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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 Nov 12th, 2009, 01:43 AM
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Adventureseeker...thank you!
Just starting to think about our next trip to Italy in Sept-oct 2010 - you have given me so much to work with...and dream!!!!
Ozlinz
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 06:13 AM
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Grazie for your gracious comments.

Mebe, I haven't made it to Rome....yet. The thought of it is overwhelming (to me) since there is so much to do/see. A few days there seems like "cheating". And I am infamous for wanting to do it all. However, when I stumbled across Kristina's reports/sites...she has a way of drawing you in and wanting to go....now.

Ozlinz, September will be here before you know it. Where are you visiting this time around? Maybe I'll see you there...(I wish!)

Annhig, Buon giorno...again! Thanks for hanging in there with me!
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 08:58 AM
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<< Mebe, I haven't made it to Rome....yet. The thought of it is overwhelming (to me) >>

AS - that was me. By the time i was 50 I'd been to Italy quite a few times but never Rome. Somehow it seemed too big to tackle.

but our kids wanted to go, so 3 years ago we booked an apartment for a week and never looked back. Next year in February we are going for another week and apart from a trip to the Forum with a guide [we didn't have one the first time and it was just a pile of stones so far as we were concerned] i don't think that we are going to repeat anything.

find someway to go if you can and try to get a week there - you won't be able to see everything but you'll have enough time not to feel rushed and short-changed.
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Old Nov 12th, 2009, 01:26 PM
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<b>TUSCANY-Day 3

Part 12 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14 (cont’d)

<u>BRUNELLO OR BUST!</b></u>
Yes, I’m still working on Day #14. We’re back in the car after our spiritually humbling experience and now are headed back to dei Barbi. Our plan is to do (more) tasting at their winery and then take the tour of their cellar. With time on our side, we check out the <b>Museo della Communita di Montalcino e del Brunello</b> (in other words…the Brunello and Montalcino museum).

The Museo is conveniently located just past Fattoria dei Barbi. When we arrive, they are just reopening after their “siesta”. Finally, we have perfect timing. Our usual <i>modus operendi” </i> is to arrive when they are closed. http://www.museodelbrunello.it/ (site is in Italian only). We had the whole museum to ourselves. It was a deal at 2E each. There were many exhibits devoted to the livelihood of Montalcino and the old days. It was an excellent representation and was like a step back into time with many displays of old photos, tools, and artifacts. The section devoted to the history of Brunello (and much about the wine making families…including the Colombini clan which founded the Fattoria dei Barbi) was both fascinating and quite extensive. We spent at least an hour here and it was worthwhile.

Back to Fattoria dei Barbi. It’s been a good 2 hours or more since we left. In the wine tasting room there were a dozen or so people tasting and milling around. Six of which were the “Fat Cats” from lunch. We tasted a handful of wines. Most of which were different than the ones we had at lunch and were very good. We engaged in conversation with the FC’s and (to their credit) they were very nice. They (of course) were very knowledgeable about the Brunellos and were very educational in discussing them. I wasn’t shy about my thoughts on Brunellos and they went on to explain about the complexities of the wine which makes it very unique. I am beginning to “get it”. DH just glazes over while I have my Brunello conversation. I think he’s Brunello’d out.

Its just the eight of us (6 FC’s and ourselves) on the very informal <b>dei Barbi Winery Tour</b>. The tour began in the barrel room that was lined with large wooden barrels stamped with the dei Barbi logo. You could smell the wine “fermenting”. Our guide spoke decent English and was very well versed in the history of the Colombini family and the Fattoria dei Barbi which began in the 1700’s. The history was prevalent as we explored the creaky, musty old cellars that were lined with dusty old bottles. It was a sight to see. We NEVER get to see this incredible type of stuff on wine tours back in Napa Valley, Sonoma, or Santa Barbara County. This is the Real McCoy! The most fascinating part was the cave with an old wrought iron gate that held the prized Brunellos that were years old. Our guide told us that every so often they get recorked to continue the aging process. DH and I both agree that this tour/winery was a day well spent.

Back at the tasting room, we buy a dei Barbi T-shirt for DH and I get the book, “Wine Gives You Pretty Legs”, which is penned by Francesca Colombini Cinelli, who is the matriarch of this amazing wine family empire. (To this day, I still haven’t cracked open that book. But, it looks pretty on my “Italy memoir” shelf in my home office. …I just took it out and put in on the top of my “must read” stack. I’ll let you know how it is).

