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Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Finally...our 19 day glorious October 2007 (very long detailed) trip report to Italy!

Old Aug 11th, 2009, 10:27 AM
  #281  
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Buongiorno all!

I guess I should finish this! My ADD has kicked in.

Thank you all for your kind comments and inspiration!

A/S
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Old Aug 13th, 2009, 03:58 AM
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Please finish!
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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OMG!
So you really are not finishing?
Are you too sad?
Your report has occupied every free minute of mine for days!
It was exactly what I was looking for.
I am leaving for my 3rd trip to Italy in October.
It is time for some "re-grounding."
Italy brings me back to earth and helps me appreciate all that truly is important in life.
Your trip is exactly where we are going this fall, except our long stay in Tuscany is in the walled city of Lucca.
Your stories have brought back many pleasurable memories.
Grazie for sharing!
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 05:08 PM
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great trip report. I do hope you finish it!
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Old Aug 27th, 2009, 08:29 PM
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marking
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Old Oct 19th, 2009, 11:20 AM
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This trip was 2+ years in the planning (and obviously in the finishing of the trip report!). Times have surely changed...We booked a trip to Italy with only 2 weeks to plan. The awesome airfares to Italy were too good to pass up. This time we're taking our very curious, energetic, so-happy-to-finally-be-going-to-Italy 8 year old son. We leave this Sunday, October 25, 2009!

<b>Our upcoming 12 day itinerary:</b>
fly into <b>Florence</b> (2 nights), wander, see David (keeping my promise I made with myself that whenever in Flo...I have a date w/ David), visit the Duomo, sunset at Fiesole (hopefully the sky will be clear!), eat, drink, and be merry.

train to <b>Lucca</b> (2 nights)...wander, explore, walk/bike the walls, eat, drink, and be merry. Take train to Pisa so son can climb it and take the famous photos in front.

train to <b>Vernazza</b> (5 nights). Going back to get my heart that I left there 2 years ago. explore the villages, hike, see if Antonio remembers me...and if so, buy him a drink! explore the towns north of Monterosso, eat, drink, and be merry (at Da Piva's!)!

train to <b>Santa Margherita Ligure</b> (1 night). Explore SML, Camogli, Rapallo, whatever, eat, drink, and be merry!

next day...train to <b>Milan</b>. overnight. (maybe visit Duomo, La Scala, wander). Still working on the logistics/details of Milan.

So, I will finally get to answer the burning question that friends/family ask me....<b>"will it be the same as the first time?"</b> I hope so, and more. Plus...this time we're seeing our old favorites with new eyes and exploring more in depth. We know what we loved and will do more of the same...savoring it all at a slower pace. We won't be ticking off another "must-see" on the list. We can spend more time in cafes and in piazzas we loved (and discover more). We've been there before and can take that wealth of knowledge and put it to good use while keeping our senses wide open! Besides, this time we have an 8 year old's eyes to look through.

Our son has a mission.....how many flavors of Gelato can he try? He will write down each and every one in a journal. He knows how to say, <i>"Vorrei un gelato"</i> (I want gelato). I envision him making <i>amici</i> (friends) and playing <i>calcio</i> (soccer) with them while we sip vino at a piazza cafe! Everyone is happy!

(and yes, I will finish the Tuscany section of this report before I start the new one!)

Buon viaggio....
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Old Oct 19th, 2009, 11:37 AM
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Wow! I just stumbled upon your trip report and have marked it to read later. I read the first few threads and you have put together such a wonderful report.

I dropped down to the bottom and noticed you are going again. Have a safe and wonderful time in Italy! I look forward to reading your new report when you return.

Happy travels.
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Old Oct 19th, 2009, 12:11 PM
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I'm so jealous you're heading back to Italy, especially Vernazza! Have the strawberry panna cotta at il Pirata Cafe for me! It's the best I've ever had! Have a great time!
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Old Oct 19th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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Grazie!

BarbaraS....Il Pirata is now on our list. I'm sure it will be NO problemo to have a panna cotta for you.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 07:39 AM
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 08:50 AM
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 10:45 AM
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 11:49 AM
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Update....I dusted off my endless pages of chicken scratch and found the place in my journal where I left off.

It's a miracle, but it's really happening. I wrote 3 paragraphs in MS Word that will be transferred over later today.

