Wow, what a few days we have had.
Firstly Matera. It is 13 years since my last visit here and Mike's first. The Sassi is the most intact troglodyte settlement in Europe. First settled back in Palaeolithic times when the first settlers dug their homes out of the rock and formed a series of caves that over the years became a town. By the late 1960's the inhabitants had been moved out by the then government and the place was just left, ignored, even though it is in the centre of a modern city. But in the early 2000's people started coming back and in 2005 it was decided that anyone could live in the Sassi. The exterior must remain the same, but the inside of the caves can now be adapted to suit. Hence today there are many little trendy B & B's, cafes, restaurants, architects offices and IT businesses. The Sassi is on the move upwards and as there are now all the essential services there it is fast becoming a desirable address.
We spent about 4 hours wandering the streets, no tourists in sight, no bl**** Americans, in fact very few people at all. Matera is just not on the tourist radar. Although from the outside it looks just the same, the streets are now clean, the whole place is tidy. I loved it again and Mike was totally blown away by the place.
San Marino. It must have been some romantic book I read at some time that piqued my curiosity about San Marino. At 62 sq km is size, founded in 301 AD and perched about 750 meters above sea level on a mountain ridge, San Marino is the world's oldest republic and is totally surrounded by Italy.
We caught the train from Marotta where we are staying to Rimini then a bus to San Marino. Train travel is great in Italy. Ok they sometimes go on strike and leave you stranded and sometimes they just cancel trains and you have to hang about for hours waiting for another one to turn up, but when the system works, it is cheap and it is fast. One of the best rail systems in the world.
San Marino is a romantic place, little narrow cobbled streets that wander about, lots of fascinating shops, great little cafes and restaurants and views that are to die for. The castles are like those out of story books even though they were built as a defensive structure.
Here in Marotta our hotel is opposite the beach, mainly pebbles on the public parts and imported sands on the private sections. As the train station is not too far away it has been an ideal base for us to stay.
Tomorrow we are off again, this time to Lerici which is just a ferry ride away from the Cinque Terre and lots of $$$$ cheaper. We will be there for only 2 nights then we cross over into France and head to Aix en Provence our base for a few days. Till then.
Starting off in Sydney we head over to the US for a few days in Los Angeles, then Las Vegas and finally over to the Big Apple. Then off again, down to Cuba for about 18 days for some old cars, cigars and Baccardi. After that we head north, this time to Toronto in Canada for a whistle stop before crossing the Atlantic to the UK. One of the highlights there will be a week down on the Isle of Wight. Jetting off again we will then spend approximately the next two months driving around Italy and France. After all that hard work we journey over to Greece where we will island hop using the local ferry systems, with 3 nights on Santorini, 3 nights of Mykonos and 3 nights on Paros. Yep, we love doing the tourist stuff! Finally we begin the long haul home stopping off on the way in Honkers for a little retail therapy.