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Italy

In Perugia

And another quick ride

sunny 31 °C

The next morning I am out for a ride again. A bit shorter than yesterday, only an hour as I still had some sore points from yesterday’s ride. Jump straight in the pool for a quick swim before we head off to Perugia.
The approach to Perugia which was quite a surprise. We parked under the city walls below the bus station then started to walk up the hill. Then you walk underground into a passage to the base of an escalator. And then another escalator, and another. When you get to the top you are inside the barrel vaulted brick structures that formed the city’s walls. And they are substantial – at least 10 metres high, and you walk upwards inside them before a final escalator ride into the sunlight. This brings you out into a pleasant shaded square with a couple of fountains and of course a statue – this one a mounted rider in bronze.
In the city walls

In the city walls


Perugia square

Perugia square

Past this stretches the wide main drag for the old city which rises north for about 500 metres until it reaches the basilica and the prior’s palace. Higher above this sits the site of the original settlement in the town, and in all directions you can get magnificent sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. And if you head off the main area very far, you find yourself faced with a steep drop down off the edge. They knew how to pick a defensive position in those days.
Perugia main drag

Perugia main drag

In Perugia

In Perugia


Wandering about in the stone streets in 35 deg heat has taken it out of us a bit, so we put feet up at a terrace bar on the town’s east side with huge views again. We slug down plenty of cold drinks, then head back down towards the car. On the way, we have a look in some shops, and one owner locks G in while she heads up to the bar for an espresso – and then cracks the shits because we are disturbing her afternoon coffee.
After this excitement we calm down with a bit of a drive around Lake Trasimeno where there are some more magnificent views. There are also more camping grounds than you can shake a stick at, and it won’t be too long before the lot is packed out for the holidays. There is good train and road access on this east side of the lake, but there is not much a corridor between them and the lake. Do a quick bit of shopping for dinner at Passignano.
It is getting late at this point, but we head up to see if there is a particular shop open in Castiglion Fiorentino. With a bit of guidance, we find Castellini sports where I purchase my own Gallo Nero outfit for riding in. We wander around here a bit, then head back to the sports store for a recommendation for dinner. We are guided to an osteria not far away, where I get to have some wild boar in a tomato salsa, very nice! As always gelati for desert.
Slept well that night

Slept well that night

Castiglion in the evening

Castiglion in the evening

Posted by lostagain 02:48 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Out for a ride in Tuscany

I'm a Gallo Nero now!

sunny 30 °C

Back from the balloon flight it is still not lunch yet, but the first duty is to jump in the pool and have a general laze around. This state lasts for the rest of the day and apart from a little model making, bike assembly and suchlike we do not get much done. The next day we jump straight back into the pool, then go to another cycle shop to get some vitals for a safe ride (one of those helmet things) before we drop L at a nearby outlet village. Mundane duties call so G and I go and do the washing at a local laundrette. Time to wait for it to finish, so G goes home to read in the sun and I go and pick L and the washing up. She does of course want me to try on something - CK jeans for $25 - sold! Then it is back into the pool.
View from the house

View from the house


The next morning I head out for a shakedown ride to see how the bike is feeling and then take it from there. One km in just out of Brolio, and some other riders turn up and after a brief chat, Armando invites me along for the ride (once they realised I was Australian and not English!). We spend the next two and a half hours riding around in our area of the Val de Chiana, about 60km. I chatted to all the team and talked about the tour and Cadel's chances. We also talked about life in Australia and Italy, and cycling generally. We circled to the south past Creti into some hills around Farneta. We turned at Camucia, just short of Cortona, and stopped to water up at La Cappannace heading further north to have a rest and a chat at the local aero club and swimming pool. Enrico (the white cock) told me the best place to go locally, the Val d'Orcia and the hill towns through there. Here we parted as most of the group were heading home to Arezzo, but Andrea and Gabriele escort me back to Brolio. It is a fantastic time, and it was great to be asked if I was still in town for next Sunday’s ride. Sadly I will miss out as we will be in Rome, but they insisted that I go and get the Gallo Nero team suit at a local shop. L could tell I had a great time by the huge smile on my face all day.The Gallo Nero team ( and one Gallo Bianco)

The Gallo Nero team ( and one Gallo Bianco)


Good cool down in the pool, which has been perfect temperature all day every day, and it is deserted so we can be as rambunctious as we like. From our perches around the pool, we watch all the trains going down the fast rail track between Florence and Rome. They go past every 10 minutes, in one direction or the other, about the same frequency as the Melbourne suburban trains - if they haven't been cancelled.
The pool

The pool


Later on we headed out to wander about andwe grab a pizza for dinner in Foiana. Pizzas are easy cheap eating, but bythe time you get water, beer or wine and a dessert, it doesn't seem so cheap anymore.

