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Henry Apr 27th, 2004 09:21 PM

Trip report: Lucca, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto, Rome
This will be a long trip report. I will add on as replys to this message. It will take a few days since I type slowly.

Trip report Lucca, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto and Rome.

18 March 2004 to 9 April 2004, timing dictated by school scheduled spring break.
This trip wasn't so much planned, it evolved. The idea was to show my grandson the wonders of Italy. I have taken all my children to Italy and now I am starting on the grandchildren. Participants: wife (Pat), sister-in-law (Barbara), ten-year-old grandson (Ethan), and me (Henry). Itinerary: Fly in and out of Rome, three days in Lucca, two days in Siena, a week in Montalcino, two days in Orvieto, and a week in Rome (Barbara would leave after two days in Rome). Accommodations averaged about 100 euro a night (21 nights, mostly apartments) for the four of us. Meals averaged about 140 euro a day for four.

We flew from Chicago to Rome. Scheduled arrival was 7:55 and we arrived about ten minutes early. We went through passport control, baggage and customs in about a half-hour. Walked across the street and up the stairs to the train station hit the Bankomat (ATM) and bought the train tickets to Termini and Lucca. Arrived in Termini station by about 9:10 and waited for our train to Florence and change to Lucca. I took this opportunity to buy chocolates from a shop by the tracks. I purchased a variety of small pieces so my grandson could taste the differences of European chocolates. They were a big hit with him; so far Italy was great. Changed trains in Florence and grabbed some juice and sandwiches and chips for the train, not a great lunch but this was a travel day.

Arrived in Lucca and was met by Violetta, the owner of La Scaletta ( Violetta was a bubbly, sweet lady that picked us up at the train station and when we left she also drove us to the station. She had stocked the apartment with fruit, juice, cereal, eggs, bread, and pasta and left a welcoming bottle of wine for us. The apartment was great, no living room, but clean and bright. It looked like the pictures on the website. The area was residential. A small balcony off the main bedroom looked onto Via del Fosso. There was a grocery store, bar, wine shop and restaurant one block away.

Since everyone was tired from the trip we just wandered around for a while so we could get our bearing. Ethan saw the Torre Guinigi and decided to climb it to get a good view of the city. An early dinner was had at Mio Mara, a pizzeria that Violetta said was the best in Lucca, and it was two blocks from the apartment. Everyone was ready for an early bedtime.

Second day in Lucca (Saturday): we walked the wall then went down to the antique market and wandered through the many streets lined with antiques and flea market type goods. Everyone except me found something they could not live without. Ethan had his first gelato. The look on his face as he took the first spoonful was worth the trip. After a nice lunch at Osteria Buralla we took the train to Pisa. Ethan liked the tower and the Duomo. We chose Vecchia Trattoria Burali for dinner. We showed Ethan where it was on the map and he led us there with no problems. Dinner was excellent and Ethan led us back to the apartment.

Third day in Lucca (Sunday): Strolled through the antique market on the way to St. Giovani church to see the excavations. Ethan was thrilled with the Roman ruins. After lunch at L'Antica Segilla, Barbara and Ethan rented bikes and did a few laps around the walls. Dinner at La Margharita about a block from the apartment was excellent.

KathrynT Apr 27th, 2004 09:30 PM

Great report so far - I'm looking forward to the rest. Ethan is a lucky grandson!

Huitres Apr 27th, 2004 11:31 PM

I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed Lucca. It is one of my most favorite city's in Toscana and I am going back there in September!

Lisa1271 Apr 28th, 2004 06:01 AM

WE are heading there in October, first time for Lucca. Have already rpinted your report for the restaurant references. We will alos be heading to Montalcino so I hope your other reports are ready soon. Thanks, Lisa S

Henry Apr 28th, 2004 10:16 AM

Monday: Violetta takes us to the train station. We arrive in Siena about noon and go to the Cannon d?Oro.
( The rooms are nice but the location is great and the price is reasonable. A nice lunch at La Fenestra in the piazza Mercato is followed by Ethan chasing pigeons in the campo. We stop at the Duomo and Ethan is very impressed. His favorite parts are the floors and the Liberia Piccolomini. This trip is going great. I was worried that a ten-year-old might not appreciate the art and beauty of Italy that my wife and I have come to love. Ethan?s Aunt Barbara has been fantastic. She is very knowledgeable about art and regularly gives tours of her city?s museums. Barbara has explained to Ethan that since most people 500 years ago did not read, the frescoes tried to tell a story. Ethan is now excited to figure out each story.

