Relax at the Park

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While staying in Bagni di Lucca, I took many short trips to several towns and cities in Tuscany.

One of these trips was to Arezzo. I travelled there by train which took about 4 hours, and included 2 train changes. The first change was at Lucca, then another change at Florence before the final destination of Arezzo.  It was a pleasant and easy trip.

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After my arrival in Arezzo it was just a short walk from the train station to the Guido Monaco Piazza where the BnB  was where I stayed for a couple of nights.

After checking in to the BnB,  I headed out on foot to explore this lovely city.  It was not very far to walk up to the “old town”

At the top of the Arezzo hill, between the cathedral and the Medici fortress, is ” Il Prato ” , a beautiful green park.  Il Prato is huge and hard to miss.  Yet, it was remarkably void of tourists and filled with many locals, mostly kids running around and playing games.

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Playing in the park

Il Prato which is near the edge of the walls of the city has lots of beautiful walks under the lovely large trees.  You can walk to the edge of the park and look out over the city walls to the valley below. It is beautiful and very tranquil.

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View from Il Prato

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View from Il Prato

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View from Il Prato

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View from Il Prato

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View from Il Prato

There is a small snack kiosk in the park serving drinks and some of the usual refreshments.

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Kiosk

This park is also home to summer concerts , sporting events and the antiques fair on the first weekend of September.

On this particular day, they were setting up for the Giro d’Italia which was coming through Arezzo while I was staying there. It was so exciting.

Between the cathedral of Arezzo and the Medici Fortress, in the centre of the “Prato”,  is the huge monument dedicated to the great famous poet of the fourteenth century Francesco Petrarca.

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Monument dedicated to Francesco Petrarca

When I first arrrived in Arezzo it was  raining heavily, hailing and thunder storms. Then the day improved and it turned out warm and lovely.

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Rain and Hail in Arezzo

The park is at least a few degrees cooler than being in the centre of Arezzo.  When I felt hot and tired I found a bench overlooking the rest of the town and the hills…it was relaxing and definitely recharged my batteries.

Travelling can be exhausting, so why not take some time to relax in the park?

A little bit of Paradise in Lucca

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There are so many advantages to spending extended time in a town or village when you are travelling. So when we rented the apartment in Lucca for a week we took advantage of that extra time and we visited places that normally one does not have the time to when just passing through or spending a day or 3.

One of those places was in fact the Botanic Gardens of Lucca – the Orto Botanico di Lucca

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Botanical Gardens Lucca

They are small, not far from our apartment and tucked up inside the walls of Lucca.  You can view the gardens from the ancient wall, however we wanted to have a closer inspection and paid the entrance fee to go inside and look around

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The Wall and Gardens

 

Once entering we were given a map of the area and were able to easily stroll through the gardens and enjoy their beauty.

The botanic gardens were quiet, elegant and simply stated. There were indications that they needed some more care but they were still lovely.


There are a variety of trees and plants from all over the world with most of them having signs explaining their origin.

We spent a couple of blissful hours wandering through these pretty gardens and admiring the plant life. We rested on a well placed bench and soaked up the sun for a while.

 

 

There is a lovely pond with a wooden bridge which is a great attraction. Standing on the bridge looking in to the pond was the best part for me. We watched the turtles climbing on to the lily pads and many fish swimming around. It was tranquil.

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Wooden bridge over pond

The pond of water lilies was amazing, as was the story of the ghost who inhabits the area around Halloween/All Saints Day – it might be a bit of historical fiction but very intriguing. The plants and colours were plentiful, as were the seating areas around the gardens – I am so glad we went there!

           Do put the Gardens on your list of places to visit when you are in Lucca.                                                    I’m sure you will enjoy it as I did.

Supermarket in Italy

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One of the many advantages of renting an apartment when in Italy or any where for that matter, is I have the chance to shop in the local supermarket. While in Lucca our local supermarket, Conad, was less than a 5 minute walk from our apartment.

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Supermarket in Lucca

Whenever I have the time when I am travelling, I always enjoy exploring the local supermarkets. It makes me feel more at home and I guess I just enjoying being a part of the local scene. While I was in this Conad supermarket I could not resist taking some photos to share. While many of you have in fact shopped in an Italian supermarket I am sure there are some of you that have not, so I thought you may enjoy some of these photos.

Although, a supermarket is a supermarket,  I always find that they still do have their individuality. For example in Italy, they definitely have an Italian flare.

Here are some photos of the fresh foods sections.

In the fruit and vegetable section there are scales where you must weigh and label your produce that you are purchasing. I remember the first time I bought fruit and did not do this, as I did not know. Mama mia, you would think I had committed a crime. The check-out lady was so angry with me. I never made that mistake again.

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Weighing and labeling machine

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Fresh produce

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Fresh produce

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Fresh produce

The wine and alcohol section always has a great selection even in a small supermarket like this Conad. The prices for alcohol in Italy are usually lower than here in Australia.

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Wines

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Prosecco

The are many similarities to our own supermarkets but there are definitely some unique sections. The fresh meats, pastas and pastry sections in this supermarket were fabulous.

