Friday 24/4/15 – Left Sorrento around 5pm, and headed off to Rome to meet up with Dave n Co….. Only took one wrong road on the way, cause we missed a turn off from the autostrada. It can be tricky with so many roads, even with our trusty Tom Tom….Ahh well .. ‘thems the breaks’, as they say in the classics.  It is the first time we have hit the autostrada to get somewhere…. no curly roads this time. We were on a mission to get to Rome before midnight!!! It cost us €18 in tolls for about a 200km stretch.

Our trusty steed - Vstrom 650
Our trusty steed – Vstrom 650

It was a four hour trip roughly – approx 300k, and made it a long day, after going out to the Isle of Capri. Fuel is still expensive, at €1.78 per litre ($2.53 approx). Thank goodness for the motorbike, it’s fuel consumption is great,  averaging about 4.5km per 100 km (about 450km from the 20litre tank)……..  and that is FULLY loaded!!! The Suzuki 650 Vstrom is a great bike….. Very honest, and handles well.. I should know, cause I sit on the back (sleeping a lot) every day! ha.. ha..

Span on the cooked pier at Bracciano
Span on the cooky pier at Bracciano

Dave had changed the camp location. Initially we were to stay  at a campsite just on the outskirts of Rome, so we could catch the bus in to see the sights, but he felt  Ray would not cope well with the busy frenetic traffic, so opted for a camp site 32km north west of Rome, at a place called Bracciano.  The camp site was situated on Lake Bracciano, a beautiful spot. It is volcanic lake, the second largest lake in the region, and one of the major lakes in Italy, with fishing, wind surfing and other water sports.

Camp site at Bracciano - 'cosy'!
Camp site at Bracciano – ‘cosy’!

Arrived at the camp site at around 8.45pm …. our latest day yet, and well…… what can we say other than that the accommodation was as different as ‘chalk n cheese’ from last night to this! We were all in a  ‘cosy’ two bedroom old wooden cabin.  Span and I slept on a little couch bed in the lounge/kitchen room, and just outside the toilet / bathroom – €32 per night! The bed was actually quite comfy, only draw back is that we now know the EXACT time everyone one gets up to go to the loo EVERY night!!!

Breaky at Bracciano
Breaky at Bracciano

Saturday 25/4/15 – We did Rome pretty well in 2011, but missed the Trevi Fountain, so that was on our ‘to do’ list this time, however Maggie told us that when they went past Trevi fountain it was empty, barricaded off and covered with scaffold. So plan B…..  Maggie, Dave and I headed to the town of Bracciano, to do some shopping for food, look for a new charger for the camera (ours has died), and breaky. Found a nice little cafe for coffee, croissant and toasted cheese ham sambo for Span and Dave, and fresh fruit salad and coffee for Maggie and me.

Castello Odescalchi overlooking the streets of Bracciano
Castello Odescalchi overlooking the streets of Bracciano

One of the features of the commune (villages or towns in Italy are called ‘Communes) of Bracciano is the Castle (Castello Odescalchi Di Bracciano). We found that it was open all day so headed back to our digs with the shopping, and to change into comfy clothes to ride the 5k back for a look see.

Castello Odescalchi in Bracciano
Castello Odescalchi in Bracciano

The castle was amazing.. The brochures tell us that it has been ‘repaired, transformed, renovated , restored and enlarged’. It was developed in four main stages. The first stage was the old fortress, Rocca Vitico or heart of the castle,  starting in the late Middle Ages by the prefect of Vitico, who administered most of the Tuscia Regina between Rome and Viterbo around the year 1200.  The second stage was between 1470 and 1496, when it was enlarged and completely renovated by Napoleon Orsini. The third stage was around 1558, when the first Duke Paolo Geordano Orsini (it had just been made a duchy) married Isabella  de Medici. It was he who decided to turn the fortress into an aristocratic place. The forth stage was commenced in the 1890 by Prince Baldassare Odescalchi; he renovated the palace based on the ideas of the Renaissance. It is said that he loved the castle more than anyone else. The castle has been open to the public as a museum since 1952, and is also used for a wide variety of functions.  It may sound familiar to you, because this is where  Tom Cruze and Katie Holmes were married in 2006.

'Isabella's Room'
‘Isabella’s Room’

It was a remarkable place to visit, with so many stories to tell. Each room had a story board, and one of my favourites was  the red room, so called because it was  once covered in tapestries made mostly of red thread. It is also known as ‘Isabellas room’. The paintings on the ceiling depict St John the Baptist and a Madonna and Child.  The coffered ceiling is the only ceiling which still retains the  original colours of 1491 – quite remarkable.  ‘Legend has it that this is the room where Isabella de Medici invited her lovers.  Behind an innocuous wooden door, lies the legendary trap through which, after a night of lovemaking, Isabella de Medici, would  push her lovers down a blade lined well into a lime pit.’ Isabella was an elegant, educated noblewoman, who clearly had little regard for her lovers, and a somewhat rather nasty streak.

