Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Tales from Venice, Bologna, Pienza and Rome

Tales from Venice, Bologna, Pienza and Rome

Old May 27th, 2013, 07:23 AM
  #81  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,583
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Looking forward to the next part of your trip!

We felt the same way about Pisa also and made it a base for travel. The university atmosphere and lower prices away from the one tourist area were very enjoyable.
TDudette is offline  
Old May 27th, 2013, 01:58 PM
  #82  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 7,142
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
t
bardo1 is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 06:20 AM
  #83  
CEZ
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 3
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We are currently planning our itinerary for May 2014. We're considering different areas as a base, then traveling by bus, train or tours for day trips. It is absolutely the most helpful to read what others have done and enjoyed. Thank you - can't wait to read about Pienza.
CEZ is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 08:10 PM
  #84  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 264
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
THURSDAY, MAY 2 – BOLOGNA/TUSCANY

We woke up on our last morning in Bologna and packed up. We decided to hit the hotel breakfast buffet (10E each). It was in a beautiful room filled with other tourists, but I’m not sure that I will ever get real value out of that sort of thing. But it was easy and allowed us to fill up before hitting the road. We checked out and walked to the rental car office near the train station.

We pre-booked through AutoEurope, a broker that uses many different rental car agencies. I used the Italy website ( www.autoeurope.it ) because it had cheaper options than both the US and the general Europe site by a longshot. Fortunately, we drive stick, had small suitcases and don’t mind little cars, so we went for the least expensive option available. For a 4-day rental, we paid 119E including additional insurance. The Italian site limited mileage to 100K/day, so I knew we might go a little over. What I didn’t realize until a few days ago, was that my rental did not include the one-way drop-off fee, which was charged directly by EuropCar (the rental agency used) and was 89E. Apparently, this was listed on my voucher in Italian, so I missed it. Since the one-way fees are included in the US site (or so I have since been told), I’m guessing that the prices wouldn’t have been too different. Something to keep in mind, though do your own research before you take my word for it! But in the end, 210E total still seems like a pretty good deal.

Because I wanted to navigate (we didn’t spring for a GPS and just used the Touring Club Tuscany map that I purchased before we left home), I had my husband listed as the driver on our reservation. Just to be safe, I had made him get an international driver’s license back in the US (which was super annoying because we do not live near a AAA office and had to do it by mail). Of course, when we were in the Denver airport between flights, I double checked that he had remembered it…and he hadn’t. But then it was too late! So while we knew that we were probably fine without it based on others’ accounts, I was a little nervous as we approached the counter. But we had no problems, jumped into our little 2-door manual Fiat and off we went a little after 11AM.

The first two hours were a little stressful because it was drizzling and we were driving on windy highway roads where everyone was going very fast. Once we got past Florence, the highway straightened out and things were a lot more mellow. We were staying in Pienza with plans to explore southern Tuscany, but planned to stop in Siena on the way there. Following Rick Steves’ excellent directions to park in the stadium parking lot, we made it to Siena. We walked through town to the main square. It was past 2PM and we were starving, so we just decided to stop at a touristy place around the main square. The food was adequate and overpriced (2 pizzas, water, and service for 29,30E), but we were glad that we sat where we could take in the action on the square, including cute kids chasing pigeons. After lunch, we walked up to the duomo and took some photos but decided not to go in. The crowds were not great. We walked back to the car and as instructed, had kept our parking ticket so that we could pay at the machine prior to getting back in our car and exiting the lot.

I know that we did not do Siena justice, but my feeling was that if you were looking for time in the countryside during your trip to Italy or wanted to feel like you were in a tiny perched hilltown, Siena is definitely NOT the place to go. I was so glad that we did not base there.

Soon after we left Siena, the scenery became breathtaking. I could not stop exclaiming to my husband – “This is so gorgeous! This is unbelievable!” I live in a beautiful scenic area (Tetons/Yellowstone) and I was still blown away. In my research, I kept thinking that there was no way that the area was as stunning as the photos, as they must be color-enhanced or Photoshopped. But in reality, I thought it was even more striking. My jaw was on the floor. And it is exactly what I envisioned when I planned time in the countryside. I highly recommend Val d’Orcia and am so grateful to the many of you that opened my eyes to it.

With my excellent navigation if I do say so myself, we made our way to Pienza without a single wrong turn. This was the hilltown I was looking for! We found a free parking space without too much trouble, just following the blue “parcheggio” signs. We walked to our little B&B in old town, which was a perfect location.

http://www.rossellino.it/

Il Rossellino B&B was charming, clean, and priced well at 60E/night with a private bath. Once we checked in, we walked up to the small rooftop deck and took photos. Again, breathtaking! (I hope to eventually post some photo links on here from our whole trip.)

