A Travellerspoint blog

Day 8 Sorrento here we come

Today is a national holiday in Italy, Republic Day. This can be good or bad for us. Good in that there shouldn't be too much traffic to navigate returning the car and bad if we can't find an open gas station to fill the gas tank before returning it.

We said our goodbyes to Theresa & Augistino, their 2 dogs Ollie & Zara after enjoying one last breakfast on their lovely terrace. We headed out for the Hertz rental office at the Florence airport location. Just before approaching the rental office we veered off to find a gas station. You would have thought we had never pumped gas before. Trying to figure it out took the help from a thoughtful stranger getting his car washed who could clearly see we didn't have a clue! We've got to remember we are not in the good ole USA anymore. With no one else in sight we wondered how long we would have had to drive around before finding someone to show us how to work the pumps had he not been there. We dropped off the car in one piece and with no problems! Yay! From there a short taxi ride to the Santa Novella train station and we are on our way to Sorrento!

The train from Florence to Napoli was one of the best so far. A quick comfortable 2.5 hour ride and we are there. We had contracted a driver for our stay in Sorrento. He'll pick us up in Napoli (Naples) and take us to our hotel. Tomorrow he will be our guide along the Amalfi coast and the next day take us back to Napoli train station.

Off the train and there is a friendly gentleman standing at the end of the track holding a sign with our name on it. Boy do I ever like when things just go as planned. Turns out this is not our guide for tomorrow but his friend and business partner Guiseppe (Pepe). Due to the holiday, traffic was worse than usual according to Pepe. Glad he was driving and not us. It took us a long time just to get out of the train station parking lot. Apparently Italians retreat to the Amalfi coast when they are on holiday. The majority of them were arriving at the same time we were.

We arrived at the Bellevue Syrene hotel around 2pm. Every other place we will have stayed in Italy is an AirBnB. We wanted to experience something a little different in Sorrento and we succeeded by coming here. So this is how the other side travels! Our room has a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The building boasts Italiam marble floors and ceramic tiles. From our balcony we can view Mt. Vesuvius across the sea. What a treat! For dinner tonight we walked down to the fishing village not to far from where we are staying. We ate right by the water from a local restaurant owned by 6 fisherman. After dinner we went up the hill into town for a gelato. The town seemed packed with just about everyone staying in Sorrento.

We're calling it a day. Our guide is picking us up at 9:30 tomorrow morning to drive us along the Amalfi Coast. We are looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

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Posted by Z's en_route 14:36 Comments (0)

Day 8 Sorrento here we come

Today is a national holiday in Italy, Republic Day. This can be good or bad for us. Good in that there shouldn't be too much traffic to navigate returning the car and bad if we can't find an open gas station to fill the gas tank before returning it.

We said our goodbyes to Theresa & Augistino, their 2 dogs Ollie & Zara after enjoying one last breakfast on their lovely terrace. We headed out for the Hertz rental office at the Florence airport location. Just before approaching the rental office we veered off to find a gas station. You would have thought we had never pumped gas before. Trying to figure it out took the help from a thoughtful stranger getting his car washed who could clearly see we didn't have a clue! We've got to remember we are not in the good ole USA anymore. With no one else in sight we wondered how long we would have had to drive around before finding someone to show us how to work the pumps had he not been there. We dropped off the car in one piece and with no problems! Yay! From there a short taxi ride to the Santa Novella train station and we are on our way to Sorrento!

The train from Florence to Napoli was one of the best so far. A quick comfortable 2.5 hour ride and we are there. We had contracted a driver for our stay in Sorrento. He'll pick us up in Napoli (Naples) and take us to our hotel. Tomorrow he will be our guide along the Amalfi coast and the next day take us back to Napoli train station.

Off the train and there is a friendly gentleman standing at the end of the track holding a sign with our name on it. Boy do I ever like when things just go as planned. Turns out this is not our guide for tomorrow but his friend and business partner Guiseppe (Pepe). Due to the holiday, traffic was worse than usual according to Pepe. Glad he was driving and not us. It took us a long time just to get out of the train station parking lot. Apparently Italians retreat to the Amalfi coast when they are on holiday. The majority of them were arriving at the same time we were.

