Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ruins, ruins and more ruins

It seems, that I came to Amalfi coast from a wrong side... Today I took the road towards Salerno, through Analfi and small towns Manori and Maiori. The road and the views opening after each turn were beautiful.. and I had a realy nice 1h+ drive.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Amalfi coast

Yesterday I still spent a half day lazy.. and in afternoon headed towards the Amalfi Coast. Originaly I planned to have a stop somewhere around Rome, but got into those Termal waters and didn't want to get out.

So the journey took me nearly 6h...after 4h in the car, I was already thinking to drop the Amalfi Coast idea, but the shot of espresso made it's job and the next 2h gone quite fast (like 150km/h fast.. yes yes.. I was carefull with safety cameras).

I was planning to reach the place by the sunset, but at Neapoli area there were some trafic jams, so missed the target by half an hour.. Reached the Positano already in dark. 

Why everyone says that driving in Italy is hard? All my trip I was looking for those "crazy italian drivers"... seen none. Of the moddle of Tuscany you will barely meet a car every half an hour... But in Florence, highways...nothing unusuall. It made me think that maybe we, lithuanians, are driving the same "crazy"? so that's the reason I didn't notice? The only difference I spotted were the scooters in Amalfi there's realy a lot of them, passing from all sides :) 

And I was amazed by roads - they are very good in Italy. Well maintained, all have security fences on the sides.. nothing to compare to roads in France or Spain, where you basicaly can drive off the cliff on those serpantines.. Even the tiniest roads in the hills are well marked and safeguarded (some times looked that the rock fences have been acctually build ages ago).

Woke up quite early, but I was already the last one to have breakfast..looks like everyone wakes up at 7am ..why do you want to do that on vacation? 

And went down to find a bus (decided not to drive, as the parking would have been a nightmare there), but they all were so crowded, that didn't even stop... with no luck for an hour, just asked a middle aged couple from Austria to drop me off at Positano (..found them in parking area). They gladly agreed to help and here I was - walking the streets.

Frankly, I didn't like it. Of course - it's nice to have a look, nice to walk around for couple of hours.. it's a nice view from the top-hills, beautifull view of the sea.. but probably it's not my type. Too crowded, too much tourists (and it's not the busiest season!)... Honestly - I wish I stayed in Tuscany... 

And people do come here for weddings! (Saw like 3 couples in no time).. 

Then found some nice Fish restaurant, in the middle of the way to other beach and sat there for couple of hours, enjoying the calm location (outside the buzzz), reading a book and watching a speed boats passing by..

Btw - i was astonished to learn that having a private small speedboat to take a tour from Positano around Capri and drop me off at Praiano would cost from 500 to 1000 eur!! (For some 2-2,5h) And it's not like I would like to rent a whole yaht of smth... unbelievable.. 

For reference - I have stayed at B&B Casa Colombo in Praiano town. Which is 10km from Positano, towards Amalfi. It's worth recommendation, if you are traveling by car - they have their own parking lot for 5-6 cars, which is rare in that area. Also a bus stop is right at the bottop of the steps (250 steps..huh..) It cost 80eur/day and have spacious rooms with air conditioning, small terrace (with umbrella, sun bed and simple table) and lovely VIEW of Positano and Capri island:

View from Breakfast terrace:


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

In Hot Springs: Bagni Vignoni

Why life cannot be stable? If yesterday was below expectations, so today it was exceeding them! Can't it be just "Met"? 

Anyway.. today I headed back to middle of the Tuscany, with anticipation what the Montepulciano medieval and Renaissance hill top town will reviel. Not sure why, but I was looking forward to visit it and was amazed.. Tuscany is definitely at its best in its small historic hill towns.. 

Fields around this town produce "a violet-scented, orange-speckled ruby" wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I read somewhere that Vino Nobile is known as Tuscany’s number-two red because it’s slightly less beefy than Montalcino’s Brunello.

By the way - there is also a Montepulciano grape and It should not be confused with the similarly named  wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is made from predominantly Sangiovese (typical no1 Tuscany grape) and is named for the village it is produced in ( many Italian towns it is the wine that comes from the area that defines them), rather than for containing any Montepulciano grapes in the blend. Confusing, a? :)

After nice rammble through the streets of Montepulciano, wine and cheese tasting in between, I arrived at Bagni Vignoni.

Bagni Vignoni

Bagno Vignoni is a small spa (306m) of medieval origin, although it was already know in Roman times, the fascinating tiny village is clustered around a large pool closed on three sides by the town walls, one metre and a half tall with water that flows at 52°.

