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Trip Report A Walk Across Italy: Pisa to Ravenna

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Walking Across Italy: Pisa to Ravenna

Oh how I hate to write trip reports. Why oh why do I record everything and with best intentions set off on the trip only to come home and procrastinate for months. This time, it’s only last month that we arrived home. Not too long but still, I didn’t starting writing that week, or the next, or the next. We left home on October 5th and came back on the 22nd and here it is November 15th and I can put it off no longer.

Our flights out of Boston were a little whacko due to booking them 10 months if advance to get the best options out of our FF miles. A free ticket is a happy ticket. We flew into Pisa and out of Venice so that we wouldn’t have to train back to our starting point, wasting time and money. I couldn’t believe this was possible with FF miles but after a phone call to Delta I was told that this was indeed possible for the same 50,000 miles per ticket, as long as we flew into an out of cities within the same country. Hooray for us! However our ticket involved leaving from Boston, flying to LGA, transferring by cab or bus to JFK and then to Pisa. Coming home it would be PSA to JFK to BOS, not as bad. The cost for both of us was 3K plus if we had bought the tickets out of pocket! Cost with FF miles (only accrued by using my Delta Sky Miles Amex Platinum – not from actual flying) was only about 150. for both of us and of course the yearly card fee of 135. I’ll take it! To us it’s well worth the money spent in the miles that we earn with the DSM/Platinum. Enough said about such mundane but important matters nevertheless.

So, the day arrived but I hadn’t been able to get our boarding passes online. Not freaked out but wondering why, we arrived at Logan early and I searched for a Delta podium that was staffed. I walked up and asked the staff member about the boarding pass since what I had printed out had no bar code. I mentioned that we had to fly to LaGuardia and then transfer probably by cab to Kennedy. She look at my printout and then said “Oh, I can do better than that.” And promptly changed our tickets to fly directly to Kennedy. Little things have been happening like that ever since we changed from the DSM Gold to the Platinum. Now they ASK us where we’d like to sit. So nice. This year we had row 18 both ways in the Economy Plus area of the plane. It’s still the cattle car but since I don’t want to use those precious miles to upgrade, my 6’1” husband will just have to grin and bear it and economy plus does give you a tad extra room. So, we saved the cabfare (didn’t want to chance the bus – takes longer) of around $35. and also, on the commuter train from our town to Boston, the conductor never came around to collect the $15 that we owed the T. Paul thinks it was because of the playoffs at Fenway that allowed us the free ride – I dunno but we took the freebie happily.

We arrived without fanfare in Pisa after the usual groggy redeye and proceeded out of the terminal and started our short walk to the hotel. Never in my life have I ever walked out of an airport and straight to the hotel in less than two miles! It’s a wonder the aircraft doesn’t clip the top of the leaning tower on the way to landing. It’s that close – check your google earth. Amazing. As we walked we noticed one thing above all else – the dust. Everything but everything had a layer of dust and dirt. We later found out that it hadn’t rained much more than a drizzle for three months. Ah Italy. Now Italy isn’t exactly what anyone would call a rainforest but this is October and it’s still dryer than dust, EXCEPT for today, as the skies looked to be threatening rain. We arrive at the Royal Hotel Victoria on the Arno (I had printed out the mapquest map at home from the terminal to the hotel) in less than a half hour and sure enough, they had our reservation. This is generally the only time we make a reservation for lodging as we like to have somewhere to go after we land. Other than that it’s usually “No Reservations” and that’s the way we like it, so that we’re free to walk as little or as much as we care in a single day and just end up at a b&b somewhere; always a bit of an adventure. The Royal Victoria was great with a huge room, wonderful staircases – I love stairs – and a breakfast buffet to beat the band, as we would find out the next morning.

After ditching our major league backpacks (purchased a few months ago specifically for hiking and a thousand times better than the old ones), I take my little day pack, stow it with our passports and other important papers and off we go to find the bus to take us out to Marina di Pisa to take a look at the Mediterranean and dunk the soles of our boots in, pick up and pocket a pebble to carry to the Adriatic, and begin the real part of the “walk”. The bus stop for busses heading out of Pisa was only about a half mile from the hotel, the fare was nominal and the ride was less than interesting. We watch for landmarks and signs because I wanted to stop a bit before the town of Marina di Pisa and thus have less miles to walk back to the hotel. We hit the stop cord at just the right moment and hopped off. It’s raining. Sure, it doesn’t rain for three months until we arrive to walk across the country. Right. Got it. Unperturbed we head for the nearest bit of sea which is another little walk of maybe 300 yards, scramble down the rocks and with our own little fanfare, dip our boots in the water. I wasn’t watching and a wave rose up and covered my boot. Oh heck. But Paul had rubbed the mink oil in so well at home that the water just beaded up and rolled off. The man knows how to take care of boots – he was a telephone lineman for 20 years before going into the engineering sector.

We each choose a small stone to take with us and off we go, back to the hotel by foot, the only way to travel! At home, I had figured it would be 8 miles from Marina di Pisa to the Royal Victoria but now I was hoping for just 7. Of course we hadn’t slept on the plane much more than an hour and we were both pretty zonked, but walking doesn’t take that much out of you (at least it doesn’t for us) and it certainly doesn’t require much attention when all one needs to do (today) is follow the Arno. No problem. However, it wasn’t raining when we left the hotel so we didn’t bring our rain jackets or baseball caps. My Covidien Red Sox cap (I work for Covidien, a global healthcare company, the BEST company) was still buried in my backpack as was Paul’s. Ah well, nothing to be done about it now. To say that the walk back was uneventful is probably the understatement of the year. It was flat and, well, trashy. We couldn’t believe the amount of trash by the side of the road. Water bottles, cigarette packets, used syringes, nasty used “personal” items, more cigarette packets, more bottles. Wow. It kind of looked like Route 1 in the 1950’s. On the way to school back then (in the 50’s – I’m 58), we used to play Lucky Strike. Whoever could run ahead and stomp on the most Lucky Strike packets on the way to school, won. I don’t know what we won but it passed the time I guess. My father died at age 56 from lung cancer – two packs of Luckies a day did the trick. Now we’re here at the western edge of Tuscany and there are Lucky Strike packets enough to wallpaper an entire home. Go figure.

Anyway, we got back to the Hotel Royal Victoria after walking 7.2 miles and decide to hit the hay. It is 3:15 and it took 2 hours and 40 minutes so apparently I wasn’t up to speed just yet! We are zonked and brush our teeth, crash into bed and sleep – glorious sleep. We can get a pizza later – much later.

132 Replies | Jump to bottom Add a Reply
  • Report Abuse

    Interesting start. Although I spend a lot of my time in Italy walking, I have never actually done a walking tour, so I look forward to the next installment with some interest.

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    Hi Liz! I've been waiting for this report; so glad you've started it. So you brought rain to Tuscany - I'm sure it was welcome!

    I'm curious about your backpacks - what brand, etc. What makes them "major league?"

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    Well I love to walk but I couldn't walk as much as you two do lizcakes, as least I don't think I could.

    I absolutely love the beginning of your trip report and can hardly wait for the next installment!

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    By the way, we stayed at the Hotel Royal Victoria - we loved it. Didn't get the breakfast, though, since we had to catch a plane. But the receptionist made us coffee and served us cookies before we left (at 5am).

    However, we heard a very loud, angry conversation outside our room in the middle of the night - which was not heard by anyone else staying on that floor. My sister swears the place is haunted . . . :)

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    Lizcakes, I've been looking forward to this since your walk across part of France. I am sure you and Paul will be entertaining us for the next few weeks with your trip report and photos. Keep it coming!

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    Hi Liz,

    I love instant gratification.

    I just finished reading your France walk and wondered if you were back from Italy and I'd be seeing this report any time soon.

    I mentioned I had spent time in Ravenna and so look forward to "talking" with you about your impressions!

    Thanks for sharing.


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    Adrienne: We had almost regular school-type backpacks and thought they were good enough the last two years, until we saw a couple of 20 year olds with the "real" hiking backpacks on a metro coming from CDG. We both said: THAT'S what we need! A longer, skinnier backpack specifically made for hiking.

    So off we went to REI this past winter. LOVE REI!!! and a salesman there helped to fit us. Correction: he FIT us - knew all the right things to look for on each of us. Paul got the "big guns" and I got a quite different shorter version. But then Paul is 6'1" and I'm 5'1". They are HEAVEN. Paul has a Gregory Z55 and I have Gregory Z22. None better as far as we're concerned. I have no idea how much each one cost. Really. We just went, tried on and tried on, filled them with the bag-weights that REI provides. Walked around in them and bought them, along with silk sock liners, hiking socks (NON-COTTON!! cotton kills you feet I now know, at least for hiking), special blister bandaids, etc etc. We spent maybe $300-$400. WELL WORTH IT.

    These packs have a light frame that criss-crosses in the back and holds the pack away from one's back - allowing for air to circulate. Plus they're l-o-n-g-e-r than a normal backpack and distribute the weight so that it feels like nothing along with a mesh that sits against your back giving it stability and breathing comfort. Golden. I kissed mine several times on the walk. ; ) That is, when I wasn't kissing my boots. Ah, love my boots. I would keep those babies on all day, go out to eat with them on and would've slept in them if Paul hadn't give me one of those side-long looks: "Now Liz..." I kissed my boots a lot.

    TDudette: Yeah, love the Royal Victoria, just shabby enough to make you comfortable but enough old charm to dazzle just a bit. But boy, again, how dusty was that entryway?? Pisa was so dirty and dusty, but architecturally glorious!

    Samsaf: No, NOT walking when you're jeglagged is worse! We did that both in the Cotswolds and in Paris and said we'd never waste that much precious time again. Because you can't sleep the moment you arrive anyway. At least we can't. The two or three hour walk is a great way to get ready for a nap! No problem whatsoever. And I'm OLD, LOL!

    Loveitaly: Nah, you could do it. Remember it's just one step at a time as slowly as you want. There's no one there pushing you. You just stop whenever you feel like it and go when you're ready. That's also the reason we would NEVER, on a bet, EVER, do a tour, in any way, shape or form. What a total waste of time. I know, I really shouldn't hold back. I should tell you how I really feel, right?

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    I'm also looking forward to more. One of the reasons I live on a staircase in Italy is just so I don't have to walk on roads that I have to share with buses, trucks, motorcycles, farm vehicles, very elderly people, parents pushing strollers, etc. There are almost never any sidewalks in Italy, or even shoulders to the roads -- so I can't imagine walking from Pisa to Ravenna. The gas fumes alone would do me in, and I'd be a nervous wreck from the traffic zooming past my elbows.

    And yep -- lots of trash on the truck routes.

    So I'm wondering how the rest of this story goes! There are lots of beautiful towns coming up I hope!

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    The Good, the Bad, and the Pizza Pizza Pizza.

    So, we woke up at around 6 pm from a 3 hour nap and felt hungry, so what else is new?? Down we go to the front desk and ask for a recommendation for a pizza place as we’ve got to have pizza in Pisa. How could we not? We’re not adequately dressed for anything much better and never will be on a hike, so it’s off to pizza we go. Since the HRV is right on the Arno and we’ve just crossed the “middle bridge” (mezzo ponte? – can’t remember, it’s over a month!) to get there, we follow the desk clerk’s directions right back over the bridge and look for the street but alas that particular restaurant is closed on Mondays. Rats. Search search search for another one and finally plonk ourselves down at an outdoor table (the rain had stopped) at a restaurant next to another couple. Paul orders a pizza and I order spaghetti. Our waitress replies “No. No spaghetti.” Rats. Paul thought this was an absolute hoot. In Italy and NO SPAGHETTI??? He would use this line several times in the next 18 days. I instead order the lasagna and we also get an insalata mista each, Paul gets a Castello birra and I a quarto of casa rosso. Paul’s pizza was heaven. Dontcha just love that thin crispy crust drizzled with olive oil? We can get it here in Boston’s north end but rarely in other places. My lasagna, I kid you not, tasted like they had just taken it out of it’s little plastic tray, thawed it and zapped it in the microwave. Now, that may not have been the case and I really had no way of knowing, but that’s sure what it tasted like. Should have ordered the pizza! Woulda coulda shoulda. Que sera sera. No big deal, it made our tummies happy enough, we had coffee to finish and off we went back over the bridge to see the leaning tower.

    Pisa is so walkable! Nothing is that far away and I kind of wish that we could have stayed longer, dust or not. I liked the city. The architecture was interesting and so far, the people had been welcoming. No problem! Twilight was turning to darkness as we approached the campanile and even though I (and everyone else) have seen approximately four trillion pictures of the tower, it really is quite impressive in real life. None of my photos came out – it was getting that dark – but I don’t really think I need MY photo to remember the leaning tower. I also knew that unless we came back early in the morning and were the first in the queue for tickets, we would never be able to climb the thing. Oh well, can’t do it all. The masses of trinket sellers was quite impressive! It rather looked like the approach to the Eiffel Tower I thought. Different men, different trinkets, same objective: lure those tourists. Still, honest work and I suppose there are a lot of takers, I’m just not one of them.

    So, away we go back to the HRV. When I get the photos up on the Shutterfly website (thanks again Adrienne), you’ll see the dozen photos I took of this place. It was an absolute joy to look in all the nooks and crannies with each floor being a tad different. Loved it. But touring the hotel wasn’t high on our list at that point and the jet lag was really starting to grate on us. By 9:24 we were DONE, showered, clicked the TV on for a moment or two and then settled down in a VERY comfortable, crispy-sheeted, king-sized bed. I think France ships all their hotel space to Italy – we could have danced in this room. Night night!

    We wake early and start our yearly walking regimen of repacking our backpacks and then head down to the dining room which is on the second floor. I really don’t know what to expect because I had read that it was a “fabulous” buffet on TripAdvisor and a “terrible” buffet. We walk in, and it’s a food Shangri-la, I kid you not. There is everything but everything there. I like to start with Muesli and so I do and whole milk (!). I live on skim milk except on vacation and it tastes like cream and I feel like a calorie bandit! Yeah baby. Whole milk on my muesli – it doesn’t take much to make me happy. I do miss the plain good old croissants that we got in France – the cornetta with the powdered sugar isn’t quite the same and I know Paul hates it, still, when in Rome… We have fruit and glorious cappucini and there are cold cuts and bread (for the Germans and the Dutch?) but we leave that alone. Ah, the coffee – heaven! Back up to the room and pick up the packs and so out to our first full day of walking. Oh, yesterday we did a total of 13.24 miles what with walking from the airport to the hotel, walking back to the bus station area, Marina di Pisa and back to town, out to dinner and over to the Leaning Tower and back to the hotel. A respectable 13.24.

    We head out with map in hand and camera in pocket, east northeast, knowing that we must keep to the top of the Arno “loops” lest we keep following roads that follow the Arno – we DON’T want to do that. Our objective for the day is Vicopisano where I have a couple of b&bs listed and it looks to be an easy 11 miles. This year, instead of writing the b&b addresses and phone numbers on my maps, I just entered them all into Word and printed that out. I cannot lose this list or we’re up the creek without a paddle, because our “route” (what there is of it) depends solely on what I have listed for lodging. We don’t just walk willy-nilly, rather we walk with a b&b “area” in mind. If there is only one b&b listed for a 20 mile stretch, we make sure that there is “room at the inn” by phoning them first, however we don’t have a phone yet or rather, we don’t have a SIM card for our phone and we’ve got to get one before too long. Vicopisano however has at least two b&bs plus hotels, so we’re safe-ish. It’s also October and a bit out of tourist season, at least for areas outside of the major cities. There should be room somewhere.

    It’s not as easy finding one’s way out of a city as you would think. Signs are not the same as in the U.S. – we learned that years ago in France and it appears to be much the same in Italy. This wasn’t out first foray into Italy as we came here in 2005 for our 30th anniversary and rented an apartment for a week in Todi, Umbria and also (horrors) rented a car for the week. Boy, that was the “old” days, lolol!! Now we’re “a piedi” and our map isn’t a 1:25,000 which would show each and every road – with ease – but rather it’s a 1:50,000 so following it is more of a challenge. So we use the compass rather a lot and keep heading east east east, taking care as I said not to lose track and walk south down to the Arno. We walk for what seems like hours and at times we can climb up onto sort of a walking ridge next to the road and thus escape any traffic, but up on these ridges, there are black flies to beat the band!

    We walk into clouds of the foolish things and they change to sort of white flies after awhile – but they are absolutely everywhere and then the traffic doesn’t seem like such a bad thing after all. But there are some good things – fig trees! We keep passing fig trees! They are ubiquitous. There are so many figs that the homeowners must have to pay men to truck them away. No problem. I pick one up from the ground and break it open with my fingernails, so sweet, SO Nabisco! I will never ever eat a fig Newton again without thinking of this particular walk. It puts spring into my step and carbohydrates into my bloodstream. We also pass pomegranate trees but they are on someone’s property and we leave them – sadly. We take a wrong turn or two (it’s SO easy), get back on track with the compass and find ourselves after 3 hours only seeing a sign for Campo. Sigh. I thought we were so much further. We walk on and spot a Carrefour supermarket and decide to buy a knife as they always come in handy for lunch breaks along the trail. (A coltello – we add to our list of Italian words.) We buy one and are ready to pay just about the total national debt as there was no price on it, only to find that the foolish thing cost 49 cents. We win.

    We spy a great blue heron (just like home!), and zillions of lizards skittering away from us on our path (not like home but I love them!). It’s warm for hiking but we don’t mind because it’s not raining and we’re getting tan to boot. Of course since we’re walking almost completely west to east we will be sunburned on our right sides only. A little weird that. We march on and there’s really not much scenery to comment on at least at our walking pace – perhaps if you’re zooming along in a car… The Pisan hills are to the left of us and we finally find the road that leads directly to Vicopisano, skirting the hills to the left of us and the Arno to the right. Yay! I can finally start looking for Lenzi’s B&B and we find it just where I had it circled on the map. Thank you Google Earth. We ring the doorbell but there is no answer so I trot next door to a hairdressers and inquire. She directs us back to the main street and around the corner where we’ll find the entrance. Sure enough, Massimo Lenzi has a “real” business of terracotta pots – a massive place. We head into the large shop and ask about the b&b and we are asked to wait. Massimo comes out and speaks wonderful English (for which I am very thankful) and shows us through the backyard of the house and into the coolness of the foyer. He heads somewhere for a key and returns to show us to our room. As we ascend the stairs he points out “This is my apartment on the right and here is yours on the left”. We have a whole apartment. Sure enough, we go in and there is a full kitchen, separate living room with patio off it, large bath and three bedrooms. He shows us to a bedroom, we ask him about possible restaurants for dinner and off he goes back to the business.

    We have walked 14.55 miles and of course I had thought it would be 11 miles. Last year in France whenever I said, “It shouldn’t be more than 11!” Paul would answer with “That’ll be 14 then.” It got to be a joke and oh so true. Today was no exception – I don’t know how we do it! My feet had gotten hot during the day but this time, the moment I felt a bit of an itch (which signals the start of a blister), we would stop, dry our feet in the breeze, hang our socks on a shrub or tall grass or whatever, sprinkle those feet with good old Gold Bond Foot Powder (which I had also dosed them with in the morning), apply those special blister bandaids, and off we would go. Worked a charm. I NEVER had a blister the entire time. They tried, oh they tried, but I headed them off at the pass. I also had something that we called “toe hats” and I don’t really remember the name but you put them over your toes and it protects them from rubbing on the shoe or each other and creating blisters. Heaven. I’ll never travel without them again. All of these things along with my very decent Timberland Chocurua Trail hiking boots made for pain-free walking. I always wondered what it would be like to walk without pain on the trail and now I knew – absolute heaven.

