Happy St. Patrick’s Day, from our little leprechaun.
“In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ― Jack Kerouac
Do one better and climb a goddamn volcano with your dog! We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend an afternoon on the beast itself, Mt. Vesuvius, the reason why Pompeii fell hard to it’s knees and brought all life to a standstill in 79AD. Too heavy to take in? You can get an ice cream at the top!
There is no escaping Mt.Vesuvius, it’s presence looms over the landscape no matter the direction you are heading in, rising up in front of you through the front windshield, or watching you through your rear view mirror as you speed along the autostrade.
After a morning of exploring the streets and houses of Pompeii that were once covered by volcanic ash, we jumped in the car and headed 10 minutes up the highway to explore this mighty hill. After coming off the main road, we drove another 20 minutes up the side of the volcano and arrived at the parking area, basically a side road with cars parked all along the shoulder. Here is where the adventure begins. You can can start walking up the continuation of the main road to the top parking lot (reserved for buses) or take a shuttle – it’s about 45 minutes to walk and we decided on the shuttle as it was a little late in the day and we were keen to drive back along the Amalfi Coast in the daylight. Don’t worry, I haven’t mislead you, there was still a big climb for Tikka to do.
The shuttle is just 5 min, with a quick stop to buy your park ticket and it drops you off at the base of the crater portion of the volcano, the steep path right in front of you, and a couple souvenir stalls of course…
The air was fresh and cool and the crowds were manageable – very busy on the wide path taking you up, up, up to the top, but no one really got in your way. There were all types of people making the hike – locals and tourists from all over, and every age imaginable. Families with little kids being carried and adventurers over 75 that left us in their volcanic dust. There were even a few gals carefully hanging onto their boyfriends as they made the climb in their heels, the bravest of all.
And one Canadian dog, happy to be out in the air and getting some really good exercise.
The walk from this top parking lot is about 30 minutes and it’s safe but a steady, reasonably steep climb without many switchbacks. Nothing to scramble over or watch your step with, the path is well maintained and little cars go up it to reach the concession stands at the top. Take it at your own pace and you’ll make it, no one is judging if you stop for a lot of breaks. Ok, Tikka might, she was all go!
The views you are rewarded with are as you would expect, breathtaking. Naples is laid out in front of you and as you reach the crater you have a clear view of the Bay of Naples and the sky and water mesh together in a big, blue painting.
The path continues half way around the lip of the crater and there is still steam rising from the fissures. Don’t expect a lake of bubbling magma as you peer over the edge, it’s pretty much a big hole with a lot of rocks and gravel, kinda like a quarry. We spent some time enjoying the vistas and chatting with a few people that were interested in us having a dog with us, had an ‘almost’ cold beer bought from the concession at the top, grabbed some water for Tikka and then started to make our way back down.
Quite an amazing day, seeing the cause and effect of how a volcano took out an entire population. Here is a link to the Vesuvius Park website to plan your own volcano outing with your dog. http://www.vesuviopark.it/pnv/home/index.asp
Next on our list is Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, a real treat for 2 and 4 legged travelers. Coming soon!
There are a lot of famous sites in Italy and with only a few weeks to explore a country with so much history and culture it’s hard to pick and choose what to spend time exploring and what you have to add to your ‘next time!’ list. When planning our road trip around Italy with our dog we were ecstatic to learn we could take Tikka to Pompeii with us (small dogs only), it quickly became a ‘this time!’ stop.
It was an amazing day, starting out early by meeting up with some good friends who joined us from England, then driving over a scenic, windy road taking us over the Amalfi coast mountains from Ravello, to descend on Pompeii as the gates were opening. By getting a jump on the crowds we were able to find parking close by, at the Piazza Immacolata entrance and beat the heat. For only a couple Euros we parked in front of a restaurant, listened for a couple minutes about how wonderful the food is there while we paid for the spot, used the washroom and bought some water and some guides.
Pompeii was an incredible Roman town of 11,000 inhabitants, locked in time by the destruction caused from a neighboring volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, around 80AD. The spewing ash that erupted from the crater covered the town and preserved the people, structures and even the culture of the Pompeii citizens. Unlike visiting a museum or a smaller heritage site, you are fully immersed in the day to day life of an ancient time as the area is just so huge.
Walking through the endless streets, you can pop into houses of all social classes and think back to what everyday life was like. Then stroll up a main street to visit the hub of activity at the forum or imagine the games at the amphitheater. There is even a brothel to walk through with a menu of various services painted on the walls for customers to choose from.
