Below is email sent by Charlie and Wynette from Italy to family and friends in Albuquerque, Hobbs (NM), and Los Angeles. Some personal references have been deleted. We've left the typos in. Things in italics were not in the original email but were added later.
We knew we would start and end in Rome and knew we wanted to spend time in Tuscany. Other than that we made up the itinerary as we went along. In the email below, there are places we said we were headed, but we ended up going to other places instead. This is how it turned out.
|Day 1:||Albuquerque to Minneapolis to Amsterdam via plane|
|Day 2:||Amsterdam to Rome via plane (arrived in the morning)|
|Day 5:||Rome to Orvieto via train|
|Day 7:||Orvieto to Siena via train/bus|
|Day 10:||Siena to Montepulciano via bus|
|Day 12:||Montepulciano to Florence via bus/train|
|Day 15:||Florence to Santa Margherita Ligure via train|
|Day 16:||Santa Margherita Ligure|
|Day 17:||Santa Margherita Ligure|
|Day 18:||Santa Margherita Ligure|
|Day 19:||Santa Margherita Ligure|
|Day 20:||Santa Margherita Ligure to Rome via train|
|Day 21:||Rome to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to Albuquerque via plane|
The flights went fine, pretty fast actually. We managed to about three hours sleep on the flight over, maybe four for me. We got in around 10 AM and got to the hotel around noon. (Note: We stayed at Hotel Romae which we liked a lot. See www.hotelromae.com.) We rested a bit (and tried not to go to sleep) and then went out walking in Rome.
A woman with a baby came up to Wynette holding a piece of cardboard. Wynette's attention was on the baby and underneath the cardboard she tried to open Wynette's waist pack. Wynette noticed and pulled away with nothing gone. a lesson learned, don't let your attention be distracted.
It was fun just walking around. We had two cafe lattes and two different places and they tied for the two best lattes we have ever had. It seems like it is impossible to get bad coffee in Italy. I'm not much of a coffee drinker but it was superb. I am waiting for tomorrow morning and having fresh bread and latte.
But first we are going out to dinner and I hope that will be good too. We have been up a long time so we are going to bed right after dinner. They say it is best to just stay up the first day no matter how tired you are and we did that. It was hard keeping Wynette awake some of the time but we made it.
We saw a great church. It had some of the best marble I have ever seen. It was even better than the old Getty in Malibu. There were so many different kinds. One we a deep blue. They only had a little of that. I guess it must be rare.
We don't like the city too much though. We want to get out to the countryside. We have side trips to Tivoli and Pompei planned and then we will take off (in two days) for smaller towns.
Better go now since we only have a half hour free at the hotel each day and we are also getting nungry for dinner.
More tomorrow. Love, Charlie
We are very tired (especially me) but have forced ourselves to stay awake all day -- that is supposed to help you get over jet lag faster.
I only got 4 hours sleep night before we left -- insomnia. Only got 5 hours sleep the two nights before that. And maybe 1 hour last night on the plane. So, you can imagine how zonked I am.
But, amazingly we had a good day walking around Rome and seeing some sights and getting a feel for the city. We stopped for coffee two places (cafe latte) -- BY FAR the best coffee I've ever tasted. Charlie loved it too. We're going to be drinking a lot of coffee while we are here.
Will write more soon. We are on our way out to dinner and then (finally) to bed.
It is really nice to be at a hotel with free internet access. You can sign up for 1/2 hour slots.
Love you. Thanks a lot for writing and thinking about us.
Well, I called Kendra and she hadn't gotten my last email and I got email from Cathy who hadn't gotten it either so I'm not sure this will get through. I sure hope so.
We went to dinner at a restaurant down the street from the hotel that was recommended by the hotel people but it was not that good really. It was okay but we had expected more. They say you can't get a bad meal in Italy. This wasn't bad but it wasn't good either. Maybe the hotel gets a kickback. It wasn't too expensive though, about 50,000 lira for both of us (about $25). The wine was cheaper than the water! And it was pretty good wine too.
We got to bed around 9:30 after staying up all day even though we were pretty tired. Wewoke up once during the night but we managed to sleep until 9:30 the next morning and felt great. We have been up all day (it is 8 PM now) and we still are not tired. So we may have already gotten over the jet lag. We'll see how we sleep tonight.
We are about to go to dinner. We found out there is a Michelin two-fork restaurant down the street from us. We also got a recommendation from the owner of an English book store that we went to today. So we will try one of them. So we will be eating continentally late, like getting there around 9 PM.
We barely made the hotel breakfast which goes until 10 AM (actually we were late). It was pretty good. We finally got out around 11 and walked over the the Ancient Rome sites. They were interesting but not that exciting. I liked the church yesterday better.
We ate lunch at a bar and had sandwiches and a tomato and yoghurt cheese dish. The food there was really good. Simple but very fresh and tasty. And, of course, two very good lattes. We had some ice cream after that was excellent also. We are still amazed at how good the lattes are. We have had them at five different places and they are all excellent, much better than Starbucks for example,and they only cost about 75 cents.
We saw some of the usual tourist attractions: the Plaza Navonna, the Trevi Foundtain, and the Spanish Steps. They were all incredibly crowded. The fountains at the Plaza Navona were very nice.
I'm going to send this now and more later since I'm not sure it is actually going to get to you guys. I cc'ed myself and I'll see if I get that.
Well, we were at the Plaza Navonna when I stopped last time. There is a church there that we checked out too. It was nice but the marble was not as amazing as the one yesterday. By the way, the church yesterday (Santa Maria Maggiore -- Saint Mary Major) had a place in front of the alter that was sunken down. You took steps down there. It was like it was in the basement but you could walk down to it. There was more fine marble, a statue and a little alter there. It was very cool I thought.
Then we went to the Tevi Fountain. Very nice but very crowded also. Then on to the Spanish Steps. Another nice fountain and another very crowded place. The rest of the city is busy but not that crowded but you get to teh big attractions and it is like Times Square on New Year's Eve.
We rented a two-seat pedal-driven buggy and drove it around a park. It was like one we had rented in Santa Barbara. It was a bit hilly for it though.
Now we are back at the hotel and sending email (we hope) and then off to dinner. More tomorrow.
On with the story of our Roman holiday. We had an excellent dinner last night. It turns out there is a Michelin two-fork (I think this is the same as two-star) restaurant just down the street. We got there around 9 PM. The food was very good and not that expensive. It was about $65 for the two us altogether. We had a bottle of the house wine and it was only $7.50. Wine is cheap in Italy. They had lots of bottles of wine in the $10 to $15 range -- and this is served to you at the restaurant. We had a very nice time and didn't get back until after 11 PM.
This morning we barely made breakfast again -- we seem to be sleeping well here. Still no sign of jet lag even though we kind of took a chance by having so much wine. No hangover though.
