Gypsy Ways Update 5 – Italy

Gypsy Ways Update 5 starts with us near the Cinque Terre (Five Lands), and has us moving on to Tuscany!
Terre Toscane

[Terre Toscane by Filippo Marchi via Flickr]

The Tuscan landscape is beautiful. We stayed in an agriturismo about a half hour drive East from Siena. It’s a perfect location, off the beaten path, but central enough to make easy day trips to a number of historic and scenic locations.

Close by, there are popular places like Montepulciano, Pienza, Montalcino, San Giminano, and Monteriggioni. Monteriggioni is one of my favorites. It’s a medieval village and it’s towers and walls remain intact.
Volando sopra Monteriggioni

[Flying over Monteriggioni by Angela Massagni via Flickr]

As you can see in the photo, the town hasn’t grown past it’s walls and it retains the charm of a small, unspoiled, hilltop village.

Pienza is also a favorite of mine as it’s small and not too heavily touristy. The view of Pienza as you drive to it from the West is stunning.
Pienza in Tuscany Italy

[Pienza, Tuscany by Steve via Flickr]

A little further away are the beautiful and historic towns of Volterra and Assisi. As for bigger cities, there are always Florence and Pisa, but Siena is definitely my favorite. Siena has the enormous and beautiful Piazza del Campo, unique with it’s shell shape and home to the Palio horse race. gypsy ways update 5 - siena palio jockeys before the race

Siena also has it’s Duomo, which is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. You can look at the photos of it’s facade, the ornate floors, the alternating black and white marble columns… but photos can only capture some of it’s beauty.

One highlight is the amazing Piccolimini library which holds precious illuminated musical manuscripts in a richly decorated room. Libreria Piccolomini

[Libreria Piccolomini by Steffen Ramsaier via Flickr]

gypsy ways update 5 - gorganza, tuscanyThere are also some lesser-known spots that are just lovely and not very touristy. Places like Gorganza – an entire hilltop village that is now a quiet self-catering hotel. It has a great restaurant, perfect for lunch after exploring the town.

 

 

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 5 - rome sign in buonconventoBuonconvento is another virtually unspoiled town on the road to Rome.

 

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 5 - serre di rapolano town hallSerre di Rapolano is near travertine marble quarries (thus the gleaming town hall you see here) and the natural hot springs at Rapolano Terme.

 

 

 

gypsy ways update 5 - norcia, umbria, italyLucignano is also worth a look around, and if you go south out of Tuscany and into Umbria, the towns of Norcia and Amelia are well worth the visit. Norcia (pronounced nor-cha) is famous for its meats and sausages and for pasta with truffles – yum!

 

 

In the next update, we’ll go into France and Spain. Stay tuned!

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 4 and the next Update 6.)

Gypsy Ways Update 4 – Switzerland and Italy

Gypsy Ways Update 4 starts with us leaving the UK and heading quickly through France on our way to Italy (fans of France, don’t worry, as we will return to France later). However, we did take a quick stop to visit Montreux, Switzerland.gypsy ways update 4 - montreux, switzerlandThe photo above is from a gorgeous path that follows the lakeshore. It really is a lovely town. It is home to the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival, held annually since 1967.

Montreux has had many famous residents, but the one who brought us to this beautiful town was Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen. Queen isn’t necessarily to everyone’s taste, but Freddie had amazing charisma on stage. There is a statue of him overlooking Lake Geneva, and people to this day leave tributes to him there. gypsy ways update 4 - freddie mercury statue in montreux switzerland

If you want to see him in action (and see one of the best live performances by any band EVER), watch the video below, where he has the entire audience at the old Wembley Stadium in the palm of his hand.

Freddy was amazing!

From there we drove over and through the Alps on the spectacular Col du Saint Bernard into Italy.

Col du Grand Saint-Bernard, Italie

[The Col du Grand Saint-Bernard by ClearFrost via Flickr] 

The first place we stayed in Italy is a very small town near the Cinque Terre (Five Lands). The towns of the Cinque Terre are beautiful, but extraordinarily difficult to reach by car, so we stay in Mattarana, a mountain town off the beaten track.gypsy ways update 4 - mattarana italy

Mattarana has one hotel that also happens to be a great social hub for the locals. It opens at 6:00 AM, closes at 11:00 PM, and is always full of people eating, talking, drinking coffee, playing cards, and arguing. It’s a great place to watch the world go by.

