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Synopsis of European Trip, Fall 2006

Author: California Dreamer
Date of Trip: October 2006

Italy is so rich in history and art, we are still dreaming of all the wonderful sights we have taken in over the 4 weeks. The highlight of our trip was our 7 days at “il poggio,” our timeshare exchange, 70 kilometers from Siena. We were only 5 minutes from a 14th century village of San Casciano de bagni, a delightful medieval village perched on the next hillside from our “il poggio,” which means hill. We fell in love with this village, its people, and small trattorias, etc. Our timeshare was a lovely apartment with a small kitchen, a patio on top of a hill overlooking the Tuscan Valley. There were beautiful sunrises and sunsets from our windows, and we only experienced 1 day of rainfall, during which we packed and stoked a fire in our fireplace and then dined by candlelight in the 5-star chef restaurant that evening–so lovely, peaceful and beautiful.

We rented a small car for 7 days and drove to Assisi, Montepulciano, Piensa (a dear favorite), and trained to Siena for a day. My Italian conversation class helped me survive the non-speaking Italians in the many small villages of Tuscany. Earlier in our trip we visited Milan and Florence for a night and Santa Margharita Ligure for 2 evenings taking trips to Cinque Terre, our children’s favorite Italian spots.

Like my sister who had been there 2 weeks prior, we experienced the Amalfi coast, merely taking the drive along it stopping for lunch and then heading back by highway to Pompeii where we weaved our way through the preserved streets of yesteryear. Our guide was awesome and walked us through an everyday preview of the life of a Pompeian. She was funny, very loquacious and most knowledgeable–a memorable delight! Pompeii requires far more time than the 2-3 hours we experienced, and it is remarkable how well the Napolitano have preserved it in comparison to the restored Roman ruins.

The other 3 weeks of our trip were packed with numerous stops in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Barcelona, Spain; Cannes, Monte Carlo/Monaco, France, spending a day with the French exchange student we hosted last summer for 3 weeks. He and his mother Christine gave us a taste of their country, driving us to Monte Carlo/Monaco to view the castle of Princess Grace (Kelly) just in time to view the changing of the guard. We had a nice lunch and a charming 4 pm French crepe snack by the sea in Cannes as we watch the French families play at the park with much delight.. We saw many other towns of Italy including 2 days in Venice enjoying a sunset gondola ride on the grand canal and quiet back canals listening to the children studying and the parents chatting while preparing their evening meals; a taste of cannoli in Messina, Sicily; a small jaunt to Pisa and Lucca; and three lovely days at sea enjoying free spa time, dancing, contests, shows and good food. I judged the hairy chest contest and won champagne!

We feel like we have gotten a full grasp of Italy during these 4 weeks, and Rome was the magnificent end spending 3 nights with Adriana Gagliardi sharing her apt. with 2 bedrooms and bath and access to her lovely living room, breakfast room and patios for a very fair price including breakfast. Staying with her was like having family waiting for us in Rome, having met her 2 nieces and nephews who met and greeted us. She saved us hundreds of euros advising us to take the train to our ship and to the airport which was an unforgettable experience. Rome by night was awesome, and seeing Pope Benedict 2-arms length away returning from a trip to the University in his car, was a spectacular surprise. After 2 long cold hours waiting in line, we experienced the Sistine Chapel and the wondrous hallways leading up to it. We dined by the Pantheon by candlelight and celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary 30 times this month!

We stayed healthy with no colds, etc., with the only exception being some mighty strong A-fib while climbing the wall of Dubrovnik for 2-3 hours. Bob thought he may have to carry me back down to the city, due to racing heart, lightheadedness and acrophobia, but I believe it was dehydration since we only carried one bottle of water and had to stop for some lemon gelato!

We felt very blessed during the cruise, when dozens of people lost their luggage flying to Europe having to wear the same shirt for 3 days on the ship. We loaned them articles in the meantime and gave thanks for learning to pack lightly and carry-on half or most of our luggage.

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