Finishing Our First Week

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Michelangelo’s most famous and stunning sculpture . . .

September 13, 2014 – Five days in Florence just flew by, as it always does, with exquisite visits to the Accademia to see the David, the Medici Chapel, the Uffizi, and up high to the Etruscan town, Fiesole.  Wandering the streets of Florence, walking over one bridge and back across another . . . the Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Santa Trinita, always with a misty or sunny view of the Arno River.

By Wednesday, September 10, we were headed to Siena for the next three days.  Walking tours with Viviana Girola are always a must in Siena, and we toured the Duomo, the historical banking Piazzas, the Campo, and the palazzo where ancient documents from centuries of official transactions are stored.

A caprese a day . . . delicious!

A caprese a day . . . delicious!

As in Florence, our Siena days were also filled with delicious meals, including my staple, like an apple a day, the caprese insalate.  Fresh tomatoes, alternated with creamy mozzarella and a variety of applications for the sprig of basil.  I just can’t get enough of this dish, and there is no reason to deny myself.  It is low calorie, and much more satisfying to my taste buds than gelato, though several of the woman are becoming experts in the gelato arena.

The women in this group have threads of connections with one another that grow stronger with each passing meal, each passing glass of wine, each day of this trip.  We eat, shop, eat, walk and walk, laugh, break up into small groups sometimes, wander alone when we want, and come together each evening for another delicious dinner.  On our second evening in Siena, we attended an opera concert, with nearly a dozen arias sung by a woman whose strong voice was actually too much for the little church venue, but when in Italy, how appropriate to hear these familiar pieces sung in the language of this rich-in-culture country.

Siena, Day 3 is free for whatever everyone wants to do . . . exploring back streets to find that special cheese shop, looking for linens and discovering an art store, wandering around until we find our dinner restaurant for the evening, and of course, stopping often along the way for an espresso (big discussions about NOT calling them EXpressos!) or a cappuccino.

The Campo - Siena's center of energy, and a great meeting place!

The Campo – Siena’s center of energy, and a great meeting place!

And always in the center of the town is the famous wide Campo, site of the Palio, the horse races in July and August that determine the winning contrata (neighborhood district) each year.  The Campo is a buzzing place, big enough so it never seems too crowded, with a tower at one end and a fountain at the other, making it easy to find your traveling companions to reconnect after a day of exploring.

Today, Saturday, we will head for the Hertz office and get our cars . . . YIKES!

 

 

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Our Group Is Nearly Complete . . .

May 22, 2014

It’s the middle of the night, and I have been checking out the menu for each of my favorite Tuscan restaurants, in preparation for our Italy Women 2014 adventure!  We have had a health-related cancellation, and that woman is one sad puppy . . . will YOU be the person to fill this recently re-opened final space in our fabulous Tuscany and Cinque Terre Italy Women trip??  . . . September 4-23, 2014.

Check out the November post on this website, the one that has ALL of the details!  Drool, and then let me know if you are interested in being that last lucky person.  We’ve got a great group already!

Update on Italy Women 2014 Adventure

Well, there are two spots available for our September trip, and you can scroll down to see all the details, pricing, etc.

Florence, Siena, Chianti country villa, and the Cinque Terre!  A variety of beauty for the eyes  . . . I just secured our accommodations in Manarola (Cinque Terre), right at the edge of the Italian Riviera.  And the villa we have acquired for a full week . . . well, looky here, as my sister says!

Our Chiangi Country villa

Our Chianti Country villa!

Five nights in the heart of Florence, three nights in beautiful Siena, and a week exploring the Tuscan countryside from this villa . . . San Gimignano, Montepulciano, the Chianti towns (Castellina, Greve, Radda), tasting delicious food and wine, and soaking up the ambiance of the area.

Portofino harbor

Portofino harbor

Our adventures culminate on the Italian Riviera, where we can explore the coastal towns from Riomaggiore to Portofino.  As we travel, I’ll write here about our daily activities.  Will you join us?

