Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Mediterranean

Wednesday, May 2
Today we decided it was time to take a “side trip” to the coast of Italy. We drove southwest to Orbetello, a roughly 4 hour trip. I must tell you that as we are used to the rolling landscapes and ancient architecture of middle Tuscany, the fishing and beach towns of this particular part of Umbria was unimpressive.

We took many side roads ended up in Urbatello and then decided to head north to Livorno just south of Pisa. Since we had pretty well expended our day, we decided to find a hotel for the night.

We just happened upon Romito a hotel and Ristorante literally on the cliffs over the Mediterranean. Our room was 70 Euro for the night and you can hear the sea from our open window.

Out the window, through the evening haze we can see the island of Capraia and barely make
out Corsica in the distance.

We arrived at 6:00 and dinner, of course, is not until 7:00. Diana is getting her caffee withdrawals again. Another hour with no cappucino and she may be unbearable.

We had a wonderful waitress and we ate fried Gembari (shrimp), insalata, with wine from Rossa della casa (Rossa Toscana). And finished off with a variety of desserts. They do not fry as we do in the states. They sauté with a light bit of spices. Mama mia! It was so good.

We checked with the concierge about check out time. His answer? “After nine.” Hmmm. Not by nine or 12, but after 9. That’s handy. Considering that we are probably the only guests in the hotel may have had something to do with it.

We went to our room and stood side by side staring out the wide open window onto the Mediterranean Sea. We watched as the small waves lapped at the rocky coast and marveled that we were actually here. We are on the Med’!

Ok. I have a complaint. The shower, like the shower in Fiorentino, is barely big enough (make that teensy enough) to turn around in. You actually have more room on the bidet to shower than the shower. But, after that drive, we didn’t much care. We fell asleep with the sound of the Med’ singing us to sleep.

Ok. Make that two complaints. Proscuito, ginghali, salami, lardo, no matter what you call it, it is still pig! If I have to eat another pancini with ham and cheese for breakfast, I’m going to scream. Can I get one meal with a veggie and maybe even two?! You can’t get eggs at the ristorante here either!

We found out why we did not have to check out until at least 9:00 am, there was nobody there!! Diana was getting a serious caffeine withdrawal fit after being up from 7:30 am but finally at 9am we were allowed into the Ristorante, our breakfast was included: A café and a packaged "donut-like” sweet cake. Hmmm and somewhere along the way the taste of the café had changed. We were not impressed. But……we can now say we slept on the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, May 3

We are heading to Pisa, perhaps 25 kilometers north of here. But after Diana noticed a beautiful painting of Livorno on one of the walls of the ristorante we wanted to go there first. Well, after 45 minutes of trying to drive the 5 kilometers to Livorno and asking everyone how to get to Livorno, we gave up on that one. By now, all we cared about was getting to Pisa.

Roads are well marked but difficult to understand. We tried following the signs “Pisa” and “Centro” then we found a sign directing us to “Torre di Pendente” which then totally disappeared. We later found a sign that read GalileiGallileo. Pisa was not an easy trip since the markings for the tower just seemed to keep changing. “Uh-oh. Turn here,...No turn there.... It said left. But this one said right....” . It literally took us 45 minutes to drive 5 kilometers! Not including all the back-tracking.

After finding parking for the torre di pendante, we walked barely 200 circuitous yards and We were stunned by what confronted us. First, I (Hugh) always thought it was just the tower (as if that isn’t enough). But, there is an entire Basilica and church inside the ancient walls. It was less busy than I expected and we were pleasantly surprised at how light the traffic was.

The tower is again, stunning. It is (in my mind) overshadowed by the Basilica. And again, it is another beautiful example of Renaissance architecture. Not only does one see the huge granite and lime structure and carvings, but the large carved bronze doors. I am judging these doors to be at 40 feet tall. The columns, carvings and building methods just take your breath away.

The light was nearly perfect. Diana has been shooting HDR (High Dynamic Range) for nearly the whole trip and rightly so. We have really only had a few perfect days of light. This particular day, the light was matching the contrast of the tower and Basilica. It really has taken us several days just to get used to the light. This day, I think we have probably outdone ourselves.

By two o’clock, we decided to head back to Fiorentino since tonight is our last night in the Castilion before setting out for Bologna. As we made our way inland, we of course had to stop for Diana’s Cappachino fix. We found the café getting better as we got closer to home. Hooray! I got my Diana back!

Tomorrow we meet and spend time with Dr. Marzetti to discuss our mutual project. Carla has the same passion for parasitic infections as we do and we hope to break some new ground together and publish our research.

Carla’s English has improved far more than my Italian! When we last met, neither of us could communicate very well except through our research. Now we can really rock and roll and collaborate for real. I am so looking forward to making some serious inroads into modern perceptions of disease causing agents.

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