Out of the woodwork – Back on tour!

Rome Piazza Navona

Rome- Piazza Navona

I have been enticed out of retirement and will be back on tour in April 2017….oh my!?!     But not on my own fortunately, as it has been Angus Stewart, the ABC garden expert, who has lured me out of the woodwork to be his Tour manager on a proposed Garden tour around Rome and Southern Italy.  The tour leaves Australia on the 17th April and returns the 5th May, 2017.

Wow, I’m already excited!

Map Garden tour

 

As the tour brochure blurb reads:The Amalfi Coast is an area of coast line a couple of hundred kilometres south of Rome. The largest city is Naples (Napoli) whose landscape is dominated by the famous volcano, Mt Vesuvius, and of course Pompeii is a ‘must see’ attraction nearby. For gardeners the area to the south of Naples is the real attraction, with smaller towns such as Sorrento, being the places to spend your long lunches around visits to landmark gardens.

There are a couple of ‘must see’ gardens that showcase perfectly the borrowed landscape of the plunging cliffs and slopes that border the spectacular sea views. We visit Villa Cimbrone, the picturesque village of Ravello, the volcanic island Ischia filled with beautiful villas and gardens and home to a botanically themed garden called La Mortella. This tour offers a rich and inspiring window into the art of Mediterranean gardening……..

Angus Stewart is a professional horticulturist and plantsman. He has turned his lifetime Taormina gardensof horticultural experiences to good use to lead tours to some of the great gardens of the world. Angus is perhaps best known for his work as a gardening presenter on the ABC, both with Gardening Australia for the last 11 years, and on ABC 702 radio station in Sydney where he has been answering gardening talkback questions for around 25 years.” 

 

As you can imagine it’s not just a tour about gardens, but an immersion into the culture and specialities of Southern Italy’s cosmopolitan melting pot in fabulous Spring weather. To tempt you – the over-the-top stunning baroque of Ortigia-Syracuse, Sicily

Taormina

Taormina theatre

 

 

And fabulous Taormina – Sicily, with spectacular views, staying in the magnificent San Domenico Palace hotel a 13th century ex monastery! Not to be missed!

 

For the itinerary and cost click here on Opulent Journeys

So it will be “Buongiorno Possums” all over again, without of course stealing Angus’s thunder and sunshine as Tour leader!

Sorrento

View of Sorrento

 

I’m looking forward to the tour despite having been so many times to the Amalfi coast and Sicily as there will be new gardens for me to see as well as some old time favourites like La Mortella and Ninfa gardens.

 

 

 

Come join us and don’t forget to tell Opulent Journeys you are clients of mine!             For info and bookings contact Tony Phone: 1300 219 885                                         Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Positano

Positano – Amalfi Coast


 

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Summer in full spin – Florence

And Summer is in full spin in Florence as around 500 cyclists braved the 30+degree heat to do a marathon cycle in one of the most panoramic piazzas of Florence – Piazzale Michelangelo.

 

Michelangelo’s David was aghast and had to turn away before he fainted, while us lazy onlookers enjoyed the tension, the rousing cries, and the stamina of the cyclists pounding away to the beat of the music. What a way to go!

Florence Merry-go-round

 

For the families there’s the classic Merry-Go-Round in Piazza della Repubblica that never seems to go out of fashion. And the wonderful bubble maker who delights the kids from the world over.

Florence rickshaw

To take you on a tour around town is Matteo ( and others) with his electric rickshaw from Velotours, for a quick jaunt of 20mins or a full immersion in the labyrinth of Florence while hearing its history and legends.

Past popular pork snack bars, now an all time favourite for tourists in Via dei Neri – All’ Antica Vinaio or La Prosciutteria, although I cannot understand why one would queue for a sandwich and wine to eat sitting on the pavement! Or rest tired feet under one of Florence’s most dramatic statues – Perseus while listening to a sentimental busker.

Then as dusk falls look for a place to have an aperitif – a spritz is still the most popular cocktail, although on a hot Summer day a chilled beer or wine goes down well too.

Florence Reale Cafe

Florence boasts new bars this season, one of which is right next to the train station and looking very snazzy. – Reale Firenze. I understand it’s run by the promoters of the Central Market food mall and soft music wafts across the fountains as the sun goes down.

A contrast along the Arno river is the Wood bar with recycled warehouse crates and benches, and the music is lively.

And nearby, still on the river, is the open air dance venue of Summer Suites, so if you are around on Tuesdays that’s salsa night! Free dance workshops and it rocks on until dawn.

And while some clubs are new, some things never change – like the Red Garter club, which has been the haunt of American students ever since I came to Florence 30 years ago and is still going strong by the looks of the crowd spilling out onto the street. I have to admit I have never been inside as under 21yrs pour down alcohol like water enjoying the freedom of Italian regulations….not like back home!Florence Re Garter clubHowever if you’re after some peace and quite, head for the hills outside Florence as it’s been shooting Summer moonstar time, and quite dreamy waiting to make a wish on the forever elusive meteoroid burning up on it’s way to earth!

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Summer in full swing at the Cinque Terre

Vernazza 60's Pop band“Let’s twist again, like we did last Summer…” blares out across the piazza of Vernazza and nannas and poppas, kids and tourists jive and shake, bop and twist while others giggle on the sidelines. Summer is in full swing in the Cinque Terre! Vernazza Pop band guitarist

 

 

Guitarists shimmer in their gold lamé jackets as a replica Nancy Sinatra belts out her song and jangles her tambourine under the psychedelic lights. I haven’t seen Vernazza rave like that for a long time. And it’s not the only village that is entertaining locals and holidaymakers alike.

Corniglia offered their version of a Tom Waits, John Lurie style of Blues in the main street with singer songwriter Folco Orselli and his 3 piece band – Live in Caruggio (alleyway). Milanese by birth but a lover and regular resident of the Cinque Terre. If you’d like to get into the mood click here on his album “Outside is my side”

And more  Pop music at Corniglia the following night – with popular Elvis numbers, crooning Beach boys ‘Do you wanna dance.. with the crowd doing a great ‘do you do you’ chorus, ending the night with Gloria Gaynor classicsI will survive…..”

But it’s not just the music that makes the Cinque Terre so magic. We wandered down to Vernazza at sunset having hiked the trails between the villages, captivated by the views, the myriad of vineyards, the strong scent of Mediterranean brush and the hot sun baking our skin rewarded by a refreshing swim on arrival.

Free beach space is always a problem but I have learnt to squeeze in and create my own space seduced by crystal blue seas and in this heat….is there an option?

Corniglia Marina is fast becoming my favourite spot despite the 300+ steps down to it!

ManarolaWhile Manarola is an old time haunt, the high trail is a little taxing in the heat and the thought of a crowded train ride sometimes puts me off.

Living almost solely on fruit and gelati, waiting for the evening breeze to revive us from the Summer heat, watching kids glued to their mobiles or searching for pokemon….yes the craze has hit even the Cinque Terre!Monterosso kids

 

 

 

Drooling over a private food table in the ready for the Disabled Scuba diving club of Monterosso, and very impressed by their watermelon sculptures.

 

And it’s reassuring to see families playing table soccer in the main square of VernazzaVernazza surrounded by restaurants bulging at the seams with clients enjoying pesto dishes, seafood pasta, local fish and of course anchovies fried, pied or lightly marinated.

As the sun goes down, Vernazza is in its prime……

Vernazza

 

 

Cinque Terre sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the Cinque Terre remains an enchanting paradise.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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