Friday, November 30, 2018

The Castello di Brolio, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany - The New Castle

The castle is located in the southern Chianti Classico countryside and has been there for over ten centuries, and owned by the Ricasoli family since 1141.

The newer part of the castle dates from the 1800's .  The larger brick palace was built in Gothic revival-style.



The new castle was built on top of the old castle's ramparts




The walkway leads to the guards tower, and views over the countryside, and in particular, the styled gardens of English origin




And beyond these gardens, the vineyards




The Castello di Brolio, Gaiole in Chianti, Tuscany - The Old Castle

The castle is located in the southern Chianti Classico countryside and has been there for over ten centuries, and owned by the Ricasoli family since 1141.

Like any good castle, it has strong defences, and I was looking for a moat and drawbridge, but it looks like the moat has become a lawn.



The very high walls in places no doubt were built to keep the enemy out



The castle has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the last 900 years.  It was part of the Florentine defenses, and withstood, and succumbed to many battles with Siena, which is only 20 km away.  More recently, it still bears the scars of artillery fire and bombing in WW2.


The room at the top of this tower would have an excellent view of the countryside.



Here you can see the old and the new, the red brick part of the rebuilding in the 1800's in the style of an English Manor

We did not get to see where that archway led.



Nor what was behind door number one at the top of these stairs.  Rest assured, many, many years ago someone wearing armor would have made the climb.   It would not pass current occupational health and safety these days with a number of stairs before a landing.



Cappella di San Jacopo.  Its foundations were laid in 1348.



Renovated in 1867-1869, it has a gabled fa├žade preceded by a double stone staircase.  The interior, with a crypt where the members of the Ricasoli family are buried, has a nave divided into three spans with cross vaults.

The 1,200 hectares of the property include 240 hectares of vineyards and 26 of olive groves, in the commune of Gaiole.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Piazza del Campo, Siena, Tuscany, Italy

The Piazza del Campo is one of the greatest medieval squares in Europe. 




It is shaped like a shell.

This is where the Palazzo Publico and the Torre del Mangia are. 



At 102 meters (334 feet), the bell tower is the city's second tallest structure. 



When it was built in 1848 it was the exact same height of the Duomo to show that the state and church had equal amounts of power.

Around the edges of the Piazza are a lot of restaranunts, where you can sit in the shade, have a late of pasta and sip on a cold limonata.







A quaint hilltop town in Tuscany

The thing is, all hilltop towns in Tuscany are quaint.

My problem was, we saw so many unless you wrote down the name when you were there, they become a blur.

This one had the main road in, and then you could go in one of two directions, left or right.

They were not made for cars, and the streets are so narrow, often you find mere inches between the walls and the side of the car.

Instead, there are lots of narrow walkways and alleys to explore.  I'd hate to be given an address of a house, and then try to find it.  I doubt even a GPS would be about to locate it.

This is the main street into the town


Sorry, you can only go right


Pedestrians share the road with cars, and it's no surprise that in Europe, and particularly Italy, a lot of their cars are very small.  Now I know why!


They also have lots of arches, and I wonder if that's someone's bedroom overlooking the roadway


There's very little room for gardens, and every bit of building space is utilized


Who knows where this alleyway leads


What seems to be a guard tower on the outskirts of the town, overlooking the valley below, perhaps waiting for invaders of a different sort


Perhaps you don't like the idea of having neighbors.

And, of course, there's always a church, and the door is always open







Friday, November 23, 2018

There are clouds, and then there are more clouds

In a country that is renowned for clouds, and even having the nickname of 'the land of the long white cloud' there is always a few clouds hanging around, or, as on some of the days of our most recent holiday, more than a few.

Unfortunately, these were not snow clouds as my grandchildren had hoped.  They saw snow for the first time, but it may have been all that more special if it had snowed while they were there.

This day, was, for a while, dark and gloomy.  The rain threatened but never came.


