Monthly Archives: November 2009

From Florence to Rome – with Mountain-top Settlements

Following the sensory over-load of Venice and Florence, we have decided to change the blog format.
We will use selected pictures for each place but give a link to the mass of other photos on another site kept just for that purpose.
That way I can promise to sort out the rest of the photos during the long Winter evenings… maybe.
Also, we are going to try and add the Latitude & Longtitude to the places. In a little while, we should be able to do this with each photo when we get the new toy – a phototracker!

Southern Tuscany

From Florence we travelled South to Castel del Piano (42.8906 11.5391), a small town up in the hills of Southern Tuscany, beneath Monte Amiata.
The village was pleasant enough but really gave us a base to visit Montalcino and Pitigliano.
Our pitch gave us a very nice outlook over the valley and the site was run by an elderly couple who were amazed to have two British visitors at all, much less on the same day!

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View from van window

Montalcino (43.0606 11.4891)
This part of Tuscany is littered with hill-top villages. Many of them clinging to a peak in ways that defy gravity.

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Montegiovi from Castel del Piano

Montalcino is a very wealthy village based on their local vino. It is in very good condition and every third shop is an Enteca or wine seller.DSC_0128
It is dominated by a medieval fortress, much restored and well cared for.

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Looking over the Fort to the town below

The town is compact to say the least and is a rabbit warren of alleys.

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High density housing - Tuscany style

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Main Street, Montalcino

Resulting in what must be one of the world’s smallest footprint Town Hall – but impressive for all it diminutive size.

The Town Hall. No room for big but still impressive...

Montalcino Town Hall - not to wide but it has height

Album at http://arenquerojo.pho.to/albums/montalcino

Pitigliano (42.6339 11.6660)
At Pitigliano Town from the South

This town sits on top of some very soft sandstone and was largely developed by the Jews as a real ghetto! The town itself is minute and the houses and streets are equally small. They have been cobbled together without any apparent planning or reference to any qualified structural engineers…

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Typical Street Scene 1

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This is somebody's Front Door

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300ft up on soft rock. Repairs?

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Street Scene 2

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Street Scene 3

Album at http://arenquerojo.pho.to/albums/pitigliano

Rome (41.9611 11.4799)

Having looked at the coast at Orbetello and been rather unimpressed, we decided to head straight down to Rome and got ourselves installed at Flaminio Village Campsite (41.9611 11.4799).
Although we have been here for a week, we have done little more than keep out of the rain and make trips for shopping.
We are not far from Italy’s largest shopping mall at Porta di Roma where there is a Leroy Merlin and an Auchan. It seems that the French are trying to capitalise on Italy’s general lack of supermarkets.
This also allowed us to buy materials to repair the trailer frame which had collapsed under the weight of puddled water on the roof.
This done we have made two forays by train into the city.
The first trip got us to the Trevi Fountain where the crowds were phenomenal, especially considering this is November. What it must be like in the tourist season, we can hardly imagine.

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The Trevi Fountain

There were a couple of police to see order was kept – at least between themselves.

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Who is in charge here?

and the Pantheon.

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The Pantheon

where we came across a legionnaire on a mobile phone

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No, Mum, I promise I won't fight any Lions today.

and we admired the world’s largest non-reinforced concrete dome – really, this was made in AD120!

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Poulson didn't work on this!

Patrick spent a happy half hour taking pictures of people milling around the fountain and the temple.
This guy has got to be Cosa Nostra, hasn’t he?

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Shh! Got to be the mafia?

and I’m sure I recognise that pony tail

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Now what is his name?

Album at http://arenquerojo.pho.to/albums/rome_1_trevi_pantheon

A typical day in Rome – Not!

Our second trip to the city, and we both forgot our cameras.
We arrived out of the tube station to find the Colosseum right in front of us. Quite a shock! But within a few minutes we found ourselves in the middle of more riot police than we have ever seen and a protest march which one of the participants explained to us was “football hooligans protesting about plans to take their photographs at football matches.” Certainly the press and TV were taking a lot. Thunderflashes took us by surprise several times and the whole of the Colosseum quarter of town was locked down for a couple of hours. Frightening but fascinating to see.
It was also a day for “reclaiming the streets”.  This involved more police and vast numbers of people wandering around the Via Corsa where they had banished almost all the traffic.
From this, we headed to the Piazza Popolo to find ouselves in the middle of a rally of the CGLI or Communist Party. We even understood the odd words from some very impassioned speakers. They clearly have to make a move on the Bellisconi government very soon or, judging from the crowd, their supporters will have all died of old age. Very stirring stuff. Finished off, of course, by the playing of The Red Flag – of which there were many!
At this point we caught the train home with some of the geriatric communists singing along to two accordianists busking in our carriage.
Rome promises to be an interesting city.
Sorry we have no piccies!

