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Version 2 - At last, my trip report has come along, my writing days are over, and life is like a song! 6 Coworkers take on Bella Italia, a travel tale from October 2006

Version 2 - At last, my trip report has come along, my writing days are over, and life is like a song! 6 Coworkers take on Bella Italia, a travel tale from October 2006

Feb 14th, 2007, 09:52 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
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Version 2 - At last, my trip report has come along, my writing days are over, and life is like a song! 6 Coworkers take on Bella Italia, a travel tale from October 2006

Per SusanPs request, I'm reposting this. I'll leave out the link to the pics this time. I didn't realize the link would cause a problem! Enjoy!

Well, I've finally completed my version of the trip report. One of my companions is still working on hers. Mine focuses more on the happenings of the trip, while hers contains alot of history etc. She's only on day 4 and is up to several pages, so I wouldn't hold my breath for too long! I've included details where I could. My notes were not as meticulous as some of the others, but it's a fun story anyway!

Wednesday October 11.

It was a dark and stormy night…Not really, but had it been dark and stormy the night before, the pollen count would have been lower and my sinuses wouldn’t have been going nuts! As I prepare to leave the house to pick up M, K, IP and L, I wonder how my sinus medication is going to react with the Vino I plan to start drinking as soon as I’m safely parked at the airport!

I triple check my double checking to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything…Bags-check, passport-check, tickets-check, cash-check, debit and credit cards-check, reservation printouts-check…anything else, I can buy! I make sure the cats have plenty of food and water (even though my 13 year old twins will be staying with the neighbors, and coming home to check on the cats…My mom will be down later in the week, and will rescue the cats if need be!) and make sure the house is locked. Hop in the car, and I’m off!!! More than a year’s worth of planning, and I’m finally on my way! Watch out Italy…here I come! It’s a short trip to M&K’s house. Steph, M’s daughter, hands me a list of all the pictures I’m supposed to take whilst in Italy. Every other line mentioned “Hot Italian Men”! Got M&K loaded in the car, then it’s off to IP’s house…she’s all loaded up and we’re on our way to L’s house.

We got to L’s house at 9:30 am, and had to go inside to help her tend to a luggage emergency! Magical Duct Tape applied, all’s well! Got L loaded, and proceeded to stick my tongue out at her boyfriend who swore that all 5 of us and our luggage wouldn’t fit in my car! TPA, here we come!!!

The original group of 5 consists of myself, M&K, L and E. “IP” signed on a bit late, so she was not able to get the same flights as the rest of us. She was leaving a bit earlier than we were, but with two layovers, she was to arrive in Rome about 2 hours later than the rest of us.

“IP” flew Delta, TPA to Atlanta, to Cincinnati, to Rome. The rest of us were on USAir. M, K, L and myself were out of TPA, E was out of Columbia, SC, we met in PHL and flew together to Rome.

The USAir Tampa group was at the airport early, (IP’s flight left earlier than ours did) so we had time for a nice lunch at Chili’s Too. I wandered over to the gift shop and purchased a travel pillow, as mine never got packed. We head over to Gate F84 and I check to see if there are any first class seats available. All four of us ended up being upgraded to first, and it was a pleasant ride to PHL. I was sitting next to L on the flight, and we were thumbing through the Sky Catalog, and I came across the Ultimate Massage Recliner for $4500. A few rude comments later and we were both in hysterics!!

We had to circle PHL for quite a while, it was raining and there was a piece of ground equipment that failed on the runway, so we had to wait for the back up system to come up. We landed at 5pm, and our flight to Rome is supposed to start boarding at 525pm. We made the mad OJ dash through the airport, and when we got to the gate, “E” was waiting for us, wondering if she should get on the plane or not! PHL to FCO was an Airbus 330, we were all spread out around the plane. We were supposed to take off at 555pm, and at 6pm, the pilot announces that we are waiting for 40 people who still need to board the plane. Between the delays of other flights, and a lady on our flight who got very ill and had to be removed (her bag had to be found as well), we pushed back from the gate at 716pm, 10th in line for take off, and we were finally ‘wheels up’ at 750pm!!!

We decided as a group that we would all wait for IP at the airport, book one shuttle and be on our way. We have since decided that everyone is on their own for future trips, and we’ll all meet at the hotel! IP’s luggage never made it to Rome, so the 5 of us waiting were left wondering what had happened to her, did she miss one of her connections? Was she stuck in Cincinnati? We knew her flight had landed, but had no way to contact her.

