The Retirees visit Anzio

We had enough of the dead so the following day we decided to visit Anzio. Again, we turned to the train to deliver us safely to this quiet fishing village south of Rome. Terminii is a large modern station with restaurants and bars on the first floor overlooking the trains parked and picking up passengers pulling in and departing across 28 plus lines. We had breakfast and watched the trains until our train was due to depart.

The train station at Anzio is approximately 500 metres from the water front. The downhill stroll was relatively easy however the same cannot be said for the return trip. Anzio has been established since ancient times.

Anzio occupies a part of the ancient Antium territory. In ancient times, Antium was the capital of the Volsci people until it was conquered by the Romans. Leading Romans built magnificent seaside villas there and when Cicero returned from exile, it was at Antium that he reassembled the battered remains of his libraries, where the scrolls would be secure. Remains of Roman villas are conspicuous all along the shore, both to the east and to the north-west of the town. Many ancient masterpieces of sculpture have been found there: the Fanciulla d’Anzio, the Borghese Gladiator (in the Louvre) and the Apollo Belvedere (in the Vatican) were all discovered in the ruins of villas at Antium.

Of the villas, the most famous was the imperial villa, known as the Villa of Nero, which was used by each Emperor in turn, up to the Severans and which extended some 800 metres (2,600 ft) along the seafront of the Capo d’Anzio. Augustus received a delegation from Rome there to acclaim him Pater patriae (“Father of his Country”). The Julian and Claudian emperors frequently visited it; both Emperor Caligula and Nero were born in Antium. Nero razed the villa on the site to rebuild it on a more massive and imperial scale including a theatre. Nero also founded a colony of veterans and built a new harbour, the projecting moles of which still exist.

In the Middle Ages Antium was deserted in favour of Nettuno, which maintained the legacy of the ancient city. Pope Pius IX founded the modern municipality of Anzio, with the boundaries of Nettuno being redrawn to accommodate the new town.

Anzio and Nettuno are also notable as sites of an Allied forces landing and the ensuing Battle of Anzio during World War II. The Commonwealth Anzio War Cemetery and Beach Head War Cemetery are located here.

Strolling down from the station we entered the village at the edge of the market square. The square was bustling all the way to the waterfront where you can still see evidence of the refurbishment of the harbour ordered by Emperor Nero. We walked through the square and along the water front past a Jewish synagogue with middle eastern architecture past beaches lined with umbrellas the colours indicating the different business owners of the beach, a lighthouse standing over caverns in the sea wall delineated as though they were once part of the harbour which lead us up to the ridge running along the sea shore. Scores of ruins lay around between beaches and across the ridge.

A fence prevented us from walking amongst the ruins. We walked about 1000 metres and came upon a visitor centre where we watched a video explaining the ancient ruins all around. We then followed the path taking us on a journey through time and the ruins. We were standing where Emperors like Caligula and Nero had once stood in their holiday villas.

It was hot and the walking was taking a toll. We still had to get back to the train station and we had come such a long way out of the old village. We made our way back attempting a short cut, but it was now the middle of the afternoon and the ocean breeze was not helping much. Mixed in with this was we had only a light lunch and the expectation that we would pick something up before the train proved illusory. Back on the train we journeyed to Terminii and our apartment for the last time. Tomorrow we would catch the train/underground to Leonardo da Vinci – Fumucino airport and home to Brissie.

As I am writing this 6 months after the events (not my usual practice but time did not permit) I cannot be sure that the next event happened on the way to Fumicino or another day we caught the lift at Terminii. Waiting for passengers to alight for the lift carriage two women came from behind me pushing me forward rather than waiting for the passengers in the lift to leave. Then I felt a hand in my pocket so I turned and using my forearm against the throat of the culprit I pushed her back against the wall with her feet off the ground. I screamed at her to remove her hand. She quickly got her hand out of my pocket and so I removed my forearm and then backed into the lift carriage.

Quite a bit of excitement but it reaffirmed for me that you cannot let your guard down in Rome particularly the underground. Kerry who had no idea what was going on, was quite shocked that I would attack this woman and accused me of being impatient and losing my temper.