    Heading into the town of Vicopisano, we look around and check out the Tuesday night crowd. Very small town and very well kept and we like it, feeling very far away from Pisa. We walk right into town, circle around and head back on the treelined road right out again and into the pizza place that Massimo had told us about. Lots of different kinds of pizzas all baked in front of us in a wood-fired oven. We talked with the owner and all he wanted to talk about was U.S. politics! Oh yuck! LOL. Still, we had quite the chat whilst waiting for the pizzas to cook and he was happy as were we. I took his photo as he stood proudly in front of the oven. I think he was from Bangladesh and he spoke quite a bit of English but he said it was rusty, and he spoke almost no Italian! The girl at the register spoke no English whatsoever but with my beginning Italian we conversed nevertheless. I love this aspect of traveling!

    Back we went to Lenzi’s, put the pizzas on the coffee table (Massimo had told us it would be absolutely fine), clicked the TV on and had our dinner. Pizzas to die for yet again! We had really wanted a sit down restaurant but this was OK and probably the best option for our tired bodies. While we were eating our doorbell rang. At first we didn’t realize that it was “ours” but we both bounded out to the hall and opened the door. It was Jonathan, Massimo’s partner and he asked if everything was acceptable and if we needed anything. Jonathan was an Aussie. I had to listen for a minute and quickly discounted a Brit accent, swerved towards a Kiwi accent and discounted that and then asked if he was an Aussie. He said that most people couldn’t tell especially since he had been living in Italy for quite awhile and gives tours (with the dreaded flag) in Firenze. So score one for Liz! but I did live in London, also in Glasgow, then down to New Zealand (my mother and family come from Auckland) and we’ve traveled to Australia, so no excuse if I can’t hear the correct accent.

    Once again, perfect beds, firm mattress and crispy sheets and lots of hot water in the shower. What more can you ask for? Tomorrow we head for Fucecchio, once again without reservations but hope for a hotel there.

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    hi liz,

    oh, goody, another trip report from you where I can read about your suffering feet.

    WHat - no pain??? fie on you - that can't be proper walking.

    but a great start - over 25 years ago DH and I made our first trip to Italy and had a flight out of Pisa, and ended up staying - guess where? - the hotel Royal Victora. I still remember the bathroom was the size of our bedroom at home and the room itself was enormous.

    so when we took our kids to Florence a year or so ago, we just had to stay there on our last night. what do they say? - never go back. they had divided the rooms [or at least, the ones we had] and the bathroom was the size of a small broom cupboard. and the racket from outside at about midnight was immense.

    but the ambience was the same - faded grandeur sums it up. don't you love those photos and memorabilia of all the people who have stayed there?

    and as you say, a terrific breakfast.

    looknig forward to the rest of your trip, step by step,

    regards, ann

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    Ann, on our first visit to RVH we had room on Arno side and it was, unknown to us, a festival day-they set off fireworks most of the night! We remembered to ask for back room after.

    So glad your "footmobiles" were not sore, liscakes! Will add Vicopisano to our list of Italy places.


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    I'm enjoying your report so much and can't wait for the next installment. I admire you folks who actually write all of these things down and then take the time to tell about your adventure.

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    beelady: WRITE them down?? Not on your life. I take a teeny tiny digital recorder with me, THEN I come home and force myself to get started. The first sentence is the hardest... Do you keep bees? We kept bees for around 10 years, then the family "happened" and parents warned us what would happen if a little friend were stung, besides all the Hive Collapse horror that's going on now and the tracheal mites 20 years ago. Sigh. If you keep bees in this day and age, more power to ya!

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    Love it!
    I want to "walk" in Italy now!
    Unfortunately I can't do quite as many miles per day.
    I am bookmarking this for boot and sock etc advise - since I am blister prone.

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    Bookmarking is a term used to post a message without writing anything so you can click on your screen name and find the post again later.

    If you click on your screen name at the top of the page all posts that you have originated or contributed to will show. I think this works back to 2003.

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    Did you get a look at the guest books that the Hotel Royal Victoria keeps from its hundreds of years of history? Ask to see them: fabulous and just about everyone who was anyone stayed there; from the Grand Tour (Charles Dickens,etc) to recent heads of state, astronauts, etc.

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    vetralla: Nope, missed those. It's hard to "tour" or remember to seen anything tourist-worthy when we're on a walk. We're definitely on a mission and the walk is the destination.

    Still, I wish I had seen the books!

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    Royal Vic and Clitunno (in Spoleto) are both good examples of hotels that have remained in the same family for years and whose unfailing politeness restores one's faith in old fashioned good manners.

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    Adrienne!! (Why do I feel like Rocky when I yell that?? ; o ) I'm working on the pics right this moment and as you know, it takes FOREVER. I'm zapping out all the duds and I have around 300 to go through. Jeopardy is on in my ear, my mouse hand is FREEZING and I'm starting to shiver. Time to get up and vacuum around the house. That always warms me up. : o ] Tomorrow I'll finish the photos, attach them to Shutterfly and do another hunk of the trip report. OK???????? LOLOLOLOL...... I work for a living ya know! And we DO have a life!! LOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL

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    Hey Rocky - you are total crackers!!! :) I know how long it takes - forever to name the pix and edit. I'll be checking back tomorrow and expecting great things!

    Vacuuming used to warm me up too before I bought a new vacuum that practically moves around the house on its own. It's wonderful!

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    Writing a Trip Report is Easier Than Wading My Way Through Shutterfly.

    Who would have thought that I would flee, yes flee, from editing and transferring my pictures to a webpage that I just cannot cannot figure out. Anything is better than that. Well, almost anything. But to our tale…

    Massimo’s (Lenzi’s B&B) was, in short, perfect for a b&b. We had room to spread out, we had room on the patio to dry our clothes (though they never did dry), we were charged the wonderful rate of just 50E for the room but then no breakfast was included, we were able to use the coolest old-fashioned toaster, there was complimentary Limoncello in the fridge, the beds were comfy and I had a good time taking photos of Massimo’s pots (some filled with small lemon trees) at the front of his property. The next shot was of his “yard” of pots outside of his very large studio/showroom. It was a good place. Jonathan was also fun to talk to about his tour guide status, flag and all. I was Horrified, LOL! If there is one place we hope never to be, it is in a wad of humans being told what they’re looking at and being led by a person holding a flag high above his/her head. Kill me now.

    Of course before we left Massimo’s I asked him how to pronounce “Firenze” the way someone from the area would say it. He quickly said “FI’-renz-ay” but added that in other parts of the country, outside of Toscana, people would say “Fi-REN-zay”. I don’t know why, but I like to pronounce place names correctly. Everyone’s different. We were headed to Fucecchio and I was pronouncing that “ Foo-CHEH-key-o” but would be corrected on that soon enough. The walk was again along the road and I needed to stop from time to time to attack my feet with various bandaids (sticking plasters to you Brits) of one sort or another but the best were the special (expensive) ones that I bought at REI. God bless REI!!! As soon as I felt a blister rising up and turning into a bubble (and I stopped fast too) I layered it with one of those things and put a stop to the boo boo. As a result I really was walking pain free for the first time in all of our miles together. Heaven.

    At one point we stopped by the side of the road for one of those foot check-ups and Paul stood there on the next corner looking at the map and whatnot while I worked on my toes. An older man drove to the end of the road, stopped and somehow motioned to me: “Are you OK??” I waved and showed him that I was and he waved and drove off. It wasn’t the first time that someone saw me sitting down, preparing my bandaids and asked me if I was OK. The people are so absolutely friendly and helpful and it makes me smile inside just to think of them. The French were unfailingly polite and helpful but the Italians just went way past that and were truly CONCERNED for my health and safety. Of course they didn’t always see my tall husband standing nearby so that might be the answer right there, but I think not. Italians are wonderful! We were always given the correct change, vendors were always taking the time to explain the ins and outs of a situation, locals always helped with directions and walked us to a spot to set us on the right track. So far, the people are making this trip.

    We walk along past small vineyards and masses and masses of bamboo. Who knew? We start to wonder if bamboo had been introduced at some point years ago, and simply took over the landscape. There is bamboo everywhere but everywhere. Along the Arno one cannot see the river for the swathes of bamboo, alongside farms, alongside the road – everywhere. But we also pass wonderful fig trees and I pick up the fruit, peel it back and again eat it; fig newtons for the road. We head off the road down a “Do not enter” area (at least for autos) to try to get away from the nasty zoom zoom of the cars next to us and the trash alongside the road. We’re in what we think was some sort of abandoned mining or excavating area and then couldn’t find a good way back to the street. So we kept looking at the compass and heading east, finally coming out in someone’s back yard and saw a man standing there in his garden. Very still. VERY still. (See the photo) A scarecrow! and what a great one at that! Just look at the pic and you’ll see why we were fooled for a second or two. Hopefully the crows are also?

    The air is hot – much hotter than we like when we’re hiking, around 80. There is nowhere to walk once again except along the road and I start to wonder if we shouldn’t have just sucked it up and headed for the Pisan hills and walked up there to Vinci instead of doing this low, flat road. It’s a bit late in the day for that since we’re past Calcinaia and nearing Castelfranco. I’d do it differently if I had to do it again, but I won’t so that’s that. But there are good things even so that I can find by the side of the road: wild geranium, sweet William, scabiosa and lots of other unnamed wildflowers. Not a bad thing. I still have my longsleeved shirt on and there is no where but no where to change into my t-shirt. Oh well, I’ll never see these people again. I throw off my back pack, get out my t-shirt, turn my back to the road, wait for a car to pass by and then WHOOSH, whip off my shirt and throw on the T. No problem. A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.

    We must stop yet again and have some water and some sustenance and sit down against someone’s brick wall, just a few feet off the busy road. The shoes come off and I again take care of my feet. We’re sitting next to parked cars belonging apparently to the residents behind us when out comes a man to get something from his car. He spies us and asks if we are OK. Sure! Yes, we’re fine and we give him a thumbs up and off he goes. Five minutes later he comes out again, this time with an orange paper napkin with squares of cake in it and gives it to us and smiles, waves and trots back inside. This is what I mean about the Italian people – totally giving and wonderful. They were the best. Almond cake. Yum.

    We walk into Fucecchio and I had nothing written down I think because it was such a large town and I assumed that there would be at least a couple of decent hotels. The main street becomes a pedestrian only area and I’m absolutely charmed. We walk along and see children playing in the street, vendors standing outside their doors, old women talking pleasantly and just “old Italy” as one would like it to be. I stop and ask a vendor about a hotel in the area “Per favore – un albergo?” “Si, si. La!” And he pointed down the road to the corner. So off we went and found an iffy hotel on a very very busy corner with traffic zooming by. We walked into the outer foyer but it looked so darned depressing that I nixed it. Whoa, I have that power! There’s got to be another one, I said. Off again we walked for at least a half mile or so until I stopped and asked a vendor at a large magazine stand and he pointed us out of the city and said it was about two kilometers to a hotel. There were NO other hotels in the city! So we walked in the direction that he pointed and as we walked I spied a sign way up on the side of a building that said “Affitta Camera il Poggio” (or something like that) and I know I had seen that on a website somewhere in the past year in my neverending search for b&bs on our “trail”.

    Alas, there was no response to the bell and instead there was a card affixed with a phone number for those who would need a room. Once again, they don’t quit their day jobs when they start up a b&b! Heck, we have no phone so while we stand there and look around wondering if we should jot down the number and go to find a phone, a young man comes out of the building. I ask him about “una camera a qui??” and he says “si” but I point to the sign and say that we have to phone. He whips out his cellphone, connects, and punches in the number for us and talks to the senora. Hooray! He indicates that she’ll be right over and to stay right in that spot. Ah, more kindness and now we know we’ve got to get a phone when we get to Firenze. It’s a pain without one but we kind of wanted to get going when we left Pisa and didn’t want to mess around at a phone store. Gotta get one. The senora showed up within minutes and showed us upstairs and to a very decent room (no pics). Twin beds (oh well), comfy, a bath across the hall that was fine, a kitchen for us to use, but no colazione. Oh well, it’ll be out in the morning for a cappuccino and a cornetta. We’ve walked 13.46 today, it’s 5:15 pm and the tariff is 50 euro for this dandy room. We’re here, we’re happy and we’re about to go out to find a restaurant! Ah, it doesn’t get much better than this. By the way, I asked the magazine vendor, and it’s “Foo-SHAY-key-oh”.

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    I am enjoying your adventures so much! It's great to read a truly "off the beaten path" trip report. You see Italy from a much different prespective.

    The Italian people generally are so generous and hospitable. You're bringing back many of my own one-on-one memories.

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    Restaurants? Anyone see any restaurants?

    After our usual afternoon’s activity of showering and clothes changing and clothes washing and rest, it was time to venture out in this new city of Foo SHAY key oh. Fucecchio. We walked back in the general direction from whence we had come just a couple hours before and wondered what kind of restaurant we would find for cena. We were tired of pizza pizza pizza! Imagine. We were ready for antipasti, primo, secundo, dolci – everything on the menu. We walked and looked, looked and walked. People were out and about this evening. It is warm, the sky is clear, people are in the hairdressers, barbers, clothing shops, cafes, everywhere people. We walk down one busy street where the majority of shops are located, looking for a restaurant – nothing. Down another street, more hairdressers but no restaurants. I stop to ask someone. “A ristorante? Osteria? Trattoria?” “Non” was the reply – “Pizza!” More streets. We literally walked down every street in greater Fucecchio and more on the outskirts. Not ONE sit-down, normal restaurant but we had found (and I counted) not less than SIX hairdressers and I’m sure we didn’t see them all – and they were all occupied! Paul called it something like a “Company sock-wash.” That’s got to be from MASH.

    Amazed, we walked back to our B&B area and went to the pizzeria across the street – to the one that our landlady had first directed us. By this time we just didn’t care, we were so hungry. Our little foray had taken at least an hour and now everything was going to be closed (except for pizzerias) and I wanted a dolce that I would have gotten at a restaurant. So, we ordered our pizza, Paul sat a table and I hustled down the street to a bakery we had passed when we first set out to explore our street. I chose a few yummy looking items and then hustled right back up the street to the pizzeria.

    The pizza was perfect and we ordered a bottle of Chianti to go with it. Ah, life is good. Fortunately this pizzeria also had a coffee maker so I could have coffee with the dolce. Life is doubly good – I don’t ask for much, really I don’t! We actually finished off the Chianti which we never do at home and off we go across the street to our room, each read our Dick Francis mysteries (light reading or what?), pray together and go off to dreamland. Tomorrow we head for Camaioni if we can make it that far, or perhaps Montelupo Fiorentino or Capraia. I’ve got listings in all of those places. Actually Empoli comes first (EM-poli) and that would be fine because it’s a large city and will (yeah right) have a multitude of hotels. Whatever.

    In the morning of course there’s no breakfast and we have no bread or coffee to make our own so out we go to the bakery from the previous evening, we order our “due cappucini”, our cornettas and we’re good and off to see our next adventure. I haven’t been making notes about what we’ve spent on pizzas and breakfast because it’s just been too little to mention – always a good thing. However, I did record our expenditures on my digi simply because it was so wonderful! Food is not expensive in these parts at all at all. Our due cappucini, due cornetta, 4 sandwiches to take on the road (really half-sandwiches but wonderful) was a whopping 9.15E and lo and behold it’s also 9:15 a.m. that we’re heading out.

    We head out to the main road and find ourselves heading in the direction of Empoli, so far so good. It’s Thursday morning and the traffic is doing its thing. As we walk out of town, it’s a wasteland of car dealerships, more car dealerships, bars, mechanics garages, car dealerships, bars, service stations etc etc and roadside trash. Lovely. Well, the nuts and bolts of daily life simply must live somewhere. All cannot be Roman ruins, renaissance sculpture, vineyards and figs. We are modern people and we need our cars and daily goods. At this point we’re searching as we walk for something like a little “Quick-Pick” to buy a bottle of water to relieve one of our more grungy water bottles and we can find nothing. Not one. Just urban sprawl with the sidewalk about to end. Sigh.

    We want to walk off-road but can find nothing on our 1:50,000 map in the way of paths to the north of us because all those paths go up into the hills and not in the direction of Firenze. But on the map, along the Arno to our right about a half mile there appears to be a path, but I’m not sure. As I said before, it’s nigh unto impossible to even see the Arno because of the hill of densely packed bamboo and other ground clutter on our side, and then there’s a steep bank going down to the river. If there’s a path, we’re going to have to get on it right from the road, so I walk on with map tucked into my belt and hope in my heart as the sun is in our eyes, the heat is coming up and the cars are zooming right at us. I console myself with the fact that it’s flat walking (this is good?) and we’re going to get our challenge days when we hit the Appenine part of the walk.

    Ah, we happen upon the good old Bricomart. It’s a tenth of a mile into the store and a tenth of mile out, so I wait outside watching the shoppers going about their daily errands and let Paul do the hoofing. Works for me. He returns with the fresh water and we take an MMCB (mid morning coffee break) and have our water and sandwich, cool the feet and set off once again into the urban sprawl – we’re now in the town of Bassa. I figure we’re going to walk for another six hours before we stop for the night.

    It’s hot – at least high 70’s, maybe 80 and we’re not enjoying this at all. Ya win some and ya lose some when you choose to walk on vacation. It’s not all champagne and roses that’s for sure. We approach Empoli and we’re both sick of the walk. We’re not in the wilds, we’ve got to make Firenze by tomorrow to leave a good chunk of time later in the walk to make it through the mountains and then to Ravenna and then, hopefully, to have 3 days at the end of it all to spend in Venice. Well, we figure if we need to, we can ditch the idea of Venice. I hate to as it was going to be our “vacation within our vacation” and the special treat at the end. Hmmm. Anyway, with that thought, it’s now about noontime and we look for a spot we can pull off the road into some grass and have the rest of our sandwiches and water.

    Finally, there’s a place up the embankment along the road and there are trees and grass. Perfect. Up we go, scrambling a bit as it’s steep. We “set up shop” by taking off our backpacks, off with the boots, out with the sandwiches, etc etc. I now have a real, live blister. DRAT! I had been so careful but the morning was so hot and the pavement under our feet was boiling and there’s a blister. Dang. Paul also has one! This man is from a non-blister family and even he has one. He remarks that he is NOT happy with is boots and he’s going to change to his sneakers for the rest of the walk as he has never in our 264 total miles (past 2 trips) of walking ever had a blister. His boots must go but we have no box to send them home and no post office. They’ll have to wait until we get to Firenze. I have the opposite problem – my sneakers that I wore last night were apparently the start of my blister today, so I want to send my sneakers home! So, Paul will now carry is boots and I will carry my sneakers and each of us wants to be rid of our redundant footwear. We forget the blisters for a while and munch the sandwiches and after a few minutes find ourselves completely engulfed in black flies. They are everywhere but everywhere. Faces, hair, legs, ewwwwwwww. I hate it and feel like Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen. I throw a shirt over my head, I swat, I yell, I slap – all to no avail. We can’t get away from them and we can’t really settle down and eat. We hastily bolt down the last bits of our sandwiches, and just as hastily tape up our blisters and get the heck out of there, all the while discussing what we’ll do as far as the walk is concerned.

    We decide. After we get into Empoli, now just a few miles away, we’ll hop on the train to Firenze and continue the walk from there. The mountains are looking much better to us now and at least we’ll be out of the urban sprawl – we hope. I could care less that we’ll have to say “Well, we walked across Italy except for the part between Empoli and Firenze.” I don’t care. Things are not going well and it’s bleeding hot. Take me to a hotel in Firenze!

    Into Empoli we go and have to ask and re-ask, and ask again for directions to the treno – it’s that hard to find. But Empoli, from what we saw of it, looked good. We just can’t stay here tonight. At one point we thought we were going in the right direction but once again we were lost so I told Paul I wanted to ask “that guy across the street” for directions to the treno. Paul said, “No, ask that woman over there – she’s just waiting for the green man (walking light), then she’ll be over on our side and you can ask her.” OK, we waited a minute and as the woman came across she glanced at us and then quickened her step. I’m sure she thought we were some weird panhandlers or something. As she whooshed past me, I loudly spoke “Per favore! Il Treno???” She looked at me, paused, and then said “YA WANT THE TRAIN STATION?”