Stay tuned....
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 12:47 PM
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<b>TUSCANY

Part 7 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14

Abbeys, Montalcino, Pienza and Sheep!

<u>COULD IT BE?…THE TUSCAN SUN?</b></u>
I woke up at 7am and did my normal morning routine-opened the window shutters to say “buon giorno” to Sogna and get a quick weather forecast. This time I saw a very welcome sight…is it? could it be?....the Tuscan Sun? Yes, I daresay it is. The sun’s rays were peeking out of the clouds and the light was dancing on the trees. This made me smile. Simple pleasures. We could FINALLY have breakfast al fresco…triumph! I wasn’t taking any chances. Yes, the sun was out, but I knew how cold it could be (and boy, did I know), so I bundled up to go outdoors and survey the (sadly) unused table, chairs and beautiful pergola.

It was a gorgeous morning….still chilly, but an alfresco meal was doable. The air was crisp and it even smelled like Autumn. Vines hanging over the pergola were covered in morning dew. The sad, lonely table was scattered with leaves in hues of reds and gold. And lastly, the view of mountains covered with trees kissed by the sun was amazing. I was quietly hoping that this would be first of many outdoor meals we would be enjoying in Sogna (but, sadly it would be our one and only). This alfresco meal would be worth the wait…..

Back inside, I ran upstairs to deliver the good news to DH…..”We will eat outside”. He’s still half asleep and gives me a “yeah, right” look. Kinda like he’s thinking….”Don’t you remember that conversation about how to convert Celsius to Farenheit? It’s flippin’ cold!” The good guy that he is, he gets up to share in my vision of a quintessential alfresco experience overlooking the Tuscan countryside (which it was). Aaaaahhhhh!

<b><i>ALFRESCO OR BUST!</b></u>
I decide on a “healthy” meal (we needed it!). I put together a fruit plate of blood oranges (which DH points out is really grapefruit. Okay, so he’s right.....this time anyway.), pears, strawberries, grapes and bananas. It looked too pretty to eat. Coupled with yogurts, this would be our meal. It was a light breakfast to prepare for yet, another feast at some fabulous medieval village for lunch. Next, I made a pot of tea and poured two glasses of blood orange juice (which I can’t find anywhere in the USA!). Once again, I used the cottage’s finest offerings for the finishing touches: a picnic basket, blue and white checkered table cloth and napkins. I carried it all outside and set it up. I stood back and was very pleased with what I saw. It looked like a photo spread for <i>Town and Country</i> or <i>Martha Stewart</i> magazine. This would be the start of a perfect day…..

We’re taking in the splendor of this morning when DH asks, “What’s that on those mountains?” I look over at a slightly higher mountain range on the other side of the view that is unfolded in front of us. Could it be? Yes, it was….SNOW! I kid you not. It snows in Tuscany. This was a fact I wasn’t sure of (until now). Now it was staring right at me. <i>(see our Tuscany photos to see for yourself!)</i>. This just also confirms how high up our sleepy village is. The snow capped peaks seemed like they were directly in front of us. Unbelievable.

<b>Next...Abbeys, Montalcino, Pienza and Sheep, oh my!</b>
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 03:19 PM
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Gosh, you sure did it all--and tell all about it with such gusto. Thanks.
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Old Oct 21st, 2009, 03:59 PM
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Can you believe?...I can't stop writing...I'm on a roll!

<b>TUSCANY-Day 3

Part 8 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14 (cont’d)

Abbeys, Montalcino, and Sheep, oh my!

<u>AND THE VOTE GOES TO…..MONTALCINO</b></u>
As we ate this fine simple meal under a sun dappled (today, anyway) pergola and nearby snow capped mountain peaks, we chatted about our plan for the day. The verdict: explore Pienza and Montalcino…the home of Brunello! The sun was out and it would be a great day to be outdoors (maybe even the only day). I was <u>really</u> looking forward to exploring the Val D’Orcia region. I knew that if we went during the first part of our stay in Tuscany and we loved it (which we did), we could go back another day (which we did…two more times!).

