Thursday, August 27, 2009

We are on our way home...

how did 16 days scoot by so fast? They have been absolutely amazing... so many things to take in... that will have to be another blog post though... and it will have to wait till we are actually back on NZ soil...

I know some of you are keeping up with our happenings here and I am sorry to have been such a slacker the last few days... can you say busy? Here is some I had started with a brief bit at the end for the last few days... more including pictures when we get home...

We spent Saturday and Sunday nights at Lake Maggiore...

Lake Maggiore is just quite simply stunning! We have a lovely view out over the lake to Isola Bella which we visited today along with Isola Superiore and Isola Madre. Decided on the larger ferries rather than the littler motorboats… you know me and boats… not the best of friends! So little boat was just not gonna happen, well not if I was going anyway!

Our first stop was Isola Superiore a lovely little fishing village, with more than a few tourists and touristy bits too… lots of amazing views… a gorgeous little church some of which was built in the 9th century… other parts are newer… like the 17th and 18th century! That’s the thing about visiting a country like Italy where history goes back to, well often several centuries back.

Isola Bella was up next… oh my word talk about opulent! Take one barren rock, build a huge and yes I do mean HUGE castello that seemed to have no boundaries put on it at all! All the rooms we were able to visit where just massive… and ceilings so high up the people painting the frescoes on them must have been risking life and limb on dodgy platforms and suffering blood noses on a regular basis! Nothing has been left unadorned… the furniture is just simply amazing… a whole lot of it was from the 16th century and still looked amazing… naturally slightly faded and a little worn in spots but heckermole think how old it is! And paintings everywhere and yes I do mean absolutely everywhere!

The garden is equally massive and considering the barren little rock that it started off as you soon realise just how much of an effort it would have been to get enough dirt there to grow anything in let alone getting all the plants there as well! Everything from palms to hibiscus to rhodos and camellias… ferns… you name it it’s there and with statues all around as well!!!!!!!

And last up was Isola Madre... equally impressive but far less over done... the garden was stunning and considering they had a tornado rip through part of it in 2006 the repairs to parts of the garden are coming along amazingly...

Monday saw us heading for Lake Como... we made it finally but not before the GPS tried to take us over the Swiss border TWICE... hey I know we wanted to go into Switzerland but not that day thanks... Our hotel here at Fuipiano is high in the mountains... its 1015 feet up and takes an hour to drive back down the narrow, hairpin turn filled road... you meet all sorts going both ways too... push bikes, cars, trucks with suicidal drivers, the occassional bus... oh and don't forget the scooters everywhere!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Italy really is so very different to what we know our daily life to be in New Zealand. We take for granted the space we have… when you consider that Italy has about the same land mass as NZ but has about 60 odd million people in the same space well you realise that we are very lucky to live where we do with lots of wide open space… for our family homes, to explore, to just have room to be in and enjoy. We have the space, well mostly unless you live in Auckland to have our own homes with grass around you… space for your kids to play outside. We don’t have to live in apartments unless we choose to… our kids get to run a whole lot more freely than the few families we have seen here… I guess it has a whole lot to do with the heat we have encountered… you certainly couldn’t let your kids run riot out in the bright strong sun for too long before they became dehydrated!

I am not saying that Italy is a bad place to live… its certainly a very beautiful country and the people are so welcoming… even in the face of blank stares when they talk to you and you have absolutely no idea what they are saying… or when you accidentally try to drive up a one way street the wrong way… no wild hissy fit temper tantrums just a gentle shake of the hand to indicate no and then pointing in the right direction so you can haul your sorry butt out of harms way. And when you consider that August is the month that nearly all Italians take off on their own holidays there is very little animosity towards the tourists like us who knew no better and booked their own holiday during August. We had heard differently, but I guess it just goes to show you that you need to make your own mind up… and that its how you treat people that makes the difference!

The country side is just amazing… we have been on the flat flat plains between Milan and Venice and into the grape and olive covered hills of Tuscany where any spare land not used for vineyards or olive groves are burnt dry from the lack of rain and now here we find ourselves in the beautiful wooded mountains of Liguria before we head north to the Italian Lake District. I am sure we will see plenty of changes in the trip between the two also.

