Italy Blog Numero Uno

(Ed. note: In a return to our roots, Terry has written this blog and Geoff is adding his comments and the photos. He is doing his part at 9:30 Sunday morning overlooking – well you can see for yourself what he is overlooking from our villa.) (Ed. note #2: BTW Faggots are the English version of Haggis)

Our view of Positano on the Amalfi Coast

Our view of Positano on the Amalfi Coast

This is our second trip to Italy and what can I say? I LOVE Italy! Just when we thought we were saturated with stunning views, we head somewhere new and are inundated with luscious landscapes. We are also playing a game with our travelling friends, Karen and Mal, about value–$1-$10–adjectives so had to throw in the alliterative description there. Sorry about that but I can’t promise there won’t be more to come. Italy is so beautiful!

Things I have noticed about Italy hotels: they scrimp on the amenities. Not one hotel or agritourisimo farm-stay has provided body lotion and all offer only a modicum of shampoo and soap. Except for the last night of seven did we have a hairdryer that blew more than a warm breeze. It was safe enough to dry a baby’s bottom but my arms were tired long before my hair was dry. Shower stalls also seem to be inordinately small, even in the newer places we stayed. Need a tissue? Forget it.

On our first trip, we rented three different private residences through VRBO. One was an old farmhouse in the Tuscan hills, one a renovated servants’ quarter near Venice and the third, an apartment in an ancient walled city, called Viterbo, near Rome. This trip we didn’t want to retrace our steps but returned to Venice and stayed two nights in a “real Italian hotel” which was an adventure: a three-storey walk-up in an old building with old fixtures but lots of character and a fantastic location, just down from San Marco. We missed George Clooney’s wedding by a week. Sorry, George. We would have loved to be there but alas, one can’t do everything.

Positano, Amalfi Coast

A ceiling with character – the one in our shower didn’t have beams – it had mold.

Amal and George

Amal and George

Our next stop was to an agro-tourism farm south of Florence in San Gimignano: great rooms, fantastic hosts and ridiculously good and cheap organic wine. We ended up staying three nights, eating their home-cooked meals and drinking copious quantities of birra, vino, red and white. Really, it was silly. I lost count of the bottles that were brought in the wink of an eye. We all heartily recommend Poderi Arcangelo! Our hostess, Tiziana was wonderful and we had nothing but fun there after spending our days in San G. and then Florence. (Ed. note: For those of you who enjoy wine and tours: Tiziana provides a great tour of one of their 4 cellars with great explanations followed by a plate of antipasto and enough wine “tasting” to put you at 1.6 – and leaves the bottles on the table for you to finish. Mamma Mia!)

One of the views - they were the same for 360º

One of the views – they were the same for 360º

This stay in Tuscany proved once again how amazing Italy is. It doesn’t matter where you go, you will find some fantastic site. Case in point, I looked to the east from Poderi Arcangelo and spotted a walled city that wasn’t San Gimignano! We headed up to Centraldo and had a quick look before heading off to the ‘real’ walled city of San Gimignano.

Terry atop the Bell Tower in San Gimignano - yes it was a "little" windy!

Terry atop the Bell Tower in San Gimignano – yes it was a “little” windy

In Florence, we explored the San Lorenzo markets for leather (I bought) and fabulous food in their central market, then had a quick look at the main sites, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi (from the outside only), and the David. You’ll be happy to know that David is still stunning.

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo’s David

 

(Ed. note: Oh yes, before we left Poderi Arcangelo, we enjoyed a steak dinner. Tiziana had been talking about their top red which was called Gran Baccano and how it was best served with Steak Florentine. What is Steak Florentine? – See below)

Bifteck Florentina - 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of pure heaven

Bifteck Florentina – 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of pure heaven. (Ed. note: Eat your heart out Shawn)

We left Tuscany and drove to Umbria to explore another walled but additionally interesting city, Perugia. After 300 years under the thumbs of a group of cruel monks, the town’s people finally overthrew them and were still so angry, they sealed off the entire city and built another on top of it! It’s true and amazing, even if you can’t see much of the underground city at this point, although they are working on exposing more of it. The early city dates back to the 10th century; the new, to the 13th, in feudal times. They have what sounds to be a great chocolate festival, which we unfortunately missed by coming one week too early.

"Cover over the evil monks and build on top, I say!"

“Cover over the evil monks and build on top, I say!”

Who plays a Harpsichord  as a street instrument????

Who plays a Harpsichord as a street instrument????