We bid farewell to our guide and to the FC’s. They make a trip here (Tuscany) annually and do the same thing…all 3 couples rent a fabulous villa w/ personal chef, they hire the same driver to take them from winery to winery. One of them brought up how next time they want to charter a private plane to bring back cases of Brunello. ….Touche’

<b>Next…..the charming town of Montalcino and the most amazing Tuscan sunset. </b>
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Old Nov 13th, 2009, 09:29 AM
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<b>TUSCANY-Day 3

Part 13 (October 23, 2007)

Day 14 (cont’d)

<u>A FULL DAY INDEED!</b>
Today has already been an action packed day and we <u>still</u> have the historical center of Montalcino yet to explore. We’ve got an alfresco breakfast, visit to Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, lunch at Taverna dei Barbi, chanting at the spectacular Sant’Antimo Abbey, visit to the Brunello Museo, tasting and cellar tour at Fattoria dei Barbi all under our belts. Phew…

We’ve been on the outskirts of the center of Montalcino for most of the day and now it is time to check it out. The village of Montalcino is one of those perfect hilltowns that is perched up with a magnificent panoramic view of the scenery below. And that scenery doesn’t disappoint. The clouds have begun to turn more gray and it is chilly out, but we forge our way.

First we come to the <b>Fortezza</b> which is quite impressive. Our son would love this place. We snap a few photos. On my list was the <b>Enoteca la Fortezza</b> that is housed there within the fort walls. At this point in the day, we’re tired and (sadly) wine’d out (is that possible?). We find the entrance to the enoteca which is easily located in one of the fortress towers and walk inside. It was warm, cozy, and looks like the kind of enoteca you want to be tasting wines in while in Tuscany. It was very atmospheric with old stone and brick. We’re almost feeling like we should “force” ourselves to partake, but know that it wouldn’t be enjoyable, so we just browse, take in the ambiance, and check out the vast selection.

<b><u>UNDER THE TUSCAN SUNSET</b></u>
After spending time in the warm enoteca, it makes coming outdoors seem that much colder. I don’t know how long I will last. We stroll around the town’s shops and boutiques. The sun is beginning to set and the sky is ablaze in color. I feel torn between exploring the shops or walking towards the edge of town to watch the sunset. The sunset wins out, so off we go. It was the wise choice.

We go back to our strolling and the town seems very quiet. It is lined with charming cafes and enotecas. I’m almost sad that we aren’t staying nearby so we can return to sit, have some wine and just be. DH and I both agree that we did not give this charming town its due. Isn’t it always the case that there just aren’t enough hours in the day?

Down one small alley that has an amazing view is <b>Taverna Grappolo Blu</b>. Yes, another on our list (and so many others). This taverna comes with a very long list of accomplished recommendations….from the “foodie” folks at SlowTravel.com, Chowhound, etc. The taverna is closed. I don’t recall if they are closed completely on this day or if they just open later. It doesn’t matter because as much as we’d love to dine here, the thought of the hour or so drive back does not sound appealing. So, Grappolo Blu stays on the list for the next trip. Honestly, I can’t wait to get home and have a nice home cooked meal in our cozy stone cottage. I only hope that our wood burning fire cooperates.

As we drive through the rolling hills while Tuscany turns to dusk, we recap our day. Of the long list of winery visit possibilities that were under consideration, we are so very pleased that we chose Fattoria de Barbi. With its long standing history and that it still remains “in the family” it was an alluring Tuscan experience without all the glitz, glamour and corporate brouhaha that many of the larger producers in the area are accustomed to.

It’s been a lovely day full of wonders and surprise. We don’t mention it, but the topic definitely comes up later. Later, after we have explored both Pienza and Montepulciano (which are coming up). The topic being, “we know EXACTLY the area we will be staying at while in Tuscany next time.” Our Fodor gurus were spot-on. This is the area where you should stay. And gosh darn it, they are SO right on the money.

<b>Next….Arezzo. And, yes, “La Vita Bella” (“Life is Beautiful”)!
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Old Nov 13th, 2009, 09:35 AM
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A couple MAJOR corrections:

Should be slowtrav.com, should be "La Bella Vita" and the website for the Enoteca La Fortezza: http://www.enotecalafortezza.com/index.jsp

Ciao for now....A/S
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Old Nov 14th, 2009, 01:50 PM
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Hi all, I'm on a roll trying to get this report finished so I can begin the one on our most recent trip. I'm chomping at the bit. There are so many great adventures to share. My favorite topic being "Living like a Vernazzan for 6 days!" Stay tuned....

