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Deepa back from bella Italia with kids - thanks all those who helped with the planning

Deepa back from bella Italia with kids - thanks all those who helped with the planning

Aug 3rd, 2005, 07:42 PM
  #1  
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Deepa back from bella Italia with kids - thanks all those who helped with the planning

Hello,

Been back from Italy to our humdrum lives in Hong Kong. Getting over the jet lag and wondering when we can be headed back again.

Landed in to Rome after a 14 hour flight and headed to the Hertz office to pick up our car. All looked good and we headed out. I have to say, the day was warming up pretty quickly and we were a little unprepared for the heat. Don't know how but we got on to the wrong road and just couldn't make our way back to the road taking us to the A1 and seemed to be heading towards Civitavecchia, parallel to the sea. We deceided to take the smaller town roads that would finally take us towards the A1. About 45 minutes in to the journey, the car just didn't seem to be moving followed by a strange burning smell. Stopped the car in the middle of the road to discover that we a flat tyre. What a start to the trip. We were also really glad that we had lost our way beacuse something like this on the highway would have been really dangerous. The kids were hungry and hot. Within a few seconds a carabinieri car pulled up and they helped us change the tyre. The orginal tyre tube had actually burst and the spare was not the same and we had to drive at a much lower speed. So now the focus was to get the hotel and then to get the tyre changed from the nearest Hertz center. My husband was cursing Hertz for the rest of the trip.

Finally, much later than expected, we reached the Agritourismo in Umbria (Baschi) at 1.30 pm. I have to say that we may have been a bit hasty to judge the place but it is a bit cut off and there was not a person in sight when we reached and of course the heat was stifling. The room (triple) was quite small and basic with no air-conditioning. Suddenly, we just wanted to run to the fimiliarity and comfort of Locanda del Amorosa. There were also quite a few steps to climb to reach the room which was tricky with my son. Had a nice dinner with our lovely hosts Daniella Minghelli and her husband. We did like the simplicity and rustic charm of the place and most of all we liked the Minghelli family, but were sure that 6 nights there would be hard. The breakfast, which we had to prepare ourselves also remained a problem. The other problem was that the actual farm was a few kilometers away and very hard to reach even by car, so the kids didn't really get the see the farm animals etc. Stayed for 3 nights and did the balance at a suite at Amorosa. By the next day, the place livened up a bit and more people moved in. There was also a nice dinner party at the farm which was very nice and we saw and met a lot of locals but the kids were still terribly jet lagged and were a part of it for a bit only. We did day trips to Todi (45-50 minutes) and Orvieto (20-25 mins). Did Civita Bagnerregio which was great. Tried to do Bomarzo monster park, bought tickets and went in but it was too hot. Checked out of farm on day 3, definately sure that we would like to return but once the kids were quite a bit older.
Deepa is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 04:00 AM
  #2  
ira
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi Deepa,

Thanks for posting.

It's always nice to know about things that don't turn out to be perfect.

ira is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 04:32 AM
  #3  
 
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Wow! That sounds like an adventure. Thanks for posting. How old are your kids?
wliwl is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 06:43 AM
  #4  
 
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Sorry about your problems Deepa---I know how much you look forward to Italy.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 07:32 AM
  #5  
 
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Hi Deepa,

I remember when you were planning. Love to hear more about your trip!
Dayle is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:37 PM
  #6  
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Hi,

My daughter is 5 and my son is 14 months. Like my husband said - he exhaused us physically and she, mentally. He cannot be left alone even for a minute in the day and is up all night - he cut three molars in Italy! She deceided that after having pasta and pizza once, she didn't want to eat it again, and she didn't! Didn't realise how she has become so picky about how she wants her bread to taste and straberry yougurt that she eats at home, etc... WIll continue the report in a few hours.

Bob, thanks for reminding me of Civita as a day trip. We had fun there.
Deepa is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 06:32 AM
  #7  
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Continuing... Reached lovely Amorosa and were very pleased that we had been upgraded to a suite since this was our fourth visit. We had two large rooms and nice large bathroom. I have to say that the breakfast there is the best I have had anywhere. Fresh cheeses, ricotta and mozzarella, sauted tomatoes,great meats and eggs and I got my first cafe latte after landing in Italy. Visited Monte San Savino which is a nice town for a day-trip. Visited Lucignano but didn't think very much of it. The streets sort of led nowhere. I think we have end up expecting a piazza where we can people watch, get a coffee etc. Also, we had a really bad meal in a restaurant there. Went twice to the newly opened Val Di Chiana outlet. The shopping was okay but they have also opened (wisely) a very nice big playground. The kids liked going there and we did a spot of shopping with some coffee and Italian fast food. Visited Torrita di Seina but at the worjng time.

