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2006 Italy - Rome, Venice, Lakes, Tuscany Archives

March 9, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - The Planning

Well, I am back again, digging into the past and reliving another wonderful trip!

We got a little taste of Italy on our 2004 trip when our Mediterranean cruise ended up in Rome, and we spent several days in Tuscany. I loved it so much that I was determined to return to Italy to see more. I guess that is how we all get hooked!

Believe it or not, the dates of the trip were determined by when the annual Iris Festival was going to be held in Florence. So, those dates in May became the hub, and everything else was built around it.

Even though our 2004 cruise ended in Rome, we bypassed the city and opted to go to Tuscany instead. Knowing what I know now, I would not have done the same thing. So, of course, our first stop would be Rome. Bill was excited about that - he wanted to see all of the historic sites and museums.

After that came Florence for the Iris Festival. We stayed in our first apartment there, one recommended by so many on Slow Travel.

After Florence, we trained to Venice and then traveled to Lake Como, also on the train. Last (but obviously not least) was a week in Tuscany in an agriturismo that was also highly recommended on Slow Travel.

We got lucky with our airplane flights and were able to depart from Palm Springs instead of Ontario. Palm Springs is a really small airport and easy to navigate. It has actually grown a lot since I first lived in Palm Springs in the 70's, but it is still pretty small.

I did most of my planning thru information from the Slow travel website, and I thank everyone there who contributed. I only hope I will be able to pass this information on to others.

Stay tuned - there's more to come!

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March 10, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Rome Arrival

Monday 5-8-06

Today our adventure begins - three weeks in Bella Italy!

A kind neighbor consented to drop us off at Palm Springs Airport where our journey was to begin. We first flew to Chicago on American Airlines, arriving at 8 pm and then departed for London Heathrow at 10 pm. A couple of hours in London before our British Airways flight to Rome. The good part was that we got to check our luggage all the way to Rome. Yeah!

Tuesday 5-9-06

I had arranged a pickup from RomeLimoService (Andrea sent a charming man named Giancarlo to pick us up).

Funny thing happened - I saw someone with a sign "Hallowell" and thought they had misspelled my name, so we greeted the driver and started out of the terminal when we saw another driver with my name spelled correctly.

What are the chances of two people with such similar names being in the same place at the same time? We met the other couple - they were from Florida. Pickup cost was 45E plus tip.

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We arrived at Hotel Diana, our home for the next four nights. We really liked the hotel - it was near the train-bus station, and it had a great rooftop bar with lots of foliage and a great singing bartender named Franco. We visited him every evening and even met and chatted with two Finnish sisters one evening.

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Dinner that first evening was down Via Cavour at La Matriciana. We sat inside to watch the locals and had Fettucine with Wild Mushrooms and Risotto with Scampi, Antipasti and wine for 65E.

March 11, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Rome - Ara Pacis

Wednesday 5-10-06

Had breakfast at Hotel Diana (Room rate of 190E included breakfast). It was quite substantial - bacon and eggs, cereal, juices, sweetrolls and, of course, caffe.

We went to the Colosseum to meet the tour guide we had booked but were not able to find him. After emailing him, he later called and explained that there had been some sort of a mixup and our fee was promptly refunded.

We did go thru the Colosseum and bought the Roma Pass there. It included two free entries (we did Colosseum and Ara Pacis) and unlimited free transportation on the Metro (Subway) and buses for 18E.

A bargain, we thought. That is, until Bill was pickpocketed on the jam-packed Metro on our way back from the Ara Pacis Museum. Bill put his hand in his pocket and found another hand there! A young kid - about 16 - fled before the Metro started, with my camera, which was in the bag that Bill was carrying. My fault - I had not zipped up the pocket.

I hated losing the pictures we had taken of the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Ara Pacis Museum, but it could have been a lot worse if IDs had been taken. We were both wearing waist wallets under our clothes so nothing much in our pockets but change.

I found some photos of the Ara Pacis Museum online - it was a very interesting place, with the ancient altar combined with the very modern building (lots of disputes in Rome about the building).

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Got back to the hotel and had a late lunch down the sreet at a sidewalk cafe - Bar Washington. Bill had a Mixed Antipasto and Spaghetti with Clams. I had Proscuitto and Melone and Lasagne and Tiramisu with a good San Lorenzo Chianti.

