Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1356: Spoleto, Siena, Montalcino, Orvieto and Rome
By Pat and Henry from Kansas, Spring 2007
Trip Description: Pat and Henry travel with two young grandaughters and Pat's sister through Italy, from mid March through early April 2007, enjoying the food, the sights and plenty of shopping along the way.
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Rome, Tuscany, Umbria
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Shopping; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; Adults and Young Children; Small Group: 5 to 9
Page 1 of 7: Spoleto
A tradition in my family is to introduce everyone to Italy. I have taken all my children and now I am working my way through the grandchildren. This year it is Madison and Isabelís turn. They are both in third grade and are cousins. Joining me and my wife Pat will be Patís sister Barbara. Barbara is a docent at a big city museum and loves to introduce the children to art.
I have tried to put in prices when I have found the receipts. I know it makes a difference what we had but this will give you an idea of prices. No one had a glass of water or wine, the prices are for bottles or liters we had them with every meal. All the restaurants were good with one exception.
We flew, I donít want to talk about it and you donít want to hear it. We arrived at FCO and were met by the driver I hired, Rome Shuttle Limousine. The driver was waiting for us with a sign at the arrival area. He spoke English, helped us with our bags, and gave us a running commentary on the sights we passed. I thought it was good service and only cost Ä50 for five of us to Termini. Got the tickets on an ES to Spoleto and boarded the train and called Laurie and told him what train we were on. At Spoleto, Laurie picked us up and drove us to the apartment.
Terrazza Splendida is a beautiful apartment in the old section of Spoleto. An English couple owns the apartment so language problems are minimal. Norma and her husband, Laurie, have quite a few apartments in Spoleto and I have rented from them before. When I set this trip up I e-mailed Norma and told her who was coming and she suggested this apartment and put an extra bed in the twin room. The apartment is huge and accurately described on the website. Laurie makes sure we can operate the appliances and TV and shows us the basket of brochures and maps of local tourist spots. He points out a list with recommended restaurants and discount coupons and his cell phone number in case we have problems. Laurie points out the provisions in the refrigerator and cupboards, which he thinks are enough to get us through the first day and breakfast the next. I tell him that one bottle of wine wonít get us through the first day and I plan to go to the COOP (grocery store). He insists on giving me a ride. Since I am paying less than a Ä100 a day all this extra service is remarkable.
At the COOP, we pickup what we think we will need for the next three days and walk back to the apartment. On the way back we stop in piazza Garibaldi for gelato. The girls have been told this is the best part of the trip, and they agree. Seeing the look on their faces, as they taste their first gelato reminds me of why we bring the kids. While the girls are eating gelato, I hit the ATM for Ä500 to pay for the apartment; Pat and Barbara also stock up.
From the terrace of the apartment we watch the sun set while having wine and cheese. It is great to be back in Italy.
Dinner is at Osteria del Trivia. We have eaten here on previous trips and they serve a huge, mixed antipasta. While the food is fine the girls ďhit the wall,Ē so we walk back to the apartment and everyone is in bed by 9:30. This system has worked for us. Let the kids stay up until they collapse then let them sleep in as long as they want the next morning. Pat and I donít seem to be bothered by jet lag as much as when we first started to come to Italy.
The next morning, Friday, Pat and I are up at 7:00 everyone else is sleeping in. Madison is the next one up at 10:00 so I take her out to pick up pastries for everyone. She canít believe how many choices she has. After everyone is up, we head to the market where the girls shop. This becomes a recurring part of the trip, the girls shopping.
We head to the Duomo and as we are walking down the steps I see a sign for the íMuseo Diocesano e Basilica di SantíEufemiaí so I say to Barbara letís take a look. My granddaughters have run down the steps with Pat trying to catch up so it is just Barbara and I. As we are admiring the paintings a gentleman comes up to us and asks where we are from. He speaks no English so it takes me a while to understand that he wants to show us the library. We follow him as he unlocks doors and takes us up to a library crammed with ancient manuscripts. He removes books and shows us music and census information from 500 to 1000 years ago. He encourages Barbara to turn the pages and see the different styles of writing and music. Barbara is both thrilled and apprehensive; she had learned never to touch old manuscripts with bare hands. One of the joys of Italy is the people who are proud of their past and want to share it with you.
After lunch, we take the girls through the Roman house unearthed from the 1st century; it still has mosaics in good condition. Next is the bridge of towers. The views are still breathtaking but Ponte di Torre is closed and canít be crossed.
Dinner is at Osteria di Matto right off Piazza Mercanto. Fillipo the owner keeps the girls entertained all night while bringing out dish after dish of food. At Ä16 each this is a real bargain. We donít leave the Osteria until after 10:00 and we practically have to roll home. While each dish is only a sampling there are so many of them that eventually you have to say enough!
The next morning we walk to the train station and head to Assisi, it takes about forty minutes and about Ä12 for five of us. There is a bus waiting at the train station and I quickly get tickets and we head up to the town. Our first stop is the basilica and we spend a lot of time as Barbara explains the frescos to the girls. Between the upper and lower churches there is a gift shop so even in church, shopping is done. We have a nice lunch at Locanda del Podesta.
We spend the rest of the afternoon visiting St. Maria Sopra Minerva, St. Ruffino, and St. Chiara churches as well as shopping and gelato breaks. Back to Spoleto we eat at the apartment.
Sunday morning we have a large breakfast on the terrace. The little ones help make the breakfast and serve the adults. It is a beautiful day. After breakfast I take my granddaughters on a map reading exercise. Each girl is given a map and two locations to find. Besides teaching the girls a much-needed skill this allows us to stroll through most of the town. Barbara and Pat spend the afternoon shopping. Dinner is at Trattoria/Pizzaria della Dorsu. The girls discover real pizza and it is love at first bite. After dinner, while strolling through town with a gelato, we meet a man now living in Spoleto but originally from Scotland who catches us up on all the latest town gossip.
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