As an Author one of the biggest pleasure is to know that something I have written has helped or inspired someone to do more than they previously thought possible. As a travel Author, and especially as one who promotes inexpensive family travel it gives me great joy to know that someone, somewhere, right now is discovering some hidden part of this world previously not obtainable to them. See, we are not only travel Authors but we put a unique twist to the whole travel the world theme. We believe and have proven that anyone or any family can travel the world for just the cost of food and fun. To this end, we just got back from an incredible trip through Europe as noted in our previous blogs. We hope that you enjoy them and are also inspired to travel the world.
Have Kids Will Travel is a result of over 9 years of research on how to travel both cheap and free. Using the information and tips in this book, our family of 6 has spent three weeks in Europe for about $2600.00 including airfare, hotels, food and more. We have gone to Hawaii for about $200.00 a person with $5.00 round trip airfare.
Read our blog, enjoy and be inspired knowing that you too can stop dreaming about places all over the world and start exploring. During this Blog week we will give away 3 Have Kids - Will Travel to those who comment on our blog.
Here's how to be eligible: Comment below and tell us what you did for your summer holiday or what you are planning for next summer now that you know there is a way to travel both inexpensive and free. At the end of the week we will chose three lucky winners who will receive a free copy of our book.
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. Enjoy and may all your travels be FREE! - Dale & Michelle Bartlett
We finally had to say goodbye not only to Sorrento, but to our wonderful hosts and friends as well. Having the opportunity to stay with friends through a hospitality exchange not only saved us hundreds of dollars, but renewed wonderful friendships, which will last a lifetime. We were very fortunate to have this opportunity and it was sad to say goodbye.
As we wound our way through the narrow roads, tunnels and cliff sides that led us here we thought out loud, how wonderful it would be to live here despite the traffic. It is amazing how easily we have gotten use to the near misses and facade of scooters being dropped out of the sky at you as you try to maneuver these seemingly impossible roadways.
We hadn’t made plans ahead of time for this day or night, only that we wanted to make our way about halfway back to Milan where we were to fly out Monday morning. We thought about heading up along the coast, but opted instead to make our next to last night in the delightful town of Assisi. We had traveled through Assisi on our last visit to Italy, but only could afford a few hours, as we were our way to Rome. This time we skipped Rome all together and opted for the quiet beauty of the hill towns of Umbria.
Where in Amalfi the buildings are bright colors and vivid white, the hill towns of Umbria are less colorful but no less impressive. A quick look online found the perfect spot for our stay. Nestled in the shadow of Assisi, a mere 15 minute walk to the center of town we found what once was an convent now converted into the beautiful hotel, Assisi Gardens. Not only perfect in location and ambiance, it was extremely reasonable at only $78 for a triple room and less than $50 if you only need a double and includes breakfast.
Assisi is a city set on a hill with an ancient castle looming over from the very top. It is also the home of St Frances of Assisi and is where he is buried. The town is magnificent to view as you drive up the road from the freeway and is delightful to walk through. Tomorrow the owners of the Assisi Gardens will take us on a personal tour and show us the chapel still in use and will hopefully tell us the story of our unique accommodations. As for the evening, it will be spent exploring this beautiful town and enjoying some more gelato as our time is drawing close to not having it until we return again in some distant time.
Day 16, 17
Day 16 found us relaxing poolside at the Villa where we are staying and doing a little shopping in the cooler evening air of Sorrento. This little city comes to life after sunset and there are a myriad of shops tucked away in the back streets just waiting to be explored. Gelato was of course the main event of the evening. There is nothing better than enjoying the cool and delicious flavors of this creamy delight as you walk slowly and without direction through the crowds of any Italian town. But this night with our dear friends, it was even more enjoyable.
Day 17 proved to be one of the most breathtaking of all our days in Italy. We have said over and over again how hard it is to decide which of the many activities to do. This coupled with our time quickly coming to an end in Sorrento caused us to look for ways to combine as many of the activities together as possible. We still wanted to go to Capri, Positano and Amalfi and capture the spender and awe of this beautiful coastline. We also knew we didn’t have enough time to do them all by car and Capri was only accessible by boat.
We searched online and found the perfect solution. For 39 Euros you can catch a sightseeing boat at the docks or port of Sorrento. It is called the Blue Mini Cruise and combined all of our dreams into one perfect package. One thing we failed to gather from our online research was exactly when the boat departed. From what we could surmise is that it was around or just after 8am and it returned around 5:30pm. When we arrived at the ticket counter the window to the cruise we had seen online was not open but the one next to it was. We inquired about the cruise and the gentleman gave us literature on a similar cruise going to the exact same places but was only 24 Euros per person. After checking out the boat, making sure we weren’t going to be on a world war two tugboat, we purchased the tickets and with a few extra dollars and time to spare before departure we explored the local venders selling their goods to the tourists. We picked up some water and other needed supplies and then headed for our boat.