Posted by lostagain 02:03 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Ballooning in Tuscany

sunny 32 °C

The alarm goes off at 4:45 and we are dressed and into the car and off along the quiet local roads for 45 minutes until we arrive at our destination just near Montisi . Down in the cool valley is a mill with a small meadow where they are preparing the balloon. G’s face breaks into a grin as he sees what the surprise is. It is rolled out and tethered to the basket before a big fan starts to fill it. In no time at all, it is taking shape (on its side)and then out comes the big BBQ flame to give it the lift. There is a delicate moment as the flame has to be carefully pointed so as not to be too close to the nylon envelope, and then it lurches upright. Take off

Take off

Early morning shadow

Early morning shadow


We get into the basket, six passengers and the pilot. We have our safety training (keep seat backs upright and stow your tables for landing...) And then a few extra blasts, and out goes the filling cylinder. With that gone, we move a bit then Allie gives a few more blasts and we rise into the valley. It is so very quiet and sound carries so far in the dawn that we can hear all sorts of things going on under an about us. Until Allie gives it a bit more welllie. Then we rise out of our valley, and over the Tuscan landscape. From here it is all laid out like a carpet for us to wonder over. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of swimming pools in the area. This is a very popular area, and along with the classic rolling hills, rows of cypress pines, wheat fields and vineyards there are a hell of a lot of Agriturismos, Auberges, hotels, holiday flats - and a pool is de riguer if you want to have a holiday in Tuscany. The ballast

The ballast


But I digress. We float over the recent excavations of a 9th century church and over some small canyons where the water has dug through the soft local rock. From here we can see Montepulciano easily, and to the south we can just make out the islands on lake Trasimeno. Matt and Emma can just make out their honeymoon getaway near Buonconvento, and the local highlights (pubs) are pointed out as we go along. Allie has flown around Bristol in the UK a lot, and says that most balloon navigating is really done by the closest pub. We can see several large pubs, sorry, castles in the valley, and a number of abandoned farmhouses that could not be too expensive to buy and do up...
We are starting to come down to find a place to land, but as Allie descends the winds are very fickle and we cannot make it down.
Tuscany view

Tuscany view

So up we go to catch a different current and drift on to the next likely spot. We have picked out a large estate with lots of vines around it and start to descend, but the winds have now gone to being contrary and push us back in the opposite direction. Up we go again, looking for the puff of wind to get us to a landing site. This time we look good for a field next to a river. Allie will have to drop a rope and have the recovery person pull us out to the next field where there are no crops. As we drop we hit a dead patch, in fact we can see our reflection in the river’s surface as we just sit there for a few minutes before shifting off. As we get lower still, two or three times the height of the trees, a breeze suddenly picks us up and carries us into the right spot to land straight off. The landing is soft, and once the envelope is vented to make sure we will stay on the ground, we can hop out of the basket and help to lay the balloon down as it deflates. A team effort helps to stuff it in the bag and then we can relax.
The champagne breakfast on landing

The champagne breakfast on landing


As part of the ride, Robert and the team from Ballooning in Tuscany provide us with a champagne breakfast with local pizzas and fresh fruits and cheeses – just a scrumptious way to end the flight. We also get to meet the owner of our landing field – this is the second time in two days, so Hans also scores a glass of bubbly. We all pitch in and pack the balloon onto the trailer, and we are then treated to a gelati in Buonconvente before heading back to the launch site. A great flight was had by all.

Posted by lostagain 06:57 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

In the valley of the motors

horsepower for everyone

sunny 33 °C

Ok Barbara, here's some more...

In the Mestre car park, the car was still there and all in one piece, so that was good news. The bad news was wi-fi hadn’t been working so we had nowhere to stay that night. We were aiming to head south and find somewhere that night. We dropped into Ferrara and drove around town trying to find free wi-fi. Went into Maccas, but to register you required an Italian mobile, bloody useless. We wandered around and were about to head out and just try our luck when I picked up a bar’s signal. We did a quick circuit back and went in to have a cuppa until they closed. We found a hotel in Bologna (we’ve had a pretty good strike rate with booking.com) and arrived in there at 10pm. Got a few looks as we hauled up the bike box, and all the other luggage. F1 2008

F1 2008


We were late down so there wasn’t much breakfast left in the morning, but we were refuelled by the time we jumped into the car. We had a drive of about an hour to the east until we arrived at Maranello and found the Ferrari Museum. We spent a number of happy hours here drooling over the cars from every age of the Scuderia. I'll take one in yellow

I'll take one in yellow

Dino 246

Dino 246

I still love the cars from the 60’s but they have made a few good models recently too. The museum has a few extra displays above the cars from F1, other racers and the road, but there is not that much interactive stuff. After a cold shower, in the form of the prices in the shop, we were ready to depart.
Mine - the Enzo

Mine - the Enzo


To end up the day we headed back via Sant’Agnete Bolognase and dropped into Galleria Lamborgini to have a wander through the history of that marque. This is pretty much only a static display and not so detailed as the Ferrari offering. It is very interesting to how the cars have changed and some of the stuff they were willing to try out to revive the brand in the ‘90s. Again, I loved the classics and a few of the new designs.Mine, mine, mine Murcielago GTR