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Fresh pizza and pastries

As the cashier is ringing up your purchases they will usually ask you if you would like Borsa, which is a bag as they do not automatically supply shopping bags. These “Borsa”usually cost a few cents. Occasionally there is no charge for the Borsa

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Check-out register

Here are a few photos of a much larger supermarket I shopped in – Esselunga – which is not far from Lucca.

If you have the time when you are visiting a new town or city, go in to the local supermarket, even if it is just for a look.

Perfect Place for a bike ride

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Lucca;  a city in Tuscany.   A great city to visit.

I have visited Lucca several times but this last time I stayed in the heart of the wall city of Lucca in an apartment for a week.  It is very easy to stay in Lucca for a week or in fact longer as there is so much to do and see. While staying in Lucca, we had planned to visit other towns in Tuscany however apart from our Chianti Wine Tour we did not leave the city walls. We loved being in Lucca and  were never short of things to do.

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One of my favourite activities in Lucca is to rent this bicycle built for 2 and explore this delightful walled city. There were 3 of us on our bike.  But, on many occasions I saw more than 3 people on these great little machines. You certainly do not need to know how to ride a bike to manage one of these. Even though there are 2 steering wheels, only one person has control which can be weird for the other person as your automatic instinct is to turn the steering wheel which does nothing.

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It is a pleasure to walk or ride a bike on top of these thick walls which are tree-lined and planted with grass turning the entire area into a huge park. These walls which enclose Lucca’s historic centre are more than 4 kilometres long with 6 gates.

I have hired bikes several times in Lucca. On this last trip we rented the bike twice as it was so much fun and just so easy. The first time was riding around the city on top of the wall and the second time was riding around exploring within the city.

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The ride or walk around the wall has a really great buzz, with lots of cyclists, runners, families and dog walkers. Although its only about 4km it took us almost an hour as we stopped often to look at and take photos of the spectacular views of the mountains and city.

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This has to be one of the best walls to walk or cycle. It is wide, flat and lined with trees and dotted with parks. We loved cycling around it

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Walking or biking on top of the walls is a great way to see Lucca.

Gastronomia Prodotti Tipici – Lucca

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One of the many advantages of staying in an apartment while in Italy (or anywhere in the world) is you have the option of eating in or out.

Although we enjoyed most of our mid day and evening meals out we always ate breakfast at the apartment.  Our apartment in Lucca had a fully furnished kitchen which made it easy to prepare foods and a pleasure to eat in. We had a supermarket just around the corner so it was very easy to just pop out early morning or sometimes we ducked out the evening before to pick up fresh fruits and yogurts.  Right by the supermarket there was a fabulous patisserie where we could also buy freshly baked breads and pastries.

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Supermarket

In Lucca you will find many Gastronomia Prodotti Tipici – Gastronomy Typical Products.  Late one afternoon after several hours of exploring this wonderful city, we popped in to this Gastronomia Prodotti Tipici.

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Gastronomia Produtti Tipici

 

We were like children in a candy store. We could not get enough of what we could see.  So, we made the decision to buy some of this lovely produce,  fresh bread and some local wines, and take it back to the apartment and have an “antipasti”dinner. We had eaten lunch out so we did not need another big cooked dinner. We selected so many different delicacies.   It did not take long to realise that we had bought far too much but how do you know when to stop. We sure didn’t.

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Gastronomia Produtti Tipici

The fun continued as we walked home talking about all this fabulous foods that we had just purchased and the ones we left behind.  And then, when we arrived back at the apartment the fun really began as we started opening all the different containers and packages.

We purchased a bottle of my favourite blend of wine, Vermentino.  Vermentino is a light-skinned grape wine. We also purchased a lovely bottle of red.

 

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After laying out our spread, we sat and enjoyed and talked about every thing we were eating.  Our spread included sardines & anchovies & smoked salmon, cheeses, artichokes, olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, bread and strawberries.  What a pleasure.

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Dinner

This turned in to another wonderful memorable evening for us in Lucca.

A vacation in Italy is complete when you buy, eat and enjoy the lovely local produce.

Beautiful House in The Italian Mountains

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While staying in Bagni di Lucca I was fortunate enough to spend a few days at Casa Debbio which is in the Garfagnana mountains.

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Casa Debbio

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Casa Debbio

This place is breathtaking with its ever changing weather, skies and views.

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It is so very quiet that the only sounds you hear are the birds. It is a complete escape from the hustle and bustle of real life

Each night we lit the log fire, and not necessarily because it was cold, it just felt great.

Just a few more photos to tantalize

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Of course what is a visit to Casa Debbio without an Italian lunch with special friends and magnificent views.

Before the guests arrived.

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The fabulous ricotta dessert.

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Sorry, no after photos. I was having too good a time to remember to take them.

Just some of the gardens.

If you would like to stay in a gorgeous 3 storey, beautifully furnished, stone house in the Italian mountains, Casa Debbio could be the place for you.

 Casa Debbio is available to rent throughout the year. 

The Italian Mountains, Maserati and me

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Our goal destination was La Croce di Brancoli. The Brancoli Cross is  a monument that dominates the plains of Lucca and the lower Serchio valley. 