We meet some friends for dinner at Vecchia Trattoria Valerozzi. The meal was good and the company was great and it was late when we got back to the hotel. Tomorrow one of our friends is taking us to Florence.

Tuesday: We meet our friend at piazza Mercato, Parking in the city, even with a resident sticker, is not easy. Just outside Florence we pick up Manuela, our friend?s cousin. We have met Manuela before. She lives in Florence and loves it and loves to show it off. She rents apartments (very reasonable) ( and really knows the city. She knows we have been to Florence many times but always finds something new to show us. Today it is Certosa di Firenze (Monastero Cistercense), a monastery. She speaks to one of the monks and yes he will be happy to give us a tour. It is a huge place with gardens and cemetery.

Our friend and her cousin have appointments in Florence, so they drop us off at the train station and will pick us up in four hours. I thought this would be a chance to show Ethan the beauty of Florence and while we do see the Duomo and Medici Chapel, this is apparently a shopping trip for the girls. They buy leather coats, gloves and purses and then soaps and scents at Pharmacia Santa Marie Novella. Ethan did get to see a few churches that were close to good shopping.

Back in Siena we go to Sasso?s for dinner, it is excellent.

Wednesday: Today is market day in Siena. My wife loves the Siena market and we go almost every year. Pillowcases and tablecloths are bought. We checkout of the hotel and get a taxi to Eurocar. I rented through Autoeurope and had the address on the voucher but the agency had moved, fortunately the taxi driver knew where they had moved.

While filling out the paperwork for the rental Barbara says she has a problem with her contact and goes to the restroom. A few minutes later she calls me in to look at her eye, she is in obvious pain. I look at her eye and it is filled with blood. I called my wife in, she is a nurse, she had been waiting outside with the luggage. Pat takes one look at the eye and says we have to go to the emergency room. I ask the girl at the desk where is the hospital and she says by the train station. Signs for the hospital are all over, in less than ten minutes we are there. I dropped Pat and Barbara off by the gate and look for a parking spot. Pat takes Barbara into the emergency room and tries to explain the problem (they don?t speak English and our Italian is limited), one look at the eye and they get a wheelchair and take Barbara down to the eye clinic. One of the girls stays with Barbara and fills out the paperwork and makes sure she gets seen. In less than twenty minutes a resident is checking the eye. The resident says Barbara needs to be seen by her professor. Off they go to the professor?s office where he checks the eye and says that the contact is gone and no permanent damages was done. He writes a couple of prescriptions and says to come back if there is pain tomorrow. In less than two hours we were in and out of the hospital. Total cost: zero. Later our friends in Siena told us the professor was the head of the department and the speed was because they always took special care of tourists.

Barbara had to wear sunglasses the rest of the vacation because the sight of the bloody eye freaked Ethan out. The two prescriptions cost about 13 euro and by the end of the vacation the eye was pretty much healed.

jende Apr 28th, 2004 06:34 PM

That's so much for this great report (in progress). I'm taking a trip with a very similar itinerary next month, so it's a wonderful preview for me!

Henry Apr 28th, 2004 10:43 PM

On to Montalcino, The trip to the hospital has thrown off my timing. The Coop in Buonconvento is closed for the midday break and the one in Montalcino is closed until the next morning. We drive to La Crociona ( Roberto and Barbara Nannetti (brother and sister) run the place with the help of their parents Paolo and Fiorella. We have been here many times and it feels like home. After the usual hugs and kisses and oohing and ahhing over both Ethan, he's cute, and Barbara, her eye is ugly, we go to our apartment. Barbara Nannetti has told us that the pharmacy in Montalcino will open at four so we head off to Montalcino. As I blast through the gate next to the rocca Barbara decides she will wait until she can see out of both eyes before driving, depth perception is necessary to drive in Italy.

