One Beer, Two Beer, Big Beer, Prost!

Savoring another day of exploration in the Southern countryside of Germany, propelled two gypsy souls (and cousins) to transition from sleepy suburbs to bustling mecca. A fortunate fluke landed us in the historical city of Munich, (also known as München) for Mai Fest. This, of course, meant the city was buzzing with people from near and far eager to drink oodles of beer and rejoice in the arrival of Spring.

Obviously, the four of us were no exception to this merrymaking celebration. After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we headed straight for the beer hall to tick off an important errand on my list of musts whilst travelling through Germany; to drink a beer the size of my head! Fortunately for me, my cousins have visited München on multiple occasions, so they knew exactly where to take us.

When we arrived, Hofbräuhaus was absolutely stuffed to the tits with people. Men dressed in traditional lederhosen and ladies in adorable dirndl were scattered throughout the crowd. Every table in the building was full and the wait staff was slammed. It took the four of us a solid 20 minutes to scoop up a table. It’s basically a first come, first serve situation so if you aren’t quick, a close-by table you have been coveting will be snatched up right from under you (this may or may not have happened several times before I realized it was necessary to be somewhat aggressive when snagging a table).

After securing our table, no time was wasted getting down to business. I am proud to report my mission was accomplished. Not only did I visit (and manage to find a seat in) the ever famous Hofbräuhaus, I drank not one, but two beers the size of my head! Then I washed my beers down with a massive pretzel which was also the size of my head. Inside the beer hall there was a Bavarian-style Oompah band playing a variety of customary foot stomping, thigh slapping German tunes which added to the Hofbräuhaus experience. All and all, the evening was a great success and I am proud to say that I have now crossed yet another item off of my bucket list!

Following a foggy evening of beer drinking, I was fortunate enough to share breakfast with relatives (on my cousin’s side) who traveled all the way from Switzerland. They drove for four hours to meet up with us. I also had the pleasure of meeting my second cousin Simon who we also had dinner with on the same evening. But hold the phone, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. First, I should tell you about how much fun we had during the day before I skip ahead to the night.

The weather was on our side so the four of us took a journey on foot to Englischer Garten. According to my fitbit, round Trip was over ten thousand steps, I even earned a new badge! The gardens were more than I could have ever possibly imagined, especially considering we were in the heart of the city. There is a ton of history surrounding the gardens so I’m just going to throw some wikipedia mumbo jumbo at you for this part:

The Englischer Garten, German for “English Garden”, is a large public park in the center of Munich, Bavaria, stretching from the city center to the northeastern city limits. It was created in 1789 by Sir Benjamin Thompson (1753–1814), later Count Rumford (Reichsgraf von Rumford), for Prince Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria. Thompson’s successors, Reinhard von Werneck (1757–1842) and Friedrich Ludwig von Sckell (1750–1823), advisers on the project from its beginning, both extended and improved the park.

With an area of 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq mi) (370 ha or 910 acres), the Englischer Garten is one of Europe’s largest urban public parks, larger than New York’s Central Park. The name refers to its English garden form of informal landscape, a style popular in England from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century.

Basically, the park was cool beans and we spent most of our day gallivanting in the thick of the green space. We even managed to find another beer garden (ahem, this was not on purpose) to take advantage of one (or two, but who’s counting) beer(s) the size of our heads. Due to its close proximity to the university, the beer garden often attracts a younger crowd, but I was happy to see an even mix of all ages. When in München, right?

The Chinesischer Turm located in the center of the 417 hectare garden was grandiose and hosted yet another Oompah band. This time, the process of snagging a seat was brief and the sun was shining bright! We settled in, ordered our beers and waited for the band to take the stage. It didn’t take long for us to recognize that the band would only perform one song, take a ten minute beer/smoke break, gather on the Turm to shuffle through their sheet music in order to play one song before once again taking their break. This loop was simply the strange process of their performance, which we all found absolutely hysterical.

Ok, now that I have filled you in on the day I can skip back to dinner with Simon and his wife. The restaurant was quite fancy and the food did not disappoint. I opted for the goulash which was marvelous but it’s a good thing I’m not counting calories in Germany. Many bottles of wine were shared amidst tales from the past , stories of the present and dreams awaiting us all in the future. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know my belly was tender from all of the giggles.

Early to bed and early to rise. Munich was great but there is still so much to see in Germany and so little time. Next, we will be heading north to Bremen where I hope to locate the home in which my father was born. Tschüß!

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Growing My Roots In Germany

I am sitting in our tiny studio apartment while Josh is preparing our evening meal. As the scent of dinner is making my belly rumble, I am attempting to absorb the chaos of emotions that have been stirred within me. I have been looking forward to experiencing Germany for as long as I can remember, since this is the place my father was born. But, never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to be like this. I did not foresee this sense of curiosity, sense of connection, sense of belonging, sense of home.

Wow, do I ever feel lucky to be taking this journey with some of my favorite people. My fellow partner in crime and gypsy soul is on this voyage with me, as well as my two favorite cousins; Lisa and Tina. Not only are these girls an absolute blast to spend time with, they also conveniently double as our German translators. Growing up, they had the privilege of living with two people who spoke the language. I on the other hand, did not.       

We are currently only four days into acquainting ourselves with the bounty that Germany has to offer, with eight days remaining. From castles to canola fields, sleepy hilltop towns to 140MPH on autobahns, four days in this country has managed to fill my heart, feed my soul and diversify my mind. I may not be able to articulate the language (although my cousins assure me my pronunciation is improving), but my heart understands everything around me.

OK, enough with the sappy stuff. I’m sure you are wondering what the heck we have been up to since our arrival. Well, let me tell you, we have been filling our bellies with tasty meaty treats, laughing until it hurts and exploring every square inch of land between Tübingen and Dinkelsbühl (the little kid in me can’t help but laugh at these names). Oh, and I can’t leave out driving from Frankfurt to Göppingen… we were all so wiped out from travel and jet lag that the two hour drive felt like an entire day of delirium and blackouts, especially for Lisa!

Despite the weather the following day, our drive to the Black Forest was beautiful. Early in the morning we were graced with both rain and snow. As if we haven’t already had enough of the white stuff and rain this Winter, living in Canada. Yet, Snow in Germany sprinkled a little bit of romance upon us all. Our senses were fortunate enough to encounter such glory.