The boat had about 50 or more reclining chairs like you would find poolside. Some of them on top with full access to the bright, hot Amalfi sun, while others around the main deck and with full or partial, yet much needed shade. Even with good seating location of partial shade, I turned a bright shade myself by the end of the day. I was not quite as diligent with the application of sunscreen as my wife and daughter.
Our first stop was to the isle of Capri. I swear that no mater the depth, you can always see to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and it is the most beautiful blue. However is was a bit choppy and both Michelle and Marissa felt every wave and despite their preplanning for sea sickness both felt the effects before we arrived at Capri. Capri is really two giant rocks jetting straight way out of the sea and is spectacular upon approach. The plan here wasn’t to dock and explore but to merely enjoy the cool waters near the white cave or Grotto. Of course Capri is most famous for its Blue Grotto and we had thought long and hard about visiting this marvel but opted to skip it this time after hearing from others that it is beautiful, but you are so rushed in and out it is hardly worth the cost. So from the coast the boatload jumped in the water for a much welcomed cool dip among the cliffs and caves of this island paradise.
After the swim we headed off to port of Positano. While sailing to this enchanting port we passed by Nerano Bay and the “Li Galli”, also known as the mermaids island. At Positano you had your choice to debark here for two and a half hours and explore or continue on to the port of Amalfi. I had my sights set on Amalfi, but my two sea weary companions needed dry land so we gathered our items to get ready to explore but failed to do so quick enough. Note for next time… Be ready to hop off as soon as the ship docks. The time allowed seems more like seconds than minutes. Either way, we weren’t ready and I got my wish as we sailed on to Amalfi.
I will have to say that approaching both Positano and Amalfi from the water as was done in years gone by when this was the only way to visit these ancient maritime Republics is, in my opinion, the only way to really capture their grandeur. We did our best to try and capture the magnificence in pictures but it truly has to be seen in person to get the full effect. To see more pictures you can visit our facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Have-Kids-Will-Travel/115869822169. Both ports are breathtaking and the buildings, something out of an enchanted fairy book story. As we walked the streets of Amalfi we imagined the painstaking task of building these towns on shear rock, which explodes out of the sea straight up to the sky.
After a little more than an hour, admiring the shops and finding a few bargains and again seeing if the gelato is any better here, we headed back to the ship for our ride back to Sorrento. The sun was a bit lower and was perfectly set on the side of the mountains which popped the colors of the building like never before. A quick stop to pick up those who stayed in Positano provided yet another chance to capture the city at a different angel and better lighting.
Arriving home the day was long but well worth the money and time spent. By the way, lunch on the boat was not only extremely affordable but very good as well, with several choices of sandwiches, salads or pasta all around 4 Euro each. A quick swim in the pool at the Villa to cool down was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
I find it fascinating how connected the royal and ruling families of Europe were. At Schonbrunn we were reminded that Marie Antoinette’s mother was Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and today at the Caserta Palace we see how each ruler tried to outdo each other in their palaces.
The Caserta Palace was created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the mid-18th century. His goal was to rival the Palace at Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. As for the inside of the palace I believe he succeeded. This is a magnificent very stately palace and is very tastefully built with 1200 rooms. I think the most impressive part of the palace is the entryway of 116 steps all carved from one giant block of stone. The gardens however, though immense are not as beautiful as Versailles but are still magnificent with a huge waterfall about 2 miles from the main palace feeding into a fountain of Diana and Acteaon. It then flows into the dolphin fountain, down through the “fish pond”, which is where mock sea battles were performed for the royal court. The Bosco Vecchio is where it all ends up and was built as the “little castle” and a playhouse for the Bourbon princes.
We drove to Caserta although you could take a 45-minute train from Naples central station. It is mostly visited by Italian tourists and isn’t on most Americans list, but it is a must see if you are in the Naples area. Make sure you visit however during the week, as the weekend gets very busy. They offer special pricing for students who are from the European Union countries only but when asked they gave us the discount as well. Make sure you have your walking shoes on if you are going to walk the gardens, but for those of you who are unable to travel the distance by foot they have shuttle busses that only cost 1 Euro per person. I recommend walking up and riding back as you will gain a greater appreciation of how expansive these gardens are.
Days 13 & 14
Sorrento is beautiful to say the least but very interesting and tricky to drive to. We headed south from Florence and kept to the freeway so that we could make good time due to the distance we needed to travel. It about killed me not to stop at the incredible hill towns and different places we saw on our way. The fields of sunflowers and cities that looked like they were an extension of the rock base they sat on, tempted me at every turn. The ride was both beautiful and uneventful until we turned off the E45 into the town of castellammare di stabia. From here the ride really got interesting. It appeared that they were having a garbage strike as garbage was piled up everywhere and on top of that they had no sidewalks so everyone was walking in the same streets as the cars and the ten million motorcycles and scooters who drive where ever they want. Once we made it through that city we wound our way around the side of the mountains along the coast. It winds through tunnels, towns and along cliffs that make you appear you are hanging off the edge of the world. The small towns were the toughest to work your way through as the roads were very narrow and the traffic was heavy, but we managed our way through. Michelle has learned to just close her eyes and tries not to scream too much.
