Lecce, Otranto, Bari, Matera, Naples, Rome, Pisa, Florence
23.12: Munich -> Lugo
24.12: Lugo -> Lecce
26.12: Lecce -> Otranto -> Lecce
27.12: Lecce -> Locorotondo -> Alberobello -> Bari
28.12: Bari -> Castel del Monte -> Bari
29.12: Bari -> Altamura -> Matera
31.12: Matera -> Paestum -> Naples
2.1: Naples -> Pompeii -> Naples
3.1: Naples -> Amalfi -> Naples
4.1: Naples -> Caserta palace -> Rome
6.1: Rome -> Pisa -> Florence
7.1: Florence -> Dro
8.1: Dro -> Weissenstein -> Bozen -> Munich
Planning and overall impression
eastern Europe trip in summer 2021, also this was
a "Covid trip": by car only to avoid public transportation and the risk
of pandemic related flight cancellations, and not too far away from Munich, because by car
with only 16 days available you can't drive too far.
The south of Italy is not too cold at the end of the year and is therefore suitable for a winter trip.
Besides the temperatures we chose Italy because it offers a mix of culture, history, nice sceneries and varied landscapes.
This trip was also an opportunity to show the kids some of the major touristic highlights of Italy (Florence, Rome, the south).
Italy is and has always been a relatively
pricey place where to spend a holiday. You sort of pay a surcharge to
be able to experience its rich history and cultural heritage. Having
written this, I noticed that the south of Italy is less expensive than
the centre and the north. In Naples for instance, you can eat small pizzas for 2.50€
and have a meal with a pizza and a beer for 6 Euro. But in the "tourist
zone" in Rome it's easy to spend a lot of money. Most apartments we
booked were in the 80-100€ / night range.
We ate in a number of places, ranging from restaurants, to food courts
of shopping malls and occasionally in fast food restaurants when time
was short. Some places were expensive, others quite cheap (see the
comment above regarding the pizza in Naples).
Being a family of four (two
adults, two kids) most of the time we stayed in apartments. These were
convenient, because we could all stay in one place (as opposed to have
two separate, possibly not connecting, rooms in a hotel). In addition,
many apartments had a washing machine, so we could easily wash dirty
clothes. We booked most places with booking.com. These cost in the range of 80 to 100€ per night.
Money / Exchange rate
No need to change money, as Italy is in the Euro zone.
Mobile phones and prepaid cards
We relied entirely on EU roaming, so didn't need local SIM cards.
All places were we stayed
offered free WLAN, sometimes fast, sometimes not so fast and sometimes
Outdoors we used the smartphone to access the Internet.
The weather overall was not too bad,
considering that we did this trip in winter. It only rained a bit every
now and then. In the south the temperatures reached 17°C-18°C during
daytime (even 21°C once in Naples). In Rome they were already down to
15°C and in Florence went down to 10°C.
Health / Vaccinations
We managed to cross the
borders without being checked. We had all required documentation with
us just in case, but there were no border controls at the borders to
Austria and Italy.
Then, in Italy there were no Covid restrictions, i.e. all places were
open. In areas with lots of people we wore FFP2 masks, just to be on
the safe side.
During those two weeks we spent in Italy the number of daily Corona cases went up significantly.
VISA / Entry requirements
Intra-EU trip, so no VISAs were needed.
Some areas in the south of Italy (even
the tourist areas of Rome) have a reputation of being full of
pickpockets, but in practice while we were there nothing happened. We even left the car
with the keys one night in a garage in Naples, without getting a
receipt. Had the car disappeared, I would have had a hard time proving
that I had left the car in that garage. But no, nothing happened, and the next
morning I got the car back without a scratch.
We did this trip completely by car, leaving from Munich and getting
back to Munich. This had the advantage that we didn't have to rely on
public transportation (less risk of getting infected) and we could
choose apartments in any location (for instance less expensive ones out
23.12: Munich -> Lugo
Hotel Ristorante Ala d'Oro, Lugo. 89 Euro for a
beautiful, big apartment with two bedrooms, two toilets (one with
shower), big living room, kitchen. Lots of furniture, nice, stylish,
good quality. Spotlessly clean. Free WLAN.
Weather: cold in Munich (around 4°C, which later
gets a bit more), around 2°C in Austria and 5°C in Lugo when we arrive
at 10pm. Some blue sky, no rain.
We do Covid tests (antigen), which turn out negative. Then we book the
three nights in Lecce and at 3:18pm start driving towards Italy. There
is some traffic jam on the motorway in Germany until the junction
between the A8 and A93 motorways. After that there is no more traffic
At the borders Germany-Austria and Austria-Italy there are no queues,
even if both Austria and Italy have announced entry restrictions due to
Covid. Nobody is checking anybody.
We average a relatively low speed until Bozen, then pick up speed and
reach Lugo before 10pm (in less time than Google Maps predicted). Then
we check in.
In the evening I read the news. 44595 new Covid cases in Italy - there
have never been so many. Even in France and the UK the numbers are
exploding. The plan is to travel in Italy until January 8th. Hopefully
this will be possible. In theory the Italian government might impose
lockdowns or other restrictions which make travelling unfeasible
(effectively forcing us to shorten our trip and return early to
24.12: Lugo -> Lecce
Miss Polly Suite, apartment in Lecce. 79 Euro for
an apartment on the second floor (no lift). There are two bedrooms, one
kitchen, one bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully furnished and
there is also food for the breakfast (no microwave unit however). There
is a washing machine for the clothes and two A/C units which double as
heaters. Free parking in front of the house. The biggest problem is the
cold: despite letting the A/C units run as heaters in the apartment we
only have 15°C, which is very cold. My wife has to sleep with a jacket.