We were ready for dinner, so I did some quick online research and decided that we should try Latte di Luna. We called and they didn’t have availability, so we settled on Trattoria da Fiorella instead. What a lucky break for us! This was one of the best meals of our trip. The restaurant was small and cozy. We ordered a carafe of house red that was excellent, as well as fantastic bruschetta. The dish that put the meal over-the-top was a risotto with in-season zucchini and pesto. That risotto lives in my memory and I will be trying to recreate it! We also enjoyed fried lamb chops, whole braised baby artichokes, and a side of white beans. Somewhere in there we ordered a second carafe of red wine, and finished things off with a panna cotta with raspberry topping and an espresso for my husband. Add a bottle of water and the coperto and it was only 60E! Amazing meal.

We stopped by Latte di Luna on the way home to make a dinner reservation for our last night in Pienza. I went to sleep a little earlier than our Bologna nights with a happy belly, and ready to explore the Tuscan countryside in the days to come!
caze17 is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2013, 08:42 PM
  #85  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 264
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Link for our great restaurant:

http://www.trattoriadafiorella.it/
caze17 is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2013, 06:10 AM
  #86  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,209
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ah! Trattoria di Fiorella and Latte di Luna ... two of our favourite restaurants in Pienza! Did you find walking through town after a wonderful evening meal a delightful experience?

Can't wait to hear more about your stay here and then Rome!
2010 is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2013, 09:53 AM
  #87  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 164
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We loved Latte di Luna as well - we had a meal we will remember forever. Also loved the Pecorino cheese from Pienza - there is nothing like it elsewhere!
bab706 is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:20 AM
  #88  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,583
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Nice TR. Your Pienza place sounds super and good job with navigating!
TDudette is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 01:15 PM
  #89  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 13
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We are doing a similar trip in September. We are from Denver and have the nonstop Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt. Good to know there are other options to Venice if we miss the connection! Thanks for all the good tips. We hadn't thought of stopping in Pienza, but now may give it a try!
TeriLS is offline  
Old Jun 12th, 2013, 09:02 PM
  #90  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 264
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hope you all haven't abandoned me since I'm taking awhile to add updates! But here we go...

FRIDAY, MAY 3 – TUSCANY

Our first morning in Pienza, we were woken up by a jackhammer – the building next door was having some construction done. Not a big deal, as it was time to get up and explore the countryside! We sat down in the breakfast room, where we had the worst meal of our trip. The croissants and rolls were unbelievably stale and the coffee was thick and harsh…and I usually like strong, black coffee. So while I would still recommend our lodging, you might want to think of it as a B instead of a B&B. Just buy a croissant somewhere else, which is what I did after not eating anything. It was that bad.

After breakfast, we hopped in the car and took the short drive to Montelpulciano. Again, absolutely gorgeous scenery. It was pretty foggy so it felt a little mysterious driving through it. Once we arrived in Montelpulciano, we found parking and walked through town, enjoying that the streets were still quiet around 10AM. This town certainly was a bit more hilly than Pienza, which might be a consideration for some when choosing a base. After a quick look around, we hopped back in the car because we were due for a wine tasting near Montalcino at 11:30AM. Knowing that most wineries are not equipped for walk-ins like many in Napa or similar areas, we had pre-booked one tour and tasting at Poggio Antico.

http://www.poggioantico.com/

We had also booked lunch, but several days prior, they emailed us to say that the restaurant had an emergency plumbing issue and was under repair. Since the restaurant would be closed, the staff offered to make us another reservation giving us several recommendations, which we took them up on.

We found the winery with no trouble and parked by the main building for the start of our tour. As the tour began, we had a small group with just one other couple, but latecomers trickled in until we had 12 or so by the time we were finished. The tour was the perfect length for my tastes, with just the right amount of description of their winemaking process, about 30 minutes. After the tour, we took a few photos on their beautiful grounds. Then we walked to a small outbuilding for the tasting. I liked the format of the tasting. There were different flights and price points available, starting at 2E. Sharing was allowed, even encouraged. So my husband and I shared the most expensive flight (25E) that offered a taste of all six wines available. It was a little hectic because so many of us were ordering our tastes, but we just hung back and let the others go first and as we got each glass, we enjoyed them outside in the perfect weather. I thought the pours were pretty generous, so it’s a good thing that we shared, especially since my husband was driving! The wines themselves were good, not great. I prefer my wine a bit bolder and more complex than the options we tasted. I did notice that many of their high-scoring wines were the older vintages that were not available at the tasting, and I don’t think were available for purchase directly from the winery anymore either. So the wine itself was a little disappointing but still a nice experience overall. Had we loved the wines, we would have considered purchasing a case, but the expensive shipping costs didn’t seem worth it for wines we only liked.

