Providence Farm Stall

After a relaxing morning wandering around the rhododendron garden, we drove further through the rolling countryside in search of lunch. We had been meaning to visit Providence Farm Stall since it opened almost a year ago, this time we were wise enough to book well ahead. The rusted patina of Corten steel glowed in the sunlight on what looked like a fairly unassuming farm building.

1.exterior

Lavender and olive trees accompanied myriad potted plants around the grounds

along with a couple of rustic installations.

The hilltop setting afforded spectacular views across verdant farmland to the waters of Bass Strait.

6.vista7.vista8.vista

From a different angle, the ‘shed’ became something quite extraordinary.

9.exterior

Stepping through the door,

10.front entrance

the huge windows filled the walls with nature’s artwork.

11.interior

A magnificent slab of polished timber offers seating for a large group or share table

and complements the tasteful, minimalist décor.

There are plans to create a lounge bar on the mezzanine, a comfy space to enjoy a beverage while listening to local talent entertaining with live music.

18.mezzanine

The seasonal menu is limited but the food is fresh, colourful and beautifully presented. The interestingly named Poke Bowl comprises smoked ocean trout, sushi rice, edamame beans, avocado, red cabbage and carrots, drizzled with soy-sesame dressing.

19.Poke Bowl

A flavoursome Rainbow Salad is topped with cashews and a house made Thai dressing.

20.Rainbow Salad

Rich, creamy Butter Chicken is served with basmati rice and chapati bread.

21.Butter Chicken

Fortunately, we still had room for Sticky Date Cake served warm with butterscotch sauce, roasted almonds and cream

22.Sticky Date Cake

and a delicious Chocolate Bliss Mini Cake.

23.Chocolate Bliss Mini Cake

We are looking forward to a return visit to sample the Summer menu and enjoy the congenial atmosphere and friendly hospitality.

Le Grazie

When we first travelled to Italy, we didn’t get the chance to see Cinque Terre so this time we were determined not to miss out. When I started planning, I soon realised that staying in the coastal villages was nigh on impossible with a car to park. Instead, I found a B&B in Le Grazie that suited our needs, or so I thought. After driving around for an hour trying to find the place, it turned out to be virtually inaccessible to anyone with more than hand luggage, down fifty or so very steep stone steps. With no Plan B, we were very lucky to find Hotel Le Grazie had a room available for two nights, a very nice room at that.

1.Hotel Le Grazie

In need of solace after our ordeal, a short stroll around the corner rewarded us with the tranquil vista of Le Grazie harbour.

2.Le Grazie harbour3.Le Grazie harbour

Nestled in a sheltered inlet between La Spezia and Porto Venere, this gorgeous village seems to have escaped the teeming tourist numbers of the neighbouring towns. The inhabitants have a reputation for being proficient divers and have thrived for centuries on boat building and fishing. Adjacent to the boat construction yard, the pine wood offers a shady meeting place for locals. A war memorial honouring  partisans, civilians and military personnel and an old cannon remind us of a less peaceful time.

4.pine wood

The roundabout, marked by a solitary cycad, seemed somewhat superfluous on a straight road.

6a.roundabout Le Grazie

After a restorative Prosecco we wandered further, past colourful buildings

7.Le Grazie8.Le Grazie

and beautiful boats moored in the marina.

9.yachts, Le Grazie harbour10.yachts, Le Grazie harbour

The village takes its name from the Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace). The church dates back to the 11th century when a group of Benedictine monks came from the island of Tino. The present church and monastery were built in the 15th century, though the monks were driven out in 1798 and the church became a parish church. The ancient convent is now a private residence and I am lost for words.

11.Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie

It seemed a good time to rest for aperitivo

15.aperitivo, Le Grazie

while soaking up the atmosphere and sunshine.

20.Le Grazie harbour

We continued along the promenade until we could go no further.

21.walkway

The Varignano Fortress, built in 1724, dominates the headland. Originally used as a storage facility and quarantine station, it then became a hospital before being taken over by the defence forces. Since World War II, it has been the headquarters of the Navy Divers and Raiders Group, named after Major Teseo Tesei who invented the human torpedo. No prizes for guessing how he died.

22.Varignano Fortress

With the descending sun glistening on the water, we ambled back to seek sustenance.

23.Le Grazie harbour

Ristorante Il Gambero was the perfect setting

to observe life in the village and harbour

27.Le Grazie30.Le Grazie harbour

31.Le Grazie harbour

while enjoying delicious fresh seafood.

