Southern Italy Road Trip

Hotel beach in Castellabate

Today marks our three month mark from leaving Italy.  I cannot believe it!  Last week, Bobby and I took our final road trip to southern Italy, where we visited Bobby’s sister Eva and caught some rays on the beach.  Okay, to be honest, it was several beaches.  :)  Even though the southern regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Campania aren’t the most visited in Italy, they are certainly among our favorites.  The people are open, generous, and (generally) love getting to know us, a welcome change to some of the colder responses we’ve received in the north.

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Iberian Road Trip – Segovia and Valencia

The Alcázar from below

We made some ground through Spain on our last few days.  We traveled to Segovia, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, which has a towering Roman aqueduct.  After a quick stop in Madrid to drop off the rental car, we took the train to our last stop, Valencia, home to Santiago Calatrava’s City of Art and Sciences complex.  Oh, and there was some paella in the mix, some really good paella.

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Iberian Road Trip – Salamanca and Ávila

Roman bridge, Salamanca

Back in 2002, while Bobby was studying at the USAFA, he was selected for a summer immersion language program (also through the Olmsted Foundation, the same foundation that has given us these three wonderful years in Europe).  It was his first visit to Europe and he quickly fell in love.  In fact, when we started the Olmsted Scholar application process a few years ago, Salamanca was on the top of his list for places to live.  Although we are extremely happy with the way things worked out here in Firenze, it is easy for me to see why he has always loved the Spanish culture and in particular, the city of Salamanca.  After a four hour drive in very wet and windy conditions, we arrived in the popular university town.

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Iberian Road Trip – Guimarães, Pontevedra and Santiago de Compostela

Beautiful sunset from our hotel

Our Iberian road trip continued north, first stopping in Guimarães, Portugal before heading into Spain, where we visited both Pontevedra and Santiago de Compostela.  With spring comes rain and it seems we couldn’t escape it on this trip.  Luckily, we did have a few sun breaks, so we tried to make the best of it.

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Portugal’s West Coast – Porto and Aveiro

WWI monument

After mentioning to some friends we were traveling to Portugal, we were told multiple times that we must visit the city of Porto.  I quickly did some research and found that it was a riverfront city full of colorful buildings, a pretty famous bridge, and home to port wine.  There’s not much that could go wrong with this scenario, so off we went.  We continued our road trip north, stopping first at Aveiro (which I will explain at the bottom of the post because it’s just not as exciting!) and then Porto, Portugal’s second largest city.

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Portugal’s West Coast – Sintra and Obidos

View of the Obidos Castle from the walls

Leaving Lisbon, we picked up a rental car and set off for our two-week road trip.  We started our trip by traveling up Portugal’s west coast, but we didn’t make it very far before stopping in Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site just thirty minutes from Portugal’s capital city.  We spent the day at the Castle of the Moors and the Pena National Palace.  Afterwards, we continued north, stopping for the night in the beautiful walled city of Óbidos.

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Lisbon – The City of Seven Hills

Beautiful tiled house

Bobby and I arrived in Lisbon a few days ago, ready to kick off a twelve day tour of Portugal and Spain with my parents.  None of us had ever visited the country before, so we didn’t really know what to expect.  After walking around the first night, we quickly learned why Lisbon is nicknamed “The City of Seven Hills.”  We thought it felt more like 700!  The uphill battles, combined with the fact that the sidewalks are all constructed of mini-mosaics, certainly took a toll on our feet.  I suppose this is why the trams are so popular.

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Naples, the Second Time Around

Cloister of Santa Chiara

I have to admit, the first time Bobby and I visited Naples, we did not fall in love with the city.  We thought it was dirty (well, it is) and the people were aggressive (read: mafia).  Although these prejudices still exist, we decided to give the city a second chance and travel there last weekend.  We chose Ferrari’s high-speed train called “Italo” from Firenze SMN station to Napoli Centrale.  The trip, on the world’s fastest train, took a little under two and a half hours.  Not bad!  We met Bobby’s sister Eva and her husband Geremia, who is a sort of Napoli-guru, on Saturday morning.  Geremia lived in Napoli for years and travels there often for work, so he was a fantastic tour guide, showing us the best museums, churches, and restaurants the town has to offer.

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Landing Ship Tank 325 – A Floating WWII Memorial

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Currently, I’m spending some time in the States visiting family and as luck would have it, a very cool Navy ship docked near my hometown.  The USS Landing Ship Tank 325, based out of Evansville, Indiana, takes summer cruises up the Ohio River each year, and it just so happened that I was at home when it made a stop in Ashland, Kentucky this weekend.  The LST-325 is a decommissioned Navy ship that was first launched in 1942 during World War II.  It is the type of boat in the famous beach scenes in Saving Private Ryan (where troops storm the beaches of Normandy) and Flags of Our Fathers (about the landing at Iwo Jima).  The boats can beach themselves and then tanks can exit directly from sea to land.

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Biennale d’Arte 2013 (and more Family Travels!)

Spice art by artist Sonia Falcone

We continued our week of family site-seeing with a walking tour of our “hometown” Florence and then a drive to the tiny town of Agello, Italy, where Terri once lived with the kids.  The weather didn’t really cooperate, so we decided to seek refuge in Montalcino, where we enjoyed some Brunello wine tasting.  We capped off the week by heading to the Venice Biennale once again (see here for last year’s Biennale for architecture), but this time we took in the art exhibition.  We had a wonderful time seeing Italy together.  It was Terri and Daisy’s first time back to Italy in over 30 years, and Ruby’s first time ever!

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