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Letters home...

Welcome to my travel diary. This diary page was recommended to me by a friend instead of sending the usual 'group emails'. I hope this will entertain and keep you posted on what I'm up to on the other side of the world. I hope you'll post me a message as I'll probably be thinking of you and eager to stay in touch! Take care and let the travels begin!

Diary Entries

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Location: Napoli and Pompei, Italy

It's around 5:30pm and back in the hostel after a long day out about about. I'm showered, smelling fresh and in more confortable attire.
Got up early this morning and started the day in Alfredo's Paticceria with a paste (pastry) e dopio cafe (double espresso). They were very nice and as always, it's a bit of a novelity to see an Aussie speak Italian.
Got on the bus to Pompei and as usual missed my stop. I know, you're probably thinking, who the hell let this girl go travelling by herself in a foreign country. But to be fair, I usually manage to get myself out of a pickle, even if it extends my day-trip by an hour or so! Although, in this case, it worked out for the better. I ended up in the centre of the town Pompei. Walking down the main drag I saw many charming coffee bars, alimentari and bakeries. In the town square lay many more cafes and plenty of Italian coming out of Sunday church. It was certainly an impressive church and very ornant and beautiful inside with all it's frescos and statues. When I left the ruins of Pompeii and went into town for lunch, the church was packed with people attending sunday mass, entering the church after blessing themselves with the holy water, which stood in the large marble basin near the entrance.
I immdiately found the people to be much friendlier here than in Napoli too. After my second coffe on the main drag, I walked down to the entrance of the ruins and continued to explore the decrepid city of what was once 'Pompei' before the tremendous erruption of neighbouring Vesuvius.
I took an audio guide which really helped as everything wasn't well sign-posted.

It was really interesting seeing the ruins and the layout of what was actually rather a large city with a very fashionable lifestyle. The had the comunal baths regularly, which held thermal heating, perfumed oils to clean the body, a gym area and a cold bath to give just a touch of rejuvenation between the hot and the cold waters. Kinda like saunas and cold pools today.
However, one had to really make the effort to keep up the enthusiasm of exploring as the ruins are actually pretty plain. you really have to try and not be ho-hum about the whole thing and really try and imagine what living in this place must've been like.
Another fascination was seeing a plaster cast of two people who were caught in the lava flow. When archeologists were excavating the ruins and found bones, the director of the project requested that all the bodies and ruins of the houses be covered in plaster moulds. So as the bodies deteriorated, then a detailed shape of the person was still kept. There were even a few bones left in the foot and a reasonable part of the skull.

After a lovely lunch of caprese (tomatoes, mozerella, basil and oil)and Bistecca ai ferri (grilled beef) accompanied by a tasty pinot grigio (sp.) I headed back to the hub of Napoli.
The weather is hot, so by the time you get back, you've got a nice sheen over your body which feels like heaven when washed off after a shower.
Walking through the bumpy cobbled streets this afternoon didn't feel as bad as yesterday. the sun shone and the city's pulse seemed to have slowed to the moods of a usual Sunday afternoon lazying around. I think I'm also getting used to being in a big, foreign city by myself and not feeling as though i have to be on guard the whole time. I'm glad I'm starting to relax now and not later in the week, as you can really limit yourself to staying in the same areas and not venturing further. I'm here to travel, explore, see and learn, so putting fear aside can open you to the good experiances...and often the bad. But I guess that's the stuff you learn from (hopefully in a good way!)

Capri early tomorrow morning by ferry! Ciao. Much love...xoxox

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Location: Napoli, Italy

It's Saturday afternoon, 4:30pm, and I'm sitting in my hostel in Napoli foot-sore, hot and a little weary. It's true, Napoli is a bustling city with tanto persone, cars, buses and scooters. Travelling alone here, you feel very little and insignificant and people aren't always willing to help you. On the upside, it has a beautiful mix of Italian, Greek and Spanish architecture. The area throughout the old historical sector is interesting and filled with churches, green grocers, delis and random little shops.

I took the train down from firenze yesterday and found my hostel reasonably well. The map in my guide was dodgy and my navigation skills are somewhat weak, so i invitably got lost. But it's a nice place on the 3rd floor of an old building. The rooms are spaceous, light-filled and comfortable, along with the tv area and kitchen.

Took myself off this morning to site see and I began with the archeological Museum. I found it really interesting with a great selection of Greek scuplture and old objects found in the city ruins. The mosaics, jewellry and paintings were great and they even had a room filled with old Greek eroticism goods from the rooms where the men used to dine together. So lots of mosaics resembling something out of the karma sutra and little carved objects where the phallic piece was bigger than them.