Terry gets new glasses

Terry gets new Happy Birthday, Chocolate, Sun Glasses

Next stop, Todi, another walled city (see what I mean?) south of Perugia but smaller. We didn’t do much there because pretty much as soon as we went in to a place for lunch, the skies opened up and a deluge fell for the next hour. Fab pizza though! At this point, even Karen and Mal were starting to sense that if you’ve seen one walled city…

Having no plans for this leg of the trip, we studied the map and chose a place down the road, Rieti, also relatively unknown and also having a vast underground city. We booked ahead at the Park Hotel, a former summer home of an Italian Prince. The place sat vacant for 30 years from the time of his death to when it was reopened in 2000. It was somewhat creepy, I must say. It is definitely a period piece with the former ceiling paintings, furniture and draperies all intact. The lay out reminded us of the Biltmore home in North Carolina—one passes through various parlours and meeting areas before emerging into a corridor. The road in is totally innocuous and easily missed but the long drive takes you up a hill into a beautiful forested park, hence the hotel’s name. We didn’t explore much as it was foggy the next morning.

Villa Potenziani

Villa Potenziani

What self respecting villa wouldn't have a hand carved ceiling an matching chandelier in it's ballroom cum dining room?

What self respecting villa wouldn’t have a hand-carved ornate ceiling and matching chandelier in it’s ballroom cum dining room?

Is there anything more Italian than painted ceilings and chandeliers of dubious attractiveness?

Is there anything more Italian than chandeliers of dubious attractiveness and painted ceilings?

The next day, we drove to Pitigliano, a destination Karen chose because of a painting we saw in a Northampton museum! True story. On our way, we stopped at Civita di Bagnoregio, a place Geoff and I had seen before. It is—guess what—a walled city, BUT it stands alone on a narrow hill and is approached only on foot via a long, long narrow walkway (Mal says Grouse Grind). Very cool little spot which has recently seen a resurgence in tourism as evidenced by the large number of Asian people. Geoff launched into his usual photo-bomb mode and made them all laugh. (Ed. note: Civita di Bagnoregio goes back 2500 years to when the Etruscans built it)

Grouse Grind 2?

Grouse Grind #2? First you walk from here DOWN to the footbridge then you walk way UP to the top THEN you walk way DOWN and then UP to get back here. I’m exhausted just remembering!

Next stop, Pitigliano. We were driving through the town and wondering where the actual site would be when we rounded the corner and saw it. Amazing! The walls of the buildings came right down into the cliffs and appeared to have grown full blown from the rock. It was in terrific shape and fully inhabited. We wandered the narrow streets and alleyways and marveled at the houses stuffed into every nook and cranny. Not much fun to haul in groceries but it must be fun to live there.

The impetus for our visit - Roy Holding's painting.

The impetus for our visit – Roy Holding’s painting.

One comes around a corner and there it is - Pitigliano. How steep a drop is it?

One comes around a corner and there it is – Pitigliano. How steep a drop is it?

This steep.

This steep.

One of the multitude of little passageways in Pitigliano.

One of the multitude of little passageways in Pitigliano.

Next to a scooter, this would be the best way to get around Pitigliano.

Next to a scooter, this would be the best way to get around.

Our end destination for the day was Artena and another agri-tourisimo hotel, eventually found at the end of a narrow, long and quiet country road. But it was well worth the trip! Called La Rocca Bei Gigante, it was new, clean with friendly staff, and good food in the restaurant. What more do you want? We woke up in the morning to the sound of bells on the sheep in the field and a rooster crowing, signaling the beginning of a gorgeous sunny day. Wonderful.

They really do put one bell on the "head sheep". That is to either a) let them know where they are in the hills or b) let the other sheep know who they should follow or c) wake their guests for breakfast.

They really do put one bell on the “head sheep”. That is to either a) let the shepherd know where they are in the hills or b) let the other sheep know who they should follow or c) wake their guests for breakfast.

Today, after a long and somewhat harrowing drive, we arrived at our destination, just outside of Positano. What a place! We are all drained and have decided to do nothing for the next day or two save watch the golf on TV (Ed. note: Sadly they don’t have SkyTV so no golf, just relaxing) and take advantage of the local delivery service for groceries and pizza. Eventually, we’ll work up the steam to drive to Pompeii and Vesuvius, the island of Capri, and a few other places on our list. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy our gorgeous views of the yachts and sunsets.

Mediterranean at Sunset

The Mediterranean at Sunset

Sunset on the Mediterranean

Sunset on the Mediterranean

The Shoe Blog

For a man with a supposed fetish for shoes and chocolate, what could possibly be more successful in fulfilling a fantasy?

AND they come in other colours and flavours as well! Can you say HEAVEN?

AND they come in other colours and flavours as well! Can you say HEAVEN?

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Italy Blog Numero Uno

  1. Val Goodridge

    What an amazing holiday you are having in Italy. The glorious pictures take me right back to the trip I took to Italy with Erin. We visited many of the same places. We didn’t go to Pitigliano though so it will have to be a stop on our next one.

    Reply
  2. Rob

    Wow, looks like a great trip. Awesome photos! Bet you can’t wait to get back to the scenic streets of China and the food here 😉 Cheers – Rob

    Reply

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