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Tuscany Departure Day Trip Report-Part Two

November3

Our lunch stop in Lucca was at a place called La Collona on one of the village piazzas but not a large (or significant one). D spotted hot dogs and hamburgers on the menu but luckily they also served traditional dishes. D loves carbonara and chose it with the inclusion of Italian eggs.

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The dish was very yellow and truly looked like scrambled eggs and pasta.

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I knew that it would be my last chance for authentic Italian eggplant. I was not disappointed. The portion was petite but the flavour was huge. The eggplant was smooth & silky and sparkled when combined with the tomato sauce. I think that the dish had been baked without breading and frying the eggplant first. I thought to myself “I am going to have to try this version at home”.

The nicest part of our lunch was meeting Jeremy & Sarah Northcott from Cornwall where he is a retired teacher, now writer and photographer and she is a police crime investigator. They had a similar charm and wit of our friends Dave and Elaine and I have a hunch that we will stay in touch.

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This was the spot where we decided I should stay put until D found the car.

We lingered for longer than we had anticipated and then I got us lost. D wanted us to follow our path back to the car but I insisted that would mean back-tracking and I thought I knew better. D ended up doing the brunt of the walking to retrace our original steps, find the car and pick me up. Unfortunately, the car keys were in the backpack that he asked me to hold and so he ended up making another lap across town to fetch me on foot. He was lovely and patient with our delayed exit of Lucca.

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We drove through a long valley to make our way back to the autostrata and Milan. The sun was setting over the mountains to the west and kissing the ones to the east with patches of sunlight. We were sadly leaving Tuscany and in order to do so we had to cross a section of the country where the autostrata was elevated and there were hairpin turns. To make it worse, there was construction which resulted in two way traffic. I was happy to get back to flatter land but my relief was short lived. Grid locked traffic was encountered the closer we got to Milan and instructions on the Googled maps that I had were cryptic. Once again I regretted that we had not acquired a GPS when we had picked up the car.

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We were blessed by this beautiful sunset that I captured as we were speeding by.

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The view from our room at the Hilton.

I was stressed and worn out by the time we checked in. We had a pretty pedestrian supper in the Hilton which otherwise was a pretty decent hotel. D took care of gassing up and we headed to the airport with time to spare to avoid undue surprizes.

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Our last Italian meal was pizza at the airport and we were off to New York City.

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

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Love never fails.

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Tuscany Departure Day Trip Report-Part One

November2

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We kind of felt as if we had been given a bonus day as we had expected to have to get right up and leave for Milan. Instead since it was almost on our way anyway, we spent the afternoon in Lucca. In fact we spent way more time in Lucca than we had hoped. One reason was a pleasant one and the other…well not so much.

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After parking in an unmarked parking area we made our way into the maze of ancient streets.

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In particular I was taken with the circular piazza

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where I found a beautiful shop with an ancient stone wall exposed on one side. The clerk was lovely and she must have assumed that I spoke or understood more Italian than I did because she merrily chatted away and I really did not have a clue what she was trying to say to me.  In spite of my inability to understand her language, I would say that we had a lovely visit nonetheless.

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I was originally going to use my birthday money to purchase a trio of ceramic hearts but when it was decision time, I switched instead to two drift wood pieces adorned with ceramic pieces of orange and turquoise. The images included a heart which had initially attracted my attention and an interpretation of Lucca’s tower. The pieces are now hanging in our new kitchen and I am very happy with my choice.

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We continued to wander through the quaint streets and shops of Lucca until it was meal time.

Kath’s quote: “I love the language, that soft bastard Latin, Which melts like kisses from a female mouth, And sounds as if it should be writ on satin With syllables which breathe of the sweet South.” -George Gordon Noel Byron

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Love never fails.

 

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Tuscany Trip Report-Day Five, Part Two

November1

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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    

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

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Tuscany Trip Report-Day Five, Part One

October28

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

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

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

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I also studied the exquisite Bernini.

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

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

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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.

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

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along with a gallery of other exquisite replicas.

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

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I indulged in Tuscan sausage, truffles and cream pasta

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and D the fruitti de mare

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along with our customary half carafe of house wine.

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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

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Love never fails.

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Tuscany Trip Report-Day 4, Part 2

October14

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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).

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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

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Love never fails.

 

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