We were all exhausted, and I think we were getting a bit punch-drunk! Me and K wandered over to the Delta desk, but they wouldn’t give us any information since we didn’t have the same last name as “IP”. I also tried to have her paged, but the bitch, I mean nice lady, behind the counter said the airport didn’t allow personal pages. We called her daughter in the states, no one had heard from her.

IP was stuck on the other side of the wall, in line, waiting to report her lost baggage, and didn’t have the hotel information. She was able to finally come out to get the information from us, and we were on our way. We used Limo Service Rome, our rate would have been €70 for the six of us, but, due to the delay there was an extra €30 tacked on. Pay the driver, quick trip to the hotel and here we were…Roma!

















Thursday October 12th


We checked into the Grand Palazzo Carpegna Hotel at Via Aurelia 481. The hotel is a former convent, and despite its age, it was modern, clean and quite nice. The rooms were spacious and laid out well. Between the 6 of us, we had a double room (for M&K) and a triple room. There were no other rooms available at the hotel, and because of the last minute addition of “IP”, we were a bit stuck. I volunteered to sleep on the floor if we weren’t able to get a rollaway, it was only two nights after all. We weren’t able to get a rollaway, so we took the mattress off of one of the beds, put it on the floor and I slept on that. The bed with no mattress had a comfy enough bottom layer (not really a box spring) that “IP” slept on.

We got our stuff, minus IP’s luggage stowed away in the rooms and headed out. There was no stopping us! Jetlag and all, we made our way to the Metro, managed to buy tickets from the machine and took the Metro to the Vatican. We hit the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel that first afternoon, saving St. Peters for the next day. I must admit, not being Catholic, I could have gone either way with the Vatican. I’m so glad I chose to go. I was moved beyond words. A sense of what I can only describe as peace came over me, and all seemed right in the world, if only for a brief moment in time (ok, I’m sure the jetlag had a little to do with this as well!). I was not, however, all that impressed with the Sistine Chapel. Perhaps it was the masses of people, or the fact that I was really getting tired, but I just didn’t see what all the hoopla was about. I’ll have to add it to my list of things to see and do a second time, when I’m not so tired!

After we finished (perfectly timed to end at closing time) we took the Metro back to the hotel, and walked across the street from the Cornelia Metro stop to Joseph’s. Here’s what we ordered…3 litres house wine, 2 litres still water, 6 Bruchetta, 2 cokes, 5 pastas, 4 salads, 2 steaks, 1 fries and 1 veal. The total came to €104,80. We decided as a group that since there were 6 of us eating similar things, we would simply split the total check 6 ways each meal. This might not work well for others, but we found it to be the easiest way to go! The waitress at Joseph’s was a dream. We were about the only non-locals in the place, very little English was spoken, but we managed to communicate very well, and she was very patient with our bunch of weary travelers. She more than earned her tip that night! It ended up being the perfect first night dinner.

After dinner, we meandered back to the hotel, and made our way to our rooms. Here’s where the laughing starts! See, IP’s luggage still had not arrived, and she neglected to follow the ‘tips and guidelines’ set forth in our planning meetings, which means, she didn’t pack a change of clothes in her carry on! I had packed a few pair of brand new undies, so I gave her a pair, along with track pants and a shirt, and she was good to go! We thought it would be funny for IP to wake up to her washed undies hanging from the hotel room window, I don’t think she was as amused as the rest of us!

I had a difficult time sleeping that night, so after everyone else was asleep, I made my way to the bathroom, book and smokes in tow, and found a new use for the bidet! I have a bad ankle that thanks to repeated injury as a teenager, is quite moody! It was very swollen, probably a combination of flying and walking, so I got myself situated on the toilet, plopped my bad ankle into the bidet and ran the ice cold water over it! Instant relief! I was probably in there a good hour until I finished my book and was finally ready to sleep!

I was finally falling asleep when all of a sudden, I heard all this ‘clicking’. “Click, click” pause, “Click, click” pause, “Click, click” pause, “Click, click” pause, “Click, click” pause, “Click, click” pause. Then a few grunts and the clicking started again. The mattress I was laying on was up against the night table, and above the table were all the light switches for the room. I noticed as the clicking was occurring, a light would come on and then go off. It took a minute to realize that someone was playing with the switches…after two rounds of clicking, I sat up and asked “IP” who was right next to me, “What the hell are you doing?” “I have to turn off that light” she replied. At this point, everyone in the room was up and “E” says…”It’s a street light, you can’t turn it off”. 15 minutes of laughing and we were all back asleep.



pantelia is offline  
Feb 14th, 2007, 09:53 AM
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Friday, October 13th

We were up and at it around 7am. I was up first and jumped in the shower. “L” was writing in her journal, near the window when I came out of the bathroom, and I didn’t see her at first, and when I turned around, she was there…needless to say, I screamed and we all had a good chuckle out of it. “IP” and “E” were wondering what the singing was outside. I heard no singing (other than my own shower singing!) and thought they were hallucinating…come to find out, there’s a police academy right behind the hotel, and every morning, they march, sing and raise the flag. Apparently, at night, they also watch for ladies undies hanging in the window at the hotel!!!

