ITALIA 2005

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored!

100_2349Three Weeks, Two Cars And One Unforgettable Time

Even a rental car fatality (R.I.P. Mr. Fiat) could not keep us from enjoying a wonderful 22 days visiting the stunning hill towns of Umbria and Tuscany (including an agriturismo with seven pools in Chianti) before hitting the “Big Three,” Florence, Venice and Rome.  There really is no place like Italia!


Chapter One – An Early Setback On Our Way To Italy

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino:  2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter One – An Early Setback On Our Way To Italy Days One and Two – Are We There Yet, Which Way To First Class and Excuse Me, Is This The Airport Sauna? Although we managed to trash one rental car (a precautionary…and cautionary… tale of stupidity from the first part of our trip) in addition to seriously impairing dozens of brain cells along the way during our 22-day Italian journey, we successfully returned from another wonderful trip to Europe.  No Italian animals, pedestrians, priests or nuns were injured during the making of this trip report (frightened, yes; harmed, no), which will describe our travels to the hill towns of Umbria … Read more…

Chapter Two – Somehow We Make It To Spello

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Two – Somehow We Make It To Spello Day Three – Things Go Better With Spello, Reversal Of Misfortune and I Didn’t Know You Could Speak Yiddish! Tracy and I reveled after a good night’s rest (well, at least as much as two people can revel at 8 a.m.), and it was time for me to walk halfway through the Hilton/Airport sauna tunnel to pick up the rental car.  I thought about wearing my swimming trunks and a towel to stay cool, but decided against it for fear of causing an international incident. The Hertz line was a mile long, but I quickly whipped through the Europcar line and walked … Read more…

Chapter Three – Exploring Umbria

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Three – Exploring Umbria Day Four – Does White Wine Go With Mass, What Town Is This, Of All The Gallstones, Where’s Prince Charles and The Spello Restaurant Dash Downstairs in the breakfast room, we were going over my detailed itinerary I prepare before every trip (yes, I am a crazy planner).  After breakfast (and after spilling coffee on my blue shirt) at the Palazzo Bocci, we were off on the road to Spoleto (the forgotten Hope-Crosby movie). On the way, we stopped to take pictures of a cute hill town, which we thought (by the signage nearby) was Foligno (one of many foreshadowing stories on this trip). The girl … Read more…

Chapter Four – Assisi, Perugia and a Short Stop In Trevi

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Four – Assisi, Perugia and a Short Stop in Trevi Day Five – Don’t Be Assisi, Where’s Tom, It’s All Uphill From Here, The 47-Minute Perugian Tour, The Elusive Stairs and Well, It Looked Like A Parking Lot To Me We had another delightful Palazzo Bocci breakfast, and then the four intrepid travelers hopped in our car for the quick 15-minute drive to Assisi.  We parked in the upper lot in a covered parking area, and started walking toward the Basilica di San Francesco. We obviously took the route less traveled, because we passed a number of residences and there were no other tourists in sight.                          I soon had … Read more…

Chapter Five – Gubbio, The Bucket Of Bolts & “…It’s Bad”

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Five – Gubbio, The Bucket Of Bolts & “…It’s Bad” Day Six: The Bucket Of Bolts, The Gubbio Lunatic, Death Of A Rental Car and The Tow Truck Joy Ride Looking back, the day did have an ominous beginning.   I awoke about 3 a.m. to a thundering rain.   That wouldn’t have been bad if I hadn’t left my shoes out on the patio to air out after finding I had stepped in some dog pooh the day before.  I dumped out the water and brought the shoes in to dry. Then, at breakfast, Tracy and I saw that Kim and Mary were not feeling well. Mary had been under … Read more…

Chapter Six – “Tuscan Tom’s Hill Town Tour” Begins

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Six: “Tuscan Tom’s Hill Town Tour” Begins Day Seven – Breakfast Feast, Healing Bath, Pecorino Is My Life, Lunch With A Tuscan View, Your Nap Is Over And A Trek To A Beckoning Hill Town Yesterday’s traumatic adventure was now in the rear view mirror, so, undaunted, we looked forward to new travels, hoping they would not include anything having to do with a gas tank. Kim and Mary had also recovered nicely, and the four of us had a great breakfast at the Palazzo del Capitano. We were all very pleased with our rooms. Tracy and I were in the Leone (I’m a Leo), while Kim and Mary were … Read more…

Chapter Seven – Visiting Five Relatively Unknown Hill Towns

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Seven – Visiting Five Relatively Unknown Hill Towns Day Eight – Why Didn’t You Tell Me The Church Was Closed, Will That Rock Fall On Us, Which Way Are You Going, Tufa Time, Towns Built Into Rocks, Cheap Wine And The Dinner That Never Ended I feel it’s safe to say that most people who visit Italy do not usually include any (or at least all) of the five towns we traveled to on this day.  First, we filled up on the Palazzo del Capitano breakfast (did I tell you much we loved this hotel), because we had a big day of driving ahead of us, and I am a … Read more…

