San Gimignano – Dolly Travels

San Gimignano - Dolly Travels

Good morning, everyone,

Today I am thinking of San Gimignano. This is one of the hill towns of Tuscany. True to its designation, there are hardly any flat places in this town.

To get there, one would take a bus from Florence, change buses in Poggibonsi. You might have to wait about a half hour for the next bus, but you will have time for a cappuccino at the little cafe in the bus/train station. That is about an hour and a half trip, and a pleasant one. San Gimignano is probably the most accessible of all the hill towns, so it is a busy place. I have never taken the train to Poggibonsi, as I would still have to take the bus up the hill to San Gimignano. My bus ticket gets me all the way to San Gimignano.

Once you get to San Gimignano and get off the bus, you walk through a stone archway, up an old stone street, until you come to the main piazza.

As you walk through town, don’t expect any flat ground, for there isn’t any…well, in front of the restaurants where the tables are set up, that is pretty flat. But most of the time, you will be either walking uphill or downhill. The picture above is deceiving, for it really is going uphill.

This is a city of towers. There are 14 towers still standing, surviving from the 13th century. Tourists can now climb one of the towers. I tried it once, and had to turn back, as the staircase was built of see-through steel grating, and as the stairs spiraled up and up and up, it scared the heck out of me to look down the way I had traveled, and I could see the stone floor so far below me.

You can see the people on the tower on the right. If you don’t have a fear of heights, like I do, this is a marvelous experience, to be able to look over the countryside, and if the weather is absolutely clear, you can see all the way to Florence, for that city is only 25 miles away, as the crow flies, I do believe.

San Gimignano is busy, as I said, for many tourists are there in the daytime. I would love to stay overnight there one of these trips, and see how it feels in the evening and I would enjoy the quiet of the nighttime up there.

When I am in San Gimignano, I find places like this. I don’t feel the need to shop, unless it is at a shop where I can buy the salami that is made from the cinghiale, the wild boars that roam in the countryside nearby. That is one cold cut that I really enjoy.

However, for the most part, I wander through the cobblestone streets, through the tunnels, up the hills, and find neat little staircases.

At the main piazza, appropriately named Piazza dell Cisterna, there is the old well. This used to be the gathering spot for the locals, for most people had to come there to draw their water. It still seems to be the gathering spot for tourists, as it makes a perfect Meeting Point. Everyone should know where the well is.

There are many good restaurants and cafes in San Gimignano. There are gelato shops as well, and as I mentioned before, shops that sell the salami and cheeses. This town is also noted for its very good white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The red wine from this area is not so tasty; if you are a red wine drinker, order a Chianti from the other side of Tuscany, the area between Florence and Siena.

San Gimignano - Dolly Travels

Some of the salami with different cheeses and grissini, the little thin bread sticks. So yummy.

I hope I have given you a glimpse of San Gimignano; enough of a glimpse that you will want to go see this town for yourself. Despite this being such a touristy town, it still retains the old world feel, and if you venture through town, go up to the Rocco, a view point that has you looking south over the countryside, then go down away from the center, you will probably feel as I do, that this is a perfect hill town.

I will leave you now with this little slice of Italy. Arrivederci, until next time, when I will tell you about some other place that I love and will visit again in June.

Ciao for now,

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Dolly's Last Day in Washington State – Dolly Travels

Washington State Saturday I was ready to go. A friend of Patrick’s, Mike, joined us for this ride. We headed north to Mt. St. Helens area. Although it was cloudy here, the further we went north, the more clear the sky became. However, on reaching the highest point of the Mt. St. Helens road, the mountain still had clouds in her hair, denying us the picture of her summit. Washington State - Mount Saint HelensIt was interesting, though, to see how much destruction the eruption of that volcano had caused. Most of the forest has been replanted. Although the hardwood trees came back on their own, all of the evergreen forests have had to be planted again by hand. On Sunday, we took a car trip out into the farmland northeast of La Center, and visited Cedar Creek Grist Mill. This mill has been in operation since 1929, I believe. The mill is powered by a waterwheel, using water from the creek. This was such a peaceful sight. Inside, one of the volunteers showed us how the mill worked by grinding some corn into flour, then some soft wheat. He packaged the flours into paper bags that we could take if we wanted them. We each put a donation into the box and went home with freshly ground flours. Yesterday, Monday, Randy and I took a motorcycle ride east. We left La Center going south, turned onto Washington State Highway 14 and followed that road until we reached Maryhill, Washington. We drove along with the Columbia River on our right, forests on our left. The further east we went, the more dry the area became. Looking across the Columbia to the town of Hood, Oregon. There were many wind surfers on the river. The wind constantly blows down that gorge. Washington State - Stonehenge MemorialWe eventually reached our destination, Stonehenge Memorial, near Maryhill. This was built by a Quaker pacifist named Samuel Hill to honor soldiers from that region of the country who had died in World War I. Mr. Hill started the memorial in 1918 and completed it in 1929. There are 13 plaques in the stone, with the name and years of birth and death of these young men. Most of the men were 18 or 19 years old. The memorial is an exact replica of Stonehenge in England, in size and form. Very impressive. By the time we had visited this, we needed to start for home, as the afternoon was growing late. We returned home by the same route. Washington StateWe got home in time for dinner that Cindy had prepared for us. I was pretty tired, so I turned in early. I don’t know why I was tired. All I have to do when we ride is sit comfortably on the back of that big bike and enjoy the scenery. Today, Randy added up the mileage we had put on the bikes. I am proud to say, I have ridden exactly 600 miles this week. What a blast! I am ready to do more. I am eternally grateful that my son was willing to take me on these rides. Thanks, also, to Patrick for carting his grandmother around. Many thanks, also, to Cindy, for loaning me her riding gear, giving me tips on how to be a good passenger. This is a week I will always remember. Until next adventure, goodbye for now, Dolly]]>