March 12, 2009

2006 Trip - Rome - Colosseum Again

Thursday 5-11-06

Got up too late for hotel breakfast (jet lag, I guess), so we had lunch and hopped on the 110 Double Decker bus that toured Rome. 13E each. Lazy day, but we did go buy a new camera and retook some of our pictures from the bus.

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March 13, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Rome - Vatican

Friday 5-12-06

We had breakfast at the hotel and then headed over to Vatican City on the Metro (hugging our possessions tightly).

I had tried to make the faxed reservations for the Vatican Museum-Sistine Chapel tour where you go in the back door and do not have to stand in line, but heard nothing before we left home, so we decided to take our chances. The line was HUGE! A guy came up trying to sell us a tour and bypass the line for 50E each (including the 12E entrance fee). The tour guide supposedly spoke English, but we could barely understand her, so we left the group once we got inside.

Too many people all the way thru the Museum and the Sistine Chapel until we got to St. Peter's Basilica. Its so huge that we were no longer crowded. And gorgeous - you just cannot imagine how gorgeous it was!

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March 14, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Rome - Borghese

Friday 5-12-06

After our Vatican Tour, we had to hustle our butts over to the Borghese Museum where we had reservations for the 1 - 3 time slot. Only 360 people are allowed to enter in each time slot, so there was room to move around.

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Dinner that night at a little restaurant down the street from our hotel - Est Est Est. They had a singing guitar player which was fun. We each had an antipasto, and Bill had lamb and I had veal - 2 half litres of house wine for 68E.

Saturday 5-13-06

Sad to leave Hotel Diana after breakfast, but we made a reservation to stay the night before our flight home on 5-29-06.

Arrivederci, Franco!
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Walked with our bags to Termini Station to train to Florence. We had used the ticket machine the day before - it was pretty easy.

March 17, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Florence - Residenza Il Carmine

Saturday 5-13-06

We took the train from Roma Termini to Florence. We had stopped a couple of days before to see if we could figure out the ticket machines. A kind Italian lady helped us with it, but it was pretty easy to do.

Our hotel in Rome was only a couple of blocks from the train station, so we wheeled our luggage over and got it on the train pretty easily. We had booked seats in first class because I did not want to take any chance of not having a comfortable seat. Very nice ride, with newspaper offered and a hot or cold drink. Less than two hours later and we were there.

We decided we had too much stuff (yes, already) to try to walk from the train station, so we caught a cab to Residenza Il Carmine. The cab driver was not sure that he could get us right to the door, but he did. We were greeted by Miriam and shown to our little apartment, Oro.

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It was very nice and cozy and was right on the garden. We spent several evenings having a glass of wine there, and Bill made friends with the Myna Bird who was always outside chatting. What a pair those two were.

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We had planned a bunch of activities in Florence, but several did not pan out, so we followed the Slow Travel motto and enjoyed the areas around us.

We had gotten a restaurant recommendation from our apartment hosts just down and around the corner from our little home - it was called Osteria dell Ardiglione, and it became my favorite restaurant up to that point.

We had a wonderful wine - 2004 Augustin Pieri Rosso di Montalcino for 22E. I had proscuitto and melon, Bill had a huge mixed salad for apertivi. Then I had pasta with gorgonzola sauce and huge red endive leaves, and Bill had pasta with rabbit sauce and a huge side dish of sauteed spinach. Biscotti and vin santo for dessert. It was heavenly - total price 68E.

March 18, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Florence - Uffizi & Vasari Corridor

Sunday 5-14-06

Although we didn't get to do all of the things we had planned in Florence, our reservations finally came thru for the Uffizi Gallery and Vasari Corridor tour, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We booked thru Weekend a Firenze, and our guide Claudia was excellent.

For those of you who don't know, the Vasari Corridor is located on the second story of the Ponte Vecchio. It was a private corridor for the Medici to walk privately from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Pitti Palace. The corridor has lots of artwork on the walls and windows with incredible views.

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Wikipedia talks about the Vasari Corridor.

Susan Tenenbaum has a great report on the tour, Vasari Corridor - Paradise Gained on the Slow Travel website - check it out.

