• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

Zurers in Italy 2024

Zurers in Italy 2024​

Friday, May 3: Day 5: Como​

No rain this morning...a bright sunny day--just as ordered. I take a quick walk after getting our breakfast cornetti at the bar next door. I want to check out the Casa dei Fascio, one of the most famous examples of Rationalist Architecture which was popular during the early 20th century in Italy under Mussolini. Como was one of the centers of the movement. The Casa is now a government office building and is being renovated.


On the way back to the apartment, I get a different perspective of the very impressive Duomo.


After breakfast, I retrieve the car and we drive to the very grand Villa Olmo, an 18th century lakeside villa which is now owned by the city of Como and hosts art shows and other events. It is also now being renovated but the grounds of the villa is a very lovely public park with a lakeside promenade, gardens, a couple of large swimming pools and a "beach" for swimming in the lake.






There are only a few remnants of the azaleas at this time.

We get back in the car and decide to attempt the ascent (by car) of Monte Bisbino, the 4,000 foot mountain that overlooks Cernobbio and the lake. The road is extremely curvy


with numerous hairpin turns, but for the first part, is well maintained and generally quite wide. The mountain is very densely populated with houses lining the road, bus stops, and designated parking spaces. As we climb higher, the road gets narrower, less well maintained, but there are still houses, some farms, and a couple of hamlets. The views of the lake are amazing though we can't stop to take too many pictures.



As we continue the "climb", the road narrows some more and there are a few encounters with cars coming the other way requiring one car to pull over to let the other get past, but nothing too hair-raising. Also, there is much more tree cover as we ascend and the views over the lake disappear. We are also out of GPS range so we are not sure how far from the summit we are. So, reluctantly, after about 35 minutes of our ascent, we decide to give up and turn around. Even though we didn't reach the summit, we both enjoyed the adventure.

We experience another "failure" when we drive back to town with the idea of taking the funicular that goes from Como to the hilltop village of Brunate.


However, the line to get on the funicular stretches a long way down the block and we decide not to wait.

We have a quick lunch near the apartment and have some gelato for dessert at our neighborhood gelateria. Diana is ready for a nap and I head out for some more exploring in the park along the lake.
The weather continues to be warm and sunny so there are lots of people out strolling and sitting. There are a number of memorials in the park...a remembrance of the victims of the WWII--both Holocaust victims and partisans


an imposing museum dedicated to Como's most famous native son Alessandro Volta


and a WWI memorial in the rationalist style popular during the Fascist era.


This part of town is also known as the Rationalist Quarter since there are a number of structures built in that style. This picture shows the contrast between that style and a more traditional Italian 19th century building.


I return to the restaurant where we had dinner last night to try and find out more about "The Last Supper" that I was so taken with. I learn that the artist is well known in Como as an eccentric street artist named Mario but no one knows much about him other than he surfaces now and then and sells his pictures. The owner of the restaurant shows me two other paintings of his that they have displayed.



I also stop in a large art gallery and show the owner my photo of the Last Supper and he tells me the same story about the enigmatic street artist named Mario with no last name and no fixed abode.

The rain finally starts again and we walk to dinner with umbrellas. We have an excellent meal at the Osteria del Gallo, a homey, bustling, very crowded trattoria also just around the corner. We have been trying to eat here all week and they had been booked, but I persisted. The food is terrific--we start with a cheese filled focaccia which is a Ligurian speciality. It comes hot from the oven and is paired with a plate of delicious prosciutto. I have a plate of osso buco with polenta and Diana has ravioli with zucchini and mint. We drink prosecco and a couple of glasses of red wine.

It is still raining when we walk home through the empty streets.

Tomorrow we leave for Brescia where we will meet up with our Swedish friend Ulf. We have really enjoyed Como. I have probably walked every street in the center (called the citta murata--the walled city) and, like in other mid-sized Italian cities, found it continually interesting---the shops, the architecture, the street life, etc. The lake of course is spectacular, though once you get a few blocks inland, you sort of forget that the lake is there. Our apartment, other than a few minor quirks, was comfortable and convenient.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024​

Saturday, May 4: Day 6: Como-Brescia​

Another nice day as we prepare to pack up and leave Como for Brescia. After breakfast (cornetti from the bar next door again), I retrieve the car and leave it in the piazza while I go upstairs to get the luggage. When we get back down, two local policemen are standing next to the car, preparing to write a ticket, even though the apartment manager had supposedly given the police our car's license plate. The policeman takes mercy on me and gives me "two minutes" to move the car. We thank him, load up and depart.

