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Posts from the ‘Italy’ category

Venice – Day 1

Date: Sat 22nd June
Temperature: Hot
Mood: fascination
Highlight: Blown away by Venice

After sharing our final breakfast with our ‘gypsie’ friends and bidding them farewell and safe travels we headed back to Florence to return our sporty Alpha Romeo hire car. This ‘simple’ drive was causing much angst and hours were spent examining the map to find the best route. We managed to fill up the car with diesel after sitting at the petrol station searching for the lever to flip the fuel cap – such high tech mod cons are not necessary in Italy, you just have to release it from the outside! Actually getting the petrol out of the pump was the next quandary, however after a bit of time, all was sorted. The drive into Florence did not cause us too great a problem and we arrived at the train station to catch the train to Venice with 30 minutes to spare.

Arriving in Venice was quite overwhelming and vey hot! After queuing for 15min to get a map of Venice at the tourist information office, we were told it would cost us 3€ and wouldn’t include the transport routes, so we went next door and purchased a map and sightseeing book for €5! Our Italian tourist information experiences haven’t been that wonderful.

We bordered a ferry bound for San Marco to experience a ride up the Grand Canal,which resulted in a squishy, slow sojourn up the Canal. After disembarking, we made our way through the narrow winding streets and over bridges, our eyes agog at the beautiful Murano glass shops, the masks, the leather, the designer brands. We walked through San Marco Piazza, looked at the basilica (from the outside) and then headed off to find our accommodation, which was next door to the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (unfortunately this building is now closed to the public). We were shown to our room by a lovey older lady, We think she has transformed her family home into a guest house, keeping some of the rooms as her private quarters. We were greeted by a splendidly authentic Italian decorated bedroom, complete with all the stuff from years gone by, but more exciting was the fact that our room was on a canal, only one floor up, so we could each look out windows at the passing traffic below. We also had the luxury of a private bathroom, but we had to navigate from one end of the floor to the other to get to it!

By the time we had checked in and hit the street, all tourist sites were then closed, so we set off to simply stroll the streets aimlessly and enjoy all that there was to offer with the views, the narrow streets, the squares, bridges, all very fascinating! Whilst we did get lost on a few occasions, the maps are useful and there is good signage directing you to the main areas that do help a lot.

We ended up with a very late diner of pasta (possibly due to all the Gelato’s consumed). Then back to our accommodation and dropping into bed being lulled off to sleep with the gentle lapping sounds of water from below as boats quietly moved about at this late hour.

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Tuscany – Day 5

Date: Fri 21st June
Temperature: Pleasantly warm
Mood: Happy
Highlight: Susan’s Birthday

This is our last day of relaxation and of course its a special day for the celebration of a very big milestone in Sue’s life before we hit the last stage of our European adventure! It has been pure indulgence having these last few days to relax and enjoy the company of good friends in Tuscany. It will be hard to get back into the full-on travel and sightseeing mode.

Today was Sue’s day, as long as it included a Gelato, which it did. So we all waited patiently for her to emerge from her extra long sleep in before breakfasting (Some of us were getting a little worried that we would miss breakfast altogether!).

After a leisurely breakfast and relaxing by the pool (you may see a pattern occurring here). It was time to venture out to another local village called Montelupo for some afternoon Gelato and a Cappuccino and some pastries and… (We’re too embarrassed to go on, particularly when we constantly get ribbed by the old man that we will be up for excess luggage on our return trip!)

On our return it was time to turn the Birthday celebrations up a notch with pre dinner (happy hour) drinks and nibbles before dining alfresco style and finishing off with a pre ordered Tiramisu Birthday cake. Luckily we dined at the Villa’s Restaurant so we could all waddle back to our Villa’s to recover.

A great day was enjoyed by all.

Happy Birthday Sue!

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Under the Tuscan Moon!

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Tuscany – Day 4

Date: Thu 20th June
Temperature: Hot
Mood: Relaxed
Highlight: Authentic Italian Cooking Class

Today we had arranged an authentic Italian cooking class at the villa’s Restaurant. The class commenced around 11am and finished over a 4 course meal prepared during our session.

There was a lot of fun and participation during the session and we got to appreciate first hand traditional Italian cooking. It does help if you have industrial cooking equipment! We finished off enjoying our spoils dining outside with more than enough food and wine and of course, good company.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool! We might add that much frivolity was enjoyed under the Tuscan sun!

