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17 amazing days in Tuscany, Positano and Rome – June 2014!

17 amazing days in Tuscany, Positano and Rome – June 2014!

Jul 27th, 2014, 05:27 PM
  #41  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 14,138
John..we ordered pieces from Ceramiche Rampini on two different trips and all of them arrived in perfect condition.It took a while but worth the wait.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jul 27th, 2014, 10:32 PM
  #42  
 
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John... thanks so much for the info about Podere! I booked La Mangiatoia apartment this morning for me and my Mom. It's probably a bit larger than we need for just the two of us, but at such a reasonable cost, I figured "why not?"
Looking forward to more of your wonderful TR!
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Jul 28th, 2014, 02:17 AM
  #43  
 
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Amazing how many flooded apartments there are in Rome.>>

bvl i usually find myself in agreement with you but you do seem to have a "thing" against apartments in Rome. Do you know of any other examples of ones that have been flooded? I don't remember a "flood" of complaints!
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Aug 14th, 2014, 01:51 PM
  #44  
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Podere Lucignano Secondo (Day 3)
Finally able to get back to this. The pace of life has really picked up lately – at least it has for me and it is seriously cutting in to my fodor’s time. Any way we woke up to a beautiful morning and had a coffee on the terrace. We drove in to Pianella to the little convenience store and had another coffee and some pastry – both were very good. This is a neat little store and it has a lot of good food/pastry/prepared dishes/wine/and more. We bought a few items and dropped them off at the Podere before heading out for the day.

First stop was Rampini Ceramics near Gaiole. A friend of my wife had told us about it and since we drove right past it, we just had to stop in. As soon as we walked in to the display area I knew we weren’t going to get out of there without buying something. There were a lot of really nice pieces and it took a while to decide what would go with the pieces we had bought in Deruta several years ago. We finally decided, bought a few pieces (4 plates and 4 pasta bowls) to have shipped home and walked outside to look around some more – the place and surrounding countryside were very picturesque.

The lady that ran the place walked outside with us and asked if we would like a tour of the building where everything was made. Of course we said yes and she gave us a really nice tour and description of how the entire process worked. She was very proud of the fact that all the workers and painters are women and they only have a couple of guys come in now and then to do some heavy lifting. We enjoyed talking to her a lot and actually learned some interesting things about ceramic making. It was a great (and expensive) way to start the day.

Our main goal for the day was the Chianti Classico wine festival in Castellina so we headed there when we left Rampini. A short windy, hilly, bicycle –dodging, beautiful drive later we arrived at Castellina. We luckily found a very close parking space and paid for 3 hours of parking. We found that the festival didn’t actually start until 3 PM and it was only 2:30 so we decided to have a late lunch. We found a nice place and had a very enjoyable lunch sitting outside – our waiter was a lot of fun.

We then paid our 10€ each for 4 nicely engraved wine glasses and headed in to the tunnel to taste some Chianti Classico. What a fun time. The people serving the wine and the people drinking the wine were as friendly as they could be. We ran in to our fun waiter from lunch who was off work and doing some wine tasting himself - and he completely ignored us – too funny. After several trips through the tunnel tasting who knows how much wine (and a trip back to the car to pay for more parking time), we walked around the town a little and had a gelato. We like this town a lot – we liked it even before all the wine LOL!!!

We decided to stop for a coffee at another nice outside seating area before leaving. As we left, we saw the local fire fighters who were all decked out in their colorful outfits and were selling little trees as a fundraiser. Not only were their outfits colorful but they were pretty colorful individuals too. So after we cut up with them for a while we ended up just giving them a donation. Kathy decided she should use a restroom before getting on the road and we found a pay toilet that was pretty funny. You put in your money and the door slides open like an elevator door. Kathy went in and we hoped the automatic cleaning process wouldn’t accidentally start before she made it out. She survived and we left Castellina having had a very nice day.

As we drove home, we saw a sign for Lecchi and decided to scope out the restaurant there that was recommended by the other couple staying at the Podere. What a pretty little town. We asked a local couple for directions to the restaurant and they said it was just up the street a few hundred feet. We really liked the look of the place so we asked if we needed to make reservations and they said yes we did. I was surprised at that because we were in a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere but we made them for 8:30 that night.

