Monday, July 14, 2014

A NICE surprise!

Haruko and I are planning a trip to the French Riviera in October, going by train from Florence to Nice, and since we're arranging things three months in advance, we were able to get train tickets for less than 30 euros each (one way)! It will take @ six hours and two train changes, but we'll travel along the Italian Riviera for several hours before we get to France, so who cares?

We also found lodging for four nights at a hotel in Vieux Nice, the central part of town, for only $55 apiece per night, which is less than my son has paid for cheap motels in the U.S.

Besides Nice, we plan to visit Grasse, famous for its perfume factories and Eze, along with several other scenic villages in the hills above Nice.  Monaco is also on the list. I'm tickled this came together so easily, and that I'll have someone to share the adventure with. On the way back to Florence, we'll stop in Genova for several hours.

Nice, here we come!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pienza on My Mind

Pienza  (
As I slog through long hours of working on another online project, I'm spurred on by the awareness that the income from my efforts will allow me to spend several months in Italy again this fall. One of the destinations I'm headed to for the first time is Pienza, a small hill town south of Siena. I've made several attempts to get there in the past, but was thwarted by the uncertain transportation involved. It was especially difficult to plan while I was living in Zagarolo, as it required several train and bus changes. And buses don't run on Sunday, so I couldn't plan a weekend trip. But this year I'll be going there from Florence, which requires only two bus changes, and about 3 hours of travel. My friend Haruko will be accompanying me, which will make the excursion even better.

Val d'Orcia ( DWELSingapore)
One of the reasons that people flock to Pienza is because of the incredible landscape that surrounds the town, in the region of Val d'Orcia. You may have seen many photographs of the fields and hills of the region that have been captured on calendars boasting the beauty of Tuscany. Both Pienza and Val d'Orcia are World Heritage sites. Pienza was rebuilt as an “ideal town” in the 15th century. According to Wikipedia, "Intended as a retreat from Rome, Pienza represents the first application of humanist urban planning concepts, creating an impetus for planning that was adopted in other Italian towns and cities and eventually spread to other European centers."

As for Val d'Orcia:

"In 2004 the Val d’Orcia was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites under these criteria:
  • Criterion (iv): The Val d’Orcia is an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing pictures.
  • Criterion (vi): The landscape of the Val d’Orcia was celebrated by painters from the Scuola Senese, which flourished during the Renaissance. Images of the Val d’Orcia, and particularly depictions of landscapes where people are depicted as living in harmony with nature, have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape thinking."

The countryside near Pienza (
We've booked a B&B for two nights, planning to spend one day in Pienza and another in Montepulciano, another hill town in the vicinity. Montepulciano is famous for its wine. Montalcino, another hill town popular with wine lovers, is a third destination, if we can fit it in.

Montepulciano (
Meanwhile, Pienza is just a dream....but the reality of going there is getting closer every day!