Italy trip report - part 1

May 6th, 2001, 06:39 PM
  #1  
Hank
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Italy trip report - part 1

I was in Italy for over three weeks in April. While my wife and I have been to Italy many times, this trip we went with a couple of good friends that had never been to Europe and were a little intimidated by the prospect of being a stranger in a strange land. We stayed in Riomaggoire, Lucca, Siena, Montalcino,and Gualdo Cattaneo (not downtown). More to follow.
 
May 6th, 2001, 06:52 PM
  #2  
Hank
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Part 2. We stay at budgft to moderate hotels ( this trip they ranged from L90,000 to L 170,000 ). Hotel requirements are clean, safe, and bathroom ensuite. I would rather stay in a 600 year old farmhouse then a Hilton. A place with character wins over room service. We eat at family type restaurants(osteria and trattoria)
 
May 6th, 2001, 07:11 PM
  #3  
Hank
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Italy trip report part 3. I think that the food in Italy is a major part of the experience so I donít go to cafeteria type establishments. I love the food but donít need linen on linen service. Prices for two on this trip ranged from about L60, 000 to L110, 000. I try to order the local specialty and the local wine. I donít need English speaking waiters or an English menu; in fact, if they advertise they speak English I usually assume they are tourist traps. Only a place that caters to tourists can have bad food the Italians wonít tolerate it.
 
May 7th, 2001, 04:04 AM
  #4  
Roberta
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Hi Hank...during me upcoming stay in Italy I am looking at apartments to buy...I am interested in Lucca, but I've never been. Can you tell me a bit about it to help me decide if the time to look there will be well spent? thaks, Roberta
 
May 7th, 2001, 05:42 AM
  #5  
Mariarosa
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Hi Hank! It sounds like you had a lovely trip! Can you tell us more about the hotels where you stayed and where you ate? Thanks!
 
May 7th, 2001, 05:47 AM
  #6  
sandi
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I'd love to hear more about Gualdo Cattaneo, since I'm unfamiliar with it...
 
May 7th, 2001, 05:55 AM
  #7  
Vinny
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Hi Hank going to Rome for the month of June renting a studio apt. My wife and I are planing a lot of day or overnight trips to other areas and using public transportation, any suggestions on some of the budget rentals and we do not go for linen on linen also but being Italian from Boston love to eat.
Vinny
 
May 7th, 2001, 05:59 AM
  #8  
BOB THE NAVIGATOR
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Buon giorno Hank, I love your travel style and choice of destinations--that is my kind of trip. I also like to travel that time of year, as we did again this year. Grazie for the report.
 
May 7th, 2001, 08:08 PM
  #9  
Hank
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Our first stop was Riomaggiore. I had reserved rooms with Affittacamere Vesigna Edi (L90,000).We walked from the train station through the pedestrian tunnel and up Via Colombo to number 111; yes they had our rooms just follow them up the hill. Maybe it was the jet lag or dragging a wheeled carry-on but it seemed to be awfully steep. Up the steps (maybe four flights) and we came to our rooms. The rooms were basic and clean and I was satisfied with it until I sat on the bed. It was very soft, so I trudged back down the hill and asked if they had another room with a bed that was a little more firm. No problem, follow me, back up the hill and the steps to a room above my original room. I check the bed and itís a very firm mattress. Iím happy. I check out the rest of the place, basic and clean. The bathroom is very large by Italian standards. There is a set of very steep stairs ( so steep you can use your hands on them like a ladder). Up I go (why is there never anything good downhill). There is another room with a sofa, TV, refrigerator, stove, and a large balcony (about 15X6) with a table and chairs and a great view of the town and water (of course itís a great view, everything is below me). The street doesnít seem as steep as before so I hurry down to the local grocery store and stock up on staples. Sitting on the balcony, my friends, a little wine, some cheese, a beautiful view, Iím in Italy and life is good.
Edi wasnít my first choice (it wasnít in the top ten because I had never seen the rooms) but E-mailing many places, I found that right before Easter is a very busy time. Hotel Pasquale in Monterosso al Mare was full but they sent me the names, phone numbers, and fax numbers for about ten other hotels. I figure that if they treat people who arenít their guests this way staying there will be special. Iíve been in the Hotel Pasquale and the rooms are fine and you can see the water and hear the surf.
 