The drive to Brescia takes a couple of hours...we take local roads for half the trip, going through many towns as well as very green countryside. Our trusty GPS confuses us at one point and we end up on the autostrada which gets into Brescia much faster.

Brescia is a large city (250,000 people) on the north side of the broad Po Valley, very close to Lake Garda. We were here in 2011 when we stayed at nearby Lake Iseo and are happy to be back. The approach to the well preserved historic center is quite easy--the streets are wide and there isn't much traffic on this Saturday morning. We have specific directions from the hotel on how to get there, which is right in the center next to one of the main piazzas--the Piazza Vittoria. However, when we make the next to last turn, we find our route blocked by stalls from the weekly market. I walk around the corner to the hotel, someone from the hotel comes with a cart to get the luggage, and I park the car in the underground parking lot under the piazza.

Our hotel--the Vittoria--is a bit upscale and our room is quite nice...spacious with a sitting area with chairs and a couch. We have arranged to meet our Swedish friend Ulf here in Brescia, continuing our friendship that started in 1994 while waiting on the ticket line at Pompeii. Since then, we have met semi-regularly in Italy, in the US, and even one visit to his home in Lund, Sweden. I text him, he walks over from his nearby apartment, and we all have a nice reunion in the hotel lobby.

We walk around the corner, have a light lunch at a place on the Piazza Vittoria, and catch up--we haven't seen one another since before the pandemic.

After lunch, I make my initial exploration of the city with the goal of finding a laundromat within walking distance of the hotel. The first thing that impresses me is the large number of pedestrian areas--both shopping streets and the large squares, filled with people at cafes enjoying the beautiful weather. The Piazza Vittoria is wide open space, ringed with Mussolini era buildings--dominated by the large Post and Telegraph building and a monument to historical Brescian military prowess.



You don't often see a rhinoceros hanging from the ceiling of a passageway.


Just adjacent to the Piazza Vittoria is the Piazza Pope Paul VI - born in Brescia - (also known as Piazza Duomo) with not one but two duomos facing a line of sidewalk cafes...filled with patrons.



A few steps further, you enter the Piazza della Loggia, a Venetian themed square with an impressive Palladian-style loggia, a clock tower reminiscent of the one in Piazza San Marco in Venice, and a massive Venetian-influenced office building on one side.





There is a small ceremony going on in front of the wreath. I later learn that the wreath and plaque commemorate the Fascist bombing of a demonstration in 1974, killing eight people and injuring many others.

Leaving the Piazza della Loggia on the trail of the laundromat, I enter a different world...this neighborhood is where the immigrant community is centered...lots of people from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia are on the streets, and the stores reflect the diversity of the population. I find the laundromat...it is very different from other laundromats we have used in Italy. It is a bit ramshackle and furnished with a living room couch and appears to be a neighborhood center for local Africans. I look around a bit and tell the attendant (who is from Senegal) that I will be coming back later.

We do return later. We don't have to struggle with figuring out the system for paying and starting machines. The boss--who also does a lot of washing and folding for other clients--starts the machines from the control panel and adds soap from his large stash of detergent. We have some nice exchanges with him...he says he has spent time in the US--Ohio, Washington, Boston--and has lived all over Italy. Rome and Naples are his favorite places in Italy and he is not too crazy about Brescia.


While Diana stays and quilts while the laundry is being done, I take a walk around this neighborhood and it is lively but with a much different international vibe. Diana tells me that at one point he put down his mat and did his afternoon prayers.

We meet up again with Ulf for an aperitivo and dinner at the Bistrot Duomo. We move inside for dinner and strike up a pleasant conversation with our waiter. Diana has a delicious bowl of spaghetti carbonara and Ulf and I have the Milanese risotto with osso buco, which is prepared perfectly and is excellent. The waiter takes a bit of time thinking about the appropriate wine for our meal and decides on a terrific valpolicella ripasso, which we all like a lot. We are feeling quite satisfied as we walk the very short distance back to the hotel and say goodnight to Ulf.

