Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 744: Through Bavaria, Umbria and Tuscany: Piatti Misti
By Leslie from Georgia, Summer 2005
Trip Description: May 23- June 13. Three wonderful weeks visiting friends in Bavaria, touring Umbria and returning to some favorite and new spots in Tuscany.
Destinations: Countries - Italy, Germany; Regions/Cities - Tuscany, Umbria
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Foodie Trip; Garden Visits; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 3-4 people; Adults and Young Children
Page 1 of 25: Preludio
It has been five years since we last visited Italy and nearly seven since we lived in Bavaria for 18 months. We twice planned a trip back to Italy but each time outside events intervened and caused us to cancel; first 9/11 and then the current war in Iraq. My husband, Brent, was then an active-duty officer in the Army. We decided this year that it was time for him to retire from the service after a 24 year career in the military. Since he had all kinds of leave (vacation) built up we thought this would be the perfect time to take a long overdue trip back to Germany and Italy. We capitalized on the situation and elected to make the most of our time and stay for three weeks.
Our daughter Riley, age eight, does not remember living in Germany at all since she was only two when we left. She has only vague impressions of our last trip to Tuscany when she was almost 4; memories such as the nice old grandfather at the estate in which we stayed and his chickens and the fresh egg he brought her. Riley is very enthusiastic about this vacation and is intrigued by the possibility of new memories including the palette of gelato flavors that await her. Her only goals on this trip are to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and to eat as much gelato as she can possibly get away with.
We have two sets of close friends now stationed in Garmisch so we decide to stay in the new Armed Forces Recreation Center Hotel in Garmisch and spend about five days visiting and catching up with our friends. With the draconian exchange rate of the Dollar to Euro itís definitely more economical to stay at this hotel as it quoted in dollars; besides itís just across the street from where our friends live.
After Garmisch we will be staying in Umbria for about six days. The plan is to reserve via credit card because wire transfers have associated fees on both ends which adds too much to the cost of the rental. We are unable to find an apartment that takes credit cards AND will let us stay for less than a full week. The small hill town of Trevi has intrigued me for the past several months as I do research. But I narrow down our base locations to Spoleto, Orvieto, and Trevi so Brent will have a say as well. I do such a good pitch on Trevi that he is won over. Now the choice is between two hotels the four-star...and the recently upgraded three-star Il Terziere.
I email the four-star first and they tell me that they are booked with some sort of group but it is not definite. They advise that I email them back in March, but since that it only two months before we leave I really don't want to wait that long.
Il Terziere looks like a nice alternative. It has convenient parking, is within walking distance of the Centro Storico and is family-owned. Maybe we will get a warmer welcome if it is family owned. There, are only eight or nine rooms implying more personalized service. Also, Bill Thayer's Website has info from his journal regarding Il Terziere and he seemed to have a comfortable experience.
So, I email the hotel but find that the email address no longer exists! What's the story with that? I post the question on SlowTrav and Bill Thayer answers my question and offers to contact his friend Franco who has some sort of connection to the Tourism office in Trevi to see what is going on. Turns out the website is no longer valid but the owner of the hotel sends Bill a personal email address and I proceed to query about availability and price.. They come back with 90 Euros per day for a triple with a balcony that looks out onto Trevi and includes parking. Sold! They do not ask for a credit card for confirmation which makes me a little nervous but I guess they think that I am a friend of Billís, so to speak.
Now we come to the Tuscany planning. We know we want to stay in our favorite area... Somewhere in the Val d' Orcia or possibly Montepulciano. Our last rental was via the agency Terre Toscane (which somehow has a bad rap of offering less than comfortable properties but I have never found this to be true). The agency was very helpful the last two times we booked with them. The second time we had to cancel and they keep our deposit open for us to apply to another property for a year. They will take a credit card for the deposit and we will pay the balance upon arrival by credit card as well. All very convenient with reasonable prices to boot. We are not looking for opulent luxury, nor do we require typical American amenities such as a dishwasher, etc. Brent falls in love with a property called Le Corolle. It is one of the higher-end properties in the catalog situated in an olive grove on a hillside with a swimming pool. Since I chose the Umbria accommodation and location it only fair he gets his say now. Le Corolle is very close to Montepulciano, about 2 kilometers. So we book it. Although there are tons of nice-sounding properties reviewed by the SlowTrav community we opt to have an adventure and take the road less traveled by trying something new. Nothing ventured, nothing gained Ė for us this is a crucial element of travel.
We book a rental car through Auto Europe, an agency we have used in the past with great success and request a VW Passat. A friend is picking us up in Munich so we won't have to pay all the taxes and fees of an airport rental car pickup. We also rent a cell phone from Cellular Abroad for emergencies.
I then proceed to get-in-touch with Kaydee (Kathy) whose adventures I have been following for the past few months as she and her family embarked on a 14 month adventure in Europe. I also contact Barbara Skinner as in Barb and Art and ask if we can arrange a GTG. They both respond that they would like to meet with us and I am thrilled. Brent thinks I have absolutely lost my marbles by meeting with people I have never met but only corresponded with via the internet. I tell him this will be one of the highlights of our trip and it turns out to be true; now Brent is more relaxed meeting other people connected with SlowTrav during our trips.
This concludes the prelude to our long-awaited journey back to Germany and Italy. Prior to our departure, I almost do not want to think about the pleasures of Italy and Bavaria lest, once again, we might have to cancel. But luck is on our side, the planets align, and we do, indeed, set out on our three-week sojourn as planned.
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