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Italy: Where to go? What to do?

 
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Sun 27 Jun, 2004 11:57 pm
OK, you're on. Maybe we can have un po' dell' A2K meet. I know Eva and Margo would like to go..
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kickycan
 
  1  
Mon 28 Jun, 2004 12:12 am
It's a deal.
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margo
 
  1  
Mon 28 Jun, 2004 12:43 am
I'm still vaguely looking at Italy next year, but.......
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McTag
 
  1  
Mon 28 Jun, 2004 06:41 am
Hey we have fixed a short holiday in Italy. We fly to Bologna in August, and we will reside in Montecatini. Hope to see Florence/ Firenza and Lucca. Yippee!
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Mon 28 Jun, 2004 11:58 am
oh, neat, McTag. I have only been to Montecatini for five minutes, when the bus to Lucca from Firenze stopped there. I love Lucca, will be interested to see what you think. Going there by bus turned out to be fun, because as the bus got close to town it wove its way through some populated nearby hills.. very pretty, though I suppose an automobile would be a better bet.

I am fantasizing going to italy in October next year, but that is quite the long shot.
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margo
 
  1  
Mon 28 Jun, 2004 02:46 pm
McTag

I sure envy the ease with which Europeans can visit other European countries, even for short trips. Just getting there takes 24 hours flight each way from here Sad

Sure - I've taken short trips to NZ, but, Italy......

When I grow up, I wanna be European! (at least for a little while, and not at all including winter!)
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Mon 28 Jun, 2004 03:51 pm
It's thirteen hours of flight for me, Margo, once I get to San Francisco, which is another bunch of time. This is sans the hours one has to get to the airport before the flight. Not anywhere near as bad as 24 hours, though. Still, I don't sleep on the plane and arrive in a combination of exhaustion and excitement, just call me Lurch. I specifically remember being awake 36 hours on my first trip there, having taken a night flight - We were up all day before the flight, and there were two long delays on top of the flight hours. It was in that mode that we went clackedy clack down Viale Aventino's cobblestone sidewalks with our giant wheeled luggage for six blocks, before turning uphill...

Sigh, I miss it.
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McTag
 
  1  
Sat 31 Jul, 2004 09:59 am
OK, we're nearly packed!

We drive to london tomorrow, and fly to Bologna on Monday.

Really looking forward to this! We will also see a Puccini opera 'al fresco' at Torre del Lago one evening, and do some galleries, in a conducted tour.
We have been there only once before, so we are looking forward to going back.

Ciao!

McTag
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Sat 31 Jul, 2004 10:14 am
I look forward to hearing about your trip, McTag. Have a wonderful time.
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McTag
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 03:27 pm
Right, here we are again. My wife Fiona and I had a lovely holiday, in the company of two score others, on a guided tour of Tuscany. Only one week long, we nevertheless had a lot packed into the available time, and we were able to see and enjoy some of the more remarkable sights of this lovely region, and experience for ourselve some of the culture, and the food and wines of course.

We flew into Bologna, and had some time in that city to see the main piazza and its palazzos, and the cathedral. Very picturesqe and very hot. Some of us did not come dressed for the heat, having come straight off the plane, with no opportunity to change! We retreated to a restaurant/ deli in the markets quarter of the city, where we could enjoy some proper food and a few cold drinks. Local people were there in force, so we knew we were in the right place! Shopping for food is an art form, I had no idea.

A bus drive throught the mountains into the Tuscany region, by Florence and Pistoia, and we were delivered to our nice traditional hotel in Montecatini, a spa town. Many beautiful buildings there dated from the belle epoque times, I suppose, of around 1880-1910. The spa building of Tetuccio is particularly opulent and splendid. The neighbouring old hilltop town of Montecatini Alto we visited later.
Using this as our base, we had trips to see Lucca and Pisa, enjoying medieval towns and renaissance cathedrals. We went to Torre del Lago to see a Puccini opera, Tosca, after a memorable evening meal by the lakeside.
Subsequent days saw trips to San Gimignano and Siena. This I loved particularly for the magnificent moorish-influenced Duomo. We spent a lovely day there, exploring the city, and had for part of the time a very knowledgeable and engaging local guide, Roberta.
Our final day was spent in Florence, where we had the services of another gifted and committed guide, Natale. He was able to share with us some of his insight and love for his native city. He took us to see the original Michelangelo statue of David in the Galleria dell' Academia, which was a spellbinding experience.

Too much to write about, really. Ponte Veccio. Uffizi Gallery. Piazza della Signoria. Shops. Leather goods. Gold jewellery. Icecream parlours. Cathedral. Statuary.

But it is not the cities and towns I like most about Tuscany, it is the wooded hillsides, the cypress trees, olive groves, hilltop villages, surprise views, golden sunshine. The people are cheery, the food simple and satisfying, and the lifestyle very attractive. We were very sorry to leave.

