Mobile phones
Getting around

Lecce, Otranto, Bari, Matera, Naples, Rome, Pisa, Florence

23.12: Munich -> Lugo
24.12: Lugo -> Lecce
25.12: Lecce
26.12: Lecce -> Otranto -> Lecce
27.12: Lecce -> Locorotondo -> Alberobello -> Bari
28.12: Bari -> Castel del Monte -> Bari
29.12: Bari -> Altamura -> Matera
30.12: Matera
31.12: Matera -> Paestum -> Naples
1.1: Naples
2.1: Naples -> Pompeii -> Naples
3.1: Naples -> Amalfi -> Naples
4.1: Naples -> Caserta palace -> Rome
5.1: Rome
6.1: Rome -> Pisa -> Florence
7.1: Florence -> Dro
8.1: Dro -> Weissenstein -> Bozen -> Munich

Planning and overall impression

As the eastern Europe trip in summer 2021, also this was a "Covid trip": by car only to avoid public transportation and the risk of pandemic related flight cancellations, and not too far away from Munich, because by car with only 16 days available you can't drive too far.
The south of Italy is not too cold at the end of the year and is therefore suitable for a winter trip.
Besides the temperatures we chose Italy because it offers a mix of culture, history, nice sceneries and varied landscapes.
This trip was also an opportunity to show the kids some of the major touristic highlights of Italy (Florence, Rome, the south).


Italy is and has always been a relatively pricey place where to spend a holiday. You sort of pay a surcharge to be able to experience its rich history and cultural heritage. Having written this, I noticed that the south of Italy is less expensive than the centre and the north. In Naples for instance, you can eat small pizzas for 2.50€ and have a meal with a pizza and a beer for 6 Euro. But in the "tourist zone" in Rome it's easy to spend a lot of money. Most apartments we booked were in the 80-100€ / night range.


We ate in a number of places, ranging from restaurants, to food courts of shopping malls and occasionally in fast food restaurants when time was short. Some places were expensive, others quite cheap (see the comment above regarding the pizza in Naples).


Being a family of four (two adults, two kids) most of the time we stayed in apartments. These were convenient, because we could all stay in one place (as opposed to have two separate, possibly not connecting, rooms in a hotel). In addition, many apartments had a washing machine, so we could easily wash dirty clothes. We booked most places with booking.com. These cost in the range of 80 to 100€ per night.

Money  / Exchange rate

No need to change money, as Italy is in the Euro zone.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards

We relied entirely on EU roaming, so didn't need local SIM cards.

Internet access

All places were we stayed offered free WLAN, sometimes fast, sometimes not so fast and sometimes really poor. Outdoors we used the smartphone to access the Internet.


The weather overall was not too bad, considering that we did this trip in winter. It only rained a bit every now and then. In the south the temperatures reached 17°C-18°C during daytime (even 21°C once in Naples). In Rome they were already down to 15°C and in Florence went down to 10°C.

Health / Vaccinations

We managed to cross the borders without being checked. We had all required documentation with us just in case, but there were no border controls at the borders to Austria and Italy.
Then, in Italy there were no Covid restrictions, i.e. all places were open. In areas with lots of people we wore FFP2 masks, just to be on the safe side.
During those two weeks we spent in Italy the number of daily Corona cases went up significantly.

VISA / Entry requirements

Intra-EU trip, so no VISAs were needed.


Some areas in the south of Italy (even the tourist areas of Rome) have a reputation of being full of pickpockets, but in practice while we were there nothing happened. We even left the car with the keys one night in a garage in Naples, without getting a receipt. Had the car disappeared, I would have had a hard time proving that I had left the car in that garage. But no, nothing happened, and the next morning I got the car back without a scratch.

Getting around

We did this trip completely by car, leaving from Munich and getting back to Munich. This had the advantage that we didn't have to rely on public transportation (less risk of getting infected) and we could choose apartments in any location (for instance less expensive ones out of town).

23.12: Munich -> Lugo
Hotel Ristorante Ala d'Oro, Lugo. 89 Euro for a beautiful, big apartment with two bedrooms, two toilets (one with shower), big living room, kitchen. Lots of furniture, nice, stylish, good quality. Spotlessly clean. Free WLAN.
Weather: cold in Munich (around 4°C, which later gets a bit more), around 2°C in Austria and 5°C in Lugo when we arrive at 10pm. Some blue sky, no rain.

We do Covid tests (antigen), which turn out negative. Then we book the three nights in Lecce and at 3:18pm start driving towards Italy. There is some traffic jam on the motorway in Germany until the junction between the A8 and A93 motorways. After that there is no more traffic jam.

At the borders Germany-Austria and Austria-Italy there are no queues, even if both Austria and Italy have announced entry restrictions due to Covid. Nobody is checking anybody.

We average a relatively low speed until Bozen, then pick up speed and reach Lugo before 10pm (in less time than Google Maps predicted). Then we check in.

In the evening I read the news. 44595 new Covid cases in Italy - there have never been so many. Even in France and the UK the numbers are exploding. The plan is to travel in Italy until January 8th. Hopefully this will be possible. In theory the Italian government might impose lockdowns or other restrictions which make travelling unfeasible (effectively forcing us to shorten our trip and return early to Germany).

