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Italy - San Baronto

ITALY | Tuesday, 23 July 2013 | Views [743]

July 19

Up early to catch the ferry back to the main island. Met at the terminal by our transfer to Catania airport a 2 hour drive away through tunnels and over bridges. Saw the mainland - Calabria just off the coast but no bridge.  We had a 3 hour wait before our departure to Firenze. Really crowded airport, plenty of beggars. It took 40minutes to check in then another 30 mins to get through security. At Florence we checked out he best way to get to San Baronto at the visitor centre then caught the bus to the station, then a train to Postoia, then a taxi drive up the hill to San Baronto. One of the first faces at the hotel was of course Cameron who we had been looking forward to seeing for some time. Met the gang at the local taverna for some drinks and food.

July 20

Florence in the morning via a bus driven by Marchelo "the great bus driver" the area is exactly what you would imagine Tuscany to look like, terracotta roofs down the hillsides, church towers with bells ringing every half hour, terraced areas down the side of the mountain with olive tree groves or grapevines and little villages dotted around surrounding hillsides.  The road up to San Baronto is very steep and winding with a perfect bituman surface.  This is because the world cycling championships will be here in mid Sept, so many cyclists riding up and down especially in the morning and late afternoon.  A few teams are training also with their following team cars barking instructions. In Florence we walked to the Ponte Vecchio, Duomo and leather markets then off to an outlet plaza for shopping - enormous like a small town with lots of designer shops all having big sales.  Very hot and very little purchases made and mainly by the males!  We then stopped at a supermarket on home, much better shopping, then back to the hotel to prepare for the Festa. I walked the 4 odd K to the Festa with Neil Wilson arriving just before the last car load from the hotel.  A good walk through forest and with great views down the valleys.  Stacey had arrived from Pisa by taxi at some astronomical cost, good to see her after her trip to Spain. An excess of food was consumed 3 pasta dishes followed by a big meat platter and donuts - we were all growning. Did not walk back.  Live music was great but best was the ballroom dancing (by the locals) on a huge patio overlooking the view.

July 21

Departed at 8am for the town of Lucca, an ancient town surrounded by a huge in tact Renaissance wall some 4k long.  It's also the home of a summer festival where international performers strut their stuff - Mark Knopfler (last night).  Hot day so a gelati was welcome.  We wandered the wall back to the gate and the bus looking in on some sensational gardens.  From here to Pisa and of course the leaning tower.  Extremely hot and thousands of tourists taking normal and unusual photos even from the "do not walk on grass" lawn, until a whistle and the police herded offenders off.  We went into the cathedral via the pray only door and sat quietly in the cool.  We were about to leave but the attendant said not to as it was pouring rain. So we just stood near the barrier to the main church and started talking to a female police officer who offered to give us a brief tour of the cathedral so under the ropes we went.  We saw Cam and Stacey inside sheltering from the storm which quickly passed.  Caught up with some of the group for a beer then back to the bus.  Dinner was at a restaurant up the hill from San Baronto. 

July 22

A late start following a cafe across the road watching the passing parade of cyclists and the old guys on the corner.  Said goodbye to Cameron and Stacey who were off to Rome before going their separate ways.  We were transported to last nights restaurant where we were to have our cooking class.  A light lunch of pasta and pate bruschetta and some aniseed wafers with some wine then we donned aprons and hats before the chef Salvatore demonstrated the making of the pasta for the ravioli and then the filling with the help of our Scottish interpreter Dawn.  Then into the hot (caldo) kitchen for pancake prep and cooking and then the spinach and cheese filling followed by the tomato sauce prep. Vegetable prep, seafood prep and desert prep were the other areas. We split into groups for each prep, Michelle the pasta and I went for the pannacotta. It was a great afternoon with everyone getting involved.  Then back to the hotel to clean up for the dinner of our labours.


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