We went back to the Podere to freshen up and had a Prosecco on the terrace. We then went back to the restaurant (the restaurant’s name is malborghetto) and had a great meal and a great evening. The place was completely full so we did need our reservation and the servers were lots of fun. For appetizers, my wife and I shared a salted cod crostini with pecorino cheese ravioli. We also shared a plate of pears and cheese. Kathy had a pomodoro bread soup and Karl had a Tuscan bread soup with beans. For the main course my wife, Karl and Kathy each ordered a filet with a chianti wine sauce and I had the boar stew. The dessert menus were presented to us on fancy rolled up scrolls tied with a ribbon – how can you refuse to get something, right? So we shared a pana cotta with strawberries and a chocolate soufflé. As it got dark, the lights shining on the bell tower were beautiful.

As we pulled out of town to drive home, the car started beeping at us and we could not tell why. Another car was right on my tail and there was no place to pull off the narrow windy road to see what the problem was until we finally came to a stop sign. It turns out one of our doors wasn’t completely closed – thank goodness it wasn’t something more major. The Podere has a remote controlled gate at the driveway entrance and just as I pulled through it, all of a sudden a wild pig jumped off the hill to the left and ran across the driveway in front of us and I slammed on the brakes. Another one followed, then another and another – about a dozen in total and the last two or three of them were BIG. I joked that I must have eaten their brother at dinner and they were coming to get me for revenge. We made double sure the doors were locked and went to bed. An excellent third day at the Podere!
john183 is online now  
Aug 14th, 2014, 01:52 PM
  #45  
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Pictures from day 3.

https://john183italy2014.shutterfly.com/pictures/70
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Aug 14th, 2014, 01:57 PM
  #46  
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xyz99 - I think you are right - I just need to do a better job of screening apartments in Rome.

HappyTrvlr - Our wine has arrived but our Rampini pieces have not yet arrived. Can't wait to see them because I forgot what they look like. LOL!

rosecity15 - I think you will be happy with your choice. When are you going?

annhig - a "flood of complaints" - too funny.
john183 is online now  
Aug 14th, 2014, 02:26 PM
  #47  
ekc
 
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Glad you are back to the report!
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Aug 14th, 2014, 03:02 PM
  #48  
 
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A warning! After we purchased our plates and a platter at Rampini outside of Radda, we returned to Italy a few years later and bought even more plates and added salad bowls so we now have a service for 10 from Ceramiche Rampini. They're beautiful and so unique.
They all arrived in perfect condition.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Aug 14th, 2014, 07:30 PM
  #49  
 
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Posts: 5,740
John, love the pictures of Lecchi and Castellina. The church looked quite lovely (do you remember who the corpse was?)

I laughed about the pay toilet. My daughter and I were a little worse for wine in Paris, and we found one of these near the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, my daughter was still, um, indisposed, when the door slid open! Turned out she thought she was pushing the button to flush... hahaha We laughed until we could hardly stand up!
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Aug 14th, 2014, 08:32 PM
  #50  
 
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>>>pay toilet that was pretty funny. You put in your money and the door slides open like an elevator door.<<<

They had one trackside in Orvieto last time I was there.
kybourbon is online now  
Aug 14th, 2014, 08:50 PM
  #51  
 
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I'm jotting down all of your recommendations on my list - keep 'em coming! We arrive at the Podere on Halloween and will be there for almost a week. I'm counting the days and am biding my time wistfully following all the great trip reports here on Fodor's!
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Aug 15th, 2014, 04:04 PM
  #52  
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ekc - Thanks, I'm glad to get back to it too.

Happy Trvlr - I hear your warning! We tend to really like it when we can make a personal connection like we did at Rampini Ceramics and at Panzanello Winery so I'm sure there is going to be more from both of these places in my future. It's only money right?

sarge56 - I do not know who the corpse was other than what it says on the coffin. And European toilets have been the source of many hilarious stories for us too. I bet your daughter was glad all that happened was the door opened and that the automatic cleaning didn't start.

kybourbon - we must have missed it in Orvieto, but they are sure nice when you need them.

rosecity15 - your trip will be here before you know it. And unfortunately it will be over before you know it too. That's why I write these crazy reports - it makes it seem like the trip is lasting a little longer.
john183 is online now  
Aug 17th, 2014, 09:40 AM
  #53  
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Podere Lucignano Secondo (Day 4)

Up at about 8:30 and had a coffee on the terrace. None of the wild pigs from last night were in view – thank goodness. Morning coffee on the terrace was one of the best things about the Podere. The view was great and the temperature was pleasant, it wasn’t hot yet! Had another simple breakfast of melon, strawberries, cherries, toast and my favorite – leftover cold pizza straight from the fridge. I love it cold but it drives my family crazy.