Tomorrow we will explore more of Brescia.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Saturday, May 4
Day 6: Como-Brescia: RHINOCEROS​

I have gotten a number of inquiries about and reactions to the photograph of the hanging rhinoceros off the Piazza Vittoria in Brescia.


It was inspired by a scene from the Fellini film "And The Ship Sails On '' and it was created by the conceptual artist Stefano Bombardieri who is known for his statues of wild animals and mythological figures.

You can read more about it in this Atlas Obscura posting.


Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Sunday, May 5
Day 7: Brescia (part 1)​

The weather is quite nice this morning. There is a lot of noise, music, and cheering coming from the Piazza Vittoria and I go over to investigate before breakfast. I find the piazza filled with a large crowd of pink-shirted women and some men who are gathered for a rally to promote women's health. It is sponsored by an organization named StraWoman and is to be followed by a 5 km walk/run through the historic center of Brescia.


After a very mediocre breakfast in the hotel, we meet Ulf and make our way over to the old Roman section of Brescia--Brixia. On the way, we are surrounded by many of the rally goers--some jogging, many walking--who fill the narrow streets.


We pass under a picturesque archway


and pass a pleasant square.


The Roman area of Brescia is quite impressive; it was one of the largest Roman settlements in Northern Italy dating from the first century A.D. The facade of the Capitolium with its tall columns dominates the scene





and there is a good sized Roman theater as well.


We then wend our way back to the Piazza Paolo IV and have coffee and orange juice at the place where we had dinner last night. We are recognized by the staff which is always nice. While the other two relax, I take the opportunity to find the memorial to victims of the mafia violence from all over Italy...a series of circular plaques embedded in the path leading out of the Piazza della Loggia up to the castle.



We decide to get in the car and head for nearby Lago d'Iseo where we had stayed in 2011. I always enjoy driving in Italy and, even though the route is not particularly scenic, to us it is always interesting. However, when we reach Sulzano, I belatedly realize, since it is a Sunday afternoon, that parking is going to be a challenge. After circling around for a while, I remember that we had eaten at a restaurant above the town so we drive up the hill in hopes of being able to park in their lot and have lunch.

It is a steep climb and when I pull into the lot, there are no spaces to be had. Luckily, they can accommodate us for lunch so, with great difficulty, I execute a tight u-turn and park in the street outside the restaurant. Whew!!!

We had actually eaten at the restaurant--Trattoria Cacciatore--twice when we were here in 2011. It is very crowded as usual on a Sunday afternoon but we are happy to be sitting down and out of the car. The food is fine....Diana has a dish of grilled rainbow trout, Ulf has a big piece of veal milanese, and I have a plate of grilled lake fish with polenta. By the time we finish, the restaurant is emptying out and we take the time to enjoy the stunning views over the lake.



This island--Monte Isola--is the largest lake island in southern and central Europe.

(end of part 1)

Zurers in Italy 2024: Sunday, May 5​

Day 7: Brescia (part 2)​

Back in Brescia, I explore other parts of the town. On my walk, I collect a couple more attractive wrought iron gates -



some more remnants of Roman Brescia -



and from the hill leading up to the Castello, some nice views of the countryside and the city.



No one is hungry for dinner so we return to "our place" opposite the Duomo for an aperitivo. We are again greeted warmly by the staff and end up having a long, friendly conversation with the sommelier, Michele, who introduces us to some different types of wine.

Diana and I stop for a gelato on the way back to the hotel.

Tomorrow will be our last day in Brescia - yet another charming, interesting, beautiful Italian city.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Monday, May 6
Day 8: Brescia​

The forecast for our last day in Brescia is not promising....overcast with periods of rain. I have made a trip planner mistake....having us in Brescia on a Monday when all the museums are closed. After breakfast, Diana and I walk over to the nearby piazza and visit the two cathedrals. We make arrangements to meet Ulf at "our bar" when we finish.

The Duomo Vecchio is built in a circular style and dates back to the 11th century. According to Wikipedia, " it (is) one of the most important examples of rotunda in Italy, as well as one of the most significant examples of Lombard Romanesque architecture."


