Anderwycke Yew

This is the end of our trip! We fly to Sydney tonight.

Yesterday we visited the Anderwycke Yew Tree at Runnymede. This is where the Magna Carta was signed by King John in 1215.

They think the tree is over 2500 years old and it is still alive! This means it has lived for longer than all the human history we have learned about in our trip – the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norman Conquest, medieval knights, Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the French Revolution.

We had to walk through the mud and past cows to get to the tree. When we got there, it had a huge wide trunk, which looked like it was hollow in the middle. The trunk and branches looked like strange creatures. We gave offerings of grass and leaves and sticks to the tree.  We really liked the tree, except for Margot who wouldn’t touch it.


We are in Rome, which is the capital of Italy and was the centre of the Roman empire.  We have seen lots of Roman ruins on our holiday, and now we are here!

We visited the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilicia. We had a guide called Antonia who was very nice.  The Vatican is a tiny country all of its own in the middle of Rome, and it is where the Pope lives.  There were lots of amazing artworks from Greek, Roman and Renaissance times.  We saw a floor mosaic from Rman times with Minerva (Goddess of wisdom) with the head of Medusa below her.  We saw an enormous golden statue of Hercules from Roman times, who was the strongest man in the world.  We also saw an amazing statue of Laocoon, a Trojan priest who tried to warn the Trojans about the Trojan Horse, but two sea serpents came across the sea and killed his sons.  Jasper told Antonia the story of the origins of the Trojan War – when Paris gave Venus the golden apple when she promised him Helen of Troy – Daddy was very proud and Antonia was very impressed.  We also saw a famous statue of Apollo that inspired Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. The most amazing thing we saw was the Sistine Chapel, which Michaelangelo painted.  Michaelangelo was a rival of Leonardo’s – they were in competition with eachother.  Michelangelo took years to paint the Sistine Chapel – he had to stand on scaffolding to paint it and hurt his back.  Many years later he painted the Last Judgment on the wall of the Sistine Chapel – a lot of people didn’t like it and he painted himself as a flayed skin to show how he felt about it.  He used the statue of Apollo we saw earlier in the Vatican as the inspiration for Jesus – but some people didn’t like it because it didn’t look the way Jesus was usually painted (with a beard).  We also went into St Peter’s Basilica and saw Michelangelo’s statue La Pieta, which he did when he was only 21.  In it Mary is holding her son Jesus, who had died on the cross.  Margot really wanted to go home by this time, but we calmed her down by telling her that the statue of Mary was a sad mummy holding her baby.

We visited the Colosseum in Rome, which was where the gladiators fought.  It was amazing.  The lions and tigers and gladiators would hide in tunnels and rooms beneath the wooden floor of the Colosseum, and they would be pushed up via a trap door.  The Roman emperors put on the gladiator shows so that the people would like them.  Today, people watch games like football in stadiums which is kind of like the old gladiator games from Roman times.

After the colosseum we went to the Palatine Hill where Romulus built Rome.  Romulus and Remus were put on the Tiber River when they were babies, but a she-wolf saved them and looked after them until they were grown up.  Romulus and Remus had a fight while they were building a wall on the Palatine Hill, and Romulus killed his brother Remus.  Rome was named after Romulus, who was the first king.  On the Palatine Hill Jasper found a blackened coin.  We took it home and cleaned it with vinegar and it turned to silver!  It is a coin from 1920 (nearly 100 years old!) and it has a chariot being drawn by four lions and the word “Aequitas” on it.  Mum says that Aequitas means justice or fairness in Latin.

We are staying in Trastevere in Rome which has lots of cobbled streets and not many cars.  We have been to have sushi and Chinese food at a restaurant here because we are missing this kind of food from Darwin.


Amalfi Coast and Pompeii

We have been staying on the Amalfi Coast in a town called Maiori.  It is very beautiful, and we are only 50 metres from the beach!  Our friend Shimsher from Canada has joined us for the last two weeks of our trip – we are very excited to see and spend time with her.

We try to go to the beach every single day – it is only 50 metres from our house!

Yesterday we went to Pompeii.  It was an ancient Roman resort town which was covered in volcanic ash by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  We saw Mount Vesuvius towering above the ruins at Pompeii but it didn’t erupt, although Margot was a bit scared before we went that it was going to!