    Oh my word, LOLOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Perfect colloquial English. I was flabbergasted and we all started laughing. Indeed she was Italian but with perfect English and I was so glad! “Yes, please!” I answered. “Where the heck IS it??” If you’re ever in Empoli and need to look for the train station, you’ll know exactly what I mean. There’s some sort of old city wall that cuts the town in two, and you have to get around that to get to the train. At least that’s how I remember it. Anyway, we finally found the stupid station, but it was worth getting lost to get that reaction from the woman!

    We buy the tickets and find two empty seats on a very very full train. Students are going home for lunch or something (it’s about 2:30) – whatever - they’re all headed back into Firenze. The car is stifling and there is nowhere to put our feet, much less Paul’s long legs. Oh well, we grin and bear it. Students are half dead in their seats waiting for the train to leave, many are already sleeping, others are texting on their cellphones. Just like home. We’re sitting across from a couple of girls, their faces glowing with perspiration and finally the train starts its journey. We ride for about a half hour and just before the terminus, one of the girls gets up and heads right behind me to the train door where there are more students sitting on the floor and whatnot. She asks IN ENGLISH which stop in Firenze is the right one. She comes back to her seat and of course I say “You speak English well. Where are you from?” Both girls were on a semester break from school in London but were actually natives of Colombia. She said that while she could have communicated somewhat in Italian, English was much better to use as her Spanish accent didn’t translate very well into Italian and her English was always understood and accepted. Hmmm.

    At any rate, we talked with them for the last few minutes of our ride and it turned out that her father had gone to college “somewhere in Boston” (we 30 miles south of Boston) for his graduate degree and she had visited Boston and loved it etc etc Finally we arrived, said goodbye and headed for the tourist info office to pick up a map and start on my enormous list of small hotels and b&bs that I had gathered in the previous months. The tourist office gives out a free, enormous book of every last hotel within Firenze – amazing that they give this out! We sat and perused it for a while but I decided that we may as well try my list first since I had spent so long on it and already weeded out the nastier small hotels. We chose one, found the street on the map and headed out to find our lodging for the night. Maybe we can even actually eat in a real-for-real ristorante tonight!

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    Oh, no! You took the TRAIN!!!!

    Just kidding, of course. I am thoroughly enjoying your trip report, warts and all. Very real and very much fun.

    And, yes, Italians in general are wonderfully hospitable and generous. I'm sure there are exceptions but I never met one.

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    Shutterfly will NOT work for me, I've tried. I want to zap out a double of my ONLY album and it won't let me, so that I can make a new album of Italy. So I've jumped ship to Flickr and that's not going so smoothly. I have so many darned photos that it doesn't want to take them, then Flickr told me it will only take "X" amount per MONTH.

    I hate the photo thing. It's my nemesis.

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    Hi Liz,

    I see that you did create a duplicate album of your France trip but I'm not at all clear on why you wanted to do this. So you have 2 albums with the same pictures (France) and none of Italy.

    Why don't you upload your Italy pix to the empty album on Shutterfly? Do you need another training session? I'm more than happy to help. If I lived closer to you I would upload the pix for you.

  • Report Abuse you mean you want to delete the extra album? I thought "zap" meant to create an additional album.

    You can create a new album any time - I have bunches of them. You don't have to worry about deleting the duplicate album.

    To delete the duplicate go into the album and click on the trash can icon on the right.

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    Hello lizcakes, I finally got caught up with your thread and oh I have so enjoyed reading it. I would never be able to take a walking vacation as you are awesome! I am glad that you were pleased with the tourist office at the Florence Train Station, one of my friends is one of the head people regarding the tourist office. I will pass on your good comments.

    Those black flies are totally disgusting..I cringed for you! And yes the kindness and hospitality of the Italians is always so overwhelming, most of them are truly beautiful people.

    I so look forward to your next installments!

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    I'm enjoying this trip report as much as I did the one in France --except for the blackflies, of course.

    I have been trying to follow your progress on both Google Earth, and Mappy, but my Italian geography is so poor I have problems. Do you think you could load a map of your route onto whatever photo site you finally choose?


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    OK, I've updated Shutterfly somewhat but I seem to have lost one picture. [sigh] But Part 1 is done, Part 2 will follow. Maybe.

    Have a ball. They are REALLY boring pics and I know no one can believe it, but photo ops were few and far between until we got to Venice and my favorite pic (probably) of the trip in Burano, coming soon - watch this space.

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    nukesafe: Adrienne has very nicely made a map of my route - or rather she's making one even as we speak. I am not, ahem, quite as computer literate as you would like to think of me. ; - ]

    But I can type like a bandit, thank goodness. The writing is so-so. If you want to read great trip writing, read St Cirq - go to her posts.

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    Hi lizcakes, your photos are not boring! I just looked at them and enjoyed them so much. That fat cat on his back, precious, lol. And I always love pictures of doors and windows and stairs with all the potted plants. Lovely! Your pictures make me homesick for Italy!

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    Here's the map of Liz's route. All the towns are listed but not all are marked on the map. If you read down each column of towns, the ones in bold correspond to the towns marked on the map.

    Liz - Russi is no where near your route so we'll have to check the spelling and correct later.

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    I'm not sure why the URL didn't completely hyperlink. I've tried it several times and I think this site is the problem.

    I tried tiny url but that doesn't work either. It looks OK but when I preview, the url is shown twice and doesn't go to the site and I can't edit the link.

    Oh well, copy and past the URL above to see the map.

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    Just for anyone that is familar with Castlefranco in the Region of Veneto as I am the town that lizcakes was at is Castlefranco di sotto. So many smaller places in Italy have such similar names it can get very confusing.

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    Great report. I hope you didn't lose your Word doc with your B&B list during the trip, but I would like to share with you my tip for keeping copies of important documents. Assuming you have access to your email overseas, I scan all documents (passports, visa, tickets, tips I have collected etc) and email them to my own email address. Then if disaster strikes you can print them out in any internet cafe on the way...
    Waiting for more installments.

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    So simple! So perfect! That's it - we will do as you suggest probably forever! Wow, it's the little things... THANK YOU. So ridiculously simple.

    You get an A+ for the day and a star on your forehead.

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    lizcakes - this is wonderful! However I hesitate to tell my DH about your trip for fear of giving him ideas about me walking across entire countries. LOL!

    Years ago (like 28) DH and I biked across Europe. Parts were magical and parts were sprawl and auto parts stores. You do see it all! The one leg I'd never repeat is the bike across the Po Valley to Venice -flat, hot, hazy, tedious. I kept asking if we couldn't just hitchhike or get on a train.

    I loved that you took the train to Firenze!

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    Glad to be of assistance! (Of course, my mistake and you obviously don't need to scan the WORD docs...just send them as an attachment).
    I also thought you may be interested in the Israel Trail for one of your future walks. I live in Israel and my son completed the walk last year in 3 months. Naturally, many people only do part of it.
    And while looking up the website I also came across the Jesus Trail, which concentrates in specific areas in the Galilee..
    I know it's different to what you usually do, but it may spark interest in someone. Anyone interested in emailing directly, feel free to do so...
    [email protected]

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    A Hotel, a Restaurant, a Post Office – What More Can you Ask from Firenze?

    As we sat at the tourist office, I check out my mileage and we’re up to 10.6, not bad for walking and hopping the train. A decent amount of miles so I haul out my list of possibles for the city and we decided since we were going only by my recommendations from the web, and we didn’t know for certain what would be great and and what would be horrible, that we would start with the hotel or b&b that was geographically closest. Made sense. So off we hustled to Flo B&B and indeed found it without too much trouble on Via della Statuto. I have written on my list: “Sleek, modern & squeaky clean. 70-100 incl. bfst.” We looked at the doorbell and I can’t remember if there was a note, or if the name had been partially scratched off or what, but whatever, no one was around and there was no way in, no reply was the answer and the place looked dead dead dead. After a few seconds we caught the eye of a security person or a policeman (neither of us can remember exactly) or at any rate, someone in a uniform who motioned to us that the B&B was Kaput, closed, gone, left for points otherwise. Nada. I said ‘grazi’ and off we went to look for the next closest. Next, I think we tried Tourist House Liberty on Via XXVII Aprile 9 but it was ‘completo’. Now we are down nearer the Duomo at B&B San Lorenzo at Piazza San Lorenzo next to the Medici Chapels and Laurentian Library, and all the way up to the second floor we trot and the desk clerk was all smiles and said “Yes?” (I just hate it when we are so obviously English speaking and the don’t say “Si?”). A room for the night? I inquire. Yes, what is the name? Oh, I replied, we don’t have a reservation. As quickly as the smile had appeared on his face when we arrived, it now left. Oh no, we are full. We do not have even one room. Grazi. We left and I thought, well, we’re not about to start running all over this city and check out the rest of the spots I have on my list so I said to Paul. Why don’t we just try anything that looks reasonable? Sounded good so we hopped out of there and went a block or two (if that) and I said – let’s try this one. “What, where?” said Paul. He had missed the tiny sign that I spied: Hotel Bellettini, Two star.

    Up we went in the lift to the first floor, spoke to the young man at the desk, “Una camera per la notte?” “Yes, we have one left.” Bingo. And from the look of the busy hotel it really must have been their last room. Ah bliss. Now that I look at my photos I realize that I don’t have one single picture of this room or, more importantly, the bathroom, for, finally, we had happened upon one of those bathrooms with the shower flowing freely onto the entire bathroom floor. Interesting. As my husband says, “They don’t get the whole shower concept just yet.” Usually you get those half doors that keep in most, let me emphasize ‘most’, of the water, rarely a shower curtain, and apparently, occasionally, this type with the shower water dumping directly onto the bathroom floor. At least there’s a curtain to keep the rest of the room dry. But when you step “out” of the shower, where the heck do you go to dry your feet? Hmmm, I allow the water to drain a bit, toss a towel onto the floor where it rapidly soaks up the two inch pool of water in the immediate area, kick that towel out of the way, toss another towel on the floor. Better. Oh no, I’ve used up my two towels. Heck.

    You get the picture. Still, for all the shower business, we were still happy with this room. The beds were firm, the sheets were crisp, the view was decent – meaning a street view instead of a blank wall - and the front desk was just about the most helpful and cheerful of any we had met. I’m happy, Paul’s happy. Now we had work to do. We must find a laundromat, a phone store, a store to find a cardboard box for Paul’s boots and my sneakers (to send home), and a post office. Not to mention a ristorante! Out we go to the desk (we’re on the same floor) and inquire about a laundromat which we find is just down the street and at the same time inquire about a restaurant. The young woman (college age) at the desk is fluent in English and I ask where she would send her parents for dinner when they come into town. Without hesitation she mentions a restaurant, I Brincello, on Via Nazionale and gives the address and says that’s where she and her friends go all the time, it’s reasonable – because they don’t have much money – and the food is great but she also give us the name of another one that her friends have frequented and love. So we have two decent recommendations and off we go with our backpacks and dirty clothes, find the laundromat quickly, dump the clothes in, deposit the euro, and nip off to find and check out the menu at the restaurant whilst we wait for the clothes.

    It wasn’t exactly where the girl said it was but we found it anyway after a bit, just a block away. She had missed by a street or two but no problem. The clothes wouldn’t be done yet so we head for the other restaurant to check that one out but settled on the Brincello. Back to the clothes we go but Paul heads back to the hotel to ask about a phone store and hustles back to find me filling the dryer. “I’ve got the street name for a huge phone store but it closes at 7 so we’d better hurry!” We whip out of there to find the store on Via Cavour. I think we came out at Via Guelfa and hung a left and hurried up the street, Paul checking out the left and me checking the right. Nothing. We walk faster as it’s 6:50 and we don’t know how long the street is. Nothing. Nothing. We’re just about running now and I start to think this is ridiculous – we can go tomorrow but Paul is on a relentless search and now he’s jogging. Well, his jog is my fastest run but I still keep up for a couple of blocks and finally call it quits and tell him to run ahead. Sheesh. I’m not in bad shape but I know when to quit, and this is it. I watch him for a bit and then I start to check out the shoe stores for empty boxes that we’ll need tomorrow to send the boots home. Paul comes back down the street after he had reached the end and found nothing. “But she said it’s right on Via Cavour and we’ve been up and down this whole stupid street!” We trudge back to the waiting laundry, no phone, no shoebox, big appetitites. After depositing our clean and folded clothes back at Hotel Bellettini we are off to Via Nazionale and our Osteria I Brincello. Hope it’s good.

    The restaurant is fairly full as it’s 8 pm and the waiter, Max, is bustling. Our turn – we order everything. Mixed crostini to start, then two salade mistas, picci for me with a meat sauce, pappardelle cinghale (sounds like that on my recorder) for Paul, (not sure of the spelling on any of this so bear with me), then a beef stew for me and tagliata (?) ruccola for Paul which as many of you will know is rucola greens with rare slices of steak. THIS WAS AMAZING. Absolutely amazing. My stew was good but Paul’s was GREAT. Then I had the BEST TIRAMISU OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. Oh my word. To die for. Usually I’m very ho hum with the whole tiramisu thing as there’s really not a whole lot of other desserts to have (thus far) in Italy, or so it seems to me hence I tire of tiramisu after the first one or two. Ice cream bores me silly and a pastry simply filled with cream is a lot of calories without a lot of punch, so tiramisu is usually my lot. This tiramisu put all others to shame. Amazing. We finished with two macchiotto (macchiotti?). - Please someone fix my spelling on this! My Italian is so very lame.

    Anyway, I Brincello was a great restaurant as our “first” on this trip. The full amount of the tab was 69.00 – pittance! And there was no coperto, a plus! And Max keeps all the ladies happy. ; o ) Oh, we also had a liter of the house red – much better than any two buck chuck that we buy. Ah, Italy. Back we go to the hotel and so to bed.

    In the morning we availed ourselves of the colazione buffet and again had two wonderful cappucini, a cornetta or two and we were off. We had three items on the list for our morning’s work: find a box big enough for Paul’s boots and my sneakers to post home, find that elusive Vodaphone store which was supposedly on Cavour and finally find the post office and send that footwear home. Shoe store for a box first on the agenda. After trying about half a dozen stores we were told to head for a One-Euro store (Dollar Stores are ubiquitous aren’t they?) and hey presto, I found an sympathetic shopkeeper who not only pointed us to various cardboard boxes that I might use but then to wide tape and a Sharpie for the address. Wonderful woman. We took our goods from there and back to the Via Cavour and there was Vodaphone, right at the very beginning of the street. We must have JUST missed it last night. [sigh] While Paul bought the phone, I went to the other side of the store where there was a bench to sit on, and started to fill and tape the shoebox within an inch of its life. Since Paul was taking forever with the phone buying business and I was growing warm, probably from a hot flash no doubt, I stripped off my longsleeved T-shirt, stood there for a moment in my bra [sigh] and put on a shortsleeved shirt. Right there in the store. Of course there was no one around and I was completely on the other side of the store, divided by a wall of phones and other paraphernalia – no one could see me, except maybe for a security camera or two… I didn’t care – I was hot! Ya know, you get to age 58 and you just don’t care what other people think! I’d never be there again, enough said.

    Off we went armed with our new phone, our boxed up boots and sneakers, to the post office on the other side of the Duomo. I had only ever seen the Duomo from photos taken of the dome, never from face-on. OH MY WORD, what a glorious building. But we couldn’t tarry for more than a minute or two and actually we were forced to tarry a bit as we had gotten into the middle of a student revolution/rebellion/demonstration of some sort. There were thousands of students all shoving and chanting and heading for the Duomo and there we were with backpacks and large box and 50somethings, hacking our way through the mob. At one point Paul and I got separated and just hoped His Tallness could see me over the throng. We reconnected and got out the other side as the speeches were just warming up. On to the post office. What a huge building! We walked into the main area and it looked something like the DMV. We stood in what appeared to be a queue and I noticed the numbers high up. There were at least three displays of numbers I think. Hmmm. Gotta have a number. Out to the foyer we go to look for a number machine. Hey, just like the deli at the supermarket, or the fish store. We grab a number and go back in to the main room. Hmmmm. Some queues are for packages and some are for regular mail. The numbers are different.

    Back we go to the number machines and read the tickets. Ah, some are labeled for packages – I can’t remember what it said now but somehow we could read the difference. Don’t ask. I ditch the first number, take a second and get back into line. As we stand there with our box a man in front of us says in Italian that we need to go to “that man over there at the desk”. We understood him – don’t ask me how – and moved quickly to a man at a desk but had to wait for someone else to be taken care of first. He asked where the package was going and what it contained. We told him and he gave us a document to fill out. The usual stuff that must be completed when you mail things from the U.S. No problem except of course it’s all in Italian. I can figure out the description area and of course the address, where to sign and the weight. I brought it back to the little man and he shook his head (of course) and poked his finger on another spot for another signature. [sigh] So I signed it and then he motioned for us to go across the room to a separate queue for box-people. Off we went up to the employee at the desk but right behind another person. Hmmm. I looked behind me and there were a row of people waiting, seated, all glaring at me. Whoops. Back I go to the chairs, take a seat and wait for my number to come up.

    How long have we been here? It seemed like hours but it had only been about 30 minutes; the bureaucracy of it all! Finally, our number is up and we approach the “teller” – our turn. I hand her the paper and Paul hoists the box up onto the bench. The woman looked at the paper and said in Italian “No. Wrong paper.” We stood there like the quintessential Americans-without-a-clue and I held out my hands like “What do you want me to do??” She was off to get yet another document because we were sending an “Exotic” item – SHOES. Yes, we needed a special paper because we were sending shoes. Go figure. We filled that out. Sign here. Sign there. Then she said “Due Euro?? For shoes??” and looked askance at us. “Si!” I replied “Vecchio shoes!” I didn’t know the word “scarpa” and wasn’t about to stop and look it up in my dictionary. Sheesh. I had written 2 euro because I just didn’t want to think about the value and what’s more I didn’t want our son at home to have to pay a foolish tax if he had to pick up the shoes at the post office. Oy vey. Anyway, she finally told us the cheapest rate would be 21 euro. Heck, I could have almost bought a plane ticket for that price. But we paid it and got out of there. We are finally out on the sidewalk, hauling out the maps and finding our way out of the city. Ciao Firenze! Onward to Fiesole.

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    Out of Florence into the Hills!

    I forgot to record just how many miles we completed yesterday which included about a mile and a half of Via Cavour… sigh. Anyway 16.3 – not a bad day. We headed out of the city, weaving our way through shoppers and walkers and just people people people. I wanted to find a particular road that went straight up to Fiesole. There is one road on the right that looks like spaghetti – that is the one that we do NOT want. The road on the left goes more or less straight up and apparently is little used by tour busses and such because it’s just so steep, but great for us as walkers. We finally find Via Bondi – the correct street! Yay for the home team – we are up and OUT of the city! Now now I begin to take photos, a gate here, an urn there, a view of Firenze in the mist. I’m loving the climb and now begins the “coulda, woulda, shouda, if only’s”. I wish that we had taken the high road out of Pisa and gone through Vinci but alas, there’s no going back to do it now. It’s onwards and upwards and we are both enjoying the climb like there’s no tomorrow. It is heaven and around every turn there’s another vista or an interesting building. Now, THIS is a walk!

    It’s 1:30 and we’re getting a bit tired and hungry and lo and behold, what do we come upon? A real for real trattoria! It’s the trattoria di San Domenico and it’s the perfect spot at the perfect time. The dining is al fresco and we settle down on the “porch” for a long lunch and what a lunch we had! We split an enormous Insalata mista – absolutely huge (4.E) with hard boiled eggs and tuna and artichokes and olives… and then I had Spaghetti Carbonara (6.50) and Paul had Penne alla Rustica (6.). We had the house water instead of the house red as we didn’t want to get sleepy and not feel like walking (!) and I finished with what the waitress recommended – Coppa San Domenico which I was less than crazy about, with marscarpone mixed with whipped cream and chocolate - shoulda gotten yet another tiramisu but after last night’s I doubted if I would do much better. Still, after due caffe macchiotti (? – it’s been two long months), we were out of there, sated and feeling fat as kings. The whole lunch came to 34.50 anyway. Yum. It’s just so nice when you happen upon a little restaurant like that in the middle of nowhere (for us) as opposed to belonging to a tour group being herded into a large restaurant with a prepaid meal…. Makes you want to absolutely shudder, doesn’t it?

