Day 7 – Anthony & Liza’s European Vacation

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June 18th 2017
Published: June 28th 2017
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Day 7

Waking up in Tuscany, how does one describe what has been described by writers, and poets and dreamers for centuries? I was sure it would be somewhat of a let-down, although arriving at the resort in the early evening the day before was magical. There were no screens on our windows and the air was so fresh and rich smelling, like the earth and cut grass. We fell asleep with the windows open letting the country air breeze across us as we slept, not conditioned air, no forced coolness, just the sounds of the night and pure air. Suddenly at 5 AM I awoke with a start. I could hear the birds chirping away, flying around and was suddenly aware that they could fly right into our room. In a panic I jumped out of bed and ran to close the windows. As I got to the window, I looked down the long driveway to see that the sun was shining on the landscape in front of me, all gold and green and breathtaking. And no the birds did not come in! The Tuscan promise was completely fulfilled later that morning as we stepped outside to pack up the car. It was warm at 9 AM, 27 degrees Celsius, the sky was deep blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. I began taking pictures of this beautiful resort which has its roots in what was a 15th century town. The church is still there and much of the original buildings have been renovated to be suites or villas. The special thing about this place is that the heart of the original town sits right alongside the swimming pool and restaurant. This beautiful place is definitely on the list of places to re-visit for longer, maybe even get a game of golf in!

We hit the road to Siena with our trusty “Waze” and Jane the Waze Captain, giving us directions. Now this is really when the fun starts, as I am in charge of the navigational device and Anthony is in charge of the travel directions. What this really means is that Jane and I are supposed to read his mind know where exactly he wants to go without knowing exactly where he wants to go. Of course, Jane prefers exact addresses in order to give us exact directions, there isn’t any opportunity for vagueness when dealing with a navigational device!
This is probably the time I am grateful we didn’t have the “Go-Pro” because our discussion on where we were going probably shouldn’t be heard by our children 😊 Suffice it to say that we finally made it to a parking spot in Siena, and we managed to exit the car-park and find our way through the town. It’s a beautiful place built around a valley, you are either climbing or descending, there is limited lateral movement! It is an ancient place, the roadways are narrow and steep, it’s hot, in fact, really hot! As we wander and marvel at the thought of people building this town over 500 years ago, we find a little café, perched on the corner of a building with a little deck just big enough for 4 small tables and it literally sits on the corner where three roadways meet precariously perched in the road! We love it, it’s full of locals, well as full as it can be in an 8X8 space! We have a water and rest before trekking down the steep street over which we have just been sitting. Anthony points out that I have spots on my clean t-shirt and this, of course, begins the search for a new t-shirt – luckily there are souvenir shops everywhere and I am now the proud owner of a Siena t-shirt! We make our way through the beautiful piazza, enjoy the sights and sounds and then make our way all the way back up to the car – this is mountain trekking on cobblestones in 30+ degree Celsius heat, and we begin our trip to Firenze, back to the issue of not having a specific address, confusing “Jane” and causing Anthony to start calling her names and inferring that she is a woman of low morals.

Firenze does not disappoint! We make our way up above the city (after some discussions about which way we are going) we find ourselves on a look-out viewing all of Firenze before us, it’s breathtaking. We take it all in and head down to discover the city. After much name calling, driving through tiny alleys and scaring the crap out of a few pedestrians, Jane finds us a parking lot. We head into Firenze, and it doesn’t disappoint, the Mercato, the Ponte Vecchio, the Piazza, all beautiful. It’s a bigger, more commercial version of Siena, and it’s full of tourists, but it’s alive and vibrant and ancient all at once. We find our way to the main Piazza, I don’t remember the name, and we find seats at a pizzeria in the shade. These are the moments that travelling with someone who speaks Italian is a great advantage, all of a sudden you are no longer a tourist, you are a paisan! Anthony doesn’t think his Italian is all that good, but just about everyone he speaks to thinks he was born in Italy. Proof of this was no more obvious than after our lunch in the piazza when we decline “an espresso” after eating, only to have two glasses of the best house made Limoncello I have ever tasted deposited before us because, said our waiter in beautiful Italian, “you cannot finish lunch until you finish lunch”. I take a sip, roll it on my tongue, breathe in through my nose, it’s incredible, the taste of fresh lemons, the sweetness of sugar, that’s all, pure and simple the most amazing flavours. I look at Anthony and say “I have been hoodwinked, I have drunk the Kool-Aid, it must be true that everything tastes better in Italy!”

We reluctantly leave Firenze and head towards our final destination of the day, Lerice in the La Spezia region. This time we have an address (phew) as we are heading to our hotel. Of course, that doesn’t actually change some of the navigational issues we have with “Jane” as we approach the small town with many switch-backs and mountain roads and we miss a turn or two only to experience the “recalculating” aspect of navigational assistance. But we make it, we find our hotel perched on the mountain and the make our way to our room, to find ourselves with a lovely balcony overlooking the town and beaches below unique to the Cinque Terre region. It’s so beautiful it takes my breathe away, I am staring out over the ocean wanting to this moment to last forever. We walk down the mountain to the town, thankfully the hotel will pick us up and bring us back up the mountain! The town is so lovely and welcoming, there are several places to sit and enjoy the scenery along the waterfront, and we select a table to sit down, have a drink and watch the sun set. Apparently in these small towns you have to order a “sputinio” or little bite to go with your drink, so yes, yes, OK, we do so. I request a glass of Pinot Grigio or something similar, Anthony orders and Aperol Spritzer. I get a glass of flat Perseco and he gets his drink of choice along with the Sputino, which is a plate with chips, peanuts, small pieces of bread with some pesto, little bits of hot-dogs with some weird pink mayo sauce and anchovies, yuk! Not all food tastes better in Italy! We have a nice dinner in a small courtyard off the square and watch the church processional before returning to the hotel. Sigh, what a beautiful place….

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