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marigross Oct 24th, 2006 08:31 AM

inserting a bookmark :D

Dejais Oct 24th, 2006 10:40 AM

Lovely day, Travelgirl. And I love the part about the DMs teaching DS to play cribbage. What a wonderful memory that will be for him some day.

Waiting for more.

LCBoniti Oct 24th, 2006 10:56 AM

How fantastic that your in-laws are so easy going and you obviously have a warm relationship with them.

Too bad you didn't get a picture of your DH's bum framed by the window :)

This part of your adventure sounds wonderful!

NorCal_Jo Oct 24th, 2006 12:57 PM

Thanks so much for the great report! Bookmarking to enjoy later

travelgirl2 Oct 25th, 2006 03:48 AM

Day 65 – Tuscany – Greve in Chianti

This morning, we set off to tour GREVE IN CHIANTI. It is not that great a distance from our villa, but with the winding roads it takes a while to get there. Once we arrive, we have an animated discussion about where to park our large 9-passenger van. It is very long, so it’s hard to park in the small parking spaces without seriously sticking out in the back. We eventually find a suitable space in a parking lot.

We walk around Greve for a while. Most shops are closed, with the owners away for summer vacation. We see lots of people hanging around in the town square, which is sort of triangular shaped. We pick a café and stop for lunch. Most people order a pizza-like thing, made of bread. It is like bruschetta with toppings. Everyone says it is very good. I have pasta. It is a shape I have never seen. It looks like it started out to be a 2 inch square and then two opposing corners were rolled in. So it is like a tube which bulges in the middle. The pasta is good, but I don’t care for the shrimp and zucchini sauce because it is very salty and tastes like powdered fish flakes.

We are surprised to find a small internet station at the back of the restaurant. We quickly check our emails, for 3.50 euros for 30 minutes. We have been trying to line up some tours with, but it seems that many of their docents will be on vacation at the end of August. So, they are trying to find someone to give us a short Italian course. DH and DS1 have booked a 4 hour walking tour starting at Palatine Hill, with a docent who is available and is supposed to be knowledgeable in history.

Then, we have to have some gelato. I have strachiatella (chocolate chip) and cioccolato (chocolate). It is delicious. We stop at a fruit stand and buy some fruit and ingredients to make a salad for supper.

Back at the villa, DH and I start some laundry. We then head off to the town of CASTELLINA SCALO, looking for the Coop, a supermarket. There, we buy supplies for the week. We are planning to make dinner at the villa tonight. We are also looking for rope to string up as a clothesline. I ask a lady stocking the shelves, “parla inglese?” She says no and tells me there is one person who speaks English. She walks away, calling out someone’s name over and over, motioning for me to follow her. When we find him, he speaks a little and tells me to go 10 meters to the ferramenta. Okay. So we do.

There, we cannot communicate what we want, despite our best efforts. The young lady leads us around the store, trying to guess what we want. She takes us to another store and points out a long metal rod. I tell her no, we want rope. I try all the words I can think of for rope: rope, line, linea. Why don’t we have an Italian phrase book with us? Finally, she nods and goes in the back. She comes out with some rope and measures off 10 meters. Hooray. She tells me the word is ‘corda’. I tell her, “gratzie, gratzie, gratzie”. We both smile and laugh at how difficult this has been. I really appreciate her effort in trying to help us.

When we get back to the villa, we see that Iolanda has sent some workmen to our villa. They have put up a railing made from 2-inch thick rope! This will make it much easier for everyone to walk up and down our 20 steep stairs. Thank you, Iolanda!

We set about making dinner. DH is in charge of starting a charcoal fire and grilling pork chops. DM and DMLIL are making a salad. I, DMIL and DFIL are making pasta. I have picked up various ingredients along the way and now I’m concocting a dish made with pasta, sausage, big white beans, sun dried tomatoes, fresh spinach, garlic, onions, oil, butter and a touch of canned spaghetti sauce. It is great to have all these helpers, chopping everything up. I wish they would come home with me and help me every night!

In front of our house is a covered building without walls, something like a gazebo. In the building are the barbecue and a table and chairs for 8 people. This is where we meet to gather for dinner. We all enjoy being together. The kids especially love being with all their grandparents. I think the grandparents love it as much too. As for me, I love having everyone I love gathered together and laughing over dinner.

After dinner, we head back to our villa, where our first task is to clean up the dinner dishes. Then most people gather in the kitchen and play “Trash”. It is a good game for a group. With each hand, everyone changes chairs depending on what order they discarded all their cards. For a while, DMIL is the king and sits at the head of the table. She is always very unassuming, so it is funny to see her grinning and sitting in the winner’s chair. DM and DMLIL have fun sharing “Trash” with us.