By this time of the holiday, we were getting to grips with the weather, the distances, the kids food and sleep schedules and the opening and closing hours of Italian hill towns. The trick was to try and start the day early, so baths were postponed to the long hot afternoons. I had to prepare my son's food in the mornings altho. Two of the best purcahses we have made are our portable DVD player and my little rice cooker. I would cook rice and vegies for him since I didn't want to push the jar food too much lest he got completely off it. So we would get ready, have breakfast, pack the lunches and be off. W would try to reach the town by about 11.30 or so to enjoy an hour of walking around plus lunch. Get back by 2.00 pm, get one kid to nap and the older one to the pool, some TV time, snack, bath and head out again around 4.00 to the next town. Coffee and snack for us, jar food for the little fella and back by about 7.30. We also figured that it was very useful to have a restaurant in the hotel to have dinner in. Just easier to be at home base in case the kids were tired or sleepy by then.

After Amorosa, arrived at L'Olmo - the best part of our holiday. Pure heaven. To continue in next post.
Deepa is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 10:33 AM
  #8  
 
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Waiting anxiously for the next post - we are regulars at L 'Olmo and curious what you thought of it.
BoulderCO is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 06:56 PM
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I am surprised that more people do not rave the L'Olmo. The location is stunning. Smack in the middle of the Val d'orcia. Very well appointed 5 rooms. We had the apartment which was very nice. Fabulous views from each of the windows. Views from the pool are also picture perfect. Very hepful hosts, very personalised service. Limited but good dinner options available to eat in the garden. We requested for the dinner in our room on two nights since the kids were very tired and they set up a nice table for us in the room. The other huge plus was the proximity to Pienza. Pienza is the kind of town that we could visit every day for at least a week and not go any where else! By the second day we started to see and meet fimiliar faces - the locals were very friendly. Lots of children and older people around. The kids would run around the streets. The food was good. We went into a local leather goods shop where the owner made everything by hand. Chatted with him and my husband requested him to make him a name-card holder with his name on it. He even made a sweet leather book mark for my daughter.

We also did day-trips to San Quirico -very nice -bought some nice hand-made soaps from the shop at the piazza. Visited Bagno Vignoni but it was too small to spend much time in. Montalcino was as nice as ever. Had a fabulous lunch and I bought a beautiful silver bowl from the local shop. One evening, after 7.00 pm, we just parked the car on the side of the road and walked on to the dirt roads for a few minutes. Amazing and peaceful views all around.

In think in all of the areas we visited, this area, the Vald'ocia is the easiest to do with kids. The roads are not winding. The area is not wooded, so the views are great. The distances get covered faster and the towns are pretty close to each other. From L'Olmo, we could do plenty of small towns, all within 10-40 minutes.

Next, headed to the Maremma, our longest stay of the holiday. Our first time there. Not sure of what to expect.
Deepa is offline  
Aug 6th, 2005, 06:27 PM
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Boulderco, I actually would love to know from you, what you have thought of L'Olmo after being there a few times. Have you been there at any other time of year, other than summer that is? We were wondering if it would be too cold and depressing in the winters, given it's isolated location?

Continuing the report.. The topography started to change pretty rapidly once we moved out of the area close to Montalcino, driving in the direction of Grosetto. In the last hour or so, the roads again became very winding. Finally, reached Scansano and our hotel - the Antico Casale. Our rooms (we had a suite which comprised two rooms and a bath and a small kitchenette) were comfortable and nice but nothing special. We were dissapointed a bit in the hotel since it was not at all child friendly. Their web site is quite misleading - they show a nice green area just at the entrance where we thought the kids could run about a bit. That has totally been repalced by new rooms and since the hotel is located on the slope of a hill and the entrance is at the highest point, eveything else involved a steep downhill walk. The pool was a good kilometer away all the way at the bottom. The food at the restaurant was quite bad. Ordered pasta with meat sauce (amongst other things) and the meat was smelly. The breakfast was quite okay although I am never too happy about getting coffee from a gaint coffee dispenser machine with buttons, in Italy.

The other big problem with Maremma was that all the places that we wanted to visit like Pitigliano, Savona, Porto Sant Stefano etc. were all more than an hour away, and that too very, very curvy roads. My daughter however, was thrilled with the horses in the hotel and she went twice to have a couple of rounds on horse back.

None of the day -trips quite worked out. We went to Pitigliano, and were awed by its setting etc. but even at 4.30 in the evening, it was quite dead with a handful of people around and hardly any shop was open. Even at 5.00 pm, we struggled to find a cafe to buy a snack.

