bar Centrale. We do a little catching up but don't stay long. The weather is now very threatening and raw in the village but as we descend into the valley the sun comes out and we are treated to a lovely rainbow.

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Since the sun has come out we want to take advantage of it and decide to drive up to the hill top village of Castelmezzano, a neighboring town. The scenery on the way up and in the village don't disappoint...the town is very dramatically nestled under an imposing rock formation.

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Potenza is the closest large city so we head there for dinner. I find a pizzeria there that sounds promising and turns out to be excellent...a good find. After dinner, we try to locate a laundromat planning to do our laundry there tomorrow. We do find it but we have a very difficult time driving out of town....our GPS seems to send us in circles before we eventually reach the main road back to the agriturismo. (Valerie later tells us that she finds Potenza one of the most difficult of Italian cities to navigate.)

We are glad we had been to the agriturismo earlier because it might have been difficult to find for the first time in the dark.

It is a great contrast to Naples...no noise at all.

Tomorrow we hope Valerie is feeling better so we can explore the area with them.

Jim and Diana
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Monday, May 13: Day 8: Trivigno-Lecce

The sun is shining when we wake up but very quickly, as I go outside to take a short walk, a thick fog bank rolls in and none of the surrounding countryside is visible. And just as suddenly, the fog recedes, leaving a fascinating mix of clouds and sun which makes for dramatic photographs.

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I am not feeling well this morning....not sure whether I am allergic to electric air freshener in the room or the pollen or to the countryside but my eyes are itchy and my head is stuffed. Since Valerie is still not feeling well and I checked to see that the hotel in Lecce had a room for us, we decide to leave after breakfast and head for Lecce a day early. We stop in Trivigno to say goodbye to Bryan and Valerie at the Bar Centrale and get on the road. The weather is not good en route....lots of heavy rain...but as we reach the coast, the sky brightens and the sun is out for the rest of the way.

Since we can't check in to our hotel until after 4 pm, we locate a laundromat in Lecce and do our first laundry of the trip. Diana takes the opportunity to do some hand piecing.

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The drive into the historic center is not too bad...the directions are straightforward and we arrive a few minutes early. We have to wait in the middle of the busy main street as hundreds of tourists walk by. I am happy that someone from the Palazzo offers to move my car into the courtyard parking lot so I don't have to inch our SUV through the narrow entrance.

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(from the Palazzo Rollo web site)

The Palazzo Rollo is right in the middle of the centro storico, just steps from the Duomo and, conveniently, next door to a busy gelateria. It is a grand old building and our ground floor room has a 15 foot high ceiling. We reserved a ground floor room because they don't have an elevator...yet. One is being installed right outside our door but it is not ready to use at this time. Unfortunate, because they forgot to tell me that the breakfast room is on the first floor, up a grand staircase. (Diana is not keen on stairs.)

There is also a roof terrace, which is extensive, and provides wonderful views of the Duomo campanile and the rest of the city.

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However between the cool temperatures and the three challenging flights of stairs, we will not be sitting on the roof today.

I go out for my exploratory walk (the town is both more elegant and more touristy than I remember from our last visit in 2003) and to check out restaurants for dinner. I decide to return to one of the places where we ate on that trip, Alle Due Corte. The restaurant is packed...mostly with tourists but a couple of tables of Italians...and noisy. We are ignored for the first fifteen minutes (the two waiters seem very harried) but finally we are recognized...just before my breaking point.

Dinner is good....very tasty local specialties. We share a plate of fried vegetables...not very delicate but nicely cooked. Next I have a dish called tria...two kinds of pasta (one crunchy, one soft) with chickpeas in a tasty broth. Diana has a plate of grilled sausages with excellent roast potatoes. We drink the house wine which is just okay.

We walk through back streets to the hotel...

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Tomorrow we begin to explore Lecce.

Jim and Diana
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Tuesday, May 14-Friday: May 18: Day 8-12: Lecce (3 and 1/2 sick days)

I was"under the weather" for almost four days in Lecce....very tired, head tightness, sore throat and cough...flu like symptoms. For most of these four days, we stayed in the room and I slept a lot, venturing out only for light meals and gelato.

A bummer to be sick on vacation.....
 

Jim Zurer

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Friday: May 18 (afternoon): Day12: Lecce

By Friday afternoon, I am feeling well enough to venture out and we go to the new Jewish Museum in Lecce, located at the edge of what was the old Jewish quarter in medieval times. The Jewish community was expelled in the early the 16th century and the Santa Croce Church erected on the site.

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(Jewish Museum Lecce)

The museum is very nicely put together...well written explanations of the history of the community and its traditions (translated into English very well). The museum includes several mikveh (ritual baths) found on the site

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(Jewish Museum Lecce)

as well as some inscriptions and tablets found in the area.

