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  1. #61

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report



    We woke bright and early Sunday morning. We had to pack because the Disney guides had requested that our bags be outside our room by 7:45. The bellmen would then bring them downstairs and load them on the bus. Did I mention that all the tipping was taken care of by Disney too? So sweeet!

    After breakfast, we pulled away from the Bernini Bristol at 8:30. Thus began our departure from Rome and our trek towards Tuscany. After about an hour we arrived in Orvieto, a medieval hill town in the Umbria region of Italy. There are 20 regions in Italy, and Umbria is just south of the Tuscany region. Some would argue that Umbria is the unspoiled (by tourism) version of Tuscany.

    When visiting the old district of Orvieto (the new district is at the bottom of the hill), most people park at the train station and take a funicular, or incline railcar, to the top of the hill...


    From there it’s about ¼ mile walk to where the town center is in Orvieto, which in this case, is where the Duomo, or church, is.

    Our tour bus driver, Marius…


    … dropped us off right at the base of the funicular. We then proceeded to the funicular queue. There are 2 funiculars traveling at a time. They share the same track, and have a split in the track just like at Disneyland on Main Street USA where the streetcars split up when passing each other.


    We loaded up on the funicular and headed to the top of the hill. It was a new experience for me, and it was pretty cool to look at the town below disappear from view as we rose higher and higher.


    Once we unloaded at the top, we began our trek towards the Duomo di Orvieto. We passed some interesting little streets…






    … and shops



    … we even found my long lost pizzaria!


    We turned a corner and started heading east, and all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I see this huge cathedral looming overhead.


    When we came out into the piazza, I was flabbergasted at how huge this church was. Built in the 1300’s, it’s an absolutely gorgeous work of art!


    After a brief discussion about the duomo, and Orvieto itself...


    ...we were turned loose for a couple of hours of sightseeing. We went to an overlook by the church and took in the amazing views.




    Then we took a look around the piazza, and decided to get an espresso with our friends from Chicago. While sipping away at my new favorite drink, we decided to wander thru the back streets of Orvieto. What fun it was to simply explore with nothing on our agenda for a couple of hours. I think all of us felt a sense of relief after pushing so hard, to see so much, in the last couple of days.






    Orvieto is well known for it’s ceramics, and there were many shops displaying their wares…







    After getting ourselves completely lost (and not even caring), we stumbled onto a flea market in front of a closed church in a different piazza…






    I found a really cool walking stick that doubles as an ice tool when climbing Alpine glaciers. The cool thing about it was that the previous owner had documented his travels with small metal emblems of the towns, and mountains, that he visited in the Alps. It was mine for €20, (about $26).


    After that, we decided to get some lunch. We found a great little mom-and-pop diner and got some great pasta!

    Mmmmm… seafood pasta!





    After lunch we started working our way back to the duomo to meet everyone so we could head out of Orvieto and up towards the villa in Tuscany that would be our home for the next 3 nights. We descended the hilltop town and boarded our bus. Marco popped “Ratatoulle” into the dvd player and we happily watched as the countryside changed from Umbrian to Tuscan without a peep.


    We were on the road for about an hour or so when the bus pulled off the freeway at an AutoGrill, which is an Italian-based roadside restaurant/gas station/rest stop. They are all over Europe, and apparently North America too. While everyone was shopping, Marco and Tina tried on some Halloween hats…


    We got back on the A-1 and we were soon near our destination, as we got off the highway and began traveling on surface streets towards the Tuscan hills…

    Old guys sitting on the wall waiting for...?



    We soon arrived at our hilltop villa in Artimino. The views were so beautiful…



    Our villa, La Ferdinanda, was built in 1594!

    …and the villa so perfect that Darlene actually shed a tear or two. She’d wanted to visit Tuscany for many years and this was a dream-come-true for her. She told me that it was definitely worth a Mr. Toad car… lucky for me!

    We exited the bus, and the proprietors had a wine and cheese reception waiting for us on the lawn.





    For FishBulb.

    While we were taking in the magnificent views…


    …hotel staff was off-loading our luggage and putting it in our rooms. I’ve never had this kind of service before, and I must say that it was “very nice” [/Borat voice].

    After about ½ hour, Marco and Tina had our rooms sorted out and they gave us our room keys. A wine tasting and dinner was scheduled for 6pm and we needed to get cleaned up beforehand.

    Look at the very happy girl...




    It's always a good thing when you can please the wifey ...





    The wine tasting and dinner was a down a gravel road about ¼ mile away. Marco welcomed us inside…


    … where one of the winemakers was going to give us a presentation on the wine that his family makes in Artimino.


