A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Lucca, Italy

What a chaming town. Took a day trip only because I could not find a hotel room for a couple of nights.
The city around the wall is at least 250 feet across and perhaps 30 feet high. There are trees, parks, a cafe, and statues on the top of the wall.
When I arrived, it was raining so I toured the Torture Museum. Lost my umbrella (purchased in the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice) and was too late for the walking tour of the city. But the sun came out, so I rented a bike for an hour and rode around the top of the wall until time to return to Florence.
Lucca symbol

Lucca symbol


Lucca Public Art

Lucca Public Art


Donkey punishment for bad students

Donkey punishment for bad students

As displayed in the Torture Museum
Bike ride on the top of the wall in Lucca

Bike ride on the top of the wall in Lucca

Posted by pscotterly 15:07 Archived in Italy Tagged lucca Comments (0)

Siena

My kind of town, Siena is my kind of town. (Sung to the tune of Chicago is)
12th century walled city. All the streets run in circles connected by alleyways and diaganols. Of course, none of the circled streets run around the entire perimeter. After 5 days, I was finally able to find my way around....almost.
Unfortunately, I am leaving Tuscany without taking a day-long bike trip to Cianti. That had been on my list of things to do, but it just did not work out.

Fountain in front of Duomo

Fountain in front of Duomo


The twin sons of Romulus

The twin sons of Romulus

This is the symbol of the city of Siena. Apparently, Romulus also had twin sons raised by a she wolf - not sure why nor did I get the translation on why this is the symbol of Siena.
There are 17 districts in Siena (population still around 20,000 within the walled city). Each district has its own symbol on a flag. Every year for centuries, a horse race is run in the Campo with riders from each district. This year my district won. The neighborhood built a Trojan horse to celebrate.
Where the horse race is held

Where the horse race is held


Rainy day in Siena

Rainy day in Siena

You can see the horse in the lower center. It was at least 20 feet high.
Clouds over Siena

Clouds over Siena


All over Italy

All over Italy

Also took this opportunity to get a haircut and pedicure.
Excelllent stylists.
Italian haircut

Italian haircut


Can't find an Asian-owned nail shop anywhere

Can't find an Asian-owned nail shop anywhere

I did manage to get fresh polish and lose that blister!
There are no Vietnamese immigrants in Italy. There was only one place in all of Siena to get a mani/pedi I had to ask in at leat 5 places until I found her. She was about my age and twice my size. Soaked my feet in a plastic pan and had only 2 colors of polish.

Posted by pscotterly 23:53 Archived in Italy Tagged siena Comments (0)

Driving in Umbria

This was my first driving experience in Europe. Might even be my last.
I must admit when I drove out of Siena, I was a little nervous. The agent admonished me to just follow the signs "To Roma" until I saw the exit I needed 3 hours away. Somehow, I couldn't believe that was true, and spent over an hour in Perugia trying to find my way out - but he was right.....All roads do lead to Roma.

My cottage outside the village of Poreta was on a very steep mountainside. The road leading to it was only about 10 feet wide with 2 turns at 30 degree angles.
The manager of the cottage met me at a cafe in Campello del Clitunna and I followed her the 5 km to the cottage.
The second time I drove up, the sun was setting and I could not see where I was going. Terrified I was going to drop off the side of the road and roll down the mountain, I backed up into the mountainside, crawled out the passenger side, and walked up to get the property manager to drive the car up.
In all my nervousness, I failed to get any photos of this road and my problems on it.

The second day, I refused to use the car and just walked within 5 km around my village and further up the mountain to the castle.

By the third day, I was confident and went on a day-long drive through the Umbria countryside
In the parking lot of the cemetary city

In the parking lot of the cemetary city


The next day I had an almost flat tire! For al I know, I drove with it almost flat the previous day.
No place is open on Domingo where you can put air in your tires. The few gas stations that are open do not have air pumps. Apparently you must go to a mechanico mechanic to get air in your tire. When you are accustomed to a 7/11 with an air pump every 5 blocks, this is a little upsetting.

I drove about 20 km on mountain and country roads and city streets trying to find a place to get air or someone who could help me. Many people tried to give assistance, but no one knew where to get air and there was no spare in the trunk. There was some kind of fix-a -flat, but no one knew how to use it.

A very nice American couple at the train station in Spoletto, where I went to pick up my friend Jody McKinney, let me use their cell phone to call the Avis emergency number. About 2 hours later, a tow truck arrived. He had no idea what to do. There was no place he knew where we could get air and the Avis place is not open on Domingo.
He finally figured out how to use the fix-a-flat equipment thanks to some illustrated procedures manual and the assistance of my friend Jody who provided English instructions based on the pictures. (He did not understand a word of English.)
Figuring out Fix a Flat

Figuring out Fix a Flat


Toyota Yaris with filled tire

Toyota Yaris with filled tire


I did enjoy all my drives through the Umbrian countryside.
Jody thought there were too many curves on the roads.

I finally managed to slightly understand the round-abouts and how to get to my destination.
One very nice man went out of his way for about 10 km to help us find the roundabout we needed to get to Lodi.