Sorrento is gorgeous and is on the other side of the mountain from Amalfi. From here you have good access to Capri, the Blue Grotto, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Amalfi and so much more. Trying to decide which of the many option you have will probably be your hardest decision but don’t forget to just sit back, relax and take it all in. Pick up some lemons and make some lemonade while you forget about any cares of the world. While checking out the lemons you will find some extremely large ones, some about the size of a Childs head.
Our first outing was to Pompeii. The easiest way to get there is by train. 2.10 Euro drops you off only steps away from the entrance and beats fighting the traffic we described earlier. Pompeii is much larger than I expected so be prepared to do some walking. You can get a good walking tour map online or even get an app for your iPhone or iPod, man I’ve learned to love iPod apps while on this trip. You can also get private tours from guides at each place, they run about 10 Euro per person. Keep in mind it is very open and gets very hot. If you have little kids they will get worn out quickly under the sun. We were very lucky and went on a day that was overcast and had a few welcomed sprinkles, these are rare this time of year so bring the sunscreen or an umbrella to provide your own shade. Despite the heat, it is well worth it and if you begin early you can get both Pompeii and Herculaneum in on the same day. (just keep in mind it could be a long hot day)
The apartment we arranged through our Homespun Hospitality site was perfect. Situated close to downtown and located under a grocery store, this cute well maintained apartment is a perfect place to set up camp on your next trip to Florence. It sleeps 4 and has a full kitchen, large bathroom and is air-conditioned. Having the grocery store just above you is perfect as we bought our food for the next few days for about half the cost of one meal out. The first thing we did was to go into the center of town and do a little shopping and exploring. The open market is huge and is a great place to pick up those few special trinkets to remind you of your stay in Italy. We also found an Internet café as neither the farmhouse nor the apartment had Internet.
It seems that on this trip we have been doing deserts before dinner and enjoyed some delicious Gelato first before heading home to make dinner. We decided it was time for hamburgers, so we purchased form Italian sausage and hamburger and mixed it all together with herbs, olive oil and some balsamic to make a delicious Italian hamburger toped with fresh tomatoes, lettuce.
On Sunday, after a good night sleep we decided to find a church nearby to attend. It is always fun to attend church in different counties. You may not be able to understand everything, but it is a good place to be and to meet others who can help direct you to new and interesting places to visit that you may not have thought of. Before we arrived we looked for some places to provide some humanitarian service but had a hard time finding any. While at church we met a lady who told us about two places we will add to our humanitarian portion of Homespun Hospitality and which we will go to next time when we can better arrange it.
We finished the day by exploring more of Florence and enjoying the warm sun and beautiful day.
Days 11, 12
Of all of the places we have stayed in Italy, Capezzana has to be our favorite. I’m not sure if its the quite out of the way location, the wonderful memories and friendships we developed over the years or simply a combination of the all, but this place holds a certain magic for our family. Set in the Tuscan hills just outside Florence among olive groves and vineyards the main villa is the home of the Count and Countess Bonacossi. The villa dates back to the Medici family as it was originally built for one of their daughters. On our first stay here a few years ago we rented from the daughter and son in-law of the Bonaccosi’s in their 600-year-old restored farmhouse. Since that time, Saundra, their daughter passed away and Marcello has moved from their home in Florence into the farmhouse so we rented a farmhouse directly from the Villa just down the road from where we stayed previously. I was surprised how quickly everything came back to our memory. The roads, buildings and landmarks all came flooding back as we wound our way through the narrow roads of the region of Carmignano in Tuscany.
Because we were planning on visiting Florence on Saturday and Sunday we just took this time to relax and unwind in Capezzana from the nonstop adventures and there is no better place to do this. Here we became real Italians, in no rush just living life and even taking a nap in the afternoon while the rain fell outside. We also renewed old friendships with Marcello and his family and simply recharged our batteries.
Two days wasn’t enough at the farmhouse but was all we could do this trip through. On this trip we wanted to stay in an apartment that is listed on our new accommodation site, www.homespunhospitality.com
As we have traveled around the world we have found three ways to drastically reduce or even eliminate the cost of accommodations. Originally we looked at home exchanges, but soon discovered a little known opportunity of hospitality exchange and then also inexpensive rentals. The problem we encountered however was finding a place where all of these elements come together and provide an easy way to search for whatever works best for you. Homespun Hospitality is this kind of site. First of all we created this site with three different search options, home exchange, hospitality exchange and vacation rentals. Second we made the decision to keep this site free for everyone to use whether you are listing or searching. This is in hope to create the largest accommodation site on the Internet allowing the most options to the most number of people.