Dolly Travels: Pitti Palace, Viareggio, and Cinque Terra

Author: , May 28th, 2011

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

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on the go again, this time starting in Paris. She has graciously allowed us to republish her travel blogs. Enjoy!
Monterosso Beach

Buongiorno, Everyone,

While we are taking our afternoon rest, I will try to fill you in on our activities of the past week. Although we have been walking miles every day, the stairs will probably do me in.

Why is it, that I can walk forever, on level ground, even hilly ground, and the stairs are going to be my undoing? And believe me, if you even think about telling me I am a year older than I was last year, I will not listen to you!!

Boboli GardensLast Thursday, Sharon and I toured the Boboli Gardens and the Pitti Palace. The gardens were beautiful, of course, but everything in the gardens is just up another hill, or a flight of stairs. The visit was well worth the energy expended getting to the top.

On Saturday, we took the train to Viareggio. Massimo picked us up at the station, then took us to our apartment. The Carli’s had given us thebuse of the Oberdan apartment for the weekend, which was quite lovely.

As the Carli’s had commitments to other functions, we were on our own for Saturday. First we walked to the marina, looked at the enormously expensive yachts, trying to decide which one we liked best.

Then we walked the Passiagata, the pedestrian area that parallels the sea. We were fortunate that the weather was good, so eventually we found a little ristorante where we each ordered what we thought was a sandwich but when our lunch arrived, the sandwiches were the size of a small pizza, made on fresh focaccia and delicious, but impossible to finish. Here is Sharon taking a picture of our lunch (at right).

After that we waddled our way a few more blocks down the Passiagata, then returned to our apartment to rest up from all the walking and eating. Later that night we had a nice little grilled sole with potatoes, and that was quite enough.

The next day we had lunch with Massimo and Magda, and Massimo’s mother, who will be 106 years old this August. She is delightful, and we enjoyed the meal and the company very much. Later, after his mother had gone back to her own apartment, the four of us went for a walk, and got caught in a rainstorm.

PassagiataHere is a photo of the Passiagata (at left).

The following day we took the train up to the Cinque Terre, staying in the village of Vernazza. We were very lucky with the weather for our two night stay there.

We did not hike the trail, but walked along the road out of the village, coming across little cottages, with gardens, a little river. It was so pretty.

Afternoon SpritzWe managed to get back to Vernazza in time for cocktail hour. At five o’clock, the church bells chimed the hour, then the carillon played the Italian National Anthem. I love that song anyway, but it was especially nice to hear it there, and see and hear many people singing the anthem. I must learn the words to that song. Our afternoon Aperol spritz is pictured at right.

Vernazza's HarborOn Tuesday, we spent most of the day in Monterosso (beach photo at the top of this post), the village further north west of Vernazza. Again, the weather was beautiful, many people were enjoying the beach. We walked into the Old Town, then down the Promenade, had a lovely seafood lunch, finally getting the train back to Vernazza about six o’clock. Vernazza’s harbor is at left.

Sadly, Wednesday, we had to leave the seaside, but we were happy to be back “home” in Florence. We were able to have dinner in our apartment with enough food for leftovers tonight.

Life is good! We enjoyed a nice walk today, in Florence, but did not get to go into the Medici chapel, or Santa Maria Novella church, as we had planned, because of the long lines of tourists waiting to get into those places.

I think the cruise ships had brought tons of visitors today, so we went to the bookstore and the ceramic store, where I saw my friend, Regina, in the Lorezacchio Ceramiche.

She has made some beautiful ceramics, many of which reside in my home already. We had a nice visit. This is one of the good things about travel, meeting some very nice people who remain friends forever.

Now I must close, and get this blog post sent. By the way, although I am having a good time, I still want to hear from my friends and family. Write to me, OK?

Ciao for now.


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Postcards From an Italian Adventure – Cinque Terre

Author: , July 10th, 2010

Gay Friendly Liguria Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on an extended adventure in Italy. She has graciously agreed to let us republish her travel logs. Enjoy!

Cinque Terre

Tuesday, June 15th

Buon giorno, tutti,

Cinque TerreWe are on our last day in Vernazza, on the Cinque Terre. This trip we have been blessed with great weather. Although the hikers had to leave early each day, as by midday, it was pretty warm here.

We wanted to take the boat trip to Portovenere, but the seas were so choppy yesterday, that the boats could not dock here in the mornng. By noon, they were able to dock, but then our time was too short., so another change in plans. We are getting pretty good at changing our plans……

All the trails on the Cinque Terre are open now, although re-construction is still going on, especially between Vernazza and Monterosso.

Yesterday morning, our main entertainment was watching a helicopter drop off 3 men, who scrambled up the hills, then the copter flew in load after load of wire, fence posts, cement, and even a little tractor, and the men, who had to be part mountain goat, unloaded the stuff, and finally around noon, they scrambled down the hill to the waterfront, where they were picked up by the copter again. The helicopter never landed, just hovered, and they jumped on.

We had breakfast two mornings, at the Il Pirata, our favorite restaurant here in Vernazza. I need to apologize publicly, to Gianluca, as I realize in my first e-mail, last month, from Vernazza, that I called him Giancarlo.

Guess I had him mixed up with some Spanish king, or something. Anyway, the twins are Massimo and Gianluca, and all their food is fresh, made on the premises, and it is so good. They are also the most personable, funny guys, that we always enjoyed seeing them.

