THE TRICKY AND BEAUTY OF THE AMALFI COAST

Italy’s coastlines are some of the most picturesque destinations in the world. The stunning combination of the Tyrrhenian Sea and Italy’s Amalfi Coast has created many unforgettable vistas.

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The seaside cliffs are stacked with pastel villas overlooking the coastal towns of Positano, Amalfi, and Minori, to name a few. Ravello, perched high above Minori, has proven to be an incredible back drop for wedding ceremonies.

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photo courtesy of Sam Segar

Positano is known for its narrow streets filled with boutiques and cafes’. Its pebble beach is laden with rows of umbrellas all summer long.

Amalfi is nestled far below the rugged cliffs and was once the seat of the Maritime Republic. The Saint’Andrea cathedral resides in the heart of town showing off its medieval Italian striped Byzantine façade.

Minori sits within an un-crowded cove, retaining its identity as a fishing village. Scattered among the sunshades’ and beachgoers, are small wooden sea ready boats.

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photo courtesy of Jim Goodrich
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photo courtesy of Charis Tsevis
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photo courtesy of Ravanous
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photo courtesy of Ravanous

Besides being known as a wedding venue, Ravello is recognized for its gardens, town square, and Duomo.

 

 

Getting around can be tricky

I don’t recommend that you take on the Amalfi Drive yourself.  The road which was built by the Romans is narrow and winds up the coast with some hairy scary turns. If you are prone to motion sickness, medicate accordingly!

Traffic can be thick, especially in the summer months. It is not uncommon to meet other vehicles at the curves and forcing drivers to stomp the brakes in order to slowly pass with mere inches between the cars.  A bus can’t make some turns without oncoming autos reversing to a place with room enough for the bus to pass by.

The bus is the least expensive mode of transportation and advised.

If going from Minori to Ravello for example, you can take the ferry to Amalfi (10 min) and then the bus to Ravello (15 min).

A taxi will cost 30-40 Euros. (20-25 min drive)

If you are going in the opposite direction, Ravello to Minori, there’s a nice walk, all downhill, takes about an hour.

I suggest a private driver from the Salerno train station to your Amalfi Coast accommodation. The cost to Ravello for instance, is 100 Euro, but well worth it.  Sit back and enjoy the scenery.

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In summer months ferries are available from Naples, Sorrento, and Capri.

There is also a bus that runs from Naples airport to Sorrento.

And a bus is available from Rome to Positano and Praiano.

Do You Know the Way to Swabia?

Bavaria covers 70,550 kilometers of Germany’s land, and so, we know of it, right? The picturesque villages, medieval towns, beer, and lederhosen. We know of their great cuisine; Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Brawtwurst sausages, the Nurnberger Brawtwurst, potato, and beetroot dishes.

Now, the small region of Swabia, do you know of it? Swabia, in the southwest of Germany is quite different.

Swabia is in the third largest federal-state of Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg borders the east Upper Rhine that forms a border with France.

There are 8 million Swabians living in Deutschland, most call Baden-Württemberg home, with a few scattering into Bavaria. The capital of Baden-Württemberg is Stuttgart.

Swabians are an ethnic group who has native or ancestral roots in the cultural and linguistic region of Swabia. They speak Swabian, a dialect that other Germans don’t even understand! And they definitely enjoy their individuality.

The Swabian cuisine is made up of meats, Spatzle (a type of egg noodle, and Maultaschen, (pasta filled with diced meats). Gaisburger Marsch is a Swabian stew made with diced ox meat, cooked potatoes and spatzle.

Stuttgart hosts the second largest (next to Munich) beer festival, Cannstatter Volksfest, each autumn.

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Neal and I had the privilege of living in Stuttgart for a while; what a great place to live! Rain/snow or shine, we were out and about as much as possible!

 

Stuttgart Christmas Market

The Stuttgater Wheihnachts Markt, was our first exposure to the European Christmas markets. What a lovely atmosphere and so much fun! Gluhwein first, I never guessed I’d enjoy hot spiced wine!

Holiday music plays while you browse kiosks stuffed with beautifully handmade gifts. Food stands loaded with brawtwurst sausages, pretzels, pastries, and beer, YUM!

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Hohenzollen Castle

 

Located about 68km from Stuttgart is Hohenzollen Castle in Hohenzollen Germany. This fortress has a long Royal Prussian history, and majestically sits atop Mount Hohenzollen.

Since its construction early in the 11th century, the house of Hohenzollen has split several times. But the castle has remained in the Swabian branch.

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Heidelberg

 

We really enjoyed our weekend in Heidelberg, it is located on the shores of the Neckar River, approximately 120km from Stuttgart.

