Travel Back Thursday – Colour

Italy, Travel

When Shawn and I were in Italy in 2013, we “hiked” the Cinque Terre. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and definitely deserves to be listed as such.  It was a phenomenal hike with breathtaking views at every corner.

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We had to take the train to see the first two towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola because of the landslides that hit in 2011. Regardless, the towns are quaint and beautiful.  In the first town of Riomaggiore we hiked around the town and far up into the hills where the locals live.  No wonder people are so fit living in these towns.

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Italy 2016 – Day 8

Italy, Travel

Saturday, October 8, 2016 – Arezzo

We woke up to clouds and fog and rain again this morning. I was disappointed because I had kind of wanted to do this walk we found yesterday. Between Montefollonico and Montepulciano there is a little 10km walk that connects the two towns through the valley. It would have been beautiful. Dad was going to drop mom and I off and we were going to do the walk, but it was too rainy and gross out today. Oh well. Next time, I guess.

Instead, we decided to take the slow roads up to Arezzo. We passed through Torrita de Siena and then Bettolle and under the A1 – the highway that Dad wanted to take to get to Arezzo…but mom and I insisted that there was no rush and lots to see along the slow, windy roads.

Just past the A1 turn off, mom noticed signs for a big Fashion Outlet mall. Seriously?! It was seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Dad drove on by, but at the next roundabout, he turned around and we ended up going to the very Arizona-like outlet mall for almost two hours. There were some good prices but some not so great prices. And some of the stores were silly to even think about visiting because they were the same ones we get at home. I was not going to go into the GAP or Timberland. That just doesn’t make any sense. I did spend a significant amount of time in one of the first stores we visited trying on nice cotton sweaters and linen dresses. They were all reduced to 10 Euros each…I ended up buying 2 sweaters and 1 dress. Totally worth it. I think that was really the only damage that was done at the mall though. Thank goodness.

We then headed off and made a stop at Foiano Dell Chiana. It was a decent sized little town, so we decided to get out and go for a little walk about. Not much was open because it was Saturday, but it was nice to explore in a place a bit less touristy than some of the other places we have visited on this trip. We were going to try and find a place to have some pizza, but there wasn’t really anyplace open. We did witness a wedding at one of the churches and had some great sense-surround moments with the church bells though. Just as we dsc_8222left the old town and decided to head back down to our car, we spotted a little gelato store and stopped in. I am so glad we did because it was definitely the best value for gelato I’ve had on this trip and it was excellent quality and taste too. (Because I am totally a gelato expert, you know!)

Around 1pm we finally reached Arezzo. It was kind of a gross looking city on the outskirts, but once we walked inside it was really nice. There was a beautiful Main Street that lead up from the parking and where no cars were allowed. None of the shops were open because it was a double whammy of nap time and Saturday, so it was an easy stroll up the street to the main square. The main square has noticeably sloped down on one side since it was built many centuries ago. And it was also where the Movie A Beautiful Life was filmed. I now need to watch the movie, I think.20161006_085420_1477783844351

We continued to walk up towards the park. There is a huge park that is about half the size of the city, I’d guess. We didn’t walk around it much, but it was a nice vantage point to see the statues, the Dumo, and the streets below. We walked past a few more churches and squares back en route to the car. I think, out of all of the places I visited on this trip, I would pick to go back to Arezzo as one of the highest ranked on my list. It was refreshing to not have the same amount of tourists around. I quite enjoyed it. It had a great vibe!

Back at home we worked on packing. Scary thought. I never check luggage. Ever. But mom and dad are off to go cycling for another week and don’t need their cruise clothes or anything from this week. And, let’s be honest, I bought too many sweaters and other clothes on this trip. It would have been a challenge to get them all in my backpack successfully. So it works really well to have one suitcase to check for me on the way home. But man alive, I hope it makes it back!

It was another great trip. I really do like these one week holidays. It is a nice little break to disconnect and regroup. And it is great that the Monday I get home I have Thanksgiving to look forward to!

Until next time!

-Allison

Italy 2016 – Day 7

Italy, Travel

Friday, October 7, 2016 – Perugia

We decided to drive back towards Assisi and stop in the city of Perugia (sounds like Perucha) today. It wasn’t a bad drive now that we know all the twist and turns of the roads to get there the quickest.