We set out to Vatican City but had a mishap. Wynette stepped in a hole in the sidewalk and twisted her ankle. Luckily we were by an American bar and they had ice. We sat there for 45 minutes and iced her ankle. Then we decided to go on since she was feeling better. We had planned to walk the whole way (about two miles maybe) but with the ankle we decided to take the bus.
This was the first time we have been affected by the Jubilee year. St. Peter's Square was jammed with people. There was this huge line to get inside the basilica. I figured it would take at least an hour, maybe more. So we decided to skip it. Heck, they only have about ten Michilin *** attractions in there anyway :-)
We took the subway (Metro) back to the hotel. We had anice lunch at a bar nearby. The "bar"s here are not likes bars in the US. They have alcoholic drinks and they are coffee bars too. They also have sandwiches and lots of other kinds of food.
We rested in the afternoon and took a nap. We also started planning where we will go tomorrow when we leave Rome. We might go to Assisi and see how Saint Francis is doing.
We time is up I better get going.
Rome is an amazing place isn't it. We love the food and coffee (as I think we've already said) and the atmosphere and people and it is fun to find I know more italian than I thought. Can't carry on a conversation but can read 75% of the signs we see every where. I had a mishap and sprained my ankle today. Hopefully it will only slow us down for a couple of days. That was disappointing. They are about to kick me off this computer so will have to close. More tomorrow. Much love. Wynette
My ankle seems to be doing better. I think it is a minor sprain and am hopeful that in a day or two it won't bother me. We hope to take a country walk in a day or two. We are staying at a nice hotel named Aquila Bianca. Will probably be here 3 nights starting tonight. (See www.argoweb.it/hotel_aquilabianca/aquilabianca.uk.html.)
Well I guess I should start with my technology woes. I wrotethis email last night but the computer failed just as I was sending it so I lost it. At least you are getting a second draft. This morning it took 15 minutes just to get to the point of writing a letter. I was chatting with the woman at the Internet cafe I am at. She said they just started this service and the people providing it don't seem to understand how people can mess things up and you have to make it simple and reliable. Anyway, Ihope this get through. I still have 43 minutes left on my hour (for $6 hour)
I have been having trouble with the phones too. I never was able to make a call from the Rome hotel. The phone didn't seem to work. The phone here didn't work either but they changed it and it seems to work now. I can't use the phone card because none of the phones are touch tone but I managed to dial direct. Back to the trip.
We sent to the Vatican the day before yesterday but it was super crowded. The line to get into St. Peters must have been an hour long or maybe more. We saw the news that night and there was some big deal going on. Some dessicated looking corpse in a nun's outfit was being buried or something. Too bad we missed it.
We had dinner at a place near the hotel and had more trouble. The waiter was convinced he could not understand us so he didn't listen. He got the order wrong even though I ordered by pointing to items on the menu. We didn't get the main course at all. Wynette was upset because she was trying to use her Italian. Of course, some of the fault was ours I think. We wanted chicken and said pollo in the Spanish way (poyo) rather than the Italian way )pollo, as it looks like). We gave him a tip anyway.
We were late for breakfast the first day in Rome. We were getting over jet lag and I didn't get there until about 10:05 (it goes from 7:30 to 10). There was a small, rotund, white-haired Iatalian woman running the breakfast and she said I was 'tardi' but asked if I wanted cappacino or chocolate. Wynette came down about 10 minutes later but she was 'troppo tardi' -- no coffee for her! The woman wagged her finger at us and told us not to do it again.
The next day we made it by 9:45. Yesterday we were there by 9 because we had to make the 10:12 train. We took the train to Orvieto, about 80 miles from Rome. We got off the train and on to the funicular that goes up to the town. The town is built on a volcanic plug and is a bit like Acoma. It was fortified in the past and they used the plug like the base of a castle and built walls to complete it.
The funicular went up at a 30 degree angle at least and was fun to ride. They are rides in Disneyland. Christy and I took one in Switzerland many years ago.
We got to the top and a bus took us to the center of town. We got off only 200 feet from the hotel we wanted to stay at but we did not know that. We thought we understood the map and didn't ask and set off with our bags. We went in a big spiral for about 20 minutes and finally asked and found it was right under our nose. The placeis quite nice. We got the Michelin red guide for hotels and restaurants and it has been very helpful. The places the recommend have all turned out very well. This place got two marks (out of five). The place with 4 or 5 marks are $400 to $1000 a day! This place is $85 day double including breakfast. We could get a cheaper place but we decided to go with this one. We are going to try a cheaper place in the next town.
In general the prices in Italy (here and in Rome) have been very reasonable. Not cheap but very fair. We always feel we are getting our money's worth or more. The wine is cheap. The dinners are $10 to $25 depending on where you go and the food is almost always excellent. The $25 places are goumet level.
Last night we went to a place that the Michelin guide gave a gourmand happy face too. That means simple food, well-prepared and cheap. It was all of those things. The vegetable soup was excellent. We got the local wine (a white Orvieto) in a plain bottle (no label) for $5. It was quite good but we both prefer red and will return to that in the future.
We walked around the town in the afternoon. It is a picturesque town. It feels medieval in some ways. It has narrow, cobble-stone streets and is pretty quiet after being in Rome. When you get to the edge you are looking off a cliff. There are great views of pastoral countryside with grape orchards and other fields. WE passed over the midwest on the trip to Italy and there the fields are all square. Here they are all kinds of shapes but never square. Of course, the countryside is much hillier here. Italy is more hilly than I realized. On the trip from Rome to Orvieto we must have gone through a dozen tunnels, some every 3-4 minutes long. There is some effect of the tunnels that reduced the air pressure as you go through and it hurts your ears. Everyone on the train was wincing in the tunnels.
We are planning a hike in the countryside today. When we looked out yesterday we planned a route to take. It looks like you can walk the little paths and get up into the trees on top of the hills. We'll see.
We spept until 9 this morning and just made breakfast again. We are sleeping very well and totally into vacation mode. We haven't had any trouble with jet lag after the first day.
Well, I still have 20 minutes left. It might take that long to mail this so I will close now.
We had a very nice relaxed day in Orvieto. Have decided to move on to Siena tomorrow. We found out that hotels by law have to register their guests with the local police. So, if you know the town we are in, you can always track us down via the polizia. We'll probably stay in Siena 2 or 3 nights.
It has been so nice to take it easy. We take naps every afternoon, take strolls here and there, eat when we want. A real vacation.
Hope you are doing well. Love, Wynette
By the way, if you wonder who nmcutter (James Cutter) is, that is Charlie.
We plan to take a hike in the country today. Our goal is to get to the top of a hill we can see in the distance from the edge of this high town. Looks like there is a forest there. It is nice being in a small town. People are much more relaxed and friendly. So much to tell you -- we'll have to gather all this in a journal and add more.