I just came across a blog entry that has a detailed report of the Vasari Corridor tour with lots of pictures. Boots in the Oven


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We had lunch near the Uffizi at a place called Ristorante Ricchi Enzo - big salads for each of us - mine with strawberries, apples, walnuts, 2 kinds of cheese and Bill's with cantaloupe, potatoes, pine nuts and spinach. Then we shared tortellini with gorgonzola and zucchini. Wine too, of course. 41E

March 19, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Florence - Iris Festival

Monday 5-15-06

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the timing of this trip and the cities we visited was based on when the Florence Iris Festival was to be held.

We had visited the Iris Festival briefly on the day we arrived, but we went back up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see it again today. The garden is open only 20 days a year when they have the iris competition, and I timed our visit to Florence to coincide with those dates.

The flowers were quite beautiful, and the garden has a spectacular view. It is well worth doing if you are ever in Florence in May.

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We had lunch at a place called San Benitore and had really good chickpea soup, spaghetti with tomato sauce (Bill) and duck on spinach (Nancy). A yummy lemon dessert and cafe - can't find the receipt though, so don't know what the cost was.

Late dinner that same night at Cavolo Nero Trattoria next door to Residenza Il Carmine. Actually only Bill ate a complete dinner while I went to the computer place to do my first trip report. I joined him for a wonderful chocolate dessert and a glass of red wine. Bill had a salad and a really good monkfish. Total cost was 48E.

March 20, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Florence - David at the Accademia

Tuesday 5-16-06

Emilio at Il Carmine had been kind enough to make reservations at the Accademia for us. Bill says he never gets tired of seeing David, and this was only my second visit there.

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We had lunch afterwards at a sidewalk cafe close to the Accademia and enjoyed peoplewatching. I think the name of it was Bar Il Magnifico.

A few regrets about our Florence stay:

We had booked a cooking class with Accidental Tourist, but on Sunday they had called and said that the cook was ill and unable to do the class. They offered a half day picnic instead - we considered it but decided to be lazy instead.

Missed getting to Fiesole this time, but we did ride the 12 and 13 busses around a couple of times getting to the top of Piazza Michelangelo.

Also missed getting to each of the three restaurants I had wanted to visit - Trattoria 4 Leoni, Trattoria ZaZa, and Ristorante da Mimmo. I guess that calls for another trip to Florence!

March 23, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Florence to Venice

Wednesday 5-17-06

Our day began in Florence when we boarded the Eurostar train for the three-hour ride to Venice. We arrived at about 1:30 pm. I had pre-reserved a Venice Card, which was to cover all water transportation and museum entry fees for three days.

We then tried to locate the vaporetto to get us to St. Mark's Square, where our bed and breakfast was. This was a quest we will never forget!

First we got on the vaporetto for line 1, but unfortunately it was in the wrong direction, and it went down one stop and made us get off. A kindly Brit told us where the stop was going in the right direction, and we finally made it there. The vaporetto became really crowded with tourists, working Italians, and young children on a field trip. Fun to watch - such beautiful faces!

After arriving at San Marco, we had a long walk wheeling our luggage (2 bags each plus shoulder bags) up and down several sets of stairs - I thought we would never get there! We did, of course, and the folks at Locanda Orseolo made us feel right at home, greeting us by name as we walked in. Matteo and Luigi (aka Gigi) were on hand when we arrived. More on the wonderful Locanda Orseolo tomorrow!

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Photo from Locanda Orseolo website.

March 24, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Venice - Locanda Orseolo

Wednesday 5-17-06

After unpacking and freshening up, we got some restaurant recommendations from Matteo and went to one located on the other side of the Rialto Bridge, Ostaria Antico Dolo. I didn't have Shannon & Ruth's book, Chow! Venice, at the time, but I now see that it is included in their book.

Bill and I shared a vegetarian antipasto, which was wonderful. Then he had spaghetti with tomato sauce, and I had the most delectable pumpkin gnocchi. The tiramisu for dessert was the best I have ever had! This ranks right up at the top of restaurants in Italy to this point.

Thursday 5-18-06

We met Matteo's wife Barbara at breakfast the next morning. Wonderful feast - meats, cheese, cereals, yogurts, juice and made-to-order omelettes and sweet crepes. Great cappuccino too. No lunch for us!

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Locanda Orseolo was a joy to stay in! Fabulous service and wonderful breakfasts. They could not do enough for us!

Here are a few pictures - some I took and some are "borrowed".

