A Walk Across Italy: Pisa to Ravenna

Nov 17th, 2008, 12:17 PM
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I'm enjoying your report so much and can't wait for the next installment. I admire you folks who actually write all of these things down and then take the time to tell about your adventure.
beelady is offline  
Nov 17th, 2008, 01:02 PM
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beelady: WRITE them down?? Not on your life. I take a teeny tiny digital recorder with me, THEN I come home and force myself to get started. The first sentence is the hardest... Do you keep bees? We kept bees for around 10 years, then the family "happened" and parents warned us what would happen if a little friend were stung, besides all the Hive Collapse horror that's going on now and the tracheal mites 20 years ago. Sigh. If you keep bees in this day and age, more power to ya!
lizcakes is offline  
Nov 17th, 2008, 01:30 PM
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Hooray! I've been waiting for you...
travelgirl2 is offline  
Nov 17th, 2008, 06:43 PM
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JeanneB is offline  
Nov 18th, 2008, 03:04 AM
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bookmarking for weekend reading.
marigross is offline  
Nov 18th, 2008, 04:51 AM
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Love it!
I want to "walk" in Italy now!
Unfortunately I can't do quite as many miles per day.
I am bookmarking this for boot and sock etc advise - since I am blister prone.
semiramis is offline  
Nov 18th, 2008, 06:34 PM
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How do you bookmark? Some times I can never find a trip report again after I read the first installment.
klm_cip is offline  
Nov 18th, 2008, 07:09 PM
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Bookmarking is a term used to post a message without writing anything so you can click on your screen name and find the post again later.

If you click on your screen name at the top of the page all posts that you have originated or contributed to will show. I think this works back to 2003.
adrienne is offline  
Nov 18th, 2008, 07:11 PM
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Instead of responding to a post you can email the thread to your personal email address. When you open the email there is a hyperlink to the thread.
adrienne is offline  
Nov 19th, 2008, 02:54 PM
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thank you for the info andrienne. info I did not know, plus I love the email tip.
klm_cip is offline  
Nov 20th, 2008, 08:41 AM
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Did you get a look at the guest books that the Hotel Royal Victoria keeps from its hundreds of years of history? Ask to see them: fabulous and just about everyone who was anyone stayed there; from the Grand Tour (Charles Dickens,etc) to recent heads of state, astronauts, etc.
vetralla is offline  
Nov 20th, 2008, 10:33 AM
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vetralla: Nope, missed those. It's hard to "tour" or remember to seen anything tourist-worthy when we're on a walk. We're definitely on a mission and the walk is the destination.

Still, I wish I had seen the books!
lizcakes is offline  
Nov 20th, 2008, 01:05 PM
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Royal Vic and Clitunno (in Spoleto) are both good examples of hotels that have remained in the same family for years and whose unfailing politeness restores one's faith in old fashioned good manners.
TDudette is offline  
Nov 20th, 2008, 06:25 PM
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Truax is offline  
Nov 20th, 2008, 06:36 PM
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Liz - where's the photos? And how about more report please!
adrienne is offline  
Nov 21st, 2008, 03:46 PM
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Adrienne!! (Why do I feel like Rocky when I yell that?? ; o ) I'm working on the pics right this moment and as you know, it takes FOREVER. I'm zapping out all the duds and I have around 300 to go through. Jeopardy is on in my ear, my mouse hand is FREEZING and I'm starting to shiver. Time to get up and vacuum around the house. That always warms me up. : o ] Tomorrow I'll finish the photos, attach them to Shutterfly and do another hunk of the trip report. OK???????? LOLOLOLOL...... I work for a living ya know! And we DO have a life!! LOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL
lizcakes is offline  
Nov 21st, 2008, 05:36 PM
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Hey Rocky - you are total crackers!!! I know how long it takes - forever to name the pix and edit. I'll be checking back tomorrow and expecting great things!

Vacuuming used to warm me up too before I bought a new vacuum that practically moves around the house on its own. It's wonderful!
adrienne is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2008, 04:46 PM
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Writing a Trip Report is Easier Than Wading My Way Through Shutterfly.

