Be warned, this is one of the longest blogs I’ve done for a long time.
I have just been on a 10 day holiday in Italy.
My brother, Richard, got married to Louise out there on Sunday 20th August.
The wedding and the reception were all organised at a Villa that we stayed in, with surrounding villas occupied by friends and family. We were at this villa from Friday 18th and then flew home on Tuesday 22nd.
Me, my Mum and Dad, Auntie Karen and Uncle Roy, Auntie Kim and Uncle Tony all decided to make a holiday of it and flew out to another villa in the area on 12th.
The Wifi at the villa was virtually non-existent so any hope of daily blogging disappeared quite rapidly.
I decided to keep a diary on my tablet instead, with the aim of adding photos to it and doing one big blog when I got home.
So here it is.
Like I said, I wrote it as a diary so it will now read as if it were being read from a diary.
It is also VERY heavy on pictures and videos.
Saturday August 12th
The flight was great. The hire car, not so great. Tiny Lancia with no oomph!
Apart from the obligatory arguing with my Father, the drive to Sienna was relatively unproblematic. The drive to La Cetina and the Villa was another story.
Rough roads and dirt tracks into the hills with steep drops and very, very narrow.
I could have kissed the ground when we finally arrived.
The villa is extremely rural. I don’t think we realised just how rural it was going to be.
Very traditional but cool and inviting.
I’ve tried hooking up to the internet with limited success. Managed it on my phone for all of five minutes and then lost it, so it looks like this blog will be one big upload when I get home.
We’re just settling in and unpacking while dad and few peeps have gone to get some provisions.
The owner is cooking us a traditional Tuscan meal for this evening around 8pm
I am starving!! Can’t wait.
Sunday 13th August – 07:30am
Dinner last night was beautiful. I ate food I wouldn’t have normally ordered for myself and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pudding was a home-made pannacotta and it was to die for!
We finished up the evening polishing off some wine and doing a little stargazing by the pool.
There are no street lights out here so the sky was really clear and we got to see some meteors.
The trip across the garden to the pool was eventful. I startled a pretty big animal that ran across the garden and into the tree line and Uncle Roy fell into a bush!
It’s now 07:30 and I’ve been up for the last hour with Mum, Dad and Uncle Roy. Auntie Karen, Auntie Kim and Uncle Tony are not showing much sign of life.
I’m going to get dressed and go for a walk. I think the plan for today is a trip into Sienna to do some mooching around before doing a larger, provisions shop and then coming home to chill by the pool.
Monday 14th August – 07:30
I’m sat in the garden under the kiwi fruit veranda with my milky coffee as I catch up with the events of yesterday.
We went into Siena for a few hours and it was amazing!
The drive in was eventful. I could have quite happily killed my Dad by the end of it but I won’t linger on that memory. We ended up parking by the train station in the carpark under a shopping centre. It was a good place to park as we needed provisions later anyway and we now know how to get to the station for our trip to Florence.
We got a taxi into the centre. This, in itself was an experience as the streets got narrower and narrower and people simple didn’t give a damn about cars driving at them.
Anyway, Siena was buzzing as they prepare for the Palio on Wednesday. The old square was being transformed ready for the races. I managed to get down onto the race track itself for some stunning photos. It was absolutely scorching and I can only imagine how hot it must get when the centre of the square is wall to wall people for the race.
After a leisurely stroll through the streets we stopped off at a little café, sat outside and had our first experience of Italian waiters. He was cheerful but he forgot my beer!! He was very apologetic. I forgave him.
Dad ventured into the café and when he came out he told us about all the lovely cakes and that the cannoli’s looked amazing and were only 2 Euros. He decided to treat everyone, so we ordered 7 of them. When the bill came in, Dad started laughing. The cannoli’s were actually 4 Euro’s each!!
As we sat there people watching, I heard something that sounded like a group of people singing in the distance so I ventured off on my own to find out what it was.
As I said, Siena are preparing for the Palio and what I was now seeing were huge groups from all the different regions taking part in the race. They were being lead through the streets by what I’m presuming were the jockey’s. I’ll have to check my facts. They kept breaking out into song and it was incredible! I may just have to come back some day to witness the race itself.
So, after this we headed back to the shopping centre, found the supermarket called PAM and headed home for a swim and a BBQ.
As everyone else settled themselves around the pool, I decided to go for a walk. I set my tracker to 3k and headed off down the road.
Down being the operative word.
It was about 32 degrees at this point, I had my water with me and just took it easy. I wasn’t about to do one of my usual marches.