We left at about noon for Castelnuovo Berardenga. After a short and very pretty drive (saw a snake beside the road) we were there but had sort of a hard time finding where to park close to the town center. Finally did and as we walked in we could see they were setting up a lot of chairs in the main piazza for an outdoor theatre performance that night. We stopped at a little bar for a coffee and even though the servers did not speak English I eventually found out the wine tasting day for their festival was next Saturday – unfortunately we would be gone by then.

As I was trying to ask the server about the different flags, one of the customers (a very cute girl) started talking to us. She was very nice, spoke English incredibly well and we had a nice chat with her and her group. She told us the festival was a week long and had a lot of different things going on. Besides wine tasting and outdoor theatre performances, they have a soccer tournament every year and it is a fierce rivalry between the different districts of the town. Her district’s colors were yellow and green and her main enemy’s colors were yellow and blue - and she pointed towards my wife. It so happened that my wife was wearing a yellow and blue blouse that was the exact colors of her enemy. Too funny. We walked around the town and saw more of the festival decorations. I love the people in these little towns and I wish we could have made it back to see some of their festival and meet more of the people - but we didn’t.

Today’s goal was to go to the crossbow competition in Cortona so we programmed in an address we thought was in Cortona and headed out. As we got close to Cortona, we could tell Daniella (our GPS) was not leading us toward the city center on the top of the hill so I ignored her and used dead reckoning. I kind of remembered the area from our trip there in 2002 but it was still lucky that we quite easily found one of the last parking spaces in one of the parking lots close to the walls. We walked up a steep hill to the center and found it was almost completely deserted. Even on a non-festival day I expected Cortona to be crowded – what the heck – was the festival cancelled or did I get the dates wrong?

So what do you do in this situation? Well we did what we do in almost every situation. We found a nice restaurant, sat outside in the shade and ordered some cold wine and a nice lunch. Things always seem to go better after this little ritual. According to the online schedule, the tournament was supposed to start in a couple of hours. But this is Italy and schedules (like traffic lights) are just a suggestion. We found out it was not cancelled but was going to start later than we expected. We enjoyed a nice long lunch and enough wine not to care how late the tournament started. LOL!

Lots of people eventually showed up and things finally got started - and we had a really fun time. Drummers, a falcon show, flag throwing and various entertainers performed for a while before the procession of all the people from the different quartiers to their seats began. The people were dressed in some really heavy period clothing that looked pretty authentic - and they had to be HOT. I don’t know how they did it. Eventually they all were seated and the competition began with the only female going first. I was amazed that she hit the “dice” (small cube that was attached to the center of the target) with her “dart” (arrow). But it turns out only one shot out of 20 missed the dice – they were all good! The shooters only had two minutes to shoot once they were on the stand and they used an old hourglass to time it. They each shot twice and as soon as the final scores were posted, the people from the winning quartier went wild and cheered really loudly. It was fun to watch – something you don’t get to see in Atlanta anyway.

It was a super-hot day and we needed to sit in the shade and have something cold to drink so we headed to the outside bar area of the Hotel San Luca at Piazza Garibaldi (we remembered liking it when we stayed at this hotel in 2002). We had a fantastic waiter – he brought us glasses of water with ice in them and another glass filled with ice – NICE! As we were cooling off, we saw all the people from the winning quartier being led by the shooters on a celebratory parade around town. Lots of cheering and fun times! We then walked over to an overlook area and took a ton of pics of the countryside below us. At some point we saw some nuns trying to walk down some steps at a church and Kathy helped them down. They spoke no English but they posed for a nice picture.

As we walked down the steep hill back to our car, we chatted with a group of several people from different quartiers dressed in their costumes and we convinced them to all sit together for a pic. They were really nice. We made it to the car, programmed the GPS to take us home and headed out. It turns out the hill was so steep that the GPS could not tell exactly which road we were on, it kept recalculating trying to put us on a different road that was either just above or below us on the hill. So once again I used dead reckoning to finally get out of town.

