6 to 14 August
Today was a day of last minute errands. We had tons laundry that needed to be done from me being back in the US and Jer being in the South of France.
Jer also had ordered a new suit coat that needed to be picked up from La Poste. We made it there just in the nick of time. But we are now fully aware that any big (and heavy) packages will be a pain in the rear to carry from Trocadero home.
Luckily, we both got haircuts today. We were going to wait one week but decided it was best to go see Francois today. Thank god we went because he told us after today he was then on vacation until the beginning of September!
We also did some last minute shopping before packing and spending a relaxing evening at home knowing we have a very early flight in the AM.
Bright and early wake up for us! We have an early morning flight out of Orly into Pisa on discount airline. The lines were out of control! And there isn’t even customs. It was just to drop bags and go through security. Since we were flying on a discount airline, we are only allowed one carry-on bag, which is 100% enforced. This means your purse is a bag. So you would need to fit everything into a European size carry-on. We decided to check 1 bag and carry 2 on. It all ended up working out and we got on our flight and were off to Italy!
Pisa airport is very very very small. So we quickly deplaned (down some roll up stairs and onto the asphalt). We then walked over to get our rental car. Then we set off on the one hour drive to our hotel.
We got to the hotel around 11. We found this Marriott hotel a few years ago and put it on our ‘wish list.’ Well we luckily had saved up enough points to stay here for 5 nights. The hotel is in the hills of the Serchio Valley which is north of Pisa but still technically in the Tuscany region.
Today we just stayed at the hotel and relaxed. Taking in the views from the pool and the balcony of our amazing (upgraded) room. I could get use to this for the next 5 days.
|Pool with a view!|
|Room doesn’t have a bad view either!|
So our hotel was a little bit remote. The whole valley is. It is 2 kilometers from the front gates at the bottom of this hill to the hotel itself from bottom. So nothing really is within walking distance. And if you were driving, after a few drinks was not a good idea to try to navigate the narrow, windy, poorly lit roads. So to enjoy the fine Italian wines, we decided to eat at the hotel.
Well let’s just say the hotel restaurant got 3 strikes today between lunch and dinner. First, they added bottled water to our bill at lunch, which can be an honest mistake that was fixed immediately after us letting them know. Then at dinner, we ordered all our food, we got our wine and appetizer and then sat for an hour. They literally forgot our food. I had to get up and go tell the hostess we were waiting. So our food came, but it was cold and dry. Needless to say, we were pissed beyond reason.
Today started out better, breakfast was included with the room so we had a nice spread. Then we set off for Lucca, which is the closest ‘large’ town. We toured the city taking in the sights including the Duomo di Lucca and the Basillica. Honestly, I think there were 10 churchs in this small city. And they were all equally beautiful. You can see for yourself below
Another cool note about Lucca is that the main part of the city itself is completely walled in. Since it was a medieval town it was built this way to protect the city. As they have modernized the city they have kept the wall and limited the areas you can drive. They have also turned the top of the wall into a park area complete with a paved running/walking trail that goes all the way around.
Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped to have some amazing pizza. God, I love pizza.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the Devil’s Bridge which was from the 10th century. The legend is that the brick layer was not going to finish the bridge in time so he made a deal with the devil that he got the first soul to cross the bridge. The brick layer consulted the town priest who said the devil said a soul, but not what type. So the first soul to cross the bridge was a pig. Defeated, the devil disappeared into the river never to return.
|View from the top of the bridge.|
Once back at the hotel. We decided to take a leisurely hike (per the map at the hotel desk). It was not leisurely but it was 100% worth it. We walked for about 2.5 hours before we got to the peak we were trying to reach. While hiking there were others with all their gear to camp on their backs. We made a mental note that this would be awesome to do before heading back to the states. Let’s see it if happens!
|The start of the paths.|
|The higher you go, the more amazing the view gets.|
|Almost to the peak.|
|Doesn’t get much better than this.|
After 5 hours of hiking, we had dinner at the hotel bar, paired with more Italian wines before calling it a night.
Step Count: 26,581, 18.32 km
Today we went wine tasting. But it wasn’t like your normal over the top corporatized wine tasting. This was at a small vineyard about 10 minutes from our hotel that was owned by a husband and wife. The land has been in the husband’s family for generations and was a farm that sourced all the food for the family owned restaurant in town. The vineyard was also bio-dynamic, which as our hostess told us, is pretty much like ‘witchcraft.’ However, we though it was amazing. It was basically just like USDA organic with some additional rules. We rarely ever agree on a white wine we both like, but here we did. I would highly recommend going to Podere Concori if you are ever in the area. Our tour, which was just the 2 of us. It included the vineyards, meeting the pet donkey Pedro, followed by the wine tasting paired with lunch which was all from locally sourced food, mostly from the farm. It was a perfect experience.
|Exploring the vineyards.|
|Everything here is on the side of the hills.|
After our wine tasting, we took some more time to relax at our hotel, enjoy the pool and work on my ‘tan’.