Went to Porto Ercole the next day (an hour plus) but found hundreds of cars parked along the mountain side, everyone was walking down to the beach which looked beautiful but we couldn't find a place to park. Drove to Porto San Stefano. Parked and walked around but again at 5.00 pm, everything was shut and the heat was quite severe, since there was no sheltered streets to walk in. Got some gelato and drove back. We did like the town but I tink it can be enjoyed if one stays there or visits after 6.00 pm.

The only high point was this nice play ground right in th middle of Scansano, which had some nice cafes and a coop around it. Went there tiwce a day sometimes. The town itself is quaint but has no pedestrain only streets. There is heavy traffice along the streets.

That evening we came to the conclusion that the Maremma was not quite working out, so we deceided to go to Rome for the last two nights. We any way would have had to drive there on the last day to take the flight. Why not go earlier?

I think this flexibility that we introduced into our plans (first time ever) worked out very well for us. Where ever we felt that we were not in a child-freindly environment, we just checked out and moved on.

Booked a lovely senior suite at Del Senato (the one the show on the web site) and drove to Roma.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 02:19 AM
  #11  
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Driving to Rome as always was far easier than actually driving in Rome to reach the hotel. Finally reached Del Senato to find that the lovely suite we had booked was only available for one night and not for both nights. We were taken to a much smaller suite which we did not like and were finally moved to a nice double room where they opened a sofa bed for my daughter next to our bed. The air conditioning was also a major problem, it was either really hot or really cold. In short, we could not control the temperature from the room. After two days, we figured that the only way was to call the reception to switch it off or on, which I even did in the middle of the night! But I have to say, despite all these problems, we still liked the hotel very much. The location is fantastic and the staff was very helpful and genuinely apologetic that they couldn't get the air con going.

We have always considered Rome to be a rather avoidable city with kids but we did have a great time this time around. The Romans are really wonderful people, very friendly, very chatty -no big city snobbery about them. Perhaps, also being only in small secluded villages for the past 13 days, we enjoyed the buzz and action around the Pantheon. Had two great dinner take outs from La Sagrista, wonderful coffee at Tazza Del oro, even splurged and had a tour of Rome in a horse drawn carraige. On our last day, we didn't want to waste the afternoon in the hotel room, so booked to visit the Museum at the Villa Borghese. Thought we would walk the little guy in his stroller to sleep and if we were lucky he might just sleep in the taxi to the museum. Of course he did not. And we were told that no strollers or bags are allowed in the museum! So we had a sleepy 14 month old, screaming and pulling at the chains around the Bernini sculptures! Tried to carry him etc. - finally walked our after 8 minutes to follow the wonderful coffee smells at the cafeteria below the museum. Had some great coffee and then noticed the little train that takes people around the grounds. Enjoyed the music and the breeze on the train, even as our son was insistent on jumping off every 2 minutes. Finally, got off, walked him in the stroller and he feel asleep. We then had a very nice 45 mintues of walking around the gardens and sitting around a fountain. All in all, we felt we had a really nice afternoon.

That night, we walked for about an hour around the area ahead of the Pantheon, taking in the night life and to seeing loads of nice restaurants and piazzas.

Flew out the next day convinced that part from the history and culture, what really draws us to Italy is the people and their way of going about their lives. They have a certain non-hyper, easy going way of doing everything and they take time to enjoy the small things. Like the little train attendant, smiling at everyone, singing along with the music, like the La Segrista owners giving us a bunch of cutlery without question when we said we needed some and would return it in a while, like the carabenieri, talking to my son and making funny faces while I was changing his soiled diaper at the back of the car.

It was hard work, but we had a blast.
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Aug 8th, 2005, 06:47 AM
  #12  
 
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Deepa

We have stayed at L 'Olmo three times, always in September. So I can't comment about what it would be like later in the year. We love the place and also don't know why it isn't mentioned more frequently on the forum. I have recommended it many times. We have always stayed in room #5, just across the hall from your apartment, I believe. Great views of Pienza from every window. We love the staff at L 'Olmo - it really feels like home to us. We really enjoy Pienza too. We also stay the del Senato when we are in Rome - great location. Did you make it up to the rooftop bar?
BoulderCO is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 02:52 AM
  #13  
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BoulderCo,

No, we didn't make it to the roof top bar. We were barely able to go into restaurnats for dinner hence the take-outs from La Sagrista. The kids just get all cranky by evening and we were also too tired to take turns in and out of the restaurants, which is what we did the few times that we had lunch at restaurants.

September at L'Olmo sounds lovely. The weather must be cooler yet not cold. We of course, can only go during school holiday times which includes October. Perhaps next year. The rooms on the ground floor, opening into the gardens, looked lovely too. Do you remember the name of the owner? I remember Gabreilla of course but didn't quite catch the other lady's name.
Deepa is offline  
Aug 9th, 2005, 06:56 AM
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Her name is Francesca Lindo.
BoulderCO is offline  

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