This was a day of sporadic sunshine and a cold breeze


This was one of the better days, with sunshine in winter, and some spectacular landscapes on offer for keen photographers


This day had the odd lonely cloud hoping to make an impact


or clouds that just skimmed the surface of Lake Taupo at sunrise


Venice, ships come and ships go


Through this window, which wasn’t one of those floor to ceiling, walk out onto a balcony type windows, we saw big ships, little ships, small boats, and then huge ocean liners.
And when that wasn’t enough, sunrise and sunset, or just the sight of Venice in the sunshine


The many vaporettos that came and went


It was simply a matter of watching ships go by, or watching the Venetians go about the daily business

Ferries that would arrive in the morning, and leave at night, small


and large



Small ocean liners


Very, very large ocean liners





And everything in between


Thursday, November 22, 2018

The apartments at Greve in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy


When we first planned to stay in Tuscany for a few days, we wanted to be in a central area.  We had thought of staying in Florence and making daily treks, but the tour operator we selected told us it would be better if we stayed closer to Arezzo.

We picked Greve in Chianti, and a place called Antico Pastificio, we booked a standard apartment with two bedrooms, and it was about as authentic Italian you could get.  The building we stayed in was the yellow pasta factory, and the apartment named ‘Iris’.

It was only steps away from the main square, shops, restaurants, and at the opposite end, the quaint ringing of church bells at various times during the day.

Gaining access was through a very narrow arch which required some deft driving and then up the road.  There were villas and two large apartment blocks.




You can just see the archway at the end of the road. 

This was the entrance to our room,

 along a passage and up the stairs, turning left at the top.



 Going straight ahead through the gate to the car park, 


and access to the grounds behind the buildings.



This was the view from the lounge/living room.  The days were hot, and on several evenings it rained, breaking the heat and making the evenings sitting by the window cool and refreshing.



 And the last view is looking towards the town piazza and the church




Innsbruck, Austria


On this occasion, we drove from Florence to Innsbruck, a journey of about 500 kilometers and via the E45, a trip that would take us about five and a half hours.

We drove conservatively, stopped once for lunch and took about seven hours, arriving in Innsbruck late in the afternoon

The main reason for this stay was to go to Swarovski in Wattens for the second time, to see if anything had changed, and to buy some pieces.  We were still members of the club, and looking forward to a visit to the exclusive lounge and some Austrian champagne.

Sadly, there were no new surprises waiting, and we came away a little disappointed.

We were staying at the Innsbruck Hilton, where we stayed the last time, and it only a short walk to the old town.

From the highest level of the hotel, it is possible to get a look at the mountains that surround the city.  This view is in the direction we had driven earlier, from Florence.


 The change in the weather was noticeable the moment we entered the mountain ranges.

This view looks towards the old town and overlooks a public square.


This view shows some signs of the cold, but in summer, I doubted we were going to see any snow.


We have been here in winter, and it is quite cold, and there is a lot of snow.  The ski resorts are not very far away, and the airport is on the way to Salzburg.

There is a host of restaurants in the old town, and we tried a few during our stay.  The food, beer, and service were excellent.

On a previous visit, we did get Swiss Army Knives, literally, from a small store called Victorinox.

And, yes, we did see the golden roof.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Venice, Murano, and glass blowing


The first time we visited Venice, there was not enough time left to visit the glass blowing factories on Murano.  We saved this for the next visit, and now more comfortable with taking the vaporetto, boarded at San Marco for the short journey.

The view looking towards the cemetery:


The view looking down what I think was the equivalent to the main street, or where several of the glass blowing factories and display shops were located:


Looking towards a workshop, this one costs us each a Euro to go in and observe a demonstration of glass blowing, and it still surprises me that some people would not pay


The oven where the glass is heated


And the finished product, the retail version of the horse that the glass blower created during the demonstration:


Then we bought some other glassware from the retail storefront, a candle holder


and a turtle.