Then we decided to head into Barga to see the Church and have dinner, This is a town that looks like it was from 10th century, or older. The roads are narrow (you are only allowed to drive in town if you are a local) and incredibly windy and have no grid pattern. So regardless of how good your sense of direction, you will get lost. After going to the Duomo at the top of the town, we found a family owed bar to grad a drink before heading to dinner. We had dinner at Locandi di Mezzo per a recommendation from our hostess at the vineyard. We did the chef tastings with a paired glass of wine per course. It was out of this world. It was a traditional Italian cooking transformed with a modern twist. My mouth is watering just writing about this.
|The tiny, hilly streets of Barga.|
|Ready to be surprised by the chef’s tasting menu.|
We then headed back to the hotel to get a good night sleep.
Today we drove 2 hours South to Sienna then onto Volterra. The plan was to get to Sienna to enjoy the Wednesday morning market. I think that was everyone’s thought is all of Tuscany. Finding parking was a nightmare. But eventually, we found a parking garage with a few spaces left. We then headed to the market which we got caught in an apocalyptic down pour. OK I may be being a little dramatic, but it was miserable.
|Got caught in the rain at the market.|
We then headed to the Duomo. It was magnificent. The church was massive and the artistic flare of the outside of the building (black and white strips) was matched by the beauty on the inside (which we would come back to see later in the day).
|The Duomo with some cool looking clouds.|
We also crossed into the Piazza del Campo. They were getting ready for there traditional horse races in the town square in the upcoming weeks. I could only imagine how much this place rocks when it is filled with spectators and games.
|Piazza del Campo|
We then grabbed a bit to eat (and some Italian wine) before heading off to Volterra.
|Central square in Volterra.|
We then headed back to the hotel in time to watch the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.You can see why so many books have been written and songs sun about the Tuscan skies.
We then had dinner at hotel bar again before getting ready for another busy day.
Today we drove to Cinque Terra which is about 2 hours North West of our hotel. Our original plan was to take the train through a few of the cities and hike the rest so we didnt have to try to drive up and down the coast. We tried to go to the train station at La Spezia. Which like Seina, was everyone else’s idea today as well. The problem with driving to the Cinque Terra is the windy roads and more importantly the lack of parking. But we had no other options, so we figured we would just drive until we found a parking spot.
Cinque Terra has five beautiful towns built into the coast and hills of the Italian Mediterranean coast. The towns are all relatively close, which there is a national park connecting them all. In recent years, the towns have begun to swell more and more with tourists to admire the beauty. We ended up finding a parking spot in Corniglia (third town), which was the last option as the rest of the road was closed for repairs. It all worked out because we wanted to hike through the national parks to all the towns. And the trails between the first 3 towns were all closed anyway.
The hike was much easier than the other one we did early in the week, but there were a lot more people on the trails. There were a lot of steps, so this was not for the faint of heart. But the views were amazing.
|Looking up the coast towards the last town in Cinque Terra.|
|Got a great day for hiking!|
|Their were cacti and aloe plants everywhere.|
|On our way out of Vernazza.|
|Beautiful flowers and vineyards above the towns.|
|Our first view of Monterosso.|
We ended our hike in Monterosso with some well earned gelato before taking the train back to Corniglia to get the car and start the 3 hour drive back to the hotel.
We figured we would give the restaurant at the hotel one more chance (since they sent an apology and a bottle of wine to our room). Dinner ended up being wonderful (and warm). It was a great last dinner in Italy.
Step Count 22,373, 16.16 km
I started my morning by using the sauna at hotel. Get any last toxins (aka Italian wine) out of my body before we head back to Paris. While Jer did this by going for a run instead.
However, we purposefully booked a late flight back to Paris to have time to go into the town of Pisa itself. We enjoyed the tower and took the most touristy pictures we could. We also had gotten tickets and walked to the top. The walk up to the top was so weird. Why you may ask, you just going up the stairs. Well, depending on if you are walking with or without the lean makes the walk easier or harder. And it is super narrow. There is only one stair case to go up and down, so there is 2 way traffic.
|It really does lean…|
|View from the top.|
After seeing the tower and all the sites around it we walked around the city for a while having one last Tuscan pizza washed down by a nice local beer. After lunch we also decided to treat ourselves to one more round of gelato, because, well, it is Italy.
|One last gelato before heading home.|
We then headed to the airport and returned the rental car without issues and we were on our way back to Paris! Italy, we will be back.
These next two days went by fast. We had so much laundry to do (it never ends). And we were getting ready for the Lunds to come to Paris on Monday. So excited for our first visitors!