Featured Gay Friendly Accommodations: Podere Sant’Angelo, Roccalbegna, Tuscany

Author: , December 3rd, 2014

Podere Sant Angelo

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Romantic Cottages in S. Tuscany: A recently restored stone barn amongst the rolling hills of southern Tuscany offers two charming cottages in a tended garden with spectacular views. Near the picturesque village of Roccalbegna, the hot springs of Saturnia are 20 minutes away. It’s an hour’s drive down to the coast. 30 minutes to the Etruscan remains of Sovana and Pitigliano.

See the Podere Sant’Angelo Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Southern Tuscany

Tuscany’s Most Picturesque Hilltop Town: Volterra

Author: , October 18th, 2014

Volterra - Adam GroffmanLast year I spent a few days traveling around Tuscany but I realize I didn’t share much from the journey. The reason? It wasn’t my favorite place. I didn’t actually spend any time in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, but instead traveled to Pisa and some nearby villas and small hilltop towns. I was stuck with unfortunate weather during the October trip, so rather than experiencing lush, green, rolling hills, there were a lot of grey skies, muddy pathways and cold, wet days.

In the end, Tuscany left me feeling slightly disappointed. I think all the expectations (thank you very much Eat, Pray, Love) were just too high. And while I had a perfectly nice trip, Tuscany as a destination just didn’t “wow” me as I was expecting. I’m not ready to write off the destination, though. I know I’ll have to visit Florence again (that city is just too pretty not to see more than once!).

And I’m sure there are more towns and places worth visiting — especially since I’ve become a bit of an Italian food aficionado! But having now visited Tuscany on at least two separate trips, I think I’m ready to explore other parts of Italy.

This article was written by Adam Groffman, author of the internationally popular travel blog, Travels of Adam. Read more here: Tuscany’s Most Picturesque Hilltop Town: Volterra.

Purple Roofs Gay Travel Resources

Rolling the Barrels in Italy

Author: , September 1st, 2014

Bravio delle Botti - Dolly GoolsbyBuongiorno, tutti,

Yes, we returned to Montepulciano for the barrel-rolling competition, called the Bravio delle Botti. We arrived on Friday afternoon, and the festivities were well under way by then. On Thursday, they had had an evening parade, by candlelight, with people in medieval costume from all 8 contrade, entertainment in the Piazza Grande, and fireworks.

Well, yes, we missed that, but on Saturday each contrada had a parade of their young people, so we got to see that.

Of course, in the evening there was live music in many different venues. All contrade had their own areas where they were cooking and serving food and drink. It was hard for me to imagine even eating a bistecca Fiorentina at any time, but I know I wouldn’t do that at 10:00 at night.

All of this area is heavy on meats: beef from the Chianini cattle, only found in Tuscany, wild boar stews and ragu (cinghiale), rabbit, domestic pork and lamb, and sausages, too, from the cinghaile and pork. Thankfully, for some of us who want more veggies in our meals, it is porcini season here. Mmmm..just the aroma of porcini mushrooms being sauteed in olive oil, served over pasta, makes my mouth water. Also, many grilled local vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, fennel, are available. Salads with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella are wonderful.

On Sunday, the entire day had something going on leading up to the grand finale, the actual barrel race. At 10:00 a.m. there was a parade of the royalty and dignitaries of each contrada, ending at Piazza Grande. All of these people went through large double doors into the city hall. Then there was a lottery which determined starting position for the barrel rolling competition. (Think “pole position” at Indianapolis.).

The trumpeters opened some windows on the top floor of that building, played a fanfare, then a flag appeared, announcing the first position.

Next, the barrel rollers from that first contrada rolled their brand new barrel out onto the steps of the cathedral. The blacksmith then measured the barrel with calipers, tapped in any loose nails, and branded the barrel with his stamp. While all this was going on, the drummers and flag throwers from the contrada were keeping the audience entertained.

This procedure continued until all 8 contrade had their positions announced, barrels were branded. Then the priest and a cardinal gave a short blessing ceremony and all the nobility, the barrel rollers, the flag throwers and drummers entered the church for a Mass.