I took in the peace and quiet and views to about 1.5k before turning around and heading back.
This was the hard part because it was all uphill….. a very steep hill.
I deserved the dip in the pool when I got home.
We had a couple of hours in the sun before we had a lovely BBQ and then consumed far too much wine before going to bed.
The plan for today is to soak up the sun by the pool and do nothing. It’s a chillaxing day. Although, how much chillaxing I get done without WIFI is going to be hit and miss!!
I actually went for a 4k hike with Dad, Uncle Roy and Uncle Tony to get rid of rubbish.
There are no bins situated outside the Villas. All rubbish has to be taken to the end of a 2k dirt road and placed into municipal bins. I warned them it would be hard work and they should just take it in the car but they insisted.
4k in around 55 minutes up a steep dirt track in around 28 degrees, we finally made it back home.
We spent some time around the pool before having lunch. A selection of sliced meats and salami, cheeses, salad and mini bruschetta toasts. Lovely.
A few more hours pottering around, doing some washing and spending more time around the pool before we have dinner. Spaghetti Bolognaise.
Tuesday 15th August – 07:00
Here I am again, sitting in the garden under the kiwi veranda catching up on events.
The only sounds are the morning birds and the odd buzzing insect, otherwise it is completely silent. No cars, no trains, no plains.
Anyway, after dinner last night we chatted and had a drink. We ended up having a fairly early night.
I was in bed before 11pm but not before a couple of surprises.
I went to the bottom of the garden to stargaze again. It was lovely. I caught a few more shooting stars and there were some big bats swooping around. I became aware of a large animal mooching around in the orchard behind me like I had the other night. It sounded like it was under the plum tree right behind me so I decided to get my phone out, I leaned over the wall and swiped the screen into life. I fully expected to see a wild boar but I was gobsmacked to be confronted by a porcupine!!
My damn phone then decided to die and I didn’t have my camera with me. Typical.
After calling Dad and Auntie Karen out to try and see it…. Unsuccessfully, we headed back in to go to bed.
Sat in the living area with Mum and Karen we suddenly heard rustling noises coming from the kitchen. I went to investigate and found a little mouse, stuck inside a packet of grain. He was really very cute and after taking some photos I set him free.
Plan for today… a trip into Monteriggioni. Richard and Louise arrived in Siena yesterday and they may try and get to Monteriggioni to meet us for the day.
Only problem, Mum didn’t sleep well last night and feels like shit and has a face like a wet Wednesday and Dad isn’t feeling too great either. I haven’t seen anyone else yet.
Watch this space.
We had an uneventful drive to Monteriggioni and parked in the carpark right next to the town.
Monteriggioni is absolutely stunning. We spent a few hours walking round and checking out the little local shops before sitting ourselves outside a pizzeria in the square for a cold drink. Me and Uncle Roy took our opportunity to go up onto the two sections of wall that are accessible to the public. The other boring old fogies decided to stay at the pizzeria!!
After Monteriggioni, we headed back into Siena to meet up with Richard and Louise and their kids.
We spent a couple of hours by their hotel pool and had a really good laugh. We are looking forward to meeting up with them again at the weekend for their wedding.
I may have been a little distracted with this video!!!
Before we left Siena we did another shop to stock up on more provisions. More sliced meats and more meat for another BBQ on Thurs.
It’s going to be an early night tonight as we need to get up at the crack of dawn to get to the station in Siena and head off to Florence but not before I try and get evidence of the porcupine I’m convinced I saw last night.
Wednesday 16th August – 06:15
Only went and did it!!
I managed to get a photo of the porcupine.
I knew I wasn’t going crazy.
I’d been down to the bottom of the garden with Auntie Kim for half an hour earlier to star gaze and wait and something that sounded a lot bigger than a porcupine started rummaging around and I think we startled it because it disappeared.
We gave up for half an hour and when I was on my way back to the bottom of the garden I spied what looked like eyes, moving around in the dark.
So I blindly aimed my camera and snapped into the dark.
When I saw the picture, there it was!!! Only it was about 10 feet in front of me and walking towards me so I ran.
Anyway, I’m up at the crack of dawn enjoying a cuppa because we are heading off to Siena station to catch a train to Florence. Can’t wait.
Unfortunately Mum will be missing out on today as she has a stinking cold and has decided to stay home for the day.
To say I was a bit overwhelmed is an understatement, I actually cried.
The city is totally stunning. I cannot express what I felt when I first saw the Duomo and when I finally got to the Piazza della Signoria it was all a bit much.
