Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Parma, Modena, and Bologna

This was a nice little weekend. We left early Saturday morning in the new Ford C-Max. This car will make for much nicer weekend trips! Wider back seat, more leg room, bigger trunk area, better mileage, and cheaper diesel fuel. This time Cynthia was in town for work so she came along on the trip.

We drove up to Parma first to walk around and have lunch. We walked the main street and there were many little food shops and a market in full swing (looked mostly like clothes and shoes). We walked far enough and found the grassy area. We figured we would eat a picnic style lunch with some food from some of the bars across the street. We had pizza, pastries, and a few other random things. It was pretty good. After lunch we started our walking tour of the town. Unfortunately, most churches and sites had closed for siesta (usually doesn't happen) so we have only outside pictures of most places. We ventured over to the large park across the river before stopping in at a couple stores for gelato and cheese. It is Parma!

Pictures from Parma

We then drove about half an hour to Modena, hoping that Nolan would get a quick nap. Of course he didn't fall asleep until we were almost there, but he is a trooper and the quick nap was good enough. We didn't want to spend too much time here as we still had to drive to Bologna to get checked in for the night. We walked down the main street and checked out some little shops and were once again disappointed by a closed tower. We walked around the square, took some photos and then realized we could go in the church! This was a nice, big one made of brick. We walked around for quite a while then figured we should get a move on. Of course on our way to the car we stopped in and bought some balsamic vinegar!

Pictures from Modena

We drove our 40 minutes to Bologna so we could get checked in, sit for a few minutes, then find some dinner. The Zanhotel Europa is a pretty good deal! Deeply discounted on the web, a decent breakfast, and pretty nice rooms! We were recommended to eat at Ristorante Bolognese. While we got a pretty good taste of local food here, their desserts were not good. At this point we realized the US v Ghana game had just started, so we got back to the hotel to relax and watch some soccer.

The next morning we walked to the city center and checked out the sites. We wanted to get them in before lunch/siesta. This town is known for it's two towers, both of which are leaning. We climbed the large tower (Asinelli) as the smaller one is under construction. This was quite a hike with a little guy on my back! But the view was great and I attempted some panoramic shots. From there we went back to the piazza to check out the church and were delighted to see such a wonderful fountain outside! (Check out the pictures) The church was in service but we were allowed to stand in the back. It was pretty nice to witness part of the service, although it seemed pretty much like a catholic service in the states. We walked the streets for a while until lunch. I saw a sign for Trattoria Pizzeria La Mela, which means pizza but we can sit down inside. The pizzas were decent and there was a wide selection. After this the heat picked up outside, and everything closed, so we got on the road back home (with a stop at Ikea in Florence, of course)!

Pictures from Bologna

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Owning a GPS

Now that I am a co-owner of a Nuvi, and living in Europe, I am very interested in POIs. But, I have found very little explanation to the different options I have in the way of speed cameras, and sites that provide the data for free.

What is the difference between Mobile Cameras and other things? Why does the speed limit shown by a camera on the display many times seem to be less than the speed limit on the road?

What are some good sites for getting up to date information for free? I have found gps-data-team.com and while they claim most "safety" data is free, I can download very little for free.

My favorite POI so far? ZTLs!

Please leave your comments!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our First Few Weeks

We have been in Italia for almost three weeks now. It has taken some time to get settled, but we are close. We have also been on a couple more trips.

Cinque Terre
Back in 2006, Kacey and I visited Cinque Terre during our trip to Italy, but it was the off season and there was not much open. So this time we all set up our base camp in La Spezia on Friday night and on Saturday morning took the train to Riomaggiore (the southern most town). That Friday night we arrived late in La Spezia and after some traffic and hotel mix-ups, we headed out for a late dinner. While most things seemed closed, we finally found Antica Trattoria. The food was good but it was late by time we were done, so we headed off to bed.

After our quick morning train ride to Riomaggiore, we hiked the ridge from Riomaggiore to Manarola (Lover's Lane) and walked around Manarola for a bit. We then hiked the ridge some more to Corniglia. We ate lunch in Corniglia, and prepared for our mountain hike to Vernazza. This was a pretty good hike with some nice views. We rested in Vernazza by the water for an hour or so, ate some gelato, and then took the train to Monterosso. We walked around Monterosso for a while, found the wine and olive oil shop we liked 3.5 years ago (Enoteca Internazionale) and purchased two more bottles of Benza Olive Oil, and ate dinner at Ristorante Via Venti. We barely caught the 8:30 train back to La Spezia and found some gelato to eat while watching the US v England World Cup match.

Pictures from Cinque Terre.

