Thursday, June 30, 2016

Day at Lake Garda

We explored Largo di Garda via the local boats. After a special hotel breakfast we caught the ferry across the lake to Bardolina. The place was busy as it was market day! It took at least an hour to walk through the markets with a wonderful collection for tourists and locals. In this part of Italy there are lots of Italian tourists and we also passed several large "camping areas" with caravans and motor homes.
We walked to the next village  of Garda to the north about an hour in the hot sun. As we approached we did stop for both drinks and lunch.
Arriving at the town, we had had enough so paid a supplement for a fast boat back to Sirmione.

                           As we cleared the peninsula we had a good view of the Roman ruins.

Could one mother duck have this many ducklings. They greeted us as we arrived in Bardolino.

                                                  There was also a swan and its cygnets.

Gail on the Bardolino waterfront. We actually spent most of the time walking through the markets. Todays turn was Bardolino's.

                         Looking into the glare over the bay at Bardolino. A fairly liquid lunch!

                                          The scenery always look better through a glass!

                                               Our hotel taken from the ferry on our return.

                     We still had time for a read, a swim and attend to chores before dinner

                                                 A very relaxing dinner at a local pizzeria.

Largo di Garda

Robert and his castle and armarda

We drove from Vicopisano to the North going via the outskirts of La Spezia. It was very tempting to detour to one of the towns on the Cinque Terre but we drove on eventually to Lake Garda. We stopped at Sirmione for an hour and are still here 2 days later.
This is where many Northern Italians go for holidays so we decided to have a holiday from our hectic pace of travel.              
Sirmone is located on a peninsula of land the juts out into the lake at the southern end. We had planned to drive up halfway but after paying for 1 hour of parking we booked a great hotel and decided to stay overnight. By the end of the afternoon we added an extra night. As you approach the historic centre of the town you come to a bridge and the castle.

To get to our hotel we had to get a certificate for the police the drive over the bridge , past the castle and through the labyrinth of narrow lanes and tunnels . The green light simply means cars not coming the other way but thousands of people were. It was simply a matter of taking it slowly and we found our hotel. There were close encounters!

We went out to the end of the peninsula where there was a great swimming beach. The best we have seen on this trip along with a bar. We went to the museum and archaeological ruins of an old Roman villa called Grotte di Catullo. It was named after the home of the poet Catullo who had a home here and you entered it via a cave.
We also had a late afternoon swim in front of the hotel, drinks on our balcony and a walk around the narrow streets

A photo of an aerial photo of the ruins.

Gail with Largo di Garda in background
We had dinner at a restaurant next to the Castle. A white swan was swimming in the moat that is open to the lake

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Pisa and the beach

We drove to Pisa as we are staying very close to this beautiful town. It is so good you could not visit too many times. We didn't climb the tower as the timed tickets were hours away. We did inspect the Duomo and the Baptistry. This has to rival any collection of buildings for sheer beauty.

                                         The first photo of the day. What a welcome to Pisa!

Everyone straightens the tower but every night they put it back. This way the tourists keep coming.

                                                The outside of the Baptistry. Our favourite.

                       The outside of the Duomo is very intricate and very elaborate inside

                                                         One of the stained glass windows

We parked the car next to the city walls.It was not too far to walk up to the Leaning Tower.

The walk was past lots of old buildings that few people stop to look at as they hurry to the tower.

We finally made it to the beach at Viareggio. Not like our beaches of golden sand but the usual private beach concessions. We still enjoyed a cooling swim as the weather has been very hot over the past week. It was a good beach day.

Our last photo of the day. As we drove back into the village of Vicopisano the sunflowers were coming out. This was from the car window.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Day in Lucca

We set out from Vicopisano for a day in Lucca. We had planned to go to Lucca a few years ago and changed plans so were delighted to navigate the back roads to this charming city. After parking we walked up onto the walls that surround the old town and had a very pleasant stroll.

