When we continued our journey, Dum told me about the EU, the union of countries that had come together for trade and other reasons and more about the Euro, the money system many of them shared. When we went from France to Belgium and then to Holland we didn't have to stop at the borders, but when we crossed into Switzerland, we were stopped at Customs there. We all got our passports ready but the lady said she didn't want to see those-she just wanted some money. We were able to pay in Euros but the change was in Swiss francs-another new coin for me to see.
Switzerland was beautiful, but we went through the country very quickly, sticking to the motorways. Dee explained that we didn't have any Swiss money except the little bit of change we had been given, so we pressed onwards to Italy. Our first views of Italy were very busy ones, the tourist area in the lakes, then on to Genoa which was a frightening large city: I didn't know where to go, it was all so full of people and cars
Soon afterwards though we found a lovely peaceful village called Bonasola and we stayed there for a couple of days. The sun was shining and we were right by the sea, although not close to the beach. I don't mind paddling in water but I don't like swimming very much, and both the Tweedles seemed to agree with me. Dum and Dee went for a bike ride to the next village but I'd had enough of travelling for a while, so I stayed and watched the seagulls skimming the waves.
Our next main visit was to Pisa. I'd heard something about a Tower of Pisa and knew that it was leaning, but it wasn't until I saw it that I understood it was the bell tower next to the Cathedral, and that "leaning" meant it didn't go straight up like most buildings, but tilted like a spinning top does when it stops. There were a lot of visitors there, and many were taking photographs of others in their group
I couldn't see why they were holding their arms up in some very strange positions, and then laughing, but Dum said that they were pretending to hold the tower up. I saw that they were quite a long distance from the tower so how could they hold it up? Dum carried on explaining that they weren't really trying to hold the tower up, but the photograph would look as if they were.
I thought that the sightseers who were pretending were a bit silly!
After Pisa we headed towards Rome, taking a pleasant slow route along the coast. Going down all the hills was absolutely fine but it was sometimes a bit of a climb to get back up to the main roads. I only hoped I was going to get fitter with all this exercise. Italian people were very friendly to us, even when Dum and Dee tried (and failed) to speak their language.
I am too shy to talk to strangers, and anyway I still have a lot of English words to learn, as I hear the Tweedles talking, but don't always understand what they say. I won't even think about trying to learn Italian yet. When we arrived in Rome we found a large site where we could go which is close to the tram into Rome.
Although there wasn't really anything special about the site, the people there were very helpful-and nice-and gave us a map of the centre of Rome, so we could plan a trip into the city for the next day. We each bought a ticket for €4 which we were told would last us all day whichever type of transport we used. What a sensible system and good value for money too. The tram took us to a main line rail terminus and we then went underground to the metro, aiming for the Coliseum
When we reached there we saw a large ruined building with hundreds of visitors, and I couldn't understand why they were all there. Dee told me that the Romans- an old name for some of the Italians, used to worship different gods to the Christians and used to throw Christians to hungry lions for entertainment.
This big old building was the arena where it all happened. I told Dee I thought that the whole idea was horrible, and I wanted to get away from there; so we all slowly made our way down one of the main shopping streets until we came to the Trevi Fountain. This was much nicer though it did seem a rather large fountain in a small square. It also attracted a lot of visitors, but we did all manage to get a good look at it and take some photographs.
Dee then threw a coin into the fountain and said that it was "for luck", and that it was a tradition to do that. I had to ask what a tradition was, but I was pleased to learn a new word
The next day we headed on down towards Naples, mainly following the coastline. A little inland from Naples we found some old villages and some very narrow roads which really made driving difficult for Dum. We tried to go up to the crater of Vesuvius, which is a volcano-something else I hadn't met before.
I gather a volcano is like a mountain that sometimes sneezes and throws out red hot lava when it does. I didn't like the sound of that type of sneeze but Dum reassured me that it doesn't happen very often at all. By this time we were half way up the volcano, then we came to some closed gates. It was a Sunday, but we didn't know whether the road was just closed for the day or for a lot longer, like for the winter.