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Matteo and Barbara:
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March 26, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Venice - Doges Palace

Thursday 5-18-06

Headed over to Palazzo Ducale for our Doges Palace Secret Itineraries tour, which we booked thru TicketItaly.com. The building was the headquarters of the ruling Doges and also the site of the prison used in those days. The Secret Itineraries tour took us thru the prison where an infamous prisoner (and ladies man) named Casanova was housed and from which he escaped. Very interesting tour.

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We then walked over to what most people consider a tourist trap - Harry's Bar. I know, I know, but I just had to see the place where the Peach Bellini was invented. We paid dearly for the privilege - 32E for two drinks! Here's Wikipedia's link for Harry's.

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Dinner this night was on Calle Largo S. Marco - called Ristorante All Angelo.

We chose a prix fixed menu for 16E each. For antipasto, I chose bruschetta with tomatoes and basil, and Bill had mushrooms with polenta. For primi, Bill had asparagus soup, and I had penne pasta with peas and tomatoes. Secondi for me was veal scallopine and chicken for Bill. Desserts (all flaming) were very expensive (14E), so we declined. We had two half litres of house wine (white and red), and the total cost was 57E.

Friday 5-19-06

Another wonderful breakfast at Locanda Orseolo. What can I say - they do a great job. Always willing to help with a reservation or directions or recommendations for something. A really class operation.

Slight crimp in our plans for the day. We were going to use our Venice Cards to go to Murano-Burano-Torcello today. But Matteo told us last night that a one-day strike had been announced and no vaporettos would be running. Sort of made the Venice Card not worth it!

Oh well - we went thru the Basilica di San Marco and then shopped for Murano glass over by the Rialto Bridge. Not quite the same but maybe it's a good reason to come back.

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I came back to Locando Orseolo to write my Florence trip report (before it completely faded from my memory), and Bill did his long walk all over Venice.

We didn't walk too far to dinner, though - just around the corner to a very casual restaurant that advertised not just one but several prix fixed dinners for 10-14-18-36E, Ristorante Al Gallo d'Or.

We chose the 14E version (at least I did because I wanted to try liver Venice-style). At this price, there was no antipasto. I had lasagne for the primi and the liver with fried potatoes for the secondi. Bill had a really thick vegetable soup (with lots of spinach which he loves) for his primi and pork loin for his secondi. The pork loin was like none I have ever seen, as it was completely flat like it was pounded and grilled. He said it was very good though, and the price was right! Only 39E with two half litres of house wine - the least expensive dinner we have had so far!

March 27, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Venice to Lake Como

Saturday 5-20-06

Horrors! Another moving day! I have come to dread these! I can certainly understand the Slow Travel philosophy of being based in one or two locations and day-tripping from there. Next time . . .

We bit the bullet and ordered a water taxi pickup - It came right up to the canal window at our B and B - they opened the window and out we went with our luggage. This was the first time I have ever gone out a window to catch a taxi!

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It was about 15 minutes to the train station. Stood in line for the train tickets this time because we wanted the train that didn't require a change. Also bought the one for 3 days from now, so that is done.

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March 31, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Albergo Lenno

Saturday 5-20-06

After our water taxi ride in Venice, we took the train to Lake Como. This one was a 2nd class train with 6 seats in each compartment. Very nice at the beginning with only the two of us. That didn't last long, though - all 6 seats filled for most of the trip.

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We got off the train in Como - at the southern end of Lake Como and took a taxi to the ferry stop.

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It was about a half hour ride to Albergo Lenno. The ferry stop was right next to the hotel.

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We are almost across the lake from Bellagio and on the 2nd floor with a lakeview balcony. Of course, it started raining the minute we got off the ferry, but it was still very beautiful.

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April 1, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Albergo Plinio Ristorante

Saturday 5-20-06

After checking into our room, we walked just a block down the lakefront from Albergo Lenno to have a glass of wine outside while we waited for the restaurants to open at 7 pm.

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The one we chose was recommended by our hotel, Albergo Plinio Ristorante, just a block from our hotel. We sat outside under kind of an arbor covering the dining area. Even though it was raining off and on, we were protected. Kind of neat.

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Tanya was our waitress, and she had just come back from three months in the US to learn better English. She stayed with relatives in Hanford, close to Fresno CA. She was a hoot!

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No antipasti tonight - soup for both of us - a minestrone for Bill and asparagus for me - both great. We also agreed on an entree - veal. Bill had his in a wine sauce, and mine was in a lemon sauce.