Very interesting – what the witness saw – not a pickpocket at work but an impatient angry man attacking an innocent woman. Fortunately she accepted that the woman was a pick pocket and did not hand me over to the Carabinieri.

The Retirees and the Capuchins – the Catacombs of Rome

Two more days of our Roman Holiday. After our visit to Castel Gandolfo we seemed to hit a dead spot but not for long. We took a tour of the catacombs and to pick up the tour we decided to walk which proved to be somewhat futile as we turned right when we should have turned left and ended back where we started which was not the intention. Even so we passed many interesting statues and buildings. We passed what appeared to be a monument to a mythical sea god, a building without corners and Trevi Foundation which is what we were looking for. Having visited the fountain by night on our Segway tour we thought we needed to see it with fewer people and get some day time shots.

Some of these ancient buildings are not actually so ancient but shopping centres made to resemble the ancient. We also passed through a square we had visited on the Segway tour where we were able to obtain photos of the pillar with an avenging angel on top at least I think it is an angel or is an apostle – it gets confusing. We finally made it to the square where we were to meet our guide along with a whole lot of other people. The group was divided into at least 4 smaller groups of 12 – 16 people bundled into buses and whisked away. In our case it was to visit the Capuchin Convent – Cimitero dei Cappuccini: The Capuchin Crypt.

The Capuchin Order arose in 1525 when Matteo da Bascio, an Observant Franciscan friar said he had been inspired by God with the idea that the manner of life led by the friars of his day was not the one which their founder, St. Francis of Assisi, had envisaged. He sought to return to the primitive way of life of solitude and penance, as practiced by the founder of their Order.

Matteo and his companions were formed into a separate province, called the Hermit Friars Minor, as a branch of the Conventual Franciscans, but with a Vicar Provincial of their own, subject to the jurisdiction of the Minister General of the Conventuals. The Observants, the other branch of the Franciscan Order at that time, continued to oppose the movement.

The crypt is located just under the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome. Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who was of the Capuchin Order, in 1631 ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars exhumed and transferred from the friary on the Via dei Lucchesi to the crypt. The bones were arranged along the walls in varied designs, and the friars began to bury their own dead here, as well as the bodies of poor Romans, whose tomb was under the floor of the present Mass chapel. Here the Capuchins would come to pray and reflect each evening before retiring for the night.

The crypt, or ossuary, now contains the remains of 4,000 friars buried between 1500–1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels, lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps. The crypt walls are decorated extensively with the remains, depicting various religious themes. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Franciscan habits, but for the most part, individual bones are used to create the elaborate ornamental designs.

Unfortunately no photos allowed.

I must say it was quite strange, but everything came back to reality when we entered the gift shop for the crypt – I kid you not!

Our next visit was to what I considered the real catacombs The Catacombs of Domitilla

They are situated over 16 metres underground, about 2 kilometers from the south of Appia Antica (Appian Way) and spans 15 kilometers in distance. They were actively used as a cemetery from around first through fifth centuries CE and were rediscovered in 1593 by Antonio Bosio, an archaeologist. They include more than 26,000 tombs. Inside the Catacombs of Domitilla are images, some of which were revealed by the restoration, reflecting the life of bakers, grape vines, Jesus with the apostles, Noah’s ark, and Daniel with the lions. No pictures allowed but rather spooky in parts. No bones that we could see but apparently there are still remains somewhere in there. This was underneath a church and the church had a gift shop of sorts but no where near as weird as the Capuchins.

The Retirees visit the Pope’s holiday home – Castel Gandolfo

The highlight of our trip occurred on the 13th August when we visited the Pope’s summer palace at Castel Gandolfo. Coincidentally it was also the anniversary of our wedding. We had decided to celebrate with lunch at Antico Ristorante Paginanelli which is outside of Castel Gandolfo.

Castel Gandolfo is a town located 25 kilometres southeast of Rome. It is situated on Largo (Lake) Albano which to me looks like an old caldera filled with water as the village and castle of Castel Gandolfo is over 600m up the side of the lake.

To get to Castel Gandolfo we decided on the train but we had no idea what we would encounter nor how we would get up the hill from the station to the Restaurant and Pope’s residence. Fortunately for us just a few train stations short of the castle stop in Albano, the train line was under repair and for the last leg of our trip we were bussed to the town high above Lake Albano and not the rail terminus.

