One of the reasons we prefer to travel by personal car is the freedom we have to wander, and in Tuscany wandering, and getting lost sometimes, is the best way to see the magnificent countryside. And we were blessed with amazing ‘photogenic’ weather. It would rain for a bit during the day and then these amazing clouds would fill the sky and create beautiful light and shadows across the rolling hills. It was May so everything was green and lush. For this set of images, we start with the Madonna Di Vitaleta Chapel, which we stumbled across on the way to Pienza. Driving along StradaRead More →

Our first full day after arriving in Montalcino, we followed Robert’s advice and did a big circle around the Val d’Orcia, starting with a visit to the Sant’Antimo Abbey, then on to Bagno Vignoni and ending up in Pienza, another World Heritage Site and the hill-top town with the most iconic views of the Tuscan countryside.   We arrived in the early morning to a beautiful view of Sant’Antimo Abbey.   After a few minutes a bus arrived with a group of students, who enjoyed the grounds around the abbey.   We wandered around taking photos. Grima found a beautiful view of red Italian poppiesRead More →

From Pisa we drove to the small town of Montalcino in Val d’Orcia Tuscany, part of a World Heritage Site for Humanity. Montalcino is named after an oak tree variety that once covered the mountainous area around the town. It’s also the center of over too producers of the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine. We stayed for three nights at the Palazzina Cesira (Via Soccorso Saloni, 2, 53024 Montalcino SI, Italy). The Cesira is a bed and breakfast run by Robert, an Italian/American and his wife, Lucilla. Lucilla was a little under the weather but we did enjoy the company of Robert, also an accomplishedRead More →

On our second day in Cinque Terre we visited the towns of Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza – a very full day. Monterosso is the largest town of the five lands and has an actual beach. It’s also reached by train. After spending the morning there we hopped back on the train to Vernazza, where we stayed until after sunset. Vernazza is still a true fishing village with a protected harbor and one of the most photographed towns of Cinque Terre. It is also the only town with a lookout tower, originally built to protect the town from pirates.   Tunnel into town from theRead More →

From Modena we headed to Cinque Terre (Five Lands, comprising Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore), representing five villages clinging to the mountain sides on the northwest coast of Italy. They say it’s the ‘poor man’s Almalfi Coast’. We found it quite wonderful, and an incredible workout as most every place is either up or down. We were there for a couple days and managed to see Marionola, Vernazza and Monterosso. Reaching any of the towns via car is problematic, so we stayed in La Spezia, an industrial town just down the cost and took the train to Cinque Terre each day.  Read More →

Not as well known as Lake Como, Lake Garda, none the less, is a must see in Northern Italy. Extending over 32 miles from the base of the Dolomites it is home to a couple dozen picturesque communities. We took a day from Verona to travel to Lake Garda, only a few kilometers away and traveled up the east coast almost to its northern point, stopping as much as possible to admire the scenery and grab a bit of lunch. Our biggest mistake was in not allowing more than one day to see this amazing place. One could easily spend a week exploring the communitiesRead More →

From Venice, we travelled to Verona, a town seeped in romantic history and setting for three of Shakespeare’s plays. We were there for only a couple days, and one of those days we spent at Lago Garda, so just had a few hours to explore the historic central district.   In the major tourist areas you’ll find local ‘actors’ who dress up as various historical characters. Shortly after arriving at Piazza Bra Grima was approached by this Roman Centurion. Skeptical of his intentions, he turned out to be a thoroughly delightful fellow and was as interested in getting his picture taken with her as weRead More →

Burano is the second isle that we visited and is famous for fine lace and multi-colored houses. The island became known for lacemaking by needle in the 16th century that today would be prohibitively expensive. But the tradition of lacemaking continues with more modern methods, providing an enormous variety of beautiful lace products. The story about the multi-colored houses recounts that it was to help fishermen recognize home when returning from sea. Today house colors are regulated by the local government.   Leaving Murano in route to Burano   Burano is much further out from Venice than Murano – so much longer at sea. ButRead More →

Who doesn’t go to Venice to see and float along the myriad canals of the city. And wander, and wander … It’s a giant maze and one of the pleasures is to get ‘lost’ and come across another unexpected sight. It’s truly an incredible city and our three days there were way too short.   Gondoliers queue up at the Piazza San Marco to pass under the Bridge of Sighs, historically the last view of Venice by convicts as they walked to prison cells.   A rare view sans Gondolas     Each gondola is personalized. Bring along a bunch of Euros…   Walking throughRead More →

Of course, piazza San Marco is the centerpiece of Venice and the largest. But we were charmed to stumble across so many other ‘neighborhood’ campis while exploring the many passageways throughout Venice.   Piazza di San Marco with the Campanile and the Basilica di San Marco after a short cloudburst, which fortunately cleared most the tourists off the piazza.   Preparing for dinner   The upper floor columns of the Procuratie Vecchie on the Piazza di San Marco, home today to shops and restaurants.   Pigeons rule the piazza and captivate the tourists.   Although there are scammers wandering around – they’ll throw a handfulRead More →