    I took a couple of pics. Sitting behind Paul were four schoolboys each of whom had ordered pizzas. I glanced over to see if they used forks and knives or picked it up a la Americano. It was half and half, so we live and learn. They were laughing and joking around and I could have watched them for an hour but time was wasting and we needed to get a move on up to Fiesole and beyond – we hoped.

    When we did arrive in Fiesole it was only 3 pm and it was way too early to stop as we were both feeling so fit and so good and so in need of walking off that lunch, so we continued on up towards Torre di Buiano. As we came nearer to the settlement of Torre di B. and we passed by a b&b, which reminded me that perhaps I should call ahead as it was Friday and beds may be already spoken for. I called my first pick which was owned by a Brit and his Italian wife which was actually listed as being in Olmo. It’s B&B Torre di Buiano di Elisabetta e Anthony Brierley on Via dei Bosconi 33, just before the restaurant Casa del Prosciutto. A double was 70-85. Not bad. I punched in the numbers of our new handy dandy Italian cellphone.

    “Buona sera. Per favore. Una camera per la notte?” By the silence on the other end I could tell that my extensive and flawless knowledge of Italian absolutely astounded the man. I said, “Um, Hello?” I waited. The man on the other end of the line said “Non. Non camera.” “Oh. Grazie.” I replied, and hung up. I cringe when I think of it. After a second I thought, hey, he was supposed to be a Brit! Whatever. We tried the B&B that we were in front of at that point. “Non. Completo.” Was the answer in the speaker attached to the gate. Uh oh. It’s the weekend in early October in Tuscany. This does not bode well. I then called another on my list for Torre di Buiano and they were completo as well. Oh heck, I just hate it when this happens. Then we passed another B&B – a Relais or something – and it was a long long long uphill driveway and I spoke into the little box at the gate but there was no answer so I called the phone number that was pasted there – “Non non non camera per oggi!”

    We checked our map and saw that if we just kept walking we would come out just above Olmo where we could do a hairpin turn and walk the half mile back to that village and check out accommodation. So we trudged along and the shadows were indeed lengthening – this has happened before, not to worry! We were on the Via Bosconi and were coming up to #33 and there it was - “B&B Torre di Buiano” and I said to Paul, “Well, maybe the guy just didn’t understand what I was saying, or maybe someone has cancelled or maybe I even got the wrong number because it was NOT a Brit who answered the phone, but an Italian.” So up I went to the door and rang the bell. No answer. Oh heck. But after a second or two however, a man came around the house from the outside and I said “Una camera per la notte?“ because I wasn’t sure if he was the Brit or was indeed the Italian I had already talked to. He gave us the quick once over and said, “Yes, I’ll just open the door from the inside.” ENGLISH. Bingo. Now we stood there but we really could not tell if he indeed had a room or he was just letting us in for a chat! So after a second he arrived, opened the door and without really saying much of anything, showed us up to the first floor to a room. We were mildly flabbergasted but thankful nevertheless. I guess it wasn’t the guy I had spoken to on the phone.

    We have a GREAT room! It has an old iron bed with gorgeous bedding, a sitting room, a window with a view of the farm, a tiny but perfect loo and we are just so so so very thankful that we didn’t have to walk into the night or horror of horrors, take a bus up to Borgo San Lorenzo. Before we mess up the room I take some pics and we then begin to unpack.

    [I’ll have to end this here tonight as I’m getting shivery and bed is calling my name – sorry about the short report after being away all this time! I promise to finish this on Thursday night.]

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    Ready for a Long Climb Uphill to Borgo San Lorenzo

    This Mr. Brierly, hmmm, he hardly said two words to us when we arrived and never did actually say “Yes, we have a room.” He just said that he would go inside and open the door, which he did, and then just showed us upstairs. I believe he told us the tariff and that was that except that Paul did ask about a place for dinner and he replied that there was a very good restaurant just across the street and down a few yards. Then he just closed the door and went away. He was less that ecstatic about having surprise lodgers and I would have thought he’d be glad to make a euro or two from us but apparently he had other things on his mind. We would meet Mrs. Brierley in the morning.

    We did our usual clean up, clothes washing, clothes hanging, rest time etc and then toddled out around 7 pm to the Casa del Prosciutto, tripping along in the pitch dark, feeling so very fortunate that we found not only a b&b but a restaurant – a REAL restaurant! – in close proximity. In we went and were seated in a dining room with probably 8 or 10 tables. There was one section of tables that had been set up to take a large family right next to us and I wondered who they would be.

    We started with an insalata for Paul that we shared, a litre of water and a mezzo litre of the house red. I ordered the arugula steak and Paul had gnocchi. We also thought ‘what the heck, we’re on vacation’ and we ordered some patate fritte which were absolutely scrumptious with balsamic dumped all over them. We come from the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border and we’ve always had our fries liberally doused in usually white vinegar. As a matter of fact when I smell vinegar on fries, to this day, it takes me back to Bristol Town Beach in Rhode Island. Nowadays it seems people are getting a little more “upmarket” and actually using malt vinegar but since we just about buy balsamic by the gallon, we use that. Actually, I buy Rozzano’s balsamic at BJ’s and we go through that like there’s no tomorrow. But to our tale: We are dining and eventually the family arrived and filled the 11 spots which were set for them. I took pics! Anyway, we finished our meal, I ordered dessert (natch) which was just iffy yet again – I like my desserts – then had our due macchiati which were brought with a little pitcher of hot milk. Perfect!

    Before we left I told the father that the children that the girls (they were all girls) were all “bella” (again my handling of the Italian language no doubt floored them). He spoke some English and asked where we were from etc and what we were doing in Italy. I recited my “memory” line: “Camminiamo da Pisa a Ravenna”. And again the eyebrows went up all around. “A piede??? A PIEDE???” Si, I replied, with some small bit of pride, “A piede.” Of course they thought that was wonderful, or rather they SAID that was wonderful. In all actuality they thought “Crazy Americans. Walking across Italy. Why? Whacko Americans.” We said buona notte and left. An excellent meal, a jovial ending. Ah, I’m lovin’ Italy.

    After a really really decent night’s sleep we awoke realizing that nothing had been said about breakfast, so we dressed, got the packs ready and went downstairs and out into the farmyard for a little walkabout. I guess we made enough noise so that the missus showed her face and asked if we’d like our breakfast al fresco (brrr) or up in our room. I answered that I would take the tray up to our room whenever it was ready. She had little to say other than that but seemed to be trying to be somewhat cheerful at any rate. We walked out amongst the olive trees and had a good look ‘round. There was a tree there with enormous yellow fruit and I would be ever so grateful if someone could identify them for me. I don’t think it was persimmons as we saw those later but they may have been. My pics are here: This particular fruit tree is after the pics of the lovely little family. Thanks ever so much!

    Anyway, we took some pics as you will see and had a good long look at the bee hives. We love the European way of giving them little shed dormers on the front! Not like ours here in New England, though I wonder if the little “porches” are done in the south? There was a queen excluder on the middle one and they were all “knocked down” already for the winter with only one deep on them. Here we usually leave on a deep and a shallow on top of that for honey storage during the long winter but I doubt that it would be needed in such a warm climate – even with snow in the winter. Beekeepers will know what I’m talking about and the rest of you could care less!

    After being in the yard for five minutes or so, we saw Mr. Brierley coming up from “the lower forty” towards the house, empty coffee cup in hand. He obviously saw us, and just as obviously looked right down at the ground, not wishing to speak. Hmmmm. He went into the house, not a happy looking man. At about the same time we noticed a little garden shed/house looking a bit like a log cabin. In the doorway was a lone chair. I wonder if this is where he steals away to be by himself? Or she? Hmm. A few more pics and back we go to the house where the missus has left the tray for us and we take it upstairs. We have coffee, it’s not bad but not particularly great, some kind of red juice, maybe a pomegranate mix, some muesli, there’s jam but no bread, a couple of apples (which we put into our backpacks), two pots of raspberry yogurt and not much else. Paul has the yogurt and I have the muesli but I’m still a bit hungry so I trip downstairs and ask “Were we perhaps supposed to have bread? I noticed the jam?” “Oh yes! I’m so sorry – I forgot!” She gives me some bread but she looked sad.

    If these two people weren’t on the verge of a divorce I would be surprised. We’ll have to see if the place is still a B&B in a year or so. Boy, the two of them were sad, let me tell you.

    We gathered our packs, went downstairs and paid up and left to the sounds on the road of gunfire – always a warming thought when you’re in the country and you have a long walk ahead of you through said countryside. It’s 9:05 a.m. and all we can hear is: Pop Pop POP Bang bang bang BANG BANG pop pop pop pop. Oh great. But the morning is glorious, it isn’t raining and we’re off to Borgo San Lorenzo. The people last night said that the climb was long and steep to Borgo – well, we didn’t come here to sit around, now did we? Off we went amidst the gunfire and the sun slowly creeping up over the trees. We are walking along a small river and pass a waterfall and at one point we sit down for a rest as the downhill was starting to kill my toes – yes, downhill! I was wondering when the uphill would start. Anyway, as I’m sitting there Paul said something like “Weren’t we supposed to take a turn somewhere?” Eeeeek! I check the map, check the sign up above me and discover that that was exactly where we were supposed to turn – we had almost missed it! If it weren’t for Paul asking me at that specific point, we would have been off our “route”, such as it was. We needed to get on the 302 if we were heading north. Yay, one disaster averted and what’s that? The gunshots had stopped, the sun was too high and all the game had escaped into the wood. Oh, truly happy day.

    We start to come upon masses of chestnut trees which were of course in the middle of their season – just bursting with nuts they were - we must be getting much nearer the famous Marradi chestnuts. Paul picks up a large handful and I take a photo. All the trees around are looking sort of like a faded New England autumn, not particularly striking but then look where people head when it’s fall. Yup, our backyard. But it was nice nevertheless. We go through a small village – my map is barely readable anymore as I usually leave them in tatters after all the folding and unfolding and whatnot – so I don’t know the name, but the pictures I take here are particularly good. There is one of a white house with a windowbox of begonia perfectly framed by shutters and another of a vivid mustard yellow house with a café table and chairs just outside the front stoop, a quilt or bedding of some sort thrown halfway out of a second floor window for airing, with the entire photo framed by some vermillion geraniums. A cat sits on the doormat and the whole scene just begs me to capture the photo. So I did. Feel free to print it out! Dang, wouldn’t it make a great thousand piece puzzle??

    After we pass the village we are yet going downhill so I start to jog just to pass the miles a bit more quickly. The running is easy and my pack is light. Oh the wonders of walking with no foot pain! Eventually however, the downhill does indeed turn to uphill and now Paul is ahead of me, getting farther ahead of me with every step. A true problem when both of you are walkers and one is 6 foot 1 and the other is 5 foot 1. I hurry hurry hurry to keep up with him and then finally give up (this is a pattern, did you guess?) and let him go as fast and as far as he wants. I can’t see him but know he’s around the bend somewhere up ahead. Sure enough I come around the turn and there he is up at the top of the hill standing and waiting patiently for me. I reach him and he waits 5 seconds and says “Ready?” “No! I’m NOT bloody ready! You’ve been standing here for a full five minutes resting and I’ve been heave-ho-ing up this hill and you give me a whole 5 seconds and want to set off again! No, I’m not bloody well ready!” He smiles. I laugh. And he waits until I have a good long rest. But still, the inequity of it all! It’s like walking with Paul Bunyan. Three great strides and he’s halfway across Tuscany as I’m running along behind him! Oh the unfairness of life! LOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL…………

    [The said Mr. Bunyan has now just gone up to bed, after shaking down the coal stove, and since we’re both sickies with our colds, I’d best be off too. More tomorrow night about what we find in what is supposed to be nasty Borgo San Lorenzo.]

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    And STILL We Head for Borgo San Lorenzo and the Dinner and Bed that Awaits Us There (We Hope)

    We carry along and find that there’s very very little shoulder on the road to walk on and we are constantly hopping from one side to the other when the shoulder just disappears and WHOOSH a truck zooms past and I plaster myself to the embankment of throw myself into the woods, whatever is available. Not walking for the fainthearted, that’s for sure. Sometimes there’s a guard rail but I can’t exactly hop over that to flee the traffic because the sheer drop would kill me. Well actually, the drop wouldn’t kill me, rather it’s the sudden stop. The short bit of uphill that we encountered was short-lived because we have been descending for some time now and the road is so winding that there are those mirrors that you might find in some parts of the world which show you what’s behind the curve before you pull out of a street. We don’t see them too much up here in New England and I’m actually thinking of the ones in Bermuda – they are ubiquitous there. Anyway, they seem to have caught on here! Heck, they were probably invented in Italy. Caught on nothing.

    There are hills straight up on both sides of us and I swear it looks like New Hampshire! If it weren’t for the lizards skittering away in every direction… There are lizards, yes, but it’s cold. Paul said he could see his breath but we both have on short sleeved shirts so we’re quite warm walking and frankly, I’m quite warm thinking I could be taken out by any one of these piles of metal that are barreling towards me. This is why we are dying to get back to England to walk: there are paths paths paths paths. You can walk forever there and barely touch a road. True, there are some paths in Italy and in a couple of days there’s the perfect spot for us to experience the “wilderness” of Tuscany, but not today. We’ve got to cling to the 302 to get to BSL.

    I notice there are drifts of these tiny pink orchids alongside the road and at first I thought they looked like sweet peas but they are truly more orchid-like. I pick just one, buttonhole it and march on. And BANG – the guns have NOT stopped as I thought. We finally start to go uphill again and the road at this point is not more than eight feet across but this does not deter the traffic from zooming past us in both directions, with little care taken! Yikes, these people are either very brave or very stupid. Still, we don’t see dead bodies strewn about the countryside so they must be doing something right. We hear another BANG that seems very very close and suddenly we hear the sound of something like rain coming down through the trees and we are sprinkled with birdshot. Oh great. It won’t kill me but I don’t relish the thought of digging birdshot out of various parts of my body as an evening’s entertainment. Paul says not to worry. Easy enough for him to say!

    Now we find fields of lavender which are of course well gone by, but I snatch a sprig, give it a deep sniff and cram it into my pocket. Reminds me of home and my perennial border. It’s time for a little light repast at 1 p.m. here on Saturday, the 11th October, 2008. We have days old bulkie rolls that we bought in Fucecchio or Empoli and as I wolf it down (with nothing on it mind you) I taste a lovely bit of mold. Yum. Ewwww. And then the taste just stays with you for about a year. Oh yeah. But we had nothing else to eat and nowhere to buy it! So moldy bulkie rolls are what we’re stuck with if we want to eat. Where are the fig trees now that I really need one? As we sit trying to rest for a minute and eat our moldy bread, the flies descend upon us and immediately head for my ears. Oh yuck. I whack them and whack them again, enough to make my ears ring. Ten minutes of that and then they were just gone. Probably had a doctor’s appointment after the beating I just gave them. Oh well, a swig of water and just a few more miles to Borgo. The sun is hot and we’re happy.

    We see our first roadkill – - how exciting! It’s an enormous green and yellow striped lizard that didn’t quite make it across before a truck swooshed by. Poor lizard. I can’t worry about that now, as we’re approaching our town for the night. Yippee Skippy! We get to rest and eat and rest some more! I have a couple of B&Bs for Borgo and we stop just outside of town to ask for directions. Heck, one of them is FAR away, and the other one? The other one is FAR away also! Oh heck. That’s what happens when you write this stuff down at home. The B&B gives a general, just general, area of where they are located. Kind of like saying “The Boston area” which could be Brookline or Cambridge or Plymouth for pete’s sake. Not walkable at all at all. So, knowing that Borgo is a good sized town, we head in and I screech to a stop and Paul says, “What? What?” “GELATO!!” There is a tiny ice cream shop just begging for us to come in and spend a couple of euro.

    It’s so hot outside and the shop is SO inviting. There’s a young woman behind the counter and I say Buona Sera since it’s around 3 o’clock. She replies and we order large cones. Oh my word, so good so good. Of COURSE I strike up a conversation (she speaks very good English) and ask if there is a hotel or albergo somewhere close by. Hmmm, she says, there is one but it is very expensive. I think she says it’s 150. or so a night. Nowhere else? She gets the phone book and finds another one. “Oh yes. This one! This is very nice and is 110. per night. Well, that’s better I say, and it had better be because that’s all there is apparently. She asks if we would like her to call and see if there’s room. Why, sure! So she does and replies that there is just one room left (I’ve heard this before haven’t I?) – would we like it? Yes, of course, grazie, grazie, mille grazie. We say our goodbyes and follow the directions she gave us and we arrive at Albergo degli Artisti which, wonderfully enough, has a very good restaurant on the ground floor. We go up one flight to the reception desk and we are completely surrounded by no one. Not a soul, but then again it’s lunchtime. Pranzo! How silly of us to arrive during lunchtime. We take a seat and wait just a few minutes looking around the ancient room with stone steps and beamed ceilings, happy not to be walking and in the cool of a darkened room. Presently a young woman arrives and says she’s so sorry but she just stepped out for a moment, etc etc and we ask for the room and she shows us to it. She also makes a reservation for us at the restaurant for 7:30. Yes!

    It’s great! It’s lovely! It’s ours for the night. Perfect. It has an iron spiral staircase that leads up to the bathroom and also another small, slanted ceilinged room for a child just outside the bath. This is cool. See the pics. There’s a decanter with “Holy Wine”. It’s some kind of sherry or other sweet wine which I will try after I get comfortable. My feet are throbbing for some reason, probably just from the heat of the day because we only walked for around 5 hours – not a big day for us – and we’ve only walked a piddly 10.17 miles. We have showers, do some laundry and settle down on the bed for a read and a little “holy” wine and then the BELLS START RINGING. Oh my word, it sounds like the wedding scene in The Sound of Music. Clang clang clang BONG BONG CLANG….. It’s not restful but boy, is it cool. It’s 5:30 p.m in Borgo San Lorenzo and they’re gonna let you know it! Two hours to dinner… Paul heads out to the town, camera in hand, to take a look around and I think to buy us something for our lunch on the road tomorrow. When he comes back he tells me about a young man and his wood-fired rotissiserie oven and we look at that photo and other ones of the town. I check out the roof “garden” and take some pics of the narrow residential street below and head back to the room to read.

    7:30 finally arrives and we present ourselves downstairs at the restaurant. Ah, our favorite part of the day. We were shown to the perfect table, in a perfect room, into perfect chairs. Gosh, I hope the food is as good looking as the room! We order our food and wine and the waitress brings us each a selection of bread, one with a topping of an eggy mixture and for the rest, a pot of butter, along with our wine. Ah, heaven. See the pics. Our entrees arrive and I have ordered the pork chop and ewwwwwwwwwww, it’s displayed, almost triumphantly, with large “wings” of white, glistening FAT. Oh my word. I cut off the fat and put it WAY off to the side and enjoy the rest of the chop. Paul’s ordered something else – much more palatable and he enjoys it but boy is it expensive here. I can’t remember what his was at this point but he did enjoy it. Next to us is an older gentleman who has ordered the same meal as I have and he eats every single bit of the fat – with relish! Oh my word, I just couldn’t. Dessert must have been forgettable because I didn’t record what it was and I didn’t take a pic. Whatever. The bill for that little repast was 110. – the same amount as the hotel room. Good, but not worth 110. We toddle off to bed as we’ve got quite a day of walking tomorrow to Casaglia, and it’s high up in the hills.

