Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 11 November 2013

The seasons first dusting of snow

We joined Debra on a trip to Vergemoli today for lunch and a quick check on their house up there. Arriving in Vergemoli we noticed just a very light fall of snow on the mountains in the distance.

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Casa Debbio looked great as usual and Debra, Maureen and Jim are about to enjoy lunch on the terrace. It was a little windy and very cold up in the mountains, probably only 10 deg or so. Vergemoli is 620 metres high – the views are amazing.

On the way home we were excited to see the first snowfall for the season on the Apuan Alps. Such a lovely sight and the cloud formations added to the beauty.

And to top it all off we had a lovely sunset here as well.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 9 November 2013

The villages of Casoli and Barga

This morning, as with most mornings at the moment, low hanging fog covered the surrounding area.

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Once the fog had lifted we decided to visit Casoli which is about 15 km from Ponte a Serraglio and sits 586 meters above sea level. The turn off to the village is over this lovely little narrow bridge and as you wind your way upwards and get a glimpse of the village.

OK. The real reason we were here was to have lunch at this little bar/ristorante. We have been told it does the best ravioli with butter and sage. We were very disappointed to see the sign on the gate – closed until the end of November.

So we settled for a walk around the village.

This house has a lovely garden terrace with views you would never tire of.

Persimmon trees are still ripening – I don’t think they will be ready before we leave so we will miss the taste test.

In nearly every village there is a ‘doer upperer’ just waiting for the right buyer.

And these would have to be a couple of the healthiest and best kept cats we have seen.

We went home for lunch – not the same as the mouthwatering ravioli with butter and sage we had set out to enjoy but ….

In the afternoon we headed north to Barga with Debra as she had seen a poster advertising a festival. A bit of a fizzog – I think we were to early – but Barga is a lovely place.

The Apuan Alps are a wonderful backdrop and probably the main feature of a visit a Barga.

We have been there quite a few times and enjoyed lunch here on a previous occasion.

The cathedral sits up at the top of the village and can be seen from most directions.

The main entrance into the old town is through Porta reale (the arch) and these are just a couple of lovely old buildings, gardens, statues and art pieces inside.

Barga also claims to be ‘the most Scottish town in Italy’. During the early part of the 20th century many families from the area travelled to Scotland seeking work and over the years their descendants have returned to Barga.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 7 November 2013

Portofino – positively perfect!

Portofino is just as beautiful as we had imagined it would be.

On Wednesday, with the promise of a couple of days of sunshine we headed off on the 3 hour drive north. I think we have found the perfect place – we may not come home after all. Having said that, early November when the weather is good is the ideal time to visit these coastal villages as they are so overcrowded in the summer months. We almost had the place to ourselves.

We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at our hotel Domina Home Piccolo as we had been upgraded from our offseason standard room with no view for €80 to a junior suite with Mediterranean Ocean views that would normally cost €439 per night in the high season.

After settling into the room we walked the 300 metres to the village in the warm sunshine.

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The scenery was postcard perfect.

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We walked up to ‘Castle Brown’ for a birds eye view of the village and its surrounds.

The little fishing boats were moored in the inlet and this artist was creating a lovely oil painting of the village.

We lunched at this little cafe overlooking the inlet.

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Towards sunset we followed this little path out to the lighthouse passing the church of San Giorgio and its cemetery. On either side of the path the entrances behind the gates were so steep it was difficult to get a glimpse of the lovely homes.

The views at sunset were wonderful.

And to top it of dinner was fabulous. We ate at Ristorante Puny in the main piazza – starting with seafood antipasto followed by baked sea bass with laurel, potatoes and olives. Delicious!

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 5 November 2013

On the paper trail

Today we did the drive to Montecarlo, about 35 km away, travelling through Benabbio and over the mountain on Via Delle Cartiere. From Benabbio we could see Lugliano clearly but Granaiola was just below the low cloud. The mountains in the distance looked lovely.

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As we got higher up the leaves and chestnuts have fallen from many of the trees and the woodcutters have logs along the side of the road ready for collection.

The spider webs were glistening in the sunshine, as were the tree fungi.

As you can see it is a very pretty drive up through the mountains and looking down from Colognana you can see the start of the paper mills along the Pescia Minore stream. Further along are several small villages each with working mills or disused ones that are a reminder of the thriving industry in the area. Here is a collection of the old with the new.