Eating in Italy – Dolly Travels

pasta pastaPasta is the queen. As we were walking through our neighborhood the other night, we came upon this display in a kitchen store. I love it! Obviously, her hair is spaghetti, her skirt is made of penne pasta, the belt is coils of angel hair pasta, and her bracelet is red chili peppers. In Italy, every region has their own pasta specialty. I found the one constant spice is red chili flakes or red chili pepper pods. Garlic, of course, is a frequent ingredient in pasta dishes, but it is not in every dish. Some pasta sauces are so delicate that garlic would overwhelm the flavor. Other bolder dishes demand many cloves of this pungent ingredient. I started asking different local people about a particular pasta dish that is ubiquitous in Rome, a simple pasta sauce called Amatriciana. Sometimes that is spelled with 2 m’s. The spelling of the word was only the beginning of the controversy surrounding this sauce. The first controversy I encountered was the origin of the dish. While Roman restaurants say that this is a Roman specialty, the dish actually originated in the town of Amatrici, in northern Lazio area, Lazio is the region that includes Rome, but Amatrici is a small city in central Italy in the Appenines mountain range. People of Amatrici do not take kindly to Romans referring to this as a “Roman specialty. Then I found more controversies. Really, now, would we fight over whether to use garlic, onion, or leave them out or will we become angry If the chef tops the pasta with Parmigiano cheese versus Pecorino? Apparently, Amatricians would. I became very careful, after that, about asking questions concerning specialties. I did find, however, that almost every Italian will be willing to beat me about the head and shoulders if I mentioned Alfredo sauce. “Non Italiano”, was the universal reply, usually accompanied by a sneer and a glare. Alfredo sauce was apparently a culinary creation of a Roman chef, named Alfredo, naturally, created by him to impress some Hollywood movie stars many years ago, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. These two enjoyed the dish so much that they presented Chef Alfredo with a golden fork and spoon. The closest one can get to having Alfredo sauce in Italy is pasta carbonara, spaghetti mixed with diced pancetta, raw egg beaten into the sauce , then lots of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese mixed into the pasta. When we were in Sorrento, seafood ruled the menu, and rightfully so. At Ristorante Delfino, I had a pasta called calamarata, as it looks like calamari rings, with shrimp, clams, zucchini, cherry tomatoes in a slightly spicy clear sauce. Frank was enjoying spaghetti alla vongole, spaghetti with clams. All sorts of seafood abound on the menus on the coast. They are so delicious, so fresh, right from the sea, and prepared by a talented chef. Antonio, at Delfino’s, is one of the best chefs in this area. Today, we are in Florence, encountering an unsuspected rainy day, so Chef Dolly decided it was a good day to make soup. I have made many meals in this kitchen over the years, and I am in heaven having the opportunity to cook here once again. One of the things I love about shopping for food here is that I can go to the supermarket, go to the produce department, pick up a packet of soup mix. This container will have 2 carrots, 3 or 4 stalks of celery, one or 2 small onions and some parsley, for a cost of about [euro]1. That is the starter for my soup. I then add some chicken, fennel, zucchini. At the end, I add tortellini. Now I have a marvelous soup, a perfect lunch dish for a rainy afternoon. While we waited for the soup to finish cooking, we had a little appetizer. Frank had gone to the store, brought home a fresh baquette, still warm from the oven, and a bottle of Chianti. We had cheese, prosciutto and olives to round out the aperitivo. (An aside here: the Chianti was on sale for [euro]6. The bread cost less than [euro]1. Good wine and bread are so inexpensive here. Right now, the currency exchange rate is $1 = [euro]. 90. [euro]6 was about $6.60 ) In a future blog post, I will continue with foods of the different regions, as well as the many controversies over food preparation. Italians are very food oriented and proud of their regional specialties, so I must be sure to get my facts straight. I will try to do that as I eat my way through Italy. Ciao for now, Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Italy Gay Travel Resources


Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast – Dolly Travels

Sorrento Sorrento is a lovely coastal town, nestled in the southern shore of the Bay of Naples. The city itself is narrow and long, with many hills, narrow, winding streets, walled pathways leading to Marina Piccola on the eastern side and to Marina Grande, the old Fisherman’s Village, on the western side. Hotels in the center of town are on fairly level ground, with most of them having lush gardens and some with swimming pools. Other hotels are up on the cliffs, high above the city, but the view of the bay from those cliff side hotels are incredibly breathtaking. Sorrento is the birthplace of limoncello, that delicious lemon liqueur. Lemon and orange groves are abundant throughout this region of Southern Italy, with lemon groves outnumbering the oranges. The trees bloom and produce fruit year round. Limoncello is made from the peel of a knobby yellow fruit, which has such an intense flavor. The seductive, addictive lemon flavor surfaces in many foods, many specialties of the region. One of my favorite desserts: lemon sorbet with limoncello poured over, plus ice cold limoncello to sip. In the background you can see Frank’s dessert: light, airy sponge cake with lemon cream filling, topped with whipped cream and wild strawberries. It doesn’t get any better than this. These desserts were the finale for a delicious seafood dinner at our favorite restaurant in Sorrento, Ristorante Delfino in Marina Grande. Other food specialties are cheeses made from the milk of water buffalo that are raised in the countryside south of Amalfi. These animals were originally imported from India. Now raising them iin Campania is a huge enterprise. We went to our second favorite restaurant in Sorrento, called Inn Bufalita, that specializes in all things buffalo. We had a salad made with cherry tomatoes, small balls of Bufalo mozzarella, fresh basil and arugula. That was fantastic, Frank had a buffalo steak, which did not impress him. When we went to Paestum, I asked Raffaele, our driver, if he knew where the “buffalo roamed”. Laughing, Raffaele told me that many people have images in their minds about the milk coming from the American Bison. “I always explain that this milk and the milk products come from the water buffalo, but somehow many people cannot connect water buffalo with this southern region of Italy”, he told me. Then he asked if I would like to see the animals. “Of course!”, I replied. Raffaele drove us out to one of the farms. There the buffalo are kept in large enclosures, but that ensures that they only eat the food provided by the farm. Raffaele then told us that, just like clockwork, when it is milking time, the animals start heading for the milking shed. “The buffalo are very organized and time conscious”, he said. There you have it; my love of the food of this Amalfi-Sorrento region is one of the many reasons that I will keep returning. Most of my readers are well aware that I am an incorrigible “foodie”, so you will probably read more about food while I am on this trip. Until next time, Arriverderci, tutti. Dolly

By Dolly Gollsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Campania Gay Travel Resources


Bella Roma – Dolly Travels

Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome Early Tuesday morning, under leaden gray skies that seemed to hover over the nearby fields and the tarmac of Roma Fiumincino airport, our plane landed. The pilots had done a fine job, getting us to Rome 45 minutes ahead of schedule. After gathering our luggage, we took a a cab to our hotel. We were too early to check in, so we put our luggage in the hotel storeroom and set off to see the city. We walked to Piazza Venezia, found a table at an outdoor cafe and sat down to enjoy the never-ending show of traffic, pedestrians dodging the vehicles, a policeman blowing his whistle that no one heeded. We had a good view of the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument as well. Many Italians say that the monument is too ornate for this area, right by the Roman Forum and the Capitoline Hill. I like it, though. One can go inside, pay to go to the roof (Roma dal Cielo, Translated as Rome from the Sky). This is one of the best places to get a view of the entire city of Rome. There are plaques around the walls of this rooftop, to tell one what you are seeing, and remind you that you are right in the center of Ancient Rome. All those piles of rocks inside the fenced-off areas below are the remains of the buildings of the greatest empire of all time. When we tired of people watching, we walked back to our hotel. We stopped for lunch along the way, had a pizza and a salad, and a large bottle of water. When we arrived at our hotel and got checked in, it was almost 4:00 p.m. We had been up for about 30 hours by then; therefore, my rule to not take a nap on the first day went right out the window. We showered, got into our jammies and never left the hotel again that day. The next day, we were up early, had breakfast and kept our touring to the neighborhood. I needed to buy train tickets for the rest of our trip, so we spent a couple hours in the train station. Then we went to the National Museum, walked around neighborhoods that were familiar, and found some new places. In the evening, in one of the newly discovered (by us), we walked down to the Monti district. This area had some trendy boutiques and many restaurants. Eventually, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant in the Piazza dei Monti. We enjoyed pasta alla Vongole, a delicious salad of beet, strawberries, ricotta cheese on a bed of watercress, plus a glass of red house wine. DollyI was delighted that the house red wine was Rosso di Montepulciano. So many good memories of the month I stayed in that town, attending Italian language school. However, when I saw the bartender pour my glass of wine from a huge 2-liter jug, I was a bit concerned. No worries, though. The wine was delicious and inexpensive. We had enjoyed a good meal and a memorable evening and almost stayed within our budget. After dinner, we walked the 2 miles, more or less, back to our hotel, stopping once for a gelato. We did not attempt to see any of the major Roman attractions in these 2 days. We simply rested, got ourselves acclimated to the time change. Next, we will go onto Sorrento for three days, then return to Rome for a longer stay. Life is good in Bella Roma. Ciao for now, Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Rome Gay Travel Resources