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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 Oct 24th, 2009, 08:19 PM
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kwilly,

We're leaving tomorrow for Italia. 5 nights in Vernazza, Cinque Terre....although I still think 5 nights is too little.

We're staying at the apartment that the La Mala owners own and it looks amazing. Here's the link: http://www.armanda.it/index2.html There is also another location (just a room, no kitchen) that is available for rent. So...that takes care of 2 couples and the other 2 can stay at La Mala or elsewhere.

This trip we are definitely doing the hikes and moreover...I just want to REALLY spend time in the villages soaking them in. Our 3 nights there last time went way too fast. We hiked through all villages, but never really stopped to get to know them. This time will be very different at a much slower pace.

I'll report what we did this trip and maybe there will be more ideas.

NOTE: book ASAP even if you haven't yet decided since the rooms go fast.

Here's a couple more links to larger apts, houses, villas in the CT area:

http://www.arbaspaa.com/ (I had inquired on a few properties with this agency and was very impressed with their quick response)

Another great looking place in Manarola that seems big enough to handle your group: http://www.arpaiu.com/english.html (Arpaiu was our 2nd choice after La Mala on the last trip)

Other agencies: http://www.seaandcountryvillas.com/
http://www.cinqueterreriviera.com/Ar...Properties.htm

Good Luck!
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Old Oct 24th, 2009, 08:35 PM
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A/S

Thanks for replying. And to even think that you are leaving tomorrow for another adventure. I can't wait to hear more. You are so gracious to share your thoughts...I enjoy reading them sooo much. Not sure if you wqill read this before you go or even during your trip but wondered if you knew anything about "Tonino Basso's rooms in Vernazza. They look nice on his site. And, he has been the only owner/host to email back regarding my questions. I will check out the new places you mentioned in this last post.

Looking forward to hearing even more from you A/S!

kwilly
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Old Oct 24th, 2009, 10:19 PM
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I haven't heard anything about Tonino Basso, but checked out the website and they are gorgeous. Most rooms I find in CT are dingy, frou-frou and not very stylish. This is worth checking into. What are the prices? Have you checked at tripadvisor.com to see if there are any reviews?

It is frustrating when I research and surf the internet so much and miss something like this. Cinque Terre really needs to have a one-stop portal website that has the creme de la creme lodgings listed. It's like finding a needle in a haystack. I found our apartment by first emailing La Mala for availability. They don't even list the apartment and affitacamere on their inn website. Puzzling.

Ciao for now....
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Old Oct 25th, 2009, 07:21 AM
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Will do further research but I do agree it is a challenge to find/review and then select a place that you feel will be pleasant to stay. That's why so many of us on here "rely" on trip reports from travelers like yourself. Have a great time in Italy! I look forward to hearing about your upcoming trip upon your return.

kwwilly
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Old Nov 8th, 2009, 04:50 AM
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We're back (sadly) from Italia!

My journal is chock full will great info/thoughts/feelings and above all, "adventures" to share. This time I scribbled and chickenscratched in one place.....no more scouring through scraps or pieces of paper to make heads or tails of it all.

My first priority will be to finish this report that is sorely overdue.

(kwilly....our Armanda apt in Vernazza was a slice of heaven. We stayed 6 nights. Still too few, but loved every second of it. HIGHLY recommend it.)

For those who are just reading this report and are interested in the stone cottage in Sogna, Tuscany we stayed at....here is the updated website link: http://www.tuscanyholidaycottage.com/index.htm

Ciao for now.....
A/S
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Old Nov 9th, 2009, 08:53 AM
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<i>(note: I'm not sure if anyone out there is still interested in reading a report that is this old. I'll continue to post as this report is also my own personal journal)</i>

<b>TUSCANY-Day 3

Part 9 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14 (cont’d)

<u>FATTORIA DEI BARBI OR BUST!</b></u>
On the road again towards Montalcino…home of the coveted Brunello. The plan was to go to the Sant’Antimo Abbey in time for the Gregorian Chants by the monks. There was a chanting schedule and we didn’t want to miss it.

We were enjoying the drive over rolling hills in the Tuscan countryside and feeling the hunger pangs coming on. So, we had to rearrange our plan. I took out the chanting schedule and figured that we could hit the <b>Taverna at dei Barbi</b> for lunch on the way and then head over to the Abbey for the chanting. After, we could zip back to dei Barbi for the wine tasting/tour. Maybe even squeeze in a visit at the
<b>Museo della Commuita di Montalcina e del Brunello</b> which is the local museum that tributes the birth of Brunello and all things "Montalcino". That would work, so that’s exactly what we did.