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Outside we are shown the original entrance to the synagogue

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and the niche where a mezuzah was placed at the entrance to the mikveh.

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The museum's principal benefactor is the Khalili family, originally from Iran but now living in London, who visited and decided to support the activities of the museum.

We then walk back past Santa Croce and through the streets of the old Jewish quarter (not a ghetto which first was implemented in Venice several years after the expulsion from Lecce).

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(thanks to Summer in Italy)

At this time, the facade of Santa Croce is being restored and is covered with canvas...but with a representation of what you would see if the work was not going on.

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Here is one of the street signs from the old Jewish quarter.

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Today is also the first truly warm day we have had in Lecce so we are able to go to the roof and sit in the sun. Our trip to the roof--three long flights of stairs up--is made easier by the fact that the Palazzo's elevator is now ready for a test drive and we get to short circuit two of the flights.

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We go to dinner at a very stylish restaurant just around the corner--La Tipografia, very modern with a slightly creative menu. Disconcertingly there is giant television screen on the wall showing Italian movies with no sound.

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We enjoy the dinner.....fried fresh anchovies followed by spaghetti with mussels and a rucola pesto for me and orechiette with tomatoes and ricotta and a filet of branzino steamed in a cellophane packet. We also ordered "verdure croccante" which I think will be some kind of fried, crispy vegetable but turns out to be cooked vegetables which were surprisingly "al dente"...a nice change. We have a couple of glasses of a local white....

We are surprised during the meal by the arrival of large water bug on my sleeve which causes the restaurant more discomfort than we felt....they apologize profusely and even take seven euro off the bill.

I have a gelato at the shop next to the hotel and we return to the hotel.

Tomorrow we look forward to a normal day of sightseeing in Lecce...

Jim and Diana
 

Sharon J

100+ Posts
Friday: May 18 (afternoon): Day12: Lecce

By Friday afternoon, I am feeling well enough to venture out and we go to the new Jewish Museum in Lecce, located at the edge of what was the old Jewish quarter in medieval times. The Jewish community was expelled in the early the 16th century and the Santa Croce Church erected on the site.

View attachment 19679
(Jewish Museum Lecce)

The museum is very nicely put together...well written explanations of the history of the community and its traditions (translated into English very well). The museum includes several mikveh (ritual baths) found on the site

View attachment 19680

View attachment 19681
(Jewish Museum Lecce)

as well as some inscriptions and tablets found in the area.

View attachment 19682

View attachment 19683

Outside we are shown the original entrance to the synagogue

View attachment 19684

and the niche where a mezuzah was placed at the entrance to the mikveh.

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The museum's principal benefactor is the Khalili family, originally from Iran but now living in London, who visited and decided to support the activities of the museum.

We then walk back past Santa Croce and through the streets of the old Jewish quarter (not a ghetto which first was implemented in Venice several years after the expulsion from Lecce).

View attachment 19686
(thanks to Summer in Italy)

At this time, the facade of Santa Croce is being restored and is covered with canvas...but with a representation of what you would see if the work was not going on.

View attachment 19687

Here is one of the street signs from the old Jewish quarter.

View attachment 19688

Today is also the first truly warm day we have had in Lecce so we are able to go to the roof and sit in the sun. Our trip to the roof--three long flights of stairs up--is made easier by the fact that the Palazzo's elevator is now ready for a test drive and we get to short circuit two of the flights.

View attachment 19689

View attachment 19690

We go to dinner at a very stylish restaurant just around the corner--La Tipografia, very modern with a slightly creative menu. Disconcertingly there is giant television screen on the wall showing Italian movies with no sound.

View attachment 19691

We enjoy the dinner.....fried fresh anchovies followed by spaghetti with mussels and a rucola pesto for me and orechiette with tomatoes and ricotta and a filet of branzino steamed in a cellophane packet. We also ordered "verdure croccante" which I think will be some kind of fried, crispy vegetable but turns out to be cooked vegetables which were surprisingly "al dente"...a nice change. We have a couple of glasses of a local white....

We are surprised during the meal by the arrival of large water bug on my sleeve which causes the restaurant more discomfort than we felt....they apologize profusely and even take seven euro off the bill.

I have a gelato at the shop next to the hotel and we return to the hotel.

Tomorrow we look forward to a normal day of sightseeing in Lecce...

Jim and Diana
Loving your trip reports and photos. We leave for Montepulciano, Varenna and Venice tomorrow. Can't stay as long as we like, as we have a very sad dog, that we worry about. She lost her brother a few months ago, and still seems to be mourning. Afraid our leaving her for a long long stay will do much damage to her.
 

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