Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Our Trip to Italy

We were in Italy for three weeks the last of September and the first part of October. We had a wonderful time and would like to share some of our experiences and adventures. Those of you who have visited Italy may see some familiar places. For those who have not, hopefully these photos will stir your interest.

Marjie and I traveled with Rob and Mary Ann Cross. We made all of our arrangements for the trip on the Internet and even though none of us had previously visited Italy out trip went very smoothly. Our accommodations and travel plans were better than we had expected. Our trip included 3 days in Rome, 3 days in Cinque Terre, 3 days in Florence and 8 days at a Farm Stay in Southern Tuscany. On our first day in both Rome and Florence we hired a private guide to show us some of the major spots and then did the next two days exploring on our own. This photo shows Marjie with Rob and Mary Ann and our guide, Eva, at the Vatican. Click on any picture for a larger view.

We found Rome to be a very busy and crowded city. Modern day Rome is a mixture of a fast-paced, high tech world with buildings that date to the first century.
Trevi Fountain and night.

St. Peters, The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums could easily take an entire day or more. Our guide gave us the short tour in about 3 hours. Words can not describe the Vatican. Maybe "big and beautiful" would be a start.

Michelangelo's Pieta, in St Peters.

Camera's were not allowed in the Sistine Chapel. These frescoes are located in a dome outside the chapel.

The main streets in the center of Rome were full of people, mostly tourists. Cars were not allowed on some.

The Forum. Part of it dates to the first century

The Colosseum was started in AD 72.

The interior of the Colosseum.

The center of Rome with St. Peters in the background. Rome has 400 churches and we didn't see any small ones.

After 3 days in Rome we caught a train to Cinque Terre. On the way we got off at Pisa, put our luggage in a locker and walked around town for a couple of hours. This is the Arno River as it runs through Pisa.

A pedestrian-only street in Pisa. Nice not to have to dodge cars after Rome.

The famous Leaning Tower of the Campo dei Miracoli.

Back on the train and on to Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre is actually a national park located northwest of Florence. There are 5 small villages right on the Mediterranean Sea. Auto traffic is restricted in the area but the villages are linked by a trail on the cliffs, a boat ferry system, and a train system. We used all three during our visit.

The first village to the south is Riomaggorie where we stayed. The streets are narrow and steep. There is a little fishing fleet here and the sea food is fresh and very good.

Manarola, another of the small villages.

Lots of fresh produce at the local grocery store.

The trail that connects the 5 villages winds along the sea through the olive groves and vineyards. About 10 miles in total length. We did part of it twice. Very pretty.

After a hike a little lunch is always good. This area is noted for its sweet white wines.

Marjie is getting some advice on which one is best.
Back on the train after 3 days and off to Florence. Marjie is at the front door of our hotel. It was on the second floor, had 6 rooms and no sign. The building was built in the 1400s and we could see the Duomo, Florence's main church, from the front door. Great location. We walked every where.

The first man of Florence. Michelangelo's David. We spent all morning with a guide in the Uffizi Museum and the Accademia. The art work and sculptures are out of this world. No cameras allowed.

Florence's streets were not quite as busy as Rome's but there was still lots of activity.

The Duomo is too large to get in one picture. A beautiful building of marble inside and out.

A view of the city from the top of the Bell Tower looking past Brunelleschi's famous dome. 414 steps up!!.

Another view. Easy to see how we got lost many times with the lay out, (or lack of lay out) of the street system.

Anyone who has been to Italy knows what this is.

We had a couple two-gellato days.

If you get off the main drags there are a lot of very interesting narrow streets, some with nice little restaurants and shops.

Santa Croce

The frescoes in the churches were amazing. Each one told a story from the Bible.

The Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River.

Guess Marjie will be going back.

After spending 3 very enjoyable days in Florence we rented a car and drove southeast about 80 miles to Palazzo Bandino. The roads were in good shape although a little narrow and winding. Yes, we did get lost a time or two.

The countryside of Central Tuscany is very beautiful and looks like pictures from some travel magazine.

Palazzo Bandino is a small winery south of Montepulciano. It has been in the family for 6 generation and produces about 45,000 bottles of wine a year. Not large by our standards but typical of this part of Italy. They started renting out rooms in the mid 90's.

We had a little two bedroom apartment over the winery. The setting was idyllic nestled among the vineyard and olive groves.

Our window looked out over the vineyard.

They were at the end of harvesting this year's crop of Sangiovese grapes and we got up early one morning to watched the harvest process.

Marjie said she could even pick these.
The harvest was all by hand.

A trailer full of grapes and a couple of inspectors.

Into the tub

and out comes the juice.

Looking out the other side of the hill.

From Palazzo Bandino we visited a number of hill towns. Usually each morning we would drive in a different direction and just explore. We visited Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, Siena, Chiusi, Cortona, Assisi, Gubbio, Orvieto and a couple others on the way.
Marjie checking out the cheese for lunch in Pienza
Dick and Rob with today's allotment of Brunello and Chianti. We didn't have a bad bottle of wine the entire trip and the price ranged from $3.50 to $50.00 euros per bottle. (Only one at $50.00)
So that is how they do it.

I think I'll take this one.

I liked all the different windows and shutters.

My guide with her book in hand.

We were taking a cappuccino break one morning in a little piazza with this water feature. There were several dozen gray and one white pigon that kept flying in for a quick bath. Took a while, but I finally got the white one coming in by himself.

Sky line of Siena with the bell tower.

Lots of neat little alley ways.

Makes me hungry just looking at the fresh produce.
Piazza Del Campo in Siena.

I expected prices to be high with this view but that cup of coffee in front of Marjie cost me $6.00 euros with no refills. $8.75 US.

The Duomo (church) in Siena had the most beautiful floors. They were all made of inlay marble in hundreds of different patterns. I haven't ever seen such a gorgeous floor.

The floor is kept covered except during September and October of each year. We were lucky to be there at that time so we could see it.

The building wasn't bad either.

And the walls.

And the carved marble pulpit.

The streets in most of the hill towns were not nearly as crowded as Rome or Florence but just as nice.

With their little alleys and walk ways.

And windows
In Gubbio we walked into a little pottery shop and found the artist hard at work.
Marjie checking the book and we have been everywhere so she picked up her box of wine and we came home. Had a great time and hope some day to go back.

1 comment:

Eastbay Sarah said...

I'm glad I've finally had a chance to check out your trip to Italy. Looks like you really enjoyed both the cities and the countryside. My favorite pictures are of the local fruits & vegies and of the babe with the guidebook!