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Porto Santo Stefano

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And then it happened. . .it took us by surprise. . . .it was RAIN!!!


We were grateful and hoped that it would bring some relief from the heat.  But we also wondered,”What will we do on a rainy day in the ONLY port town we’re visiting?”

We didn’t have to wait long to realize the rain was short-lived, it didn’t change the heat, and it brought more humidity.

Porto Santo Stefano sits on a promontory connected to the mainland by two roads.  It’s an absolutely stunning port, known for excellent seafood and its old Spanish fort (which, by the way, we found was only open on weekends).  


Keep in mind that we are still in Tuscany!!  

We knew this AirBnB was on a third floor, so we re-packed our stuff into the smaller suitcase, thinking we’d have to haul it up three flights of stairs.  Surprise. . .we had an elevator!  Our hostess, Sonia, was waiting outside for us and we parked right in front of our apartment.


My rating–9/10–fantastic view, rock-hard bed, AC works well

Cost–$85/night

Now sitting at the top of the cliff means only one thing:  when we walk down into town, we’ve got to walk UP.  But off we went, in search of food.  We quickly realized that today is WEDNESDAY, and in this town, that’s the day that restaurants and shops are closed.  Just our luck!!

But we happened upon Osteria di Pace, right on the water, with a table available outside for lunch.  Score!!!


We can uphold the reputation of wonderful cuisine and fabulous seafood.  After two dishes which we shared, we were filled with all sorts of sea creatures which had given up their lives for our eating enjoyment!  

Strolling along the wharf we enjoyed looking at some of the beautiful yachts of the rich and famous. . .or rich and not-so-famous, just rich.


We couldn’t avoid our fate any longer.  We knew we had to make the climb home.  Now hilltowns are a challenge, but literally climbing up this cliff nearly did us in!!  With hearts pounding, sweat dripping, and legs shaking, we made our way into our apt. 

I promptly fell asleep for the next 3 hours!

Final night in Campiglia Marittima

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Does it seem like all we do is EAT??!!  Sometimes we feel like that, too, and we must admit to planning some of our activities around food schedules here in Italy.  We happened upon a sweet restaurant last night which was full, so we made a reservation for our final night.


The food was beautiful, with sexy black lace decorations, and indescribably delicious.  We sat outside, of course, on yet another cool evening.  

On our final walk in the town we found even more sweet plants and flowers.  I love the look of succulents against the stone walls. The hedges of oleander reminded us of the hedges of agapanthus in New Zealand.


Tomorrow we begin our slow journey back to FCO.  First stop will be Porto Santo Stefano.  I tried to plan this trip so that we would get a feel for as many different types of Tuscan villages as possible.  

So far, so good.

Sweet Suvereto

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DId you ever have one of those experiences where you can SEE a place, you know it’s close , and you can’t get there!?  So it was with San Giovanni, the church we could see from our window.  

We had the name confused and even found ourselves on a ZTL . . . Big no-no Zona Traffico Limited road–so who knows if we will find a fine in our mailbox in a few months!!  Anyhow, after driving around and around, me asking a woman in a nearby cemetery, we found it.

It’s an unusual church in that it is totally surrounded by graves.  All the flat parts are crypts. 

The church was built in 1173. Above one portal is a stone carving scene referring to Etruscan and Roman traditions of boar hunting.  


Seems like this whole area is filled with departed families, as there are the typical type graves adjacent to the church, as well as mausoleums.  I peeked in a few which were ornate and kept with flowers.  When they say “perpetual care” in Italy, they mean it.


So after a sufficient amount of time reading grave markers, the church, and environs, we set off to Suvereto.  Our objective here was simple:  explore yet another Medieval town, sit in the piazza, have lunch.

We can check off all three.  


We climbed to the rocca and explored the ancient stones.  We were surprised when we came around one corner and discovered a handicapped accessible lift!  I’m not sure I would trust to. use it, but it must have been put there for some good reason.

 

We found ourselves in the piazza drinking coffee and watching Life, including a flag flapping in the breeze.


Later in the day we discovered another political party in town, although the office looked desolate.


Lunch was probably at the best place in town. Seriously delicious.


