Sunday, October 20, 2019

First Stop Cortona

Continuing with our recent trip to Tuscany: Our little cottage in the olive grove was about a thirty minute drive (east) to Cortona, so it was first on our list of places to visit.
Piazza della Repubblica

Cortona sits at the very top of a very steep hill, and all of the parking lots being down below. They have had so many visitors in recent years that they have even installed an escalator to get you to the top. As you can see, there were no crowds the day we visited.
So, we walked around town taking photos like normal tourists.

I  as usual was enthralled with the side streets. Seemed like the perfect day, until the skies opened up and had us searching for our umbrellas. Since it didn't appear that it was going to let up, we found a place inside and out of the rain to have lunch. 
Ultimately we decided to cut our day short due to the weather, but not without finding Bramasole. Bramasole (an Italian Villa) was made famous by the 2003 movie Under the Tuscan Sun. A movie that closely follows Frances Mayes best selling book by the same name. Ms Mayes who was an American professor of English and Creative writing (at the time) really did buy and renovate an old villa,
and this was the finished product...but when they made the movie they needed old ruin.
not my photo
Above is Villa Laura that was restored during the movie,  also in Cortona and has become a vacation rental.

Many people, (yes there is almost a cult following for this movie) search in vain for the fountain in the piazza. Well, it was temporally constructed for the movie, and torn down afterwards.

If you are curious about Cortona (and not the movie) go HERE

Friday, October 18, 2019


After a few days in Paris, a couple in both  Pisa and the Cinque Terra (previous posts), we headed to the Tuscany region of Italy, where we had rented a small cottage.
We arrived in early afternoon, thanks to trusty GPS; Tom being the driver and our friend Phil our excellent navigator and gate man.
 Our little cottage was a nice surprise. It was and easy stroll to the medieval village of Marciano della Chiana (more on that later) and sits at the edge of the properties  small olive grove.

I was amazed at how green the front garden was, not to mention peaceful and relaxing.

The back of the cottage, which sits on over two acres,
was  the location of the small olive grove.

 We really enjoyed the small back patio which was framed with pretty white roses.
The area of Tuscany we were in had fields and fields of either olives trees or grape vines,

and an occasional field of sunflowers.
One of the many things I enjoyed about our stay was the comfortable seating, where we had long conversations after dinner with our travel buddies about what we had seen that day, and what we would see the next.
Oh and I being an early riser, so enjoyed sitting at the breakfast table with my coffee watching the sunrise  to the east, where the hill town of Cortona sits.

Next up: Let's visit Cortona.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Oh Dear!

Oh dear what is this:
I discover the next morning that I have a nasty head cold.
Let's see, I have come all the way to Italy and I have my day pass (see previous post) for the hop on hop off train to the charming Cinque Terra Villages...Yep, I went anyway.
So, we started with the village that we had heard the most about,Vernassa.
Right away I knew that I was going to like this place when I spotted several charming houses.
Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church
It was a short walk, gently down hill to the beach. Notice the lack of people. We happened to go on a day that there were no large cruise ships in nearby ports. You can check the cruise
schedule for La Spezia for the whole year , if you want to plan your trip accordingly.
 I am sorry, but the lack of crowds made it even more enjoyable for us.
I think most of the people on the beach were locals.
From what I had read, you had to climb to the top of the village to find a restaurant with a water view, so finding this one on ground level was a nice surprise.
Next we back tracked on the train to Manarola which you reach through a tunnel after exiting the train.

Even in late September there were flowers blooming everywhere.
Here we didn't walk down to the water, but climbed up to get the view.
 By this time...I am feeling worse, so Tom rode back to the hotel with me and searched everywhere for some chicken soup...he by the way is a keeper.
I did a lot of research before going on this trip and it seems that if you want to do any of the hikes, you have to get a separate pass, well not so. That day pass we bought entitled us to hike the trails between the villages. Tom and Phil returned to Vernassa that afternoon and hiked from there to Monterosso, which was on both of their bucket lists. It is the most daunting of the trails, actually one of the toughest in Europe. I am very proud of these guys considering their ages.If you want to stroll along the coast on the easier paths do the southern most ones.