Half of us were downstairs eating breakfast, someone came down and told me that "IP" couldn't get her curling iron to work, so I ran upstairs and helped her, and went back to my breakfast. A few minutes later, "IP" comes down and has her curling iron in her purse. She whips it out and says "Look at this...it's the remnants of my hair". The curling iron had black charred hair on it. The she turns around and she's missing a big chunk of hair from the top of her head, and what's left is brown, where the rest of it is grey! I lost most of the eggs that were in my mouth and almost lost a contact I was laughing so hard!

We gather our composure, finish breakfast and head to the Basilica San Clemente to meet Mauro, our guide for the morning. I booked Mauro (Scarpati) through www.romaround.it. It was the best money we spent in Rome. Mauro was fabulous. I can't say enough nice things about him. I think we paid 240 or 260 Euro for the 6 of us, for 3.5 hours. He got a nice hefty tip as well. I wouldn't hesitate to use them again, and would highly recommend them to others.

We met Mauro at the Basilica San Clemente. I was very impressed with this church and its history. I stopped to light a candle for my friend’s son who was in Iraq at the time (he has since come home safely). We saw a few large groups being herded through the underbelly of San Clemente and I was thankful that we had booked a private guide. At times, we would stand back and wait for the large groups to move on, and I can only imagine how hard it would have been to hear and really gain anything from the larger groups.

We then walked to the Coliseum and WOW! Talk about history! Mauro excitement about the history of his beautiful home was contagious. He truly loves what he does and where he’s from and it came across in every word he spoke. We bypassed the lines and went inside. Our first stop was Mauro’s ‘classroom’, a group of big rocks that we sat on and listened while he spoke. You couldn’t help but get excited about what he was saying! The stories about the first games, the different types of animals that were used, we all soaked it in like sponges.

We made our way over to the Forum, stopping briefly for a bathroom break and so that Mauro could check on his wife, who was pregnant and not able to take her asthma medication. A little more history and our time with Mauro was over. I can’t say enough good things about this man. His method and style made you want to learn more and more. We couldn’t get enough of him. I will definitely be booking him again on future trips. We all agreed that his fee was hands down, the best money we spent on the whole trip.

Mauro made a comment about you can tell the Romans from the tourists…the Romans don’t have to look down at the cobblestones when they walk. Being the smartass that I am, I attempted to walk like a Roman between the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. I guess the Romans don’t have to watch for curbs either, but I should have. I stepped off one and of course, landed on my bad ankle! I’m obviously not a Roman!

After we finished with Mauro, we headed over to the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. We stopped for lunch along the way. I’m not sure if this is the name of the restaurant, or the address, but this is what I have written down, Via della Pilotta. We ordered the following: 3 pizza Margarita, 1 Quatro formaggio pizza, 1 crostino co procchiutto, 1 chicken with roasted potatoes, 2 litres still water and 1 litre of house wine. Our total came to €56,00.

Between my limited Greek and even more limited Italian, and "K"s fluent Spanish, we managed the language barrier just fine. By the end of the trip we were congratulating “K” on his “SpItalian”!!

After my curb/ankle incident, we took a taxi (well, we took two) from the Spanish Steps to St. Peters, where we ended the day. There was almost no line to get in to St. Peter’s, and we took our time inside. There was a choir practicing and we spent some time listening. What beautiful voices they had. Outside, and in, they were preparing for a canonization that was taking place the following day, so there were lots of people scurrying about with chairs. They had the outside set up, and we saw the chair that the Pope was to sit in. I was starting to wind down quickly, and needed some fresh air, so I headed outside ahead of the group. I was standing on the steps, just outside the front door, when the changing of the guard was taking place. When they had finished, I looked up and realized I was surrounded by a very large group from China. Their guide was at the bottom of the steps waving the flag, and they were all trying to get down to her so that they could move on. I felt like a pinball being batted around, but I stood my ground (I was there first!!!!) and they all moved around me to get down the stairs. All the while I was waving like crazy to the rest of my clan who were all up against the wall. We met up again and headed down to the post office to have our postcards stamps from Vatican City.

