Hill Town with Bridge
We were on one hill top looking at the other. What a view.
Monday, June 2
Rome to the Italian Hill Towns
We started Monday morning in Rome. We felt like we had seen all that we could in the limited time we had in Rome (three nights). We know that we could return many times and still find plenty to see and enjoy.
My original plan had us visiting Orvieto and Siena as we drove north towards Pisa. So, as we left Rome, we programmed into the GPS the town Orvieto and headed out. Greta was cool with our plans and we proceeded out of town. I told Jackie how lucky we were to have her along with us.
We're making our way on the road to the town.
Have I introduced you to Greta? She’s our new German (BMW, remember) GPS ‘speaker’ in the car. She lives inside my 535i. Most of the time she is pleasant and says things like “Please turn left” or “prepare to bear right.” I was always happy to hear her calm instructions as we rushed along in maddening traffic. In some of today’s story you will get more in touch with Greta.
As we drove north, Jackie was reading the Rick Steve’s (“RS” to you) guide and said let’s try a smaller hill town that could be less crowded than Orvieto. So, we re-programmed Greta to take us to Civita di Bagnoregio. Greta was okay with this plan and directed us on our way (by the way, one advantage of this BMW GPS is the ability to reprogram while driving…my other GPS will not allow this).
So, we arrived as planned in Civita di Bagnoregio and soon discovered another amazing scene. There are really two ancient hill towns here. The first is Bagnoregio. It was once a suburb of Civita. But over the years the situation reversed. Now, you arrive in Bagnoregio and walk a long foot bridge over to Civita. We
This is outside the restaurant where we ate.
had light rain on this day but it did not ruin this trip. It was (what can I say since I have overused “amazing, stunning, fabulous, great and fantastic” on earlier descriptions) neat.
I hope the photos will capture this unusual scene. It turns out that during WWII, the Allied Forces (that’s us) bombed the bridge crossing these towns. Still don’t know why but we’ll check out later. They rebuilt the road with a bridge in the 1960s. The walk was challenging but we’ve now gotten used to walking. Civita was small but neat. One highlight of Civita was suggested to us by RS. He said to look for the garden of Maria. Sure enough, as we walked towards the end of the street, we see this little lady standing near a very small but neat garden. Jackie says, “Are you Maria?” She answered, “Yes,” and suddenly you have this neat meeting of two little people in red (check the photo). Maria’s first comment was “Ricky Steves!”
This stop took longer than we planned so we rushed back to the car and drove on to Siena. But once in the car Jackie spotted another neat sounding hill village to visit.
Jackie on Bridge
The rain made the walk a little less safe. But it stopped before we crossed back.
This time it was Montepulciano. Sounds neat, doesn’t it?
Greta was happy to switch her guidance to Montepulciano. She really knows her way around doesn’t she?
When we arrived in Monte…., we drove up as high as possible and then had to climb another mile or so straight up. We are now getting good at climbing mountains. Some of this walk was over slime covered rocks so I had to carry Jackie all the way on my back.
The town was neat. No, it was awesome. (Jackie just picked this word for me).
RS recommended that we go all the way to the top to the winery which is located in an old palace basement. It is called Contucci Cantina. The owner is Adamo. RS said to look for him. When we walked in there he was and Jackie said to him “Hi, Adamo.” He immediately said “Ricky Steves.” (Get the picture?).
Then he gave Jackie a big hug. See the photo of his intimate hug of Jackie. He wanted her to stay with him. Jackie thought about it for too long before saying “no, I’m with him.” He gave us wine to taste and led us into the wine
Jackie and Maria
This lady owns the 'garden.' I offered her one euro for the photo and tour of her garden. she said she wanted two!
cellars. It was awesome. I decided to drag Jackie along with me. She seemed too willing to hang around with Adamo.
Now we were more than two hours behind in our schedule. We wanted to get to the area of Pisa before dark to find our hotel. So, we again rushed down to the car, with a bottle of Adamo’s best wine, of course.
Once inside, we then programmed Greta to find her way to the small village of San Guiliano Terme, near Pisa. We did not have a street address but Greta was okay with just the town name.
So, we were off.
Not long after we encountered some terrible traffic just outside of Florence. It was awesome. I had drank too much of Adamo’s wine so I gave the keys to the car to Jackie for the first time. She had trusted Greta by now and got into the driving fast. In fact, too fast. I was trying to nap but felt the unforgettable feeling of speed. I peaked over to see that we were doing over 100. So, much for Jackie telling me “you’re driving too fast.” She said the car was awesome.
Finally we got through
Jackie and Adamo
Yep, he stole her heart. It was like a long lost uncle.
the traffic and were getting close to Pisa and some rest. As we neared the exit, only six miles from the hotel, Greta told Jackie to exit to the right. Jackie followed her instructions perfectly. Only, this time we found ourselves back on the Toll Road with no exits for 30 miles!! There was only a little daylight left as it was about 8:45pm. When we arrived in the village of San Guiliano Terme, it was after 9:15 and dark. Greta was not awesome. She was crap from the point of the missed exit. She kept telling Jackie to turn around “dummy,” in this irritating German accent. Jackie called her some names that I cannot say on this blog.