    The wines we tried were very good, and then before you knew it, we were told that our dinner was ready and so we moved into the restaurant for dinner. Like the night before, the food was very good (veal, I believe) though I don’t remember that much about it, I was floating on a Tuscan cloud and you could have fed me deep-fried twinkies smothered in marinara and I would have smiled and told you it was the best I ever had!


    After dinner, we took some pics with the Junior Adventurers …






    ..and slowly walked back to the villa for a good nights rest. Darlene and I were going to need it… we had a big day ahead of us on Monday.

    Tomorrow: We split off from our Adventures By Disney tour group and meet some friends from Parma who take us to see Pisa and another hilltop town, San Gimignano.

    CLICK HERE FOR DAY 6 OF OUR ADVENTURE.
    Last edited by Circarama; 11-02-2008 at 09:06 PM.
    Charlie
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  2. #62

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Silver7 View Post
    What guidebooks did you read (or did you) to prepare for your trip? If you did, which ones came in handy the most?
    We planned our trips using the Rick Steves guide books, Frommers day-by-day guide, and we also used the Langenscheidt Italian phrasebook.
    Charlie
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  3. #63

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    AMAZING!

    I was just drooling over Adventures by Disney packages yesterday, and it's great to see a first-hand account from someone who has been on one of the trips!

    Thanks so much, and keep it coming!

  4. #64

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Wonderful reporting, kids! Almost like being there . . . except I'm eating oatmeal right now, not quite the caliber of what you've been consuming!
    "Not Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Astor together could have
    raised money enough to buy a quarter share in my little dog."

    — Ernest Thompson Seton

  5. #65

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    This is one of my favorite threads ever. I just don't want your trip to end. Each new post is a glorious joy to read. Very entertaining - not just the pictures but the way you are describing your journey!
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  6. #66

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Dustysage View Post
    Wow Charlie, what a fantastic trip. I can't wait to see the rest. But this image is haunting me:

    Oh my goodness...It was very creepy to think these were actual monks. However, It didn't "feel" bad. I tend to be sensitive to "spiritual" situations and I never got the sense that this was a bad thing as strange as it looks. I think the artist did this out of love. Still creepy though...
    Tigerlily
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  7. #67

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Awesomely amazing Charlie. Looks like you and Darlene had an absolutely fabulous time.


  8. #68

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Charlie, I'm loving your trip report! I can't wait to read more about your adventure. I'll have to look back at this thread when we (eventually) visit Italy.

    And count me in as being totally creeped out by that crypt. It would definitely be worth a quick look in person, though!
    <o>

  9. #69

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Charlie, this TR just gets better each day. I'm sensing by the end you'll have us all booking our own trip! (you worked out a cut w/ the Adventures peeps, right?)
    Just countin' the days til the next visit!

  10. #70

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    This TR is easily one of the BEST ever here on MiceChat. No exaggeration. Wow! As many others have posted, the combination of your photos and exquisite writing makes me feel like I've been to Italy. This is Hall-of-Fame worthy. Thanks so much, Circarama and Tigerlily!


  11. #71

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report



    Monday was supposed to be a kick-back day on our tour of Italy. The days events included going to Castle Vicchiomaggio , one of Tuscany’s most beautifully preserved castles, to learn how to make pasta and to sample the wine that they make. Then, it was to be a trip back to the villa for an afternoon of relaxation.

    But we didn’t do that.

    Last August, while in New York for the last three concerts of The Police’s reunion tour, we made the acquaintance of some Police fans from Parma, Italy. When I told them that we were going to be visiting Italy in October, they asked if they could come and pick us up in Tuscany for a day of discovery. They wanted us to see Tuscany, as my friend Sandro put it, “in the Italian Lifestyle“.

    It was an offer we couldn’t refuse…

    Sandro and Rosella drove two hours from Parma to pick us up at 9:30 Monday morning.


    It was a happy reunion as we all hopped in their car for our big adventure…


    We drove thru the Tuscan countryside towards Pisa, which is around an hour from the villa…




    It was a pleasant drive, and fortunately Sandro and Rosella’s English was good enough that we had no problem communicating at all. We arrived in Pisa and promptly got lost, which was kinda cool, because we were able to see some of the sights while trying to figure out where we were.






    We eventually saw some Polizia and stopped for directions.


    Within a few minutes we were at the Piazza dei Miracoli, or “Field of Miracles”


    We stepped thru the archway from the parking area and the Leaning Tower of Pisa came into view along with the other buildings on the Field of Miracles…

    The babtistry is in the foreground, behind it is the cathedral, or Duomo, and then the leaning tower.

    We took some pics and then got a closer look at the Duomo, and the campanile, or bell tower…



    Dang… this sucker is heavy!




    All the art is mosaic... itty-bitty little pieces of mosaic tile.



