Gatti de Roma – Cats of Rome – Italy

I love when you are traveling and you discover something completely unexpected. That is exactly what happened on our last day in Rome.

We had spent the morning in the Vatican City posing for photos in St Peter’s Square. The kids were a bit ‘over’ looking at sights so we had a quick cuppa and Mr Travel Bee suggested his own special walking tour.

We wound through cobbled streets, ducked into a beautiful old church (did you know there are something like 940 churches in Rome?!), came across some markets and then ended up at a set of ruins (as you do in Rome).

Mr Travel Bee proceeded to tell us this was Torre Argentina where Julius Caesar died on the Ides of March in 44 BC. The kids immediately zoned out, with that glazed expression that said…… “please Dad, we can’t take in any more history”. Then he said “Oh and there is a cat sanctuary here!”

The ears pricked up.

At first we couldn’t see any cats and thought he must have been mistaken. But, when as walked along the sidewalk overlooking the ruins we began to see them. Some were camouflaged by their surrounding and others were out sunning themselves on the bright winters afternoon.

There are at least four cats in this photo but you might need to zoom in!

As we walked further, more and more came out of the woodwork (or stonework!). Then, as we reached the corner there was a staircase and a sign pointing down to ‘Gatti de Roma’. We all looked each other, shrugged and began climbing down.

At the bottom of the stairs we were greeted by several people, several cats and then ushered in a small door. Once inside we couldn’t believe our eyes. There were dozens and dozens of cats housed in a small crevice beneath the street.

As it turns out, this place is quite something. Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary is an organisation that rescues cats off the street and gives them a second chance at life. It is home to 84 cats in total, many of which have serious health issues including blindness, deafness, amputated limbs, respiratory issues and even behavioural issues. But these cats are so loved and so happy (except one).

Visitors crowded the small rooms patting, cuddling and murmuring to kitties. There was one cat that had taken a particular liking to a woman who, no matter how she tried, could not remove herself. It was quite funny to watch. I wonder if she ended up adopting him!

Each cat is named when it enters the shelter and examined by a vet. Some become permanent residents, others are nursed back to full health before being adopted. One thing is for sure, there is a cat for everyone here with old cats, young cats, fluffy cats, black cats, tabby cats, cuddly cats, aloof cats and everything in between.

King of his castle

There is however, one to be avoided. Aceto (a ginger Tom cat) doesn’t like anyone or anything (he is the one I refer to with behavioural issues). Hopefully after some time in a loving environment, his will to dislike everything will be broken down and he will rediscover friends and the beautiful kindness in this world.

For cat lovers this was a unique and memorable find. If you would like to donate to the charity or read about some of the characters in the sanctuary you can follow Gatti de Roma on Facebook or visit their website

Who knows, you may even be able to adopt a cat, from a distance.


Our Squeak says hello to the Cats of Rome

One boy, a haircut and a wedding: Busselton WA

Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined hosting a wedding in our backyard! But yesterday, Miss Colombia and Mr Italy got hitched at The Hive!

Needless to say, our adventure of hosting travellers continues to surprise and grow our family. New and unique experiences are becoming the norm but I feel certain……. this week will be etched in our memories forever.

It all began a few weeks ago when Miss Columbia and Mr Italy announced they were going to get married. We were very excited for them and agreed the ceremony could take place in our garden followed by a lunch for fifteen. It was to be low key, with only a few close friends.

Area for official proceedings

At first we didn’t tell the children, although I think by this stage they are becoming accustomed to unusual happenings in our backyard. When we told them last week, there were a few wide eyes and ‘are you serious?’ comments but they were game and ready to get involved.

What followed, was a day that can only be described as magical. The low key event suddenly transformed into a day that involved contributions from everyone invited. Each little detail as surprising and endearing as the last. With little discussion between parties, we were astounded at how everyone found their role and the whole day came together.

The afternoon before, we arrived home with our secret bag of decorations to find the best man cutting the groom’s hair! We were surprised and entertained by such a sight beside our shed. But the surprises didn’t stop there.

The hairdresser of wedding eve became chef on wedding day with a stream of pizzas flowing from our oven followed by Crostata for dessert. Another friend suddenly transformed into a Columbian wedding singer with Spanish music flowing from our garden.

Pizza and Crostata for lunch
The wedding singer

Miss 12 took on the role of ring bearer and Master 15 cinematographer, recording the whole event for the Colombian and Italian families. Mr and Mrs Travel Bee you ask?? Yes, you guessed it….. we were the stand in parents rushing around decorating, stressing over small details and popping the champagne.

