Thursday, 10 January 2013

Lucca, Montecarlo and Montecantini

We took the opportunity today to tour the countryside of Tuscany. Our two private vans arrived at 9am sharp and we were off! Our driver/guides were Angelo and Bepe, two most funny, wonderful and warm gentlemen who spoke excellent English. They really did help make our day.

Our first stop was the walled city of Lucca, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. On arrival, the group split up. The olds were taken for a walk by Angelo, and the rest went for a bicycle ride atop the wide city walls around the perimeter of the old town. It was a lovely and relaxing way to spend the morning, and so much fun! The children had a blast and so did we. There were ramps which led down into the town for sightseeing which we used to visit churches, and markets. With six bicycles going in a row, it was almost like a scene from the Sound of Music. I was almost tempted to burst out into "Do-re-mi" as I overtook the children.

Got our bikes. Ready to ride on the city walls

Ah...the best seat

The outside edge of the wall

The top of the wall!

So nice to see green everywhere

Easy to ride down the ramps into the town. Bike racks everywhere. Rental place included chains to lock our bikes up

We're then free to walk around!

One of the many churches in Lucca

An empty piazza

Playgrounds along the wall. You can see one of the many ramps in the background


Do...a deer a female deer

The group reconvenes. Our two vans in the background. As you can see, purchases were made...

No visit to Tuscany would be complete without wine tasting so that was our next stop. We stopped at a vineyard called Buonamico near the town of Montecarlo. Not the Montecarlo near France but the one in Italy! We were taken on a quick tour of the facilities and taken through the wine making process. The drinkers then tried the various wines which was quickly followed by lunch. We were allowed to try and drink more wine from their selection during lunch. With much merriment we dug into the simple but tasty spread of cold meats, cheese, bread, and barley salad. Strangely enough, the vineyard didn't have coffee which I thought was a little unsual for an Italian establishment. We bought some wine for our upcoming cruise and piled into our vans.

The oak barrels on rollers so they could be rotated

Their special cellar with wine from every year since the vineyard opened

The very first year of operation

From the vineyard we continued on to the hilltop town of Montecarlo, a picturesque place off the beaten track. As with most small towns in Europe, it was very quiet in the winter. We strolled down the pretty streets and enjoyed coffee and gelato. The shopowner had forgotten to include the ice-creams that the children had. When Malcolm went in to pay, he then decided to give the ice creams to us for free. It was such a lovely gesture!

We just had time to squeeze in the spa town of Montecantini before we had to head back to Florence to beat rush hour traffic. The part at the foot of the hill were full of hotels and restaurants capitalising on the spa industry. On the top of the hill was another quaint Tuscan town with a great view. It was a shame that haze once again prevented us from having a clear view of the surrounds.

As we all had to magically find space in our luggage to fit all our shopping, we decided to have a quiet night in and abandon the plans for the theatre restaurant. Malcolm headed to a deli/restaurant across the road from where he had previously bought foccacias for the family. It so happened that it was owned by the parents of the owner of the foccacia store! By chance, he was there on behalf of his parents and remembered Malcolm. And so he decided that he would give us a bottle of wine. Once again, yet another generous gesture. Just got to love the warm natured Italians! With that, it was sadly time to say goodbye to beautiful Florence.


Icecream and coffee

The main street

Cats everywhere

Gorgeous country scenery


Once again no one there

Dinner at home

The free wine that we scored!

Trying to finish the limoncello that we bought

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