                                                          Gail walking the ramparts

Into the town our first stop was the Basilica di San Frediano. This is a beautiful church both on the outside and inside.

                                       The frescoes on the outside of the church are stunning

                                These are the remains of Saint Zitae. Even more gory up close!

There is not much remaining of the Roman era but we stopped for coffee in Piazza Anfiteatro. At the time it was outside the city walls as the gladiators were not permitted to fight inside the city....except at nightclubs and football games!

                                                         They even cater for the pooches

We went up the main tower climbing the 220 steps to the top. You can see the entire city below.

                                                    They have trees growing on the top!!

                                               In the distance you can see the Duomo.

                                    The outside of the Duomo with its elaborate marble work.

                                                            The inside of the Cathedral

                                One of the stained glass windows. This is a beautiful building.

We stopped for lunch in one of the small laneways. Nice bottle of wine! This car managed to get past but when a garbage truck came along it was up close and personable!

We spent a few more hours looking at piazzas. churches, towers and shops including high end fashion. It was a memorable day and we even managed to find our way "home"

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Vicopisano is a small community not very far from Pisa in the Northern part of Tuscany. Today we explored this historic town centre.
It has many elements that are similar to the dozens of other fortified hilltop towns but each has its unique aspects and special features. For us the special aspects have been the welcoming community and today our visit to Rocca del Brunelleschi.

Walking up the street on our way to visit the Rocca. No flat easy sections around this town.

When we reached the Defensive tower stronghold there was an amazing collection of coats of arms and flags.

When we went in we first looked at the displays in the museum and visited the old prison that dates from when the Rocca was constructed. To get up the tower this was the preliminary set of steps. Constructed so they could be easily demolished in case of attack they stayed intact for our visit.
Each level had one large room for a specific purpose such as cooking, sleeping etc. The very lowest level was for water storage.

                         Rob in the weapons room. Note the special medieval footwear!

Once we reached the top we had spectacular views. This is looking down the valley and out into the new town.

At one point the tower is linked to another tower that was on the Arno River so that they could be re provisioned in times of seige, It is a very strong defensive style with deep dry moats, drawbridges, points for dropping hot pitch and rocks and plenty of armour like crossbows

We climbed about six very long ladders to reach the top but it was as good as any castle visit! There was just the two of us with a guide who was the chief historian and archaeologist.

                     We returned "home" for a rustic lunch of prosciutto and melon.

After an afternoon of jobs and siesta we returned to town to check out other places.

                                                  Another of the towers in the town
The tower only dated from the 15th century but the attached Palazzo Pretorio dates from the 13th century. We also visited the Santa Maria Church from the 12th century.

Driving from the South of Tuscany to the North

We departed Buonconvento but it took us an hour to clear this small town. We had not had time to explore this Medieval town centre and it also happened to be market day. I did consider setting up a wine and cheese stall  but instead we bought slacks and a dress for Gail!!

Before we left we took photos of our Agritutismo  accommodation inside and out. It was a marvelous set up and great for a long stay with plenty of space and all facilities.

We drove to Monteriggioni a favourite of ours and called in to the place where 6 of us stayed a few years ago. We had lunch in the square and wandered the Medieval town centre .

This is the perfect place to visit! Population about 48 plus lots of day visitors. Next time we will stay overnight again!

We drove on as we had a long drive. We stopped at Certaldo with a great old town centre.

The best thing on a very hot day was that we were able to ride up to the old town on a cable car!

                                    This Medieval wench didn't seem to mind the attention

 Driving to Vicopisano we took a few back roads!! Great scenery and very narrow roads

We just had time to settle into our accommodation at Lenzi's when we were taken out for a night on the town. The first stop was the opening of Eno Sophia Wine Bar.

We moved on to a special dinner in one of the small local villages. We think that everyone in the village was there,

                                  We were seated in the centre of the table. It was a fun night.

We finished up at a local bar that sells a special digestive based on pine nuts and either galliano or amaretto. We were finished for the night!