Our favourite part was visiting the Roman baths where all the Romans had baths together.  We saw some real archaeologists in there digging!  They don’t spades to dig, because they have to be very careful and they don’t want to destroy the things that are buried.  We saw them using a brush and a sponge and some buckets of muddy water.

We visited a house and there was a fresco of Venus coming out of the shell, just like we saw in the Uffizi, but it was painted 1500 years before!  The Romans used pigments mixed with egg for their frescoes.

We saw lots of bodies of people who had been covered in ash.  Some of them looked really scared.  We saw a dog at the forum who looked like he was scratching himself – he had also been covered in ash.

Pompeii was really amazing – it was just like seeing a real Roman town.

To show you how scary it must have been when the volcano erupted, you should look at this video!


Puglia – Fasano and Cisternino

We have spent the last week in Puglia.

First we stayed at Masseria Alchimia near Fasano.  There was a dog called Luna there who we absolutely loved.  We visited the beach near our house at Torre Guaceto and it was amazing!  We went back there three more times.  Jasper built a big castle which he called the Castle of Dubibe in the sand – we thought it would get washed away or destroyed by people walking past it, but every day we went back it was still there!  We also made other sand sculptures including a hippopotamus and so many bottoms.

We were sad to leave Luna, but afterwards we came to stay at a fairy house (or trulli) which had 10 cats!  It was amazing and we played with them every single day.

We went to the circus one night at Locorotondo!  We saw acrobats, a strong man who lifted a lady up on a pole using only his forehead to hold her up, We saw a lion and some tigers in a cage, and best of all we saw a hippopotamus!  Maeve couldn’t believe it! We also saw a horse dressed up as Pegasus. Mum and dad thought it was cruel for the animals to be used in the circus.

We visited some beautiful towns in Puglia called Alberobello (where there were hundreds of trulli houses), Ostuni (which is a white city) and Monopoli (which is a beautiful town by the sea where we ate delicious seafood and played at the beach).

The olive trees in Puglia are amazing – they are absolutely everywhere and some of them are over 1000 years old!  They are protected by the government because they are so old and special.

When we were in Fasano we stayed very close to old ruins called Egnazia – it was called Gnacia in Roman times and it is one of the places where Horace stopped on his famous trip from Rome to Brundisium.  Mum was very excited about this.

Puglia is very beautiful and very different from the rest of Italy.

Abruzzo and snow!

We stayed in Abruzzo for two nights on our way to Puglia from Acqualagna. We stayed in a small town called Spoltore near Pescara and we woke up one morning and the electricity was off and we couldn’t drive out of the electric gate so we had to go to the playground and play.

We could see some mountains with snow on them in the distance from our house. We decided we would drive towards the mountains in the hope that we would see and touch snow. We drove a long way, almost two hours up the mountains to the Gran Sasso National Park. We drove past ski fields, but there was no snow there, so we decided to keep going. We kept going up and up, and Maeve said she wanted to go home because she was tired and sick. We were driving on a high plane called the Campo Imperatore, which has been in lots of movies and where Mussolini was captured. We almost lost our hope. But then we saw some snow on the side of the road. We were so excited! We got out of the car and we played in the snow. We made snowballs, we built a snowman on the road, Maeve slid down the snow on her bottom, Margie loved walking on the snow and slipping over, and even Margie’s DouDou sat on the snow! We really didn’t want to leave, but we had to. We thought it was the best day of our lives.

On the way home, we stopped at a restaurant in the mountains where you cook your own sausages on a grill outside. They were absolutely delicious. We also had some amazing hot chocolate there. There were lots and lots of tables outside there, so the restaurant must be very popular, but we came at a quiet time.

On the drive down the mountain back to Spoltore we drove through the clouds! It was so foggy we couldn’t see very far sometimes.


It was a great day.

Pasta-making school, Italian TV and truffles in Acqualagna

We stayed in Acqualagna in Le Marche for 5 nights for the white truffle festival. We stayed just out of town in a nice place which had chickens and horses and goats. There were so many people at the truffle festival, but the truffles were expensive because there has not been much rain. We tasted and bought lots of food – our favourite was the canoli filled with cream from Sicily.

The best thing we did was take part in a pasta-making school with lots of Italian kids. We were the only English speakers, and we had to follow the directions in Italian. There were lots of chefs there to help us, and there was a TV crew there and we were on Italian television! The man who was operating the TV camera filmed us all lots of times, but he especially liked filming Margot.