Occupying the top of the Alban Hills overlooking Lake Albano, Castel Gandolfo has a population of approximately 8,900 residents and is considered one of Italy’s most scenic towns.  The resort community includes almost the whole coastline of Largo (Lake) Albano which is surrounded by many summer residences, villas, and cottages built during the 17th century. It houses the Stadio Olimpico that staged the rowing events during the Rome Olympics. Castel Gandolfo has several places of archaeological interest including the Emissario del Lago Albano and the remains of the Villa of Domitian.

The bus dropped us off and we were left wondering where to from there, but a little investigation uncovered Antico Ristorante Pagnanelli, our ultimate destination. Nearby we noticed a road way climbing along the face of the valley with dramatic views of the lake.

At the end of the road is Castel Gandolfo (the village) and at the end of the village square – the Palace. Within the town’s boundaries lies the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo which served as a summer residence and vacation retreat for the Pope. Although the palace is located within the borders of Castel Gandolfo, it has extraterritorial status as one of the properties of the Holy See and is not under Italian jurisdiction. It is now open as a museum. The day we visited a group of nuns was also visiting which seemed a little odd that they were tourists and not part of the palace or a least the church.

We entered through a side entrance and looked back to the square of the village. Inside the palace courtyard is part of the Pope’s motor vehicle stable. Above us the Pope would stand and address the villagers and conduct Mass. Our online enquiries about tickets to visit the Palace suggested that we could only visit as part of a tour at a cost of 250 euros each but for 19 euros we got tickets to explore the palace/museum.

The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 13th century. It was acquired by the Vatican in 1596 when the Savelli family, who owned it, were unable to pay a debt to the Papacy. The gardens occupy the site of a residence of the Roman Emperor Domitian. The palace was built for Pope Urban VIII. Popes have used the properties as a summer residence and vacation retreat, except for the years between 1870 and 1929 when the Popes, were in dispute with Italy over territorial claims, and did not leave Vatican City. Pope Pius XI had the facilities modernised and began using the retreat again in 1934. In accordance with the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the palace and the adjoining Villa Barberini added to the complex by Pope Pius XI are extraterritorial properties of the Holy See.  The palace has been a museum since 2016. The first floor holds many of the vestments of past Popes and displays of ceremonies of the Church. In addition portraits of every Pope from the time of the Savelli family (one of the Savellis had held the office of Pope) was displayed along with the official Vatican history of the Pope. Not all of them were saints in my view. The Savelli crest has been absorbed into the Palace crest which appear on the ceiling and pottery (chamber pot in this instance). Of course there are priceless pieces of art and sculpture throughout but the statue of Don Quixote caught my eye as it stared at the timeless stunning scenery out the window. As we passed through the Papal bedroom I was amused that the Papal bed was a single bed but on reflection that is all he needed – probably the only thing that did not suggest excess and opulence.

We exited onto the village square and we wandered through to return to the road that would take us back along the ridge to Antico Ristorante Pagnanelli.

Opened by Giovanni Pagnanelli in 1882 the restaurant has been in the ownership of the same family for 4 generations. When we arrived we were greeted by a very Australian nona who it turned out is the wife of the current owner (met her husband on the beaches of Largo Albano married had 3 children and a restaurant). We positioned ourselves on the Terrace over looking the lake and settled in to a most enjoyable lunch with a bottle of Pol Roger (yummy – aged and honey over tones very dry)

The menu was individual and we slowly grazed through 3 course and our bottle of Pol Roger. The whole experience was very memorable topped off by a visit to the cellar. As we were departing Kerry asked if we could see the cellar. Sure no problem. We were shown the stair case and told to hold the rope as we went down. That was it we had been given the keys to the most extensive cellar I have seen. The photos follow and some of the wines would have to be decades old. As we descended we passed displays of all sorts of instruments for opening wine or harvesting grapes then row upon row of ancient bottles some even signed by past visitors – Keneau Reeves being one.

After lunch we waited for the next bus which took us only as far as the train station back to Terminii and a long walk to Via Natizonali.

How do we match that day? A memorable 30th anniversary leaving me to wonder how we improve for the next milestone.