The interior of the Duomo Vecchio is one the most unique and appealing that we have visited over the years. The circular plan gives the space a sense of openness and serenity.




There are a couple of striking domes -



an impressive organ with painted side panels -


some perspectives that remind me of Piranesi drawings -



some early floor mosaics -



and a crypt.


The "new" Duomo built in the 17th century pales by comparison, though Diana thought it was quite beautiful and impressive. It is bright, not overly decorated, and has the third highest dome in Italy.





We meet Ulf for coffee in "our bar" and decide to visit Lake Garda, about a half hour to the east. It's not a very scenic drive but, at the lake, we take the road north from Desenzano del Garda looking for an appropriate place to stop for a coffee. We luck out at Padenghe sul Garda where we find a large parking lot above a beach area with bars and restaurants right on the water. It's a quiet spot with beach facilities and a walking path along the lake.





It's now time to think about lunch. I have identified a place in the hills just above Brescia and we take the quick drive back to town. The very attractive restaurant--Nuovo Nando--is pretty full at 2 pm but we get a table and have one of the best meals of the trip, so far.


From the Nuovo Nando web site

Diana and I share a plate of excellent beef tartare. Ulf and Diana have risotto with asparagus and robiola cheese--rich but delicious--and I have the local version of ravioli--casoncelli--filled with meat and covered with butter. It is probably the best version of ravioli I have ever tasted..amazing. (Diana and Ulf agree.) We also enjoy a bottle of the local white wine--Laguna--which is also terrific. And the staff is very pleasant....we would be happy to return here anytime.

Back in Brescia, I explore another part of town and find a few more gates (some open) for my collection.




And I am surprised to find a Romanian restaurant in the international section of Brescia.


and of course, Garibaldi makes an appearance.


No dinner tonight again...but we meet Ulf at "our bar" for our last get together. He heads back to Sweden tomorrow and we leave for Tuscany. It's been a great reunion and we look forward to more meetings in the future. We also say goodbye to our friends at Bistro Duomo...it's been a treat getting to know them.



Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Tuesday, May 7​

Day 9: Brescia-San Quirico d'Orcia​

Our getaway day from Brescia is wet and overcast. We pack, check out, and are on the road by 10:30. The drive to southern Tuscany is expected to take just over four hours...almost all on the autostrada. We first head east towards Verona, then south to Bologna, and pass by Florence and Siena on the way to San Quirico d'Orcia. The highlight of the trip is our crossing of the "mighty Po"...always a big deal for us. It rains on and off until after Bologna when it starts pouring...but it doesn't slow us down at all. We make our first Autogrill lunch stop on the trip...a right of passage for each Italian adventure.

Once we pass Siena, we are entering the Val d'Orcia...the scenery and the landscape are so beautiful and colorful (pictures will appear on succeeding days) that it almost takes your breath away. The new spring green colors and shades of the hills and fields are stunning. We are happy to be here.

Our room isn't ready so we wait in the hotel sitting room for about a half-hour. Our room is in a new annex of the Palazzo del Capitano, where we have stayed frequently over the years. The Capitano Collection, as it is now called, seems to be taking over much of the village, adding rooms in a number of buildings in the center. The room is a bit small but stylish, with a shared living area with the other room in the building.

We unpack and I head out for a short exploration. Our first visit to San Quirico d'Orcia was in 1995 and every time we come back (we have stayed here six or seven times), there are changes. Now there are more tourist oriented businesses than before. But it is still a magical place for us....

I make a short exploration of the village--the Collegiata church, the picturesque main street--and feel right at home.



We have dinner at the hotel's own restaurant, Al Vecchia Forno. At 7:30 (early for Italy) the place is packed - mostly non-Italians. We are greeted warmly by the wife of the hotel owner and are seated at the last table on the ground floor. Service is a bit slow but dinner is fine....we share a plate of burrata cheese with a tomato sauce (papa di pomodoro), Diana has a dish of tagliatelle with cacio, pepe, and guanciale and I have the local specialty--pappardelle with meat sauce. We drink a couple of glasses of Tuscan red wine and I have a pretty good panna cotta for dessert.