Over the last two nights, we watched the new documentary about Amanda Knox who was accused of killing the British student in Perugia back in 2007. So, now that we saw that, I guess it made sense to go and see the city!? We tried to see the house but we couldn’t find it. Seems kind of creepy though.dsc_8209

We also walked through the underground city. When a powerful pope back in the day ruled people did not like the power and there was an uprising. To quell the uprising, he destroyed a bunch of the city! (Seems a bit dramatic, but anyway) Beacause there was all this new space, there was a fort built. But the locals never liked the Fort because it was a symbol of outside control and power. So, when there was a change in power, the Fort was removed piece by piece. In doing so, they discovered the ancient city that was under the Fort. Now, there are escalators and little hallways and rooms going through the underground that you can explore for free. It was really cool to go through.

dsc_8149After our cultural visit, we went to La Perugina chocolate factory. It is one of the largest chocolate factories (now owned by Nestle) in Europe and all of La Perugina chocolates are only made in this location. In fact, Chocolate is so important to this city (Perugia) that they have a HUGE annual chocolate festival, which starts next week. I’m sad that I am going to miss it.

The tour was great. It was 9E, but I am pretty sure we each ate and took home more than that in chocolate in the sample room. There was an English tour and we were with a bunch of university students from the U.S. that are studying here for the semester. We learned about the history and the four main people who started making candy coated almonds back in in the late 1800s and then went to making chocolates, the most famous being the Baci (which means kiss). It is different from the Hershey’s Kiss in that it is hazelnut paste with a whole nut on top coated with a special chocolate.

After learning about the history, we were able to walk on an enclosed catwalk around the entire factory and see the famous Baci being made as well as these huge chocolate eggs with a big surprise toy inside. It was all very automatic but the toys for the eggs are still placed inside manually. It really was like watching Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory with the thousands and thousands of chocolates being produced every minute. Kind of crazy to think the world actually eats that much chocolate, actually. It was a great tour, however and I am glad we went.

When we got home, we put on our nice and warm clothes and walked down to a nice restaurant where we had a reservation for dinner at 7pm. It was called La Bottega Del Nobile.20161007_112736_1477783796912 It was a wonderful dinner and a great experience. The servers were fun and engaging and the venue was warm. It was down under ground in a big cave. It was well lit and had great music playing – and it was warm! We had a starter board with meat, pate, and cheese. It was pretty much a whole meal. And then we had some great local Vino Nobile wine that is made here in the area. And then we had this amazing ravioli stuffed with venison. It was amazing. And the server was so funny with excellent English, which made it all the more fun. Dad had some Grappa at the end of the meal and it was served in this huge (10 foot or taller) glass tube that they poured into a little glass at the table like they were shooting with a pool cue. 20161007_113217_1477783796532Mom and I had some Muscato in these cute little glasses, of which we ended up buying some! Overall, it was a fantastic dinner and so much fun.

We are all now getting over colds, so there isn’t much evening excitement going on. Sleep!

Later

-Allison.

Italy 2016 – Day 6

Italy, Travel

Thursday, October 6, 2016 – Montefollonico

It wasn’t the best weather when we woke up this morning. It was okay though because we had decided earlier to hang around town a bit anyway. We had bought local plums when we were in Assisi, so I had a couple of those as well as some great cheese for breakfast. It is wonderful to eat such fresh food here.

When we had our few cups of tea and warmed up a bit, we put on our rain coats and scarves and headed out. Mom was feeling a lot better, so we were able to hit up a few more stores along the way downhill to the market. And it really is downhill. Our place is on the top of the hill town and to get to the Main Street that has all the shops and restaurants we need a solid walk down the hill. I keep saying how fit I would be if I lived here! It would be impressive, I’m sure. (And that’s probably why there aren’t any gyms here….people get their work out in by walking!)dsc_8048

We visited a nice leather store where mom bought a belt and I bought a colourful wallet. We hit a few other shops but didn’t Really do any damage. There are some nice stores here though. The market was our main goal. It is almost out of what I consider the town limits to be. It is next to the bus station at the very bottom of the other side of the hill on which the town is located. It was a much smaller market than the one in Siena. Much more manageable. All of us made some great, affordable purchases. I bought a couple of sweaters, mom bought a scarf, dad some socks, and we even bought some toilet paper for the flat we’re in! It was a great little market with enough to space to try things on and not feel pressured.

After our lovely market experience, we decided to have lunch out in order to warm up. It was so cold out today. I am wearing all of my layers that I brought with me. But we found this cool restaurant that is attached to a sausage and wine shop and it was nice and toasty inside. Mom and I split this amazing chicken, pear, and cheese dish. It was to die for. And it came with this cute little salad that looked like mini spinach leaves. It was all so good. And of course, we had a local bottle of wine with lunch…so with our heavy legs, we slowly climbed the hill back to our house so we could all have a nice nap!dsc_7964

Most stores are closed from 1pm to 3 or 4 pm. So, it is a good time to nap around this time. We then decided to drive to see Pienza, a cute little town only about 20 minutes away. It had easy parking and great views, but it was really touristy. I had thought it may be less touristy than Montepulciano, but it was definitely more. It was nice to not have to walk up so many hills, as it was located on the top of a flat hill instead of our hilly one! But I was disappointed with all of the English signs and instructions and people walking around. It definitely takes away some of the authenticity of on Italian village when there isn’t any Italian!

