Archive | May 2013

Italy – Review (Saturday 4th May to Monday 13th May 2013)

Introduction: This was a family holiday to Umbria and parts of Tuscany. This was the first time we had spent time as a family since Christmas. We spent the first 7 days just outside Assisi, and the final 2 days in a National Park. The majority of the trip was visiting small towns, with their windy streets, churches and bad sign posting. We actually did a couple of towns each day. As for the last 2 days it seemed to have been literally spent in the clouds and we went on several walks; although obviously more Dad’s thing that ours.

[Each day has its own post and as always for this blog is written in the form of a diary. I must state that although this was as a family, this is my own person record and parts not all the family were there, and in places their opinions may vary to mine. Each is split into subheadings from through out the day (with the exception of Day 1, which I am not sure where my photos went). I have selected a few photos for each subsections but more available at the bottom of the sections by the way of a link to my Photobucket account.]

Day 1 (Saturday 4th May 2013) – ‘Arriving in Italy’    link

[Getting lost on the way from Rome to Assisi, followed by a welcome meeting and the longest dinner ever in the evening]

Day 2 (Sunday 5th May 2013) – ‘The Lake and Castiglione del Lago’  link

[It was a wet day, but we visited a lake and then the local town, including a few churches and the castle]

Day 3 (Monday 6th May 2013) – ‘Arrezo and Cortona’   link 

[We did Arezzo in the morning, although just a park, pizza, ice-creams, views, etc. Then to Cortona, which we loved even if was not one of the main places we were looking into going. It was very hilly, but had some nice views and nice streets]

Day 4 (Tuesday 7th May 2013) –

Day 5 (Wednesday 8th may 2013) –

Day 6 (Thursday 9th May 2013) –

Day 7 (Friday 10th May 2013) –

Day 8 (Saturday 11th May 2013) –

Day 9 (Sunday 12th May 2013) –

Day 10 (Monday 13th May 2013) –

This entry was posted on May 14, 2013. 1 Comment

Italy: Day 3 – Arrezo and Cortona (Monday 6th May 2013)

Summary – The spent the first part of the day in the small town called Arezzo, although we didn’t actually go to into either main 2 churches. We did however see the amphitheatre a park with an amusing name, as well as get ice-creams and traditional pizza. From here we went to Cortona, although not a place we originally intended on going, it actually became one of our favourites. Not sure if Mum was very keen on all of the hilly streets, let alone the very steep slope though at the end which we did.


We, as usual, didn’t get up until about 10am. Dad went off in the morning as usual and complained that we said to get back at 10, he did and when he got back we were all still in bed.
In end by the time we were ready we didn’t leave until 10:30. We drove for about an hour and a half to a place called Arrezo. We actually didn’t get too lost.

Arriving in Arrezo
We parked in an underground car park. On the way it had been quite sunny, but here it was a lot cooler and cloudier. We walked through the town through the little streets. We found but both of the churches, but one was closed due to the time we went and the other cost around €30 for all 4 of us and we questioned whether it was worth it or not. In the end we decided it wasn’t and didn’t bother.

The first church (i.e. the expensive one)

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The second church (i.e. the closed one)


The same church but from a different angle


A statue of a horse, which we found funnily, due to how… realistic it looked lol

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Il Prato and Fortress
Due to the name Tom insisted we made a retour via a park just because it had the name ‘Il Prato’. Both Tom and Dad thought it was hilarious, thus showing who are the most grown up in the family. We did go to the Fortress but it was closed and seem to be worked on at the moment. The original plan was to have lunch in the park, until we realised that nobody had bought any lunch with them :)) Instead we had an ice-cream at the little cafe in the park.

Tom with the Il Prato Park sign

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The Park

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The Fortress which was closed

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The Cafe which we stopped at

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More photos from the park – link  


The Rest of the Town & Amphitheater

We walked back roughly the way we came, exploring a few more streets and plazas. As we had not had any lunch we had some pizza. We saw some girls come out with slices of pizza, so we went in after too. They had massive pizzas, and you could just buy a slice. Due to our lack of Italian we just went for Margarita as it was the one we knew. It was really nice, and perfect for lunch. After a little walk we reached the Amphitheatre. It was not open as a sign said that because of some issues of vandalism they no longer were open to the public. However we were able to see it from the outside, before returning back to the car.

