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Entries about tuscany

Staying In

By Hannah

rain 7 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

It rained today. We had what you might call a torrential downpour.

Believe it or not, we have days where we don't see the sights of Europe. Or drive for hours at a time. Or even grocery shop. Today was such a day. Today was a day of planning. It would be wonderful if we could skip from country to country without directions or bookings, simply arriving and being and enjoying. Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world. And while we're blessed enough to be on this trip, it's due to a lot of effort and planning, much of which is done by my lovely parents. However, my mom isn't with us at the moment, which subsequently increased the task in front of my father. Abby and I did our best to help, but our contribution pales in comparison to the hours that Dad spent in front of the computer yesterday and today. We now have accommodations for the next three weeks in Rome, Sicily and Malta. We also have a car rented, flights booked, and routes planned. I'm gonna say it took between 15 and 20 hours for my dad to piece together the massive puzzle that is this section of our trip. He is exalted and applauded by my sister and I. Feel free to leave praise for his accomplishments in the comments.

Cavriglia: Laundry in the sink

Cavriglia: Laundry in the sink

Now, Abby and I didn't just lay about all day. Our undertakings may be smaller, but we think they helped. We planned out our routes and destinations for tomorrow, when we'll visit Siena, a town about an hour away from where we're staying in Cavriglia. We prepared lunch and dinner, did the dishes, and worked on blog posts (yes, we knew we were behind, and we did our best to catch up!). We made delicious Tollhouse cookies (don't worry, Mom, we left some for you). And we gave my dad peace and quiet. Hopefully it was beneficial.

It's 11:30pm now. We're done, at least for the moment. We were actually forced to stop, as the internet cut out. We did some laundry in the sink, and sighed as we realized there would be no Netflix or Hulu shows tonight. Perhaps we'll read instead. Or sleep. But getting to bed at a reasonable hour doesn't seem to be our style. This is reflected in the fact that I've called 11:30pm a reasonable hour. Ah well.

Posted by KZFamily 14:06 Archived in Italy Tagged tuscany cavriglia Comments (4)

Twilight in Tuscany

by Ben

sunny 8 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

With a full day in Florence behind us, which involved rising comparatively early for us, we wanted to explore a bit closer to home. The sun was kind of out today and the forecast said this might be one of our better days for the next while. We went into the village of Cavriglia which is 2 kilometers from our Tuscan home and shopped at the local grocery store. It was a small but neat store and we got the feeling that tourists this time of year were a little unusual. Everyone seemed to be visiting in the store and outside the store the local policeman was deep in conversation which still continued well after we had finished our shopping trip. I like this country Italian pace to life.

Cavriglia: Picture on a Shrine

Cavriglia: Picture on a Shrine

After leaving the store we explored a tiny hilltop community on the edge of town that had a church and a cemetery and few houses on top. There were also some Roman ruins along the hill that we checked out. The hill was dotted with very recent shrines to some saints, we think. The picture on one shrine needs a bit of research. On the surface it looks pretty creepy (see picture on left).

I punched in a local nature park in our GPS and we followed the directions over hill and dale only to end up at nature/camping park that might not only be closed for the season but on the way to be going out of business permanently. Our thoughts of hiking in the hills needed modification. I had heard from the owner of our Tuscan lodgings that one of the hilltowns less than an hour away had been the location used in the second Twlight movie. Wanting to score some points with the girls I suggested we go see it. The proposition didn't quite make me a rock star but it may have earned a grudging point in the plus column. The only obstacle to the trip was a small herd of lamas from the nature park sitting on the road. The winter sun makes the asphalt nice and warm so it is a magnet for llamas (who knew). I played a slow motion game of chicken with the llamas and they grudgingly gave way to our dinky Kangoo puttering down the road. Abby said the whole interaction made the wild goosechase to the nature park worthwhile.

Hilltown of Montepulicano

Hilltown of Montepulicano

The hill town we arrived at is called Montepulciano. As I said it was the film location for the second installment in the vampire and werewolf movies based on the Twilight series of books that Hannah, Abby and even Muriel read and which I now know more about then which is healthy for a man my age. Just to reveal how much I deserve a good Dad award I have seen the first four movies of the Twilight series with my daughters being probably the only guy in the theatre (except for a desperate teenage boy trying to score points on his first date). I know only one other man that deserves the same award I do and that is Ciero, the father of Manuella one of our Brazilian students, who sat in the theatre with his daughter and my family in a movie theatre in Brazil (think of a Brazilain Renaissance man who lives in a South American macho culture and you get the sacrifice he made to see one of these movies about "vampiro"). I digress. Unlike any North American town that has been the location of a movie in the last 60 years, this town revealed no billboards or kitch associated with the movie. Perhaps the insult that the town was standing in for another hill town called Voltara which is the location mentioned in the book made them reluctant to fess up.

