Vacances Part 6 Monteriggioni

My dad said that there are so many towers in Monteriggioni because one guy built one, and then all the wealthy neighbors had to build one, too. Well, after some online research I found this to be false. I did, however, learn that Monteriggioni’s towers are referenced by Dante in the Inferno.  So there’s that.  Anyway there are fourteen turrets rising from the wall that surrounds this tiny medieval city.  The day we were there, there was some sort of running race going on, which made our touring a bit different.  It was almost over by the time we got there, so we cheered on the stragglers who were huffing and puffing (in Italian) their way to the finish line.  There was a great little flea market where basically everyone was selling old stuff, which I love, so it was the perfect for me, although I didn’t end up buying anything.  That afternoon we stopped by the house of a friend of my parents who is a professor taking his sabbatical in his hometown, which is a village who’s name I don’t remember but we had an mamma mi-amazing lunch of spaghetti and every delicious Italian food and fresh mozzarella and oh my gosh my mouth is watering just remembering it.  Basically we fell in love with Tuscany and Mom and Dad were planning out how many Cyprus trees to plant along the driveway of their retirement villa.  Here are some pictures from Monteriggioni:

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Approach to Monteriggioni                                                                               Checking out the map

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View from the hilltop                                                                                                                            Inside the walls…

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Adorkable                                                                                                        The flea market is behind me

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Oh you know, random harpist. Casual.                                                 View

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Towers                                                                                                                                           Knight in shining armor


Vacances Part 5: Florence / Firenze + Trouble With Machines

In Florence no cars are allowed to drive into the city center. Instead, you drive around, balancing the directions given to you by your TomTomGPS and the signs directing you around and around rotaries towards parking lots outside the city. Your TomTom knows that you are in Europe because of satellites and techy things like that, so it’s put on a pretentious British accent and says things like “Please exit the roundabout at the third turning.” You decide to trust the technology, since it’s gotten you this far, but when TomTom tells you that “You have reached your destination,” and you are in the middle of the street in some random neighborhood with no parking lot in sight, you realize that the signs wouldn’t lie to you and that trusting something you bought at Best Buy that sounds like Edith from Downton Abbey over indicators created specifically to guide and help you avoid being ticketed or getting lost was a stupid idea and you are reminded, yet again, that you are a foreigner and that driving in a stick-shift vehicle isn’t as smooth a ride as an automatic, Idon’tcarewho’sdriving. Following that little life lesson, we caught a cab to our hotel and trudged up the stairs, exhausted from the drive and the parking lot drama.  After first of all verifying that our bathroom did indeed include a bide and second of all a short nap in our pleasant, spacious room, we ventured outside to find the Duomo, which Rick Steves told us is the greatest building in Florence.  Looking down at our free map, my dad said “Well it should be nearby, because our street borders this square that it’s’ in.” We put our navigation caps on and turned the corner, only to find that the Duomo was right there in front of us. Like, we could have seen it from our hotel room window if we were in the east-facing hallway. Having such a major and visible landmark double as our how-go-get-back-to-the-hotel landmark was very useful over the next four days. Using Rick Steves’ Italy as our Bible, we saw the best of Florence, including the Accademia where Michelangelo’s David is, the Pitti Palace, the Uffizi gallery, and the proximate Duomo whose bell tower we climbed that first night.  The food was wonderful, and the weather unpredictable, changing between rain to sun on an hourly basis. I bought a Real Leather Jacket, the Fits Me Correctly and Is The Right Shade Of Brown For My Skin And Hair Color (thanks Mom!) and went into a jewelry shop on the Ponte Vecchio. Dad got a new wallet at one of the many markets we wandered through, and Mom decided to buy the same pair of shoes six times and ended up not buying them the same number of times. I loved Florence. It was touristy, sure, but we saw a fair amount of the city and I found it quite beautiful. The art was fantastic, although Renaissance art is not my favorite, it was amazing to see some of the most important paintings in Western art. One of my favorite things we did was explore the gardens of the Pitti Palace, which are extensive. There is a grotto, and fountains, and paths through woods, and a random porcelain museum on top of a hill. It’s hard to believe, while walking through theses enormous parks, that all of that varied property was once one family’s backyard. It’s easy to understand why peasants became so bitter towards the nobility. It was great that we were able to stay for four days- there is no shorter span of time during which you could possibly see the best sights.  Enjoy some pics:

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The façade of the Duomo church                                                      Dad in front of the church

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Mom in the square                                                                                       The inside of the dome

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View from partway up the bell tower

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Me inside the bell tower                                                            Mom and me on top of the bell tower. That’s the Duomo in the background

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Dad taking pictures from the top of the bell tower                                      View

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Marble in the Cathedral museum                       Touching this hog at the Haymarket is luckey, hence all the other people also touching it

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Pitti gardens                                                                                                  Me in the gardens

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The Grotto                                                                                                      View of the Duomo, from the bell tower


“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.”

Vacances Part 4 Clooney and Como

The wonderful thing about traveling by car is the liberty it gives you.  We had no concrete plans for the night; we knew that we had to stop somewhere on the way to Florence since our hotel booking in Florence started the next night.  Glancing over the enormous map we had of Italy, we pinpointed Lake Como as our destination for the night.  We randomly pulled over and found an adorable hotel right on the shore of Lake Como. It’s the unexpected places you find that are the most special.  Now, the most important part of this adventure: we saw George Clooney’s house! We didn’t plan it, but there were a few indicators beforehand.  “I’m pretty sure George Clooney lives somewhere around here,” Mom said as we took a walk in the village. Then we passed a general store with faded posters of George hanging in the windows.  So we knew we were in the right town. Then, we came upon a dock that paralleled a small point with a big house and lots of trees planted around it.  “Now, if I were George Clooney, I would live in that house,” my dad said, pointing at the villa. We circled around to the road side, and the gated entrance to the driveway had signs posted on it saying, in English, “Video Surveillance in use,” so we were pretty sure that was the house. The lady behind the desk at the hotel confirmed our suspicion. So we saw it! Seeing as there was only one restaurant open in the village we were hoping that George would stroll in and join us for dinner, but unfortunately he did not make an appearance.  We enjoyed our fresh fish nevertheless, although I spent the better part of two hours picking the bones out.  Fresh fish is yummy but challenging. Our hotel room had an unbelievable view directly out onto the lake, with the mountains rising up from the opposite shore.  It also had a bide, truly showing that we were indeed in Italy.  One weird thing was the size of the beds.  We were expecting a double and a twin, but the twin was more of a cot and the double could have easily fit five people in it. Anyway, it was a lovely place to stop for the night, so lots of pics!

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Our hotel                                                                                                         Seeing the town

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So many cyclists! Guess Breaking Away was accurate : )

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Looking around

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George’s house!                                                                                            The gates

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No visitors allowed                                                                                       Looking back at the town