This is how you make pasta:

  1. First you put out the flour on a board
  2. Then you make a hole in the flour;
  3. Then you crack the egg into the hole;
  4. Then you mix the egg and flour together with your hands, and then you squish it up;
  5. Then you put more flour on it to stop it from sticking, and you also add some oil and water and a pinch of salt;
  6. Then you mix it more with your hands;
  7. Then you squish it out with a roller until it’s really flat and thin;
  8. Then you fold it in (twice)
  9. Then you cut it with a knife into strips;
  10. Then you unfold it, and you have tagliatelle!

We ate the pasta we made that night for dinner and it was absolutely delicious!

When we were at Acqualagna we visited Urbino, a medieval city with one of the oldest universities in Europe.  It is where the painter Raphael was from.

We also went to the Gorla del Furlo, which was on the Via Flaminia, an ancient Roman road. The Furlo was a narrow gorge where the Roman emperior Vespasian dug a tunnel through the rock to make the road. The road went from Rome to the port of Fano on the Adriatic Sea.

Florence and Uffizi with Nonna

Daddy went to Spain for a few days to see friends and we decided to meet him when he came back in Florence.

In Florence, we went to the Uffizi Gallery, which is one of the most famous art galleries in the world with some of the most famous paintings in the world. A lot of the paintings are from the Renaissance, which is when there was a rebirth of art and learning in Italy. There were lots of famous artists from the Renaissance with paintings in the Uffizi including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello – yes, this is where they got the names of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

We had a tour with a lovely lady called Molly. She gave us sketch books to draw with, some gold leaf (which they used a lot in paintings in the Renaissance), and some seals with the motif of Florence on them. We learned about the Medici family, who were the dukes of Florence and who had lots of money to pay the artists to paint things for them.

We saw some amazing paintings.

We saw Botticelli’s Venus, which shows Venus (the Roman goddess of love and beauty) being born out of a shell in the sea while the god Zephrus blew her to shore. This is probably in the top five most famous paintings in the world. They had made a cast out of it next to the painting so that blind people could feel what it was like.

We also saw the Primavera (or “Spring”), which is another beautiful painting by Botticelli that also has Venus in it. Botticelli loved to paint flowers more than anything else. He painted the same woman (a beautiful woman who lived in Florence) in all his paintings (she was Venus, as well as Mary in some of his paintings).

We saw paintings by Leonardo da Vinci. There was a painting which was by Leonardo and Botticelli’s art teacher (Verrocchio), where the teacher got Leonardo and Botticelli to each paint one of the angels looking at Jesus. Leonardo painted the one on the left, and Botticelli painted the angel on the right. When Leonardo’s teacher saw the angel Leonardo painted, he thought it was so beautiful and perfect that there was no point ever painting again, so Verrocchio quit painting for the rest of his life!

We also saw a shield painted with Medusa’s head by Carravaggio. Medusa was a gorgon monster with hair full of snakes who turned anyone who looked at her into stone. Perseus was a famous warrior who slayed Medusa by looking at her reflection in a shield rather than looking at her face to face.


We really liked visiting the Uffizi.

Anghiari in Tuscany

We are in Anghiari in Tuscany.  It is an ancient medieval town near Arezzo.  Nonna has come to visit us here – we were very excited to see her.

Margot loves walking in medieval towns, so she loves Anghiari and the town of Sonsepolcro which is nearby.

Anghiari is famous for a few things.  The first thing is St Francis of Assisi.  He was a monk who became a saint and he walked from Anghiari to the monastery at Montecasale above Sansepolcro and stayed there.  We went to the monastery today – we saw a monk there and he spoke to us and told us to go outside so the monks could pray in private.  He was very nice, and wanted to know all our names.  St Francis was famous for being kind and for talking to every creature, including birds.  Everyone prayed at the monastery and Maeve prayed for the birds, and Jasper prayed for birds to be everywhere. Afterwards we saw some nuns in Anghiari.  The monastery was very quiet and secret and mysterious.  At the start, the sign to the monastery was hidden so we thought that only special people could get there.  Monks are not married because they are married to God.  Nuns are the female versions of monks and we saw some nuns in Anghiari afterwards on the same day.

There is a really amazing straight road that leads from Anghiari straight down the mountain and back up again to the monastery.  It was built to remember St Francis and it is really straight.