Weather: in the northern part of Italy it's
overcast and grey, even some fog. Really not nice weather. I feel sorry
for the people who have to live here in winter. Further south, after
some time the sun comes out, there is a blue sky and temperatures climb
to 17°C. Only a little bit of rain along the way, some wind.
We leave Lugo around 10:40am and after refueling the car, start driving
towards Lecce. Around 2:20pm we stop at the Megalò shopping mall
outside Pescara. This is a big, flashy, modern and very nice mall. We
have a lunch in the food court on the upper floor, then buy some food
in the supermarket.
Around 4:15pm we continue driving towards Lecce. The motorway is
initially difficult because it crosses hilly and mountainous terrain
and it's quite old. It consists of two narrow lanes per side and many
too narrow curves. After a bit over an hour the situation improves and
it is possible to drive a bit faster.
The motorway ends in Bari. After that there is again some kind of
motorway (this time toll-free), but initially it's in a quite poor
shape and there is a speed limit of 90 km/h. After a while this high
speed road becomes better and the speed limit is lifted to 110 km/h.
Finally we reach the apartment at 8:20pm and check in.
We spend the rest of the day freezing in the apartment.
Miss Polly Suite, Lecce. This morning the landlord
shows up with some blankets, after I have told him that the flat is
cold and we need additional blankets. He also brings some pastries.
Some discussion on the phone (I'm out when he arrives).
Weather: mostly sunny, but with a thin clouds
layer which from time to time gets thicker. When I get out at 11am it
looks as if it will get warmer, but in reality it doesn't get warmer
and there is some cold wind. So basically we have to dress up a bit to
be out the whole day.
In the morning I get out at 11:30am. Alone, because the others are
still getting ready. Until 1pm I walk around and have a look at the
city. There are some buildings in nice baroque architecture, but fewer
than I had expected after reading about Lecce (the "Florence of the
south"). In addition, some of the most interesting buildings are
covered with scaffolding. So, to summarise it, Lecce is nice, but is
not comparable with cities like Florence (or Venice).
Around 1:10pm I'm back at the apartment. There, together with Shirley
and the girls I walk to a restaurant which I found on Google Maps. This
turns out to be closed, so we just walk into the old town and look for
a restaurant there. We have some late lunch between 2 and 3pm at the Il
Passo Dopo restaurant, then walk into town.
We walk around a bit, until the Centrum mall at the other end (which is
closed today). Then we walk back towards the old town. Around 4:30pm we
discover a Xmas market, nicely decorated. Then we walk to a McDonalds
restaurant, where we have some small thing.
Opposite this McDonalds there is a Taiwanese bubble tea place.
Obviously the girls go there for a bubble tea. Turns out that in this
place they also have Chinese dumplings (jiaozi, 6 piece for 3 Euro).
Actually six pieces of Chinese dumplings fill the stomach, i.e. are
sufficient for a dinner.
Shortly before 6pm we leave this place and slowly walk back to the
apartment. We stop several times along the way. Right now ir's dark and
the city looks really magical with all these lights. Lots of people on
the streets, even some street artists. We are back in the apartment at
26.12: Lecce -> Otranto -> Lecce
Miss Polly Suite, Lecce.
Weather: sunny in the morning, gradual clouds
build up then, somehow cloudy in the afternoon, some light rain in the
evening after 5pm. Top temperature of 18°C, quite windy in Otranto.
Today we do the daytrip to Otranto. I was thinking of stopping in
Galatina on the way back to Lecce, but because we start very late (we
leave the apartment at 12:15pm), there is no time left to visit Galatina.
Leaving Lecce after 12:15pm we reach Otranto around 1pm. We can't find
a parking and just park the car somewhere outside the old town. Then we
walk towards the old town.
Great view of the sea and rhe old town of Otranto with its picturesque
city walls. Or perhaps it's because I haven't seen the sea for a while,
and I'm enjoying the nice, open views. In any case we spend some time
on the seafront, taking some pictures. Then we walk to the old town and
explore the area a bit. One restaurant which looks interesting is full
and there is a queue of people in front of it.
It then takes us some time to find another suitable place. I was
actually looking for a pizza place, but when I sit inside and order the
pizza, the waiter tells us that pizzas are only available in the
evening. So I order a steak with fries.
Around 3:30pm we leave this restaurant and get back into the old town.
By the way, lots of people today in Otranto - probably it's because
today is Sunday. Otranto looks like a very touristy place (picturesque,
lots of shops and restaurants, crowded even on this winter day).
Around 4:30pm we start driving back towards Lecce. Along the way we stop
in a petrol station to refuel the car. Then we lose some time in Lecce
looking for a parking in the city near the Taiwan bubble tea place. We
spend around 20 minutes looking for a parking, then just drive back to
the apartment and park the car there.
Around 6pm we walk into town and have some bubble tea and fried Chinese
dumplings in the Taiwan bubble tea place. Then we walk back to the
apartment and end the day at 7:30pm.
27.12: Lecce -> Locorotondo -> Alberobello -> Bari
Flores apartment, Bari. 98.66€ for an apartment
with a bedroom, kitchen/livingroom type of room with two additional
beds, bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully furnished and there is
food for breakfast. The apartment has heating (real heating radiators),
A/C and fast WLAN. The location is central in the city. The only
problem is that this apartment has no parking, so I have to leave the
car in a parking which costs 20 Euro/day. This means that the total
cost per night is 118 Euro. When I tell my wife, she says that we could
have chosen a hotel with parking for that price.
