Koos, me and the Smart go through Europe (part 2)
When we woke up the bathroom smelt awful, I think that the "water" problem in the other room yesterday had spread to our room. We got dressed and checked out. The included breakfast was a croissant and a coffee. We quickly got onto the motorway and headed towards Milan. It took us two hours to reach the city. We had a simple map from the hotel we had booked via the Internet but it was impossible to follow. So Koos asked where it was at the Mercure hotel and they explained and then it was simple to get to the hotel. We checked in and had a cup of tea in our room before we got the tram to the centre. We bought the tram tickets at the hotel; it is about 5 kilometres from our hotel to the cathedral. We got off at the cathedral, which is under wraps, as it is being cleaned. We looked inside the cathedral, which is absolutely beautiful. Then we wandered through the streets around the cathedral and spent some time in front of La Scala, which is also being renovated. It was warm today about 22 degrees but we still saw people with jumpers and coats on. We went to the large supermarket and got cheese bread and fruit for our evening meal.
It was a bit noisy in the night, but we were not in a hurry to get up so we slept until 8.00 and then had a lazy breakfast. Then we got the number 4 tram to the cathedral square. We walked to the Sforzesco Castle and walked around, it and the park behind it. It is also being renovated and of course the museums were closed. Then we walked back to the square were we had a cup of coffee. Then we walked to La Scala where we hoped to take the tour around the back of the theatre but La Scala is being renovated. The sets and customs have now been put in a new museum so you cannot get to see the stage, which we wanted to see. Then we walked through the main streets around the centre. The next thing on our lists of things to do was to go up onto the roof of the cathedral. Luckily there is a lift up to the roof! It is really wonderful up there and you can climb up onto the higher terrace level, which we of course did. All the statues and carvings are wonderful. We spent quite so time up there before going down and having an ice cream in front of the cathedral. Then it was off walking and looking around the centre's streets before a welcome rest with a coffee. We got things for our evening meal and went back to the hotel.
We were up early today as we still have about 300 kilometres to go for the hotel in Paestum where we were meeting Margaret and Mario (our friends from America). It started off as nice weather but after about an hour it became dull and windy and started to rain. We stayed on the motorway until we were passed Salerno and then took the little roads to Paestum and checked into the hotel. Margaret and Mario had not arrived so we went out for lunch and ha a look (from the outside) at the temples before going back to he hotel for a cup of tea. Koos checked the oil in the Smart and it was very low so we went to the local garage for oil. We were just going when Margaret and Mario arrived, so we chatted for a while before we went for oil and they went to check in. We had dinner in a little restaurant in Paestum; the lasagne was very nice. We stayed chatting after dinner for a while before returning to the hotel for a welcome shower and bed.
We had breakfast at 8.00 and chatted for a while before going to the Greek temples and ruins at Paestum. We spent the day there as there is so much to see. There are three temples and they are from the 6th century BC. The site is actually the most important ancient Greek site south of Naples in Campania. The Greeks called the city they built here Poseidonia, the city of Poseidon. It was taken by the Romans in 273 BC and renamed Paestum. In the 9th century it fell into decline and in it was abandoned because of malaria and a Saracen attack. It was rediscovered in the 18th century. The three temples are The Basilica or Temple of Hera I, The Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres. The Temple of Neptune is the largest and most complete, The Temple of Hera dates from mid 6th century BC and the Temple of Neptune is from 5th century BC. The Temple of Ceres is thought to fit between those dates. Next to the temple and city site is a wonderful museum with a marvellous collection of finds from the site, including some beautiful tomb paintings. We had a welcome coffee latte in a lovely cafe next to the 5th century basilica. Then we drove to Agripoli and walked along the promenade there. It started off dull and quite cool but by 11.00 it was sunny and very warm. We got back to he hotel at 16.00 and had a cup of tea and a rest before dinner.
noisy evening and night, there was a wedding reception in the hotel and the music was loud until after midnight. There was also a bus full of German tourists in and they were noisy and the man in the room next to us was a champion snorer!! So I was awake quite a lot of the night. We got up earlier because we were off to Amalfi for the day. We had breakfast and set off just after 9.00. We had hoped to miss the centre of Salerno but ended up going right through it and it was very busy. We stopped first at Ravello and visited villa Rudolfo that Wagner used as the setting for his opera Parsifal. The gardens there are wonderful and we wandered around them before going into the cathedral. From there we drove along the coast to Amalfi, the roads were quite busy and they are very narrow and very twisty but the views are wonderful. We stopped in Amafli and had lovely lunch. Then we wandered through the little centre and had an ice cream. The cathedral was closed so we could not go into it. We decided to get some lovely cakes for our tea in the hotel. Then we headed back to the hotel, the roads were still busy but this time we did not go through the centre of Salerno. Mind you the motorway was very busy as well. We made a cup of tea and had our cakes and a lovely relaxing evening chatting. Then it was time to pack up, work out the route for tomorrow and have a shower.