The Retirees return to Rome – Terni to Roma

The train trip was without incident. We are getting well-travelled on Italian trains, but the secret is to never get complacent and think you know it all. We arrived at Roma Terminii and thought our accommodation was close by. Well it was stinking hot and we knew the general direction through Piazza della Republica down Via Nazionale. But finding the right door. Our hotel was a suite of rooms in a larger building which fronted Via Nazionale and we had to ring the bell and wait for an answer. This did not happen without error as the manager was off doing something for another guest and did not answer his phone. And it was hot. After what seemed an interminable wait someone opened the door and we got inside the courtyard out of the sun. When the manager arrived, and he pointed us toward a set of stairs Kerry asked about the lift and we were told it was at the top of the stairs. That was enough Kerry. Kerry was certain I was not able to climb the stairs particularly as we were staying a number of days. After some kerfuffle we were changed from one suite to another suite of rooms and all was well again save that we would have to change room again tomorrow. After all was said and done she was right, dragging my moon boot up the stairs would soon wear very thin.

After settling into our room we were off for our Segway tour of Rome. According to the tourist map the Segway tour office was just down the road – well not quite. Feeling adventurous we hailed a bus and guided by our tourist map, got off at Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriano. There’s no way to miss the hustle and bustle of Rome’s largest round-a-bout: the Piazza Venezia. On one side you can look down Rome’s longest street, the Via del Corso to the ancient northern gates of the city. From another angle, the ruins of the Imperial Forums lead the way to the Colosseum. Take a different road and you’ll end up in the Jewish Ghetto, on your way to Rome’s Trastevere neighbourhood and last but not least, towering over the piazza, is the unmistakable marble monument: Il Vittoriano.

This enormous monument derives from the name of Italy’s first king, Victorio Emanuele II of Savoy to whom it is dedicated.  Another name is “l’Altare della Patria” or “Altar of the Fatherland” as the monument was built to celebrate Italian unification and the birth of Italy as a nation at the end of the 19th century.  Most Romans aren’t a fan of the monument which they say doesn’t blend in with the rest of the city skyline.

The centre piece of the Vittoriano is the enormous bronze equestrian statue of the first king himself. Over the steps in the centre stand the actual “Altar of the fatherland”, containing the tomb of “The unknown soldier”, a symbolic reminder of all the unidentified deaths of WWI. In front of the altar’s relief, visitors can see the statue of the goddess Roma with the secret eternal flame, always guarded by soldiers.

Using Vittoriano as as landmark, we walked down Via del Theatro di Marcello and unknowingly past the street leading to Turtle Fountain and the Segway office. We walked down to the church of San Nicola in Carcere and s**t it was hot. We decided to give it up and crossed the road to catch a bus home. We would have had better luck finding hen’s teeth – nothing came along and we were roasting in the sun. So we hailed a cab and decided to ask the driver to take us to the Turtle Fountain – sure he knew where that is and under 5 euros we were there and the tour office was closed but not the bar beside it and we needed a drink.

So, we tumbled in sat down and ordered a gin and tonic and a beer and some water. That was it and there we remained until the tour office opened and I could try to recover the loss of the booking. this little bar feed and watered us for the rest of the afternoon. A short time later on another visit we would walk down the lane obscured by the fountain to the Jewish quarter.

Well the tour office finally opened. With a slight case of sunstroke and the power of a couple of gins and a beer I went to plead our case for a refund of the lost tour. To my amazement  our booking was not lost as I had mistaken the date and our booking was for the next day. However we had learnt our lesson and we shifted the tour to the evening due to the heat of the day. I returned to the bar and we stayed ultimately having dinner and making our way home after the sun had set.

The next day we went back to the Turtle Fountain area and explored the Jewish district. Evidence of the roman period was obvious all the walls above us. Roman writing to sculptures in niches in the wall to forgotten ruins in the middle of the residential neighbourhood.

From the Jewish quarter we strolled across Tiber Island. The only island in the Tiber that flows through Rome it is boat-shaped, approximately 270 metres (890 feet) long and 67 metres (220 feet) wide, and has been connected with bridges to both sides of the river since antiquity. Being a seat of the ancient temple of Asclepius and later a hospital, the island is associated with medicine and healing. The Fatebenefratelli Hospital founded in the 16th century, and the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island dating from the 10th century are located on the island. An ice cream was in order.