<b><u>VAL D’ORCIA….I SECOND THAT! </b></u>
The Val D’Orcia region was one that many, many Fodorites; especially the ones that I consider to be my travel gurus (you know who you are….Stu, Bob the Nav, etc. to name a few) raved about. This region is where the 3 top stars resided: Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano. And I have to say, after being there, “I totally get it.” Next trip to the heart of Tuscany, we are <u>without a doubt</u> staying smack dab in the middle of this valley. You have probably recognized my name all over this board recommending this region. I’m the one consistently chiming in, “I second that” and “another vote for”.

Last night we watched “Under the Tuscan Sun” (another movie we’ve watched before) as our fire died its usual slow death. It occurred to me now, that maybe…just maybe the movie last night was the reason the sun made an appearance today? Hmmm…now I’m thinking which Italian flicks have titles with the word “hot” in it, at this point, I’ll even just take “warm”.

With a plan in mind, we gather the remnants of our quintessential alfresco experience overlooking the Tuscan countryside and go inside to get ready for our day.

<b><u>OVER THE HILLS AND THROUGH THE TUSCAN WOODS</b></u>
We decide to take a longer (and more scenic) route via the gorgeous Crete Senesi past Asciano and Rapolano Terme. It was everything I thought it would be…no strip or outlet malls, just rolling hills, stone villas and hilltowns galore. In our planning for Montalcino, we had penciled in <b>Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore.</b> So that would be our first stop. The drive up there was spectacular. Each rolling hill promised fields in patches of color-gold, wheat and greens. At some points it looked like just that-Nature’s patchwork blanket. It was feeling and looking exactly like Autumn. I remember thinking once again how lovely Tuscany would look in Spring-all fresh and green. Among the “blanket” were those familiar scenes of cypress trees lining dirt roads leading up to age old stone buildings perched upon small hills. DH was very patient with me as I had him stop here and there so I could go outside to capture a photograph. The landscape all looked like photographs from those Tuscany Calendars….everywhere we looked was a picture perfect photo representing a new month. Bellisimo!

On of my favorite scenes of all are the herds of sheep. I see them far away like little specks and as we drive over yet another small hill, they get closer and closer until you can make them out. I’m happy to report that we are officially in pecorino country!

We happily drive on while I continue to fill my camera’s memory card with photos of this amazing place called Tuscany. We notice that the sun is making its departure under a patch of clouds. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. It was still not as cold as previous days, so we were happy. Ah, the simple pleasures.

DH and I play that game where you pick out your fave house/villa/estate. It started with maybe our top 5 and then it just got out of hand. I would say that I probably had somewhere in the ballpark of 75 or so. That game got old real fast. I should also mention that it seems we are the only ones on this stretch of highway. It was surreal.

At one point, in the distance we see a patch of trees which looks like a mirage. I take a 360 degree look and there are no other trees like these as far as the eye can see. Very interesting indeed. It almost looks like someone planted them there for a shock factor. To this day I still don’t know the story about them.

<b>Next.....Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore</b>
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Old Oct 22nd, 2009, 11:13 AM
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<b>TUSCANY-Day 3

Part 9 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14 (cont’d)

Abbeys, Montalcino, and Sheep, oh my!

<u>ABBAZIA DI MONTE OLIVETO MAGGIORE</b></u>
As we get closer to the Abbazia, we notice how the clouds and sun are casting shadows on the land which is quite beautiful. The lighting has changed the landscape and now it looks like lush carpet in contrasting tones are rolled over the hills. (logistics note: it would take about an hour to get here from the top of Sogna. An hour that is, if we didn’t stop every 15 minutes to snap a “must have” photo).

We easily arrive at the Abbazia. It is very peaceful. I’m happy to report that the parking lot is not too full so we know it won’t be too crowded. Across from the parking lot stands a gorgeous old brick building resembling a castle with a pathway through it. Over the arch of the walkway is a stunning colorful statue of Madonna and child.

As we make our way through the building, it leads to an old stone path meandering between tall pine trees (we think) that leads to the Abbazia at the bottom. We notice the slight wind whistling in the tall pine trees adding to the serenity of this place. As we walk down, there are smaller stone structures which resemble mini churches nestled among the trees. They are lovely and look as if they belong. I want to say that it is a pleasant 15 minute walk without stopping.

Upon arriving at the end of the path is the Abbazia and clusters of like buildings attached to it forming its own city. It, too, is spectacular. There is a garden nearby and I take a peek. Naturally, there is a statue of my friend, Santa Caterina of Siena. She is following me, I swear.

