middle east & Italy - June 1993
My departure from the REEVES was delayed due to schedule changes and my desire to walk off the brow of the ship, vice helicopter. We pulled into Abu Dhabi on the 6th of June and I was bonged off on the 10th. We had my Hail and farewell on the 9th. It was lots of fun, I had a great time. I may have been a bit harsh in some of my roasts, but it was fun.
Getting from Abu Dhabi to Italy was not fun. The van's a/c broke fifty miles out of Abu Dhabi, i.e. the middle of nowhere. So it's 110 degrees and I am in long pants per regulation. We had to make a side trip to Dubai to get new van, I was drenched by this time. We made it to Fujairah, another Emirate, after a mere eight hour drive which should have been only 4. Luckily, there was a plane going out that night to Bahrain. I spent the next three days in Bahrain awaiting a flight out to Naples. Got to love that Holiday Inn, Manama Bahrain. The flight to Italy really started at 7 p.m. when I checked out of the hotel. Waited at the base for the midnight check in, loaded onto busses at 0130, arrived at the airport a little after 2 am. The flight was delayed with a departure time of 0430. Getting into Naples at 0830 am.
I had a nice hike from the US naval side of the airport to the commercial one to get my rental car. A Fiat Uno. Very small. The great thing about driving in Italy is that they don't worry about those lines on the road, or the signs, or the lights. And you could go deaf from all of their honking. I made it to the Naval Station and got some rooms in town on the water front. Naples is very colorful and it is a pretty city, but nothing compared to northern Italy. I went to Capri for a day, unfortunately the Blue Grotto was closed, but I had a great time hiking up and down the hills of Capri. I picked almost the best time to go as it was beautiful weather, and peak season doesn't start until July. I drove the Amalfi Coast and it is amazing. The road twists and turns hugging these cliffs. You are perched over the coast and then turn back ducking through olive groves and then back to the water again. The little towns along the coast are unbelievable, built into the cliff, leaning over the rocks below, and the one city street is very steep and cuts back every fifty yards. I moved north from there spending one night in a beach side resort just south of Rome and had a blast. Rome was great. After getting frustrated in trying to find a place to stay, I opted for the pricey Sheraton. It had a shuttle service to downtown as well as other attributes (i.e. parking!). Rome was great, but I really needed a pair of good walking shoes as I was walking 8 to 10 hours a day. The Forum, Coliseum, the fountains, the museums. I was so bummed, they would not let me into the Vatican because I was wearing shorts. None of the tour books said anything about that. Me? Underdressed? What sacrilege! After no shorts in the Middle East I was bound and determined to dress sensibly on my trip, and look where it got me.
I moved north to Venice staying several days in the mountains outside Rome, and along the beaches south of Venice. That European topless beach thing is just a little out of control. I had a superb time in Venice. So clean compared to Naples and Rome. The canals did not smell at and were very clean. I went to several really good museums there as well as just hung out on the Grand Canal. Definitely a place to go again next time. I drove down through the hills of Tuscany into Florence. My favorite place in Italy. Everyone was really friendly and the museums were amazing. The Uffizi Gallery had just reopened from the bombing just five days before I got there. They only opened up half of the museum but I spent all morning there. Walking across the Piazza del Michelangelo I met a girl from Columbia, Missouri and her college roommate who lived in Florence. It was good to talk to an American again and we had diner at Harry's Bar, a famous eatery. I left Florence driving up the Italian Riviera to Genoa. The countryside was pretty, but very crowded with summer homes. No empty beaches at all. Genoa I thought was dirty. I took a boat to Portofino and Cinque Terra along the Riviera. Beaches here also mean rocks, but was still nice. Bumming through Genoa I stumbled across the red light district and the only thing I can say is maybe the “ladies” would have looked better in the dark. I left Genoa for Milan and stayed up in the lake country north of Milan. My flight back was okay, and I was definitely glad to be in the US again.