Time for some Positano

Our first excursion here on the Amalfi coast was decided upon, and it was to visit Positano.

Though we had driven the same road coming in on Saturday, it is a different thing entirely to do on the bus. 
The road is windy and narrow in places. Around s-curves there are mirrors placed so the drivers can see what might be coming in the opposite direction. Even then sometimes when there are two buses that need to pass, one with have to back up and over almost against the high concrete wall or cliff face in order for the other to make it past. If there were no windows you could reach over and touch the people on the other bus. 
At first there are a number of “newbie” coast dwelling tourists who hold their breath while all this is taking place. Especially when a scooter or two decide to whip in between the buses as they are maneuvering! 10 years ago when we were here I was sure one would get crushed doing it. 
Now we just smile and shake our head at the entertainment. 

    

  
We got off the bus at the top of the hill and wandered down into the town, taking pictures as we went. Positano is a popular place to visit and was quite busy with tourists and residents alike. There were lots of shops along the way and we stopped to look along the way. While my other three travellers bought a gelato I decided on a local treat, wish I had remembered the name…. It was eggplant and mozza and basil that had been deep-fried. It was very good.
Down at the bottom by the sea there is a beach and that is also where the ferry comes and goes. So as not to climb back up for the bus, as well as to enjoy a view of the coast from the water, we too, the ferry back to Amalfi (there is no ferry from Praiano).
       
Russ and Annette took their motion pills and on we went. It was a lovely sunny, hot, day; perfect for the water. The windows were opened and we took pictures of the coast and of where we are staying.   
We alit in Amalfi and decided we would have something to eat there and wander the town as it was still early and Amalfi is not large. When Ken and I were here 10 years ago it was not nearly this busy with tourists and it was about the same time of September.    

(My better pictures are in the camera…..later!)

So we found a place to eat that had little tables up on a balcony away from the commotion below. Ken and I shared a ‘cone’ of seafood and some fries (homesick?)  
We wandered the streets a little longer and I succumbed to Gelato. ‘Amalfi’ flavour which tasted like lemoncello without the liqueur…. Quite yummy! 
We finally decided it was time to get a bus back home and off we went. Russ and Annette managed a front seat for the drive and entertainment that, as I mentioned, goes with it. 
Nap time then another adventure…… Dinner. 
On a hike… Up and up some more, Annette and Russ found a pizza restaurant. They asked the young man working there if this was the best pizza in the area…. He came out right away with a free piece for them to try. It was good enough for them to want to go back.
So….I was talked into the walk. Up we went….many, many stairs. 

   
 
  
Then a walkway that rose some more. Then more steps!! That took us to the street where the little grocery store was and we walked past that is up the road some more for about 10 mins. Finally we arrived at the restaurant and waited for a while for a table as it seems a busy place. All the outside tables were taken. 
Just as we were being called in to be seated, I noticed red light above the view of Salerno we could see in the distance. Finally I realized this was the ‘blood moon’ I had read about. Too bad Annette didn’t have a tripod or we might have gotten some amazing pictures. She managed a couple that were not bad but on the whole we had to make do with thoroughly enjoying the natural phenomenon ourselves. 

  

My poor imitation with my iPhone…
We enjoyed the food too. Everyone else had pizza but the special of the day caught my attention and I had to try it. A pasta, both black and normal, with shrimp and an arugula pesto. At first it tasted a bit bitter but as I ate, and drank their house wine that was very good, I began to enjoy it all the more. 

      

 

(For some reason the picture with Ken and his pizza won’t upload properly!)
Ken and I enjoyed a tiramisu together before we went out to do the reverse trip home. In the dark it was an adventure as well. We had anticipated at least That we would be returning in the dark as nothing opens for dinner until about 7:30pm, so we had a flash light, and two iPhones that have a flashlight built in. Most stairs had a railing to hold onto (though it seemed I was the only one to avail themselves of it). 
After all that adventure it was time for bed….no cards tonight. 

Ciao

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Recovery day.