Heidelberg is known for its university, founded in the 14th century.

But Heidelberg’s landmark is the castle ruin, perched above Old Town. It has a huge history of damages by wars and fire, even a lighting strike.

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No castle would be complete without a wine cellar, and this one was fit for a king! The main storage consisted of three enormous wine barrels.

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This barrel is the biggest, you can barely see me standing next to it! The barrel is a replacement, the previous cask, before it sprung a leak, had the capacity to hold 195,000 liters of wine. In 1750 this one was put to use, containing 228,000 liters of wein!

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Ludwigsburg Palace

 

About 12km down the road from Stuttgart, is Ludwigsburg Palace. The 452 room palace is nicknamed the Versailles of Swabia. Ludwigsburg is actually part of two other structures, Schloss Favorite, and Monrepos. Ludwigsburg is one of the largest complexes in Europe. Also notable, it’s the only one from the  baroque period that went undamaged from the 21st century wars.

Construction on the main palace began in 1704, by order of Duke Eberhard Louis and lasted until 1733. Louis also constructed Schloss Favorite from 1717 to 1723 to serve Residenzschloss’s original function as a hunting retreat. His later successor, Charles Eugene, built Schloss Monrepos.

Currently, Ludwigsburg Palace is closed for restoration, re-opening is planned for 2019.

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Living Like a Local in Bologna

In the spring of 2017, I enrolled in an Italian language course in Bologna. I grabbed my best gal pal, and we boarded a plane headed for the home of tortellini.

Since our stay marked off all thirty days in April, we rented an apartment on Via Guglielmo Marconi.

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We quickly settled in and ventured out.

A few blocks up took us to Via Ugo Bassi, where we found shops, outdoor cafes’, and Piazza Maggiore. The piazza is the main square in town, and also one of the oldest in Italy. Within Piazza Maggiore stands the Basilica San Petronio, one of the world’s oldest churches. Renaissance government buildings encase the square, and to the left is Piazza del Nettuno; the Fountain of Neptune. The fountain was once deemed scandalous for its naked subjects. We however, only saw scaffolding,  because in 2017, the fountain was under restoration.

 

While I made my way up Strada Maggiore or Strada Santo Sefano, each day for language class, my roomy shopped for groceries at Pam, or the impressive outdoor market on Ugo Bassi. She would pick up these amazing extra-large strawberries,  which were among other stunning produce.

All the while, chatting with the locals, via the Google Translate app!

Meanwhile, I’m gurgling on unknown words in the immersion style of foreign language school.

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During our free time we wandered the city, enjoying cappuccino, pastas and Paninis. We ate tortellini that we ranked absolutely better than anything we’d ever experienced before. The scrumptious bread seemed to melt in our mouths. The food was always exquisite.

 

 

Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, founded in 1088. Students from all over the world come here to study each year.

 

Of course we did our share of vino tasting/drinking. It was part of every dinner and sometimes lunch. I honestly don’t believe you can get a bad glass of wine in Italy. Impossible. We signed on for a few wine tours in the Emilia-Romagna region and Tuscany too. We’ve got the swirl, swish, swallow routine down!

 

 

Bologna Centrale was a quick ten minute walk from our apartment, and from there, it was a short train ride to just about anywhere.

We spent a weekend in Verona, another in Genoa and Portofino. We even took a few days and went to Florence.

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We accomplished quite a lot in our thirty marked off days.

But for the record, learning to parli italiano (speak Italian), it’s still on my bucket list.

 

 

Everything Europe!

Hey Everyone!

Welcome to The Traveling Laurel!

This is my first blog post, and I’m feeling very out of my element. I am a seasoned traveler but a travel writer-not.

Back in 2010 when my husband and I made our first trip to Europe, it was a little intimidating for me. I think for my hubby too. The Army assigned him to a post in Germany back in the 80’s, so… that was awhile ago.

Fast forward to 2018, we are so captivated with Europe; the vacation destination is always somewhere European. Lately, it’s more like “where in Italy are we going this year”?

Weather is weather, no matter the mood outside, goose bumps or sweat, we go when we can go!

Our itineraries usually include, a castle, cathedral or basilica, a roman archeological site, or it might be a palace built by a monarchy. Regardless of the architectural marvel, its construction was determined by a passionate people. Therefore, it never disappoints.

We may be feeling minuscule standing in front of the spectacular Duomo in Florence, or the gothic Old Town Square in Prague, but there’s always a history to hear and read about. Even the priceless art chronicles Europe’s past.

 

A short excursion for me in the spring, Milan and Lake Como, (work related) no complaints here! Later, with my best friend, who is also my husband, together we will discover Portugal.

I hope you’ll return for those details!

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