Travelogue from Tuscany and Rome, Monday June 6th 2005

Two weeks in Tuscany and Rome

Sant' Antimo in Tuscany

The hotel's wake up call beams me up from Dreamland at 04:50. The plane to Italy leaves early, and that is why we went to Copenhagen yesterday.

The passengers to Rome gather at the gate. Most are middle-aged or just aged. Many wear reading glasses in a string, sensible shoes and clothes. The air is vibrant with expectation.

We land in Ciampino a bit after 10. The airport is old and too small. Chaos rules, and the women in the toilet line get water in their eyes. We wait almost an hour for our luggage.

Outside we spot Temarejser's guide. With us the company is complete, and the bus leaves with its cargo of nine Norwegians, five Danes, Ido the driver and the tour guide whom we can call TG.

Our destination is Chianciano Terme, a town in southern Tuscany 180 km north of Rome. It will be our base camp for three days before we move to Montecatini Terme northwest of Florence for another three days. Afterwards we have booked an additional week in Rome, the city of sore feet.

The bus is comfortable and Ido is a good driver. TG talks (a lot) in his microphone about Italy and the days to come, where we'll tour Tuscany. We arrive in Chianciano Terme at about two and check in at hotel San Remo.

Chianciano Terme

Chianciano Terme is a small health resort on a hillside with a terrific view over the Tuscan landscape. All towns named "Terme" something are old health resorts with thermal baths that cure everything from acne to bad breath.

Mamma gives us a warm welcome at San Remo. San Remo is a family-run hotel half an hour's walk from the actual city.

We inspect the room and try in vain to start the air cooler before we go for a bite. Bar Florida is just around the corner, which is fortunate because when we sit down for a panino (sandwich) it starts to rain.

The shower does not last long, and we stroll towards the city. As we turn a corner, we realise that it is still quite a long walk to the old town where houses stick together on the edge of a cliff, so we turn back. Below us the Tuscan landscape unfolds its beauty with rolling hills and lush green.

Back in the room we open the heavy shutters and settle on the balcony. It is in the shade now. We are a bit tired after the journey, and after siesta and a refreshing shower we enter the bar at 18:45. We were supposed to meet the others for a drink at 19:20, but why wait?

The hotel's dining hall, which TG calls "the restaurant", has white walls, stone floor and sharp lights. A large company of Dutch pensioners is already seated. The food is plain, but honest and tasty and it is served quickly.

For starters you can choose between soup and pasta in tomato sauce. Mamma sprinkles Parmesan cheese on each and every plate. The main course is thin slices of tender veal and fried mashed potatoes in cubes (à la polenta) with a kind of spinach-like cabbage.

You can compose your own salad at the buffet. Dessert is crème caramel. We share a bottle of Tuscan red wine. TG says that if we don't drink it all, they'll put in the cork and save it for tomorrow. We see no reason to test this.

After dinner we all settle down outside enjoying the warm evening. We'll be together for a week and politely get to know each other. With the coffee Helle and I get a brandy, Vecchia Romagna, which has been poured with a very generous hand, and a couple of the Norwegian ladies find this contagious. Everybody is tired and soon retires.

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