Hope you are all doing well. Love you all, Wynette
I haven't been putting subjects in but I think this is letter 5. It is day 5 of the trip at least. We are still in Orvieto. It is about 8 PM. We decided to move on tomorrow. It is fun to look at the maps and guidebooks and decide which new place we are going to go to next. We want to go to some Tuscan hill towns so we are starting in Siena. We will take the train and bus to Siena tomorrow and stay for two days and then go on to San Gimingano for two days after that. Then maybe on to Florence or else the sea coast.
We did some more walking around the walls at the edge of the city. The walled city is great but you do feel kind of closed in. I'm glad we are not under siege. On the bright side they do have their own well in case of siege.
We had a pretty lazy day today. We didn't have a big meal but ate two small meals at a pizzeria and a bar. Still, the food was very good. And only one coffee today (well, maybe two). We took a nap in the afternoon.
We have been having caffe lattes but we started trying the cappucino and now Wynette prefers them because they have more coffee. One of the guide books said that the caffe lattes are warm milk with a bit of coffee for children.
We spent a lot of time on the wall looking out. The countryside is really beautiful. There are lots of swifts and/or swallows flying around the walls of the city. They are such great fliers and can change direction in an instant. They have a few public parks along the edges where you can sit and look out.
The next letter will come from Siena assuming we can find an internet cafe there. It turns out this one has only been going for a month. It is the only one in town (a town of 20,000) and happens to be just down the street from out hotel.
Correction: The Orviento wine at dinner last night was $2.50 for a bottle, that is, 5000 lire. I just wanted to make that clear ;-)
This is our day to lose things. We lost the change to our train ticket from Orvieto to Siena. Didn't know if they just didn't give it to us and we forgot to get it or if we dropped it. About $35.00 lost. Hate to do that, but not the end of the world. Then we lost our Frommer's guide. (I think I left it somewhere.)
We haven't really seen any sites in Siena yet -- just spent the day getting here and looking for lost money and books and deciding we'd better make some plans and hotel reservations for future places since it was not easy to get a good hotel here. But tomorrow we'll see the sites of Siena.
These internet places are pretty cool. You buy a card for a certain amount of time. YOu can come back over and over till you use up your card. (And, of course, buy more cards. About $6.00 per hour.) I'm sitting in a room with about 12 other people pecking away at keyboards on a medieval street in a medieval city. In Orvieto they just had two computers in the back of the "caffe" and Charlie and I were always the only ones there when we used those. It's a nice way to stay in touch with those back home.
Well, I'm tired. Didn't get my nap today. :) But, probably won't get one today. It's already 6:15 pm. We plan to walk around a little and then eat dinner around 7:30. The good dinner restaurants won't serve you till around then. Most dinners consist of several courses. Antipasto (appetizer), primo piatti (first course which is usually a pasta dish), secondo piatti (main dish which is usually a meat dish), a vegetable dish, and dessert if you have room, which we often don't. The food is simple but usually very fresh and well prepared.
Well, we thought about pompeii but since most of our plans tended toward Tuscany -- north of Rome -- I don't think we'll make it down there. But, maybe we should reconsider.
Well, guess I'll close. Hello to everyone. Love, Wynette and Charlie
We are now in Siena. This is where the color "burnt sienna", known to all owners of boxes of crayons, comes from. Somehow the second n got added. Something about how the city looks in the evening light I think.
We took the train and then a bus from Orviento to Siena today. It took about two hours. The place is pretty full. I think we are beginning to see the hihg season. Most of the hotels are full and the two we looked at that were not only had one room left. Most of the rooms in Italy now seem to have a private bath. I remember in the old Frommer (on $5 a day!) he talked about how private baths cost a bunch. Here rooms were $50 with bath and $40 without. We got one.
Anyway we decided that we would plan out the next 4-5 days and make reservations since it is starting to get harder to find hotels. It gets a bit frustrating to be dragging your luggage around these narrow streets looking for a hotel. The wheels do help though. The streets are always narrow and filled with people and occasional cars that wend their way through the people.
There seems to be some sort of agreement between the drivers and the walkers. Pedestrians seem to have the right of way and pretty much walk where they want. On the other hand the cars take up a lot of space on these little streets and you often have to go close to a wall to let them by. And when no one is immediately around them they go pretty fast and don't seem too concerned with blind corners. Anyway it all seems to work out pretty well.
The buses have problems going through the little streets. Today in Chiusi where we changed from the train to bus the bus driver had to stop at a corner to check out the clearance. He was partly around and had abouut 6 inches clearance on the left. He got out and checked and then went. He just barely made it. I would hate to be a bus driver in Italy.
Siena is another walled city. I guess no one relaly got along too well back in the middle ages and the Renaissance. Florence conquered most of the surrounding cites including Siena and Pisa. They kept Siena down and resticted commerce here. It seems there is a rivalry between Florance and Siena and it seems to Florence usually comes out on top. Florance is about 400,000 people and Siena is about 80,000 now. Apparantly is has some nice art. We'll see tomorrow.
The hotel is not really that charming but it is pretty cheap and has a bath. Things seem a little busier and more expensive here in Tuscany than in Umbria (where Orvieto was) and Rome. Well, okay, Rome was pretty busy but it has 4 million people.
We are longing for some more quiet places. Our next stop is Volterra (sp?) which should be pretty quiet. It has about 12,000 people. WE have some country walks planned.
Wynette's ankle seems mostly better. It was just a slight strain it seems. She walks just fine and it ready for some longer walks.
After Volterra we will go to Florence for 2-3 days, then Lucca then the Italian Riveria -- somwhere around Portofino but probably not there because it is very popular and we don't expect to find a place. We wanted to see the sea coast.
Siena is built on a hill and has a lot of ups and downs. That was hard when we had our bags but it okay now. Next we plan to just walk around the city and make dinner reservations and then start calling for reservations for the next few days.
WE found a bar in Orvieto that we relaly liked and we kept going back to for coffee and sandwiches. We have to find another place like that here. The europeans are so different about alcohol. They sell it everywhere, along with coffee and ice cream and sandwiches. And they have plenty of bars right by churches. Bar della Duomo is a common name (actually it might be dei or something instead of della -- they have about 10 ways to say "of the" in Italian. You'll have to ask Wynette who is on another computer.
We found a nice internet cafe. The same chaing, that is "Internet Chain Train". This connection is much faster than Orvieto and they keyboard is more like I am used to. Well, four minutes left so I better send this.
This city has been bad luck for us but we are still having a great time. I can't remember what I said last. We left Orvieto three days ago. In the train station I bought tickets and then misplaced or forget to get the 75,000 lire (about $37) change. Not sure where it went. Oh well. We took the train and then a bus to get to Siena since it is not on the main train line.
We went to one hotel but they only had one night open so we trucked the bags to another and got one for three days. We had to change on the second day though.