I had done research and even considered staying at Fattoria dei Barbi (a centuries old family winery) for a more agriturismo experience, but alas, the romantic stone cottage in the middle of nowhere won out. I was looking forward to be going to a region in Tuscany that was all about wine in hopes of (finally) beginning my love affair with Italian varietals.

<b>Fattoria dei Barbi</b> http://www.fattoriadeibarbi.it/
was located outside and past the historical town center of Montalcino. It was a gorgeous drive seeing the town of Montalcino perched up on the hill. We easily find the winery and park in the dirt parking lot. It looked exactly like I hoped….a no frills family owned wine operation. With a couple hours or so until the chanting, we had time to poke around.

First on the agenda was to get some good homemade local food in our bellies. Off to the Taverna we go. I had seen photos of it from the website and it looked lovely with its rustic stone walls and a warm fireplace. Just the ambiance we were looking for. As we entered, we were warmly greeted by the waiter. He was impeccably dressed in a coat jacket and guided us to our table. There were a handful of tables filled and the place had a more formal feeling that I was expecting. Maybe it was the tone of the place, the white linen tablecloths, the impeccable manners of the waiter or the table nearby that displayed 7 bottles of uncorked bottles of wine lined up perfectly like soldiers.

As we scanned the impressive menu, I needed to readjust my thinking and downshift from a simplistic rustic country meal to a gastronomic Brunello experience. No problem. I knew we were in for a treat. I took another look around and noticed that the others seemed to be tourists. Tourists that were in search of an excellent meal paired with the crowned jewel Brunello di Montalcino.

DH and I talked about how we were looking forward to sampling a variety of Brunellos and other offerings by the glass.

<b><u>FAT CATS</b></u>
Just then, I notice a group of 3 couples walking toward the Taverna. The ladies were elegantly dressed to the nines with their expensive designer handbags and perfectly coiffed hair. The guys are smoking cigars. They make a big entrance. The place is no longer quiet. I recognize them…they are “fat cat” Americans (no insult intended as I myself am proud to call myself a (non “fat cat”) American, proud…until this moment). I imagine they’ve come to Tuscany in search of the “best of the best”. I imagine they are probably staying in a very luxe Tuscan Villa complete with private chef at their beck and call. They even probably flew over in a private jet so they can take back cases and cases of Brunello. Who am I to judge? I suppose I’m being a bit harsh and critical. Sorry, I don't mean to be insulting, I'm just calling it as I see it. Maybe I’m green with envy? No, I’m definitely not.

I wonder if they’ll ever appreciate or taste a local red wine that is a labor of love and produced in small quantities. No, it will never be as grand as the Brunello, but you can taste the heart and soul of it.

Back to our lunch….

Our waiter comes over and we discuss some choices with him along with wines to pair. The menu is full of wonderful choices. Many of which were wild boar <i>cinghale</i> and other local game. We decide upon 4 different glasses of wine which we’ll share (3 of which are Brunellos averaging 8E-11E per glass. The 4th is a blend). The first 2 wines are served with our first courses. It’s the lower priced Brunello and the blend. The waiter artfully places our sparkling crystal clear big wine glasses in front of us and turns to the table of “wine bottle soldiers” and plucks one from the group. He pours the velvety liquid that is releasing its aroma as it pours into the glass. He puts the bottle back ever so perfectly and turns the bottle so the label lines up just like the others that are “standing” there. Next he takes the 2nd bottle and does the same. This one is richer than the other. We are mesmerized by the skill of the waiter. He again places the bottle back in its place in line. They are all in perfect harmony. We can’t wait to take our first sip, but, for some reason, we have patience.

Enough of patience as our first course arrives. It looks amazing. Steam is coming up from both plates. (I am very particular about the temperature of my food….I like my soups served piping hot. So….needless to say, I’m a happy camper). Our primi courses: Ribollita and local white beans cooked to perfection and swimming in local “Tuscan gold” (aka olive oil) to start. Buon appetito! All very delizioso! A “clink clink” and a <i>“Saluti”</i> later, we’re savoring the wine. We switch glasses, sip and critique. They are both very good. Not knock-your-socks-off, but good (once again my VERY high expectations of Italian wine is clouding my judgment). Next out comes our Pasta courses. One is with a porcini mushroom sauce and the other a ricotta and local herb ravioli in another fabulous sauce (the wine must’ve kicked in as I don’t have any more detailed info about what we ate!). Both are exceptional. DH and I are oohing and aahing among ourselves while the waiter whisks away our empty glasses and new crystal clear glasses appear with 2 more wine “soldiers” plucked off the table. These 2 wines are (once again) both very good, but…..?

I almost forget the “fat cats” across the restaurant. They are keeping their waiter busy with a few bottles of wine. Pop goes the weasel and out comes the cork and another dead soldier. After a few sips, the 3 men at the table leave to go outside to smoke their cigars.