One of the little streets


One of the plazas 

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The Amphitheatre 


More photo from the town and amphitheatre – link 


Arriving in Cortona and San Domenico Church

The original plan wasn’t to go to Cortona, we had intended to go to Perugia, but we had a change a plan as we thought this would be easier. It was clear quickly that the views would be good as when we arrived as we climbed very high to get there. There seemed to be not many car parks and more parking on the road. We parked in a small car park half way up the hill.
We walked up some steps and through a small park towards the main part of town. It had some nice views though. On the other side of the park and on the outskirts was a small church. It was typical of the churches in Italy which looks very plain on the outside and very well decorated in the inside.

The fountain in the park, which we found amusing


The front of the the San Domenico Church

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Inside the church

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Some of the gold in the church

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More photo from here – link 

The Town and Views

Opposite the little church was view point, but there were views also all over the place. We walked through the main part of the town and streets. In the normal Italian fashion the streets were all narrow and looked similar to before, although these were all on a slope; some steeper than others. In fact the main street with shops translated as ‘Level Street’ because it was the only level street in the entire town. There was a nice little square.

The view from a view point just over the road from the church

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The ‘Level Street’ 


One view across the square


Another view across the square


More photos from Cortona and the views – link  
The Gallery/ Shop

Although we didn’t do any shopping there was a nice little art shop/ gallery. It was over 2 floors, with a small spiral staircase joining the 2 together. We loved most of the art and probably would buy the whole gallery if we could. The shop even had a covered old well which now had gold fish in it.

The cute little street which the shop/ gallery was in

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The well which was in the shop

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A view across the shop (which I subtly took as it said no photos were allowed)

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A Very Steep Hill!

After stopping for Coke and Juice at a bar as its the only place we could find with toilets (this was a mission in itself!). Tom had a great idea of going up a steep hill to the top. This was definitely a challenge for poor Mum. We did see an old guy walking up, no idea how we coped as it literally was a 45 degree slope. After all this there didn’t seem to be too much. Both churches were closed. However the other side of the wall had a little bench and had a good view across a vast area. Also it had a some houses with very pretty gardens.

The steep hill itself [taken on the way back down]


Mum needing a little bit of help (lol)

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The houses at the top

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The view from the top

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A normal view to see within our family 😉

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More photos from the top of the steep slope – link 

Video: the view from the top of the steep hill –

A Long Journey Home!

We walked down the hill and back towards the car. On the way we called by another church and also via a shop we saw on the way for a painting we liked.
We had a surprise when we were trying to leave. We could only go up and it was a one way system. It turned out we had to drive through the town! Even then it was confusing as we reached a square and the signs disappeared. The Dutch car in front got lost too and had to do a U-turn in the square. We did find a way out in the end when Mum spotted a speed limit on an archway.
This too was not the end of the confusion. We got quite lost the whole way home. This caused a lot of arguments and several detours! Finally we made it to the supermarket in the nearby town, even if a lot later than expected.

Us driving through the ‘Level Street’

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This entry was posted on May 6, 2013. 1 Comment

Italy: Day 2 – The Lake and Castiglione del Lago (Sunday 5th May 2013)

Summary – This was a rather wet day. We started by visiting the lake, although after driving around most of it found the nature reserve part was closed. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the nearby local town looking over the river; walking through the town, buying local wine, visiting churches and the castle.

Day 2 map

The Lake
The weather was dreadful! It was so wet and cold. We tried to go to a Lake which had a little nature reserve. It took a while to find the entrance after driving around most of it, and we did it was closed. Turned out it closed at 2pm on a Sunday and we got there at 3pm.

The view from our balcony as we left

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Assisi as we drove past in the rain

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A view of the Lake

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Another view from further up the hill

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We had lunch by the lake. Obviously we stayed in the car though as the weather was still cold and wet. Although there was still a nice view despite the weather.

The view from where we stopped for Lunch

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Another view from the same place

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Arriving in Castiglione del Lago
This was a little town by the lake. We parked at the bottom of the hill and have a lots of steps to get to the top. I don’t think Mum was too impressed with it though.

The view of the town from where we parked the car


The steps up to the car

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The gatehouse leading into the town


Me and Dad at the map; trying not to pose 😉 hehe


More photos from here – link 

The Town
We walked around the town with all the little shops. We went into a few little churches too. They reminded me a lot of the ones in Lisbon.
We also bought a local bottle of wine. We got a 10% discount from the lady as we pasted the first time. We wanted to get something produced locally. Even better there were several samples before buying it.