May 8th, 2001, 06:28 AM
  #10  
cindy
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sounds like a very interesting trip. we will be staying in montalcino for one week. any suggestions. thanks.
 
May 8th, 2001, 10:26 AM
  #11  
Terry
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Hank,
Thanks for the great report. Appreciate you mentioning the hotel costs. I wish all/more reports did.
Terry
 
May 8th, 2001, 02:40 PM
  #12  
Hank
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From Riomaggiore we took the train to Lucca. We stayed at the Albergo Diana (L120, 000), the rooms were larger than I expected. While my usual tourist activity is ďwalkiní and gawkiní ďLucca is a place where you can literally walk around town. Lucca is surrounded by a wall that has been turned into a park by planting grass and trees on top of the wall (the top is wider than a football field), everyone in town takes their walk on top of the wall. From the wall you can see mountains in the distance or the churches and gardens below; every direction is beautiful. Pisa is only about a half-hour away by train so you can take train in the morning, see the tower, baptistery, church and museum and be back in Lucca for lunch.
P.S. my e-mail address is real so if you have questions feel free to ask or if youíve had enough of my vacation story, tell me to quit.
 
May 8th, 2001, 04:43 PM
  #13  
Libbie
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Hi Hank,

Don't quit! I'm really enjoying your report, and saving it for my own future use! Thanks for sharing so much with us.

Libbie
 
May 8th, 2001, 04:55 PM
  #14  
Hank
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Answers to questions:
Mariarosa Ė Keep watching. I canít type so this will take me awhile.

Sandi Ė I working my way to Gualdo Cattaneo

Vinny Ė Ostia Antica is a good day trip, subway and short train ride from Rome maybe 30 minutes (Rick Steves guide gives good directions). I liked Pompeii but I loved Ostia Antica. Orvieto is a wonderful town about an hour from Rome by train (underground parts are amazing). Spoleto is about an hour and a quarter train ride from Rome, I found plenty to see and some very good food.

Cindy Ė Montelcino is coming up
 
May 9th, 2001, 08:11 PM
  #15  
Hank
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From Lucca we take the train to Siena. Why are we going to Siena? Is it to see IL Campo, probably the most famous piazza in Italy, site of the Palio? No! Is it to see the Duomo, a breathtaking church housing works by Bernini, Michelangelo, Donatello, Pisano and many others? Nope! The Santa Maria della Scala, an old hospital with outstanding frescoes? Uh Ėuh! Is it to just bask in the warmth of a town that still feels medieval but alive? Not a chance! Weíre going to Siena because tomorrow (Wednesday) is market day and my wife must shop! This woman could not find a single church on a 10-foot by 10-foot map of Rome but she can find every shoe vendor in the market in five minutes flat. If you havenít seen Sienaís market it is a site to behold. Between the soccer stadium and San Domenico church (which has the head of Saint Catherine in a glass box on the alter-sheís not looking good) lies about 300 vendors selling everything you can imagine and some you canít. You can buy towels and ceramics, shoes and purses, kitchenware and chocolate, wild boar sandwich and a beer. We stay at the Hotel Cannon díOro (L137,000) it has basic rooms and clean bathrooms and is centrally located (read close to the market). After the market (it starts to close down after 1300) we'll pick-up the car at Avis (I rent through Auto Europe because they give me a better rate then going direct to Avis Ė I donít understand this I just accept it). Wednesday we will be in Montalcino.
 
May 10th, 2001, 07:07 AM
  #16  
mcdowell
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Oh, Hank I can so relate. My husband and son shopped at every single shoe (scarppe) store in Rome, Florence, Sienna, Orvieto. They drove me nuts, but we still didn't miss all the fabulous artwork and sights.

One day we happened upon a flea market in Florence which I really enjoyed.

The shoes are so very fashion forward!