Weather: it has rained in the night (good,
because now the car is clean again). When we leave Lecce the sky is
still a bit overcast, but when we approach Locorotondo it's blue and
sunny. In Locorotondo itself it's a mix of overcast and sunny. Similar
situation in Alberobello. When we approach Bari it rains a bit, then
it's dry again. Top temperatures around 15°-18°C.
We leave Lecce at 10:43am and start driving towards Locorotondo in the
Itria valley. The road is to a large extent a highway with a max. speed
limit of 110 km/h in some sections. We arrive shortly before 12pm and
park the car in the city, not far from the old town.
Locorotondo is a cute city with picturesque white houses, very very
nice and photogenic. With sunshine and blue sky this town really shines
- there are countless photo opportunities. It's not so touristy on this
December day, i.e. not so many tourists and not so many open shops.
We spend almost one hour in this place, then drive to Alberobello. This is only 15 minutes by car from Locorotondo.
Alberobello is mainly known for the trullo type of houses, which are
white dry stone huts with conical, grey roofs. These are actually spread
over the entire area, but in Alberobello there are a lot of these
trullo houses. The trulli of Alberobello have been declared a UNESCO
world heritage site in 1996.
This small city is wildly cute and is also wildly touristy. Even on a
Monday in low season (December) it's full of tourists and there are
countless shops and restaurants everywhere.
Since it's a bit late (1:30pm) we look for a restaurant and end up
choosing one conveniently located close to the trulli area. Turns out
that this place is an overpriced tourist trap, serving poor quality
food at inflated prices. And I must say that this table fee of 2.50
Euro per person (10 Euro for a family of four) is starting to get on my
nerves. This table fee is supposed to cover the cost of decorating the
table and should include bread and snacks. But this table where we are
sitting at has paper table cloth, the glasses are of plastic and they
don't even serve bread. The pizzas have a burned bottom which we have
to cut away with a knife.
After 2:30pm we start walking around Alberobello. The trulli area is very cute.
Around 3:30pm we get back to the car. I key in the Mongolfiera mall in
Bari. The idea would be to spend some time there shopping and perhaps
have dinner there in the food court. Turns out that this mall is not as
nice as I was hoping and there is no food court. So, after buying some
food, we drive to the KFC restaurant in Bari (there is one in the train
It takes some effort to navigate through the traffic in Bari, because it is
a bit chaotic. We park the car in front of the train station, get some
take-away food and drive to the apartment.
Finding the apartment and getting into it is quite easy. The bigger
problem is that there is no place in front of the apartment where I can
stop to unload the car. Once again I have to stop the car in a not
allowed place, just to unload the luggage.
After that I lose some time looking for a parking. Probably next time I'll book a place which has its own parking.
28.12: Bari -> Castel del Monte -> Bari
Flores apartment, Bari. Today we realise that there
is actually a balcony with chairs and a table. There is even a washing
machine, although it's not clear if it can be used.
Weather: sunny with some clouds in Bari in the
morning. When we arrive at Castel del Monte at 12:15pm there is a nice
sunny blue sky, which makes this castle really shine. Top temperatures
of 15°-16°C, no rain, no wind.
You are not allowed to drive up to the castle and have to leave the car
in a parking about 1km from the castle. From there you walk up to the
Castel del Monte is a pretty unique octagonal structure on top of a
hill at 540m of altitude. It's actually cuter than in the pictures I
have seen. Adjacent to it there is a restaurant and a visitor centre.
The ticket to get into the castle costs 7 Euro (children below 18
free). The castle was built during the 1240s by King Frederick II of
the Hohenstaufen dynasty.
You can walk into the inner court and visit the interior rooms. A staircase leads to an upper level.
We are at the castle until 1:30pm, then slowly walk back to the car and
then drive back to Bari. There we leave the car in the same parking of
yesterday (San Francesco).
Around 3pm I walk towards the historic core of Bari. There is an
interesting castle (and some churches), but otherwise the historic core
is less impressive than I had thought.
Around 4pm I walk back to the more modern part of Bari and meet Shirley
and the girls in a Bubble tea place (run by a Chinese lady) not far
from the train station around 4:15pm. Because we have skipped lunch and
this place is convenient (they have Chinese dumplings, ramen noodles
and other tasty things), we start ordering more and more stuff and by
the time we have finished one hour later, we have effectively combined
lunch and dinner.
At 5:20pm we start walking back to the apartment. We cross the Giardini
di Piazza Umberto I park, then walk through the Sparano da Bari
pedestrian area, which seems to be the main shopping street of Bari.
Beautiful Xmas decorations, lots of people. We are back in the
apartment around 6pm.
In the evening I book the accomodation in Rome for Jan 4th-6th (again an apartment).
29.12: Bari -> Altamura -> Matera
Central Domus Matery B&B, Matera. 96 Euro for a
mini-apartment with two bedrooms, a corridor and a toilet. 4th floor of
a building, elevator available. No kitchen. The rooms are nicely
furnished, although only one has a (small) table. Clean rooms with
modern furniture. The heating seems not to work, but the A/C unit warms
up the room to comfortable levels. WLAN is available in the rooms. The
apartment is centrally located in Matera (a few hundred metres from the
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds the whole day. No rain, but there is some fresh wind. Top temperatures around 17°C.