We arrived at the Bellevue Syrene hotel around 2pm. Every other place we will have stayed in Italy is an AirBnB. We wanted to experience something a little different in Sorrento and we succeeded by coming here. So this is how the other side travels! Our room has a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The building boasts Italiam marble floors and ceramic tiles. From our balcony we can view Mt. Vesuvius across the sea. What a treat! For dinner tonight we walked down to the fishing village not to far from where we are staying. We ate right by the water from a local restaurant owned by 6 fisherman. After dinner we went up the hill into town for a gelato. The town seemed packed with just about everyone staying in Sorrento.

We're calling it a day. Our guide is picking us up at 9:30 tomorrow morning to drive us along the Amalfi Coast. We are looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

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Posted by Z's en_route 14:36 Comments (0)

Day 7 Farewell to Firenze

Have we really been here a week already? In the past seven days we have had so many memorable experiences that I'm glad this blog will help keep them all straight. Our stay here in Tuscany will be hard to beat. Unlike many of the other tourist destinations we are visiting, staying here in a home in Tuscany we feel as though we have truly experienced Italy. Theresa and Augostino are such kind genuine hosts. This is Italy!

This morning we were up bright and early. We needed to be in Florence by 8:15 to make the reservation time I had made us to visit the Accademia to see the statue of David. We had read where the museum can get very crowded if you wait until later in the day. We were there for about an hour and saw the long line of people waiting to enter when we came out. If you make reservations you don't have to wait in that line. The museum hosts other unfinished works of Michelangelo and paintings of various artists.

After a quick breakfast of danish and cappuccinos at a nearby cafe we were wandering the streets of Florence deciding what we should see next. We found ourselves back in the Mercato Centrale where we were yesterday buying food for our cooking class. It's a neat place full of such colorful vegetables, meat and fish you might never find in the US. We wanted to check out the upstairs which turned out to be just a huge food court. We passed though the rows of vendors outside selling leather bags and scarves and may have made a few purchases.

Our tour guide from yesterday said to be sure to visit the Basilica di Santa Croce, so that would be our next stop. Santa Croce was built from 1300 to about 1385. The church holds the remains of Michelangelo and Galileo amongst others. The basilica itself is like an art museum with its many frescos on the walls by many different artists. On our way out we decided we had appreciated enough art for the day and decided to forgo the Uffizzi gallery reservation we had for later in the afternoon. Art lovers may think we were crazy to miss it but after awhile it all runs in together.

Across the Arno river is Palazzo Michelangelo, about a 25 minute walk from where we were. You get a great view of the city from up there so we decided to take a walk. We were almost to the top when the rain drops started to fall. We ducked into a small food stand for a few drinks in hopes the rain would stop. It didn't so we didn't stay to long after taking a few pictures of the city skyline.

Back in the city we were ready for dinner. We found a nice restaurant with outside covered seating in the Piazza della Signoria. It is the main civic center of Florence dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio. In this spot in ancient times there were executions, riots and great celebrations. We were offered a table right next to an outdoor heater which was nice since it started to cool down after the rain. It was a nice backdrop for our last meal in Florence with lots of outdoor statues across the way and the many tourists walking around taking photos of this historical place. When the rain stopped we were on the look out for one last gelato and head back to the tram and our car to get back to our place in Tuscany.

Tomorrow we head for Sorrento. Dropping the car off and taking the train. Carl is ready to step away from the wheel. As previously mentioned driving has been a real adventure.

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Posted by Z's en_route 13:10 Archived in Italy Tagged florence Comments (1)

Day 6 A lesson in Italian cooking and much more

5/31/16

Today we had booked a cooking class out of Florence. This was such a good idea and highly recommended if you are ever in Florence. It took us out away from the crowds in and around the city and into a much more tranquil setting. We were told to meet the group behind the Palazzo Vecchio by 9:50. This meant allowing us enough time to park the car, get the tram and walk to the meeting place in the city. We figured we needed to allow ourselves about an hour. So our plan was to leave by 8:30 in case of rush hour.