We walk back to the room along the quiet main street.


Tomorrow we are having lunch with the owners of the agriturismo near Montepulciano where we stayed in 2022 when we had Covid.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Wednesday, May 8
Day 10: San Quirico d'Orcia​

The sun is shining this morning though there is a bit of a nip in the air. We walk over to the hotel's restaurant (they now serve breakfast in one place for all their buildings)--a five minute walk--around 9 am. The place is packed and, rather than a buffet which is most customary in our experience, they have waiter service and you order what you want. On our first day with the system, we are unsure how it works but we get enough--bread, cheese, hard-boiled egg, fruit, cornetti--to make sure we won't starve. However, it is a bit hectic and noisy...so we are not sure it is an improvement for the hotel guests.

After breakfast, we take a stroll around San Quirico d'Orcia. It is every bit as charming and appealing as on previous trips. At this hour of the morning, the town is still pretty quiet, before the bikers and tourists arrive. The views of the Tuscan countryside are gorgeous as well.






We then walk into the garden of the hotel which is quiet and lush.


except for the sound of rushing water in the new swimming pool.


We are having lunch near Montepulciano with Pamela Sheldon Johns and her husband Johnny who own the agriturismo where we isolated during the pandemic in 2022. We have driven the road from San Quirico to Montepulciano many, many times and yet we are as enchanted as we were on previous drives. The vistas seem to go on forever...rolling green hills dotted with farm houses and hill towns with the higher mountains in the distance. Sometimes the views are punctuated with wild flowers of various colors. The poppies and broom are in bloom. No new pictures on this ride but rest assured, you will see some photos of the spectacular countryside later.

We meet at a restaurant called Il Locanda del Vino Nobile in the smaller town of Sant'Albino; the restaurant is owned by friends of theirs. We enjoy catching up with them (it's been a very busy season for them and they are glad for part of a day off). The restaurant is very quiet (we are the only guests) and the food is excellent. Diana and I share a tortino of artichoke, I have a dish of pici (thick local pasta) with a sausage ragu and Diana has ravioli with a meat filling. She also enjoys her dessert...a chocolate mousse.

On the way back, we take a back road and stop for some pictures from the road near the small villlage of Monticchiello.




Back in San Quirico d'Orcia, Diana retires to the room to rest and I walk around town some more




and stop for a gelato (with lots of other people).


I also come across an unusual purple rose....


We take an early evening stroll together through the now mostly empty streets. No dinner for Diana but we sit at one of the sidewalk places and I have a crostone with sausage and cheese. Crostones are becoming a big thing here for informal meals...large slices of bread with various toppings - grilled or toasted.

The sun is going down when we return to the hotel.


Tomorrow we plan to revisit one of our favorite places in southern Tuscany, Sant'Antimo Abbey.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Thursday, May 9
Day 11: San Quirico d'Orcia​

Another bright sunny morning with a slight nip in the air. Breakfast at the hotel restaurant is again a bit hectic....noisy and disorganized.

Our first stop is the lovely Collegiata Church that dominates the main street of the town. It has always been a favorite of ours...both for the pleasing facades, doors, and bell tower,




but also for the amazingly intricate "intarsia" (marquetry...art made of inlaid pieces of wood) decorating the chairs in the choir. In previous years, we had been able to walk in back of the altar and see them up close. Recently, the altar is roped off and only occasionally would the grumpy caretaker let us back there. Today, he is nowhere to be seen. I am able to take a couple of photos and crop them to give you an idea of what they look like.



Here is a link to an article with excellent pictures of the intarsia that may tell you a lot more than you really want to know....


Also inside the church is an interesting 14th century altarpiece


and some carved panels of the Stations of the Cross.


Our next destination is one of our most favorite churches in Italy...we have probably visited ten times or more...the Abbey of Sant'Antimo near Montalcino. En route, we stop in nearby Castiglione d'Orcia and visit with Arianna Rossi. She had worked at the Palazzo del Capitano for many years and we had become friends. She left the hotel about a year ago and is now working at a large olive oil business in Castiglione. She is very surprised and happy to see us, as we are to see her. We have a good time catching up and take a selfie to confirm the visit.


