A week in the north; a week in Tuscany.... Woo Hoo!
As an official wrap-up to our Italy 2014 blog, you can find all the edited photos on my website at http://www.davidaimone.com/italy2014
I'll let the photos speak for themselves......
NOTE: This should have been posted before the post that was uploaded two days ago. Oops! — David
So I am again quite behind in the blog of our trip and this will not be posted until we get back to the states as we have no wifi where we have been the past couple of days. But I wanted to get everything at least written before I leave Europe- or else it is really not a travel blog. Today is Sunday evening as I write this.
To begin with on Friday- the last day in Tuscany. We had to pack, get things ready to leave and just relax a bit. We then decided to go to a winery- we hadn’t really been to one yet although we have tasted plenty of wine. So there was one quite close to our villa- I can’t remember now the name but we will have it at home. So we tasted- now remember this is about 11am even before we had breakfast. They had wine, olive oil a grappa. And guess what we decided that we had room in our suitcases for a bottle of grappa. It was very good. So we are bringing home a bottle of wine and olive oil- free of charge from our villa- I Lami and two other bottles that we bought along the way. We hope that when we get to the airport tomorrow we will still be under the weight limit.
After the winery we decided to go into Florence for one last day although it was very humid and we were tired. But as we said what is a little tired and heat compared to being in Firenze. So we again took the tram- why don’t they have air conditioning on these trams is a puzzlement to me? We decided to explore the south side of the Arno River a bit more. We headed over to the PItti Palace and went to the Bobolee Gardens behind the palace. Lots of pretty land, lots of stairs and walking- all of Italy is hills upon hills. Neat fountain in the middle where there was a heron posing for quite sometime on the top of the Neptune Fountain.
After that we walked more up to the Bardini gardens which had a terrific view of Firenze. Lots of time for pics. But not to miss any view we decided to continue the walking torture in the heat to the Palazzi Michaelangelo. This is highest spot in Firenze that people go to to enjoy the view. You can actually drive there but we didn’t have our car. We walked up up the steps. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t so humid but we did it. It’s actually quite a tourist spot but very beautiful views. Many pics here as well as well as sitting and having drink.
Later on back down, dinner and then home. — Ellen
Saturday morning we finished packing and headed out for our drive up to Switzerland. We were going to see and stay with my good friend Ute. Ute is a woman that I have know for 30 years when we were both in graduate school. We lived together in a house in Albany for a year. Ute is Swiss and lives in Zurich. She had been studying in Albany for 2 years. We have remained good friends over the past 30 years even though we are frequently out of touch and that this is only the 3rd time we have seen each other. But after living with someone and sharing all your secrets for a year the friendship remains. So I was very excited to meet up with her and her husband Thomas. They have a lovely summer home near Lake Lugano that we wanted to go to. It is in the north and actually over the border in Switzerland. So on Saturday we drove up there- David behind the wheel again- I have decided not to drive in Italy at all- better to navigate and be safe than drive.
We stopped on the way at Lake Como- nearby. This is a really charming village in the border of Italy and Switzerland. We stopped to have an Nespresso with George Clooney but we just missed him. I guess he has a house but maybe he in on his honeymoon still. His wedding in Venice has been all the talk here. Como has a lovely square where of course it is possible to sit and have a glass of wine at the end of the day- guess what we did this again.
After we continued on to Lugano and met up with Ute and Thomas. They have the most lovely home in a mountain village called Sonvico- really like in the movies. Old stone tall place- several entrances. It has been so lovely to spend these 2 days with them. Last night we went to dinner at a local place and tonight Ute is in the kitchen making dinner tonight. Dinner last night was truly amazing as we had the local venison both as a stew for Ellen and a fillet for David. Truly like butter. The name of the restaurant is Osteria Union a Davida. No real menu- just the owner telling us the choices and bringing us food.
Today we headed out late after a lovely breakfast and the men had a walk all over. Ute and I spent the morning catching up on our families. We went to a castle first- it was called Castlegrande Belliuzona. We walked around the village and the castle and of course there was a cafe where we had caffe and sweets as well as antipasto. Thomas and David had Gazzosa di limone- David said it was very nice. Ute and I had Capuccinos of course with chestnut cake.
After that we drove over to Lake Lugano- it was rainy and foggy so not a good day to go up in the funicular but lovely all the same. We spent the afternoon walking and strolling the village- both the upscale shops- Luckily since it was Sunday all were closed- I really don’t have anymore room in my suitcases. Although I was able to buy and fit in some Swiss Chocolate- that shop was open. Also we walked by the lake and walked to the Gate to the Lake.