In the morning I wonder for a moment if we should take another walk in
the old town of Bari, but then I decide to make a stop in Altamura, a
small city on the way to Matera. I wasn't terribly impressed yesterday
by the old town of Bari and Bari is a big, messy city with a chaotic
After fetching the car from the parking (another 20 Euro fee), around
10:45am we leave Bari and drive to Altamura. It takes about 45 minutes
to reach Altamura (good road, mostly motorway) and a few more minutes
to find a parking for the car. Then we start exploring the city.
We quickly reach the cathedral which is simply gorgeous and wildly
photogenic. The cathedral alone is worth a trip to this place. The
interior is incredibly well decorated. Marble wall and pillars in
different colours, golden roof, beautiful altars. The upper level is
accessible as well (3 Euro ticket, 2 for children) and offers a nice
view of the church interior.
After the cathedral I continue having a look at Altamura. Besides the
Bari gate (Porta Bari) there is not much more of interest (there is the
arco basso, low arch, but not much else). So I get back to the car and
at 12:50pm start driving to Matera.
From Altamura to Matera it's a short 20 minutes drive. At 1:10pm we
park the car centrally in Matera and start having a look at the city.
The historic core extends around a canyon with rocks and caves. Lots of
interesting old buildings, very photogenic. We have a lunch in a
noodles place (sort of a simple restaurant only serving noodle dishes,
no table service, but with a bit lower prices).
Also here there are nice Xmas decorations in the old town. The place is
quite touristy. Lots of restaurants for tourists, lots of shops.
I walk around until about 3:30pm, until the sun is too low in the sky
to properly illuminate the place. So I walk back to the car, where I
meet Shirley and the kids. We then drive to a supermarket out of town
(the Mongolfiera mall) and buy some food there. Finally we drive to the
apartment, arriving there shortly after 5pm.
There is no parking in front of the apartment, so I have to stop the
car where it's not allowed. After unloading the luggage, Shirley and
the kids check in. I drive a bit around Matera looking for a parking
and finally find one in a place about 1km from the apartment (along a
road in the middle of nowhere). I park the car there and walk back to
Central Domus Matery B&B, Matera.
Weather: sunny. blue sky with some clouds
(variable cloud cover, but mostly blue). Strong wind blowing a cold
air. In the sun and when the wind is not blowing it gets hot, in the
shadow and with wind it's really cold. Not sure what the top
temperature is, perhaps 15°C.
Day spent in Matera, exploring the city. I get out at 10:20am (kids are
still sleeping) and walk towards the old town area. The first thing I
visit is the Palombaro lungo cistern (3 Euro ticket, 10:40am visit), an
underground cistern which in the past was used to store the rain water.
It was built in the 16th century.
Shortly before 11am I'm out again and walk eastwards towards the Casa
Noha museum. On the way I visit the cathedral of Matera (nicely
decorated interior, 1 Euro ticket). They measure your body temperature
on the hand with an infrared sensor, which is pretty dumb because my
hands are quite cold due to the cold wind, so even if I had 40°C of
fever, my hands would be cooled down by the wind.
When I reach Casa Noha I realise that this place is not interesting, so
I continue walking south towards the Sasso Caveoso area. Sasso Caveoso
is a neighbourhood with many dwellings built into the rock.
At 12:53pm Shirley sends me a message. She is in the main square,
waiting for me with the kids. 10 minutes later I'm there and we have a
lunch in the noodle restaurant. After lunch we have a walk in the old
town. We walk to the Casa Cava, (some house allowing tourists to visit
the interior), but it's closed for the lunch break from 1pm to 3:30pm.
Then we walk up to the cathedral and from there back to the main square
(along another way).
At 3pm we are back at the main square. We then go to a pastry / pancake
/ icecream place, where we order some dessert. By 3:30pm we are back in
After a short break Shirley and I walk to a supermarket where we buy some food and drinks.
At 4:15pm I get out again for some blue hour photography. I was
expecting the blue hour to start after 4:30pm, but in reality it starts
after 5pm. I'm back in the apartment around 5:40pm.
31.12: Matera -> Paestum -> Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples. 92 Euro for
an apartment on the 5th floor of a building (elevator available). Two
bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, sort of a combined kitchen/living
room/ corridor with a small table. A bit old, but the kitchen is fully
furnished. The WLAN doesn't work when we arrive. Friendly staff. We
manage to find an empty parking slot in front of the apartment.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Top
temperature of 21°C, no wind. No rain the whole day. Warm enough to
walk around in a T-shirt (when the sun is shining).
In the morning we check out, pack the luggage in the car and buy some
pastries in the pancake shop. Then at 10:45am we start driving towards
Paestum, the ancient Greece temples site.
The road initially is a mountain road with many curves. Basically we
cross the Apennines mountain range. At some point we are on the
motorway to Potenza, then take the motorway towards Salerno. All
motorways, except for the last section are free (for the last section
there is a toll of 2.10€).
We park the car at the parking of the Paestum site (5 Euro fee) and
walk towards the archaeological site. The site is very nice and
consists of three large and well preserved temples and the ruins of a
city, spread over quite a large area (a few hundred meters wide/long).
Around 3pm we are done visiting this site and walk back to the car.
Then we drive to a shopping mall, the La Cartiera mall in Pompei (about
30km from Naples). We reach the mall around 4:30pm.
This mall is not so special but it has a supermarket and a food court,
where we can eat something. Delicious small pizzas for 2.40 Euro, among
other things. At 5:30pm we realise that this mall closes by 6pm today
(Dec 31st). So we rush to the supermarket and buy some food and drinks
for the weekend (everything should be closed the next two days).