We are stuffed and happy. I wouldn’t normally pass on dolci, but this time I have no room for it.

A fully satisfying elegant meal washed down with some great vino. A true experience at 67E.

<b>Next…..Sant'Antimo Abbey
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Old Nov 9th, 2009, 06:20 PM
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I'm still here and reading. I am looking forward to your comments on Sant' Antimo. We made it as far as Montalcino a couple of weeks ago but ran out of time for going to Sant' Antimo, one of my few regrets, but all the more reason to return.
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Old Nov 10th, 2009, 06:44 AM
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bfrac,

So true....it's those lists that (still) keep growing that gives all the reason to return. So much to discover....
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Old Nov 10th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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Hi a'seeker,

I'm still "listening". i love your description of the wine-tasting lunch - that's just the sort of thing we like to do too.

waiting for more,

regards, ann
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Old Nov 10th, 2009, 12:17 PM
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ahhhhhhhhhhhhh I just got to the end of the road...so to speak and came to Nov. 10th '09 and feel that I have been to the very spots you described and have eaten and drank the same foods you so eloqently wrote about, thoughout your adventures throughout Italy. I read all through the day, in between working at my consultant job... I couldn't think straight while speaking with clients; I wanted to come back to you and Italy for more...more...more.
I will be traveling late March into early April with 17 family members to Umbria, Orvieto. We are at a lovely villa, Seventh Heaven and have gotten so much from this site and it will make my trip so much more rewarding because of all your recommendation. ADVENTURESEEKER...thank you for all your time and effort - my family thanks you, I sent them snippets of important info; some have never been to Italy before.
All the best, and OH MY Goodness - your photos are unbelievable.
Best,
S
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Old Nov 10th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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Oh gosh, that has to be one of the best travel stories ever printed anywhere. An instant Fodor classic. Thank you for the entertainment,information and gorgeous photos. I am the planner in our house; but, when I started viewing your photos DH was right by my side..."will we go there?" You bet! The tough part is waiting till May.
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Old Nov 10th, 2009, 08:38 PM
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Grazie, grazie, mille grazie!

Your kind comments will make me write faster......
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 04:18 AM
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I had to share my newest favorite link:

http://www.italytraveller.com/

One can dream.....

(and they even make the 3 star hotels look REAL good!)
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 06:29 AM
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<i>(I apologize for the inconsistency with the whole numbering system that I have made a mess of. The last post s/b Part 10)</i>

<b>TUSCANY-Day 3

Part 11 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14 (cont’d)

<u>WELCOME TO TOSCANA!</b></u>
Back in the car we continue that lovely country backroad to <b>Sant’Antimo Abbey</b> which is on the same pathway as dei Barbi. As we get closer, the landscape seems to change. The colors become more vibrant. I don’t know if it’s the lighting, the time of day or what, it looks magnificent. I kid you not, the wheat color sets off the deep shades of greens. The contrast is simply striking. It’s not just the colors that catch my eye, but it’s the various textures. It’s the tall, sturdy deep forest green cypress trees against the willowy grayish leaves of a crop of young olive trees. It’s the yellowish green crops against the deeper and lighter ones. And the soil varies as well….reddish at one end and shades of brown on the other. I see touches of Autumn in the yellows and gold, but quite frankly there is also the brilliance of Spring. Maybe Toscana didn’t get the memo that it is Autumn?

Then there’s the lighting. Along the top of the ridge the sunlight ever so softly dapples another crop. The sun’s rays magically filter through the clouds and turning its spotlight on the landscape below it. Oh, and I can’t forget those rows of purple bushes sprinkled in along with those picture perfect stone villas. It truly is an artist’s palete. Aaaahhhh…. Honestly, I don’t need a photo to remember this spectacular sight. It is ingrained in my memory forever. I almost forget that I’m not alone. I am in awe. I turn to DH to get his thoughts. He simply says softly, “Spectacular’. …..Welcome to Toscana!

<b><u>A MIRAGE? …NO, IT’S SANT’ANTIMO ABBEY</b></u>
And when I think it can’t get any better…I see her; in the distance. She is perfectly still in a shallow lush valley that matches the beauty of the hills surrounding her. She needs no introduction. Hello Sant’Antimo Abbey!

The closer we get, the more speechless (for once) I become. I have nothing to say. There are truly no words that can describe what I am experiencing. I can’t take my eyes off her. The filtered sunlight illuminates her aged stone exterior and the contrast of nature’s colors dance around her. I would swear that the powers from above are changing the light on her as we approach. I know this all sounds way too dramatic. It gave me “chicken skin” aka goosebumps.

