Apologies for such a long delay between posts. I am now writing on a very dodgy computer which may log me out any minute but at least I have an opportunity to blog at last. We are now in Radda in Chianti and I have been breathing fresh beautiful country air. Rimini was great fun and the opening ceremony on Friday 26 Sept fantastic. All the represented countries marched behind their relevant flags and appropriate music played. For Aussie we heard "I come from a land down under" ! When the kiwis marched they stopped, turned to face the South Africans and performed a Maori haka - it was so cool. That evening Mr B, Caroline, Mark, Connie and Peter (another Aussi ex-kiwi couple) had dinner in an English pub - great fun.
Sat 27 September
Today was the women's duathlon race and after watching the elites race early in the day we cheered on the women, especially Caroline and Connie, in the afternoon. Later our daughter arrived with her friends. It was lots of fun and Caroline did so well, winning a bronze medal in her age group - woo hoo! That evening we found a great fish restaurant which also served pasta and gently celebrated Caroline's great result.
Today the men over 50 (about 250 competitors) raced at 7.45am which meant an early brekkie at 6am - phew! It was a bleak day weather-wise and Mr B had to run the entire first leg 10km run in pouring rain. However by the start of the 40km cycle the rain had cleared and the sun eventually appeared. It was such an exciting day and Mr B managed a PB so was pretty happy. We cheered on Lachie and Rad from Canberra and felt quite emotional as Rad finished to loud loud cheers from everyone as he had to run through the next age group of competitors who had started and were also encouraging him on. That evening we all enjoyed the after party celebrations at the Convention Centre where Caroline was presented with her bronze medal and we had a lovely evening with everyone together.
Milan Monday 29 Sept to Thursday 2 October
And so we left Rimini bidding our friends farewell as we went our various ways. The sun was now out in full and we enjoyed a sunny day and pleasant lunch before heading off to Milan. Our hotel in Milan was set on a busy main shopping street surrounded by shops. It was very hot inside and the street noises were loud although we were two levels up. The mosquitos loved me and sleeping was difficult but it was an exciting place to be. On our first day Mandy and I explored the shops (of course) but although Mandy's shopping was very successful I was overwhelmed and just browsed in awe! Mr B drove a long drive to the ferrari museum but it was closed for refurbishment until next year - grrr!
Tuesday evening we went to the Coldplay concert. It was really awesome. No words could possibly describe it - the atmosphere, the enormous crowds and the fact that the Italians knew all the words of every song in English! What a night, what an experience!
Wed we bought an all-day tram and train ticket and explored the main part of the city. The shops were mind boggling and mainly very expensive. We walked through an Emporium of exclusive shops such as Gucci, Armani etc and visited the Duomo where the frescoes were out of this world - tall spires outside, quite stunning. We enjoyed aperitifs at one cafe and yummy pizza that evening followed by the best tiramisu I've ever tasted and superb wine.
Thursday (our last full day in Milan) we explored again using another all-day ticket - the best way to travel and see heaps. I found Milan to be a concrete jungle full of amazing designer shops but all far too overwhelming for me. Mandy, on the other hand, revelled in the shopping. However, we all found it to be crowded and a bit polluted and longed for open spaces again. On our last evening Mr B took us out for a big surprise. First we walked to the Diana Majestic Bar at the Sheraton Hotel where we enjoyed amazing aperitifs which included a fabulous spread of up-market nibbles, salads etc. Next we went by taxi to the theatre to see Bryan Adams perform. He was just amazing and it was a wonderful night. We drank champagne while waiting to enter the theatre and it was a completely awesome experience. Again the Italians sang loudly in English to all the songs and were a great audience knowing all the words by heart.
Friday 3 October
'For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo!'
Today as we we drove away from Milan the sun came out and with no real idea of where to stay tonight we decided, on impulse, to head for Verona and try to stay there. We managed to find a hotel about 9km from the city and it was lovely. Verona is a beautiful place and I would love to return there to explore it further one day. It's a very romantic city and we visited the house of Juliet out of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Certainly the Capulets lived there and it was easy to believe that Juliet truly lived there and the story was true. We explored the house and stood on the balcony where Juliet had called to Romeo. It was sooooo romantic and beautiful. We then walked a while to visit her mythical tomb - all so real and eerie. It was a beautiful city and I'm so glad we decided to stop there for a short time.
