Saturday, 14 August 2010

Day 136

Day 136.Fri 13th August.

It’s a dryish morning and were off to Rovereto for MART. Italy’s largest modern art museum. (Yes we do love our art)
Its has a famous collection of Italian Futurist and American pop art of the 21c. None of which was on show when we were there. There was an enjoyable show of American painting from 1850 to the 1960s and some Italian stuff we could live without. A surprisingly great restaurant with fantastic food and charming staff saved the day. Our planned trip up a cable car and mountain walks with Molls was cancelled because it’s pissing down AGAIN. Where have all the blue skies and fluffy clouds gone. It was like this when we arrived in the spring.
Our Internet access only covers Italy and as were heading for Innsbruck tomorrow (yes Franz a whole night in Austria) this will be the last blog for while. We're hot footing it though Europe to Calais and the labyrinthine pet passport procedures. Molls has to be flea’d, wormed and certified not less than 24 and not more than 48 hours before she can return to the UK.
Home on the 20th August so Ta Ta for now. Andy clears his wardrobe for the journey home.

Day 135. Thurs 12th August.

Through the night Molls suddenly leaps onto the bed and after much huffing, puffing and grunting, snuggles down between us. Fully awake we hear the thunder too.
She hates it. It rumbles all though the night and dawn breaks wet and miserable. It rains all day but fortunately we stocked up with books in Sienna and DVDs on our last supermarket trip.We watch “Avatar” and “Julie and Julia” in Italian with English subtitles in a vain attempt to improve out deteriorating language skills. We can manage to ask for most things in restaurants and shops but if anyone asks us a question were stumped. It’s hopeless. Were hopeless. Andy has a better understanding of the structure of the language but now his spoken Italian is so bad no one even knows what language he’s talking. Fortunately the English tradition of point and grunt, gets you a surprisingly long way.

Day 134

Day 134.Wed 11th August.

A good early get away for the 250 K drive into the Alps and our next destination Trento. The forest clad mountains either side of the Adige valley make for a stunning drive. We love Italian service stations, great coffee; freshly squeezed orange juice and cornetti (Croissant) all served with lightning speed and €4.00 the lot.
Camping San Cristoforo is a good site, by lake Caldonazzo (no dogs in the lake but that don’t stop our girl). As expected the place is packed, most Italians holiday in the first two weeks of August. Children swarm like midges but it’s only for a couple of nights. Stretching our legs on a lakeside walk Molls makes friends with a Dutch family who play with her till it gets dark.
We can’t work out the Dutch at all. More of them travel than any other nationality and they have been both the most and least friendly campers we have met.

Day 132/133

Day 132. Mon 9th August.
Day 133.Tues 10th August.

We have two great days wandering the streets of Bologna. Miles of beautiful shaded arcades. Shops selling handmade shirts and suits, bespoke shoemakers and food shops to die for. We could have spent a fortune but confined ourselves to window-shopping. Make no mistake, when our premium bonds come up, were heading right back here.
A handsome medieval centre with two leaning towers to rival Pisa (in degree of lean at least)
Street after street of mouth-watering food shops, jam-packed with hams, cheeses and fat mortadella (spam with PR) and each with their own speciality pasta, foodie heaven. We hunt out A F Tamburini, a traditional delicatessen, famed for its handmade tortellini and tagliatelle. In its self-service café we try both, with Bolognaise sauce (what else),(two days running) with plates of roasted onions and artichokes and vegetables in batter. Its eccentric, authentic, delicious and cheap as chips. The best ice cream on the way home but forgot to note the name of the place. If your there, its beneath the two towers and the very best, so far!.
The local council is left wing, resulting in one of the most progressive areas in Italy. It was the fist to include gay couples on council hosing registers. Our enlightened and ever compassionate Pope has declared the city Sodom and Gomorra and despite having the highest income per capita in Italy has declared it mad, bad and dangerous.

Day 131

Day 131.Sun 8th August.

A 200 k trip over the mountains and the car copes pretty well. We only have the heater on full once. Andy’s theories about why we are overheating are growing exponentially.

Lovely site in Bologna, not busy, Sienna was heaving when we left. Flat and green with lots of deep shade, great modern loos, showers and a new pool,
But, (there has to be a but)

we are attacked by a biblical plague of mozzies whenever we leave the wang. Morning and night they are lying in wait to drain the last drop of blood from our veins. Witness the cration of a new snack sensation. A whatsit in a hulahoop dipped in riccotta.
Ladies and gentlement I give you The Cheesy Knob.

Day 130

Day 130.Sat 7th August
For some time now we feel like were treading water and have well and truly DONE Italy, for the time being at least.
Disappointingly none of our friend’s visits have materialised (what does that say)!
Our house is empty the last two weeks of August. Andy is very homesick and were brim full of ideas for new work so decide to point our noses in the direction of home, via Bologna and the mountains.
Spend the morning in the pool and the afternoon decamping. Sauron and his mum are bereft, but we have been here three weeks and its time to move on.

Day 129

Day 129. Fri 6th August.