Mine, mine, mine Murcielago GTR

Lamborghini 350

Lamborghini 350


Ferrari and Lamborgini are both in the valley of motors which includes other brands such as Pagani and Ducati as well as a few other specialist engineers. Many of these can be visited and some offer tours as well.
We grabbed a bite to eat in Bologna before heading to bed – a really crap nights sleep left me feeling wrecked the next day - had a day off while L went shopping in town. We also headed out to the big shopping centres that have grown up on the outskirts of most Italian cities. They seem to have eight or so big stores and a cafe or maccas and not much else. Pretty soulless, but popular. I have picked up a few things to go on the bike, but that is the only shopping joy for us.
The next day we head off to take in another shopping phenomenon. This one is the outlet village that has sprung up in lots of places around the country. Situated just off an autostrada, there is an area of a hectare or two with plenty of parking available. Inside, there are nearly a hundred stores of different brands, mostly clothing and shoes with some home wares as well. It is all landscaped around a central stream to keep it nice. G and I are through in under an hour, each with a souvenir. We have retreated to the car park to play soccer in the scorching heat when L calls to say there is one more store to look in and she’ll be out. An hour later, she calls back to say she has found the store she was searching for the whole time. Despite the time in there, only two purchases are made.
Lindt outlet

Lindt outlet

Outlet village

Outlet village


The next diversion on this leg is a wander across to a place called Pisa, you may have heard of it. Following the downloaded Google Maps, we are guided in pretty well until the last minute where we are not sure to park. In the end we go into a gated car park and back up to the fence to discourage anyone...
We head across to the Piazza dei Miracoli, and the miracle here is that unlike just abut every other famous building in Italy, this one has plenty of space around it so you get a great perspective of all the buildings - you don't get a view like this in Florence. Piazza delli Miracoli

Piazza delli Miracoli


The original plan was to do a dash in and out, but unlike the last time we were here, the tower is open so G and I get tickets to go up - in 80 minutes time. This gives us time to go and have a tourist meal nearby. G and I head on up. It is very weird trying to walk up something with this angle of dangle, and it makes you feel a bit dizzy. Up the top, it is hard to get past the feeling you are very close to going over the edge. Up the very top it is plain to see just how much of an angle the tower is on as you look across.
Everyone has a photo like this

Everyone has a photo like this

An idea of the angle of the dangle

An idea of the angle of the dangle

View from the top

View from the top


We have spent a few hours more in Pisa than we planned, and it is a few hour's yet to tonights stay. We arrive at our accommodation near Cortona in Tuscany late and quickly get set up ready for tomorrows’ surprise.

Posted by lostagain 06:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venice days two and three

On the water

sunny 32 °C

The next day is a day on the water. We are heading to Murano to see the glass work over there. We get to watch a vase and a horse made, neither my taste but the process is interesting. We spend a fair bit of time in one gallery and after that it looked like we had seen all on offer in Murano.Murano canal

Murano canal

We jumped back on the vaporetto out to Burano, the fishing village which gained a reputation for making lace. There is plenty of it on sale but it is impossible to know if it locally handmade or imported for the tourists. The other interesting thing about Burano is the custom of painting the houses in bright colours to welcome the fishermen back from their fishing trips. It makes for a colourful and picturesque setting to wander about, take photos and eat gelati.
Fishing houses, Burano

Fishing houses, Burano

Even the washing is colourful in Burano

Even the washing is colourful in Burano


We then head over to Torchello to have a look at the original Basilica in the lagoon of Venice. Although it has been neglected for a long time, there are a couple of great Byzantine mosaics preserved here.
Torcello

Torcello


Love the Vaporreti

Love the Vaporreti


We get the boat back to Venezia and head out for dinner. It is only average and they have the cheek to charge for a carafe of tap water!
It is the morning of the gondola ride. We are not going out in the densely packed area around St Mark’s square, rather we are situated closer to home around San Polo. We have a good 40 minutes floating around the quiet canals watching the world go by. It is very restful, and also great to watch the gondolier in action as he guides his craft within a few centimetres of obstacles while keeping up a smooth glide the whole time. It is also a different feeling, being so close to the water. No bargaining about the cost, the standard is 40 minutes for 80 euros.
O sole Mio

O sole Mio

On the grand canal

On the grand canal

under the bridge

under the bridge


We then made a quick visit to the Peggy Guggenhiem Collection a very pleasant visit with some really good works on show.
Anish Kapoor strikes again - Peggy's

Anish Kapoor strikes again - Peggy's


We had promised G a visit to the toy shop, so we had a bit of time to get through before they opened. So we hopped on the No2 vaporetto which heads down the grand canal, over past the car parks at Tronchetto and then down the Guidecca canal and back to St Marks. It is a slow old trip but gives a look at the other side of life in the island state.
Not your everyday sight on a canal

Not your everyday sight on a canal

P1060140.jpg
As expected, everything in the toy shop was too expensive (in Venice, go figure!) so we left empty handed.
We said our goodbyes to Daniella and carried all our stuff over the bridges to the train station. There were no trains to Mestre! So I asked and guess what every train goes to Mestre (they’ve got nowhere else to go) and boy did we get dirty looks when we threw in a bike box and two suitcases to block up the entry way.

Posted by lostagain 15:15 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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