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    <<We see our first roadkill – - how exciting! It’s an enormous green and yellow striped lizard that didn’t quite make it across before a truck swooshed by.>>

    have you thought of playing roadkill cricket to pass the time as you stride along less interesting sections of your walks?

    you each pick a side of the road, and score one "run" per leg you find on your side.

    the lizard would have scored 4.

    loving the report - I could taste that pork chop! [I'd have been fighting the other guest for the fat as well as eating yours!]

    regards, ann [aka michelin woman]

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    Annhig, you gotta be a Brit, but not for the comment about the roadkill cricket, which for us would be roadkill baseball, or football (American)or basketball - but for the fact that you love fat. If you've ever read all of the Herriot books you'll remember the part where he talks about sitting down at a farmer's dinner table and there's a huge slab of fat placed before him and the farmer is just WAITING for James to enjoy every bit of it. It's all he can do to sit there without being sick. Ewwwwww. You're welcome to my fat any day of the week! I'm so glad I took that pic of it - a picture is worth a thousand words.

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    lizcakes, you found me out.

    not all brits are headed for cholesterol hell though - my DD hates any fat, even on bacon.

    perhaps I can download your photo and drool over it to assuage my yearnings.

    regards, ann

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    Liz -

    A little hard to tell, but I'd say those yellow fruit were quince. Were they basically hard as a rock ?


    p.s.: nice report and don't judge a B&B owner's book by its cover ! (I should know...)

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    A Wonderful Breakfast until the Heart-wrenching Discovery at the Table

    Well, we awoke to a foggy morning in this delightful little town of Borgo San Lorenzo. Forget what the guidebooks tell you – this is a great little town. We pack up and head out to the lobby area and find breakfast all set up with the usual various juices, cereals and lovely cappuccino awaiting us. I take out my camera a slide open the lens cover and ZZZZZZZZTTTTPPPPFFFFFXXXSZZZZ shows up on the screen. OH HECK. The lens cover only opened up part-way and the screen in the back of my precious Canon Powershot S50 showed the pure gobbledygook of a screen gone bad. Way bad. The previous night we had returned upstairs from the groundfloor restaurant and I moved my little backpack to a side table. The camera fell out onto the tile floor. I picked it up, closed the battery compartment which had popped open with the shock of the tile floor and thought no more about it, until now. I gave it to Paul – The Man Who Can Fix Everything (at least at home) and after a few minutes he pronounced it DEAD. Oh great, without my camera my trip report is dead (or that’s what I’m thinking anyway).
    At any rate we did have a lovely breakfast even with my stomach now in knots from the death of my camera. Oh well, we’ve got miles to go until we sleep and we must march on. We head out of town and it’s Sunday morning so even though Borgo is a fair-sized town, it’s a no-go as far as finding a shop to buy another camera. And even if we could find a shop, will the instructions be in English? Ah, these are the things on my mind as we walk on.

    We head out following the 302 towards the village of Ronta and the hills are on both sides of us and they are gorgeous with “little castle things set into the hills” – that’s why I have on my recorder anyway. But no pics! Arrgghhhhh… Oh well, the NEXT town we get to, on Monday, we’ll look for a camera shop and hope to buy a lower-end version of what we have now. The camera is about 3 or 4 years old and Paul won it as some sort of doorprize at a Verizon (his workplace) seminar for engineers. We had just bought a CoolPix digi camera so I was underwhelmed by his “prize” that he brought home. Little did I know at that moment, just how much I would use the Canon Powershot. What a GREAT camera. The CoolPix turned out to be a dud. Just look at the pics from the Cotswolds and Burgundy. Amazing some of them and now it is deceased.

    Onward we march solidly uphill and we’ve passed the hour and a half mark and we’ve gone over 4 miles – we’re doing good today. I knew I liked uphill better than flat or downhill – my feet are thanking me. I think it has something to do with the fact that my toes aren’t challenged in any way and yet somehow neither are my heels. It’s happy feet all the way today. We stop for a minute or two and change to short sleeves – it’s getting hot walking – and continue on heading for Casaglia where I have a b&b scoped out at just about the right distance from Borgo.

    We stop in Ronta in about the only flat section of our walk thus far and there are park benches lining the street, placed equidistant. An elderly woman walks by (the fog had lifted at exactly 9:30 by the way) and is walking her dog and is all bundled up in a quilted coat and hat. She says Buon Giorno and I reply and we chat for a moment. She sees our backpacks and our hiking boots and wonders where we are going. I trot out my memorized few words that I would use approximately 80,003 times on the trail “Camminiammo da Borgo San Lorenzo a Casaglia” – plug is any two places during the walk – and of course her eyebrows raise up and she says “A PIEDE??” “Si!” I reply. And she smiles and tells us how wonderful that is and gives us a “Mamma Mia!” There she is all bundled up and me in my short-sleeved Covidien T-shirt and I wonder how bundled I’ll be when I get to be her age and just how much walking will I be doing then? I want to take her photo and send it to her but alas it’ll all have to stay in my little head. Ronta is lovely and you’ll just have to believe me.

    [I forgot to say something about the whole Mamma Mia thing. We were just coming out of Pisa on our first walking day and were in the supermarket and had approximately the same conversation with a young person who asked about our backpacks and where we were hiking to. When I recited my phrase “Camminiammo da Marina da Pisa a Marina di Ravenna”, she said “MAMMA MIA!!” As we left the supermarket, Paul said “Well, that’s our first Mamma Mia.” I said, “What?” I had no idea what he was talking about. “Mamma Mia – that’s the first time we’ve heard it. People really do, apparently, say it.” We would hear it many more times on the trip. Kind of neat for us.]

    We’re thankful that we do have money and we can just buy another camera. Yes, we are truly thankful for that. We head up up up towards Razzuolo and as I look at the map, I inwardly sigh as I look at all the S curves. If we could just walk across that S! But the curves are there because the grade is just so very steep, so we climb determinedly and the cars and motorcycles zoom past us on the very winding road. So dangerously fast they travel and we continually dive to safety as far into the shoulder as we are able. Finally, at about lunchtime we take a break on the other side of the guardrail and we can easily see the town of Razzuolo that we have just gone through, way way down the side of this small mountain. We are safe, the sun is shining, and we dig out a few bits of food and our water to enjoy in the sun, entirely camera-free. [sigh] The cars all slow down to take a look at us and actually to see if we are OK – we can easily see that we are quite a sight on the curvy road, lunching and resting on our backpacks. I check my pedometer and we’ve gone 8.72 and it’s been almost all uphill.

    As I said, we were looking down on Razzuolo and can see the S curves all the way down the mountain. There are a few scrubby shrubs keeping us from a precipitous fall down the mountain. I walk to the edge and that weird feeling in my stomach takes over and I back off – I’m done. A bit too high for me thankyouverymuch. Paul used to be a lineman for the phone company and heights don’t bother him one whit. Boy, I wish I was like that but vertigo takes over and I have to resign myself to it.
    We find ourselves at the “top” of this particular elevation and pass by a dead hotel. I have spoken the name of it into my recorder but can’t decipher what I’ve said so it’s lost forever. The sign nearby says “Ponte dell Alpe” and there are people ahead of us collecting stuff into bags but who knows what they’re collecting? There are picnic tables etc. If anyone can shed light on this portion of the walk, I’d appreciate it; it was glorious scenery anyway. I have “Podere la Fontana?” written by me on the map but don’t know for sure if this is indeed what it was. There is indeed a fontana just past the now-defunct hotel and motorists have stopped and are filling containers with this clear mountain water. We stop and have a little drink ourselves and fill our water bottles. Now I record the wail of an emergency vehicle and wonder which vehicle took a turn on an S curve a bit too wide. No thank you! We’ll be careful. The siren is blaring and sounds like a WWII movie. We walk on.

    Now we’re passing Locanda Dellacola (?) – or that’s what it sounds like I recorded. The place is mobbed and people are enjoying their Sunday lunch. Oh! I spot a sign and it says that we are 913 meters up. Have we reached the “top”. Are we at some sort of marker? We are so high that we are looking directly at a vapor trail from a jet. Well, of course it’s higher than we are, but it doesn’t look very high as it’s close, so close. Whoa, we are way up there. It is 2:25 and we’re nearing our b&b as we’ve gone 11.3 miles straight up. Hey, we’ve had a good morning of walking! And no blisters, no blisters! Zippety doo da – we’ve done well.

    Eventually we come to our b&b – quite surprisingly as I had it on the other side of the road when I checked GoogleEarth at home. But here it is Podere la Fontana and we’re at 13.92 miles, so we didn’t quite do our usual 14 which is just fine with me. There is a trattoria (Cucina Casereccia Toscana) on the lower level that’s filled with people and crammed, absolutely crammed, with tables. We walk past the restaurant section and up to the front door of the farmhouse that’s attached and knock but no one answers. I peer in the window and there is a family dining at a big table and they don’t come to see who is at the door. Hmmm. We walk back down the road 50 yards or so and into the restaurant and try to find the owner of the b&b/trattoria. Eventually I see I big man who is delivering food and chatting with the customers and I hesitantly ask in my sterling Italian, “…Uh, albergo a qui? Una camera per la notte?” He stops, then smiles and said “Si! Si” Uno momento!” (or something like that) He goes off to the kitchen to complete his task and then comes back and asks us to wait on a bench for a few minutes. We do just that and we watch him buzz around waiting on people. They’re all happy and the food looks STUPENDOUS.

    By and by he remembers us and comes back to show us upstairs. The family at the table has disappeared by this time, the table has disappeared also and what is left is a large sitting room, replete with TV and doors leading from the main room. He walks to one of the doors, unlocks it and shows us in. It is a perfect little bedroom, clean and tidy with a window looking out at the restaurant and the hills beyond. The view is wonderful and here I am completely surrounded by no camera. He explains in a little English that we have the whole apartment as there is no one else there this weekend. I ask if we may have dinner later and he says, When would you like to eat? I look at Paul, and we both say “7:30?” “Si! Bene. ” he says and off he goes.

    Yay! A neat place to rest our heads tonight. We peel off clothes and head for the bathroom and the shower. The bathroom window has an even better view than our bedroom and again I wince at the thought of no pictures. We have huge towels, a big bathroom, a shower and we’re happy with thoughts of dinner and being done with hiking for this Sunday anyway. Onward to a rest, a walk around the farm, and dinner.

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    A Little Dinner and a Little Conversation in English

    We had a lovely rest and a walk around the farm before heading into the restaurant for dinner. There were only two other couples in the room and after a bit we heard one couple speaking English with an American or Canadian accent. It turned out that they were also walking, but unlike us, completely off-road. Of course we quizzed them on that and found that there were indeed decent trails through the mountains and so we decided right then that we would go off road ourselves tomorrow to get to Marradi – our next stop.

    But to our dinner: We started with a huge antipasto plate that included “game”, the owner said (we cannot remember his name at this point but his wife’s name was Nadia). No other description, just “game”, so we ate it, all of it! I had ravioli w/meat sauce/ragu, tortelli for Paul made with chestnut flour, filled with chestnuts and potatoes, no salad, almost a whole liter of wine, no water, ice cream dessert with meringue inside (?), and Paul had a chestnut sweet of some sort. It was good but turned out to be a tad expensive. The room was 70. and the meal was 68. which I thought was rather a lot for what we had. Oh yes, back to our room for the night and there was a cat that came in our window (its name was Achille). We love our cats and always miss them when on vacation.

    We left after an adequate breakfast and there was mist over everything. The hills were part trees showing some Autumn color interspersed with expanses of green velvet grass. Oh to have a camera! As we walked we passed through the tiny township of Casaglia (the b&b is noted incorrectly on the map as being after Casaglia, but it’s not) but alas it wasn’t large enough to support a camera shop. [sigh] We go around a curve, a mile out of Casaglia and look ahead and see the mountain rising straight up ahead of us. That’s the mountain we’ll be climbing over! Oh my word! No wonder we’ve been walking on the road in between the mountains! Yikes. We’re going up and over that??

    Onward we march. I have my map folded in my hand and on it are red lines (it’s mostly black and white) that show the footpaths/trails/sentieri through the mountains and the closest entrance, an easy entrance that is, is up ahead at Crispino del Lamone. We continue to walk out of Casaglia and we hear the guns going off once again and see a hunter on the side of the hill. He shoots and then runs like mad down the hill somewhat towards us, following his dog to beat the band. I silently hope these men are good shots and don’t overshoot right at us. We see beautiful white cows and are mesmerized by them for a moment until we hear the hunters calling to one another, way up in the hills. The bells on the cows are clanging away and we see a dark horse now standing in front of them, a striking contrast to the small herd. All this beauty and me without a camera.

    A mailbox is on our left and we find as we get a bit closer that it’s not a mailbox at all, rather a breadbox with a stout loaf stuffed into it. There’s not much habitation in these parts and I guess you’re happy with your bread delivered every day to your breadbox. Sounds good to me. We peer over the side of the road and see that the ground just drops away and all we can see is mist in this giant hole. Of course Paul has to slip right at this moment and my heart skips a beat and both of us laugh nervously. Whoa, easy there fella; don’t leave me here alone.

    Eventually we actually do reach a pathway marker and hope that it’s the 527 that we’ve been looking for. Yes! We know now that we’re on the right trail as we’ve passed over the Lamone River and are heading northeast, our first foray into the real wilderness. The owner of the b&b said that it hadn’t rained for 3 months and indeed this is what we heard in Pisa even though we had a bit of rain and drizzle as we walked that first day from the coast, but really not enough to make any difference. The Lamone has become not much more than a shadow of what it should be in October and everything seems rather dry. Today (at home) is Columbus Day, Monday, October 13th and we’re walking on our very first Sentiere. Makes my day.

    The air is crisp and absolutely perfect for walking as we start the climb up the mountain. The stones underfoot are like little eggs, or so they look to me, and I pick one up and drop it down my sweatshirt and it’s cold and damp and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, traipsing through Tuscany in October, not knowing what we’ll find in this “wild” place. We hike up up up for at least an hour and now what had been quite a wide path has turned into a teeny bunny trail about six inches wide with a sheer drop inches from our feet. Oh great, I don’t need vertigo to rear its ugly head at this moment in time. We come to a spot where the trail seems to go in two directions but Paul spots a red mark on a large rock and so we head that way. The river is below us and I really don’t want to go crashing down off this little cliff, so we tread carefully.

    We can still see the road from where we’re walking and it seems to be about a tenth of a mile away and no traffic to speak of. Maybe a holiday here as well? I know it’s chestnut season and there’s a chestnut festival in Marradi but I can’t imagine that they’ve made a Monday holiday out of the whole thing. Who knows. We hike on and now the road is appearing very far off and I’m fairly breathless as I speak into my recorder. The shirt gets stripped off and we’re down to our T’s once again, even in this chilly mountain air. The climbing is getting a bit laborious and believe it or not, I’m as happy as can be. Hiking with no boo boo feet is a wonderful thing!

    We start off together from a resting place where it is more or less flat and within 90 seconds, Paul is 100 feet ahead of me, I kid you not. My calves are screaming and off he goes with those great long legs, striding up the ruddy mountain. Aarrghhhh, the unfairness of it all! A jeep passes by going down the dirt track that we’ve found ourselves on – yay, the hunters are leaving! Done shooting for the morning apparently. I smell wood smoke and we pass by a small house up here in the wilderness. I pick up a large dry bone from the ground and show Paul my valuable find. The jaw bone of an ass perhaps? Not. But it’s a ball and socket of some good-sized animal and I’m convinced it’s from a cinghale. I am just waiting to see a wild boar snorting its way through the brush. Come on, I’m waiting for ya. Marroni is everywhere but everywhere. We are picking up handfuls of chestnuts and they are glorious; no wonder Marradi is famous for their chestnuts. I have read that when they are sold in London, the Marradi chestnuts carry the highest price, a premium for they’re perfection. How true this is I don’t know. They are everywhere falling around us and we just know that sooner or later we’ll get conked on the head with one of these things. I’m panting as I record and I say that I’m just glad we’re not climbing Mt. Monadnock which I absolutely HATED; we did that to get ready for this walk. What a mistake that was.

    We’re walking up an incline that seems to be clay or something and it has huge ruts in it from water run-off and these ruts are filled, absolutely filled, with chestnuts, thousands and thousands and millions of chestnuts. What a photo op. No, I won’t say it again. There is nowhere to walk without walking on them, absolutely no inch of space not covered with perfect chestnuts. The cinghale must have feasts of them and I comfort myself with this thought, that they are well-fed.

    The pedometer only says 3.55 miles but it has been almost straight up, or so it seems. Of course we’ve been zigzagging as we’re not exactly in the Himilayas, still it’s been a workout thus far. I think I see the top and we pass by a pile of stones that are heaped up, like the markers in the bible. Our ears pick up the sound of a chainsaw – oh great. Who the heck would haul a chainsaw way up here? We finally see the man with the chainsaw who had apparently four-wheeled up here in his jeep. He’s an older man and of course he stops and asks us where we’ve come from and where we’re going, so we chat for a bit and he seems happy to talk to another human and stop working for a bit. The cinghale all seem to be asleep even with this man cutting wood enough to wake the dead. Or he’s probably scared them away.

    We come upon yet another hunter further up the trail and he speaks a bit of English even though I’ve already recited my set phrase of “Camminiammo da Pisa…” blah blah blah. He had been in the US the month before 9/11 and had been inside the World Trade Center, just doing the tourist bit. I record him for a while and he tells us that he and his wife visited their daughter in L.A. and they also visited San Francisco and Washington state. He was babbling just as we would be if we met an Italian in Massachusetts; we would tell them what we loved about Italy and where we had been. He was hunting for pigeon but hadn’t bagged anything yet today. I asked about the elusive cinghale but he said he never saw any, just rabbit occasionally and of course pigeon.

    We’ve gone 4.5 miles and now we’re up and over the mountain. Not that bad at all! At least from when we first saw it looming ahead of us and I inwardly groaned. Not that bad! There were a few dicey areas and especially one where Paul had to peel me away from a spot as I got the “sticky feet” syndrome. I was petrified to fall down a sheer cliff and there was nowhere to move and my feet were stuck right to the spot. Couldn’t move an inch. Paul hauled me off there and we continued down the mountain.

    We’ve now completely lost the path and I figure that if we’re going down and we’re going northeast we must at least be going in the right general direction. I hope. A mole or a mouse scampered right across my path, almost over my feet. So dear, so tiny. We stop for a bit of lunch and find that we’re surrounded by these huge ladybugs – ladybugs on steroids, nuclear ladybugs. My goodness, why are they so huge?

    We finally find our way down and we must go over a little rickety bridge over the Lamone and I walk in the MIDDLE as the handrailing is bent way down and offers no safety or support whatsoever. We hear little waterfalls and it is lovely, just lovely, and me without a… won’t say it. We go under a railroad bridge and I yell just to hear my stupid voice echoing. What grownup does that?? Sheesh. We’re finally down on the road and I spot a sign, sure that it will say “Marradi” but NO, its says “Biforco”. Oh heck, we didn’t make it all the way to Marradi over the mountain. Well, we tried and it took all day to do it. But there’s a sign up ahead and it says “Agriturismo Piano Rosso” and we head for that.

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    Our Unexpected Arrival at an Unexpected Agriturismo

    So we head straight for the sign and follow the arrow but of course the arrow only leads us into the tiny settlement of Biforco and then there are no other signs. Sheesh. There is an older man talking with his neighbor, over his front gate type of thing so we stop and I ask with my sterling Italian, “Per favore…Agriturismo Piano di Rosso? A qui?” “Si, si! La!” And both the man and the woman point simultaneously up a hill to the rear of the village. And we say ‘molto grazie’ and continue up the street in the direction they pointed. I look back and they’re watching us to see if we go the right way but of course we immediately come to a small crossroads and of course there is no sign for the agriturismo. I look back to the locals and point and yell “La???” And he makes a sign to say to our right, around a corner and up up up, his arm bent as to go around a curve and then he points up.