Meandering a midst many quaint and quiet towns led us to Tübingen, our primary point of interest for day one. It was a unanimous decision to take in lunch upon arrival. The food was good and the brew pub was authentic. We even acquired a larger than life growler to fill with beer back home. Our attempts to pronounce Tübingen caught the attention of an elderly fellow passing by. As we were manipulating our tongues to perfect the uuum on the umlaut, this passer by looked at us as if we were stark raving mad!

Following lunch, we were of the same mind to take on some sightseeing. Strolling along the waterway in this university community almost took my breath away. I felt as if my tiny, child self had magically shifted through time and space into a Walt Disney movie. Multicolored structures stretched along the quitet footpath, casting back soft hints of colour in the ripples of reflection. The melodious songs of birds echoed through the trees as the occasional raindrop found a place of safety in my hair. I didn’t mind. The entire day resembled a dream.

The next day, we were fortunate enough to have yet another lovely soul join us in exploration. Carmen, a longtime family friend, Josh, Lisa, Tina and I all succeeded in squishing our bodies into one vehicle. Let’s just say it was a cozy day for us in the backseat!

Keeping up with our tradition of taking the road less traveled, we were led through dark forests and picturesque realms. I’m pretty sure Carmen thought we were a bunch of insane, crazed Canadians for opting to take the longest possible route to our destination. She even rang her boyfriend to tell him where we were and he too thought we must be deranged! But she soon recognized that there are may sights to see in ones own backyard. After all, the road less traveled is where you find true magic!

We visited castle one and Rothenburg ob der Tauber before returning to Faurndau for dinner. Lisa and Tina insisted we must dine with Carmen at this particular restaurant to keep up with a long time tradition they have shared. As if I would ever doubt their expertise, the meal was sensational! Our waiter was able to communicate with us in English and we only ran into one hiccup during the process, he accidentally brought us small beers rather than large ones. And, who in their right mind would ever opt for the smaller beer choice in the land of beers as large as your head! Of course, the mix up was remedied without delay, and the entire evening was a marvelous and memorable dining extravaganza. In fact, the entire day was nothing short of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Early to bed and early to rise. Since a great deal of time had been spent in the car leading up to this point, Josh and I decided to stay close to “home”. The cousins enjoyed their day visiting with Carmen’s family as we seized an opportunity to explore the stunning scenery all around us, drinking in the splendor of our environment. The weather cooperated and we hardly had any rain.

Later in the day, accidentally on purpose, the universe led us to a park known as Friedwald. “Fried” being the first half of my fathers name and “Wald” being the last half of my family name. It was evident to me that he had led us to this place. The park pulled me deep between the trees where I shared an unspoken and serene moment with my father. As tepid tears trickled down my cheeks, I could sense his essence all around me. The park connected us, even if only for a brief moment in time.

 

There I go getting sappy again! After Friedwald park, we made our way back to our studio apartment which is where I am at this moment. As I put forth my best effort to scribble down these past few days, in words that will gift you with even just a glimpse of what we have encountered, one thing is crystal clear to me. Life is one big adventure that must be lived every day with an open heart, an open mind and unwavering curiosity.

Namaste India

Two flights, one stop in Holland and the most terrifying six hours I have ever spent in a vehicle equated to over 30 hours of travel. This how I came to be in Rishikesh. As I passed the “Welcome to India” banner above the airport exit, it really started to sink in… this is the farthest away from home I have ever been, and I am all alone!

Both scary and exhilarating at the same time, I feel comfortable tackling this adventure solo, thanks to all of the sound travel experience and advice I have learned from my fellow Gypsy Soul Josh Jenkins. Love you muffin!

I suppose it would be best to start with the six hour car ride. As I stepped out of the airport, I was smacked in the face with heavy, humid air and greeted by a slender fellow named Sonu Singh at platform 17. He held a sign with my name in barely legible chicken scratch.

We were in the vehicle for less than one minute (I am not even over exaggerating here) before Sonu nearly caused an accident by cutting someone off. Yet traffic continued to flow. To be honest, this guy didn’t use his brakes much in six hours. It felt more like we were inside of a virtual reality video game, than actually driving.

Now I know most of you are thinking what I was thinking prior to arriving in India, that the mayhem of traffic is to be expected. Let me put this as bluntly as possible, it was fucking terrifying! First of all, the cars are on the left side of the road which alone in itself caused me to panic during several right hand turns.

The easiest way for me to paint this picture for you is with a good ole’ metaphore. Picture for me an aunt hill. You can see the diligent little critters methodically travelling to and from the hill with their goods in a somewhat organized fashion. This reminds me of driving in Canada.

Now picture the same aunt hill moments after you have stomped all over it several times. Shock, confusion, caos… The aunts disperse in every direction, fearful for their lives! This, I feel is an accurate depiction of driving in India.

I feel called to mention that there are not only cars and oversized cargo trucks on the highway, but also bicycles, motorcycles, tuk tuks, donkeys, horses, mules, cows, waggons, buggies and even humans risking their lives just to cross the road.

Fortunately, Sonu has been driving tourists to and from New Dehli for years. As if that was somehow supposed to make me feel better.

Along the way it was impossible to avoid the overwhelming blanket of litter lining the streets. There are endless wastelands of burning garbage and plastic. It was awful and at times unbearable breathing in the plastic fumes.

Accompanied by the trash was a radical amount of poverty. Again, I realize this was to be expected, but seeing it first hand quickly puts things into perspective. I felt thankful beyond words for the creature comforts and luxuries I have back home.

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Many people were sleeping on the ground in shanti towns constructed of garbage. I mean these homes were literally built out of garbage. There were other homes constructed of mud and some people had no shelter of any kind. Ok, enough with the sad and depressing stuff. Let’s shift our focus to the positive.

Sonu took me on a detour through a small village where everyone looked happy, healthy and had shelter. There was marijuana along the roads everywhere in this community, maybe that’s why they were all so happy. Gettin’ high on their own supply!

Back on the main highway, I noticed vendors with a strange looking contraption and heaps of sugarcane sprinkled along the road. When I questioned Sonu about the vendors he pulled over at the next contraption we saw.

Sonu insisted on buying me a glass of cane juice which we sipped  together. The contraption to squeeze the sugar cane looked as if it could easily claim a few fingers. Safety first, right? This type of thing would never be allowed back home. The juice maker watched me carefully as I  sipped the sweet nectar he had prepared for me. When we finished, he shook my hand and we were “on the road again”- Willie style.