Eventually, it came time for the actual barrel racing. It was impossible to get a good photo, so this is the best I could do. They were really moving fast, up the Corso, through some side streets, passing through each of the 8 contrade, from the bottom of the hill up to Piazza Grande.

Eventually, the contrada Voltaio won. They had gotten the first position, and are also return winners, having own last year.

All in all, it was a fun filled weekend. We got to meet again some of our friends from school, as well as some of the instructors. We also met the lady and her husband, from whom we had rented our apartment while going to school. The town is filled with lovely people like them.

I am very much in love with Montepulciano. I hope I get to return again before too long.

I trust you will enjoy my synopsis of a wonderful cultural experience.
(I have included so many pictures, it will be interesting to see if they all come through.)

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Purple Roofs | Eastern Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Italy: La Festa, Calici della Stelle

Author: , August 13th, 2014

La Festa, Calici della StelleGood afternoon, everyone,

Yes, it is Tuesday already, and you are probably wondering why I haven’t told you about the Festa, as I promised. It is a very short story, but I have to tell you. I am so dependent on this iPad, that when it decided to go to sleep and not wake up again, I was in a panic. Fortunately for me, my brilliant grandson, Geoff, came to my rescue one more time. He gave me the answer, I tried it and it worked. Yay! So now my iPad and I can continue with our blogging. Many thanks to Geoff. His expertise with all things Apple has saved me more than once.

On Sunday, there was a grand festa here in Montepulciano, celebrating the food and wine of this area. This weekend, it was called, Calici della Stelle, (“Chalices full of stars.) Not only were we lucky enough to have a gorgeous summer evening, but we also had a brilliant full moon, plus the Calici della Stelle. Life doesn’t get any better.

As I have told you in a previous blog post, there are 8 contrade, or neighborhoods in this hill town. On Sunday afternoon at 5:00, there was a parade that started at the Porta Al Prato, the gates at the lower end of town, and went uphill to Piazza Grande.

First there were 2 little girls, dressed in the Medieval costumes in the colors of Montepulciano.

They were followed by a senior man from the village and 2 younger men, each carrying the flag of Montepulciano. The flag of Montepulciano has a griffin and a lion: the head is a griffin and the bottom half is a lion. I do not know the significance of this, but there it is. (See the picture below.)

After those people came 8 flag throwers, one from each contrada. Next was the drum corp, followed by 8 more flag throwers, again, one from each contrada. Occasionally the parade would stop, the flag throwers would perform, then the parade carried on again. This parade went up the Corso to Piazza Grande. We followed them through town for awhile, but eventually we took a short cut and got to Piazza Grande just before the parade got there.

Once they were in Piazza Grande, the flag throwers really put on a great show, throwing their flags into the air, catching them, throwing them to each other with such precision. No one dropped a flag, and the performance was most entertaining.

After the flag and drum performance, there was wine tasting in each contrada. I knew before I came here that the town was famous for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, but I had no idea how many wineries are here.

All the wines are either Rosso di Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, or Vino Nobile Riserva. I was impressed. And this is just one of eight tasting areas. And the wine is excellent.

Also, each contrada had food from their area where you paid for what you wanted, sat at long tables with other people and enjoyed food and wine under the stars.

There was also music in several contrade, with large bands, 10 or 12 musicians in each. It seemed to me that their favorite music was from James Brown. We kept hearing the same songs again and again.

We finally meandered down the hill to our home, around 10:30, but the crowds were still out there, with the kids and the dogs, and the music playing until midnight. I asked our teacher, the following day, how do these people do this? Party until 1:00 a.m. then get up and go to work on Monday. She just shrugged her shoulders, and indicated that this a a way of life for them, and the feste aren’t held that often. One just enjoys the fun while they can.

Now we have only 3 more days here, then Susan and I will go to Rome for 5 days. We still have classes for 2 of those days, and the instructors are really giving us a lot of information, which is giving me a headache! I hope I can retains some of it.