Who would have thought that I would flee, yes flee, from editing and transferring my pictures to a webpage that I just cannot cannot figure out. Anything is better than that. Well, almost anything. But to our tale…

Massimo’s (Lenzi’s B&B) was, in short, perfect for a b&b. We had room to spread out, we had room on the patio to dry our clothes (though they never did dry), we were charged the wonderful rate of just 50E for the room but then no breakfast was included, we were able to use the coolest old-fashioned toaster, there was complimentary Limoncello in the fridge, the beds were comfy and I had a good time taking photos of Massimo’s pots (some filled with small lemon trees) at the front of his property. The next shot was of his “yard” of pots outside of his very large studio/showroom. It was a good place. Jonathan was also fun to talk to about his tour guide status, flag and all. I was Horrified, LOL! If there is one place we hope never to be, it is in a wad of humans being told what they’re looking at and being led by a person holding a flag high above his/her head. Kill me now.

Of course before we left Massimo’s I asked him how to pronounce “Firenze” the way someone from the area would say it. He quickly said “FI’-renz-ay” but added that in other parts of the country, outside of Toscana, people would say “Fi-REN-zay”. I don’t know why, but I like to pronounce place names correctly. Everyone’s different. We were headed to Fucecchio and I was pronouncing that “ Foo-CHEH-key-o” but would be corrected on that soon enough. The walk was again along the road and I needed to stop from time to time to attack my feet with various bandaids (sticking plasters to you Brits) of one sort or another but the best were the special (expensive) ones that I bought at REI. God bless REI!!! As soon as I felt a blister rising up and turning into a bubble (and I stopped fast too) I layered it with one of those things and put a stop to the boo boo. As a result I really was walking pain free for the first time in all of our miles together. Heaven.

At one point we stopped by the side of the road for one of those foot check-ups and Paul stood there on the next corner looking at the map and whatnot while I worked on my toes. An older man drove to the end of the road, stopped and somehow motioned to me: “Are you OK??” I waved and showed him that I was and he waved and drove off. It wasn’t the first time that someone saw me sitting down, preparing my bandaids and asked me if I was OK. The people are so absolutely friendly and helpful and it makes me smile inside just to think of them. The French were unfailingly polite and helpful but the Italians just went way past that and were truly CONCERNED for my health and safety. Of course they didn’t always see my tall husband standing nearby so that might be the answer right there, but I think not. Italians are wonderful! We were always given the correct change, vendors were always taking the time to explain the ins and outs of a situation, locals always helped with directions and walked us to a spot to set us on the right track. So far, the people are making this trip.

We walk along past small vineyards and masses and masses of bamboo. Who knew? We start to wonder if bamboo had been introduced at some point years ago, and simply took over the landscape. There is bamboo everywhere but everywhere. Along the Arno one cannot see the river for the swathes of bamboo, alongside farms, alongside the road – everywhere. But we also pass wonderful fig trees and I pick up the fruit, peel it back and again eat it; fig newtons for the road. We head off the road down a “Do not enter” area (at least for autos) to try to get away from the nasty zoom zoom of the cars next to us and the trash alongside the road. We’re in what we think was some sort of abandoned mining or excavating area and then couldn’t find a good way back to the street. So we kept looking at the compass and heading east, finally coming out in someone’s back yard and saw a man standing there in his garden. Very still. VERY still. (See the photo) A scarecrow! and what a great one at that! Just look at the pic and you’ll see why we were fooled for a second or two. Hopefully the crows are also?

The air is hot – much hotter than we like when we’re hiking, around 80. There is nowhere to walk once again except along the road and I start to wonder if we shouldn’t have just sucked it up and headed for the Pisan hills and walked up there to Vinci instead of doing this low, flat road. It’s a bit late in the day for that since we’re past Calcinaia and nearing Castelfranco. I’d do it differently if I had to do it again, but I won’t so that’s that. But there are good things even so that I can find by the side of the road: wild geranium, sweet William, scabiosa and lots of other unnamed wildflowers. Not a bad thing. I still have my longsleeved shirt on and there is no where but no where to change into my t-shirt. Oh well, I’ll never see these people again. I throw off my back pack, get out my t-shirt, turn my back to the road, wait for a car to pass by and then WHOOSH, whip off my shirt and throw on the T. No problem. A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.

