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Trip Report Trip report: Spoleto, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto and Rome

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Time: 14 March to 6 April 2007

A tradition in my family is to introduce everyone to Italy. I have taken all my children and now I am working my way through the grandchildren. This year it is Madison and Isabel's turn. They are both in third grade and are cousins. Joining me, and my wife Pat will be Pat's sister Barbara. Barbara is a docent at a big city museum and loves to introduce the children to art.

I have tried to put in prices when I have found the receipts. I know it makes a difference what we had but this will give you an idea of prices. No one had a glass of water or wine, the prices are for bottles or liters we had them with every meal. All the restaurants were good with one exception.

We flew, I don't want to talk about it and you don't want to hear it. We arrived at FCO and were met by the driver I hired, Rome Shuttle Limousine The driver was waiting for us with a sign at the arrival area. He spoke English, helped us with our bags, and gave us a running commentary on the sights we passed. I thought it was good service and only cost 50 euro for five of us to Termini. Got the tickets on an ES to Spoleto and boarded the train and called Laurie and told him what train we were on. At Spoleto Laurie picked us up and drove us to the apartment.

Terrazza Splendida is a beautiful apartment in the old section of Spoleto. An English couple owns the apartment so language problems are minimal. Norma and her husband, Laurie, have quite a few apartments in Spoleto and I have rented from them before. When I set this trip up I e-mailed Norma and told her who was coming and she suggested this apartment and put an extra bed in the twin room. The apartment is huge and accurately described on the website. Laurie makes sure we can operate the appliances and TV and shows us the basket of brochures and maps of local tourists spots. He points out a list with recommended restaurants and discount coupons and his cell phone number in case we have problems. Laurie points out the provisions in the refrigerator and cupboards, which he thinks are enough to get us through the first day and breakfast the next. I tell him that one bottle of wine won't get us through the first day and I plan to go to the COOP (grocery store). He insists on giving me a ride. Since I am paying less than a 100-euro a day all this extra service is remarkable.

At the COOP we pickup what we think we will need for the next three days and walk back to the apartment. On the way back we stop in piazza Garibaldi for gelato. The girls have been told this is the best part of the trip, and they agree. Seeing the look on their faces, as they taste their first gelato reminds me of why we bring the kids. While the girls are eating gelato I hit the ATM for 500 euro to pay for the apartment, Pat and Barbara also stock up. From the terrace of the apartment we watch the sun set while having wine and cheese. It is great to be back in Italy.

Dinner is at Osteria del Trivia. We have eaten here on previous trips and they serve a huge mixed antipasta. While the food was fine the girls 'hit the wall' so we walked back to the apartment and everyone was in bed by 9:30. This system has worked for us. Let the kids stay up until they collapse then let them sleep in as long as they want the next morning. Pat and I don't seem to be bothered by jet lag as much as when we first started to come to Italy.

The next morning, Friday, Pat and I are up at 7:00 everyone else is sleeping in. Madison is the next one up at 10:00 so I take her out to pick up pastries for everyone. She can't believe how many choices she has. After everyone is up we head to the market where the girls shop. This becomes a recurring part of the trip, the girls shopping.

We headed to the Duomo and as we were walking down the steps I saw a sign for the 'Museo Diocesano e Basilica di Sant'Eufemia' so I said to Barbara let's take a look. My granddaughters had run down the steps with Pat trying to catch up so it was just Barbara and I. As we were admiring the paintings a gentleman came up to us and asked where we were from. He spoke no English so it took me a while to understand that he wanted to show us the library. We followed him as he unlocked doors and took us up to a library crammed with ancient manuscripts. He removed books and showed us music and census information from 500 to 1000 years ago. He encouraged Barbara to turn the pages and see the different styles of writing and music. Barbara was both thrilled and apprehensive; she had learned never to touch old manuscripts with bare hands. One of the joys of Italy is the people who are proud of their past and want to share it with you.

After lunch we take the girls through the Roman house unearthed from the 1st century it still has mosaics in good condition. Next is the bridge of towers. The views are still breathtaking but Ponte di Torre is closed and can't be crossed. Dinner is at Osteria di Matto right off Piazza Mercanto. Fillipo the owner keeps the girls entertained all night while bringing out dish after dish of food. At 16 euro each this is a real bargain. We don't leave the Osteria until after 10:00 and we practically have to roll home. While each dish is only a sampling there are so many of them that eventually you have to say enough!

The next morning we walk to the train station and head to Assisi, it takes about forty minutes and about 12 euro for five of us. There is a bus waiting at the train station and I quickly get tickets and we head up to the town. Our first stop is the basilica and we spend a lot of time as Barbara explains the frescos to the girls. Between the upper and lower churches there is a gift shop so even in church shopping is done. We have a nice lunch at Locanda del Podesta.

We spend the rest of the afternoon visiting St. Maria Sopra Minerva, St. Ruffino, and St. Chiara churches as well as shopping and gelato breaks. Back to Spoleto we eat at the apartment.

Sunday morning we have a large breakfast on the terrace. The little ones help make the breakfast and serve the adults. It is a beautiful day. After breakfast I take my granddaughters on a map reading exercise. Each girl is given a map and two locations to find. Besides teaching the girls a much-needed skill this allows us to stroll through most of the town. Barbara and Pat spend the afternoon shopping. Dinner is at Trattoria/Pizzaria della Dorsu. The girls discover real pizza and it is love at first bite. After dinner while strolling through town with a gelato we meet a man now living in Spoleto but originally from Scotland who catches us up on all the latest town gossip.

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