The school, Il Sasso, is really very good. I am impressed with how many professional people from all over the world come here to learn l’italiano. Every instructor we have had has been so patient and kind, and full of Italian verbs for us! I have enjoyed our 4 weeks here, and would love to come back some day to study. The atmosphere of the school and the town is very conducive to learning l’italiano. The people are so friendly. Our neighbors near the apartment know all about us; they smile and say “Buongiorno” when we see each other. Even our barista knows what I will order each morning and starts preparing it as soon as I walk into his bar.

Now the church bells are ringing, it is 5:30, so must be time for an aperitif.

Arriverderci now, and I will write again soon. I will try to keep the iPad happy so he will not sleep so long again.

Ciao for now,

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Visiting Cortona

Author: , August 10th, 2014

Cortona, Italy - Dolly GoolsbyBuona Sera, Tutti,

Good afternoon. It is Saturday in Montepulciano, so we have some free time. This town is really getting geared up for the big festa at the end of the month. There is a lot of activity going on today, but I will need to tell you about that in a separate blog post.

Yesterday we got to go to another hill town, Cortona. It is not very far from here, only about a 30 minute drive. The school had arranged for a mini-van with a driver/guide. He was very informative, giving us information about the places we visited. Of course, he spoke solo Italiano, but I was able to understand most of what he said.

Our first stop was at a monastery that had been established by St. Francis of Assisi (Assisi is not far from Cortona). Apparently, St. Francis built this place to not only have a place where monks were trained, but it also was a refuge for the poor. Primarily, it was a place to go for solitude and serenity. It is still a monastery, and we were able to go into a couple small chapels.

There are gardens that the monks tend. They produce some natural medications, they make wine and liqueurs, among other things. The monks that are here now are of the Cappuchin order. They wear the brown robes as did St. Francis.

We then visited the church of St. Marguerita, who is the patron saint of Cortona. From that church, we took a foot path down to the city of Cortona, about a 15 minutes walk.

It was steep in spots, and rocky, but the view was very pretty.

It seemed to me that the streets of Cortona were even more steep than the streets of. Montepulciano, but the main street, Via Nazionale, is actually pretty level. It also seemed that the altitude of Cortona is higher than Montepulciano, but it is not; it is actually lower, at 1700 feet above sea level, compared to Montepulciano which is about 2,000, but the view below the town makes it seem higher. Cortona is the last town in Tuscany, just before the border of Umbria. It was also one of the largest Etruscan settlements, and the original stone walls of the city, that were built by Etrusacans are still standing.

Finally, we returned back to Montepulciano, happy to have had the opportunity to visit this lovely hill town.

Now I have used my quota of pictures for one blog post, so I will have to write another about the Festa and fun in Montepulciano. It will follow soon.

Ciao for now,

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Eastern Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Living in a Tuscan Hill Town

Author: , August 2nd, 2014

Montepulciano

Today is a rainy day. The rain started this morning; it stops for awhile, then it starts in again. Therefore, this is a perfect day for studying and reflecting.

After I sent the blog post this morning, I realize that for me, an almost-English major, I certainly use too few words to describe what I want you to see.

For example, yes, the vista towards the east is indeed beautiful. But why would I stop with just saying “Beautiful”?

This is the vista that I see, looking toward the east. I really do want you….all of you…to see what I am seeing, feel what I am feeling.

As I look out over this valley, in the distance I can see Lago Trasimino. Although it is located in Umbria, this lake is only about 20 kilometers from here. It is a very large lake, and I hope we can get there someday soon.

Another thing I see, and you will, also, I trust, is that the hills and valleys are not simply shades of green. Some of the fields are golden. These are the fields where the grain has already been harvested, the hay has already been cut and rolled into the round bales. Do you see the olive trees all lined up on the terraces, to the left? Do you see the vineyards, the old and older farmhouses? The trees on the rolling hills?

Now come with me as we walk through the town of Montepulciano.

MontepulcianoThis is the street I walk up every day to go to school. Do you see the yellow building at the top of the street? Our school is just past that building. Every morning, by the time I get to school, I am huffing and puffing. But I know I have gotten my cardio-respiratory exercise for the morning. But then, we walk a few meters further, to the bar to get our coffee for the morning.