Cinque TerreWe will be back in Firenze tonight, and then there are just a few days to try to do as much as we can, in Florence before the group leaves on Tuesday. Both of our trips this year have been very enjoyable, but this trip to the hills and the lakes was extraordinarily beautiful, and definitely will be on my schedule for next year… least once, maybe twice.

So those of you who are thinking of coming to Italy next year, keep this trip in mind, but I am also planning a third itinerary for next year: Rome, Sorrento, Amalfi, and the southern hill towns, between Rome and Florence. Of course, Florence and the Hill Towns will be on the agenda again, with a few changes. Italy is so wonderful…it is impossible to see all that I want to see, but I am sure giving it my best shot.

Ciao for now.

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Postcards From an Italian Adventure – Cinque Terre & Volterra

Author: , June 5th, 2010

Our dear friend, Bella (Dolly Goolsby) is on an extended adventure in Italy. She has graciously agreed to let us republish her travel logs. Enjoy!

May 22nd, 2010

Buon Giorno everyone,

Cinque TerraWe had 3 lovely days at Cinque Terre, returned to Florence on Thursday night, then got up early yesterday (Friday) and went to Volterra.

We arrived in Vernazza, on the Cinque Terre, about 10:30 a.m. on Monday. The weather was slightly overcast, but warm. After we got checked into our hotel, we had lunch on the waterfront, at an outdoor restaurant, devouring very good pizze and beer. Our rooms at Martina’s hotel, are very nice, but we have the top 3 rooms in the hotel, my room being up 72 stairs. I think I counted them every time I went up…

My room is a small double room, but had the outdoor terrace off of it, so that was our Happy Hour gathering place every day. It was so relaxing.

Cinque TerraAfter lunch the first day, the other ladies took off to do some walking, just in Vernazza. Because of all the wet weather before we got there, the trails between the towns was closed. Some were wet, but the biggest problem was that landslides had closed the trails with rocks and debris. I did not go for walks with them, as I just wanted to savor being in Cinque Terre again. I did go out and buy some postcards, then spent a lovely hour on the terrace writing them. When the girls got back, they brought some salami and cheese, bread and some of the great Cinque Terre white wine.

Later, we went to dinner at Il Pirata, a small restaurant at the top of the town, owned by the Sicilian twins, Giancarlo and Massimo. They both remembered us from previous years, and we were treated very well. Massimo poured wine for all of us, as we had to wait for our tables. Then they served us the most delicious seafood salads, pesto lasagne, eggplant parmigiano, among other dishes. We just had to have dessert as Giancarlo is pastry chef extraordinaire.

Cinque TerraEach day we went up to Il Pirata for breakfast, having fresh squeezed orange juice, cappucchini and pastries. I know, I know… I am not eating sugar, but my will power went right down the drain in Vernazza. (Of course, when we got back home and I had gained a kilo, I got my resolve back again in a hurry!!)

Tuesday, we woke to gorgeous sunshine. The ladies wanted to go to Riomaggiore and walk the easy part of the trail, which was open, then they hoped they could get up to Corniglia. I did not feel like climbing the hundreds of stairs to Corniglia, so I elected to go by train to Monterosso, by myself. That was very nice. I explored the old town, walked all over that area, finally having lunch at a small cafe on the beach. It was glorious.

When we had our Happy Hour Sharing Time, I found that the girls had been able to do an alternated hike, through the vineyards, up at Corniglia. We all had such a good time. That night we went to dinner at Gambero Rosso, a very nice seafood restaurant, right in the same piazza as our hotel. The seafood, being locally caught and very fresh, was delicious.

Wednesday was not so nice. Overcast, slightly breezy, threatening to rain, but we all went to Monterosso together. I had not done the Switchback of the Friars walk, so we did that, which was again, stairs, straight up (almost) to a church at the top. We also went on walks through town, visited the Anchovy packing plant and visitor center. We got to taste the anchovies, and saw a video on how they pack them. They are very good, and not anything like anchovies that we get in the United States.

After lunch, we got the train back to Vernazza, and had our last dinner at Trattoria di Sandro, which also had fresh seafood, and another wonderful meal. We bought wine from Martina, whose Dad has a vineyard there in Vernazza. Very good white wine, for 7 Euro per bottle.

Thursday we came back to Florence, made a dinner of pasta with tomato sauce and sausage, roasted some veggies, had a salad and bread, and retired early.

Yesterday we took the bus to Volterra, which is a two-hour trip from Florence, but it is such an interesting little town. We spent the day there, returned home about 7:00 p.m., a bunch of tired people. I had frozen soup before we went to Cinque Terre, so we had that, heated up, of course, cheese, salami and bread, and a bottle of our 4.40 Euro wine… which, by the way, is on sale this weekend, for 2.90 so I sent the girls back to the store to buy as much as they could carry!!

Today we went to the San Ambrogio market, we are doing laundry, and later are having a cooking session, with a lesson on making panna cotta… and another good meal for dinner here tonight… we are making the asparagus risotto with porcini mushrooms again, as it is the most wonderful thing I have eaten in a long time, plus chicken marsala, roasted veggies and salad, and if our panna cotta turns out well, that will be our dessert with strawberries.

Tomorrow, our cooking session will be learning how to make ricotta potato gnocchi….
I will let all of you know how that turns out.

Ciao for now… off to the laundromat.

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Click here for gay travel resources in Florence & Tuscany.