Italy with the Family: Day 3, Rome to Poggio San Paolo July 26, 2014

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June 27th 2014
Published: June 27th 2014
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Impressions di Roma, Day 2:

· Good businesses to own would be gelato shops, Smart Car dealerships and brake manufacturing businesses. I cannot imagine how many sets of brakes a Roman driver goes through in a year

· Bad business to own would be street sign makers

Woke up with a bit of a scare this morning. When I took my phone out of airplane mode. I had a voice mail. It was the Pristine Sistine tour company saying the guide had left because we didn’t show up for our tour and to call them asap. I swear, I thought that tour was booked for July 2, NOT June 26. I checked my paperwork and sure enough, it was June 26. I called the number she left and got a message that said their office was closed. Called again, same message, left a message. Called again after 8:00, same message. Finally emailed. About 10 minutes after I sent the email, got another voice mail. Did the phone ring? Non. Was the ringer on? Yes. I was really panicking but then the email was answered and she said no worries, they rebooked us on the July 3 tour which means Andrew and Erika get to come too. I am not sure they will thank us ahead of time but they will thank us later, promise. I am also glad they never took the “our office is closed” message off of their phone. I’m sure that helped our case. Even if we were able to throw clothes on and meet the tour, we couldn’t communicate with them to be able to reach the guide.

Mark had some work to do so while he did that, I looked at my data usage so far. Rut roh. I was already 100 Mb into the 300 Mb I had allotted myself. Dang Google Maps! I decided that maneuvering around might take more data than I had planned, so I upped my plan, added a small plan to Mark’s phone and got him 30 minutes of Europe to US calling. Amazing how communication is becoming like oxygen—necessary to live.

After all of that excitement, we got ready for the day. After we were showered-shampooed-and-shiny, we got breakfast and then went back to the room to repack our bags. Since we’ll be back in Rome in a week, we made arrangements to leave the big bag at the hotel so we don’t have to schlep it around with us. We boiled down what we had in our roller bags to just the essentials which is undoubtedly still more than we need and then made our way to the lobby. There are two elevators in the hotel—one for four persons and one for six. We lucked into the six person which should be subtitled (or two people, three suitcases and two carry-on bags.) The elevator stopped at the third floor and when the door opened, the man waiting waved his arms in surrender and turned away. We got the bags stowed and, because of time, took a taxi to a entry point for the hop-on/hop-off bus tour.

We had thought this might be a good idea to give us an overview of Rome and, since we didn’t have time to stop anywhere, a single no-exit ticket was not too expensive. As we waited for the bus, the sky got darker and the thunder began to rumble and it began to sprinkle. Hmmmm… The bus came about 20 minutes after we arrived at the stop (well, the first bus came immediately but we weren’t at the stop yet so we missed that one) and, having already purchased our ticket, we boarded. There was a girl at the front of the bus who was the ticket seller. There was a mom and daughter in front of us and they had paid a deposit or something so had to pay the balance for their tickets. Oh my gosh—the paper work! Write on one ticket, turn it over, write something more, stamp, have the customer sign, duplicate, run credit card, start over again for the second ticket. The woman, whom we had been talking with before the bus arrived, was apologetic but we were like hey, not like we’d be going anywhere if we were in front of you. Finally her paperwork was finished and then it was our turn. Even though we had already purchased our tickets, we STILL had paperwork but must less, I must say. After about 10 minutes stop, we finally got underway. We had opted to go upstairs because there was a cover on the open air bus. Covers, however, do not prevent the rain from blowing in the sides. After about 5 minutes of this, at a stoplight, we scurried downstairs. We sat towards the rear on the right hand side. About five minutes after switching to those seats, the rain started really coming down and the window next to me began to leak. We moved to a different seat on the left side of the bus. Finally the tour oration began. “On the right side, we are passing by the Basillica de Santa Maria…On the right side you will see the Forum, the meeting place of the senate…On the right side you will see the Circus Maximus…” By the end of the circuit, it was raining so hard that most of the upstairs people had come downstairs and were standing in the aisle. The orator would say, “On the right side…” and Mark and I would shrug. Oh well. We were dry! On the way back to the hotel (when it had stopped raining—yay!) I told Mark that my goal for these two days in Rome was to get some sort of an idea of the lay-out of Rome. FAIL!! On the other hand, so many of these things will be so much fun to explore with the young Elgerts so for that, I think it’s good.

