On Cloud Nine – Picking olives

As Tuscany slid rapidly from a ‘Yellow’ low risk Covid 19 region to ‘Orange’ and then ‘Red high risk’ within in a week I was lucky to be able to still pick olives. It’s time for the new Olive Oil – strictly Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sieve valley under cloud

Sieve valley under cloud

In fact am on Cloud Nine‘ as you can see in the photo. The Sieve valley area completely encased in cloud while we were lucky happily above it all and ready to start by 9.30am. If the property was down in the valley pickers would be unable to start till very late morning as the olives are still damp from the fog and low clouds.The riding school next door amongst the clouds

This year I was picking in an area above Rufina  about 35kms East  from Florence.

Being now in a Red region lockdown travel is only allowed outside of our Council area for work, health or necessity reasons and with a permit. Fortunately Tuscany decreed that only families (not friends) could continue to pick olives on private farms. So it was just as well I could still be included as family even as an ‘ex-wife‘ and continue the tradition of picking which I love so much. Olive pickers in action

In two days of picking, 4 hand pickers and one with a machine we managed to pick  27 crates.  Each crate holds around 24kgs of Olives and on average you need 5-6kg of olives for a litre of extra virgin olive oil. Some trees can produce up to 2 crates, sometimes more, depending on the season and the variety of olives. This year the trees are beautifully healthy, no nasty bugs like last year and laden with wholesome olives. A delight to feel between the fingers.

Temperatures have dropped to cold mornings, around 3-4°C but we have been lucky to have sunshine, and dragging out olive nets, shifting ladders and picking, warms you up pretty quickly. By lunchtime we were soaking up a warm 14-15°C as we ate sausages, oops they ate sausages from the BBQ and I feasted on my veggie pie and of course Fettunta toasted bread with the new oil drizzled on.

At the end of the day we tally up the crates and congratulate ourselves on a good day’s Tow days picking 27 olive crateswork.

On the rainy days we don’t pick so the picking has spread over 3 weeks. We have been to the mill three times already and the last time was last Sunday.

Covid 19 has put pressure on the normal mill activities as many panicked thinking lockdown may limit the possibility of picking so started earlier than usual. And many inundated the mill with more olives than what they had booked in so the mills were often running behind schedule. Our last picking in fact had to be slowed down to accommodate a late booking at the mill, unable to accommodate us earlier. Still it was worth it as the local mill – La Corte uses upmarket equipment in slicer/crushers, temperature control  thus producing a healthier extra virgin olive oil which tastes fantastic….especially if you have picked and crushed immediately after two or three days of picking.

The old wheel grinders of the past are still used in some Mills but the contamination between each producers olives is a high risk as the paste spreads out onto mats to be pressed. You can see that process here.

The information printed on my tin of oil describes its fabulous Nutritional characteristics, and together with its gorgeous green colour and just a touch spicy in flavour when its freshly pressed is why Extra Virgin Olive Oil remains such a part of our daily diet. And love it!

My gloves

 

My new gloves show the signs of the picking and now it’s back into Covid 19 lockdown….who knows for how long? With a possibility of relaxing restrictions 4 December to allow Christmas shopping!Sunset at the end of a day's work

 

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A lockdown that’s not a lockdown

Ponte Vecchio, FlorenceItaly is now in a lockdown that’s not a lockdown, at least not in every Region. And there will be no more singing from the balconies this time! Heavy restrictions continue as Covid 19 numbers explode and medical staff fear it will turn into a Tsnunami. We face a long grim winter ahead and people’s moods have definitely changed as we have absorbed a wealth of information about Covid 19, together with about the same fake news turning many into denial.

The economic situation has never been easy since the GFC of which Italy never fully recovered and the ordinary citizen is finding it difficult to make ends meet. While financial assistance has been offered by the government it hardly covers the losses incurred in businesses. Work continues, often at home what we call ‘smart working’, and factories and retail stores remain open in ‘Moderate Alert ‘ Regions. Hardest hit are restaurants and bars, those involved in the tourist industry, while gyms, fairs, congresses, theatres, cinemas closed at the end of October and museums now at the beginning of November. Even for those still open – retail shops, hairdressers, beauty centres etc are suffering anyway as there is little money circulating and many had spent a lot on readapting their premises with plexiglass, disinfectants, temperature measuring gadgets and various social distancing measures.