We went to the restaurant in Pianella again for a light dinner. The servers remembered us from our first visit and we had a nice time. When we got the bill, we asked our server if she could just split it evenly on our credit cards between the two of us. I wasn’t sure she understood what we were asking so I tried to explain it again. She looked at me and told me she understood what we wanted and that she was intelligent – she just didn’t speak much English. I still feel bad about that. I really thought she didn’t understand what we were asking. Anyway we made it home with no wild pig events, caught up on our journals and went to bed at about midnight. An excellent fourth day at the Podere!
john183 is online now  
Aug 17th, 2014, 09:45 AM
  #54  
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Pictures from day 4.

https://john183italy2014.shutterfly.com/pictures/113
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Aug 18th, 2014, 07:07 PM
  #55  
 
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Love the pics! The costumes are beautiful!
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Aug 27th, 2014, 02:00 PM
  #56  
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sarge56 - they were beautiful but they looked very hot.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 02:27 PM
  #57  
 
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What fun. Cortona is really wonderful. When we were there (2011) we stumbled on a classic car rally. It was amazing.
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Aug 27th, 2014, 02:55 PM
  #58  
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uhoh_busted - We have had a good time both times we were in Cortona. Even though it is very popular we still like it a lot.
john183 is online now  
Aug 27th, 2014, 02:57 PM
  #59  
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Podere Lucignano Secondo (Day 5)

Up at about 8:30 and had a nice lazy breakfast. Called Castello Brolio and made reservations for the sunset tour for Wednesday evening (2 days from today). Put a load of clothes in the washer and went for a drive around the area. We decided to head towards Brolio to do a little recon before our Wednesday tour. We came across a sign pointing toward what we thought was the town of Lucignano down a small road. It turns out it was a privately owned village and it was absolutely gorgeous with gorgeous views.

We parked near the bottom of the walkway and took a ton of pictures of the surrounding country. We then walked in to the village and met a lady in a swim suit who asked if she could help us. We told her we were staying in the area and were just looking around. She told us that her retired husband got bored a few years earlier and bought the whole village to develop. Somehow she got the mistaken impression we were looking to buy a place so she showed us all around. The places currently for sale were about a million Euros – a tad more than we could afford – LOL!!!

After looking at a few properties she said she wanted to show us the pool. WOW! It was an incredibly beautiful infinity pool with a nice pool area beside it. The views were unbelievable. We walked back to our car still admiring the incredible views – a very enjoyable hour in Lucignano. We continued on towards Brolio and saw stacks and stacks of wood beside the road. It was staggering how much wood was piled up. We eventually arrived at Brolio and found the parking lot up the hill beside the castle where we were supposed to go on Wednesday to pick up our tickets.

Even though we weren’t probably more than 6 or 7 km from our Podere, we took a wrong turn leaving Brolio and ended going a round-about way to get back to see if the washer had finished. Of course it had not – it takes forever to wash a load of clothes in Europe so went in to Gaiole for lunch. As we tried to find a restaurant, we heard a very loud, totally obnoxious bird that sounded like a squeaking wheel bearing that was about to go. Very annoying – it could be heard throughout the whole town! We eventually found a nice little restaurant where we were the only customers and had an enjoyable lunch. Gaiole is not as pretty a town as others in the area but we did enjoy our lunch there.

As we headed back to the Podere, we saw a sign for the Castello Meleto and decided to have a look at it. Castello Meleto is a picturesque place with some nice buildings and a nice view from the hill it is on. We tasted three wines, bought a bottle along with some other items (gifts for people back home) and went back to the Podere. The laundry was FINALLY done so we hung it on the line and put in another load. It has been a long time since I used wooden clothes pins to hang laundry on a clothesline – but it was kinda neat – brought back some childhood memories.

We went to the little store in Pianella to buy some snacks as appetizers and some food for dinner. We accidentally bought water with gas instead of still – just not paying attention – we aren’t much for sparking water. We also bought a loaf of bread that looked just like a bowling pin – pretty funny. Back at the Podere we enjoyed our snacks and a couple bottles of Prosecco at the table in the shady back yard. A very nice and laid back time. Eventually went in to cook dinner and saw a hoopoe bird hopping around the yard. What a weird little bird and it took a bunch of tries but we finally were able to walk right up to it and get a good picture and a good video of it.

Had a nice dinner of bruschetta and a couple of kinds of ravioli. We cut up the bowling pin which was actually very good. Spent some time catching up on our journals and went to bed at about 11. An excellent fifth day at the Podere!
john183 is online now  
Aug 27th, 2014, 02:59 PM
  #60  
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Pictures from day 5.

https://john183italy2014.shutterfly.com/pictures/152
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