Hilltown of Montepulicano: Unique bell tower

Hilltown of Montepulicano: Unique bell tower

The town was like a picture postcard set on top of a hill with its maze of medieval streets and passageways. The streets were abandoned save for one American family of whom the mother was talking on the phone telling someone they were on the location where Twilight was filmed and that she couldn't talk long since she only had 20 minutes left on her parking meter and still hadn't seen the prime location of the movie scenes. I gave thanks to God for Muriel at that moment. The kids were not preoccuppied with the movie concept either and we just enjoyed wandering and noting the huge variety of door knockers on all the ancient doors in the town. We are starting to make a collection of photographs of them and bell towers. This town has the most unique bell tower we have ever seen. Check out the picture yourself.

As with most of our days, I can easily report it was a very pleasant day of exploring even though we do feel sad that Muriel is not along for this part of the trip.

Posted by KZFamily 14:05 Archived in Italy Tagged italy tuscany montepulciano Comments (3)

A Day off due to Tuscan Rain

by Abby

rain 7 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Cavriglia: Our home is on the right

Cavriglia: Our home is on the right

Today we woke up to rain, and lots of it. We decided that we would just make a lazy day of it. Hannah and I enjoyed our indoor day of freedom whilst (that is my new favourite word) my dad worked on finding accommodation, possible car rentals and juggled around the itinerary. Recently I've decided to re-read a favourite series of mine, The Mysterious Benedict Society. I first picked up these books during the summer before I went into grade seven. My dad had brought them home from his library. I devoured the series quite quickly, but my dad only finished the first book. Before today I had already finished the first and I had been waiting for the second to come in. And lucky for me... it had! Excited I went to the library website and checked it out right away. I spent most of the day reading, and every hour or so Hannah would stop by asking if I wanted to do something together...unfortunately for her, I wasn't in that kind of mood.

Halfway through the day I stopped to make some lunch for us all. Lunch consisted of a pumpkin and carrot soup for my dad (which was so good!) and a shrimp and lobster soup for Hannah and me ('twas passable). We enjoyed this with some bread a crackers as well. Hannah and I cleared away the dishes and then washed and dried them too (we are such good daughters!). After this my dad asked us to go check out the games room that was located in the main building. Hannah and I suited up in raincoats and took the 30 second walk there. We found a ping pong table, foosball set and a large screen TV. However, all the buildings around this area are made of stone, and are quite cold. This large open area was especially frigid, and there was only one heater to heat the whole building. This heater was only allowed to be turned on if you planned to use the room...and I think it's safe to say that only by the time you were finished it would be a bearable heat. The two of us decided that it wasn't worth it at the moment so we walked back over to our home, and resumed what we had been doing. Later that evening we had hamburgers and broccoli (odd combination, but both were well cooked), and then settled down to eat some yummy treats (hazelnut/chocolate pie and cookies). Then we watched a movie called IQ, which we all thought was totally and fantabulously amazing. And a note to my mom who refuses to watch it: stop refusing to watch it...you'll love it...it's great. Then we watched an Elementary. Then we went to sleep because we thought we should be decently rested before we went out and did something with our lives. Not saying that we didn't do productive things today... okay fine, my dad was the only one who was productive.

Posted by KZFamily 14:03 Archived in Italy Tagged italy tuscany cavriglia Comments (6)

Pisa

By Hannah

overcast 9 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Pisa: The picture everyone takes and why not?

Pisa: The picture everyone takes and why not?

It's kind of surreal seeing a monument like the Leaning Tower of Pisa right in front of you. You've seen it a hundred times, in photos and such, and that's what you think of when someone mentions it to you. But it's a whole other deal when it's smack dab in the middle of the square you're walking through. My first impression was, "It's a lot more slanted than I thought." It really leaned. It was more than just a bad job with the level. And it leaned like a person would lean. You could see it curving, rather than just sticking out at an angle. The other buildings in the Field of Miracles were also impressive. We visited the Baptistery and the Camposanto. Obviously, we would've liked to go up the Tower, but at €18.00 a person, it was decided that we would admire it from below.

Pisa: Baptistry looking down

Pisa: Baptistry looking down

The Baptistery was a large, octagonal building that served the one purpose for which it was named. People would come here to be baptised, and after they had been doused in one of the four basins, they could make their way over to the church not thirty metres away. As my dad pointed out, it was a bit difficult to comprehend that such an ornate and sizeable building had only one function. There was a second floor, which was a balcony that went all the way around, so that people could get a good view of the baptisms. After the Baptistery, we made our way over to the Camposanto, or cemetery. The walls were partially covered by some fire-damaged frescos, and coffins, busts, and statues lined the inside. It was a little eerie, but interesting, too. Some of the graves were marked for people that had died less than five years ago. You could see how it would have been even more impressive back when it was first constructed.

Pisa: Field of Miracles

Pisa: Field of Miracles

We walked around Pisa a little bit more, just to get the feel of the town. It seemed like a more open and orderly Lucca. Then we were off to Cavriglia. Our current home is a very nice one indeed. Abby and I still share a room, but hey, we're used to that now. It's a little rustic, but in a good way, as well as spacious and warm. We had fresh pasta for dinner (when in Rome Siena), and settled into our address of the week. And while we might not be basking in the Tuscan sun, we're still happy to be where we are.

Posted by KZFamily 14:03 Archived in Italy Tagged tower italy leaning pisa tuscany cavriglia Comments (1)

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