As we had not bought groceries yet, there was nothing for breakfast. We walked up the road to a little hotel called the “open Gate” and ate in their restaurant that sat along the road and had lovely views of the water. 
Breakfast consisted of all sorts of things. Meat and cheese and eggs and pastries. Yogurt and fruit, coffee and juice. Since we were paying a goodly amount for it we thought we would do it justice and then not need anything until dinner. (€15ea! Eek!) 
Ken decided, since we did not need his chauffeuring expertise, that he would stay back and read while we took the free store ‘taxi, service up (up!) the hill for groceries. 
The young fellow was a relative of the store owner and said they take turns helping out. He stopped on a high point overlooking the whole area and let us get out to take pictures while he also told us the history of the area. His English was good as he had lived in the U.S. For a few years so we were able to ask questions and understand the answers 😊.

   
 
The little store, “Tutti a Tutti” has a little of everything as the name suggests. Originally a house I think, we walked from one area, or room, to another for different things. We found a room on the side at the back with cereal and eggs etc. a deli at the back was well stocked and we bought green olives and cotto ham and a fresh crusty loaf. Pasta ‘fresco’ and some local bottled sauce and we had lots for breakfasts and a dinner or two. A few snacks and some liquid refreshment and we were done. 

An older gentleman took us back to our ‘home’ Residence il Gardino die Lemoni. 

  
Our first comfy bed…. With comfy pillows….  Soooo happy! 

   
 

The upper deck we can use…
Since this was a rest day….lots of resting was involved. Since there was no English congregation in the area to join we studied our own WT…. Then ….guess…. Really? You had to even guess? Euchre! Of course. 
For dinner we had some of our wonderful fresh pasta, sauce and bread and one of the wines we bought in Tavernelle di Pesa. They sure know how to make a wine to go with their food. 
Buon appetito e Buona notte

South…..

We left just a little after the time we hoped and made our way south. 
There was one more hill town we wanted to see before leaving Tuscany and that was Montepulciano. It is a wonderful little place. All uphill….(not quite both ways, but close!,) 
We arrived before most of the tours. One was just entering as we were, however we had decided to go up first and slowly come down, looking In shops as they opened. This put us ahead of the group and onto a quiet ascent devoid also of the hordes that hinder good photos.
One our way in we saw two of our sisters with a cart. Hardly any English but we enjoyed a few words, a hug and kiss before we went off to explore.

   
 Alleys and arch covered staircases abound on each side. On the left the alleys end with sights of the valley below. Vineyards can be seen all over. This is Barolo and D’Abruzzo country. 

   
   
We finally made it to the top and rewarded ourselves by sitting and having a cappuccino and pastry before heading back down. 

   
 We wandered the leather shops, wine and deli meats, as well as clothing. I bought a leather notebook, bound right there in the store. A perfume for a friend who missed out on it last time she was here.

   
 We found a place to get Panini’s to take with us on the rest of our travels. 
Instead of two sisters, there was a brother manning the cart. No English but again we were able to say hello and share a smile and a handshake.
Off we went and with the help of google maps we found our way onto the A1 motorway…auto strata. This goes all the way down past Rome to Naples and with only a small blip, one brief sign then nothing so we ended up into Pompeii, we were back on the right road and on to Sorrento and eventually our place in Praiano. 

   
    
 The picture on Google maps fro the website put us out by about 100 ft but close and with the help of Annette’s German we were given directions around the corner. 
It was a very long day and long drive and we were glad to be at our destination for the next few days. The scenery along the way, especially as we came around the bay of Naples and saw Vesuvius and then Sorrento coastline was spectacular. The road on the coast is wild and crazy, narrow and hit up in many places. Buses, tour buses, cars, trucks, scooters and motor bikes as well as a few insanely in shape cyclists all vying for the narrow piece of road is all part of the adventure! 
Since going to the store meant a hike up the hill, or a taxi, since we did not know where it was, we opted to eat out across the road. The food was not fantastic but ok and hit the spot. The stairs to and from the restaurant gave us our exercise for the day as well. 