The regions history of the mills dates back to 1344. Up until the 18th century the number of mills progressively increased thanks to the thriving paper industry of Lucca. Today approx. 110 production companies in the Lucca region produce a range of products from recycled paper – including toilet paper, tissues, hand towels, napkins and cardboard – and is renowned as one of the most important paper districts in Italy and Europe.

(Note: I have gathered this info from the internet and trust it is reliable.)

We also have two here in Ponte a Serraglio and there are some more on the road to Lucca. This one is on the Lima River between us and La Villa.

We then went on to Collodi, the birthplace of Carlo Lorenzini, who’s pen name was Carlo Collodi, the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio.

We lunched at nearby Montecarlo. They views are really lovely and the meal was delicious as usual. Ravioli with sage and butter and farro soup followed by spaghetti arrabiata and sausage and bean casserole.

Nearby the acorns were falling from the oak trees and the olives are ready to harvest.

We have had a few days of rain lately so it was great to be out in the beautiful mountain air again.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 3 November 2013

Beautiful Lucca

On a lovely day in Lucca we climbed Torre Guinigi – the tower with the trees on top – to get a birds eye view of this beautiful city.

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During our time here in Tuscany we have visited Lucca many tiems and this year Lucca celebrated 500 years of its city walls.

Today the walls are tree lined promenades used by pedestrians and cyclists and offer a great view of the mountains beyond as well as into the city.

This first photo was taken on the wall when we arrived in March and the trees were bare, then in August when they were lovely and green and then in October as the colours started to change.

In March the peaks were capped with snow.

Magnolia trees line the street near where we enter the wall into the old city.

But it is when you enter the old city that you can’t help but fall in love with Lucca. There is something to discover at every turn.

The Basilica of San Frediano has a beautiful mosaic facade.

The 17th century Palazzo Pfanner and its beautiful gardens.

There are nightly Puccini concerts – Puccini was born in Lucca.

Church of San Michele and the Cathedral of San Martino.

The Anfiteatro is an oval shape piazza now with many restaurants and tourist shops.

There is far too many beautiful buildings and shops so here is just a snapshot of some.

Back outside the walls there are quite a few lovely homes with intricate detailed mosaics or frescos.

This is just a quick look around Lucca – there is so much more. It is one of the very beautiful city’s in northern Tuscany and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 1 November 2013

Happy Honeymoon Zora & Will

After spending 4 nights here with us Zora & Will are off to Rome to continue their honeymoon. Zora succumbed to a cold for a day or so but we managed to get out and about to do some sightseeing.

We visited Lucca on market day.

Dined out for most meals….this is up at Vico Pancellorum at Buca di Baldabo. We had gypsy pasta and ravioli with butter as our starters and then guinea fowl with sweet onions and lamb casserole with vegetables, followed by tiramisu and meringue with vanilla cream and cocoa topping. This by the way is the best pasta we have ever had.

We had pizza up at Castelnuovo.

Wills favourite meal, however, was pranzo at La Ruoto. Sorry we didn’t take any photos for you Will….but it was very good.

We picnicked on the beach at Forte dei Marmi.

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And of course had a gelato or two…

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On our way home we watched this guy land perfectly.

Zora & Will are slowly making their way to Finland to see the northern lights before travelling on to Mauritius to attend their friends wedding. Safe travels to you both and we look forward to seeing you back in Perth.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 29 October 2013

A day of celebrations!

Yesterday was Jim’s birthday so we celebrated with lunch at Marina di Pisa, a popular beach and marina area for nearby Pisa.

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The place was pretty much deserted…we were the only ones at the restaurant and the streets and beach were virtually empty – summer season has definitely finished.

From there it was off to Pisa airport to collect Zora (our niece) and Will who are staying with us for a couple of days – they are on their honeymoon. They got married in Perth on the 5th October and after a couple of weeks at home have now been to London and Paris. Here they are on their wedding day.

We had a quick look around Pisa with them before returning home for pre-dinner drinks and then walking up to Del Sonno for dinner.


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We are off exploring again today and are looking forward to showing Zora & Will around this lovely area.