This is where "IP" had another mishap. We were standing outside by the post office, and she called me over, I just knew I was going to get into ‘trouble’ for something…she was being very serious. I make my way over to where she was and she looked at me and said "I think my bra is unhooked". Thank goodness I didn't have food or drink in my mouth this time. The others formed a barrier around us, and I managed to hook her bra for her. I commented that it must have been a nun, priest or the finger of God, we're not quite sure how it got unhooked, but we're pretty sure it wasn't St. Peter!!!

Metro back towards the hotel, and we had dinner at Gustosando (across the street, from Josephs, on the corner), Largo Caravillani 3, near the Cornelia Metro Stop.

Insalata Sfiziosa (sweetcorn, mushrooms, tomatoes & mozzarella)
2 Caprese
Caprese di Buffala
Fettucine Carbonara
Tortellini Gorganzola e noci
Fusilli Ragu alla Bolognese
Penne Carbonara
Spaghetti alla Bolognese
Steak speciale with potatoes and rugala
3 litres still water
2 litres house wine
4 desserts
€121,35

“IP” and “L” made nice with the wait staff and the kitchen staff. You had to walk past the kitchen to get to the bathroom, and there were many pleasantries as we walked back and forth. We probably spent a good 2 ½ to 3 hours here, and we loved every minute of it. We did notice that the later it got, the more locals came in, some of them seemed a little disturbed that the ‘tourists’ were still there, but overall it was a great dinner!

Between the Metro stop (where the restaurants were) and the hotel, there is a McDonald’s on the corner. Walking back to the hotel after dinner, we made a quick pit stop so that “IP” could use the facilities at McD’s. The rest of us were waiting outside for her, when she appears, with about a foot and a half of toilet paper attached to her shoe. She starts laughing, almost uncontrollably, and manages to tell us what had occurred inside. She was leaving the restroom area and there was this little lady mopping the floor. The lady with the mop is trying very hard to tell her something, and “IP” assumes it has to do with the wet floor, she tells the lady she’ll be careful and continues to walk outside…We all know now what the lady was trying to tell her!

We headed back to the hotel to have some drinks in the courtyard, and then we retired to our rooms.

Here’s where I must insert the story of the charcoal pills. “K” is the captain of a local co-ed softball team (it used to be a work team, not it’s kind of morphed into a ‘whoever’ team). After the softball games, a group usually gets together and goes out for wings etc and drinks. There’s a married couple that play on the team, and they swear by charcoal pills. They take them before they drink and have yet to have a hangover. Well, “M” thought it would be a great idea to bring some along on vacation so that we could all avoid hangovers. I can only assume that they work, and well! There was a couple of mornings when I should have most definitely awoken with a headache, at least, and I didn’t. She purchased them at the health food store, and they were well worth the money. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t drink like fish the whole 10 days, but we did our fair share of vino, Limoncello and in general bar drinking, and none of us suffered any ill effects because of it!

Saturday, October 14th

We all slept fairly well that night, woke up, and headed down to breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel was quite nice. It was included in our rates and they had a nice spread. Off the top of my head, I can remember cold meats, cheeses, yogurts, cereals, coffee, tea, water, eggs, hot meat, toast etc, etc. Above and beyond the typical continental breakfast.

We had booked the shuttle back to the airport to pick up a 9 passenger Mercedes Vito van. We had originally planned to take the train to Florence and pick up the car there, but we were only able to find the size van we wanted in Rome. This was our first, and only, bad experience with credit cards. M&K had booked the van, and had more than enough room on their Capitol One card to cover the rental and the authorization hold. We booked through Nova Car Rental. For whatever reason, Capitol One allowed the charges for the rental to go through, but were not allowing the hold to be placed on the card. “E” easily put it on her AmEx and we were on our way. (30 minutes or so on the phone to Cap One and I believe M&K got things resolved).

We had decided early on that K would be the pilot and I would act as his co-pilot, which was fine with me. Being the control freak that I am, I’m not normally a good passenger, but I’m much better if I am in the front seat! I don’t know that I would have done so well in the middle or back row!!

We drove up the coast and cut over near Cecina. Absolutely gorgeous scenery. We stopped at an AutoGrille for lunch, and continued driving.