24.12: Lugo -> Lecce
Miss Polly Suite, apartment in Lecce. 79 Euro for an apartment on the second floor (no lift). There are two bedrooms, one kitchen, one bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully furnished and there is also food for the breakfast (no microwave unit however). There is a washing machine for the clothes and two A/C units which double as heaters. Free parking in front of the house. The biggest problem is the cold: despite letting the A/C units run as heaters in the apartment we only have 15°C, which is very cold. My wife has to sleep with a jacket.
Weather: in the northern part of Italy it's overcast and grey, even some fog. Really not nice weather. I feel sorry for the people who have to live here in winter. Further south, after some time the sun comes out, there is a blue sky and temperatures climb to 17°C. Only a little bit of rain along the way, some wind.

We leave Lugo around 10:40am and after refueling the car, start driving towards Lecce. Around 2:20pm we stop at the Megalò shopping mall outside Pescara. This is a big, flashy, modern and very nice mall. We have a lunch in the food court on the upper floor, then buy some food in the supermarket.

Around 4:15pm we continue driving towards Lecce. The motorway is initially difficult because it crosses hilly and mountainous terrain and it's quite old. It consists of two narrow lanes per side and many too narrow curves. After a bit over an hour the situation improves and it is possible to drive a bit faster.

The motorway ends in Bari. After that there is again some kind of motorway (this time toll-free), but initially it's in a quite poor shape and there is a speed limit of 90 km/h. After a while this high speed road becomes better and the speed limit is lifted to 110 km/h. Finally we reach the apartment at 8:20pm and check in.

We spend the rest of the day freezing in the apartment.

25.12: Lecce
Miss Polly Suite, Lecce. This morning the landlord shows up with some blankets, after I have told him that the flat is cold and we need additional blankets. He also brings some pastries. Some discussion on the phone (I'm out when he arrives). 
Weather: mostly sunny, but with a thin clouds layer which from time to time gets thicker. When I get out at 11am it looks as if it will get warmer, but in reality it doesn't get warmer and there is some cold wind. So basically we have to dress up a bit to be out the whole day.

In the morning I get out at 11:30am. Alone, because the others are still getting ready. Until 1pm I walk around and have a look at the city. There are some buildings in nice baroque architecture, but fewer than I had expected after reading about Lecce (the "Florence of the south"). In addition, some of the most interesting buildings are covered with scaffolding. So, to summarise it, Lecce is nice, but is not comparable with cities like Florence (or Venice).

Around 1:10pm I'm back at the apartment. There, together with Shirley and the girls I walk to a restaurant which I found on Google Maps. This turns out to be closed, so we just walk into the old town and look for a restaurant there. We have some late lunch between 2 and 3pm at the Il Passo Dopo restaurant, then walk into town.

We walk around a bit, until the Centrum mall at the other end (which is closed today). Then we walk back towards the old town. Around 4:30pm we discover a Xmas market, nicely decorated. Then we walk to a McDonalds restaurant, where we have some small thing.

Opposite this McDonalds there is a Taiwanese bubble tea place. Obviously the girls go there for a bubble tea. Turns out that in this place they also have Chinese dumplings (jiaozi, 6 piece for 3 Euro). Actually six pieces of Chinese dumplings fill the stomach, i.e. are sufficient for a dinner.

Shortly before 6pm we leave this place and slowly walk back to the apartment. We stop several times along the way. Right now ir's dark and the city looks really magical with all these lights. Lots of people on the streets, even some street artists. We are back in the apartment at 6:30pm.

26.12: Lecce -> Otranto -> Lecce
Miss Polly Suite, Lecce.
Weather: sunny in the morning, gradual clouds build up then, somehow cloudy in the afternoon, some light rain in the evening after 5pm. Top temperature of 18°C, quite windy in Otranto.

Today we do the daytrip to Otranto. I was thinking of stopping in Galatina on the way back to Lecce, but because we start very late (we leave the apartment at 12:15pm), there is no time left to visit Galatina.

Leaving Lecce after 12:15pm we reach Otranto around 1pm. We can't find a parking and just park the car somewhere outside the old town. Then we walk towards the old town.

Great view of the sea and rhe old town of Otranto with its picturesque city walls. Or perhaps it's because I haven't seen the sea for a while, and I'm enjoying the nice, open views. In any case we spend some time on the seafront, taking some pictures. Then we walk to the old town and explore the area a bit. One restaurant which looks interesting is full and there is a queue of people in front of it.

It then takes us some time to find another suitable place. I was actually looking for a pizza place, but when I sit inside and order the pizza, the waiter tells us that pizzas are only available in the evening. So I order a steak with fries.

Around 3:30pm we leave this restaurant and get back into the old town. By the way, lots of people today in Otranto - probably it's because today is Sunday. Otranto looks like a very touristy place (picturesque, lots of shops and restaurants, crowded even on this winter day).

Around 4:30pm we start driving back towards Lecce. Along the way we stop in a petrol station to refuel the car. Then we lose some time in Lecce looking for a parking in the city near the Taiwan bubble tea place. We spend around 20 minutes looking for a parking, then just drive back to the apartment and park the car there.

Around 6pm we walk into town and have some bubble tea and fried Chinese dumplings in the Taiwan bubble tea place. Then we walk back to the apartment and end the day at 7:30pm.