There is only one way to end a perfect day.

35.crème brûlée

Josef Chromy

A couple of weeks ago we took Cooper to Launceston for a service, swapped her for a new BMW 120i courtesy car, picked up our lovely friend Deb and wended our way to  Josef Chromy for lunch. A picturesque 15 minute drive from the city, the winery at Relbia was launched in 2007. The cellar door is set within immaculate gardens where carefully trimmed privets, fountains and flowers mingle with majestic mature trees.

1.Josef Chromy Wines

4.outdoor seating5.weeping elm

A popular venue for weddings, the lakeside pavilion is a perfect spot to exchange vows.

6.lake

The view across the lake to the vineyards beyond can be enjoyed whether eating outdoors

7.outdoor eating

or inside the restaurant.

8.restaurant

We took advantage of the week day Winter Lunch Special, two courses and a glass of wine for $45. The complimentary sourdough bread was delicious, as was the 2018 Pinot Gris.

9.sourdough

The main course for the special this day was the Baked Beef Cheek with cauliflower, rhubarb, shaved cabbage, parmesan, parsley & lemon. Coincidentally, it would have been my choice anyway.

10.baked beef cheek

Michael opted for the Wood-Grilled Lamb Rump with baby lentils, baked Elphin Grove celeriac, spring onion & yoghurt. Not being a fan of celeriac, he requested the gnarled root be omitted. Graciously, chef replaced it with baked parsnip.

11.wood-grilled lamb rump

We all chose dessert instead of entrée as our second course, White Chocolate Bavarois was Chef’s special concoction.

12.white chocolate bavarois

The menu offered Hot Chocolate Mousse with leatherwood honey parfait, honeycomb, nashi pear and nib crumb.

13.hot chocolate mousse

Finishing off with coffee, we watched the activity in the vineyard. With 61 hectares to prune and a vineyard stretching for 2km I was grateful to be merely observing.

14.vineyard

Barga

On a perfect sunny spring day, we drove to the medieval walled town of Barga, an easy 45 minute drive from Lucca. We had learned it was easier to park outside these ancient towns and walk in rather than risk inadvertently driving into a pedestrian zone or the wrong way down a one way street. Crossing the bridge, we passed Parco Fratelli Kennedy, named in honour of American President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, both of whom were assassinated.

1.Parco Kennedy

The old stone aqueduct was built in the 15th century to supply clean water for the fountains and crosses the original moat of the old village.

1a.aqueduct Parco Kennedy

Narrow streets and steep steps hinted at what was to come once we were inside the walls.

Beautiful buildings lined the main thoroughfare

4.beautiful building

as we made our way to Porta Reale, one of the three gates in the medieval city walls. Below the observation tower, the gate still displays the ancient coat of arms of the city.

5.Porta Reale

The layout of the town has remained virtually unchanged since the 8th century, buildings at impossible angles hug narrow lanes, mysterious alleyways and stone steps.

We set off through the web of streets with no real destination in mind, happy to amble randomly in the sunshine. An interesting sculpture caught our eye

10.sculpture

outside the Teatro dei Differenti, Barga’s main theatre. Constructed in 1668 it was deemed too small at the end of the 18th century, a new structure was built on top of the old one.

11.Teatro dei Differenti

Along with the theatre, the adjacent buildings have been beautifully restored.

We decided to head to the highest point in the town once we spotted the bell tower of the Duomo di San Cristoforo.

14.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Our quest took us past the immaculate garden of the Palazzo Salvi,

15.Palazzo Salvi16.Giardino di Palazzo Salvi

less opulent but equally interesting plots

17.garden

and the myriad doorways we had come to expect.

We finally reached the cathedral, a spectacular edifice that I will need to cover in a separate post.

30.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The views across the rooftops to the Apuan Alps and the shrouded peak of Pania della Croce were stunning.

31.view

33a.view

Tearing ourselves away, we meandered back to town in search of sustenance, discovering a memorial garden in Piazza Garibaldi, adjacent to the Museum of Memory. A large sculpture entitled La Vedette (in military terms meaning the forward observer) was unveiled in 2009 on the 4th November, a day celebrated in Italy as the anniversary of the end of  World War I.

We reached Piazza Angelio at lunch time, a popular place in summer for exhibitions and entertainment. The particular shape and almost perfect acoustics of the piazza make an ideal setting for international festivals such as “Opera Barga” and “Barga Jazz”.