For those wanting to see the villages from the water, there is also a ferry that will carry you up and down the coast.
Time to get the car out of the parking garage, we are headed east across Italy...stay with me.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Next Stop La Spezia

Continuing along on our recent European trip: We left Pisa and decided to go over to the road that hugs the coast instead of driving on the autostrada. It took a bit longer to get where we were going, but hey we were on vacation!
                                                          You can click on any picture to enlarge it.
To give you an idea, we were along the western shore of Italy. I have circled Carrara, because we found it to be very interesting.

We had noticed the the tops of the mountains were white and looked like snow, but it was actually white Carrara marble being mined. There were huge blocks of marble on both sides of the road for miles. I have friends who have Carrara marble countertops  and I suppose this is where it comes from.
 There were also very pretty beaches along the way, and even in late Sept. people were still swimming.....and no that is not me.
For those that don't know, this map shows where the Cinque Terra is located. There are five small villages( notice red dots) that almost hanging off of the cliffs above the Mediaterrian Sea. Starting at the top with Monterosso and ending at the bottom with Riomaggiore. We chose instead to stay two nights in La Spezia at the bottom of the map, and slightly east. We had one person who had difficulty with stairs, plus we were in a car that is almost impossible to park very near the villages.

The hotel we stayed in was perfect. They had parking and it was directly across the street from the train station. There is a train that leaves La Spezia several times, all day long, and stops at all of the villages...the first one only taking six minutes.
I by the way adored the hotel and with it's old world charm.

The first thing we did was to walk across the street and purchase our 12 hour train pass that would take effect the next morning. For seniors the all day pass is only 13E, giving you on and off privileges. When we saw the long lines the next morning, we were so happy that we had gotten ours the night before.

Next I will show you a bit of the Cinque Terra.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Our day in Pisa

I guess any post regarding Pisa, Italy would not be complete without a trip to see the famous Leaning Tower,
and we did walk over a couple of times since it was an easy stroll from our hotel.
There are several other buildings on what is called The Square of Miracles.
Tom seen here walking in front of the beautiful Baptistery. A place where baptisms took place. Notice two things: That the Baptistery is also leaning since it was constructed on the same unstable ground as the tower, and that there are no crowds. Having stayed overnight we were able to walk over before the buses had arrived.
This is a shot inside the Camposanto which sits also on the square and was built in 1277 to accommodate tombs.
and of course there is the beautiful Duomo. I got a kick out of this picture. Tom was gazing up at the tower. I refer to it as "Leaning Tom".
Later in the day we returned and the crowds had arrived. Which even a block away you wouldn't notice.
So we decided to take a different way back to the hotel, and not fight our way back through the crowds, which doesn't always translate to a shortcut.

 We did stumble onto Piazzas dei Cavalieri,

where there was a vintage car show going on.
Along the way, I got a kick out of this mailbox. Maybe installing one of these would cut down on junk mail? Our different way back to the hotel ended up being over 8,000 steps according to our friend's app on his phone. Me oh my was I ever tired,
 but watching the sun set over Pisa from our hotel's little rooftop deck was the perfect way to relax.
But wait!. Now for the real adventure. We depart Pisa in a rental car....oh my this could get scary!

The scariest part was trying to get all of our luggage in the car. Thankfully they all fit in like pieces of a puzzle...and off we go headed north to the Cinque Terra!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Time to Leave Paris

After five wonderful days in Paris with fabulous weather it was time to move on. Tom and I like to get around like the locals... it is cheaper...and cheaper translates into getting to go more often.
(this by the way is not an advertisement.)

We took Le Bus Direct from CDG into Paris, and now it was time to take another of their buses to Orly for our flight to Pisa. The bus company has several bad reviews online, but we had ridden this convenient form of transportation when it was the Air France bus and we experienced no problems this time with the new owners.
Our Easy Jet  flight was a nice experience. I had the most interesting seatmate that I will blog about later..
I made all of the plans for this trip and I was a bit nervous about the small hotel I chose in Pisa...well it was absolutely delightful...a little family run hotel. This is the comfortable deck at the back of the Hotel di Stefano, and yes that is the leaning tower, which was an easy walk.
Tom and I are early risers and we always enjoy an early morning stroll. As you can see it was barely daylight and no one around.
I took a few pictures along the way.
Little side streets can be a delightful.
Cloak of Conscience
by Anna Chnomy
This sculpture I found a bit spooky.
Pisa is on the coast, but we only walked as far as The Arno River, which reminded me so of Florence.
Same River by the way.

Tomorrow I will post a few more pictures of what else we saw in Pisa..
Thank you for coming along on my travels.