Both Span and Vstrom happy Dave impressed too!
Both Span and Vstrom happy
Dave impressed too!

Quick coffee after the castle walk, then back to the camp for some diary catch up and a quite afternoon. Span took the opportunity to give the bike a well deserved wash……They both love the experience!

Afternoon nibbles
Afternoon nibbles

We forgot to get coffee this morning, so Maggie and I wandered down to the camp shop – bought some filter coffee & bubbly wine (now who put that in our shopping bag??), then back to our camp for the afternoon cheese and meat platter.

Davey Boy cooking up a storm
Davey Boy cooking up a storm

Davey boy cooked up a storm for tea – pasta with garlic, onions, feel, mushrooms and white beans; all amply washed down with some rather nice red wine.

Sunday 26/4/15 – Went for a ride to the  Commune of Orvieto, approximately 100k north  of Bracciano, with Maggie and Dave. Ray decided to stay at home once again. Orvieto is a beautiful town, set high atop the summit of a volcanic hill, and is one of the principle sights in the Umbria region.  Sitting about 1000 metres above the valley, it rises majestically above the almost vertical faces of the volcanic tuff cliffs, that are finished  with the defensive walls built of the same stone called tufa.  It is easy for all to see, and was the perfect choice for a fortress. (Tuff or Tufa is rock that is made up of consolidated volcanic ash that is ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption).

Cathedral at Orvieto
Cathedral at Orvieto

Building of the magnificent Cathedral commenced in 1258 and is in the Gothic style. It is an absolute work of art, as well as being a very holy place.  It is hard to surpass the beauty and ornamentation of this building, it is just wonderful.  There are three huge brass doors at the front, the pillars are covered with a winding pattern of brightly coloured tiny mosaic tiles, and the stunning pictures that adorn the front of the Cathedral are also made of tiny coloured mosaic tiles, with the gold  standing out so brightly.  Just imagine the man hours that went into these works of art! It was for a long time in Papal territory, and was the home to five  popes. It is on the highest spot in the town (closer to God!) and can be seen from many streets.

Beautiful mosaic tiles on the columns go all the way to the top
Beautiful mosaic tiles
on the columns go all
the way to the top

Opposite the cathedral, are bench seats that line the walls of the buildings. They are a perfect place to sit and gaze,  and contemplate the beauty, wonder and magnificence of the cathedral; particularly when the afternoon sun shines on it. The gold tiles glisten so, and the depth and beauty of the pictures, indeed the whole front of the cathedral is simply breathtaking and incredibly peaceful. We did not go inside this time (we did in 2011), as there were too many people queuing to do so.

Cappuccino at.......
Cappuccino at…….

After some lunch and a coupe of wee purchases (Orvieto has beautiful brightly coloured ceramics), we  were back on the bikes and rode another 50 km north into Tuscany to a town called Chiaciano, Span calls it Cappuccino. So yep, you guessed it we stopped for a cappuccino before heading back to camp for some more afternoon bread, cheese, salami and Italian sausage, before walking the 400 metres down to the local restaurante by the lake for tea.

Back to our ‘very intimate cabin’ to pack the bags ready for an early ‘get away’ tomorrow.

Monday 27/4/15 – After a sumptuous breaky of 4 eggs, 3 spicy sausages, wild fennel, (all  diced and mixed in together) and rolls sliced and fried in fresh olive oil, we ever so sadly left our intimate abode (not!).   We were all ready to go, and Ray had just popped into the bathroom when we heard a loud BANG!  Then we heard Ray exclaiming .. ‘It wasn’t me!, It wasn’t me!’  Two rows of tiles had fallen from the shower and made an awful clatter … lucky no one was in there at the time!  We have now  nicknamed him ‘Good luck Ray’.

Maggie, Dave and Ray (Mum, Dad and son) were heading to the port of Civitavecchia (on the coast North of Roma),  whilst we made  a three hour detour to the town of Assisi  – we were on a mission!  We would hopefully catch up with them later that day to to catch the ferry to Sardenia, all being well.

We have  now learned two things on the autostrada.. 1) petrol can be up to .33c dearer than other roads (captive audience), and 2) there are tolls to be paid.. HOWEVER.. On some gates, the gates are only half as wide across.. Sooooo the motorcycles just motor on by.. No cost.. Gotta love that.

Rides Through Italy
Rides Through Italy