Monday, June 9, 2014

Lucca.....the walled town

September 19, 2012
  • Lucca is a city and comune in Tuscany, Central Italy, situated on the river Serchio in a fertile plain near the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the province of Lucca. It is famous among other things for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.
The wall is literally a stone wall but has now been made into a sweet promenade of sidewalk and landscaping. We rode bikes around the whole town on the wall one glorious, sunny afternoon!

the sweet facade of our B&B....always so unassuming on the outside; yet, so precious on the inside!
crazy Lisa prolly telling sweet Cindy some hilarious story!!
and on the foyer table, beside all the brochures of the town, lay a few dozen fresh eggs for breakfast next morn!  That was so crazy to me!
There were six bedrooms in the B&B and our group had them all.  It was like a big slumber party for 3 nights cuz we were all bunked up with a kitchen and dining room to hang out in. Our room was the sweetest and faced the main street below. Alot of time was spent hanging out this window just watching Italian life go by!
the view outside our the left
to the right...where on the left thru one of those arches was the most happening bar. Crazy night life out in the streets! 
directly across from us.....a deli, a ceramics gift shop (where I found my lil lady!) and a clothing boutique

Of course, my job was to find wine.  And since that neat bar was just across the street, I set out on a mission once we got in our room.  Found great bottle of Merlot, but me, oh my....we had no glasses nor corkscrew!  What's a lil american gal to do? my magic and the CUTE bartender let me borrow glasses and a corkscrew as long as I promised to bring them back before we left town.  DONE!
And with my lucky traveling Buddha on the windowsill....we were ready for the next days of fun!
Dinner this night was at a place that Lenora was familiar with...

with what was becoming a very familiar site at mealtime!
the bread was very different tho.  It is made with no salt.
"One of the great joys of eating in Italy is munching on fresh Italian bread. Yet when you bite into your first piece of while visiting Tuscany (and also much of Umbria), you might be surprised at what is missing. It might take a moment to realize that there’s no salt! This type of bread is called pane toscano.  So how did the Tuscans miss this key ingredient that you will find in breads in other Italian destinations?

The most popular historic theory for the lack of salt in Tuscan bread is that age-old social menace: taxes! In the 12th century, Pisa – an independent republic – controlled access to the sea and in a bid to extort more money from the Florentines, raised taxes on salt. The people of Florence wouldn’t bite (no pun intended) and local bakers began making bread without salt.
Another theory is that food in Tuscany has always been flavorful from the salty meats to the spicy sauces to the bite-yPecorino and powerful olive oil — and the bread was developed as a complement to these strong flavors. No matter what the reason is, Tuscan bread has been salt-less for many centuries and won’t be changing anytime soon."~~ kathy mccabe
the end of another jam packed, fun filled day!!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Good Morning Pisa!

September 19,2012
We were up and out of La Collonina by 8:30 am.  Such a lovely place.  Will definitely stay there again if I find myself in Monterossa again.   We took the train to Pisa, where we stowed our bags in storage at the train station.  Our trip to Lucca wasn't until later in the day so we took this opportunity to walk around Pisa.
And walk we did!!!  Got just a wee bit lost and it took us quite a while to make it to the Leaning Tower.  And it was raining. (last time I was in Pisa, it rained as well)  But we were really lucky because this was the first day of anything other than blue skiies and sunshine since we arrived.
The town of Pisa is rather dull in color compared to the coastal cities we'd just been in.
Soon we came upon the Arno river. It is the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber
After about 45 min of walking, we finally came to the gates of the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
But in usual "tourist" fashion, we decided to have lunch before going in.  Pouring rain and we hoped while  eating lunch that it would stop a bit.

We continued to have so much fun each time we gathered arund the table with good food.

Still raining but we had full bellies and the tower awaited us!
Soon, everyone had taken all the pics they needed and had done a bit of souvenir shopping and it was time to get back to the train station to catch our ride to LUCCA!
The ride was only about 30-45 min and once there, a driver picked us up at train station to take us to our B&B for the next 3 days, which was nice after all the rigamarole we encountered in Pisa getting around!
still raining and waiting for car to come get us. Little did I know at this point, that the one travel bag I'd brought would become like an extra limb of my very good at lifting, dragging, pushing and pulling it everywhere I went for the next 5 weeks!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Last Day in Cinque Terre....sigh*

September 18,2012

On our last day in Cinque Terre, in our sweet, sweet hotel...we all met once more for a wonderful breakfast
the view looking into our breakfast room
Our notorious leader told us this day that we were going back to Vernazza, to shop and explore, since we really didn't get to see the village on the day we hiked there. And that we were to get there on our own, without her.  Meaning, we had to go to train station, look up schedules, pay for our tickets and actually ride the train over there.  Since several of us were going on in different directions after the retreat, this was very beneficial.  I really needed to figure out how to get from town to town on my own.
Brava!!!!  We all made it!
  Lisa and I immediately started walking to the top of the town.....up up up and more up.
Beautiful sites along the way
Halfway up, I turned around to look down upon the town from a completely different angle
and the train station below
we knew we'd gotten to the top when we saw this sign
One of the five cities that make up Cinque Terre. The hiking trail goes around the top of the mountain in Vernazza
Well, by now, you know how tired and hot we are so just what time do you think it is??
Beer 30!
we stopped at the cutest lil cafe on the main street and sat outside to people watch and, of course!
Fried fresh anchovies!  YUM! I'm tellin ya..they were delicious
ms. lisa had tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
we shared spaghetti and mussels
and gnocchi in tomato/garlic sauce
while we're sitting at the cafe, thoroughly enjoying this delicious food, we watched as one by one, the men started to watch the street from their windows or porches....very common there.

Time to head back to train station to catch the last afternoon train.
Once back to Monterossa, we wanted to take one last stroll thru town and down the beaches.
As we walked down a very quiet street, we came upon a gorgeous door that was cracked open a bit.  I, for sure, needed to see what was behind it.  Lo and Behold....the most beautiful church ever!  And you would never have known it because of the unassuming facade.

without my flash in the darkened chapel
I was never ceased to be amazed by the architecture and decor in every church in Italy!
For dinner we just couldn't choose where we wanted to eat on our last night here.  Came across this sign
which was weird cuz this was the chef inside
looking a bit like Popeye beside the biggest array of fresh seafood you've ever seen.  So even tho the sign looked asian, it was definitely italian.  There are hardly any other ethically inspired restaurants in old Italy.  Just good ol' Italian, slap yo mama, fresh food!
We had seafood risotto that had every kind of seafood in it and a beautiful cheese platter with delightful vino, of course!
sorry for the shadow....we were eating outside and I was too excited about this plate of risotto to expose correctly at right distance!!
Whew!!!!  Do you see why we were so tired every night?  We put alot of activitiy into each day from sunup to way after sundown!
But tomorrow?  We're off to Lucca to spend 3 days and 3 nights!!
WOOOOOHOOOO....more adventures!