The road to the Abbey is one of the most beautiful in Italy...part of the drive is along the ridge line and there are endless, stunning views in both directions. No pictures today but these are from our drive in May 2022.




The Abbey of Sant'Antimo never disappoints...the view as you approach is always thrilling.


The interior--very Romanesque--is calm and peaceful with austere decorations.



The wall decorations and sculptures on the columns are very pleasing





and I climb down to the tiny crypt for the first time.


We are always happy to visit Sant'Antimo.

We decide to try to go to Montalcino...we haven't been there for many years--the hills and the tight parking have discouraged us. But we find a spot in the Fortezza parking lot right away and learn that the city is replacing the parking machines and it is free today. We walk down a steep hill to the main piazza where we see the most famous of Montalcino scenes--the tower in the Piazza del Popolo.



I use Google maps to locate a nearby place to get a sandwich and we are directed to the Stuzzachiera Gallo just down the street. They specialize in crostone (what else) and the display case is the menu.


Courtesy of the Stuzzachiera Gallo web page

The owner is charming and multi-lingual and the crostone are tasty....a good find.

A challenging uphill climb to the Fortezza where Diana sits on a bench enjoying the view, the same one we enjoyed while having a picnic on our first visit to Montalcino in 1995,



I make a quick visit to the Fortezza but don't take the time to climb to the ramparts or sample the wine at the Regional Enoteca.



Back at the room, I have some travel work to do while Diana rests. After that, I take another stroll around town while Diana quilts in the hotel garden..

Lovely flowers are growing out of the town walls.



I take a look inside the church on the main square where three nuns are practicing singing hymns and the town's neighborhood flags are displayed prior to the upcoming festival this weekend.


We enjoy a glass of prosecco in the garden before dinner.....what a life!!!!

We have dinner at a small osteria on the main street. I hadn't noticed before but there is no pasta on the menu. We share another crostone, Diana has the lamb chops, and I have the grilled sausage. Not a memorable meal but it was fine.

The streets are quiet as we walk back to our room.

Tomorrow we will visit the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, famous for a fresco cycle about the life of San Benedetto.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Friday, May 10
Day 12: San Quirico d'Orcia​

It's another picture perfect day....sunny, and a little cool as we walk to breakfast. The weather has been amazing this week...on the day we arrived, it was overcast and rainy, but since then, beautiful. In case I have given the impression that San Quirico d'Orcia is a perfect medieval village, you should know that there are cars, garbage cans, and a large crane, which is involved in the restoration of an old building to become another hotel.


Our destination this morning is the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, located above Buonconvento in the area noted for its "crete" (eroded hills). We were last here 20 years ago.


The abbey dates from the early 14th century



and is most famous for its cloister which houses an impressive cycle of frescoes about the life of San Benedetto. The work was started by Luca Signorelli but he left after seven scenes to take the commission to paint his Last Judgement in the San Brizio chapel in the Orvieto Duomo. The cycle was completed by Sodoma in the early 16th century.

The frescoes cover all four walls of the cloister and are very colorful, detailed, and realistic....it is quite an achievement. Here is a representative sample of the works.






We were disappointed that we were unable to see the long rows of intarsia chairs in the choir of the main church....it is too dark to make out the details. My phone camera, however, does a good job of showing the details.



Maybe the lights will be on when we next visit.

Leaving the abbey, we stop for lunch in a small square in the hilltop town of Chisure. We find an appealing restaurant on the piazza with outdoor seating and an amazing view over the countryside.


We are seated at a table across the piazza where we can enjoy the vista and have an enjoyable lunch.


The food is good, the staff is exceptionally friendly, and the experience is priceless.

On the drive back to San Quirico d'Orcia, we are again blown away by the beauty of the countryside. Each curve opens up on another fantastic view...sometimes on both sides of the road.


And almost everywhere you go, the 6,000 foot Monte Amiata always appears to be looming in the distance.

Later in the afternoon, we get in the car again. On the road to Pienza, we make the "obligatory" stop to take a photo of the Cappella di Vitaleta, one of the symbols of the Val d'Orcia.


We are missing the fields of poppies that usually are seen on both sides of the road but, instead, the cars are stopping to photograph fields of purple flowers.