We kept our tour appointment. We had about 20 mins to reacquaint ourselves with the segway. Then we started our tour with a mixture of six other tourists all from the USA. The sun was settling into the horizon and the lights of the city rising. But my camera battery gave up the ghost just as we arrived at the first stop. It turned out to be unscheduled to allow some late comers to join us. I felt we could not object. It was a brilliant tour spoilt somewhat by some novices who were not quick learners on the Segway. But to see the city in the cool of the evening travel the laneways full of shoppers cafes full of diners and see the lights from Capitoline Hill was all wonderful.

Details of the tour:

Campo de’ Fiori and its several bars and restaurants. Then we head for the river to arrive at Castel Sant’Angelo, the former Mausoleum of Hadrian, used in many different ways over the centuries. From the Angels’ bridge to an amazing night view of St. Peter’s Basilica  (The Vatican). Next stop is the Piazza Navona with the stunning Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, also inspiration for the construction of the Trevi fountain. Over to the Pantheon – the majestic ancient temple devoted to all the gods, passing by the Temple of Hadrian and finally reaching the Trevi Fountain. Seeing the Trevi Fountain at night is something you will never forget. The next stop Piazza Venezia with the imposing Vittoriano. Thereafter we zip through the ancient Capitoline Hill, for a last view of the ancient city from above, and return to the office at Piazza Mattei (Turtle Fountain).

Our little pub in Piazza Mattei was closed. Fortunately our accommodation was well located and across the road we found an Irish Pub for dinner that evening (our pub at the Turtle fountain was closed for some reason). The pub was full of antiques including bicycles motor scooter and cameras.

The Retirees in Cesi visiting Spoleto

Spoleto in the province of Perugia Umbria is an hours drive north of Terni. One of Robert’s neighbours works in Spoleto and on our second day we were offered a lift to that village. Early the next day the four of us crammed into his motor vehicle (sadly I have forgotten the name of this kindly neighbour) and headed off arriving in an interesting square where our friend dropped us off while he continued his journey to work. This was one of the less celebrated squares but even so, its character and the sites/sights surprised us. From the public graffiti to the ancient clock tower to the Roman amphitheatre/ruins beside the square we were entertained. A well-appointed coffee shop provided an ideal viewing point to see a roman theatre whilst having a cappuccino. Outside of the coffee shop the ancient arches that once held the audience now afforded a view of the countryside and the ruins to passers-by.

We proceeded (after coffee) down a lane to the entrance to the museum containing the artefacts uncovered by the excavation of the amphitheatre.

Back out of the lane way and into the main street we rushed passed the dress shops and shoe shops of the old town (this is vastly bigger than Cesi) into another square of coffee shops pubs and tourist souvenir shops which appeared to be the former marketplace of the village now serviced by pop up shops serving meats fruit and vegetables as well as traditional cooked Italian foods. A toilet break required so into another cafe for another cup of coffee. We proceed to follow the streets where they may lead us – passing the town hall.

From the town hall we walked to the majestic Rocca Albornoziana fortress, built in 1359–1370 for Cardinal Albornoz – Spoleto at this time was part of the Papal States. It has six sturdy towers which formed two distinct inner spaces: the Cortile delle Armi, for the troops, and the Cortile d’onore for the use of the city’s governor. The latter courtyard is surrounded by a two-floor porch. The rooms include the Camera Pinta (“Painted Room”) with noteworthy 15th‑century frescoes. After having resisted many sieges, the Rocca was turned into a jail in 1800 and used as such until the late 20th century. After extensive renovation it was reopened as a museum in 2007. The Rocca is so immense that I could not photograph the whole structure.

At the foot of the Rocca is Duomo (Cathedral) of S. Maria Assunta: Construction of the Duomo begun around 1175 and completed in 1227. The Romanesque edifice contains the tomb of Filippo Lippi, who died in Spoleto in 1469, designed by his son Filippino Lippi. The church also houses a manuscript letter by Saint Francis of Assisi. We found the manuscript in a chapel off the main chapel. It appears so non-descript until you realise how ancient it is and who is the author. It is tiny. There were a number of ancient looking writings in the Duomo one being on the face of a door. No translations were available nor was there any importance ascribed to the document but not a usual feature of such churches.  They have retained a part of the Duomo in its original condition with frescos.

