Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My sister Amanda's visit

Marino and Amanda sightseeing in cold, misty Venice

As I’ve mentioned my sister arrived mid December to spend Christmas and New Year with us. We met in Venice and enjoyed our first 3 days catching up over canals, bridges, baccala and murano glass! Venice in winter is beautiful!

Baccala at the bar
Vin brulee in Bolzano

We’d hired a car so then headed up north to Bolzano (near the Austrian border) to check out a couple of the Christmas markets we’d heard so much about. I love the German feel of northern Italy and driving through snow covered countryside was very special. However, aside from the vin brulee (mulled wine) and strudel (another local specialty) the markets themselves were a little ‘twee’.

Xmas day in Lucca
Vasari corridor - Firenze

Ahh …. Beautiful Florence

After 5 days on the road, we returned to Lucca for the Christmas and New Year period. After our indulgent Christmas feast we took advantage of what’s called the ‘Firenze Card’ and made a number of trips in and out of Florence. The Firenze Card allows you 72 hours to see most of the major tourist sites in Florence for €50. We shared 2 cards for a cost of €100, Amanda and I went day 1, Marino and Helen went day 2, then Amanda and I made our second trip on day 3. It was a worthwhile thing to do and we all got to see a variety of museums and galleries. The biggest advantage was skipping the queue at the Uffizi! Amanda and I made one further trip to Florence during her stay to do the amazing Vasari Corridor tour, a great tour for the Medici fans out there! 

NYE - awaiting the next course!

New Years Eve or ‘Capodanno’ as it’s known in Italy was a quiet affair in Lucca which was surprising as we’d heard plenty of practice fireworks on the nights leading up to it. We opted for one of the many set menu deals on offer by local restaurants - a restaurant named ‘Puccini’ and aptly placed in Piazza Puccini. We liked the sound of the 4 course menu, there were choices (we thought) within each course and for €70 a head it was reasonably priced. Well ……... the 4 courses turned into 7 courses! Clearly my Italian is not that good, I’d mistaken the ‘and’ for an ‘or’.  We rolled out at 1am not having heard or seen a single firework!

Amanda that’s not a cylinder!

 Amanda and I then headed to Certaldo for our ceramics course, which gave Marino some much needed ‘sister free’ space!

The final week of Amanda’s visit was spent making various day trips to some of my favourite places; the CinqueTerre which was completely empty of people, Pietrasanta a gorgeous town not far from Lucca with a contemporary art movement, San Gimignano, Volterra, Pistoia and the Villa Grabau. It was then time to head to Rome for Amanda to meet her return flight. We had a night in Montalcino (home of the famous Brunello wine) on our way and a side trip to Tivoli to see the amazing gardens of Villa d’Este. Finally in Rome we made a quick trip to the Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica (can’t believe I missed the Sistine Chapel again!) before saying our farewells and heading off.

Amanda playing tourist
I love Italy!

Vernazza, Cinque Terra – Empty!

Amanda chats up a local
Sant’Antimo, Montalcino

Marino at St Peter’s Basilica - Rome

A fun filled 5 weeks! We certainly enjoyed showing her ‘our’ Italy.

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