When we finally arrived in Rishikesh, I was greeted by a guide from my school. Since the city is divided on either side of the river, I had to cross a pedestrian suspension bridge in order to arrive at my final destination.

It was a short walk uphill to Vinyasa Yoga School where I will be devoting the next five and a half weeks of my life to the practise of yoga. Now for some shut eye, I am exhausted!

Fair Verona

Verona, Italy

 Verona is even more beautiful than I expected. The city weaves along the Adige river in Veneto. The architecture is stunning. Everyone seems to have a plethora of foliage spilling over their tiny balconies.

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There are approximately 265,000 inhabitants within the city limits. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of northeast Italy. The metropolitan sprawl of Verona covers an area of 1,426 km2 (550.58 sq mi) and has a population of 714,274 inhabitants. Verona happens to be one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy thanks to none other than William Shakespeare. Verona

Three of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew.   Verona

Of course, we visited the popular tourist stop of Juliette’s balcony and signed the famous wall of star crossed lovers.

Verona

Having been travelling for several months, two gypsy souls were in serious sushi withdrawal. Fortunately, we found a nearby restaurant to satisfy our craving.

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After placing our order, we waited for what felt like an eternity. Im not sure if it was due to a prolonged length of time without sushi in my life, but this was some of the most satisfying sushi I have ever experienced. Let’s just say it was well worth the wait!

Verona

Our time in Verona was short but the memories will last a lifetime. This city is absolutely gorgeous!

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Like many others in Italy, Verona has been awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO because of its urban structure and architectur. Verona

Thanks for the memories, we will definitely be visiting this place again.

Verona

Hats off.

Verona

Oh, I  almost forgot to mention…  we climbed up a few hundred sets of stairs to catch a birds eye view of the city and it was absolutely breathtaking!

Verona

 

Few Roads Lead to Cinque Terre

Fortunately, there are few roads that lead into the Cinque Terre towns by car. In fact, cars are incapable of reaching the confined communities which are protected by surrounding rock mountains.Cinque Terre, italy, Riomaggiore If you are foolish enough to drive, you will surely be walking in the end. I believe this is the one and only reason why these sea -side fishing villages have not completely lost their charm. Walking trails, trains and boats connect one village to the next, however, one would be wise to take the train from La Spezia if wishing to fully experience Cinque Terre.Cinque Terre

Of course, that is exactly what Two Gypsy Souls did! Josh and his speedy driving had in La Spezia slightly ahead of schedule. Because we were staying in private accommodations, we had no choice but to wait for our host to arrive. So we waited…and waited…and waited for a man who did not come. Eventually we got so fed up with waiting that we decided to head to the train station to salvage what was left of the light. Why waste a perfectly good afternoon waiting around for someone who can’t tell time?Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy

We purchase two tickets for the train and set off for Riomaggiore, the first of five villages in Cinque Terre. As the train entered the station, I felt overwhelmed with excitement. We immediately noticed the walkway and tunnel leading into Riomaggiore which is heavily decorated with mosaic tiles depicting ocean scenes and abstract. I was impressed with the time and detail put into this display of creative art.Cinque Terre

As we entered the tiny seaside community, I was taken back by one of several murals painted on the side of a large structure. Shops and over priced restaurants line the walkways, while tourists flood the narrow streets. The buildings are all painted in bright and vivid colours. Apparently, the variation of house colours dates back to the fisherman days. While they were busy working just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their houses easily. This way, they could make sure their wives were still at home doing the “wifely duties”… so legend goes anyways. They must have had far better eyesight than I do, to be able to see what was going on that far away!

Cinque TerreThe sun went down and we headed back to La Spezia for our second attempt at obtaining a key from our tardy host. Thank goodness we were able to find wifi at the train station to coordinated a second meeting. It went far more smoothly than our first attempt because he actually showed up this time! Our apartment was modern and comfortable with all of the necessary creature comforts, including a washing machine (which was great considering we were getting pretty low in the clean clothes department).Cinque Terre

I will share with you a quick overview of Cinque Terre before carrying on with our adventure. Over the centuries, careful construction along rugged and steep landscape has resulted in five towns adorned with terraces that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. These buildings appear to dangle over the steep cliffs have stood the test of time. In 1997 Porto Venere, along with the five villages of Cinque Terre were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and in 1999 the National park of Cinque Terre was born. Now, back to the fun stuff!

Cinque Terre, ItalyOur second visit to Cinque Terra started in Monterosso al Mare which is located at the center of a small natural gulf and protected by a small artificial reef. It is the farthest west of the Cinque Terre towns. In the west part of the original village, beyond the hill of the Capuchins, it is the village of Fegina. The town is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new town. The two areas are divided by a single tunnel that caters to pedestrians and the very few cars in the town. The beaches here are relatively larger compared to the narrow cliffs that characterize the other villages of the Cinque Terre and are well used by both tourists and locals. Monterosso beach is the only extensive sand beach in the Cinque Terre.

It was interesting to learn that the village was briefly excluded from the Cinque Terre trail in 1948, but was re-introduced in mid-1949. This is because Italian officials thought that  the village was too large to be considered part of the historic trail.Cinque Terre

Vernazza was our next stop on the train. As we walked through the narrow corridor towards the heart of town, we were drawn toward the sound of music. Two men were sitting on a bench playing  saxophone and accordion. They were great! We took in a song or two before moving on.

Cinque TerreThe history of Vernazza is quite interesting. The first records of this once isolated community date back to the year 1080. Referred to as an active maritime base of the Obertengi (a family of Italian nobility), it was a likely point of departure for naval forces in defense against pirates. The first documentation of a church dates back to 1251 and reference to the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia dates to 1318. Some scholars believe that due to the use of materials and mode of construction, the actual creation of the Church took place earlier, perhaps some time in the 12th century. Either way, the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia was expanded upon and renovated over the course of the 16th and 17th centuries, and thereafter was erected as the octagonal bell tower which rises from the port today.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACinque Terre

In the 19th century, Vernazza returned to wine production, enlarging and creating new terraced hillsides. The result was a revitalization of Vernazza’s commerce. This is also when construction of the Genova- La Spezia rail line began, putting an end to Vernazza’s long isolation and increasing the population by 60%. Meanwhile, the nearby construction of La Spezia’s naval base provided employment for many members of the community.