Went to a trattoria for lunch. The waiters looked at me like I was very strange when I asked for a table for one. I tried to then venture to a castle on a hill just outside the city centre, so I hopped on a bus which seemed to drive directly to the location. But again, Alexa and cars/buses/trains in unfamiliar territory is a bad mix - I get lost faster. This weird old italian guy tried to show me how to get back on another bus then wouldn't leave me alone and was a bit too touchy. So anywho, now back in the peace of the hostel and needing a bit of down time before heading out again. I'm off to the Teatro to see an opera called 'Wherther'. Never heard of it, but I figure it's a good experiance and the theare is meant to be amazing inside. So we'll see how that goes.

Day-trippin tomorrow then heading to Capri on the ferry on Monday. Ah, beach and peace! can't wait.

Lots of love

Tuesday, 01 May 2007

Location: firenze, Italy

Dear All,

Tuesday morning here and it's the first day of May, thus, we have a public holiday in Italy. However, I didn'know this till i reached the front door of school as they haven't given us public holidays in the past. Oh well, I went round the corner to Gilli Cafe and sat outside with a coffee and did a bit of vocab study. We're all kicking ourselevs that we could've stayed out longer last night, but I probably needed the extra sleep and it's nice to be fresh when you wake up in the morning.

Discovered a beautiful walking route with Mille the other day which takes us off into the hills for an hour. We've become accustomed to going walking around 7pm as that's when the sun begins to set and you have the most stunning glow over the city as you walk up the hill to San Michelangelo with all it's splendid glory and views. Also, if you're up for going out that night then it freshens you up beforehand.

Had a lovely weekend! my flatmate Charlotte used to study for a year in a little towm outside Parma, called Colorno. So we booked ourselves into a charming little hotel in Parma above a restaurant and a block away from the Batisteo. The hotel rested down a little, narrow street where green vines climbed the walls.
Parma is beautiful. It's now my favourite city after Firenze. There are no tourists, thus the atmosphere is tranquill and plays to the beat of the locals. We arrived and had a explore around the city centre, looking in shops, bookstores and churches. After a little siesta we ventured out to Colorno in a cab and visited one of Charlotte's old hangout pubs situated on Via Settembre 23 (my b'day!) The bartender there, Maurio, used to have a big crush on Charlotte and has never let her pay for anything in the bar, so we were treated to a bottle of very nice red and a mixed cheese plater with honey. It's great being a woman sometimes in this country!
We then went to dinner around 10pm to an old favourite restaurant run by a son and mother who looked at charlotte either as another daughter or a future daughter-in-law!
The food was so delicious and typical of the region.
Headed back to Parma and visited a couple nice wine bars, again, charlotte's favouites so we were in good places. One bar had Diego the barman, who also has a crush on Charlotte so she was there till closing time with him enjoying chocolate cake and whiskey. I was flagging somewhat when we arrived so I didn't stay long. Mille was charmed by local Italian artiste, well he said he was, who grabbed her for a dance in the middle of the bar. she loved it..cheeky thing.

Headed back to Firenze the next day and met the new member to a casa nostra. her name is Vanessa and she's from Brazil (she looks it too, very cute!) but amazingly, she's 15! dosn't look it either. But she's really sweet and I hope i cn get to know her a bit mroe. she doesn'[t speak much english so my italian is being put to good use here. I think she's a bit nervous hanging out with us as we all speak fluent english so she's been out of the house much of the tim, we'll see how it goes, i'll have to strap her down and make her come to dinenr with us one night.
Moved back into our beloved appartment in Della Spada! Used yesterday to settle in and make my room all pretty! It's such a relieveing and settling feeling being back in our old home and neighbourood. I feel really safe and comfortable here, so 'm feeling happy.

Si godna giornata. Enjoy the day.
Love Alexa

Monday, 23 April 2007

Location: Firenze, Italy

Bongiorno (sp!)

Well back at school on a monday morning and feeling fresh for the week to come. the weather here has really settled into the swings of summer with hot and sunny days and cool evenings leaving us to sleep in peace.
We mulled over the idea of going away this weekend..but a surprise came in store. The girls and I were out on Thursday night trying out a new bar where we got to know the bartender (amedeo) who has invited to take a table with him and his friends in this club which is opening up very soon in the park, I've heard good things about it as it's very indoor-outdoor with lots of varied music.
We weren't feeling too great during the day on friday so headed to the park for some relaxing sunbathing and a bit of a picnic lunch. That night as we stood on Ponte Carria waiting for our friend Victor to arrive (very late mind you), our two boys from London, Alex and Ollie, who left to go home about 3 weeks ago surprised us by arriving too! So we now have our two mates back for a few days. Took a nice dinner together on friday and went to a few of the usual bars for a night out. We went to The Jazz Club which is a really laid back, dark place playing live music nearly everynight, surrounded by young and old regulars who have paid the 5euros membership fee and prop up the front stools to soak up the music.

