Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day Four -- Rome to Volterra

Tuesday, March 24

Truly slept the sleep of the dead last night.  I fell asleep mid-conversation with DS and woke at 5:15 on my own.  We had a slightly later departure today, 8:15, and we had to pack up and get our stuff out too.  Same delicious breakfast as yesterday, which I'll miss, especially the granola and the cappuccino.

A few words about this hotel here in Rome, it was just wonderful.  The beds were comfortable, the room was large and well heated/cooled.  We were both very comfortable and happy.  The bathroom though was awesome.  It really good sized and and had heated floors, heated towel rack, bidet and a nice shower.

We dragged our bags about 4 blocks through the morning rush (which I'm sure the commuters like me loved) to Piazza Republicca where our bus met us.  Dino is a driver and he's a cute, friendly Italian, certainly not hard on the eyes.  He drove us to the Colosseum where we met our guide Iliaria.  She was really friendly and knew quite a lot.  As this was a return trip for me, there wasn't a lot for me to learn but it was good to hear it all again.  The day was beautiful, bright sunny skies and warm even in the morning.  I didn't even try the fleece today, just went with my light windbreaker which I was able to take off around 10 a.m.  This is just incredible touring weather. 

It took about 4 hours to see both the Colosseum and the Forum.  It was quite crowded with a lot of school groups on spring trips, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  We're lucky to be here just ahead of busy season.  The guide at the Vatican Museums yesterday said that last year on Good Friday they had 33,000 visitors in one day.  The guide today said on days like that, you pay to enter and go through security and you stay in that same line the entire way through museum all the way through to the Sistine Chapel.  That's just not my idea of fun.

Took the autostrada to Volterra, stopping for lunch at a roadside cafeteria.  It was pretty much the Italian equivalent of truck stop food and in my opinion pretty vile.  It served the purpose of getting us food en route from Rome to Volterra (a four hour drive) but it was barely edible.  We each had spaghetti (how can you screw that up?) with a side of chopped veggies (Eggplant, zucchini and red pepper) in olive oil.  It was just too greasy and didn't sit well from the moment it went down.  On top of that the drive from the autostrada up to Volterra was a lot of climbing and tricky turns, so a test for even the toughest, steadiest stomachs.  Having left Rome at 12:30, we arrived at Volterra at 5:30, disembarked at the main parking lot and it looked like the invasion of Volterra as 29 travelers toting 19" suitcases rolled through the main thoroughfare of Volterra to our next hotel.

The ride through Tuscany was giving me the itch to do another bike tour here.  I spotted Siena and San Gimignano from the bus and that just made me want to get out there and ride.  Volterra itself is a lot like San Gimignano, another hill town, only minus the towers.  It's fortified with a tall brick wall and looks out on to the spacious countryside around it.  Our hotel is right on the main street near one of the gates.  Our room is on the the top floor facing the front.  We have, instead of two twin beds, a queen and a twin.  I drew the long straw and got the queen for tonight.  As I sit here typing, I hear a church bell going off incessantly, a sound which, when I hear it again at home, will make me smile.  

Dinner tonight was at Don Beta, a local family run establishment right here on the main street and just down from the hotel.  It was again served family style and we all ate as a group around a u-shaped table.  The antipasti was prosciutto, salami, cheese and bread.  The pasta was quite a nice surprise. It appeared to me to be a spinach tortellini with radicchio and a walnut cream sauce that was spectacular.  I could have eaten an entire bowl of that.  The main course was a nicely marinated boar tips.  We all thought was lamb but in the end they told us boar.  Not bad if I'm honest.  There was no dessert, but the house wine was flowing and there was limoncello.  Definitely a better meal than the first night.

I must admit that I'm warming to the group idea a bit.  We sat with a different set of folks tonight and it was a lot more fun.  We were also required to play a name game, which could have been painful but really wasn't (or the wine numbed the pain).

We're in bed early for once, and get to sleep until 7 tomorrow rather than 5:30.  What a treat!

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