Check through some of the archives for past years’ details. And go to the details post for further information.

Ciao!

Italy Women 2014

Florence, Siena, Tuscan Countryside, Cinque Terre

September 4-23, 2014

Walking across this bridge, you will find wall to wall jewelry stores . . . Ponte Vecchio means the "Old Bridge", but often people call it the "Gold Bridge".

Walking across this bridge, you will find wall to wall jewelry stores . . . Ponte Vecchio means the “Old Bridge”, but often people call it the “Gold Bridge”.

Ah, Bella Italia!  Wouldn’t we love to explore her majestic art, architecture, and cuisine, her serene villages and vineyards, her romantic coastlines for half of the rest of our lives?  Well, on this Women’s Adventure, we’ll have to settle for just a bit less than that, taking in some of the spectacular sights in the top half of “the boot”. 

We’ll begin in Florence, my favorite Italian city, full of culture and beauty, and just the right size to enjoy ourselves easily. We will stay five nights, strolling on the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the Arno, listening to the monks chant their 5:00 Mass near the Piazzale Michelangelo, stopping at a frutta e verdura market for a fresh afternoon snack.  After a half day private walking tour to get a feel for the history of Florence, we will visit the old masters in the Uffizi Gallery and the exquisite statue of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.  Franco treats us like queens at Il Porcospino, a local ristorante near the Medici Chapel..

A day trip to Fiesole will give us our first taste of some northern Tuscany towns, with a spectacular view of Florence from above, and we can explore the Etruscan ruins nestled in Fiesole’s village boundaries.  And always there is espresso, cappuccino, gelato and other delicious culinary delights.

Siena - Duomo

The Duomo in Siena

We depart Florence and travel by short bus ride to Siena, where the Palio is held each year at the Campo, in July and August.  We can see clear evidence of which contrata has won the prize when we’re there.  A half-day private tour with my friend Viviana Girola will put some of Siena in a historical context, including entry into the magnificent Duomo, as well as the side gallery with ancient illuminated manuscripts on display. Then we will be free to explore the walkways, churches, shops and alleys of this old world town. My past participants always long to stay more than one night here, so I’ve added two extra nights.  Delicious dinners await us, as well as casual daytime grazing on the Campo, full of cafes and street vendors.

Our Chianti Country villa!

Our Chianti Country villa!

After kissing Siena goodbye, we will head to a lovely villa in the Tuscan countryside, near Vagliagli, just outside of Castellina in Chianti.  We will take off most days for towns in Chianti, as well as Montipulciano, Pienza, Cortona, and San Gimignano, and perhaps visit Capalbio’s Il Giardino dei Tarocchi (Tarot Garden), a spectacular park with mosaic magnificence in the form of the figures of the Major Arcana.   

We can also just spend a leisurely day or two (your choice) at the villa itself, lounging by the pool, walking the area or napping luxuriously in the Tuscan sun.  There is always time to write in your journal, one you will receive for the trip, or one you bring with you!

Our departure from the villa, on our way to Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, will allow time to stop in Pisa for a few hours. We will see the Leaning Tower, of course, and those of you who are adventuresome can climb the tower if you wish.  The Baptistry and the Duomo are spectacular, part of the unique Field of Miracles situated within an area the size of a city block.  Then we begin our time on the Italian Riviera nicely recovered from floods and mudslides in 2011.

Cinque Terre

             Cinque Terre – Vernazza

In Cinque Terre, where we will stay for three nights, we can walk or hike from one of the five villages to another, or take the little “milk train” instead, stopping here and then there to explore Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  We will steal away one day, taking the train to the spectacular oceanside town of Portofino (remember Enchanted April, filmed in that area?) for a day of shopping (even just window-shopping) in the high end stores and galleries or just sitting by the sparkling Ligurian sea, sipping chilled Prosecco and watching the yachts come and go. 

When we depart from Cinque Terre, we will head for Milan’s Malpensa airport and our return to reality!

