There are over 400 convents, monasteries, and casas offering inexpensive accomodation in Italy, overnight or for a week,, from the heart of metropolitan cities to the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria. Everyone is welcome. We stayed in four convents in Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre, and enjoyed the experience. You do need to plan in advance, especially during the summer months, and reserve space by fax or telephone. There are two guide books available on the subject, and we used both: " Lodging in Italy's Monasteries" by Eileen Barish, and " Bed and Blessings" by June and Anne Walsh. "Bed and Blessings is particularly useful in that there is a locator map shown for every one of the lodgings listed.
We arrived in Rome airport and took a taxi to our first "House of Welcome for Pilgrims and Tourists", Istituto Il Rosario, in the heart of Rome, nearby the Rome train station. Spent a wonderful day touring the area by bus and foot. The next day we took a fast train to Florence. The train system is wonderful - if you follow the rules: First of all go to the information office and find out exactly which train you would like to book for, then go to the ticket office and purchase your ticket. On long journeys always reserve a seat and travel First Class if you can. Many of the trains have a special bicycle carriage and you can purchase tickets for your bicycles as well. Everyone uses the shortened form for Biciclette - "Bici" pronounced "Bitchy" - we found it a funny way to call our Grasshopper recumbents - they are anything but "Bitchy"!
The following photo shows Nili relaxing with an Italian newspaper
at the Rome Stazione Centrale Termini, while we were waiting for
our train to Florence. Notice the two "bici" packed
in the two duffle bags with wheels.
For some reason our train arrived a half hour late to Florence. This was too much for the pride of the Italian Railroad, and they asked us to put in a claim for a 60% refund of our first class fare (to receive in two weeks). We did not have two weeks, and Nili wrote "Urgente" on the envelope explaining our situation. Within three days an excited "suora" (sister) gave us the express mail envelope with our 60% refund!
In Florence we spent the first three days at "Casa di
Santo Nome di Gesu" at Piazza del Carmine, within walking
(and of course cycling) distance of anywhere in Florence. We spent
the rest of our stay in Florence at the "Istituto Suore di
Sant'Elizabetta" just outside the city center nestled in
a residential neighborhood of palatial homes. At the top of the
street is the Piazzale Michelangelo where we enjoyed stunning
views of Florence and magnificent sunsets. Our daughter Sharon
joined us for the last few days in Florence and then to the Cinque
Terre, and I could not resist showing this picture of Sharon and
I sitting at the Bar Michelangelo enjoying the sunset over Florence.
We did have to rush home to get in time for the 10:30 pm curfew,
and made it just in time.
Finally we spent three days in the Cinque Terre where we stayed at the "Villa Adriana" at Monterosso al Mare, before returning to Rome and then home. Since one cannot cycle in the Cinque Terre, one can only hike along the cliffside from one village to another, we packed our bikes in the duffle bags, so I have chosen not to show pictures of this region. In any case no photographs can do justice to the spectacular views of these cliffside villages and terraces - it must be seen to be believed.
On to highlights of Tuscany