We checked out of our hotel in Amalfi and the challenge was to get to Rome before noon. Closing times and travel distances is always a challenge when traveling in Italy. A few good rules of travel in Italy:

First of all, be on the road by 9:00 am at the latest. Otherwise you just won't get to your next destination soon enough. Second, look at where you are going and if it is distance you have to cover, consider the Autostrada versus a local highway. Local highways are great for seeing the country side but you just can't get anywhere quickly.

With the Vatican Museum closing at 12:30 and there was some pretty "strategic" driving. The roads out of Amalfi take time. There is one road up and over the hill, or there is an exit to the south and north but those routes involve driving along the slow winding coastal highway. We choose the up and over route, lots of curves and an incredibly tight drive up to Ravello but in the end you come out on the Autostrada, drive at an incredible speed and me made it in time.

We arrived in Rome, drove to and found our hotel on the first take. The hotel is a mere 100 meters from the Vatican. From there we headed out our different ways. Chris and Carmen aimed straight at the Vatican. Glenn and Karen straight to Novelli Pens.

The museum was jammed to the rafters. Moving in the walkways was like salmon fighting to move upstream - but they did manage to make it to the Sistine Chapel to be awed by Michelangelo's works.

The Vatican is always a moving place to visit. The size is impressive. It is the largest church in Christendom 610 feet long (two football fields) and 451 wide at the transepts. It is actually a complex building with various sections dating over quite a time span. The church to end all churches, it is impossible not to be moved by St. Peter's Basilica.

For Carmen, attending a mass at St. Peter's was a definite highlight of the trip: chorus, organs, centuria of the world's greatest art, at the epicenter of the history and power of the Catholic Church - spectacular.

Somehow Chris and Carmen made it to just about all the sights of Rome over the 1 1/2 days that we were there so it shows it can be done, but be prepared for some pretty aching legs and feet.

NovelliGlenn and Karen met Marco at Novelli Pen. This years's prize purchase was a Stipula Etrucian - a rich brown town pen with a 1.1 stub nib that is out of this world. The Delta 365 in yellow is also an incredible pen and was the planned Christmas gift bought early. (Somehow Glenn got it on his birthday in October.)

A great day all round. A visit to a great pen store and a good lunch lunch at L'Archetto on via dell' Archetto just around the corner from his store. We have eaten at this small restaurant a number of times, always taking one of the tables that sit in the narrow busy walkway. The restaurant a full selection of pasta dishes.

Toscano GirarrostaIn Rome, we celebrated with Chris and Carmen their wedding anniversary and choose to eat at a very good restaurant (listed in our Great Places Site) near by. It was a hot evening and we were fortunate to get an outside table. We enjoyed bruchetta, anginlotti and veal saltimbocca a Romana! All great. A bottle of champagne topped off the celebration!

The restaurant, Dal Toscano al Girarrosto; via Germanico 58 is great. Even Frederico Fellini used to eat here! We highly recommend the restaurant. The inside is also very pleasant.


We checked out and left Rome heading towards the Cinque Terre, or the Five Lands. There is some scenic country-side area outside of Rome, but once you are along the coast all you can do is put the pedal to the floor because you don't arrive at spectacular until you get up to the Cinque Terre.

Cinque TerraThis is a stunning part of the Italian coast. It is often said, if you can't go to the Amalfi Coast, then go here. Naturally, on this tip and others we have stayed in both areas. Rather than staying in one of the five towns on the Cinque Terre, we decided to make Santa Marghertia Liquria our base. From there we can tour the Cinque Terre (a short train ride) or visit Porto Fino which is just 2 km away from Santa Margherita.


Cinque Terra

There is a famous walk along the coast that takes one from town to town. Chris and Carmen headed out from Riomaggiore, we were not sure we would ever see them again. They arrive at Monterosso al Mare having seem the best of the Cinque Terre. The Via del'Amore winds between the towns, each and every one looking like the location for a fairy tale.

The Via del'Amore starts out as a comfortable walk, but soon turns into a testing all-day push, punctuated with gelato/vino breaks at picture-postcard villages and breathtaking vistas. A world heritage site and it deserves the designation. Carmen even managed to overcome her mild fear of heights to make it through to the end. Chris even impressed the girls on the beach and swam in the crashing waves.

From there, is was a train trip back to Santa Margherita. They both had legs of steel by the end of day!


MargheritaAlways a pleasant place to stay. Boats from here make the trip to small towns along the coast. The area was very popular in the 19th-Century and the good life for the wealthy took over from fishing. The town still retains an air of charm. The buildings, with faux painting, have a deep and varied range of colours.

We stayed at the Hotel Jolanda and got quite a deal on a great room. The hotel is great: large comfortable room, air conditioning - even an Internet workstation. Nearby there is a great restaurant.

We ate at the Oca Bianca and enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip. The owner suggested a menu. We were mutually delighted. We were treated to a bottle of champagne at the end. The bill... mamma mia! Worth it. The restaurant is an absolute must on anyone's visit to the area.


PortofinoAn ancient fishing village, that became the haunt of the international jet set. We drove the 9 km narrow road from Santa Margherita Liguria to Portofino for a short stop one morning. The small port is always jammed with boats of fishermen and the wealthy. During the day the day-trippers invade. We noticed an ever increasing number of high-end shops.

But it remains the quintessential Italian town; sun, blue water and lots of colour.

For us, a photoshoot and then we headed towards Alassio.



As the holiday was nearing and end, relaxing time on a beach became more and more important. We opted to spend one of the last of the nights at Alassio.

Alassio has a long fabulous quartz beach and is considered one of the finest beaches in Liguria. Walks along the "budello", or alley, which is known as via XX Settembre is the primary route of the evening promenade.

We found a good hotel (Hotel Tirreno, See Great Places to Stay), with sea-front rooms. We enjoyed the beach, walked the streets and ate great gelato... what more could we ask!


Another suggestion for a great holiday. Have a great place booked for your last night. It makes the end of the holiday seem like a holiday. Avoid staying in a "hotel near the airport" as your last night of your vacation becomes an evening of killing time till your get home rather than be one more wonderful evening of your vacation. So, taking our own advice, from Alassio we returned to France and spent our last night at the Hotel Le Hameau (See Great Places to Stay) in the town of St. Paul de Vence. We are a short twenty-minutes from Nice and the airport in distance, but yet very much on our vacation. It is not over yet!

Le Canard

That evening, we treated ourselves to a special dinner at Le Cagnard in Cagnes sur Mer. The restaurant is built into the ramparts of the Garmaldi Castle in Haut Cagnes. On a previous trip we stayed at the hotel but even you can't do that, eating there is just as good!

The restaurant deserves its Michelin Star rating. Our food was excellent. The service impeccable. It was expensive but worth it. The restaurant has a retractable ceiling which was opened to the applause of the clients. What a meal. At $620 for the four of us we will reflect upon that meal for some time yet!

Le HameauSo that was it. A wonderful trip to Italy with a little time on the way in and out in Nice.

The weather was fine, the company made it all the more enjoyable. We saw great sights, ate fantastic food and drank wine till we could hardly hold a glass!

After this trip we all realized that we could travel together as a group very nicely. That is a challenge and there are plenty of stories of folks who were friends who, after a joint vacation, were not! Not so here. This was the first of many trips we have taken others.






The Vatican is a highlight of any trip to Rome.


Cinque Terra

Cinque Terra

Small villages and the rugged coastline of the Cinque Terre