Our trip will include AIRFARE FROM DENVER, eighteen nights’ lodging (double occupancy), all transportation within Italy, walking tours in Florence and Siena, a half-day trip to Pisa, sixteen breakfasts, three lunches, two picnics, eight dinners, entrance to the Duomo in Siena, the Uffizi, Accademia, and Medici Chapel in Florence, combo ticket in Pisa (the fee for the Tower climb is not included), Florence Street-wise maps, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire extinguisher!

Cost for above, (including airfare from Denver) is $6200.00**  A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space.  A referral discount of  $250 is yours for early registration by November 30, 2013 OR for bringing a friend not on my list . . .

For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339.  E-mail me at jetlost@lamar.colostate.edu and check out my travel blog, http://www.woodswomanabroad.com for samples of previous trip adventures!

A very happy group of women!

Delicious food, delicious wine, very happy women!

Arrividerci!

**Double occupancy.  Single occupancy available for additional cost.  If you are flying from somewhere other than Denver, or if you have miles you’d rather use, please talk with me. Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer a group rate or individual policy for the full value of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc.  Details about that upon registration.

Coming to Florence . . . a most delightful experience

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Campo . . . One could spend an entire day (or week) just in this square.

This morning in Siena we were on our own, free to wander the streets, sit at a café in the Campo, shop in the many storefronts and market stands in and out of the twisty, turning cobblestone streets.  Anne and I wandered in and out of shops with purses, bumping into Amy and Laurie here and there.

The group plan was to meet at the hotel by 12:45, get our bags and walk two blocks to the bus station, where we would board the bus for Florence.  Plans went smoothly until I had everyone on the bus and realized I had left my carry bag/purse behind the desk at the hotel “for safekeeping” . . . so Mary and Sue assured me the group would find their way to the hotel in Florence (they all had their StreetWise Florence maps, indispensable for easy wandering), and I would take the next bus an hour later.

Three hours later, checked into our rooms at the lovely Hotel Pendini, we again gathered together and headed out in taxis to the Piazalle Michelangelo and the church of San Mineato, high on top of a hill overlooking all of Florence.  The views from up there are spectacular!

San Mineato not only has a beautiful church, but the grounds house a cemetery full of family crypts, sculptures, and decorated gravestones.  At 5:30, we quietly walked into the church, settling ourselves in the lower level so we could hear the monks chanting the Mass.  Two of the monks settled themselves on time, and then began to look at their watches and exchange mystified glances as the minutes clicked by.  By 5:45, one of them left by the side alter, and ultimately, the rest of the monks entered, followed by . . . surprise . . . (see Rome/Pantheon entry) another ancient priest who was apparently supposed to say the Mass.  His wavering voice began a thin, watery chant, and his shaking hand could barely turn the page of the Mass book at the pulpit.  Where DO ancient priests go when they no longer really belong in front of people?

By 6:30 we were on our way back down the hill, walking this time, following a path full of students, locals, and cats.  Eventually finding ourselves on the street in the Oltrarno district, we came upon a Capoeria session inside one of the doorways on our path.  Capoeria is a Brazilian martial art that combines dance and music with their “fight” motions.  Adults and children moved beautifully to the drum beats of several members of the group. A perfect example of “stumbling into magic” that comes with wandering the back streets in another country . . . I was able to video just a bit of it before one of the Capoeria members asked me to stop.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to load it here, so I’ll have to get better instructions!

Walking across this bridge, you will find wall to wall jewelry stores . . . Ponte Vecchio means the “Old Bridge”, but often people call it the “Gold Bridge”.

We wound our way to the Arno River, and ultimately crossed at the Ponte Vecchio (more on that later).

Our evening ended with dinner at Il Porcospino, well taken care of by Franco and the rest of the staff.  I love beginning my time in Florence at this restaurant, where everyone is happy to see me and whomever I bring along for a great meal!

I walked 7.66  miles today.