Saturday 4 October
As we drove away from Verona towards Chianti we glimpsed the stunning snowcapped Dolamites in the distance. Gradually the countryside changed showing us lots of vineyards and green fields. We drove first to Florence where Mandy met up with her friend from the UK and spent the day there with her before they both came back for the weekend. We left the girls there to explore and drove on to Radda in Chianti along lots of long, windy, hilly roads typical of Italian countryside. Our farmouse is called Santorello and is set on a hill with magnificent country views. It has two levels with a dining-lounge area, two bedrooms and bathroom on the lower level and bathroom, laundry, bedroom, kitchen, lounge-dining area on the upper level. Opposite in the distance on a high hill we can see a fairytale castle which is actually a winery and restaurant. The setting is just awesome. We booked a spot for the following evening there. Later we collected the girls from Florence and enjoyed a good meal in a popular restaurant where the CJs had a meal with us last year. Later we drove the long windy road back to Radda where we slept like logs.
Sunday 5 October
This morning Mr B and I went for our first run in over a week. It was wonderful running across the valley, past the winery and round some of the winding road. It was short but gee it felt good to finally run in the beautiful country air. Today we explored Radda and then drove on to San Gimignano for another trip down memory lane - for lunch and a gelato of course! In the evening we enjoyed a superb meal at our fairytale restaurant on the hill which definitely lived up to our expectations - great wine, fantastic service!
Monday 6 October
This morning, to please the girls, we drove them to fancy brand-name factory outlets on the way to Florence. It was a bit of a detour as we became lost but eventually we continued on to Florence where the girls were meeting some travelling friends from Canberra and Mandy's friends from Perugia drove through for a reunion too. Mandy decided to stay the night there to celebrate her friend's engagement and to return by train to us next day so Mr B and I explored separately. We browsed round the markets and enjoyed another great meal in a welcoming restaurant and walked and walked to find the good gelati place which we discovered last year before returning to Radda to sleep, perchance to dream!
Tuesday 7 October
This was going to be a quiet relaxing catch-up day but it didn't quite turn out that way. After catching up with washing etc we had a call from Mandy to ask us to meet her train in Montevarchi so off we went in that direction stopping on the way at Vertine - a delightful little village consisting of one church, one restaurant and lots of gorgeous houses. We saw two cats but every door was closed and the only person we saw was a man tending his veges. It was only 11.30am so was quite bizarre. We next stopped at Giaole which deserves a longer visit as it looks quite enticing. Just before reaching Montevarchi we received another text message to say Mandy's train doors didn't open at her stop and she was still on the train! We decided the next stop would be Arezzo so we drove another very windy 25km to meet her there. Fortunately the doors opened and she was waiting there for us looking relieved! We decided to spend some time in Arezzo where the shops were closed for siesta but the bars and cafes were open for us to enjoy a delicious prostini before viewing a relatively small church as the duomo was closed. It still had fantastic frescoes. Arezzo is the setting for many of the scenes in "Life is Beautiful" (La Vita e Bella) - an Oscar winning movie which I loved.
That evening we lit the fire in the house and drank San Gimignano wine while enjoying an Italian meal which Mandy and I prepared, finishing with local chocolate and Baileys. I am turning into a well-rounded Italian mama with all this Italian food and great coffee. The cappuccinos are lovely although I notice it is difficult to find a hot coffee. The best cappuccino we have had was at the Gucci cafe in Milan. At $10 a pop it would need to be!!
Wednesday 8 October - Today!!
Yay - this morning I went for a 7km run to Vertine and back including a few little farm roads on the way back. It was definitely undulating, reminiscent of some of our runs last year. It was also very slow but I loved every minute of it. The views were awesome and the air was fresh and clean. Mr B went for a 20km cycle to Giaole and back and Mandy went for a 4km walk towards Radda so we all felt much better after some exercise all in different directions!
Later we drove to Radda township (about 4km from our country house up and down hills) where I am right now and explored it some more. There's heaps of cute little nooks and crannies and hidden delights here. I love it. The sun is out and life is beautiful!!