27.12: Lecce -> Locorotondo -> Alberobello -> Bari
Flores apartment, Bari. 98.66€ for an apartment with a bedroom, kitchen/livingroom type of room with two additional beds, bathroom with shower. The kitchen is fully furnished and there is food for breakfast. The apartment has heating (real heating radiators), A/C and fast WLAN. The location is central in the city. The only problem is that this apartment has no parking, so I have to leave the car in a parking which costs 20 Euro/day. This means that the total cost per night is 118 Euro. When I tell my wife, she says that we could have chosen a hotel with parking for that price.
Weather: it has rained in the night (good, because now the car is clean again). When we leave Lecce the sky is still a bit overcast, but when we approach Locorotondo it's blue and sunny. In Locorotondo itself it's a mix of overcast and sunny. Similar situation in Alberobello. When we approach Bari it rains a bit, then it's dry again. Top temperatures around 15°-18°C.

We leave Lecce at 10:43am and start driving towards Locorotondo in the Itria valley. The road is to a large extent a highway with a max. speed limit of 110 km/h in some sections. We arrive shortly before 12pm and park the car in the city, not far from the old town.

Locorotondo is a cute city with picturesque white houses, very very nice and photogenic. With sunshine and blue sky this town really shines - there are countless photo opportunities. It's not so touristy on this December day, i.e. not so many tourists and not so many open shops.

We spend almost one hour in this place, then drive to Alberobello. This is only 15 minutes by car from Locorotondo.

Alberobello is mainly known for the trullo type of houses, which are white dry stone huts with conical, grey roofs. These are actually spread over the entire area, but in Alberobello there are a lot of these trullo houses. The trulli of Alberobello have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996.

This small city is wildly cute and is also wildly touristy. Even on a Monday in low season (December) it's full of tourists and there are countless shops and restaurants everywhere.

Since it's a bit late (1:30pm) we look for a restaurant and end up choosing one conveniently located close to the trulli area. Turns out that this place is an overpriced tourist trap, serving poor quality food at inflated prices. And I must say that this table fee of 2.50 Euro per person (10 Euro for a family of four) is starting to get on my nerves. This table fee is supposed to cover the cost of decorating the table and should include bread and snacks. But this table where we are sitting at has paper table cloth, the glasses are of plastic and they don't even serve bread. The pizzas have a burned bottom which we have to cut away with a knife.

After 2:30pm we start walking around Alberobello. The trulli area is very cute.

Around 3:30pm we get back to the car. I key in the Mongolfiera mall in Bari. The idea would be to spend some time there shopping and perhaps have dinner there in the food court. Turns out that this mall is not as nice as I was hoping and there is no food court. So, after buying some food, we drive to the KFC restaurant in Bari (there is one in the train station).

It takes some effort to navigate through the traffic in Bari, because it is a bit chaotic. We park the car in front of the train station, get some take-away food and drive to the apartment.

Finding the apartment and getting into it is quite easy. The bigger problem is that there is no place in front of the apartment where I can stop to unload the car. Once again I have to stop the car in a not allowed place, just to unload the luggage.

After that I lose some time looking for a parking. Probably next time I'll book a place which has its own parking.

28.12: Bari -> Castel del Monte -> Bari
Flores apartment, Bari. Today we realise that there is actually a balcony with chairs and a table. There is even a washing machine, although it's not clear if it can be used.
Weather: sunny with some clouds in Bari in the morning. When we arrive at Castel del Monte at 12:15pm there is a nice sunny blue sky, which makes this castle really shine. Top temperatures of 15°-16°C, no rain, no wind.

You are not allowed to drive up to the castle and have to leave the car in a parking about 1km from the castle. From there you walk up to the castle.

Castel del Monte is a pretty unique octagonal structure on top of a hill at 540m of altitude. It's actually cuter than in the pictures I have seen. Adjacent to it there is a restaurant and a visitor centre. The ticket to get into the castle costs 7 Euro (children below 18 free). The castle was built during the 1240s by King Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty.

You can walk into the inner court and visit the interior rooms. A staircase leads to an upper level.

We are at the castle until 1:30pm, then slowly walk back to the car and then drive back to Bari. There we leave the car in the same parking of yesterday (San Francesco).

Around 3pm I walk towards the historic core of Bari. There is an interesting castle (and some churches), but otherwise the historic core is less impressive than I had thought.

Around 4pm I walk back to the more modern part of Bari and meet Shirley and the girls in a Bubble tea place (run by a Chinese lady) not far from the train station around 4:15pm. Because we have skipped lunch and this place is convenient (they have Chinese dumplings, ramen noodles and other tasty things), we start ordering more and more stuff and by the time we have finished one hour later, we have effectively combined lunch and dinner.

At 5:20pm we start walking back to the apartment. We cross the Giardini di Piazza Umberto I park, then walk through the Sparano da Bari pedestrian area, which seems to be the main shopping street of Bari. Beautiful Xmas decorations, lots of people. We are back in the apartment around 6pm.

In the evening I book the accomodation in Rome for Jan 4th-6th (again an apartment).

29.12: Bari -> Altamura -> Matera
Central Domus Matery B&B, Matera. 96 Euro for a mini-apartment with two bedrooms, a corridor and a toilet. 4th floor of a building, elevator available. No kitchen. The rooms are nicely furnished, although only one has a (small) table. Clean rooms with modern furniture. The heating seems not to work, but the A/C unit warms up the room to comfortable levels. WLAN is available in the rooms. The apartment is centrally located in Matera (a few hundred metres from the old town).
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds the whole day. No rain, but there is some fresh wind. Top temperatures around 17°C.

