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Back in soddy london

10:34 pm Sun, 17th September 2006

So I’m back from Italy. It was an absolutely fantastic holiday. I love Italia. It is such an amazingly beautiful country. We took about a 1000 (literally, around one thousand) pictures on kwai’s digital SLR. And about 1 gig worth of video on my sony w900. Did someone say “Asian Tourists”? 😛 I’m sick now unfortunately.. got a bad cold on the last day in italy. Have spent the weekend recovering. Kwai is sick too with a bad stomach bug. Ugh what a way to end a holiday! But it was worth it.. and now to finish the last half of our holiday summary… (WARNING: SUPER-LONG POST!)

After we left Rome on a very warm and sunny Sunday morning, we had a lovely drive into Tuscany to the coastal town of Orbetello and the Port Ercole. It was gorgeous. We only had time to have a quick drive through and take a few quick pics and videos before having to rush off to our next destination in Tuscany – Saturnia. This is Kwai’s favourite destination. And ranks up there as one of mine too. Its a beautiful quiet little country town in south tuscany. The main attraction of the area is the naturally formed hot springs nearby, over which a spa retreat is built. Another great thing is the food. We had our best meal in Italy in saturnia.. at a ristorante called Enoteca Due Cippi da Alessandro. It was our most expensive meal too, but worth every cent. Seems Saturnia is a bit of a gastronomical delight. Lots of good eating to be found.. we are definitely going back! 🙂

After a long and very filling lunch, we quickly zipped over to my long-awaited destination of the saturnia natural hot springs waterfall/pools. We got rather lost on the way as the dirt road that leads to this place wasn’t even on our GPS. We had to stop and ask a few locals for directions. But finally we found this little hidden locals delight. And it was definitely worth the effort. At nearly 5pm it was still packed with local italians soaking up the natural 37 degree thermal water in small totally naturally formed rock pools. Kwai chose not to take a dip, but I wasn’t gonna let this opportunity pass by. And it was just wonderful. Forget man-made jet spas. The force of a naturally formed waterfall massaging your back whilst you precariously perch (them waterfalls are strong!) on a slippery mossy rock out in natures fresh air and sunlight is unforgettable. And the warm thermal water is just wonderful… very good for your skin with many healing properties. And as Kwai can attest to, my skin felt sooo velvety soft afterwards. Pity I stunk like rotten eggs. Heheh. 😛

So regretfully, we had to leave before the sun started to set as we had another 2 or so hours of winding tuscan hillside roads to traverse before making it to our “Castle” accomodations for the night at Castello Di Grotti, just south of Siena. It was pretty crazy driving through tuscany at night. The hair pin turns on tiny little narrow roads up steep hillsides.. with those crazy Italian nutters who overtake each other on 1 lane blind corners in pitch black darkness. Staying at Grotti was cool and we got to see a real Olive tree farm. Afterwards we tried to see Siena but got so fed up and pissed off after an hour of circling round in crazy traffic trying to find parking… that we decided to leave Siena in the dust of our wheels and headed straight to Firenze (Florence).

What a great decision that was. Firenze is just beautiful. Driving in was pretty easy too. It is definitely my favourite destination in Italy. I love it there. (Aileen, you were right!) Its just so beautiful.. not a sky scraper or modern style building in sight. Its like the whole city has been carefully preserved to keep the rennaisance beauty of the buildings alive. I love the whole feel of the city.. the laidbackness.. the friendly culture. The food was excellent too. And there was a pretty decent locals to tourists ratio. Unlike other cities such as Venice or Rome. Maybe it was the time of year that we were there. But it wasn’t very crowded with tourists. I am definitely going back to Florence to see it properly. We only had 1 day/1 night there. Like everywhere else… we inhaled florence in a whirlwind of activity. But, I do have to stop and mention the BEST STEAK I HAVE EVER HAD. Fiorentina beef (Bistecca alla Fiorentina). If you have never tried it.. you must!!! It is the best steak ever!!!! And thats saying a lot, coz I have eaten A LOT of really good steak before.. even Wagyu beef. Ok maybe wagyu or a really well cooked fillet is more melt-in-the-mouth soft. But the TASTE of Fiorentina blows every other steak out of the water. It needs no sauce of any kind. It is just sooooooo tasty.. my first bite of the melt-in-the-mouth T-Bone steak was an explosion of taste. Seriously. It. Was. That. Good. *drooooools*

Well I’m probably going back to Firenze for my birthday next year – for a longer, more relaxing trip. Hee. Maybe this time we can go see the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries. But we did get to see the Santa Maria Duomo (cathedral), which was just beautiful. And we even went up into the Cupola – 436 steps to the very top of the cathedral with absolutely amazing views of Florence. Awesome. I also liked Michalengelo’s David statue (even if it was a replica) in the piazza. Anyway the morning before leaving we hit the San Lorenzo street markets and the Marcato Centrale food hall. Not really meaning to purchase too much stuff, other than some scrumptious tuscan herbs and, of course, olive oil, we walked away with: a new choc brown leather jacket for me, 2 pairs of leather gloves in choc brown (cashmere lined) and pink for me, 1 black leather driving gloves for Kwai, a new choc brown leather wallet for Kwai, 3 cashmere pashimina scarfs (beige, blue and pink) for me. And from the food hall: a bottle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Chianti wine, a plethora of italian herbs, some fine dry pasta from Napoli, mediteranean sea salt, and some crostina toasted bread things. Phew. Well Florence is certainly good for its leather. My jacket and gloves are sooooo soft and smooth. Very nice indeed. 🙂 The pure cashmere pashiminas are very nice too. And all at a fraction of the price this stuff would have cost in London. Gotta love getting things locally. 🙂

