November 1, 2006

Italy Was Great

I had the wonderful pleasure of spending two weeks in Italy last month with my wife and another couple, friends of ours. This was a long-awaited trip for us – it’d been postponed at least once in the past – and we are grateful that we were able to finally to make the trip.

We arrived in Rome on the evening of Oct. 3 and had a fast and interesting taxi ride (that Fiat hit 170 kph on the way) to the Hotel Nardizzi Americana on Via Firenze. We had two full days in Rome, mostly walking from site to site, taking in the Forum archeological sites, the Coliseum, the Michelangelo statue of Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli, the Pantheon, and the fantastic Trevi fountain.

We left Rome in a rental car. Between the hassle of getting the car and the difficulty of driving it through town, we didn’t hit the ring road until about 3:00 PM. From there it was smooth sailing to Montepulciano, with a stop at Orvieto along the way (where a poster informed us that Bruce Springsteen was playing with the Seeger Session Band in Perugia the next evening).

We spent three nights at the Azienda Agriturismo Nobile, just outside of Montepulciano. During the next two days, we toured Tuscany, visiting Pienza, Montalcino, Cortona, and Assisi. This is beautiful country and the hill towns are very interesting. The first day was really a quest for wine, especially the famous Brunello, but our timing was poor: most of the wineries were closed for tasting on Saturday. We finally came across Fattoria dei Barbi, which was open – its tavern was hopping with a wedding reception – so we bought a few bottles.

The next day we headed north to Firenze, with a stop-over in Siena, where I climbed the Torre Del Mangia, which gives a panoramic view of the town and its surroundings. We stayed in Hotel Villa Bonelli in Fiesole and rode the bus down into the city and back each day. In our two days there, we visited the Giardino Boboli (which brought to mind Versailles, on a smaller scale) and Giardino Bardini (which has terrific views of the city), the Galleria degli Uffizi, and the Galleria dell'Accademia. We spent our evenings in Fiesole, on the hills above the city, watching the sun set over the panorama below.

Next, we headed west, toward Liguria. Along the way, we stopped in Pisa, to take in the Field of Miracles, and in Lucca, to walk the walls around the city. We then headed up the coastal highway to tiny Carnea and our home for the next three nights, the Azienda Agriturismo Carnea. While there, in addition to the wonderful company of our hosts, we took day trips to the coast. The first day we visited the Cinque Terre. I walked the trail between Monterossa and Vernazza while my companions took the boat. We all then took the train to Manarola, from which we walked the Via Dell’Amore to Riomaggiore, where we had dinner before returning to Carnea. The next day we visited Porto Venere, where we walked through the lovely town, beautifully situated on the end of a peninsula. The Ligurian Sea is very beautiful.

We left the agriturismo and headed for Venizia, where we dropped the rental car at the lot near the train station. We took the vaporetto to the Rialto bridge stop and walked a couple of blocks to Pensione Guerrato/Guerratino. We spent the next two days seeing the sights of glorious, doomed Venezia. No cars, no motorbikes, and boats everywhere. (No flooding.) My wife and I were blown away by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and amazed by the Palazzo Ducale. We decided pretty early in our stay there that we’d like to come back, and soon.

Italy is a great country and I loved it. The people were friendly, the land was beautiful, the cities were layered in history, the art was awesome, and the food (the food!) was the best. You can see the sites on a Quikmap here.


Karan said...

Your trip mirrored ours one year before. We landed in Rome on Sept. 27, stayed a week, took the train to Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre for a week then drove from Pisa to Umbertide in Umbria for a third week...hit the hilltowns...drove to Bolgona to drop off one of our party who took the train to Bari (in the heel of Italy) and the other two of us drove to Venice for our final week. We ended the trip by taking the train to meet up in Rome and flying home. Trip of a lifetime it was!

Sandy said...

I'm going on a walking tour in Tuscany. I finish in Pienza, and have to get back to Rome. Any idea how to do this via bus/train? Do I have to get to Chiusi and then take the train? Do you know if there's a bus to Chiusi? Having difficulty getting info online.

Mike Kretzler said...

Sorry for the tardiness, but I was out of town for a few days. We drove in that section of our trip, so I don't know if there's a bus from Pienza I'd be shocked if there weren't some way to make it work. Italy has excellent transportation, but it can be hard to find information about things like local buses from here. Have you tried a travel agent?