<b>TUSCANY-Day 4

Part 14 (October 24, 2007)

Day 15

<u>HILLTOWN DU JOUR???</b>
I have a hard time getting out of bed this morning. We had our best fire, thus far, last night and concocted a very satisfying “comfort” meal last night of white beans (swimming in that fab local olive oil), pasta w/ tomato sauce, “rocket” aka arugula salad w/ tomatoes, and some marinated artichokes. And yes, we had to have a bottle of wine. This one was a Rosso di Montalcino. A good wine at a good price. The movie of the night was “Life is Beautiful”. Another movie we’ve seen a dozen times already and one that always puts a smile on our face.

I drag myself out of bed to check out the forecast. Cloudy, gray, and with a drizzle. Oh well. Downstairs I go to get some breakfast going. I throw together a quick onion, spinach and tomato frittata. DH (finally) gets up and we eat. We’re moving in s-l-o-w motion today and by the time we’re out the door it’s 11:30. What else is new?

Our plan today is to go to Montepulciano and be at <b>Villa La Foce</b> for the 3 or 4pm garden tour which they ONLY do on Wednesdays. This tour has taken on more of a meaning to me since I’ve discovered the author Iris Oringo who is the original owner of La Foce. http://www.lafoce.com/

As we make our way, we see that today is Market Day in Bucine. We stop. It would be a shame not to catch at least one market day while in Tuscany. It isn’t like the Farmer’s Market back home where it is limited to vendors selling produce. Here, there are vendors selling produce, meats, cheeses, housewares, clothing, trinkets, you name it. There are a number of things we’d like to buy (that wonderful firm Tuscan spinach, rocket, fennel, etc.), but know that it wouldn’t be a good idea to let it sit in the car. On second thought, it probably would be like a refrigerator with this cold weather. We leave empty handed, but are glad we experienced it.

<b><u>OH OH!</b></u>
Back in the car, we go the backside of town and notice that we’re on a one way street. This one way street goes up to the top of town where there is a church parking lot. There is only one way down and it’s narrow. And its corners are square, not curved. Not a bad thing if you’re driving a Fiat 500 and are an experienced Italian driver. Yikes. I’m scared. We’re screwed. DH uses his best manual driving skills and slowly we descend the car down the narrow road. I swear we barely, and I mean BARELY get down this road without touching the side.

Then there it is….at the bottom of the road is a very sharp turn. In front of the door on the building at the bottom is a thick concrete post (for moments like these). Yes, a post that you hit instead of plowing into the building. Well, you already know how this story turns out. Once at the bottom, DH artfully puts the car slowly in reverse and backs up and then goes forward a few times in order to try to miss the post. But, we severely scrape our front left bumper against it. There truly is NO other way around it. DH is not a happy camper. We screwed up by not getting the collision insurance….bad mistake. What could happen when you’re driving in the countryside? I commend DH on his driving and told him it could be worse (which it really could’ve been).

We get out of this maze and when we’re in an open area, DH pulls over to check the damage. We try to forget it since there is nothing we can do about it. I don’t want it to ruin our day.

We take the faster route (vs. the scenic route winding through the Tuscan countryside) which is different than the other drives we’ve taken while here in Tuscany. This one is mainly on the Autostrada.

<b><u>AREZZO OR BUST!</b></u>
We see the sign for <b>Arezzo</b>. We know we’re in for a long haul down to Montepulciano just at the moment DH suggests it, I am feeling the same. “Why don’t we go to Arezzo today?” Yes, I’ll miss the garden tour at La Foce, but according to schedule it would be quite rushed. We’d have to find a place to eat first and then head to the tour and then to Montepulciano. Not a big deal if we had started out a few hours earlier. We knew that it would probably be a repeat of yesterday where we slighted the town of Montalcino and didn’t get to fully enjoy her.

Done deal, we take the off ramp and we’re just moments away. Cool! On the way there, I see a large store called simply “Home”. I recall a number of pieces that were in our Sogna cottage that I liked and they had a “Home” label on them. So, we stop. It actually isn’t the same brand, but we spend a half hour or so browsing some of the Italian home design items.