In the morning I wonder for a moment if we should take another walk in the old town of Bari, but then I decide to make a stop in Altamura, a small city on the way to Matera. I wasn't terribly impressed yesterday by the old town of Bari and Bari is a big, messy city with a chaotic traffic.

After fetching the car from the parking (another 20 Euro fee), around 10:45am we leave Bari and drive to Altamura. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Altamura (good road, mostly motorway) and a few more minutes to find a parking for the car. Then we start exploring the city.

We quickly reach the cathedral which is simply gorgeous and wildly photogenic. The cathedral alone is worth a trip to this place. The interior is incredibly well decorated. Marble wall and pillars in different colours, golden roof, beautiful altars. The upper level is accessible as well (3 Euro ticket, 2 for children) and offers a nice view of the church interior.

After the cathedral I continue having a look at Altamura. Besides the Bari gate (Porta Bari) there is not much more of interest (there is the arco basso, low arch, but not much else). So I get back to the car and at 12:50pm start driving to Matera.

From Altamura to Matera it's a short 20 minutes drive. At 1:10pm we park the car centrally in Matera and start having a look at the city. The historic core extends around a canyon with rocks and caves. Lots of interesting old buildings, very photogenic. We have a lunch in a noodles place (sort of a simple restaurant only serving noodle dishes, no table service, but with a bit lower prices).

Also here there are nice Xmas decorations in the old town. The place is quite touristy. Lots of restaurants for tourists, lots of shops.

I walk around until about 3:30pm, until the sun is too low in the sky to properly illuminate the place. So I walk back to the car, where I meet Shirley and the kids. We then drive to a supermarket out of town (the Mongolfiera mall) and buy some food there. Finally we drive to the apartment, arriving there shortly after 5pm.

There is no parking in front of the apartment, so I have to stop the car where it's not allowed. After unloading the luggage, Shirley and the kids check in. I drive a bit around Matera looking for a parking and finally find one in a place about 1km from the apartment (along a road in the middle of nowhere). I park the car there and walk back to the apartment.

30.12: Matera
Central Domus Matery B&B, Matera.
Weather: sunny. blue sky with some clouds (variable cloud cover, but mostly blue). Strong wind blowing a cold air. In the sun and when the wind is not blowing it gets hot, in the shadow and with wind it's really cold. Not sure what the top temperature is, perhaps 15°C.

Day spent in Matera, exploring the city. I get out at 10:20am (kids are still sleeping) and walk towards the old town area. The first thing I visit is the Palombaro lungo cistern (3 Euro ticket, 10:40am visit), an underground cistern which in the past was used to store the rain water. It was built in the 16th century.

Shortly before 11am I'm out again and walk eastwards towards the Casa Noha museum. On the way I visit the cathedral of Matera (nicely decorated interior, 1 Euro ticket). They measure your body temperature on the hand with an infrared sensor, which is pretty dumb because my hands are quite cold due to the cold wind, so even if I had 40°C of fever, my hands would be cooled down by the wind.

When I reach Casa Noha I realise that this place is not interesting, so I continue walking south towards the Sasso Caveoso area. Sasso Caveoso is a neighbourhood with many dwellings built into the rock.

At 12:53pm Shirley sends me a message. She is in the main square, waiting for me with the kids. 10 minutes later I'm there and we have a lunch in the noodle restaurant. After lunch we have a walk in the old town. We walk to the Casa Cava, (some house allowing tourists to visit the interior), but it's closed for the lunch break from 1pm to 3:30pm. Then we walk up to the cathedral and from there back to the main square (along another way).

At 3pm we are back at the main square. We then go to a pastry / pancake / icecream place, where we order some dessert. By 3:30pm we are back in the apartment.

After a short break Shirley and I walk to a supermarket where we buy some food and drinks.

At 4:15pm I get out again for some blue hour photography. I was expecting the blue hour to start after 4:30pm, but in reality it starts after 5pm. I'm back in the apartment around 5:40pm.

31.12: Matera -> Paestum -> Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples. 92 Euro for an apartment on the 5th floor of a building (elevator available). Two bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, sort of a combined kitchen/living room/ corridor with a small table. A bit old, but the kitchen is fully furnished. The WLAN doesn't work when we arrive. Friendly staff. We manage to find an empty parking slot in front of the apartment.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Top temperature of 21°C, no wind. No rain the whole day. Warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt (when the sun is shining).

In the morning we check out, pack the luggage in the car and buy some pastries in the pancake shop. Then at 10:45am we start driving towards Paestum, the ancient Greece temples site.

The road initially is a mountain road with many curves. Basically we cross the Apennines mountain range. At some point we are on the motorway to Potenza, then take the motorway towards Salerno. All motorways, except for the last section are free (for the last section there is a toll of 2.10€).

We park the car at the parking of the Paestum site (5 Euro fee) and walk towards the archaeological site. The site is very nice and consists of three large and well preserved temples and the ruins of a city, spread over quite a large area (a few hundred meters wide/long).

Around 3pm we are done visiting this site and walk back to the car. Then we drive to a shopping mall, the La Cartiera mall in Pompei (about 30km from Naples). We reach the mall around 4:30pm.

This mall is not so special but it has a supermarket and a food court, where we can eat something. Delicious small pizzas for 2.40 Euro, among other things. At 5:30pm we realise that this mall closes by 6pm today (Dec 31st). So we rush to the supermarket and buy some food and drinks for the weekend (everything should be closed the next two days).