Kids have suffered enormously after being relegated to home for 6 months and greeted the new year starting in September with enthusiasm. Now many, especially the teenagers are again back home doing lessons online.

Our public transport system on the reopening could hardly cope with social distancing and reduced clientele, creating swarms of students on buses to and from school and likewise with workers having little option but public transport for their return to work.

Testing has highlighted an enormous quantity of non symptomatic cases, still potentially contagious yet living in small houses/apartments makes self quarantine from the rest of the family not always possible and the virus spread.

Florence bookshopHardest hit have been the regions with the highest density of populations in cities and strained hospital services – Lombardy – Milan, Piedmont -Turin, Campania – Naples, Calabria – Catanzaro. As well as regions in the Alps – Valle D’Aosta,  which initially had a major flow of tourists eager to participate in the snow season. Most of these regions now are considered High Risk areas and have a total lockdown to ensure no entry or exit from the regions apart from work or health motives, and only essential shops remain open. Bookshops unexpectedly have been exempted from closure!. Campania for some reason was classified in the ‘Yellow/Moderate Regional list and their “flame throwing” regional president De Luca is definitely not happy about that having pleaded for a lockdown for the past month. However  Regional classifications towards a lockdown can now become automatic  when their hospital capacity is reduced to a critical level and other health criteria. ‘Orange/Medium to High alert’ regions for now are  Puglia and Sicily which means limited entrance and exit from those regions and other restrictions. All the remaining Regions are considered ‘Moderate Risk”

All I can say is that many are unhappy with the new restrictions. We are learning to live with the virus and strongly advised to limit our contacts and visits to those outside of our families where possible and have a National curfew from 10pm to 5am.

We definitely partied in the Summer and rejoiced at the freedom, and I guess we pay the consequences now. Europe is so interconnected it was difficult to remain in isolation. I was certainly surprised to find two Swiss tourists in my little village in the Cinque Terre in November, wanting to enjoy a quiet holiday, and a bus load of Germans from a Cruise ship doing the same! Italian cruise ships are now stopped and foreign cruise ships will not be allowed to disembark.

It does make my blogging difficult as I would like to continue to show you all the beauty of this wonderful country, be it an exhibition or a delightful place to visit but in these times I am limited to what I can see and do despite being in the ‘Moderate’ classified Region of Tuscany. At least I am surrounded by beautiful Autumn colours.Autumn vineyards Tuscany

For those of you enjoying your new freedom from lockdown, I admit I am jealous yet hope you make the most of it with the appropriate caution. We will come out of it in the end, hopefully with not too much ‘collateral damage’.

Stay safe!

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Beauty beyond Limits, Forte Belvedere, Florence

Iron Ore Hills Siena provinceBack to one of my favourite places in Florence, Forte Belvedere to see what will be the last of outdoor exhibitions this year. The ‘Beauty beyond Limits‘ photographic exhibition by photo reporter Massimo Sestini. Twenty monumental photographic works reproduced in a 5 x 3 metre format, capturing glimpses of Tuscany portrayed from an aerial perspective. Fantastic images full of colour and texture, idealizing our love of geometric order. All part of various initiatives around the concept of ‘Tuscany, Renaissance without End’, promoted  by The Tuscan Tourism Board.

As  the curator Sergio Risaliti says “Sestini wants to show us how photography transforms the landscape into a picture, in pictorial language, with its contents returned to the gaze in terms of structures and figurative terms. The landscape as a work of art is born from the union between the artist, the photographer , the technological tool, the performing gesture decided upstream “,

Aerial view on Florence

Florence, aerial view and the real thing

And he has taken shots of some beloved places, that I never get tired of seeing no matter from what perspective – Florence, Cathedral, the Palio of Siena,  the countryside of Val d’Orcia,….

Landscape of Val d'Orcia, Siena

Val d’Orcia

 

Bike race, dirt roads, Siena

Bike race, dirt roads, Siena

The incredible texture of the landscape shots from 600m or so above is powerful.

 

 

 

 

Sestini also managed to include in the exhibition one of his personal passions whichRolling Stone concert, Lucca started his career in photography, taking photos at rock concerts before he moved onto newspaper reporting. Rolling Stones concert in Lucca 2017.