I'm not sure that this is correct but what I found on the internet is that these are crimson clover.

We walk down the main street to have dinner at the Trattoria Osenna, which is packed. The dinner does not go smoothly. Diana's order--prosciutto and melon and a sformato of leeks--is messed up. The sformato arrives with my antipasto and the dessert menu is brought before any prosciutto e melone has been served. There was controversy among the staff about whether melone is in season (it is) and, after a while, after I finish my meal, it finally arrives. My dinner was quite good....tongue topped with a green sauce and a delicious plate of trippa fiorentina.

To add insult to injury, the dessert menu is presented but no one ever comes to take an order, so after waiting quite a while, we leave. Not the best experience.

The sky is a lovely pink over the church as we walk home.


Tomorrow--our last day here--we will visit the spa town of Bagno Vignoni.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Saturday, May 11​

Day 13: San Quirico d'Orcia​

Need I say it...another spectacular day. We must be living right. After breakfast, we get in the car...our first stop is the spa town of Bagno Vignoni, a few miles south of San Quirico d'Orcia. People have been coming for the waters since Roman times and there are a number of hotels featuring thermal treatments. There are cuts in the ground that channel the water over the hillside and, in the past, we would see people soaking their feet. Not today however...


The water then pours over the hillside and you can see people in pools that have formed at various levels down to the river. There used to be four mills that were powered by the falling water but there are only traces left.


The main piazza of Bagno Vignoni is very unusual--a large basin of the thermal waters surrounded by shops, hotels, and cafes.



We continue along the main highway to Rome--the via Cassia--and stop from time to time to take pictures of the stunning scenery.





There is one especially dramatic view near the garden of La Foce, the home of Iris Origo, the author and historian, who wrote a moving memoir of wartime--War in the Val d'Orcia. She commissioned a famous English garden designer and the gardens at La Foce are world famous. (Unfortunately, they are only open twice a week and we missed them this year.) But she also directed the planting of a row of cypress trees across the valley, which have become one of the most famous views in southern Tuscany.


We continue our drive, past Montepulciano, Montefollonico, Trequanda, and Asciano...continuing to enjoy the unending beauty of the landscape. It's time for lunch and we are close to the place--Chiusure-- where we ate yesterday. The setting was so beautiful and the people were so nice I think it will be fun to return. Unfortunately, it is a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the Locanda Paradiso is fully booked for the outdoor tables. They are apologetic and we stay to have a simple lunch of assorted salume and cheese as well some artichoke hearts, sitting inside the restaurant.

Back in San Quirico, we walk over to the laundromat and do the week's laundry.

We have dinner at the hotel restaurant, Al Vecchio Forno. Eating in the restaurant's garden is very pleasant, the service is friendly (most of the staff also work in the breakfast room), and the food is excellent. We share an interesting antipasto of baked cheese topped with avocado and hazlenuts and a tortino of eggplant. Diana has ravioli and I have paccheri with leeks and pistachio--both delicious. The local sangiovese from the Val d'Orcia is easy to drink and we even manage to finish our desserts, panna cotta for me and puff pastry with cream and berries for Diana.

The walk back in the twilight was very romantic.


Tomorrow we leave for Rome.

Jim and Diana

Zurers in Italy 2024: Sunday, May 12
Day 14: San Quirico d'Orcia-Rome​

It's time for us to pack up and leave one of our favorite places in Italy...we have really enjoyed being here, and the village, though changed since our first visit in 1995, is still quite charming. The shops and restaurants have become more upscale and there are a good number of tourists--day trippers, bikers, and hikers--in the daytime, but in the early morning and at night, it is still magical.

Since we are in no rush to get to Rome, we decide not to take the autostrada but rather take the Via Cassia through the countryside. Although a fairly busy road, the scenery is as amazing as when driving on small country lanes. We get an added bonus when it turns out the Via Cassia is closed for a long distance and the detour takes us up into the hills and through even more beautiful scenery.




We pass by Lago di Bolsena, a good sized lake near Orvieto, and stop to take a short break.



The only delay on the trip was meeting a holy day procession outside the town of Bolsena, which held up traffic for almost thirty minutes.