    OK, we can do this - and off we go again. Ah, another sign once we round the corner. My word, what a steep hill and we climb and are quickly, ever so quickly, out of Biforco and within what seems like seconds already a good hundred feet above the road that we had been on; it was that steep. There are chickens crossing the road (!) in front of us, now around us, flitting this way and that. Speckled chickens, brown chicken, white chickens, black chickens, chickens with leggings on, plain chickens, fancy chickens, chickens for everyone, with one rooster crowing to beat the band. No wonder he’s crowing with that harem. We see no one, just chickens, but that’s fine with us. The road becomes even steeper, heck, this is steeper than the mountain that we’ve just come over! And how far is this agriturismo? I can’t imagine and I begin to wonder if we shouldn’t have just gone on to Marradi where I had a b&b listed, at least one b&b if not two. But in for a penny, in for a pound, as we’ve gone this far we might as well keep going.

    By the side of our little road are high tension wires surrounded by the usual gates and barbed wire with a skull and crossbones ominously posted. I read the sign: “Pericolo di morte”. We get the picture. Come on agriturismo, this road is getting steeper and I’m panting as I relay the words on the sign to my digirecorder, panting panting panting away. This is definitely harder and steeper than the mountain. Paul, ahead of me as usual, motions me to look off to our left, which is now a panorama of Mugello, replete with fall color and Tuscan ambiance. Oy, no, don’t make me look because I don’t have a foolish camera and I can’t completely tell anyone what it looks like, but the view is indeed gorgeous. We march on and behold, a car approaches and must be heading for the same place that we are – what else could be up there? I turn and grin and stick out my thumb. As the road is only about 7 feet across the driver is forced to look at us and it is a young man, maybe about 18 or 19 (roughly our own kids’ ages). He gives us a look and… drives on!

    I am appalled but quickly chalk it up to his age, his hurry or maybe even his inhospitality in the face of strangers. Whatever, we are left to continue slogging and I sputter for a bit that he would leave two elderly and harmless backpackers to climb a very steep road with an entire car empty and fairly screaming for our use. Boo hiss. After more panting and more of this mountain scaled, we hear another car! Yes! Someone to our rescue? because we see no more signs for the Agro. I turn around, smile once again and just start to stick out my thumb (you must remember it’s always me sticking out my thumb because Mr. Longlegs is always 400 feet ahead of me). Lo and behold, the man stops and I say of course “Agriturismo Piano di Rosso??” And he says, “Yes, I go there now.” Oh my word, thank you Lord, the man speaks English.

    He tells us that the Agro. belongs to his sister and chit chats all the way up and we did indeed still have a long way to walk, at least a mile zig zagging up that ruddy mountain. He drives in and parks and we are greeted in the yard by the sister and other family members and of course I’m not sure who belongs to whom but the brother asks about a room for the night for us and we explain what we have been doing and where we have been hiking. “Brave!” the woman says to me and she allows her (grown) son to show us to a room. He lets us into a doorway (there are several) and it is a little apartment with a woodburning stove, a kitchen, sitting/dining room and a spiral staircase. He also speaks very good English and leads us up to the second floor and shows us into a double bedroom. There is also a twin room with a bath between the two. It’s charming! And there’s so much room. He tells us the tariff will be 60 euro for the night, though normally they only let these apartments on a weekly basis. However, no one will be arriving and their last tenants left a week ago. Would we like dinner? he asks. Yes! What time? He says 7 pm next door at the “cucina”, says his goodbyes and we settle into our shower/explore/rest mode. Ah, I love this part of the day! It’s only 3 o’clock so we have 4 whole hours to wait and we’re absolutely STARVING as we had nothing but a bit of melba toast and water on the train and only a minimum breakfast that morning, but it should be great as we’re eating with the family, the man said.

    I forgot to add that while we were on the mountain we didn’t see any wildlife worth mentioning but I did find a treasure that I have just across the living room from where I sit at my PC. A porcupine quill! Now, that’s not very exciting perhaps to most people but I was thrilled to find it and stood many impalings over the next couple of weeks to get the thing home. I was always either sticking it through my backpack, making holes absolutely everywhere, or putting my hand into my backpack and forgetting it was there… Ouch. I just wanted to take it home and so I did. The best souvenirs are the ones that are free, n’est ce pas?

    The view from our bedroom window is gorgeous and our bed is perfect. We hurriedly unpack somewhat and I beat Paul to the shower. It’s one of those that sprays directly onto the floor with the shower curtain (at least it’s got that) surrounding it. That’s OK though because the apartment was set up for a family of four and there are towels laid out on every bed, yippee skippy! We’ll have plenty for showers and plenty for rolling up our ‘washing’ this afternoon. Ah, life is good.

    We performed our usual ablutions and laundry, had a rest time/prayer time. Afterwards we explored the general yard area which included a large swimming pool, now closed for the season, panoramic vistas of all the surrounding mountains, a paddock with a couple of horses, a pool house/rental house, giant lavender shrubs (from which I pluck a small sprig, sniff and stuff into my pocket), various potted plants etc etc There was a swing set for children who come to stay and fences here and there to keep them from tumbling down the embankments. A child could have a great vacation here, no doubt about that.

    At 7pm we head into the cucina and are greeted and shown to a table NOT with the family! Yikes, I thought, they don’t want to dine with us! But actually, they were just treating us as guests in their restaurant and their table (they were almost done dining) was just a few feet from us. An antipasto was served, a wine was chosen and we began and were we hungry! We thought we would have some of the agriturismo’s own homemade wine but that was not the case. Instead Paul had to choose a bottle – to the tune of 16 euro. Not exactly our usual cheapo wine-by-the-liter local red. The antipasto was very good, just several rounds of bread with a very good pate and a little dish of quail eggs! There must have been about eight of the little things, very tiny as you can imagine, and we ate all of them as the pate was gone (with our huge mountain climbing appetites) almost immediately.

    Ah, next was tagliatelle with a light ragu, not very much at all with a tiny tiny sprinkling of parmesan. This plate was put down with a bit of fanfare with the son saying “It is a complete meal! You have the pasta, and the meat and the cheese. A complete meal!” We agreed and as politely and slowly as we could, made the pasta a memory within a very few short minutes. We put our cutlery into the center of our plates, talked and drank a bit more wine, talked and drank a bit more, talked, talked and started wondering what we were going to have for Secundo.

    The answer was NOTHING. That was it. A few rounds of bread with pate, 8 tiny quail eggs and a very moderate portion of pasta. WE WERE STILL HUNGRY. The son takes our plates and says, “You have had enough?” Of course we answer politely and say it was wonderful, kind of waiting to see what else the kitchen would offer. He said in effect, ‘That’s it. Done!” We spoke about the chestnuts everywhere and he brought some out to us to sample and they were very good of course as we do like chestnuts. We also talked about truffles and he went out to another room and brought back a jar almost filled with them and we each remarked on the size and number of them. Sigh, but we were hungry. He jokingly said we have a few potatoes, some meat? I am sorry but we have nothing for dessert! No coffee either.

    Now remember,we have been traveling to Europe for a long long time and do not expect and do not WANT those enormous American portions that people are so used to here in this country. We expect small portions and are quite happy with them. But in the yard, when we first arrived, I explained where we had hiked from, that we had NOT had any pranzo (to speak of) in the mountains, that we were hungry and tired and very happy to have found them. They had to have known we were hungry and to boot, I think the family had a large dinner prior to our arrival at 7 and certainly had the usual gargantuan Italian midday meal! Boo hoo. Oh well, we did arrive unexpectedly and they were gracious to take us in and it was an apartment that we were given where the guests would be shopping and cooking for themselves. What did I expect?

    Oy, we head back to bed a bit hungry and talk about our walk down the hill to Marradi in the morning to hopefully find a camera. We look forward to breakfast at this agriturismo and hope it will be HUGE.

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    [sigh] I said we only had melba toast and water on the train. I meant mountain. I proofread but apparently only for spelling. Sheesh. Who knows where my brain was today? I know, it's in England already, waiting for the next walk.

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    ellenm: LOLOLOL... Yeah, snuck onto another train. Not likely. We're walking right into Ravenna if my memory serves me correctly. At least someone's reading this thing! Adrienne, where are you! I'm writing and you don't even have to yell at me!

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    I Feel My Hunger Turning Swiftly to Anger

    We had a lovely night’s sleep at Piano di Rosso and we quickly packed up and readied ourselves for breakfast downstairs and down a few doors to the cucina/restaurant/main-house. If I thought I was hungry last night, it was nothing compared to this morning. We had little food all day yesterday and climbed a mountain to boot so we were ready for ‘due cappucini’ and whatever else was on offer for our colazione. We left our backpacks in our apartment so that we could hit the loo before beginning our trek down the hill to Marradi and I tried the door to the cucina. Locked. Hmm. Too early? I peered in the window and saw no one making or drinking coffee. There was no one in the yard either and as we had already scoured the apartment yesterday searching for a crumb or two, we knew there was no coffee there. Now, I can make it through half the day with no breakfast but don’t mess with my coffee. We grind Starbuck’s beans at home and we use a French press and we like it strong and rich. I already had a headache from no coffee yesterday since breakfast and I was NOT a happy camper, let me tell you. I only have a mug in the morning and one after dinner, so I don’t drink a LOT of coffee, but I want my two cups a day.

    We also had to pay our bill for the room and the non-dinner last night, so we wait around outside because Giorgio was going to give us a ride down to Marradi. We waited and waited for him to show up as he had to come UP from Marradi where his house was and then bring us down. After about a half hour, he shows up and by this time we had decided to walk down and just get out of there as no one showed their face, no one offered breakfast, no nothing. The penny finally dropped when we remembered that this was a rental property and renters would have brought their own food. Sheesh. But they KNEW we had nothing! I don’t know, I’m am so careful when anyone comes to my house, to ask if they’d like something to eat, PLEASE have something to eat, and to make sure they have something before they leave and that they’ve had ENOUGH! This is Italy! Mangia! Mangia! Not. Giorgio said something like “Um, do you want to stay and maybe have a coffee or something?” NO. THANKYOU. “Did you say something about a shortcut path down to Marradi?”, I asked him. “Yes! It’s just down that path there – 6 minutes is all it takes!” “Six minutes??” I replied, and immediately thought of the trek and the 2 miles of zig zag road to get up here. “Only six minutes??” “Yes. Yes. It’s easy!” A red flag should go up when somebody says, “It’s easy!” OK, we said no thank you (oh ho) to the coffee and headed in the direction in which he pointed.

    We were glad to get out of there and happy to be on our way to a café in town and coffee and some bread or whatever. We found ourselves definitely going down a slope which turned into a sort of driveway and ended at a house closed for the season. But there the path stopped. We walked through the yard, to the top of the yard, to the bottom, through the underbrush, around trees, and what was worse, we were now going uphill. This is not right. This can’t be right. Paul looked to the south of the house and I looked to the north. We went down for a bit and then up and then around and around. No paths. Briers were in the way and they were pricking their way through our thin trousers and we were getting nowhere to add salt to the wound. We found ourselves in what must have been the farm’s chestnut grove but there were no paths going out of it so we (wishing we both had machetes) plowed our way through some thick brush and at least started to go downhill. Paul had the compass out and we only hoped that we would end up somewhere near Marradi.

    As I listen to my recorder, all I can hear myself saying is, and I type verbatim: “SO stupid. This is SO STUPID. So stupid. There is no path whatsoever and we have no idea of which way we’re going and we’re totally lost in the woods. [panting] Oh, we’re going uphill now! [Paul] I’ll take a little walk and see and come right back. [Liz] OK. [sigh] Paul’s gonna take a little walk and come back. Famous last words. [panting more]”

    I was not happy. And Paul found nothing.

    Now I don’t mind hiking up mountains nor up steep roads nor through mud and mire nor in the rain but when someone has told me about a shortcut that isn’t there and it’s WASTING MY TIME and I HAVEN’T HAD DECENT FOOD OR COFFEE, watch out. It’s now 9:13 and we left the agriturismo at 8:30. Six minutes he said. And we’re still lost in the ruddy woods and we should have gone down the stupid road that we came up yesterday. So stupid. We are now climbing up up up and I yell to Paul, because even though we’re packed like sardines in these woods, he’s still walking faster than I am! Sheesh. I yell to him that we should NOT be going up! He says calmly, “Lizzie, look over there.” And I reply “I know”, because it’s a huge ravine that prevents us from going downhill. We are trapped here unless we go back up and it’s driving me absolutely crazy. You should hear my recorder. We finally find ourselves at least out into the open air (once again my thoughts travel back to The African Queen) and actually walking downhill on a grassy slope being careful not to plow through the cow pies and at this point I don’t care if we end up back in Casaglia as long as we’re away from this blasted agriturismo and this ridiculous mountain.

    The slope is incredibly steep but I don’t care because it means we’re going DOWN to civilization and I think that I have never been so glad to be entering a town. Oh great, now two vicious dogs come barreling towards us barking, growling and showing teeth. We really need this. But their owner quickly shows up and calls them back and for that I am truly grateful. He’s an old guy out walking his dogs on this Tuesday morning and I bet the old guy has had HIS breakfast. Yeah, I’ll bet he did; no wonder he has energy to climb this bleeding hill. The old guy has gone and we’re still trying to find our way down but now we’ve come to an electric fence so there’s nothing to do but to follow it until we can find a way around. My toes are digging into the toes of my boots and my legs are stinging from the thorns that found their little way through my pants when we were back up in the middle of the dastardly dense woods. I see a house, I see another house. Oh my word, CIVILIZATION at long last! Believe it or not, we’re STILL going down and now walking through someone’s yard and have to skirt a fence and hope that no one runs out yelling at us to get off the property.

    At any rate, we find ourselves at the outskirts of Marradi (wonder of wonders) and work our way into the center when we come upon – what do you think? A BAKERY. I come to a screeching halt and of course yell to Paul (who’s ahead of me as usual), “STOP!” He watches me peel into the shop and it’s all I can do to be polite. “Buon giorno. Per favore, pizza e pane e molto pizza e, e, e, e…”.


    I ordered plain pizza and pizza with stuff on it, I ordered tarts and squares with grapes baked in them (I knew later they were grapes when I was crunching crunching crunching with every bite and now knew what the Italians did with their grape seeds), I ordered bread and I can’t think of what else. Then I asked the charming young woman behind the counter “Per favore, caffe? Dove?” She stepped out of the door with us and pointed to a place down the street. I motioned to her, could we take all of these things and eat it there at the café? Si, si! So we did. You know sometimes you remember those meals that are special and this was one of those. We sat there in the café with all of our bags from the bakery and had our two cappuccinos and then we ordered two more. I gave up on the crunchy grape squares (after we had already polished off all the pizza) and started on another pastry. Oh my word. So good, so good. Bene bene molto bene!

    Thus sated, we asked the way to the camera shop, don’t ask me how – I can’t remember for the life of me what words I used but I got the message across and we were directed around the corner and down the street and sure enough, there was a camera shop. Well, apparently the owner was out for a moment but his sister began to show us the cameras and we resolved ourselves to spending the bucks. Had to, it was just one of those things. The owner returned shortly and spoke a tiny bit of English and soon we were handing over the plastic and he was handing over the camera. We ended up with a Casio 8.1 for around 160E and sprung for an extra huge flash card. I’m still getting used to it but I must admit, it takes pretty good pictures, all the while still mourning over the loss of my Canon, but time heals all wounds. We were a tad worried that the instructions would be in Italian or German or Japanese but thankfully they were in English, so after a brief perusal of the usage directions, we are indeed off and on our way. One good thing about this camera, it’s so very tiny and slim that I can drop it right in my pocket and have it out and ready at a moment’s notice. Good things do indeed come in small packages.

    I had a headache from lack of caffeine and it is slowly going away thanks to the double barreled cappucini – enough to make up for any lack of supposed breakfast at Piano di Rosso. Too bad too because they were truly nice people. Non-thinking people perhaps, but nice people nevertheless. Oh, we spent 6 euro at the patticeria and 4.80 for the four cappucini. What a bargain! We still had stuff left from the bakery so we were good to go for the day until Brisighella and I was so looking forward to Brisighella. The photos of the town had looked so so good on the net and we were heading for a ‘real’ hotel. Such luxury!

    We walked for a couple of hours and I record that we’re up to 7 miles and we’re just leaving San Casciano and I believe this is where I took my first picture with the Casio 8.1 – a fountain, the next pic was of the hills and then I just had to take a pic of this large, weird ‘being’ made out of wheels of hay. As soon as I upload the pics onto you can see them, maybe tomorrow. After a few more pics of a neat house and more pics of the hills, we are walking along the road and I stop to take a photo of a yard with some interesting looking chickens and also some cats in the dooryard. The place is pretty messy and filthy but happy looking somehow. The owner (also unbelievably dirty) spots us and immediately yells a buon giorno as I bend down to call the kittens over to me. This man loves his cats and he scoops one up and puts it on his shoulder for me to take a photo. I take one and show him the pic and he laughs – he’s so glad to have some company I think. He asks the usual questions and I give him my rote answers. He sees my cap with the Red Sox logo and Paul’s cap which says ‘Boston’ and points and exclaims, “Bos-tone! Bos-tone!!!” And motions for us to wait while he goes to his car, opens his (filthy) trunk and pulls out a crumpled (and really dirty) Boston Celtics cap and says “Si! Bos-tone! Si! Bos-tone!” He puts his arm around Paul and I take the picture of the two of them. Then he wants us to go inside and meet the missus but we shake our heads and motion that we must be walking. He laughs and waves and we walk on.

    It’s the people who make or break the trip.

    After walking by and through many vineyards and much tasting of the local grapes we make our way into Brisighella and the town is greeting us will bells bells bells. Ah, the triumphant entry. In between the clanging we ask for directions to Hotel de la Rocca and we find it easily, yes they have a room and we go right up. It’s a good size, has all the required things though now that I’ve blasted out photos of the room itself, I find I can’t really remember it. However, I do take a photo of a dove that settled itself in for the night just across the alley from our window. It just seemed so sweet and so happy there, safe and warm, just like us for the night, safe and warm in the heart of Brisighella. Onward to dinner!

    Why must I always think about my stomach??

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    Dayle: Oh my word, endurance! Surely you jest. It was just plain old walking with a not-very-heavy backpack. Truly. Anyone but anyone can do this but I must admit, most choose not to! My pack was only 10-11 pounds and my boots felt like slippers.

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    Truffles, we taste our first truffles!

    Of course the hotel had a restaurant on the ground floor so we made reservations for 7 and washed clothes in the room while we waited. I’ve zapped out the photos because I kept thinking that Shutterfly would only take 250 but I didn’t take into account that I could make one, two or three or a thousand (not) “albums” of our walk and just break it up in that way. Ah well. It was only photos of clothes on hangers attached to the top of our very tall window, clothes attached to the lighting fixture, clothes draped everywhere but everywhere. Hey, when you’ve got the time and the hot water, ya gotta do your washing. It was an amusing sight I must admit. Anyway, it took my mind off my stomach – we were both ravenous even with that ridiculously filling colazione, but that was hours and miles ago, oh, and we’ve hiked almost 17 miles today.

    We trundle downstairs and for some reason my feet are hot hot hot. They’re not in pain, but they are absolutely boiling. There’s almost no one on this Tuesday night in the restaurant, so I unlace my boots (I have nothing else to wear) and slip them off, hoping no one would notice. My feet are still boiling in my thick socks, so I take them off too and put my feet – pisssttt – on the metal bars under the table. Ah, coolness. I’m good to go now and I do not care one whit what anyone thinks, heck, I’ll never see them again and anyway, above table I’m all good manners and totally and seriously perusing the menu. We both decide to order the works.