Chapter Eight – Montalcino & Abbey Sant ‘Antimo

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: Italia 2005 Chapter Eight – Montalcino & Abbey Sant ‘Antimo Day Nine – Please Don’t Drive Off That Cliff, Brunello Time, Walk Around The Fortress, Abbey Lane, A Stroll Through San Quirico and A Nightcap Toasting Palazzo del Capitano   Following yesterday’s big driving day, I promised my tour group we would have an easier day (mutiny is an ugly thing).  We had another nice sleep in our great room. After breakfast, we took the short drive to Montalcino, home of Brunello; Italy’s “Big Red” vino, but not without putting my passengers in peril…again! It had been hours since I had made a driving error, so I thought I’d regale the passengers with another … Read more…

Chapter Nine – Siena, Here We Come!

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Nine – Siena, Here we Come! Day Ten – That’s The Ticket, An Oasis In The Forest, The Fabulous Library, I Love A Parade, A Case Of Road Rage (Italian Style) And A Picturesque Setting For Vino As the others packed and relaxed a little more while Mary downed one last coffee, I walked to where I had parked the rental car so I could drive back to the hotel and help load us up. As I approached the car, I wondered, “What’s that on the window (even though I instinctively knew what it was)?” Yep, it was a parking ticket for parking in a “residential only” parking area. In … Read more…

Chapter Ten – Getting High In Siena

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Ten – Getting High In Siena Day Eleven – Amazing Find In The Hills Of Chianti, Saint Dead A Head, The Big Climb And Cane y Gatto Sleeping with the windows open offers one the opportunity to savor the sensuous smells of the Tuscan countryside, unless one is greeted in the morning with wafts of cigarette smoke. The New Yorkers were up early, and to their credit they were quiet. On the downside, they were smoking like a chimney under our window. Yes, lung cancer was in the air (and our room). “It won’t be lung now,” I muttered to Tracy. The breakfast at the Piccolo Oliveta was fine (good … Read more…

Chapter Eleven – “That’s Lamole!”

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Eleven – “That’s Lamole!” Day Twelve – A Close Call, Lunch For The Ages, The Great Danes, The “Undiscovered” Hill Town And Catching Some Late Afternoon Rays We said goodbye to Alexandra at Piccolo Oliveta. Tracy had started calling her “my new wife” since she believed I was trying to flirt with her (a shocking assumption). After receiving some parting gifts (olive oil) and flirting with her more (oops), we hit the road and bid goodbye toSiena. From this point on, if (I guess that should be “when”) Tracy became annoyed with me, she’d say, “Well, maybe your new wife will like that.  As we rounded a blind corner getting … Read more…

Chapter Twelve – Relaxing In The Vineyards

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Twelve – Relaxing In The Vineyards Lucky Day Thirteen – Pooling Our Resources, Why Do Men Have Nipples, The Crown Of Italy And Wearing Costumes In Chianti We all enjoyed a cappuccino outdoors overlooking the beautiful vineyards and swimming complex surrounding the Il Mulino. It was like we had a posh resort all to ourselves. Tuscan Tom’s Tours was in full relax mode before hitting the “Big Three”, so after breakfast we headed out by the pool for some reading and sun time. While the others concentrated on convoluted novels and heady books, I delved into my new book, “Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You’d Only Ask … Read more…

Chapter Thirteen – Greve & On To Florence

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Thirteen – Greve & On To Florence Day Fourteen – Meat Me In Greve, An Interesting Wine Break, Dangerous Drive Into Firenze, We Don’t Want The Irish And The Hostess From Hell Break’s over!  We were on the road to Firenze, but not before a slight detour in Greve in Chianti. Greve is a cute little place located right on The Karen Valentine Highway. After parking, we made the fast excursion around the Piazza Matteotti, Greve’s main piazza. There is a statue on the piazza of Greve’s favorite son, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who in 1524 was the first European to sight New York Bay (even though Henry Hudson gets most … Read more…

Chapter Fourteen – Daytrip To Pisa

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Fourteen – Day Trip To Pisa Day Fifteen – Lean To The Left Lean To The Right, Are You Talking To Me, The Chicken Sandwich Shutout, People Falling To Their Deaths And A Boaring Dinner This was the morning that I had pre-reserved an 11:40 a.m. climbing of The Leaning Tower of Pisa. The plan was for the four of us to take the 8:27 train from Florence that got in to Pisa at 9:30. At 7 a.m., I realized that there were only going to be three of us, since Tracy had the Mary/Alexandra/Lamole waitress cough (though not nearly as bad). Tracy decided to relax for part of the … Read more…