Then we walked through the Uffizi to the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio bridge where we got some more stunning views down the river.
We split up after the bridge. Karen, Roy, Kim and Tony went back to the Piazza della Signoria while me and Dad took a taxi up to the Piazzola Michelangelo and got some stunning panoramic views of the entire city.
We then walked back down and along the Arno, across a bridge and back to the Piazza della Signoria to meet up with the others who had been joined by Sian and Adrian, Carys and Emily, who are all over here for my brother’s wedding. We sat in the Piazza at the Geletaria, in the shade with some amazing nebulizer fans that sprayed a fine mist of water as they turned. It was lovely and cooling on an afternoon that was reaching 38 degrees.
After lunch, we strolled back the way we came, past the Duomo and back towards to train station.
We were back at the villa by 18:30 where we have just sat and had tea. Sliced meats, cheeses and salad again. Lovely.
The owners of the Villa called us down to their residence to watch the Palio!! Crazy race. All that build up for just 3 minutes of race. It was unbelievable.
6 hours is definitely not enough time for Florence.
I will definitely have to come back to Florence with Ian on a planned, touring holiday so that I get to actually go into the Duomo and the Uffizzi and go and visit the real David at the Galleria Academia.
Tomorrow will be a trip with Dad and hopefully mum to San Gimignano
Thursday 17th August – 14:50
Woke up bright and early to get ready to go into San Gimignano.
Sitting in the living room with my breakfast and saw the return of our little mouse friend as it scurried across the floor, into the door and then scurried around the back of the sofa.
We decided not to tell Karen and Kim as we left for San Gimignano.
Anyway, we arrived just before 9am and parked easily in the carpark next to the main entrance.
If you want to visit, then coming first thing in the morning is highly recommended because the place is heaving by lunchtime and parking is very difficult.
San Gimignano is absolutely beautiful. The views are even more stunning than at Monteriggioni.
If you’re looking for quality leather goods then this is your place. Good wine at great prices and loads of cheeses and salami.
We mooched around the shops and the market stalls for a few hours and then headed back to the main entrance where we had spied a lovely little restaurant with a veranda and views out over the valley on our way in.
We had a platter of cold cuts and cheeses to share, Mum then had a Ceasar salad, Dad had a pork and beef pasta and I had Pomodoro Tuscano which is wild boar pasta.
We then headed back to the villa and arrived just after 2pm. No arguments in the car!! Thank god for Google Maps!! I really don’t know what we would have done without it.
I’ve just finished writing my diary for the day and now I’m going to spend an hour in the pool before we BBQ again tonight.
Friday 18th August – 07:30
So, that’s the end of the first part of the holiday.
Our time in the Villa in La Cetina is coming to an end. We are all pootling around and packing ready for the trip to Villa Catignano in the Chianti region for a weekend of wedding celebrations with around 130 friends and family. It’s going to be an amazing weekend.
Today will be travelling for an hour, sorting out clothes and settling in and then we are having a pizza and pasta night.
Saturday will be fun and games and exploring and swimming and eating and drinking and ending with a BBQ.
Sunday is wedding day with the ceremony at 5pm.
Monday is going to be another day in Siena!! This is a bonus I wasn’t expecting. This time we’ll actually be having dinner in Siena with Richard and Louise.
Saturday 19th August – 07:00
This Villa is spectacular! It’s like something out of a movie.
We arrived at 10am as the previous wedding group were all saying their goodbyes and vacating.
Richard and Louise weren’t here yet and we couldn’t check in until 14:00, so we wandered up to the pool and settled in for a few hours. When Richard arrived, Dad took him shopping for some provisions and when they got back we unpacked and settled into the palace!
Then we spent a few more hours around the pool before getting ready for dinner.
It was a pizza and pasta night and it was absolutely beautiful.
Tables were lined up in one of the courtyards and Richard has bought a large music speaker so we had music while we ate and then we just chatted and drank and explored.
I got to bed at 1am.
Today I am meeting cousin Cheryl for breakfast at 08:30 and then we are heading up to the pool for an early morning dip. I also need to secure the table under the tree up there for Mum for the day.
This holiday is finally getting to me physically.
After 5 hours in the scorching sun, several dips in the pool and sticking my nose into a book, I have come back to our villa for a siesta.
I need to be nice and fresh for the BBQ tonight!!
The BBQ was unbelievable.