As I mentioned, their restaurant was closed, so after the tasting we ended up having lunch at Il Leccio.

http://www.illeccio.net/

When we booked, I thought that the restaurant was in Montalcino, but it turned out to be located in the nearby town of Sant’Angelo In Colle. This brought our understanding of tiny hilltowns to a whole new level! The whole town was about 200 yards across. For lunch, we had tagliatelle with ragu, which was pretty good but didn’t compare to the ragu we made during our cooking class in Bologna! The ricotta-stuffed tortelloni with butter and sage was seriously lacking. But we did have a delicious salad with mixed greens, endive, artichoke hearts and pecorino. With one beer, one glass of wine, a bottle of water and the coperto, our total was 46E. Overall our meal was somewhat mediocre, but I would still recommend it because of the wonderful setting and the opportunity to set foot in a town that was much more off the beaten path.

After lunch, we walked to the edge of the town and enjoyed the views all by ourselves for about 15 minutes. We did not see one other person. So nice! Eventually, we walked to the car and drove back to Pienza. By now, my husband was more comfortable driving and really enjoyed zipping around the curvy roads in our little Fiat. We took a short detour on one of the white gravel roads, which allowed us to go a little slower to really take in the views.

Back in Pienza, we parked and walked back to our room. Since it was still mid-afternoon, the daytrippers were out in full force and we felt a bit territorial about “our” town. (Of course we were completely aware that we were the daytrippers in every other town!) We couldn’t wait for them to leave, so that we could enjoy the quiet streets as we had the night before. We rested in our room for a bit and then took a walk to find some dinner provisions. Because it was late afternoon, we found it a little difficult to find a store open that sold bread and fruit. But eventually, we found a little shop where we were only allowed to purchase fruit by sight, which seemed to be common in Italy. Given that my usual fruit-selecting method relies on touch, I found this difficult. Once we got back to our B&B for our “picnic” in the dining room, I wondered if that was the method allowed because the fruit was rock hard! But we managed, enjoying our cheese and sausage purchased in Bologna, along with fruit, bread, nutella, olives, and wine.

Afterwards, we walked through the quiet streets, taking photographs of the landscapes because the light was perfect. I was still a little hungry, so I got a pizza slice (that was delicious!) and my husband got some gelato. It just felt nice to have the town back to ourselves! After a wonderful day in the countryside, we headed back to the room for an early night before exploring the area on foot tomorrow.
caze17 is offline  
Old Jun 13th, 2013, 07:13 AM
  #91  
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 357
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I haven't abandoned you, still very much enjoying your report!
bniemand is offline  
Old Jun 13th, 2013, 08:20 AM
  #92  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 7,142
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
very nice....
bardo1 is offline  
Old Jun 13th, 2013, 09:22 AM
  #93  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 933
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Really enjoying your trip report, caze.
hazel1 is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2013, 07:03 AM
  #94  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,295
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am pretty sure we had lunch a couple times at your lunch spot. We did wine tasting some place not too far and they sent us to this place. I think we had a better experience with the food, but as you note, the best part is that it is very quiet.

We love the area, and keep going back. We took last year off, thinking we had done enough traveling, and really missed our time there. We are headed back the end of the summer. I love the scenery, the food, the wine, and the slower place of things.
eastave is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2013, 10:39 AM
  #95  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,583
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A whole new meaning to the phrase "edge of town"--LOL.

More, please.
TDudette is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2013, 02:04 PM
  #96  
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 46
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Keep it rollin' Caze - sounds great! We're on our way to Venezia, Firenze, Amalfi,and Roma on July 5th and while we're all set with planes, trains, city / museum passes, and local tour bookings, we're hoping to pick up those wonderful little tidbits of local insight that you keep sending our way....keep it up!!

Dave
The_D_Dawg is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2013, 04:03 PM
  #97  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 121
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
bookmarking
ag123 is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2013, 08:56 AM
  #98  
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 95
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I've been catching up for the past two days. The description you gave of your husband and yourslef, along with your vacation style, really caught my eye. It sounded EXACTLY like my wife and I (though we've got 6-8 years on you). BTW, bring kids next time. Our daughter (now 4) has been ti Italy twice and will probably go back next May (with her new sibling). It's different, for sure, but just as satisfying. Italians LOVE children.
uflecku is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2013, 06:52 PM
  #99  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 264
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for sticking around everyone! I appreciate your nice thoughts. And yes, uflecku, I can't wait to travel with my current and future kids!