We moved into the second room after one day and I took a shower. This got the entire bathroom floor wet because of the way thay make the showers. The tile is fairly non-slip though. Then Wynette walked into the bathroom and then out again. The tile is non-slip but the tile on the door is not and she slipped and fell hitting her back on the step and her head on the tile. She was badly shaken up. We took a taxi to the emergency room (pronto soccorro). They directed us to an English speaking doctor, who, I have to say, was incredibly hansome. A really cute young Italian guy with wavy hair. Wynette said he looked like someone on ER. Anyway, he checked her out and said it was just muscle bruises. She did get a head x-ray because they like to be careful on those things.
It was all pretty fast and easy. The whole thing only took about an hour or so and it didn't cost anything at all! Their medical system seems to be about like ours. Our out-of-pcckket was two taxi rides and it was kind of fun to take a taxi for once. It was pretty cheap actually. The taxi drivers go pretty fast around these people in the street. It was scarier inside the taxi than it is seeing them on the street.
The good news is that Wynette's ankle is all better but she was pretty much hobbling around most of yesterday. Luckily she brought a lot of ibuprofin and that seems to be making it much better. She is doing much better today and can walk pretty normally. She has trouble bending over. Basically she is just pretty sore. We think we can still do some country walking at out next stop.
I was thinking about the baths in hotles. Almost all the hotels have them now and they didn't years ago. MY theory is that rents caught up with remodeling and plumbing costs. The cities are so crowded and the rents so high that is doesn't seem like much to add bathrooms to the rooms and gives them an edge. Our hotel in Rome had this cute little elevator that they retrofitted between the curves in the stairway. It was about two feet wide (we have a picture).
Between the hotels we seem to have lost our pages from our Frommer guide about Tuscany. We went out and got another guide book (The Rough Guide to Italy) which we like pretty well but Frommer is always good to have. We were hot and tired and set it down somewhere.
With all the stuff happening we didn't see as much of Siena as we would have liked. But we did get to walk around quite a bit. We have been doing a little shopping (but not much). They have lots of things here that you can't get in the US. we got some very stylish cheese graters for example. And they had a great-looking potato peeler. We like to go into stores that have bathroom and bedroom stuff. It is all so different from the US.
Siena is similar to Orvieto. It is a walled city with narrow, hilly, winding streets. The streets are narrow and have four story buildings on both sides. They look pretty old abnd delapidated but the guidebooks call them Renaissance Palaces.
We went to the main art museum here and it was quite good. Siena was a commune in the 1400s and big into justice and good government. A lot of the art is polemical. One most famous frescos here show "good government" where everybody is happy and "bad government" with a horned guy in charge and Fear flying over everyone and people getting mugged in the streets. They seem to have had a pretty good place but the Plague really did them in and they government turned autocratic. Then they were conquered by Florence and that was the end of this good government, justice, truth, etc. stuff. The Midici controlled everything with an iron hand. They wanted to take over the banking in Siena for one thing.
Anyway, the art was mostly excellent. We got a tape recorded tour "for two" with two earphones. After about five minutes of being tethered together by these earphone I let Wynette listen and I read the blurbs on the wall, which I prefer anyway. The frescos are beautiful with lovely colors still after 500 years.
There was also a high tower. I decided to go up myself and live "Gimpy" behind. It was a good thing too. There must have been about 50 flights of stairs and maybe 500 steps. The steps were these narrow tightly winding staircases that were barely big enough for one person. When you met someone (I probably met 40-50 people on the way up) you had to flatten yourself in the corner and let them pass -- or else they had to do that -- we pretty much alternated.
The view from the top was fantastic though. I could see 360 degrees, all of Siena and the countryside around it. I've never seen so many red-tiled roofs. That is all they use here it seems. In Orvieto our room looked out over some red-tiled roofs that must have been 100s of years old. They looked in very poor condition to me. And we saw a lot of used tile lying around in piles on the streets too. I don't know if it is reused like brick in the US but I wouldn't want to use this stuff again.
We decided to make reservations for the next couple of places. After today we go to Montepulciano, a Tuscan hill town, for two days. It is supposed to be very nice and have lovely walks. Then three days in Florence (maybe four) and then three days on the Italian Rivera at Santa Marghereti L-something.
I was thinking of things I forgot to mention. One was that we saw a very strong police presence in Rome. They were on every street corner almost. Sometimes they carried automatic weapons.
WE ran into an American coming into Siena. He was on the bus with us and helped us get where we were going. He was from Phoenix but was a PhD students at Berkeley in history. He had spent a month in Siena in January and we living in Rome (but up to Siena for a visit). He said the dessicated nun was St. Rita. It seems she is making a tour of Italy even though she has been dead for 100 years. Try that Elvis!
Well, the internet chain train is closing for tonight so I have to send this off. More later.
I've been able to read my CS mail from here. Lots of mail going back and forth about restarting a Los Alamos. We were talking to an American on a bus ride -- he is here working on a history disseration and he said he'd been hearing a lot about the Los Alamos fire on the news in Rome.
My sprained ankle has been healing nicely. Hardly slows me down at all. But, yesterday I had another mishap. (I'm starting to feel very klutzy.) I slipped off the 6 inch step leading out of our wet hotel bathroom floor and fell very hard on my back on the step. Arched my back and after hitting my lower back, hit my head. I've been having pretty intense pain in lower right kidney area. Actually, it only hurts when I move. I can walk, sit, and lie down without pain. But it is extremely difficult to bend over (even slightly) or to sit down or change positions in bed. Neck started hurting today. Hard to look up at the amazing duomo ceilings, etc. We took a taxi to the hospital emergency room yesterday shortly after it happened since we weren't sure, because of the pain, if there were internal injuries. They said it looked more like muscle problems, did xray my head, found no skull fractures, offered me a pain shot, which I refused, and said I'll probably feel better in a few days. Then, much to our surprise, sent us on our way without charging us a cent. Medical care is free in Italy! So, I'm still hobbling around but feeling hopeful I'll be able to get around better soon. Ibuprophen does help some and I can walk ok. I'm pretty optimistic I'll be feeling a lot better in a couple of days. I've gotta get some exercise to walk off all this good food! (We found a WONDERFUL little place to eat. We went back several times. The food was delicious and the people friendly and nice to us. It was informal and inexpensive -- mostly a take-out place. They sat us on stools in the window to eat. You could also eat upstairs in a slightly more formal and possibly more expensive setting, but we always sat downstairs. The place is Rosticceria Monti, Via Calzoleria 12, Siena, tel. 0577/289010.)
So, we've had a hospital experience in Italy. Very different than the states. Much more relaxed. Kind of low key but we had to wait very little and everyone treated us well. My doctor was VERY handsome.
Despite all this we are still having a good time. I miss getting lots of exercise and I'm sure it is frustrating to Charlie to have to walk slowly everywhere. But, he has been wonderful.
Montepulciano (our next stop) is a smallish place and not as touristy as some places. We are looking forward to a bit quieter place. Siena is absolutely amazing but pretty hectic with all the tourists.
Don't forget that if you ever need to reach us, just call the local police of the town where we are staying. The hotels by law have to register all guests with the police.