And of course in the setting of Forte Belvedere it’s a pleasure to wander amongst the photos as well as savour the fantastic view over Florence.View of Florence

While the view and exhibition would normally attract thousands of visitors, this year Covid 19 has sadly left the bar empty and only a few wander the grounds. Still I am sure they are already planning next year’s exhibition at  Forte Belvedere as it has hosted many stunning ones over the years – Gormley ‘Humans’, ‘Sounding of the Gong’, Zhang Huan ‘Soul and Matter‘, Folon and more…

Massimo Sestini continues with an exhibition indoors in Santa Maria Novella church complex that will continue into 2021 with photos related to Dante Alighieri as  it will be 700years since his death. Dante 700.I hope to get to see that, since lockdown is still permitting Museums to remain open….so far.

Florence will have its Renaissance after Covid 19 leaves us!                                          For those coming out of lockdown – Be careful, for those slipping into lockdown – Be patient and everybody Stay Safe!

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Poet’s paradise – Sestri Levante

It is well known that Liguria as a region has inspired many poets both local and Sestri Levante Google mapsinternational, as it has an endless number of stunning bays and enticing beach resorts. Sestri Levante is just one of such places. And as I now sit back home under yet another downpour watching our Covid numbers rise dramatically, only two weeks ago I was there enjoying what was in fact the last swim of the season.

View of Two bays Sestri Levante

View of two bays Photo credit Mo Ny

 

Only an hours train ride Cinque Terre, Sestri Levante is rather unusual has it has two large bays – the Bay of Silence and the Bay of Fairytales.  It also has some very pretty decorated facades typical of Liguria, as we had seen in Santa Margherita Ligure

The Bay of Fairytales named after Hans Christian Andersen who fell in love with the place in 1833, has since inspired the Andersen Festival dedicated to fairytales and theatre for both young and old.Bay of Fairytales, Sestri Levante

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View for Bay of Fairytales, Sestri Levante And while the view from this Bay is delightful we are soon heading for the more intimate Bay of Silence which is stunning. And we are not the only ones who thought it could be the last weekend of sunshine and warm enough for a dip.Bay of Silence, Sestri Levante

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of you who travelled with me on the 2011 tour may remember our first evening dinner here at the Portobello restaurant, despite being weary with jetlag! A magic atmosphere outdoors Fishing boats , Sestri Levanteon a balmy night around the same time of the year.

Easy to see how a local poet, Giovanni Descalzo who lived in Sestri Levante named it the Bay of Silence in 1919 and wrote many poems about the area.

Sestri Levante has ancient origins, as the name Sestri refers probably to “Segesta Tigulliorum”  considered the sea settlement of the Tigulli, the tribe of the Ligurian family who lived here in pre-Roman times. ‘Levante’ meaning facing East where the sun rises was added to distinguish it from Sestri Ponente, facing west where the sun sets. little of these ancient times is visible, and what is, is in the Archeological museum.

Sestri Levante monumentStill a pleasant stroll above the Bays reveals an archway and monument to the city’s history and ferocious lions guard the entrance to the historic Grand Hotel dei Castelli which has the best views over both Bays and as it’s publicity suggest combines Nature and History.Sestri Levante protective lion

 

 

 

And for those who love anchovies, fresh, fried, marinated, stuffed….Liguria is the best place. Every town and village has it’s  own L’Acciughina – Anchovy Snack bar.


Anchovy snack bar, Sestri Levante


 

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A Bird’s eye view on Florence – Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio FlorenceWant a bird’s eye view of Florence? While the options are many – Brunelleschi’s Dome, the Cathedral bell tower or the magnificent panorama from Piazzale Michelangelo, I had never seen Florence from the Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio. It was time to go and I was lucky enough to go up just before a storm rolled in and it teemed down on the city.