Then we get back to the car and drive to the apartment. Thanks to the
GPS navigation we easily find the place, but getting there requires
some careful driving because people in Naples drive like crazy and
pedestrians are also unpredictable.
As usual it's tricky to find a place where to stop the car and unload the luggage. Then we check in.
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples. Today the
son of the landlord tries again without success to fix the Internet
technical problem which he is unable to solve.
Weather: overcast the whole day, no rain. There are a few less clouds in the afternoon, but the sky is still overcast. No wind.
The day starts shortly after midnight. Huge display of fireworks in
Naples. Later I read that fireworks actually had been prohibited by the
mayor of Naples, but the show still took place. Countless fireworks
going up everywhere. Later the air is full of fireworks smell.
In the morning we get up late. Before leaving I book two tickets for
the archaeological museum of Naples (the kids don't have to pay) for 26
I leave home after 11am and head to the Capodimonte museum. When I get
out on the street I get a better picture of what kind of area we are
staying in. Reminds me heavily of the slums in Delhi (India), although
the slums in Delhi are cleaner than this area. I start thinking a bit
about what it would take to clean up and renovate this area, then I
conclude that this is almost impossible.
At 11:40am I walk into the park where the museum is located. It's
closed today, but I just wanted to have a look at the area. The park of
the museum is quite big and nice. From the park I walk to the Madre del
Buon Consiglio church. Adjacent to it there are the San Gennaro
catacombs. I might go in to have a look, but the entrance fee is a bit
steep (9 Euro), so I just skip these catacombs.
I start walking towards the Santa Chiara basilica area, but receive a
message from Shirley who is asking when we meet. It's shortly after
12pm and waiting in the apartment until 2pm doesn't make too much
sense. We agree to meet in front of Palazzo dello Spagnolo. I'm there
shortly before 1pm.
So we slowly walk together towards the archaeology museum. Today is a
public holiday, but many food shops, cafes and eateries are open. Lots
of people on the streets.
We quickly reach Cavour square. This square is actually quite
unimpressive - it's just a big, long square. We have some snack in an
eatery runs by some South Asians (not sure if they are Indians,
Pakistanis, Afghanis etc.). In this area there seem to be lots of South
At 1:40pm we queue up in front of the museum, which today opens at 2pm.
Shortly after 2pm the archaeology museum opens and we walk in.
There is a wardrobe, but you are allowed to carry along your bag.
Inside the museum there are countless artifacts from the ancient Greek
and Roman periods. The museum is actually better than described in the
reviews I read about it. The Magna Grecia gallery is open (and other
galleries as well) and there is no additional fee to see these
galleries. The artifacts are reasonably well presented and the layout
is not confusing.
We are in the museum for over two hours until 4:10pm. Then we have got
enough of it and walk out. Alissia found a Burger King restaurant using
Google Maps, so we walk there.
Slowly walking and with many stops along the way (in one place we buy
some pizza), we reach the Burger King at 5pm. Surprisingly this is
still closed (we hear that today it only opens at 6pm).
So we start walking back and at one point we decide to walk to the
train station, where there is another Burger King restaurant. Slowly
walking and with a few stops along the way we reach the train station
at 6:10pm. We have some food in this Burger King restaurant, then walk
back to the apartment.
2.1: Naples -> Pompeii -> Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples.
Weather: overcast the whole day, no rain. A bit foggy, poor visibility. A bit fresh, top temperatures around 13°C.
We leave the flat after 11am and drive by car towards Pompeii.
Initially we have to go through the ordeal of driving the car out of
the historic centre. We have to get the car through a maze of very
narrow roads with very sharp corners. Some curves require special
manouvering, like parking into a very narrow parking slot. In addition
there are cars and motorcycles parked here and there, making the road
even narrower. And brilliant motorbike riders overtaking you when you
do not expect it (and of course pedestrians walking randomly here and
there, not caring if a car is close or not).
Then, when the road is not so narrow, you have to be very careful
because the traffic is totally chaotic. Finally we are on the motorway
(2.10 Euro toll) to Pompeii.
We reach Pompeii around 12:20pm. Initially I drive past the big parking
next to the ruins, just to check out the area. It turns out that near
the ruins there is just this parking (3 Euro/hour for cars, 4 Euro for
larger cars), so we park the car there.
Then we walk to the entrance. Along the short walk there are several
restaurants and juice bars. Even on this winter day with poor weather
there are still lots of people visiting Pompeii. I guess that on a
summer day in peak season with good weather this place must be
overcrowded beyond belief.
We get two tickets for 16 Euro each (kids below 18 years of age do not pay) and walk into the compound.
Pompeii is basically the ruins of a complete Roman city. There are not
so many architecturally or optically interesting places. What makes
this place interesting is that it's a complete Roman city with all the
roads, buildings, infrastructure etc. It gives you an idea how people
at that time used to live in an ancient Roman city.
We spend a bit over two hours in this place (later we meet people who
spent over five hours in Pompeii). After 1pm we have a sandwich in a
cafeteria inside the compound.
By the way, we notice that there is a train station right in front of the entrance to Pompeii.
Around 3pm we get back to the car. The question is what to do next. I
was thinking of driving up to the summit of Mt Vesuvius, but today the
weather is so bad that it makes little sense. We'd be in a cold, foggy
place with poor visibility.
So instead we drive back to Naples. I key in the address of the royal
palace and start driving. Everything proceeds smoothly until we reach
the centre of Naples. Then the traffic mess starts again.