Kristinelaine Oct 25th, 2006 05:07 AM

What a wonderful family! Everything you have written has been very interesting, but this report is just priceless! What a gift to have all the grandparents together with your sons! And everyone gets along? Amazing!

travelgirl2 Oct 25th, 2006 06:36 AM

Well, we definitely had our moments!

cafegoddess Oct 25th, 2006 07:52 AM

Travelgirl2, how about some pictures? You are so lucky to be able to travel with your in-laws and Mom plus friend.
It is so nice to be surrounded by people you love.

Looking for more report.


lonestarcars Oct 25th, 2006 09:14 AM

Please email me ,I have a travel question (student travel)for you,[email protected],Thanks!

Italybound07 Oct 25th, 2006 10:35 AM

TG-do you have the contact information for the villas you rented? They sound great!

LCBoniti Oct 25th, 2006 06:34 PM

Travelgirl, I continue to really enjoy your travels and your travails. You are truly blessed to be able to share this with your extended family. Please continue!

travelgirl2 Oct 25th, 2006 07:54 PM

Tenuta di Lilliano (2 ll's)
Near the town of Castellina in Chianti

The villas are reasonably priced, I think. They are fairly simple. Not luxurious. Very comfortable. Stylishly decorated in a very simple, Italian way. Hard to describe, because they are simple but very homey. Very basic kitchens. Every 2-3 apartments (I think) share a pool. Each time we've been, we've only seen other people at the pool once or twice per week. Great views. Peaceful location. It is a working farm, though, so every once in a while you see or hear tractors, workmen, etc. Once we heard them spraying the fields during the night. This is one of our favorite places to visit. If anyone else goes, please let me know if you enjoy it as much as we do. We've brought 4 other couples/families with us and everyone has loved it.

travelgirl2 Oct 26th, 2006 06:56 PM

Day 66 – Tuscany – Castellina in Chianti Winery

We spend most of the day today at the villa. We do some laundry and hang it to dry. People laze around the pool. Some play cards at garden tables placed outside their villa. Others go for a walk. DH and DS2 go for a run. They have been going almost every day. Some catch up on their Fodor’s postings. We are all enjoying the beauty and tranquility of our surroundings.

We have reserved this villa for a week, ending on Saturday. But, we had actually planned to leave on Friday, in order to spend four nights in Rome. In talking with everybody, it seems that the consensus is that they’d prefer to stay here for the full seven nights. So, I spend some time calling the Rome hotel to change our reservation. I also call the rental car agency to extend our car reservation by a day. The arrangements are made with no problem.

In the afternoon, we have an appointment for a wine tasting and tour at the WINERY in Castellina in Chianti. Ilaria takes us around and tells us about the history of Castellina and the wine-making process. Castellina in Chianti lies between Florence (Firenza) and Siena. Historically, these were two very powerful cities, so there was a lot of fighting in the territories between the cities. She explains the rules which dictate what wines can be labeled with a black rooster, representing Chianti Classico. Then, we taste a few wines.

For dinner, we’ve made a reservation at PIZZERIA IL FONDACCIO. The tables outside in the alley are adorable. They have an antipasto buffet. For 6.50 euros, you can fill your plate with artichokes, olives, cheeses, bruschetta, bread with liver pate, green beans, salami, ham, marinated mushrooms, peppers, and many more things. Then, we ordered pizzas, for about 5-6 euros each. When the pizza comes, it is pretty big. It would have been fine to share a pizza between two people. Since we ordered 8 pizzas for 8 people, we took almost 3 whole pizzas home.

At dinner, we were discussing PIN numbers, since DS1 just got a debit card and can’t remember what PIN number he chose. Everyone gave their advice on how they chose a PIN. Some pick a combination of dates. Others pick an easy-to-remember number. DS1 said he would just choose an easy number to remember, like 1453. We all just looked at him. Huh? He matter-of-factly said it was the year that Constantinople fell to the Turks. Oh, of course. DFIL, without missing a beat, told him that he can’t choose that number, because it is so obvious and everyone else will have the same number. We all became hysterical. It is fun to travel to Italy with a group of people. Last time we were here was with our DF’s (dear friends) from Sweden and some of their Swedish family members. Even though the Swedish family members didn’t speak English, it didn’t matter and we had a great time together.

After dinner, we ambled over to the gelateria. The store with the big ice cream cone outside was closed. A nice Italian woman came over to me and explained in Italian that the store was closed and said there was another gelateria down the block. We found the other store and all the youngsters (defined as anyone under 50, don’t you love traveling with older folks?) had gelato.

At night, everyone had to play ‘Trash’ again. I was still catching up on Fodor’s.

missypie Oct 27th, 2006 06:05 AM

Your sons were fine with just "hangin'" at the villa? Do you think they would have been fine with it if that part was your only vacation, and not part of such a long trip?

jill_h Oct 27th, 2006 06:38 AM

TG2 - so you're up to Day 66 - what day/month is Day 66?

travelgirl2 Oct 29th, 2006 09:37 AM

We are up to the second to last week in August.

