A Travellerspoint blog

Siena, Italy, The Hilly Country

A few days of relaxation, wine and good food

sunny 75 °F

For this trip to Italy, we decided to go to the Tuscany wine country for a few days. We chose Siena because the name sounded nice and it was easy to get to by train or bus.

On our way to Siena, we made a stop overnight in Modena in order to buy some balsamic vinegar. Modena vinegar is made from Modena grapes and then aged. We prefer Balsamic Vinegar aged at least 25 years but would love to try the vinegar aged over 100 years. Alas, I don’t want to pay the price.

After Modena we caught a train to Siena. The owner of the Airbnb told us that we probably didn’t want to walk from the train station to the center of town, and she was absolutely right. The center of town was a good 15-20 min drive up and down hills.
Siena reminds me of Dr. Suess books with the steep hills, up and down.

We got to our hotel with a beautiful view of the next hill. Our apartment was on the 3rd floor with no elevator. We didn’t mind the stairs as we’d been sitting for several hours on the train. We found that we could look out the double doors down to the neighbors who would lean out of their windows and talk to each other.
We found a restaurant with lots of gluten free options and only had to walk up and down 2 hills. The hill to the restaurant was so steep in one place that there were stairs. The walk was worth the effort, plus we could eat more food.
Our days were mostly spent walking, exploring little streets, grocery stores and shops. We’d stop for iced coffee at the café associated with the Duomo. We did not go into the Duomo as we’ve been in too many in the last year. We watched the visitors; both individual and tour groups. There was a violinist who came most afternoons but we never determined if she was actually playing the violin or just the recordings.
We’d really planned to do a wine tour with a group but there was nothing available for the time we were there. Instead, we read in Rick Steves, about a wine and food pairing school. We were able to schedule an afternoon.

We walked to the school where everything was set up for 8 of us. We tasted Tuscan wines, a white and a red with a plate of food. Gluten food included bruschetta and a salad with spelt.

After the school our leader took us on a walking tour of the area and gave us some fun information about the neighborhoods.
Siena is divided into neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own flag, name and so on. The neighborhoods are quite competitive. The info was great to know when we found 2 older kids, in their square, one on drums and 1 doing a flag routine. Adults were standing around giving hints.
Siena was a really great place to just forget all of the stressors in our lives. Walking up and down the hills, eating and drinking fun wine, what a life!!!

We are looking forward to Italy again next year!

Posted by Miss Chris 23:30 Archived in Italy Tagged italy tuscany siena international_travel tuscan_wine italy_hills Comments (0)

Off to Verona Italy

Going to 3 nights of operas

sunny 85 °F

After a mid-morning train ride, we arrived in Verona where we had 3 nights of Opera. We found our Airbnb and settled in.
Our apartment was a 1 bedroom, 1 bath with a kitchen, living room and dining room. There was a balcony outside of the living room that had a table and 2 chairs. This was on what we call the 2nd story here but level 1 in Europe.

The apartment was within walking distance, maybe 10 min, to the Arena. Along the way we passed many little outdoor restaurants and lots of gelato stands.

The operas are held at the Verona Arena built in 30AD. The opera starts at dark, ending sometimes after midnight.

We have found that the people who are seen, sit in the bottom front section. Women are usually in sequin dresses, some trailing on the floor. Jewels abound. Men are in the most fashionable suits; this year snug jackets and very snug pants with dress shoes and no socks or very short socks.

We buy a couple of glasses of wine and people watch before the show and during the intermissions. Maybe next year we will spring for a fashionable glass of champagne.

As our checked bag with our opera clothes did not arrive (no fancy sequin dress for me or suit for Dale) we dressed in our best tops and clean blue jean bottoms. But we were fancier than some who wore shorts. My pearls always stay with me so at least I dressed up a bit more.

We watched 3 operas over 3 nights, as mentioned above. In order of attending, we saw La Traviata- Sept 1st, Turandot- Sept 2nd and Nabucco Sept 3rd. La Traviata was our least favorite but we still enjoyed it.

