It doesn't really seem possible, but it's a month ago today that we returned from Italy.
We came home to blue skies and balmy stillness and have been cocooned in blissful warmth ever since. It has elongated our holiday beyond all imagining, and - according to our local postmaster, 'broken the back of winter'. I hope he's right.
But our weather extension came to a sudden end last week and today, the Hallowe'en Bank Holiday (an annual surprise I have to confess) the unremitting mizzle has not even tempted me outdoors.
It did rain in Italy - twice I believe - thunder, lightning, the whole shebang, but it had the decency to do so in the depths of the night and, by dawn, was merely a hazy memory.
In Italy, during the hours of daylight, the sun shone and it was 35 degrees.
I'm not familiar with Italy.
We are such Francophiles that if we ever get the chance to go anywhere, we just head for France the way a toddler heads for its mother. But ever since Inspector Montalbano graced our screens, the In-Charge and I (along with millions of others) have been longing to visit Sicily.
We didn't have a huge amount of time to plan this getaway, as the In-Charge was away himself for almost a month, with #1 Son at the end of the summer, and I was in the UK visiting the folks. When we did get down to it, the flights to Sicily were so expensive that we ended up flying to Rome and hiring a car instead.
I know that's completely illogical, as Rome is nowhere near Sicily, but there you go.
I think the deciding factor was that I have always wanted to visit the Amalfi coast, but perhaps we didn't give enough consideration to the fact that we only had 11 days...
|Luckily this wasn't the car we hired. We'd have been even more terrified of pranging it|
Surprisingly, we were sensible enough to rule out even glancing at Rome. You could spend 11 days and not see all of Rome.
We just threw our stuff into the car and headed south. The car was not the Cinquecento we had requested, but maybe that wasn't such a bad thing as the In-Charge is over six feet tall.
|We headed south to Naples, full of old, narrow alleys, cars, mopeds and pedestrians who insisted on walking in the road|
It was mental, and laurel wreaths etc etc go to the In-Charge for a) not abandoning the car and walking away b) not hitting another vehicle, c) not killing any of the endless pedestrians who insisted on walking in the roadway, and d) not getting out and throttling any of the other bolshy drivers.
It was, we were to discover, a fitting baptism, as the rest of Italy was just as bad.
|Just an average morning|
Angelica, our sat nav, did rouse herself sufficiently to find our lodging. It was an apartment in some long-ago palazzo, that we'd booked at the last minute on Airbnb.
It was our first time using Airbnb. I wouldn't rate it highly, the apartment, but it was OK, and, having missed an entire night's sleep through daft flight times, we were so tired we didn't really care. But 92 steps up to the top floor weren't quite in my game plan. Still, it was really quiet, and we both slept like the dead.
|The lovely covered stairways in the palazzo courtyard|
|A shop in the alley|
|Another old palazzo in a nearby street, now used as a museum and offices|
The rubbish-collectors appeared to be on strike in Naples, and the area we stayed in was rough to say the least, so even without the traffic, I'd have been ready to leave Naples or die by the next morning.
Fortunately, we were heading straight for the Amalfi coast that day, so we were up and out of the apartment pretty early, although not out of the city for a good while. We'd paid to park the car in a private garage for the night (you'd have done the same) and the In-Charge had to wait while they moved about 96 other vehicles to get ours out before he could drive away.
Waiting inside the beautiful, solid doorway of our palazzo in the neighbouring alleyway, I had plenty of time to wonder if they'd sold the car during the night and he was trying to argue the toss, all - of course - in the 3 words of Italian at his command.
I also had time to look around the huge interior courtyard of the palazzo.
There were some motorbikes parked in front of a shrine to the Virgin Mary, They reminded me of Stanley Spencer's fabulous painting, The Travoys.
|Motorbikes in front of the shrine reminded me of Spencer's Travoys|
|Stanley Spencer's painting Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing Station|
But eventually the In-Charge turned up with our car and we did several tours of downtown Naples in the morning rush hour while Angelica had a cup of coffee, did her nails and rooted around for an up-to-date map and I tried to stay calm. .
She seemed to know less about Italy than we did. And even less Italian, while her accent was - quite frankly - shocking.
It didn't bode well.
|The doorway into the old palazzo|
You might also like: Sipping Limoncello in Sorrento, part 2 of our travels in Italy
Part 3: Amalfi: The Road More Travelled
Part 4: Tango-ing to Messina
And the last part: Sicily: Hot on the Heels of Montalbano