We continued to saunter through Spoleto old town and eventually were evicted into the modern town of Spoleto. Here we caught our bus back to Cesi without any eventful happenings.

All of this time I have been wearing a moon boot to aid the healing of a split tendon (the Achilles) on my right leg. By the third day I was in need of a rest. I spent most of the day writing my earlier blog whilst Kerry and Robert filled in their day. Rested Kerry and I returned to Rome to celebrate the reason for this extravagance – our 30th anniversary.

The Retirees visit Roberto in Cesi Italy

We flew to Rome landing at Ciampino Airport not Fumincino as we expected. This meant finding a way from an Airport we had never been to before to Terminii and our hotel. We located a bus which took paying passengers to Terminii – eventually. When we arrived the driver dropped us off at Terminii station. Now we have been here numerous times but the bus had dropped us on the opposite side to where we usually arrived. So we spent some time dragging the luggage up and down looking for the hotel Dreamstation B&B. After about an hour we located the hotel. A shower a change of clothes and a comfortable bed and it was dream time at the Dreamstation.

As planned after awaking we strolled across the road pushing our luggage and boarded the train to Terni Umbria. We were more relaxed than our first trip to Terni. We knew it was platform 1 and knew that it was a 20 minute walk dragging the luggage and that we had to validate the ticket. The trip takes over an hour but to compensate there is some interesting countryside once you leave Rome. The deeper into Umbria the more hilltop villages can be spotted. These villages are often 800 – 1,000 year old settlements and some of the inhabitants have had generations of ancestors making a living in the fields around the village.

On arrival nothing has changed form our last visit 2 years earlier. The fountain in the main square still had not been repaired. The heat of the day was intense. We moved to the taxi rank and as we were slow getting out of the train (the platform lift is still not repaired), all taxis (there is only one or two of them) were busy rushing their fare to a destination. I spotted a passing taxi and waved it down. “I thought all a passenger she had arrive, wheres ya wanta go? Said the moustached Italian driving the Skoda. “Cesi” we say. “Cesi?” said the cabbie eyeing us up and down. With a shrug of his shoulders “Cesi!” Off we go, and I asked about the route he was taking, and he says “roada works, we go thisa way”.

Our arrival at Cesi in the main square was quite deflating – no Robert to greet us and the driver was not interested in tackling the narrow streets to get closer to our destination. So with the sun turning up the heat we dragged the luggage up the hill to the town hall through the shadows of the crowded town houses (they gave some relief from the sun) and after two further hills we see a beaming Robert swanning out of the shadows of his villa complaining about the heat. F**k me what a welcome.

Aided with the luggage (Robert suggested I leave the heavy bags in the foyer downstairs) we were offered a refreshing libation (a cordial or something) and told he had booked a table at the restaurant at Portaria where he can purchase his favourite meal. S**t we felt wrung out and in need of a lie down but no onto the bus (we had to stand in the sun at the bus stop and the bloody rattletrap excuse of a bus (unairconditioned) finally decided to attempt the climb up the hill and across the range to Portaria. The season has changed since we were here last and outdoor dining is all the go – well outdoor in the sense that we sat under a crude lean to, against a stone rampart in an airless courtyard. The saving grace an icy beer with the hot lunch and a breeze hot enough to dry the sweat from my shirt. Finally, I could stand it no longer, so making some excuse I made a break for the eastern side of the village where there is deep shade of an afternoon and hopefully a breeze that does not feel it was produce by a fan forced oven.

The eastern gate opens onto the road that circles outside the town walls. Many of the residents park their cars out here and there is, as in many other places in the village, a little shrine with the Virgin seeking your prayers. The countryside is still green, but the heat has caused a haze adding to the feeling of oppression. Here are some photos of the gate, the Virgin, the road around the walls, the walls, the houses perched on top and the memorial to the lost youth of the village through fighting in both the first and second wars.