When it was time to turn in the car, I had no idea how to find the Avis office in Spoletto. I Googled it, but the directions were impossible for me to follow.
Fortunately, I found a young, female taxi driver at the train station who spoke English. I followed her to the gas station and Avis, turned in my car, and then she returned me to the train station. I would still be circling Spiletto had I not found her.
My Saviour

My Saviour

Posted by pscotterly 09:25 Archived in Italy Tagged umbria Comments (0)

Heaven

Actually: Poreta Umbria, Italy

Umbria was even more than I had imagined. Every direction you look is another National Geographic view. I loved my little stone cottage in the mountains.
View from my Poreta patio

View from my Poreta patio


My 16 C stone cottage

My 16 C stone cottage


Umbrian Hills II

Umbrian Hills II


Olive Grove

Olive Grove


Along an Umbrian road

Along an Umbrian road


My Kitchen Door in Poreta

My Kitchen Door in Poreta


My friend Jody McKinney joined me for a couple of days. We took one very long drive down, down into the canyon of the Nera River to the town of Norcia where we:
Ate the worst meal in Italy
Shopped at the cutest cured meat shop (Norcia's speciality in addition to the black truffle)
Bought 5 kilos of potatoes from a roadside vendor - don't ask me why!
Saw the end of the Italian "Tea Party" local convention
Paula and Jody at the Norcineria

Paula and Jody at the Norcineria

We also toured the Umbrian hills around Todi where the roads had so many twists and turns that Jody was slightly car sick.
At Lunch with Jody

At Lunch with Jody


Umbrian valley

Umbrian valley

Posted by pscotterly 21:12 Archived in Italy Tagged umbria Comments (0)

Hell

From the mountainside of Poreto, I headed to the Amalfi Coast.

Rented a "studio on the main road and only 50 meteres from the bus stop."
After climbing up hundreds of steps to every apartment and hotel for the last 30 days, this sounded very convenient and the pictures were very charming.

Well -
There is only one road along the Amalfi Coast. Every bus, truck, scooter, motorcycle, and car that travels on, through, or about the Amalfi Coast had to go by my door.
Would not have been too bad but -
I might have been 60 meteres from the bus stop, but my dor and window were only 2 (count them TWO) meteres from the highway. From 5:30 AM until 1 AM, the roar never stopped.
Additionally, all of the villages along the Amalfi Coast are built on stairsteps from the shore to the mountaintop. I was about 60 stairsteps from the parking lot on the shore and 30 stairsteps from the small plaza of Atrani. My window was directly over this stairwell with a restaurant with live music staying open until the wee hours.

I am sure it is the perfect place for some kind of traveler, but NOT one who likes to sit on the patio and quietly enjoy the view.
From Here:
My 16 C stone cottage

My 16 C stone cottage


Dogs Shepherd and Flock

Dogs Shepherd and Flock


To Here:
Hell

Hell


That is my door above the left arch just before the 90 degree turn to the left
Staying on the Coast Highway

Staying on the Coast Highway


Atrani

Atrani


Looking up the stairwell below my window.
I arrived one evening - knew by the next AM that I could not commit to the full 5 days. Found a beautiful hotel further up the mountain in Atrani and moved there.

I have booked places through VRBO, Bookings, and airbnb.
Some of these places do not charge you until you actually arrive. I was thinking this was one of those places, so left some money on the table for 2 nights and was packing up to go out the door.
At the last moment, I thought I had better check to see what my rate and cleaning fees were to make sure I had left enough.
Well.....airbnb bills your credit card as soon as you accept the booking.
Glad I checked. Paying for two lodgings is bad enough without double paying for one of them.

Posted by pscotterly 22:46 Archived in Italy Tagged coast aalfi Comments (0)

Amalfi Coast

Once I moved from the house on the highway to the hotel, I was able to more fully enjoy the uniqueness of the Amalfi Coast.
I am amazed by the number of people who live in little houses all over the mountains in little villages and scattered farm houses.
The main income is tourism, olives, lemons, ceramics, and lemoncello.

On November 1, all the hotels and most of the shops will close until May. Many people work 7 days a week during the tourist season and then have no employment until the next spring.

Ravello is beautiful - the Aspen of the Amalfi area. I took the bus there and then walked down the mountainside back to Atrani. Followed the same paths and steps used by the people who tend the olives, lemons, and sheep on the terraces.

The steps in these villages are even steeper and longer than those in Siena, Corniglia, and Poreta!

If you come - arrive by train to Salerno or Sorento and take the bus to your town. Don't drive! There are too many vehicles on the road as it is and the last thing tht is needed is one more vehicle that doesn't know how to handle the road! You can get a bus or boat to any place you want to visit and the mountains are filled with marked walking paths and stairs.

The locals all drive down the middle of the road and veer at the last minute to oncoming traffic and the constant pedestrians who must also walk in the road.
I shared a taxi with another couple back to Napoli to take the train to Rome. Once we left the mountains and drove on the autostrada, the taxi driver continued to drive in the center of the road. The entire time, he straddled the line even when there were three or four marked lanes. He would only move into the center of a marked lane to pass another car. Can't imagine he would last long on the 405!

Pictures are going to be posted later. Internet is rather erratic here at the convent in Rome.
Soon, I get on board the ship and will be back in USA on November 16.

Posted by pscotterly 23:09 Archived in Italy Tagged amalfi Comments (0)

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