Now we are back in the house and Ute has just told me it is time to set the table. We are relaxing with a glass of Proseco and prosciutto. Tomorrow we have to leave very early to drive back to Italy where we get our plane back to JFK-
But before I leave off I really want to thank all our wonderful hosts and friends since we have been here. Valentina, Nico, Fransesca, Theresa from Il Talluca, Irena, Ericka, Lisa, Alex from Strona, Diane from I Lami and wonderful Ute and Thomas from Sonvico and Zurich. Without all these nurturing people our trip would not have been as wonderful as it was. Love to all. Please all now come visit us in Saratoga Springs.
Signing off till our next trip.
Ellen and David.
So again I have been remiss these past few days but it is because we are either busy or enjoying some downtime in our lovely cottage in the Tuscan Hills. Today is Friday, I think and tomorrow we have to leave Tuscany. So here I catch up again.
On Wednesday we spent the day exploring. The plan was to drive to Sienna which we did. Along the way though we stopped at a little town that our waiter from dinner on Tuesday told us not to miss. Tuesday night on the way home from Firenze we ate at a very good restaurant close to our cottage. Always so good, He told us to stop at Monteriggioni- this is a castle town on a hill. This as well as the other walled or castle towns between Firenze and Siena were build to try to defend Siena from Firenze. I guess years ago Firenze was always trying to take over and conquer smaller Siena until they finally did. Poor Siena- anyway the town was so wonderful. Smaller than most with shops, of course, along the paths. There was a shop with knightly type things and a display of what it would have been like to defend, ramparts= which David went up to while Ellen went shoe shopping. Cute red little Italian flats= I bought. It is also the town where I took pictures of those cups and bowls that I posted on Facebook- So we spent some time there before moving onto Siena.
So Siena- what can I say- definitely I have fallen in love with another city here in Italy. Siena is smaller than Firenze of course but so many lovely areas to explore. I don't think we got to them all as we ended up spending over 2 hours just sitting in a cafe on the Piazza A Campo- A very large square- called a Meeting place. It was lovely just to sit, eat and drink and watch the square. This square is the one where they have a horse race every summer and later on in our visit we saw photos in a shop of the race. The Duomo in Siena is hugh and very detailed. Unfortunately it was too late to go in but the outside was still pretty amazing. We will have to return to explore this city much more another time when we return to Italy. We did pick up some light food for later on but since it had been late and we ate so much we didn't even need this food for dinner.
On Thursday we had decided to take it easy and stay local and also go last night to the restaurant down the hill, sort of connected with our cottage. So we started the morning out very late- as usual. We just can't seem to get up in the morning. We had our food bought the night before in Siena for breakfast outside under our gazebo. Salami, sheep cheese, baguette, and David made coffee for the first time in the press. Very impressive. We have been drinking way too much coffee and wine. When I go home it will have to cut down. Each night if we are out we go through a bottle of wine- it is just the way here. After a leisurely breakfast we headed out.
We drove to Montelupo- not very far away but we went there because it is the ceramics center of Italy. There is a ceramics museum there and since I am very interested in ceramics it seemed fitting. The museum was very good, lots of old pots excavated. The town again is walled with winding streets and many ceramics shops. Unfortunately, we were not there at the right time. In the smaller towns they take at least a 2 hour break in the middle of the day so only a few were open. However, we did meet with an artist who does hand building and saw his shop. Also, several in another shop that paint the pots. We spent time in another with the son of the main potter from the shop. This potter does very large pieces- all thrown- but we were unable to watch since he was not there. I think that sometimes the potters work and can be observed but it was not too be yesterday. Later we came home, relaxed, read and just tooled around until dinner at Casa di Cacia- see other post for the pictures of the meal.
Today, we are hanging out and then plan to go into Firenze for our last night before leaving for Switzerland in the morning. Until later....
So we have been quite busy the last 3 days and so have been unable to find the time to write about it all. But I will try to share a bit of those days here. Tuscany has been so wonderful. It is both beautiful and very interesting. Food and wine amazing. I wrote about Sunday but somehow the blog got deleted so I will try to start from there.
Sunday morning we woke to a lovely sunny day- all the days here in Tuscany have been sunny and warm so far- must be because we are "under the Tuscan Sun." Anyway we decided to stay close to home but to explore the area. Our host had left a list of local spots to explore. But first we went walking on the property- down into the olive groves and vineyards. The place here is old cottages that were renovated. They were home for the workers connected to the villa of the family way back. Now most work is done by machines so they are not needed. The owners renovated the cottages. Ours has a large window in the living room overlooking the hills, vineyards and such. Really beautiful.
After walking around we got in the car and explored the hills. We stayed off the highway until later on so that we would see more and also get more lost- but it was fine. We were finally able to find an Abby that was suggested. It is called Badia A Passignano- very beautiful.
After we continued on our drive and decided to go to San Gimignano. This was the highlight of our day. This is a walled city that had many towers built. It is lovely of course with many winding streets, piazzas, these big towers. So much history and also so much beauty. Heard some music, walked up and down many winding streets, all cobblestone. Had our first course of wine and antipasto at a charming place along the wall with a view of the mountains. Later on had dinner at another small place. This is a place not to be missed if you are ever in Tuscany. And I would love to come back to explore more.
