Italy · Rome

Last day in Italy

The Trastevere neighbourhood, where we are now, isn’t far from the Aventine Hill, one of the seven, and one on which a church was built in the early 5th century. It was eventually dedicated to St Sabina and the Basilica of Santa Sabina is now the mother church of the Dominican Order. It was in the convent attached to the church that Thomas Aquinas lived and worked for a while.

So we wandered up to the Aventine this morning and took a few snaps in the area. This is the Basilica with the convent in the background–taken from a nice little garden next door, the Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of Oranges).

Here are the orange trees and the umbrella pines.

The residential area around the Basilica is very pleasant, the trees and shrubs are still blooming and there are some nice apartment buildings with fancy entrances.

We took the shorter route down the hill …

… and went back to the Jewish ghetto for a lunch of artichokes, in both Jewish and Roman style, and rice balls.

Behind us as we ate, one of the chefs was making pasta.

So that’s it. We set off for the airport at 7:30 tomorrow morning and if the flights and bus back to Ottawa are on time, we’ll be home about eighteen hours later. We’re looking forward to being back in Canada in time for Thanksgiving and the autumn colours.

Italy · Rome

Back in Roma

We said goodbye to Assisi late this morning and caught the regional train up to Rome–a much less hectic journey than Friday’s from Florence. There weren’t many tunnels on the slow route to Rome although some parts were very hilly, almost mountainous. We passed the two and a half hour trip watching some beautiful countryside go by, olive groves, hilltop towns–the usual for this part of the world.

For our last two nights we’re booked in to a B&B on the Via Garibaldi in the Trastevere neighbourhood. It’s a nice little oasis with a gated courtyard away from the traffic, pedestrian and otherwise.

After a couple of hours exploring the area, we’re back in the B&B and beginning to think about where to go for dinner.

No pictures today. It rained heavily in Rome an hour or so before we arrived, and it’s threatening to do so again. We’ll get a couple of photos of the B&B tomorrow.

Assisi · Italy

Up and down Mount Subasio

This morning, before most of Assisi was astir, and certainly before the schools of grockles arrived, we climbed up to Rocca Maggiore, the 12th century castle that overlooks the town.

It was a pretty steep climb.

But the views were worth the effort.

We stopped at a lovely little cafe on the way down, hidden from anyone who didn’t attempt the ascent.

And on the slow stroll back through the town we took the less-travelled north-south alleys, and met an Italian cat who couldn’t speak a meow of English.

We take the train back to Rome tomorrow morning and plan on a pleasant day of rest before flying home on Wednesday.

Arrivederci Assisi!

Assisi · Italy

Exploring Assisi

First thing after breakfast we walked down, and downhill, to the Papal Basilica of St Francis, the mother church of the Franciscan order. Being out and about early allowed us to get in and see both the upper and lower churches before the crowds. And very beautiful churches they are.

For the remainder of the day, we climbed and descended the steep streets and alleyways of this lovely little town, stopping for lunch somewhere we probably couldn’t find again. Trish’s cannelloni was baked to perfection, and my minestrone soup was delicious.

I’ll let the pictures we took speak their own thousands of words.

Assisi · Italy

Room with a view

… another well-used title, but perfect for this post.

We enjoyed Florence and, according to local lore, we’ll be back soon because Trish touched the snout of this wild boar by the leather market.

After so many coffee and croissant breakfasts, we wanted something different yesterday, so we had eggs and bacon at Café Paszkowski in the Piazza della Repubblica. It’s an historic café frequented by political activists and literary greats in the first few decades of last century,

The train from Florence to Assisi was busy but reasonably comfortable and we arrived in Assisi just after 3:00 PM. We’re in a hotel now, rather than a B&B, and our room, yes, it’s on the third floor again, has a wonderful view looking approximately south over St Peter’s Abbey. Here’s the view just before sunrise this morning.

The hotel’s restaurant is partly dug into the hillside and the view is amazing, so we ate there last night–barley and truffle soup, risotto with pears, and gnocchi with pork.

Today we explore Assisi.

Florence · Italy

Florence post script

We skipped the bistecca alla Fiorentina last night, just too much meat, but we did have steak. Trish’s was covered with Gorgonzola and walnuts, mine with truffles–both were excellent.

Now we’re in the waiting room at Firenze Campo di Marte railway station, on our way to Assisi.

Wasn’t there an MS DOS release code named Firenze back in the 90s?

Florence · Italy

Last couple of days in Florence

It’s 10:15 at home, but we’re tending towards late afternoon here in Florence. This is our last night here, tomorrow we take the slow, regional train to Assisi.