The drive north was flat, and fairly uneventful, once we got off the main highway, that’s where the "Bovine Pills" kicked in. There are, of course, Bonine pills for motion sickness, but, I'd never heard of them before, and for most of the week, I was wondering what in the world everyone was taking "COW" pills for. OK, I drank lots of vino, so that's my excuse!

We made our way to Poggibonsi and stopped at the Pam supermarket for supplies. I don’t know what it is about grocery stores in other places, but apparently I’m not the only person who is fascinated by them! We made several trips to the Pam, and only on our last trip, as we were leaving the store, did we realize they had a second floor, with what looked like housewares etc! It’s probably a good thing we never made it upstairs! We guessed at the milk, and got it right, and also at the cream for milk. We bought a variety of bread, cheese, meats, cereal, cookies and potato chips. There were a total of 4 baskets wandering around the Pam, and when we were all done checking out, we had each bought a bag of the same potato chips! I think we ended up leaving a whole, unopened bag on the counter when we left the villa to come home!

Our first night in the villa we had dinner prepared by the owners wife, Sonia. She served chicken, pasta, salad and an eggplant dish that was cold. It was a really nice meal. I was slightly traumatized by the chicken though. I'm certain it was very fresh, and I'm not sure why, but I think she boiled it, whatever it was, I wasn't real impressed with it, and didn't eat chicken the rest of the week. The rest of the meal was delicious, and after dessert, she popped open our first of many bottles of Limoncello!!!

We booked the villa through www.labellatoscana.net and were very pleased. We paid €500 for the week, Saturday 10/14 through Saturday 10/21. We stayed in the Caterina apartment on the Montecuccheri farm in Poggibonsi. There are two other apartments on the property, but we didn’t have an opportunity to see inside them. In the Caterina, there were three bedrooms, one with a ‘matrimonial’ bed for M&K, one with three single beds (“IP”, “L” and myself) and a small, small bedroom with two single beds (“E”). There were two bathrooms, one with a tub (which was very, very narrow!) and one with a shower, and a curtain, with the drain in the middle of the bathroom floor. The common area had a decent sized kitchen area on one side, two couches, two chairs and a table with 6 or 8 chairs. Outside there was a garden area, and there were lots and lots of farm life! Alice the dog visited us often, and while some referred to her as Cujo, she was very nice!

www.labellatoscana.net was very easy to work with. We booked in January, for our October stay. We paid 25% with the booking and the remaining 75% was due 2 months before our arrival. They emailed me the forms, and I filled them out, scanned them and sent them back. The processed my credit card for both payments, when they said they would, with no problems at all. I did call my bank (BOA) a few days prior to each charge, so that they wouldn’t block them. Outside of the €500 we had to pay €85 in deposits, €45 of which we got back on departure. We received very detailed directions from labellatoscana and all of their procedures were well defined. When we arrived at the property, there was a binder with tons of local information, from the rental agency. Each page was in a plastic sleeve so that you could take it with you for the day etc.

After dinner our first night, we sat around the table, drinking the bottle of wine that the owner left for us, and looking over the binder from the rental agency. “K” and I noticed a blurb about excess electricity usage and the cost associated with it. (Wait for it…this is funny!!). We were carefully watching the meter by the front door and telling everyone else to hurry up in the shower, that they were using too much electric etc. We were getting concerned that we would owe hundreds of Euro at the end of our stay, the meter never seemed to stop…that’s because we were looking at a CLOCK…not the meter!!! Turns out we didn’t owe any extra electric, and the meter is in the owners house!!!
pantelia is offline  
Feb 14th, 2007, 09:54 AM
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Sunday, October 15th

Sunday morning, with no set agenda for the day, other than driving to Pisa, we kind of just got up whenever, and once everyone was ready, we headed out. As we were driving, I noticed some market stalls, so in a majority rules vote, we made a u-turn to do some shopping. My comment was that the tower had been there for several hundred years, it wasn’t going anywhere…but the market might be!! As we parked the van, and started walking towards the market, BAM, we look up and there’s tower! Had we not stopped to shop, we would have driven right past it!

Everyone by E and myself went up the tower. I’m very claustrophobic and just the thought of those narrow stairwells made me shake! E and I stayed down and took pictures of the rest of them as they made their way up to the top. We also ate a gelato on the sly!! The trip to the top didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would. I think they were up and down within 30 minutes. After they came down, we all went and got gelato (2nd for E and myself!).