Back in the car and back on track. So, we get there quite quickly (and easily). It kinda reminds me of my thoughts when we went to Siena. A somewhat large industrial city that smack dab in the middle is the “historical center”. We easily find a place to park on the more modern part of town that had meters. No confusion here as far as figuring out signs to ascertain whether or not it’s restricted. We go to the nearest meter machine, get a ticket and place it on our dash. Then….we’re off.

We walk towards what we think in the historical center and easily find it. The town is nearly deserted. Yes, (as usual) it’s that time of day…the time of day that we always find ourselves arriving at a hilltown….during the afternoon “nap break” and of course, we are starving. There is a bonus about arriving during the break and also when it’s cold…..there are hardly any tourist crowds to deal with.

Since we didn’t do our homework and Arezzo was a last minute choice, we have to wing it on finding a place to eat. We scored on finding the Trattoria Fonte Giusta in Siena, so we’re hopeful that we’d do the same in Arezzo. However, on our stroll, we come across just a few eating places….none of which appeal to us. So, we keep moving along until we stumble across…...

<b>Next….another fabulous local’s joint in Arezzo!</b>
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Old Nov 16th, 2009, 08:15 AM
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hi a/s

ooh, those posts! I'm sure they do it deliberately.

i know what you mean about not taking the extra insurance - on our trip to Iceland i only realised after we'd picked up the car why they offered special insurance to cover damage to the underneath of the chassis! we were soooo lucky to get away with it.

looking forward to [your] lunch in Arezzo,

regards, ann
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Old Nov 17th, 2009, 04:24 AM
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adventureseeker,

I believe you have quite a following !!! and to think this is on your 2007 trip and LUCKY FOR US, you still have to give us your 2009 report !!!

will you use this thread to write about your 2009 trip??
i dont want to miss the 2009 version, once the 2007 is complete
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Old Nov 17th, 2009, 08:08 AM
  #330  
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Greekgazoo,

2009 report will be a brand new thread.

I am shocked this one has not yet run out of space. Luckily (and sadly), I only have a few more days left to write on this one. Subconsciously, maybe I didn't want it to end???

A/S
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Old Nov 17th, 2009, 08:50 AM
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I'm sitting here again...at lunch and awaiting your report about lunch in Arezzo.
Can't wait for the 2009 trip diary.
SG-
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Old Nov 17th, 2009, 09:20 AM
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<b>TUSCANY-Day 4

Part 15 (October 24, 2007)

Day 15 (cont’d)

<u>ANOTHER FABULOUS LOCAL’S JOINT</b>
Where is everybody? The areas of town we’re explored are pretty empty. We’re getting hungrier by the minute. This is no time to be picky or selective as it is also cold. DH is ready to throw in the towel and just go to the next open place that serves food and eat. But, I keep forging on. Forging on to find that perfect Tuscan local’s joint. We turn a couple corners and go down an alley and BINGO! We stumble across <b>Osteria dei Mercanti</b>. This place is crowded, noisy, warm, and smells heavenly. All the right elements for a perfect Tuscan meal. So, this is where everyone is at! I smile at DH. A smile that says, “See, just trust me”. (note: “Just trust me” is a phrase I say repeatedly that DH hates….probably because he knows I’m right? Hee hee).

I spy the “Specials” board and it is definitely Porcini day at dei Mercanti. A few dishes are (sadly) crossed off….one of which would have been my choice: Porcini risotto. As we sit and peel off our layers of scarves, coats, etc., happy and satisfied locals depart. We order a ½ liter of vino della casa (good) for myself and DH gets a Birra Rossa (the grande bottle). We’re happy campers. We order up a couple Insalata Mistas, bruschetta, and since it’s all about Porcini, we order up Porcini ravioli, Porcini cream sauce with pasta, and round it all out with a Porcini Pizza (the server says that Pizza is their specialty). Yes, a feast, but we truly earned this meal. And we wiped our plates clean. This was a wonderfully delectable feast at a reasonable price of 38.90E. http://www.osteriadeimercanti.com/

<b><u>ANTIQUE LOVERS PARADISE</b></u>
We, too, are happy and satisfied as we roll out of Osteria dei Mercanti. We continue walking towards the main area of the historical center. It is nearing the latter part of “nap time” and the town becomes more lively. Along the way we recognize some of the landmarks/buildings from the movie, “Life is Beautiful”. There are also signs posted here and there with photos of the movie showing scenes where the filming took place. I would have hoped to be here on a Sunday when the town transforms into a huge antique festival. I'm sure that DH is secretly happy that we are NOT here on a Sunday. He knows me too well, there would be way too many treasures that I couldn't "live without".