On Monday, we again got a late start. It is still hard for us to get up in the morning if we have no where we have to go. We had decided we would go into Florence. I have been there before, 8 years ago with Lydia but David has not. I had really loved Florence when I was there before. There is a tram here that you can take- even David did not want to drive. When Lydia and I were here we stayed right in the city and only had to walk.
So we had directions to the tram stop in a suburb near here- Scandicci. We attempted to get to the one David had bookmarked but sometimes the phone GPS doesn't load. So we drove around- getting frustrated. Turns out the half the area we had to get to was blocked off due to a fair and we couldn't get to the station parking. We finally found a different station, figured out how to get a tram ticket- and wow, finally got on the tram to Florence. Somewhat amazing I sometimes think.
We spent the day walking around the different areas. Just as wonderful as I rememberer.d. We first went to the Duomo Piazza. When I was there last I did not walk up to the top of the dome of the Duomo- this is something I was determined to do this time. It took some time and it was hard- many steps inside the tower- if you are claustrophobic don't attempt. But the view from up top was more than worth the work and the pain to my knees going down. First you are inside the top of the dome and then you are outside. I know that David will post some pictures about what we saw. It was something. Afterwards- quickly we got gelato to relax.
Then we went and walked around more- over to the Piazza Della Signoria- where all the statues are. David took photos of a bridal couple there as well. We just wandered about, walked across the Arno on the Ponte Vecchio. I did not buy any jewelry- not my style and way too expensive. All along the bridge are jewelry shops. Had dinner along the square later on and got the tram back home- arrived later. Walked quite a bit but again worth it.
On Monday, I had made reservations for us to go to the Uffizi museum. This holds more Renaissance art than any other museum in the world. So we had to get up and out earlier. But we were pros now with the tram so that wasn't a problem. Some lines but the advance tickets do help. Don't try it without. I think we were there about 4 hours looking at all the art. The audio guide was a help- so much art work- a bit overwhelming but inspiring to learn. I have a desire to come back for an art history class. I never took one in college- it would be nice to do it now without worrying about a grade. We again after walked all over- shopping, touring- I think we walked a total of 8 hours yesterday- My feet really knew that. But again so worth the pain. I don't know if we will get back to Florence again this trip but I know I will be back here again so I am not worried that we did not see everything. This is an area to return again and again since there is so much to soak in.
So today is Wednesday and we are hoping to drive to Sienna and maybe some smaller areas. We were up during the night trying to kill a very intent mosquito that kept on biting us. So we are having a late start. But since no one eats dinner till 8pm late mornings are good. David is finally up and outside enjoying the view.
Till next time
Love to All, Ellen
NB..... I'll post more photos on here and on Flickr soon — David
We have been so very busy, arriving in Tuscany and on the go here. We're falling behind on our blog posts. But here's a little video of the bells ringing in an alpine Italian village.
On the church, you can see the sundial on the front wall. These seem to be very popular in the north.
more images from campertogno
So yesterday morning after a heartfelt good bye to the Aimone family in Biela- Valdengo we headed out to the road to go to Tuscany. Lots of driving for David- Ellen does not drive on these fast roads with Italians. Actually Ellen has not driven at all. I don't know if I will. The tolls here on the highway are outrageous- guess they want you to take the train.
Anyway we made our way first to Genova- thought we would get out but did not- a big city- got pretty confused but made it out. Then we continued on our way to La Spezia and did get out there. A lovely port town on the Mediterranean but it was crowded being Saturday. We thought we would take a boat to the hill towns there- it is called Cinque Terre- but it turned out the last boat had just left. So we go some information and decided to come here another day- we can take the train and spend the whole day.
Next we continued our drive and got to Pisa. Now I am really into the corny touristy things so I really wanted to se the leaning tower since we were there. Poor David driving all over- dealing with the various mistakes made both by the GPS and myself. But we did make it. It was both amazing and very funny. We had heard about how people pose to look like they are holding up the tower- this was very true and all were doing it including us- see pics. We were only there for a little while and then continued onto where we are going to stay for a lovely week in Tuscany. The cottage that we have and the view are too amazing to describe. It is truly picture perfect and even though David will post pictures it does not give a true feeling. You really have to come here to see it. But we are in a very charming one bedroom cottage overlooking the vineyards and hills. Today we are getting a slow start and will probably just stay local while planning the rest of the week. I did not want to go into Florence on a Sunday- again the crowds but we plan to go in several days as well as other day trips.
Anyway we hope everyone else is doing well. And we hope you are enjoying or even reading our posts. I am enjoying writing them- sort of my public travel journal.
Till next time...