 
May 10th, 2001, 06:33 PM
  #17  
Hank
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Montalcino is about 40 km south of siena. Three km south of Montalcino is La Crociona an agriturismo that is special. There are only six apartments one of which is a two bedroom. The apartments have separate bedrooms, living/dining room and a small kitchen. The bathrooms are modern but everything else reminds you that this was a farmhouse built in the 1400ís. A tour of the wine cellar and a taste of the Brunello they make is an experience. Sitting on the patio at night with a glass of Brunello is as peaceful as it gets. It is quiet and the stars look brighter and closer then youíve ever seen them. This is a great base to explore southern Tuscany (http://www.agriturismo.com/crociona/default.htm) from here you are within 30 min of:
Sant Antimo an abbey started in the 700ís were they still sing Gregorian chants. Castelio di poggio alle Mura a thirteenth century castle. San Quirico DíOrcia a medieval town overlooked by most tourists. Pienza a town built as a whole rather than evolving by Pope Pius II. Bagna Vignoni built by the Medici. Buonconvento a sleepy little town with a medieval center. Montepulciano famous for Vino Nobile and worth the climb to look around. Monte Oliveto Maggiore famous for its frescoes by Sodoma and Signorelli. Murlo a medieval village that doesnít look like it has changed in 500 yrs. Youíre just an hour away from Chianti country and all that it offers. This is one of my favorite places in the world; it just feels good to here. The apartments are rented by the week but one week is never enough for me. But Iím escorting friends so tomorrow itís off to Sorano.

 
May 11th, 2001, 05:38 AM
  #18  
places
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for cindy
 
May 12th, 2001, 06:18 PM
  #19  
Hank
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About two hours south of Montalcino, Sorano is definitely off the beaten path. Perched on a hill it offers spectacular views from almost any point. As I drove up to our Hotel I missed the driveway (I thought it was a pedestrian walkway), so I kept going up the hill (when your staying in a fortress you know youíll be at the top of the hill). When I came to the outer defensive wall I could drive no further but I thought I could walk through the entrance to verify this was the place. I walked through one room of the wall took a right then a left into another room and out into open ground. In front of me was the entrance, arched opening, drawbridge then courtyard. To the right of the courtyard a small sign, Hotel della Fortezza (L170, 000). I went back to the car and told them this was the wrong entrance but youíve got to come and look it is too cool. After finding the right driveway (if your driving a Mercedes youíre walking up) we went to check out the rooms. They were very nice. A room with a couch, dresser and chair, mini-bar, and a door to the bathroom. In a loft, up the hardwood floors, was the bedroom. The best part was the view, which could be seen from the first floor and the loft. Several thousand feet below was the green valley floor, Etruscan tombs could be seen on the opposite ridges. The town itself was four or five hundred feet below clinging so close to the mountain that you had to stick your head out the window to see it. Sorano is very picturesque but sparsely populated. It looks like a movie set, clean, compact and outstanding views around each corner.
Pitigliano, Sovana, and Saturnia are within fifteen minutes of Sorano.
 
May 13th, 2001, 06:55 PM
  #20  
Hank
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About two hours east of Sorano is the Castello di Cisterna Ė Comune di Gualdo Cattaneo. My wife and I wanted some quiet time and to stay in a castle. This was it. Perched on a hill was a small village (three houses) and the castle. Livingroom/diningroom, small kitchen, bedroom, and a clean bathroom and fabulous views. As an added bonus it had a washing machine (very useful the third week of traveling). There was nothing for miles around but in a half-hour or so you could get to Todi, Deruta, Perugia, Assisi, Spello, Trevi, Spoleto, Montelfalco, Bevegna, and Gualdo Cattaneo. We wanted to get away from it all; well Ďití wasnít even headed in this direction. We shopped in villages that rarely saw tourists and ate in trattorias that had no one who spoke English. We were happy and they were doing their best to show us their hospitality (they served us free antipasta and after we paid the bill brought out the grappa). This was rural Italy the people couldnít imagine what we were doing here but were happy we came.
 

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