On the way home, we stopped at the little hill town that we can see from our balcony, called Montefollonico. It was cute, and green, and so well kept. There were very few stores, and we didn’t see any people really. The Church was from the 1200s, so it has been around a long time! I will need to find out more info about this little town, because I think it is my favourite one to date.

Mom and I made bruschetta with a tonne of fresh tomatoes and about 4 cloves of garlic. I am now getting this lovely cold that my parents have passed along to me, so I need to kill it ASAP!

Later,

-Allison

Italy 2016 – Day 5

Italy, Travel

October 5, 2016 – Siena

We woke up to another beautifully sunny day and hopped in the car en route to Siena. It was only just over an hour to get there, so it wasn’t all that far. The windy roads to get out of Montepulciano take a while and I feel like my life is always on the line as they are so narrow. It is amazing that cars can pass each other in opposite directions speeding by on these small roads, really!

We had trouble figuring out how to get into Siena. Seems like a trend. The problem is that most of these towns are up on a hill and there is definitely no parking within the fort walls, so it makes it a bit challenging! We finally did find the city walls and then were able to park not far down the hill.

The Fort walls are so thick. It was probably one of the widest gates I have seen. Walking through the first set of gates there was a large courtyard which then lead to the second set of gates. I don’t see how anyone was getting through there back in the era of conquests!

We had definitely parked on the opposite side of the city where we really needed to be. We were looking for the Francisco parking (which we found after the second roundabout on our way out of the city towards Florence), because I had learned that this parking lot was really close to the Wednesday market. We wanted to be in Siena on Wednesday to hit up this huge market. After walking along, exploring the city a bit on the way, and asking a few people, we finally did find the market in la Fortezza. It was a huge market. Mostly clothes and a few household items. It was really interesting. But mom was not really feeling great at all and was not up for a big shopping experience. It was fun to look around though.

20161005_051052_1477783892223  When we made it out of the Fort, we went to the main square called Il Campo. It is said to be the most beautiful square in Italy and I think I agree. It is shaped like a shell with the outer edge all curved and lined with buildings and restaurants and on the square edge sits the town hall (and museum) with a huge clock tower. It slopes down towards the town hall so instead of there being a bunch of stairs, it is a gentle brick and marble hill. We ate lunch in the square (cost a fortune, but the people watching was awesome) and then went and sat in the sun on the plaza. It was beautiful.

20161005_055635_1477783891968 After, we went back up to see the Dumo. It is a huge church that is all in pink, green, and white marble. It was built when Siena was at its height of strength to show its power. It is huge and absolutely stunning. I took a million pictures. We decided not to go inside, but you could easily spend hours and hours touring around the inside looking at all the tile work, paintings, and museum.

Before driving home, we went a bit further North to go to a small castle town called Monteriggiomi. It was worth the extra 15 minute drive. It is a two-street cute little town completely inside of stone walls. There was a nice little ice cream shop, a few residences, and a few handcraft stores. Not much, really, but it was nice in comparison to the really busy touristy towns we have visited over the last couple of days. (And we had a gelato and it was really good and a great price, too.)

Pigeons drinking water out of a fountain.

Pigeons drinking water out of a fountain.

We decided to make dinner last night. It was wonderful because we basically made a tomato salad with basel and cheese and then cooked some pasta with olive oil and grated cheese on top. Yum.

I need to go to bed because I am still not sick….need to keep it that way!

Later,

-Allison

Italy 2016 – Day 4

Italy, Travel

Tuesday, Oct 4, 2016 – Assisi

Today we decided to hop in the car and head off to Assisi via Perugia. There was a bit of road navigating as a couple of the exits to the secondary highway were closed for maintenance, but it was basically just an amazing tour of beautiful vineyards, houses, and fields. In fact, as we were going down one hill, we saw this group of people harvesting grapes into buckets by hand. Mom demanded a stop so we could get a picture. I thought they would be annoyed, but they weren’t at all – some of the younger guys were posing and having fun with us as we took a few pictures. It was great.dsc_8032

As we approached Perugia, we decided we shouldn’t stop, but rather continue straight on to Assisi as it tends to be a bit of a tourist destination and can get really busy.

Thank goodness we did. We arrived around 10am and it was jam packed. In fact, we arrived on pretty much the busiest day of the entire year – it is a day to celebrate Saint Francis of Assisi. So, yep, it was crazy busy. We did manage to find parking underground right at the base of town, which was awesome. It is another hill town. It seems like most of the old towns around here started up on the hill. The newer parts of town have flowed down into the flatter areas and outside of the old city walls now. But the really interesting parts are all up hill! Good thing my knee is doing better, is all I can say. I wouldn’t want to be doing all this on crutches!