We caught a cab from the hotel to the Rome Termini train station. We were immediately greeted with young people. “Can I help you? Do you need help? Can I help you with your ticket?” We had already learned the magic of No Thank-you when a man shoved a rose in my hand the day before and then wanted payment which we awkwardly did. From that point on, hands at side and No Thank-you was the move of the day. We said, “No thank-you,” firmly to all offers of help and ignored many others. Found the ticket machine, put in our voucher number, got our ticket printed and then I went to change some money. While I was at the window, Mark was watching a young girl who was watching everyone who was changing money and then talking to someone on a cell phone. The departures sign was right above the currency exchange so we were standing there (with the rest of Rome, it seemed) watching that and every time I glanced over to that girl she looked away. I finally said, “Let’s go in further and see if there is other information.” We walked further into the station and there was another departure board but no girl watching me so that felt better. I also put my purse on across my body and kept my hand on it. I have read that pickpockets and scam artists are everywhere in Rome and was not feeling inclined to be a statistic.

Our train was to leave at 2:58 and at 2:50 they finally posted a departure track number. It was 1EST which is like an extra track behind track 1. We started all but running to get there, got our ticket validated (thankfully Mark read the fine print and knew that we were required to validate the ticket at a machine on the platform before we left or we would be subject to a fine) and got to the train. We were heading down the platform going as fast as we could when the conductor started blowing the whistle. Okay, that’s it, hop on! We did! Found seats in a relatively empty and thankfully air conditioned and no smoking car and settled in.

We arrived in Montevarchi just about on time at about 6:10 and upon exiting the train station, found this darling little man holding a sign that said “Elizabeth and Marc Elgert”. On the back of the sign was a greeting from our hostesses telling us that Michele was very bright and helpful but did not speak English. However he could understand most things through hand signals. He understood that we needed to find a restroom and water before we got on the road so after that was accomplished, we set off into the Tuscan countryside. The drive to Poggio San Paolo, a tiny village of 35 people, was both picturesque and breathtaking. So many colors of green—from the faded olive trees to the deep green of the grape vines and everything in between. There are many rolling hills and stone buildings nestled between folds and crowing peaks. It took about 45 minutes to get to Poggio San Paolo and Toscana Mia. We were greeted by Paola and Simonetta, the two sisters who run the school. The inhabitants of the farm house are Paola and her husband and two teen-aged daughters and Simonetta. The house was purchased by the sister’s parents many years ago to use as a summer home but has now become the family home and center of their cooking school business.

We were greeted with a glass of Chianti Classico and some delightful conversation. Our room had a beautiful view of the Tuscan countryside with windows on both sides for a lovely cross breeze. The bathroom was “down the hall” but was only for our use so that was okay. Dinner was at 8 and started out with penne pasta with sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, basil, parmesan and olive oil. OMG! So good! Then we had prosciutto and melon and salad which was light and refreshing. Dinner was completed with biscotti soaked in vin Santo, a local specialty. Paola said that when you went to visit a neighbor, they would not offer you coffee but vin Santo, even at 10 in the morning. Most families make their own vin Santo. It was very sweet and dense and a great liquid to use to soften the biscotti.

After dinner and more conversation, they gave us the wifi code and we updated blogs and checked email. I booked the Pristine Sistine trip for Andrew and Erika and let the company know we wanted to be together with them on the trip, and then it was time for bed. I think we will sleep well in this beautiful Tuscan country side. Good night!


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