A stopover in Rome and two weeks in romantic Tuscany (Toscana) was irresistible for the family. For us grown-ups it would be a coming back from many years ago. Not everything went as planned though.
Friday 22.6.2007, Stavanger – Rome
The family of five took an early morning flight with KLM to Amsterdam. Our youngest son went looking for his muffins place he had visited two years before (going to Egypt), but it was no longer there and he had to settle for a simple replacement. We continued on to Rome with Alitalia on the same ticket. This is my first time with the Italian airline. We were served food on both stretches so it could be that in-flight services are improving.
On Fiumicino airport in Rome we had to wait long for our daughter’s trolley but eventually it came. We left two suitcases in the luggage storage at the far end of the arrival hall and took the train to Termini in Rome. The storage cost of only 7 euro at was well worth it in order to avoid the hassle of bringing it with us for a single night in Rome. We were returning the next day to pick up our rented car and drive north to Tuscany. The train cost 10 euro per adult with the children for free.
From the Termini we walked to…
HOTEL ROMAE in Via Palestri. The distance from the train station would have been 500 metres had we walked right the first time. We paid 250 euro for a five-bed room and very stylish, spacious and good.
After a good lunch on the pavement across the street from the hotel we walked along the streets to the Coliseum. Our simple map was not accurate and it became a long and hot trip.
Coliseum in Rome
From the Coliseum three of the family chose a taxi back to the hotel, while I and my oldest son took one to St. Peter’s Square. The church and square is mighty and large. We were tired of walking so we dropped climbing the cupola. My son could tick off yet a country in his book. We took a taxi back to the hotel as well.
Dinner was eaten right next to the hotel because the waiter had titled my youngest son “little boss” a couple of times. That was the decisive moment in picking a restaurant. They even had good food.
We rounded off the evening with playing cards in a tight, nice and hugely stylish backyard. We “men”. A long day did not end until close to midnight.
The long walk to the Coliseum took its toll on us and the sights of Rome were far from visited to the extent we grown-ups had anticipated. We have seen many before, and the children will have to wait for another time.
Images from Rome:
Saturday 23.6.2007, Rome – Bettolle
We all had a good breakfast at the hotel. Rome awakens late, we don’t. We took the train back to the airport and picked up our suitcases. I went looking for the Sixt car rental office. After having walked around half the airport area I finally found the place. Wives, husbands, screaming children and towers of luggage piled up everywhere and created an alarming and depressive impression. Luckily the queues at the Sixt office (rented through Suncars/FirstChoice) were not long at all. I signed the forms for a Ford Focus station wagon and picked up my family at the arrival hall. Then we pressed out into the motorway, the very A1 towards Florence.
Towards the north
I kept a high speed, 120-130 for a large part, and it gave us a good progress in a landscape that shifted from the flat to the smoothly rolling hills of Umbria first, then Tuscany at the end. We stopped a couple of times at roadside restaurants, with a choice of selection and quality of taste the lousy Norwegian counterparts can only dream of. The children in the backseat fared well despite the lack of baby seat for our youngest. The rental company did not have any and claimed it was not compulsory for children over three years of age.
After driving a straight line from south to north of Italy we turned off the A1 at the road sign pointing to Siena. We paid 8 euro departure tax and headed up towards our village. Bettolle lies on top of a ridge, according to tradition, and the narrow road winds its way through the village, across the piazza and past a bar. 500 metres downhill we found…
CASA VIGNACCE. Noone home at first, but hostess Anna came after 5-10 minutes. Nice. We are paying 2400 euros for two weeks. Large flat, ca. 100 square metres. Old style. Nice and clean.
Right next to the house, a former vineyard, is a garden with roses, orange trees etc in large brown jars. The garden is surrounded by buildings one of them housing the hostess in a one-storey section. Outside the garden lies what can almost be characterised as a park. It comes complete with a swimming pool, table tennis, fruit trees and a lawn to play football on. It is all perfect.
Our living room
We bought our food and stuff in a well equipped store right outside the village centre, and prepared dinner at “home”. Later everybody jumped in the pool and played.
It was really nice to move into the flat. Our daughter joins us on a bed in our room, while the boys have their own room further down the hall. At the other end lies the kitchen and in between a combined library and living room, complete with a huge fireplace. The walls of this building are very thick and it is all very rustic. Just like you imagine a traditional Tuscan farm home should be like.
Sunday 24.6, Bettolle
This was a relaxing day without excursions. We bathed in the pool and in the sun. Table tennis turns out to be a big favourite. We went to a street market in Bettolle. The entire hill was closed off for traffic with stalls and tables. This one was for the locals: Clothes and all sorts of things. Interesting folklore without tourists.
We had dinner with pizza etc right by the park. Our daughter is beginning to get a lot of chickenpox. The boys had it the two weeks before we left, and she was apparently infected.
Monday 25.6.2007, Montepulciano
We gambled a little that our daughter would hold and went off on a 20-25 minute drive to Montepulciano, a famous town on a cliff with not less famous vineyards around it.
Vineyards in the Montepulciano region
Montepulciano side street
Our daughter kept her mood up in the trolley but the boys were so nauseated in the car that they did not get many hundred metres. Mum bought wine and purses. Montepulciano is a great town and with quite a few tourists.
Images from Montepulciano:
Montepulciano is a typical Tuscan town in a famous wine district.
We dined at home because of the patient.
