Ruth Anne's Blog

Personal blog and Travel Diary

Oct 12, 2009

Returning Home

Well I finally had my first worthy travel adventure. After I spent the day walking around Firenze, I returned to the Hostel and tried to get some cash from the ATM. My bank card was not accepted. Luckily the Hostel had wireless and I was traveling with my laptop so I was able to contact the bank on the online chat. As usual the attendant was of no help but at least he gave me a number to call. The front desk was kind enough to allow me to make a long distance call to the US. The bank told me that my card had been "compromised" and that they had canceled my debit card. This put me in a small predicament because I needed cash to buy my bus ticket to the airport. Luckily my credit card worked so when I woke up in the morning I was able to get cash from a money exchange rate, probably at too high a cost. Anyhow, I am just enjoying the morning and will leave now for the airport. I'm so glad for wireless and laptops. It was an unanticipated event and I'm a little upset with my bank for cancelling the card while I am out of the country! I didn't sleep so well last night because I had spent most of the time scheming on the best way to handle the situation. Luckily my plans worked out. Can't wait to come home! Florence is a beautiful mess. I like the city but it is so overcrowded even in October. The locals still drive their cars through the city so it can be a little stressful and the smog from the cars burns the nose and eyes. Its definately not like the clean air in the Tuscan countryside! That was so lovely.

Oct 11, 2009

Sunday in Florence

I arrived in Florence around 11:30 and it took me about half an hour to get the Hostel. I was so spoiled in Siena, the place in Florence isn't half as nice. I am a little concerned about the handle on my luggage getting stuck, but I guess it will be okay. I'll have to figure out how to fix it in the airport. I am sitting on the top terrace of the building waiting for my room to open in 20 minutes. Once I get the room, I would like to go to the Academia to see the authentic statue of David. From there I will go to the Catherdral of S. Maria del Fiore and then walk near the Uffizzi through the Ponte Vecchio. From there i will walk down the side of the Arno river and go to the Piazzale Michelangiolo which has a lovely view of the town. I may go see the Church of Santa Croce where the tumbs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and others are buried. All of the interesting sites charge money for entrance so I might just be happy to walk around. I could go to the Uffizzi but on the first day I always like to walk around the city and enjoy the view. The river Arno is exceptionally beautiful. I can take some time to write postcards.

Oct 10, 2009

Saturday in Siena

On Saturday I was able to reserve another room in the Albergo, so I was able to stay and relax one more day in Siena. I decided to go and take a look at the Duomo which is absolutely huge. Both the inside and the outside are very ornate. When you walk in, the columns tower over everything and are made of black and white marble. It is really stunning. The ceiling of the cathedral is themed liked the night sky and where the columns meet the top of the dome, the busts of all of the priests or cardinals line the wall. The floor is as elaborate as the ceiling. When you look down, there are stone mosaic patterns depicting different religious themes.

For lunch I had papa pomodoro which they later told me was a typical dish from Tuscany. I was very happy that I ate it and afterwards my stomach felt the most content than it had during the entire trip. After lunch I figured out the logistics to go to Firenze. Once I got that out of the way I continued to tour the city. It began to rain in the afternoon. It has been raining in the afternoons all week. It was the perfect time to go indoors and check out the different museums. I found the most impressive place to be the Baptistry. The entire ceiling was ornately painted. After that I went to the museum and saw all of the precious artifacts and paintings that were originally from the Duomo. I found the display of religious relics to be the most fascinating. There were all sorts of items that were from different saints. The most striking relic that I saw was the finger of Santa Caterina and what appeared to be the top part of her shoulders and head at a shrine in the Basilica di San Domenico (but i'm not sure). After that I continued my city walking tour and called it a day.

Friday in Siena

On Friday I woke up not sure of my plans for the day. My original intention was to stay one more day in Volterra. Being in the country is so nice, I didn't necessarily want to travel and spend most of the day on a bus. At breakfast I met up with two lovely ladies who invited me to join them on a walk to Volterra. I showed them the short cut that my two german friends had figured out earlier in the week. If you don't follow the shortcut, the walk to Volterra is on the road which can be very stressful since there are no sidewalks. At the front desk, the attendant advised me to go to Siena by catching the noon bus. I decided to follow his suggestion. When I came back from my walk, I quickly packed and reserved a room at the Albergo Bernini. I didn't do any research, the Albergo was the first entry in my guidebook under inexpensive acomodations. I barely had anytime to eat before I had to hurry and catch the bus. The bus trip went very smoothly and I ended up in Siena by 3 pm.

To tell you the truth, I could spend all of my time in the Albergo Bernini. It is absolutely fabulous. The bus dropped me off at the San Dominico church which was so close to the Albergo. When I was shown my room, I was absolutely delighted, I had such a wonderful view of the cathedral and of the city. The place was absolutely perfect. Once I arrived, I decided to walk down to the main square called the Piazza di Campo. It was really amazing. The plaza opens up to this huge shell shaped square which is not flat. The municipal building just towers over the square. The dimensions of the buildings takes your breathe away. I have never seen anything quite like it. I sat in the square and ate a Pizza Diavola, which again was very forgettable. But I didn't mind. Its funny to see how many people walk around with there dogs. Dogs are everywhere, from San Gimignano, Volterra, Piza, and now Siena, everyone has dogs. In the nightime there was a thunder shower. The lightnening and the thunder were amazing. I tried to take a video of it. I will be spending the night in Siena one more evening. There is another room available across from mine so I can stay. Its a shame to leave so quickly. Spending more time in Siena will be so nice.

