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Tuscany Trip Report-Day Five, Part Two



On this rare day, I still had enough energy to do another walk through Montecatini (this wouldn’t have been the case if we had driven to Florence).


D had discovered a brand new spot where they served every beverage you might imagine including more beer taps than D had seen on this particular trip.


The owner was just putting out offerings of meat and cheese. He said they do so every evening free of charge so that patrons will stay and continue to imbibe instead of heading home or out for dinner.










I wandered through Montecatini before we headed home to get ready for our last Tuscan evening.

For dinner, we went back to Toscano Doc where we were anticipated by Francesco, the waiter we had befriended earlier in the week.  He was busy in another area of the restaurant but had a chance to send us over a complementary focaccia.


It was so simple and so exquisite! The crust was a thin as a cracker and as crispy and flaky too. The char from the wood fired oven was delicious as was the drizzle of oil and sea salt that we applied.

We started by sharing a pasta dish of sea bass and gnocchi. D loved the fish and I remember thinking that the gnocchi was the lightest I had ever tasted, anywhere. I guess made sense given our locale. Earlier in the week D had ordered the fried seafood and I had been so taken with the dish that I selected it again.


Doug’s eye was caught by pork tenderloin served with crispy red onion and rosemary potatoes.


We returned to the hotel to get organized for our departure the next day.

Kath’s quote: “My idea of heaven still is to drive the gravel farm roads of Umbria and Tuscany, very pleasantly lost.”  ― Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun    


Love never fails.




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Tuscany Trip Report-Day Five, Part One



After enjoying the wonderful sunshine in Montecatini’s Piazza, we strolled to the train station for our journey to Florence. We had been briefed that driving was restricted and parking difficult and we were quite ready to sit back and relax on this day trip.


The country side scenery was beautiful and the train so efficient -we were in Firenze station in no time. Centrally located, we walked from the station in the direction of the piazza with the throngs of other travellers.


Our main intent was for D to view Michelangelo’s David and we had asked for directions while still at our hotel base in Montecatini. Unfortunately, we were either misinformed or had misunderstood as we were told that David was at the Ufizzi Gallery.


We made our way there purchased a premium ticket so as not to have to wait in line, but we still had a short wait, had to go through a security check and D had to check his backpack (even though others were allowed to keep theirs if they wore them on their fronts).


We began to wind our way through the galleries in pursuit of David-the prize.


When we thought that we were coming to the end of the path, we asked a security guard if David was still ahead.



Boticelli- who I loved when studying art history at university.


I also studied the exquisite Bernini.

Even with our limited understanding of Italian, we could interpret that we were indeed in the wrong gallery.


We exited soon after but not until we had our photo taken on the terrace at the restaurant


and viewed the Rialto Bridge that I had visited some 40 years prior. After hiking over to Acadamea to see more line ups and required ticket purchases, D made the decision to give up on the goal.



The consolation prize was that we did get to view David’s replica by the Ufizzi


along with a gallery of other exquisite replicas.



By this time we were hungry and D found us a spot in the sunshine right on the piazza of the Duomo.


I indulged in Tuscan sausage, truffles and cream pasta


and D the fruitti de mare


along with our customary half carafe of house wine.


Soon after we hopped the train back to Montecatini.

Kath’s quote: “Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night” – Eila Hiltunen


Love never fails.

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Tuscany Trip Report-Day 4, Part 2










We were so glad to have included San Gimignano on our way home. The the medieval towers provided the set for the movie “Tea with Mussolini” (standing in for Florence).







After spending the afternoon in the beautiful village we made our way back to Montecatini on the back roads. They were not particularly scenic and very difficult to navigate.

We had one very stressful incident. In order to avoid what D thought to be a fatal car crash, D slammed on his brakes. We could see a truck coming around a corner but knew that those behind us could not. The fellow in the car behind us was not happy with D and came up to knock on the car window. He was cursing and waving his hands around and was very, very angry. As soon as D explained that we were not Italian, he cheerfully apologised and let us continue on our way. Phew. The exchange could have gone in a very confrontational manner because D absolutely believed that he had saved the Italian’s life!

Kath’s quote: “Arabella, you might love art, but art certainly doesn’t respond to your affections”. –Lady Hester in Tea with Mussolini


Love never fails.


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Tuscany Trip Report- Day 4, Part 1



We were off again!


Although our touring of Montecatini and Siena had been pleasurable, I was longing for the countryside. D accommodated me by making the long drive to Montepulciano. I did not know a whole lot about the community itself but had heard a great deal about the Val d’Orcia, the valley where the village is located from my friend Tuscan Muse, who operates themed tours in the area. She happened to be in Rome that day so we missed meeting in real life.







As it was another rainy morning the streets were deserted.





My favourite part about the time spent in Montepulciano was actually the views from the town to the valley below.


We were fascinated by this exquisite cart that was all by itself in the square.