After a day at home the wang is a filthy dump. Spent the a.m. cleaning and polishing and rewarded ourselves with lunch in Sienna. I was drawn by a horribly expensive €250.00 pair of leather trainers and after a little Chianti at lunch resolved to treat myself and dam the expense.

Fate intervened and the shop was closed for the whole of August for holidays.
Phew, close shave. (I hate trainers anyway).

Day 128

Day 128.Thurs 5th August.
Weight loss secrets revealed.

Dawn broke dark and gloomy but blissfully cool.
A day in the wang protecting Molls from the thunder and lightning (she is such a chicken) watching films and sustaining our weary and weakened bodies with trays of cakes from the local pastillieri. Camping in tents is miserable in the rain and for once I was almost glad of the wang! If no one sees you eat em.
You aint ever had em!

Day 127.

Day 127.Wed 4th August.
La Foce.

Another much anticipated garden. This one is very precious about visitors. You can only visit on Wednesday afternoons and only on hourly guided tours, god knows what damage hordes rowdy garden visitors would do, let in on their own?????.
Designed by English architect Cecil Pinsent in the 20s and 30s it is a real treasure. Set in an amazing and unique environment it was home to writer Iris Origo for may years. Our brief and edited tour of the garden was over all too soon but what a special place this is.


Day126.Tues 3rd August

This is, by long mile, Mollies favourite site. She spends happy hours stretched out under the wang on the cool compacted Tuscan mud and has managed to beguile the local restaurant manager. Pauline is a charming Polish girl with a rather scary dog, appropriately named Sauron. He is a sweet boy but unresponsive and moody. On their daily walks past the wang our girl gets a special treat, pork loin, veal or Lamb and now Molly happily trots off on extra walkies with them for hours. Pualine is totally smitten. Molls is so responsive and affectionate she makes Sauron look a bit of a lump. Still, his mummy loves him (remind you of anyone)?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Day125. Mon 2nd August.
Il Gigli
I can’t remember who recommended this slice of parochial mediocrity as a shopping destination, but they need slapping. The best thing was a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Wash my mouth with soap but even I get sick of eating Italian all the time. More great gelati (I could write a book) and home to our girl.
The outside should have put us off.

Day 124

Day 124. Sun 1st August.
San Gimignano

San Gimignano with its profusion of bonkers medieval towers, (they were all the rage at the time) is today’s adventure. The Towers built by rival feuding families (see Romeo and Juliet) dominate the skyline like a miniture Italian Manhattan.
The most visited town in Italy we are soon drowning in tourists. Manage to find a great gallery with contemporary art and even wanted to buy a couple of painting. They are so out of our price league we comfort ourselves with lunch in a very smart restaurant. In the main square an award winning ice cream makers sells the best Pistachio gelati we have tasted(so far). The place is more of a theme park than a living town and the theme of this attractive Tuscan hill town is Oven Baked Italian Medieval. Drowning in Tourists.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Day 123

Day 123. Sat31st July.
Giardino di Boboli.

Back to the Pitti palace for the 111acre Boboli gardens, built in a former quarry and transformed into the back garden of the Medici’s. The highly annoying map that accompanies the €10 entry shows the layout but identifies none of the features. Just as well as few of them are accessible to the paying public. The beautiful horticultural garden can be tantalisingly glimpsed through locked gates. The glory of the garden, The Fountain of the Ocean by Giambologna (Based on the island retreat at Villa Adriana, remember day 100?) is not working and closed but gloriously visible from a distance. What the hell have we paid for here?

We have the good fortune to make our way to the top of the garden (quite a climb) and the Museo delle Porcellane. A helpful attendant shows us where all the features are and recommends the Giardino Bardini, out of the Boboli and 100m down a hill. An utterly charming garden with a fascinating outdoor exhibition of hauntingly enigmatic sculptures by Giuseppe Gavazzi.
We have tea in the loggia and drink in the panorama over the river Arno, across the terracotta roofs of Florence to the dark green cypress clad hills beyond, the impossibly blue skies and prettiest fluffy white white clouds.
Have a long chat to our beloved Hillary on the phone and wish she was here." I aint seen no egg."
Part of the Neptune Fountain.
Giardino Bardini.


Day 122. Fri30th July
Rain Rain Rain.

The skies thundered all day and Molly stuck to us like glue. The rain when it came was gentle and refreshing though the lightning flashes in the darkening skies promised much more. An ideal day to catch up with the bog and download our photos. Its so cool we need our duvet for the fist time in months. Is it me or is it cooler today.

Day 121

Day 121.Thursday29th July
Pitti Palace.