The backdrop here is hard to describe. When we got up this morning there were hot air balloons passing by in the back of the house. It's breathtaking and I wonder to myself if the people here take it for granted. Agostino made us breakfast out on the terrace. We are staying here with another young couple from Singapore who are on their honeymoon. They joined us for breakfast.

After breakfast we were heading down the narrow roads of Tuscany by 8:30 on schedule. We made it just in time to meet our group that was going on the tour with us. The tour starts by walking you through Florence with your guide who was just great, very friendly and sure to include everyone in the group with her conversations. Our first stop was to the produce stand to get the produce we would need for the class. Then through San Lorenzo market to get the meat & cheese. On our way to the market we had a short history lesson as our guide Lavina pointed out some points of interest. We passed Michaelangelo's home, some historic churches and other very old buildings. We stopped at a cafe and took a coffee break before boarding a bus for the short drive to a Tuscan home where we would all get to learn how to prepare an Italian meal. Our lesson included real Italian bruschetta, fresh pasta, ragu, pork and potatoes Italian style, homemade tiramisu and gelato. We made our own pizzas in a brick oven to snack on with wine and beer while we waited for the meal to cook. Everyone got to take a turn doing some of the cooking.

The food was delicious, the background scenic and we got to talk with people from all around the world. We can't wait to try some of these recipes at home. Today was a lot fun. We ended our evening joining Agostino, Theresa, Clara & Nicholas from Singapore around the kitchen table sampling Agostinos home made liqueur. Tomorrow is our last full day in Florence. We are off to meet/see David in the Accademia and a few more sites that might peak our interest. Until I awake from the sounds of the sheep bells and chickens, Ciao!

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Posted by Z's en_route 16:41 Comments (2)

Day 5 Making our way through Italy

Day 5 Monday May 30

Today we caught an early train out of Vernazza for the town of La Spezia where we've rented a car for the next few days. Our next stay is outside of Florence in the Tuscan town Scandicci where the train does not run. We're always up for an adventure and driving in foreign countries can be just that.

Once off the train in La Spezia we grabbed a taxi to take us to the car rental office. We were given a fairly new Fiat, bigger than the one we had ordered. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing considering these hillside one lane roads. We were on the road by 10:30, put the directions into google maps and were off. Since we weren't able to check into our next B&B until after 5pm we decided to find the tram stop. You can't drive into the city of Florence so we parked the car and took the tram into the city to get acclimated.

Once in Florence we grabbed lunch and noticed there was little to no line que to go into the Duomo. We took advantage of it and walked through admiring this massive church and its fresco on the ceiling. When we came out we noticed a very long que going around the building to go up into the domes coupla. Instead we opted to climb the 415 steps up the bell tower which had a much shorter line. The view of Florence from that vantage point is spectacular.

Florence is a busy city with lots of tourists, people on mopeds and bikes. You really need to watch where you are walking. We walked around some more looking for the spot to meet the tour company for tomorrow's tour. Arounud 7pm we headed out in search of the B&B we are staying at. The Tuscan countryside is just how it looks in pictures, rolling fields lined with rows upon rows of grape vines and vegetables. The directions on Google maps was spot on. What did people do before Google maps? The roads in Tuscany can be very narrow but Carl navigated them just fine even with his co-pilot's eyes shut some of the time.

When we arrived, Agostino the owner (who speaks about as much English as we do Italian) welcomed us. He offered us homemade bruschetta and poured us some wine while we waited for his wife Theresa to arrive home from work. Theresa speaks enough English to communicate. Prior to arriving you can request to have dinner at their home for an additional cost. We did for our first night so Theresa got right to work making it after working all day. I felt bad she was working so hard after working all day.

This was the best meal of our trip thus far. It started with a charcuterie board of various cheese and meats. Then came the homemade pasta, wild boar, 4 different types of deep fried vegetables, and a garden salad all picked from their garden just before the meal. Another bottle of wine and we thought we were through. Well, that was until she brought out an amazing array of desserts and liquors. This place is amazing and right out of a magazine. The people running it are so genuine and friendly. Even though it's a little inconvenient to have to drive into the city each day, I'll always be glad we chose to stay here.

Looking forward to tomorrow. We are learning to cook like an Italian.

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Posted by Z's en_route 14:15 Comments (2)

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