Italy on the Cheap (Mostly), May 2015

Old Jun 17th, 2015, 01:35 PM
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>>>The piazza is part of an important scene in New Moon, but I'm happy to say that we saw no evidence of Twilight-related tourism in Volterra. I did notice one small poster in a shop, but that was all, thank goodness.>>the agriturismo where we were going to spend the night.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 01:54 PM
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Nice report and photos! I too really enjoyed Sorpasso. Quite a smart little place with excellent food and wines.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:04 PM
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kybourbon - I was just in Montepulciano in May and we didn't see anything Twilight-related! Maybe we just missed it, but it does seem like the height of the craze is over.
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:08 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report! We went to Rome, Naples and Capri this spring. Reading your report makes me want to go back even more than I already do! That is too bad about Mr. Pickle's camera

Going to look at your photos now!
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 02:24 PM
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Loved your photos! What a great view from your Siena hotel! Many of your photo captions made me LOL!
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Old Jun 17th, 2015, 03:07 PM
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>>kybourbon - I was just in Montepulciano in May and we didn't see anything Twilight-related! Maybe we just missed it, but it does seem like the height of the craze is over.
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Old Jun 19th, 2015, 01:55 PM
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Saturday, May 9th You Drive Me Right Round Baby Right Round a rental car round round right round...

We had a really delicious breakfast at the farm - their own eggs and proscuitto, plus breads, homemade jam, great coffee - packed up the car, and drove to Florence.

It was a nice drive until we got to the toll booth. We had read about what to do when we got to one, but Mr. Pickle couldn't figure out how to work it. He tried explaining to whoever came over the intercom, but pretty much all the guy could do was yell, "Ticket! Ticket! TICKET!!!" Eventually the gate went up and we drove through; as far as we can tell, we didn't have to pay anything.

When we rented the car, the GPS came up with a message saying some of the maps might be a year or so out of date. Unfortunately, one of these was the Hertz location in Florence. We'd programmed the GPS to take us to the airport location. Instead, we ended up in some neighborhood south of there.

Thankfully, people spoke enough English to help us get to the airport, but there was quite a bit of road construction nearby and it took us, all told, more than an hour to find Hertz's drop-off location.

This made us late getting to our apartment, but we made sure to communicate with our host so it wasn't a problem for them. We took a shuttle to Santa Maria Novella station, and the apartment, on Via delle Ruote, was just a few minutes' walk. We liked this apartment best of all the ones we stayed in, though the walls were pretty thin and it wasn't hard to hear the people next door.

We had reserved tickets for the Accademia, which is 10-15 minutes from our apartment. We were a little late, due to the whole rental car snafu. Mr. Pickle was worried that they wouldn't honor our reservation, but it wasn't a problem.

We spent some time in the musical instruments museum, and looked at some of the other paintings and sculptures, but the main attraction in this museum is Micheangelo's David. I think I mentioned this before, but it was such a thrill to see one of the iconic Renaissance sculptures up close. We spent quite a bit of time looking at it.

Mr. Pickle decided he wanted to see the rest of the museum, so I sat down and checked my email while he finished up.

Dinner was at a buffet-style restaurant near San Marco church. It seemed to be geared to university students, as the food was pretty cheap and not all that great, but we were hungry and it worked out OK. We stopped at the Carrefour Express by our apartment for some breakfast items and called it a night.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 19th, 2015, 06:42 PM
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Isn't the David a beautiful sight? Until I visited Italy, I was never a huge fan of sculpture, but David was a jaw dropping moment.
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Old Jun 24th, 2015, 06:50 PM
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I'd better work on finishing this before my July plans get in the way!

Sunday, May 10th Art and Science in Florence

I reserved 9:30 tickets for the Uffizi before we came to Italy. We overslept a bit and didn't get there until around 11:00. Again, we didn't have any problems getting in using the reserved tickets line, but this time we got a couple of "Really? All this art and you show up late?" looks from the museum staff.

We had downloaded Rick Steves' walking tours for the Uffizi and the Accademia. The latter tour worked fine, but the Uffizi tour kept freezing up, so it was unusable.

One could easily spend days here studying and enjoying so many masterpieces - Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo, was almost overwhelming, but still a wonderful experience.

By the time we finished, breakfast had worn off and we were pretty hungry. We'd had breakfast with an American couple at our agriturismo who told us about a great sandwich place near the Uffizi. They couldn't remember the name, but told us what street to look for. The shop is All'Antico Vinaio, and it was well worth the 20-minute wait in line. Flavorful, really fresh meats and toppings on warm bread (brought from their sit-down restaurant across the street) - utterly delicious and only five euros, plus two euros more if you want a glass of wine with your meal.

After lunch, we crossed the Ponte Vecchio and did a little window-shopping, but it was fairly hot and humid, so we didn't spend long on that side of the river. If we get to return, I'd like to take more time to look around.

So far, we hadn't managed to visit a Grom location, so that was a priority for us. I had their fabulous extra-dark chocolate and Sicilian cassata.

On our way back to the apartment, we passed the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, and had to stop and look around. This museum features reconstructions of many machines da Vinci designed. We'd watched a couple of TV specials about these machines a few years ago, so it was a lot of fun seeing - and in many cases, being allowed to play with - so many interesting creations.

