We left Greve and headed to Volpai, another castello (fortified town) dating back to the 1170’s. The artist whose shop we visited in Greve suggested we stop there as it was the reported home of the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa.
We walked around the medieval fortress taking in the sights.
We decided to stop for lunch at a delightful open-aired restaurant called Bar Ucci.
No room outside, so we opted for the quaint and ancient rooms inside that opened out.
As we were leaving, we ran into our Tuscan hikers from England, George and Bridget. They had hiked their way up that day, if I remember correctly, about 14 kilometers!
We left there and headed toward Sant’ Appiano. Our agritourismo also had a winery, which was closed by the time we got there.
So we sat on the terrace of the former barn, and wrote in our journals, etc.
Love castello nearby.
We had chosen this spot as they advertised a restaurant within, but it was closed that day…..go figure! So we ventured out and came to La Sosta di Pio VII.
The stone plaque marks the spot where a Pope had stopped to relieve himself at this very old barn, complete with troughs still in tact! Delightful spot literally in the middle on nowhere.
Cinghiale (wild boar) stew and homemade ribbons of pasta were hits.
We got up early the next morning and left as there was no in-house coffee or tea, and headed for San Gimignano in provence of Siena.
We found a very nice cafe just outside the city walls.
We got our coffee, tea, croissants and fruit in this eclectic spot, which also provided paper and crayon for any artistic urge you might have. You can see the brown paper renderings in the background.
Mom and I added to the menagerie.
View from the cafe window.
Interesting modern fountain in the square made from regional stone.
We entered the city walls for a day of shopping and sight-seeing.
Apparently, we weren’t alone! Interesting leather shops, I found Burt some shoes! LOL
Something for everyone……
Some are resting at the central well.
Even the lamps were interesting in the morning light……
We stopped for lunch at a tiny bruschetta shop.
Good thing we’re all skinny! Puts a new twist on “cozy”.
A walk around the outer edge of city after lunch was in order.
Well behaved dogs are always welcome!
We booked our agritourismo at town center, and headed out to the countryside.
We checked in, bought a bottle of their wine, and headed for a relaxing cocktail hour.
Building with our rooms.
Heading to dinner.
Always wanted to know how pomegranates grew!
Early morning on the “farm”.
Up early and leaving for Voltaire and the Etruscan Museum!
Another hilltop town, we had to park at the bottom…..
The Etruscan civilization (/ᵻˈtrʌskən/) is the modern name given to a powerful, wealthy and refined civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Lazio. Their civilization influenced the Romans, who had suppressed them by about 200 bc.
As you can tell, I especially liked the pottery. There was much more, but lighting was tough on some of the other displays.
Here is view from museum balcony…
More pics of Voltaire
We hit the winding road again, and head to Pisa. This was of particular interest to Amy, as we tried to go and see it 16 years ago, but traffic was so crazy, and parking impossible, so the best we could do was see it from a distance. This time the girls had a parking spot all scoped out, and we actually got to park and see it!
We entered the walled piazza, and passed the army guards with machine guns. The piazza was packed with tourists from all over the world. It is actually a bell tower behind the baptistery and cathedral.
The must-have selfie! Same in any language as we watched all do it as well.
Amy has this finally off her bucket list! We had wonderful veal scallopini at a street cafe.
Heading toward the west coast and our final leg of the journey: Cinque Terra, the Italian Riviera!
We are getting close as we pass through and by La Spezia. You can take a train or a ferry boat from here if you wish to Cinque Terra. We drove the steep and winding way, sometimes afraid to look down from the road as we edged around rocky cliffs.
We finally arrived at Riomaggiore, the southern most village of Cinque Terra. To quote Lonely Planet:
“Set amid some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, these five ingeniously constructed fishing villages can bolster the most jaded of spirits. A Unesco World Heritage site since 1997, Cinque Terre isn’t the undiscovered Eden it once was but, frankly, who cares? Sinuous paths traverse seemingly impregnable cliffsides, while a 19th-century railway line cut through a series of coastal tunnels ferries the footsore from village to village. Thankfully cars were banned over a decade ago.
Rooted in antiquity, Cinque Terre’s five villages date from the early medieval period. Monterosso, the oldest, was founded in AD 643, when beleaguered hill dwellers moved down to the coast to escape from invading barbarians. Riomaggiore came next, purportedly established in the 8th century by Greek settlers fleeing persecution in Byzantium. The others are Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola. Much of what remains in the villages today dates from the late High Middle Ages, including several castles and a quintet of illustrious parish churches.
Fetching vernacular architecture aside, Cinque Terre’s unique historical feature are the steeply terraced cliffs bisected by a complicated system of fields and gardens that have been hacked, chiselled, shaped and layered over the course of nearly two millennia.”
Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/cinque-terre/introduction#ixzz4Pomfh5Ol
We parked our car here, and walked down into the village to find our lodging. Downhill all the way, we weaved our way down intricate steps and pathways around ancient, warmly painted buildings onto the main street of commerce.
Down at the very bottom was the fishing harbor.
No ugly blue tarps here! Many were blanketed with stately blue-and-white striped covers, adding to the already fun colors going on. Great eye candy!
We decided to eat harbor-side, and of course tried the house specialty, fresh calamari.
We checked out the port in the evening light before turning in.
The next day we decided to take the ferry and see the other four villages.
May as well take a picture of the village in daylight as we wait for the boat to arrive.
We climb up and around the steep cliff to board the ferry.
We were on a ferry with a family of five who were going to hike the ancient paths back. ” Lots of steps” the dad said. We stayed aboard until Monterosso, but much enjoyed the smaller cliff-hanging villages in between.
We deported at the harbor and headed for town.
I spotted our hiking family eating sandwiches on a bench.
Winding through the town, we came upon a very interesting church.
Adjacent to the church was a small Oratory built during reformation and run by a fraternal organization that was dedicated to care for poor widows and orphans and to see that funeral arrangements are made, with special emphasis on care for shipwrecked and fisherman. It’s strange skeletal decor was fascinating.
We had an awesome lunch at a small cafe. The big hit was fresh marinated white anchovies….Yummo!
We ferried back to Riomaggiore for our last night. We made reservations at Grottino.
It is literally a restaurant in a grotto.
Our final Italian feast was indescribably delicious, and we walked to see the last of the evening (and walk off the meal!).
The Nonnas are out socializing after supper, which seems to be an Italian custom as families come out and enjoy the last of the day together. It’s a wonderful custom!
I hope you enjoyed our trip! We enjoyed sharing it with you.
Until our next adventure……..Live every moment! Julie