A hideous, enormous pile the colour of sun dried cowpats, the Pitti turns out to be hugely enjoyable. Were off to a bad start, south of the river (even Florentines call the area “over there”) it’s a long walk from the car park and after climbing the stairs in the unbearable heat I have an attack of heat stroke. Running wet and cold and clammy to the touch it takes me an hour to recover. The first few galleries are so so, so when we arrive in the larger main gallery we are unprepared for the glories that await. Raphael, Rubens, Titian, Canova and Caravaggio to name but a few. Hideously guilded, over decorated rooms but walls running with the most ravishing paintings.
The gallery on the next floor (the place is vast) has a chronological display of Italian art from the mid 18th C onwards and we are nourished by the discovery of brilliant artists we have
never heard of.
During our visit the sky's fill with clouds and its starts to rain, a gentle patter to start with. The wind builds and we are engulfed in the most spectacular rainstorm. Windows blow in, curtains fly and pictures rattle in their frames. Sleepy attendants transform before our eyes wrestling with widows, shutters and retrieving the curtains from the celings. The outer courtyard becomes a spontaneous Niagara and we wonder how on earth we will get back to the car.
Then, its over, and we trot to the car in gleaming clean streets breathing delicious cool air. Napoleon.

Day 120

Day 120.Wed 28th July
Giardino Villa Gamberaia.

Frustrated by our last attempt to visit a garden that no longer exists we are extra keen to find this one, located in the Chianti hills overlooking Florence. The approach is heartstoppingly tight. The two-way road is so narrow in places we have to flatten the wing mirrors, breathe in and pray we meet no oncoming vehicles. Up the walled side of the Villa round a tight right turn that takes three attempts to negotiate. Finally down an even tighter short decent through a narrow tunnel under the garden itself. After three k of exclaiming “surely not” we have arrived. Entry though an avenue of cypresses the terrace of the house affords exceptional panoramas of Florence. Famed for it’s small but perfectly formed proportioned we have the place to ourselves for an hour. Honestly it’s a bit past its best and though very peaceful, some areas are the wrong side of gentile decay. The rave reviews this garden receives are from people staying in the villa and its at it best viewed from the first floor. As a paying visitor €12.00(more than the Uffizi)this is not a view we are afforded. Head into Florence to our favourite eating hole (Bolvadino) for another scrumptious lunch.
Great views over Florence.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Day 119.

Day 119. Tuesday 27th July.

A slow start, heading for the supermarket, just about to drive out of the site when the gardeners truck reverses out of nowhere into our car. It had to happen sometime, you know what I think about Italian driving. Fortunately it was right in front of the reception so they are all apologies and the relevant insurance forms are duly signed. We manage to glue and tape the rear indicator array back together and with a couple of new bulbs were as good as new. Apart from the dent? Our pristine car heads the way of the boggler.

Day 118.

Day 118. Mon 26th July.
Relax, don’t do it.

More blazing sunshine, the local vino (chianti) is devine, thank god for the pool.


Day 117. Sun 25th July.

The Uffizi (the office) claims to be the worlds finest picture gallery and who are we to disagree.
Even early Sunday morning it’s a crush, marvellous though they may be, its like trying to view paintings in a rugby scrum. The Botticelli room should be one of the glories of the collection, its gloomy and heaving.
You have to bin your water in the entrance, and they provide no drinking water inside. The café charges and eye watering €4.50 for coffee that’s €1 anywhere else. This is the height of summer so unless you want to dehydrate you just have to pay. The toilets are a trek and inadequate.

It’s a bloody AWFULL place to visit. This place earns millions and they dont give a shit about the quality of the visitor experience.
The day is rescued by a great lunch in Baldovinos, down by the side of Santa Croce. Great food, generous portions and reasonable.

Ponte Vecchio.
Michelangelos David.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Day 116

Day 116. Sat 24th July

Earlier in the spring, on our first visit to a wet and windy Florence, we failed to find a good local campsite.
The drive from Sienna only takes an hour and parking is very easy in spite of what the tourist office tells you.
Mercifully flat (why is EVERYTHING in Italy UP a hill?) everything is easily reached walking. The 13thC Duomo with its famous Brunelleschi dome is a revolting pink and green marble on the outside and somewhat bleak and unadorned on the inside. We make a classic tourist boo boo and buy tickets for the Dome. This is not the Duomo as we thought (free entry) but a rather demanding claustrophobic climb into the Dome itself.
Determined not to waste my 8€ ticket, in spite of the heat, I make it to the gallery just underneath the painted dome but leave Andy to continue the steeper and narrower climb to the cupola at the top.
Overcome by heat exhaustion I sit in soaking sweat glugging water for an hour before I can get my arse into gear again. The 14thC Campanile by Pisano and the 7th C Baptistery are a delight.
Wander to the Piazza della Signora and enjoy the statues and Neptune fountain. The Uffizi is heaving and we are advised to pre book our tickets. At 10€ admission and 4€ booking fee it feels like a shake down but needs must. Lunch in a great little bakery come café, tiny portions (the rule seems to be the more you pay the less you get) but home made and gorgeous.
Home to our girl and a refreshing dip.


Day 115

Day 115.Fri 23rd July.
Tired Bunnies

After our excursions we spend another blazing hot day swimming and reading.
Followed by high enery Disco Cooking.
Think "Cars" by Gary Neuman.
Disco Kebabs and roasted vegetables.