Italy’s Foto Finish

by Bob Sparrow

As I recall the ride back from Italy went something like this: Sunday afternoon, van from Cinque Terre to Florence, dinner at sidewalk cafe, pick up at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning to go to Florence airport, fly from Florence to Paris, because of 6+ hour layover, we arranged for a tour of Paris, drove down the Champs-Elysees, drove by the Eiffel Tower, Arch de Triumph, Notre Dame, the Louvre Museum, stopped for a French pastry then drove back to the airport for flight to LAX, arriving Monday night at 7:30. Time on the ground in Florence, Paris and L.A. all in one day – that was a long day!

I am finally able to download some of my photos, so here’s a few that will punctuate the end of our fabulous journey.

 

Here’s the ‘Dirty Dozen’ enjoying a drink at the beach in Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ‘moon shot’ of David

Pasta and tiramisu cooking class outside of Pisa

Restaurant high above Monterosso (I think we had wine that night)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rob resting on a bed of rocks – and he wonders why his back hurts

 

 

 

 

 

 

A common sight – the girls ignoring us guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘Alderly Lane’ table

 

 

Patrick taking a small bit of his steak

 

 

 

 

The ‘Ridgeway Road’ table

Linda having 3 quick cocktails

Spooky Nazi bunker in Italy

Hilltop village of Montecatini Alto

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach in Cinque Terre

Coming down the funicular at night – a memorable experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone forgot to turn the light off on the Eiffel Tower

Doing one of his ‘stand up’ routine on the bus, Sergio turned a very good trip into a GREAT trip!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the sun sets over Tuscany, I’d like the thank our awesome travel partners, Mark & Kathy Johnson, Patrick & Pam Michael, Mike & Tanis Nelson, Bob & Jeanna Pacelli and Rob & Stefanie Warren, for helping to make this a most-memorable trip.

A final sunset in beautiful Tuscany

Under the Tuscany Sun

by Bob Sparrow

Imagine if you will the beautiful countryside of the rolling hills of Tuscany.  The fact is you will have to imagine it as the bandwidth the Hotel Ercolini e Savi is so thin, it could run around in a shower and never get wet, which means I am unable to send photos, but promise to when cyberspace allow.

The trip over was long and uneventful except for the Russian spy on our flight from LAX to Paris (insert photo of Russian spy here); more than likely she was coming back from just playing golf with Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Palos Verdes.  But that’s a blog for another time.

From Paris we flew to Florence where we were met by our tour guide, Sergio (insert picture of Sergio), who is a jolly (meaning he’s a bit over-weight) man with a great attitude and smile.  He knows Italy backwards and forwards (he was born there) and could seriously do stand-up comedy.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, your tour guide either makes or breaks your trip.  I felt so relieved upon meeting Sergio – there was no question he is going to make it great!

Our hotel is in the town of Montecatini Terme in the middle of the Tuscan region and this town is fabulous – not too big, not too small.  Great atmosphere, great restaurants and bars, friendly people.  Travel tip: go there!  That evening (Friday) we had a welcome dinner for all of the people on the tour, which numbered 42, all but two from the U.S..  We were a group of 12, there was a group from northern California of 16; the rest were from various parts of the US with one couple from Wales.  These were the people who we were going to spend the next eight days with so we were anxious to get to know them.  After Sergio explained all the fun and the rules, we enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel and decided to head into the town square for an after-dinner drink.  (insert group photo of sitting in outdoor bar off the square of Montecatini), we eventually found our way back to the hotel, but since there was a bar next door that looked fun, we stopped for ‘just one more’.  We did finally get to our rooms for some much-needed sleep.

I’d like to say I had the best night’s sleep I had in a long time, and I did, but since our watches and phones were still on California time, the alarms never went off and we woke up at 8:25, when we had implicit instructions to be on the bus by 8:30 and DON’T BE LATE!  Not a good start . . . obviously we were late and got a nice round of applause when we entered the bus red-faced!  We were headed for Florence to spend the day and a beautiful day it was, weather-wise and experience-wise.  Prior to getting into the city, we headed to a hilltop site that provided us an extraordinary view of the entire city including the famous Ponte Vecchio (insert photo of city view showing Ponte Vecchio) The highlight, of course, was a trip to see Michelangelo’s David, of which I got a rather unusual photo (insert photo of David’s ass).  We were guided through the city’s churches, civic buildings and various statues and fountains – very interesting.  Back to the hotel, a short nap and a great dinner at a local restaurant just off the plaza in town

While our first full day was Under a Tuscan Sun, Sunday (where we did make it to the bus on time by the way!) started with a heavy rain shower, but quickly gave way to sun, which not-too-quickly gave way to more rain, as we motored to the town of Lucca.  Another great Italian town, this one with a city wall all the way around it (insert photo of city wall) and the rain ceased while we toured the city with a local guide, rented bikes and rode all the way around the city on the wall (insert photo of our unfortunate bike crash – it’s not true what they said about never forgetting how to ride a bike), toured the home/museum of composer, Giacomo Puccini, who wrote the operas, Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, and Turandot (from which the song Nessun Dorma comes).  On our way home we passed ‘Devil’s Bridge’ (photo and story later, maybe) stopped at a WWII museum and walked through a real old Nazi bunker – spooky! (photo of spooky Nazi bunker).

The trip has been awesome so far!! (insert photo of how awesome trip is) A Tuscan dinner out tonight somewhere, but I’ll have to write about that next time – hopefully Thursday.

P.S.  In the event my photos never come through, just look this stuff up on Google.

Arrivederci (photo of me saying, “See you later”)