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

Tramonte Trails

On an overcast morning, we set off to explore the walking trails around the Villa Boccella estate. The Old Tramonte walk follows part of the old road from Ponte a Moriano to the village of Tramonte.

We passed the main villa

3.Villa Boccella

and as we continued up the hill, the views would have been spectacular on a clear day.

4.Old Tramonte walk

I don’t know what was in the cute stone shed but it looked as though the firewood was well seasoned.

We stayed on the main path with an Acacia forest to our right

7.Acacia forest

and pine walk to our left.

8.Pine walk

Sporadic wildflowers added colour to the verdant setting.

The last thing we expected to find in the Tuscan countryside was bamboo.

15.Bamboo walk

We followed Bamboo Walk until, eventually, the woodland changed as we descended along Valley Walk.

16.Bamboo walk

20.Valley walk

Beautiful irises bloomed sporadically in the sheltered lowland.

The track led to the road, Via Tramonte, at the edge of the estate

and we could see the main villa

25.Villa Boccella

and Limonaia Piccola through the gates.

26.Limonaia Piccola

We followed the stone walled boundary of the grounds,

27.stone wall

past a patch of magnificent wild poppies,

28.poppies

to the entrance that would return us to the limonaie.

31.Via Tramonte

There was another walk that would have taken us across the river

32.River walk33.bridge34.river35.bridge

but lunch time was approaching, it would have to wait for another day.

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.

Ossaia

After a lazy afternoon at Il Castagno, we decided to dine in the nearby town of Ossaia. Rather than driving, we walked the easy 2km on a perfect spring evening.

1.road to Ossaia

The countryside was peaceful, scattered with gorgeous rustic farmhouses.

2.chapel3.farmhouse4.farmhouse5.farmhouse

Ossaia literally means boneyard. There are apparently thousands of Roman soldiers who were defeated by Hannibal in 217BC at the Battle of Trasimeno, buried under the town.

The small community was enchanting, with some beautiful homes.

8.town9.town

I’m not sure about this driveway, though.

10.town

La Tufa had been recommended to us and we found it easily.

11.La Tufa

We wandered through

to the inviting restaurant

14.La Tufa

but on this warm night we opted for a table outside.

15.La Tufa

The pizzas were delicious

and we had just enough room for nonna tart and flaming crème brulee.

19.flaming creme brulee

The walk home was a little slower.