Tried to go to Dado's for dinner, they have great pizza, but they were closed due to illness. When ended up at Grappolo Blu and had the bunny in Brunello, always good.

Thursday: Let Ethan explore Montalcino and had lunch at Osteria di Porta Cassero. The wild boar and white beans is always good. Later we went to Sant'Antimo, Ethan loved it. His favorites were the fresco of St. Christopher and the crypt. Dinner was down the street at La Crocina, we always have a great meal here.

Friday: This is market day in Montalcino. After the market the girls tried to lift the economy of Italy through the local artisans. When we return to the apartment Fiorella is there. She will be giving a cooking class on Saturday and we are invited. Fiorella then takes us to her villa ( in Monte Amiata Scalo about 10 km away. While the villa is beautiful the reason she brought us is they are filming a movie here. It's a period movie (40's) and they have brought in an old train, very little else has to be changed at the station to make it look authentic. They are using her villa so we get to see some of the costumes. The film crew was not working while we were there but the old train was interesting. We eat at Il Moro in Montalcino.

Saturday: We go to Pienza and take a tour of the pope's house (Palazzo Piccolomini, home of Pius II) and the Duomo. Lunch is at Restaurante del Recardo in Buonconvento. Back to the apartment and the cooking class. The class starts about 3:30 and ends about 8:00 then we eat at 8:30 and finish about 10:30. Everyone enjoyed the class even Ethan but he enjoyed eating it more. The menu: crotini e brushette, zuppa di pane (ribolita), tagliatelle al ragout di anatra (duck), arrosto morto: coniglio e pollo, finocchi al forno, carciofi in fricassea, insalata, cantuccini di fiorella. Of course a great wine was served.

Sunday: We take Ethan through the rocca in Montalcino. He thinks that the fortress is cool and loves the views from the walls and towers. After lunch at Porta Cassero we drive to Murlo. The museum is closed as is the church. Ethan is not impressed with this tiny town, I thought he would be. Next we go to Monte Oliveto Maggiore. It's very crowded but Ethan spends a lot of time with the frescoes and enjoys himself. Dinner in the village at La Crocina with Fiorella and Paolo. Everything was excellent.

Monday: We go to Siena and park at the underground lot a few blocks from the campo and walk to the Palazzo Pubblico (city hall). The Museo Civico has many frescoes and Ethan enjoys himself. At the Museo dell'Opera Ethans favorites are the statues and climbing onto the Panorama dal Facciatone (great views). After the Museo dell'Opera we go over to the Duomo to see the new excavations beneath the church. There is still a lot of work to do and only a little has been open to the public. The tour lasts about fifteen minutes. Since all the museums charge 6 euro this is the least worthwhile.

At the Santa Marie della Scala (the old hospital) across from the Duomo Ethan gets his fill of frescoes. He has Pat read him the story of each one. He loves this place. We wander all over (the place is a maze), and start heading down. As we get to the lower levels (archaeological museum), the tunnels start to smell like sulfur and it starts to get a little stuffy. When we happen on a grinning skull that's enough for Ethan. This has been a busy day of museums and I thought Ethan would get bored but he loved it all except the archaeological museum.

Tuesday: We drive to Volterra. Ethan likes the roman baths. The girls like the alabaster. This is a nice town to relax and see a little history. The girls like the paintings and pottery. Next is San Gimignano, the streets are awash with tourists. Ethan liked the Collgiata, because of the frescoes, and the fortezza.

bobthenavigator Apr 29th, 2004 08:01 AM

Great report Henry--and some of my favorite places. I like your use of apts.---good idea.

