Wednesday: Gyor, Hungary

We left Trieste this morning and although we would have liked to have stayed a few more days, the almost constant wind and heavy rain was becoming ridiculous. On to Hungary.

To cross through Slovenia and Hungary, tolls are paid via a vignette – a sticker on the car window. A car without a sticker means a €140 fine, paid on the spot. Stories are all over regarding clueless drivers who figured “toll road” means what it means in other countries: pay when passing through a toll booth. Fortunately we had read up on this and got a sticker in a shop close to the Italy/Slovenia border. Sure enough, police were on active lookout on the Slovenia/Hungary border.

The five- hour drive went fine until we got into the city of Gyor. Since the hotel was in the promenade/ pedestrian walk section of the old city, there was no way to get to it get there without parking in the garage and walking over – no big deal once we knew that, but GPS caused some frustration as we drove around looking for the hotel.

We finally found it, after parking our car and walking around inside the area closed to cars. We checked in and got the rest of our luggage and almost immediately went looking for dinner because we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We found a nice place within steps of the hotel – a good thing because of course it continued to rain.

We walked around for a while after we left the restaurant and eventually found a small dessert shop. Who knew “Gofri” means “waffle,” and that these things are gigantic.


photos: a vignette firmly attached to the windshield; wild and delicious gofri/waffle; Hungarian restaurant this evening. The old brick structure is interesting to check out.

Sunday: Trieste

We said goodbye to our excellent Viareggio host, Roberto, and left for Trieste at about 9:30. It was a nice, sunny morning – perfect for our five-hour drive.We stopped in Rovigo, a city about three hours outside Viareggio and had lunch at Tavernetta Dante 1936, a small place where we were lucky to get a table. When we walked in and said we hadn’t called first, it looked at first as though we didn’t have a chance. After a moment, we were seated and content. The restaurant’s eight tables filled up quickly.The menu was included mainly fish dishes and we both decided on spaghetti with clams. Whenever I see tiny clams being served, it brings me back to my youth and growing up on the bay. Little clams there were seed clams and illegal to dig. This is certainly a different variety but I still reminisce about clamming in the bay.We continued our drive to Trieste, and it is so close to Slovenia we may check it out while we are here over the next few days. Now it is dark and we are happy to have easily found our lodging.photos: Clams; a crazy 20€ ($25) lollipop at a rest stop; our neighborhood in Trieste at night

Friday: Viareggio

Today was mainly a relaxing day. I did some reading and some work, and we went to lunch in the city – the same restaurant as Tuesday since we liked it so much. I have been eating squid at every opportunity since it is so fresh and we don’t have it often/ever in the Midwest.

We did some planning for the weeks ahead and walked around the city.

Of course it was raining.


Photos (it was not much of a photo day, especially with no sun) – a typical apartment building in the city; my favorite food around here; our home here.

Thursday: Manarola

We visited Manarola in the Cinque Terre region today. The five old towns are all linked along the Italian Riviera coastline. In good weather it is possible – and fun – to hike from town to town. This takes about six hours with few stops, but to enjoy the towns and their breathtaking scenery, at least a couple days’ trip is a better idea.

Another option to visit the towns is to take the train from La Spezia, which stops in each town. The stops are about five – eight minutes apart, so getting off the train and getting back on later is easy.

We did none of those, but still enjoyed a very nice day. Since two of the hiking trails were closed today and the others were full of mud because of all the rain the area has had in the past few weeks, hiking was off the list. Instead, we took the train to the second stop: the town of Manarola. It has arguably the most beautiful views in the region.

We arrived there at about 11a.m.(the La Spezia train station is about 45 minutes from where we are staying). We were immediately amazed at the colorful buildings of the city seemingly built into a mountain.

We walked past some fishing boats that were covered up, and I imagined they had been used that morning to catch fish for the community and the restaurants. There were about a dozen boats near the launch area.

We hiked up on the narrow trail above the sea and the view got more and more fantastic. The only people around were a large group of Korean tourists and their guides. A tour guide didn’t seem necessary though – all we did for a long time was just walk and look and take photos.