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Croce di Brancoli

We drove out of Ponte a Serraglio, on a gorgeous spring day, with the top down, following alongside the river.

We drove past the spectacular Ponte della Maddalena  or Ponte del Diavolo – Devil’s bridge near the town of Borgo a Mozzano –  heading towards Lucca.

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After about 15 minutes of driving we turned left, and started driving up hill towards the Pieve Di Brancoli

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The roads were getting steeper and narrower the higher we drove. They were so narrow in parts it was difficult and quite precarious to pass other vehicles. We got many looks of admiration, thumbs-up and great happy “ciaos”.  We stopped along the way to take in the magnificent views and of course take photos.

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The Maserati

Eventually we ran out of surfaced road and started to drive on unimproved roads which finally stopped us. The roads were full of divots and pot holes and just too dangerous to drive a very low, expensive car. So, we left the car and continued on foot. For a very long walk. We walked and talked, and walked and took breaks.  As you can expect in such a divine location, the views were stunning.

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View

 

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The View

We actually did not make it all the way up to the top to see the cross.  I was the one who ran out of energy.

But, it really was OK.  I  was in a magnificent motor vehicle, in the mountains in Tuscany,  on a gorgeous day with a very interesting man.  Perfetto

Croce di Brancoli is built in the highest part of Brancoleria. The views would be breath taking, so maybe another time I will try to reach it again, in a smaller vehicle that can handle the rough roads and then I won’t need to walk so far.

In fact,  the entire area is very interesting with scatterings of bunkers which were used in WWII. It would be a wonderful place to spend a full day, hiking, picnicking, taking photos and just breathing in the beauty.

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A great way to spend my last day  in Bagni di Lucca

Thank you Mr B

Return to Bagni di Lucca

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I am back in one of my favorite places – Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany.   It is just as beautiful as I had remembered.

The weather has been very changeable with a few days of winter and then perfect spring days. The nights are still cold but the days are warm, sometimes hot, and gorgeous.

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Views from the apartment.

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Here in Ponte a Serraglio, a village in Bagni di Lucca, our day always starts with coffee and a pastry at Il Monaco, in the piazza, which is only a minute walk from the apartment.  It is always a friendly and social event with the constant “buongiorno ” and “ciao ” as my new friends are always popping in for their morning coffee. It is a very pleasant and civilised  way to start a  day. Something I could easily adopt into my every day living.

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Our day usually ends with an aperativo across the piazza at Bar Italia where once again it is the constant  greetings of “ciao”and “buona sera” with  friends. There is always someone to sit with, chat and enjoy a glass of vino. I love this time of the day. We can stay on for dinner or head off, either back to the apartment or to one of the local restaurants.

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Occasionally we have eaten lunch at Bar Italia where they make a wonderful Mediterranean salad.

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View from the bar.

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So much of the socializing is in this piazza where Bar Italia and Il Monaco are, with always many familiar faces and some new ones. There are many expats living or staying for extended periods of time in the area so for us non-Italian speakers there is  plenty of English spoken.

This is a truly delightful area to spend time.

 

 

Changing the Flowers on the Bridge

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The bridge in Ponte a Serraglio, Bagni di Lucca,  always looks delightful with its many pots of colourful flowers.20160524_151730Twice a year, Debra changes the flowers.

I was lucky enough to be here this time and assisted with the replanting.

We took out the beautiful yellow and purple pansies

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And replaced them with red geraniums.

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Of course the new plants are suffering with a little bit of shock but they will lift up their little heads in the next few days.

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Next day. Already lifting their heads

 

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It is now 3 days later and they are looking much happier. The weather has been hot and sunny which they love, plus they have had plenty of watering.

These gorgeous flowering pot plants which are on both sides of the bridge add the finishing touch to Bella Bagni di Lucca

 

 

 

The Apartment in Lucca

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I arrived at the apartment in Lucca, took one look at the stairs and sighed!!!! After 36 hours of travel from Australia I felt too tired to climb them. But. There was no choice, no elevator, just stairs to climb. Luckily a very good person carried my suitcase up the stairs for me as I struggled up. It turned out there were only 2 floors up to our apartment.

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We then walked down a short hallway to the apartment. I was happy.
Often when you book your accommodation on line, the photos can be very misleading, but, in this case the photos were true. We walked in to the entry which lead in to the large eat-in well appointed kitchen. Also leading from the entrance was the large nicely furnished lounge room/dining room.  The 2 bedrooms were also large and there were 2 bathrooms.
This was our home while staying in Lucca and we were delighted.

 


We often sat on one of the large window ledges just lapping up the sights and sounds of Lucca. I could never tire of this.

 

We were able to come and go easily and it did not take long for the 4 flights of stairs to become a lot easier. In fact they were probably a blessing after our pasta, pizza, wine and gelato which we enjoyed on a daily basis.

These tiny round fixed windows in the lounge room  fascinated me. I am not exactly sure of their purpose.

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Small Non-Opening Windows

If you have the time when staying in Italy, think about renting an apartment.

I highly recommend it

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