A It was a bit quieter last night but it was colder, I got up and put on the extra blanket. We got up at 7.00 and packed the car except for our toilet bags before breakfast. We had breakfast with Margaret and Mario and then it was time to say goodbye. It had been a lovely couple of days with them. We checked out and took a couple of last photos and then we headed north and Margaret and Mario headed south. We made a couple of very good friends when we met them by chance in Canada nearly 10 years ago. It was cold and rainy this morning and there were hard winds until we got passed Naples. Then it cleared up and was a fine day until Florence when it started to rain again. We reached the hotel in Ronta just after 16.00 and checked in. It was cold in the room, but then it was only 9 degrees outside was well! We had a cup of tea to warm up and a rest, planning what we were going to do the week here before dinner.
We were up at 7.00 and had breakfast at 7.30, I had slept quite well. The room was bitterly cold yesterday evening and even though we set the heating as high as possible it did not really get warm. Going for a shower didn't help, as the water was not very hot either. We walked to the station, about 15 minutes walk and caught the train to Florence, and we had to change in Borgo San Lorenzo. We arrived in Florence at 10.10 and had a cup of coffee before we started sightseeing. It was cold but clear skies this morning so we had our coats with us but by the time we got to Florence the sun was out and it was lovely and warm. We walked across the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti where we got a pleasant surprise ... entrance was free today!! What wonderful collections of paintings there are in the palace and the Staterooms are wonderful. We wandered through the gardens, which are lovely, even though the flowers are over. Then we headed back over the bridge, stopping for a drink and a slice of pizza. We ate it sitting in the sun. Then we visited the Palazzo Vecchio, which is also lovely; there is an unfinished Michelangelo there which is beautiful. The David, the copy that stands outside the palazzo is being cleaned and also part of the front of the palazzo is in the scaffolding. Then we wandered there the streets and in front of the cathedral for an hour before going back to the station for the train back to Borgo San Lorenzo where we changed to go on to Ronta. It was cooler when we arrived; we had a cup of coffee before dinner. The room was so cold and the heating did not work so Koos went to the reception, where they discovered that the timer for the heating was set so that it came on at 03.00! So they altered it and soon the room was warmer.
We woke up to dark heavy skies and we kept them the whole day, mixed up with sun and warm weather and then really heavy showers. It did not stop us doing anything though. We set off towards Florence on the motorway and the got off going towards San Gmignamo. We stopped to get bread and cheese and fruit for our lunch. It was raining lightly when we arrived in San Gmignamo but while we were there it started to pour down. We walked passed the shop I had seen two year ago where a man and his wife handmake the most beautiful handbags and purses. Then I had been tempted to buy a bag but had not done so. Today Koos bought me a lovely red backpack for my birthday; it was difficult to choose one though because they were all so nice. The man cut the straps to my size. Then we walked through the narrow streets of the little town before going back to the car for our "picnic" lunch, we had planned on eating out of the car but it was pouring with rain so we picknicked in the car. We had bought some cream cheese and Tuscan bread but when I opened the cheese it smelt so awful I decided just bread would do me. Koos liked the cheese but the car smelt like something was rotting in it. After lunch we headed south on the smaller roads to Monteriggione where there was a cloudbreak so we sat in the car for a while. Then we walked up to the beautiful hill town fortress. It is completely walled and in side the walls are a few houses, a church and a couple of shops. While we were there the sun came out and it was very warm. We had decided to take the minor roads back to Ronta and on our way we saw the Crete Senesi which is also known as the ""Tuscan Desert" It is a strange area with round clay hillocks eroded by heavy rain over the centuries which is almost completely barren. Then we followed the Arno up north towards Florence. We stopped for coffee at Montevarchio and had a look around an Ippercoop there to give our legs a stretch. Then, with heavy rain once again, we continued on to Ronta where we had a cup of tea before dinner. It had been a lovely day, and the timer for the heating was working so our room was nice and warm.