Two sides - one house vegetables and one order of french fries. Every restaurant here seems to serve french fries as their potato choice - very good too, not greasy at all. American restaurants could take lessons.

For dessert we had a cheese plate with three large hunks of local cheeses. They were so big we took about half home to eat on our balcony the next night. House red wine and water - total cost 66E.

We even had a little ducky friend join us from the nearby lake.

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Surprise! Surprise! About 11 pm or so we heard noise outside our room and opened the drapes to some spectacular fireworks out on the water! Wow! Have to check that out tomorrow!

April 2, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Villa del Balbianello

Sunday 5-21-06

After the fireworks last night, this morning we had a band play right in front of our balcony. Don't know what that was all about either!

Breakfast is included in the room rate of 170E - it was fine - meats and cheese, a really good muslix-style cereal (cornflakes too), juices, croissants and the ever-present expresso and cappuccino.

It turned out to be a Two-Villa Day! Yes, we visited Villa del Balbianello in Lenno and then the much larger Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo (one town north).

We took a small motor boat taxi down the coast to Villa del Barbianello. It was supposed to be a walkable trip, but I am really glad we did the water taxi - it was only 5E each round trip.

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Villa del Barbianello belonged to a succession of owners since it was originally built as a monastery in the 13th century. The last owner was an Italian explorer (Mt. Everest and other foreign lands), Guido Monzino, who bought and renovated the villa from 1974-1988. The house remained exactly as he left it, with lots of artifacts from his many expeditions, and the grounds are gorgeous. He died at age 60 in 1988 and willed the villa to the FAI, a non-profit organization, which maintains it.

We had a guided tour thru the buildings and spent a lot of time walking around the grounds. It was fabulous! Our very favorite villa of the trip!

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This is where Guido Monzino's remains are interred:
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Oh! And we found out about the mysterious fireworks last night. A private party by NY stockbrokers was held at Villa Balbianello, and they sponsored the fireworks. It was a huge display, for half an hour or more - must have cost them a bundle!

I just came across a great blog report on a visit to Villa del Balbianello on Dutch Baby.

Continue reading "2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Villa del Balbianello" »

April 3, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Villa Carlotta

Sunday 5-21-06

After our tour of Villa del Balbianello, we took the motorboat back to Lenno and had a gelato break before we headed to Tremezzo to try to find the local Asparagus Festival and tour Villa Carlotta. Never found the Asparagus Festival, but Villa Carlotta was right on the lakefront. Huge beautiful grounds.

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Walked a couple of blocks tonight to have an early dinner (7 pm is early by Italian standards). It was called Trattoria S. Stefano and again was a recommendation from our hotel.

Primi - Bill had tortellini with asparagus, and I had tagioolini with gorgonzola and melon. Interesting combination. For secondi, we both ordered the local whitefish, mine grilled and Bill's sauteed. Vegetables were grilled eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and mixed salad for Bill.

We both had dessert (Bill usually doesn't) - He had creme brulee, and I had baba with limoncello. With a bottle of local wine and water, the total cost 63E.

April 4, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Villa Melzi, Bellagio

Monday 5-22-06

Our plan for the day was to get a day-long ferry pass for the mid-section of Lake Como and see as much as we could of Bellagio and Varenna. Started a little late, so we only got to Bellagio. We did tour Giardini di Villa Melzi, a beautiful waterfront property and thoroughly enjoyed it. The grounds comprise a number of acres and are maintained impeccably. The property also includes a small chapel where some of the original occupants (friends of Napoleon) are interred, a small museum and the villa itself, which was not open to the public. The grounds were the highlight though.

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Continue reading "2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Villa Melzi, Bellagio" »

April 6, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como - Our Last Day

Monday 5-22-06

After visiting Villa Melzi in Bellagio, we took a gelato-caffe-wine break to wait for the ferry back to Lenno from Bellagio. Sat at a table outside on the lakefront and watched the boats (and the world) go by.

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On our way back to Lenno, we saw some beautiful scenery.
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We're back at the ferry station in Lenno:
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Back to Albergo Plinio for dinner, where we met Tanya on our first night. She helped us pick a local Lakes wine, Valtelina Superiore, called Inferno, 1998 Balgera. Also each had a glass of Prosecco before dinner.

