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**TRIP REPORT** Oh my I turned 50 but did it in Tuscany, June 11 to 22nd

**TRIP REPORT** Oh my I turned 50 but did it in Tuscany, June 11 to 22nd

Aug 30th, 2007, 07:19 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 251
Memories – Contributing to our excessive number of photos it the fact that I like to document what may be taken for granted – for example, the road signs, the toilets (they all flush differently), the view out the window from inside the shower or from the bed, the cars.

Invaluable Preparation –
For months, I listened periodically to the Learn Italian in Your Car CD’s. They proved invaluable in one case and I will explain later.

On a funny note, in case I gained weight from eating and drinking and not working out (overlooked the hours and hours of walking I would be doing as a form of exercise) I even bought a pair of Capri’s a size bigger! Fortunately, I did not gain an ounce.

Chapter Three/Day Three – Woo Hoo, I am 50 (How the heck did that happen?)

When we first started to plan this trip for my birthday, I knew very little about Italy except, of course, the basics. We contemplated where spend our days and considered the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany and definitely Rome. My initial research consisted of travel books and various internet sites. Since we did not want to waste too much time moving from place to place, we ultimately chose to spend 6 days in Tuscany and 3 days in Rome and one day in Paris.

I used Expedia and Trip Advisor to select our hotels. I remember that it took an entire Patriots football game last September for me to select our Rome hotel - what with all the cross referencing to reviews and user comments. I look back and have no idea how I chose Radda in Chianti but believe it was solely on the pictures of the hotel and the trip advisor reviews. I was not yet aware of the Fodor’s site. (I actually found a distant cousin in the process – small world, isn’t it.)

Somewhere along the way, my heart became set on visiting Montalcino on my birthday. That was the first planned day of our trip.

Here goes – the big 50! By the way, being 50 does not bother me at all. The only thing that really shook me up was receiving the AARP envelope in the mail a few weeks before my birthday.

Turning 50 does not have to be sad but sipping wine all day sure did not hurt! We had reservations for a tour and tasting at the Argiano Winery at 11 am and the Tenuta Greppo Biondi Santi Winery at 3 pm. In between the tours, we would have lunch and walk around Montalcino.

Thanks to all of you, I was aware that most wineries required an advance reservation.

We are both early risers and were ready to leave the hotel by 7 am. Since our GPS did not work, we thought we would stop off at the Hertz in Siena to obtain a replacement. Little did we know what an adventure Siena would be?

For those of you that have yet to experience Siena, let me note that this is a fabulous walled town (as are most of the towns we visited) with narrow little streets and lots and lots of foot traffic. If you are from the Boston area, you may know the song about Charlie being trapped on the MBTA. Well, we were trapped in the walled streets of Siena to the point where I said it was OK if we skipped Montalcino.

I can still vividly see in my head the narrow streets with the little parked cars and trucks as we tried to escape. We still did not argue or get annoyed with each other and we did manage to make our way out. There are no real words to describe this adventure but it is part of our fun and wonderful memories. We never did find Hertz and decided we were doing well enough with our maps.

The horizon as you approach Montalcino is spectacular. Although we had directions to the Argiano Winery, we stopped in a hotel just below the town to confirm we were headed in the right direction. My boyfriend waited in the running car just outside while I ran in to inquire. Imagine my surprise when I came out and he was nowhere to be seen! Apparently, several cars from several directions forced him to move and once again, he was “trapped” in narrow streets. To his credit, he handled it like a trooper and “found” me. He was so amused (and getting used to the sometimes treacherous driving) that he retraced his path just so I could see what he had just experienced. I took pictures during both the Siena and Montalcino street adventures. I should add that although the drivers can be crazy and some roads are full of continuous hairpin turns, we are from the Boston area. If we can survive driving here, Italy is not much more challenging.

Despite my planning and confirmation, we were not expected at the Argiano Winery however, we were graciously given a private tour. The grounds and view are lovely and are to this day owned by a Countess. Wines are still aged in the “basement” of the estate. We loved the Solengo. Shipping wines home did not seem a practical option but we did buy some of the olive oil and have yet to try it.

We left the winery and headed back to Montalcino. The actual parking was the easy part. Trying to figure out how to pay and get a ticket when everything was written in Italian was another funny moment until someone kindly assisted us. As I said, I am not much of a shopper but we did purchase three small watercolors that I intend to mat and frame as one picture. I think they were less than 10 Euro. The town has many steep cobblestone streets and at one point turning to take a picture, I slipped and fell. Saved the camera. Did not get hurt or dirty. (Another small world thing – the family that was part of our afternoon winery tour said they witnessed my fall and were amazed I was not hurt. How funny is that?)

We had a very hard time agreeing on where and what to eat. We literally stumbled upon a small bar/restaurant that had a porch that could not be seen from the street. What a view – we could see for miles and miles! It was just us and another couple dining.