We step into the church which is massive in size and beauty. There is so much to see here. Mini alters and alcoves. It even smells and feel like a spiritual place. From the main church there are clusters of smaller ones entwined. As usual, everything looks like art. I am moved by the detailed pieces that call this church home. I make note of the mix of lighting. Candles, lighting on various pieces and mainly the natural light streaming in from the dome above the main alter. The varying lighting all seem to work and blend together to illuminate this church as it was meant to be. Stunning!

We make our way out to the courtyard which part of it is locked behind heavy ornate iron gates. Around the cloisters are the beautiful frescoes by Luca Signorelli and Sodoma. We slowly walk around them as they tell a story. We locate the “self portrait” of the artist among the colorful scenes. This has been a treasure and definitely worth the stop.

<b><u>SILENZIO E RISPETTO</b></u>
“Silence and Respect”. Such irony as we walk into an open hall not sure if this is public space or not. There ever so quietly in a glass front office sat a Monk in his garb sitting at his computer composing music. I nudged DH so he could have a chuckle too. But then again, what did I expect? Using old world methods of parchment paper and quills? Apparently they had caught up to the technology of the 21st century, right? I could envision this scene as the perfect Apple commercial which would make sense if he were on a Mac. But, alas he was a PC dude. I was so tempted to snap a photo, but then he looked up at me. I felt like I was disturbing his silence and respect so we skulked away.

This is a working monastery. They have a very large gift shop on sight filled with tuscan goodies and products made at the abbey. It was fun to walk around and observe as well as partake of conversation with the monks working there. They were very jubilant and friendly. An amusing moment was when saw a large monk squeeze into a mini car (that looks like it only seats 1, but maybe 2) that was more square than those cute Fiat 500’s. All in all a great visit.

We trek back up the stone pathway which has a slight grade. We walk past the old buildings and the trees are still whistling in the wind. This was place was definitely a sanctuary. Very peaceful and serene. One of the best parts came after our visit when we drove away and were back on the road. As we came down the other side of the hill, I looked back at this amazing brick spectacle amidst the dark green tall trees. It was an "aha moment". Heavenly…literally.

Verdict: Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore...two thumbs up!

<b>Next…..Fattoria dei Barbi in Montalcino</b>
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Old Oct 23rd, 2009, 06:47 PM
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A/S
I have thoroughly enjoyed your trip report. A group of 8 of us (4 couples) are going to Italy and Switzerland in late July early August 2010. We will all be together some of the time but will journey off on our own at times.

Our itinerary looks like this: Arive Rome early on July 22nd (3 nights), Sienna (3 nights), Cinque Terre (2 nights however after reading your report I may stay a bit longer), and then Wengen Switzerland (7 nights). Each couple has the "charge" to find lodging and activites in each of their assigned overnight stays. My wife and are are responsible for CT!
What would be your definite "to do" activites? By the way the entire group enjoys hiking. I guess I am looking for your thoughts also on where to stay, eat, and PLAY! Any advice you can offer would be gladly appreciated. Also any other Fodorites please give me your thoughts as well. Thanks.

kwilly
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Old Oct 23rd, 2009, 08:40 PM
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Kwilly - We loved our hotel in CT. It was the Hotel Pasquale in Monterosso. Here's a link to my trip report http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...e-to-italy.cfm

I was in Rome in May and some days were almost unbearably hot. I can only imagine how hot it must be in July. Is August high season in the CT?

Are you thinking of staying in hotels or renting a house?
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Old Oct 24th, 2009, 08:24 AM
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BarbaraS
Thanks for the response! I will check out your hotel. Weeks ago when I began my research my favorite place to stay was in Vernazza was La Mala (the same place A/S stayed) It looks fabulous on their website, but it is a bit pricey. We are only going to be there for two days so we probably would not be able to fully enjoy the beautiful rooms at La Mala. My feelings are mixed...some people advise to stay north of CT (like Legano or Santa Margherita) but my concern is wasting time traveling to and from CT each of the two days....if that makes sense.
Yes from the research I have done it sounds like the peak season in CT will be when we are there so that is why I need to book early. Our group does not HAVE to stay together...most places we are looking at are places with double rooms...so hotels are fine. We would not be against renting a house but probably would be difficult to find anyone that would rent a house during peak season for only two nights. Thanks again.
kwilly
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