I did my first bit of haggling with a vendor for this cute little pocketbook. The price was originally €15,00 and I think I paid €6,00 for it. I probably could have gotten the price down lower, but I bore quickly!! We spent a few hours, between the tower and market stalls, and then headed to dinner in Marina di Pisa. We all got a kick out of the fact that at the McDonald’s we saw, rather than their sign saying “Drive Thru” it simply said “McDrive”. We all watched in awe at one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, we strolled along the waterfront for a little bit and then went in search of an open restaurant. This was definitely a touristy seaside town, and not a lot was open, what we did find was a local spot and we were the only non-locals there. I can't remember the name of the place right now (that must be in someone elses notes) the service was terrible, but the food was great! When we sat down "E" asked for two more menus, since there were only two on the table for six people, the waitress came back with two beers instead! “L”s scampi kind of scared everyone as it’s eyes were almost as big as it’s body!! I had the lasagna and it was out of this world!

Monday, October 16th

"Day Trip To Venice" day. I had been warned against a day trip to Venice by almost everyone on Fodors.com. I’m glad we went, but we really didn’t have enough time to do it justice. We barely scratched the surface, and will have to make a return trip!!!

I booked our tickets on trenitalia.com. We missed the 630am train by two minutes! No problem, we took the next train, paid a small difference in fare (for a different class) and arrived an hour later than we planned.

Our short day in Venice went something like this…A grand lunch at the Savoia hotel, right on the Grand Canal. A gondola ride. Watching the man blow glass at a small glass factory. A top-secret, 007 mission for myself and “IP” to the casino while the others wandered around St. Marks Square and shopped. The casino was odd, lots of secret rooms, long velvet curtains, etc. We rushed back to the train station to catch the 8pm train back to Florence via Bologna.

Our 8pm train back was fine until we got to Bologna, where the train to Florence was delayed an hour and a half. This is where we met Marco! We chatted for quite a while, and he ended up being in the next compartment from us on the train (once it actually arrived). We chatted some more, and then Marco pulls out a bottle of limoncello that his dad had made. I think it took all of 5 minutes to polish off that bottle!

While in Bologna, we debated on just paying for a taxi back to Florence, but we didn’t. We arrived back in Florence around 1:30am. Back at the villa about an hour later, and we were all shot!

Venice was kind of a blur for me. I will most definitely have to return, for a proper visit! I’m glad that we decided to go, only wish we would have had more time. The gondola ride was nice, but I ended up sitting next to K (M’s husband) and M got stuck sitting in a single seat. We tried to move once we were on the gondola, but were yelled at. I felt a bit bad that the only couple on the trip had to be separated, but they did manage a kiss under the Bridge of Sighs, it was an awkward kiss, but a kiss all the same!

Tuesday, October 17th

The next day was an easy day for us, we headed into Poggibonsi to do some laundry (it was easier to go to the laundromat than deal with one washer at the villa and no dryer). We get all loaded up and a couple of us go for a walk down the little strip mall and lo and behold...it's a shoe store!!! Several pair of boots and shoes later and our laundry was done! I believe there’s a picture somewhere of all the shoeboxes lined up in the back of the van, what a sight! Even “K” got into the shoe shopping spirit.

In between loads, I called Marco to make plans to meet for dinner. We arranged to meet him outside the Duomo! He took us to his favorite place (of which I can't remember the name of right now). We shared the Tuscan appetizer and I had the BIGGEST steak I've ever eaten in my life!! After dinner, his friend had to go back to her apartment because she had an exam the next morning, and the rest of us, Marco included, headed off to Slowly (a bar near the Piazza de Republica I think). A few drinks and lots of flirting later and it was time to leave, the pilot was getting tired, which meant the co-pilot had to stop flirting for the night!

pantelia is offline  
Feb 14th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Wednesday October 18th

Our plans for today were to drive to meander around Cortona, visit a winery and possibly go to the Baci chocolate factory in Perugia. We slept in a little later than we had anticipated, and never did make it to the winery or the chocolate factory, but did spend a nice afternoon in Cortona, shopping and eating gelato (twice!) Cortona is a quaint village, it was a nice change of pace from the madness of Rome and Venice. Cortona is where I made my first of two trips to the farmacia! I was starting to feel sick, and went inside and using sign language and broken Italian, the lady and I were able to understand each other. I left with a box of pills, and instructions to take one pill three times a day. We drove back to Poggibonsi and had dinner in town and then headed back to the villa for an early night.

