Trip Report - Tuscany- 10 Days - Part 4

Old Dec 13th, 2006, 03:03 PM
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Trip Report - Tuscany- 10 Days - Part 4

Trip Report Tuscany, September 2006 – Part 4
Day 8

After our hotel breakfast, we head to the famous Duomo. We get there a little early, so we buy a combination ticket for the Duomo, Museo, Crypt, and the Baptistery, and the Faccciatone. Our early arrival worked to our advantage. We toured the Museo, which was open early, and lovely by the way, and then we got in line for the Duomo, which opens at 10:30. With our reserved tickets we were the first in line! The gates opened promptly at 10:30 a.m., and the Siena Duomo was everything we read about, it’s beautiful! The marble floors were unveiled, so we enjoyed looking at those as well as the rest of the amazing artistry everywhere we looked. The black and white marble columns are so unique and striking. Because we were inside first, we had the place practically to ourselves, which was wonderful, because after we finished touring we realized that the place was mobbed, and we had been able to enjoy the place on a personal level. We then visited the other venues on our combined ticket. All are worth seeing, the crypt being most fascinating.

Now it was time for rest and relaxation of course we headed for the Piazza Del Campo for refreshments and people watching. We find a great spot and order a pizza and some wine. There’s so many people wandering the Piazza and we enjoy watching the crowds. We can hear laughter and applauding in the distance, and we can see an actor having fun with tourists and making the diners at the café where he is laugh and clap. Not too soon after he stations himself in front of us. What a hilarious routine he has mocking the tourists and making such fun. I laughed so hard there were tears in my eyes. After his performance he collects change in a hat, and tips his head and waves to me, knowing I was his best audience. Everyone should have the pleasure of sitting in the Piazza, what a treat!

We were told that the Sienese head out every evening to stroll along their main street where all the shops are located, so late afternoon we joined the Sienese. The streets were very crowded. There were tourists and locals milling about sometimes stopping to chat. The specialty shops selling local cheeses, wines, and meats are really marvelous. The smells emanating from these tiny shops are rich with fragrance.

This night we made reservations at the previous night’s recommended restaurant. While I got ready Guy decided to head across the street to the little bar and check out the local flavor. When I exited from the hotel I saw him across the street talking. He told me he met some men who explained the victory of the Pantera. They were very emotional describing their long awaited celebration and wanted to buy him drinks to toast. The Pantera were again setting up the square for another victory dinner. The street lights were hung and the stage set.

After dinner, we went straight back to our hotel to see what was happening in the square. The celebration dinner was in full swing. This was the evening the women of the Contrada dress as men, but for what reason we didn’t know. The street was ablaze in light with every long, long table filled with diners. Colorful Pantera flags, and a landscape façade backdrop lined the edge of the square. Beautiful blue water bottles on each table glowed in the light giving the whole piazza a lovely luminosity. We rejoined the bar Guy had been at earlier in the evening and ordered Limoncello and sat outside watching the lively scene before us. There was a replay of the Pantera Contucci winning the race, and the crowd cheered for their victory. Guy noticed that every table had wine with a victory label on the bottle. “We should get one of those,” he said as he got up to walk over to inquire about taking one home. There was a big discussion, and after consulting with the President of the Pantera’s, Guy was able to purchase a bottle of wine for 5Ï. We snapped some pictures and a woman, who was dressed like a man holding her baby and a cigar, posed for us. This was indeed a night to remember, an evening out under the stars with the warm and happy Pantera’s.

Day 9

We bid farewell to Sienna and I was sad to do so, we had such a nice time in this ancient, beautiful city. I’ll miss our cozy loft in the Palizzo Ravizzi and the wonderful, friendly service we received at this special Hotel.

Guy skillfully brought our rented Fiat onto the Autostrada. We were in a different Italy now. We sped through the hills towards Lucca.

Lucca, what a pretty place, although much different in appearance than the area south of Florence being at the foothills of the Alps. There’s a lovely wide walking trail surrounding the city with large park areas that look so inviting. Not much time in our day to really see the place, but we did walk some of the trail and worked our way through the streets. This seems to be a real community and a well to do one. A narrow street with a school building, a nun standing at the doorway waving to children being picked up by their parents on bicycles. No one wears a helmet and children hang onto bicycles in the front or back. Lots of parents stopping and chatting, children playing, what a different way of life from what we’re used to in the USA. There are shops galore here too, very nice ones, food shops, clothing shops, and specialty shops. People are very well dressed, even Mom’s picking up their children on bikes are adorned with pearls.