Oct 9, 2009

Presentation and Piza

On Thursday I gave my presentation. I had technical difficulties and my presentation froze unexpectedly which was unfortunate. But I was able to recover. After lunch I had agreed that I would go with one of my german conference friends to visit Pisa and the leaning tower. I was really glad to go. On our way we met up with another colleague from the conference, a Professor from Michigan, and we decided to all go together. We took the bus from Volterra to Pontadera which took more than an hour. Along the way I spotted a cycling tour, it was very interesting to see how popular cycling is. It was nice to see that taking the train to Pisa from Pontadera was easy, however, I can imagine that when there are lots of people being a tourist and not knowing where to go can be hard. When we got to Pisa we walked around the Piazza del Duomo. It was full of people but it was still very nice to see the leaning tower and the Duomo. After an hour or so we decided to walk to the Piazza dei Cavalieri and then onto the Piazza Mazzini, where we had a nice surprise. There is a small church of San Mateo, where as soon as you walk in you are greeted by a 3 dimensional fresco on the cieling which takes your breath away. Its rather alarming because the outside of the building doesn't seem very impressive so you wouldn't think such amazing paintings are inside. After visiting the church we continued walking toward the train station. The rio Arno was nice to cross over. Parts of Pisa seem a little run down and it is full of pedestrians. Before bording the train we had some okay Pizza which was not too memorable. By the time we reached Volterra it was 10:30 pm. The walk back in the dark to the conference site was one of the highlights of the day. It was so nice to be walking in the countryside.

Wednesday San Gimgnano!

Wednesday was the day that I was especially looking forward to. After the morning session, a field trip to San Gimgnano was scheduled. I was so excited. San Gimgnano is the small hilltop town that is featured in the movie "Tea with Mussolini". In the movie, a group of cute older English ladies were imprisoned there. I couldn't wait to see it. For some reason, perhaps because of the rain, the day was exceptionally beautiful. The light and the colors were so bright and perfect. I preferred the farming areas surrounding the area of San Gimgnano because they did not plow over their fields. There were many vineyards and olive orchards, so there were very few exposed areas of earth, unlike Volterra. When we arrived at the city we had a guided tour. Since there were so many people it was hard to pay attention and I mostly just concentrated on taking pictures. My favorite part of the tour was taking pictures of the landscapes, they were absolutely breathtaking. In San Gimgnano, there are many towers which were built by wealthy families. There are two twin towers which appear to be the architectural inspiration for the two towers that were in new york. I really liked the old fountains in the center of the town squares, I threw in a coin into the wishing well which I saw featured in the movie, it was fantastic.

Tuesday Conference Day

On Tuesday, the presentations at the Conference were very interesting so I spent the entire day at the SIAF, which is the conference site. After attending the Keynote address, however, the jet lag hit me very hard and I could barely stay awake. So I decided to work on my blog and relax outside. The most beautiful place at the site is by the swimming pool. The edge of the pool overlooks the valley. At the end of the day, I took a long walk down the street into the countryside. It was really lovely, I got such a nice view of the sunset.

Oct 6, 2009

Monday in Colle Valle d'Elsa

On Monday I decided to be adventurous and take a bus to the small town of Colle Valle d'Elsa, near Volterra. Two conference colleagues from Germany decided to join. The bus to the town did not leave until 1:15 pm in the early afternoon, so we had some time to walk around Volterra. We took a tour of the old Roman amphetheater in Volterra. It was really beautiful in the morning. You could tell that there had been quite a bit of reconstruction, but it was very nice. I really enjoyed the bus ride through the countryside to Colle Valle d'Elsa. There was a sculptor who had decided place some sculptures along the Tuscany countryside. It was really fun to see them. The town of Colle Valle d'Elsa is known for their crystal. When we arrived we only had 4 hours to walk around the Centro Storico before we had to head back on the bus. When we arrived back to Volterra, there was no shuttle back to the conference site so we had to walk. I really enjoyed the walk through the countryside, it was very relaxing and the air quality is excellent. The walk only took 20 minutes which was nice since I was already really tired.

Sunday in Volterra

The first day at the conference site I woke up early and decided to take a look around Volterra. The night receptionist who was leaving was kind enough to drive me into town, since the conference place is 3 kilometers out of town in the countryside. Its very nice to be out in the country. Volterra is located on the top of a hill, and you have lovely views of the Valle di Cecina. The valley is heavily cultivated. There are lots of trees on the hill sides. There are nice oak trees, ciprese trees, and fig trees. I spent the day walking around the town. The town center attracts many local tourists a lot of whom are taking motorcycle trips. In the morning there are lots of cyclists and runners. I felt very comfortable walking around since most people were doing the same thing that I was. In Volterra there are a few museums, but I was very content to walk and relax outside taking pictures. At lunch time I was very brave and went into a sit down restaurant and tried to order some food. I didn't know that you are supposed to take your seat and wait to be served, so I just stood around and waited to be seated. I also was not sure if you are supposed to tip or not. Anyhow, I ordered an onion and tomatoe pasta dish with mushrooms. It was delicious. It surprised me that there were so many items on the list with mushrooms, it is a very popular food item. By 4 pm I was ready to go back to the conference site. There is a swimming pool here with an excellent view of the valley. I haven't gone swimming just yet, but I plan on it!

Oct 3, 2009


I arrived to the conference site 3 kilometers from Volterra from Florence around midnight. The winding drive made me so sick to my stomach, it was a real effort for me to keep it together. So far I have only seen Tuscany at night, and it reminds me so much of Sonoma County, perhaps because of the hills and the vinyards. Of course the architecture is completely different. When I arrived it was already 1 am in the morning but for me it is still the late afternoon. I can't go to sleep. At least I can unpack. There is a shuttle that goes into Volterra in the morning, perhaps I will go take a look around. It will be so nice to see the surroundings in the sunlight. There are so many trees and open fields. I love it.