It was very relevant that this was an antique lover’s paradise as we came to the area in town which is lined with wonderful antique shops. Many of which were still closed, we were able to peek through windows. We perused many of the open shops. This was turning into a treasure of a day….and so close to home!

DH and I both agreed that there was a lot of pride in this town. It was very clean and well taken care of. We can across the lovely Piazza Grande which is unmistakably the main square in “Life is Beautiful”. The buildings that line the Piazza are so charming it is no wonder this place was the chosen one for the movie.

We were loving the fact that this town was very quiet with few cars whizzing through. Down one alley, we both spied a very inviting shop named <b>Antica Bottega Toscana</b>. This one kept calling to us, so we answered. It was a small charming Tuscan specialty shop with artisan cheeses, meats, oils, pastas, wine, etc. Everything was styled and presented artfully in baskets, display cases, etc. Even the friendly lady working the counter was “dressed the part”. Needless to say, we loaded up here. We bought dried beans and 2 very thick wheels of differing aged Pecorino cheeses all shrink wrapped for the journey home. And other stuff that didn’t make the journey home…extra large artisan dark chocolate bar with nuts (this one didn't even make it to the car), a couple bottles of Rosso di Montalcino, and pasta. So, although we didn’t find any fun antique treasures, we didn’t go home empty handed! http://www.anticabottegatoscana.it/

<b><u>HOME SWEET HOME</b></u>
We spent a couple more hours hanging out in Arezzo before calling it a day. We thoroughly enjoyed our day here very much. It was a nice respite from the hustle-and-bustle of other very popular (hence busy) hilltowns. And....it was equally nice to be able to be back at the cottage early. Since we had a feast for a late lunch, we just nibbled and opened up one of our bottles of wines. We called it an early evening tonight. There were still two days left to explore in Tuscany. It was already decided that those would be Pienza and Montepulciano.

<b>Next….Bosco della Ragnaia (artist’s interpretive garden), Sant’Anna Camprena Monastery, and the picturesque town of Pienza!
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Old Nov 17th, 2009, 09:44 AM
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grucci, I hope you're having Porcini for lunch!

Thx for stopping by......
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Old Nov 18th, 2009, 08:40 PM
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We stayed in Pienza! I'll look forward to reading about it.
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Old Nov 19th, 2009, 06:31 PM
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Hi Adventure Seeker
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your romantic and adventurous trip to Italy with your DH. Your words and photographs have taken me to Italy, they have made me smile and laugh and be sad. I agree with flymeaway on Jun 9, "you are as talented with photography as you are with writing". I have just finished reading "See Naples and Die. The crimes and passions of Italy's darkest jewel" by Penelope Green. While I found her story informative and interesting, your "19 day glorious october", was far more exciting than her year in Naples. No offense meant to Penelope. Thank you for sharing it.
I accidently (or maybe it was meant to be) stumbled on to your review while looking up possible holiday destinations for my DH and I, on what will be our first holiday without our 4 children. Italy was a possible destination but your story has convinced me its the only destination for us. You and other Fodor's member's comments have inspired me to plan and I'm hoping that you'll all offer some suggestions.
We can be away for around 4 weeks, either April/May or August/September. We have a budget of around 600 euro p/d.Neither of us has seen any of Europe
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Old Nov 20th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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Wongale...Thank you for making my day.

There are so many possibilities with 4 weeks! You are SO lucky. We've done Italy twice in October and loved the Autumn climate and less crowds. However, I would love to see Tuscany, especially in Spring. I'm sure you're aware that the week before/after Easter are very crowded. And not sure if the Italians still are following the August holiday rule where they all go on holiday and close up shop. Another consideration is that many places may already be booked in April/May since it is so close.

As far as your itinerary, I'd love to help you where I can. There are many experienced travelers on this site that would be better at advising a 4 week itinerary (whether starting N to S or going S to N). Once that gets pinned down, I'd love to help you plug in places to stay, things to do, etc.

