Sunday, 17 June 2007

Tuscan bliss

We came back from holiday on Thursday 7th - over a week ago - so I really ought to have updated the blog before now. However the task of capturing in words the absolute wonderfulness of our time in Italy seemed a little daunting - we crammed so much into our 8 days of walking and eating and drinking and soaking up the tradition and sunshine and countryside (plus a day either side spent 'enjoying' the delights of Ryanair's hospitality and the insides of 2 highly unattractive airports in the shape of Luton and Rome Ciampino).

We couldn't have asked for more from the holiday company we booked with - Inntravel. They sent us reams of paperwork before we left containing every scrap of info we could possibly have needed, and the organisation of each element, from the transfers to the hotels to the walking guides - was superb.

Our walking covered rolling fields of wheat dotted with poppies; olive groves; rows of vines; fascinating and beautiful medieval hill top towns; the occasional steep and rocky mule track; strada bianca (unsurfaced roads); coastal paths; shady woodland; a few streams and one river; and some scrambling, over rocks or through dense foliage to find our path.

We were really lucky in that we didn't have much road walking either. Overall we were stunned at the variety of the landscapes, the beauty of the environment we were walking in, and amazingly, the peace and quiet - bar a couple of spots (notably Saturnia with its hot thermal springs - apparently a magnet for northern European tourists in Speedos...) we hardly saw a soul as we walked along.

Our hotels were equally wonderful - from a family run organic agriturismo on our first 2 nights, where we were served wild boar, a speciality of the region, through to a comfy hotel in Capalbio where we ate out at a great restaurant in the evening; the Hotel Torre di Cala Piccola in Monte Argentario (pictured left) - with views, prosecco, cuisine and service to die for; and finally the Hotel Castello Monticello on Giglio Island. All were welcoming, and served delicious traditional Italian food, always accompanied by mouthwatering - and cheap - Tuscan wine.

At the end of the Tuscan part of the trip we headed back to Rome and stayed in the 'Franklin Feel the Sound' hotel - glitter ball in the bathroom, drum kit for bedside table, and Bang & Olufsen CD player on the wall. Pure nonsense!

In Rome we were lucky enough to hit upon a couple of great restaurants and a good bar; and visited the Coliseum and Palatine (good) and the Vatican (St. Peter's cathedral wonderful, Sistine Chapel HORRENDOUS as a tourist attraction. I can see that the frescos are just mind-blowing, especially since their restoration, but being herded into a small square room, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of shouting, camera wielding and generally completely disrespectful tourists, was not my idea of fun. The guards were completely ineffective at controlling the mob. Grrr).

I'll try and get a link up soon to more photos - Ali did take hundreds. They are mostly all fantastic - we were looking at them last night and feeling very wistful. We will definitely be going back to Tuscany - it was one of the best and most rewarding holidays we've ever had.

1 comment:

londonmilk said...

Sounds like a great trip. I've been wanting to go to Italy for about as long as I can remember, and still haven't been. My parents went a few times in the sixties, traveling pretty much the length and breadth of the country on a motorbike. I've heard them talk about how wonderful a country it is, and it really seems to charm about everybody I know who's ever been. I'm sure I will go one day...