It's even worse, because in an effort to find a parking for the car we
have to drive the car through crowds of people. Essentially in the
centre of Naples there is a dearth of parking places for cars. And there
are no underground parkings for cars. There are some
"garages" where you can leave the car, but the ones we find are full.
Finally, after some searching we manage to find a parking in a side
street (3 Euro tip to a guy who guided us there). Then we walk towards
Piazza del Plebiscito.
This part of Naples is interesting but also full of people. Nothing
against meeting other people, but in times of the corona pandemic you
would try to limit the risk exposure.
Before this trip I was telling my wife that we would avoid crowded
places, not go to shopping malls, only eat outside etc. But now we are
breaking all these rules and this is a country which Germany has placed
in the high risk category. I mean, with so much exposure to other
people it's quite possible that we have been exposed to the virus already (due to
the sheer number of people we are running into every day). But we are
all vaccinated and so far nobody has gotten sick, at least none of us
has any symptoms.
In any case, we put on FFP2 masks and wade through the crowds. The kids
spot a McDonalds restaurants, so we stop there for some snacks and
pastries. Later we order pizza margherita for 2.50 Euro each in a take
away restaurant. There are some of these places here, even one offering
a 5 Euro menu consisting of a pizza margherita and a beer (+1 Euro
table fee "coperto"). So in theory you could have a full meal for 6
Euro, if a pizza is enough for you. Later in the evening I joke that my
dinner today only cost 2.50 Euro.
The area looks interesting and I wouldn't mind spending some more time
here (on Plebiscito square there is even a street artist holding a
concert). The problem is that there is a pandemic and we need to limit
the exposure. So by 7pm we get back to the car and drive to the
This time we can't find a parking on the street, so after some searching we leave the car in a garage (20 Euro/day).
3.1: Naples -> Amalfi -> Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples. I'm reminded
that there is a tourist tax of 2.50 Euro per day and per person (total
of 40 Euro for four nights and four people, whihc brings up the daily
cost to 92 Euro (82 for the room, 10 for the tax).
Weather: again overcast the whole day and a
little rain (but very little, and only for a short time). During the
day the sun occasionally peeks through. Top temperatures of 14°C. No
In the morning after 11am when we walk out we spot two police officers
on motorbikes who fine all cars which are parked wrongly. Alissia by
the way today will not come with us because she needs to prepare stuff for
We get to the garage and fetch the car. Luckily the car isn't damaged
and hasn't been stolen (I was a bit worried yesterday, when I handed
over the car keys to the garage guys without getting some written
confirmation that I had passed the car to them).
So we start driving to Amalfi. Getting out of the maze of narrow alleys
is now a bit easier because we find another way to get to the main
street (which Google Maps apparently doesn't know). After some
navigating through the traffic mess we are on the motorway and quickly
reach the mountain road which crosses the promontory.
This mountain road is, well, full of countless narrow curves. Not
really a problem for me, but for Shirley all these curves turn out to
be a bit too much. We are glad when we finally reach the coastal road
in Maiori. At the highest point the road reaches 653m asl.
Turns out that my happiness is short-lived, because this coastal road
turns out to be quite difficult as well. Again countless narrow curves,
but the bigger problem is that the road is very narrow in some parts.
Takes some skill to drive, especially when cars are coming from the
We reach Amalfi at 1:10pm. Finding a parking turns out to less
difficult than I had expected. I park the car in the parking behind the
harbour dam. On this low season day with poor weather this parking is
already 80%-90% full. I can only guess that it must be very difficult
to find a parking in summer in the peak season.
Amalfi is indeed a very cute place in a very cute setting. The
cathedral is very, very cute, but it seems that it is just a museum
now, i.e. is no longer in active use. The houses are quite
characteristic. Overall Amalfi is quite small. The mountain rock faces
are quite steep, meaning that there is relatively little space for a
Amalfi is full of tourist shops (selling cute and interesting things)
and cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours. Lots of tourists today.
We walk around a bit, shop a bit, then have a sandwich in a cafe.
After 4pm we leave Amalfi. There is no time to have a look at Positano
(and it's quite dark already), so we drive to the mall in Pompei, the
same one where we stopped on the way from Matera to Naples. To avoid
crossing again the promontory (with that horrible mountain road) this
time I take the coastal road to Salerno and then the motorway.
Well, the coastal road is quite horrible as well. Narrow and with lots of narrow curves.
We are at the mall in Pompei at 5:15pm. There we have some food in the
food court, then buy some food and drinks in the supermarket.
From the mall we drive to a bubble tea place in Naples. We can't find
the QQ Tea Taiwan one, and the Mr Q Bubble tea one is already closed
when we are there at 7:38pm. So we just drive back to the apartment.
4.1: Naples -> Caserta palace -> Rome
Diamond Apartments, Rome. 94 Euro (80 Euro + 14
Euro tourist tax) for a small apartment with a bedroom, a bathroom with
shower (no window) and a livingroom with kitchen area (fully equipped
kitchen) and a sofa which doubles as a bed. The bedroom has an A/C unit
(but without control unit, so you can't use it), while the living room
only has a fan. There is even a washing machine and an ironing board
(but no iron). The apartment is small, but is very well set up. Free
fast WLAN. The only problem is that you have no control on the heating
- the landlord on the second floor switches it on and off whenever he
likes it. The location is not great - quite a bit out of town (18 km
from St Peter's square). Despite the remote location, there are no
parking slots available in the area. You have to leave the car in a
garage for 10 Euro per night.
Weather: overcast in Naples when we leave. In
Caserta it's also overcast, but in Rome it's a mix of overcast and
sunny (sky full of clouds). Top temperatures up to 18°C, but in Rome
only about 15-16°C in the afternoon.