Yesterday we visited one of the nearby villages we had not yet seen. Lucchio is quite a small village which looks as though it is hanging onto the side of the mountain for dear life. It appears to be almost vertical. These photos taken from several different angles show you what we mean.

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All of the buildings we saw in the village were natural stone – the only exception was the bar.

There is a old fortress at the top of the village, but unfortunately due to the heavy rain the path up was unstable so we decided not to continue – it’s a hell of a long way down!!

This house is looking for the right buyer – experience needed I would think to get it back into a liveable condition.

As you can imagine the views from up here are spectacular. Sitting 780 metres above sea level you can see the miles.

This water fountain has been a part of the village water supply since 1605.

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Descending back down the mountain we continued north to visit Ponte Sospeso, the pedestrian suspension bridge of San Marcello Pistoiesea over the Lima River that is 227 metres long (although it appears to be much longer), 36 metres high and 1.3 meters wide.

The bridge was opened in June 1923, having taken three years to construct, allowing workers from Popiglio easy access to the factories on the other side of the river in Mammiano, otherwise a 6 km walk each way to and from work.

The walk down to the bridge from the carpark was steep but lovely – no one told us that you could drive around to the other side and park at bridge level – puff! puff!

After expending all the energy we though we could justify this lovely lunch at Antichi Sapori Di Piccinetti Sabrina in La Lima. The little restaurant is attached to a shop selling locally made produce.

Lunch was very good. The pasta was gnocchi with gorgonzola and spaghetti with ragu sauce. We both had the roast chicken with potatoes and roasted vegetables.

Last evening Cherry had invited us all up to her house for her farewell dinner. We are very sad to see her go but she is off to visit family and friends and will return in the new year. Love this photo of Cherry and Jim. Thanks for everything Cherry – you have been a wonderful friend to us during our time here. We look forward to catching up again…..somewhere.

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Another great day here in beautiful Tuscany!

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 26 October 2013

A stroll around our block in Ponte a Serraglio

Driving into the village on a beautiful tree lined street immediately gives you the feeling you are in a lovely area.

Come on a stroll with us around our home village of Ponte a Serraglio which is in the region of Bagni di Lucca. This is a map of the village were our apartment ‘Villa Isabella’ is. When this image was taken the river level was very low.

It is such a lovely village.


Villa Isabella from street level. Click here to see more images of the apartment.

Walking up the street toward the piazza, which is only 250 metres away, we pass the The Royal Casino. This was the first licensed casino in Europe and it is where the game of roulette was said to have been created.

From our apartment walking toward the piazza.

From our apartment walking toward the piazza.

The Royal Casino

The Royal Casino

A little further along we pass the Gabrielli Center Parrucchiere (hairdressers). Prices here are a little cheaper than at home and although only a little english is spoken there we haven’t had any ‘lost in translation’ moments.

Gabrielli Center (hairdressers)

Gabrielli Center (hairdressers)

Next we pass a small piazza, which is higher than street level, that has a drycleaner/laundry service – no signs to attract business – and several apartments.

Da Vinicio does great pizza and is where we love to have the ‘brick chicken’.

Da Vinicio Restaurant & Pizzerria

Da Vinicio Restaurant & Pizzerria

After this we enter the piazza.

The Pharmacy and Post Office

The Pharmacy and Post Office

The Bridge Hotel

The Bridge Hotel

The Tobacco Shop

The Tobacco Shop

Bar Italia - our local bar

Bar Italia – our local bar

Da Bruna - another restaurant

Da Bruna – another restaurant

Il Monaco is our local cafe

Il Monaco is our local cafe

Newspaper stand

Newspaper stand

Over the warmer months the piazza is closed to traffic on occasions and it is wonderful location for local events.

From here you can continue up to La Villa or cross the bridge. Debra’s apartment is on the 1st floor above the bridge – the one with the flowers.

Debra's apartment is on the 1st floor with flowers on the balcony

Debra’s apartment is on the 1st floor with flowers on the balcony

Going across the bridge and turning right you travel back toward the walking bridge past several apartment buildings before the road divides at this unusual building. I believe it was once a hotel but is now apartments.

The road to the left leads to Piazza Dell Chiesa where the local church is. The bells are now automated and chime on the hour and half hour and of course when church is about to begin.

