parcheggio Italiano

It’s no secret that driving in Italy is not for the faint-hearted. It is fast, crazy and a lot of fun. Parking in Italy is something else, an art form that takes years to perfect. The rules are quite simple and the zones are colour coded to assist the unwitting tourist. Blue zones are for paid parking, you can buy your ticket from the machine, display it on your dashboard and be sure to return to your vehicle in the allotted time frame. Alternatively, you can purchase a disco orario, a blue disc that represents a clock, from a bank, tourist office, post office or tobacconist (except for the bank we went into, although the lovely ladies wrote a note in Italian for us to use in place of a disc). You set the hands to show the time you arrived and you can park for free, usually for 2 hours. Parking is free in blue zones during lunch time and on Sundays. Having said all that, it seems parking within the lines is optional.

1.Le Grazie2.Pienza

7.Grotte di Castro

White lines mean parking is free but there may be time limits. If this is the case, it is a good idea to display the time you arrived on your blue disc. Travel advice warns that it is essential to park within the lines to avoid a fine, however, free spaces are often limited and so, creativity prevails.

8.Seggiano9.Orvieto10.Orvieto

It seems to be universal that parking areas marked with a yellow line are reserved for handicapped drivers and delivery zones.

11.Acquapendente

Some towns have pink spaces especially for expectant mothers and those with infants. Parking is not permitted in green zones on working days between 8 – 9.30am and 2.30 – 4pm. Often, there are no parking squares marked and it seems to be a free-for-all.

12.Grotte di Castro

It only takes one to start a trend. Don’t let a roundabout on the main thoroughfare deter you, just follow where others have led.

13.Le Grazie14.Le Grazie15.Le Grazie

If there is no parking spot available, just leave the car in close proximity to your destination in the knowledge that passing motorists will avoid your vehicle.

16.Acquapendente

17.Pitigliano

If all else fails, don’t even pretend to look for a parking spot, just leave the Mercedes in the middle of the road while you go about your business.

22.Pitigliano

If your neighbour encroaches on your space, you are entitled to squeeze him out.

23.Orvieto

Sometimes there are zones that are just too confusing, the colours are random and there is no indication of time limits. This is what you do.

24.Acquapendente

Ponte a Moriano

An easy walk from Villa Boccella, the lovely town of Ponte a Moriano had everything we could possibly need. A butchers shop,

1.Macelleria Pierotti

bakery with stupendous custard tarts

as well as another pastry shop we didn’t sample.

4.Pasticceria Furio

On the opposite side was a rather impressive gelataria that we again, sadly, didn’t try.

5.Gelateria Sauro

Further down the road was a bar next to a small supermarket

and heading out of town, the Melody Caffè advertised live music along with good food, beer and wine.

8.Melody Caffè

Of course, the collection would be incomplete without a $2 shop or, in this case, a €1 & €2 shop.

9.Uno,Due Shop

A very unassuming façade disguised the presence of a fabulous restaurant, Da Pinzo, where we enjoyed a delicious meal or two.

10.Da Pinzo

Tuesday was market day and we wandered down to Piazza Cesare Battisti on a beautiful, sunny morning to see what was on offer. There were colourful plants

and clothing

and more plants

and vegetables.

Satisfied with our purchases, we explored the town further and came across an old wall with steps that led to the other side.

21.old wall22.old wall23.old wall

From the top of the wall we could see the Ponte di Sant’Ansano. The bridge was built in 1828 to replace the original medieval wooden structure, built in 1115, that was destroyed by floods in 1819.

24.Ponte di Sant’Ansano

Ponte a Moriano means, ‘bridge in the Moriano locality’ but the actual bridge is named after Saint Ansano, the patron saint of Siena who died in 304 AD. In the centre of the bridge, there is a statue of the Virgin and Saint Ansano.

25.statues of the Virgin and Saint Ansano

The view downstream is peaceful, the gentle sound of water tumbling over rocks a salve for the soul.

26.Serchio River27.Serchio River28.Serchio River

This lovely home has prime position.

29.riverside house

Once across the bridge,

30.Ponte di Sant’Ansano

we could look back at the town and the riverside homes upstream.

31.Ponte a Moriano32.Ponte a Moriano33.potting shed

The magnificent Convento dell’Angelo was clearly visible, the white walls contrasting vividly with the green of the hillside.

34.Serchio River upstream

The church and adjoining monastery was built in the 1820s for the Passionist Fathers and is now home to the Academy of Montegral.

35.Convento dell'Angelo

There were so many things to appreciate in Ponte a Moriano, one that really stole our hearts was this little Fiat. I want one.

Villa Boccella

When we returned from our first trip to Italy, we couldn’t help sharing our experiences and our fascination with this wonderful country. Our friends’ daughter was starting to think about her future wedding and the seed was set for a Tuscan location. Of course, we made it quite clear that we would be attending, what better excuse for a return visit? Nevertheless, we were very excited and honoured to receive the invitation, not only to the wedding, but to stay for a week in a villa with the bridal party and other guests. After our two nights in Lucca, we collected the hire car and drove the ten kilometres to Villa Boccella.

1.Villa Boccella

It sounds simple but we had great difficulty finding the entrance gate and, finally asking directions from a local, we were the last of the party to arrive.

2.arrival

There are six properties on the estate and our accommodation was to be in the two limonaie where, originally, lemon trees in pots were moved to in winter to avoid damage from the frosts. Limonaia Grande is the larger of the two

3.Limonaia Grande4.Limonaia Grande

and became the hub of activity with its fabulous kitchen

5.kitchen

and dining room,

perfect for a wedding feast.