    Paul orders an antipasto of asparagus flan with prosciutto which is absolutely heavenly and I have a rocket salad with roasted ricotta, drizzled with balsamic. Oh my. And there’s so much! Yes. My primo is ravioli with spinach and ricotta and a bit of sage and shaved truffles all over the top. I like them! Paul had “pink” gnocchi which I think was colored with beets and served with peas, onions & carrots. Our secondo is served and Paul has the pigeon and I had a mountain of lamb – both meats extremely salty. I remember way back at Vicopisano, Jonathan had said that while they put no salt in their bread, they more than make up with heavily salting the rest of the food. He was proved correct this evening. Still, the food was divine. Who knew? We also had anise, red and yellow roasted pepper and eggplant (I’m calling it aubergine on my recorder, probably forgetting what country I’m in). Towards the end of the meal I notice that sometime during the evening two men were seated across from us and I catch one of them sneering at my bare feet which are mostly hidden under the tablecloth. Sorry mate. They refused to look at us so got no buena notte from us. Ah, ya win some, ya lose some.

    We had something for dessert but since I didn’t record it, it’s lost forever. I always order dessert. And coffee, you can bet your life on that. We happily zoom up to bed, say goodnight to the dove and turn in with our books, hoping we’ll have dry clothes in the morning – they are hanging simply everywhere. Tomorrow we’re going to take a little walk around Brisighella before we leave as I just want to see it. This is not usual for us as we always want to get right on the trail, but this is our last taste of Tuscany (even though we’ve technically crossed over to Emilia-Romagna) and our last hilly place before we set out to cross the plain and on to Ravenna.

    Breakfast was just OK, though of course the coffee was divine. My precious muesli was replaced with ho-hum cornflakes. I had been growing very fond of the muesli with whole milk and after practically living on skim for the last few years, whole milk is pretty much cream to me. Yum. No wonder I don’t lose any weight on these walks! Whatever I walk, I replace with food. Sigh. We throw our packs on and walk out into the street and lo and behold, they have a Wednesday market going on! We just love markets as we both cook but Paul REALLY cooks and so loves them even more. Unfortunately this one was a dud. Nothing is arranged like in the France markets it seems. There is not huge display of vegetables built like the pyramids, no clever arrangement of fish, no whimsical but grotesque animal heads lined up for the customer’s perusal. Nothing much at all. I take a few pics but the only one that I saved was of a vendor with a hilarious apron with a buff body printed on it. Take a look when I get the photos on shutterfly. Later.

    As we walk out of town Paul spots something that he’s very very interested in, so I take two photos. It’s bales of peat (I think it’s peat) with mushrooms growing out of them. He has tried to grow mushrooms at home but got nothing so his amateur mycology has been limited to whatever he sees from the road. You should drive with him sometime. We’re going happily along and all of a sudden he pulls over and hops out of the car and comes back with an armful of “ceps” – porcini. He’s taught me quite a few varieties and I can usually identify horse mushrooms (they’re easy), parasols (ditto), shaggy mane, hen-of-the-woods, chicken mushrooms and of course “LBM’s”. Have you guessed it? Yup – “Little Brown Mushrooms”. Anyway, that’s what he calls those tiny ones that grow in one’s lawn after a good rain and are fairly ubiquitous and of no particular value: LBM’s.

    Onward we walk and now the landscape is leveling out and the mountains are behind us. We walk past vineyard after vineyard – all fairly small it seems, and then the “vineyards” of kiwifruit and there are thousands and thousands of rows of kiwifruit. Who the heck eats it all?? And apples! Thousands of apple trees and almost all trellised. There are also walnuts on the ground and Paul scoops up a handful and I take a photo. There is no need to go hungry in the province of Ravenna, that’s for sure. Food is simply everywhere. We pass another fig tree – boy it’s been a while since we’ve passed one of those – and I partake. This is my absolute favorite, even more than the grapes that we’ve been sampling. Fig Newtons for everyone! Another picture of beehives, more photos of grapes hanging like, well, grapes, and then Paul sees a banner (can’t remember what town we were in but it was probably Sarna or Poggio) that advertises its porcini festival, which was finished more than a week ago. I find it interesting that the porcini festival (his favorite mushroom) is held during his birthday – September 21st. How appropriate.

    We come upon a family business and they’re harvesting their kiwifruit and I wonder what the name is in Italian and did anyone ever buy it in the U.S. under its original name of chinese gooseberry? My mother was a war bride from New Zealand and I lived there for a few months before Paul and I were married, September 74 to January 75 to be exact, and that’s when I first learned about chinese gooseberries and the name change. I don’t think I had ever eaten one before that. Anyway, I take a few pics of the harvesters and we walk on – it’s a gorgeous day. We’re approaching the town of Faenza and I want to find a certain agriturismo that I’ve had listed for a year. The food has GOT to be more plentiful than the last agro! So we head into town and take a look around.

    Oh, someone will get a gold star if they can tell me what that machine is in the photo – a few pictures before the dove.

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    yestravel: Why, thank you for the encouragement. People who take the time to say thank you are one of the best reasons to drag myself over to the desk and start hitting the keys.

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    Lizcakes, I just got caught up on your journey! I am amazed at your walking ability, I could never do it. I have enjoyed your trip report so much, words fail me. But may I say I am not one anyone wants to be around before I have my morning coffee or when I am starving. I cringed for you having to go to bed hungry and than to discover the restaurant wasn't open in the morning. Thank you for sharing your "walk" are awesome!

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    jamikins: You've got to try a walking trip but only if you have a husband or friend who's also dying to go. If not, there are clubs in the UK who would love you to join them. I couldn't imagine it, but hundreds of people do just that - go in a group.

    linda: I don't usually read lengthy trip reports either - and what's more, I don't write them! I just write a little blurb once or twice a week and well, it just kind of turns into a "lengthy trip report".

    LoveItaly: Yeah, the whole coffee-and-no-food thing. I was a grumpy, unhappy camper that day. The people were really really nice and a lot more happened there that I didn't include in the TR, but I rather included only the high points that really stuck in my memory. The pics of that agriturismo can be found at:
    It really is a good place and they probably do have more food and just weren't ready for us.

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    Adrienne wonderfully fixed my photo page for me so you can now view the trip as far as Ravenna but not including Venice which comes after and requires its very own album. Who can go to Venice and not take 1000 photos??

    Anyway, THANK YOU ADRIENNE for helping computer illiterate moi.

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    It’s Called Find the Hidden Objects: A Giant Cycle, a Casa del Busto and an Oven on Wheels

    This may not be in the correct order and the photos may be of yesterday’s walk, but who would know? Oh, you would, because you’re looking at the photos in order on Right, gotcha. Nevertheless I must add that the huge cycle of some sort that you are gazing upon even now was as tall as a house and that aspect doesn’t necessarily make itself completely evident when you glance through the photos. The thing was HUGE and that’s why I took the pic. Who knows why on earth someone built it? No doubt that person was an avid cycle-lover or salesperson for them, or otherwise who would take the time? Just thought it was interesting. But I loved the “Casa del Busto” – how precious! And did you notice that photo on the first Italy album: Toilette da Bingo? Gotta love that stuff.

    Walking along we see the usual chickens just everywhere and it’s so quiet that I can hear them scratching and kicking up their heels and just doing their little chicken things but then I can hear something else and we stop to listen. It sounds like “Chit chit chitchitchit chit chit chit”, sort of like popcorn, and then we look up. It’s a line of trees filled to bursting with walnuts! And they’re dropping onto the dry leaves on the ground all around us. Thousands and thousands of walnuts right there along the street, so we pick up a handful and I think that I could never have had a “fresh” walnut, because the taste is delectable! My taste buds thank me and of course my stomach thanks me also. My stomach ALWAYS thanks me.

    Onto the Oven on Wheels we go but before we get there I must comment once again on the sheer number and size of the crops that we are passing. Absolutely amazing. As I said kiwifruit was number one and grapes were number two but there were also apples, pears, plums and I also took a picture of a succulent cactus in someone’s front yard just to prove to the people here in Massachusetts that there are indeed palm trees and cacti in Italy. People look at me funny when I tell them that. Or maybe they just look at me funny because. Whatever. We are heading into Faenza and the landscape is quite flat with just occasional rises and dips and of course the ubiquitous “rise” that always seems to be just off the road, dividing us from the crops and the street. It’s not something that we can walk on really but occasionally we get lucky and can walk for a few hundred yards fairly high off the road and really look around without having to dodge traffic. Always a good thing.

    At any rate, we help ourselves to fruit that we find on the ground – we NEVER pick off the trees or vines – and that suits us up just fine as we continue our walk into Faenza. Finally we enter the city and it’s busy! Traffic everywhere and I know that we’ve got to find the center as I’ve marked out an agriturismo just to the east of the center – but where on earth is it and which road do we take to get there? There is a spaghetti-plate of roads and we look for a sign that says “Centro” (duh, we’ve learned that much). But it’s not as easy as it sounds! It’s around 2 pm however and really is a little too early to head for lodging as we walk into the city and we see the oven-on-wheels. If anyone can shed light on this oven-on-wheels, I’d be most appreciative. What could it be for?

    We turn the corner and are met with a pedestrian city center that is cool, so very cool. There is a long colonnade on both sides of the piazza with gigantic curtains, many in tatters, hanging between the columns. I find this gives an air of theater and mystery to the whole setting. As I said, cool, so cool. However, the stomach is talking to me as it’s been a couple of hours between the fruit and the walnuts and the present so I’m wondering when we’re going to eat and I ask Paul “How about a pizza and a beer?” Yeah baby. Actually, I would have taken pizza and anything but pizza and beer just sounded like the right thing to do today as it was quite warm and sunny and just glorious on our little walk. You can tell my feet feel just dandy because it’s now a “little walk” and it’s “glorious”. ; o ) Ah, we love our walks we do.

    We start to look down the side streets for a pizzeria and find nothing. We look and look and look. Finally, I stop and use my sterling Italian once again and ask a couple of young women if there is a pizzeria anywhere nearby. One of the women answer me – in German! Or was it in English with a German accent? I can’t remember, but it certainly wasn’t Italian. Anyway, we were directed to the nearest pizzeria which in fact was a little bit of a hike and we had to stop yet again and this time ask a couple of police officers, one, a young man (how cute was HE??) and a woman. I took a pic I thought but dang! Now I can’t find it and it’s not in the album! Ah well, you’ll just have to believe me.

    We do find the pizzeria and there’s not a soul in there as it’s getting towards the end of the lunch hour but there’s still plenty of pizza to be bought by the slice and what pizza there is! This is thick pizza, some with just cheese, others with mushrooms, others with prosciutto, others with olives, still others with the works – it was all there for the asking. We got approximately 1400 slices and exactly one very large beer.


    See the happy pic of Paul enjoying his afternoon repast. It was a good moment. We roll our little bodies out of there (after a short conversation with the two women manning the counter) and head east out of town, looking for the agriturismo. It looked so easy on the map! But we find that we have a major hindrance to our march towards our lodgings – a railroad track which seems neverending and almost impossible to get over. Oh heck. We find, after asking a couple of women out strolling, that we must go waaaaaaaaay down this road, across the tracks in a certain spot (I think it was a bridge) and then go waaaaaaaay back up the road, take a left and go waaaaaaaay down that road until we find the said agriturismo. Right. Got it. So off we go, trying to walk off all that pizza – a good feeling compared to a couple of days ago and our lack of food!

    We find the Agriturismo Curbastra at long last and it too has avenues and aisles and rows upon rows of fruit. We go up to what appears to be the main house and knock on the door. A young woman answers and I say “Buena sera, una camera per la notte?” or some such thing. She kind of looked blankly at us, figured out that we were English-speaking (what a stretch that was), and said something to the effect that she didn’t speak enough English and that the real English speaking person was out. I think she just wanted us to go away, but I said, that’s OK, but do you have a ROOM? Well, she finally showed us in as we weren’t making any moves like we were going to leve and we really didn’t know if the agro was even open to paying customers or what, but we followed her up the stairs, down a hall and she showed us into a room and more or less said “Here!”

    Yay, I guess we have lodging and what lodging it is! See the pics. It’s probably one of the nicest rooms we’ve ever had. I tried the bed – perfect. I checked out the bath – perfect. It even had a stove and table and chairs. We peeled off the backpacks and then I saw it. Horror of horrors, the pictures on the wall were not symmetrical.

    I know, how anal can I get?? LOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. Ya gotta understand, I went to art school, I made wedding cakes, I do calligraphy, I can draw a straight line, my art history isn’t bad and artwork that is hung on the wall drives me absolutely crazy if it’s not “right”. Now, sometimes is just a matter of height or perhaps the painting is a bit askew and just needs to be straightened but I’ll tell you right now, I first took a picture of the room and of Paul sitting in front of said pictures, but before we left that room the next day, I “fixed” said pictures – you be the judge!!! The head of Tutankhamen needed to be in the middle – any fool could see that! And the little sitting people needed to be facing Tutankhamen, not facing away from him. There was only one way to hang that triptych. Enough said. It’s the little things in life.

    Onward to cena.

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    Why thanks LC, I think? LOL. My husband hasn't read the latest yet - he saves it for his morning coffee break at work then he emails me at MY desk at work and tells me what he thought. I usually crack him up.

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    Thanks for the nudge Ellenm, but Fodor's would NOT let me log in so I had to change my password. Tomorrow I write another chapter but not tonight. I'm too full from the supper I made! LOL. And now it's coffee time and then it'll be bedtime...

    But tomorrow I steel myself to write write write. It really is work.

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    Thank- you for all the effort you put into the trip report! I feel very lucky to have found your posts as we are planning a walking trip for next December from Pisa to Forli. I have been researching things for the past month or so and am so glad to have come across your story. Would you be interested in answering some general logistic questions along with route sugestions?

    Any input we can get from such an experienced walker would be a huge help and greatly appreciated.

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    My word, there's someone else out there who does long distance walking? Why only to Forli??? It's only a short hop to get to the coast from there and then you would have don't the whole coast to coast walk.

    As for questions, ask away! Questions I can answer easily - just don't make me sit and write for 3 hours (as I must do sooner or later). I've got too much to do lately!

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    It has become apparent that our initial trip route is going to be adjusted, which is to be expected this early in the game I guess.

    We have never taken a trip like this but have wanted to for some time. Most folks we travel with won't go with us again, or at least swear they will never keep the same schedule we do on the next trip.

    We have been to Italy once and it was awesome!

    I will try to narrow my questions to what I think might be most relevant so I do not take to much of your time. Please, if I take to much of your time simply do not reply and I will understand.

    We will be walking in December so the days will be shorter and cooler, I still see averages around 40, do you have an average comfortable range in miles per day? Right now I average 12 miles per day as planned.

    You mentioned hiking Mt Monadnock and what a mistake it was, since we will be walking roads we had planned on walking the roads here in Maine, building to some fully loaded pack hikes. What would you recommend as good prep for such a trip?

    What is the most important supply you brought and the one you most wish you had brought?

    Thanks for your time, I will try not to be to much of a nuisance.

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    I'm just dashing this off as I'm supposed to be packing and leaving for Florida tomorrow and don't have a thing done. Sheesh. Anyway, to answer a question or two...

    We usually do around 15 miles per day give or take a couple. We did 21 miles one day in France in 07 and it was a killer and just about all road-walking. The pits.

    If you do go through Tuscany in December, don't expect many b&b's or agriturismos to be open. Many close at the end of October and many more at the end of November. Good luck. If you stick to the large hotels you'll always find something but that's just not our cup of tea generally. Also, you might find some snow in the Appenines and this could be dangerous, not because you can't walk in the snow, but because a lot of your walking will be on roads where there is almost no shoulder. Or no shoulder whatsoever. If there's snow in the way... well, good luck.

    Again, why are you stopping at Forli? What's there? Besides the fact that Mussolini was born there. (ewww)

    The most important things we brought:

    - bandaids for the blisters
    - the MAPS
    - my list of every b&b within 5 miles of our projected path
    - our compass
    - our camera

    I can't imagine doing this in December and wonder if you are indeed serious. I see no other posts ever from you. How did you happen upon this site?

    I gotta go pack for Fla!

    I'll just have to finish the trip report sometime when we get back, but I WILL finish it.

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    Where’s the Family? Where’s the Jolly Dinner with Jolly Italians? Where’s the Beef???

    We showed up in the mammoth dining room promptly at 7 p.m. Where’s the family? Where are the other guests? Where’s the frivolity? Haruumph. We were shown to our own section of a loooong table where there were exactly two place settings. “Grazie” we said. The young woman dutifully trotted out to the kitchen (there was a window into the kitchen that we could see through), bustled around for a bit and brought out our first course. There was thinly sliced meats on a plate: the usual prosciutto, and unknown “brown” meat, one that Paul said had to be and unnamed “game”, and something else – can’t remember – served with bread. It was OK. Then she returned and brought us tagliatelle (really really looooong tagliatelle) with a ragu served with an ice cold mezzo litre of red, (better than our 2-buck Chuck!). After that was finished we were served a pork chop each, nicely grilled actually and garnished with grilled eggplant and tiny tiny zucchini. This was good. Finally, for la dolce, we were presented with Dixie Cups! I kid you not. They were a cross between Italian lemon ice and vanilla ice cream and not half bad. Straight from the supermarket perhaps but not bad at all. Heck, if it’s a dessert, I eat it. We finished with coffee in demitasse cups but no saucers (I guess we weren’t worth the saucers) and I asked if we could have it “macchiato” so she brought out some ice cold milk and we ended up with lukewarm espresso. Still, better than no coffee at all.

    I shouldn’t complain as it was more than we had last night at the other agriturismo. I decided that we were done with the whole agriturismo business! LOL. Oh, I forgot to mention, while we were sitting at our table, a bunch of guys (mostly young) who were working on the farm, came in for their supper. They sat at the long table nearest the kitchen and hung out with the two girls. We oldies were definitely NOT invited, lol! Can’t say that I blame them. No one spoke English and I could have squeaked out a bit of Italian with my trusty dictionary but it would have been painful. Apparently they weren’t interested in sign language and frankly, we just wanted to eat. But then, don’t I always?

    We were then away to bed and zonked out on a very comfortable bed.

    The next morning, oh my, we have to eat again! <grin> There was the usual spread (see pic) of the usual food for breakfast and I do believe we even had cappuccinos – yay for the home team! If I have my coffee, I’m all set, even without food, yeah baby. There was a bowl on the buffet table of the most enormous apples we have ever seen in our lives (see pic), so Paul snagged one of those for our lunch and we were off.

    We threw the old packs on and were out of there and on the road by 9:05, compass and maps in hand and we’re going to have a “stupid” sunny day again! There are mounds and mounds of lavender everywhere and I stuff a large sprig into my pocket and keep moving. We walked along the road that we had taken to get into the place but upon checking the compass found we really needed to head down one of the long avenues of fruit trees that are to our left and right – there was nothing BUT long avenues of fruit trees. Pears, plums, apples, nectarines – you name it. Off we went. We got to the end of the avenue and ran smack dab into a high bank of, what else, bamboo. 20 feet straight up of bamboo. Italy is reeking with bamboo! What is this? I don’t see any panda bears! Did Marco Polo come back from the Orient with bamboo or something? Sheesh, we can’t get away from it and it’s dang hard to get through. Whatever, we hung a left and said that there must be a way around or through or something, just keep going.

    We know we need to get over the railroad tracks and head northeast, other than that we don’t have a clue. We are headed for Russi which is about 12 miles or so we think, but the walking is flat and except for the acres and acres of fruit of every kind, pretty boring. It’s so hard to find a way to the railroad and I can’t explain it clearly. We are on the farm and probably walking the periphery of this fruit farm and we simply can’t find a way out. Finally we bash our way through the ubiquitous bamboo and check out the view from the top of the 20 foot embankment. There’s the partially dried up but still running river Lamone, but we’ve got to get over it so we find some huge rocks that are equidistant and we use those and get across but somehow we’ve still got to get over the stupid railroad. Oh, you’d just have to be there. We’re like Laurel and Hardy, no kidding.