We must stop yet again and have some water and some sustenance and sit down against someone’s brick wall, just a few feet off the busy road. The shoes come off and I again take care of my feet. We’re sitting next to parked cars belonging apparently to the residents behind us when out comes a man to get something from his car. He spies us and asks if we are OK. Sure! Yes, we’re fine and we give him a thumbs up and off he goes. Five minutes later he comes out again, this time with an orange paper napkin with squares of cake in it and gives it to us and smiles, waves and trots back inside. This is what I mean about the Italian people – totally giving and wonderful. They were the best. Almond cake. Yum.

We walk into Fucecchio and I had nothing written down I think because it was such a large town and I assumed that there would be at least a couple of decent hotels. The main street becomes a pedestrian only area and I’m absolutely charmed. We walk along and see children playing in the street, vendors standing outside their doors, old women talking pleasantly and just “old Italy” as one would like it to be. I stop and ask a vendor about a hotel in the area “Per favore – un albergo?” “Si, si. La!” And he pointed down the road to the corner. So off we went and found an iffy hotel on a very very busy corner with traffic zooming by. We walked into the outer foyer but it looked so darned depressing that I nixed it. Whoa, I have that power! There’s got to be another one, I said. Off again we walked for at least a half mile or so until I stopped and asked a vendor at a large magazine stand and he pointed us out of the city and said it was about two kilometers to a hotel. There were NO other hotels in the city! So we walked in the direction that he pointed and as we walked I spied a sign way up on the side of a building that said “Affitta Camera il Poggio” (or something like that) and I know I had seen that on a website somewhere in the past year in my neverending search for b&bs on our “trail”.

Alas, there was no response to the bell and instead there was a card affixed with a phone number for those who would need a room. Once again, they don’t quit their day jobs when they start up a b&b! Heck, we have no phone so while we stand there and look around wondering if we should jot down the number and go to find a phone, a young man comes out of the building. I ask him about “una camera a qui??” and he says “si” but I point to the sign and say that we have to phone. He whips out his cellphone, connects, and punches in the number for us and talks to the senora. Hooray! He indicates that she’ll be right over and to stay right in that spot. Ah, more kindness and now we know we’ve got to get a phone when we get to Firenze. It’s a pain without one but we kind of wanted to get going when we left Pisa and didn’t want to mess around at a phone store. Gotta get one. The senora showed up within minutes and showed us upstairs and to a very decent room (no pics). Twin beds (oh well), comfy, a bath across the hall that was fine, a kitchen for us to use, but no colazione. Oh well, it’ll be out in the morning for a cappuccino and a cornetta. We’ve walked 13.46 today, it’s 5:15 pm and the tariff is 50 euro for this dandy room. We’re here, we’re happy and we’re about to go out to find a restaurant! Ah, it doesn’t get much better than this. By the way, I asked the magazine vendor, and it’s “Foo-SHAY-key-oh”.
lizcakes is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2008, 07:11 AM
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I am enjoying your adventures so much! It's great to read a truly "off the beaten path" trip report. You see Italy from a much different prespective.

The Italian people generally are so generous and hospitable. You're bringing back many of my own one-on-one memories.

Dayle is online now  
Nov 23rd, 2008, 01:03 PM
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Restaurants? Anyone see any restaurants?

After our usual afternoon’s activity of showering and clothes changing and clothes washing and rest, it was time to venture out in this new city of Foo SHAY key oh. Fucecchio. We walked back in the general direction from whence we had come just a couple hours before and wondered what kind of restaurant we would find for cena. We were tired of pizza pizza pizza! Imagine. We were ready for antipasti, primo, secundo, dolci – everything on the menu. We walked and looked, looked and walked. People were out and about this evening. It is warm, the sky is clear, people are in the hairdressers, barbers, clothing shops, cafes, everywhere people. We walk down one busy street where the majority of shops are located, looking for a restaurant – nothing. Down another street, more hairdressers but no restaurants. I stop to ask someone. “A ristorante? Osteria? Trattoria?” “Non” was the reply – “Pizza!” More streets. We literally walked down every street in greater Fucecchio and more on the outskirts. Not ONE sit-down, normal restaurant but we had found (and I counted) not less than SIX hairdressers and I’m sure we didn’t see them all – and they were all occupied! Paul called it something like a “Company sock-wash.” That’s got to be from MASH.

Amazed, we walked back to our B&B area and went to the pizzeria across the street – to the one that our landlady had first directed us. By this time we just didn’t care, we were so hungry. Our little foray had taken at least an hour and now everything was going to be closed (except for pizzerias) and I wanted a dolce that I would have gotten at a restaurant. So, we ordered our pizza, Paul sat a table and I hustled down the street to a bakery we had passed when we first set out to explore our street. I chose a few yummy looking items and then hustled right back up the street to the pizzeria.