The hotel we are in at present has the most amazing garden out back… lovely and cool to sit in the shade and just watch the world go by… and have to say the windows are just amazing… we seriously need to look at windows like this in NZ… Not only can you open them like we normally do but you can also tilt one of them from the top… which allows a glorious breeze through but still offers some kind of privacy. I am going to have to try and get some photos of them because somehow I think unless you have seen them yourselves you will think I am going totally doolally… which wouldn’t normally be too far from the truth. The little village is full of houses with beautiful lace curtains… but not the nets that we are used to at home these are more like hardanger or cut thread work… on the finest of linen or cotton and all beautifully handmade.


Live from Sauvignone

Hello from Sauvignone

We have a lovely room here in the Palazzo Fieschi, (600 years old) with lots of lovely antique furniture… the lappie looks a little out of place on top of the old desk it’s resting on… the mirror on the dresser is so old it has that blurry look to it… not quite so in your face as the new one in the bathroom… and naturally there is the typical Italian tile floor… this time in a checker board pattern to make it a little different from all the others we have encountered so far.

Today started really rather leisurely… our final morning at San Miniato… breakfast, pack up and then on the road to Pisa… I mean you couldn’t come all the way to Italy without stopping to see it… it’s kinda shorthand for Italy… so yes we saw the Leaning Tower in all its glory and no we didn’t fall into the typical tourist trap of trying to hold it up in a photo…

the tower is in the field of miracles and it kinda looked a bit smaller than I imagined it would be… naturally where there are tourists there are the hawkers and beggers… annoying really but heaven help the hawker that got in my way today… too flaming hot to put up with any of that nonsense thank you very flaming much!

The tower really is quite impressive sitting there on its wonky lean… and there are more than a few walls in the town that are replicating its lean… maybe not quite to that extent but still on a pretty good lean!

And after leaving Pisa and seemingly about to be taken through every single little small town there was between Pisa and Genoa we finally had enough and ended up on a toll road that cut an hour and a half to two hours off our trip… the road was dotted with tunnels and yes I played with the camera getting light trails in them when I could… 100kms worth of toll road for a total of Euro 10.80, trust me cheap at twice the price and instead of arriving here at the hotel late evening we got here early(ish) afternoon!!!!!!! Gotta love that! Just in time for the 5 minute storm that hit here… thunder a few minutes of rain and that was it back to hot hot hot!

We are having a kick back day tomorrow we both need a break… great place to do it… its got an awesome garden out the back of the hotel with lots of lovely big old trees in… the perfect place to kick back and unwind me thinks…


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


We have been here a week now! with 9 days to go...

with temps in the very high 30s to low 40s each and every day you could say we are having a hot introduction to Italy... where we are here in Tuscany at the moment it has apparently been this way since late May with no hint of giving up its grip on the poor burnt country side...

so you can imagine our delight to wake up to see fog rolling in over the village of San Miniato

doesn't it look so welcoming?

this is the view we have been used to so seeing the fog was just brilliant!

but never the less the heat fairly quickly burnt off the fog so our trip to San Gimignano ended up being in 40 something degree heat... finding shade becomes the most important thing that and finding a gelati shop... even with all the gelati we have been eating I am still losing weight! that has got to be good! I swear Limone gelati is the one thing I will seriously miss about Italy... if anyone knows a good recipe for gelati let me know cause I am going to have to give it a whirl! The gelati I have had in NZ really isn't the same at all!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Domenico 16 Agosto
So are you impressed that I was able to put the day and date in Italian??? I am actually quite impressed with myself!

Venice was great... though somewhat overwhelming when you have found lots of back streets with very few people on and then you emerge into Piazza San Marco... with its thousands of people everwhere!!!! Once we finally sorted out the ACTV ticket thing it was really quite easy... so easy we hopped another water bus and took a trip to Murano... famous for its glass... some beautiful things and some that well quite frankly are just a bit over done like... well for a girlie from little old New Zealand anyway!

