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.

Rome!

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! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY_3ggKg0Bc

 

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.