Monday, May 23, 2011

Tuscany

Last night we stayed at Villa Maria Pia. I thought it was quaint, clean and comfortable - no hidden meanings there at all. It is a fairly new hotel and I quite liked the owner, Julia. Her mother in law is actually Maria Pia. My driver was somewhat unimpressed with the venue, annoyed because he felt we were ripped off and felt there was no service to speak of - even though Julia kept on saying "It is possible..."

After breakfast - dried out bacon, twice scrambled eggs and only one cup of coffee (cold), we hit the road south - first to Salerno and then north towards Tuscany. We had to travel through Napoli again, which is (no offense) the ass end of Italy! I'm appalled by all the litter along the roads! It looks like the rubbish collectors have been on strike for the past six months.

Napoli is a very large city and spreads far and wide. It is also situated alongside Pompeii, famously wiped out by the volcano on Mount Vesuvius. From the mountain pass into Napoli, one can distinctly see the volcanos path of destruction.

George took my driver down a whole heap of back allies, into unknown territory - down dangerous narrow pathways and up no entry roads. There was no stopping these two! George has no manners at all (he is not Italian, by the way), he gave my driver no warning when he had to turn down a road, forcing my driver to break the law numerous times.

My driver now drives just like an Italian, except for the agility and smoothness of the locals. He doesn't wait at stop streets and certainly doesn't wait for vehicles who have right of way to continue on - he simply squeezes his way into the traffic and beyond.

Between the two of them, I was feeling very stressed about the driving today. Once out of Napoli we entered the motorway and the driving conditions were far better than anywhere we've been so far.

We stopped along the way to fill our car with fuel and I went into the little shop to buy some coffee and to get a cup of hot water for my meds - I seem to have picked up some influenza along the way, it's no doubt really, I've been kissed and touched by all and sundry - not complaining at all, I'm just mentioning that while the Italian men have kissed me and touched my hands, no one has dared to pinch my backside yet! Anyway, moving right along....

So I went into the little shop and ordered two coffees - one an "Americano" and one a "Cappuccino". The man behind the counter struggled with Cappuccino, but got the Americano right. I tried to explain that a Cappuccino has milk in it but he wasn't buying my story. After begging for milk he finally relented and frothed me up. Then I asked for a cup of hot water for my meds and he had no idea what I was saying. I took out my sachet of powder, which incidentally is all in Italian and showed him. Eventually he gave me a glass of cold water. It took my driver some forward thinking and miming to pretend he had burnt his fingers with the "hot" water. Suddenly it dawned on the coffee maker and he gave me about a quarter cup of hot water.

We drove all the way to Tuscany and then drove around trying to find a place to stay for the night. Of course George got us horribly lost, although I fail to see how we could have been lost when we had no idea where we were going in the first instance!

Eventually we found ourselves a hotel at about 6:00 pm and checked in. The hotel is lovely, we booked into a suite (bedroom, lounge room, full bathroom) for less than we paid at Villa Maria - the luck of the draw, I guess. Then we walked around this quaint village we are staying in.

Our receptionist at the hotel recommended a restaurant for us and we went in search of it. We found the name plate on the wall and walked into the first restaurant we saw enquiring if they were the place we were looking for. No one inside could understand a word we were saying. Our receptionist told us that the restaurant served any meat and any pasta. I tried to ask our waiter, who incidentally was drunk and stumbling already, to explain the menu to me.

Pictionary would have come in handy here! This guy had no idea what we were asking and we had no idea what he was replying to us. I asked for steak and he said they serve pasta only. He brought us bread and water while we discussed leaving via the back door and running like hell.

I was ready to run when he came back and stared as though I was being rude! My driver told him (pictionary style), that we had decided to leave because they didn't serve steak. He told us to wait and again I got ready to run. My driver thought we should exit through the front door, which is the same door we entered in by, but I was keen to leave out the back. As my driver passed the kitchen he saw the chef with cleaver in hind chopping at a huge piece of meat. He told me we had to wait a short while longer.

Eventually our waiter came back with a piece of T-Bone steak, which was about 1.5 kilograms big. He asked if that was okay for us. We were over the moon. About 15 minutes later our steak arrived, chopped up and beautifully presented. I told you the Italians should be called the nation of "it's possible". We were served potatoes with our chopped up T-Bone and it all tasted delicious!

We've seen some really amazing villages today. In ancient times the Romans used to build these tufa villages on the tops of smallish mountains. They would build the houses directly on the cliff edges going around in a circle. These villages still exist today and are accessible through a huge wooden gate - now left permanently open.

We are currently staying in one such village called, Monte San Savino, a historical town in the heart of the Tuscany, overlooking vineyards, olive plantations and wheat fields. The views from our hotel room are endless and breath taking.

After an exhausting day, it's almost time to attempt sleep, but first I'll need to read a little to get myself in the zone. Incidentally, it is incredibly hot here. Today was 33 degrees celscius, rather hot without a sea breeze.

~ Vanessa

1 comment:

  1. So wonderful you're keeping a journal of your travels.

    I'm exhausted tonight so have just had a quick skim over your past few days and wow!

    Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy and Shelley's only advice is do not leave Italy without a margherita pizza and gelato :).

    Looking forward to catching up when you get back to Aus. Can't wait to share my news with you too :). Well, it's not news yet but it will be.

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