On our way home we bit the beach for a bit in Massa. While the public beach was about the size of 4 beach towels, it was a chance to catch some rays. We ate lunch at a water-side bar and Nolan and I walked around a bit and played at a playground. The cooling of the temperature indicated it was time to go and just as we were getting in the car to leave, the rain started. Perfect timing.

San Gimignano
We traveled here last Saturday for a quick day trip. This was a nice little town, known for it's many towers. We were able to walk up the tallest, Torre Grossa, and snap a few pictures before the fog completely encapsulated the tower. I also took a panoramic shot from the tower.
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We ate lunch at Ristorante Perucà. The portions were a little small, even for here, so while we left hungry the food was pretty good. We decided to just walk around the town and avoid the rain as best as possible. We went in and out of many little shops but didn't quite find what we were looking for. We decided to find a place to eat dinner on our drive home, which would go through a few little towns.

Pictures from San Gimignano.

Our drive took us through Colle di Val d'Elsa and as we left town we spotted Il Casato. The sign said Pizzeria (we were all craving pizza) so we stopped without delay. We walked in at 7:10 and they said we could sit and order drinks, but they didn't open until 7:30. After glancing at the menu, we didn't care. It was full of pasta AND pizza! We found it strange that the rather large dining room was full of tables and most of them had reserved signs on them with different names. Between 8:15 and 8:30, we learned why. This was definitely a family-friendly local joint! Lots of big families with kids came here for dinner. So if you are ever in the area and want a good dinner, stop in!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Napoli, Round Two

There were some things I didn't write about during our trip to Napoli, Pompeii, and Vesuvius. Here we go with some more details!

I have now uploaded photos of Napoli showing the town. We also took a couple pictures of our Friday night dinner; fried pizza. We thought we were ordering calzones, and while they look just like calzones, they are fried. While they were ok and interesting, they were not traditional pizza that we were hoping to sample while in Napoli. The good thing about dinner: two fried pizzas, a bottle of water and two beers, and the seating charge was 14 euro. I also uploaded some pictures from our Saturday night walk around the beach and waterfront. Their beach isn't much, but they love it.

Pictures from Napoli

I uploaded some videos to Youtube from Pompeii. They show the Forum, the Ampitheatre, and Apollo's Temple.

Pictures from Pompeii

I created some panoramic shots while hiking up Vesuvius. I have included one in this post and the others are available by searching for the panorama tag.

Pictures from Vesuvius

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Buongiorno da Italia!

Well, we made it! We arrived in Siena on Thursday afternoon and were dropped off at our villa. Todd and Dannielle were already here, but sound asleep. We started unpacking a little and then decided to plan a weekend trip!

Friday around lunch we rented a car (we don't have our cars yet) and drove to Napoli (Naples, and for future reference, I will use the Italian spelling as we have no idea why the english renamed their cities). It is about a 4 hour drive. We ate at an Auto Grill along the way (roadside gas and food joint), which was decent. While the GPS helps tremendously, it has a hard time keeping up due to quick road changes and roads very close to one another; it gets confused if you took a turn or not. After a few u-turns on my part, Todd successfully navigated us to our hotel in downtown Napoli. We had booked two rooms for two nights at Hotel San Giorgio via Expedia. Considering the trash hole that is Napoli, this hotel was decent. We walked a bit for some food and also walked around the docks a little before turning in. Pictures from Napoli are here (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Italy-2010/Napoli/)

Saturday we woke up, ate some breakfast at the hotel and drove to Pompeii. Pompeii was quite an experience. Todd had been before so he was able to direct us off the beaten path somewhat. Pictures are coming soon. After about 4,5 hours in Pompeii, we ventured toward Vesuvius in hopes to do the hike, but we were unable to get there in time before it closed. To that end we drove back to Napoli to walk the nicer beach/park area and eat along the sea. We ate at Gusto&Gusto‎; while the house wine was poor, the food was decent again. Pictures from Pompeii are here (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Italy-2010/Pompeii/)

Sunday we decided to attempt the Vesuvius hike again as no one had done it before. Sure enough, we were able to get in! The hike, while not too long, is a bit strenuous. I hiked Nolan up on my back. We also have many pictures of this that I will post soon. The views were beautiful and Vesuvius was steaming just a little bit. At this point, we drove home in hopes to buy some groceries. Pictures from Vesuvius are here (http://www.chrisandkacey.com/Vacation/Italy-2010/Mt-Vesuvius/)

But alas, everything is closed on Sunday afternoons. With no food or car, we were forced to order delivery pizza. It is not the greatest, but in a pinch we will definitely do it again.

Pompeii was high on my list of things to see in Italy, so the trip was great for me. My bottom hurts more from driving than my legs from hiking, but it was worth the trip!