The pizza was perfect and we ordered a bottle of Chianti to go with it. Ah, life is good. Fortunately this pizzeria also had a coffee maker so I could have coffee with the dolce. Life is doubly good – I don’t ask for much, really I don’t! We actually finished off the Chianti which we never do at home and off we go across the street to our room, each read our Dick Francis mysteries (light reading or what?), pray together and go off to dreamland. Tomorrow we head for Camaioni if we can make it that far, or perhaps Montelupo Fiorentino or Capraia. I’ve got listings in all of those places. Actually Empoli comes first (EM-poli) and that would be fine because it’s a large city and will (yeah right) have a multitude of hotels. Whatever.

In the morning of course there’s no breakfast and we have no bread or coffee to make our own so out we go to the bakery from the previous evening, we order our “due cappucini”, our cornettas and we’re good and off to see our next adventure. I haven’t been making notes about what we’ve spent on pizzas and breakfast because it’s just been too little to mention – always a good thing. However, I did record our expenditures on my digi simply because it was so wonderful! Food is not expensive in these parts at all at all. Our due cappucini, due cornetta, 4 sandwiches to take on the road (really half-sandwiches but wonderful) was a whopping 9.15E and lo and behold it’s also 9:15 a.m. that we’re heading out.

We head out to the main road and find ourselves heading in the direction of Empoli, so far so good. It’s Thursday morning and the traffic is doing its thing. As we walk out of town, it’s a wasteland of car dealerships, more car dealerships, bars, mechanics garages, car dealerships, bars, service stations etc etc and roadside trash. Lovely. Well, the nuts and bolts of daily life simply must live somewhere. All cannot be Roman ruins, renaissance sculpture, vineyards and figs. We are modern people and we need our cars and daily goods. At this point we’re searching as we walk for something like a little “Quick-Pick” to buy a bottle of water to relieve one of our more grungy water bottles and we can find nothing. Not one. Just urban sprawl with the sidewalk about to end. Sigh.

We want to walk off-road but can find nothing on our 1:50,000 map in the way of paths to the north of us because all those paths go up into the hills and not in the direction of Firenze. But on the map, along the Arno to our right about a half mile there appears to be a path, but I’m not sure. As I said before, it’s nigh unto impossible to even see the Arno because of the hill of densely packed bamboo and other ground clutter on our side, and then there’s a steep bank going down to the river. If there’s a path, we’re going to have to get on it right from the road, so I walk on with map tucked into my belt and hope in my heart as the sun is in our eyes, the heat is coming up and the cars are zooming right at us. I console myself with the fact that it’s flat walking (this is good?) and we’re going to get our challenge days when we hit the Appenine part of the walk.

Ah, we happen upon the good old Bricomart. It’s a tenth of a mile into the store and a tenth of mile out, so I wait outside watching the shoppers going about their daily errands and let Paul do the hoofing. Works for me. He returns with the fresh water and we take an MMCB (mid morning coffee break) and have our water and sandwich, cool the feet and set off once again into the urban sprawl – we’re now in the town of Bassa. I figure we’re going to walk for another six hours before we stop for the night.

It’s hot – at least high 70’s, maybe 80 and we’re not enjoying this at all. Ya win some and ya lose some when you choose to walk on vacation. It’s not all champagne and roses that’s for sure. We approach Empoli and we’re both sick of the walk. We’re not in the wilds, we’ve got to make Firenze by tomorrow to leave a good chunk of time later in the walk to make it through the mountains and then to Ravenna and then, hopefully, to have 3 days at the end of it all to spend in Venice. Well, we figure if we need to, we can ditch the idea of Venice. I hate to as it was going to be our “vacation within our vacation” and the special treat at the end. Hmmm. Anyway, with that thought, it’s now about noontime and we look for a spot we can pull off the road into some grass and have the rest of our sandwiches and water.

