Siena

Siena, Italy

Siena is a medium size town in the Tuscan region. It has a great piazza in the center and several beautiful churches. The piazza is where Italians and tourists meet to sit and talk or have a gelato. There are restaurants and bars around the edge of this piazza. It is a large piazza.

On July 2 and August 16 the famous horse race is run (il Palio), There are 13 Contrade or city wards that compete but only 10 of the 13 get to race. Ten horses and ten men race bareback around the piazza’s edge three times. The winner holds the honor for a year. The edge of the piazza is transformed into a dirt horse track. The center has areas for people of each Contrade to stand and watch as horses race around them.


– George

Categories: Bars, BLOG, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Ristorante, Romance, Shopping, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, VLOG, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tuscany & Umbria Fun

In 2015 we took a week-long trip through some interesting cities of Tuscany and Umbria. This is a hilly area of Italy and the cities are hill towns with narrow streets and lots of stairs. It is Italy and the friendliness of the people and quality of the food and wine comes through.

The video below is an introduction to my Italian city videos.

 

Our trip was several weeks long but the first week was in Tuscany/Umbria and the rest was at our home in southern Campania. We flew into the Rome airport, Fiumicino, and rented a car.  Our itinerary was:

  1. Perugia – Chocolates – See are YouTube Video below
  2. Assisi – Home of Saint Francis – See are YouTube Video below
  3. Cortona – Home of Under the Tuscan Sun – See are YouTube Video below
  4. Montepulciano – The famous wine city – See are YouTube Video below
  5. Siena – Home of the famous Horse Race Il Palio – YouTube video coming soon
  6. San Gimignano – My favorite city anywhere – YouTube video coming soon
  7. Florence – Home of Italian art – See are YouTube Video below

There are so many more cities in this area worth seeing but we were limited to a week and wanted to spend time in Florence.

Perugia

This is home to the famous Italian chocolate Perugina. It is owned by Nestle now but in Italy it is made the original way with not as much sugar. The American version is sold with much more sugar. This small town has an old city center with very narrow streets that barely fit a car. See the video below for how narrow these streets actually are. As in most Italian towns, life takes place outside. Piazzas are places to sit at a bar or restaurant outside and enjoy and observe life around you.

Assisi

Assisi is a small hill town in Umbria that was home to Saint Francis and the Franciscan Monks. It is above all else an Italian city. The food and wine are great. Eating is done outside in piazzas and narrow streets. In our video we caught an Italian wedding as we were seated outside at a restaurant. You never know what will happen next but it will be fun and interesting.

Cortona

OK, we all know Cortona from the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes made this small town popular to tourists from all over the world. The city is high on a hill in Tuscany overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Frances Mayes has her real home here as well as Bramasole, the home used in the movie. Walk with us through this wonderful city in our YouTube video.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a famous Italian red wine city (by the same name). Here you can walk a wonderful hill-top city and drink this and other great Tuscan wines. We stayed at a great hotel outside the city called Borgo San Pietro Hotel Cortona. You can see this city and the hotel in the YouTube video.

Siena

This video will be available on YouTube on Monday January 30th. This is a larger city with a great old center that has a huge piazza that is used twice a year (on July 2 and August 16)  run a famous Italian horse race, il palio. People crowd into the center of the piazza and horses race around them. Mud flies and everyone has a fun time. Outside race times the piazza is a place to meet friends and family and sit and relax in the sun. The border of this piazza is loaded with bars and restaurants. The food is good but they are very touristy which means high prices.

San Gimignano

This video will be available on YouTube on a Monday two weeks after the above Siena video. San Gimignano is by far my favorite city anywhere. It is a walled hill city with two main gates. It has been preserved in time from its medieval beginnings. You will notice The famous town homes that help protect families from invaders. In medieval times there were 72 of these homes measuring as tall as 70 meters (230 feet). Today there are only 14 surviving towers. Tourists have found this city and with tourists came tourists stores like Gucci but it is a great town to walk. Get off the main two streets and see the real town.

Florence

Florence was the center of the renaissance and brought art, style, architecture and culture to medieval Italy. Books have been written about Florence. It is a very large city and one of Italy’s main cities. You come here for food, wine, views and art. In our YouTube video we walk around Florence and show you great museums like the Uffizi. Florence has something for everyone. Spend some time here and get to know the city and the people.

Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life…

– George

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Cortona, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lakes of Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Saint Francis, Saint Peter's Basilica, San Gimignano, Siena, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Uffizi, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Montepulciano, Italy

Montepulciano is music to the ears of wine drinkers. I know it is music to my ears. It is a hardy great Italian red wine named after this small mountain town. In this town and the surrounding area you can taste and purchase great Montepulciano wines. Tuscany is a fantastic wine-producing region of Italy. It has become world-renowned for great red wines. Walk around Montepulciano and stop in an enotecca to taste the wine.   Maybe stop at a bar for something to eat and some wine. You may be rewarded by a medieval parade as we were (see video below).

Watch our VLOG video on YouTube (Below) and walk this small mountain town with us. If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, stop by here and enjoy Italian life in a small town.

The streets are small and narrow and there are stairs but this is a great town. We stopped at a bar in the main piazza and had something to eat and some wine. Sit and watch Italian life all around you. OK there are also tourists. Just erase them from your mind’s eye and focus on the locals. They are the well dressed people speaking Italian.

We wandered all over this town and in the very back corner found a wonderful small shop that sold a man’s art works. We met him, spoke for an hour and bought one of his paintings for our place in Italy. He is in our video above. Look at his smile. These people are very happy and live a good life. Maybe it’s the wine … who knows?

Montepulciano is near Perugia, Assisi, Cortona, Siena and Florence. Include it in your Tuscany vacation. You do not have to be a wine drinker to enjoy this romantic city.

I truly wish that all of you could visit this town in real. If you can not, visit it with us in our videos on YouTube (above). If you enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to our channel.

Visit small and large Italian cities with us in our videos on YouTube. Our Italian series has many great Italian cities to see.

– George

Categories: Assisi, BLOG, Cortona, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Romance, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Magnificent Views of Italy

It doesn’t matter where you are in Italy. There are views and eye-catching sights everywhere. You can be in a big city looking at a famous monument, on a small street, looking at a small city high up on a mountain, at the beach, climbing stairs or sitting at a small trattoria. Italy is all about its architecture. It has a personality all to itself. Here you stand on ancient roads, some dating pre-Roman. You feel and see its history. At the same time there is a modern culture all around you. iPhones, iPad and computers are everywhere. Most bars have free wi-fi service.

We come to Italy for the food, the people and these views. I love the feeling of being in an ancient place. Thinking about those ancient people and what they did, what they felt. Was their life that different from ours? These views can talk to you! Just listen and hear what they are saying. This is not a country to be rushed. Stop, relax and take in these views. Listen to them. Imaging yourself back in those times. Soon your modern problems give way to an appreciation of this great history.

My wish to all my readers is to be able to travel. experience another culture. Enjoy life more. There is so much to experience and learn. Pick a place you are passionate about and visit it. Put it on your bucket list. life is short but memories are forever.

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My passion is Italy, what is yours?

George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Ascea, Beaches, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino Marina, Coliseum, Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italy, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Perugia, Planning a vacation, Ravello, Regions of Italy, Romance, Rome, Siena, Small Towns, Smart Phones, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Spanish Steps, Stairs, Traveling without a tour, Tulli, Tuscany, Umbria, Velina, Venice, Villa Brunella, WiFi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Some of Our Best Memories

We have assembled pictures of some of our best memories in Italy. Italy is always romantic and it is always memorable. There are so many special little moments. The architecture, the sites, the history, the people, the food, the wine, … and so much more.

Enjoy your trip to see relatives, sites, museums or to just be Italian for a short while.

Dolce far niente!