We picked up dinner at the doner kebab shop down the street from our apartment, stopped at the grocery store for a couple of items, and enjoyed a quiet evening.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 27th, 2015, 02:27 PM
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Monday, May 11th Walking Around Florence

This morning we planned to take a walking tour of Florence. We needed more Euros, so Mr. Pickle went to find a branch of the bank we needed, while I waited for him by Santa Maria Novella church. Eventually, he showed up (not having found the bank), and we met the guides for the Florence Free Tour.

The guides split us into two smaller groups, and we were off. There is a map of the route on their website, for the curious, but we stopped at the Medici Palace, the Piazza della Repubblica, the Duomo, and several other sites before ending at Santa Croce church. It was a good tour; we enjoyed learning more detail about some of the sites we had walked past other days.

As we walked, I enjoyed seeing some interesting street art. I've just been reading about three of the artists - Clet Abraham, Blub, and Exit/Enter here: You can see pictures of some of their work in my pictures.

I hadn't really read about Santa Croce church in much detail before we came to Florence, but the guide's description made us decide to go in and look around. What an interesting place, especially seeing the tombs of people like Rossini, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Michelangelo. We also looked around in the leather workshop next to the church, but didn't buy anything.

By now we were hungry and really needed to find a restroom. We stopped at Il Francescano, next to the church, and told them we wanted to have lunch, but that we would like to use the restroom first. The guy who appeared to be the head waiter got pretty huffy about that. We repeated that we planned to eat there, so he let us have our potty break.

After we were seated on their patio, we ordered a pizza and salad to split. I hadn't tried burrata, and they offered a salmon and burrata pizza that sounded really good.

Unfortunately, I'll never know if the pizza was any good, because five minutes later our waiter came back and told us we couldn't split the pizza, and we would have to order more food in order to eat there so the head waiter wouldn't get mad at him. Mr. Pickle said, "If that's the case, we won't order anything at all," and we got up and left.

We wandered around a bit more and ended up having a "four seasons" pizza" and salad at Il Barroccio, with much better service and atmosphere. The food was good, too.

After lunch, we walked back to the Duomo, only to discover it had closed for the day. In addition, the museum was closed - I thought maybe it was because most of Florence's museums are closed on Mondays, but it is actually closed until October. I had really wanted to see Ghiberti's original bronze baptistry doors, but I had to content myself with the copies on the baptistry, which are still lovely. A second trip to Grom also helped ease the disappointment.

We had a good amount of leftovers to finish at the apartment, so we enjoyed dinner at home, finished up our wine and limoncello, and repacked our belongings so we'd be ready to leave the next day.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 29th, 2015, 01:30 PM
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Tuesday, May 12th Arrivederci, Italia

We had decided to take a morning train from Florence to Milan, since our flight didn't leave until 4:00 p.m. Italo had a possible strike in the works, but the problem was, apparently, resolved before we left home.

We walked back to Santa Maria Novella station, stopping for one last cappuccino, and arrived in plenty of time to catch our train. By noon we were back at Milano Rogoredo station, where we took the yellow Metro line to Milano Centrale and caught the Leonardo Shuttle to MXP. Between lunch and drinks, we managed to use all our Euros before we got on the plane for an uneventful flight to JFK.

Since we used Southwest points to fly to and from New York, we weren't able to book a flight home that night, so we planned an overnight in the city. Choice Hotels has recently started offering a "points plus cash" option for booking rooms, and we had enough points to stay at the Paul in Midtown for $90/night. My kind of deal! We rode the Airtrain to Jamaica Station, and the LIRR to Penn Station, then walked the short distance to the hotel and quickly fell asleep.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 29th, 2015, 06:27 PM
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Lee Ann,

Thanks for the detailed TR! I' so glad you got to visit Italy and had a good time. Hopefully you will be able to return and spend some more time in Rome. So much to see there. I know I have a long list for my third trip there, that has been growing for 10 years now!
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Old Jun 29th, 2015, 09:48 PM
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Thanks, Dayle! I'd like to return if we can.

Lee Ann
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Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 10:47 AM
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I really enjoyed your trip report and your photographic journal! Brought back some great memories of our trips to Rome and Tuscany, and made me want to get back there all the more! We've never driven ourselves, but are thinking about it for our next trip, so have made many notes from your TR. (And, what a way to end any trip...having to spend a night/day in NYC!! I just visited there for our first time ever in December, and next to Europe, that's now my "gotta go back" to place!)
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Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 11:34 AM
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I'd love to read your report but it's too long. Can you post a summary of the places you liked the most?
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Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 11:53 AM
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Thanks for posting planning a trip which has some overlap to yours.
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Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 01:16 PM
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KodakMoment Seriously??

EDPickle. Thanks for your report, appreciate the time and effort.

My son left his new camera in a taxi in Dublin, the taxi driver somehow tracked him down, and 3 weeks later his camera arrived at his home. Happy ending!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 01:45 PM
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Lee Ann, great to see your smiling face again (I "know"you from Jeopardy, of course)

We ate at that gelato place in San Gimingnano, and have the same wonderful pictures of the Siena duomo.

Now, how can I find those fantastic air fares??

Thanks for posting
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Old Mar 23rd, 2016, 02:11 PM
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Burley, I really want to revisit New York and spend more than a night or two there. One of these days, Lord willing!

KodakMoment, sorry reading my report was challenging for you. If you'd like more pictures and fewer words, click the photo link.

Familythattravels, I don't have nearly the breadth and depth of experience as most of the people who post here, but I'm happy to help if I can.

Rncheryl, I found out about the Emirates deal from another Fodorite, and now I get their emails just in case they have another good offer.

Lee Ann
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