SATURDAY, MAY 4 – TUSCANY

I woke up after sleeping for ten hours which was absolutely amazing. My husband and I went to the dining room for our breakfast and I got around the stale croissant by eating the prepackaged toast crackers with nutella. Somewhat of a shame in Italy, but was much better than the day before.

When planning our trip, I wasn’t sure what we would want to do by the time this day rolled around. We love to hike, so we thought that would be a nice change of pace, but I wondered if we would feel like we were wasting the opportunity to cover more of the area by car and taste more wine. In the end, after getting a little burnt out on hill towns after two days, we knew that hiking was definitely the right choice. I tried to research various routes beforehand but there wasn’t much available on the internet, at least not as detailed from the national park/national forest hiking that I am used to. I should not have worried. This was more like walking on a wide gravel road that cars could also use. With few trees to block our view, we could see our destination before we even left so there was no way that we could have gotten lost.

We hiked to Monticchiello. For others who may be interested, you head to the end of the main road through old town (Corso Rossellini), go through the archway next to Latte di Luna restaurant and you will hit the road that goes around Pienza. Just across the road, you will see a hiking directional sign and the start of a gravel road that goes downhill to your left. From there, you follow the gravel road with Monticchiello in your sights the whole way. There are a couple of intersections, but we just followed the signs to Monticchiello, always picking a “strada panoramica” if available. It was a little under 5 miles and took us about 1.5 hours to get there. It was great to be outside, enjoying the countryside at a slower pace, taking in the vistas, and snapping lots of photos. Plus it was nice to sweat a little since we had been eating so much food!

Once we got to Monticchiello, we walked around the tiny town. A wedding party was gathering outside the church, which was fun to observe just like in Venice. By now, we were ready for lunch. I had read about Osteria La Porta in my research , but in the end, we decided to just eat a little picnic in the main square. It was nice to do this on occasion to mix things up a bit. And good for the budget! We sat in the shade on a bench and enjoyed similar items that we had the night before. After a bit, we headed back to Pienza along the same route.

Back in the room, we showered and packed up a bit since we were leaving Pienza the next morning. We had our dinner reservation at 7PM at Latte di Luna that we had made a few nights prior, and I figured that we would just relax until then. But after two hours or so, it was only 4PM and we decided to motivate to head to Montepulciano in search of some wine tasting shops. This worked out really well, and was nice that we hadn’t planned too much. After a short drive to Montepulciano, we walked down the main street and tasted wine wherever someone was pouring. Never a bad thing! The best one was named Contucci if I am not mixing them up – it had an underground cellar to walk through and we wound up in a rustic tasting room. The young guy helping us was very knowledgeable and was fun to try a few wines with. We really enjoyed the wines and wish we had not already purchased bottles elsewhere, or we would have purchased more than the one that we did from Contucci.

We loaded our new bottles of wine in the car (we bought bottles that were all about 13E each, but a variety was offered – tastings were free) and headed back to Pienza. We headed to dinner at Latte de Luna, where I was glad we had made a reservation. The front patio is in full view of the main street, making it very popular.

http://www.portalepienza.it/Siti_com...e_di_luna.html

The food was good, but wasn’t quite as memorable as our meal at Trattoria da Fiorella on our first night. We began with two pasta dishes, a cacio e pepe and a ragu. We followed that with their popular suckling pig which was excellent. We got two sides, but I didn’t take very good notes and don’t remember what they were! With dessert, a carafe of house red wine, a bottle of water, one espresso, and the coperto, the total was 53E. Not that our server was interested in letting us know. While we were used to waiting awhile for the check by this point in our trip, this time bordered on absurd. We mentioned it to a few people passing by, but after 30 minutes or more just hanging around (at least give me some more water or wine!), we went up to the front to ask for the check. At that point, the manager realized that we were tucked back in a room all by ourselves since the other tables had left, and I think that the server in that section had gone home. He was very apologetic and brought us complimentary limoncello which was a nice gesture.

We enjoyed another short walk around Pienza…it really is a romantic place in the evening. Then we went to bed, ready to head to Rome the next day!
caze17 is offline  
Old Jun 22nd, 2013, 05:03 AM
  #100  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 29,583
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
TTT
TDudette is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -