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Zurers in Italy 2022: Tuesday: May 17​

Day 22: Montepulciano​

Testing results: JZ negative, DZ positive. Tomorrow is another day.

Today our hosts set up some chairs around the pool and we enjoyed the new perspective this morning.



I also took a walk on the road outside the property...just to stretch my legs.

To reassure our kids, who were quite concerned that we hadn't been seen by a doctor, we arranged a house call from a medical service located in Siena. A very nice young man--Leonardo--came to us and did a physical exam--checking our vitals, listening to our breathing, etc. He gave us a clean bill of health...everything seemed to be normal. No apparent complications....

Looking forward positively to a negative test for Diana tomorrow.

We are still on track to leave our "prison paradise" on Friday to go on to Rome.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2022: Wednesday: May 18
Day 23: Montepulciano​

Today is a little different...after we sit by the pool this morning, we get in the car for an excursion to our favorite town in this area--San Quirico d'Orcia. We have to do a little shopping and we want to say hello to our friend Arianna who works at the Hotel Palazzo del Capitano where we have stayed many times.

We take the long way round, through Chianciano Terme...a big spa town with scores of hotels and through the valley past Iris Origo's home and garden, La Foce--a favorite destination of ours. As we approach San Quirico d'Orcia, we pass riotously red fields of poppies...the same ones our family had played in when we were here in 2007.




Returning to San Quirico d'Orcia is very emotional for us....we have been coming here for so many years and it is quite special to us. Diana does her shopping and we go over to the hotel to meet with Arianna, who is very happy to see us as well.


We walk around town a little and are taken aback by the number of tourists..walking the streets and having lunch. There are also a number of tour groups and lots of bicycles...a lot different than we remember the place. But it is still charming and attractive and we hope to return next year.







We drive back on the main road from San Quirico d'Orcia to Pienza and I have forgotten what a fabulously scenic drive it is. The road runs along a ridge line and the views to the north and the south seem to go on forever....rolling hills, towns in the distance on hilltops. The fields are the greenest green you can imagine and the poppies and the broom and the flowers just complete this spectacular picture. Along the road, many cars have stopped and people are tromping through the poppy fields....like a scene out of The Wizard of Oz.

Back at Poggio Etrusco, we enjoy the porchetta sandwiches that we ordered from the market this morning and settle in for the afternoon. Diana tests again and the result is very faint positive. We hope this augurs well for tomorrow's test. We are about ten days into our covid cases and feeling better--but we still have some lingering covid symptoms which our internist says may hang on for a while.

Tonight, another first--we are going to a restaurant in nearby San Albino for dinner...we will eat outside and mask as necessary. However, since we are ten days out from the start of our symptoms, our doctor also told us that it is unlikely that we are still contagious and that we can start resuming our "normal" activities.

Tomorrow will be our last full day here...Friday, we head for Rome.

Jim and Diana
Can't wait. One more week until we return for our stay with Nico at Sant'Antonio. Taking tests with us, just in case. Don't want any nasty surprises sprung on us!! Hopefully, all will be back to normal for you tomorrow, Our first three days will be spent at the Albergo Milano in Varenna on Lake Como.

Hopefully, your days in Rome, will be free of this dreadful Covid.
Thanks Sharon....hope all goes well on your trip. You couldn't be in a more beautiful area.
Can't wait. One more week until we return for our stay with Nico at Sant'Antonio. Taking tests with us, just in case. Don't want any nasty surprises sprung on us!! Hopefully, all will be back to normal for you tomorrow, Our first three days will be spent at the Albergo Milano in Varenna on Lake Como.

Hopefully, your days in Rome, will be free of this dreadful Covid.

Zurers in Italy 2022: Thursday: May 19
Day 24: Montepulciano: MEDICAL UPDATE​

I don't want to bury the lede so this update will just announce that we have both tested negative today which is a very positive development. We are relieved. Our hosts sent over a bottle of prosecco to celebrate.

We actually had a very eventful day but I am going to put off the report until I can download the great photos I took today on our drive to the Abbey of Sant'Antimo and back. I will need a faster connection to download the photos. Anyway, any other news pales against our test results.

But Diana put together a list of observations (odds and ends) which I am including here.

1. Have only seen 4 Ukrainian flags hung in solidarity (but have only been in 4 towns/cities) so may not be a true sampling of Italian public opinion.

2. Have spent quite a lot of time watching loquats ripen and tiny red ants scurrying on our loggia wall.

3. Elmore Leonard was a great writer.

4. The only sound here is birds singing and leaves rustling. Occasionally a chicken. Sometimes a lawn mower. Sometimes wind chimes...

5. A good cornetto is better than a croissant.

6. Before the trip I was worried about whether I'd be able to walk miles, what with a bad knee, bursitis, soft tissue damage on my foot. And whether I'd be a good girl and do my PT exercises. Instead, it's been Covid and I've barely moved for 12 days and hardly anything hurts.

7. Jim acknowledges it's beautiful here but if we were not here because of Covid isolation he'd never stay in the country. Can this marriage be saved?

8. Next summer we'll be married 60 years.

9. We both love Italy so much. Let's start working on being here with our children and their families next year.

Tomorrow we are off to Rome.

Jim and Diana
Finalmente! Negative! Enjoy the rest of your time in Italy. Pamela and Johnny are the best, what a serene and delicious place to be "stuck" while waiting to say "arrivederci 'RONA " ;):snailorange::dancingcow:

Zurers in Italy 2022: Thursday: May 19
Day 24: Montepulciano​

Before we take our self-tests in the late afternoon, we plan an excursion to one of our favorite churches in Italy, the Abbey of Sant'Antimo. The route takes us past the lovely village of Monticchiello and today I do stop to take some pictures across the valley to Monte Amiata and towards Pienza.





We pass the same poppy fields that were in the pictures from 2007 that I posted two days ago....


...and continue on to the road that runs between Castiglione d'Orcia and Monte Amiata Scalo. This is the road that runs along a ridge and the views in both directions seem to be endless.




The Abbey itself is a jewel...a severe Romanesque building originally built in the 8th century, set in a beautiful valley just south of Montalcino. We have been here many times and never tire of it.



The interior is beautifully unadorned as well....and affords a real feeling of peace.





I am proud of this "trick" shot of the trees outside through one of the narrow windows in back of the altar.


We then have an adventure sparked by taking a wrong turn leaving Montalcino and, instead of heading for the valley floor and the road to Pienza, we are sent on a very strange, inexplicable, roundabout route in the hills above Montalcino, at first through beautiful scenery, then on a 15 km stretch of unpaved road. We should have turned around early in the misadventure but we don't and finally end up on the back side of Buonconvento..about 10 km in the other direction from Montalcino. We are very happy to be back in civilization and stop for a well-deserved gelato in town. (Our friend Maggie Rosa will appreciate this story...she likes to hear stories of us getting lost in Italy.)

One more photo op stop on the way back....poppies and the iconic shot of the Capella Vitaleta standing in the middle of fields.



Leftovers for dinner....trying to clean out the refrigerator before our departure tomorrow. (NOTE: We have cooked for ourselves more during this self-isolation than we have ever done in all of our previous trips. I guess we really love eating in Italian restaurants but this year we had no option.)

And tomorrow, we "are on the road again."

Jim and Diana
Lovely to see mention of loquats (aka nespole in Italy and nispero in Spain). My favourite fruit, even though they bruise so easily.

Even more lovely to hear of two negative tests!

Zurers in Italy 2022: Friday: May 20
Day 25: Montepulciano-Rome​

After our last breakfast at Poggio Etrusco (I go into town to get delicious cornetti at the local pastry shop), we finish packing, hang out for a while enjoying my last view from our loggia,


say our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts, Pamela and Johnny, and get in the car for the two-hour drive to Rome.

We can't thank Pamela and Johnny enough for letting us stay with them during our self-isolation. The alternative was being cooped up in a hotel room in Piacenza and this was so much better.

The car dropoff near the airport is easy and the cab ride into town is uneventful but more expensive than getting a cab right at the airport. We have stayed at the hotel--the Residenza in Farnese--before...a bit quirky but a good, familiar location for us. We do have one hiccup...the air-conditioning doesn't seem to be working so it is a bit uncomfortable. It's very hot in Rome. We may have to wait until tomorrow for someone to look at it.

I go out for a short reconnaissance walk and make reservations for dinner at the close by Osteria La Quercia where we have eaten before. I am really enjoying walking around the streets in this familiar neighborhood.

Dinner is a mixed bag...the food is quite good...excellent fried artichokes (crispy and delicious), a tasty cacio e pepe for Diana and interesting gnocchi with a cacciatore sauce for me. But the outdoor tables are close together and noisy and, since we are eating early, there is a lot of English being spoken around us which somehow puts a damper on the dinner.

It is a short walk home and, despite the faulty air conditioning, we fall asleep quickly.

Tomorrow we plan to find some fabric for Diana so she will have piecing work to do while sitting on the hotel's roof deck.

Jim and Diana
Thanks Cathy...I hope we are on the mend.

Happy birthday and have a great trip to Sicily. Let me know if you need any recommendations. Where are you going to be?
Hi Jim, just now seeing your message so sorry for the late reply. We started in Palermo and then went to Agrigento where we stayed in a wonderful Agriturismo, Passo dei Briganti and then went to Siracusa. Tomorrow is our last day in Siracusa and we will go to Napoli for about a week. It was my first time in Palermo and I loved the chaotic, craziness but my partner Sam, not so much. I would like to return as I found six days was not enough time to explore everything and see the outskirts. From Agrigento, we went to the Valley of the Temples, Villa Romana del Casale and Caltagirone. On the way to Siracusa, we stopped in Ragusa and today we visited Noto. I am tired just writing this.
Glad to read you and Diana are on the mend. Enjoy Roma!

Zurers in Italy 2022: Saturday: May 21
Day 26: Rome​

Good breakfast at the Residenza in Farnese but the air conditioning is still not working. It's not so bad in the morning because we can open a window bringing in the cool morning air and the very loud sounds from the courtyard below.

Our first expedition is in search of fabric for Diana's project...she had miscalculated the materials she brought to work on and needs more material to occupy her in the coming days.

After much research into where to buy fabric, we walk over to the area near the Largo Argentina, a busy intersection built around a large collection of Roman ruins. We take a short rest partway in a pleasant little park.


We first go to Artis, a shop that sells notions and sewing materials as well as some fabric. On this warm Saturday morning, we find a line out the door. Since the pandemic, the shop is limiting the number of people inside to the number of salespeople available, so customers patiently wait outside the door in the street waiting their turn. After about twenty minutes, it's our turn but unfortunately, their selection of fabrics doesn't meet Diana's needs. We walk further down the street to one of the big fabric stores--Bassetti. There is no wait to get in but we do have to wait for a salesperson to take care of us. The inventory of this store is huge, with ceiling-high shelves filled with bolts of fabric of every variety, color and pattern.


Our salesman climbs a ladder and begins tossing bolts of fabrics on a table for Diana to inspect. There is nothing that is really what she wants but she does buy a half meter that she hopes is close enough.

Now that we have some fabric, we need to find a pair of scissors that are good enough for cutting. The big store doesn't sell sewing accessories and sends us back to the first store. However, the line is even longer now, it's getting hotter, and we decide to put off the scissors until later. We walk to the nearby taxi stand and take a cab back to the hotel. On a whim, we walk into a shop that sells cleaning supplies, toiletries, beauty products, and lots of other things. The clerk speaks unaccented and fluent English, Diana finds a pair of scissors which we buy for 2 euros, and hope will be adequate.

Up on the roof of the hotel, Diana does some sewing and I go to a nearby sandwich shop to get lunch. The sandwiches are great--prosciutto, mozzarella, and rucola for Diana and a messy but delicious porchetta with chicory and parmigiano cream for me. And the bread is fantastic....an excellent lunch.

We take a nap in the middle of the day and I go out for a short walk. In the late afternoon, we venture out to the nearest bar on the Piazza Farnese for a prosecco and to watch the passing scene.


We are entertained by the arrival of a large bridal party---the men all in morning coats and fancy vests, the women dressed to the nines in a variety of elegant styles.

We go to dinner at Maureen and Franco's apartment near the Colosseum. She has prepared a feast--clams, shrimp, a large baked fish (gallinella), roasted potatoes and zucchini. We had brought dessert--an apple cake from the Forno Campo de' Fiori which is a favorite of Franco's. A wonderful evening....

Jim and Diana
The last time we were in Rome was 2004. I remember going to a fabric shop where they sold some items locally made. I got cotton quilted water bottle covers and cut small pot holders, both of which I am still using.

It is good to see you are taking it easy in Rome. I was just reading an article about how important it is to rest when you are recovering from Covid. Rome is a wonderful place to just wander around and enjoy.
In a thread in the Italy forum there is information about a new law in Italy about air conditioning and it can’t be set very cold. Maybe that is the problem with your AC?


Zurers in Italy 2022: Sunday: May 22
Day 27: Rome​

Happily, we make last-minute plans to meet our friend Iris Carulli for lunch today, so in the morning while Diana stays back at the hotel, I take a long walk through the familiar neighborhoods near the Piazza Farnese and across the river to Trastevere. We have been to Rome so many times since 1993 that all the streets seem familiar to me and many spark pleasant memories. Our hotel is on the Via del Mascherone which is named for the big fountain at the end of the street.


I walk for a short distance on the elegant Via Giulia with this striking ivy covered archway behind the Palazzo Farnese (our neighbor at the hotel)


and cross the Tiber on the pedestrian Ponte del Sisto with a good view of the dome of St. Peter's.



When I reach the main piazza of Trastevere, there is a line outside the pharmacy with people waiting to get their Covid tests so they can board their planes the next day. I overhear one couple breathing sighs of relief when they get their documentation.



Continuing on through the busy streets...the tourists are back with a vengeance...I note that all the sidewalk cafes and restaurants are packed--many of them serving American breakfasts. On one of the quiet back streets, I pass the apartment building where we had stayed many years ago, located just across the street from the most famous biscotti (cookie) bakery in Rome.



This is the restaurant where we ate on our first trip to Rome in 1993...


.....especially memorable not for the food but because immediately after lunch, a pickpocket got my camera and some cash at a crowded bus stop.

I recross the Tiber at another pedestrian bridge that connects to the Isola Tiberina and then on to the Roman ghetto,



where the Great Synagogue can be seen peeking through the trees.


The ghetto is now wall-to-wall restaurants...some kosher, some not..but still features striking ancient Roman sites right up against the newer (17th century) buildings--like most everywhere else in Rome.



There are lines in the ghetto as well...but these people are waiting for the slices of cake from the famous old Jewish bakery.


Our lunch is at a favorite restaurant near the Pantheon called Grano....we decide to eat inside the air-conditioned, very stylish room rather than on the warmer patio. We have a leisurely meal...the food is quite good but the main attraction is the company. The restaurant is not crowded so we have a long, enjoyable time catching up with Iris.

We also finish a bottle of wine with lunch which means, when we get back to the hotel, we are ready to crash. We nap and then watch some television. I slip out for a gelato but there is no dinner--only some much-needed rest.

Tomorrow I have to find a pharmacy for our tests on Tuesday and we will try to get to the Pantheon, a must-do on every trip to Rome.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2022: Monday: May 23​

Day 28: Rome​

After breakfast, I set out to find the closest pharmacy that does antigen tests. The Farmacia Santa Lucia is about half a mile away and I find out that we don't need an appointment; we just need to show up between 9 am and 6 pm.

When I return, we set out--by taxi--to make our usual pilgrimage to the Pantheon, built in the second century A.D. and still in use as an active church. One distinguishing feature is its massive dome with a hole (oculus) in the middle. It is one of the most popular attractions in Rome and today we are there with many other tourists--covid restrictions making parts of the hall off-limits...seats and benches are not available.




It is still very impressive...another site in Rome that we never tire of. For a bonus, I add to my collection of Last Supper paintings.


This one is from 2003 by an Uzbek artist--Andrey Esionov---who, according to Google, is a very well-known artist in the Russian figurative style.