And so, we accomplished another slow travel day in this part of Maremma.  We came home, climbed the hills to our apartment, put on the AC, fell asleep.  

Oh, yes. . .enroute home I saw a sight for which I have no photo.  White Chianina cattle in a field were feasting on a wagon load of cantaloupes!  Is that why their meet is so sweet and tender?

Just another Italian mystery!

Italy’s Caribbean 

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The beaches of the Gulf of Follonica are among the most beautiful and visited in Italy by holiday-makers.  The water is blue, clear, and delightful.  It was just a 30 minute drive from Campiglia Marittima to find ourselves on the beach, under an umbrella.


We were in or near a beach called Torre Mozza, and we didn’t realize it at the time,but we must have happened onto an area that was owned by a resort which was right across the road.Most umbrellas were part of the rental for families who were staying at the resort, but the guy in charge found us TWO umbrellas not reserved and charged us for only one.  20 Euros, free parking, better than the other day.

It was the perfect place to be with our lunch snacks that we had procured at the local Conad supermarket.  We ate,snoozed, read, people-watched, and played in the water.  The perfect beach day!


Don decided it was time to look Italian, so he bargained with one of the many Somalian vendors on the beach for a hat.  And somehow we each got leather bracelets, too.  


Now we must do something about replacing those crotch-rocket sunglasses!  But he DOES look Italian!

Enroute home we stopped by Baratti, just to check out their beach.  It’s in a beautiful park area, beach is totally free, but you’d need your own umbrella and chairs.  I also noticed the sand was sparkling with little bits of quartz(?) and seemed hotter than “our” beach.


We made the best choice for us for today.

Came home and fell into another DEEP SLEEP NAP!  

Facciamo un pisolino!

Campiglia Marittima

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So our home for the next 3 days is just about 45 minutes away from Massa Marittima.  This is our SLOW TRAVEL trip of exploring and enjoying tiny villages, not on any tourist destination.  We are more likely to see farm machinery than tourist buses, of which we have seen none!  Actually, the roads and hairpin turns simply would not be able to accommodate anything larger than a van.

Along the way we stopped at La Novella for a bite to eat.  Once again, I had read about it in the Maremma Guide, and this was our second trip here: once to investigate, and now to eat.  Sunday brought out lots of families sharing huge platters of meats and cheeses.  For me, the melon (called “popone” in Maremma) and prosciutto was just right.

I’m curious about her inscription of “Perché no” which in Italian means, “Why not?” She was standing outside the shop, so perhaps it’s “Why not. . .stop here/eat here/shop here.” Chissà–who knows!?

Yes, Telma, these IS a plastic cup with wine. I will admit to being shocked. But the wine was good!


Upon reaching Campiglia Marittima we were faced with the dilemma we always face when arriving in a new town.  1)Parking. . .2) finding our Air BnB contact, 3) getting suitcases TO the apartment FROM the car.  And remember, these are HILL TOWNS!!

(More in a future blog about the insights reached regarding these dilemmas.)

We found Chiara, our Air BnB owner, at her delightful gelato stand at the arranged time.  I’ve truly never tasted such wonderful concoctions. . .peach tea for me and yogurt honey for Don.


Then began the trek to find the car, retrieve the luggage, and get to the apartment. 

When I say this is a hill town, I’m not exaggerating.  It rivals the best of them with steep climbs.  


We were hot, tired, sweat pouring off of us, AND all of this with Chiara carrying the heaviest bag!!  Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so we laughed!  And we had no idea how we’d ever find our way back.  Breadcrumbs??  But there WAS a rose bush which left petals right up to our doorway!


Finally, we were IN!  The apartment is charming!

Don is THRILLED to have a remote to click on the AC!! The cupboard on the right hides a sweet small kitchen unit, fridge, two-burner stove.


This little place has become our afternoon haven from the heat and sun.  We arrive “home,” click on the AC, close the shutters, take a shower, and settle ourselves down for 1) an afternoon nap, 2) a glass of wine, 3)blog-writing or all three.

So. . . Air BnB–my rating 9.5/10

Cost–about $100/night

Our new town is filled with medieval nooks, crannies, and arches, and you never know what unexpected surprise awaits around each corner.  It’s delightful!