The last little bit of info I will share with you about this place is the unfortunate destruction that occurred on 25 October 2011. Vernazza was struck by torrential rains and encountered massive flooding which resulted in a huge mudslide. The town was buried in over 4 metres of mud and debris, causing over 100 million euro (chaaaaa ching) worth of damage, yikes! The town was evacuated and remained in a continued state of emergency until they were able to begin cleaning up the mess. They did an amazing job though, because the area looks exactly how Josh remembered it from 15 years ago.

Onward, we breezed past Corniglia due to time constraints and made it to Manarola just in time for the sunset. There were boatloads of tourists, crowded along the pathway, all attempting to capture the perfect shot. If you have ever seen a picture of Cinque Terre, it is most likely of the ever famous shoreline in Manarole. It is believed to be the oldest of the towns in the Cinque Terre, with the cornerstone church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338. Manarole’s traditional industries include fishing and wine-making. Their local wine known as Sciacchetra is especially renowned with reference from Roman script mentioning high quality wine produced in the region. Sadly, I did not sip this sweet nectar.

As the sun dipped down, we hopped back on the train and decided to try some fresh calamari in Monterosso before heading back to La Spezia for our final evening in Cinque Terre. Two days was not enough time to see everything in Cinque Terre, but we managed to cover a lot of ground!

Cinque TerreUpon the advice of our host, we decided to make one final stop the following morning prior to heading for the city of star crossed lovers. The small town of Porto Venere in Liguria is one of the most beautiful places on the west coast of Italy. With brightly coloured, skinny buildings all hugging the shoreline, this was an excellent recommendation. In the glow of the first morning light, Two Gypsy Souls sipped cappuccinos and devoured what may have been the best croissants on earth.

Cats of italy, Cinque TerreIt’s hard to believe that Cinque Terre was not originally on our itinerary. What a unique and beautiful place. I sure am happy we managed to squeeze it in, even if it was only for two days! Now we are heading for Verona, the city of star crossed lovers (Romeo and Juliet for those of you who may have missed the reference). I can’t wait to see Juliette’s balcony! Ciao for now. Meow, Meow!

Porto Venere

Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany…. Oh My!

Since my last blog entry, Two Gypsy Souls have been on a whirlwind adventure through Italy, and what an adventure it has been! It has been challenging to secure a decent wifi connection which is why this entry has taken significantly longer than usual, my apologies. Anywhoo…ItalyItaly

Where do I even begin? I suppose it would be best to pick up where we last left off…. Amalfi. As the coastline disappeared in our rear view mirror, destination Abruzzo was a go! We would just have to spend a considerable amount of time driving in order to get there.Italy

Castel Del Monte was our first stop of the day, however, we were sad upon arrival to discover that a large portion of the town was devastated by an earthquake in 2013. The combination of constant construction clammer and the presence of multiple scattered cranes across the skyline diminished our excitement for the once peaceful and picturesque mountainous community. We spent little time sight seeing before returning to our vehicle. Due to the chaos, any chance of staying in this location had disappeared and we concluded it would be best to carry on.Italy

Our plan B was to once again camp at an Agriturismo, yet…. fate, flow, destiny (or whatever the heck you want to call it) had something else in store for us. When we arrived at the large rod iron gate of the tricky to find property, we were greeted by an adorable golden retriever who, (like most people in Italy) did not speak English. We asked him if anyone was on the property or if he could open the gate to let us in, but he just looked at us dazed and confused while wagging his tail. Clearly, there would be no getting past the gate of this place.ItalyPopoli, Abruzzo, Italy

“OK, now what?” we both thought to ourselves. There was no plan C. Popoli happened to be the closest of several nearby towns which simplified our decision. We jumped back in the car and headed that way. Upon our arrival, (surprise, surprise) the tourist information office was closed, and not just for the day… for the rest of the season. I am not overeggagerating when I say this day presented us with multiple challenges!ItalyItaly

Our next plan of attack was to locate a cafe with wifi. Two slice of pizza and a latte later, we had secured our accommodations at a nearby hotel. We walked around Popoli for close to twenty minutes, searching for the hotel on foot. I’m not sure how it happened, but we managed to get slightly turned around. Ironically, when we finally found it, we instantaneously noticed that it was located directly across the street from the pizza parlour we had used to book our reservations!Italy

The historical hotel was situated in the heart of Popoli. Our room was nice with a cute little balcony that looked out over the centro park and canal which runs through the middle of town. We even had heated floors! As we settled in for the evening, once again we were graced with (dun,dun,dun….) rain. That ominous rain cloud seems to be stalking us these days! The downpour was consistent all night and there was even thunder and lightning. We were thanking our lucky stars that the Agriturismo was closed, the dog didn’t speak English and fate led us to Popoli… because we would NOT have been happy campers in the heavy rain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAItaly

Breakfast the following morning and every morning included warm croissants accompanied by a plethora of baked goods and deli favourites, cappuccinos and a juice bar. I’m feeling like Julia Roberts these days in eat, pray, love…. the food in Italy is delicious and not entirely nutricious! Pizzaria, momma mia! Nom, nom, nom!Italy

We finished breakfast and spent the rest of our day exploring various communities in Abruzzo including Roccacasale where we hiked up to castle ruins which have been converted in to the community center. We also visited Pacentro where we met a furry tour guide who led us to the top of town. Our full days of adventure seem to be going by ever more quickly lately. It is hard to believe that we have less than two weeks remaining in Italy.Pacentro, Italy

Early to bed and early-ish to rise, we drove to a popular ski village called Scanno the following morning. Home to the famous Sarracco Fountain built in 700 and the Holy Souls Church built in late 600, this town has both modern flare and architectural heritage. We spent a considerable amount of time in the community taking photographs and learning about the history of this Byzantine village, before moving on to a small town close-by called Villalago.Villalago Italy

As the name suggests, Villalago is a lakeside hamlet. Because of it’s high elevation, this town was particularly chilly. Many of the doors in this community were winterized or boarded up, leading us to believe that most of the homeowners in this area must use the apartments as winter getaways for skiing and winter activities due to it’s close proximity to Rome.

