Part Tre: A little Bit of Toscana

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Tuscany Tribulations

Eventually after passing all the idyllic villages, and tracking which stop I was going to take on the phone, I then asked a few locals before departing my stop. Once hopped off the bus I then realised was this the best idea as there didn't appear to be as many frequent buses as had first thought. I then got my bearings and found the hotel I was going to stay in. Yes thats right I found a hotel for a great price with a swimming pool. This spot was a highlight in itself, as I didn't want to miss the stunning sunset I asked if there was any places of interest close by. I had been recommended a lake so without a murmur left my bag and took haste.

Ok the lake wasn't what I imagined but I was happy with the results and met some Italian otters which were very friendly, once sundown approached before I knew it the darkness was on top of me and it was nightfall. I then headed back to the hotel and had some dinner (pasta), when I was eating the table next to me I eavesdropped a conversation of local spots to shoot and got friendly with another photographer from Sweden. 

This place was a hub for landscape photographers; so I'm sure I was among some of the greats. One photographer among the guests kept his cards close to his guests as I asked about some of the recommended locations.

Sat 9th

As I hadn't long I had a mission to take the iconic images of Tuscany which I had dreamed about since starting photography so an early start was in order 4am. After talking to Mikael last night I was so grateful to have conversed with him as he had wheels he not only offered me a lift but also advised me the top locations to shoot, unfortunately it was his last day and was heading back home, if only I came a few days earlier but luck was in the air as I shot the famous house from a few angles and the uber famous trees. My god I was pinching myself as the weather was ideal, hindsight though I should have bought a longer scope as these locations were a lot further than meets the eye. Once sun came up I then returned back to the hotel, was presented a gift of boots from Mikael had some breakfast and caught up on some much needed sleep. 

I noticed you could hire bikes to get round the place so after my power nap I took a bike for free and went for a cycle, bare in mind the last time I cycled was 7 years ago if I recall, so back to the lake; once I road tested the bike I then proceeded to more recommended places and was not disappointed, the freedom of the wind in the air, the breathtaking scenery and the define weather made this a journey to remember.

First stop I rode to was an old town called Vinaoligi which was open to sublime 360 views of the tuscan vineyards in an idyllic rustic old village. Here I was thankful to a resident for topping up my 1 litre bottle as the heat was becoming intense.

Ok the bike sounded like a great idea but with no gears and no adjustable seat it turned into me walking a lot of the roads as it couldn't cope with some of the treacherous hills, once I scaled through the desert treks I then reached my next destination Bano Vignoli.

Here was home to thermal baths and tourists galore, once got refreshed and recharged I gave the new thermal baths which the hotel owned a miss, bought some much needed suncream as was starting to feel the burn, time was now starting to diminish quickly so got back on the bike I proceeded to get to my next stop, again had heard great things about this location but nobody had mentioned that this wasn't designed for bikes or bikes with no gears was a contributing factor so ended up walking a lot of it.

This was a helluva climb even for me I must've been loca, I eventually made it to the top, blagged a view of the tower which put all the hiking to the side as was treated to a spectacular view of the tuscan countryside.

Once I topped the viewpoint I then headed back leaving at 6, arriving at 8 all downhill till the end. I then rushed back to the lake road and was left speechless as was rewarded to the most phenomenal sunset I have ever seen which topped my cycle off to no end. 

For that much needed cycle i treated myself to medalions topped in parmaganio cheese, which was to die for.


Sun 10th


Had a much requested lie in after yesterday, oh I was hurting so much I had enough energy to swim and walk. I was determined to see the Gladiator road so I set off for Pienza on foot.  

lost my lens cap on walk. 10k. enjoyed the tuscan walk into the hills passing iconic locations. Bevedere house, chiesa and old farm houses. I eventually made it to Pienza but after the walk was rushing to find the location and fortunately found the road from a cracking viewpoint after asking a local which I ended up backtracking to.


At the viewpoint I was fortunate to negotiate my russian skills and got a lift back which was a great relief.