    Something that Christina (our tour guide in Rome) had told us, was that when Rome fell, looters stole the marble from the Colosseum and other buildings, for use in other parts of Italy. While taking pics of the leaning tower I noticed this and couldn’t help wondering…


    After getting a good look at the Field of Miracles, we started walking the streets of Pisa…



    The University of Pisa piazza.



    We came upon a great farmers market, where a man was singing the praises of his porcini mushrooms…








    Soon enough, we were at a restaurant that Sandro wanted us to try. We sat outside as Sandro ordered. Within minutes he called me inside. Our order was ready! Sandro had ordered us four different kinds of Italian sandwiches…


    All the sandwiches were on focaccia bread that was toasted in a brick oven. One was Panelle (a deep-fried chickpea flour pancake) and cheese, another was tomato, prosciutto, and mushroom, another was tomato and mushroom, and the last one was a roast beef, tomato and mushroom. Along with a carafe of red house wine and we were living "la dolce vida" or "the good life".


    After lunch we took in a few more sights in Pisa, but we still had places to go, so we started heading for the car around 1:30 pm.

    We hopped in the car, and Sandro announced we were now going to go to San Gimignano, a medieval hill town about 1.5 hours away. We drove thru the flat lands south of Pisa, and slowly started working our way towards the Tuscan countryside that we had come to know...








    Along the way we came across a driveway lined with cypress trees that looked quite familiar...


    Sandro told me that it was used in the movie “Gladiator” as the entry road leading to General Maximus’s house…


    After about an hour and a quarter, we approached San Gimignano…

    Skyscrapers... Tuscan-style


    These towers were built over 900 years ago...

    Within fifteen minutes were were skirting tho old walls of San Gimignano…


    We parked the car and hiked into the narrow streets towards the towns center…






    In no time we were in one of the towns piazza‘s. Many times a piazza was where the towns cistern, or well, was located…






    We then came upon another piazza where the church was located. There was an alcove at the bottom of this piazza, and German choral group chose this location for a little practice…

    Click the filmstrip to watch the video.

    They kept on it, ‘til a school bus showed up to drop off the kids after school…


    We walked past some nice shops…











    "I like window shopping..."

    …as we made our way to a pretty lookout.




    After looking around some more, we decided that we needed to get going. Sandro and Rosella had gotten up very early to come for us and they still had a two hour drive after dropping us at the villa. We left San Gimignano, and took in the fall colors as we wheeled back towards Artimino.


    Sandro and Rosella dropped us at dusk… a magical time of the evening in Tuscany. It was around 6:30pm and we had just enough time to make it to the Tuscan barbecue that “Adventures by Disney” had planned for us that evening at the villa.

    We had a wonderful day visiting with our Italian friends and I hope that they come out to California some day so I can return the favor.


    Tomorrow: Florence! We see the Duomo and Michelangelo’s David, then we hit the San Lorenzo Marketplace, and finally, we celebrate our anniversary with red meat!

    CONTINUE THE ADVENTURE... CLICK HERE FOR DAY 7!!
    Last edited by Circarama; 11-05-2008 at 10:17 PM.
    Charlie
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  12. #72

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    I know everyone probably does this shot but you really make it look good. What a wonderful, I am still loving this report and am so glad that we got a fresh installment.


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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    This made me laugh so hard!! what a great picture!!




    a boars head? not my kind of living room center piece. sooooooo funny !!!



    I can not believe you went to see the place of my favorite movie!! Under the tuscan sun.. I swear some day I am going there !! man I hope you got that famous ocean scene.
    I leave tomorrow, I can not believe I will be missing the rest of this until I come back. Charile, this was and is an amazing report!!

  14. #74

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Wow!! What a wonderful time! Ya know, me and hubby got the dvd and info about these trips, but, were thinking that we'd rather not take a guided tour. We figured, we'd rather do it on our own. But, your trip report has kinda changed my mind. It all looks so easy....and laid back.




  15. #75

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    Re: Viva Italia!! Circarama's "Adventures By Disney" Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Stitchy View Post
    Wow!! What a wonderful time! Ya know, me and hubby got the dvd and info about these trips, but, were thinking that we'd rather not take a guided tour. We figured, we'd rather do it on our own. But, your trip report has kinda changed my mind. It all looks so easy....and laid back.
    It was easy! The cool thing about the trip was that we were free to participate (or non-participate) in as much or as little as we wanted. Our ABD guides were very helpful if we needed any info on museums, restaurants or shopping, or even helping us with dining reservations.

    The best part though, was knowing that everything was already taken care of for us. We didn't have to worry about getting tickets to the attractions, or transportation to the sights, or hotel ressies, or train tickets, or... anything! It was ALL taken care of! ABD took the stress out of a European sight-seeing vacation, which allowed me to come back home (believe it or not) rested and relaxed.
    Charlie
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