The Arnolfi Tower takes its name from the architect Arnolfo di Cambio who began construction of the building in 1299. However the tower was already present and incorporated into the Palazzo, hence its decentralized  position. At that time it was known as the ‘della Vacca‘ or ‘cow’ tower owned by the Foraboschi family. ‘Della Vacca’ as cattle usually passed through the streets towards the butchers’ shops, located in Borgo Santi Apostoli and in Via delle Terme. Can you imagine that?! The piazza was in fact not a piazza, but streets, alleyways and housing belonging to families loyal to the Ghibellines. On the defeat of the Ghibellines their houses were expropriated and demolished by the victorious Guelphs, all except for the tower. The Palace of ‘Priors‘ was built to house the Florentine government. A military Palace boasting the power of the city, a fortified building complete with battlements, the square based Guelph and swallow tailed Ghibelline battlements on the tower. An appropriate setting for its governors (Priors) who were locked inside for their two months in office, to avoid corruption and distraction from the outside world!Arnolfo Tower, Palazzo Vecchio

The tower visit has 3 viewing areas, the parapet walkway, and two access points at the top. A narrow staircase taken with enthusiasm by tourists, both local and foreign eager to see the first view over the city. Note the covered holes in the floor of the parapet walkway where liquid lime, stones and other hazardous materials could be launched on besiegers. The 360 degree view on Florence is awesome and this was just the beginning….

Tower of palazzo VecchjioMore stairs as we climb to the top, 95m above the city, almost to the same height as Brunelleschi’s dome on the Cathedral at 116.5m but then that’s including the gold ball and cross. Past the cell ironically called ‘Alberghetto’ – ‘Little Hotel‘ where Cosimo the Elder was imprisoned in 1433 and also the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola before being burned at the stake in Piazza Signoria.

The view of Florence takes everyone’s breath away, it is inebriating! Mobile phones click furiously as we circulate between the battlements to get the best shot.

Florence Cathedral from top of the tower

View on Santa Croce church as the storm rolls inIt’s a long way downIt's a long way down Tower palazzo Vecchio

And of course the obligatory selfie….proof of the visit!View from the top

 

Weather vane Palazzo Vecchio

Photo credit Ron Reznick www.digital-images.net

The last curiosity is that we are just below the wonderful golden weather vane, consisting of a sphere, a rampant lion (the Marzocco) and the Lily of Florence. And as the local proverb goes “if the lion pees in the Arno river then it’s going to rain!” Florentines still heed its warning.

The Palazzo of Priors became the old palace – Palazzo Vecchio from the end of the 16th century when the Medici family moved to the Pitti Palace. It continues today to be the Town Hall of Florence, much admired and respected and highly recommended to visit both inside and up the Arnolfo tower.

 

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Nel blu dipinto di blu – Vernazza, Cinque Terre

View of VernazzaNel blu, dipinto di blu” – ‘In the blue, painted blue’  the famous song commonly known as ‘Volare‘ is what I find myself humming as I make my way down to Vernazza for probably the last swim of the season.

Colours have mellowed and the Cinque Terre has endless shades of blue to soak up as Summer comes to an Fishing with the kidsend. Still tourists around during the weekends while during the week numbers are slowly dwindling now as many have returned to work. The only positive aspect of the Covid pandemic has been the sustainable number of tourists, no cruise ships or daily bus tours, has made an enormous difference. The locals have been able to enjoy their villages, almost as there own. To see a Dad fishing with his kids along the walkway would not have been possible in other years. The main square has at times been quiet enough for the kids to kick a soccer ball about or late afternoon on the beach they have set up their goal post nests.

Vernazza

All in all it’s been a lay back season, not a good one economically for many, but a good ‘time out‘ for most. A welcome change for the tourists as well to feel the villages belong to locals, and they are just visiting.

No crowds or queues waiting for a ferry so the kids can jump off the quayside between  ferry arrivals.  View to Monterosso, Cinque Terre The allure of the blue draws me through the rocky archway to my favourite beach at Vernazza, where the waves tumble in, the sea is instantly deep and it’s away from the motorboats and ferry.Vernazza, Cinque Terre

The sea still reminds us of the dreadful flood of Oct 2011 by tossing up remnants of the Vernazza reminder of the 2011 flood141 cars and vans that were washed out to sea. Always a good ideas to wear protective shoes!

Yet the blue is impossible to resist and this season the water has been particularly limpid….even more sightings of dolphins than usual, not that I have been lucky to see any. Yachts lazily cruise past and I make the most of a gorgeous day at the Cinque Terre!