Then returned to hotel in time for pasta.

Mon 11th


With the great weather back I decided to leave Tuscany so it was an early start.  After making my farewell with my home from home I missed the first bus. I then realised that was the only bus till 3 so stuck the ole finger out but here the Italians drive on.  I then went to a local co-op where I bumped into a waitress I met yesterday, unfortunately she had work but by luck of gods I was fortunate that I ran into a couple who blended in as tourists. These guys Ania & Jacob were godsends as not only did they let me board on board their fiat 500 but give me the exclusivity of their engagement photos in exchange for a lift. These guys were great sports letting me see Multipuicuno, the Val de orcias and Puggobonsi.


From there I took the train to Pisa after missing by 10 mins.,I was cutting it fine but eventually ended in Spezia after thankfully bumping into two unique characters. Hellacool and a scuba instructor Olga Greenheart who gave me the inside tips of what to see and do in Cinqdeterre. Next Stop the 5 Cities.


Part DUO Firence Calling

5th May 2015

After a beautiful trip to Venezia it felt right to move on even though the Biennale  was starting (world artists week), I had my pics and was now time to catch the train for my next port of call to Florence but when got round to buying it nearly cos €69 so I thought quick on my feet & I was in travel mode this time  wasn't prepared to wait 4 hours so I split my journey into two parts which cost half the price and headed to Bologna. The stop off was an hour and there were no tourists which was a culture shock. Anyways as this was the fast train to Roma it was pretty special as it only took forty mins to arrive in florence.

This train would give any train at home a run for a money not only did I feel like I was travelling on the orient express but at lightning pace. Oh and I had a reserved seat which was brilliant.

As I departed the train I immediately felt the sticky humidity and having trousers was a travel no. Fortunately the place I was staying at was close by which after twenty minutes I eventually found. After meeting Guiseppe after the fifth tier of stairs I was greeted by a dream of a building idolised by unique artwork. As i was guided by Guiseppe I was impacted by the level of detail he had put into his place, the cleanliness and facilities were immaculate. A five star hotel would be lucky to compete with this. not only was the bedroom inviting having the option to dry my clothes out the window and to take time out was just what I needed, oh not forgetting the all important free wifi. Guiseppe could not have been nicer hosts as their level of knowledge and tips was great which will be shared.

After having a luxurious power shower I then got ready and retired the camera for the night letting me charge the much drained batteries, it was more of a scouting mission and to get my bearings on what Firenze has to offer.  

One tip to all people who are planning or travelling citymapstogo is a great app and a godsend for adding pins and places as it downloads all the maps and info so can be used offline with gps.

It was now approaching 5pm so I headed out over the bridge to an area called San Spirito Square (a local spot) but didn't appear to be local as all that could be heard were American and French. On recommendation by Guiseppe I then tried a pasta bar and was not disappointed. l had tagliatelle and described in one word was belissimo.

After dinner caught up with footy (juve vs real) , walked the city for spots to check and to feel the city. The americans had invaded florence. well eventually getting back in the wee hours was good to experience florence's rock scene.  oh & juve beat real which was great to see but my money's still on barca.

6th May 

After a midday start, my plan was to shoot firenze, with the beautiful weather yesterday I had expected the same, I guess thats why I don't forecast the weather but when rain is not bitter like home, I'd call it tropical rain as is easily bearable. after travelling from Venice bang the shear size of this city astounds you as the landmarks are very poignant. I had planned on seeing uffizi & duomo but the queues stopped that and so I walked some more. On my way exploring I visited a gallery with breathtaking images hand painted by a guy called Hass Masa, took a few images of his habitat who had spent his 20 years in,I couldn't not and very thankful for his custom. 

Chiesa Especial

Each church I have been to, are fascinating to see as they are draped in wall to ceiling murals depicting Mary and Jesus & is very interesting. Once finding out the queues I then trekked my way to Michelangelo square where I was presented with a great 360 panoramic view of the city. This view was spectacular so I naturally waited for the sunset for three hours but was totally worth it as the sun set; the mist blew in from the valley and I got my twilight hour which I was delighted with. During the hours I met a few other photographers I had met in Venice and thankfully were great people, and I got a portrait done with Firenze behind.