In the morning when we get out in time at 10:20am to move the car away
from the prohibited area - just in time, because soon after two police
officers arrive and start distributing fines to incorrectly parked cars.
We load the luggage into the car and drive towards the royal palace in
Caserta, arriving there at 11:35am. We park the car in the parking
below the compound (1 Euro/hour) and walk up. Soon we discover that
today the palace is closed (apparently it closes every Tuesday), so
after a few pictures we leave for Rome at 12pm.
The drive proceeds smoothly (it's almost all motorway). We park the
car in a side street next to St Peter's square (1 Euro/hour). Around
2:15pm we start walking to the St Peter's church.
St Peter's church and the square are always a quite impressive sight.
The church is very well decorated, both outside and inside. I walk with
Alissia on top of the cupola (8 Euro per person, 10 if you take the
lift). In the meantime Albert has also arrived and we later meet him on
top of the cupola.
Then we walk down again and visit the church. It's almost 5pm when we
finally leave the square. We've spent well over two hours in just this
place and have only seen a small part of it. For instance, we haven't
visited the Vatican museums (these can easily take another 2-3 hours
or even more).
Since the girls want to have a bubble tea, we drive to a bubble tea
place we found with Google Maps. Getting there is not so complicated.
The big problem is finding a parking for the car. In Munich there are
car parkings at every corner - both along the street and underground
and in parking houses. But here in Rome (and other Italian cities) the
parking situation is a joke. There is a dearth of parkings for cars.
Anyway, after some driving here and there in the end we manage to find
a parking (because somebody just left) and the girls can have their
bubble tea (and some other food).
We then drive to a mall near the apartment (the Happio one). The
problem is that the entrance to the mall parking is too steep - the car
would get scratched below - so we can't drive in. We spend some more
time looking for a parking in the mall, but can't find anything. So we
just drive to the apartment and arrive at 7pm.
We call the landlord. Turns out we arrived too early (they
misunderstood and expected us for 8pm). So we drive to a supermarket,
buy some food and then drive back to the apartment. At 8pm we check in.
Later I will leave the car in a nearby garage.
Diamond Apartments, Rome.
Weather: in the morning sunny, then it's a mix of
cloudy and sunny. Some rain in the evening after 5pm it rains on and
off for about an hour. Top temperatures probably in the 15°C to 16°C
Day spent in Rome, visiting a number of places. We are at the bus stop
of the bus Nr 628 shortly after 11am. I buy 8 individual tickets for
1.50 Euro each (a day ticket costs 7 Euro, but I think we won't do so
many bus/subway rides to justify the price; later it turns out that I'm
right, as we do only three rides for a total cost of 4.50 Euro).
We fetch the next 628 bus and get to Navona square with it, arriving
around 11:30am. There we meet Albert and start our tour of Rome. I've
spent a few days in Rome the last time in 2005, but the idea is to show
my girls some of the more significant sights of Rome.
So we slowly walk to Palazzo Madama, the Pantheon, Palazzo
Montecitorio, Palazzo Chigi, the Trevi fountain, the Quirinale, Venetia
square with the Altare della Patria (entering into the building and
climbing on top), then to the Colosseum. In between we have some food
in a restaurant near the Pantheon.
When we are at the Colosseum at 3pm (tickets are 16 Euro per person)
it's impossible to get in, because apparently we should have booked
online and all tickets are sold out. Strange enough we are approached
by some tourist guides who tell us they can get us in. I wonder if they
bought or otherwise blocked these tickets. Personally I wouldn't mind
getting in, but am not terribly disappointed that I can't because
getting all four of us in would cost 64 Euro and that is a bit expensive.
By the way, the area around the Colosseum is now plastered with boards
and other barriers, making it difficult to get good pictures (either
these boards obstruct the view or you can't get where you would need to
be to get a good picture). Same problem with the Montecitorio palace
which was easily accessible in 2005, but now is cordoned off by the
police (special authorisation needed to get closer). Not possible now
to get a picture of the complete palace without something obstructing
the view (and in any case you can't get a good picture).
Because it is just 3 something pm we take the underground and head to
Piazza di Spagna, arriving there at 3:40pm. It's getting dark, also
because the sky is now quite overcast. Lots of people on this square.
We spend some time here, then slowly walk to Piazza del Popolo square.
With sunshine and a blue sky it's possible to get great pictures of
this square. But now the lighting conditions are so-so (darkish cloudy
sky) and they placed some metal barriers on this square to channel the
flow of people, which interfere with the beauty of this square.
So around 4:15pm we split - Albert goes somewhere, we take a subway to the Happio mall near our apartment.
We arrive there shortly before 5pm and have some food and the girls buy
some clothes in an H&M store offering discounts. After one more
meal in a Ramen noodles place we walk back to the apartment.
6.1: Rome -> Pisa -> Florence
A 150m² villa in Grassina with a large living
room/kitchen area, three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with shower).
Luxury place with lots of equipment, fast WLAN, fully equipped kitchen.
Located in the hills above Florence, a bit hard to find. The only
problem is the heating, as we only have 19-20°C in the rooms. 200 Euro
deposit (you get it back the day after if nothing was
Weather: overcast initially in Rome and even some
rain on the motorway. Significantly colder than yesterday - top
temperatures of 10°C in Pisa (and down to 6°C on the motorway in the
mountains while it rains). Some sunshine in Pisa in the afternoon.