That is an incredibly brief run down of what you’ll discover and describing this town and what you’ll find could easily become a novel. Staying on point, this is about bringing your dog along for the visit. The site is extensive and could be exhausting for people and dogs on a hot, overcrowded day. We gave ourselves a 4 hour limit (including a lunch stop) which only scratched the surface but was enough to get a really good overview. It’s a lot of walking and stopping to check things out so not very strenuous on us or Tikka, but going in the middle of summer could drain your mental batteries pretty quickly.
The second part of our day in this area deserves it’s own spotlight – we climbed Mt. Vesuvius and stared down into the belly of the beast that caused all this destruction…check it our here!
You can catch up on Tikka’s dog friendly road trip around Italy on the VanDoggo Travel Page.
Our last day in Rome was all about spoiling our little traveler and taking her somewhere she could stretch her legs and roll in some grass, and later to visit a dog friendly bakery we had heard about. (Catch up with these links for the Colosseum in Part 1 and Campo Fiori Part 2).
Starting out just after sunrise we began our morning walk in a different direction, heading away from the Spanish Steps to ‘The People’s Square’ at the North East gate of Rome. The square has been turned into a pedestrian zone and right in the middle stands an Egyptian obelisk brought to Italy around 30BC. Originally the obelisk was erected at Circus Maximus but was excavated after falling and getting buried in debris during wars in the 6th century. This was our gateway to the gardens of Villa Borghese, the largest public park in Rome and our morning adventure.
A short walk took us up Pincian Hill for a spectacular view over Rome and after stopping for a beat we headed into the middle of the park to find the dog park we were keen to explore. This morning walk was quickly turning into a highlight of our city visit and we silently thanked the Borghese family that had the foresight to turn over this 150 acre private garden to the public. It’s a sanctuary from the stone and concrete of the busy streets below, and you could feel the happiness of the local dogs around you. Grass! Trees! Shade!
The park is mostly known for it’s museums that are scattered over the 150 acres, but there is also a a cinema, a replica of Shakespeares’s Globe Theater and monuments galore to check out. There is even an equestrian area that was used during the 1960’s Olympics, what a gorgeous venue. We stayed focused and pointed ourselves towards the dog park, an easy walk on the wide, shaded pedestrian walkways.
And holy dog biscuits batman, what a gorgeous dog park it is…A huge green area with gentle sloping hills and a beautiful path right down the middle creating a ‘valley of dogs’. There were all sorts of furry canine creatures playing and sniffing. Boisterous German Shepherds, snuffling Pugs, elegant Afghans and goofy Labradors. They all came for their morning off leash constitution with their owners. So many dogs, but all well behaved and with a space so big, there was something for everyone. Room to run, trees to sniff or benches to lie under. Yes, it was heaven and Tikka enjoyed meeting some new friends and running her heart out before crashing out in the shade.
There was a plethora of garbage bins, so the dog poop was non existent from what we could tell. Everyone respected what a gift this place was and did their job keeping it tidy.
After a good off leash play time, we made a loop back along another park path so that we could see more of the gardens and decided on a coffee break close to where we started our journey. La Casina Dell’orolgio is a cafe with a lovely patio perfect for a tired out pup and hungry people needing an espresso and some pastries. It was a quiet morning with a few other people enjoying the patio with their dogs, but we thought how crazy busy it would be in the height of summer as it would be a welcome shady stop for a cold drink.
The early afternoon took us on a walking trip back over the Tiber River to check out the Trastevere neighbourhood and have a late lunch. A mini adventure ensued when we tried to locate the tram to take us over, and by the time we found the line, we only had to go one stop. It was a short trip but Tikka can still claim she did it.
Trastevere is a great little area – At one time a bit of a secret place off the beaten track, it’s now been fully discovered by tourists, but isn’t as hectic and busy as the centre of Rome. There aren’t a lot of big attractions in the immediate area, so the tour buses are few and it’s more of a place to wander and take your time, exploring the cobbled streets and ivy lined buildings. Lunch was on our mind and ‘Da Enzo’ lived up to the reviews and became our best meal during our stay in Rome. Simple dishes but pure and fresh for the ol’ tastebuds. Do you even have to ask at this point? Yes, no problem to have the dog with you at the table.
At a bottle of wine and full bellies o’clock, we paid the bill and continued to wind our way around the streets with a destination in mind.. ‘Biscottificio Innocenti’. Rated as one of the top bakeries in Rome, we had to make a stop at this family cookie business.