I have seen countless photos of her. Yes, she is this gorgeous Romanesque church. But,
I have a confession to make…I was never really impressed. If it weren’t for the chanting that everyone raves about, she probably wouldn’t have made “the cut”. I know now that would’ve been a grave mistake. I think back to how much research I have done for this trip and it’s unexpected surprises, like this, that truly shake my core. That is the beauty of travel, no matter how much you plan/research, there are many moments like these that will never prepare you.

The road that takes us down to her is sprinkled with a handful of artists capturing this moment. We are not the only ones in awe. Some are painting the hills above and some are painting “her” in all her splendor. If there is anything that would make you want to become an artist, this is it.

We park and walk towards her meanwhile feeling a spiritual peacefulness. We want to just be. I don’t recall having any sort of conversation with DH, we simply whisper comments. The chanting begins in 30 minutes, so we roam the grounds. The abbey situated alongside the church is (once again) a contrast of old stone against the church. Even the stone has varying shades of color and texture against the rosemary bushes, soil and the surrounding hills. I have to ask myself, “what the heck is wrong with me?” Why are my senses so acute and everything is fabulously stunning. Hmmmm…maybe there is something to be said about those Brunellos. I just now had an “aha moment”.

I just had to take another peek at my photos. Yup, just as I remembered and described. The photos don’t lie. I can’t wait for you to see them. I will post them soon. And I’d love feedback from those of you who have been there….is it always this lovely or did we just have the most perfect of days? I almost wished that we would have packed a picnic lunch or snack. We were stuffed, but it sounded like a romantic idea.

From the distance, the church almost had a lighter glow to it. Now that we’re close it amazes me at how darker the stone is. The light was playing tricks on us (or the powers that be). This place is hauntingly beautiful. Does it really exist? Does it look this way every moment, every day? I wonder what she looks like in Spring, Summer and Winter?

I nudge DH as we walk into the church. Okay, so we’re blown away again. The coldness of the stone and the massiveness of its height has awestruck us. There is (of course) that perfect lighting again streaming in from the windows above. We quietly look around and then take a seat on the hard wood pews to await the chanting. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

There are about 30 or so “spectators” sitting in the pews. I wonder if it is ever fully filled. We all silently and patiently wait. All of a sudden there is faint hum and one by one the monks appear. There are 6 in all. With each monks’ presence, the hum becomes louder and it fills this cold church and miraculously ti seems warmer. It is surreal. They seem to not notice all of us watching in awe. A couple people in front of us beginning softly chanting along with them. The chanting last for about 15-20 minutes. I quietly turn on the video feature on my camera and respectfully record the beautiful sounds we are hearing. And then, as quietly as they came, they left. One by one. There is one monk who remained to do “housekeeping duties” ie. straighten, adjust the ropes, etc. He also answered questions that some had.

This has been a very humbling experience indeed. It almost (I say….almost) made me want to skip the wine tasting back at the dei Barbi tour and do something more “meaningful”, but we don’t.

Okay...I decided that this experience deserved its very own photo slideshow:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/debands...82217358/show/

Links which includes the chanting schedule:
http://www.antimo.it/
http://www.montalcino.net/sant_antimo.htm

<b>Next up….the Brunello Museum and wine tasting/tour w/ the “Fat Cats” (yes, the Fat Cats) at Fattoria dei Barbi
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 08:52 AM
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hi a/s

what lovely pics - and your description of the chanting took me right there.

please keep it coming,

regards, ann
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 12:41 PM
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Oh adventureseeker, your description is spellbinding. I can't believe I was so close and missed it...
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 02:42 PM
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bfrac, it was a spellbinding surprise. All of it. ...More the reason to return.
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 03:12 PM
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I'm bookmarking this for a later date -- I can tell it will be a fun read.

I've been to Italy twice -- once with my DH and young daughter and the second time by myself. I loved it both times and can't wait to go back. I think for some people, this country seeps into your skin and you simply can't get enough.

~Myra
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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Myra, so true. My first trip was 2 years ago and I'm still affected. I tell others who haven't been that it will change your life...if you let it. And I succumbed to it, big time.

Which areas did you explore when you went solo?

We just returned from a trip that included our 8 year old son. It was magical seeing Italy through his eyes. How old was your daughter when she went?
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Old Nov 11th, 2009, 06:36 PM
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My daughter was only a toddler (16 months)in 2005. We spent a week in Rome and a week in Tuscany, just outside of Montepulciano.

The solo trip was last year, just for a week, which I split between Rome and Florence.

Yes, it changed us as well. I usually don't read trip report to Italy because it's too painful. Actually get an ache in my chest, lol.

But I saw your comments on Kristina's and found this.

I guess I should start reading! This must be one of the longest.
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