Once we ate and walked around a little more, we headed for the Biondi Santi winery. We located the winery but were a bit early so we headed to a monastery near by for a quick peek. Very lovely.

The website for the Biondi Santi winery credits Ferruccio Biondi Santi with the birth of Brunello di Montalcino. This is a fascinating place to visit. We loved the tasting here and the Brunello wine. The young woman giving the tour was from New York although she had lived in Italy for many years at this point.

Once we finished our tour, we headed “home” to Radda in Chianti satisfied with our day and our adventures. This was Thursday and we still had so much time left in Italy. It was so wonderful not to have cell phones! Did I mention our hotel had a pool overlooking the vineyard? However, who wants to waste time lying in the sun!

When I packed, I assumed we would change for dinner. We never did while in Tuscany. It just was not necessary.

Woo hoo – our luggage arrived while we were away. Damaged but all there. Also, the hotel kindly had roses and a bottle of wine in the room from their vineyard for my 50th birthday. By the way, the hotel also provides a bottle of wine in the room upon checkin.

My birthday was the only night we did not eat at Pizzeria Michele. Our first night we stopped for a drink at the small café diagonally across the street to the right of our hotel. I wish I could tell you the name but I cannot. The food is very good and the staff pleasant. The server apparently comes every year for the summer with her husband (I think) from Germany. We ran into a woman from the Midwest that also visits every year and had a nice chat.

We ate outside – of course – and the sunset was once again breathtaking. I took a number of great pictures. My boyfriend – being silly – wrote Happy 50th Birthday on paper and we took a picture of ourselves. It took a couple tries but we got a good memory!

At this point, we had yet to overindulge in wine! Tomorrow – Florence, our other planned Tuscany day.
pmuzzy17 is offline  
Aug 30th, 2007, 09:09 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,577
I'm enjoying your report, thanks for taking the time to do this - lots of useful info for my next trip! Especially the winery info.

I turn 50 this year also - wish I could be in Italy that day, but I decided to "turn 49" in Paris last year instead!
cls2paris is offline  
Aug 30th, 2007, 09:31 AM
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I am writing this report in Word and the wonderful part will be I can break it up in pieces and hopefully someday put it together with the pictures! I am happy I can help other people!
pmuzzy17 is offline  
Aug 30th, 2007, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Thank you for the report, I am loving it. If you would like to read about Montalcino from a Scottish woman who is now a local read Isabella Dusi's books. I can't wait for more of you report.

SeaUrchin is offline  
Aug 30th, 2007, 01:12 PM
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SeaUrchin, thank you for the suggestion but I already did. I am an avid reader and for the entire year I read novels that took place in Italy. One of my favorites was the Reluctant Tuscan (I think). Still have a couple that are as yet unread. Loaned them to my Mother and she is loving them. Another favorite was The Last Voyage of the Valentina. Thanks for the encouragement. It is a time consuming process and then you say to yourself - Oh, I dont' want to forget this and this...
pmuzzy17 is offline  
Aug 30th, 2007, 01:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I loved the Reluctant Tuscan, is that about the comedy writer and his wife? I laughed out loud so many times with that one.

Yes, a report is time consuming but it is worth it to keep us amused (and informed) (and you can refer to it later)!
SeaUrchin is offline  
Aug 30th, 2007, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 830
What a great report. I was searching for your screen name and for some reason this post did not come up for me so I'm glad you told me where to look on your other post. I am really looking forward to reading about your Florence adventure. Sounds like you had quite a few adventures just getting out of the US but it also sounds like you handled them well. A missed connection and lost luggage is a tough way to start a vacation but it sounds like being anal paid off. I like your "no tears from me" comment. HA!! I also like your "trying to escape Sienna" story. Even some of the simplest sounding things are sometimes hard to actually do aren't they?. By the way, a belated happy birthday to you. I think I would have been tempted to chug that bottle of wine rather than give it to security. Isn't the Chianti area around Panzano, Castellina and Radda just a wonderful place to be? Can't wait to read more......
john183 is online now  
Sep 19th, 2007, 11:50 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 830
Is there more coming?????
john183 is online now  
Sep 19th, 2007, 12:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 2,373
pmuzzy, where are you? We need more...

I also was lucky enough to celebrate my 50th in Italy and in Spain (the actual day was a completely perfect one in Umbria with the best of friends, but I celebrated for a whole month - hey, you only turn 50 once).

I love that we get to subtract those 15 years!!!

What day is your birthday? Mine is May 23, so I will assume I can wish another mercurial Gemini belated b-day wishes...
annabelle2 is online now  
Oct 26th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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Sorry - I have been overwhelmed lately. I will definately try to write more this weekend>

Thank you for the encouragement!!
pmuzzy17 is offline  
Oct 28th, 2007, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 830
Unfortunately, overwhelmed is a common affliction these days isn't it? Just happy to "hear your voice" so to speak. Looking forward to more..........
john183 is online now  
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