It was followed by lots of drinking and music and I have just called it a night. I wanted to download the pictures from my camera before I lost them. My camera has been playing up since Florence and keeps deleting things unexpectedly. Thank god Dad is taking tons of photos, otherwise I would have been heartbroken!!
So, time for bed.
Up for breakfast at 08:30 and then a few hours by the pool until we come in for lunch and then THE WEDDING!!
Sunday 20th August – 08:30 – WEDDING DAY
Not quite so early this morning!
About to go to breakfast and then spend a few hours at the pool.
I just have to mention the breakfasts while we have been here.
Look at these photos and drool!!
We’re back at the villa for a spot of lunch.
Cold cuts and cheese with salty crackers and a beer. First drink of the day and, I suspect, the first of many. There’s going to be a few sore heads tomorrow but thankfully breakfast is not until 09:30am tomorrow.
There was a bit of drama this morning when Richard couldn’t find his wallet. It had his driver’s licence and a lot of his remaining holiday cash in. There was lots of searching and turning bags inside out until it was eventually found in his cool bag of all places.
So, panic over and we went for a dip in the pool. We are now chilling. Relaxing and preparing for the wedding. Mum is ironing the Men’s shirts and I’m tapping away at my diary.
Getting a bit exciting!!
Monday 21st August – 08:00 – LAST DAY
The wedding yesterday was absolutely stunning, like something out of a movie.
We started gathering in the courtyard at around 16:30. Richard was mingling and already getting a bit emotional, as were Mum and Dad.
Just before 17:00 we headed off down into the garden were the ceremony was to take place.
The aisle was lined with lemon trees and it was here that it hit me quite hard that Ian wasn’t here with me.
We all took our seats and shortly after 17:00 Louise made her entrance on the arm of her son Lewis, who gave her away. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The ceremony was lovely with two readings given by Olivia, Richard’s daughter and the the giving of the rings that were handed over by Richard’s best man, his son, Elliot, and that was it, finally, Mr and Mrs Leadbetter.
We stayed in the garden for drinks, cold cuts and cheese as the photographer started taking photos and then it was time to head back up to the courtyard for dinner.
The tables in the courtyard were all laid out in white and lights had been strung across and as the sun began to go down the whole place transformed into something you only normally dream about.
The wedding cake was put together right before our eyes! Elliot, Olivia and Lewis helped to pipe some sweet cream between the layers and then the chef continued his magic. The smaller kids had all gathered around the table and were delighted when the chef kept squeezing cream onto their fingers! When it was finished, it was cut into squares and served with some beautiful mixed fruits and there wasn’t a single piece left!!
This is where we stayed until near 23:00 when we all then headed to one of the side halls and partied the night away until 2am with a live band.
And that’s it!
Two years of expectation, one amazing holiday and now it’s all over…….. nearly.
We have one last day in Siena. We plan to take a taxi into Siena centre and do some more exploring and shopping with Auntie Gwynn and my cousin Cheryl and her husband Clive. We will, hopefully, be meeting up with Richard and Louise at some point for dinner.
This evening will be packing ready for the trip home tomorrow and then that really will be it!
Tuesday 22nd August – 07:30
That’s it. Holiday over. Feeling a little subdued but looking forward to seeing Ian and the kids later.
Yesterday was amazing. We went for a good wander around Siena again and this time we got to see the square without the setup for the Palio. We also went to see the cathedral and were sufficiently blown away. We had a light lunch in a lovely pizzeria before continuing our exploration and then we headed back to the square for a few drinks and some people watching. At around 18:00, Richard and Louise arrived and we literally moved a few restaurants over and met up with Elliot, Olivia and Lewis and a few others for dinner. We finally left Siena at around 20:30.
We’re now going downstairs for one last amazing breakfast before we finish our packing and head off to the airport.
We gathered in the courtyard for a couple of hours after vacating the rooms and to say our goodbye’s.
I finished reading a book I had started at the beginning of the holiday. I had promised myself I would read it in Italy. Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave. The book ends in Italy with the last line ‘Ci Vedremo Lassu, angelo’
With the emotion of the morning, I was suitably in pieces.
Weds 23rd August – 12:20
On the drive back to the airport yesterday we stopped to have lunch in San Casciano for lunch. We found a beautiful local restaurant that the locals were all frequenting for lunch. I had cold cuts and local speciality cheeses. One of them was so good I bought a wheel of it to take home!! They even vacuum sealed it for me.
Needless to say, this holiday has TRASHED my diet. Seven pounds heavier!!
Oh well, it was totally worth it and now I just have to start again and prepare for going back in two years with Ian.