No dinner tonight! But Gelato withdrawal symptoms beckoned us to a nearby village of Carmignano to seek out a local Gelato shop. Arriving at 8:00pm we discovered the shop closed, we suspected that it was due to open later so we strolled around the village and enjoyed the sunset from the hilltop. True to Italian form, the village sprung to life with the shops opening up at 9:00pm and all the local village people out and about enjoying the summer evening and a yummy Gelato. Delicious!

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Cooking under the Tuscan Sun……….. Moon?

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Tuscany – Day 3

Date: Wed 19th June
Temperature: Hot
Mood: Relaxed
Highlight: San Gimignano

A sleep-in was mandatory after an exhausting hot day in Florence. Breakfast was at a nice leisurely pace and no one was in any rush to head off sightseeing as the day got progressively warmer.

It became evident that everyone was on the same page and most of the day was spent relaxing around the pool reading, catching up on Blogs and just chilling out.

By late afternoon we all headed off in our cars to San Gimignano (a small walled medieval village in Tuscany). Whilst the more interesting tourist attractions where closed by the time we arrived, luckily for the girls (well 2 of them anyway!), the shops weren’t, so shopping they went!

We enjoyed the sun setting and a pleasant dinner outdoors, then in true Italian style, we topped the evening off with Gelato for deserts! Oh and we forgot to mention that we had already had a Gelato on arrival, but it was well within the 2 Gelato daily limit. Our guide book also states that this Gelato store is the best in Italy!

It was time to jump back in the cars and head back to our Tuscan Villas. We are starting to get used to our Black beast, mastering the 6 speed gearbox and not wiping out the right hand side of the car (or gouging out the lovely alloy wheels on the curbs). In fact as we only need to follow the car in front (as they have the GPS in their car) we have been enjoying the driving of a pure bred Italian car. The Alpha Romeo Giulietta! (Anne, did you have something to do with this?) – Nice Car!

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Tuscany – Day 2

Date: Tue 18th June
Temperature: Very very Hot
Mood: Hot!!!
Highlight: Private tour of Florence

If only you could have seen us attempting to purchase 6 tickets with less than 5 minutes before our train departure with a ticket machine that kept on freezing (must have been running Windows Vista). Quick thinking Jethro, tickets were purchased from a Tobacco shop 20 meters away, we then had to validate all 6 of them in the machine (one at a time) after the train had pulled in, and what’s more, we were down the wrong end and had to run along the platform to get onto the train in time!

It was do or die as we had pre arranged to meet our private tour guide at Firenze Train Station and the next train would have been an hour later!

Roberto our tour guide was all things knowledgable about Florence. First stop was the Cappelle Medicee where we got the full run down on the Medicee family tree and the influence this family had over 300 years on shaping Florence. This Chapel also housed Michelangelo’s Day, Night, Dawn and Dusk marble sculptures that sat atop the tombs of some of the Medicee family members. Not bad for a head stone!

A tour of some of Florence’s landmarks and a visit of the Cathedral were also explained in expert detail. All were very impressed with Roberto and he is highly recommended for anyone visiting Florence.

We then finished our tour with Roberto on the doorstep of the Vasari Corridor for our next organised tour. This is a must for lovers of art. Most of us thought the tour was more about the history and the actual corridors. Whilst this was covered, it was more about the explanation of the hundreds of art work that adorn the corridor walls. Whilst interesting in its on right, we probably overdosed on tours in a single morning.

On our return we didn’t get past the Ponte Vecchio bridge, famous for all the gold jewellery shops without a few purchases made (by others in the group thankfully!)

After a sit down for lunch and an attempt to rehydrate it was then declared time for hitting the markets, this didn’t last too long due to the heat, so we headed off to seek out Michelangelo’s David!

After about an hour or so in a queue that didn’t move to fast and in 37 deg heat, we were finally fleeced of 11€ each to see the famous David, only to discover that you cannot take photos! They even had security guards enforcing it! But you cannot go all the way to Florence and not see David!

More market shopping and dinner before we caught the 8:28pm train back out and home!

We did manage to squeeze in another Gelato during the day! Roberto recommended us a Gelato place that apparently is the best in Florence. Now we have been recommended many, but it seems much easier to take the word of a local who claims that real fruit is used and it is made on site. To be honest, they all taste good, particularly when you are nearly going to die from heat exhaustion!

It was a big day. We spent close to 12 hours sight seeing and shopping, mostly on our feet and all of it in temperatures well over the mid 30’s! Hard work! Hopefully a sleep in and then time to catch up on our un-posted Blogs!

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