We are all fine with hanging out. DS1 and I especially. DH and DS2 less so, so they look for an excursion or activity each day. When we've been here before, we've combined a week in Tuscany with another 1 1/2 to 2 weeks of touring, so it is a good combination. Plus, this is a good place to meet up with other people and hang out together. Just a week in Tuscany, without any visitors, would probably be too low key for DH and the kids, unless it was combined with some more active sightseeing elsewhere.

We brought the kids here when they were 3 and 5. It was a great way to travel with young children, yet still be somewhere interesting for the adults. Then, we toured a little in the morning and ate lunch out. We spent the afternoon, dinner and the evening back at the villa.

travelgirl2 Oct 29th, 2006 09:43 AM

Day 67 – Tuscany - Day Trip to Firenza (Florence)

Early this morning, we load into the van and set out for Florence. It is less than an hour drive away. Our van has GPS, which helps us find our way. Once in Florence, we drive past the Ponte Vecchio and are lucky to quickly find a parking space right on the Arno River.

We walk over to the DUOMO. There is a short line, which moves continuously until we are in about ten minutes later. The church facade is a checkerboard pattern of white, green and black marble. The inside is huge, but not too ornate. We follow a line of people downstairs, to the crypts. We pay 3 euros for the privilege of wandering among the stones.

Upstairs, DH and the kids, especially DS2, want to climb up to the dome. They wait in a line and then climb 435 (or more) steps to the top. They tell us the views of the artwork inside the dome and also outside over the city are great. We’ll have to take their word for it.

We take a short walk to the tourist information center to get a map of Florence and ask for a restaurant recommendation. The lady sends us though an outdoor flea market to the Piazza Mercato Centrali. We see one of the restaurants she has recommended and stop for lunch on the covered patio. The food at ZA ZA is pretty good for a high density tourist area such as this. I enjoy my spaghetti with shrimp and cherry tomatoes.

After lunch, we walk to an exhibit on LEONARDO DA VINCI, at 66 Via Dei Servi. DM and DMLIL rest in the air conditioned lobby, while the rest of us go inside. Six euros gets us into a small three-room museum with large wooden models of Da Vinci’s creations. Many of the machines are interactive, so we can see what they were designed to accomplish. He used wheels, levers, pulleys, etc. to create machines to get work done more easily. He also designed various prototypes of flying machines, simulating the actions birds make while flying. There is a bicycle made from a design recently discovered, but there is controversy about whether it was really done by Da Vinci. It is amazing to contemplate this man’s works - all these inventions, in addition to The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. Incredible.

We have to make an obligatory gelato stop after the Da Vinci museum. Then, we go back to the Duomo area, to go to the BAPTISTRY. This part of the church was built in the 500’s. The dome ceiling is beautiful. It is created from tile mosaics and is covered with gold.

Then we head back towards the river, stopping at the Piazza Della Signoria to see Michelangelo’s DAVID and various other sculptures. We walk by the Ufizzi Gallery, where there is a line of people waiting to get in. There are several street vendors here, as well as many performance artists pretending to be statues. DH insists that we get our picture taken with a live statue. I can hardly stop my eyes from rolling long enough to take the picture. It is good fun though.

On the walk back to the car, we pass a hotel near the Ponte Vecchio. DH tells me this is where we stayed on our first trip to Florence, 14 years ago. I don’t remember the hotel too well, but I do remember the gelato stand next door. So, we have to stop and have our second gelato of the day. It was good, but we all agree that our best gelato so far has been in Castellina in Chianti, at the shop with the giant ice cream cone outside.

The drive back is easy. I fall asleep on the way home. We are all tuckered out. Back at the villa, we scavenge for leftovers for dinner. Another game of Trash ensues. I am still trying to finish my Robert Ludlum book and then I catch up on writing today’s events.

samsmom1127 Oct 30th, 2006 04:38 AM

Hi Travelgirl2. Just wanted to let you know that I still anxiously check for updates to this thread! I am enjoying vicariously travelling the world with you.

sundowner Oct 30th, 2006 05:46 AM

Me too, TG. I'm really enjoying this.

LoveItaly Oct 30th, 2006 12:49 PM

Hi travelgir, got caught up on your trip report again. Your family sounds so delightful and of course I am still enjoying reading of your adventures (poor DH climbing up to the second floor bathroom window on a rickety ladder!).

Although I never had the pleasure of having all of the family together in Italy I smiled at your time together as when I was growing up and than when my daughter was growing up our family cooked together, cleaned up the kitchen together and the children were all taught various card games by their grandparents. Sweet times indeed!

And finding a parking place along the River Arno..priceless!!

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