I Have Become a Biker Babe!

The first time I saw A ROMAN HOLIDAY with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, I fell in love with the idea of riding a Vespa through the cobbled streets in Italy. Because my recent trip to Florence fell on my birthday, I decided it was an excellent time for such whimsy. Walkabout Florence Tours put the whole experience over the top.

20160323_183729

After determining our ability to ride the adorable bikes, Angle, our guide (on right, below), escorted us in a Vintage Fiat out of Florence and into the nearby hills where the views were postcard perfect. I enjoyed immensely sharing my birthday and the tour with three American sorority sisters. We thought we should have secret agent code names. Riding a scooter is a hoot! After multiple photo stops, we were ready for our included lunch at a beautiful facility set on the side of a hill. A little wine,  penne pasta in tomato sauce, and a desert of unparalleled perfection made me exclaim “This is my wish!” when they asked me to blow out my candle.

20160323_17091120160323_181128

I loved this tour so much, I considered doing it again the next day. I was off to Siena, however, and still had to navigate the Italian bus system. Most people believe that travelling by train is best. However, the train station is at the bottom of a hill, stops along the way, may include changing trains, and takes longer. The bus trip from Florence to Siena is about 50 minutes and the station is centrally located.

I stayed in Siena at Hotel Italia on Viale Cavour, which is a short walk to the historic center. After getting my bearings and finding my spot, Al Peccatore on Via Camollia, where I enjoyed both fresh and aged pecorino cheese served with honey for drizzling, as it should be, rustic bread and a glass of red, I prepared to enjoy my five days in Siena. I was still thrilled by my Vespa tour in Florence so enlisted the aid of the exceptionally friendly and accommodating staff at Hotel Italia to book another Vespa tour.

Though not vintage, this Vespa was bright red. I joined a group of folks from Ohio, and one couple from Mexico, who all drove Fiats. In spite of a good drenching and fog, the ride was thrilling. For the first few miles, I needed wind shield wipers on my glasses. After we stopped in an ancient village and then enjoyed lunch and a little wine at Poggio Amorelli, a small winery, the rain gave way to sunshine and puffy clouds. We toured the Monteriggioni castle and thus ended my second Vespa tour.

455

 

439

Vorrei Andare L’Italia … Take Two!

A year ago, I pulled the biggest bonehead travel stunt of all time. I did not have enough time on my passport. Not everybody knows that it is a good idea to have six months. Italy requires three months from the arrival date. I only had two. The lovely and helpful Sherri Thomas at Delta waived the three hundred dollar flight change penalty and gave me credit for that trip. So, I learned some things and blogged about those things and became loyal – loyal – loyal to Delta, so much so that it would take a free flight to get me on any other airline.

So now I’m back in planning mode because on the 19th of March, three days before my 55th birthday, I am trying again. This is not my first trip to Italy, nor, I am confident in saying, will it be my last. My first trip to Italy was five years ago. A friend and I flew into the Naples airport and drove the short distance to Sorrento, a magical little sea side village. This time, I am off to Florence, the home of Michelangelo’s David. Sculpting the big giant naked dude in marble was kind of a career maker for Michelangelo. After it was unveiled, the Pope, Giulio II, called him back to Rome where he would paint the famous Sistine Chapel. I kind of want to see the big naked marble dude.

There are many other things I wish to enjoy while in Florence, reportedly the most beautiful of all Italian cities. I wonder what the other cities think of that. I’m searching the websites I tried last time for things like culinary tours, museum passes … putting the Uffizi on my list, and the “old bridge”, the Ponte Vecchio. Now if you think about this bridge, you have to admire the name in general. Nobody gave it a fancy name because it really is the old bridge. It dates back before the 1300’s  — was reconstructed twice after some flooding — and was sort of revolutionary in design because it had the segmental arches that give it strength. So, I’d like to see that. Also, there are a lot of vendors on it offering good touristy stuff.

Some folks do not care for the planning stage of a trip, but it delights the hell out of me. I learn some history, I see some beautiful pictures, and I can let my inner control freak out to play. I will keep you posted in the days ahead. Maybe you will enjoy the trip with me … without the annoying jet lag or wallop to your bank account. Ciao for now.