We leave Rome around 10:25am and start driving towards Pisa. Google
Maps selects the mountain route (across Umbria), instead of the coastal
route across Grosseto. Initially in the mountains the motorway is a bit
difficult - lots of curves, some a bit narrow. After the situation
improves and in Tuscany the slopes and the motorway are more smooth.
At 2:30pm we park the car outside the Piazza dei Miracoli compound
(where the leaning tower is) and walk to the leaning tower. A ticket
for the leaning tower costs 20 Euro, the complete ticket for everything
27 Euro. A 10 Euro ticket covers everything except the tower.
After about 5-10 minutes Albert arrives. He has parked the car in
parking at the other end of the city and it took him a while to walk
So we spend the next two hours in this area visiting the cathedral, the
cemetery and two museums. The cemetery and the museums are not terribly
After 4:30pm we start walking towards the city centre. This is actually
quite nice and interesting. We pass by the Normale university building
and soon reach the pedestrian area with all shops and cafes. As usual
for Italy there are lots of people on the streets. Shirley and the
girls are walking towards a Chinese fast food restaurant, which they
found with Google Maps. Albert and I spot an Indian restaurant and eat
After that we get back to the car and drive to the villa near Florence.
With Google Maps we easily find the place, but Albert who is using a
different car navigation system has difficulties finding the place.
7.1: Florence -> Dro
Hotel Eden, Dro. 82 Euro for a room with four beds,
not too big (20m²), attached bathroom with shower. Breakfast
included. Free WLAN in the room. LCD TV, heating, two tables and three
chairs, place to hang the clothes. The hotel has its own parking (you
can park the car in front of it). It's a bit old (the doors open with
traditional metal keys), but seems ok. The location is Dro, a village
in the middle of nowhere between Trento and the Garda lake.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. A bit cold (top temperatures around 7°-8°C.
We check out around 10:25am and drive to Florence, parking the car near
Ferrucci square (as suggested by the landlord; 1 Euro per hour)). From
here it's about a half an hour walk until the cathedral. We could
perhaps have parked the car a bit closer to Ponte Vecchio, but then
it's not a bad thing to walk along the Arno river because there are
good views of Florence from here.
Around 11:50am we are at Ponte Vecchio. Later we split - the ladies
will do their own things (sightseeing, shopping, etc.), while I will
join Albert who has been queueing up at the queue of the cathedral.
It's a very long queue (half an hour to get into the cathedral), but
actually it's a waste of time because the interior of the cathedral is
not so special. After the cathedral we buy a ticket for the bell tower
adjacent to the cathedral (15 Euro). From the top you are supposed to
have a good view of Florence.
When it's our turn (shortly after 1:30pm, we get in and climb to the
top. Nasty surprise when we are on top: they put a mesh of metal wires
on top, making it impossible to get good images of the city. Only if
you use a smartphone with its tiny camera you can get usable images,
But if you use a real camera with a large sensor and large lenses, the
damn wire meshes are in the image. And they charge 15 Euro for this.
So at 2pm we get downstairs back into town. We walk slowly to the
town hall, then have some lunch in a restaurant (again overpriced stuff
- I pay 11 Euro for a piece of cake and a half litre bottle of mineral
water; a can of soft drink would have cost 4 Euro). Lots of overpriced
stuff in Florence: 20 Euro to get on top of the dome of the cathedral,
ice creams which start at 5 Euro for two scoops etc.
Around 3:40pm Albert and I split. He will drive to Bozen, while I
rejoin my ladies and walk back to the car. Then we refuel the car and
drive to Dro in Trentino, stopping on the way in the Adigeo shopping
mall near Verona.
This is a nice, clean and modern shopping mall, with
lots of shops, a supermarket and a very good food court. Besides fast
food outlets, there are also several restaurants serving Italian food.
At 8:20pm we get back to the car and drive to the hotel in Dro, arriving at 9:40pm.
8.1: Dro -> Weissenstein -> Bozen -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny, blue sky (not a cloud in
Weissenstein and Bozen) but quite cold (-4°C in Weissenstein at 1520m
of altitude, -1°C in Bozen and Munich).
In the morning I check the area around the hotel (in Dro). There is
nothing worth visiting. It's just a flat, empty valley (quite grey and
colourless) between the mountains. So, after some searching we spot a
nice place in the mountains north of Dro (about 1:10 hours from here):
it's the Weissenstein monastery, in the mountains at 1520m of altitude
near the city of Weissenstein.
We park the car in the parking of the monastery at 12pm. Then in theory
one could take a walk in the forest (there is a 1:30h trail), but
because we do not have so much time, we just walk a bit around the
monastery and have a look at the place.
With snow and sunshine the area
is simply beautiful. The trees are covered with snow and there is the
view of the mountain chain in rhe background.
Around 12:30pm we leave Weissenstein and drive to Bozen. There we have
a lunch in a pizzeria restaurant and after that we drive back to
Germany. The motorway is actually not that full, considering that we
are at the end of a holiday period. I guess that because of the
pandemic situation lots of people have chosen not to travel.
In fact this trip was quite uncertain: we needed a negative Covid test
to enter Italy (had any one of us been positive we would have had to
cancel the trip), and already before December 23rd it was obvious that
the number of infections were going up. It could have happened that the
regional governments in Italy would have implemented a regional
lockdown, shutting down hotels and restaurants, thereby forcing us to
interrupt or change the trip. Or one of us could have got sick, not
that unlikely given that we got a lot of exposure to people everywhere.
But we were lucky and managed to complete this trip as planned, despite
the extraordinary situation. I guess the vaccinations did their part.
Copyright 2022 Alfred Molon