Italy Women – September 6-23, 2012

Italy Women 2012
Rome, Siena, Florence, Lucca, Venice
Ah, Bella Italia!  Wouldn’t we love to explore her majestic art, architecture, and cuisine, her serene villages and vineyards, her romantic coastlines and waterways for half of the rest of our lives?  Well, on this Women’s Adventure, we’ll have to settle for just a bit less than that, taking in some of the spectacular sights in the top half of “the boot”. 
We’ll begin in Rome, one of the most cultural cities in the world, and we will stay four nights here.  We’ll visit the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Vatican.  Throw your pennies in the Trevi Fountain and make your wishes come true.   Spend a leisurely evening eating dinner on the edge of the Piazza Navona or the Campo di Fiori (or both!).  Shop on the exquisite Via Condotti, sit on the Spanish Steps, and spend an afternoon at the Borghese Gallery, where Bernini’s statue of Apollo chasing Daphne will take your breath away. 
Then we’ll travel by train to begin our stay in Tuscany, beginning with one night in Siena, where the Palio is held each year at the Campo.  We’ll have a half-day private tour with my friend Viviana Girola, and explore the walkways, churches, shops and alleys of this old world town. We will then stay five days in Florence, strolling on the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the Arno, listening to the monks chant their 5:00 Mass near the Piazale Michelangelo, stopping at a frutta e verdura market for a fresh afternoon snack.  After a half day private walking tour to get a feel for the history of Florence, we will visit the old masters in the Uffizi Gallery and the exquisite statue of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia.  Franco treats us like queens at Il Porcospino, a local ristorante near the Medici Chapel.  And always there is espresso, cappuccino, gelato and other delicious culinary delights.
Day trips to Fiesole and Vinci will give us a taste of some northern Tuscany towns, and are easy to reach by train or short bus.  If we have time, we might even have a language lesson or two, taught by my Italian tutor, Leonardo d’Amato.
After kissing Florence goodbye, we will head to one of my favorite old Tuscan towns, Lucca.  Nestled just near Pisa, our Lucca stay (two nights) will allow us time to stop in Pisa on the way, to see the Leaning Tower, of course, as well as the Baptistry and the Duomo.  Siena and Lucca have become the happy substitute for Cinque Terre, since quite a bit of the Cinque Terre villages were damaged or destroyed by flood and mud slides last month. 

Finally, we will again travel by train to the waterways of Venice, where the common substitute for a car is a long boat called a vaporetto. Walking in Venice across the hundreds of footbridges is a treat, and easier with your StreetWise Venice map, a must in this maze of canals.  We’ll have a half-day tour here, through the Church of San Marco, the Ducal Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.  Mask shops abound, and I’ve discovered a little place that makes and sells wonderful journals for those of you who like reflective writing. 
If you choose, you can take a boat to Murano and Burano, famous for beautiful Venetian glass and lace.  Or you can just sit in any café that appeals to you and watch the people go by.  After four nights in Venice, we’ll bid farewell to the welcoming residents of Italy and head for home.
Our trip will include AIRFARE FROM DENVER, sixteen nights’ lodging (double occupancy), RailEurope passes, other private transportation and/or transfers to and from our hotels, Roma Passes for major sights, A Vatical visit, walking tours in Florence and Venice, vaporetto tickets in Venice, a half-day trip to Pisa, sixteen breakfasts, three lunches, seven dinners, Rome, Venice and Florence Street-wise maps, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire extinguisher!
Cost for above, (including airfare from Denver) is $5950.00**  A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space. A referral discount of  $250 is yours for early registration by December 1 OR for bringing a friend not on my list . . .
For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339 or 970-226-5676.  E-mail me at jetlost@lamar.colostate.edu and check out this blog, www.woodswomanabroad.blogspot.com for samples of previous trip adventures!
Arrividerci!      
                                                                                                                                             
**Double occupancy.  Single occupancy available for additional cost. If you are flying from somewhere other than Denver, or if you have miles you’d rather use, please talk with me about arrangements.  Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer a group rate or individual policy for the full value of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc.  Details about that upon registration.