One thing I'd do if I were planning a long trip is to check out local festivals, events that I would like to see and start planning the trip around those specific dates. (If you're a music lover, you may want to be in Verona during concert season; if you're an opera lover, in Milan to experience La Scala; if you're a food lover....well the possibilites are endless. Then there are many harvests: olive, wine, truffle, etc. that I've always wanted to partake of...but, it didn't fit into our timing/itinerary.)

The other thing that helped us in narrowing down our 3 week trip was we wanted a bit of everything. We chose our "city": Florence (over Rome which seemed to be too overwhelming for 3 days plus it was more South); we chose "romantic and magical": Venice; we chose "country": Tuscany; and we chose "coastal": Cinque Terre. Of course, you can plug in other options: Amalfi (coastal), Rome (city), and Umbria (country) depending if you wanted to do the Southern route. I have to say that the BEST thing we ever did was start our trip in Venice. We came off of a 9 hour time change, 15 hr or so flight and gliding into Venice (with no city traffic, sirens, cars) was truly...La Serenissima! It was the best intro into Europe and to beat jet lag!

I've said it before...."A trip to Italy will change your life...if you let it".

I look forward to helping you......

Ciao for now!
A/S
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Old Nov 20th, 2009, 08:02 AM
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Old Nov 21st, 2009, 11:49 AM
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<b>TUSCANY-Day 4

Part 16 (October 25, 2007)

Day 16

<u>WHILE VISIONS OF PIENZA DANCED IN MY HEAD</b></u>
From the moment I discovered them on Fodor’s boards, I had <u>every</u> intention of doing one of Stu Dudley’s recommended drives through the Tuscan Countryside. This one was the one that gave you differing perspectives at various times of day. I resolved to the fact that this wasn’t in the cards and would have to (sadly) wait until our next trip when we were stationed in the right locale (specifically the Val D’Orcia region) so we could get an early start.

I ponder that although we’ve had the luxury of spending 7 days in Tuscany, we only have 2 days left and still so many places we haven’t explored. Volterra, San Gimgnano, Chianti, Radda, Cortona, to name a few will have to (sadly) wait until next time. Many travelers are able to knock off 2 hilltowns in a day. I can’t imagine that being in the cards for us, but I suppose if you get an early start, anything is possible. Morning in one town, drive during “siesta” time and then spend the afternoon/evening in another. That seems doable.

Obviously, it has been a (recent) normal routine for us to get a late start. We were enjoying the comforts of a lovely stone cottage to pull ourselves away from it any earlier than expected. And…the chilly Autumn weather didn’t help. All we wanted to do was sit in front of a warm fire and just be. Well, today was surprisingly out of routine. I got up at 7am. Shocking. I looked outside and saw that it had rained overnight. There were scattered gray clouds in the sky, but it looked as if it were done raining. DH stirred and got up just after me. After a quickie fruit/yogurt breakfast and a shower, we were out the door. A record (for us) at 9:30am.

<b><u>BOSCO DELLA RAGNAIA OR BUST!</b></u>
From the Fodor’s forum, a Fodorite mentioned this gem of a garden smack dab in
The middle of a forest near S. Giovanni d’Asso in the Crete Sensei region and is close to the Monte Oliveto Abbazia. Since we skipped La Foce’s garden tour yesterday, this one made our list for the day. It was on the route we chose to take to Pienza. The <b>Bosco della Ragnaia</b> is an artist’s interpretive garden that is the vision of American Artist Sheppard Craige. He designed and created this masterpiece which includes works of art from other artists as well. It is free and worth a visit. We were the only ones there at the time of our visit. We spent an inspirational hour here enjoying sculptures and statues weaved through a tapestry of gardens and canopies of old trees. It was a peaceful sanctuary that had an eclectic blend of art meets nature. http://www.laragnaia.com/