Ok next stop was the Cinque Terre (5 Lands)… we almost didn’t make it coz we were tempted to stay in Florence the whole day. But luckily Kwai pulled me away and off we whizzed to Cinque Terre. Unfortunately for us, it decided to rain and storm that day. Dark clouds ominously loomed closer and closer as we zoomed down the autostrada in our convertible… with the roof down! Luckily we pulled just in time to a service station to put the roof back up. After we got back on the autostrada it started pissin down rain. Still resolute to go to the coastal and beach towns of the Cinque Terre.. we pressed on. And I have to say… the Cinque Terre is truly beautiful. As we headed north from Firenze we entered Alps territory. Not just mountains.. but the full blown Italian alps. They are absolutely amazing. Sooo enormously huge. (Italy sure has a variety of terrains!!) And these towns are nestled within the mountains along the coastline with huge steep cliffs that plunge straight into the ocean. Its a truly amazing place.. and incredibly old.. even before the Romans.. they were built by the Etruscans. Some of these towns look like they’re carved out of the cliff face. We didn’t have much time to spend here unfortunately, so we took a ferry trip across the 5 towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. A nice way to view the incredible scenery. I also had the pleasure of taking a dip in the Mediterranean sea when we got off at Riomaggiore. *sigh* I can still picture the magnificent cliffs looming above me as I floated in the very salty, gently cool waters of the Mediteranean, with only a handful of bathers on the small enclosed rocky beach. Simply another amazing and unforgettable experience.

So with heavy heart we left Cinque Terre. We didn’t even have enough time to walk the Via dell’Amore (Lovers Way) between Riomaggiore and Manarola. 🙁 Next time.. as we have said too many times at other places. But I mean it.. I will come back to spend some quality time at the Cinque Terre. Its so beautiful. Now our last stop – Milano. Here our holiday turns a bit sour. Firstly, we drove with the top down at 200km/hour along the autostrada at 21 deg night temps. Not the smartest idea. I caught a cold by the time we reached Milan (but we did see some pretty amazing mountains surrounding Genova along the way). I woke up the next morning with my throat on fire and feeling decidedly ill. Yep, I was most definitely sick. Noooooo.. my only day in Milan! 🙁 Well, I took the morning easy and made it out to Milan center by noon. They certainly have a magnificent duomo – very gothic looking and huuuge. Like all the other cities – they sure knew how to build their cathedrals in Italy!!! We didn’t do too much shopping in Milan… I was feeling too ill and we didn’t have much time. We did however wander the very fine streets of Via Montenapoleone and Via Della Spiga – the streets of designer heaven (Hey Shirley – you should come to Milan some day.. you would love it. 😛). The 3-story Armani flagship store… Gucci, Prada, YSL, Cavalli, Louis Vuitton etc etc the list goes on and on. There were sooooo many designer stores. And they were all INCREDIBLY expensive. Hey we even passed a Jimmy Choos store. I had a quick sneak peak to see how much a Jimmy Choos shoe cost. I quickly put the shoe back down and beat a hasty retreat out the store and back onto the relatively cheaper safety of the street. 😛

So what did I buy? Well.. I found the cheaper shopping street with your regular stores such as H&M, Zara etc. And what did I buy? About 10 pairs of socks from this funky sock shop. Hehe. Socks ranged from 1 euro to about 6 euros. Cheap and funky socks! I even bought myself a few knee high socks in funky colours coz its hip now. Haha. I also bought a suitcase from the main department store, La Rinascente. It was quite cheap but well made and 30% off! We needed it to put all our shopping additions from the trip to take back to London. Heheh. Oh and I also found my favourite underwear store – Tezemis. Its an Italian made lingerie store from Verona. They also sell basic tshirts, singlet tops and long sleeves. And they’re really good quality basics – I bought a few simple plain tees in white, black, pink and blue. Plus 2 long sleeves in white and black. Plus some new bras coz it was all so cheap. Kwai also bought himself some rather stylish looking plain black and white long sleeve turtlenecks. 🙂 So thats all for my shopping expedition in designer heaven of milan – cheap socks, suitcase and underwear! Heheheh. Very classy.

Oh yeh I almost forgot to mention, we didn’t manage to get our Nissan Micra C+C. We instead were upgraded for free to the Renault Megane convertible!! A 1.9L beauty. A larger, roomier car with a hell of a fine-tuned engine. Kwai had lotsa fun driving. 🙂

*PHEW* Wow this is an essay of a post. Hope you managed to trawl your way through it all. Congrats if you did! I promise there will be pics to come. And vids. 🙂 Once I am able to trawl through the 1000 odd photos we took, and hours of video footage. But hey, its not like I have money to go out for the next month or so after that holiday. So stay tuned! 🙂

Posted in Travel | 3 Comments »

  1. 3 Comments on “Back in soddy london”

  2. a l
    Sep 19, 2006

    wow what a lovely trip! glad you liked florence =)

    i’m looking forward to ur pics =)

  3. Evie
    Sep 28, 2006

    Came bye your site looking for Tezemis underwear! Came back from Tuscany last week and found the store in Sienna. Love your site hope you get well soon. I live and work in Mallorca you should give it a try. My hotel is http://www.hotel-migjorn.com If you know how to get hold of the underwear by post let me know.

  4. Alma
    Mar 10, 2010

    This is the main reason I lioke kazzart.net. Amazing post.

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