Back down at the intersection you continue on passed the hotel Albergo Corona.

Albergo Corona & Ristorante

Albergo Corona & Ristorante

This is the view of the hotel Corona from our apartment. We are directly opposite on the other side of the river.

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A little further along is Villa Fiori, a 19th century mansion, which is now owned by the commune (shire council) and is in need of renovation. It is a beautiful building – such a shame it is not open to the public.

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However, part of the gardens of Villa Fiori are used as a local park and throughout the year many events are held there.

From here we return home via the walking bridge across the Lima River.

The walking bridge from Villa Fiori back across to our apartment building

The walking bridge from Villa Fiori back across to our apartment building

There are many other lovely homes and buildings in the village – but they will have to wait for another day.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 24 October 2013

The villages of Guzzano, San Gemignano & Montefegatesi

Today we went for a drive to visit these three lovely villages. As with most of the villages here in the area of Bagni di Lucca they are either on the side of or on the top of a mountain, so the views are spectacular.

Our first stop was Guzzano which sits 465 meters above sea level. Last reports show the population as 79 residents and it is only 5 kms from here.

As we were leaving the village we came across this farmer herding his goats along the high road.

Debra has previously done a blog on Renzo the farmer and kindly sent me this photo. The link to Debra’s blog is below. Just type Renzo in the search area and he will be there.

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Bella Bagni di Lucca

Our next stop was at San Gemignano (not to be confused with San Gimignano in the Chanti area) which is 532 meters above sea level and about 8 kms from Bagni di Lucca. The area has a recorded history dating back to the 8th century.

It was then on to Montefegatesi which is 15 km away and the highest village in the Bagni di Lucca area at 842 metres above sea level. History first notes Montefegatesi in 983.

A statue dedicated to Dante sits at the highest point in the village; from here the views are fantastic. On our previous visit here in March the high peaks were all covered in snow.

These villages are all lovely to visit and the views are worth the windy drive up to the peak.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 22 October 2013

Vico Pancellorum

Our previous visits to Vico Pancellorum have always been for dinner at Buca Di Baldabo, hence we have only seen it after dark, so we travelled up there for a daytime visit to see the beautiful scenery from the village. Vico Pancellorum sits 555 meters above sea level and is about 20 kms from Ponte a Serraglio. The autumn leaves are slowing changing to golden and reddish shades.

The village is on two levels the lower level has a church – its history dates back to the 900’s – and also the restaurant.

The upper part of the village is mostly housing and the spectacular views are best up here.

These little kittens met us in the carpark and followed us through the village.

After all the rain and dampness the fungi are flourishing.

Our trip was only two days after the thunderstorm and we had intended to visit San Cassiano as well but there had been a landside due to the heavy rain and we were unable to get up there.

The turnaround bay revealed this herd of goats and a colourful collection of bee hives in this lovely setting.

When the road reopens we will visit San Cassiano again. This is just one of several roads that have been closed since the storm. The road from Chifenti to Borgo a Mozzano is still closed whilst the roads to Vergemoli and Gallicano have been reopened today.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 21 October 2013

Thunder, lightning and rain…..rain…..rain

Overnight we have had a huge thunderstorm with thunder so close it rattled the windows, lightning and so much rain – and more is forecast for the next day or so. The Lima River is flowing furiously.

We have gone from this….

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….to this in a few hours overnight.

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I noticed these potential problems on my early morning stroll.

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More rain is forecast so it will be interesting to see how much more water comes down in the next 24 hours…..I may have to update this post tomorrow morning.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 20 October 2013

Orvieto and Pitigliano

We have already been to Orvieto but we loved it so much we decided to go back and stay the night to have another look around. We arrived at midday and spent the afternoon revisiting places we loved and exploring new things. Click here to see our last visit to Orvieto.

One of the tours we did on this trip was a walking tour down to the underground man made caves and tunnels. The city is built on tufa – a soft volcanic rock – that is quite strong but easy to dig into. Over time the underground was used as a place for worship, pressing oil, storage of food – particularly in the middle ages when the city was often under siege, and as a place to raise and breed pigeons as they were a valuable source of food.

We dined in an underground restaurant ‘Le Grotte del Funaro’ on the edge of the city. It served fantastic food and was quite a unique experience dining down there.