We were warmly welcomed in as soon as we found the bakery. The owner, Stefania, went straight for Tikka with a pizza cookie that was quickly offered as a token of friendship. Cultural and species divide was bridged.
Looking around, you could see ample evidence of Stefania’s love of dogs – paw print designs and dog photos on the walls. Not saying that this is a huge dog destination, it’s just a great bakery with the nicest owners that love dogs and you know you have found a special little place to go with your furry travel companion.
No lies here – we loaded up on cookies, filling a big bag so that we had lots to nibble on after meals with a cup of tea, for days to come.
The afternoon rounded out with a long walk over to the The Vatican, we must have covered 40,000 steps that day… Only humans are allowed inside the buildings, but St. Peter’s Square is completely open to bringing your dog and we found a nice set of steps to sit and observe all the people making their pilgrimage. They come for all reasons, personal faith, spiritual guidance or to mark off another amazing sight that Rome has to offer.
After a nice rest we called it a day and took the Metro (Subway) back to the Spanish Steps. We had Tikka’s muzzle handy in case it was required on the train, as that was something we read about before coming to Italy – having dogs muzzled on transit. No one seemed to adhere to this rule and it may be enforced more with big dogs. We kept her quiet on our lap and within 20 minutes we were home again, tired from a full day of walking and ready to open up our bag of baking. As we packed up our bags and gathered Tikka’s bits and pieces we chatted about everything we wanted to come back and see. This was not a one time only visit and we promised our little dog that she could romp in the gardens again one day soon.
So where to next? This may be the end of our three part series on exploring Rome with your dog, but our trip to Italy was not over yet. Coming up, we visit Pompeii with Tikka, climb Mt. Vesuvius and venture into Venice.
With so much to digest after visiting a place as magnificent as Rome we couldn’t help but split up our discoveries into a mini series, so here we go with part 2 of 3. (Part 1 took us to the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Circus Maximus).
We continued our sight seeing routine of being early risers and taking Tikka out for a couple hours to stroll around the city. There were always a few destinations earmarked for our walks, but we spent time enjoying the journey getting to where we wanted to be. The bustling market of Campo Fiori right in the middle of Rome was a must stop, and we made a few detours on the way there.
While the Romans were buzzing through the main streets on their scooters hurrying to work, we took our sweet time walking and sniffing along the Tiber River. Because ships could reach as far as 60 miles upriver, Tiber was incredibly important for Roman commerce and was the main watercourse for the city developing along it’s Eastern banks. It also has a grim past as the condemned that were tried and strangled on Capitoline Hill were thrown down the Germonian stairs to rot and then eventually thrown into the mighty river. Ouch.
Only 5 minutes from the river took us back into the streets, searching for the Campo Fiori market. We were caught in a 20 min rain shower that was just enough to lift the smells from the stone walls, throw a lovely sheen across the roads and make Tikka into a fuzzball. A few umbrellas came out, but it was clear it wouldn’t last so we pressed on.
Campo Fiori translates to ‘field of flowers’, a note to what may have bloomed in this square hundreds of years before we stepped into it. It’s now a busy day market bursting with seasonal fruits and vegetables from dozens of stalls. At night it transforms to a lively destination as all the restaurants and cafes that line it’s perimeter swing into action. At one time, the entertainment was to come and watch public executions, including live burnings such as Bruno Giordano (Philosopher, Mathematician and Astronomer ) in 1600. We’ll settle on the entertainment of us trying to use our broken Italian to buy a couple of apples.
After a bit of shopping we made our way back through the Tridente area close to the Spanish Steps, stopping for a late breakfast at a little cafe so that Tikka could rest her paws. She took full advantage and enjoyed the seat cushion while we ordered our coffees and then took our time sitting and watching everyone coming and going.
The afternoon drew us back to the Campo Marizio district, or the ‘foreigner’s quarter’. Although we were ambling along and taking our time, we did have a goal -to visit the building and courtyard of Via Margutta 51, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in ‘Roman Holiday’. The street is just gorgeous, located in a beautiful little neighbourhood full of galleries and hanging plants and at one time crowded with artists residing in all the surrounding buildings. Federico Fellini made this street his home and embraced La Dolce Vita.
Part 3 of our adventure in Rome takes us to a beautiful dog park in Villa Borghese Gardens and lunch in Trastevere.
If you are looking for even more of our adventure in Italy, check out our travel page!