--I must add that the drive from the main roads in Poggibonsi up to the farm where we stayed we rough. Bumpy with little to stop you from going over the edge in places. Somehow we ended up with ‘assigned seats’ in the van. It just kind of happened that way, everyone ended up sitting in the same place each time we went anywhere. On the flat roads it was fine, but “IP” and “L” were in the back row of the van, and needless to say, they needed more “Bovine” pills than the rest of us! We took video of the drive down from the farm one day, I think we might need those bovine pills just to watch the video!

On one trip down the hill, we pulled over to the olive trees. It was here that we learned “IP” would do just about anything for money! I offered her 20 cents to eat an olive right off the branch, and guess what…she did! She wasn’t real impressed with it, and I’m fairly certain she spit it out, but she got paid nonetheless.

Thursday and Friday, October 19th and 20th.

These two days were spent in Florence. I woke up the first morning sick as a dog, and almost didn't go into Florence with the rest of the group, but decided I could just be sick when I got home! I didn't spend all that money to stay in bed (alone at least!) I made another farmacia stop and got the most disgusting liquorice flavored cough medicine ever made. Yes, it worked, but no, I didn’t take it again after the first dose!!

We did the Academia and the Uffizi, and did more shopping (which was an everyday occurrence on this trip).

The line for the Academia was probably about an hour, there was an accordion player on the street, and I remember him playing “Roll Out The Barrel”, we were amused at his selection of songs, I mean come on, polka in Florence?! We made our way to David and “K” took an illegal photo on his cell phone.

The line at the Uffizi was maybe 20 minutes or so. I don’t recall much from the Uffizi other than all the stairs!!

In the square outside the Uffizi there was a man playing the guitar and peddling his cd’s. He was pretty good, and a couple of us bought cd’s. There were artists doing caricatures and I had one done. It wasn’t the greatest, but hey, it’s from Florence!

We split up at the Ponte Vecchio. I purchased my "Divorce Ring", bought another pair of shoes, and a couple of handbags too!

Afterwards we trollopped through the rain and went to Sesame (where Marco tends bar) and had drinks and appetizers. Sesame is a French/Moroccan fusion type of place. There was lamb, beef, chicken and couscous on the appetizer plate, and it was great!

We said our goodbyes to Marco and headed back to the villa, only to return to Florence on Friday to do...you guessed it...more shopping!

“IP” is a professional shopper! On Thursday, we had to take her by the arms and walk her behind the market stalls so that we could get to the Academia and Uffizi. Today, we set her free and she was pleased as punch!

Now, I consider myself to be a very patient person, but I could have easily beaten those idiots in the market with my umbrella (we had beautiful weather the whole trip until the last two days in Florence, it rained at about 3-4pm each day)! If I say I'm just looking, then I'm just looking...If I say I'm not interested, then I don't care how low the price gets, I'm not interested. I realize that in most cases, they usually make the sale if the price gets low enough, but jeez...following me the length of the market was a bit much!

We had a nice big lunch in Florence on our last day, and headed back to the villa to finish up all the snacks etc that we had purchased at the Pam.

On our way back to the villa, we decided we needed gelato one more time. I guess Friday night in Poggibonsi is not the time to get a craving for gelato, because it was nowhere to be found! We must have driven around close to an hour, and nope, no gelato for us!! At one point, I spotted a case with gelato in a storefront, from the road. “K” parked illegally and we all ran out to get that delicious treat. Turned out it wasn’t gelato I saw from the street, it was pastries with pudding and whipped cream on top.
pantelia is offline  
Feb 14th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Saturday October 21st

Up and out early, off to the airport in Florence for our return flights home. “IP” is once again on different flights, but we managed to find her flights ‘around’ the same time as the rest of us. “IP” is on Air France, Florence to Paris to Miami to Tampa. The rest of us are AlItalia to Milan, USAir to PHL and then PHL to Columbia or Tampa. The return trip home was uneventful except for “K” forgetting to pack his beautiful new Venetian glass letter opener in his checked bags, it was taken from him at security.

“IP” was delayed out of Paris and missed her flight to Tampa, but was able to get on another flight that got her into Tampa only about 15 minutes after us. One of M&K’s bags didn’t make it from PHL to TPA. (it was delivered to their house around 4am).

We contemplated making a stop at the International Mall in Tampa for Gelato, but we were all exhausted, so we just headed home. “L” was the first one dropped off, then “IP”, next stop, “M&K’s” and then, after a quick trip through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru, I made it home, safe and sound.
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Feb 14th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Afterthoughts-----A few lessons learned and comments...these are my opinions, and you know what they say about opinions!!!

