Despite the last posting, we've actually had a wonderful, albeit stinking hot, 10 days so far together. Last week we visited Stia, a beautiful town about an hour from us. We walked around the old centre (centro storica) and ate the obligatory ice-cream (we seem to be ice-cream eating our way around Tuscany). We declared the ice-cream to be the best so far, but the result may have been helped by the extreme heat.
From Stia, we drove to Camaldoli, a monastic community in the Tuscan-Romangese Appennine hills (http://www.camaldoli.it/en_index.htm). Not much to do there besides admire the buildings, drink espresso and attempt to keep the kids in a monastic silence! The area gave the impression of intrigue and mystery that could feature in The Davinci Code or similar such novel, with mysterious looking figures scuttling around and people looking far too peaceful and serene. Not really my thing to be honest and being sick didn't really help my overall feeling about the place. But it was beautiful.
We then drove on to Arezzo - yes, another beautiful old town. The centro storica was a bit touristy for me but still incredible to look at with colourful crests adorning the buildings. However, the heat had by this stage wilted everyone again so we hurried through and back to the car to begin the 1.5 hour drive back home. We will have to do these towns again when it's a bit cooler.
We had a day's rest, then took the train to Brisighella a charming (couldn't use 'beautiful' again!) medieval town an hour's train ride from us. The town is overlooked by a castle on a hill, which we would have visited if it wasn't for the stifling heat. So we had lunch, ate ice-creams and sat in the park until our train home.
Two day's of rest over the weekend, then a day in Florence on Monday. I suppose it's saying something when a day in Florence doesn't elicit an immediate blog posting! We trawled through the markets, made lots of purchases, ate lunch in the food market (Dad ate the local delicacy - a tripe roll!), walked around the Duomo then came home, only realising on the train that we had forgotten to visit the Ponte Vicchio. No one was overly disappointed though - we were all virtually suffering from heatstroke by that stage.
And another rest day yesterday - we managed a visit to the lake in the afternoon which was wonderful. It is such a peaceful, idyllic spot. Today, we're hosting some fellow New Zealanders for lunch and then pizza making in the afternoon. And I'm over my NZ cold, received with love from our previous visitors. There is something to be said for pure isolation!
[Disclaimer: photos are someone else's - bless the internet!]