Good morning…

….from a slice of heaven.

I’ll be honest…I had a restless night. Nothing to do with the bed, it’s very comfortable.   Possibly I’m not used to the complete darkness and silence but probably just one of those things.

However, I  opened the windows to the sound of birds chirping, frogs croaking near the water reservoir, some insect that sounds like cicadas or crickets, a cool breeze and this view from my window


Doesn’t get much better….



A day of adventure including a rather large permanent mark….

Hmmm Hi I’ll get to the permanent mark shortly but it’s been a full day so I’ll break it down.

Left Santa Maria del Giudice with some sadness. All too quick.

15 mins later I was in Lucca.   A quick tip if you go.  Don’t drive into the walled city but park just outside    Much easier and way cheaper.  It’s 4 times the price within the walls.

And the walls……people told me that I’d find Lucca to be like a mini Lecce and it really is.  I love that you walk through gateways to enter the city.  And these walls can be walked on!!

Once inside I stopped for an Espresso and saw I was right next to the Puccini Museum.  It’s actually the house he was born in and grew up in and after selling it, rebought it once his operas started to be successful.  Now flats, the upper flat has been carefully restored and is a homage to him and his music.

One of my favourite operas is La Boheme.  To see the original music and costumes was magical  they’ve also turned the storeroom into the Garret from Act 1.

Then there are costumes from other operas including Tosca and Tarandot.  I’ve also included a picture of the bedroom.  It looks like wallpaper but it’s actually tempered paint.  Amazingly clever visually.

And as you wander throughout…his music is playing.🎼🎼

From there I went to Chiesa (church) of San Michele in Foro   Looks like a wedding cake .  It’s in a beautiful open piazza surrounded by buildings from a time gone by.

And inside as you’d expect many frescos  I was taken, however, by the organ with its balcony and the pulpit.  Not sure why  I’ve been in many churches in Italy.  I guess some hit a note.

Now one thing I’ve noticed re the difference between Puglia and Tuscany   The rich in Puglia showed off their riches by building churches, the rich in Tuscany built towers….lots of them.  In Lucca there are two of note.

The first is Torre del’Ore.  The tower of time.  You can just see the clock on the side of my picture.


The story goes that the ghost of Lucinda Mansi inhabits it.  From Lucca, she sold her soul to the devil for youth and beauty for three decades.  When he came for his debt she climbed the clock tower to try and stop time.  The devil caught her and took her soul.

The other tower of note is Torre Giungi.  It has 7 oak trees planted in a u shape flower bed at the top!


Lunch calling, I meandered the streets to Piazza Anfiteatro.  When I say meander I try and watch where the crowds go and walk down the other street….you discover more

As I sat down to eat, a delightful father and son appeared in the centre of the piazza, saxophone in hand and proceeded to serenade the cafe visitors.  I didn’t mind it added atmosphere.  I settled for an antipasto of Carpaccio of bresaola and rocket and Parmesan… delicious and lovely piazza to people watch.

A stroll post lunch led me to the main Cathedral.  Cattedrale di San Martino.  As always very impressive outside and in.  Beautiful mosaics and frescos

You cant come to Lucca and not go for a walk on the walls.  They are very wide and are part of daily life here. An evening stroll apparently is a must.

Time to move on to my new accommodation south of Siena.

A rather dull motorway drive including the biggest parked up traffic jam I’ve ever seen….and I’ve been on the M25 at rush hour in the UK!   Fortunately I was turning off at that point and followed the cars zooming past the jam and on my way…..

The road became more appealing as soon as I left the motorway but finding my accommodation was a challenge!  I ended up going up a dirt path, getting stuck and here it comes…. turning the car round and scrapping the back along a low wall that I thought I’d accounted for… ouch. That’s why we have insurance though.  At least no one was hurt…just my pride.

I finally found the place, a converted farm in the middle of nowhere just outside Monteroni d’arbia.  It was worth it.  It’s stunning.  My view from the door


Basta  (enough)…a late night swim, shower and having written this…bed.

A domani

Badia a Passignano

I had a tip off this was worth a detour.  And so it was.

A hamlet that has grown up around an abbey with four monks still residing.   If you are lucky, and I was, you can have a tour of the inner courtyard and old kitchens. Sorry no photos. But take my word … you could still smell the smoke from the fireplace.

The four monks live on the first floor which is where the well preserved and stunning frescos are.  You can’t go up there but they leave the windows open so if you look up and peer you can just see them.   There is also a concert room which was a part of the abbey and has a recently restored 15th century fresco of the last supper. To be honest it was stunning but I felt the frescos around the room of the various monks were more moving.