Champagne ready

It truely was a day to cherish. There were secret tears and not so secret tears, smiles to end all smiles and a general relaxed feel of people who embrace the ride of life.

And when the day came to an end, some retreated home, some to their camper, one to our couch and us to our beds. I for one could not sleep. I don’t know whether it was the excitement of the day or the expresso martini I had mid afternoon but I was buzzing!

Today, things have settled down and ‘normal’ backpacker activities have resumed including the return of one boy!!

1BOY (the number plate!)

One boy is part of a convoy of campers that have stayed at our house over the last few months. Vans that have been converted in the most ingenious ways to provide a home to the backpackers of Australia. A bed, sink, compartments, solar panel and a water tank. All the essentials comprising a home away from home.

But, I have a soft spot for one boy! I have loved watching the Italian boys come together to help their fellow traveller Master 19 fit out his van with all the key items his more seasoned compatriots have advised.

At the tender age of 19 one boy’s owner is a brave kid who is lucky to have found such generous and experienced country men right here in Busselton. There is no doubt he was the shyest wedding guest but when we found out his age we were so impressed with his quiet and courteous nature.

I can’t help but wonder if in only four short years Master 15 might find himself on the other side of the world experiencing one such day!! A frightening yet humbling thought.

There is one thing for sure, our backyard is never dull. It looks like we will only have the pleasure of the now Mrs Columbia and Mr Italy for the rest of this week. Only time will tell what happens next!


Colombia…… in Busselton

Last weekend, we went to Colombia.…. kind of….

It has been 8 months since I have written a blog. It has been 8 months since I have had anything to say about travel! It has been 2.2 years since we left Western Australia. We have however, recently discovered a new way to bring travel to us.

There are a surprising number of people traveling in Australia that have been here since before the pandemic. These people are bolstering our workforce, holding many a town together but with housing shortages all through regional Australia, they (along with many locals) have found it difficult to find places to live. We have the space, so we decided to welcome some travellers into our home.

What an amazing experience this has been and continues to be.

The Travel Bees and Miss Spain

First up we hosted Miss Spain. This super smiley girl breezed into our lives. We met her once over coffee and wanted to keep her! She stayed for four months working three jobs and checking out the area when she had a spare minute. We enjoyed meals together (Spanish and Australian), met her friends, introduced her to water skiing and showed her some of the sights of Busselton. Inevitably all good things must come to an end and she headed home to Spain, but not before introducing us to our next guests.

Miss Spain enjoying Geographe Bay

Miss Colombia and Mr Italy have been with us nearly a month. There has been more water skiing lessons and shared dinners as we welcome them into our family and home.

As you can imagine, these people are a long way from home and over the last few months we have noticed how they pine for their home traditions and culture. Australia offers them so much but there is always a calling towards one’s home. Responding to a Facebook call out, Miss Columbia has been fortunate enough to met some of ‘her people’ living right here in Busselton.

Last weekend we were invited to a Colombian gathering…. in our own backyard! There was cocktails, beer, food, and Latino music. It was the most unexpected and enriching experience. We all loved listening to their excited Spanish chatter as they got to know one another. Master 14 and Miss 12 floated in and out, observing and enjoying their food.

But, the most memorable moment came when the four Colombians stood up excitedly and began salsa dancing across our deck. We couldn’t believe our eyes, Miss 12 was spellbound! It felt like we were suddenly transported out of our backyard and into the streets of South America and wow, could these people dance!

The way their hips moved, the confidence with which they moved in front of strangers and the sense of pure freedom was exhilarating. It was like they had their own language (to think they had only met a few hours prior!). It was just beautiful to watch.

Moments later, Miss 12 was up having her first salsa lesson, as they explained to us their traditions of learning to dance at family gatherings from a very young age. In minutes, South America leapt up on Miss 12’s list of travel destinations.

As the world begins to return to normal and travel is slowly coming back onto our agenda, we have realised there can be so many ways to experience the world and it’s different cultures. For us, hosting is one of them. From exchange students to backpackers to more experienced and mature travellers, we seem to be able to find common ground and understanding….. it’s that hunger to experience something new.

We have just booked our first flight in a long while. Whilst I don’t think anything is certain, I do feel there is a renewed sense of confidence as we dare to dream of a return to travel.

Covid may have given us many obstacles but it has also taught us to look outside the box. If our next trip doesn’t eventuate ……. well who knows what we might experience in our own backyard.