Primi for me was tortolini with spinach and ricotta, with sage and butter. Bill's was spaghetti with pesto. His was good but mine was outstanding! For his entree, Bill chose a fillet with green peppercorn sauce, and I picked breaded local perch with risotto. An order of french fries too. No dolci tonight - we were just too stuffed. Total bill was 63E.

You may be wondering about all of the food descriptions I have been giving. Guess I am my Mother's daughter - we don't eat to live - we live to eat!

We have had good internet access so far on our trip, but that may be changing when we get to Tuscany. Here is where I checked my emails on the lobby computer at Albergo Lenno.
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April 7, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Lake Como to Tuscany

Tuesday 5-23-06

This was a day I would like to forget! It began early. We had to take the 8:25 ferry to the train station in Como to catch the 10:12 train to Milan and Chiusi. Train was 20 minutes late, so we missed our connection in Milan. After standing in line to exchange our tickets (one of those take-a-number and we'll call you), we got 1 p.m. tickets to Bologna and then to Chiusi. Oh great! One additional time of getting our luggage off and on the trains (they only stop for about 5 minutes at the small stations). Let me tell you, I plan to pack lighter the next time!

Made it to Chiusi at about 6 p.m. with an hour to spare before the Hertz office closed. Rented a cute little Renault Modus 5-speed, which means I will be doing the driving. Diesel too - I made a note of that fact!

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So we started driving. I was determined to get to our agriturismo apartment before dark. The Italian road signs are so different from ours - it was very confusing since this was our first time driving in Italy. We stopped numerous times to ask for directions (all given in rapid Italian), so it wasn't a lot of help.

Our guardian angels must have been watching over us because we finally did get there - and before dark too! Bill was feeling sick (must have been my driving), so we walked up the road to eat before we even unpacked the car. Good dinner - good night's sleep!

April 8, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - La Crociona Agriturismo

Wednesday 5-24-06

We awoke to a cloudy sky and took our time getting ready - after all, we had no set plans, and the countryside where we were staying is just gorgeous. But, I am getting a little bit ahead of myself - first, let me tell you where we stayed, La Crociona Agriturismo, just outside Montalcino.

Several people on the Slow Travel website had stayed there and really spoke highly of it, so I made reservations for a week there. Here is a review from Slow Travel.

Looking at the aerial photo on their website, our cozy little "house" is up at the top of the photo, set away from the other buildings. This gave us a lot of really peaceful time in a gorgeous setting.

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We stayed in the bottom portion of the building, and a really nice couple from Atlanta stayed above us. We met them later in our stay and really hit it off with them. They were lots of fun!


Here are some photos of the living room area and the little kitchen. I didn't photograph the bedroom or bathroom, but they were roomy and very clean.

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We sat outside every evening having wine and munchies.

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And Bill even made friends with the resident kitty. And this kitty looked so much like our dearly departed Morris (who also really loved Bill), it was a special treat to have a furry friend there.

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Even our little car had a carport. A very comfy place to stay!

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April 9, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - Tour of Croce di Mezzo

Wednesday 5-24-06

After leisurely getting started on that first morning, we drove into Montalcino to look around and get groceries. Such a cute little town but, wow - how many wine shops does one town need? I know this is Brunello Country and all, so I guess the demand is there.

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It rained on and off, so there were not too many people on the street. We found a darling little restaurant in the middle of town and had a lovely long lunch.

Got provisions at the Coop and headed back to our apartment because we were to have a tour of the new winery on the property and winetasting.

Roberto, one of the owners, took us thru the not-quite-finished winery building of Croce Di Mezzo.

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It was huge, going down several levels. I think he said their current wine production was 1,000 cases, but this facility looked like it could handle many times that amount. I am sure they probably make more than 1,000 cases by now.

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Even though we had a large lunch, Bill wanted a little more to eat, so we walked back down the road to the little restaurant we went to last night. It is called Osteria La Crocina, but I will write more about that in a later episode.

April 10, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - Montalcino GTG at Grappolo Blu

Thursday 5-25-06

Not a cloud in the sky this morning - a beautiful day! We were supposed to meet a Slow Travel messageboard friend in Montalcino - she actually lives in Palm Desert, about an hour from us. Yes, that's right - this was my FIRST Slow Travel GTG and it was with PALMA!

