Flashback: Italy 2001

This particular travel blog is actually a series of quick notes that I had planned to expand on once we got back, but life got busy and it never came about. Now nearly 20 years later I found the notes but have forgotten too much to expand upon anything! (Are camera also broke so we had no original photos.) The notes themselves paint a fast and fun trip through Italy. I hope you enjoy and can follow along.

-Second item: We took this trip about 6 weeks after the September 11th attacks. A tragic and historical event that led to may grave repercussions around the world- Severe travel restrictions and procedures were just one of them. The process in the airports were rough but at the same time a lot less people were traveling so the airports, hotels and towns were a bit emptier which made it nice for us.

-This blog was pieced together by web editor Kevin Klimczak who transposed the hand-written notes to a digital format and sourced the photos for the site locations.


Tues Oct. 25-01:

Jane (our neighbor) drives us to the airport earlier–due to added security measures as the aftermath of Sept. 11-01. Nevertheless, our start was relatively painless and inauspicious.

Northern Lights

An hour pleasurable flight to San Francisco & 2 1/2 hr. layover for our Alitalia flight to Milan. The international area was quite attractive and quite empty. Our plane left at 4 p.m. (Arr. Milan 11:07 a.m. Wed.) It was less than 1/2 full so we jumped several rows to the first row of economy for the additional leg room & 2 windows. The stewardesses (except for the one who showed us the fabulous Northern Lights) were brisk and unavailable –most hiding in first class–which only had 4 occupants. Difficult, actually impossible to sleep, dozed for a couple of hours. Need to “roll” once we hit Milan.

Wed. Oct. 26-01:

Certosa di Pavia

Around 2:30 p.m., after we left the airport with our rental Peugeot, we arrived at Certosa di Pavia , (home of the Carthusians monks since the 15the c.–only a few left).

Then we checked in at the Hotel Nationale in Piacenzia for Wednesday night, showered & changed, and walked 3 blocks to a casual trattoria for dinner–veal in lemon & salad & grilled veg. In bed and asleep at 10 p.m.

Thurs. Oct. 27-01:

Breakfast (great rolls) at Hotel Nationale & coffee for me on the charming outside patio. A bus tour for Rome came in at 9:00 p.m. the night before and was leaving when we came to breakfast at 8 a.m. On to the ancient village for a walking tour–Castell Arqueta–medieval castle town up on a hill, we parked at the bottom and walked up. Defense tower (with moat) at top–paid and toured it– beautiful views of the hills and dales, walked down, coffee at one of the pizza shops in the small plaza below. Then to Modena (of balsamic vinegar fame). Bit lost–we got a map from a friendly hotel concierge and then we were on to old town. Cathedral square was extremely plain–church locked (till 2:30)– lovely lunch at Clock Tower Cafe outside by small fountain, and we bought some world famous balsamic vinegar that we sampled on cheese—excellent!

On to Siena –highway was terrible–trucks & trucks & fast! Tried 5 different hotels– 4 filled and one closed. Ended up (thru phone call by concierge) at Hotel Vica– extremely basic– bad bed looking over shed roof– but ok dinner with wine. No room in Siena, but will try again later or go for at least a day trip.

Friday Oct. 28-01:

Town Center of Castellina in Chianti  old castle/fortress.

Breakfast (barely made it) 9:30 a.m. at Vica and we were off. Drove thru countryside to the town of Castellina in Chianti province and found Hotel Girasole in the center of town. Lovely old place on a major point/corner of town. A front suite for the price of regular. Coffee on terrace with a view overlooking hills. On to lunch at Osteria Fonterutoli –excellent pasta & salad– Mike wine tasted after. Back to Hotel and on to San Gimignano to see the “city of towers”.

San Gimigano

Beautiful (reminded me of Alsace). Then to dinner at Albergiaccia–excellent! Mike had duck and I the lamb “stew” (Busy and hard to get check, but the food was worth the wait). Coffee, wine, and back to bar across from Hotel– bed by 10:45!

Sat. Oct. 28-01:

Breakfast– good at Hotel in dining room.

Make plans for day–maybe switch rooms today to front room with wide balcony–changed minds, sun in our room daily.


Off to Chianciana Terme to see Nervi’s ’40 pavilon. Lovely– then to hill town/winetown of Montepuliciano—beautiful–”boxy” shaped town, both buildings and layout- lots of stone squares, kind of barren of flowers and plants inside but surrounded by nature outside. Ate lunch in large plaza, saw 2 kids helping big old dog- fun! Then to tasting for Mike at Contucci Winery-oak barrels–back at 4:45 p.m. Dining again at “Albergaccia”. Same excellent meal (lamb morsels)–began to rain, but coffee/wine anyways again at bar across from hotel. Late– Mike sharing wine with hotel people in lounge. (Albergaccia was a lot of fun!)

Sunday Oct. 30-01:

Rain–looks like it all day. And it was. Mass at 11, not 10:30, so Mike and I walked in rain around city– save restaurants & wineries & rain– church at 11– lunch at Pizza Restaruant across from church and re-walked village afterwards–up to the tower at the top of the Castle. Walked to Etruscan Tomb–fascinating (6th or 7th c B.C.!) (No info on devastation of the Etruscans). Mike to tour winery in town–Eva made “reserva” at “Antica Trattoria” in front of the Castle for 7:30 p.m. dinner, by 7:40 it was packed! Coffee & Sherry down street–raining still.

Monday Nov. 1-01:

Cathedral of Siena

Foggy, partially cloudy, but still plan to go to Siena anyway. Arrived in Siena at 11:00 a.m. (30 minutes to find parking) and another 30 minutes to walk to old town. First to Piazza del Campo– very beautiful (no flowers, shrubs, etc.). Then to cathedral– beautifully “stripped”– hundreds in line to get in– so I stood at exit door to sneak a peak inside. Walked back to square– coffee break. Hot, humid & lots of people. Back at 4:30 p.m. –coffee on back patio, long hot shower for back/arm ache. “Tre Porte” for dinner– nice restaurant but rabbit not so good. Mike went with wine to living/social area but no takers. Midnight drunks yelling outside!

Piazza de Siena

Tues. Nov. 2-01:

Farewell to lovely Hotel Girasole and it’s sunflowers & its lovely dining room with M.T.V…

On to Cinque Terre (pronunced chink-que-terre) (weather nice). Found room in Villa Argentina Hotel in Riomaggiore –most Eastern tip of a 5 coastal towns string- (1st village by port town of La Spezia.) The real job was getting to the hotel at the top of the village but I brazened my way thru! All balconies gone– we had a view of the mountains only but a fantastic terrace with tables and a view of the sea to make up for it. Met people from Sacramento and Swedes–chatted before dinner. We ambled thru the village to the water and train station to buy tickets for walking the “Via Amore” to Manarola, wine, and back–breathtaking! Partly sunny/cloudy–humid. Dinner– Lobster & sea bass at restaurant “Rio Maggiore”

Stresa on Lake Maggiore– excellent food and location but noisy with whooping bus people (Americans).

—Part II Coming next week!


About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels.
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