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Italy in the springtime, tra la - and what an excellent adventure it was.

Italy in the springtime, tra la - and what an excellent adventure it was.

May 15th, 2006, 02:40 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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I am enjoying your report and looking forward to the next installment. We are contemplating time in Siena next year and I had been giving Palazzo Ravissa serious consideration so it is great to hear your impression of it.
bat is offline  
May 15th, 2006, 03:52 PM
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I cannot speak highly enough of the Palazzo Ravissa. Of the two hotels we stayed in in Siena, this is the one my husband would return to, altho I could go either way. More on the other one follows when I get there later.
Make sure you ask for a view - while more the higher tab IMHO.
socaltraveler is online now  
May 15th, 2006, 05:52 PM
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In Oct 2000 my friend & I stayed at the Doria Park. We still talk about that gorgeous place. We too had trouble finding it. We also wandered into Il Pescatore & had the same experience - awaiting the menu while the fish kept arriving. Unforgettable. Took the ferry to Vernazza & the train back. Can't wait to go again some day.
cobbie is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 11:24 AM
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thanks for the advice socaltraveler.
bat is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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Socaltraveler, i'm also from So Cal and have a daughter Rachel (getting married). You will understand my question: If we ate at Il Pescatore, would there be any way to have the dinner WITHOUT shellfish? enjoying your report -- we're off to northern italy including CT in June.
alison is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 12:08 PM
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I understand your question, but I'm not sure how to answer. Our Rachel speaks Italian and I think you would need to be able to do that to make sure you were understood - it's a very small place but we didn't have a lot of conversation. You could have someone write out your question in Italian before leaving home and bring it with you; the slowtrav board does have an Italian language forum.
With my sub-basic Italian, I like to keep it simple. If I did not want to be served shellfish by mistake, I would probably pick a place with a menu.
Have a great trip!
socaltraveler is online now  
May 16th, 2006, 06:18 PM
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I'm really enjoying this trip report, especially since our daughter was in Siena at this time last year. Is Rachael with the AHA program? Erin loved it--was there for 6 months also, and I have to tell you, it's been difficult at times for her being back in the U.S. She's going to Israel this summer (with Birthright) and will probably go on to Greence and Italy--if not this summer--the next year. Seems she's inherited her mum's travel genes!

artlover is offline  
May 16th, 2006, 06:24 PM
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We stayed at Palazzo Ravissa in Siena. It was gorgeous. Make sure you get a room overlooking the hills as the ones fronting the road are not the same at all - still beautiful rooms but without the view and those pesky Vespas go non stop all night every night.
salthegal is offline  
May 17th, 2006, 09:53 AM
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I remember your daughter's Siena stay and getting some good advice from your travel notes.
Rachel was in Siena with the University of California's Education Abroad Program; she returns to her senior year at UC Santa Cruz. Her roommate will be a friend who has spent this school year in Cairo; I think both of them will have withdrawal.
Rachel is still in Europe, traveling since we left her in Italy. She has been to Greece and Egypt, is currently in Spain, with plans to go to Scotland, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris before her flight home from Paris on June 1. We at home all envy her, of course.
socaltraveler is online now  
May 17th, 2006, 11:11 AM
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Day 5 - and we drive and we drive . . .

Easter Sunday start with the church bells singing outside our Lerici window.
This is vacation, after all, so we return to the Doria Park's excellent breafast room and are lucky enough to get a table by the windows. What to do today is the topic. David, Rachel and I pretty much agree that we do not need to return to the Cinque Terre.

Rachel would like to see Portofino. David and I were there in 2000, and Rachel's sister visited a few years later, Rachel wants to go but her father really does not want to. It's a holiday, and the weather is good - we talk him into the drive.

Negotiating out of the hotel's teeny parking lot, we realize how close we were to finding it a few days later, realize we may not need breadcrumbs when we return. If only the rest of the day was to be that easy.

Now we're heading north on the highway -
Rachel is amazed by the tunnels. Whoops, somehow we miss the turnoff and now we're almost in Genoa. Circle back, follow signs to Santa Margherita Ligure, the views are spectacular as we wind down the hillside. And views are all we get - there is major traffic (Easter, no surprise, I guess) and politzia blocking the road that leads to Portofino. We really can't see ahead and when one car passes us and is let through up ahead, David decides (against our advice)that he can do the same. Wrong and we are turned around, decide the line is just too long and so, Portofino does not happen.

Next plan, drive back along coastal roads insofar as it is possible, and go to Tellaro, the fishing village just below Lerici. We have heard good things about it and think that perhaps we can have lunch there.

Well, we do find Tellaro and it is really lovely. And it is crowded with Italian families enjoying Easter Sunday. We do find a parking spot and walk down the road past the villas, into the village proper, passing some very nice restaurants on the way. The village is quiet and we take some nice pictures, but when we stop by the restaurants, we find that it being Easter, they are either full or have stopped serving lunch. Denied again - hope I have mentioned that the weather is nice and the views spectacular?

Serious pangs of denial and hunger have set in. We know it's late for lunch and we decide to return to Lerici, where we do have a parking spot at our hotel, and figure that perhaps a snack at a cafe on the harbor will tide us over until dinner.

And that's what happens. We walk down to the harbor and after checking a few bar menus, select one that a) has a great water view and b) serves not only paninis but has pasta for David. Rachel and I decided to share two different paninis, David orders pasta and it gets even better with a bottle of Prosecco. We sit there by the harbor for awhile, savoring the Easter afternoon and watching the families on holiday doing the passagiata around the square and down and around the harbor path.

When our bottle is empty, we join the families and take a passagiata stroll ourselves - more great photo ops as well. We also check out a few restaurants and make a reservation for dinner - not taking any more Easter chances.

When we are done strolling, David and Rachel decide to hike up to the fortress overlooking Lerici harbor. I have had enough hiking and head back to the hotel. On the way, I notice a large crowd in the piazza and stop to see a magician entertaining children and parents alike. I join the nonnas on the bench for a few minutes.

David and Rachel are not far behind me; the fortress is closed. Somehow it is fitting with our day. We are really looking forward to dinner.

We dine at 8, a small place off the main square, whose name has disappeared from my notes. We have pastas to start, house wine, and I remember I have grilled fish. The server asks if I want the fish de-boned and I feel rather touristy when I realize the children of the Italian family at the next table is expertly de-boning the same fish. Again, it's nice to realize that we are in the midst of families on holiday, and that we may be the only Americans in the place.

Full of food and wine, we walk up hill to the Doria Park, well aware that we leave in the morning. Later Rachel's e-mail to her friends at home will invite them to visit her someday in the house she hopes her father will buy her in Lerici. I tell her to get in line, but it is a lovely thought.

Next - David gets to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa . . .
socaltraveler is online now  
May 20th, 2006, 01:24 PM
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I'm loving this. Can't wait to hear about David and the tower of Pias. Just might have to tell you about what happened to us when we tried to drive there!

Yes, how great that Rachel is still travelling, but also, isn't it great that it's so easy to keep in touch with her?
artlover is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 11:30 AM
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Day 6 - Good-bye Lerici, Hello Pisa

When we were in Italy in 2000, we visited Pisa but the tower was closed to visitors. David is excited that on this trip he'll finally get inside.

A last breakfast in lovely Lerici and I make David take a picture of the blood orange juice squeezing machine. The sherpa daughter helps lug suitcases back up the steps and we're off to Pisa. It's Easter Monday, still a holiday and we expect crowds no matter where today.

We arrive in Pisa, find parking and stroll to the Tower. Yes, still leaning and as I look up, I remember my joint fears of heights and enclosed spaces. David and Rachel go off to tower climb, I buy postcards and a cappucino. Later, they'll tell me that they saw me from the top. It's a win-win all around.

After tower viewing, we decide to drive to Volterra for lunch as it's kinda sorta on the way back to Siena. It kinda sorta was, tho we take back roads and sometimes think we're in the lost place again - a springtime drive in the countryside is never a bad thing.