Upon inquiring we found out that a TV set had just packed up the day prior and they hadn’t had a chance to remove the prop. You can see the back of the cart next to Dustin Hoffman! We had missed seeing him in action by a single day….groan. The TV drama also featured a popular and handsome fellow from The Game of Thrones.



The rain continued and we were not quite certain what to do in Montepulciano in the rain, so we found a vineyard store and did Vino Nobile and Brunello wine-tastings, with a couple of bottles secured to take back to Canada.









I couldn’t get enough of the surrounding countryside, so I stay near the town’s edge to capture as many digital memories as possible. I must admit, I was disappointed in the weather and the fact that I hadn’t researched the area well enough to know exactly where we could go and just sit and enjoy the valley. By this time though we were getting peckish and decided to start our search for a trattoria while at the same time knowing that we were almost out of gas.

We made it as far as the neighbouring community of San Quirico d’Orcia.  We stopped at a Hotel/Bar/Restaurant called Il Garibaldi as they had gas pumps out front. We were told that we could not get gas until the attendant returned from what we thought must have been his siesta. Since we couldn’t go anywhere anyway, we decided that this was the perfect place for lunch.


For 12 euros each (including aqua, house wine and cappuccino) we were served the collections of items listed here. We thought we got to chose one of the items but no, we were served everything on the board!


We think that this pasta was boar over polenta which I was not partial to.


So I shared D’s pasta casserole with a variety of cheeses.



We were also served a blend of spinach and peas, a casserole of pureed broccoli, roasted chicken and fish in a tomato sauce. D was delighted by the find and thought that lunch was one of the highlights of the trip.


The stop may have been a highlight for me as well but for a different reason-the view from back of the hotel and gas station was absolutely breath-taking! We now have a gorgeous black and white framed photo of the Val d’Orcia on our kitchen wall.

Kath’s quote: “Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.”  ― Frances Mayes


Love never fails.

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Tuscany Trip Report-Day 3, Part 2






Upon departing the Siena Duoma, we were delighted that the rain had stopped and the clouds were making way for patches of blue sky.  We had worked up a substantial appetite and went off in search of a trattoria to enjoy some lunch.


We discovered a delightful place called I Barberi.


At this and every place we stopped for lunch, we would order a carafe of house wine. Not only was it affordable but stellar in almost every case.


While D perused the menu, I went in search of the ladies room and to do some snooping at that lovely place.



Another tourist explained to me that I was looking at photos of the Palio di Siena which is a horse race that is held twice each year in July and August. Ten horses and riders, dressed in appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen city wards. The Corteo Storico (a pagent), precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.

The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, (where we had stopped for coffee that morning), on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid. The race is run for three laps of the piazza and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.


Just before I returned to our table, I chatted with this table of American tourists, who admitted that they were a little bit overwhelmed when trying to decide what to order from the menu so they chose a little bit of everything!


D and I shared this starter of warmed parmesan with a drizzle of balsamic. It was heavenly!


D chose lasagna which he enjoyed a great deal but not as much as my dish:


I chose the taglialini with truffle and it was one of the most amazing, yet simple pastas I have ever eaten!


As we left the trattoria, we decided to turn on our cell phones and use their wifi. Low and behold we had a message from my nieces’ future parents-in-law, whom D and I had never met. We knew that Australians Honor & Gaz were also in Tuscany and we knew that there was a possibility that they might arrive in Siena that day. What we didn’t know was that they were waiting for us at a coffee shop just across the street! We dashed over there to no avail. We couldn’t spot them and decided that it wasn’t meant to be. Begrudgingly we started to walk back to our car down the narrow street pictured above. D as you saw above was wearing a Canada sweatshirt and sure enough Gaz and Honor were walking towards us. Gaz took a chance when he saw the Canadian sweatshirt and shouted something to get our attention. What an exhilarating feeling, to meet Dylan’s parents (who we love dearly) from half way around the world!



The four of us hit it off immediately and they invite us for drinks at their hotel. This was the view from their hotel window. The hotel was charming and so lovely.


They suggested that we have drinks in the hotel garden and we were delighted by this beautiful space to the rear of the hotel. But the must thrilling surprise was still to come.


We sat next to the wall that enclosed the garden, which turned out to be the city wall and overlooked the amazing country side that surrounds the exquisite city of Siena.







I couldn’t stop taking pictures…I was absolutely enthralled by the changing light from the late afternoon sun. This was the Tuscan experience we had travelled so many miles to savour. Here it was in the backyard of the hotel of new friends who we met quite serendipitously.


Here are the four of us, absolutely delighted to be together, with so much to ask and say to each other.





As the sun set, we realized that we still had the car journey back to Montecatini, so we reluctantly tore ourselves away for our dear friends and the sites from their hotel garden. Our happenstance meeting seemed divinely inspire and D an I so look forward to being with them again. Our next opportunity will be on Isla Mujeres when their son marries our dear niece in March of 2017!

Kath’s quote: “We all have chance meetings with people, even with complete strangers, who interest us at first glance, suddenly, before a word is spoken.”-Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Love never fails.




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