But the highlight of this trip was watching the sun rise and the fog slowly lift from the valleys below to reveal this gorgeous scenery on a lovely autumn day.

Looking back as we left Orvieto the cathedral is overwhelmingly large compared to the other buildings in the city.

From here we went on to Pitigliano which is another beautiful hilltop village. The remains of the 17th century aquaduct are a prominent feature.

A lovely piazza runs the width of the city, only about 100 metres wide, and the narrow streets are lovely.

For many centuries Pitigliano was known as ‘The Little Jerusalem”. From 1598, when the local Synagogue was built, the Jewish community established themselves in the area and built an underground ritual bath house, kosher cellar for food storage, a butchers slaughter house, bakery and dye-works – all of which are preserved as a museum.

Debra and her sister Sandra joined us on the trip. We arrived mid morning and decided to stay for lunch. What a great idea – we dined at Trattoria Il Tufo Allegro and the food was fabulous.

Once again the best view of the whole village was as we were leaving.

We probably won’t get back to Umbria again on this trip. If you are coming to Italy I would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful region.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 14 October 2013

Chestnut Festival & Mushroom Exhibition

On the weekend we all went up to Castelnuovo in Garfagnana to attend the Sagra delle Castagne & Mostra di Funghi (Chestnut Festival & Mushroom Exhibition).

Debra and her sister Sandra together with four lovely Perth ladies, Judi, Jan, June & Geri who are staying up at Cherry & Ethan’s for 10 days, and of course Jim, all headed off for the adventure. I have discovered a wonderful shoe shop up in Castelnuovo. Roberta Calzature e Pelletterie is at Via Fabrizi Nicola, 4 in Castelnuovo Di Garfagnana and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. As we were early we decided to pay a visit to the shop. Nadia was again very helpful and a couple of the ladies purchased…as you do!

June, Geri and Sandra

June, Geri and Sandra

The event was held up at Fortezza di Mont’Alfonso and a bus service from Castelnuovo was provided to take you up to the fortress.

Sandra, June (peeking over the seat), Debra, Jim, Geri (peeking from behind Jim), myself, Jan and Judi on the bus

Sandra, June (peeking over the seat), Debra, Jim, Geri (peeking from behind Jim), myself, Jan and Judi on the bus

The festival was just getting underway when we arrived. The views from the old fortress site are lovely.

Chestnut trees cover many hectares here in Italy. Over the centuries they have been a source on food for locals and resourcefully used during droughts and famines to sustain families.

Chestnuts are roasted, deep fried, dried and milled into flour, candied, boiled, steamed, grilled, or roasted in sweet or savoury recipes. They can be used to stuff vegetables and poultry and are available fresh, dried, ground or canned.

We had them roasted – any excuse for blokes to light fires. They were OK! The mulled wine was so much better.

Judi, Geri, Jim, Sandra, Debra, Jan & June

Judi, Geri, Jim, Sandra, Debra, Jan & June

As part of the festival there was also a mushroom exhibition. Mushrooms of all shapes, colours and sizes, edible and poisonous, were on display. What an amazing variety. Here as just some of the beauties.

A great day – thanks for the suggestion Debra. We look forward to catching up for coffee with the Perth ladies on our return to WA.

Posted by: Kerry & Jim | 13 October 2013

Siena & San Gimignano

Siena is a medieval city in Tuscany that is famous for the Palio, a horse race held twice a year, in the Piazza del Campo.

Entering the city we first noticed the difference in the buildings – they are mostly constructed of small reddish/brown bricks rather than the stone we have been seeing in our local area. Many of the public building have frescoed ceilings and intricate eaves.

The Duomo of Siena is impressive – made of white and black/green marble.

The Piazza del Campo is very large and definitely holds an aura as you enter from any of the side roads that lead to this centre point. The Campo is surrounded by impressive buildings, some are now hotels and restaurants with their alfresco areas providing a place to dine & watch everything happening in the piazza.

We obviously were not there for the Palio but I have found a couple of photos on the internet to give you an idea of the crowds and race in progress. We watched both races on the TV – they are crazy!

The very beautiful village of San Gimignano is a small walled hilltop village well known for its medieval architecture, towers and beautiful tuscan scenery. It is also popular for local produce such as wine &