While roaming through the streets, I happened to come across an extremely friendly little feline. I don’t know his name, but he followed us all through town, meowing all the way. He reminded me of my cat at home named Jackson, who I am really missing these days. This fur ball was overly vocal and affectionate, just like my cat and he even bit me (gently) after many failed attempts for my return of affection! There was a part of me that wanted to scoop him up and bring him back to Popoli with me for some kitty snuggles… but don’t worry, I resisted.

Cats of Italy

Cats of ItalyCats of Italycats of ItalyOur last stop for the day was a tiny cluster of homes known as Castrovalva. We thought for sure that it would be a prime location for photographs because it was perched high in the sky on the edge of a cliff. Sadly, it turned out to be a total bust because there were no views from the top despite it’s elevation. A tall wall surrounds most of the homes, making it impossible to experience the views from street level, however, I imagine the views from inside the homes would be marvelous.Umbria, Italy

Cue my Willie Nelson song… the next morning we were “on the road again,” heading for the region known as Umbria. Along the way, we stumbled across a historical village called Capestrano, complete with a castle. We delighted in the picturesque fall palate while driving through the mountains, as the leaves have now begun to change colour. The winding road led us along a beautiful lake and through mountain passes to Norcia, a strange place with multiple wild boar butcher shops, where of course we purchased salami. Considerable elevation was gained prior to dropping back down and eventually arriving in a place called Bevagna, Umbria.UmbriaUmbria, Italy

Agriturismo Dei Elfi in Bevagna became our home for the next three days. As I mentioned, the leaves have begun to change colour and I feel this may be the last of our camping endeavors in Italy. The evening temperature is now dipping below 10 degrees and the rain seems to be occurring far too regularly for my liking. With less than two weeks remaining in Italy, I would hate for either of us to catch a cold with these chilly, damp nights of camping.Umbria Italy

Assisi , the birthplace of St. Francis, was our first stop in Umbria the following morning. Known as the city of peace, Assisi is rich in historical architecture and countless monuments. Along the way, we happened to stumble across a duo performing music in the streets. I was entranced by the sound they were creating with the combination of a hand pan drum, a cello and a didgeridoo… yes, we bought their CD.Italy

I’m not sure if I have mentioned how terrible the radio is in Italy. I mean, it stinks! We have spent plenty of time driving around listening to the stations rotate about ten songs over and over between lengthy commercial adds. This, accompanied by static fuzz whenever you turn a corner has resulted in many headaches and knowing far too many words to the horrendous top forty Italian hits! This CD will hopefully keep us from going crazy in the car!Siena, Italy

Our time in Bevagna and the surrounding areas flew by quickly. I literally blinked and three days had passed by. The rain woke us early on our final morning in Umbria, which was the nail in the coffin for our final night of camping. Plus, the biggest spider I have ever seen was lurking on our tent! Thankfully, we managed to pack up before it really started to pour.

Ensuing a soggy morning, we set off for Siena in Tuscany or Tuscano as they call it in Italy. Wow, what an amazing medieval town! The historic center has been declared a Unesco world heritage site. Sena is one of the nation’s most visited tourist attractions and is famous for it’s cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio horse races which take place in the enormous plaza twice a year. All I can say is if you are ever in Italy, this gloomy, gothic yet beautiful municipal is worth a visit.ItalyItaly

We pursued several boroughs the following afternoon including Castiglione Del Lago and a cute community called Chiusi. Afterwards, we headed for the natural hot springs located in Bagni San Filippo which were fantastic! Someone has spent a great deal of time constructing pools which the warm water flows into. The steady flow of water spills over the edges from one pool to the next. Each basin varies in both temperature and size. This place was like heaven.Hot Springs Italy

We were feeling woozy following our relaxing afternoon in the pools, but mustered up enough energy to head for the town of wine known as Montalcino. The township takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. The strikingly high site of Montalcino offers stunning views over the Asso, Ombrone and Arbia valleys of Tuscany. Silvery olive orchards, vineyards, fields and villages are sprinkled over the land as far as your eyes can see. The lower slopes of the Montalcino hill itself are dominated by highly productive vines and olive orchards.Pace

Our final day visiting the area included a quick stop in Sarteano where I came across a Peace flag, which I then realized said pace, not peace… but when I told Josh of the mix up, he explained that it did in fact say Peace (in Italian)! We shared a good laugh over the missing e.Montelpuciano, Italy

Next, we hit Montepulciano, a medievl and Renaissance hill town. Montelpuciano is a major producer of both food and beverage. The heavily touristed site is renowned for it’s pork, cheese, “pici” pasta, lentils, honey and is also known world-wide for it’s wine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnsuing our full day of exploration, we once again headed to Bagni San Filippo for a second soak in the hot springs.

Originally, we had planned to have a short visit and a glass of vino in the springs but after meeting an interesting character named Cesar, we ended up OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAdrinking the entire bottle of wine and staying in the pools long past dark.

Even though he did not speak English, and clearly we do not speak Italian, we were all able to converse in broken translation. It was an absolute blast singing disco songs together. Cesar would hum the tune and we would sing the words in English. He would occasionally chime in for the lyrics he did know… Cesar loves disco!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With pruned hands and feet, we headed back to the city. We experience Siena in the evening and again the following morning. After snapping many shots of the humongous centro and intricate Duomo, we enjoyed a snack in the plaza before once again jumping in the car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany have been truly amazing, ingraining unforgettable memories in to my heart. The culture and the history has been richer than I could have ever possibly imagined. Now we are moving on to the beautiful coastline of Cinque Terra. See you there!