I walked up past the war memorial past the shuttered empty former restaurant in the town walls and spotted Kerry and Robert sitting in the shade of a (the only) cafe in the village which also serves as the bus stop. The return journey is not straight forward. We have to travel by the bus back out from the village onto the main hill road down to the town of Aquasparta to the bus terminus turn around and travel back to Cesi. This time the bus was air-conditioned and more modern. The sting of the sun was waning and we were feeling tiredness wrapping around us so the journey passed unnoticed. The final walk through the village to Robert’s Villa Contessa from the bus stop for the day saw us flake into the lounge and after showering off the dust of the road bed to sleep and dream.

The Retirees return to Nottingham

Our trip by bus to Nottingham was part of the nostalgia of this entire trip. Whilst living in the UK we travelled the M1 by bus from Nottingham to London frequently even though we had Thistle (our car). For me watching the familiar countryside slip by was a cathartic feeling I had returned to somewhere where we had both been content.

Arriving at Nottingham and we made our way to Attenborough where Cilla and Bob have lived and raised their family. Bob is a retired Professor formerly working at Nottingham University in human genes and biology and Cilla a retired physiotherapist. Cilla has an interest in Leprosy and supports a foundation aiding people afflicted and seeking a cure. Hence upon arrival we had great joy in assisting in setting up a garden party in their back yard in aid of the Leprosy Foundation. Leprosy remains a problem in Niger Africa.

Saturday morning and its all happening. Ladies dropping in the cakes for the cakes stall, Michelle (another gardener from the church) dropping in with masses of plants for the plant stall and Kerry and me assisting where needed (me assisting on the BBQ doing bacon butties) and Kerry aiding in the kitchen. All the neighbours and other people from throughout the village attend with 77 people attending in all (the head count courtesy of a door prize raffle setup by me) and takings from sales raffles etc and donations in excess of 1,000 pounds to be donated to the Leprosy Foundation. This is something they do every year to help.

After assisting cleaning up we made our way by bus into Nottingham to meet up with Martin and Christine our fellow travellers on the Rhine in 2015. Martin is a former MP in the Army and was stationed for a period in Germany and else where and has a deprecating sense of humour and a thirst for a lager (two hands and only one mouth). We have stayed in touch visiting them in Manchester last time we were over that way and they made the trip to Nottingham (we haven’t been here before) to see us. We met at the Ye Ole Trip to Jerusalem a pub claiming to be established in 1172AD and the oldest in Britain ( a claim challenged by Martin who says he has drunk in pubs of much greater age but cannot remember where). It was as usual very busy but we battled through and made “friends” with a bunch of young blokes taking their friend for a buck adventure dressed in a pink chiffon dress and tiara. He got too close to me at one stage.

We moved on from there to another pub up the road and across the canal in brilliant sunshine unusual for Britain and then another pub for an evening meal. Both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are blessed with narrow boat canals from the Industrial Revolution when all cargo went by canal to the ports. Whilst the meal disappointed the company was grand and we parted promising to catch up again and keep in touch. Since returning home we have pledged to meet again on the Rhine in 2020.

Returning to Attenborough we noticed that one of the marquees remained standing in the back yard. Bob had invited Roger and Joan and Sue around for lunch the following day. We had met Roger, Joan and Sue at the Leprosy fund raiser and they were coming back to help with the leftovers. Not really although the menu included sausages from the BBQ. I am not sure how many bottles of wine (Roger is ex-military also) were consumed but Bob found himself needing a rest after lunch. So we finished cleaning up and packing away the marquee and still the sun shined.

We continued to click with Bob and Cilla and they offered to take us for a country drive to a pub for lunch the next day. They had chosen a remote pub in the Derby dales out past Eyam. The pub a former something converted to its present use sits on a ridge overlooking the valley below. On the way we travelled to Monsal Head where we could see a former rail bridge and line now converted to a bike and walking path through the hills.

We drove from Monsal Head to Tideswell.

In the Middle Ages, Tideswell was a market town known for lead mining. The Tideswell lead miners were renowned for their strength and were much prized by the military authorities. The Domesday Book of 1086 lists TIDESUUELLE as the King’s land in the charge of William Peverel with fewer than five households.

