We thought that the weather would have cracked and it would be nice and warm when we arrived in Rome but that was not to be. Here we were at the beginning of June and still in Jeans,jumpers and jackets.
We spent a lovely week (too much food of course)with my cousins in Sezze and when it was not raining we ventured out for a bit of fresh air and a glimpse of the sun before the rain started again! We happened to be in Sezze for the baptism of one of my cousin’s grandchildren and it was a priviledge to be there for the very lavish affair. We were first invited to the parent’s house for a breakfast which consisted of sandwiches, biscuits, cakes, coffee and cool drinks. This was followed by the baptism ceremony at the end of a church service and then 70 relatives and friends were invited to an 8 course meal at a well known local restaurant in the hills above the town. There were no speeches by it was something like a wedding with a top table, toasts and cake cutting. After the meal was finished,coffee and liquores were served, every family was photographed with the baby and then the bonbonieri” (gifts with a few sugared almonds) were given out to each departing family and in turn they gave their envelope containing their present (money) to the parents.
We decided that we really needed a walk so a few of us went down to the coast at Sabaudia for a long stroll before retiring back to another cousin’s house for pizza! Maurice and I just flatly refused to eat any and were allowed to just have a drink for once.
We set off for Rome on the train on the 28th of May leaving the campervan at my cousin’s house.
We didn’t want to take it into Rome for security reasons and also lack of parking in the city.
We stayed in Nik Nik B and B which is really a typical Rome appartment (very clean, neat and comfortable with all mod cons)and just metres away from a wonderful natural parkland called “Valle della Caffarella”. It is wonderful to be able to go out of the appartment and into this vast area where there are some ancient houses and catacombes. It is also just down the road from where my Aunt and her husband live and is only 10-15minutes
away from the main train station. At 75euros a night with breakfast at the bar opposite it is good value for the middle of Rome.
We were there for my uncle’s 80th birthday although he looks many years younger.
We went for a stroll in the evening to buy a bottle of whisky and in the shop met up with Frank a Belgian man who has lived in Rome for 20years. He invited us back to his house for a drink. He has the most amazing three storey house smack bang in the middle of several large appartment buildings. He has renovated it over the years himself and has created a real oasis with very interesting features in the house. Rooms hidden behind bookshelves and a wonderful rooftop terrace.
He lectures at many European universities on design trends incorporating ancient design with the modern. He was an interesting person to talk to and it was just sheer chance that we met up with him.
We went into the station the following day to meet up with Helen and Francoise who had arrived from Perth in the late afternoon. We went out for an early dinner as they were pretty tired but most of the restaurants do not open until 7-7.30pm with most diners coming in after 8.30pm. We did find a lovely local trattoria/pizzeria which served tasty food.
Sightseeing was the order for the next day. The weather looked a bit threatening which turned into pouring rain as we got to the local market. We sheltered there and the girls had to buy rain jackets. When it stopped raining we caught the metro to the Spanish Steps and walked to the top to get a good view of part of the city. From there we set off on foot to the Trevi fountain which was teeming with tourists and on to Piazza Navona which is one of my favourite piazzas in Rome.
We went to a great little restaurant “Da Ottavio” around the corner from Piazza Navona to which we had been with our friends Keven and Marilyn last year and on another occasion by ourselves. We shopped on the way there and on the way back to the metro and got some good bargains.
Another good thing about Rome is that in a small area you can find very expensive shops and many reasonably priced ones.
Unemployment in Italy is rife and many factories, supermarkets and small shops have closed down leaving many breadwinners without jobs.
Unemployment benefits are paid for six months and then they are on their own. Just in my family three male cousins are are now without jobs and their wives are employed in bakeries or shops at a rates of 3 and 5euros an hour.
There also seem to be just as many strikes as in the 70’s. In the week we were in Rome there was a train strike for the day and in Naples the following week the buses and trains were at a standstill.
Helen was not feeling too well the next day so we went off to San Giovanni hospital for her to have a check up. That was a real insight into the hospital system in Italy!
It would have made for a good comedy sketch. We were there for about 5hours and it was fascinating. As usual you couldn’t tell who was the tea lady, nurse, doctor or surgeon apart from a couple of the young nurses who had white aprons and head veils like something from the fifties and sixties. Some of the men (staff) were chatting up the women (staff)and most had a cellphone in their hand at all times. As we passed the many patients in beds along the corridors they also were using their cellphones. When we did get to see the nurse and the doctor they were constantly being interrupted by other staff wandering in and out and having a chat.
All was well and we went across the road to see the very ornate church of San Giovanni in Laterano after a nice meal in a very traditional trattoria.
We walked down to the Colloseum and along the street which was being prepared for the military parade the following day for the Italian national day on the 2nd June. We followed the Roman Forum along to the monument to Victor Emmanuel II and to the palace where Mussolini from the balcony used to speak to the people. A 15euro taxi ride took our weary selves back to the appartment were we had an early night. The following morning we caught a taxi back to the main station and then a train back to Sezze where we were collected by a couple of my cousins.
They took us up the hill to Sezze where we walked around the old town and to the vast local Saturday market.
Some of my cousins outdid themselves by giving us a 5 course lunch with many local specialties which included artichokes, eggplant,homemade sausages and delicious strawberries.
They kindly took us back to our cousin’s house on the plain below Sezze for the night and the girls stayed in a farmstay.
Maurice and I dropped the girls off to the train to Naples the next morning and we continued on to Roccamandolfi for two nights to sort out our Winter/Summer clothes and get ready for our trip to Sicily.
We arrived in the afternoon and took the campervan further up the mountain to a beautiful spot where we had been the year before.
It was cool but sunny but as the evening wore on it became very cold. It happened to be the feast day of San Liberato in the village and there were many lovely coloured lights and a bandstand erected in the square. A mass was held followed by a procession and then the band played from about 9pm. We met up with Giulia and Liberato a lovely couple who we had met the previous year and we went back to their house for a while before going to a new Pizzeria in town which was opened by one of their friends.
It was cooked in a woodfired oven and was the best pizza we had tasted. It was lovely of them to take us there and buy us dinner.
We went up to the square to listen to the band but we left before they had finished because we were so cold.
We slept in our campervan for security and were woken at midnight by lovely fireworks. We were parked at the top of the village so had a wonderful view of them.
On Monday morning we got the key for the house from Joe’s kind aunt and we spent the day organizing Winter/Summer clothes and sorting out the van.
Friends who we met last year and who have a house a little further down the steps very kindly allowed us to use their washing machine (the only real drawback in the camper is not having laundry facilities)
After a brief amount of sun in the morning the clouds came in low over the mountains and it rained for the rest of the day and it got very cold. We had an early night and set off the next morning to pick the girls up in Caserta (about 50minutes from Naples). Joe’s aunt of course plied us with food with the thought that we might starve so we had meatballs and sausages in sauce, a loaf of bread, cheese and some biscuits. We picked up the girls and headed for west central Calabria for the night at a lovely campsite right on the beach with all amenities.
The next morning we set off for Sicily with the ferry at Villa San Giovanni.
The ferry return trip cost the four of us and the camper 96euros.

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