Then we get back to the car and drive to the apartment. Thanks to the GPS navigation we easily find the place, but getting there requires some careful driving because people in Naples drive like crazy and pedestrians are also unpredictable.

As usual it's tricky to find a place where to stop the car and unload the luggage. Then we check in.

1.1: Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples. Today the son of the landlord tries again without success to fix the Internet connection. Some technical problem which he is unable to solve.
Weather: overcast the whole day, no rain. There are a few less clouds in the afternoon, but the sky is still overcast. No wind.

The day starts shortly after midnight. Huge display of fireworks in Naples. Later I read that fireworks actually had been prohibited by the mayor of Naples, but the show still took place. Countless fireworks going up everywhere. Later the air is full of fireworks smell.

In the morning we get up late. Before leaving I book two tickets for the archaeological museum of Naples (the kids don't have to pay) for 26 Euro.

I leave home after 11am and head to the Capodimonte museum. When I get out on the street I get a better picture of what kind of area we are staying in. Reminds me heavily of the slums in Delhi (India), although the slums in Delhi are cleaner than this area. I start thinking a bit about what it would take to clean up and renovate this area, then I conclude that this is almost impossible.

At 11:40am I walk into the park where the museum is located. It's closed today, but I just wanted to have a look at the area. The park of the museum is quite big and nice. From the park I walk to the Madre del Buon Consiglio church. Adjacent to it there are the San Gennaro catacombs. I might go in to have a look, but the entrance fee is a bit steep (9 Euro), so I just skip these catacombs.

I start walking towards the Santa Chiara basilica area, but receive a message from Shirley who is asking when we meet. It's shortly after 12pm and waiting in the apartment until 2pm doesn't make too much sense. We agree to meet in front of Palazzo dello Spagnolo. I'm there shortly before 1pm.

So we slowly walk together towards the archaeology museum. Today is a public holiday, but many food shops, cafes and eateries are open. Lots of people on the streets.

We quickly reach Cavour square. This square is actually quite unimpressive - it's just a big, long square. We have some snack in an eatery runs by some South Asians (not sure if they are Indians, Pakistanis, Afghanis etc.). In this area there seem to be lots of South Asians.

At 1:40pm we queue up in front of the museum, which today opens at 2pm. Shortly after 2pm the archaeology museum opens and we walk in.

There is a wardrobe, but you are allowed to carry along your bag. Inside the museum there are countless artifacts from the ancient Greek and Roman periods. The museum is actually better than described in the reviews I read about it. The Magna Grecia gallery is open (and other galleries as well) and there is no additional fee to see these galleries. The artifacts are reasonably well presented and the layout is not confusing.

We are in the museum for over two hours until 4:10pm. Then we have got enough of it and walk out. Alissia found a Burger King restaurant using Google Maps, so we walk there.

Slowly walking and with many stops along the way (in one place we buy some pizza), we reach the Burger King at 5pm. Surprisingly this is still closed (we hear that today it only opens at 6pm).

So we start walking back and at one point we decide to walk to the train station, where there is another Burger King restaurant. Slowly walking and with a few stops along the way we reach the train station at 6:10pm. We have some food in this Burger King restaurant, then walk back to the apartment.

2.1: Naples -> Pompeii -> Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples.
Weather: overcast the whole day, no rain. A bit foggy, poor visibility. A bit fresh, top temperatures around 13°C.

We leave the flat after 11am and drive by car towards Pompeii. Initially we have to go through the ordeal of driving the car out of the historic centre. We have to get the car through a maze of very narrow roads with very sharp corners. Some curves require special manouvering, like parking into a very narrow parking slot. In addition there are cars and motorcycles parked here and there, making the road even narrower. And brilliant motorbike riders overtaking you when you do not expect it (and of course pedestrians walking randomly here and there, not caring if a car is close or not).

Then, when the road is not so narrow, you have to be very careful because the traffic is totally chaotic. Finally we are on the motorway (2.10 Euro toll) to Pompeii.

We reach Pompeii around 12:20pm. Initially I drive past the big parking next to the ruins, just to check out the area. It turns out that near the ruins there is just this parking (3 Euro/hour for cars, 4 Euro for larger cars), so we park the car there.

Then we walk to the entrance. Along the short walk there are several restaurants and juice bars. Even on this winter day with poor weather there are still lots of people visiting Pompeii. I guess that on a summer day in peak season with good weather this place must be overcrowded beyond belief.

We get two tickets for 16 Euro each (kids below 18 years of age do not pay) and walk into the compound.

Pompeii is basically the ruins of a complete Roman city. There are not so many architecturally or optically interesting places. What makes this place interesting is that it's a complete Roman city with all the roads, buildings, infrastructure etc. It gives you an idea how people at that time used to live in an ancient Roman city.

We spend a bit over two hours in this place (later we meet people who spent over five hours in Pompeii). After 1pm we have a sandwich in a cafeteria inside the compound.

By the way, we notice that there is a train station right in front of the entrance to Pompeii.

Around 3pm we get back to the car. The question is what to do next. I was thinking of driving up to the summit of Mt Vesuvius, but today the weather is so bad that it makes little sense. We'd be in a cold, foggy place with poor visibility.

So instead we drive back to Naples. I key in the address of the royal palace and start driving. Everything proceeds smoothly until we reach the centre of Naples. Then the traffic mess starts again.