I slept very well, woke up to very heavy rain and dark grey skies. We had breakfast and then quickly got into the car.... we are glad we brought the umbrella with us. Then we were off towards Torre del Lago Puccini. We had been there two years ago to visit the Puccini museum but it was closed then. It was wonderful sunny weather with bright blue skies when we got there. We had to wait 15 minutes for the next tour of the museum.... we were the only ones on it. You only get a maximum of 30 minutes to go through the house. It is actually only three rooms and the tiny chapel where Puccini, his wife, son and his wife are buried (in the wall behind the tomb stone). We sat on a bench at the lakeside and had lunch in the sun. Then we moved on to Viareggio and parked the car (next to another Smart of the same colour) and took a walk along the boulevard. It was lovely weather so it was a pleasant walk. The boulevard is lined with shops but they were all closed until 16.00. Then we took the motorway back to Lucca, which has a lovely old centre. We had been through two years ago when we visited the birthplace of Puccini. This time the house was in the scaffolding!! After a cup of coffee we explored the historic centre we visited the church and the Piazzo del Mercato. It is on the site of an old Roman amphitheatre that has now been made into housing. There is an exhibition of Leonardo de Vinci's machines and we had missed the last time we were there so we went this time. It was so interesting to see the things he had designed and thought about. Then it was time to head back to the hotel for dinner and the night. After a very wet and dark start to the day we had a lovely day and a beautiful sunset.
We woke up to a dry day and after breakfast we set off for another day of exploring. We wen on the motorway to Arezzo and stopped there to visit the church of San Francesco to see the frescos by Piero della Francesco. The frescos are really beautiful, the church is 13th century and the frescos are considered to be one of Italy's finest fresco cycles. It is called the Legend of the True Cross and it was painted between 1452 1466. The scenes on the walls of the choir tell the story of the cross used to crucify Christ from a sprig to the Tree of Knowledge. Then on to its use as a bridge during the reign of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and finally to its discovery by Helena, the mother of Constantine (the first Christian emperor). We also spent some time on the Piazza Grande; which is a lovely part of the city. It is flanked by an arcade which was designed by Vasari in 1573, and by the Palazzo della Fraternita dei Laici (1377 - 1552). By that time we were really for our picnic lunch before we moved on. We had planned on going to Caprese Michelangelo by on the way we spent a short time in Anghiari which is a lovely little hilltop town. Then we drove along very twisty climbing roads to the tiny little town of Caprese Michelangelo, which has been on my list of places to go to for a long time. It as here in a house in part of the castle that Michelangelo (my favourite artist) was born in 1475.The little museum is very pleasant although there are only copies of some of his statues and paintings. Just being where he was born was enough for me. Unfortunately the little church where he was baptised was closed. From there it was a drive through the mountains along twisty roads up and down back to Ronta for the night. We where home just in time for dinner and then we had a cup of tea and looked at the lovely books we had bought today.
We slept later today and were the only ones in at breakfast. We caught the 9.25 train to Florence. It arrives there at 10.10 and we walked to the central market where we had a cup of coffee. The market is a fruit, vegetable and meat market and it was fun to wander through it. When we left it started to rain very heavily so we had to shelter for a while. As it happened we sheltered in front of a shoe shop and Koos saw some nice shoes so he bought them. By that time the rain was a little less heavy so we walked to the Santa Croce and spent some time there. We had a light lunch in front of the church before walking back to the Ponte Vecchio. Then we went to the cathedral and spent some time in there. We took some photos of the doors of the Baptistery.... it was very crowded there. We walked back to the Palazzo Vecchio and took some photos of the statues there before going to see the Dante house. We could not see it as it is in the scaffolding!! By that time it was tie to head back to the station to buy tickets for the trip back to Ronta. We had to change at Firenze Campo Marte for the train to Ronta. It was very busy and very warm in the train. We had a lovely-relaxed day.
We went to Pistoia for the morning but there was a general strike and there were demonstrations in the square by the cathedral and baptistery. The noise was awful with shouting and very hard music. I developed a headache so we took the minor roads back to the hotel. I went to bed for the afternoon and Koos went out for a look around Borgo san Lorenzo. Then it was time for dinner and to pack our things for the trip back home.
We got up at 7.30 and had breakfast ... we were the only ones in the dining room. Then with lovely blue skies we sent off to wars Austria and Innsbruck. The trip up north and through the Benner pass to Innsbruck was lovely. We spent a couple of hours looking around the old centre of the city before going towards Garmisch for the night. We found a lovely Gasthof with views over the Zugspitze and decided to stay there for the night. Bavaria was covered with snow and it was cold.
The morning was lovely and sunny although it was cold. There had been no more snow in the night. We took the Romanische Strasse to Augsburg. We stopped there for coffee. Then we wandered through the lovely old centre - what a pity the shops were shut. We found the house where Leopold Mozart was born, it is a small museum so we had a look around it. Then we had lunch before going on to Rothenburg, which was very busy. I looked in the Christmas shops in the centre and we had a drink to warm up before we moved on to Limburg for the night. The traffic was very heavy and we were later than we had planned when we found the hotel. We had a lovely dinner in Limburg and then returned to the hotel for the night.