Travels in Italy 2016

Having spent most of June 2016 travelling to, from and in Italy, we have been home for some time now, therefore, I thought it was about time I settled down to write a piece about our holiday. Some of my comments about the places we stayed and had meals can be cross-referenced with TripAdvisor and my Twitter account.

For our first overnight stay and in order to ensure we were within striking distance to the Dover Ferry port for our lunch time sailing, we travelled down to The Red Lion pub in Hythe, Kent. This was a lovely pub, with friendly staff, a great menu and lovely clean rooms.

The following day, we were up early, had a delicious full English breakfast at the Red Lion and arrived in the port in good time for our sailing at 12.00.
Unfortunately, the weather was against us, rough seas delayed our crossing for 2 hours; that impacted on what was planned as a leisurely drive to the French town of Troyes, we were staying in the Mercure centre hotel. Troyes looked like a lovely town, but because of the delay and the rough weather as we drove down, unfortunately we had no time to explore; we had our meal at a local steak house and went to bed.

We arose early the next morning, we breakfasted, and then set off in the rain, for a long drive to Lucca; thankfully, the weather improved as we drove south, there were no delays, even through the Mont Blanc tunnel and Genoa, both of which can cause problems with queueing traffic, therefore, we arrived on time, in Lucca, 9 hours later.

We were booked into the lovely Villa Agnese B&B situated just outside the walls of the city. Having arrived in time to shower and explore, we spent the evening wandering around the town, having a lovely dinner, then returning to have a relaxing evening in our room. Each room in the B&B is decorated with a different theme; we were in the Patisserie room (Fig 1&2). Whilst there, I "fell in love" with the window blinds in our room, they were so versatile (Fig 3&4).

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4

 

The following morning, we were in no hurry as our destination was only a couple of hours down the road, therefore, we had a leisurely breakfast and if not for the rain we would have had another saunter around the town, however, as it was raining, we just started off on our journey south.

We were on the Florence ring road within an hour and arrived in Montepulciano within two hours. We had lunch at the wonderful Al Botteghino just outside of Montefollonico, went to the supermarket and did our shopping, before arriving at Zampugna about 14.00 (Fig 5&6).

Riccardo (the owner of Zampugna) greeted us and helped us to settle in, we met the only other residents who were staying at Zampugna, they were residing in the Spigo bungalow; they too were regulars and had been there for 3 weeks before we arrived.
We were the only residents in the main part of the complex (Fig7&8), so it felt like we had the place to ourselves; it had to be BBQ time that evening, just chilling out in the peaceful surroundings, wonderful.

Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7 Figure 8

 

The weather was not always kind to us, we had a few days of spectacular thunder storms, hailstones, heavy rain and cool temperatures, but that was OK, we had driven down to Italy with the intention of just relaxing, so that's exactly what we did, we enjoyed some home cooked lunches (Fig9&10) and some fantastic breakfasts (Fig 11&12).

Figure 9 Figure 10 Figure 11 Figure 12

 

I discovered a fantastic sausage to go with our cold meat platter meals, it's a version of Brawn called Sopressatta (Fig 13), highly recommended.

  Figure 13  

 

We did have sunshine too of course; after all we were in Tuscany.
We used this time to go out and about to our usual places, such as Montepulciano, Pienza (Fig 14&15) and Cortona. The views from Monticchiello (Fig 16&17) were amazing.

Figure 14 Figure 15 Figure 16 Figure 17

 

We visited two different restaurants in Monticchiello – the Osteria La Porta and La Guardiola both served fantastic food. Riccardo took us to La Porta for a meal as his treat.

  La Guardiola  

 

Along with the tranquillity of the place, another of the reasons we visit Zampugna every year is that the countryside around it is all organic, therefore the wild life, including the flower meadows are fantastic; we love to spend time strolling around the countryside (Fig 18,19&20).

Figure 18 Figure 19 Figure 20

 

We, of course, visited our favourite restaurants and friends whilst in Italy, we spent time at Il Falconiere, meeting up with Silvia Baracchi and Anna Maria Coli. Whilst there, we had a fantastic lunch and did some wine tasting in readiness for our order to bring back to England; Silvia also signed her new book for us (Fig 21).

We also visited one of our favourite restaurants in the Cortona area, "Locanda Del Molino" (Fig 22). We actually visited twice, we stayed over one night after being invited to a party by Silvia and Anna Maria, then we returned for Sunday lunch; Stefano the manager and the staff greet us like long lost friends. The food at Locanda is Tuscan based and is cooked to perfection (Fig 23). We are left with such fantastic memories of Locanda and our friends there (Fig 24).

Figure 21 Figure 22 Figure 23 Figure 24

 

In the second week, the weather improved, we therefore spent more time around the pool and taking long walks through the countryside; apart from a couple of day when an American couple stayed in the adjacent apartment to us, we had the place to ourselves. What was wonderful about the American neighbours, whilst staying in Zampugna, the young man proposed to his girlfriend and she accepted.

This visit to Tuscany and Zampugna in particular was the most relaxing break we have ever experienced there, it was greatly needed; added to the relaxation aspect of the holiday, is of course the food and wine; however, the time to leave arrived far too soon.

After gathering together all that we wanted to bring back to England, including wine, Soap, Olive Oil and pottery (Fig 25) we loaded the car and with heavy hearts, we wended our way back up to Aosta for an overnight stay in the La Charaban Hotel.

Jan really loves the Aosta area, the Charaban had some lovely views of the Alps and we were lucky enough to have a "room with a view" (Fig 26). We have agreed, because we will both be retired next year, we will spend more time in the area.

  Figure 25   Figure 26

 

We had a stroll down into Aosta to have a look around, have a drink (Fig 27) and do some shopping. There was a music festival taking place so the town was buzzing (Fig 28), it was great to be back in the town once again (Fig 29). We then returned to the hotel, had a lovely evening meal before retiring for the night.

Figure 27 Figure 28 Figure 29

 

The next morning, Jan suggested she would like to experience driving through the Mont Blanc tunnel, so we set off for our next stopover which was the Mercure hotel in Rheims with Jan driving up the Alps and through the tunnel (Fig 30&31), she loved it; it was nice for me too as I could take more time to appreciate the views.

  Figure 30   Figure 31

 

Rheims was lovely, it always is, it was a very relaxing experience after the long drive, it handy because it's within easy striking distance of the ferry port in Dunkirk, which incidentally, has had a face lift since last year.

Then back home, fully charged up after our wonderfully relaxed experience.

Don't forget, you can check out the places I've mentioned on TripAdvisor, my twitter link or the other travel articles on the website.

Monticchiello Monticchiello Monticchiello