Love you, Wynette and Charlie
The period on this keyboard does not work. Oops Sometimes it does work apparently but not when I expect it to
Don't have time to write much but wanted to say hi I'm still sore from the fall but feeling MUCH better the last couple of days -- Charlie and I took a stroll in the country near this village today -- very beautiful country side-- we took a picnic and ate on the grounds of an amazing old country-duomo
Well, I won't write much -- will hand the computer over to Charlie for his sagas and he'll copy to you
That was great that you got free trips for you and dad on SW -- I will let you write all such letters for me in the future ;-) Thanksfully, so far on this trip, we have not lost any luggage -- was a relief to see it in the Rome airport
Lots of love, Wynette
We are in a Tuscan hill town called Montepulciano -- and in a loud, smokey internet bar with one computer with a period key that works once in a while -- so I will use othger punctuation
When we saw Orvieto I thought it was unusual because it was built on the volcanic plug -- that is unusual but the result was not -- all these towns are built on hills -- they are all fortified withe walls all around and 2 or 3 gates, they all have narrow, winding, hilly streets, the inside is very old (like from the 1400s), the buildings are all 3 or 4 stories and many are called palaces. (got one)
They all have big cathedrals. I was thinking about that -- they seem pretty wasteful -- they take hundreds of years to build and a lot of resources and they don't seem that useful. From the stories in the guidebooks it was a big competition over who could build the biggest and the fanciest cathedrals so clearly they were a display of power. they showed you were a rich city that could waste resources on cathedrals. Siena tried to build one second is size only toe St Peter's in Rome -- they didn't succeed though because the foundations kept cracking -- it is quite hard to build on these hills.
These towns all have great views though -- on all sides -- they are breezier than down below too -- that is nice now but maybe a problem in the winter -- it was a warm day today and we went into a cathedral and it was almost cold -- they must be freezing in the winter -- it does snow here and get pretty cold.
The cathedrals did provide work though -- maybe they were like the defense programs, partly a display of power and partly a jobs program -- they also provided people with an artistic outlet -- they big one are so ornate it is astounding -- it is easy to believe that they took hundreds of years to build -- every corner is filled with beautiful stuff that clearly took a long time to do. there are dozens of patterns on the floors in in the walls -- I'm glad they did it beause they are amazing to see
We met a couple from LA at dinner last night -- they asked us about our wine and I gave them some so they could see if they wanted it -- Montepulciano has these wines called vino nobile that are suppossed to be really good so I got one -- It was $13 instead of the usual $4 to $5 -- it was good but the table wine is good too -- but we enjoyed it
Anyway, this couple was from LA -- they live near the LA County Art Musean (for you LA people) and love it -- both are writers (one a journalist) -- he works at home and she walks to work -- that makes LA a much nicer place to live with no commuting
He had relatives in southern France that they went to visit -- they gave us some places to go there -- maybe next year -- they are going next to something called a farm tourist place (or something like that) -- these are places that must make at least 60% of their income from farming -- they also have places for tourists to stay in the country -- the government gives them a lot of support -- the idea is to preserve the small farm by giving them extra income -- we might try it some time
Italy, in general, seems to be trying to preserve the old ways of life -- they are very modern in many ways but they have resisted some things -- for example, we have seen almost no American chains or chains of any kind here -- there was one McDonalds in Rome and one in Siena -- they have largely retained the siesta idea -- most places are closed from 1-4 PM -- places open around 10 AM and close at 1, then they reopen from 4 to 7 or so -- not too long of a work day really -- around 6 thgey all start coming out for a mass evening walk -- the streets are packed from 6-8 PM -- this seems to happen in every city in Italy -- from Rome on down -- they all seem to start their day in a bar for coffee and a roll
We took the bus from Siena to Montepulciano -- it was the local and stopped and 3-4 similar walled hill towns -- Montepulciano is the end of the line because it is at the edge of the Siena district that runs the busses -- all the towns very quite pretty
We went through some very nice countryside -- lots of fields of irregular shapes because of the hills -- we didn't see any workers even though there was plenty of evidence of work having been done -- I guess it was the middle of the day
Montepulciano is 2000 feet high -- we are staying at a hotel outside the gates that is basically a business hotel (even though most of the guests are tourists it seems -- some are actual businessmen) -- but it is kind of like a Howard Johnsons even though it is called the Granducato -- the room is very modern -- it is built on a hill -- we are on the third floor but that is three floors down from the lobby since it is built on a hill -- we have a pretty good view (See www.hotelgranducato.it.)
We had another great meal last night and tried some new things -- one was a dessert called pannacota which is like flan but without the eggs -- it is very light and creamy -- the name means cooked cream I think -- we liked it a lot
Well I guess I better close now and get back to the hotel -- we went on a walk in the country today and had a picnic lunch --now we are having a picnic dinner in the hotel room -- it gets tiring eating out every night -- I did get a bottle of vino nobile for dinner though -- no corkscrew so I just pushed the cork down into the bottle -- works great although the first glass spills a bit
How are the playoffs going? Sounds like the Lakers might win it all. That would be fun.
And how is the deck going? It will be nice to have a deck by the carpenter of the stars ;-)
I didn't mention it in the general letter but Wynette had a misstep on the (dark) stairs of our hotel yesterday and got a bit shaken up but she is fine now. She has been using industrial size quantities of ibuprofen but it was been working. I'm starting to think the the girl is accident-prone.
Well, more later.
We found that we have been (without planning to do so) alternating between big and small towns: Rome then Orvieto, Siena then Montepulciano, now Florence then San Margherita Ligure. We were a bit shocked getting to Florence and finding the throngs of people in the streets. It is truly amazing. The main area of town is packed with tourists. We happened to get here when some heir of the Warner family was having a wedding in Florence. They had some of the streets blocked off and people were lines up 3-4 deep to see the celebrities arrive. We're not much on that but we did stay for 10 minutes. I lifted Wynette up and she saw Andrea Bocelli arrive in a limo and go in. He was singing at the party as well as Natalie Cole. Stephen Spielberg was going to give her away. Maybe you people with access to the media know more about it. It was kind of fun to see him.
It is always hard the first day you arrive in a city and don't know where anything is. You want to go back to your favorite place in the previous town. But after a day you feel better about the new city. That has happened here. We were very put off by the crowds at first and our first meals were not too good. We took a taxi to our hotel and we didn't have to drag suitcases through the streets.
The hotel here is very nice. We got it out of Frommer -- it was one of his "10 best budget hotels in Italy" It is very nice. It is in the center of Florence about a block from the Ponte Vecchio. It is in an old palance (like from the 1500s but they have done some remodeling since then). The ceilings are like 14 feet high and the room is large. No bath though, out first room without a bath. It is not too bad actually. (Note: The hotel was Hotel Alessandra. See www.hotelalessandra.com.)