11.wedding table

The enticing sofas in the sitting room

12.sitting room

were bathed in the light flooding through the French windows.

13.sitting room

The ample bookshelves were well stocked and quirky ornaments adorned every surface.

There were two options for al fresco dining, one with barbecue and pizza oven

22.al fresco

and the other overlooking the swimming pool.

23.al fresco24.pool

Across an orchard of peaches, plums, figs and cherries, Limonaia Piccola faced Limonaia Grande and was equally as opulent as her big sister.

25.Limonaia Piccola

The large windows downstairs captured the light no matter what the time of day.

26.sitting room27.sitting room28.dining area29.kitchen

Our upstairs bedroom was gorgeous

30.our bedroom

with a magnificent view across the orchard to the mountains beyond.

32.view from bedroom

Between the two limonaie, we could see the 17th century main villa in all her glory

33.main villa

and a glimpse of Boccellina, the original gatehouse to the estate.

34.Boccellina

For outdoor relaxation there were several settings to choose from.

35.garden chairs

The rose covered pergolas were in full bloom.

37.outdoor seating38.outdoor seating

Terracotta planters scattered colour around the garden

50.planter

51.planter

and the orchard still held some surprises.

56.garden

A pair of blackbirds were lucky to have such a beautiful home.

As well as our wonderful memories, we have a special gift to remind us of our time at Villa Boccella. The bride & groom had commissioned an artist in Darwin to create an illustration of Limonaia Grande as a memento for the guests.

62.illustration

Thank you all for an unforgettable week.

Vergemoli

When we first visited Italy in 2014, we were invited to lunch at the home of friends, Deb and Jim, in the mountains of the Garfagnana. We recalled the drive as being somewhat hair-raising but, when invited again this time, we couldn’t resist. With much trepidation, we ventured forth, stopping in Gallicano for a heart starter coffee and pastry.

The road out of the village certainly fits the description of ‘narrow’,

6.Gallicano

as we passed beneath the ancient aqueduct.

7.aqueduct, Gallicano

It almost made the road to Vergemoli look like a highway,

8.road to Vergemoli

excepting when there is more rock than road.

9.road to Vergemoli

Clouds gathered as we climbed into the mountains,

10.road to Vergemoli

looking back the way we had come, the view was spectacular.

11.road to Vergemoli

The mountains loomed closer and before long we had reached Vergemoli.

12.road to Vergemoli

Turning left at the small piazza, we parked at the top end of the village by the 17th century church of Sant’Antonio.

13.Vergemoli14.Vergemoli15.Chiesa Sant'Antonio

We had allowed time for a stroll through the village before lunch, our first discovery was an outdoor theatre, a lovely spot to watch a play in the summer months.

16.outdoor theatre

We could see for miles across the valley,

17.Vergemoli view

a stone bench perfectly placed to catch your breath after walking up the hill.

18.Vergemoli

The houses were neat and colourful,

some seemed to end suddenly at the edge of the cliff.

23.Vergemoli

There was no shortage of intriguing doorways.

The parish church of San Quirico and Santa Giulitta, in the middle of town, dates back to the 10th century.

27.Chiesa dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta

I’m not sure what this stone monument represents but it is dated 1637AD

28.Vergemoli

and another close by is unidentified.

29.Vergemoli

Alleyways veered in all directions filled with dwellings built at impossible angles.

Some had room for a garden shed

37.garden shed

or a beautifully maintained shrine.

38.Vergemoli

We didn’t see many locals but the four-legged inhabitants were very friendly.

We could see our destination, Casa Debbio, waiting comfortably on the hillside as we returned to the car and drove the track to the house.

44.Casa Debbio45.Casa Debbio

Although the weather was too inclement to dine on the terrace,

46.terrace, Casa Debbio

the vista across to Vergemoli was stunning.

47.Vergemoli

The drizzle didn’t deter us from exploring the garden with its quirky residents

and some of the most fabulous flowers I have ever seen.

From the terrace at the back of the house, there is a lovely view of the wisteria on the pergola

57.pergola

and of new plantings as the garden blends with the wilderness.

58.garden

A few more flowers and treasures

59.garden

and we returned to the house

66.Casa Debbio

with that amazing view

67.Vergemoli

to enjoy a slice of Angela’s hat.

68.Angela

We farewelled Deb and Jim and made our way back down the mountain. If only Australia wasn’t so far away.

69.geraniums

Casa Debbio is the perfect place to escape and unwind for a few days or weeks and is available for holiday rental, take a look.

cani di Lucca

The Lucchese love their dogs. It’s not unusual to see them joining their humans for a meal,

1.breakfast in lucca

though they don’t often have a seat at the table.

1a.lunch

Caffetteria Turandot, in Piazza San Michele, is the perfect location to enjoy a beverage and watch the parade of four-legged lovelies.

2.cane in Lucca

Some are content to wait patiently until their bipedal companions are ready to move on.

4.Golden Retriever3.Piazza San Michele

Others are somewhat reluctant and need a bit of coaxing

5.Italian greyhound

but most are happy to just go where life leads them.

9.Piazza San Michele

12.Piazza San Michele

Being on a leash doesn’t mean you can’t have fun when you meet a friend.

13.boxer & friend

This gentleman was unaware of my subject matter and stopped to pose for the camera, he certainly made me smile.

20.friendly local