As you drive up to the hamlet this is the view. Sorry it was the one time today that the clouds came over on what has otherwise been a scorching 31 degrees!


I did take a picture of the beautiful tree lined avenue up to the abbey doors.  I’m rubbish at trees.  What are these?


Then back for a cooling swim and a bite to eat.   More adventures tomorrow



San Gimignano….where they had Tea with….

My first adventure today was a drive through the stunning Tuscan hills to San Gimignano. I’ll be honest. I was expecting tourist hell but it wasn’t too bad.

Started the trip with the essential gelato. The world famous (apparently) saffron ice cream and of course I can’t come here and not have pistachio and hazelnut ice creams.   It’s award winning ….


Then having fortified myself I took on the 218 step climb up the tall tower.  Last few steps were a bit challenging in a skirt….very steep and who knows who is below….

The views speak for themselves


And what goes up must come down. The palazzo civic has some stunning frescos. Some being renovated


There is also the room Dante was said to orate from which had a little chamber next to it for secret meetings.  Well clearly not that secret.


From here it was into the Duomo. This cathedral is wall to wall frescos. Quite a sight to see.


And such gorgeous places around every corner



But time was ticking and I wanted to get off the beaten track…….

Happy Fathers’ Day (in the UK). How weird that I’m staying in Villa del Papa……

So yes, I’ve arrived.  Took a while. Thanks EasyJet. We were delayed longer than the actual flight. Hurumpf.

But then straight through Pisa airport.  Little tip if you’re hiring a car at Pisa… they direct you to the shuttle bus for the hire car place. Can I tell you.  It’s a 400m walk away…….  don’t wait. And after a delay and flight the stroll was very welcome.

Arrived at Villa del  Papa.  It’s about 30 minutes from the airport if that, in a little town that’s very sweet.  Daniela, the owner is a delight.  My room is rustically chic and I can finally let go and breathe……

its late so only night shots but more tomorrow

A beautiful moon over the distant hills.  You can see why poets came from here.

A presto



Up there with the gods….

Mount Etna.   The forge of Zeus!

Anyone who is anyone went to Etna.  Zeus, Hadrian, me….

Etna is an interesting place.  Not the classic one crater, red molten lava but many craters, slow lava but giant boulders.  And a ski location in winter.  The Romans used ice from Etna as the first form of refrigeration and it is the origin of ice cream   Initially in the form of granita (crushed ice) and then in later years, more in the form we know now.  Grazie Etna.

From below it looked very cloudy and oppressive and for those who stayed at base camp, it remained so.  A cable car journey of about 15 minutes takes you higher where many choose to walk along lower craters.  But the decision to go on up in jeeps to two craters created in an eruption in 2011 was a great decision.  As we arrived the clouds parted above and Etna’s peaks were revealed in all their glory


We looked down into one of the craters


And then walked around the ridges between the two.  The lava gives off a gentle heat and you can pick up pieces to warm the hands.  I kept a piece to see how long it stayed warm ( it was cold by the time we got back in the jeep so not ideal for BBQs ).

As quickly as it clears, the clouds return and views in all directions come into view and disappear as fast



Its mystical and magical and invigorating!

You are warned not to go if you have medical issues because of the altitude but if you can safely it’s so worth it.

And that’s it.   An afternoon relaxing in the Sicilian sun, dinner outside on the terrace, cannoli for dessert (sorry didn’t take a photo myself but have “borrowed” this one and they looked exactly like this!)

And now packing for an early return to the UK

I’ve loved Sicily and hope to return.  Of course Puglia is where my heart is but I have a renewed desire to explore more of Italy.  I hope you will come with me.  Until the next adventure.  Ci vediamo e baci.

A spring of mythological proportion…and getting lost

Right on the harbour in Siracusa surrounded by salt water there is a pool filled with fresh water.  Full of carp, it’s an extraordinary anomaly.  But it’s been fully explained.  You see there was a nymph who was chased by a god who turned into a human to chase her but she wanted to escape so was turned into a stream. But would you believe it, this was a river god, so he got the girl because he changed back into a river and mixed into her stream!  Cheeky!

From here I went roaming, around the old Jewish quarter and into random side streets.  I love getting lost in these little streets. It’s so atmospheric and feels closer to how things might have been without a touristy shop in sight!

I met up with the others to do a boat trip round the harbour.  Great to get on the water!  A good way to see the castle too.  Every city has a castle!