We find an outside café in a small Piazza. A nice lunch and wine, as we bask in sunshine, we’re getting used to this relaxing afternoon break we’ve established on our trip.

Since we had left this night open as to where to stay, we decided to leave Lucca and head towards Florence. We have a 7:30 a.m. flight scheduled for the next morning (why did we do this?), so we wanted to be closer to the airport. Guy had earmarked the town of Prato as a possibility, but we decided to get into Florence. What a mistake!!! We first attempted a new hotel near the airport and they were completely booked and we tried and tried with the same results in the meantime getting lost and angry at each other. We finally got back onto the Autostrada and headed to the outskirts of Florence and got lost again and finally made it to Prato.

The Hotel Daniti was just off the highway, so we took a room there without any hesitation being so frustrated and weary. The hotel is serviceable and very clean. Guy asked the nice staff where they might recommend dining tonight, so they made a reservation for us within the historic walled city of Prato.

We repacked our suitcases for the morning, and headed to the restaurant. The Italians are funny; we got driving directions, but were told “very easy, very easy, to find”. Good thing Guy has great instincts, because it wasn’t easy, but we did manage to find our way in the dark. Finding our way to the historic part of Prato, we were sorry to find all the shops were closed, but again they were all very, very nice shops on narrow old streets. Window shoppers were out in force. After walking this way and that way, we did manage to find the restaurant, realizing we had trouble finding the place, because the street wasn’t marked correctly.

Il Prato was a gem. We had difficulty ordering, because our waitress could not speak English, and of course we know very little Italian, but we managed with the help of another waiter and some customers nearby. The meal was supberb and we toasted our luck in finding the place.

Day 10

Just like the staff said, our trip to Florence airport was quick. We had to drop off our rental car and looked for the Euro Drive signs. In the dark of morning, it was hard to find but again, Guy followed what he felt was obvious and sure enough there was a rental car parking lot with a small Euro Drive sign. We parked in a designated space, and wondered where the office was located. Getting out of the car we saw a guy walking through the area and asked. He told us the office was not open yet, but to leave the keys in the box at the end a building. We searched and found a dimly lit area with a bank of boxes to deposit keys and hopefully, we did it right, because we had to check in for our flight.

A big line at the check in at Alitalia where we were told that our seats for the flight to Milan would be together, but our flight from Milan to USA we would have separate seats. Ugh, what a disappointment.

Our trip to Milan was seamless. However, when we checked at the boarding gate about getting our seats changed, the Alitalia staff treated us rudely. Luckily the nice person in Florence had assigned us isle seats one behind the other, so we felt we would be all right. We had our last really good Espresso at the airport before departing.

It’s interesting to find yourself accepting rude treatment, but we knew what we were in for with Alitalia, so we sat back and enjoyed our flight finding amusement in the staff’s behavior. Luckily for me this time they had wine – sorry no beer!
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Old Dec 13th, 2006, 03:38 PM
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Enjoying your report.
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Old Dec 14th, 2006, 08:30 PM
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What a wonderful time you had in Siena!

Thank you so much for sharing your trip - I very much enjoyed reading all four parts.

Linda

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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 08:13 AM
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Linda, I'm glad you enjoyed my report. Happy traveling!
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Old Dec 15th, 2006, 08:35 PM
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I enjoyed reading your report -- very well written and interesting to read. I had to smile when I got to the part about Pienza. I stayed there for four nights in May. You may enjoy viewing the photos I took there at: http://www.travelswithdiane.homestea...13Tuscany.html

Please excuse all the "copywrites" over the photos -- long story about someone stealing them.

Thanks again for sharing -- it appears you had a memorable time.

Diane
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Old Dec 16th, 2006, 08:06 AM
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Diane, I can't thank you enough for linking me to your trip report. What a spectacular job you did! The photos are amazing. You have given me a new level to rise to!

Many thanks, Mimi
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 08:48 AM
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tt
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