We spent a pleasant day yesterday in Siena and San Gimignano with a stop for a typical Tuscan lunch and some wine tasting at the Sant’ Appiano winery.

There were seven wines on offer:

  • IGT Toscana White
  • IGT Toscana Rosé Secretum
  • Chianti DOCG “Dominico Capelli”
  • Cottaccio Chianti Superiore
  • Super Tuscan Cipressaia Merlot
  • Super Tuscan Monteloro 2010
  • Super Tuscan Syrah

Trish liked them all, but preferred the Chianti DOCG “Domenico Capelli”. I had a sip of each of them (probably the most wine I’ve ever had in one sitting) and liked only the white and rosé wines.

The owner of the winery was an excellent host. He explained the fermentation and storage processes, and told us about Tuscan customs related to how and when the different kinds of wines of the region are drunk.

Although some parts of San Gimignano were damaged during the Second World War, much of the 13/14th century walled town is original. It’s been preserved and conserved, of course, but it hasn’t been rebuilt.

It’s high up on a hill, making it easier to defend when defence was needed, but requiring some effort to mount the ramparts.

Today we spent nearly three very interesting hours in the San Marco museum, once a Dominican convent and home to the rebellious Girolamo Savonarola. The library and its exhibits were the highlight for me.

We had a light lunch, Florentine salted focaccia sandwiches, and then visited the Basilica di Santa Croce. Dominicans in the morning, Franciscans after lunch.

Here, among many other famous Italians, Galileo, Michelangelo, and Marconi are entombed.

There’s also a bronze plaque commemorating Enrico Fermi. And I think this is also where NASA got the idea for the original Apollo command module latch mechanism–these are the main doors of the Basilica:

Tonight we’re thinking about sampling bistecca alla Fiorentina–a gigantic T-bone steak. If we do, I think we’ll share.

Next stop–Assisi.

Florence · Italy

Under the Tuscan sun

I think someone might already have used the title of this post, but it describes our day perfectly.

We had a great time away from Florence today, Siena, San Gimignano, and a small winery in between the two. Trouble is, we’re bushed, so here are three photos showing where we stopped for wine tasting and lunch, a view of the Tuscan countryside from San Gimignano, and some olives ripening–more details about the day in the next post.

Florence · Italy

In the footsteps of Galileo

The weather in Florence today was perfect, sunny with a maximum temperature of 22 Celsius. We started the day with coffee and croissants–a special spider cappuccino for me.

We’d planned a morning of wandering followed by a tour of the Duomo, but although we’d bought ‘skip the line’ tickets, when we saw the queue we were skipping, we decided to give the tour a miss. Our tickets would get us in without having to wait, but once inside, we’d be shoulder-to-shoulder with the hoi poloi, and we didn’t want the same experience we’d had at the Sistine Chapel. So, what else could we do but eat.

No, we didn’t eat the pig, just a light lunch followed by a hunt for the Vivoli ice cream store, which wasn’t hard to find.

The photo is deceiving, those are small cups containing coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavoured samples–the Italians certainly know how to make ice cream 🙂

A walk across the oldest bridge in the world with elliptical arches took us to the southern side of the Arno river where we conquered the steep climb up to Fort Belvedere, built for one of the Medicis in the late sixteenth century. Galileo made astronomical observations from the fort and one of the houses he lived in is on the hill leading up there.

This plaque commemorates Galileo’s observations of the Jovian moons, but I don’t think he made those particular discoveries in Florence.

The view of the city from the fort, the highest part of Florence, is spectacular whichever way you look.

The climb was worth the effort, and the decent through Galileo’s old stomping grounds was very pleasant.

There was even a Florentine Banksy to admire.

As usual, at this time of day we begin thinking about dinner. Last night we spotted a cosy little pizzeria with a wood-burning oven not too far from the B&B, so that’s where we’re planning to eat tonight–unless somewhere else takes our fancy on the way.

Florence · Italy


Just about to wind down our first evening in Florence.

We arrived a few minutes late by train and didn’t see much of the Tuscan countryside on the 45 minute journey–too many tunnels. But the few glimpses we had were gorgeous.

This view from our third floor B&B is great. We’ve been given third-floor rooms throughout the trip so far, and we’re not complaining.

After an hour wandering aimlessly, and having crossed the famous medieval stone bridge, Pont Vecchio, both ways we found a lovely little restaurant. Our meals were typically Tuscan, and we had our first taste of ribollita soup, seasonal vegetables and bread–it was excellent.

The temperature is cooling down a bit, glad of that. And here’s the evening view from our window to say goodnight.