All About Amalfi

For those of you who have never heard of the Amalfi Coast, I suggest you add this UNESCO World Heritage site to your bucket list. I am happy to say I can now cross it off of mine!Amalfi coast, Italy

We spent an entire day in the car traveling from Southern Sicily to the ever tourist-ed town of Sorrento, close to the Amalfi coast. Costiera Amalfitana, as the locals call it, is a narrow stretch of coastline on the Southern coast of the Sporrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno. This region lies in a Mediterranean climate which provides warm summers and mild winters. Perfect, my kind of weather!Amalfi coast, Italy

But wait…. remember that rain I recently mentioned? The ominous cloud that engulfed our tiny tent in Sicily? Well it followed us all the way to Amalfi! It became abundantly clear that we would not be pitching a tent during this monsoon, unless we waned to be swept down stream! Fortunately, the campsite we had planned to stay at also offered private cabins.Amalfi coast, Italy

The timing of this weather shift was on point as we were both feeling a little run down from our tour through Sicily and a soggy nights sleep. Out first day in this new place was spent catching up on some much needed rest. I almost forgot how good it feels to sleep in a real bed since we have been camping for almost three weeks now.Amalfi coast, Italy

When we woke, the rain had passed (at least temporarily) and we set out to explore Sorrento. Of course, being that it was a Sunday… not a whole lot was happening in town. The tourist shops and tourists still managed to flood the streets, though. After chowing down on some vegetable soup, it was early to bed and early to rise in anticipation of a full day of adventure.Amalfi coast, Italy

We were up before the birds to explore the thirteen municipalities located along the Amalfi Coast. Thankfully, the weather was on our side, with light cloud cover throughout the day making for perfect photography conditions. We hit the town of Amalfi before 9:00am, which meant we were ahead of the droves of tourists and tour buses.Amalfi coast, Italy

A quick note on the history of Amalfi: importance was acquired as a maritime power by trading grain from its neighbours, salt from Sardinia, slaves from the interior, and timber, in exchange for the gold dinars minted in Egypt and Syria, in order to buy the Byzantine skills that it resold in the West. Grain-bearing Amalfi traders enjoyed privileged positions in the Islamic ports. Merchants of Amalfi were using gold coins to purchase land in the 9th century, while most of Italy worked in a barter economy.Amalfi coast, Italy

In medieval culture, Amalfi was famous for its flourishing schools of law and mathematics. During the 10th – 11th centuries, the Duchy of Amalfi existed on the territory of the Amalfi Coast, centered in the town of Amalfi. The coast was later controlled by the Principality of Salerno until Amalfi was sacked by the republic of Pisa in 1137. A devastating tsunami in 1343 destroyed the port and lower town of Amalfi. Apparently, the town never fully recovered. It looked pretty spectacular to me!Amalfi coast, Italy

This coastal town lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto. It is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery. The town is lovely if you are able to arrive prior to the tourists. But make no mistake, it is total mayhem once the buses begin to trickle in. The centro is lined with small shops and stunning architecture. The cathedral of Sant’Andrea dates back to the 11th century. The interior of this cathedral is adorned in the late Baroque style with a nave and two aisles divided by 20 columns. It is decorated with various paintings of saints. Being an early bird has it’s perks…we were Amalfi coast, Italyable to explore the town thoroughly, prior to the streets becoming overcrowded. In fact, just as we were heading back to our car, the tour buses had began to arrive.Amalfi Coast, Italy

This has been the most heavily populated area we have been in since Oia in Greece! The roads are narrow and difficult to maneuver through. Thank God we have a tiny vehicle. It can be downright scary approaching corners, especially when faced head on with a tour bus! All I can say is I am happy Josh was the oneAmalfi Coast, Italy driving and not me…. it was stressful enough just being the passenger.

Amalfi Coast, Italy
The rest of our afternoon and the following day was spent drinking in the wonder of some of the most breathtaking shorelines I have ever experienced. From fabulous pizza in Atrani to unforgettable favourites like Furore… Amalfi, you did not disappoint! Despite the crowded streets, and over touristed towns, I am thrilled to have experienced the wonderful and beautiful Amalfi coast. Our time in the area may have been short, but the memories of these stunning coastlines will remain forever in my mind.
Amalfi Coast, Italy
Amalfi Coast, Italy Amalfi Coast, Italy
Amalfi Coast, ItalyThe next morning seemed to reveal herself in the blink of an eye. Amalfi was fan- figgin’-tastic! But all good things must come to an end. Cue my Willie Nelson song… Two Gypsy Souls are on the road again! Abruzzo…. I’m coming for you, castles and all! Ciao for now. And of course…Meow, Meow!

Sicilia, you’re breakin’ my heart

I would like to start off by saying that the island of Sicily (Sicilia in Italiano) if far bigger than I had originally been led to believe. In fact, the island is so grand in size that we had a hard time covering it in only one week.Italy

Where do I even begin? Two gypsy souls managed to cram what would take most people an entire month to explore, into only eight days. Multiple days (and many hours in our car) of touring in the hills and along the sea led us through what seemed to be endless photo opportunities. If one is keen to experience a true taste of Italy, countless communities rich in both heritage and culture can be found around every corner, over every peak and nestled into every valley across the beautiful island of Sicily.

Tiny doors of Sicily

Sicilia, you’re breakin’ my heart. I need months, rather than days to become acquainted with your splendour. Like I said, we barely had enough time to scratch the surface of this island, but I will fill you in on what we did manage to see.Piazza Armerina, Italy

Piazza Armerina or the city of Piazza (as it was called before 1862) developed during the Norman domination in Sicily during the11th century. However, the area had been inhabited since prehistoric times. The city flourished during Roman times, and is famously known for its Roman mosaics. It has a range of significant architecture dating from medieval through the 18th century.Sicily

The centro features a massive Baroque Cathedral (17th and 18th centuries), built on the 15th-century foundations of a former church, from which the bell tower was taken and reused. We spent quite some time admiring this magnificent building as well as the dark and moody streets.Sicily

On the same evening, we dined at Gigliotto agriturismo, aka: the vineyard, where we became acquainted with a lovely Swiss couple named Jacqueline and Jean Pierre. These two were also staying on the property and we quickly became friends. In fact, the couple invited us to join them for dinner the following evening which led to dinner again on our final evening.Caltagirone

Over the course of our stay, dinner time in Sicily evolved into delightful intervals of sharing stories and sipping the night(s) away (remember, we were living on a vineyard) with our newfound friends. Thanks again you two for a lovely time! We enjoyCaltagrioneed every moment of your company and getting to know you. Depending on how things pan out, we look forward to visiting you in Switzerland some day! Or perhaps you may visit us in Mexico!

Anywho, I will also tell you that meals were extravagant, with portions fit to feed an army. Every dinner was a three course meal with two menu items for each course, followed by fruit and dessert. It was sooooo much food, but there was always room for more wine. I will note that the rose was fantastic! Sicily

Our tour continued with a place called Caltagirone, which neither myself or Jacqueline can seem to pronounce. The city is well known for collections of ancient and modern terracotta pottery. We were primarily interested in locating a unique set of stairs built from 1608, located in the old part of town. The 42-step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte took some time to find but is also hard to miss.