 

Volare, oh, oh  Cantare, oh, oh, oh, oh  Nel blu, dipinto di blu  Felice di stare lassù!’  (Fly, oh, oh, Sing, oh,oh,oh,oh, In the blue , painted blue, Happy to be up there!’

Ps For those Aussies still in lockdown, keep up the good work and you will soon be singing as well! Stay safe everyone.

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Florence frescoes in Brancacci chapel

Santa Maria del Carmine church, Florence church.While it’s still hot, the other best place to get cool is hiding in museums or churches, and Florence has no lack of either. A favourite and lesser known church, very unassuming with an unfinished facade is the Santa Maria del Carmine church.  It houses one of the most important frescoe cycles of the early Renaissance period in the Brancacci chapel. So called, as it was commissioned by Felice Brancacci, a wealthy Florentine Andrea Verga cultural mediator guidewool and silk merchant and politician, to illustrate the life of St Peter in honour of his grandfather Peter who had made the family’s fortune. Also in recognition that the  Great Western schism of the church had been resolved in 1417.

To get the best out of my visit. Andrea Verga, a young enthusiastic ‘cultural mediator’ employed by Muse was my delightful storyteller.

The frescoes make a fascinating story, and as appropriate in educating the population of today as they served to educate the population in the past. They illustrate the artistic developments of the three artists involved, and the political climate with portraits of friends and important statesmen featuring in episodes..

Miraculously the frescoes were spared by the great fire of 1771 that devastated the rest of the church, covering the frescoes with smoke. They were brush cleaned in 1904 but it was not until the late 1980’s that a thorough restoration returned the frescoes to their vivid colours.

Painted between 1424 and 1428 by  Masolino da Panicale and his young pupil Masaccio. Masaccio being considered the first great artist of the early Renaissance and associating with other such greats as Brunelleschi and Donatello. However, the frescoes remained unfinished due to his premature death at only 26 years in 1428, and were completed some 50 years later between 1481 and 1483 by Filippino Lippi.

The Original Sin by MasolinoFrom the fairytale figures af Adam and Eve in ‘The Original Sin‘ by Masolino to the more innovative style of Massaccio who uses light and shade to give more realism to the scene, and more consistency and solidity to the figures as in ‘The Tribute Money’.  Three scenes in one, where Christ shows St Peter  how to get coins from a fish to pay the city entrance tax as the Roman tax collector (in the short orange tunic in the foreground) demands, and St Peter, always in a yellow robe, pays (on the right).The Tribute Money by Masaccio

St Peter preaches and converts the thousands‘ by Masolino (on the upper left) to ‘The Baptism of the Neophytes‘ by Masaccio (on the right). Note the transparent water and the figure shivering as he waits his turn to be baptized. Below left ‘Healing the sick‘ by Masaccio where St Peter on passing has healed a lame man and another two wait to be healed.

Distribution of Alms and death of Ananias by Masaccio In the ‘Distribution of alms‘ my trusty guide Andrea,  tells us that Masaccio came from a very poor family and was easily able to portray the poverty of the time in the mother holding the child wearing a dress too small. It also highlighted the lesson to be learnt as the rich had been encouraged to share their wealth but Ananias had kept some of his share apart and St Peter knowing that he lied calls him out. Ananias fell dead at his feet from shame.

In the ‘Healing of the Cripple‘ and the ‘Raising of Tabitha‘ by both Masolino and Masaccio ( top frescoe below) we were to note the scene of everyday Florentine life in the background – washing hanging out, a monkey sneaking along the facade, a child tugging at his mother’s skirt. The two elegant figures in the centre, one dressed in wool and ermine fur trim, typical of the 13th century (on the right), the other in damask silk customary in the 14th century with velvet turbans indicating the fruitfulness of Oriental trade.Brancacci chapel frescoes

‘The Crucifixion of St Peter‘ and ‘St Peter and Simon Magus before Nero‘ were painted by Filippino Lippi. St Peter crucified upside down as a sign of humility to Christ, as in death we return to our birth position. In the archway staring at us is a portrait of Sandro Botticelli, Filippino’s friend and teacher, and probably a self portrait of Filippino St Peter Enthroned by Masacciowith the beret on the extreme right .behind the blue robe