Tideswell is now best known for its 14th-century parish church, the Church of St John the Baptist, known as the “Cathedral of the Peak”, which contains three 15th-century misericords. A sundial lies in the churchyard; it is positioned on steps which local historian Neville T. Sharpe thinks likely to be those of the village’s market cross. A market and two-day fair were granted to the village in 1251. The Foljambe family, later the Foljambe baronets, were the principal landowners from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The tomb of Sir Thurstan de Bower and Lady Margaret lie in the chapel.

From Tideswell we moved onto The Barrel Inn, a traditional Derbyshire country inn, dating back to 1597 and stands at the head of Bretton Clough, in the heart of the Peak District.

Being one of only five properties in this small hamlet, on a table of land some 1300 feet above sea level, The Barrel Inn claims to be the highest pub in Derbyshire. It has panoramic views of the majestic Hope Valley and the Peak District National Park. Old worldly charm – peaceful oak-beamed bar, real log fires, flagstone floors, studded doors in low doorways, beamed ceilings and polished copper and brass – have all been retained to enhance the overall charm and friendliness of the Inn.

Lunch was very pleasant and again Kerry and I found it difficult to resist the draw to once again return to live in Derbyshire.

Kerry had been trying to find some 3 ply wool for a shawl she had started and she had been unable to obtain it in Brisbane or at the wool shop at Chillwell nor at John Lewis in Nottingham so Bob made his way through the Dales to Buxton where Kerry had purchased the wool some 2 and 1/2 years ago. Buxton is an old Victorian spa town and often very busy with traffic. So whilst Bob and I caused a traffic jam Kerry and Cilla ran to the wool shop and purchased the necessary wool. An excellent day.

We also had time to visit Long Eaton and our old neighbour Pam Fowler. One of the memorable things about Long Eaton was the public gardens throughout the village. Here the Union Jack is proudly displayed in flowers and garden beds blooming line the streets and roundabouts.

Our time with Bob and Cilla was coming to an end but we had to visit the church. It was Tuesday the coffee morning at the Church, but the old crowd was not there. Trevor master of the kettle has passed on and Sue his widow (at the garden party) continues to work at the church but apart from Cilla, Sue and Michelle none of the old crowd were there. We visited the new memorial to the victims of the Chillwell munitions explosion from WW1 something that is still raw with some members of the community.

We had wanted to catch the bus to East Midlands Airport but Bob and Cilla would not have it and drove us to the drop off at the newly refurbished airport. Regretfully our nostalgic return had come to an end and who knows if we will ever have the opportunity to return.

The Retirees Celebrate 30 years – Nottingham, Cesi and Rome

We don’t often decide to embark on a journey with such speed and decision as on this occasion. We had barely returned from our Mississippi trip that was over 12 months in planning than we were off again to celebrate 30 years of marriage. In truth we had celebrated at year ten then forgotten about anniversaries often finding ourselves remembering on the day but with no other particular thought or preparation.

Over dinner on the American Queen outside of Memphis and after a bottle of wine I said words to the effect that we should celebrate this 30th year with a trip to Rome. I don’t know why. Why Rome? Why this particular year/milestone. But Kerry didn’t miss the slip (if it be a slip) and the planning began in earnest upon our return to Brisbane.

The final itinerary;

Travel to London overnight and then catch the National Express bus to Nottingham and catch up with Cilla and Bob and meet with Martin and Christine visit the Rotary Club of Nottingham members, visit St Mary of the Virgin church in Attenborough where we tended the gardens and graves.

Travel to East Midlands Airport for the flight to Rome by RyanAir landing at Ciampino Airport travel into Rome and overnight at the Dreamstation Hotel before catching a train at Terminii out to Terni then the taxi up to Cesi in the hills overlooking Terni to visit Roberto and whilst there to visit Splato, Portaria and Kerry to visit Purugia (I was resting my injured tendon and doing the washing).

Travel to Rome by train and find our accommodation at the Maittise B&B in Via Nationalize to enjoy 5 romantic days in a stinking hot and humid Rome,

Then travel back to Australia.

That’s it – two weeks and we return home. Most unusual for us to take such a short trip. So settle back whilst I take on the trip across the world and back again.