Location: Rome and Loro Piceno, Italy, the Cotswolds, UK
Author: Mrs A
Just a 50 minute drive from home is Bristol Airport, and it was here we found ourselves in mid May, dropping our car off at the ‘Park and Fly’ section to board a flight to Italy. Oh so civilised, and very easy access. Within five hours, we had unpacked at our hotel, showered and changed and were sipping a refreshing Aperol at a street-side bar, people watching on the streets of Rome, Italy.
Here we spent a wonderful history-filled, chilled out 3 days (stepping out the 36 km/23 miles required to burn off all the pasta and pizza!), exploring the many sights within easy walking distance from our hotel.
Our first day, I had booked us a tour of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and the incredibly grand Colosseum. Our tour guide was fabulous – Rome born and bred and fluent in English, she knew the history inside out, and presented it in an exciting and vibrant way, as though it was her first visit too. She had our small group enthralled with her stories and extensive knowledge of the venue.
The Forum, which was, in Roman times, the commercial centre of the city, where markets were held, banking, trials, celebrations and political announcements made was a breathtaking area, with tall pillars and evidence of cobbled streets and squares. For nearly a thousand years, many of the structures remained buried under layers of silt from the frequently flooding River Tiber, and excavation commenced very slowly in 1803. In 1932, Mussolini decided to celebrate 10 years of the Fascist Party’s power by building a road through the area, which encouraged excavation to speed up substantially, though it seems the cataloging of findings was equally rushed. Nevertheless, this piece of propaganda means the fabulous ruins are available for us to see today.
Palatine Hill was where the royal palace was situated, and over the centuries many dignitaries have made their home on the location, with views nowadays stretching over the ruins.
The Colosseum was our final stop, made famous by films such as Russel Crowe’s Gladiator (can you believe that is 23 years old now?!). From the poses for photos around the venue, it seems many of the visitors had recently watched this movie as homework! Our guide corrected the many inaccuracies in the film, including the Roman Emperor’s ‘thumbs up’ to indicate the gladiator can live vs the thumbs down meaning death. Apparently gladiators were all seen as prize sportspeople and death was not really an option.
The tour was so interesting, helping us bring parallels from Rome to so much in the UK, recognising much of the language we speak originates from the Latin spoken by our ancestors, as well as many of the roads we travel on following routes originally forged by Roman troops.
Our second day we did a tour on foot, crossing the River Tiber (now seriously protected from flooding with huge walls either side of it) and exploring around St Peter’s Square and the area around The Vatican. I debated going in as the queue was quite short, but Mr A was adamant he did not want to give Catholic priests any money and has little interest in the art and architecture within there. So we continued on our exploration without it.
It was a fun city to visit, the food delicious and the people friendly, but soon it was time to leave Rome and head back to the airport to hire a car to drive across Italy to the eastern side, and our friends in La Marche. Sydney friends, Clive and Aisha, had been joined by UK friends, Mel and Barny, at a Bruce Springsteen concert in Ferrara, northern Italy, braving ankle deep mud to hear him sing. They report it was well worth it, though the two hour journey back to their car took the shine off somewhat.
The weather was cold and wet on our arrival at Mel and Barny’s Italian house in the village of Loro Piceno, and we all wrapped up warm in fleece jackets and rain coats, the views across the valley shrouded in low cloud, quite different from what we experienced when we visited last time, in June 2019.
We made the most of it though, with Mel and Barny doing us proud with incredible restaurants booked for lunch and dinners, with a combination of hillside villages and a visit to the coast too. The weather improved as the week progressed.
Mr A and I took a day trip to Assisi with Clive and Aisha, before dropping them to the airport for their flight to the next destination on their extensive holiday.
On our last day in Loro Piceno, Mel and Barny took us to Sarnano, a stunning hilltop town. Mel and I left the boys sipping coffee and people watching, while we went off on a hike in the foothills of the Simbolini mountains, exploring a number of waterfalls. The heavy rainfall had made the usually peaceful babbling creek into a roaring torrent, and the waterfalls simply breathtaking. You would not have wanted to slip in!
Mel and Barny had once again given us an incredible time, showcasing the best of their region’s restaurants, views and walks, and giving us another taster of life in this stunning part of Italy. We are so grateful for their kindness and generosity.
We flew back home to a happy Tassie, having been well cared for by our Australian housesitters, Sam and Steve. We had just enough time to quickly wash our clothes, do a little gardening and repack bags to head off again to the Cotswolds to spend a few days in an AirBnB with friends in a village there!
On our way to meet them, we called in to visit a National Trust Roman Villa in Chedworth near Cirencester. Archaeologists were on site, literally peeling back the soil and grass to reveal near perfect mosaic tile floors, and we listened in on an interview for an upcoming TV programme which revealed the extent of what they were discovering.
We met up with Mark’s old school friends, Stuart and John, and Karen and Catriona, their other halves, in an AirBnB in the village of Bledington. For one day only, Andrew, the other member of the schoolboy foursome, drove up to join in the fun and frivolity.
We had left hot sunshine in Somerset, so were somewhat unprepared for the chilly north wind and heavy cloud that greeted us. The summer dresses didn’t get much of an airing, and we even lit the log fire in the evenings! We did some great walks, and the village pub was welcomed for the odd drink or two.
It was a fun three nights away, and we all hugged our farewells with promises to catch up again soon. Mark and I drove back to Somerset, and by 1pm were welcoming our next guests into our home.
Phil and Libby are friends from Australia who we originally met while travelling in our caravan. We were very excited to host them at home and give them a brief taster of our area, and took them up onto the Quantock Hills for a morning walk, with lunch at picturesque café, The Rocking Horse, and dinner at our local pub. We squeezed a lot into their two nights, before dropping them off at the station to continue their travels in London.
We had two nights just us, before the next visitors from down under arrived, my dad, Richard and his wife, Sue, over in the UK for a few weeks from New Zealand, celebrating dad’s 80th. We started off by experimenting with the rotisserie feature on our new BBQ – it all went well and nobody got food poisoning – hurrah!
My brother, Alex, had also come down to Somerset to spend some time with dad, and had booked a cottage on a nearby farm to stay with his two dogs. Alex loves walking, so we left dad and Sue having a lie in and took Alex, Scout and Raffles on one of our favourite circuit walks in the Blackdown Hills.
Dad and Sue joined us for lunch and a drink at our local pub, before a short walk along the River Tone.
We were very fortunate to be invited to climb the tower of St Giles’ Church, at the invitation of one of Bradford on Tone’s octogenarian residents, Dave Richards. The church dates from the 13th century, with a narrow spiral staircase taking us up the bell tower. We stopped briefly a the bellringer’s room, where the ancient church clock’s cogs and wheels click and turn before chiming each quarter hour and hour between 7am and 10pm.
At the top of the tower we were rewarded with incredible views across the village and surrounding countryside, as well as a unique view of our home.
As always, it was great fun to have them around, and time went too quickly – before we knew it they were heading off to their next visit in north London.
We had a few days to regroup, before our next trip where I am writing from today – in Milan, Italy. I have been invited here to the European Laryngology Society Conference to present the airway stenosis patient experience. My presentation is today, and the next update will come from Mr A. I bet you can’t wait!