Espresso breaks, crazy drivers, and green rolling hills.
Bringing Dakota across the Tyrrhenian Sea from Spain to Italy was bittersweet. We loved Spain and had scheduled just two weeks to visit our favorite parts of Italy before taking Dakota to the dock in Genova for her journey back home. We started this journey 5 months ago thinking we would have enough time to visit everywhere we wanted. As this quest comes to an end, we now realize how wrong we were.
The countryside of Italy is stunning. After driving through fierce wind and tormenting rain, attempting to understand directions in Italian, and taking a dirt road (because the main road was closed due to downed trees) we finally made it to our first stop, Orvieto. Our camp was at the base of the walled city, right next to the funicular that would take us up the hill. As we walked around town the next morning, we noted the striped black and white stonework of Orvieto’s Duomo. Even though we have visited many churches, we are always in awe of the craftsman ship of the mosaics, stained glass, carvings, and paintings.
We shopped a little in this historic town. Maria, at Arte del Cuoio, made purses right on site. We ordered a couple for gifts and watched as Maria expertly cut the leather with a blade and then began crafting our purses.
Assisi – home of Saint Frances
The Umbrian countryside rivals the the beauty of the Tuscan Hills. Here we saw rich farms and vineyards with grapes, oranges, lemons, olives and even chestnut trees.
We attempted to ride our bikes to Assisi through the spectacular countryside, but didn’t quite make it. Our path was blocked and we had to turn back. We returned to camp and resorted to the taking the bus. It was a nice bike ride though, in fact, probably the most scenic of our trip.
The Basilica of St. Francis
This basilica had many relics from St. Francis, including his tunic, some of his writings signed with his signature tau cross (last letter in Hebrew alphabet and symbolizes being faithful to the end), the chalice and plate he used for the Eucharist, and his simple knotted rope tie that are used as a reminder of a monk’s vows.
Who could argue with the message of St. Francis? He treated each creature, whether prince or pauper, or even animal equally, with respect. His message of living simply, and taking care of the environment is just as important today as it was in the 11th century.
We enjoyed just wandering and finding our peace away from the crowds.
Pisa and Lucca
Pisa – like the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is worth the visit. It is much more impressive in person than in pictures. It actually leans 15 feet to the south and it appears ready to tumble at any time. We rode our bikes to town (no hills here), and walked through the impressive Duomo.
The town of Pisa is so much more than its famous tower. We biked through the town (finding the best ice cream of our entire trip), over the bridge crossing the Arno River, and through Pisa’s historic squares.
The walled city of Lucca, even without any famous sights, is still one of our favorite places. We enjoyed biking atop the Renaissance wall while enjoying the views of the town below with its many gardens, walking to town at nightfall in the rain (and walking back in harder rainfall ), and browsing the back streets of the town by day. This is the perfect place to just linger, relax and enjoy great company and wonderful food.
This Tuscany hill town seems to be everyone’s favorite destination with good reason. Lounging at a cafe in the main square, IL Campo, watching all types of people relaxing and enjoying the day, we were hard pressed to find any fault with this mostly traffic-free historic town.
Fun-fact:). The color Burnt Siena is named for the color of the soil in Siena.
IL Campo, the town square is the home to the famous Palio horse races. It’s hard to imagine the horses and the crowds when we see people just plopping down on the bricks, and chillin’.
We enjoyed the green and white striped Duomo and the museum in Siena. The Duomo contains incredible artwork, Including beautiful mosaic floors and statues by Michelangelo and sculptures by Bernini.
Ruffugio, Santa Margarita, and Portofino – the Italian Rivierra.
About an half hour from Portofino, also know as the land of the rich and famous, is Santa Margarita, a beautiful, gleaming harbor-front town that offered us fabulous restaurants, restful strolls and relaxing beach life, as well as top-notch shopping if the spirit had moved us (never with Steve).
Portofino -the jewelry shops, the haute couture, and numerous boutiquesand beautiful views are exactly why people come here. We came too, but didn’t stay long, instead we just rolled in on the bus and out again – We did enjoy the views of the pristine waters and interesting architecture as we walked between the towns.