Another thing Anghiari is famous for is the Battle of Anghiari.  This was a big fight on the plains underneath Anghiari on and and next to the very straight road in 1440.  The Florentines were fighting against the Milanese to get control of Anghiari and Sansepolcro.  The Florentines (from Florence) won the battle and it became really famous.  About 50 years after the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo da Vinci was asked to draw a fresco of it.  He is probably the most famous painter in the world, and he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper (in Milan).  Nonna gave us a book about Leonardo da Vinci which we are reading.  Leonardo never finished his painting of the Battle of Anghiari on the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence – we don’t know why.  Everyone who saw it said it was the most amazing painting in the world, but don’t know for sure because it has been lost – another painter called Vasari painted over it with a different fresco 50 years later.  Maybe we will find the painting of the Battle of Anghiari tomorrow when we go to Florence.

The other beautiful town we visited, which is at the end of the straight road as well was Sansepolcro.  We saw a painting that some people think is the best painting in the world. The painting was of Jesus rising from the dead (The Resurrection) and it was a fresco on the walls of a building in Sansepolcro.  It was by a famous painter called Piero della Francesca who was from Sansepolcro.  It was being restored when we visited it.  The painting was nearly destroyed in the second world war by the British.  The commander of the British regiment stationed there (Clark) during the war was ordered to bomb Sansepolcro, but he remembered that he had read an essay by Aldous Huxley saying that the fresco was the best painting in the world so he refused to bomb the town.  The people of Sansepolcro think that Clark was a hero for saving the painting and the town and have named a street after him.

We are still learning about Greek and Roman mythology and we watched the old version of Clash of The Titans twice about Perseus slaying Medusa.

We are staying in a beautiful place in Anghiari called Poggiodoro – there is a dog called Lapo here who we love playing with and we go for walks all the time.  Our house is an old cigar-making building and it is lovely.

at Madonna dei Fornelli

A45DC28F-22A6-413B-BD22-0BB4979EE886We have  been staying next to a pub for the last week owned by Silvano in the town of Madonna dei Fornelli.  It is called American Bar da Ceppo. Jasper especially loved the pub.  It was his favourite because it had lots of video games and we learned how to play pool there.  Jasper wanted to go there every day.

We have been staying in Walter Materassi’s house who is Silvano’s cousin – he is an artist and he took us one day to paint by a lake and gave us lots of amazing things to go and see.  We painted onto see-through plastic and Margot’s was the best painting.

We think we met Walter’s whole family – his mother Anna lives downstairs with his father, and we went to his auntie’s restaurant in Florence called Fiorenza, and we also met his girlfriend Giada who was very nice and played with us at the playground at the church.  Walter is a very good artist and there are paintings by him of Venus, Neptune and David in the house we stayed in.  His mother Anna showed us some paintings of his in her house downstairs as well.  One day we went to Pratolino where we visited the Medicis garden and saw an amazing sculpture called El Gigante dell’Appenino (the giant of the Appenines).  The giant of the Appenines was pushing down a monster with his hand, and there was a dragon at the back of him as well as a mysterious cave.

Madonna dei Fornelli is half way between Bologna and Florence (Firenze) and we went to both places.  Bologna is very famous for its food – they invented tortellini, tagliatelle, mortadella, and even spaghetti bolognaise is from there!  We had a great time walking around Bologna in the porticos and we ate delicious tortellini in brodo and other food.  We went to a park afterwards.  We went to Florence one day as well, and ate at Fiorenza (Walter’s auntie’s) restaurant which was delicious!  We walked around the old city and looked at amazing statues at the Piazza Vecchia of Perseus with Medusa’s head, Menelaus and Patroclus and Hercules killing a centaur.  We love all the statues and paintings of the Greek and Roman myths – mum is teaching us about them.  We will go to the Uffizi to see the painting of Venus and other art works next week with Nonna.

We also went to two truffle festivals – one in Vergato and one in Monzuno.  We bought four truffles for much less than we would pay for them in Australia.  Mum and dad still think porcini mushrooms are the best though.

We ate such good food in this area, but we think our favourite place to eat was at Poli, which is a small restaurant in Madonna dei Fornelli where they make fresh pasta.  Maeve LOVED the tortellini in brodo there, and mum and dad loved the veal scallopine with fresh porcini mushrooms.  YUMMMMMMMMM!!!!

Thank you so much to Walter, Giada, Anna, Silvano and everyone – we hope we see you in Australia one day!