We have become Italian. We hang out our clothes, undies included, on the line outside our apartment. We have no shame!



Since I am actually writing this blog on our third day here (I’ll catch up with our other two days soon) I’ll close with two shots of the town clock, which we see from the small piazza where we go for aperitivi and then dinner.  


8 pm is about when we eat dinner, after enjoying an Aperol spritz and snacks at one of the two bars in town.


And then we finish around 10.  Swallows screech and circle overhead, the air has finally become fresh and cool.  We head up, up the hills, find our home, and drop into deep sleep. 

Buona notte!

Sunday in Italy

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Domenica. . .Sunday. . . And that always means that somewhere on Sunday there is something going on.   In this case, it was our final morning in Massa Marittima, and Don, being the sleuth hound that he is, discovered a poster advertising a car rally that was supposed to arrive in our piazza at 9 am.  So we were up, packed to leave, and out into the piazza shortly after 9 to enjoy a cappuccino for me and a spremuta d’arancia (fresh squeezed orange juice) for Don, each with a cornetto (sweet roll).

We dawdled.  We waited. We finished. We waited some more. We sat on the steps of the Duomo.  I went inside when I heard the organ starting mass.  We checked out of Palazzo Malfatti.  We sat on the steps.

One stray car came into the piazza.


Don quickly sprinted down the steps and talked to the guy, who fortunately spoke English.  He was looking for the car rally, and Don told him he was “numero uno!”  He drove off.

We waited some more.  Another stray car.


We were bummed.  The guy who previously had set up signposts and directional arrows was gone.  All we could imagine was that the route had been changed and the cars wouldn’t be coming. 

Then in the distance. . .a familiar roar. . . 

Yes, the cars from the Massa Marittima run were arriving.


Here is our Rosina’s older sister. . . 


Don was having his “pig in mud” moments, talking to guys, showing pictures of Pearl and Rosina.  Despite the language barrier, they all spoke the same–CAR!


Marty, this one’s for YOU!!


We noticed that each car had its “panty” underneath for drips!


So they arrived two hours late.  So, it’s Italy, and that’s the way it is.  But the cars were here and so were we, so it was all good!

We chose our favorite, and decided we truly could enjoy it from afar without owning it.  Maybe.


She’s French.  Ooh, la, la.   Would she like an Italian and a British sister??!!

Castiglione della Pescaia

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When its hot and you’re near the sea, well, there’s really only one thing to do and that’s GO!  We set off early because Saturday is market day in Pescaia, and our plan was to 1) buy some fruit and snacks, 2) find a cool, sleeveless dress for me in the market, and 3)plop ourselves on the sand under an umbrella and cool off in the Tyrrhenian Sea.


The market turned out to be HUGE, probably one of the largest we’ve seen and sold absolutely everything imaginable.  But we were focused and in short time came away with fruit and a sleeveless dress which I will wear EVERY DAY for the remainder of this trip.  Honestly, I could just leave behind the summer clothes I brought–even though I didn’t bring much– and opt for cool and cotton.  And dresses.

Then, the beach.  When I say that there were NO parking spaces in this town, let me assure you that there were NO parking spaces to be found.  This is a mega-tourist town, it was Saturday, and it was jammed.  I think I even saw a poster for a seafood festival that was taking place this weekend.  People, kids, bicycles. . .it was like an out of control Ocean City, NJ.

 After a few narrow backing-up escapades we honestly were about to give up and head to another town but in heading out of town, the LAST BEACH offered parking and umbrellas.  7 Euros for parking, 35 Euros for an umbrella and two chairs. . .not cheap, but sometimes you just have to fork over some dough!  But the place had a decent restaurant, bathroom facilities, and we were set!


We enjoyed a few lovely hours of “la dolce far niente”–the sweetness of doing nothing–had a nice seafood lunch, a snooze (in which I’m told I snored and drooled!!), a walk down the beach, and a romp in the waves, even Don.


We had a hard time remembering the last time we actually went to the beach.  It was fun to watch families playing, boyfriends trying to kiss girlfriends, and groups of friends hanging out.  Typical.  

We all know that people are the same wherever you go.  . . . Ebony and Ivory, , ,Paul McCartney