The drives to either La Spezia and/or Levanto are relatively easy, and both have stations for the train that runs through the towns of the Cinque Terre.
Sunset over Manarola, Italy

 [Sunset over Manarola by Joel Bedford via Flickr]

Although the five towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are spectacular, some of the other nearby towns are fun to visit as well. Unlike the Cinque Terre towns which have narrow harbors rather than beaches, Bonassola has a sandy beach that is better suited to swimming and sunbathing – and best of all, it’s GREEN sand – how cool is that!gypsy ways update 4 - green sand beach in bonassola italy

Stay tuned for the next update with more Italian adventures!

(Here’s a link to the previous Update 3. And here’s the link to the next episode, Update 5)

Road Sign Cross Stitch Patterns

The latest in my series of road sign cross stitch patterns and kits are now available in my Etsy shop! This pattern and kit is based on a “No Truck Passing” sign found all over Europe.

No Truck Passing Cross Stitch

A nice feature of the photo above is that my husband actually stitched this example – his first real project! Well done, darlin’…

This is just the latest of a long series of these European road signs. I’ve been concentrating more on the US Highway signs lately, but there are some very fun patterns from Europe:

No Horns!No Horns (pattern and kit) can be seen outside some small towns in Italy. I think it would make a great gift for new moms who are looking for something a little different than the typical “Quiet! Baby sleeping” sign.

 

 

Km 0The KM 0 sign (pattern and kit), based on the sign outside a Galician bar) would make an ideal present for people starting a new phase – new grads, newlyweds, first time homeowners…

 

 

Ruta del VinoThe Ruta del Vino sign (pattern and kit) comes from the Rioja region of Spain and is perfect for your favorite oenophiles (wine lovers)!

 

 

 

Speed CameraPhotographers and your leadfoot friends would enjoy this U.K. Speed Camera sign (pattern and kit),

 

 

 

Cycle lanesand the Cycle Lanes pattern (pattern and kit) is for all your favorite bicyclists!

 

 

 

 

Cambio de SentidoOne of my personal faves is this “Cambio de Sentido” sign (pattern and kit). While it signifies “at the next exit, you can turn around to go in the opposite direction,” it looks a lot like someone flipping the bird.

 

 

Railroad CrossingTrain enthusiasts would like this railroad crossing sign from the U.K. (pattern and kit),

 

 

 

 

High Windand this High Wind Warning sign (pattern and kit) is another personal favorite. I think it’s perfect as a gift for Chicagoans, lawyers, or possibly a mother-in-law. Also, can you see this hanging in a bathroom? You bet!

 

 

All of the road sign cross stitch patterns and kits (US Highways included) are sized to fit inside standard frames, and are detailed enough to look good while not taking forever to stitch. They would be a bright and fun way to decorate an office, media room, or kid’s bedroom. The patterns can also be used to make needlepoint projects or even quilts… Check ’em out!

European Road Sign Cross Stitch Patterns

I’ve started on what I hope will be a long series of very fun European road sign cross stitch patterns!road sign cross stitch patterns - no horns, milemarker 0, wine route, speed camera, loose chippings

My husband and I have been fortunate to be able to live in and spend time traveling throughout Europe over the past 5 years. Along our travels, mostly though Spain, the U.K., Italy, and France, I’ve managed to gather photos of some unique and unusual signs (at least to us on the left side of the pond). One of my goals of 2013 is to turn many of those signs into patterns and kits. As of Tuesday February 26th, I’ll have five patterns in my Etsy shop, and more coming all the time.

I’m hoping there will be patterns that appeal to everyone – from kids to grandparents, drivers, hikers, wine lovers, newlyweds, new moms, and aficionados of the fun and unusual.

One of my personal favorites is the “No Horns” sign you see at the left in the photo. This is a road sign I’ve seen outside of some small villages in Italy. I’ve always been charmed by the antique style of the bicycle horn in the sign and it makes me smile every time I see one. The signs are somewhat rare these days, so I wanted to stitch one for myself. I think this would be a very fun “be quiet” sign for new moms with sleeping babies.