It's even worse, because in an effort to find a parking for the car we have to drive the car through crowds of people. Essentially in the centre of Naples there is a dearth of parking places for cars. And there are no underground parkings for cars. There are some "garages" where you can leave the car, but the ones we find are full.

Finally, after some searching we manage to find a parking in a side street (3 Euro tip to a guy who guided us there). Then we walk towards Piazza del Plebiscito.

This part of Naples is interesting but also full of people. Nothing against meeting other people, but in times of the corona pandemic you would try to limit the risk exposure.

Before this trip I was telling my wife that we would avoid crowded places, not go to shopping malls, only eat outside etc. But now we are breaking all these rules and this is a country which Germany has placed in the high risk category. I mean, with so much exposure to other people it's quite possible that we have been exposed to the virus already (due to the sheer number of people we are running into every day). But we are all vaccinated and so far nobody has gotten sick, at least none of us has any symptoms.

In any case, we put on FFP2 masks and wade through the crowds. The kids spot a McDonalds restaurants, so we stop there for some snacks and pastries. Later we order pizza margherita for 2.50 Euro each in a take away restaurant. There are some of these places here, even one offering a 5 Euro menu consisting of a pizza margherita and a beer (+1 Euro table fee "coperto"). So in theory you could have a full meal for 6 Euro, if a pizza is enough for you. Later in the evening I joke that my dinner today only cost 2.50 Euro.

The area looks interesting and I wouldn't mind spending some more time here (on Plebiscito square there is even a street artist holding a concert). The problem is that there is a pandemic and we need to limit the exposure. So by 7pm we get back to the car and drive to the apartment.

This time we can't find a parking on the street, so after some searching we leave the car in a garage (20 Euro/day).

3.1: Naples -> Amalfi -> Naples
Il centro di Napoli apartment, Naples. I'm reminded that there is a tourist tax of 2.50 Euro per day and per person (total of 40 Euro for four nights and four people, whihc brings up the daily cost to 92 Euro (82 for the room, 10 for the tax).
Weather: again overcast the whole day and a little rain (but very little, and only for a short time). During the day the sun occasionally peeks through. Top temperatures of 14°C. No wind.

In the morning after 11am when we walk out we spot two police officers on motorbikes who fine all cars which are parked wrongly. Alissia by the way today will not come with us because she needs to prepare stuff for the school.

We get to the garage and fetch the car. Luckily the car isn't damaged and hasn't been stolen (I was a bit worried yesterday, when I handed over the car keys to the garage guys without getting some written confirmation that I had passed the car to them).

So we start driving to Amalfi. Getting out of the maze of narrow alleys is now a bit easier because we find another way to get to the main street (which Google Maps apparently doesn't know). After some navigating through the traffic mess we are on the motorway and quickly reach the mountain road which crosses the promontory.

This mountain road is, well, full of countless narrow curves. Not really a problem for me, but for Shirley all these curves turn out to be a bit too much. We are glad when we finally reach the coastal road in Maiori. At the highest point the road reaches 653m asl.

Turns out that my happiness is short-lived, because this coastal road turns out to be quite difficult as well. Again countless narrow curves, but the bigger problem is that the road is very narrow in some parts. Takes some skill to drive, especially when cars are coming from the opposite direction.

We reach Amalfi at 1:10pm. Finding a parking turns out to less difficult than I had expected. I park the car in the parking behind the harbour dam. On this low season day with poor weather this parking is already 80%-90% full. I can only guess that it must be very difficult to find a parking in summer in the peak season.

Amalfi is indeed a very cute place in a very cute setting. The cathedral is very, very cute, but it seems that it is just a museum now, i.e. is no longer in active use. The houses are quite characteristic. Overall Amalfi is quite small. The mountain rock faces are quite steep, meaning that there is relatively little space for a city here.

Amalfi is full of tourist shops (selling cute and interesting things) and cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours. Lots of tourists today.

We walk around a bit, shop a bit, then have a sandwich in a cafe.

After 4pm we leave Amalfi. There is no time to have a look at Positano (and it's quite dark already), so we drive to the mall in Pompei, the same one where we stopped on the way from Matera to Naples. To avoid crossing again the promontory (with that horrible mountain road) this time I take the coastal road to Salerno and then the motorway.

Well, the coastal road is quite horrible as well. Narrow and with lots of narrow curves.

We are at the mall in Pompei at 5:15pm. There we have some food in the food court, then buy some food and drinks in the supermarket.

From the mall we drive to a bubble tea place in Naples. We can't find the QQ Tea Taiwan one, and the Mr Q Bubble tea one is already closed when we are there at 7:38pm. So we just drive back to the apartment.

4.1: Naples -> Caserta palace -> Rome
Diamond Apartments, Rome. 94 Euro (80 Euro + 14 Euro tourist tax) for a small apartment with a bedroom, a bathroom with shower (no window) and a livingroom with kitchen area (fully equipped kitchen) and a sofa which doubles as a bed. The bedroom has an A/C unit (but without control unit, so you can't use it), while the living room only has a fan. There is even a washing machine and an ironing board (but no iron). The apartment is small, but is very well set up. Free fast WLAN. The only problem is that you have no control on the heating - the landlord on the second floor switches it on and off whenever he likes it. The location is not great - quite a bit out of town (18 km from St Peter's square). Despite the remote location, there are no parking slots available in the area. You have to leave the car in a garage for 10 Euro per night.
Weather: overcast in Naples when we leave. In Caserta it's also overcast, but in Rome it's a mix of overcast and sunny (sky full of clouds). Top temperatures up to 18°C, but in Rome only about 15-16°C in the afternoon.