The drive into Rome is uneventful and pretty easy...Waze does a good job of taking us all the way across Rome and to our hotel located in the neighborhood called Ostiense, southwest of the historic center. The area was an industrial district but it now seems to be becoming gentrified, with a streak of counter culture--there is a lot of street art...both paintings and graffiti.

Our hotel--the Gasmetro Urban Suites--is a converted wool factory and has been renovated into a comfortable hotel with very modern design. The plan for this visit was to stay outside of the center in order to have access to our car while here.

After we check in and unpack, we walk down to the main street and have a gelato. No lunch en route because we fail to find a porchetta truck along the way. The gelateria is very busy (many people have come after participating in the Race for the Cure) but it is also a beautiful Sunday afternoon.


There is a Burger King next door...but we won't be going there.

I take my exploratory walk around the neighborhood. Our hotel is on the Via Porto Fluviale, the old river port on the Tiber. There are remnants of the past, when it was a busy industrial area--especially the symbol of the neighborhood, the Gazmetro (our hotel is named for it). Built in the 1930s as a gas storage facility and no longer used, you can see it from all over.


There are also two massive iron cranes that used to lift goods to and from the boats on the river...now just scenery.


This part of the neighborhood has been taken over by street artists who have painted almost every piece of available wall space. Lots of people are strolling and hanging out on the dead-end road along the river, watching the artists at work.





There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses the Tiber that provides some nice river views.



There are also some new modern apartment buildings in the middle of this industrial district,


and the neighborhood is very supportive of "street art"...it is hard to find a building or wall that is not decorated.




You also can find some remnants of Rome from the past...the pyramid of the tomb of Cestius from 12 B.C. stands outside the Protestant Cemetery near the Porta San Paolo, which is part of the Aurelian walls built in the 3rd century A.D.


We have dinner at a nearby Slow Food-recommended trattoria, I Fratelli Mori. It is a big, bustling place and, while a bit noisy, we enjoy people watching and observing the efficiency of the staff. The food is quite good as well. Diana has some fried, stuffed zucchini flowers and an excellent tonarelli cacio e pepe. I enjoy my dish of fava bean puree with cicoria followed by trippa romana, both delicious. Diana has the crostata, the speciality of the mother of the Mori brothers.

Diana is enjoying walking the level city streets with sidewalks, and no steps, and we have a pleasant walk home in the surprisingly quiet neighborhood.

Tomorrow, we will explore more of Rome.

Jim and Diana
What a wonderful itinerary!! Hope you have a fabulous time!!

I have several wonderful memories of Ascoli Piceno. And it was there that I had the most fabulous risotto in my life (and I have tried many!!). We went to Piccolo Teatro, and they had chestnut risotto on the menu. I still dream about that meal!!! It's a wonderful restaurant so maybe you can add it to your list of places to try.

Have a great time!
What a wonderful itinerary!! Hope you have a fabulous time!!

I have several wonderful memories of Ascoli Piceno. And it was there that I had the most fabulous risotto in my life (and I have tried many!!). We went to Piccolo Teatro, and they had chestnut risotto on the menu. I still dream about that meal!!! It's a wonderful restaurant so maybe you can add it to your list of places to try.

Have a great time!
Thanks for the tip...I will note it.
Were there actually people in the water at Bagno Vignoni, that is, is it a free area and if so is it reasonably clean and tidy or rather chaotic? Thanks!
There were people in the pools on the side of the hill (I have a blurry picture of women in bikinis). There are pools at several of the hotels. No one was soaking their feet in the channels...but the water looked clear and clean.
Were there actually people in the water at Bagno Vignoni, that is, is it a free area and if so is it reasonably clean and tidy or rather chaotic? Thanks!
The big pool in the centre of town is not used for bathing. Just the area down the hill that Jim mentions. I’ve sat on those channels and soaked my feet - very nice - but haven’t been in the pools down the hill. The hotels which have spas using the water are supposed to be very good.

There is a very nice, free outdoor pool outside of San Casciano dei Bagni in this area. Not deep but like a large wading pool. I haven’t been there in years though. And, of course, the Saturnia springs.

How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.


Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Guides, Apps and Books

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
French Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
She Left No Note, Lake Iseo Italy Mystery 1 by J L Crellina

Share this page