We can see other famous portraits in ‘St Peter’s Enthronement‘ by Masaccio – in the right corner hardly visible is tiny Masolino beside a self portrait of Masaccio in red robe next to Brunelleschi with the black hat, and Leon Alberto Battista ( humanist and architect) in black robe.
St Peter Raising Theophilus from the dead by Masaccio and Filippino Lippi

The last curiosity I will share is the elaborate ‘photoshop’ that occurred in the scene ‘Raising of Theophilus Son from the Dead‘ Here Theophilus (in pink on elevated stage) is a portrait of Florence’s bitter enemy the Milan tyrant Visconti and in the crowd around the son the Brancacci family had been featured. However as the Brancacci family were exiled from Florence in 1436 for being anti Medici, Filippino Lippi had to redo the heads!

To think such a tiny chapel holds a wealth of information in these frescoes of which one could write about for pages; the political significance, the religious symbolism, the personal differences.  Funnily enough  Masolino and Masaccio are nicknames as they were both officially named Tommaso but nicknamed ‘little Tom’ for Masolino and ‘clumsy or messy Tom’ for Masaccio. I am forever enchanted by the ‘mess‘, particularly of a youngster only in his 20’s!


 

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Covid creativity Italian style

An impromptu blog post as I only discovered this amazing project yesterday and wanted to share it with you all. Besides you may want to contribute to it as it is a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter.com – Just5 self sanitizing Jacket Can you believe it?

Just5 jacket

Photo credit: Kickstarter.com Just5Jacket

In such stressful times as Covid 19 people are working behind the scenes to come up with solutions that will help contribute to our future safety. A strategic mix of Swiss technology with Italian style and design. I am so enthusiastic about it, as if you read all the info it is certainly catering to my line of thinking environmentally and ethically. And there is even a good Aussie contribution to its development!

To stimulate your curiosity I will give you some details taken from the kickstarter.com website but best to see their videos on site which explain it better.

“All the components of JUST5 jacket – Fabrics, Sewing Threads and even the Zippers – are 100% self-sanitizing thanks to the world’s most advanced hygiene preserving  technology for textiles: HeiQ V-Block.

Any surface we touch and any garment we wear can be dirty or contaminated by contaminants floating around in the air. The JUST5 jacket will keep you sheltered from your surroundings and safe when touching outside surfaces on the go. Its hygienic surface is restored within just 5 minutes so that it stays usable forever.

Just5 Strategic Partners

Photo credit: Kickerstarter.com Just5 Jacket

JUST5 is like a multi-functional isolation gown, just more fashionable and full of practical features. It is an initiative by 5 leading material manufacturers and features 5 life-enhancing gadgets.

Made from “Sustainable materials                                                                    All the synthetic parts will be made of Recycled polymers. Specifically all the polyester parts will be made of REPREVE-UNIFI from post-consumer recycled bottles. The Nylon parts will be made of ECONYL from post-consumer recycled fishing nets and carpet fluff and also REPREVE-UNIFI post industrial recycled fabric scraps.”

Environmentally friendly factories

All the factories involved will have to be BSCI compliant .( ie respecting Universal and ethical working conditions) All the fabrics will have to be Blue Sign and OEKOTEX compliant (ie textile products with the least possible environmental impact, offering greater safety to workers and consumers)

Take a look at the HEIQ Scientific board members

HEIQ Scientific board

HEIQ Scientific board Photo credit: Kickstarter.com Just5 Jacket

 

and hear on the video that the material “has been tested and verified by the Doherty Institute of Melbourne, Australia’s leader in contaminated micro elements studies”

The Kickstarter crowdfunding project continues until Oct 5 so think about it. I am looking forward to being wrapped in carpet fluff, tied up with fishing nets and rolled in plastic bottles in my new Just5 jacket.!

What can I say….Italians do it better!?!

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Tuscan coastline – Castiglione della Pescaia

Tuscany mapAs the blazing heat continues it’s time to explore another favourite beach area along the Tuscan coastline at Castiglione della Pescaia. Roughly a 2 hour drive from Florence down south, Castiglione della Pescaia is beautifully placed in an area known as the Maremma offering long sandy beaches, a medieval historic centre, woodlands for hiking, and even Etruscan tombs nearby at Vetulonia. You always know when you have arrived in the Maremma by lines of umbrella pine trees separating agricultural land or lining the driveway entrance to a property.Castiglione della Pescaia pine trees

View from Buriano castle ruinsWe are staying in a little hilltop village, Buriano, 20kms before Castiglione della Pescaia immersed in woodlands for good morning hikes and where the views are endless and the evenings catch a fresh breeze.