After admiring the Pantheon from outside for a while, we decide to re-visit the nearby basilica--Santa Maria sopra Minerva. The building is built over some Roman ruins--a common occurrence here--and is distinguished by the statue (designed by Borromini) of an elephant holding up an obelisk in front of the church. You can see the Pantheon's dome behind the obelisk.


Many people are sitting on the steps waiting to get in and we find out that the doors don't open until 11 am. We have 30 minutes to kill so I find a nearby bar, we sit at an outside table, and have a very refreshing freshly squeezed orange juice. When we walk back to the church, we (and the rest of the people) learn that, due to construction, you have to enter the building from the rear which entails about a three or four-block walk. We decide to abandon the visit and take a cab back to the hotel.

For lunch, I go back to the little place around the corner--Sto Bene--and get a sandwich for us to split. Sto Bene is a tiny storefront with a few tables inside, and a long menu of sandwiches, salads, and main dishes. It's amazing to me how they have so much available in so little space.


Here's a link to the Sto Bene menu....it is very appealing. We again eat on the very pleasant hotel roof patio. The sandwich--mortadella today--is delicious.

After lunch and a rest in the room, I set out for another walk in the neighborhood. I walk through the Piazza Farnese...the French Embassy (Palazzo Farnese) has some construction going on and the work is covered with this fanciful camouflage.


I make a stop inside one of the larger churches in this area...Sant'Andrea della Valle (opera buffs will remember the church from Tosca). The interior space is immense and there is a very high dome. We have walked past this church hundreds of times but only went in once before on one of our earliest visits to Rome.


I make a quick jog through the Piazza Navona--another of the biggest tourist attractions in Rome--and admire (from a distance) the two big fountains and the impressive church and buildings that line the piazza.


I walk across the Tiber to a different section of Trastevere before returning to the hotel.




I have been texting with Maureen during the day and we end up arranging to have dinner together at a new restaurant near the Testaccio neighborhood called Aventina. The restaurant is pretty new and hip, having just been mentioned in a recent travel article in the NY Times. It is a "project" combining a fancy butcher shop and food store and a place for "aperitivi" as well as a restaurant featuring assortments of "salumi", beef from all over Europe, and a regular, somewhat creative menu of antipasti, pastas, and second courses. We eat in the very attractive and comfortable sidewalk area and have a very pleasant and interesting dinner.

Among the dishes are a couple of steaks, pasta with garlic, pepper and oil, grilled sausages, maritozza (a brioche) filled with a ragu of hare, polpette (croquettes) made of chickpeas and lentils (like falafel), and an artichoke prepared with a carbonara sauce. Some of the dishes worked better than others but the whole experience--service and ambiance--was fun. We also drank two bottles of a delicious Nero d'Avola from Sicily.

We share a cab, say our quick goodbyes to Maureen and Franco as they get out near their house, get back to the hotel, and are done for the day.

Tomorrow morning....our tests to allow us to fly home on schedule.

Jim and Diana
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Zurers in Italy 2022: Tuesday: May 24

We are just back from the pharmacy...both of us got negative results so we are good to board our flight home tomorrow morning.

A lot of angst....but a lot of relief.

Thanks for all your messages of support.

Jim and Diana
Good idea! When we stayed nearby at Sant Antonio a few years ago, there was a good place to get prepared foods. It was in a small strip mall at an intersection east of Montepulciano where you turn for the road to the town. There was a fruit and on Wetesvegetable place plus this prepared foods place next door, owned by the same family. We got dinner from there a few times.
We are there now! Finally! Although we have to leave Thursday to get home in time for our granddaughter’s high school graduation on Saturday. We have to take a COVID test on Wednesday and test positive before we are allowed to fly. I’m getting nervous.

Zurers in Italy 2022: Tuesday: May 24​


We are just back from the pharmacy...both of us got negative results so we are good to board our flight home tomorrow morning.

A lot of angst....but a lot of relief.

Thanks for all your messages of support.

Jim and Diana
I’m so sorry you had to miss part of your vacation because of COVID. Go again sooner than later.

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