Chapter Fifteen – Our Day & Night In Fantastic Firenze

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Fifteen – Our Day & Night In Fantastic Firenze Day Sixteen – Galileo Gives Kim And Mary The Finger, A Museum Off The Beaten Path, Finding The Last Elusive Chicken Sandwich, Racing For The Sunset, A Fantastic Dinner And Introducing Dan And Linda Sharing Tragic (But Funny) Tales Of A Sunken Camera Plus The Most Expensive Fish In The World We all woke up late, and, the two couples went our separate ways to a couple of the lesser-known Florence attractions. Kim and Mary decided they wanted to see the Museo di Storia del Scienza. The one reason I almost tagged along was to see one of the museum’s more … Read more…

Chapter Sixteen – Return To Venezia

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Sixteen – Return To Venezia Day Seventeen – Sunny Venezia, Up On The Roof, The Four Seasons Without Frankie Valli and Still Not Wild About Harry’s As he had promised, Dan greeted us at breakfast, and we said goodbye to the Tourist House Ghiberti and Firenze. Linda, true to her word, was sleeping like a log. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the hotel and highly recommend it for price, location and hospitality (photos from THG website). Our train arrived in Venice a little before noon, and we were very cognizant of any restaurant near the train station touting turbot, since $200 for a piece of fish is a tad … Read more…

Chapter Seventeen – A Rainy Day In Venice

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Seventeen – A Rainy Day In Venice Day Eighteen – Palazzo Perfecto, Spectacular Scuola, The Canal Jesters, What’s That In My Espresso and A Singing Gondolier That Doesn’t Include A Gondola Or A Guy Singing We woke up to a cloudy Sunday morning, and after breakfast at La Calcina (I usually eat breakfast five times a year at home…this was my 16th consecutive breakfast on this trip), Tracy and I hopped on the Vaporetto for the Ca Rezzonico, an old palazzo. We had purchased a Vaporetto pass when we first arrived in Venice. This  turned out to be a good deal, so we got on for the short trip. The … Read more…

Chapter Eighteen – Doesn’t Everyone Need A Cat Puppet?

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Eighteen – Doesn’t Everyone Need A Cat Puppet? Day Nineteen – Men Of Accademia, The Tiny Ship Was Tossed, Singing In The Rain, the Cat Puppet and Whose Pen Leaked On The Spaghetti? Through the years, Kim and I have had many a “Boys night out;” sporting events, bars, gambling and clubs that provide, ahem, adult entertainment. However, we had never had a “Boys morning out.” Today was going to be that day.  But instead of clubbing, we were going to a museum. Yes, we are now officially old. The previous afternoon we had spotted a long line at Galleria dell’ Accademia, which we had wanted to see. “I wonder … Read more…

Chapter Nineten – Rome Is Where The Heart Is

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Nineteen – Rome Is Where The Heart Is Day Twenty – Strangers On A Train, My Lovely Sherpa, May I Butt In, “Sorry, But The Taxi Is Broken,” The Glorious Galleria, Fake Terrorist Attack and Not The Nina Or The Pinta But The… When the phone rang a little after 4:30 a.m., I turned on the light and gazed at my wife, who even though she had her eyes closed, was giving me the look. “Why did you book such an early train?” she asked. There are no good answers at 4:30 a.m. The four of us showered (not all together, this is a family report after all), and we … Read more…

Chapter Twenty – Exploring Rome’s History

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Twenty – Exploring Rome’s History Day Twenty One – Tuscan Tom’s Tours Hits A Snag, Is Nero Near, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Through The Forum, Short Cut, The First Dead Pope (and Nearly A Dead Husband), The Mystery Instrument and A Mime Is A Terrible Thing To Waste As stated earlier in this report, I don’t like being late, so it was with trepidation that I asked the hotel for a taxi pick up about 50 minutes before our scheduled Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House) tour.  I don’t like fiddling around with being late. I had pre-reserved the tickets and had my print-out to take to the … Read more…

Chapter Twenty-One – Scavi Tour & Our Last Day In Rome

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored! Chapter Twenty-One – Scavi Tour & Our Last Day In Rome Day Twenty-Two – Under And Above St. Peter’s, Shortcut To A Dead Pope, Linda Buys A Ristorante, The Incredible Garlic Bread And The Last Supper (Roman Style) In an effort to not recreate the trials and tribulations of the day before, the crew was ready to roll by 8 a.m., and we all walked to St. Peters (no taxis today, thank you).  Before leaving the room, Tracy said, “Do you have the printout for our tour under St. Peters?”

 “Of course,” I replied (that statement has a familiar ring, huh?).   As we departed the room, Tracy asked again.  I reached … Read more…