On Thursday morning, David and Lyn said farewell and headed back to the US as Michael and I headed off on a different type of exploration. We were met at the University by Maretta (Michael’s sponsor here), Flavio (another professor here), Daniella and Alyssa (both students). Our destination was the small town of Gaeta which is about 120 kilometers Southwest of Rome….on the Mediterranean Sea. This little town was Daniella’s home and she directed our vehicles on the ride over with the trip taking about 2 hours (this is important for later in the story).
We saw one very interesting thing on the drive…..there were whole rows of greenhouses with many being filled with tomato vines full of ripe tomatoes. We were surprised when we saw empty structures and realized that the plants were actually planted into the ground and were not in pots on benches.
The town is a tourist town, but most of the tourists had already left so it was quiet and relaxing there. The sand was white and dotted with blue and white umbrellas, although many of them were being cleaned and prepared for storage…..
The beaches did not have many swimmers, but it was interesting (and slightly nauseating) to watch the ones who were there. Most were my age and older and virtually all of the women had bikinis on and most of the men were in speedos!!! We saw one woman who was probably 75 or 80 being helped to her chair and she was in a bikini!!!!
Here is a picture of the whole crew……
We left this particular beach and drove up into the town area which is built on the sides of a hill. The result is many of the streets were switchbacks, but the turns were probably 45 degree angles and the streets were narrow so that you had to make a 2, 3 or 4 point turn to get around the corner. Maretta is not a wonderful driver and this made the proposition even more interesting!!! Also, all of the cars are stick-shifts so there was quite a bit of “rolling back” going on as well. But, the travel hassles were worth it as we viewed the town’s sights…..
This is the Castle Guiseppe Mazzini which, unfortunately, was closed for renovations, but we enjoyed looking at the massive structure.
We hiked further around the town and came upon this beautiful church….also closed for renovations…..
We then drove back to another beach and stopped for our lunch. Maretta said that we would have a small meal because we were going to be climbing lots of stairs afterwards, so they ordered our food. The first plate that came out was filled with clams, mussels and razor clams……
…..while the second contained steamed Octopus and Calamari……
Then everyone said that we had to try BaBa. The waiter brought out a lovely slice of cake and we both grabbed a fork to try it. We both gasped (in a good way) when we realized that it had been soaked in cold Rum!! It was very nice and refreshing.
Needless to say, the lunch was NOT light!!!!!
We relaxed on a beach chair for a few minutes and then headed off to our next attraction. I had no idea where we were going and was interested to find that we needed to climb down a series of steps to get to a small chapel that was built inside a mountain cliff with glorious views out of the window. We were told that this particular church was founded by Flippo Neri who came there to pray. He believed that the split in the rocks had occurred when Christ was crucified.
We then climbed up a series of steps and found ourselves on top of the chapel, looking down on a grotto, which is a cavernous opening that has been created under a cliff.
to the base of the grotto….
It was gorgeous…..
This is called the Turk’s Grotto because it was used as a hiding place for Saracen pirates.
After the long climb to the top, we split into the two cars to head back to Rome. We were riding with Maretta while the others rode back with Flavio. Flavio laughingly said “since all roads lead to Rome there isn’t any reason for us to keep together……anyone can find their way back to Rome!!!” Well, all roads may lead to Rome, but they are not marked that way, or there will be one intersection marked with several different arrows all pointing to the great city. Within a few kilometers, we had to stop twice, roll down the window and ask “per Roma??” (which way to Rome?). One of those questioned said that there were 3 ways to get to Rome…..great!!!
We finally found the road and all was going well until we came to a split that was not marked so Maretta said “we will take the second way to Rome” and headed down another road. Then came yet another unmarked split and she said “no, we will take the third way”. After a couple of turns she admitted that she was lost and stopped in the middle of a small, but well traveled road (like a farm road), beeped her horn and yelled across the road to a man in a field. He gave her directions and we were off again.
We kept ending up in various towns with the roads getting smaller and smaller as we went. At one point she asked “per Roma” and the man told her to turn around and go back the other direction. She rounded the next corner with the idea of turning around, but Michael pointed out that it was a one-way street. SO, not to be beaten, she threw her car into reverse and backed down the one-way street and around the corner. I watched out of the back window and was AMAZED that no one registered any surprise at her driving. They simply went around her. She finally got honked at once she was around the corner and trying to make a u-turn.
In one of the towns, Maretta was reminded of a song about the town and she broke out singing. It was fun listening to her!
Well, this went on for a long time and I lost count of how many times we asked “per Roma?” The bottom line is that it took us over 3-1/2 hours to make the 2 hour trip. We were all glad to finally see the valley and look down into the great city of Rome.