Ultimately, I asked a man walking down the street where the hotel was and he got us there. It was the worst hotel we’ve stayed in but by now who the heck cared. We were home at last. Greta was left in the car, next to a beat up old car all night. It rained on her all night for good measure.
As we had not eaten in many hours, we were starved. It was 9:50pm as we were checking in.
Yes, I was there too. Here I am in the wine cellar.
The desk clerk said that the restaurant would close at 10. So, we rushed in to this enormous dining room. The waiters were cleaning up the place as it was empty. One came over and said he would fix us some salad for Jackie and some steak for me. No menu. Nothing! Just, here’s what you can get. We were so hungry that it hardly mannered. The food was strange but good. It was hard to describe but Jackie and I will not forget getting served in this huge, empty hall, by ourselves.
That’s it for Monday. Stay tuned for Tuesday. By the way, the computer was working well when we left the room but when we returned, nothing. I just logged off and figured that I would log in again in the morning.
Tuesday, June 3rd
We woke once again with big plans. We had reservations to climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa at 9:30am. I tried to log in without success. The notice said that there was no wireless signal in the area. I complained when I went to the desk but I don’t think he understood a word that I said.
Can you do this?
Tom is holding the tower. He did well but when he got tired, he quit and the dang thing fell. we ran off.
So, no upload for my blog.
We checked out and drove the short drive (four miles) to Pisa. We parked and paid enough for two hours in the meter. After walking about a quarter of a mile, we spotted for the first time the leaning tower. And guess what, it is leaning! As you can see in a picture, I did all I could to help hold the tower straight. Jackie tried too.
We got our tickets and climbed to the top. It was about 250 steps to the top. I was surprised to see how the marble steps were worn. On the downhill-side the steps were worn on the left. In the middle sides, they were worn in the middle and on the uphill side, on the right. It makes sense but you wouldn’t think of it until to you see it.
The view was good. It did not compare to our earlier tower and dome views. Maybe we should have done this earlier or on another trip. But it was still cool. I like things cool.
Once down, we jetted out of town for a rather long drive. We needed to find a hotel as for the first
time we did not have a reserved room. I had found a town that was about the right distance but did not book anything.
The targeted town was Ivrea, Italy. Nobody has ever heard about it but it is in the middle of a wine region. I did however have a name of a hotel that we could check once in the area. As it turns out, the place was fine and much cheaper than what we had been paying. Once again, we ate at the hotel but this time it was really good. I had my first single malt scotch since we arrived in Europe. I’ve had enough wine to sink a ship, I think. Jackie had chicken, I had another steak...this time it was perfect.
That’s it for this travel day. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is another travel day. We are trying to get across France in three nights. We plan to arrive at Pete and Hilary’s home in Romsey, England on Saturday. To do so will require a couple of moderate distance drives. The first will be to the area of Beaune, France (actually, that’s where I am now writing this blog). Then we drive to Troyes and the
On the top
We have this climbing habbit. One more time. The view was really good, though.
last night in France will be in Arras, France. This will insure that no drive is more than 3-4 hours. Plus, we are in wine country the whole trip.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Travel day…Ivrea, Italy to Beaune, France
We awoke in Ivrea to a steady rain. I thought that we would have full internet service but we had none. I wanted to upload my last two days of blogs but couldn’t. Now that we have arrived in our first French town, I decided to finish bringing the blog up-to-date before uploading.
So, we changed our morning plans a little. Rather than check out the local wineries, we decide to head on to France to arrive earlier than originally planned. As with last night, we did not have a hotel reservation but we had some ideas. The targeted town was Beaune, France. I noticed on the web that there were many vineyards in the area. This is in Burgundy territory. As we found, this is the heart of burgundy.
Before we left Ivrea, we were disappointed to see that the fog and rain blocked our view of the Alps. As we headed north into the valleys, we could see
Isn't she cute? I don't how she does it.
The key highlight of the day was the crossing of the border between Italy and France in the famous Mont Blanc tunnel. This tunnel is one of the longest in the world, right under Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in Europe. It is 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) in length. It was built in the 60s. In Atlanta, after planning our trip through this tunnel I came across a National Geographic article discussing the terrible fire in this tunnel that claimed 39 lives! It seems a truck entered the tunnel without knowing that a fire had started in the trailer he was hauling. It ultimately engulfed the vehicle causing it to stop and block off the two-lane tunnel. Many people were trapped and were killed as a result.
I decided earlier that I would not relate this story to Jackie until after we emerged. As we were traveling along, however, I pointed out many of the new safety features that were installed after the fire. Once on the outside in France, I confessed to Jackie what I knew. Just as I did, we passed this large memorial on the French side for those that lost their lives in
Have you seen any photos of Jackie without the RS guide book? Or a glass of wine?
this tunnel. It was interesting but I think this is one thing that I will not repeat.
Once in our targeted town, Beaune, we checked out several hotels before settling on the Ibis Hotel. It is priced well, clean and near the action in the center of town.
After checking in, we took a stroll around the village and had dinner. The best part of the dinner was the local wine. The steaks that we had were not cooked well and were sort of chewy, but by that time we really didn’t care. We are back current with the blog. Tomorrow, as I mentioned earlier, we travel to another more famous wine town, Troyes. It is in the Champaign region. Jackie can’t wait.
That’s it for now.
See you next blog, Tom & Jackie
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