And then Volterra appears, high up the hillside. We approach it and realize the parking situation is dire, so we get in a small line for a garage which turned out to be a good thing and we soon have a space. We're hungry and decide to pop into the first place that looks good. Turns out to be the second or third because it's very crowded in Volterra on Easter Monday. Also turns out the restaurant is in our guidebook, something Rachel notices later.

Happy for a table, we order pastas and salads, along with a bottle of the local white wine. We're surprised when they bring everything at once, especially since it's a very small table, but perhaps it's just the end of a long holiday afternoon. Food is good, not great and we move on.

We basically stroll around Volterra for a few hours, do a little shopping in one of the alabaster shops, watch the families in the large park at the top of the town. We do get a little too close to the gates of the fortress turned state prison and the guard gives a warning look from the top. It's enough and we decide to reclaim the car and return to Siena.

David and I are spending another night at the Palazzo Ravissa; we check in and they give us the lovely #14 again. We decide to walk around Siena; Rachel wants to show us the enoteca that she has visited and we have read about. I want to have dinner at La Torre since I have read many wonderful reviews.

We find La Torre and make a reservation for later and then head off for the enoteca. The enoteca does look lovely but they close early on Mondays and we decided the week is young. Rachel is up for some shopping and we leave David with his new desire to write travel notes. I get to wander through the grocery store first (this and breakfast rooms are fun for me) since I love to compare what's on Italian market shelves to those at home. Then we do some shoe shopping; Rachel buys a pair of summer sandals.

We retrieve David and head for La Torre.
It's a wonderful meal; the owner greets us and explains our choices for the evening. The fresh pastas are drying on the table in front of the open kitchen. We make choices, order a liter of house wine; it comes in a 2 liter bottle and we do some real damage to it before the evening ends. We all have different pastas but agree that my ravioli in butter and sage is the best. David tries to order the steak well-done (he did get away with that in Florence last summer) but this chef will have none of it and does a hugely funny pantomine of what a steak becomes if not cooked rare. We're grateful that Rachel can translate, and David has osso buco instead. It's all delicious, we end with desserts of fresh strawberries and tiramisu - the bill for the 3 of us(for primis, secondis, sides of vegetables, desserts and wine) comes to all of 75 euros. An amazing meal.

Tired, happy and very full we walk back to the Palazzo Ravissa. We put Rachel in a cab to her host family and fall into bed ourselves.

Tomorrow - Chianti, Greve, Lamole - a beautiful day in Classico country . . .
socaltraveler is online now  
May 22nd, 2006, 11:36 AM
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I can't wait to hear more!
michellen is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 12:39 PM
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What a fabulous trip report!! I can't wait to hear the rest!
TexasAggie is offline  
May 22nd, 2006, 12:57 PM
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Very descriptive and informative. We're just starting to think about a trip to Italy next spring and your trip report has inspired me. Thanks!
gailw is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 09:07 AM
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continuing to enjoy your report.
bat is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 10:07 AM
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Great report - it's making me think of things I want to do next year!
Thanks for sharing and keep it coming,

Brahmama is offline  
May 23rd, 2006, 11:32 AM
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Day 7 - A day in Chianti

Rachel does not have class until the late afternoon so we have planned a trip outside Siena to Chiantishire. First, tho, David and I have a final breakfast overlooking the Palazzo Ravissa gardens and back to move our bags to our new lodgings for the remainder of the week: the Borgo Grondaie outside the city walls.

side note on the Borgo Grondaie - it's a hotel/apartments place set on lovely grounds near the train station. Actually it's behind the train station and the Coop market, but once on the grounds you wouldn't know you were near either. We stayed in the hotel part, had a large room with modern bathroom and view of the gardens. Their gardens are nicely landscaped and the grounds include a wine cellar, handsome breakfast room with internet access.

We pick up Rachel and she helps us move our bags to the new place. And we're off again, on the road to Florence, looking for the turnoff to Greve in Chianti. Which somehow we miss. And then I realize that the nice thing about being "back" in Chianti (after trips in in 2000 and 2005) is that we actually know where we are, sort of, and can probably find our way to Greve. Which we do.

