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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 21st, 2009, 03:49 PM
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<i> This is the <b>EXACT</b> same post as listed above. It's very confusing since it does NOT have the right spacing and I hit the "submit" button instead of "preview". I have thus reposted with the proper spacing to make it easier to read/understand). Sorry!</i>

<b>
***RE-POST***
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 every 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”. 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”:

(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.</i>

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 Latte di Luna where temptation won out.

<i>(back at the cottage, I pulled out my notes to discover that Il Pino is located in San Gimagnano. 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 22nd, 2009, 07:30 AM
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thanks for reposting, a/seeker - beyond the call of duty but appreciated none the less.
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:41 PM
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annhig, you are my most devoted!

Yes, I did a re-post since I try so hard not to be misunderstood (ha!). I cringe when I see mispelled words, improper grammer, etc. in my posts once submitted. And I know there are many!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 06:43 PM
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Case in point....should be GRAMMAR!

I'm getting way too "submit" button happy......
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Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 08:36 PM
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Adventureseeker-I cannot tell you how much I have been enjoying your report & especially putting the web sites for restaurants & hotels in. My husband & I have been to Italy twice & CT is on my bucket list.
I loved your writing about your BFF. In May 2003 we met a couple from England(My husband & I are from the Bay Area) we have met up with them in Rome-Las Vegas-we were going to meet up in Turkey but the English press advised themnot to(Husband surprized us In Paris) We met them last year in Madeira and next year we plan to meet up in Egypt.
You should be writing and publishing_ could not stop reading.
I dont want to loose this report & information Thank you Thank you Thank you Chris
PS I mean to write journals-do 1-2 days & get so immersed in a holiday I quit. I admire you
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Old Nov 23rd, 2009, 04:33 AM
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Adventureseeker

DH & I had lunch at Latte di Luna last year and it was one of the best meals we had that trip. It was a perfect day with warm sunshine - we ate outside and had wine, truffles with pasta, roast pork, white beans, cheese - all delicious. I hope you are glad to have eaten there. Pienza was one of our favorite towns - loved the Pecorino cheese! Can't wait to read your next chapter!
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Old Nov 23rd, 2009, 07:59 AM
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BeniciaChris...Grazie for your gracious comments. I love that your travel BFF's have become future travel partners!

We still keep in touch w/ our beloved M & B. Naturally, we couldn't imagine Cinque Terre without them, so we invited them on our recent trip. And...they would've been there in a heartbeat had they not had travel plans to Florida at the same time.

On our trip to Zihuatanejo, Mexico last year, we met another BFF couple (from Seattle, WA) that we instantly clicked with and spent the entire rest of our trip with. Since they live closer, we've seen them a few times since and hope to plan another journey together soon. They, too, have become kindreds.

Ahhh, there is something so wonderful about travel...when you are not only open to new experiences, but to new friendships as well.

Re: Journals. If you could only see my "journal" from this trip. It's a collaboration of pages of chicken scratch and notes stuffed within a notebook. Some of which is just one word: a sight, a scent, a feeling. That and sometimes a peek at my photos is all I need to take me back and write a paragraph. It's embedded in my memory. For this trip, a girlfriend gave me a lovely journal which I dared to write a couple pages in, but I'm not known for my penmanship! The thoughts just spill out of me (all the time, faster than I can write!), so I couldn't ruin my pretty book. I aspire to someday take my time and write ever so carefully in it....copying this lengthly piece word-for-word.

Luckily, our most recent trip was very well organized/documented in the journal department. I brought a very "non-pretty" black and white Composition notebook. It did the trick and everything is duly noted in one place and most importantly...in order! I can't wait to share....

Bab706...I can taste the meal right now. Lucky you to be able to sit outdoors with charming Pienza as the backdrop.
Oh, yes...and the Pecorino cheese! Mamma mia!

Happy travels,
A/S
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Old Nov 23rd, 2009, 09:37 PM
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Adventurseeker-We must have same likes. My husband |& I went to Zihu this year-our 3rd trip. We leave Friday to go to Cozumel-Playa & Cancun for 3 weeks.I think you mentioned you were originally from Hawaii?? We love it-we were married there 27 years ago-Went back to Kauai & the Big Island for our 20th. Our 25th was in Bali. I think I love warm spots. YOu licked out with such georgous weather in October in Italy. I have found October can be an iffy month.
Also you live in Santa Barbara?? MY dad did his internship in Santa Barbara & I went to grades 1-3 there-then in 79 when I split up with my ex-I lives there again. It is a beautiful city-Happy Travels Chris
PS My daughter & granddaughter & family lives in Wash so I'm up there often
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Old Nov 24th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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BeniciaChris...Small world! We would've gone back to Zihua or traveled to Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya last month if it hadn't been for the health/security issues (something we had to not take lightly since we had our 8 year old with us). We would've loved to go south-of-the-border especially for that rate of exchange!

Plan B: Kauai or Maui and then hop over to Oahu to visit with family, but the airfares started to climb up to $600+ per person (shocking for late October!). So that's when we booked Italy.

And another kismet.....my Dad's family is from Spokane and Colfax, Washington. Yours too?

Have a fab time in Mexico! Hasta la vista....
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Old Nov 24th, 2009, 02:58 PM
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I don't know if you know with an alaska airlines credit card you can buy one plane ticket & a companion is 50 (They are increasing to 99) They are the only airlines I know that let you fly to Canada Mexico & Hawaii & use it.
I don't blame you re health issue-I checked with our travel nurse & she advised the H1N1 BUT they didn't have. I have my face masks-echenecea & airborne.
Both my parents were from Oregon-We did live in Wash when I was young. My daughter took my granddaughter about 4 years ago because they thought they could never aford a house in California. We took them to Disneyworld last year-My granddaughter loved it. I have put in a weeks trade with a timeshare Co for Mauai March 2011.
We are going to Egypt & Jordan next year for a month-this site is the best for travel info.
Counting the days till we fly south. The rate of exchange is why we decided to do Mexico this year . Thanks again for your report-Chris
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 09:46 PM
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Old Jul 16th, 2010, 04:26 AM
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 04:55 PM
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Amazing report, I have learned so much from you! Quick questions: is it safe to wander around Venice @ 6 am alone. I'm an early riser, but my husband is not, & I'd love to explore like you did. Also, I've checked the LO for the time we are planning June 2011. Rooms are over $300 a night. Ouch. We were hoping to pay between $150-175. Any other recommendations, or should I post that out to the forum? Thanks
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Old Jul 24th, 2010, 01:55 PM
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hi nfitz,

despite the best efforts of donna leon, Venice is renouned to be one of the safest places in Italy - there is no-where for the crooks to run to! When we visited in November a few years ago I was regularly up by 7am, and in June, by 6am it will be very bright, with lots of acitivity by the locals, [all the delivery and rubbish barges are around, for example] and wonderful light for photos.

if you are booking now, you should find plenty of availablity in your price-range. or have you thought of an apartment?

regards, ann
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 04:56 AM
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Old Jul 25th, 2010, 06:39 AM
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In some ways, I'm glad I missed this the first time around. DH and I fell in love the way you did with bella Italia. Such a luxury to have so many days there. More to come?
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Old Aug 15th, 2010, 03:33 PM
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Old Aug 31st, 2010, 11:12 AM
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Buon giorno...

It makes me glad to know that some are still finding info or joy in this report (as much as I have enjoyed sharing/reliving it). Someday I will finish....

Grazie mille all....
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Old Sep 8th, 2010, 03:26 PM
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Bookmarking also.
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 11:35 AM
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Just found trip report! thanks
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