Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back in Victoria

We are home and happy to be here 26 hours after we woke up in Florence this morning. We were sad to leave Italy but happy to see Jamie and my sister Jan.  Jamie has helped me to sort out how to post photos from the iPad--so here's the iconic tower of Pisa pic.

We refrained from doing the "propping up the tower" image although there were lots who succumbed.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Cinque Terra

Everyone told us we should go to the Cinque Terra, the five isolated villages that climb up the cliffs and are so lovely they've been made a UNESCO World Heritage site. And they are lovely--that is if you can see between the crows jamming the narrow streets and lining up for overpriced meals. It was even more crowded than Venice. Thousands of people are brought to these tiny villages every day by train and by boat. I think if we had been able to stay in one of the villages after the day trippers left we would have enjoyed it more, because it really is a special spot with the houses of all colours climbing up the volanic rocks rising out of the clear turquoise sea. We came back to the farmhouse near Lucca yesterday and it was nice to feel some open space and quiet again. The drives we've taken through the hills of Tuscany and Umbria are breathtaking. i will share some photos when we get home. Tomorrow we drive back to Florence and return the car in preparation for our flight home on Thursday. We have had a fabulous time in Italy. I love the food, the wine, the people, the land,the language, the history, the weather....not to mention the gelato and the granita! It's long been a dream of mine to visit Italy and the country is everyhing I hoped for, and more. If we ever manage to get back we would come in early May or late September to experience it without quite so many other tourists.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roman antiquities

We had a grand time exploring the antiquities in Rome, and what an incredible city it is! The first morning as we headed down to the ancient part of the city, walking along a traffic congested street, we found an entire city block of Roman columns and excavations. Apparently a house was demolished inthe 1920s and they discovered the tops of the columns--and so began yet another archeological excavation. Everywhere we looked in the city there were centuries-old buildings contrasted with the motorbikes and cars and people of this century. We explored the Roman forum early in the morning and braved the crowds at the colossal colesseum, then toured the Palatine hill, home to Roman villas including one where Nero grew up. Finally our walking tour ended at the lovely Pantheon, the only intact Roman temple left. The next day we took the train south to Ostia Antica, the site of ancient Rome's harbour. This was a Roman city for 600 years, home to up to 70,000 people until the River Tiber changed course and it was abandoned. We spent four hours walking through the peaceful ruins and imagining life in those days. It's amazing what has remained-- mosaic sidewalks showing what the merchants supplied, a bank of marble public toilets, and a cafe with serving bar and wall frescoes of the food that could be ordered. Now we are stayng at a 400 year old farmhouse B&B near Lucca, having taken the train to Pisa, rented a car and sloped by the leaning tower. This farm stay is lovely. We had an amazing homemade breakfast today with Caterina's homemade coffee cake and produce from the farm. These hardworking people make their own wine and olive oil as well as grow vegetables. It is a piece of heaven here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The farmhouse in Umbria

Today was our last morning at the stone farmhouse in the little canyon. It has been a beautiful place to stay, waking every morning to the sound of birdsong and the soft clannking of a sheep's bell in the distance. Every mornning we would sit by the edge of the stone wall sipping our tea and gazing across at the bell tower of Civitta di Bagnoregio acoss the valley. Then we'd head up the steep dirt road to the top of the canyon to begin another day of discovery. the last place we visited was Assisi, famed home of Saint Francis, and an incredibly beautiful town of soft peach-coloured stone, full of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world but still radiating peace. Today we took the train to Rome, where we are staying in a little bed and breakfast just off the Piazza Navona. We get up to our room in ancient elevator cage that maybe dates from the time of Caesar Augustus. Well, maybe not the elevator, but many other parts of this ancient, exuberant city. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the forum and cross the River Tiber get our bearings. We have just two days here so we can only scratch the surface before we head north to Tuscany on Wednesday.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just arrived in Venice

This morning we took the 9:30 train from Orvieto, transfered to a high speed train in Bologna and arrived in Venice mid-afternoon. The train tracks actually go out along a bridge for a couple of miles so it feels like the train is running on the top of the water. There must be at least 50,000 tourists here. The train was packed, but nothing like the station where we bought a three day vaporetto pass. This card will allow us to hop on and off the vaporettos, which are Venice's buses. We've had a great time in the past week, two days in busy Florence and five days at the farmhouse in Umbria. The farmhouse is halfway down a canyon with a steep and narrow road full of switchbacks. Our first night there it rained so hard that Fasco, the handyman who comes by every morning advised us not to try getting up the hill. It wasn't too much of a hardship though to stay in such a beautiful and rustic place with its view of magical Civitta across the canyon. I wish I could post photos as I've taken hundreds, but that will have to wait until our return. For the past three days we've been driving around visiting several different hill towns in the area, all with narrow stone streets and tall stone buildings. Yesterdayl we visited Villa Lanti, an amazing Renaissance garden that climbs up a hill from the little village of Bagnaia. And today--Venice. It's 6:40 pm and we've unpacked. All the bells of the city are ringing now so I think it may be time to head out and find a glass of wine and some dinner.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Made it to Florence

We made it after a long night flight over Greenland when it never got dark. It was wonderful to walk into the lobby of the hotel and see Kath sitting in a chair waiting for us. Our hotel is a converted convent on the Piazza deiAnnunciata just down from the famous doumo designed by Brunelleschi. It's n incredibly beautiful and vibrant place. I'm having big hassles with this ipad. Can't figure out how to post photos to the blog and can't figure out how to send email. I can receive them but can,t reply. So my plans of posting pictures here maay notcome to fruition until we get back. I will post updates here from time to time and if you want to contact me please post a comment to the most recent blog entry and then check back there for my response. I may or may not get this scrambled out. I'm not planning to spend my time in Italy worrying about computer glitches. There is so much to see and experience. I'll post photos on my return.