Now I get to say that Greve is one of my favorite places in all of Italy; a chance to return on this trip is a real pleasure. We are not going to wineries today, but we are going to shop and eat and hopefully find the enoteca in Greve that has the automated wintetasting carrels.

Of course, knowing that this is our country day outing day, the weather gods have decided to toy with us and when we park in the square in Greve, it starts to rain lightly. No matter, I set out to find my favorite pottery shop, Geometrie, which we find has moved to a slightly larger shop across the square. While sometimes I think I could just buy so much and ship it home, my new theory is that on each trip I will buy a few pieces and this will guarantee a return trip. Today I pick out a small platter and pitcher while Rachel also chooses a few items, knowing her parents the sherpas will be carrying back her breakables at the end of the week. We visit the official black rooster store, buy some grappa glasses for our son and walk around the square, window shopping. David has gone in search of the enoteca and comes back to tell us to meet him there.

When we are done shopping, Rachel and I join David at the enoteca. I had read about this last summer and yet we had not gone there when we were last in Greve in July. It's a fascinating concept, a very large cellar with hundreds of wines to taste, but what you do is buy a card, a wine debit card we called it, with oh, maybe 20 euros loaded on it. Then you take it to the wine carrels, each having maybe 20 different wines to taste, insert the card, press the button for the wine you wish to taste and out comes the taste into your glass. High-tech wine tasting at it's finest. The cost for tastes ranged from cents to maybe 3-4 euros per taste. We could have spent a long while there, I'm sure, but lunch in Lamole was waiting. Some year we are simply have to return to Greve for the September wine festival.

Last summer while wine tasting at Volpaia, we were told by fellow winetasters that we should have lunch at the Ristoro di Lamole. Having other plans for that day, it did not happen but I made a mental note to do this on our next trip. So, reservation made, we were off to find Lamole.

After a short trip around some roads and after driving past the turnoff only once, we found ourselves at the Ristoro di Lamole. While it may not have been our finest meal in Italy, we all agree that it was the most elegantly prepared and served. We are able to sit on the patio, but the inclement weather has the patio sheathed in plastic. The views through the plastic of the hills and vineyards is still exquisite and we have the treat of listening to raindrops overhead. We have primis of pastas, mine with truffles and Rachel actually is having a lovely concoction of eggplant terrine. The wine flows, the secundis arrive, and our charming waiter asks, in English, "who has the bunny?" OK, fine, I've ordered the rabbit dish, something I rarely do at home, but when in Italy. He made me laugh and yes, it was excellent.

After lunch, he brings us a complimentary limoncello and leave the bottle on the table. He says we should stay for the sunset, and if Rachel had not had class to attend back in Siena, we might still be there today. Note to self - return some summer evening for dinner and the sunset in Lamole.

We return Rachel to Siena, and go back to the Borgo Grondaie to actually move into our room. And then back to Siena to wait for the end of Rachel's class.
When we meet up again, we do another stroll through Siena, take some more pictures, do some more window shopping.
Since we have had a large lunch in Lamole, we decide to look for pizza and pick a place at the edge of the Campo, Ristorante Spadaforte. The menu outside looks good and while it would have been nice to sit on the Campo, the weather is still damp. Inside Rachel and I order pizzas to share, David has pasta and we also have a few insalatas. House red all around does not hurt. Bill for all of this is 49 euros.

We need to find the car and and then negotiate another gate, to find Rachel's house and the Borgo Grondaie. David is becoming quite the Siena driving expert. A few turns past the Coop and there we are, the end of another lovely day in Tuscany.

Next - The bells and towers of San Gimignano . . .
socaltraveler is online now  
May 23rd, 2006, 11:43 AM
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Brahmama (Carol),
I've been following your olive oil/ luggage adventures on the other board - so glad you were all reunited.
I know how you feel about making the jump into actually writing up your notes. I have not yet done our adventures of last July; this is my maiden voyage and hopefully, when this is all finished, I can put something together for slowtrav as well. At least that's my plan.

socaltraveler is online now  
May 23rd, 2006, 02:48 PM
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Just had lunch at Ristoro di Lamole last week. What great food and a fine view--we loved it as well. Still enjoying our trip . . .
ellenem is offline  

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