We got here on Sunday and checked in and ate. Then we looked at the guide and found that there was a once-a-month flea market that day. We got in on the tail end but it was relaly fun. Lots of old clothes, tools, glass, etc. -- pretty much of a typical flea market. We walked around for about an hour and then it started closing up.
WE looked for a recommended trattoria but it wasn't where it was supposed to be. The address was 16r and we found about four different 16s on the street but not the place we were looking for. We tried another place on that street and it was good but not great. We sat next to two groups of Americans -- both of them an older couple with one of their kids and their spouse. They were from Atlanta.
Sometimes people ask us where we are from and we say Albuquerque, New Mexico they always say, "Oh Santa Fe?" At another market today we were talking to a guy in a stall and he asked us where we were from. He said his wife was from the USA and he had been to over 30 states. He wanted to go to NM and AZ next. He said he had already been to UT and CO when we suggested them also. Then, in another stall, the guy mentioned that his wife was from Kentucky! Being the trusting Americans we are, we assumed it was an amzing coincidence but if another guy has an American wife we may begin to get suspicious.
Wynette seems to have a weakness for purses since she bought two today. One was a nice leather purse and the other was more of a replacment for he fanny pack. They both looked very nice. We tried to bargain and got the price down but who knows how low they would go?
I heard a while ago that the Italians had a lot of cell phones. This is true but the US is close to catching up. I see a lot of cell phone but not that many more than in the US -- maybe like San Francisco which has the most I have seen in the US. But the Italians seem to have a more close, personal relationship with their cell phones than we do in the US. They like to hold them in their hand. In Orviento I saw three guys walking down the street with cell phones in their hand -- not using them, just holding them. You see many more people just holding their phones than actually using them. In trains and buses they hold them the whole trip and maybe get a call or two. And they seem to play with the buttons a lot. My cell phone does have three video games on it but I have never actually used them except to try them the first time I got it -- maybe they are playing games. The young people especially have cell phones.
Another cell phone related event. Remember the first day in Rome when the woman with the baby and the sheet of cardboard tried to unzip Wynette's fanny pack? We hung around the corner for another 10 minutes looking at the map and such. We thought we might take a picture of her. We found that she had some friends sitting around, and, lo and behold, she got a call while we were waiting. She left the baby with someone else and took the cell phone and was chatting for a while. A little break before going back to begging and pickpocketing I guess.
Florence seems to be the center of the Internet Chain Train since there are 10 locations here. They are very nice with nice PCs and fast connections. We are on an afternoon break. Today is a bit of a slow day since it is Monday and all the big museums are closed. The churches are still open so we went to those. We are going to climb the Dome and Giotto's Campanile next, or maybe just one of them. Then a walk to the outskirts of Florence.
Well, I guess that's about it for now. More later.
How are the playoffs going? Sounds like the Lakers might win it all. That would be fun.
And how is the deck going? It will be nice to have a deck by the carpenter of the stars ;-)
I didn't mention it in the general letter but Wynette had a misstep on the (dark) stairs of our hotel yesterday and got a bit shaken up but she is fine now. She has been using industrial size quantities of ibuprofen but it was been working. I'm starting to think the the girl is accident-prone.
Well, more later.
We are doing Florence in a novel way. We are eschewing all the boring museums with run-of-the-mill, Michelin-three-star masterpieces and instead we have been going to the markets. We went to the flea market the first day and have been to two more since. We are saving the Uffizi for our next visit to Italy.
We have been walking around the city a lot. It turns out that it is not as crowded as we first thought. That wedding really increased the crowds the first day we were here. But it is still very crowded. We tried to get into one museum but the ticket line was an hour long.
WE did our laundry today. We heard that laudromats were expensive but it was not too bad, $3 a load and $3 for 30 minutes in a dryer. Not cheap but cheaper than hotel cleaning. One of the guide books said you might cause an international incident if you try to do laundry in your hotel room. We did a few times but no diplomatic problems yet. Christy and I did have a big laundry incident in our 1969 trip to Europe. If you haven't heard that story I can tell you in person.
We got some raspberries at a market today that tasted like they had been just picked. I have never had such good ones except when I picked them off the vines myself. In other food news we ad an excellent lunch and have reservations at a highly recommended restaurant. We have found that you relaly need to go to recommended places. When we just pick a place we have not had nearly as good luck.
WE are about ready to leave Florence. Tomorrow we go to the sea, near Portofino. We are lookign forward to it.
This is our last full day in Florence. We plan to leave tomorrow morning for Santa Maria Ligure (I think I already sent you the hotel info). We had planned to go to the Academia (to see the David) but the line was very long and was not moving very fast. Looked like an hours wait so we decided to do it next time we are in Italy. :)
We had planned to sign up for an evening guided tour of the Uffizzi tonight, included something at a cafe afterwards. Sounded nice, but when we called for reservations, they said they no longer did it because they close the museum too early now. The lines are long at the Uffizzi, too, so we decided not to go there either. But, we did have fun in Florence and saw and did some nice things. I'm sure Charlie will fill in the details. But Florence has not been our favorite place. It is so crowded with tourists. We've grown attached to the quiet sleepy country towns. We do plan to do a walk in the Boboli Gardens tomorrow morning before we catch the train.
I hadn't thought about the glasses or lack of depth perception causing my coordination problems. But that is a good thought. I always feel really insecure when I'm walking. But it is hard to know for sure. These streets really are full of holes and unexpected steps. I really am doing much better after that fall. Still some pain when I bend over and tender in right kidney area but only 1/100 as bad as it was at the beginning. I feel really lucky to get over this so quickly.
We do plan to visit Pisa this coming week. There is a chance we'll even stay there after we leave Santa Maria Ligure. We have 2 or 3 days at the end of our trip, before we go back to Rome, that we haven't planned yet. We're looking forward to being by the sea. We plan to relax a lot and explore the area around Portofino. Everyone says it is really beautiful there. There is a nature preserve where we hope to get to do lots of walking.
Weather has been nice here. Mostly 70's I think. A few sprinkles yesterday but otherwise no rain.
Charlie got mail from his sister saying there are forest fires around Santa Fe now. It is very upsetting.
Is it hot in Hobbs? I won't even ask if you've gotten any rain.
We're in a little Internet Cafe in Santa Margherita Ligure, just down the bay from Portofino. We talked last night about what we forgot to say about Florence so I'll do that first.
The top sight in Florence is the Duomo. It is amazing. We have seen so many great things on the trip that it is hard to think of new adjectives but this one is very fine. The front facade is highly decorated with statues, paintings (maybe frescos or mosaics, it is hard to tell since they are so far up). Unlike many churchs we have seen it is decorated on all sides not just the front facade. Beside it is a tower designed by Giotto, the Campanile. It is easily the most beautiful tower we have seen. We walked up to the top and had great views of Florence and the countryside. It was 414 steps according to the guide book. I counter about 430 but who knows about some of the initial ones up to the gift shop, etc. It was not a hard climb but some of the circular staircases were narrow and steep. Wynette was a little claustrophobic. I am glad she didn't climb the one in Siena since it was much narrower and more windy. Kind of like the twisty little passages all the same from the original Adventure game.