The peculiarity of this landmark is that each step is embellished with ornate, hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making. This extension of art was hypnotising!Sicily

I was also drawn to the Baroque church of San Francesco di Paola, which was presented to me as I reached the top of the staircase. It was a reward for my labour. The sacristy is in Gothic style, dating from before the 1693 earthquake… wow, what a beautiful monument!Modica, Sicily

Our next stop was the city of Modica which is situated in the Hyblaean Mountains. We indulged in cappuccinos and cannolis whilst soaking in the vibe of this city. It didn’t take long to notice a repetitious pattern of young girls, with billowing locks of hair, passing by on scooters. They seemed to be dominantly riding in tandem . Perhaps there is a women’s school nearby? Being entertained by this for a length of time, we concluded that this would be a tough town for competition amongst the male youngsters!

I will briefly fill you in on the history of Modica. The city was founded in 1360 BC or 1031 BC and was inhabited by the Sicels in the 7th century BC. The history of Modica is quite extensive including occupation by the Roman empire, Byzantine empire, Capture by the Arabs during the Muslim conquest of Sicily, and developed into a flourishing semi-independent state controlling the whole southern third of the island, with the right of a mint of its own and other privileges under rule of the Chiaramonte family. Modica

On Assumption day, Christians wreaked brutal havoc on the Jewish dwellers of the Cartellone area of Modica (massacre of the assumption). This episode was the first and most horrible anti semitic massacre of Sicilian Israelites. During that evening, a number of Christians (fomented by fanatic Catholic preachers inspired by the inquisitorial repression) slaughtered about 360 innocents. Yikes!Modica

On a lighter note, the architecture of Modica showcases the elaborate genius of Baroque architecture/art in Europe and is part of seven other cities included in the Val di Noto UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The church of San Pietro, dedicated to St. Peter was a highlight. I found this church to be particularly interesting and extremely beautiful. The facade boasts twelve larger than life statues along the entryway staircase.Modica

Walking on, we visited the unavoidable Baroque Cathedral “San Giorgio” which as the name implies, is dedicated to St. George. This cathedral is dominant along the skyline and was rebuilt following the earthquake of 1693. Like many other parts of the city, this cathedrals roots originate from the Middle Ages. Believe it or not, this was the first church we have set foot in during our time in Italy and it only took 300 steps up to gain entry!Modica

Despite being ravaged by earthquakes in 1613 and 1693, followed by floods in 1833 and 1902, Modica has managed to retain some of the most beautiful architecture in all of Sicily. I would be happy to visit this city again in a heartbeat! Perhaps on a scooter, with my hair down, to fit in better next time! Moving on…Modica, Sicily

Ragusa wrapped up our tour de Sicily. With roughly 75,000 inhabitants, this city is built on a wide limestone hill between two deep valleys and is also listed among the Val di Noto UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Because of it’s close proximity to Modica, Ragusa follows similar history patterns with occupation.

In 1693 this city too, was devastated by the huge earthquake, killing approximately 5,000 inhabitants. Following this catastrophe the city was largely rebuilt, featuring numerous baroque buildings which date from this period.Ragusa, Sicily

The Church of the Souls of Purgatory was one of several Baroque portals we encountered during our visit. It was built by the Knights of Malta after the 1693. Continuing to the decorative Baroque church of S.Giuseppe was the perfect note to end on in Ragusa. It too was badly damaged in the earthquake of 1693. Half of this church was rebuilt in Baroque style, while the surviving half was preserved in the original Gothic style.Cats of Sicily

As we made our way back to camp, an ominous storm cloud gradually crept in. The sun is no more and inevitably, we have encountered rain. Unfortunately for us, this storm was accompanied by high winds which blew the tarp off of our tent, resulting in one damp final evening in Sicily. I fear more rain is in our future..

Ciao for now, meow!

Cruisin’ the Southern coasts of Italy

Cruisin’ the Southern coasts has been a breeze in our Fiat Panda… it has also been cheap, cheap on gas! Thank god, because gas is friggin’ expensive on this side of the planet. Never again will I complain about high gas prices in Canada.Tropea, Italy

Our first stop after Matera was Tropea, a seaside community with dramatic cliffs that hug the shoreline of Calabria. This stretch of coastline borders the Tyrrhenian Sea and is known as the ‘Coast of the Gods’. Understandably, it is admired as one of Italy’s finest summer holiday destinations. The coastline curves outwards with large rocky ridges, boasting those dramatic cliffs I mentioned. There are also countless sunny beaches, and a string of privately owned/operated resort campsites (which is perfect, since we are camping).Sicily

These beaches are gorgeous, but there is unfortunately a downside. Bugs. The biting kind…that for some reason love to bite my butt! It actually looks like I have chicken pox on my ass right now! And these bites are itchy…so damn itchy. As I’m telling you this I feel even more itchy.

SicilyBut enough about the bugs, this itchy hell will pass soon enough. Tropea is not particularly well-known to North American travellers, however, it is a popular destination amongst Italians and Germans, many of whom drive south in their camper vans and motor homes. You may see the odd tent, but camsites are primarily filled with glampers, satellite dishes and I have even seen a microwave!Sicily, Italy

Craving pizza, we set out to locate a patio with suitable ambiance. It didn’t take long to find the perfect little restaurant tucked in an alleyway. The place was packed with Italians (which is usually a good sign), so we quickly grabbed a table. We studied the menu for quite some time and eventually ordered two pizzas: one Margherita and one Misto (fully loaded). Balance, right?Sicily

The pizzas came and we noticed right away that something was amiss. The fully loaded pizza appeared to be a vegetarian pizza. Fine by me, but papa Josue was looking forward to pepperoni on his pizza. It was after all, on the list of ingredients and a swaying factor in his final decision for dinner. We flagged down a server to relate that we had received the wrong pizza. “It is missing the pepperoni” we explained. She paused for a moment, looking confused. She then pointed at the pizza and said “Pepperoni,” pointing at the green peppers that were abundantly scattered over the dish.Tropea, Italy

Oops! Pepperoni in Italy does not translate to salty slices of meat on your pizza, I mean why on earth would we assume that? Rather, pepperoni means peppers. In this case it meant green peppers rather than pepperoni on our pizza! So Josh did in fact order a vegetarian pizza, which I found to be hilarious. We both had a good laugh about it as we enjoyed our dinner and concluded that the server must have thought that we were totally crazy.Sicily, Italy

Several days were spent in Tropea before hitting the open road again towards the island of Sicily, or Sicilia as the Italians call it. Cefalu was the next little gem on our list. It was a long day of driving, a ferry across to the island and more driving on secondary highways. The roads twist up and down through the mountains which makes for little progress in gaining distance on the map. Eventually, we were forced to hit the pay autostrada if wanted to arrive in Cefalu before midnight.Sicily

As per usual, we arrived at camp only to set up in the dark. We are getting pretty good a it by this point, since it has been dark almost every time we have arrived at a new site. We settled in for the night. looking forward to a long night of sleep following our extensive day of travel.