Most of the restaurants have closed for the season but we found one that looked good and we shared delicious spaghetti with seafood. Soon the large group of tourists found their way to the restaurant too, and the atmosphere became lively and fun.

I asked our waiter about the fishing boats – what time did they go out in the morning and what did they catch. He laughed and said the last fisherman died two years ago and the boats are used as pleasure boats by their owners, who don’t typically take them out this time of year.

Fantasy squelched.

We walked around a bit more, got some gelato (the owner said he is closing tomorrow for the season), met two American couples and chatted with them for a while, then took the train back to La Spezia.

photos: the fishing boats that apparently just sit there must of the time, to my disappointment; two beautiful views of the city

Monday: Viareggio

It was bittersweet to leave Siena late this morning. Our hotel – Hotel Ravizza – was so comfortable and a great place to stay and Siena is a wonderful city. But we will be in Viareggio for the next few days and I’m sure we will live it there too.

We stopped for lunch in Pistoia, an old city about an hour from Viareggio. It is Monday, so many restaurants are closed but we found a good place for lunch and spent some time there since check-in for our Airbnb was at four o’clock.

We drove around Viareggio and checked out the marina. The largest and most expensive yachts in the world are made here by Benzetti boatyard. They are spectacular to see, but since it was pouring rain we couldn’t walk around at all. We will do that tomorrow.

We will also take the train one day to Cinque Terre to hike and see the five seaside villages and beautiful views. We are hoping for some nice days ahead after almost a week of rain but we will make it work regardless. For now we are settling in at Viareggio.

photos: seen along the way as we drove today – a farmer apparently has a sense of humor about hay bales; this evening’s view from our Viareggio home; little round eggplants for sale

Thursday: Siena

We left our fabulous Scandicci villa this morning and headed to the walled city of Siena where we will spend the next few days.

It is hard for me to believe that once again we parked our car and then hours later could not find the lot. Here’s how easily it can happen in a walled city: (1) park the car, (2) walk in via the grand arched entrance (there are about five of them in Siena, I have come to learn), (3) walk around inside the walled streets with very few cars, have lunch, walk into a few shops, walk along some narrow almost-alleys to look around, (4) decide to get the car and check in at our hotel.

Attempts to retrace our steps didn’t work. We had walked all over in the three hours we were there. Yes, we had taken photos of where we parked, but that that didn’t help because there are so many entrances to the walled city, each about a 15 minute walk.

I put the parking receipt address in my phone and it brought us to a lot on the other side of the city, maybe the main lot but not where we were parked.

It rained, sometimes very hard in the 90 minutes we were searching. Finally we saw an available taxi and I showed the driver our parking receipt. He knew where the lot was located based on its name, which my GPS didn’t recognize.

It turns out it was a surprisingly long 10- minute cab ride away. I don’t know how we would have found the car otherwise. We would likely still be walking around.

We checked in at our charming old hotel, our clothing stuck to us from the rain. The receptionist, Alicia, was a gem, telling us in her very sweet English that she would give us the “best room possible” and then she walked us to it (I guess so we wouldn’t get lost).

We will explore more of Siena tomorrow. We can leave our car at the hotel and use the map Alicia gave us.


photos: bike outside a restaurant in Siena; lunch starter; this bar made me smile as we walked by

Friday: Turin

We took the train to Turin today, a trip of a little over an hour. Turin is the capital city of Italy’s Piedmont area and like every other city and town we have visited, it is beautiful. As the train got closer to Turin, we could see the snow-covered Alps in the distance.

Turin is a big city and needs more than a day trip to see everything, but we got a nice feel for life there. The giant squares – piazzas – look to be used for festivals and gathering, and today were crisscrossed with what seemed to be university students .

We visited the Museo Nazionale del Risorgimento, a beautiful building with portraits and artifacts of Italy’s 19th century history. That took most of the afternoon after a pizza lunch at midday.

We planned to take a 4:30 train back to Alba, but didn’t realize there are two huge train stations in the city and we were in the wrong one. We left on a train an hour later than we planned and our stuffed-full- with-people train reminded me of Friday nights of long, long ago on the Long Island Railroad.


photos: one of the piazzas in the city; ready for Halloween in a big way; the ceiling in a room of the museum