Turandot’s Nessun Dorma was amazing and so popular that it is sung twice. The set was so opulent, so beautiful, so stunning. We were overwhelmed. This link is Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWc7vYjgnTs
This is a small clip from the actual opera we saw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdBff8WdMpw

Nabucco was rained out last year so we were anxious to see it. The set wasn’t so spectacular as the Turandot but it suited the opera. The ‘Va, pensiero’ could be Italy’s national anthem as it is loved so much. The Italians know the words and some sing along. This is also sung twice as it is so loved.
Here is a small clip from the one we saw: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APgt5giDIes
And from U-tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiSSz0snWzA

Our schedule while in Verona was that we woke up sometime between 9 -10, made Italian coffee and drank it on the balcony. We then made a little breakfast and ate that on the balcony. We’d then walk down to the Plaza Bra or Plaza Erbe and sit and drink an iced coffee.

At about 5pm we’d head down to the Plaza Bra where there were a couple of restaurants that served gluten free dishes. If you haven’t been to Italy before, meals are not to be rushed, rather dinner is an event in itself.

About 7:30 the gates at the Arena would open and we’d walk over to our gate. We’d find our seats, get some wine and sit back to watch those who were arriving to see and be seen. By 8:45pm the opera would start and we’d enjoy our wine and the program.

After the opera was over, we’d walk back to our apartment and set out our antipasti on the balcony; olives, meats, cheeses and wine.
We’d watch the people walking by singing or talking. Sometimes they’d look up to see us and we’d wave. Finally, by about 2 am things would calm down and we’d be turning in to rest up for the next day.

Posted by Miss Chris 22:30 Archived in Italy Tagged verona italy international_travel verona_arena verona_opera nabbuco la_traviata turandot Comments (0)

A Day In Rome

Spending time at Palatine Hill and meeting up with friends.

sunny 80 °F
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I was in Rome about 6 years ago, and then again last year, but, didn’t get to spend much time on Palatine Hill. This is the hill where the emperors lived. It overlooks the forum and colosseum. I really wanted to spend some serious time there shooting photos and exploring. (The archaeologist in me)

It worked out well to go to Palatine Hill today as we had plans to meet friends in the evening for dinner. Our friends are from Bakersfield, Marie, is the daughter of Ed, the RV repair shop owner and is traveling throughout Europe with her mother, Ed’s wife. We’d actually planned to meet up with Marie last year in Italy but lost her phone number in the meantime. This year I went into their store, met Marie and put her phone number into my phone. We also set a date to meet, which was today.

Dale and I wanted to meet Marie and her mom at a restaurant that would overlook the Colosseum so on our walk to the Palatine Hill we walked by a restaurant we’d passed by before. We stopped in and found that they had gluten free food so made a reservation for that evening.

Tickets for Palatine Hill have changed in that one must buy a ticket for the colosseum, forum and the Palatine Hill. The tickets must be purchased on-line which was a bit of a hassle as I ended up having internet issues. Then, I didn’t want to buy an expensive all adventure ticket but, found that we couldn’t get into House of Augustus or of Livia with the ticket we had. However, having just been at the Herculaneum the day before, we already had seen wonderful frescos so we made do. If we come back to Rome then we will visit the houses.


When we finished with Palatine we went down into the area around the forum. I’d wanted to shoot some photos around the House of the Vestal Virgins. Fortunately, the area is open now and we were free to wander about, with very few people to bother us.

We walked all afternoon until the gates were closing, only stopping for a breather, drink of water and handful of nuts or part of a bar. I took photos until my camera was even tired.

Tired, thirsty and hungry, we headed over to the restaurant to meet Marie and her mother. The waiter said that we could only have the table until 9pm which we thought would be fine. They arrived late after problems with Uber but we were happy to see them.

We had dinner and wine, then coffees then Espresso Martinis, and on and on, finally saying goodbye after 1:30 am. So much for the 9 pm reservation someone else had made.

Posted by Miss Chris 21:19 Archived in Italy Tagged travel italy rome colosseum rome_italy palatine_hill international_travel Comments (0)

A Day in Rome and A Day at the Herculaneum

Spending a day playing around in Rome then an afternoon at the Herculaneum

sunny 80 °F
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After sitting on the balcony drinking a couple of glasses of wine, we slept in super late after all of the travel struggles. The apartment was small but 2 sets of French doors leading to 1 long balcony opened the room up.

We had nothing planned for the day except to go to Tazza d’Oro for the best iced coffee ever. Our room was just down the street from the Colosseum so It was a bit of a walk but we needed to get out and about.
Along the walk we found a men’s shop and stopped to buy 2 new short-sleeve shirts for Dale as he only had the one, he’d worn on the plane. The Italian shirts were so nice and lightweight, perfect for the warm weather.