SicilyThat didn’t pan out so well. 6am arrived bright and early thanks to one very vocal rooster! Because it was dark when we arrived to set up camp, we failed to notice the chicken coop that was located less than 20 meters away from our tent on the other side of the fence. This guy was relentless… cawing morning noon and night!

On the bright side, this rooster had us up and at em’ nice and early. Two Gypsy Souls spent an entire day exploring hill top communities throughout the area. There seem to be endless tiny towns perched high in the mountains all across Italy. These itty-bitty communities are each unique and special in their own ways. You could literally spend months exploring these remote places.Italy

Along the way, we seemed to be gifted with unique and special encounters each and every time we stopped our vehicle for a photo opt. From Clusters of wild singing donkeys to roaming cows to herds of grazing goats all wrapped up with the precession of a marching band on our descent back down to sea level, we seemed to conveniently cross paths with la dolce vita around every corner of the Sicilian mountains!Sicily

One town in particular, Castlebuono was by far one of our favourites. You can read more about the history here. Construction of the Castle began in 1316, by order of Count Francesco. The original name of this town was Castello del buon aere which means “Castle of good air”. Eventually the community was renamed Castelbuono which literally means “good castle”. I would highly recommend paying this place a visit if you are ever in the area.Castelbuono

We also spent some time exploring Cefalu. The area is heavily touristed, which is not my cup of tea (as I have mentioned before). Fortunately, our one and only visit into the centro was on a Sunday when the streets were far less crowded. After an attempted and failed laundry debacle (remember, EVERYTHING is closed on Sundays except tourist shops full of junk that no one needs) our desire to further experience the streets of this over crowded tourist trap had evaporated.Cats of Sicily

We woke early the following morning thanks to an ear piercing song by my friend the rooster, coupled with an annoying drone and pounding of nearby road construction. Two nights in a row of inadequate sleep forced us to move on quicker than we had originally planned. We packed up and hit the road once again. This time in search of an agriturismo that was suggested to us by our German friends we met in Matera.

Thankfully, Gigliotto agriturismo was easy to find and happens to be conveniently situated on a vineyard. The grounds are lovely and we are the only tent campers on the property which means we basically have the entire camping area to ourselves! I have a feeling the next several days will be bliss. Ciao for now, Meow!

Matera, why you gotta be so cool?

Bascilicata, Italy

Matera, ItalyTwo Gypsy Souls spent one day shy of a week becoming familiar with a remote southern region of the Basilicata. Although much time was spent exploring neighbouring communities, we fell in love with one town in particular, which is famous for its extensive cave-dwelling district. To date, this super Sassi place is practically untouched by foreign travellers which is a curious thing to me. My only question is….Matera, why you gotta be so cool?Matera, Italy

One can easily  become lost while wandering through extensive networks of cobblestone paths and alleyways which border alongside the picturesque cave-filled cliffs of Matera. Once upon a time, these caves were actually inhabited… in fact, they were inhabited for centuries!  Up until the 1950s, hundreds of families resided in the overcrowded cave-houses. Eventually, the malaria-ridden conditions became a national scandal, which forced the cave residents to be moved (by law) into more modern buildings on the plateau above.Matera, ItalyMatera, Italy

By the 1980’s, several well-to-do residents of the area moved back and began renovating old cave houses into modern homes.The abandoned caves of Matera were transformed into fascinating reminders of the past.  In 1993 the town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site for being “the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region, perfectly adapted to its terrain and ecosystem”. Since then, Matera has slowly began to gain popularity as an off-the-beaten-track tourist destination… which is exactly how we like to roll!Matera, Italy

Matera, italyNot only did I find it easy to lose track of time while roaming through the city, I also discover it can be quite the challenge to establish one’s bearings in Matera. I mean, I’m pretty bad as it is (remember, I suck at maps) but this place is literally a labyrinth. The town centre, which is the oldest part of town and holds the main cathedral, was built on the edge of a ravine where a valley descends into a long, deep river below. I found it to be a helpful landmark for establishing my current location in the crazy maze. Everything else seemed to be a confusing jumble of roadways and ruins, entwined like ivy vines.Matera, ItalyMatera, Italy

Many old cave houses continue to be updated into comfortable modern dwellings, hotels, restaurants and tourist shops. Matera is growing! Guided tours of the centro run daily which led us to meeting two new friends from Munich, Germany. But I guess you will  need a little more backstory for this to make sense.

Matera, ItalyFollowing our arrival to this fascinating place, we set up camp at a popular Agriturismo on the outskirts of the city center. Once we had unpacked and made ourselves comfortable, we ventured to the common area for use of the ever elusive wifi. Some time later, we overheard a frustrated couple discussing their disappointment with locating a guided tour of Matera. Having Internet at our fingertips, we offered the couple help in tracking down what they were looking for. We also offered them a ride into town with us, which they gratefully accepted. Long story short… they booked a tour and all was well!Matera, Italy

Over the course of the following two days, we ran into the couple several times. On their last evening at the Agriturismo, they paid us one final visit where we chatted a while longer and exchanged contact information. We will, after all, be in Munich this December (prior to our departure to India) and I think it is safe to say we have a personally guided tour of the Chris Cringle market waiting for us in Munich come Christmas time!Creepy cat of Matera

We had actually been planning to leave on the same morning as our new friends, but decided instead to extend our stay in Matera by one more day. The winds of change appear to have blown in, and the shift in weather seems to be fall-like. Non mi piace! Especially after spending the last two months in 30 plus degree temperatures. Brrrrrr! We will now be heading South to the island of Sicily in search of warm weather and cool beaches. Ciao for now, Meow meow!