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Marion & Ken’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Location: Tivoli, Italy

MapMy favourite places in Milan were the gardens beyond the Castello and the walk alongside the canal from Porta Genova Metro to the piazza near our hotel, La Vignetta. We did not manage to get into the Galeria Poldi-Polzoni as it was closed on Tuesdays. Milan is big and busy of course with cars, motor bikes and tourists. The metro is v efficient and useful and full of people on their phones, as is the metro everywhere.
On the bus from Geneva to Milan we stopped at the Swiss- French border for passport control. A black ?African showed a sheaf of papers to the policewoman/Douane. She took them away, along with many other peoples passports ( not ours). She returned all the others after a short while, but not the African's. She came to him and told him to get his baggage and come with her. He did so without demur. He did not come back on the bus. 
We were born with a lucky card. What it must be to be born with a different hand, which means travel, money and many things are always in doubt and up for confiscation, Do Not Pass Go, Go to Jail, Do not pick up £200.
By the Milanese canal were many black men behind displays of sunglasses, handbags, belts etc spread out on cardboard packing cases. The Guardian today says 28% of Italians are below the poverty line. The Italian courts, after 3 trials came to the conclusion that a hungry man who stole sausage and cheese from a supermarket had not committed a crime.
The Genoese harbour is full of very upmarket posh yachts.
6 May
In Genoa the best thing was the Castello Alberis, the one time residence of a sea adventurer, Captain Alberto Alberis. It reminded me of Cragside, an idiosyncratic late Victorian castle/mansion built on the foundations of a older house on a mountainside, full of treasures from seafaring travels. The Captain was more adventurous than Armstrong. There were photos of him and the indigenous peoples he met in nearly every corner of the globe, particularly women. Marvellous photos of women in every kind of dress from starchy European grand dames and nuns to skinny smiling Arabs in la Terra Santa and beautiful Africans in the Sudan. We sat and sketched in the garden.
Cinque terra Manorola is very beautiful, hanging on to the cliffs. Terracotta , yellow ochre, orange, red , umber painted house rising in drifts from the green-blue sea which sparkles continually in the sun. The sea sky interface is so blue, endlessly blue.
But it's full of tourists.
We eventually found our apartment after losing our way and losing our folder of tickets and addresses in the tourist info place. It's hanging onto a balcony path which leads to nowhere but a view of the sea and the tiny railway station with toy trains coming and going to Genoa and La Spezia.
Lunchtime called us so we went to find a trattoria, and what a trattoria we found.... LaTrattoria del Billy. Higher up by the church, St Lorenzo there was a sign. So we followed it and came to the multilevel restaurant with utterly delicious smells, full of people and lots of waiters. We waited our turn and drank good house red wine and ate bread soaked in olive oil till our crab tagliatelle arrived. We tangled with that. I rather unsuccessfully, then a whole sea bass between us. All delicious. 
8.5.16
Sitting now on Lucca station platform surrounded by admiring pigeons who think they must be onto a good breakfast, waiting for train to Siena via Florence. This time yesterday was in Manarola leaning on the balcony wall trying inadequately to sketch the flowers and verdure tumbling down the cliff side below to the intense green blue sea.- cineraria, aloes, yuccas. Wonderful, colourful Manarola with yellow and orange ochre-washed houses hanging over the sea. 
We took the train, or rather 3 trains to Lucca. All fine, no problems. Lucca is surrounded by ramparts very similar to those at Berwick, just like the Stanks. We walked along the top for a while and then through the town to Ostello San Frediano, an old monastery converted into a youth hostel with sumptuous marble floors and great vaulted ceilings...not like the YHA as we used to know it. Our room was ornamented with putti pictures.
Later we went to see the Palazzo Pfanner garden with its statues and lemon trees. The gorgeous scent of the lemon blossom pursued us everywhere. Total knockout. Then on to the Orto Botanico sheltering against the city walls. Lovely 'suggestive' pond (according to the blurb) with beautiful yellow irises, water lilies, terrapins and a Florida swamp tree with extraordinary lumpy roots projecting all round.
Meal in eve at small restaurant near hostel. Learnt that a tagliere is a selection of slices of something- in this case meat and cheese.
10.5.16
From flat Lucca to hilly Siena, what a change. Siena runs up and down cobbled streets and stairs, full of twists and turns which leave me wondering why I have come back to the same spot. But full of fascinating stuff: piazza del Campo where they have horse races twice a year, on cobbles, competitions between the members of the different contradine who divide the city into communes.; the Duomo with incredible floor inlaid with marble pictures and a Libreria room with beautiful illuminated music manuscripts and amazing murals.
But now we have come on 3 different trains to Tivoli, the town which has the Villa D'Este, a garden of fountains, statuary, roses, irises, ancient cypresses and pines. The scents are overwhelming. I could just lean on a balustrade there and look and breathe it in for hours. Luckily we went there first thing in the morning before the hordes of Japanese teenagers with selfie sticks, and French and Italian schoolchildren arrived in their shrieking groups. Grumpy old woman!
Then to Villa Adriana - Hadrian's villa or rather Hadrian's palace complex- 6 kilometres away in a bus. Vast acres of Roman temples, baths, villas, ambulatories, forums, stadiums and everything else that a Roman might need, all built in rust coloured terracotta brick, set around with a thousand aged olive trees with silver grey green leaves and tall tall Mediterranean pines and avenues of slender cypresses. Wonderfully we could walk on the very mosaic floors where Romans trod. I could feel myself floating along in white toga with purple trim.
Finally to Villa Gregoriana, not really a villa but a gorge with immense cascade from tunnels through the rock engineered in 19th century. There was an amazing rainbow effect by the cascade, but a lot of climbing up and down among lovely trees. At the end a very welcome Nastro Azzurro beero.