   
The smaller light is the moon… The larger was lighting in the restaurant. There aren’t two moons in Italy! 😊

   
Fish…catch of the day. It was very good. 

 
Veal…. Ken’s choice.

  
Sponge cake with lemoncello. Oh my! 

 Night night all!  

Last day……

In Tuscany. A long travel day lay ahead on Saturday so we determined to keep things rather subdued and simple. Taking in a local winery, doing laundry and going out for a last Tuscan dinner at the place we went several nights previous. 
Our appointment for our wine tasting was for 11 am. So we gathered up our clothes and went off to the laundromat with enough time, hopefully. Most things were dry before we were due to leave and given that it was a warm sunny day, the rest would dry on the drying rack provided at our home away from home. 

   
 The winery Poggia Bosco is family run. They were beginning to harvest the week we were there and so it was “all hands on deck”so to speak, to help out. The girl, Amber, who did the tasting said that only family helps, cousins and her boyfriend etc etc. anyone who can talk their way into the job, as the grandma cooks for them all and they don’t want to miss it! πŸ˜€ we wished we could have wormed our way in as the food sounded like something we shouldn’t miss. Oh well, we resigned ourselves to a tasting.

There are a number of wines they produce there. Mostly red as that is what the chianti region is famous for, and the grapes they use lend themselves better to it. There is a white they produce though and a rose, in small quantities. Several Chiantis and then a couple of others of their own blend, which are not called chianti as the grape mixture has to be just so for that. We liked their own blend though as it is more to our liking so bought a couple of bottles ( one Merlot) to drink later. They also produce olive oil though and it was served with bread while sampling the wines. It was so good we both bought that too! (Hm… Any clothes we are sick of and want to leave behind to make room for our goodies?) 
Last but not least we sampled their Vin Santo with mini biscotti. 😊 
We went home and put clothes to drying. For lunch we finished up some fresh pasta, salad, cheese, olives and bread. Then…..some napping and reading and enjoying the sun filled out the afternoon. A little snacking and card playing kept us busy until it was time to go into town and eat. 
Our hostess Gabriella arrived and we settled our bill with her. She covered me in her mosquito repellant when she saw I was being bitten. Very kind. With the help of our language app. we managed to sort everything out to everyone’s satisfaction and she gave us hugs and kisses while saying, “arrivederci”.
Friday night and the town was busy…. However it seemed that dinner was not on the menu. Only aperitivo and sports TV watching. We were told of a pizza place that was open though…right next door to where we had done laundry earlier in the day. 
La Fornace…… Was a ‘furnace’, or wood fired pizza oven restaurant. Pizza was great, beer was good too and the bar tender was the owner. He pointed out a picture of two little boys that was on the wall. One of them was him! 
  
One short game of cards and we went off to pack up. We hoped to leave by 8 am. 

Firenze

Firenze
Ken remembers driving in to Florence when we were in Tuscany 10 years ago. This time the idea of taking the bus and not having to deal with traffic and parking seemed like a great idea. 
The bus schedule said the first bus to Florence was 8:45. Since the coffee from our extra slow drip maker is more like sludge and I’m partial to the Italian tradition of cappuccino and sweet pastry in the morning, we left our place early enough to partake in the local restaurant / coffee and wine bar. 

    
Yummy pastry and caffeine fix in place, we walked to the bus stop and waited. By the time the bus arrived there were lots of other travellers ready to board. €3.30 a ticket was not much to pay and gave Ken a stress free day where he could also enjoy the scenery with the rest of us.

The bus came in near the train station (if you’ve been to Florence) and we had a bit of a walk to the river Arno and the main area we wished to see. 
On our last visit to the city we went to Ac’cademia to see “David”. Russ and Annette were happy to view the free replica in the piazza and go into Uffuzi instead. The line for tickets was 1 1/2 hr long so we succumbed to the enticement of paying more to get in immediately. (Good business!) 