George & Jo

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Assisi, Beaches, Blue Flag Beaches, Casal Velino Marina, Cilento, Coliseum, cornetto, Dolce, Dolce far niente, Duomo, Eating Italian, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Greek Ruins, Italy, Marina Casal Velino, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Museums, Naples, Owning a home in Italy, Paestum, Panini, Pantheon, Pastry, Pizza, Planning a vacation, Positano, Ravello, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, Siena, Small Towns, Sorrento, Southern Italy, Spanish Steps, Stairs, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Trottoria, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top ten Destinations in Italy

More and more travelers are headed to Italy. It is romantic, it has great food, the scenery is beautiful and the wine is world-class. These are the top destinations people are headed to:

  1. Venice – What can we say about Venice? It is truly a unique place on this Earth. To visit a city with canals instead of roads is unique. There are small pathways for pedestrians to walk on. You can find large and small piazzas. Saint Mark’s Square is the largest.
  2. Rome – Rome is ancient with evidence of the early Romans everywhere. The Colosseum, Old Rome, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese and Vatican City are a few of its main attractions. Rome has many piazzas that full of flowers, statues and markets.
  3. Florence – This is the true city of enlightenment. It is where the renaissance started. Attractions to see are Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizzi Gallery, Uffizzi Palace, The David Statue and the many piazzas like Piazza della signora.
  4. Siena – Siena is a big small town with a lot of character. The duomo here is far more magnificent than its counterpart in Florence. Attractions here include Piazza del Campo where the annual horse race takes place (Palio of Siena), Duomo and its many churches. Siena has small streets with shops and great restaurants. Explore and enjoy it.
  5. Pompeii – This is not a current living city but a dead archaeological one. The original was Etruscan and then Roman before it was wiped out by a volcano (Mount Vesuvius) in 79 AD. It is just south of Naples and north of the Amalfi Coast. There are many homes you can visit here as well as hotels, shops and piazzas.
  6. Positano – This is one of our favorite cities in southern Italy. It is on the Amalfi Coast Road. This is a city of one road (one way down) and one million steps. It is not a place for the handicapped. Even staying on the road is a steep climb back up but there is a city bus that loops around from the bottom of this road. The two beaches are worth visits. Its restaurants and hotels are world-class. Most hotels have million dollar sea views.
  7. The Italian Lake District – Italy’s lakes are at the foot of the alps. With magnificent views and romantic small towns this is a must for anyone’s bucket list. The lakes are: Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano, Visit the cities of Bellagio, Luzern and Ticino.
  8. Pisa – No trip should be without a visit to the famous leaning tower of Pisa. The duomo and baptistery near it are also worth seeing.
  9. Cinque Terre – The five lands! Here there are five cities on the mountain above the sea. You can take a ferry to some or train. There is a footpath between each town. These are very romantic with great views.
  10. San Gimignano – This is our favorite town in Tuscany and maybe in the world. It is preserved from the middle ages. You park or get off your bus outside the city walls and walk in. You can easily walk this entire town. It has towers that used to represent power, a duomo, piazzas and great restaurants and bars.

All of these and so many more should be on your bucket list. Tomorrow we will look at top places to visit in Italy’s south. Most tourists never make it here!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Duomo, Etruscan, Europe, Ferries, Florence, Food, General Travel, Il Palio, Italy, Museums, Pantheon, Pisa, Pompeii, Positano, Ristorante, Romance, Rome, San Gimignano, Siena, Spanish Steps, Stairs, Trains, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Tuscany, Vatican City, Venice, Villa Borghese, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

San Gimignano Pictorial

San Gimignano is our favorite town in the world. It is old and untouched by modern times until very recently. It used to be a major stop on the trade routes to Florence until Florence changed the routes and basically put this small town out of business. It is in the region of Tuscany and Province of Siena. Its population is just under 8,000 people.

This is a walled medieval town that restricts traffic inside the walls to local residents only. There are many parking areas outside the walls and you walk in. The city is not that big and easily walkable. The architecture is beautiful.

During the medieval period there were 72 tall slender towers. This is one of the towns most distinguishing features. They represented wealth. The taller the tower the more your wealth. The tallest was 230 feet tall. Today there are only 14 towers left and preserved.

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Streets of San Gimignano

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Old small church in back of town

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4 of the towers

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Small street

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Narrow street

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A tower

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Main street in town with many tourists

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One of the gates through the Medieval Wall

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Main piazza with water well

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Main church in center of town

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Having a prosecco overlooking the wall

San Gimignano is a very romantic and ancient city. Don’t miss this city. It is just off the autostrada from Siena to Florence. Spend a day walking this city and being back in time.