In the morning when we get out in time at 10:20am to move the car away from the prohibited area - just in time, because soon after two police officers arrive and start distributing fines to incorrectly parked cars.

We load the luggage into the car and drive towards the royal palace in Caserta, arriving there at 11:35am. We park the car in the parking below the compound (1 Euro/hour) and walk up. Soon we discover that today the palace is closed (apparently it closes every Tuesday), so after a few pictures we leave for Rome at 12pm.

The drive proceeds smoothly (it's almost all motorway). We park the car in a side street next to St Peter's square (1 Euro/hour). Around 2:15pm we start walking to the St Peter's church.

St Peter's church and the square are always a quite impressive sight. The church is very well decorated, both outside and inside. I walk with Alissia on top of the cupola (8 Euro per person, 10 if you take the lift). In the meantime Albert has also arrived and we later meet him on top of the cupola.

Then we walk down again and visit the church. It's almost 5pm when we finally leave the square. We've spent well over two hours in just this place and have only seen a small part of it. For instance, we haven't visited the Vatican museums (these can easily take another 2-3 hours or even more).

Since the girls want to have a bubble tea, we drive to a bubble tea place we found with Google Maps. Getting there is not so complicated. The big problem is finding a parking for the car. In Munich there are car parkings at every corner - both along the street and underground and in parking houses. But here in Rome (and other Italian cities) the parking situation is a joke. There is a dearth of parkings for cars.

Anyway, after some driving here and there in the end we manage to find a parking (because somebody just left) and the girls can have their bubble tea (and some other food).

We then drive to a mall near the apartment (the Happio one). The problem is that the entrance to the mall parking is too steep - the car would get scratched below - so we can't drive in. We spend some more time looking for a parking in the mall, but can't find anything. So we just drive to the apartment and arrive at 7pm.

We call the landlord. Turns out we arrived too early (they misunderstood and expected us for 8pm). So we drive to a supermarket, buy some food and then drive back to the apartment. At 8pm we check in. Later I will leave the car in a nearby garage.

5.1: Rome
Diamond Apartments, Rome. 
Weather: in the morning sunny, then it's a mix of cloudy and sunny. Some rain in the evening after 5pm it rains on and off for about an hour. Top temperatures probably in the 15°C to 16°C range.

Day spent in Rome, visiting a number of places. We are at the bus stop of the bus Nr 628 shortly after 11am. I buy 8 individual tickets for 1.50 Euro each (a day ticket costs 7 Euro, but I think we won't do so many bus/subway rides to justify the price; later it turns out that I'm right, as we do only three rides for a total cost of 4.50 Euro).

We fetch the next 628 bus and get to Navona square with it, arriving around 11:30am. There we meet Albert and start our tour of Rome. I've spent a few days in Rome the last time in 2005, but the idea is to show my girls some of the more significant sights of Rome.

So we slowly walk to Palazzo Madama, the Pantheon, Palazzo Montecitorio, Palazzo Chigi, the Trevi fountain, the Quirinale, Venetia square with the Altare della Patria (entering into the building and climbing on top), then to the Colosseum. In between we have some food in a restaurant near the Pantheon.

When we are at the Colosseum at 3pm (tickets are 16 Euro per person) it's impossible to get in, because apparently we should have booked online and all tickets are sold out. Strange enough we are approached by some tourist guides who tell us they can get us in. I wonder if they bought or otherwise blocked these tickets. Personally I wouldn't mind getting in, but am not terribly disappointed that I can't because getting all four of us in would cost 64 Euro and that is a bit expensive.

By the way, the area around the Colosseum is now plastered with boards and other barriers, making it difficult to get good pictures (either these boards obstruct the view or you can't get where you would need to be to get a good picture). Same problem with the Montecitorio palace which was easily accessible in 2005, but now is cordoned off by the police (special authorisation needed to get closer). Not possible now to get a picture of the complete palace without something obstructing the view (and in any case you can't get a good picture).

Because it is just 3 something pm we take the underground and head to Piazza di Spagna, arriving there at 3:40pm. It's getting dark, also because the sky is now quite overcast. Lots of people on this square. We spend some time here, then slowly walk to Piazza del Popolo square.

With sunshine and a blue sky it's possible to get great pictures of this square. But now the lighting conditions are so-so (darkish cloudy sky) and they placed some metal barriers on this square to channel the flow of people, which interfere with the beauty of this square.

So around 4:15pm we split - Albert goes somewhere, we take a subway to the Happio mall near our apartment.

We arrive there shortly before 5pm and have some food and the girls buy some clothes in an H&M store offering discounts. After one more meal in a Ramen noodles place we walk back to the apartment.

6.1: Rome -> Pisa -> Florence
A 150m² villa in Grassina with a large living room/kitchen area, three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with shower). Luxury place with lots of equipment, fast WLAN, fully equipped kitchen. Located in the hills above Florence, a bit hard to find. The only problem is the heating, as we only have 19-20°C in the rooms. 200 Euro deposit (you get it back the day after if nothing was damaged).
Weather: overcast initially in Rome and even some rain on the motorway. Significantly colder than yesterday - top temperatures of 10°C in Pisa (and down to 6°C on the motorway in the mountains while it rains). Some sunshine in Pisa in the afternoon.