Before I knew it it was 10 o'clock , had some pizza which literally blew me away, & not if it was hunger from being in sun all day but this was off the chain. I'm afraid by far the best i've ever tasted. With the moonlight out I ended up doing Firence by night which was another experience.


Florence By Night


After the great pizza I then proceeded over the bridge and got sucked into the sheer beauty, I then shot Uffici at night home to Michaveli,Raphael,Donatello & other inspired creators. As Ponte Vecchio was the next shot as I spent a good amount of time shooting Firenze most iconic monument, I then headed inwards to the city and shot David and Bargello which was surreal as was pretty empty except every now and then the Cabinerri would drive by. The story behind that is a tourist foolishly climbed onto david and broke the scroll he was holding so now the government have night patrols watching all the statues and prolific art museums, in Bargello Square; they were also filming the new Dan Brown movie so there was a great buzz in the city of seeing Daniel Craig and Tom Hanks, an insider leaked to me  when I was out that she was early for filming, Tiredness now started kicking in but I couldn't not shoot Il Duomo so next image was taken. Now this is four in the mornin all you expect is a few drunkards, before I knew it I heard hundreds of voices and one of the most surreal experiences when shooting was these tour groups appeared out of nowhere speaking no english, I noticed the flags that appeared to be Coloumbian, and Bulgarian, was very zombie like as these groups were wide awake, i then waited for the blue hour and proceeded back to the apartment after sunrise, had a few hours kip as was checkin out in the morning for my next adventure. 

May 7th. 

After walking around Florence by night the anticipation of Toscana was too much so decided to hop on a bus to Siena, there was only so much tourist accents I could take, I felt more like being in Paris than Firence so I took the Siena rapida and arrived in record time but trying to find the accommodation wasted a bit. Siena is a 12 century town built inside a fort surrounded by defence walls and every street is steeped with Chiesa (churches) piazza (squares) Bargellos (towers ). but is tutti benne. The town all leads down to the round piazza . The town was founded by twelve families which are celebrated throughout Tuscany, if they were lucky each family was rewarded for their great work. there are two famous the Baroli & Girafe.

Must be a sign as my ancestors were related to the il Girafe so was great to experience the church they built. Every year Siena is well known for the horse races as was depicted in the bond movies.digressing a bit as I arrived I had some delicious pasta with bruschetta and wine for fifteen euros which kept me full till the night and met an American honeymoon couple from Toronto which were a delight to talk to, after enjoying my set menu I then explored Siena bought a mobile charger to charge camera batteries via usb and then checked out Santa Maria duomo which is a piece of beauty in architecture at the golden hour.Each texture was designed with the most minute detail which is cast out of marble.and really is a marvel to behold.

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Once seeing the sunset over San Domingo chiesa, I headed back to my room on via Paridiso, taught some English and vice versa then headed out for the Siena nightlife which has to be said was much better than Florence but there were not too many English accents around. It turns out the top law universities and language universities are in Siena. I then headed back & took some night shots in the early hours, I was so excited about seeing the heart of Tuscany was ready to move.

May 8th

May 8th, as had to check out at 11 I left my bag and proceeded to explore and find my answers about the il Girafe family while going into tourist mode. On recommendation from Dallas and Alana which I misquoted as Atlanta I headed after midday to il duomo, took some pics inside of the magnificent building, and a tour of the roof which was open to awe inspiring views.I then visited the library and palace de opera which was open to more panoramic views. I had judged the weather with great time. 


Bus ride

For the first time on my trip I've gotten goosebumps, the beauty of the countryside here is phenomenally beautiful. The light has hit it at all the right places, pictures don't give it justice as the sheer simplicity and beauty is evident. A great time of year to visit as the farmers are making the best of the sunshine, with cut hay and did I mention the blue cloud sky, wowsher. The sunset will be memorable. 


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