We waked up through the gates and were immediately hit by the amazing buildings joining together with residences on top of little shops and restaurants. One of the first little bakeries we saw, we stopped in so we could get a little breakfast. Mom and I shared a special bun that Saint Francis loved. It is basically the local speciality. It was great. Kind of like a hot crossed bun without the cross, really. As dad finished his huge coffee, walked up the street a bit and sampled a bit of local cheese and sausage in a wine store. Gotta love the free samples.

Together, we climbed up the hill to the first church and plaza. There were media trucks, armed guards, and swarms of people everywhere. There was going to be some kind of speech to honour the special day. After a quick visit into the church (where there was a service happening) we decided to get out of the craziness and head up the hill. Along the way, we stopped into a few jewelry and scarf stores. There is really good shopping here – much to Dad’s dismay, I’m sure. I ended up buying this beautiful pendant. Mom kind of had to convince me, but it really is beautiful.dsc_8042

We walked up, past another set of gates and the streets gradually narrowed and narrowed as we approached another church and piazza. Lots of winding walkways and uneven cobblestone streets. We headed up some narrow stairs to reach the old castle. It was the Castle Maggiore and had wonderful views of the entire place….but would be 9 Euros each to enter and tour around, so Dad decided not to bother. They did have washrooms at the top (for free), which was an extra bonus.

Heading back down, we visited a few more shops and stopped in to get some gelato and sit in the sun on the steps of one of the churches. Because this is a bit of a pilgrimage town, there are men and women in their robes everywhere. I am slightly obsessed with nuns, and I think I should have reached my fill of sightings after today!

We spent the entire day in this town and now did not have any time or energy to visit Perugia on the way home. We decided just to head back so that we could have a nice happy hour before going out to dinner in Montepulciano. I also had some clothes on hold in one of the stores in town that I needed to buy before dinner!

Heading into the restaurant just before 7:30pm, we were so lucky. We got a spot without a reservation. We didn’t realize it would be so popular! They were turning people away at the door all evening. Good thing to note that we need reservations for other nights we plan to eat out! The food was amazing. Wine was cheap. Water was

Making the local Picci pasta!

Making the local Pici pasta!

not cheap. I had amazing ravioli and mom and dad both had different versions of the local, handmade pasta called Pici (pronounced peachy). It was a great meal.

 

Mom and dad both have bad colds. I really hope I make it through this week unscathed. Off to bed now in attempt to make that happen!

Night!

-Allison

Italy 2016 – Day 3

Italy, Travel

Monday, October 3 – Montepulciano

Well, here I am in Montepulciano, so clearly my parents made their flight and picked me up at the hostel last night. We had a bit of a late drive as it was a solid 2 hours to get from Rome to our little town where we will spend the next week. It was nice though as there was no traffic out at all, except for a few big trucks.

The place we are staying is great. It is one of two flats in this building overlooking the valley. It is pretty much the perfect Tuscan view. Patchwork fields with little terra-cotta houses and big, tall cypress trees. It is great. I can see why people fall in love with this scenery. It is breathtaking, for sure. It will be great to have lunches and happy hours sitting on the deck enjoying the view.

Today was spent walking up and down the hills in our little town. And I do mean up and down. It isn’t built on top of a hill. It is built on either side of the hill with the church and small piazza grande on the tip top. From our place we can walk up to the square or down to the cemetery. So, pretty much, it is all up hill!

20161006_074252_1477783844522  We visited the copper man. He makes beautiful, handcrafted copper. Beautiful stuff, but way out of my price range! The Main Street is not a pedestrian street, so we were always moving over to make room for the cars and busses that seemed to pass with surprising regularity. It is really cute and people friendly though. There are lots of stores. Leather stores, clothing stores, tourist trap stores, and lots of wine shops.

I am super impressed with the number of wine tastings we completed today alone! Every store is immensely generous with samples. And most of the wine places also sell the local Picorino cheese as well as sausages and had out these samples frequently too. Not like the small wine tastings in the Okanagan that you have to pay for, that’s for sure. I think I barely made it back up our hill to get back to our house after all the wine tastings! Pretty fun.

20161005_104716_1477783844662  We had to get back to our place for 6pm because mom and dad had a Skype conference call they needed to attend. It does get dark here pretty fast, so I didn’t feel like I was missing too much though. They are on the phone now while I sit on the deck in the sun having some local wine. Life’s tough, eh!? 🙂

I could totally live in a little place like this. I love Europe!

Later,

-Allison