Adler Thermae
I have cought another Last Minute deal and this night (to be precise - the afternoon and the night) ended up at Adler Thermae SPA resort. It was a finding! Absolute dream in the middle of the Tuscany fields and hills, just a footstep from the ancient town pool.

My Last minute deal included "Wine experience" - 2 treatments: "Red grape pealing, Brunello wine bath, oil relaxing massage with a wine tasting" and tomorrow will have a "Grape seed face peeling and regenerating treatment". The wine bath was superior experience... I was curious if I will be soaked in a bath of red and will come out blue..or what?.. It turned to be a termal water jacuzzi bath with a 3litres of gorgeous in smell Brunello wine (at least they said it's Brunello).. After the treatment and couple hours in termal pools before - my skin became baby soft.

Having some time before dinner, I have explored a souna areas... very cozy, beautiful places with wonderfull smells. I loved Grotta relax room - made to look like a cave I've been yesterday, with calming waterfall sound and a relaxing music in background.

Place is trully amazing! 

Monday, 23 September 2013

In Hot Springs: Grotta Giusti

Today I had a real "vacation" - meaning spending a Day at a pool, sun-tanning and reading a book. As Tuscany is famous with it's Termal waters and natural hot Springs, I search for a place I could enjoy this. The closes and most attractive was a Grotta Giuspi SPA .. definitely the most unique Spa experience I had! You have a natural underground sauna in a Grotta (Cave).

It has 3 areas - Limbo first (warm), then you proceed to purgatory (warmer) and end up in Hell (hot) to relax, meditate and sweat out all the toxins in your body. I immediately fell asleep... and seems not the only one to do that, as woke up by someone snoring at the other end of the cave room :))

P.s picture is not mine, as it's quite hard to get anything taken...and you are not allowed they would get quite wet after an hour there..

Having in mind that I got a great Last Minute Deal - it was a good experience and a nice place to stay (even I feel 30 years to young being gere..).. But I would not spend more that 1 day here. It's overall a bit dissapointing in price-quality that they charge the guests.. even though I don't have much experience in Luxury places and SPA's (which they concider themselves to be).. I find it hard to believe that this is "luxury" standard for Tuscany. 

Anyway - termal water pool and sunbeds (area reserved for Hotel guests only) was good place to be today...

Tomorrow I plan to head to Montepulciano area and get some "Wine experience" treatment in another Termal Springs area.. will see, what it would be there. 

FYI - found a nice article, where you can get the impression and directions to the Natural and Free Tuscany Hot Springs. I might try to drive through Saturnia and have a look at that natural wonder:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Defying the gravity laws

Lucca and Pisa where my today's target. Eleonora and Marcus were very nice giving me a tips for getting to and spending a time in Lucca.

As the Lucca has been chosen as official START of the 2013 Road Cycling Worldchampionship, I have also rented a bike at one of the "hundreds" bike rental shops and drove through the impressive Lucca city walls to explore.. 

Lucca town is completely surrounded by XVI Century walls. The walls, 4.3 km long, are allowed only to walkers and bikers, and it looked as a perfect start point. 

Then I spent couple of hours driving through narrow streets, just enjoying the points of interest and watching people walking around.

From all I saw, I liked the Guinigi Tower most - nice feature that it has a trees on the roof and is the one of the few remaining towers in Lucca.

Nice view from the top:

I should say the Pisa leaning tower has realy impressed me... I even sat at corner cafe drinking Aperol Spritz (the popular Italian aperitive drink made from Prosecco, Aperol and dash of sparkling water, topped with Orange wedge) and for 20min just admiring the view..

While walking around, I sneaked into the group of some kind of Pharmaceutical Conference people, who were having an English speaking tour. I listened to the stories about campanile (or Leaning Pisa tower), the Duomo (the Cathedral), the Baptistry and the Campo Santo (the monumental cemetery). Was quite interesting and had a though that it's acctually worth taking a guided tours.. The places come alive, when you here the stories, legends and the secrets.

I came back to Forestaria (liked the place..)  with a feeling of a well spent Day.. Will head to Thermal spa tomorrow to relax and treat myself with something nice :)



Saturday I dropped Brook at the Arezzo and headed towards Lucca.

Montecatini Terme
On the way I stopped at Montecatini Terme, as it had "something nice" on the top of the mountain. The town was built around it's mineral water springs and it appears to be largest and most know Thermal town. I got onto the tripadvisor and found that on top is a Montecatini Alto - and the best and most enjoyable way to get there is to take a Funicular.

The view from above is I could already expect. It's a standard for this region.