Well the drive here from Venice was long… hot and even had a few full on Italian traffic jams to contend with… we passed an accident too… a bike that had not long before gone screaming past us at a great rate… come to a sudden stop with a car… didn’t see an ambulanza so must have miraculously survived with no injuries… the local polizia were everywhere though… some measuring the accident scene, some directing traffic… you do as you are told when a beautiful Italian police woman with a gun! tells you what to do… and then there were the traffic jams… no road markings of any value at pretty full on major road intersections mean that there is typically chaos… lots of over and undertaking… creating of lanes where lanes just aren’t there! The road signs are nothing short of confusing either! The speed limits go up and down like yoyos but no one and I do mean no one seems to take any flaming notice of them anyway… cars here all seem to be new and could all be made without indicators since even though they are there… NO ONE uses them!
I am still figuring out that when you come up to one of the gazillion roundabouts they have here that I have to look to my left NOT my right! Chris hasn’t been able to nod off as a result… terrified I guess that I will forget and we will end up in a prang…

One thing I have found out though is that the people who drive and attend in Ambulanzas are not ambulanza officers they are misericordia… yeah I guess they do deal with a whole lot of misery now don’t they? And the ambulances are nothing in comparison to the ones we have at home… think small van rather than big v8 though when you see the super narrow streets everywhere you soon realise why!

Chris spent most of yesterday afternoon thinking we should have hired a bike here… right now… the twisty windy roads we came over yesterday were great biking roads and with all the really serious bikes and riders screaming around on them you can see that lots of other people think so too…

None of this open face helmet stuff with jandals, tshirt and shorts… till we hit this road that’s all we had seen with everyone on bikes… this road definitely sorted out the men from the boys… even in the near 40 degree heat… full leather suits obviously with body armour, full on race boots, gloves, and full face helmets… and not one of them seemed to be paying any attention to the speed limit… Chris even suggested we needed to move here right away… and for a biker well this whole area would be something close to heaven on earth! Lots of wonderful winding roads… and not too many cars cluttering them up!

Our hotel here in San Miniato is in an old monestary… the room we have was once the home of a chap called Andrea Walpigli… all the way back in 1367… we think the building was built somewhere between 968 and 1237… our Italian is not that great unfortunately… very cool building… heck very cool village…

We have been out exploring this morning and just come back to escape the heat for a little bit and to email our darling girls back home… we are off soon to visit Vinci and to catch up with Sonia and Tony who are coming in to Pisa later this afternoon.

Ciao bellas

Friday, August 14, 2009

Well after a long and

some times torturous... well torturous if you are Chris and its me finally in the drivers seat... the steering wheel on the left hand side of the car with the gear stick in the wrong place and driving on the wrong side of the road and continually checking left to see if traffic was coming only to find out that I should be checking the right hand side.... mmmm lets just say it was an experience that the truck driver concerned will not forget quickly... thankfully the little turbo diesel got its act together and moved its tushy...

another thing that is just plain wrong is trying to type in English on an Italian keyboard... but thats another story that can wait...

after a long and winding trip (avoiding toll roads and at some stages motorways) we finally made it to Venice... but not till we repacked one bag with stuff we will need... negotiated the actv system (not easy) trying to sort out how you activate a ticket when the only language used is Italian and your Italian quite frankly sucks... yeah well you get the idea...

We are both totally buggered again... which I guess is to be expected... we have had a long few days... and hot... 34 degrees here today again and now thunder, lightning and rain... hopefully it will cool things down some... sure needs it... after coming from highs of 10 degrees to this with high humidity to boot well its kicking our butts big time... thankfully we have been able to negotiate supermercatis and have found a great stash of bottled water!

Never again will I complain about our water... trust me our water is quite simply stunning in comparison...

Our hotel room here is what Chris calls quaint and if you know Chris at all you will know just how sarcastic he is being... you could say its just a little overdone... oh well its a bed and it has a shower thats all i really care about at the moment... and talking of both thats what I am off to do now... cause seriously I need both!!!!!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We are in Italy ...