Palma and I had talked by phone a couple of times that day, and we met in the shopping area of Montalcino. Palma was with a couple of other gals, one was Ida - Vico Girl on Slow Travel. They were experiencing a couple of little travel glitches (non-working ATM card and misplaced wallet), but we decided to all have lunch closeby. We chose Grappolo Blu because of its stellar reputation, and it did not disappoint!

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For some reason, I did not write down what we ate, but everything was delicious. And the chatting just went on and on. In my forgetful state of mind, I also forgot to take photos of lunch, so Palma graciously sent me a couple that she had taken.

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We had a dinner invitation from Fiorella, the grand dame of our agriturismo for an authentic home-cooked Tuscan dinner, and we couldn't pass that up even though it meant eating two big meals in one day.

There were 24 of us at dinner - 8 German cyclists, a family of 4 English-speaking Germans, and the rest Americans. We just ate and ate and ate! And drank too - wine was included. We made friends with a couple from Atlanta who were staying on the 2nd floor of our little building. They were lots of fun!

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When I looked at that last photo, I wondered why Bill had his dark glasses on whether it was day or night. Then I remembered that they were his new Prada glasses from Florence, and he was SO proud of them! Of course, it could have been all that wine too!

April 11, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - Poggio Antico for Lunch

Friday 5-26-06

I have a friend who works in the wine industry on the Central Coast, and her boss travels regularly to Italy. He gave my friend a list of restaurant recommendations for Tuscany, and I brought a copy of it on our trip. One restaurant, Poggio Antico was just a few miles from where we were staying, so that was our destination for today.

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We arrived there at 11:00, but they did not open for lunch until 12:30, so we sat in the shade in the parking area and I read while Bill took a little snooze. It was well worth waiting for!

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We were seated outside on a shaded verandah by hostess Sharon, who turned out to be the daughter of the owner/chef, Roberto Minnetti.

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Three different prix fixe menus were available, but being the gluttons that we are, we chose the largest one. This was our menu:

Menu a degustazione

Small glass of sauvignon blanc friuli
4 Small biscuits - Different flavors - Rocket, Truffle, Rosemary, Tomato

Tartare di chianina (Tartare from the "Chianina" beef)

Parfait di fegatini in salsa di moscadello (Liver pate served with moscadello sweet wine sauce)

Passata di topinambur con mousse di baccala (Topinambur saupe with dried salted cod)

Ravioli al Castel Magno e olio al basilico (Ravioli filled with Castel Magno cheese in basil oil sauce)

Agnello con carciofi all' aceto balsamico (Lamb with artichokes and balsamic vinegar)

Degustazione di formaggi (A selection of cheese)

I dolci di Roberto Minnetti

This menu - 66E -- Other menus for 48E and 36E


Poggio Antico also makes wine, and we chose a 2000 Brunello. I found out later that it got a 93 in Wine Spectator, so I guess we made a good choice.

Everything was wonderful! I particularly liked the liver pate course, and Bill thought the lamb course was outstanding. Was it pricey? Yes, but we would go back again in a minute.

We relaxed when we got back "home" and just had cheese and crackers from our fridge (and wine, of course) - sat outside overlooking the vineyards.

Another beautiful day in Paradise!

April 13, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - A Visit to Montepulciano

Saturday 5-27-06

We are off to Montepulciano today. Tried to follow the highway signs, but we made a lot of wrong turns, so it took awhile to get there. Found a free parking lot at the north edge of town (1 hour only) and walked thru town.

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My friend's boss knows Italy well and really knows good food and wine! So, our goal was to visit another restaurant on his list, Ristorante Le Logge del Vignola. We did find it, but it was closed. Couldn't figure out why because we were there during their posted business hours. Oh well!

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Instead, we sat outside at Pozzo di Pulcinella and had a nice lunch, with lots of people-watching.

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It took us awhile to get back to Montalcino, but oh the beautiful countryside we saw!

Just snacked for dinner again. We are really comfortable in our little apartment!

April 14, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - Fattoria dei Barbi

Sunday 5-28-06

This was our last full day in Montalcino. We slept in, so we weren't ready to get going until almost noon. We had walked to Fattoria dei Barbi earlier in the week, but today we drove right down the road to the winery, one of the original producers of brunello in Tuscany.

We did a tasting of their wines and olive oils and tried to have lunch there on the terrace. Nope! We should have made reservations - they were fully booked.