You will see old towers and homes with the entrance on the second floor. In medieval times they would lower a letter to let people in and out and raise it at night to prevent invaders from getting in. Time runs much slower here so stop, take a breath and enjoy your life.

When George was first here in 1980 it was unknown to tourists. There were few tourist shops and no-one spoke English. The streets were empty. Today tour busses line up outside the walls and there are many shops along the main street. Most tourist never wonder beyond the main street and the piazza. Wonder down the side streets and see the real city. There is a restaurant with outdoor seating up on the wall. This is a city to wonder through and escape the tourist crowds.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Europe, Florence, Italy, Parking Garage, San Gimignano, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Siena Pictorial

Siena is a good size city in the region of Tuscany, provide of Siena.  Ithaca a population of 52,700 people. Siena has a very large piazza in the center of town that has a horse race twice a year called the Palio.

palio

Siena is near to many Tuscan and Umbrian mountain towns, Sah Gimignano and Florence. The main Chianti wine area is nearby as well.

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The piazza

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Small narrow streets

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Stairs up from Baptistery to Duomo

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Inside Duomo

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Duomo in its full glory

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Always time for gelato

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Beautiful streets

Siena is worth a stop for a day or two. Get out and walk the city and see its sites. Soccer fans will find a large soccer stadium here. Siena is near the autostrada and is easily reachable by car from Florence or Rome.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Duomo, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Il Palio, Italy, Siena, Tuscany, Umbria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Montepulciano Pictorial

Montepulciano is another mountain town known for its wine and grape named the same. It is a medieval and Renaissance hill town in the province of Siena, region of Tuscany. It has a population of only 14,000 people. The montepulciano grape is well-known worldwide. It produces one of Italy’s best wines.

This is a town of small streets and stairs like all of Italy’s hill towns. You can find many enoteca to taste its great wines.The word enoteca means wine repository.It is a type of wine store that originated in Italy. You can buy wines but also taste them. Some  even have small plates of food.

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Wonderful small streets

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Enoteca

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Inside enoteca at a tasting

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Unfinished church (no facade) in piazza

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Lunch outside at a small trattoria

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Ancient gate in original wall

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Small street

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Stairs

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Some of that famous wine

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Famous Tuscan crostini

Like all the small hill towns we have visited, Montepulciano is wonderful and very romantic. There are several parking lots outside the town that are numbered. Get lost and ask the way to your parking area number. Montepulciano is very near to Siena, our next stop.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Siena, Small Towns, Trottoria, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuscany Wine Tasting

OK you know we love wine. George has enjoyed and collected the great French first growths and has sampled local wines all over Europe. Wine is a living thing and like our children, we never know how they will turn out. All you can do is raise them properly and give them love. Most of the time the wines turns our great but every once in a while you get a bad bottle. In Italy I find the local non bottled wines are very good. We have enjoyed many a meal with a half or full liter of wine. Italy also makes some great wines. Tuscany is most well-known in America for wines like Chianti, Barolo and Brunello. Brunello may be Italy’s best wine. It is expensive here but it is one of the great wines of the world.

The famous wines come from regions in Tuscany with one city at the center:

  1. Chianti – This area is not a town but a wine growing region. It is near Sienna and San Gimignano.
  2. Montalcino – This is a city famous for Italy’s great Brunello wine. It is located about one hour south of Siena. It is a mountain town that is fun to visit. Brunei flows here like water.
  3. Montepulciano – This mountain town is known for the great Montepulciano wines. It is located about one hour south-east of Siena and about one hour East of Montalcino.

Wine tours in Tuscany lists 26 one day tours you can take. Wine is a staple of life in Europe. Children taste it and adults drink it at most meals. Enjoy your food with wine. Sip it and watch the locals go by. Life is slower in Italy. It’s about people, food, wine and of course love and romance.  My only rule in Italy is to taste the local unbolted wines where ever I am. If I am in Tuscany I taste the Tuscan great wines. A great place to taste various local wines is in a local Enoteca. These are small wine tasting places that may have small plates of food as well. Enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chianti, Driving in Italy, Enoteca, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Romance, San Gimignano, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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