After we each had 2 cups of coffee, we were sufficiently fueled up to walk a little more. We wandered down the streets working our way back to dinner at the gluten free restaurant. The colosseum and forum were lit up making for a romantic walk at end of the day.
We got a late start again but were determined to go to the Herculaneum. This is an area near Pompeii and was also affected by the devastating eruption but in a different way so that more buildings are intact.


The area is lots smaller than Pompeii so it is easier to see nearly every building in an afternoon. But, with my stopping to shoot a ton of photos, well, we were there until they were about to kick us out.

Some of the homes were so complete, it was easy to imagine a family living in the house but additionally, how scary it must have been for them during the eruption.
We didn’t get to climb Mt. Vesuvius but maybe we will make it back another time.

Posted by Miss Chris 08:14 Archived in Italy Tagged ruins italy herculaneum colosseum iced_coffee Comments (0)

Trying To Get To Rome

There were lots of obstacles in getting to Rome

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I’ve tried to blog since July but have gotten further and further behind. The muse just hasn’t been there. I’ll maybe get back to our grandkids trip and house hunting after we are back from this trip. But for now, we are in Italy, running amok!

This trip started when we decided to attend the opera for Dale’s birthday. I then found operas for the day before and the day after his birthday that were going to be wonderful, so there the trip goes. I also wanted photos from Palatine Hill, something I didn’t get to last year, so added in Rome, but it is a good place to fly in and out of anyway.

We started out, like most trips, with airplane flights. We decided to travel lighter this trip, with our 2 international size, carry-on, roller bags. Dale with a back pack and me with my Patagonia over the shoulder bag. We also had a standard size carry-on roller bag that we checked.

I was able to pack many clothing items in our small international size bags, 1 extra pair of shoes for me, some books and magazines, and coffee makings. We brought our down sweaters and rain jackets in the backpack and my camera and our laptops in the Patagonia.

Checked were our opera clothes, Dale’s button-up, short-sleeve shirts and toiletries. My tripod was also in the bag.

We didn’t know where we’d be located by this trip so we decided to fly in and out of Bakersfield. 5:20 AM and we were off.

We had a stop in Denver which was uneventful, then onto Boston, which was eventful. We landed just as a thunderstorm was moving into the area. By the time we got close to the gate, lightning was all around us and the plane rocked in the wind. We could not travel any further as the storm would put the gate people in harms way so we had to sit on the tarmac for 1-1/2 hrs.
The plane was safe during the storm, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that we only had 1 hour in Boston before our next flight, to Frankfurt, then 1 hour to our next flight into Rome. So now we were missing our flights.

In Boston, everything was chaos. Flights were trying to get off the ground, trying to unload and load, people everywhere. I checked with the desk and was told to just get to Frankfurt where we would be told what our next flights would be.

We found our flight to Frankfurt and got right onto the plane. We were not able to get assigned seats until just before leaving Bakersfield as this was a foreign airline, so our seats were way in the back. We didn’t care as we were able to sit together and we’d be sleeping most of the way.
As it turned out there was no gluten free meals being given out and I couldn’t order one before the flight. The flight attendants found extra salads, fruit dishes and cheese for me. I had some crackers and bars so I knew I’d be fine.
We got to Frankfurt where we were told that we were rerouted to Brussels then Rome so I went to the Customer Service to see if there was any way to go straight to Rome. There were no direct flights available because of all of the delays. But we did get free meals for all of our troubles. We went directly to a place we’d found last year with gluten free sausages, sauerkraut and drinks.
We finally got into Rome in the late afternoon but our checked bag didn’t come. We went to file a claim but Lufthansa said it wasn’t their flight. Brussels Airlines said it wasn’t their flight but after showing all of our boarding passes, they finally agreed that it was theirs. We filed a claim without any hope of getting our bag while on this trip.

After catching a taxi to our Apartment, I then couldn’t get the internet on my phone to work. This meant we couldn’t get the instructions to get into our Airbnb apt. We walked down the hill to a little hotel who gave us their internet, then had us use their phone to call the apartment owner. One of the women then showed us a restaurant across the street that had almost entirely gluten free menu.

We got into apartment, dropped our bags, went to the restaurant and they said to come back in 20 min. In the meantime, we walked around the corner to a wine bar, tasted wine, bought a bottle and came back to the restaurant where they had reserved a table outside for us. We were starving but everything was safe for me to eat and we were going to be fine!

Posted by Miss Chris 08:08 Tagged rome airports airplanes rome_italy lost_luggage airplane_travel international_travel Comments (0)

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