First order of business was a washroom. Those were down in the bowels of the building…. (Sorry for the pun….but they were very much under groundπŸ˜€) 

I had downloaded Rick Steve’s audio tour and Greenhaugls got the audio from the Museum. Annette ended up listening along with me for some of it as his was more entertaining and informative. (FYI if you will be visiting Europe… He has many audios for different cities and museums etc) 
The frescos on the ceiling of the museum were equally and sometimes more enjoyable than the artwork. There was a good view of the Arno river and the Ponte Vecchio bridge ( listen to the opera aria “O Mio Babino Caro” which mentions both) from the sculpture hall which we took advantage of for some photo ops. (Pictures in camera I’m afraid)
After leaving the museum it was definitely gelato time!! And a sit down. My back was quite sore and we all wanted a break. 
Ponte Vecchia was next. We walked across and window shopped. Amazing unique Cameos, expensive watches and other jewellery were to be seen and had if you wished to spend $$$.
   
   
We wended our way back over to the Duomo. A little disappointing this time as there was restoration work going on so scaffolding and hoarding all around the baptismal building and others in the piazza di Duomo. The outside is very ornate as was the one in Sienna, the inside not so much except for the dome. It was free to go in so we followed the line and went to take a few photos. If you are energetic, you may walk up the 400+ stairs to just under the dome and have a close up view of the art. Even more, you may go up farther to the outside of the upper dome and have a panoramic of the city. We weren’t so inclined! 
(Again, apologies….pictures in camera and will share later) 

We had to go and find where we could get tickets and our bus to Tavernelle again. It was a bit of an adventure and I was having trouble walking by then but we finally found the bus station, missed a bus by a hair!! Then waited for an hour or so for another one. 
One more florentine steak was waiting for us at home so we cooked that up along with some fresh local green beans and baked potatoes. 
Another few games of cards and we retired for the night. No alarm in the morning! Yeah!! 
Buona  notte! Ciao! 

Off day….

In more ways than one LOL
The weather is off. Rain is due according to the forecast and really we could have guessed without seeing it as the sky was red in the morning (sailor’s /farmer’s warning) and the heavy clouds began to roll in not too long after.  
We are tired so taking a day off to do very little. Deciding upon a winery but the long and winding roads here in rural Italy are proving too much for our travel mates. The whole area is rolling hills and fertile hillsides and valleys. Great for vineyards and olive groves, not so great roads for travelling on. 

   
 We found the vineyard that had been recommended us and enjoyed sampling the wine. The girl there was very informative and friendly. Her English was good, she having spent a year at university in London, UK. The best wine they had to sample was the one we liked the most… Hmm. I wonder why?! However €53 was more than any of us had in mind to spend on one bottle so we opted to buy a more middle of the road vintage to have with a meal later. 

We thought to drive the 2 km into Castelina, the next town and for which the winery shared its name. It is a small, quaint little town and we could have loved to have eaten lunch there. However, we drove around twice and could not find parking. Farther out of town there was a parking lot with open spots but by then the rain was coming down even more so we opted to go back to out hometown of Tavernelle Di Pesa.  
Speaking of off….. We found the road we were supposed to take by my earlier calculations, but the fact that our directions were hampered by no sun, we ended up going the opposite direction to where we wanted to be. When I realized it we headed back for the town and took the right road this time. Not the one we might have taken as it looked even windier than the one we came in on. 
Our plans changed again. We thought to eat lunch in Tavernelle but as rain was coming down even heavier by the time we were again near our home from home. We made it the door before the downpour began, as well as thunder and lightening. From our meagrely provisions we managed to produce omelettes for lunch.
A game of euchre anyone? Yes. Then a nap. Which is what the guys are doing as I’m writing this. 
Our hostess at the house suggested a great little place in town that we try for lunch or dinner. We looked it up and found good reviews so we will go check it out for dinner. 
By 6:30pm we were ready to go into town and wander around for a while as, unlike home, it is too early yet for dinner. We looked around until about 7pm then wanted food. Entering the restaurant we see it is definitely for the locals. Mostly men, young and old, cradling their drinks and visiting with one another. Snacks, peanuts, chips etc being consumed along with it. 
We enquires about dinner. Apparently the kitchen did not open until 7:30 so we were very early by local standards. Paulo was very attentive though, wanting to teach us about Chianti wines and which wineries to visit. One we had just visited earlier, he was happy to hear. 
After an impassioned dissertation on the wines of the region we finally managed to get him to open a bottle for us and, since the kitchen we yet to be opened, a few snacks to tide us over. 
  
