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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tuscany, Radicofani, Lake Bolsena

When we left Florence in '03 we wandered south towards Rome, but took a couple of days to get there. Sadly, a roll of film disappeared later, which included the shots we took in Siena and district.

This was one of those pleasant phases of the trip with unexpected pleasures: tiny villages that seemed unchanged from the 15th century until you saw a Fiat in the barn; stopping for lunch in a lonely roadside tavern/cafe where the family were not serving because they were having their own lunch out the back - so we were given seats of honour and a nice lunch with them in the back room; another roadside lunch in a cafe with an outdoor seating area shaded by the leaves of an ancient single grape vine with a trunk 6" thick; and then Radicofani.

I had never heard of the place, not that that is special - just shows how little European history I know. We were driving down a narrow, sealed, single lane road with no particular destination when this hill in the far distance appeared with a thin post on it's summit. Initially it looked like just another radio tower. But as we got closer it became a turret.

When we saw a side lane heading that way, we decided to follow it.

The closer we came, the more imposing it became. Then we found a tourist information centre at the base and decided to get some info. There was no-one there; just a pile of guidebooks in German. After waiting a while I went into the store-room and found, after some investigation, boxes of guidebooks in six other languages and eventually some in English. As I emerged from the back-room I found customers waiting for information. It took a little while to establish the appropriate languages - but I acted as unpaid guidebook distibutor for some Germans, Swedes and Americans. I still wonder if they thought my Strine was an odd version of Italian dialect. But they left happy.

The text picture gives a better version of the history - click on it for a larger view.

The only local I found was at the gate, several hundred metres further up the road, when I paid my €3 to go in. It seems to be a volunteer operation - and in all fairness they've done a great job converting the interior of the main tower into a museum. A great way to have a rest at each level between steep flights of steps.

Those steps are worth climbing just for the incredible view of Tuscany from the top.

The white structure in the bottom centre is a cemetery with wall vaults, we saw a few more like that in Tuscany. The next picture is the village below the castle, as the Lord of the district would have seen it, and the next view is how the villagers would have seen the castle .

For those interested, I found an excellent web-site with more detail at http://www.castellitoscani.com/radicofani.htm

We stayed the night before in a 4* in Buonconvento; it was a hot, sticky night in early May and that was how we discovered that there is an Italian law which forbids the use of air-conditioning until a specific day - which had not yet arrived. Wonderful; the same logic that used to decree back in my RAAF days that we changed from lightweight summer uniforms to winter serge on a particular day that was always the hottest day in Autumn.

After Radicofani we continued until we found this 3* hotel outside Montefiascone above the shores of Lake Bolsena. I don't remember the name, but it's where the road curves away from the lake before you enter the town. It was typically old, but the bed was OK and the view was fabulous. We sat here on the balcony through the setting sun. Never to be forgotten.

On arrival we negotiated a price for a hot breakfast for my diet; the host, Tony, was a really nice guy, but seemed apprehensive - he had no English, I had no Italian. After some recent hotel hassles in Florence and Buonconvento it was really nice to get good friendly service so later that night I wrote a "thank you" note on one of their post-cards. As I gave it to him you could see from the look on his face that he thought it was a complaint.

Next morning he couldn't do enough for us at breakfast - a beautiful omelette, and after some fun with dictionaries my wife ended up ordering a bread roll with butter and strawberry jam - and received an enormous plate of fresh strawberries. It turned out that he had spent hours translating my note, and he was unused to getting written thanks.

I've written some fairly strong epistles to hotel managers during our travels - but the nice ones can be just as effective; both are best written on the night.

Cheers, Alan

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