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The grounds were beautiful, though, so we enjoyed walking around and exploring.

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We then headed up to Montalcino to find a bite to eat. Believe it or not, we are getting pretty good at finding our way around the area - we even picked the right exit off the roundabout to get back home. Lots of shops were closed because it was Sunday.

April 15, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - Osteria la Crocina

Sunday 5-28-06

This was the last night in our apartment, so you can guess where we had dinner. Yep, our old favorite right down the road, La Crocina. We had vowed to eat Bistecca Fiorentina while we were in Italy, so that is what we picked. They had a minimum cut of 30 oz, so we shared that with their really good French fries and a great tiramisu for dessert. Alvaro, our waiter, helped us pick a brunello to go with it - 2000 Montecarbello.

All I can say is yum!

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Right in the same building as the restaurant was Piombaia, which was kind of a wine shop. Bill made friends with Vittorio there, so I thought a farewell photo was appropriate.
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April 16, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Tuscany - Montalcino to Rome

Another moving day - yuck!

But we stayed in our little apartment until about noon. We had decided to spend the last night before our flight in Rome instead of trying to get there from Tuscany on the train.

So, we drove back to Chiusi to return our rental car and take the train back to Rome. A train ride from hell! I had reserved seats (not in first class though), but the train was pretty full and two guys were sitting in our seats. They refused to move, and Bill couldn't find any conductor to change the situation.

Bill found an empty seat, but our luggage was still right inside the car that we had entered on (next to the bathroom, of course). I was afraid to just leave it there, and there was no room to put it anywhere else, so I stayed there during the entire trip to Rome. Lots of fun.

But we made it and went back to our favorite Hotel Diana to spend the night. Went up to the rooftop terrace, of course, to see our bartender friend, Marco.

Off to the airport in the morning - the last night in Italy is always sad . . .

April 17, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Sadness in San Francisco

Tuesday 5-30-06

Our plane left Rome on time for Chicago, and the flight was fine. There was a little bad weather as we landed in Chicago, but nothing terrible. After our two-hour layover in Chicago, we were a little bit late in boarding the plane. But, that is when the big wait began. Although there wasn't any rain at the Chicago airport, there apparently were bad weather warnings all around the area because they weren't letting ANY planes take off.

I am not kidding - we were in a line of at least 30 planes waiting patiently for permission to take off. And this lasted a couple of hours.

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So, of course, when we got to San Francisco, we had missed our connecting flight to Palm Springs. We were put on a 7 a.m. flight, and then the question was: what good is it to get a hotel room at midnight if we were only going to get three or four hours sleep before we had to get back to the airport for our early morning flight? We decided not to do that and spent the night at the airport. You cannot imagine how different SFO looks in the middle of the night when it is completely deserted except for a few stragglers like us just waiting for morning to come. It was kind of surreal.

But, we probably wouldn't have slept anyway because we talked to our house/petsitter when we arrived in San Francisco to let him know that we wouldn't be getting home that night and learned that one of our goatboys had died while we were gone. He was sick when we left, but the vet had been by to see him several times to give him shots. I guess he took a bad turn one day, and the petsitter had the vet come over to put him down.

Then there was the dilemma of what to do with his remains. He was a pretty big goat (kind of like a pony), and it was going to cost a couple hundred dollars to have someone come and pick him up, so the petsitter got some guys to help him and dug a very big hole on our property to bury him in. I felt sorry for our petsitter, having to deal with that and make those decisions.

April 18, 2009

2006 Trip - Italy - Home Again, Home Again!

Wednesday 5-31-06

When the morning dawned at San Francisco Airport, we were first in line to check in for our flight back to Palm Springs. Arrived there at 9-something.

For those of you who have never flown into or out of Palm Springs, it is a nice, small, manageable airport. I love flying out of there rather than Ontario or (God forbid) LAX. It is really picturesque to fly into, especially on a clear day.

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So, we were really glad to see the familiar landscape of the desert as we landed.

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Even though it was a bittersweet homecoming, we were glad to be home. Italy was spectacular, though, and we have a lot of wonderful memories.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Winelover's Wanderings in the 2006 Italy - Rome, Venice, Lakes, Tuscany category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

2004 Med Cruise - Spain/France/Italy is the previous category.

2009 Italy - Piedmont, Lakes is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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