Tuesday 26.6.2007, Bettolle
Not a great day to put it mildly. Our daughter is working hard to drink enough. Her elder brother had a fever and a wound in his mouth, and spent most of the day in bed.
The eldest brother and I went for an afternoon drive. And guess what we found just a few kilometres away? On the other side of the motorway is a Factory Outlet, which is Italian for a cheaper sale of expired models from the large fashion houses. My son was thrilled and had a great time seeing and trying. Unfortunately he was overall to small even for the smallest sizes. In the end he found a Calvin Klein panty for 15 euro. It was actually placed in a black paper bag with carrying handle. It stood in the living room for several days.
At the same place I met a former colleague of mine. He had bought a lot both here and in Florence. His family were staying in Cortuna with two other families. Funny.
Dinner at home.
Wednesday 27.6.2007, Bettolle
Much the same as yesterday. The youngest in the family is better, perhaps because of a Paracet. We parents took her along to Sinalunga 10-15 km westwards. OK town.
Mum and the boys went to eat dinner at an alright restaurant in Bettolle, Betulia.
Thursday 28.6.2007, Bettolle – San Marino
Our eldest son had now read up on everything about fashion and shopping. Amongst other things he had read about the San Marino Factory Outlet. The temptation was big, along with the wish to get another country on his list.
The two of us drove off, first east to Perugia then north to Rimini and finally a little west up into San Marino. 295 kilometres and three hours including a truck stop on the way. The trip went fast on motorways in great surroundings.
When we finally arrived at the outlet in turned out they had no famous brands and we bought nothing. This was a big disappointment to my son.
San Marino is one of Europe’s Lilliputian states. It “survived” the fusion of city states and regions in the 1800’s. The state covers a mountain top where the old city is perched with its narrow alleys and fortifications. The flat land around the mountain is also included in the state which has its own stamp and car signs. Apart from that it is Italian. There were lots of tourists.
We took another route on the way back, over mountain passes on roads worse than the Western coast of Norway. It was a long day.
Images from San Marino:
The little republic of San Marino is not much more than the Monte Titano cliff, but it has a wonderful setting and picturesque streets and towers.
Friday 29.6.2007, Bettolle
Not so far today. We dropped by the outlet village across the motorway all of us, and we all bought some.
Factory outlet in Tuscany
Our daughter is now over her blisters but has begun to develop some red dots spreading from the chest. Her general condition is low and her fever high.
We ate in Cortona on the other side of the wide plain. Because of our girl we should not have done so. It was late when we returned.
Saturday 30.6.2007, Bettolle
Another day at home. Our daughter is still suffering from fever and rash.
Sunday 1.7.2007, Siena
We had a morning visit from a doctor at the local clinic. He was nice and gentle with the patient but was not able to diagnose her. He recommended a visit to the hospital tomorrow. We are running out of paracetamol suppository.
Me and the boys went off to Siena. Today is the “dress rehearsal“ for tomorrows Palio. That is a bi-annual big deal that has been staged since the 17th century. It is basically a horserace around the large piazza Campo in the city centre. It is famous for its surroundings and the content of the race with fights between the different parts of town, old costumes and thousands of spectators.
Monument on Siena city wall
We had a hard time finding a place to park and equally challenging finding the streets back again as all the central areas were closed off for the benefit of street parties in the suburbs – that is the parts of the old city within the large walls.
It was really nice even though there was a lot of waiting. As there was little actual sightseeing we did not get the proper impression of Siena. But I have been here before.
Images from Siena:
The famous Tuscan city of Siena is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List stating that it is the embodiment of a medieval city. This video concentrates on the horse race of the “il Palio” tournament on the Piazza del Campo and the Cathedral of Santa Maria.
Monday 2.7.2007, Bettolle – Cortona
Off to the hospital in Nottolla, right before Montepulciano. We were there most of the day, waiting. It ended with our daughter being hospitalised for an indefinite period. Her mum stayed with her.
I and the boys ate in Cortona where we had a better experience than last time. A great town. We caught the Palio finale on a TV screen through a restaurant window.
Tuesday 3.7.2007, Bettolle – San Gimignano
Our daughter had become noticeably better. The fever had disappeared, the rash was reduced and her appetite had resumed. She is on a cure of antibiotics and antihistamines. No clear diagnosis though.
The boys and I spent the afternoon and evening in San Gimignano west of Siena. This is a remarkable medieval town as well, complete with a wall around it and souvenir shops inside. It sticks out from the rest of the medieval towns because of the large towers rich people built as a show-off. San Gimignano is the town in Italy with the most remaining towers.
San Gimignano central square
San Gimignano lady
Most visitors pay this town a half-day visit during which they walk through it from one end to the other, with a short stop on the central square. It is nonetheless very easy to step aside a few metres and walk the side streets. There you avoid the crowds and discover that San Gimignano has real residents, not only souvenir-sellers. That is what we did, as seen in this video.
Images from San Gimignano:
San Gimignano in Tuscany has a historic centre inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Wednesday 4.7.2007, Bettolle
Today we had a bit of rain and wind. Our daughter and mum returned home, much better but weak.
Mum and the boys went to eat in Bettolle. The youngest boy had his pizza prosciutto cotto (pizza with ham) for the umptish time.
Thursday 5.7.2007, Bettolle
This was a day of packing, swimming and relaxting. Our daughter had become quite well and we let her into the pool.