It’s hard to believe it’s been five weeks since the wedding, and we’ve been home for a fortnight from the honeymoon. But life has a funny way of settling back into routine very quickly! Thanks as always for your lovely comments on the blog, tweets and phone calls into the shows that I have presented – it means a lot. I’ve probably pretty much given the game away as to where it was Colin took me on our honeymoon, but as promised, I have put together a ‘travel blog’ for you!
We left very early on Sunday morning, for Gatwick airport, and my only clue to our destination was that I’d been told to pack for somewhere warm. I wasn’t aware until we were actually in the terminal when I found out that Colin had organised an Italian honeymoon! I couldn’t have been more excited : ) Although I’d been to several of the cities over the years, it’s a country he had never visited, but I knew as we landed in Rome to blinding sunshine and 38 degree heat we were going to have a ball!
Colin had worked out an extensive itinerary that would take us from Rome all the way to Venice, with pretty much everything in between. A taxi took us to our beautiful hotel that was situated about half a mile from the Vatican, and having dumped our cases, we headed out into the sunshine. Rome is vast, and even with a map, we thought it would be best to take the open top bus to get an idea of what there was to see!
As you will see from these photographs, we were clearly spoilt for choice! That night we drank cocktails in the warm evening and then were up pretty early the following day so that could immerse ourselves in all that is Rome. From the Spanish Steps to St. Peter’s Basilica, the Galleria Borghese and the Castel Sant’Angelo, we explored it all. We also invested in a ‘selfie stick’ which was hilarious to use, and allowed us to be in most of the photographs – even on the bus as we passed the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi!
For us though, The Colosseum and Palatine Hill were possibly the most impressive. Not just the fact that the remains are pretty much intact, but the sheer size of it all. It was like looking at an entire city, complete with streets, shops, homes and even an enormous chariot racing course!
As there was so much to see, we decided to visit The Vatican the following morning, before collecting our hire car and driving to the Amalfi Coast. We paid extra for tickets so that we didn’t have to queue outside the Vatican, as it was incredibly hot and humid.
That said it still took us two hours from arrival to actually ending up in the Sistine chapel! Our guide was a very informative and intelligent man who taught us a great deal about the Renaissance – a period in history we knew very little of. The paintings, tapestries and sculptures were quite extraordinary, particularly this one (pictured above) attributed to three Greek Sculptors from Rhodes and called ‘Laocoon and His Sons’. It had been buried along with a great deal of other pieces of Roman art, to protect them from the Barbarians. For years I had always believed the Sistine Chapel to be the large Duomo, but it was a relatively small and rectangular building with seats along each wall, so one could sit and appreciate the incredible artwork. Definitely worth a visit. Having collected our luggage, and then our hire car we set off for our next destination which was Vico Equense in the Bay of Naples near the Amalfi Coast.
Driving in Italy is a joy – very similar to the road system in America – and having brought our TomTom with the European maps (purchased from QVC!) we made our way there taking in some stunning scenery en route. Of course the Amalfi Coast stretches 50km along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, it is not surprisingly deemed by UNESCO as an outstanding example of Mediterranean landscape. I had never been there before and fell in love with the cliff-side views and hillside lemon groves… simply stunning. Our hotel was literally on the cliff side, and this was the view we had from terrace there, plus the sunset from our bedroom – you couldn’t ask for more really could you? : )
I’ve not really mentioned the food yet, but we had wined and dined on fabulous pastas, pizzas, local buffalo mozzarella (pronounced ‘boof al a’) and tomato salads, and now we were on the coast, fresh fish! We decided that as we were by the sea, we’d have a beach day and had great fun getting down there via the hotel lift which is built into the rock.
You literally come out through a cave – thought you may like this ‘headless’ picture of me walking towards the sunshine! : ) In fact the sun shone throughout our break, as Italy and Greece basked in a heatwave, and it was heaven laying by the sea listening to the waves and soaking up the sun.
We ate indoors that night, but the following two evenings the terrace restaurant was open, and we had the most delicious menu choices including a fabulous lemon rissotta which we ate while being serenaded on the piano – so romantic. Something else that we found equally romantic was looking out across the Bay of Naples into the night sky where we focused on two inordinately bright lights that we thought were stars.
Our lovely waiter explained to us that they were in fact the planets Jupiter and Venus and on that night, they were the closest they would be to each other until August 2016. They are the third and fourth brightest celestial bodies respectively after the sun and moon, and at this time of year are both journeying towards another planet, Regulus. Fascinating and quite mesmeric to look at, especially considering the Roman link with the Goddess Venus.
This part of Italy is absolutely stunning, and we spent the best part of a day driving around the extremely picturesque coastline to Salerno and through Minori – which we have decided we would like visit again. But it’s not just the architecture and seascapes that make this such a popular resort. The city of Pompeii rises on a plateau of Vesuvian lava, overlooking the Sarno river valley, where there was once a busy port. It was an earthquake in 62AD that first struck the city and damaged it extensively, but just 17 years later when Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24th August, it was completely buried under a layer of ash and rock.
It was rediscovered in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until 1748 that excavations began. On our second day, with temperatures in the high 30s, a clear blue sky and not a breath of wind, we walked miles, through the cobbled streets of Pompeii, overawed by the enormity of what remains of this once busy city. Shops, a doctor’s surgery, bakeries, public baths, a library, homes and walled gardens – all lovingly restored for us to see. Over 2,000 people lost their lives the day Vesuvius erupted, and to this day the mighty volcano dominates the skyline.
The next leg of our journey took us to another place that had once been destroyed but not through a natural disaster. Cassino saw one of the fiercest battles of the Second World War, and one in which Colin’s late father fought. Reg Elsworth left England for the Invasion of Africa, and then travelled with the troops for the Invasion of Italy. He arrived in Sicily and fought his way through Italy where he was involved in the five month Battle of Montecassino during the final stages of the War. Having found a place to park in the town we didn’t know where to find the War Museum, and so popped into the local police station. The delightful Agente de polizia actually drove us in his police car to the museum, where we were the only two visitors on the tour.
Colin’s father didn’t often speak of the conflict, and it was distressing to know that so many soldiers and civilians died while trying to break the very strong German lines that crossed Italy. The building which took the brunt of the British bombing was the Abbey of Montecassino which stands on a hill above the town. It was completely flattened during a three hour bombing raid and the civilians who were sheltering there all lost their lives… Sadly I never met Colin’s dad, but suffice to say, we were both incredibly proud to know that he had been involved in such a pivotal point of the war.
We left the museum and headed up the mountain to the Abbey of Montecassino, which has been rebuilt according to the ‘Where and as was” program of Abbot Ildefonso Rea, its reconstructor. I have never felt more at peace in such a place. There is a sense of calm and contentment, and we both really enjoyed our time there – I hope you enjoy the photographs. Our destination that evening was Florence, and I’ll have more photos and memories to share with you next week, as you’re probably worn out with it all by now! I do though have the link to our wedding website which now has more photos on if you’d care to peruse click here! I will look forward to hearing all your news as always, and replying as soon as I’m able.
Oh, and before I go, I must let you know about our TSV tonight! A stunning AAAA 1.5ct Tanzanite and diamond ring set into platinum 950! It is absolutely exquisite and I don’t remember the last time we had such a large and rare stone of this quality, which makes up less than 0.2% of all Tanzanite mined, yet we have a £500 saving for this 24 hour period only. It will be an absolute pleasure to spend the hour with you and our diamond expert Laurie Wickwire at midnight tonight.
With my love,