Henry Apr 29th, 2004 12:57 PM

Wednesday: We return the car to Eurocar (the girl on duty comes out to look at Barbara's eye) and get a taxi. We are no longer travelling light, both girls have had to add an extra bag because of everything they bought, well, the Brunello is mine. We train from Siena to Orvieto with a change in Chiusi. Because of the extra bags we opt for a taxi rather than the funicular and shuttle bus. We arrive at Valentina's ( The place is very nice and Valentina is a sweetheart. She brings us coffee and cookies and juice for Ethan.

We stroll around Orvieto and end up at the Duomo after touring the Duomo we go across the piazza to the tourist office and get tickets for the underground tour. Ethan loves the underground tour. Dinner is at Il Moro.

Thursday: Breakfast is delivered to the hallway with trays to bring to the rooms. There are a lot of choices and the coffee is good. Since today is market day and the market is just down the street from us the girls must shop. After the market we walk down to the fortress and walk along the walls. Great views and a nice park, Ethan likes it. Lunch is at Restorante Antico Bucchero. Dinner is at La Buca di Bocco.

Friday: After breakfast we have Valentina call a taxi. Ethan takes a while to say goodbye to Valentina and her dogs, she has been very nice to him. We train to Rome and call Genevra the owner of our next apartment. Genevra says that her sister will meet us at the apartment in twenty minutes. We get a taxi outside the station and give him the address and off we go. The taxi driver has to ask several people before he finds the address; he obviously was not familiar with the Trastevere area. This apartment ( was booked before we knew Barbara would join us. In spite of what the web site says it is not adequate for four people. The 'doublebed' sofa is a sofa with a pullout mattress beneath it. The 'double bedroom' has a custom made frame and foam mattress to fit in an alcove. It is smaller than a double. The pictures on the web make everything look larger than it really is. Since Barbara will be with us for only two more nights we decide to make the best of it.

We walk around the apartment to get our bearings. I notice many restaurants within a few blocks of the apartment. We stop in St. Maria in Trastevere church. After lunch and some rest we walk across the Ponte Sisto and on to Campo de'Fiori and Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona has the usual zoo of people dressed like the Statue of Liberty, Egyptian mummies, jugglers, painters, musicians, etc. Ethan loves it, so do the rest of us. After a tour of the church of St. Agnes, which everyone loves, Ethan makes a couple of circles around the Four Rivers Fountain, it is impressive. Ethan decides he wants to get his portrait done as present for his mom on mother's day. He checks the work by all the artists and makes his choice. Ethan sat still for the half-hour it took to complete the work and the result was amazing. While the portrait made him look a few years older it was a startling likeness.

We went back to Trastevere and had a nice dinner at La Scaletta near our apartment.

Henry May 1st, 2004 12:20 AM

Saturday: We walk to the Vatican. Ethan is impressed with the size of St. Peters. Going through security, which is new for us, is quick and easy. Ethan has to use his binoculars to see the ceiling and walls. After St. Peters we find an outdoor pizzeria for lunch then onto Castel Sant'Angelo. Ethan likes the castle especially the views of St. Peters and Ponte Sant'Angelo. We walk back to the apartment to rest before dinner at Mario's.

Sunday: Barbara leaves this morning. We walk to Santa Maria in Trastevere and sit on the fountain and people watch. After lunch at Mario's, Ethan leads us on a tour. First we go to the Pantheon, Ethan looks at the hole in the dome and asks why they never finished it. Next, the Trevi fountain and Ethan throws his coins in, he wants to come back. A stop at Blue Ice for gelato, chocolate, and Ethan thinks this is the best gelato he has ever had. After a rest at the apartment we have dinner a La Scaletta.

Monday: We are off to the Colosseum. While waiting in a huge line we are approached by an English girl who asks us if we want to join a tour of the Colosseum and Forum, 18 euro. We join in and Roberto starts the lecture. I am not impressed with the tour but Ethan likes it. Ethan thinks the inside of the Colosseum is cool and asks a lot of questions. We grab a pannini and juice on the way to the Forum. The tour guide for this part is Josh and he is very good. Ethan latches on to Josh and asks lots of questions, he is having a great time.