On the drive back, we enjoyed views from the spectacular motorway which tunnels and bridges its way across the mountain range, and thank goodness, the journey back was as troublefree and straighforward as it could be, all transfers working like clockwork. We were about eight hours, door-to-door.
Arrivederci Italia, till next time.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 04:28 pm
Oh, McTag and Fiona, I'm so glad you had such a good time.
I want to hear more, more! more about the food? How did you like the coffee?


I am Tuscany crazed myself. After my first trip in 1988, when my husband and I rented a car in Firenze and spent a week floating around Tuscany, I came back home and painted seventeen paintings from the photographs I'd taken of what you are talking about, all the soft hills and the cypresses and the olive trees and the hill top villages and the evening light. We were there in March so the weather was quite different for us. We ended up staying in a small village about nine miles west of Siena, called Strove. I had found an interesting little inn in the american express guidebook that the guidebook said had a good small restaurant. The village was quite small and we fell in love with it and the small inn, called Casalta. I remember the room rate, $46.00 a night. I suppose it has gone up, but it was quite reasonable in comparison to other places, even back then.

We made it our base and took day trips to San Gimignano and Volterra and Castellina in Chianti and Radda in Chianti and Siena, which I've been back to a few times since.
We'd get home from wherever that day's journey took us to and go for a long walk on the path through fields that were reminiscent of background scenes in the great tuscan painter's works. Back at Casalta the owner had by then gotten the fireplace going in the lounge and brought us special aperitivi in nice glasses...

Ahhhh!


Edit to say I found Casalta on google - you'll see it's not fancy, but it was just right for us.
http://www.tuscany.net/casalta/index.html
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littlek
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:14 pm
What I know of Italy is very focused around the Lucca-Pisa area in Tuscany. I visited faimly in a tiny village in the hills west of florence for 10 days a couple years ago. I can tell you a bit about that area if you want.

Seeing Pisa is fun, but seeing and learning about Lucca is very cool. Lucca isn't readily known to world travelers, but it has a neat history and is a quaintly beautiful city.

Cinque terra is very cool and in tuscany-liguria. There are five cities on the coast which are connected by a hiking path. In June (when my sister went) it is stunning (but a little touristy).

Sienna and Assisi are unbelivable cities worth going out of your way to see.

I'll ask francesca what she has to say on the subject - she's from the north. "Parma is a nice cita (and of course trento). Brenta dolomiti (dolomite mts) are beautiful mountains with hiking and mountain biking." I'll try to get more out of her.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:17 pm
I love both Parma and Lucca! Little K, tell us more about that small village west of Florence..
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margo
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:18 pm
McTag
Sounds great! Wanna go! NOW!
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littlek
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:19 pm
San Gimignano is cool, talk about phalic architecture!

If you go to Firenze take the time to climb the tower at il duomo and hike up into the gardens there (gardini di boboli) which overlooks the city.

But I seriously believe that one of the best things you could do would be to venture into the little country towns and the smaller cities to see what is there.
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littlek
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:27 pm
The little (itybitytinyweeny) town is called piegiao and it where both side of my mother's family originate (both sets of my great grand parents came from there). If you drew a map north from Pisa and west from firenza, that cross hair would be near the little town.

One side of the family owns a little quickie mart on the 'main drag' and the other side owns a restaurant up the hill to peigaio alto.

Here's a link (in french!)
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/a.durand/italie2.html
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:34 pm
Lovely...

that's bigger than Strove....
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littlek
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 09:46 pm
It's pretty cool. And there are people with out family names burried on the hill. It's so weird.

And up the valley is a village that my great uncle (by marriage) comes from. I think it's Garfagnana, but I'm not positive. There was a cluster of people from that valley living in NYC (Queens, I think) back in the depression and later, too. It was it's own little little italy. A neighborhood that represented one valley in tuscany.

And then the american italians started a pool to get enough money to build an actual road to my great uncle's ancestral village - and they built it. A road that connect the village to the valley floor. Just recently they made a road that went over the mountain-top and into the next valley.

I just spent a few days with my great uncle. And he spoke of a lot of these types of things.

Later, while researching the area, I read about germans who back tracked through italy and killed whole villages during the second world war. It's a really chilling bit of history that I'd known nothing of until now.
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littlek
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 10:11 pm
Here's a map of Lucca. It is a medieval walled city with a river (Arno)running through it. The ruling family of Lucca fought with the Medicis and took refuge within the walls. The area has etruscan underpinnings and also has that over-all tuscan charm.

The sites I'd see are the santo volte, the botanical gardens and the wall itself. And of cousre the piazze are cool too.
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littlek
 
  1  
Mon 16 Aug, 2004 10:19 pm
ooooh, and Barga - a beautiful town with a very uniform terra cota tile roofed and stone walled building code (or so it seemed). The church at it's highest elevation is amazing. First of all, it has an incredible view of the surounding mountains. The church itself has alabaster windows that let in a difused sunlight. There are carved lions and inlaid stones. But, the most amazing thing, to me, was the cross. The cross was made from tools of the field. It was a composite of tools from those which farmers use to those with blacksmiths use. I wish I'd had more time to spend there.
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