Well at last after spending close enough to two whole days and nights either in a plane or at an airport we are finally here in Milan… the weather is quite simply stunning… VERY hot! When we arrived here in Milan it was 32 degrees and is meant to get there again today.
It sounds like August is the hottest month of the year everywhere in Italy. Still great to be in Italy… though I have to say between blocked ears , extreme tiredness , heck we were in bed and sound asleep by 8 last night… 33 hours in a plane or an airport really does take it out of you… I think the worst of it is not being able to stretch out. Our legs are sore as a result. Yeah so we were in bed early last night but had wanted something to eat before crashing thankfully we were able to find a pizzeria open early not far from the hotel… everything around it was shut up tight… not open again yet. It seems like everyone shuts up shop early afternoon and goes home for lunch and a snooze only to get back into it full on later. The restaurant in the hotel here didn’t even open for dinner till 7.30 so to find the pizzeria was fantastic! The young girl in there spoke beautiful English (though apologised for her poor English) which we were both eternally grateful for since our sleep deprived brains weren’t functioning all that well!

So we are off this morning to check out Milan… going to take the Metro into the heart of the city rather than try and find somewhere to park… seriously if you didn’t see it you really wouldn’t believe the way people park here… and everyone has small cars… the only bigger vehicles have been service type vehicles. The whole driving in Italy is an experience in itself… I spent most of the drive from the airport to the hotel yesterday in a flat panic… who moved the ruddy steering wheel???? Mind you I was awake enough to remind Chris that if he was driving he was heading to the wrong door … yeah he automatically went to the right hand side of the car to climb in to drive us from the airport!
The drivers really don’t seem all that horrific yet… Chris was disappointed that we didn’t get tooted at more often… though for one guy behind us our sitting in the middle of the street was obviously enough of an annoyance to make him toot at us! Chris loved it… it was like yeah now that’s what driving in Italy is meant to be! No lane markings mean it’s really hard to figure out whether it’s a one or a two lane road you are on… and then there are the cobbled streets… everyone was driving along the tram tracks… with good reason even in a well sprung modern car the ride was rough to say the least!

The other thing we have noticed is all the motorbikes we have seen here in Milan not one of the riders we have seen have had even a light jacket on, let alone a leather one… the women on the back all seem to have high heels… slip ons at that, no sleeves in their shirts and the number of the riders and passengers that are smoking while they are doing it is just unbelieveable! I am seriously going to have to try and get a photo cause it’s something else that just has to be seen to be believed!

Okay so we will be back later to hopefully show you some photos of what we have seen in and around Milan… hope everyone is well …

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Monday, August 10, 2009

The week that was...

pretty dang good actually... brilliant weather! and all those things that needed sorting before we leave kinda mostly got sorted without too much hassle...

Anya had a great birthday and enjoyed her "party" (think a couple of friends, a trip to Maccas, lots of squeals, lots of giggles) thank you so much to everyone who sent her gorgeous cards or gifties... and naturally there was a visit round to Nana's to help her celebrate her birthday also...

and then yesterday Nana and Grandad Bus finally arrived... the girls and I hadn't seen them for a year... it had been longer than that for Chris though... Mum (chris') and Bryan joined us all for a barbeque... yes you read right and yes it is winter... we did end up eating inside but we had a bbq none the less!

And now today... the day has finally arrived that Chris and I leave for Italy... so exciting... we are all packed and ready to go now, its only a matter of hours now before we head off via Sydney, Bangkok (transit stops only no getting off the plane before reaching Dubai where we have a few hours at the airport there before heading onwards to Milan...

I am hoping to be able to post updates here so keep checking back...

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Monday, August 03, 2009

I know .... I know ... I am a right slack blogger!

but I do have a great excuse! well I think so anyway! Frantically trying to sort everything out for our trip to Italy...

Still not quite there but closer than I was before... and we have only a week left to go... and add into that mix 5 days till Miss A's birthday a birthday party to be had and 6 days till my Mum and Dad arrive.

so just because I can I have decided to have a 50% off absolutely everthing 3 day sale (august 3-6) in my store at

Go grab yourself a bargain!