Florence is beautiful to look at. The Duomo dominates the city and can be seen from all over. You round a corner and all of the sudden you see it again. It is reassuring. We met a student from Dartmouth at breakfast the last day in Florence. She was in Florence for a 10 week term studing art. She was very enthusiatic and loved, loved, loved Florence. She had been on a short trip to France and was devastated that she had missed Andrea Bocelli. She was so envious that we had seen him.
In the market the day before we were shopping at the stalls and asking prices in halting Italian. In one of the stalls the woman talked to us in perfect English. We said "You're American!". It turned out she was from Westwood (in LA for those non-Ca people). She had come for a trip to Florence and loved it so much that she moved there.
People seem to love Florence. We liked it but were not in love with it. We favor the smaller towns. I think it is because we don't really want to see anything in particular but just want to find out about how the Italians live.
We saw several churches in Florence (of course). San Lorenzo was the Midici "family chapel". It was huge of course and beautiful. Another church had a cute archictural trick. They made the spacing between the columns smaller as you went to front of the church. This fooled your perspective sense and made the church seem longer than it relaly was. Pretty tricky.
The Midici lived in a palace on the south side of the Arno, the Pitti Palace, and worked in the building that now housed the Uffizi. They built overhead passageway from the palace, over the Arno (the second floor of the Ponte Vecchio) and over to the Uffizi building. Apparently it now houses many art treasures that only a few people get to see. You have to know someone to get in. We heard this from the Dartmouth student who manages to get it. The guy who runs the program knew the right people.
We went to the Boboli gardens the last day. They were expansive and pretty but no flowers. Italians aren't big on flowers. We have seen very few flowers anywhere (except here in SML but more about that in the next letter).
(Note added by Wynette: Italy did have many wild flowers in the countryside. I especially liked the yellow broom -- we call it "Spanish broom" in New Mexico. It was in bright full bloom and covered many hillsides. We often caught whiffs of its strong sweet fragrance. Also, the wild red poppies were blooming. We'd often see fields full of the red flowers.)
We didn't see the David since we didn't want to want in line for an hour for tickets. We figured that once we got in it would be packed anyway. We'll come back. We did see a copy in the courtyard of the Uffizi and we took a picture of that.
Our hotel in Florence was very charming, easily the most charming of any we have been in. But the bed was bad. We had to move the mattress to to floor on the second and third night. Luckily the room was large and we could do it. The doubles in Italy all have beds that are two singles pushed together and made up as one bed. It actually works quite well.
We went to a laudromat in Florence. We had been washing things out in the room and so things had gotten a bit dirty. The european machines are very different. We brought books to read but we were so fascinated with the washers that we watched them. You can see that we are easily amused.
The have two wash cycles and three rinse cycles. Each rinse fills with water, agitates back and forth (they are front loaders) and then spins. Even the third rinse had some soap in it. We wondered about how much soap remains in American washers with their single rince cycles. Wynette said she always runs the rince cycles twice. I might start doing that myself.
I met a guy from Colorado in the laudromat who was with the U Colorado chorus that was on a tour of Italy. They were going to sing in St. Peter's after Florence.
I'm not sure about my time so I am going to send this. More later.
We had a misunderstanding with the hours of the Internet cafe and so we haven't been writing as much. We confused 2 PM with 2 AM.
We are almost ready to leave our next town but I have a few notes on Florence.
We ate at a restaurant called "Il Latini" It was recommended in Michelin and in the Rough Guide (a British guidebook). We asked about the street at th hotel and the woman said, "Ah, Latini" She said it was very well known. We called for resevations which they dutifully took down but only my first name. They only had reservations for 7:30 and 9, none for 8. We got there at 7:30 and found a large crowd around the place. They started letting people in a few at a time. We tried to get to the front and say we had reservations. It gradually became obvious that the "reservations" were meaningless and they just started letting people in at 7:30 and got them out by 9 for the next wave of people.
We ate at a table with six people. The two women next to us also had reservations which seemed to mean nothing. They were from LA and NY and seemed a bit aloof. They had just come from Venice and were going on one of those "Agricultural tourism" stays at a farm for five days.
The restaurant was a real assembly line. They didn't have menus but just reeled off what they had pretty fast and pressured you to order quickly. The food was pretty good but the whole place seemed kind of high pressure. I would not go back. Once a place gets in a guide book (or in several) they get much bigger crowds. Still we have had much better luck with places listed in guide books than ones we just picked out. This place was one of the very few that was listed in the Rough Guide and Michelin. Michelin tends to be a bit higher. We always pick their cheapest places. From the budget books we liked to choose the "splurge" places. I guess we are betwixt and between. The Michelin Guide lists places up to $500 a night or more and restaurants to $150 apiece for dinner and higher.
In Florence we found the first "self-service" restaurants. They have a big display window with pizzas and fixed dished and you just "point and click" as Wynette likes to say. She likes those kind of places because you always know what you are getting. We usually have a big restaurant meal every other day and eat at snack places other nights. The food just gets to be too much.
We went to a big market ion Florence that had stands around th outside and a large inside market. It was very much like Grand Central Market in LA. The downstairs had fish and meat venders and the upstairs had fruit and vegetables. The variety and quality of the produce was astounding. It would be great to have access to such a market at home. We bought some cherries. Wynette tried to buy some Clemintine tangerines but she made the mistake of touching one. The Italian woman running the place was yelling at her that she had to wait for them to do it. Not the first time we were yelled at by vendors.
The people do show their feeling and you can tell when they are upset with you but generally people have been very nice. They help us with our pronunciation. We were at an ice cream stand and Wynette pronounced something and the woman at the stand corrected her. she tried it again and got it right and the guy next to use said "Bravo". They also like to have their picture taken and will gladly pose for you.
I bought peaches in the supermarket this morning for breakfast. I figured out that you wee supposed to put on the plastic gloves they had there (those cheap ones that you get in packages of 100) and pick your fruit with them on. I got to the front of the line and found out I was supposed to have weighed the fruit and gotten a sticker for th scanner. The checker got up and did it for me. When he came back I indicated (sign languages) that I was sorry and he said "nieto" which apparently is like "da nada" in New Mexico -- "it's nothing".
Next stop SML
We took the train from Florence, change at Pisa to SML. SML is on the east side of the Italian Riveria. The Rough Guide says the Italian Riveria is not as developed and flashy as th French Riveria. It is still a tourist area but I think that assessment is correct. We have fallen in love with the place and are staying five days.
The train goes up the coast right by the water but the terrain is so rocky and cliffy (see Buffy) that it is in tunnels most of the time. We went through the first tunnel and came out for about 100 yeards and saw this incredible blue water and rugged coastline. We continued to catch glimpses of it for the next 90 minutes but you never get a really good view from the train.