Saturday night in Firenze is not as lively as thursday or friday so the group took a pleasant dinner in a restaurant called Open Bar which looks out onto the water and the Ponte Vecchio. Half way through the meal, the live jazz kicked up and accompanied us through the rest of the evening - however, not as good as the night before!

Sunday we pretty much hung out in bed and went out walking in the afternoon. Mille and I took a couple of beers in a local irish pub and occupied the stools out the front. I've always wanted to learn how to play chess so we found a board and propped it up on top of some stools and began a game - she whipped me as I eventually became impatient and went on a suicide rant, but good fun. A young guy called Mateo came and joined us. He's at university studying journalism and lived for many years in London so his english was very good. We got chatting with him and went for coffee afterwards. After discovering he works as a part-time cheif and I love cooking, he agreed to have us round for dinner where we cook a dish each. So hoping we'll be doing that this week.

One more week in the temporary appartment and we're all looking forward to returning to our homely comforts of Della Spada. We're sharing this place at the moment with two other girls whoc are very nice, but we can't help feeling we're crashing in on their place. Especially with the boys staying for this week, we're probably being a bit too loud! and it's hard getting the boys to shutup and calm down. They thought it owuld be really fun to climb along our balcony last night and bang on the bedroom window to wake us up, bastards.
The area around where we live (across the road from the station) is a bit dodgy too with lots of foreign characters and beggars. Don't get me wrong, I'm thinking myself as higher than them or whatever, but it's a bit disconcerting when as a young woman you're walking past them and getting cat-calls or unwanted greetings.

Hope to write more this week with the news. Hope you're safe and well. Take care and lots of love!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Location: Italy

Wednesday morning here and in breaktime at school.
Many things have happened over the past week and I am now living in a different appartment with my friends for 2 weeks while the other appartment in Via Della Spada gets sprayed for bugs. Bit anoying as we're all feeling somehwat unsettled but the new place is big and filled with sunlight. Although, we're close to the station which is a bit of a dodgy area and very crowded, I thinkw e're all missing the intimacies of our old neighbourhood, with the local deli, greengrocer and butch who we all know by name or face.

Last weekend I went to Perugia with the girls and had a great lunch when we arrived. Took a walk round the city and enjoyed the sunny afternoon. We walked past a hairdresser and felt like getting our hair done, so we did that at around 6pm and then missed the 8:30 train to Florence, woops. ended up standing on the cold plaform for a while and didn't get back to Florence till 10:30pm, feeling cold and tired.
Sunday, i went to a little town called Arezzo with the school. One of the teachers guided us through 3 galleries and numerous churches which great artwork and architecture. I saw the original Duke and Duchess of Urbino, very impressive as well as many other works by italian artists like Fillipo Lippi. The whole day was in italian for me as the guide (Mateo) soley spoke itlaian and I was with 5 other Spanish students from school who didn't speak english. Although, they have the upper advantage as italian is very easy for them as it sounds so familiar to espanol! good practis for me though, even if i did appear to be somewhat of a mute to the others.

Did the appartment move on monday and found a cheap massage house yesterday - needless to say I had a great sleep last night!
I think my early morning starts are rubbing off on my friend Mille as she willingly got up at 6am this morning with me for a walk\jog along the arno and through the park. I'm hoping I will have a regular partner!
We've become addicted to eating porridge every morning and ended up going on an oats hunt for the past few days as it suddenly sold out in all our local places! Grande problema i can tell you! So yesterday afternoon was spent trekking around trying to find oats and this morning was spent trying to find a carton of milk after our run. I miss Della Spada - we live next door to a food shop!
Hope you're all well. Sending you lots of Italian love! Next week is anzac day so I'm doing aussie night in the house. Charlotte is doing italian night tomorrow and we're also hoping to have a cheese and wine night. We love our food!

Friday, 06 April 2007

Location: Firenze, Italy

Mi dispiace per my late entry, I think life here has settled into a nice routine with no major news to write about. But I'm very well here and the weather is starting to perk up with signs of spring warming into summer. It's Easter weekend here so we have the day off school on Monday which should be relaxing. I'm hoping to go to Bologna this saturday for the day with my friend Charlotte.