Afternoons spent on the long sandy beaches stretching either side of Castiglione dellla Pescaia. While there are a choice of exotic bathing complexes with Caribbean style umbrellas, business looks bad as many opt, like we do, for the ample free beach areas where there is no problem about social distancing.

Beach traders are back

It’s encouraging to see the boys are back trading along the beach, although I think business is pretty dismal for them as well, as it’s financially a tough time for everyone these days. Still it’s something of a return to ‘normal‘ which is reassuring. The water is warm and enticing and its a delight to laze away the afternoon till sunset.

While Castiglione is well known to Italians and some Europeans it is a little off the beaten track for most tourists visiting Florence. Certainly at the moment it is full of Italian tourists enjoying a Summer break

View of Castiglione della Pescaia fortress

View of fortress Photo Credit: Stefano Ferrari

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The historic medieval town was well guarded by its fortress which sits above the main town of today, offering the best views and some delightful bars and restaurants.

From Castiglione view to Elba islandWithin view from Castiglione is the Island of Elba, another favourite Summer spot for Tuscans, and only one of many in the Tuscan Archipelago. Private boat trips leave from Castiglione to explore the more secluded, while the public ferry for Elba has to be taken from Piombino.Castiglione della Pescaia sunset from the fortress

For us there is more than enough to keep us entertained and to while away the week than take a boat ride. A late evening stroll along the waterfront past the bathing complexes closed for the day and no crazy nightime discos, as in the past due to Covid 19 restrictions, is the perfect end to a great holiday.Castiglione della Pescaia end of the day

For a more bird’s eye of Castiglione della Pescaia see the video here

 

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The coastal walk at Framura – Liguria

Vallà beach breakwaterWith blazing Summer temperatures, there is no better place to be than at the beach and exploring further the coastal walks in Liguria. We were off to explore the Via del mare the coastal pathway from Framura that takes you to more beautiful surf beaches. Not like Australian surf of course but sufficient enough to have created breakwaters and even install a ‘lifesaver’!

Besides it was an extension to the day we cycled from Levanto to Framura through the ex railway tunnel that are so enticingly cool and a welcome relief from the heat of the day. We were definitely opting to cycle again as we wanted to get to the beaches asap.

Framura hike or bike path

Hike or bike path Photo credit Framura Turismo

Bonassola - LiguriaLeaving Levanto after 3kms we were already at Bonassola and the beach looked pretty full, although social distancing between umbrellas was in full force. On past last year’s favourite  beach of Porto del Pidocchio which was closed this year for maintenance work to the bike parking area.

From here on it’s by foot under, over and around the railway station to the Torsei beach with an alluring turquoise sea tempting us already. But we were not to be dissuaded from our mission of ‘via del mare‘.Torsei beach Framura

The pathway starts from Torsei and hugs the coastline over stunning crystal clear water, leading up and over to the last beaches of La Vallà and Arena.

Ligurai coastline walkway

A short picturesque walk to our final destination for a day of sun and surf…..surf Italian style! We are almost on the run in our eagerness to plunge in!

Surf's up

Lifesaver

 

 

 

The small swim area which gets deep quickly, is protected by breakwaters as the sea can be rough and a current drags between the two breakwaters which makes the lifesaver very anxious. The sea is so refreshing after the ride and walk and it’s surprisingly busy at La Vallà. The Council hired a lifesaver which people seem to appreciate…..although he’d have to be one of the biggest I have seen and not looking particularly fit for the job!?

Arena beach - FramuraIf you are after a quieter area and confident you don’t need a lifesaver the pathway continues onto the last beach of Arena. A long wide stretch of pebble beach, tucked into the last cove of the Framura coastline. Just bliss!                                                                                                                           Framura Arena beach

Some do the coastal walk by bike although it’s not really allowed, but the video gives you a better idea of what the pathway looks like.


 

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