<b><u>ON THE ROAD AGAIN TO SANT’ANNA CAMPRENA MONASTERY </b></u>We’re back on track and as we continue on our way, we are passing through some not-so-popular, yet gorgeous hill towns. Take your pick! The scenery all around abounds with lovely photo op’s as the hills are dotted with villas and sheep. Yes, we’re back in Pecorino country! We saw our next stop in the distance-<b>Sant’Anna Camprena Monastery</b> which is the location of the filming of “The English Patient”</b>. Our Tuscany trip is somehow turning into a tour of movie sets! The Monastery was perched high on a hill and the winding road to get to it was lovely. Once again, our timing isn’t the best. As we drove down the narrow gravel road lined with cypress trees to the Monastery, it too, was deserted. You guessed it…we’ve arrived during closing. We enjoy touring the grounds and recognized scenes from the movie. A curious white cat seems intrigued by DH and follows him around like a shadow. The Monastery is surrounded by lovely landscape in the shallow valleys below. There is a lovely, almost unkempt cemetery on the grounds. We poke our way around and are not really bothered that it is eerily deserted or closed. Old brick and stone walls are in need of repair and TLC, but quite honestly, it actually adds to the allure of the place and we find ourselves appreciating its age. Although no one is here, we don’t hesitate to pull doors to hopefully find one unlocked so we can explore inside. But, no cigar....this place is buttoned up. We spend 45 minutes or so here enjoying the beauty and solitude. http://www.camprena.it/

<b><u>THE MOST PICTURESQUE HILLTOWN OF ALL….PIENZA!</b></u>
Naturally, we arrive at <b>Pienza</b> hungry. We easily find a place to park in a well marked parking lot outside the village. As we walk into the town, we are instantly charmed. This small hilltown is simply lovely and picturesque. It feels as if there were a master plan in the design and elements. There are charming stone/brick arches and alleys, …just where they should be. There is a gorgeous clock tower rising above, …just where it should be. There is a curved row of beautifully lined up buildings w/ wrought iron arches, shutters, vines growing up the walls, …just as it should be. Not only is it eye candy, but it was scrubbed clean. …and nothing is out of place. As we wander the exquisite alleys and narrow passageways, we keep our eyes (and noses) open for a place to eat. Then I remember that I have my “list” for Pienza. My research list is the one that I have “cut and paste” from my fave recommendations from Fodor’s forums and from other articles on the internet. Some that are on the “list”:

<i>(cut and paste from my Pienza list)…..</i>
* If anyone would like a small detour after leaving Pienza turn right at the famous farmhouse of calenders. Drive for about 2 miles and you reach the church of Santa Anna in Camprena (set of the English Patient).
*The classic shot of the capella in the field that is in every Tuscany coffee table book. It is on the south side of S146 between Pienza and San Quirico---about 2 miles outside Pienza.
*Restaurant: *Il Pino, (inside the Porta San Matteo) (highly recommended by 3). It’s like dining in a charming stone cellar with amazing local Tuscan food.
*One of the best meals of the trip at Latte di Luna. Even on Monday in January the place was full and we were very happy that we had booked a table that morning. I began with their justly famed fettucine lavished with black truffles. An amazing bargain for that quality of food. This is a very casual place with friendly service and I only wish it were closer to my own home!! Highly recommended.
So, we just needed to eat and then see the Capella and my list will be completely checked off. The choices being Il Pino or Latte di Luna for lunch. The idea of Il Pino sounded great. Not only recommended by 3 (which I duly noted for their very descriptive account of their meals/experience), but the thought of “dining in a charming stone cellar with amazing local Tuscan food” sounded real good. And I recall what sold me on this place was that it was one which travelers highly recommended that wasn’t splashed all over the guidebooks. The word-of-mouth was appealing to me. So we were on a mission. We needed to find this “Porta San Matteo”. We passed Latte di Luna and spied their wonderful daily menu. The place was small yet packed. We were so tempted to give in, but were on a mission for Il Pino. There is hardly anyone around (can you guess what time it is?). I don’t recall a “Porta” anywhere around Pienza. Hmmm….. We see a delivery guy who we presume knows all the businesses in the village. Thankfully, he spoke some English and I also showed him my list. He looked perplexed and didn’t know where Il Pino was. Hmmm…. We made one more loop around the confines of the town and then ended up back at <b>Latte di Luna</b> where temptation won out.

<i>(back at the cottage, I pulled out my notes to discover that <u>Il Pino is located in San Gimagnano</u>. Oh well, I “cut and paste” to the wrong hilltown!) </i>

<b>Next……a fantastic meal at legendary Latte di Luna!
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Old Nov 21st, 2009, 12:40 PM
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salivating again...
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Old Nov 21st, 2009, 12:46 PM
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In September, DH & I stayed in Pienza for four nights & we loved it!!! I am picturing this pretty town in my mind as I read your vivid descriptions! We had two dinners at Latte di Luna. Can't wait to hear about your dining experience there!

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