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Italian Highway Code

1. If the car is stationary and the horn isn’t sounding – its parked.
2. There are no hard shoulders on Urban Motorways – they have been replaced with special overtaking lane and scooter tracks.
3. Roundabout priorities. The rules relating to give way to those on the roundabout have been replaced as follows:
a) Give way to the fastest, then
b) Give way to the biggest, then
c) Give way to the driver with the most determined expression, then
d) You – if you are quick, otherwise start again from a) above
4. It is an offence to park more than three deep beside the road
5. Pedestrians. Do not stop for them on pedetrian crossings unless they have a red light over them. It confuses the pedestrians and highlights you as a foreigner.
6. In urban traffic, do NOT use your rear view mirrors. Such actions can cause heart attacks.
7. When stationary in a line of traffic, pull in your side mirrors to prevent injury to overtaking scooter drivers.
8. Bus lanes may only be used by:
a) Busses,
b) Taxis,
c) Scooters,
d) anyone else in a hurry.
9. Parking in single carriageway lanes is only permitted if hazard lights are used.
10. When following another vehicle on motorways, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front for 1 cyclist. Any more is considered a waste of space.
11. All speed limits are optional. Driving at or below these advisory limits is impolite to other road users.
12. Road rage is unheard of in Italy. All manoeuvres are considered worth a try. Road excitement is normal especially when a manoeuvre proves unworkable (on this occassion)

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Florence in pictures

We have spent the last 11 days camped at San Pero A Sieve, a small town up in the hills about 17km North of Florence.
The campsite seemed an ideal base for exploring the city as there is an hourly train which takes about half an hour and it has some of the best showers we have yet to encounter.
Our pattern has been to spend a day in the city and then a day resting… Tourism is exhausting work!

We visited the Duomo but copped out climbing the 460 steps to the top. We saw the Church of the Annunciata but they were making a film in the Innocenti so didn’t get in there.
We did get to see David in the Academia but they don’t allow photographs so nothing to show here. We wandered around the Palace of Strozzi.

There was too much to see and do to make any sense of it all, so, as with Venice, here is a link to the pictures we took without any commentry at this stage: Pictures of Florence

We also visited ancient relatives graves

Grave of Caroline Napier

Grave of Caroline Napier

in the English Cemetery.

This last was under the guidance of Prof. Julia Bolton Holloway,

Prof (Emerita) Julia Bolton Holloway

Prof (Emerita) Julia Bolton Holloway at work

a retired professor of Medieval literature from Collorado Uni, Mother of three children, Curator of the cemetery and Catholic Nun. A fascinating individual who devotes much of her time to the cemetery, of course, but in doing so is doing some really impressive work with the Roma in the area.

The Roma in Italy

These unfortunate people have been chased out of Romania. Under the communists, they were allowed to go to school – not now. They were allowed to own houses – not now unless they are registered and most are not because they don’t meet the new registration standards. Of course, under the new regulations, if you are not a registered householder, you can’t work and if you don’t work you have no rights to any public services!

The sad thing is that some foolishly went to Italy where things were a bit better. Until the TV Magnate who is the Prime Minister decided that they shouldn’t be allowed to work there either unless they had a registered Italian address. The addresses which most of them lived at were no longer considered acceptable for registration, so once again these people found themselves unable to work for a living despite the EU saying that they can. Berlisconni is interested in the EU law and knows that the Roma can’t afford to fight him in the courts.

Julia Holloway is desperate to use their high quality skills to renovate the cemetery and has the funds, partly from the Swiss owners, to do so. But the Italians won’t allow them to do so and they don’t have the skills to allow the use of Italian craftsmen/women to do it either.

Evicted!

Having spent 6 days exploring Florence, we slept in this morning on the basis that we needed another rest-day. We would then return for another go Monday or Tuesday with the Uffiza and another couple of museums still on our “must do” list.

Sadly, just before our 11:30 breakfast, the owner of the site drove up to say “You do know we close today for the Winter? You are the only ones still on the site and we close at midday”

A quick negotiation got us permission to stay until two o’clock and we did move before the deadline. It seems to have caused much amusement that we had no idea of their closing date nor that everyone else had already gone…

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Venice in pictures

There is no way we can say anything sensible about Venice that hasn’t been said a million times before…

Suffice it to say we spent a happy day there wandering the streets with our cameras. Sometimes we knew where we were and sometimes we even recognized bits of it. For the rest, we had no idea where we were or how to get back to the ferry home…

Here are our piccies in random order…Venice album

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