Coffee in MontepulcianoDo you remember that “Il bar” is not a bar, like we think about in America. In Italy, “Il Bar” serves, in the morning, primarily coffee ..in all forms, cappuccino, espresso, caffe latte, macchiato..and now I find, coffee to go…”caffe portare via”. The bar also has many different kinds of pastries: brioche, cornetti filled with cream or chocolate or marmalade. Later in the day one can get panini, or cold drinks, and in the afternoon, Il aperitivo…a glass of wine, a beer, an Aperol spritz, plus little snacks to go with the drinks.

This, of course, is not a coffee-to-go, but a frozen cappuccino. Very delicious..but I want you to notice that we are not drinking Starbucks’ sized coffee. Nor are we paying Starbucks’ prices for our coffee. I believe this one costs [euro]1.30. That is about $2.00. Not cheap, but not so bad, either.

Now let’s go further into town. Walk with me deeper into the city.

Vicolo - MontepulcianoHere is one of the many “vicoli” (small alleyways, or passageways.

Let’s put our hands on the old stone wall, and imagine that we are putting our hands on the same walls that the ancient Romans touched, and possibly walls that the Etruscans built, centuries ago. There is life and there are many stories inside these old stones and bricks.

Gnocchi - MontepulcianoNow, imagine that you are with me, right now in the present, making gnocchi with Lilian in her cucina..using only the freshest potatoes, eggs and quality flour, dressing the gnocchi with cheeses from the neighboring farms…can you not just taste the goodness?

So, now I will leave you, with you tasting this superb gnocchi. I hope that you have been able to live with me, here in Montepulciano, at least for a moment or two, and that you will know why I love being here.

Won’t you join me someday soon for a longer visit? Mi piacere. (I would like that.)

Ciao for now,

Dolly

Eastern Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Tuscan Hills and Hill Towns

Author: , July 30th, 2014

MontepulcianoGood morning, everyone,

I have a few minutes before class begins, so I will tell you more about hill towns. First, have I told you these towns are beautiful? Oh, yes, I do believe I have said that ad nauseum, but I can never get enough of the views from every angle.

Montepulciano is not as high elevation as I first thought. This hill town sits at about 2000 feet above sea level. We do get the nice mountain breezes and the spectacular lightning, thunder and 10 minute rains storms. During the day there are many tourists, but at night it is so very quiet. Only the church bells and our own bell ringer, Il Pulcinello, who is still one hour ahead of time.

Friday we took a field trip to another hill town nearby, Montalcino. This town is known for its Brunello di Montalcino wine, which is very good wine, but also very expensive, as it is, by necessity, only made in small batches and only in Montalcino.

Montalcino is smaller than Montepulciano, not so many tourists, as it is less accessible than our town. It is very beautiful, though.

On Sunday, early in the morning, I took a long (2-hour) walk through our town. Although it is a small town, there are so many little alleys (vicoli) that lead to even more interesting piazze, gardens, more steps, and lovely views. By the time I got back to our apartment (did I mention that the apartment is on the second floor, no elevator), I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz: I needed an oil can for my knees!

Today, in class, imagine my surprise, we had a lesson on. “i paesi sulle colline”. Now my “Italiano compagni” will know that I really am going to school. For the rest of you, that means, “the little villages of the hills”.

DiagramThe instructor put this diagram on the board:

I hope you can see this. At the top is a diagram of the top streets of Montepulciano. Then, at the bottom are some hill towns nearby. These hill towns are very ancient Etruscan towns. The Etruscans were here long before the Romans, and studying that culture is very interesting. The Etruscans lived all over the areas that are now Toscano, Umbria and part of Lazio. They were quite an advanced society, and the caves under these hill towns now make excellent wine storage caves. We have gone into a few of these, connected with wine shops. Molto interessante!

Today we are getting another rain storm. This one seems to be going on longer than usual, but we are in class, so I don’t care, and it is not cold.

Now class is about to begin again, so I will say,

Ciao for now,

Dolly

Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Italy is Calling Me

Author: , June 2nd, 2014

Colosseum - Rome, ItalyI know, I have been very lax about blogging. I usually just blog while traveling, but life here in California is pretty good, too. Sunshine, good weather…I have been trying to get my yard pretty and inviting, as it is so nice to sit on the patio. In the evening, watch the birds eat and drink, and just relax.

