Italy Tour: William Badger

Were met at the airport by a very pleasant man sent by the hotel.
It was in a very convenient place for using the subway.
The breakfasts were adequate. We saw as many sites as we could.
A taxi, hired by the hotel got us back out to the airport to rent a car. The hotel's taxis are expensive but very reliable and clean.
Getting on our way north from the airport was easy.

The hotel was the perfect place to start our visit of Tuscany.
The hosts were most friendly with a choice of English, French, and German for conversation.
Breakfasts and Dinners were superb and too plentiful. Their cook was well praised by us all. (4 couples. One couple has returned several times.)

Chianti Classico
A magnificent spot, high on a hill, overlooking vineyards.
A very bright young man conducted the free winetasting. He was both a teacher and guide on our tour through the winery and provided some fine wines but also showed the importance of different foods necessary to influence the palate when drinking chiantis.
Our room was in a newly built addition above the main building. No problem getting large suitcases up to it as a helper with a small truck did the job for us.
A great spot for walking. Below the establishment was a trail for serious exercisers, which we followed and then branched off and frightened, thank goodness, a family of 5 boars.
The restaurant was most elegant and the wine, of course, Chianti.
The road from the highway to Dievole is fairly long and rugged. For that reason we made only one side trip during our 3 day stay.

Gambassi Terme
This place was the hardest to locate.
The Osteria Pizzeria La Montagnola is no more.
Fortunately we found a small sign across the road for Tenuta Sant' Ilario.
We drove down a winding dirt road for over a kilometre until we came to a very fine, newly refurbished house with views across a wide valley to the town. Unfortunately there was no one there at the reception building. We went into the house and repeated our hellos. The only living creature was an unhappy Doberman pinscher, safely enclosed in a well-fenced area.
Back up the winding road to the nearest restaurant close to our turn off the main road. A very pleasant couple, Giovanna and her husband served as host and chef. We wanted a simple supper and wine, and both were good. So good that we returned the next night and, of course were greeted like old friends. At the end of the meal they treated us to their homemade lemoncello.
When we returned to the tenuta after our first meal, the woman looking after the place was most apologetic and showed us to our very fine, large room.
The cars are parked a small distance from the entrance but the road is of crushed rock which makes the rolling of suitcases difficult. Fortunately a dolly was found for loading up after our visit.
A note to Quebecers: my doctor managed to get a message to me that I need a blood test and so with written help from the manager we went off to the local hospital. The receptionist took me under her wing, escorted me to the blood letting room and left me with the head nurse of the department, who spoke French. I was told to come back in a few days for the results but when I explained that I was moving on I was told that they would be ready the next morning. I was asked for my Quebec health card but that was it for payment. When I tried to make a donation to the hospital they refused it. Probably a breach of etiquette on my behalf. The results were satisfactory.

San Casciano
This was the most elegant place of all.
It is the family home of a classy lady who has transformed it into a small hotel and is always adding to it. She is aided by her husband and one of her sons, who speaks several languages.
We dined in a glass-enclosed room overlooking parts of the property with a glimpse of the pool. Swimming in May, in Italy is a lot more pleasant than doing it in Canada at that time of year.
We kept our eye on what Madame was eating and when we asked about it were told the veal was not on the menu but they would gladly make it for us. Result: the best veal scaloppini we had ever eaten!
There is a pleasant road that goes down from the hotel through old, deserted farms with their houses still standing and easily renovated for a few hundred thousand euros.

Located in the highest piazza in the town, this is a difficult place to get to if you come from the North. A phone call to the owner of La Locanda brought her quickly to our aid and we followed her car to the piazza di San Francesco.
Within easy walking distance there are larger piazzas, restaurants and shops. It is all downhill so if the uphill return is a little daunting, bus tickets are sold in the small shops that sell cigarettes etc.
The view from the San Francesco piazza is across a large valley and is, of course, as splendid as the other great views.
A visit to the only winery open on Sunday was arranged for us. The drive there was interesting as we were rerouted because of a bicycle race.
The winery itself was brand new and we were guided by a very knowledgeable Scottish lass. We tasted our way up to the ladder of Chianti and finished with a Brunello One fellow bought a case which, shipped to his home in Australia, equaledthe price of a racehorse.
Meals at La Locanda were served in the bar from what was termed a pub menu. They were, as it seems for all Italian meals, delicious but not geared to the traditional 3 courses.

The final stay before Rome
Another magnificent home turned into a guesthouse.
We ate there both nights and the food was, as always, outstanding.
The pool overlooked a large valley, the sun was shining, the other guests were friendly and the staff were most helpful with luggage and directions.
The star of the tenuta was a parrot that had various polite greetings and one annoying habit: he could imitate the ringing of a telephone!

Finally back to the airport with the car; not too difficult and we were able to check our bags overnight.
Then for a thrill – the train ride into Rome and a short subway ride to the Vatican stop where we met up with an amusing and informative guide who left us with the impression that the Mafia learned from the early popes.
Spent the final night at our starting hotel and went for dinner the next street over. Via Veneto is very trendy but we made the mistake of eating in an Italian looking restaurant, run by Russians!

We got one traffic ticket. Driving to Florence we got on the major highway without going through a tollbooth and picking up a ticket. When we got off at the correct exit we were asked for our non-existent ticket and could not explain how it happened as the ticket taker could not speak English and we could not speak enough Italian to recount what had happened or plead successfully for mercy.
He did point to the back of the ticket and say “internet” after demanding €48, the cost of the trip from Naples to Milan. When I got home I followed the instructions on the website and so far have paid 0.48 €. May our luck hold.
And that is the epistle according to William.