There was a group of four students next to us. They were playing a game where they were chanting "St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Matthew, etc." in rhythm. Each person had a part and had to do it at the right time or they were out. It looked fun but we never relaly figured it out exactly.
The first places you get to are called "Cinque Terre" which is roughly "Five Towns". It is five small fishing villiages in a row, each one only a mile or two from the next. They all looked very quaint from the train. The students got off at Monterosso. We figured out later that the students go to these towns and the more upscale crowd (that's us ;-) goes to SML and Portofino higher up the coast. One thing we figured out is that the Cinque Terre towns are on open coast and do not have harbors. SML and Portofino have lovely ports for pulling in with your yacht. Unfortunately we left our yacht at home.
We kept on going -- it was about two hours from Pisa -- to Santa Margherita Ligure. There are two Santa Margherita's in Italy but this is the one in Liguria (basically a state or province). We loved the place as soon as we saw it. It is a smallish town (about 10,000) that is part small Italian town and part seaside resort. The "big" resort in the area is Portofino. This is a very small town (less than 1000) that is a seaside resort and watering place for the beautiful people full time. SML (so says the Rough Guide) gets the overflow from Portofino.
anyway, the town is on a very nice harbor, very protective. I don't suppose the Mediterranian has very big storms in any case. A lot of boats were anchored and docked there. The terrain goes up quickly a hills about 1500 feet high and so it is built on a hill. It is not as steep as the hill towns in Tuscany but it goes up a lot. It is exactly as you might picture a little Italian town by the sea. Red roofs everywhere, of course, and churches. The water is a beautiful blue and was pretty calm when we arrived (and it has stayed that way).
We went to the hotel we had reserved and it was very nice. The rooms were recently remodeled and were modern albeit a bit small. WE reserved three days but that left us two free days before we had to be back in Rome. We decided we liked that place and would stay five days. This saves a travel day, checking in and out, etc.
WE seem to be here right at the beginning of the season. Things are still not too busy but everything is open and in full swing. The town was pretty quiet when we arrived on Thursday. We walked the streets last night (Saturday night) and things has gotten much more crowded. The harbor had a lot more boats in it too. The restaurants along the water were filled with what we called "beautiful people" They were mostly yound and well dressed and looked fairly affluent. It was fun to walk around and just watch people.
The hotel is fairly cheap for a resort ($80 night) but the food is a little more expensive. The food has changed too. Everything is seafood now, as you would expect. It is very good too. Also the bread has gotten saltier. In Tuscany the bread is mostly made without salt. We heard that the bread gets saltier as you go south but this seems to be an exception since we went northwest. The bread in Tuscany was almost unsalted. We didn't eat it alone but waited until we had some sauce or olive oil from a dish to dip it in. Here you can eat the bread alone. I guess they always eat the bread with sauces in Tuscany, or they just got used to unsalted bread.
WE have used more pictures here than anywhere else in the trip. Every view is beautiful. On the first day we took a walk to Portfino. There is a developed trail along the water (well, quite a ways up from the water) from SML to Portofino. It starts in SML as a paved walkway and basically it is paved the whole way, which is about three miles. But don't get the wrong idea, it was beautiful and amazing and much better than we had hoped. Almost all the land it privately owned but this trail goes through it all. You walk by the back yards of all these lovely estates. Most of them have incredible views of the water. We saw three or four that were being completely remodeled from the bare walls out.
The trail, as I said, was mostly paved and had steps when it was steep. It avoided switchbacks by just building a flat paved trail on 45 degree slopes. There were many beautiful views. The best part was going into Portofino but I'll save that for the next letter, which will probably be later today. It is aboiut 5 AM in Albuquerque now, 4 AM in LA. More later.
As we were planning for our trip we read a magazine article about Portofino. It was about an older couple who had been in Italy 20 years before but decided to skip the Portofino turnoff and had always regretted it. So they went back and stayed in a hotel right by the water and talked about how beautiful the town was. This article made us think about going to Portofino and I am really glad we did. the guide books steered us to Santa Margherita Ligure as a cheaper and nicer alternative. I'm glad we went there because it is a more interesting town to stay in.
Portofino has a lock on quaint though. It is exactly as you imagine a little Italian seaside town. The buildings are colorful, the water is a beautiful blue, the port is small and perfect.
We walked from SML and our first views were from the trail. We saw the castle on the hill, the boughanvia (sp?), the boats. It was amazing. We walked through the town and out on a penisula just past it. There is an old fort/castle there that has commanding views of Portofino and SML.
This is definitely a beautiful people place. There were four yachts parked at Portofino (on the dock, more were anchored in the harbor). They were of pretty big but one from Sweden was huge. It must have been close to 100 feet. It was bigger than some of the building on the harbor. Some people were sitting on board being served a meal.
From up in the castle we saw another yacht coming into Portofino harbor. We saw it come in and dock by the Swedish yacht. They were pretty close and several of the Swedes came out to look to be sure they didn't scape their boat. They had big bumpers on both yachts so there wasn't any problem.
We walked out further on the peninsula to the lighthouse and had an ice cream and then a "granite" which is a snow cone. The woman was nice but talked us into a mint and almond one that was a little weird tasting.
I'm going to send this in case I get cut off. More later.
We stayed five days in SML, longer than anyplace elseand 25% of our trip! It was very relaxing. Welike the small towns. We got very familiar with oru little neighborhood. The part of SML by the sea is very touristyand was relaly jumping on Saturday night with people dressed very nicely. Our hotel was about three blocks away in the small town part of SML. We saw almot all Italians. We loved the little shops. We bought fruit every day from the fruit stores.
There was a (small) supermarket across the street. Every morning we got museli and milk (we even found 2% milk) and had breakfast in our room.
The best meal we had was a lunch in Portofino. We were a little leery of the seaside restaurants but this one was excellent and not too expensive. In most of the restaurants you eat outside.
The Italian Riveria had lots of seafood but not as many vegetables. We speculated that they had lessland for growing.
We passed eucalytus trees on the walk to Portofino. The area is actually a lot like Southern California in feel and vegetation.
The third day we look the communter boat to a little fishing villiage called Santa Fruttuoso and walked back to Portofino (about three miles). The town was very picturesque. There is not road there because the hills rise so quickly in every direction. It is only accessible on foot or by boat. It was a little harbor that is mainy for tourists. There were a lot of people on the beach. The beach was rocky and not sand. WE had lunch at a restanrant right on the beach, under the abbey they have there. The walk back was very hot. It is quite humid there and it was a hot day (about 82). The first part is straight up and then it is pretty level until Portofino and then it is steeply down. Once we got to the top it was pretty easy. Lots of ocean views. The vegatation was like alot of places-- it seemed quite familiar.
Time to go to bed so we can make our plane. That wraps up our Italian trip. Stay tuned for the pictures. We took about 150 of them.