16th century poet Pietro Angeli, nicknamed Bargeo, watches over the piazza from the corner of Palazzo Angeli.

The offerings on the blackboard at L’Osteria enticed us in, we weren’t disappointed.

41.L'Osteria

With much of the town still to see, we continued our wanderings in a different direction.

45.narrow street

Colourful homes lined the street

48.colourful houses

and some clung precariously to the edge of the cliff.

49.fabulous homes

All had magnificent views of neighbouring hilltop towns and verdant countryside.

50.hilltop town51.views

The aqueduct and Kennedy Park were behind us

52.aqueduct

as the outskirts of town stretched in front.

53.Villa Buenos Aires

The 17th century Chiesa di San Felice, was quite small and understated when compared to others we had seen on our travels.

54.Chiesa di San Felice55.Chiesa di San Felice

Outside the church was this memorial plaque, apparently dedicated to a Scotsman with an Italian name. It seems Barga has a strong connection to Scotland, with many residents emigrating there in the 19th century in search of work when industry in Tuscany suffered a decline. They won the Scots over with their gelato making skills and, coupled with a knack for cooking fish and chips, made great success out of their cafés and restaurants. Over the generations, some returned to Barga and now sixty percent of the town’s 10,000 residents have Scottish relations. The annual Festival of Fish and Chips, Sagra del Pesce e Patate, celebrates this connection for three weeks each July/August. I can’t find any clues as to the life of Mario Moscardini but I assume he made a considerable contribution to Barga.

61.memorial

Working our way along Via di Mezzo, we found an interesting little face peering out from the wall of a restaurant. It is known as a scacciaguai, a folk magic figure that protects from trouble and harm. Hopefully, the charm has worked for the restaurant of the same name.

62.scacciaguai

Three doors along, we paid a visit to Casa Cordati, a 17th century palazzo that was once the studio of local artist Bruno Cordati.

63.Casa Cordati

It is now owned by his grandson, Giordano, and offers rather sumptuous accommodation as well as an extensive gallery on the first floor. The rooms on this floor have been preserved as they were during Bruno Cordati’s creative years, the views were nothing short of inspirational.

Our exploration of this magical town had come to an end as we reached the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata and the 16th century church of the same name. The 19th century façade was badly damaged by artillery shells in World War II and was later restored.

72.Piazza della Santissima Annunziata

There was only one thing left to do to make the day complete.

73.gelati

Illume

Last Saturday brought the first day of winter, a perfect sunny day to drop the top on Cooper and take her for a drive to Boat Harbour for lunch. The restaurant at Killynaught Cottages has borne a few incarnations over the years and we hadn’t yet experienced the latest – Illume.

1.Illume Restaurant

The open fire was welcoming as we stepped through the doorway,

2.fireplace

it wasn’t the only cosy niche to relax with something tasty.

There are two large dining areas indoors,

5.dining area

one with an elegant leadlight window and quirky workstation.

The sun-filled patios are well protected from the elements

8.patio9.patio

and there are outdoor options for the warmer days.

10.outdoor seating

The views are absolutely stunning across rolling green farmland and the pristine waters of Bass Strait.

11.vista12.vista

For those wishing to stay, there are five heritage themed cottages to choose from, all furnished with authentic antiques and memorabilia of the Victorian and Federation eras.

13.Annie's Cottage & Victoria's Cottage

There is a variety of Tasmanian wines on the list, we chose a favourite, Ghost Rock Pinot Gris. Michael ordered the Salt & Pepper Calamari with apple slaw and aioli, a little disappointed at the lack of accompanying fries. We remedied this with a side order. I couldn’t resist the Wood-Fired Braised Lamb with potato mash, sautéed vegetables and honey & ginger dressing. I expected something along the lines of ‘pulled lamb’ and was surprised to see a lamb cutlet centre stage. There were, however, shards of succulent lamb under the solitary chop and the dressing was delicious.

The dessert menu offered the traditional treasures, resistance is futile. The Flourless Chocolate Brownie and Sticky Date Pudding received high praise.

In the name of research (if Crème Brûlée is on the menu, I am obliged to appraise), I ordered Honey Crème Brûlée, not suspecting there was a salty element to the crust. I don’t know if there was a mix up between the salt and sugar shaker in the kitchen but, despite the perfect consistency, I was not enamoured.

19.honey crème brûlée

The presentation of the Lemon Meringue Pie was quite spectacular.

20.lemon meringue pie

Next time, we will try the wood-fired pizzas, they looked amazing.