Thursday, 24 January 2013

Disembarkation Day

It was a sad day today as we had to disembark our floating home for the past 11 nights. We enjoyed our very last table service breakfast dreading having to make our own breakfasts very shortly. As concierge guests, we had the flexibility of disembarking at our own timing with our suitcases placed in a special VIP area for easy pick up. They very kindly offered the same privileges to the rest of our family so we were able to disembark together. The disembarkation process was quick and easy. There was no customs or immigration. It was off the ship, gather your suitcases and go!

At this point, the family split up. My parents, aunt and cousin made their way to Asia. My brother headed for a week in Paris, and the rest had a day left in Italy before our flights home. We said our goodbyes, hopped into our respective vans and went on our separate ways. Malcolm's parents joined us for our day tour of Civita di Bagnoregio and Orvieto. We were reunited with our driver Andrea, one of the driver guides who took our family from Florence to Rome. I liked his geeky quietness and kindness. He must have been one of a handful of Italians who doesn't follow football! Instead he is into goofball American movies and science.

The "dying town" of Civita di Bagnoregio

Virtually an "island" in the valley with the edges of the town having fallen off over the centuries
Anyway, I digress! Andrea drove us through the beautiful countryside to Civita di Bagnoregio. It was a scenic and peaceful drive with hardly any other traffic around us. The first sight of Civita di Bagnoregio was breathtaking. It literally looked like an island in the middle of a valley. First founded by the Etruscans over 2000 years ago, it was the birthplace of Saint Bonaventura. The town's population has since dwindled over the years to a mere 10-15 today! The reason? The town is virtually crumbling away at the edges. Out of seven original roads into the town only one remain, and a modern entry built to be able to reach it. The walkway was quite high off the ground and very steep as it neared the perched town. It also was not too wide! With the strong winds blustering, it made for some scary moments. But it was worth the walk, the town was charming and largely spared from the influences of modern life. We spent some time walking around the tiny town and then sat down to try its specialty, bruschetta.

It was a steep walk up the modern ramp. The original roads had long been victims of erosion

The only kind of vehicle allowed in. Those for supply and small enough to be able to manoeuvre the sharp turns and narrow roads 

Entry into the town just past the main gate

Just a gorgeous town

Birthplace of Saint Bonaventura, whose home had fallen off the cliff edges LONG ago

The edge of the city. You could see the existing wall which had cliff face directly on the  other side!

We then moved on to Orvieto, another hill top town. The first attraction was the amazing piece of engineering that was St Patricks well. Built in the early 1500s, it was a 50m deep well with a double helix stairway around it so as to enable people and donkeys to collect water in an efficient one way traffic flow. The presence of steps automatically meant a trip down for this particular family...all 496 of them. With that task accomplished, we moved on to see the Cathedral of Orvieto. The cathedral, which was built in the late 1200s, had a beautiful facade which was an explosion of colour and detail. It was a grey and rainy day and unfortunately my photos simply did not do justice to the Cathedral.

Unfortunately, we did not have time to do a tour of the underground tunnels of caves. We had to be content with a simple lunch and walk around the town to do some shopping. We then had to make the long drive towards Fiumicino airport. We dropped off Malcolm's parents at a hotel near the airport. They were staying the night before their afternoon flight to Doha the next day. We arrived at the airport by 4pm as there was surprising no traffic! We were very early for our 830pm flight but we didn't mind.

We have had the most wonderful time in Europe. We have been blessed in so many ways. Whilst it was sad to head home, we are most grateful of the opportunity that we had been given. We hope that our journey can somehow be used for a greater purpose. We really look forward to our next "big" trip to the USA! So stay tuned for more Albany adventures...

Looking down into St Patrick's well

Down we go on a path once traversed by donkeys

Windows lined the stairwell at regular intervals for natural light

Looking up from below

Woohoo, we made it to the bottom crossing to the stairwell that led us back up

The water within the well was surprisingly very clear

And we're out!


Beautiful charming streets everywhere

Cathedral of Orvieto

Detailed mosaics

Intricate carvings and reliefs

The pretty piazza in Orvieto

Lunch stop!

Very rustic inside. We were served simple but tasty food

Yummiest tomatoes ever!

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