Monthly Archives: October 2012

Italy 2012

History, Wine and Pasta!

We did a lot of stuff. The kids were with us for the first week. We traveled on Friday, September 14, the kids returned on Sunday, September 22 and we returned on October 6. The first two weeks were in Tavarnelle val di Pesa (Poggio al Frontoio, Strada Commenda 2, 50028 Tavarnelle Val di Pesa) and the last week was at Portovenere (La Casetta, Via Olivo, 124, Portovenere, SP). Poggio al Frontoio is also known as Casale Lucia 1. La Casetta is also known as Lunetta. Both places were clean and functional. We used to book these places.

Two weeks may have been too much in the farmhouse. We ended up doing side trips from Tavernelle to Asissi and from Portovenere to Verona/Pescantina. Using TripAdvisor, we were able to make hotel reservations easily in the off season. Something to think about, maybe 3 days in an area and then moving on.

We traveled on Alitalia, Sandy and I in Premium Economy. It was worth the upgrade, separated check-in and security avenues and larger seats. There are 24 Premium Economy seats on the Boeing 777. The flight is 12 hours long direct from LAX to Rome. Flight 621 LAX-Rome, Flight 620 Rome-LAX.

We rented a car with Hertz, a Lancia Dart 6-speed manual 4 door. With our reduced luggage (one large suitcase, 3 medium suitcases and 1 carry on suitcase and purses and backpacks), we made it all work.

We decided to stay in Rome one night, driving from Portovenere (4.5 hours), then one night at the Rome Airport Hilton because the flight home left at 9:15 am and we weren’t sure of the traffic from Rome to the airport. It worked out well, but maybe next time, we stay at the Hilton and just take to shuttle from there to the city center. It runs every hour or so, maybe a little more convenient.

Wineries visited:






Visits to:

  • Florence, 9/17
  • San Gimignano, 9/18
  • Pisa, 9/21
  • Siena, 9/26
  • Assisi, 9/27-28
  • Verona, 10/3
  • Pescantina, 10/4
  • Rome, 10/5-6


The co-ops in Italy are the grocery stores. They have everything you need, but its all in Italian. Kleenix was hard to find, peanut butter was non-existent and bacon remained elusive to us. There are lots of prosciuttos to choose from though. We never did find pepperoni, like here in the U.S, same for hotdogs (German versions a little strange). The coops are open every day, slow time during the afternoon and Sundays are limited hours to 1:30 pm or so. Eggs are not refrigerated and the milk (latte) comes in:

  • Whole or homogenised (Latte intero), 3.5% fat
  • Partially skimmed (Latte parzialmente scremato)1.8% fat
  • Skimmed (Latte scremato), 0.5% fat.

The Coop in Tavernelle is in the center of town and the one in Portovenere is really small, we just went to the one in La Spezia, integrated into the mall, La Terrazze (see below, Cinque Terrre writeup).

Italy uses the 2 small prong European plugs. The rest of Europe users the larger plugs. There is an adapter for the larger to smaller plugs.

Cell phones/iPads: I used TIM for the iPad on the 3rd week. Bought a 10 GB, 42.2k data plan (3 x the 14.4k plan offered) for €29/ month and €10 for microsSIM card. I think WIND could have worked just as well, Vodaphone too, but not as prevalent. The package was called TIM TOP, I think. Make sure it is rechargeable (ricaricabile) so that as the data is used, you can recharge it. To recharge, just go to a tobacco shop or a MediaWorld or a TIM store to refill. There is NO credit card required to maintain the plan.

I bought 2 120MB data plans from ATT for both iPads for $30/month. These use reciprocal service providers in Europe for ATT. This was too much work to monitor, just moving to a local plan was easier.

I bought International ATT $6/month dialing phone plan and $5/50 text message and $30/month for 120 MB data Phone 4 plans too. Again, a waste.

TomTom GPS is invaluable. I bought the Italy map and downloaded it to the 4 GB flash memory card. Kate, our onboard-voice guided assistant was amazing. Best $60 spent for the trip!

Possible Future Stays:

Antica Pieve B&B, Tavarnelle – the restaurant Borgo Antico is attached.

Hotel Borgo di Cortefreda, Tavarnelle – the restaurant Cortefreda is attached.


Tipping is included in meals already. Exceptional service can be rewarded of course. When using a credit card, you can’t add a tip to it, the tip must be in cash.

Cinque Terre

The website for Cinque Terre is here, it is in Italian and English. We had hoped to hike from some villages to others, but there had been an accident with Australian tourists on the EASIEST trail, so they (the blue trails, number 2) were closed. The other, more difficult trails remained open however. Here is the link, it is just a 30 minute walk from Riomaggiore to Manaroloa, 1km in length and is called the Via dell’Amore. This is the stroll with the locks that you put on the gate professing your love for your significant other. We’ll do it NEXT TIME.

We took the boat and also drove from Portovenere to Riomaggiore. The drive was about 30 minutes from La Spezia and the views are amazing. The parking is non-existent, so don’t even try.

You can also take the train from La Spezia. The train station is pretty close to the Co-Op and shopping mall (La Terrazze) in town. Next time, maybe the train. The boat website is here and you pay for a ticket (€24) and it lets you get on/off at the 5 towns per the boat schedule. We took the boat from Portovenere to Riomaggiore, explored a bit, got back on and for some reason, our boat went directly to Monterosso. We had a beautiful lunch at Ristorante Il Casello and explored the area.

We are ready to go back to Italy!