A Square in the Town



One of the Churches

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Inside in a Different Church

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Tom’s ‘New Bag’; actually Mum’s but made me laugh

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A few more photos from here – link 

The View Point
At one end of the town there was a another gatehouse leading out to a view point. If looked out a long way over the lake and you could see very clearly the old roman road leading to the town.

A view across, including the Roman Road


The View Across the Lake


More photos from this view point – link 

The Castle (and Museum)
The entrance to the castle was via a museum. As well a few bits and pieces there were a lots of kites. Interesting as we arrived there appeared to be a kite festival of some kind. The building itself was interesting; covered in paintings on walls and ceilings.
Then leading to the Castle was a long narrow tunnel. The castle itself had a few turrets and other than that only a few walls around the edge. The centre appeared to be a kind of theatre, with a cafe. We stopped by the cafe on the way out for an ice-cream, despite the weather.

The walls and ceilings of the museum

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More kites!

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The Tunnel to the Castle



The walls of the castle 

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Across the castle


Quite a few more photos from the castle and museum – link 





This entry was posted on May 5, 2013. 1 Comment

Italy: Day 1 – Arriving in Italy (Saturday 4th May 2013)

Summary – In honesty not too much happened on this day, it was just a day of travelling. We finally found our hotel just outside Assisi, and also finally finding a supermarket in the nearby town. In the evening there was a welcome meeting not too long after we arrived, and we went for dinner, although it appeared to be such a disorganised restaurant, and took over 2 hours to get through one meal! 

Getting to Assisi

Getting to the Airport

I got up at 4:15am. After some last minute packing, breakfast, we left around 5am. The drive to Gatwick was easy, so was the dropping off the car in the carpark. We made the bus just in time, and despite getting a little confused by if we were at the North or South terminal we worked out that door to door it was only 2hrs.
Arriving in Italy
The airport was nice and easy too; especially as EasyJet check-in was only online now. The only slow part really was security because I didn’t bother checking my bags before we left and I had things like scissors, make-up, in there that I completely forgot about lol.
When we got there we met Tom after collecting the bags.

Collecting the Car
This was quite difficult. We finally found the car hire company and took a while to work where the office was for it. Even when we got the car, Dad couldn’t find the handbrake and found the completely confusing. the guy had to come over and show him how and even then it appeared to be a struggle.

Finding Assisi
The confusion was not over yet and getting to Assisi was confusing. The first challenge was that the airport wasn’t on the map. It turned out that the map was made in 1989! After few wrong turns and a few maps around roundabouts we get to Assisi, even if it did take hours to do so! We actually arrived in Assisi and promptly left, as there seemed to be no supermarkets here, so had to go to the neighbouring town for a supermarket. Even that was confusing with signs for Spar disappearing after not too long. We eventually found a different supermarket.

The Hotel
Finding the reception was meant to be difficult (according to reviews)  but we found it easily enough. Same for finding the hotel itself as its a couple of kilometers outside of Assisi. However Mum and Dad used Google Maps before and traced the route using Google Earth.

The main front room, which was a bit of a squeeze and why we rearranged the furniture [Taken on the day we left]

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The bathroom, please mind the towels and mess. The shower wouldn’t fit in the photo [Taken on the day we left]


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Mum & Dad’s room, with the 2 identical photos, again, wouldn’t all fit in [Taken on the day we left]

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The View Across the Veranda [Taken the day we left]

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[Will put more photos taken on that last day on the last day, (i.e. Day 8) which is when I took them]

Welcome Meeting
After settling in we attended a introduction meeting at the hotel. It took a while as it was all done in Italian and then in English, but we really went for the food and wine as they put on buffet afterwards.

After being recommended by our Rep called Mark we went looking for a restaurant he suggested, which was connected to the hotel. We actually went past but it looked like just a B&B but think it was before 8pm and not open yet as they eat later in Italy compared to us.
It was the longest dinner ever! We only had one course and took over 2 hours. We originally were planning to have desert but didn’t want to be there until midnight! Didn’t help that the sides arrived long after the main course and the salad just tasted of salt! I did get try a bit of Italian though by asking for the bill.

This entry was posted on May 4, 2013. 1 Comment