So, although it is lovely out here, I am getting excited about getting away again. I am usually in Italy at this time of year, so I am really ready to go back.

This year, we stayed here as there were graduations and a wedding to attend, great-grandchildren to play with, family get-together that I really enjoy. However, Italy is calling me. There is just something about Italy that keeps drawing me back.

This is the Arena in Verona. This old Roman amphitheater is over 2000 years old. It is the only Roman amphitheater that is still being used. In the summer, the Opera is performed here, and the acoustics are amazing. I have been fortunate to have attended opera performances here twice in the past, but I am extremely excited now, as I have tickets to hear Placido Domingo in concert here in July, and also see a performance of “Carmen” the following night. I can hardly wait!

Then I will be traveling to the hill town of Montepulciano to take a 4 week Italian language course. I just know if I am there, I will be able to absorb the language so much easier than I can by taking classes in the USA. Besides, if that doesn’t work well, Montepulciano also makes some of the finest red wine in all of Italy, so I will be able to drown any sorrows I might have.

Ah, then there is the Cinque Terre. This is the main square of Vernazza, my favorite of the five villages that comprise the Cinque Terre. On the hikes, the scenery is fabulous. One can walk from village to village via the trail system, although last year some trails were closed, for maintenance or repair of landslides, but there is always another trail to follow, or just go to Monterosso, rent a chair and umbrella, and relax at the seashore.

Italy calls me for many reasons. One is the more relaxed lifestyle..people just don’t get as stressed as we Americans do.. Italians also live longer than we do…the life expectancy there is about 4 years longer than ours.

Then there is the food. Where do I start with that?

A simple tortellini soup tastes wonderful on a chilly evening. I love going to the Mercato, finding the fresh vegetables, fruit, meats, cheeses, house-made fresh pastas, and I don’t have to worry whether they are organic or GMO- free, because they are. And the foods just taste so much better.

Exploring new places is another reason Italy is calling me back. Where else could I find treasures like the Trulli houses in Alberobello
image4 image5

Meeting new people, making new friends. These are all part of the Italy experience for me. So, yes, I am ready, mentally, to be back in Italy. I appreciate my family and Frank for understanding that, although I am not, by genetics, Italian, I certainly am an Italian wannabe!

I trust you will follow my adventures as I go back to my other homeland.

Oh, yes, before I go to Italy, my S.O. (Significant Other), Frank Garcia and I will be taking a 2 week Rhine and Mosel trip. I will be back in Europe, so I know I will feel like I am almost “home” again. I will post blogs on that trip, also.

Ciao for now. Keep traveling with me.

Dolly

P.S. There is another lady blogger who loves Italy as much as I do. If you want to see Italy from her perspective, check out Margie In Italy. She has also written 2 books about her travels.

Featured Gay Friendly Accommodations: Adam and Steve Travel

Author: , April 29th, 2014

Adam & Steve TravelPeriodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Adam and Steve travel, alias Giacomo & Francesco travel. First, we travel to the trips in person, then we plan them carefully, write them up, and guide small groups (gay and why not, straight) to various destinations of interest in Italy and Spain. We love what we do and have doing so since 10 years compiling some magic trips!

See the Adam and Steve Travel Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Italy

Featured Gay Friendly Accommodations: Casa Portagioia, Castiglion Fiorentino, Tuscany, Italy

Author: , April 25th, 2014

Casa Portagioia - Castiglion Fiorentino, Tuscany, ItalyPeriodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

Tuscuny…Where You Will Find the Best B&B: Recently awarded: Best Bed and breakfast in Europe and – Best Bed and Breakfast in the world – and, it’s gay owned. Casa Portagioia remains a great place for your vacation in Tuscany, Italy. It’s somewhere between a great country hotel and your best-friend’s home. Somewhere where you’ll find relaxation and be able to visit hilltowns of Tuscany and Umbria.

See the Casa Portagioia Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in Eastern Tuscany