Walked around, had some light lunch with porcini mushrooms and headed back. 

By the way - today the 2013 Road Cycling World championship started, that will be all run in Tuscany from September 21st through September 29th, 2013. The race will cross the most charming Tuscan roads, will climb the world famous hills and will arrival in Florence..

The race is said to be as famous as Tour de France. Just this one is "Tour de Tuscany". All week they will be starting a race from different little towns, which ends always in Florence. Montecatini looked like a town where different teams placed their base camps - all parking lots were full of Cycling Team trucks (not sure if they are called trucks) and hotels being a Base camps for different teams. So it was good that I stopped today, as the were signs saying that roads would have been closed next day. And the championship was also a reason I did not return to Florence, as everyone adviced to stay away...if possible, as it becomes a nightmare during a race.

It was already quite in the afternoon, so I decided to hurry up to my night place, which I booked through It had to be somewhere up hill.. surounded by Olive trees, so I didn't want to wonder around at GPS was only approximately pointing me there. with a bit of struggle, I managed to arrive at "Forestaria" just at the moment when sun came down... I was happy with a choice I made - nice, clean, simple Villa with a young couple being an owners. They bought an old house with Olive tree gardens 3 years ago, renovated it and gladly hosting people in their 3 spear rooms on the second floor.

They pointed me to a nearest place, which serves the Food and there I met a couple from London, who happened to be staying in the same place. As the "restaurant" was fully booked for 2 different parties, I sat with them at the only available table. They came here for a weekend and were cycling around. We had a looong evening, eating 5 course meal.. which we were just served, without much of interest what we wanted.. the food was just served. 

It was another lovely evening here.. thanks guys!

Open your Fantasy!

I didn't write yesterday, as It was a long night of "Good Byes" and lots of good words...

This is a bunch of my new friends - whom I definitely miss!

From left:
Raymond (Australia) - the most calm person in a group, but very efficient! He will definitely remember this as a "pigeon nightmare" - he had to debone 6 little pigeons...and when he though he finaly done all (in 2h..) - the another one was found. The funny part was that we are the pigeon ragu in 2min... it was so tasty..

Next to me - Betsy (US). Comming for a 2nd time, as an aniversary present by her "non participating" husband Joe. They were the one of the oldest couples (she 60 and him 68). But so fit, funny and full of stories, that I personally enjoyed their company most. Joe was great non-participating guest - always comming at a "Food time".. looking after wine supplies, with a smile and energy. Taking us around the medieval towns and driving a car adms he drives his motobike..

Paola - The teacher. The bundle of endless energy, filled kitchen with laugh and good emotions, payed attention and cared for every single person in a class equally. Pushed us hard, beyond our limits... we were making ~20 recipies a Day. Wonderfull person!

Nilda (US) - the poor ladie broke her leg in Florence on arrival.. still - with good attitute and her smile participated in all lessons. Paola made sure she gets recipies that do not require much movement around and we all got assignments to help Nilda. 

Rosy (Australia) - as Paola said "looked like shy calm lady on an arrival day, but turned out to be a lady with a chilly peper in an ass.."..

Roberto (Australia) - the Teddy Bear of the group. The one of the most funniest guys in the world. Can't imagine the course without him.. He was a returning gyest after 8 years and it made even more special - as Paola knew him very well and made a jokes of him (like assigning him to make Tortellini..)

Sue (Australia) - Roberts wife, the absolutely lovely lady, every day discovering that "She can do it!" She was full of discoveries and good emotions during the cooking, that it kept us all awaken!

Brook (Australia) - "allow me to talk".... Imagine, that 2 days before.. over a lunch I became very popular with a phrase "Brook, go to the point".. which was then quoted quite often by everyone :)

Cecile (Canada) - very sincere, nice and kind person. In the kitchen very direct and not disturbing, unless needed. Full of joy and smile, beautifully filling up the company.

Ronaldo (US) - Nilda's husband, who took a great care of Nilda.. and a pationate cook. Eager to try and learn new things. 

This was amazing group of people.. the last Day we even done a Flash Mob (!) of "Hand washing dance" at a Gangnam style...which Paola so much enjoyed. I'll post a video later!! That was something.. with everyone participating.. that was soooo funny!!

Last day was a bit easier. I got a starters - Octopus Salad and Marinated anchovies:


And adms true Lithuanian, who mostly eat potatoes, I got to do a Potatoe & Rosemary bread (mmmm delitious):

And this is Joe fire... That he was litting every night for us to sit and enjoy with last glass of wine..

Miss you guys!!

...But!! the second part of Holdays start!