We leave Rome around 10:25am and start driving towards Pisa. Google Maps selects the mountain route (across Umbria), instead of the coastal route across Grosseto. Initially in the mountains the motorway is a bit difficult - lots of curves, some a bit narrow. After the situation improves and in Tuscany the slopes and the motorway are more smooth.

At 2:30pm we park the car outside the Piazza dei Miracoli compound (where the leaning tower is) and walk to the leaning tower. A ticket for the leaning tower costs 20 Euro, the complete ticket for everything 27 Euro. A 10 Euro ticket covers everything except the tower.

After about 5-10 minutes Albert arrives. He has parked the car in parking at the other end of the city and it took him a while to walk here.

So we spend the next two hours in this area visiting the cathedral, the cemetery and two museums. The cemetery and the museums are not terribly impressive.

After 4:30pm we start walking towards the city centre. This is actually quite nice and interesting. We pass by the Normale university building and soon reach the pedestrian area with all shops and cafes. As usual for Italy there are lots of people on the streets. Shirley and the girls are walking towards a Chinese fast food restaurant, which they found with Google Maps. Albert and I spot an Indian restaurant and eat something there.

After that we get back to the car and drive to the villa near Florence. With Google Maps we easily find the place, but Albert who is using a different car navigation system has difficulties finding the place.

7.1: Florence -> Dro
Hotel Eden, Dro. 82 Euro for a room with four beds, not too big (20m²), attached bathroom with shower. Breakfast included. Free WLAN in the room. LCD TV, heating, two tables and three chairs, place to hang the clothes. The hotel has its own parking (you can park the car in front of it). It's a bit old (the doors open with traditional metal keys), but seems ok. The location is Dro, a village in the middle of nowhere between Trento and the Garda lake.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. A bit cold (top temperatures around 7°-8°C.

We check out around 10:25am and drive to Florence, parking the car near Ferrucci square (as suggested by the landlord; 1 Euro per hour)). From here it's about a half an hour walk until the cathedral. We could perhaps have parked the car a bit closer to Ponte Vecchio, but then it's not a bad thing to walk along the Arno river because there are good views of Florence from here.

Around 11:50am we are at Ponte Vecchio. Later we split - the ladies will do their own things (sightseeing, shopping, etc.), while I will join Albert who has been queueing up at the queue of the cathedral. It's a very long queue (half an hour to get into the cathedral), but actually it's a waste of time because the interior of the cathedral is not so special. After the cathedral we buy a ticket for the bell tower adjacent to the cathedral (15 Euro). From the top you are supposed to have a good view of Florence.

When it's our turn (shortly after 1:30pm, we get in and climb to the top. Nasty surprise when we are on top: they put a mesh of metal wires on top, making it impossible to get good images of the city. Only if you use a smartphone with its tiny camera you can get usable images, But if you use a real camera with a large sensor and large lenses, the damn wire meshes are in the image. And they charge 15 Euro for this.

So at 2pm we get downstairs back into town. We walk slowly to the town hall, then have some lunch in a restaurant (again overpriced stuff - I pay 11 Euro for a piece of cake and a half litre bottle of mineral water; a can of soft drink would have cost 4 Euro). Lots of overpriced stuff in Florence: 20 Euro to get on top of the dome of the cathedral, ice creams which start at 5 Euro for two scoops etc.

Around 3:40pm Albert and I split. He will drive to Bozen, while I rejoin my ladies and walk back to the car. Then we refuel the car and drive to Dro in Trentino, stopping on the way in the Adigeo shopping mall near Verona.
This is a nice, clean and modern shopping mall, with lots of shops, a supermarket and a very good food court. Besides fast food outlets, there are also several restaurants serving Italian food.

At 8:20pm we get back to the car and drive to the hotel in Dro, arriving at 9:40pm.

8.1: Dro -> Weissenstein -> Bozen -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny, blue sky (not a cloud in Weissenstein and Bozen) but quite cold (-4°C in Weissenstein at 1520m of altitude, -1°C in Bozen and Munich).

In the morning I check the area around the hotel (in Dro). There is nothing worth visiting. It's just a flat, empty valley (quite grey and colourless) between the mountains. So, after some searching we spot a nice place in the mountains north of Dro (about 1:10 hours from here): it's the Weissenstein monastery, in the mountains at 1520m of altitude near the city of Weissenstein.

We park the car in the parking of the monastery at 12pm. Then in theory one could take a walk in the forest (there is a 1:30h trail), but because we do not have so much time, we just walk a bit around the monastery and have a look at the place.
With snow and sunshine the area is simply beautiful. The trees are covered with snow and there is the view of the mountain chain in rhe background.

Around 12:30pm we leave Weissenstein and drive to Bozen. There we have a lunch in a pizzeria restaurant and after that we drive back to Germany. The motorway is actually not that full, considering that we are at the end of a holiday period. I guess that because of the pandemic situation lots of people have chosen not to travel.

In fact this trip was quite uncertain: we needed a negative Covid test to enter Italy (had any one of us been positive we would have had to cancel the trip), and already before December 23rd it was obvious that the number of infections were going up. It could have happened that the regional governments in Italy would have implemented a regional lockdown, shutting down hotels and restaurants, thereby forcing us to interrupt or change the trip. Or one of us could have got sick, not that unlikely given that we got a lot of exposure to people everywhere. But we were lucky and managed to complete this trip as planned, despite the extraordinary situation. I guess the vaccinations did their part.

Copyright 2022 Alfred Molon