    Paul hauls out the compass again as our map is ridiculous. I could only get a 1:125,000 for this region (who knows? – apparently no one comes here) and that’s a HUGE difference from the 1:50,000 that we’ve been mostly using. We even had a couple of 1:25,000 but those were hard to read, not at all like the British ordnance survey maps which are heaven on earth. Oh well, compass out and we are flying in the dark by the seat of our pants. We arrive finally at the railroad tracks and I have my recorder on as the train whooshes past. Should we cross over? Is this the right direction? But we’re going south and we need to go northeast! Heck. We probably could have just crossed over on our own as we arrived on a road and at a railroad crossing and there are cars stacking up waiting to cross but the gate is down and the lights are flashing waiting for the train to pass. We remained good citizens however and waited our turn until the train was past, then proceeded across the tracks. Boy are we good or what? We finally are able to head northeast. Russi, here we come.

    We do pass by some interesting things though: a derelict and forgotten “entrance” into an estate, at least that’s what it looked like – brick pillars left alongside the road, bordering someone’s small farm. Then a small field of various lettuces – Paul wanted me to take a picture of that, as he’s in LOVE with lettuce! Then a field that’s being prepped for what I assume will be either a grape vineyard or a “kiwifruit” vineyard – can’t tell, but the supports are all there. I must keep saying “see photos” – there’s nothing else for it. Apple trees apple trees galore. But now we’re into plum trees and Paul picks a good one up off the ground and takes a bite. He’s definitely a plum person and his eyes light up so I do the same thing and YOWSER! It’s great! Special Italian plums? I don’t know but they sure did hit the spot with the sun beating down on us. We walk on and I spot what I think is a hedgehog! It is a hedgehog! Dead, yes. But still a real for real hedgehog. Mark that on my calendar. I saw a hedgehog and the camera comes out. Now we are walking along the top of one of those banks that look down on the road and the houses and I see all these colored urns filled with boxwood and one is filled with a topiary. There is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs hanging from a tiny windmill thingie and I cannot cannot stop taking pictures!

    Have I mentioned lately that I LOVE this walking business?

    We pass another avenue filled with hens – I love my hens – and then pass a field that has been plowed but not harrowed. Look at the enormous lumps of soil. How does anything grow in this? But of course it does, and grows madly of course. Paul sets his foot on one of the dirt clods and I take a picture so we can remember just how large they are.

    Wait! Is it lunchtime? You bet it is. We’ve been walking at least 3 hours and that calls for a small repast but where to dine? Besides being surrounded by plums (quickly turning back to apples) we have our apple from the breakfast table which Paul says should last us three days at least (wink wink) and some bread and mortadella (not my fave but oh well), and we start looking for a place to plonk down and have a bit of lunch and a bit of rest. The grass looks pretty good on this particular apple farm that we’re walking by so we decide that this would be a great place for lunch. We go 20 feet down one of the “avenues” and sit between the rows of trees, absolutely surrounded by apples. See my feet stretched in front of me in the photo! Apples everywhere. There is one house far far across the road, but no one else is around. Ah peace. We rest and eat but after a few minutes we hear the sound of a large tractor and it’s headed towards us.

    Uh oh. Here come da owner! It’s a young man driving the tractor and what I think is that the person from waaaaaay across the road, called them up and said “There are PEOPLE who have just walked into your farm and I don’t know what they’re doing there!” Anyway, we both stood up and said Buon giorno and I told him we were Americans walking from Pisa to Ravenna and I performed my Complete Italian Sentence for him: “Camminiamo da Pisa a Ravenna – a piede!” He was duly impressed (yeah, right) and gave us a wave and drove off. So there, neighbor – WE’RE SAFE, not muggers and not gypsies – nothing but dumb Americans hiking across the country. We finished our sandwiches and were off for another few miles.

    Somewhere along the way we’ve picked up the good old 302 but the traffic is minimal and for that we are thankful and a small wind has picked up and is cooling us off in the hot afternoon sun. We are somewhere between Ravenna and Russi, I know not where, but there are some houses and whatnot and we see a woman out walking her dog. I struck up a conversation – do I ever NOT strike up a conversation with a complete stranger? She speaks some English and I tell her that her little dog is charming. Of course she asks us what we are doing and I give her the rote answer and the eyebrows go up and of course she remarks how wonderful we are! How wonderful to be walking across Italy! She tells us that she has been to New York and would we like to go to her casa for a glass of birra? so what the heck, we go! He name is Paola and her house is only a few hundred feet away – she’s shows us in.

    Wow. SEE THE PICS.

    Purple is the theme here. There are purple wardrobes, a purple-topped coffee table, purple drapes, purple refectory table… the place is a trip from the 60’s and we’ve just dropped acid. I kid you not, it was amazing. Should I say it again? See the photos: Worth the trip! Paola nips out to the garden where there is a fridge. In the garden. Why not? She brings back 3 beers and Paul and I split one. We sit at her little white table and chat and pick up a tiny stray kitten that she had rescued that week. Poor thing, but Paola’s going to nurse it back to health. Gotta love this woman. She tells us that she is a furniture designer and I totally believe her and she shows us her brochure. (I looked it up on the web when we returned home) Would we like to see some more of the house? Why, of course! I quietly snap snap snap photos as we walk along. I must tell you that this new camera needs no flash whatsoever for interior photos so it’s “stealthy”. I just held it about waist height and silently pressed the little button. No “snap”, no nothing. Great! I knew we’d never see her again and I also knew I’d never remember all the things that we saw.

    People make the trip.

    We said our goodbyes and she wished us well on our walk. Boy, I love this walking business. We’re up to 10 miles and we’re still not in Russi but having been energized by our little stopover at Paola’s, we trudge on, discussing what we’ve seen and heard. What a great day! We pass a dooryard with turkeys everywhere and they are gobbling gobbling to beat the band so I turn my recorder on just for laughs but of course they clam up. I wonder aloud – can ya call turkeys? You must be able to call turkeys! I whistle: “swittt swittt swittt” as for a dog. Nothing. They don’t reply and just walk turkey-like around their yard. Their owner comes out into the dooryard and starts to herd them. Or encourage them? Well, he gets them together. Whatever. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. I can’t stand it – I am laughing to myself (aloud) sitting at this desk thinking of me trying to call the turkeys with my whistle. How my husband puts up with me I’ll never know.

    We are on the outskirts of Russi when we came upon those turkeys and we roll into town. It’s flat and hot and very much not picturesque but it’s large enough to support a hotel or two and so we head off to find one and we do! It’s a whopping 3 star (I think) and we check into the Albergo Morelli in lovely downtown, cinderblock, Russi. We are absolutely filthy from the dusty, dirty walk today! Why we are so very dirty today is beyond me, but there you are, you just never know. I decide that I’m going to put my socks into the bathroom sink and soak them and then use them to wash my boots – they’re that filthy! There is no double bed in the room, just 3 twins so we push two together because, well, we’ve been married 33 years and we like to sleep together. So there, Albergo Morelli! Still, it’s clean if not antiseptic and a breezy 63 euro for the night. Kind of place that traveling salesmen stay in.

    The shower is one of those with no curtain and the shower sprays directly onto the toilet and bidet to boot. Been there, done that, so I move the toilet paper first, then turn the shower on. I’ll say it again: I’m absolutely filthy. I put one foot up on the toilet and scrub that and then switch feet and put the other one on the bidet and scrub that one within an inch of its life. Little precious moments on the road.

    Paul takes his shower and Hark! Is it time to eat? Time for dinner? But of course! And we head downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant. I don’t want to walk another inch that we don’t have to so whatever they’ve got, we’ll eat.

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    Hi lizcakes!

    The picture of your socks hanging from the ceiling made me lol. And the yellow walls in the "purple house" somehow made it all work, no? ;)

    I'm so glad you came back to continue this fun trip report.

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    ellenem: It was your post that made me come back. I was indeed coming back to finish but was dragging my feet to do it.

    LCBoniti: Actually, that's what the rooms USUALLY looked like after we were finished with our daily "wash", but that day for some reason we can't now remember, we were extra specially filthy. Heavy socks need to be high up to get that full benefit of heat and air circulation, LOL!! DON'T YOU LOVE THE PICS THOUGH???

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    There's another trip report going on right now that is of similar age to mine, so I've felt inspired to make an attempt. Meanwhile, I've so enjoyed this report that I went back and read your England and France on foot reports as well.

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    ellen, funny you should say that because I just assumed that people HAD read England and France before this one. Actually, I think I like the Cotswolds one the best as it was the first and "fresh" so to speak. France was flat out just painful (for my feet) and fairly interesting but I rushed it at the end and I wanted to get on to other things.

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    A “Fine” hotel dinner, a Just OK Sleep and Onward to the Best Surprise of All – Ravenna.

    I can’t really remember what we had for dinner at the Albergo Morelli in Russi but it was mostly uneventful as I haven’t noted any food on my recorder, however we did have the most delightful young woman as our server. Her name is Alia and she had been taking classes in English and boy, was she excited and pleased to be able to practice on us! She kept coming back to our table and saying “Is it FINE? How is your food? Is it FINE?” To this day, four months later (and probably for the next millennium), we are saying, “Is it fine? Is your food fine? My food is fine!” She was so so sweet and extra specially glad that we were exotic Americans and not Brits. Who knew? One thing did make me laugh about this hotel restaurant and that was their salad bar, for want of a better phrase. We could choose to avail ourselves of that long table, laid out with various things to pick at, or we could order a primi, so we both opted for the “salad bar” upon which, at the very end of the table, was a dinner-sized plate of lettuce. It would have fed one of us and we would have been wanting for another refill. What is this about salads and Americans?

    We have never been anywhere in the world, New Zealand/Australia, France, Italy, Holland, Austria, UK, Canada, Caribbean – that’s about the extent of our travels, that present salads as the Americans do. So, I must admit, I miss that one food item when we are on vacation. The first item of business when we return home is to build a “Liz & Paul salad”. We use three heads (sometimes four) of romaine, add a sliced whole red pepper, carrot curls from a whole carrot, around a quarter cup of parmesan (freshly grated of course), about a quarter cup of oat bran, a big handful of raisins, same of peanuts, a small handful of pumpkin seeds, the same of sunflower seeds (we get bags of them from the health food store), a few hard-boiled eggs… then I make a dressing with around a half cup of EVOO, a tbsp of cider vinegar, a couple of tbsp of balsamic, a large clove of garlic mashed by my garlic press (the best one ever from the Pampered Chef), salt, freshly ground black pepper, dump it all on the greens and toss toss toss. It fills a mammoth stainless steel bowl that we have (maybe an 8 quart?) and it’s all GONE inside a half hour or so. And we have at least two of these a week and sometimes three – and of course that’s all we have for dinner that night. We are addicted to them!

    But I digress. We left that dining room and returned to our spartan Russi hotel room and went to bed. Nasty sway-backed beds they were too soft so that I ended up waking in the middle of the night which I hadn’t done since we began the walk way back in Pisa. And for once, I couldn’t remember for the life of me what was the layout of the bathroom, much less the method that this particular toilet had for flushing. We had had so many! A plenitude of toilets! An embarrassment of riches! I was groping around in the dark, the floor still very damp after the water extravaganza we had just a couple hours before, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me if the flusher was the kind of panel on the wall that one presses, with just one flush, or two circles one inside the other for a large flush and a small flush, or a pull chain, or a button on the wall or on the tank. [sigh] It was a silver button on the tank after all. Just one of the little joys of traveling outside of a boring comfort zone. Wouldn’t trade it for the world!

    We had rather a boring but “fine” breakfast and hit the good old 302 and traveled the flatlands once again. If you look at the pics you will see a pic of a sign that says “campo baseball” with an arrow. What’s that all about? The Italians play baseball? News to me. I just had to photograph it though. So, it was flat flat flat – have I mentioned that it was really flat? It’s hot and dusty and we’ve transferred to the 253 and it is “charming” industrial buildings that we’re passing so I look down at the ground to amuse myself as we trudge along and find that there are thousands of teeny tiny snails, about a quarter inch wide, all over the grass and every bit of greenery. Hmm, too small to eat – maybe they grow into big snails? Italian escargot?

    We roll into Ravenna and it’s a glorious sunny day (every day has been a glorious sunny day…) and people are riding bicycles everywhere. There are baskets on many of the bikes and people are carrying their shopping. I love it. The streets are clean in Ravenna – heck, everything’s clean. I’ve got an address for a b&b that I’ve chosen, if we can only find it. It’s called “A Casa di Paola” and I liked the photos on its webpage. We ask for directions to the street and find it without much of a problem and look up at the huge, black, double, Roman-arched doors and ring the doorbell. No answer. Oh heck. No one answered our ring but hen someone came out of the door and we snuck in before it closed! Yes! We walked down the interior passage way to the back garden where we met up with a woman with a clipboard – apparently in charge and asked in Italian for a room for the night. I glanced at her clipboard and could see lots of names filled in, in lots of slots. Uh oh.

    She said something like “Una momento” and made a phone call with her cell, without moving from the spot. After a brief conversation, and after asking if our stay would just be for the night, she led us up to a room, and oh, what a room! This has now become the “pinnacle” bed and breakfast by which all future b&bs will be measured. There is a huge (firm!) bed with gorgeous sheets and blanket, an asian-type chest next to my side of the bed, another single bed/settee near the window, a fabu bathroom with the coolest fixtures and a shower to write home about. A square toilet and bidet! Oh my. Can I stay here a few weeks? All of this gloriousness for only 70E per night with breakfast of course included. I don’t think we ever did meet Paola because the woman in the garden was not Paola (that we could tell). Whatever. Thank you Paola. Ravenna was looking really really good. We have walked 10.2 miles from Russi to Ravenna and just have a few more miles to go this afternoon to get to the coast and “finish”.

    We performed our usual afternoon ablutions using that glorious shower, had a brief rest and knew it was “now or never” to make our final hike to the coast and put our boots into the Adriatic, thus finishing our quest for the “coast to coast” experience. But I first set about taking 8,000 pictures of the house – there’s no one here! We go down hallways, peek into open rooms, rest on a couch here, a chair there. We do meet a woman in the kitchen or somewhere (can’t really remember) and she tells us to help ourselves to a cold drink from the fridge and so we do and choose two of those tiny bottles of red aperitif that everyone drinks in Venice – can’t think of the name at the moment. But everything was gratis in the fridge. My kind of a b&b. : o ) The house is MAMMOTH. So many stairways, so many nooks and crannies, so many antiques and curiosities, oh my. A housekeeper is busily preparing one of the larger rooms/suites for a guest and very proudly shows us the rooms with its gloriously painted ceiling and very large bath. I take pics pics pics. I definitely could take a while exploring this house but we’ve got to get on to the business at hand.

    Heading back to our room, I haul out the final map from my pack and put it in my day pack along with the water bottle and camera and we’re off down the labyrinth of stairways, out the mammoth front door and heading east, dead east, on a land so flat that if you stood on a chair you could see 50 miles. But the walk was farther than we thought and more wearying than either of us expected.

    All in all, it was a grueling six miles to the sea so we’ve gone 16.2 miles today. Grueling! Why? I can’t imagine why because we had no heavy packs for this last bit of hiking and no hills (though I truly do love the hills) and it was just so tiring, but it was also far into the afternoon. We walk through a mostly deserted beach pavilion that screamed “Lido Miramare” on a sign with bats emblazoned to the left and right of the name. ? Whatever. The beach is windy to beat the band and the sky is darkening up just a bit and there lies the Adriatic before us, the waves whipped up by the wind, a stiff fetch of whitecaps. Paul dips his boot in as I take his picture and also throws his Mediterranean stone, carried from Marina di Pisa, into the briny deep. He returns the favor and I now have a picture that can go into my Covidien newsletter at work. It’s low tide and the beach is totally devoid of humans with red, white and blue boats pulled back from the water, stranded on the beach. It’s done, it’s all done at 5:43 on the 17th of October, 2008 and so we head back the few hundred yards to civilization and the center of Marina di Ravenna, find a place that sells the bus tickets and hop the bus back into Ravenna.

    The bus ride back took all of 20 minutes even with all the stops for people to board and alight and we were back at our glorious Casa di Paola to take another shower, LOL. Ah if it’s good, ya gotta use it. We head out at around 7 to check out the local restaurants, reading menus as we pass and finally settle on La Gardela Ristorante. I am lovin’ Ravenna. Of course the elderly waiter speaks perfect but perfect English (the Brits come here in droves) and we order up everything on the menu, it being our “end of walk” celebration. We have arrived just in time as the restaurant quickly fills up with people who have reservations. They even have to take a minute to see if they could fit the two of us in as it’s Friday and very busy. We are partly in the center but near the kitchen serving window where Paul can watch the chef flipping around his sauté pan. I’m happily taking in the room and eyeing what diners have ordered. We hear Italian being spoken around us with a smattering of german and english. Ah, everybody loves a good restaurant.

    I had not recorded another word on my digital so I can’t tell you what we ordered for dinner except that it was a LOT, but I do remember one item: dessert. And not my dessert but Paul’s. He decided (as he often does) to order something that he had no clue as to the contents. It arrived and lo and behold it was a stewed fig, drizzled with balsamic with a portion of some sort of dessert cheese on the side of the plate. He dives in. His eyes light up – “Liz, taste this.” I brought the plate over to my side of the table and tried it. OH MY WORD. I have never in all my life had a dessert as good as this one, and that’s saying volumes. I used to have a wedding cake business and I thought my cakes were great (the name of the business was “GreatCakes”). I make an apple crisp that’s to die for. My eyes roll back in my head when I dive into a chocolate molten lava cake with vanilla bean i.c. on the side. But this simple fig and cheese dolce was absolutely divine.

    Maybe it’s because we didn’t expect it? Maybe because it was just so simple it hit all the right spots? Who knows, but I will never forget it. The cheese tasted much like cottage cheese but without the lumps. Who knows? If anyone can give me any input about this dolce, I’d be delighted. Back to our room we head for a glorious night’s sleep in a gorgeous room.

    We’re off in the morning to Venice, taking the train but first we must head down to breakfast and also find someone to take our money for the room. We are the only people in the dining room cum living space and a woman brings us the two biggest cappuccinos we’ve ever seen. The cups had to have held a minimum of four regular coffees, no word of a lie. See the pic. The coffee cups were LARGER than the cereal cups. Breakfast alone was worth the price of admission. Amazing B&B.

    We say goodbye to Case di Paola (sniff) and we have arranged by cellphone to have another Paola meet us at the Venice train station who will then take us to an apartment that we have rented for four nights. Our time there is better explained by just the photos that I will post on Shutterfly later on today (I hope), but I will say that we happened upon a few places where no tourists were and we were happiest, namely one glass blower (and assorted helpers) when we chose not to follow the crowd that left the boat… The weather continued to be wonderful for our time in Venice and we ended up with some glorious photos of Venice, Murano and Burano.

    So, my story is ended. We walked from Pisa to Ravenna, “cheating” with just a short train ride and 157 miles of adventures. Now, it’s just 7 months before our “big” coast to coast walk across England – 190 miles, leaving Boston September 19th and returning October 5th and we can hardly wait.

    Bye for now and happy traveling!

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    Liz, I have loved reading your walking tales. I would love to do walk in England but unfortunately my DH is not a walker.

    You were wondering where all the kiwi fruits end up. I was surprised to see our kiwis from Costco here in Calgary this year are from Italy, usually they come from California, Chile and Mexico.

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    Mille grazie for the wonderful finish to your report. Such a different type of trip and such an accomplishment. Brava!

    PS - I'm keeping the name of the Ravenna B&B handy, as I haven't visited there yet and it's on my list! Casa di Paola...

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    Liz, I've made your big salad three or four times and it is indeed filling and very tasty. Thanks!

    If you get any info on the fig and cheese dolce, please share. I believe I could eat that.

    Loved the whole Italy trip report, not just the food, and look forward to your next exploit.

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    Liz, My wife and I are hoping to duplicate your trip. To a certain degree. We are most interested in the "should, woulda, coulda" parts and need to know how to avoid those. Also, it seems that later in your walk you were able to locate walking trails that got you off the road. Any idea where more info could be gathered about those? Would it have been possible for you to have found them earlier? Any info on the best maps and guides to order would be greatly appreciated. It would be nice to open a dialogue by e-mail. I am at [email protected]

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