Tuesday: We walk down to the Ponte Sisto and get the Bus to Ostiense, number 271 the same one that goes to the Colosseum. At Ostiense station we take the train to Ostia Antica. Ethan thinks this place is great. You can walk anywhere you want and the mosaics are great. We have lunch at the cafeteria on site, this is the worst meal of the trip. On the way back to the apartment we get to the Ostiense station and see bus 271 coming to the same stop we used when we arrived. Since I knew there were only a couple stops to the end of the line I thought we would just get on the bus and ride it around. We rode to the next stop then turned around and went by the Pyramid then onto San Paolo. The bus driver says last stop everyone out. We learn that the buses do not make circuits. At the end of the line you have to get out. We wait for about 30 minutes for the next 271 bus. We get on and go back by the Pyramid to Ostiense station then the next stop and turn around and head back by the Pyramid as we pass it I tell my wife 'parliament, Big Ben'. She does not think it is funny (you have to have seen National lampoon's European Vacation to understand).

Wednesday: Walked around Piazza Navona. Lunch at La Buffita 2.

Thursday: We walk towards the Spanish steps and Ethan sees the McDonalds and want to eat there. He is thrilled with the Big Mac but does not think this McDonalds is anything special. Statues and alcove seating does not look normal to me. We continue walking to the Borghese gardens and Ethan this is a nice park. He rents a k-cart, a pedal go-cart, and zooms around for an hour.

JulieVikmanis May 1st, 2004 04:37 AM

This is great. Thanks so much. We leave May 11 for 6 days in Tuscany and 3 in Rome. I'll take your words with me.

Byrd May 1st, 2004 06:17 AM


I'm so enjoying your report. What a great trip!

I had to laugh at your mention of the guide Roberto at the Colosseum. When we were there in February, we joined his tour to avoid the lines.

We agree with your opinion of his tour!

Awaiting more of your report.


Mary_Fran May 1st, 2004 09:35 AM


What a lucky little boy is Ethan, to have grandparents so wise and attentive to his needs for fun along with knowledge. It must have been great fun for you as well, to see those great cities fresh, through the eyes of a child.

Dratta May 1st, 2004 10:59 AM

Do you need to go to such lenghts to convince anyone to visit Italy? Well, I guess you are american. ...Blurb on.

Lisa1271 May 2nd, 2004 01:53 PM

I don't consider Henry's report a "Blurp" to convince people to go to Italy. I think it's wonderful that he took the time to write with such details. We are planning our trip for the fall and will be traveling to some of the same places as Henry and I am very happy to have all this first hand info available. Thanks Henry, keep on writing for those who appreciate it.
Lisa S

CarolA May 2nd, 2004 02:01 PM

Love the report.

Ostia Antica was one of my favorite places.

How many more grandchildren do you get to take?

CafeBatavia May 2nd, 2004 04:37 PM

Dratta, you are a nasty little loser. Take your vile anti-american comments and negative attitude someplace else.

Henry May 3rd, 2004 10:16 AM

Friday: We have an uneventful return home.

Things I learned: Children's appreciation and understanding of art is unlimited. Cultural differences are easily accepted by children. A mama's boy will forget he has parents when he is having a good time. A picky eater will accept something different and enjoy it when he has no other choice. And buses in Rome do not make continuous circuits.

I was worried that Ethan would become bored with Italy. I was unprepared for a child that loved museums and churches (no shortages of these in Italy). I knew he would love the castles, gelato, and climbing almost anything but when he wanted books that explained the frescoes I was amazed. He was willing to walk with us with no particular destination just to see what we might find. I knew that he loved Italy when about two weeks into the trip he started talking about returning with his sisters and cousins to show them how things are done. Ethan told me that he had to come back to Italy when it was our littlest grandson's turn because I would be too old to do it without his help. Italy has captured another heart.

I have four more grandchildren to take to Italy.
Any questions? I answer posts or e-mails.

Henry May 7th, 2004 06:24 PM


awbaker May 7th, 2004 06:48 PM

Thank you for the report, Henry. Ethan really is lucky to have you & Pat as grandparents. I have two young boys which I want to expose to travel, and your report was very encouraging.

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