Finally, there’s a place up the embankment along the road and there are trees and grass. Perfect. Up we go, scrambling a bit as it’s steep. We “set up shop” by taking off our backpacks, off with the boots, out with the sandwiches, etc etc. I now have a real, live blister. DRAT! I had been so careful but the morning was so hot and the pavement under our feet was boiling and there’s a blister. Dang. Paul also has one! This man is from a non-blister family and even he has one. He remarks that he is NOT happy with is boots and he’s going to change to his sneakers for the rest of the walk as he has never in our 264 total miles (past 2 trips) of walking ever had a blister. His boots must go but we have no box to send them home and no post office. They’ll have to wait until we get to Firenze. I have the opposite problem – my sneakers that I wore last night were apparently the start of my blister today, so I want to send my sneakers home! So, Paul will now carry is boots and I will carry my sneakers and each of us wants to be rid of our redundant footwear. We forget the blisters for a while and munch the sandwiches and after a few minutes find ourselves completely engulfed in black flies. They are everywhere but everywhere. Faces, hair, legs, ewwwwwwww. I hate it and feel like Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen. I throw a shirt over my head, I swat, I yell, I slap – all to no avail. We can’t get away from them and we can’t really settle down and eat. We hastily bolt down the last bits of our sandwiches, and just as hastily tape up our blisters and get the heck out of there, all the while discussing what we’ll do as far as the walk is concerned.

We decide. After we get into Empoli, now just a few miles away, we’ll hop on the train to Firenze and continue the walk from there. The mountains are looking much better to us now and at least we’ll be out of the urban sprawl – we hope. I could care less that we’ll have to say “Well, we walked across Italy except for the part between Empoli and Firenze.” I don’t care. Things are not going well and it’s bleeding hot. Take me to a hotel in Firenze!

Into Empoli we go and have to ask and re-ask, and ask again for directions to the treno – it’s that hard to find. But Empoli, from what we saw of it, looked good. We just can’t stay here tonight. At one point we thought we were going in the right direction but once again we were lost so I told Paul I wanted to ask “that guy across the street” for directions to the treno. Paul said, “No, ask that woman over there – she’s just waiting for the green man (walking light), then she’ll be over on our side and you can ask her.” OK, we waited a minute and as the woman came across she glanced at us and then quickened her step. I’m sure she thought we were some weird panhandlers or something. As she whooshed past me, I loudly spoke “Per favore! Il Treno???” She looked at me, paused, and then said “YA WANT THE TRAIN STATION?”

Oh my word, LOLOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Perfect colloquial English. I was flabbergasted and we all started laughing. Indeed she was Italian but with perfect English and I was so glad! “Yes, please!” I answered. “Where the heck IS it??” If you’re ever in Empoli and need to look for the train station, you’ll know exactly what I mean. There’s some sort of old city wall that cuts the town in two, and you have to get around that to get to the train. At least that’s how I remember it. Anyway, we finally found the stupid station, but it was worth getting lost to get that reaction from the woman!

We buy the tickets and find two empty seats on a very very full train. Students are going home for lunch or something (it’s about 2:30) – whatever - they’re all headed back into Firenze. The car is stifling and there is nowhere to put our feet, much less Paul’s long legs. Oh well, we grin and bear it. Students are half dead in their seats waiting for the train to leave, many are already sleeping, others are texting on their cellphones. Just like home. We’re sitting across from a couple of girls, their faces glowing with perspiration and finally the train starts its journey. We ride for about a half hour and just before the terminus, one of the girls gets up and heads right behind me to the train door where there are more students sitting on the floor and whatnot. She asks IN ENGLISH which stop in Firenze is the right one. She comes back to her seat and of course I say “You speak English well. Where are you from?” Both girls were on a semester break from school in London but were actually natives of Colombia. She said that while she could have communicated somewhat in Italian, English was much better to use as her Spanish accent didn’t translate very well into Italian and her English was always understood and accepted. Hmmm.

At any rate, we talked with them for the last few minutes of our ride and it turned out that her father had gone to college “somewhere in Boston” (we 30 miles south of Boston) for his graduate degree and she had visited Boston and loved it etc etc Finally we arrived, said goodbye and headed for the tourist info office to pick up a map and start on my enormous list of small hotels and b&bs that I had gathered in the previous months. The tourist office gives out a free, enormous book of every last hotel within Firenze – amazing that they give this out! We sat and perused it for a while but I decided that we may as well try my list first since I had spent so long on it and already weeded out the nastier small hotels. We chose one, found the street on the map and headed out to find our lodging for the night. Maybe we can even actually eat in a real-for-real ristorante tonight!
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