I was under impressed with the Sistine Chapel, I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but what I got just didn't cut it.

I was very moved with the Vatican as a whole, I'm not Catholic, but felt almost a spiritual calm while I was there, of course, that could have been jetlag too!

St. Peters...WOW! I've been many Churches and Cathedrals, but, WOW! Can someone please tell me what the two black windows are near the Popes apartment? Are those the windows from John Paul's apartment, or are those Benedict's???

As much as St. Peters impressed me, San Clemente was my favorite.

How on earth did I eat so much, yet lose 4 lbs this last week? Must have been all that damn walking we did!! Thank the Lord for my ankle brace!

Italian people must have very narrow feet. I had a difficult time finding shoes wide enough for my feet. The shoes & boots I did end up buying were given away when we returned. I tried to tell myself that my feet were still just a bit swollen from the trip, WRONG! They were beautiful, but too narrow!!

Italian ladies must also have small feet in general, I had a hard time finding anything to fit a US size 10!

People really look silly taking pictures trying to hold up the Leaning Tower!

You come out looking like a hero when you say "That's ok, I won't climb the tower, I'll stay down and take pictures of the rest of you at the top", you don't sound like a scared chicken that suffers from claustrophobia!!

What in the world is that six legged thing on the Agip gas station signs?

I never realized there were so many hot bald men until I went to Italy!

If Mythbusters ever goes to see David, they will have to do a show on busting the myth about a man's feet and hand size (enough said about that!).

I was probably the only person in the world who didn't know that David was based on the David and Goliath story.

The Uffizi has lots and lots of steps.

Rome has lots and lots of steps.

No matter how hard you try, you just can't get your hair truly clean when you're holding the shower in one hand!

Roosters will crow at 4:00 am if you aim the headlights to the van in their direction!

Limoncello and gelato (not together of course) make a good breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Did I mention the hot bald Italian men?

The (I know I won't spell this right) Carabinieri (police) will stand around with their hands in their pockets when the drunk old man falls out of his seat in the waiting hall at the Bologna train station. And when the other polizia come, they will put their hands in their pockets as well.

When you have to go to the farmacia, you'll be happy with whatever they give you, even if it is nasty, licorice tasting, cough medicine (which really, really worked by the way).

Italian men will flirt, even when their (God, what was her name) 'friend for a semester' is there!

Newly divorced American women like it when Italian men flirt!
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Feb 14th, 2007, 11:12 AM
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pantelia:
Thanks for the fun report (and reposting-I was one of the ones who had to scroll right to left). When is that trip back to Venice?
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Feb 14th, 2007, 01:06 PM
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Thank you so much! I have to go shovel more snow now, but have this to look forward to when I come back in.
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Feb 14th, 2007, 06:17 PM
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Well, I finally got back to read this. (When I went out to shovel snow at 5:00, it was to find that my carport had collapsed--of course, on top of my car--fortunately, looks like no damage to the car.) Great report. Poor IP, she did have a few bumps in the road, didn't she?! Of course, we (or at least I) want more details on the ring. Did you by chance get that idea from my report on my trip last March?
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Feb 14th, 2007, 07:20 PM
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Oh Susan...so sorry to hear about your carport, but thankfully the car is ok! We lived in the Poconos for 3 years, back in FL now. I don't miss the snow at all!!!

Yes, I did get the ring idea from you! It's a simple gold band with 7 diamonds in a wave like pattern. I haven't taken it off since I put it on, right there on the Ponte Vecchio!!

IP is a trooper, did have some bumps in the road but is ready to pack up again for Ireland next year!

Thanks again, I'm glad you were able to read it!
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Feb 15th, 2007, 06:51 AM
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Oh, the ring sounds gorgeous! Sounds as though your group really travels well together.
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Mar 7th, 2007, 07:08 PM
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Well, that was a fun read! Don't know how I missed it earlier. Thanks for posting it.
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Mar 25th, 2007, 03:33 PM
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I am sure when the texture of creamy gelato fades in memory, when the tart-sweet flavor of limoncello is no longer fresh, when the boiled chicken and bald men no longer show up in your dreams ... you will still remember mistaking the clock for the electric meter. I know I will.
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Mar 25th, 2007, 04:41 PM
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Is there a chance to read "version 1" and see your photos??? Please thanks
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Mar 26th, 2007, 01:40 PM
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Hi lsm8931---

If you click on my name, you'll see the first version (with the link to the pictures). I think the last entry was on 02-14.

Thanks
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