The wine was good, a little more to Russ’s liking as well, and we pursued the menu. The specialty of the house, we were told, is Peposo. This is a beef stew which was originally made in terra cotta urns for workers who were working on the Dome of the Duomo in Florence.

http://memoriediangelina.com/2013/03/03/peposo-peppery-tuscan-beef-stew/#.VgYri8RXerU
   
 

The pasta was fresh, the wine good. (We ordered a second bottle) 

After the pasta and Peposo, we were full and ready to leave. The place was getting busy and noisy. In the front room there were a bunch of guys watching football (and I mean soccer for my N. American readers) and in the back room others were playing billiards. 
We were not allowed to leave however, until we had sampled some Vin Santo and dessert biscotti. Molto bene! 

More cards….. Can we say euchre obsession! Then off to bed as we plan to get the bus to Florence in the morning. 

Buona notte.

Sienna

In order to arrive before the tour bus hordes we left early and arrived in Sienna about 9:15am. We found parking quite easily as it was on the outskirts of the old walled town and walked in. 
It was again, locals going about their morning routine that we passed at first. We enjoyed the ambiance and were able to take some pictures before we reached the centre which was already busy. 
   
The lady delivering mail had this interesting vehicle.
 I took this same picture a few years ago while in Sienna… Had to do a re-take! 

Piazza Del Campo is quite a sight, with its size and tall tower. Knowing all this has been there for so many centuries is always thought provoking. All the lives that were lived there; in the case of these towns….wars fought. 

  

      ……….
Even now many live much more simply than we do in N. America. Many people walk everywhere or use public transport. Lots of scooters, motorcycles and bicycles too. Since petrol (gas) is expensive, parking is too, as well as hard to find and two wheeled vehicles as well as two feet can maneuver in traffic faster. 

While we were in Venice in the apartment, we were only allowed to have one thing plugged and in use at a time. No drip coffee maker there or dryer.

The apartment here in Tuscany there is no microwave, but we do have a drip coffee maker, albeit one that takes forever to actually do its job. We hunt around for somewhere to plug things in as there are so few outlets. The toaster cannot be plugged in at the same time as the coffee maker as there is only one plug. This plug also won’t fit the plug for the toaster…..hm…..

      ……..
None of us were energetic enough to climb the stairs of the tower. (You will have to wait for a picture of the tower as it was taken with the camera.)

………..The Torre del Mangia is the tower in Siena, in the Tuscany region of Italy. Built in 1338-1348, it is located in the Piazza del Campo, Siena’s premier square, adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall). When built it was one of the tallest secular towers in medieval Italy. At 88 metres (289 feet), it is third tallest after Cremona’s Torrazzo (112 m (367 ft)) and the Asinelli tower in Bologna (97 m (318 ft))………
So we enjoyed the view from down in the Piazza. The fountain in the square – The Fonte Gaia (“Fountain of Joy”) was built in 1419 as an endpoint of the system of conduits bringing water to the city’s centre, replacing an earlier fountain completed about 1342 when the water conduits were completed.
  
  

Even the birds were enjoying the fountain. They don’t car about the history.. Only the refreshing drink and bath! 

The Duomo there is made with different coloured strips of marble for a very unique look was completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure.

  
  
After wandering around and looking in a few shops we stopped for a pizza (and lasagne for me) lunch before going to find our car.

  

We decided on an antipasti supper at home and an evening of cards (no surprise LOL)