Yesterday Charlotte, Mille and I headed to the Mercarto Centrale, a really large market place undercover, filled with multiple delicatessants, butchers, wine and oil merchants, dolce negrozi (sweet shops) and a few places to eat. So we bustled our way throught he large crowd at lunchtime and ordered a bowl of pasta ragu and some stewed chicken with onions. Real good traditional Tuscan food! yum. Took a good walk round teh stalls and Mille stocked up on some antipasti goods to arrya our kitchen table with, as her parents were arriving yesterday from Denmark. I stocked up on the vino rosso and we headed home. Although Charlotte and I stopped in this charming little vino shop and sampled a wine each for 2euros.

Recently I've taken mornings out to walk through different parts of the city, stumbling across unknown muesums, galleries and churches. Last week I visited the church of San Marco, which was beautifully peaceful inside. The interiors were adorned with large paintings, frecos and many representatives of the Virgin mary, Jesus and burning hearts. The priest, on my way out, stopped me to say hello and ask me where I was from, nice guy, he had gold bits on his teeth. wonder where the organ-restoration money is going...

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Recent Messages

From Haz
Hey Lex... sounds like your having a lot of fun which is great to hear!! YAY it makes me so excited for when i go travelling. Off to Melb today as i have a job trial starting at 8 tomorrow. Will send you an e-mail soon... xox
Response: hey bella. Thanks for your message. I sent you a postcard today so look out for that in the warrnambool mail. class starting in a minute. Hope you're well. Much love!
From tory s
hey alexa.. wow u seem 2 b having fun.. im very jealous.. schools shit i wish i was having a gay year.. missing u xx tory
Response: Hey tory. wish you were here too, you would love florence. school is intense but the people are great and I'm feeling satisfied and tired all at once! Hope you're well and happy back in sydney. send my love to the family. much love llex
From anna
hey lex, sounds like ur having the best time. so so jealous of you! yum..italian food, can't wait til i taste it too! australia is same old same old but i went to the band !!! (chk chk chk) and it was sooo good. one of the lead singers was such a good dancer, mmm. was in the car when my friend crashed into a bike rider at night - thank GOD he wasnt hurt. have no idea how he only suffered minor injuries. i thought he'd have been killed and was freaking out. it was so scary watching him fly across the bonnet into a heap fifteen metres away. keep the news coming lex!! xx (btw, you spelled ciao wrong .. not sure if it was a joke or not!xx) A
Response: yeah, i was trying to be like the uncooth aussie! chow! That is very scary about the bike rider! I hope everyone was okay in the end and not harm done with legal matters etc. Things are very good here, had a beautiful walk out of the city centre yesterday and juts hoping to chill out this afternoon, maybe go for a drink tonight, we'll see! Look after yourself. how long now till D-Day?
Love U
From Jared
all sounds great stuff. I was in Milan and Florance only 5mths ago. nice places,yeah how cheeps the wine have you found the 2l bottles that are in a bottle like we would have water in? Good Times.
Response: Wine is SO cheap here! We're getting tipsy on 3 euros! But besides the wine things are very good here, hoping to visit the uffizi art gallery tomorrow but for this afternoon i have to study a bit before i kick off for th weekend. Taking the school trip to santa croce! and a group dinner tomorrow night. hope you're well and not getting burnt in any fires. look after yourself. love lex
HEY lex! it sounds like you're having soooo much fun! i miss you aldready! xoxoxoxoxox
Response: thanks baby girl, it's been so much more than i could've hoped for! But I'm pretty tired right now and i feel like there's so much to do! I'm hoping to have a greater grasp on things eventually, like where the nearest laundrymat is! Take care and i hope you're living it up at Uni. xoxo
From auntie joan & auntie
Glad to see you're settling in nicely and enjoying yourself and the classmates are lovely. Italy is my fave country - I just love it and I'm there with you in the atmosphere. No doubt you'll be fluent in 3 months - knowing you. Go easy on the vino or you won't learn anything!! Speak soon. Love Joan XXX
Response: thanks auntie, I've been getting better with the vino, last night I had an AFD and got a reasonably early night. Today was my last day this week with intensive class in the afternoon so I'm hoping to get out tomorrow afternoon and see some museums or art galleries, preferably the Uffizi! Hope you're well and can't wait to see you in UK. XOX
From Roc
Hi Ya Kiddo,

Hope you arrived safe and well. Very hot here in Sidenee with the most spectacular thunder and lightning storm last night (Sunday 4th here and who knows what whereever the heck you are). Ciao Contessa. xxoo
Response: my darling rocky! I love those sydney storms! I'm very much settled in firenze, but now hoping to track down a laundrymat tonight, hehe, I've been using the sink. Hope you boys are keeping honest with the rowing and getting plans together for September, such a shame we'll miss each other, try and talk the old man into coming with you, i can tell he's exceptionally tempted! Take care my love xox