There are no gondolas in Vernazza, but……

Cinque TerreAs the last tourists leave, looking a little bewildered at the empty street and concerned at the menacing clouds that can only mean more rain, Vernazza goes into hibernation.Vernazza bar

It doesn’t mean there is no one about, just locals and the ordinary shops that the permanent residents rely on. The touristy boutiques, the gelaterias and the trendier bars are closed for the winter but with a Venetian difference this time. The newly replaced doors of each premise now have the special anti-flood rails which are so prominent in Venice, and each have their own style barrier – from simple wood, to local stone or the more sophisticated ‘acquastop’ aluminium barrier as a total sealer.Flood barrier








Flood barrier (4)

One of the boutiques readapted their temporary artistic door used immediately after the flood of 2011. The boutique is at the narrow bottle neck leading into the main square and cove, so thought wisely to leave it over a 1m 50cm high!Temporary flood barrierFlood barrier (8)








Some of the restaurants are closed, and all have taken in their outdoor seating and put away their rainbow umbrellas until next season. So it’s Vernazza Autumneasy now to garage the local fishing boats in the square, their stripy covers creating some gaiety against the grey.

A lone dingy starts to fill with the debris tossed up by waves, as the sea cleans out the sand and gives back what some careless tourists and non may have thrown overboard, or the wind may have stolen from the rubbish bins.Fishing boat


The massive sea swells shifted the sand on the “New Beach” in Vernazza toCar washed up reveal underneath the town doctor’s missing Toyota! From Save Vernazza facebook Photo album “Mareggiata November 2013″

Not that surprising when you think 140 cars were washed out to sea during the flood!

But don’t worry we will clean it up before you get back! It’s just Nature’s way of giving us a hand and perhaps a reminder to look after her better.Fisherman

A lone fisherman zips up his jacket against the icy wind, who knows what he has been fishing for. And just when I think there is no life, the bar door opens and a blast of warmth blankets me and the hubbub and chatter are a welcoming call to go in and have a drink with the locals.Vernazza sea



Merry Xmas and Happy New Year !

Merry XmasWishing you all a





It’s time to take a break, and I’m off to Australia for Xmas to catch up with family and old friends and soak up some sun. From there, on a fascinating trip to Myanmar for a couple of weeks, which I may even squeeze in as a blog as I am sure the photos will be amazing. Then back to some snow here in Italy at the end of January.

So all of you have a lovely Festive Season and a Happy and Healthy 2014!

Baci Sue xx

Ps Despite the economic crisis Florence still put up her Christmas lights and I did a wander and took these photos for you.Christmas lights






Christmas lights (3)


Cathedral Christmasvia Por S Maria









Xmas lights (2)




Street decorations

Xmas lights








Christmas lights



Florence Xmas

Florence Street










Christmas timeOverview Florence


Santa Croce and Duomo


Will the real Mona Lisa stand up….and she did!


Natalia Guiccardini StrozziI’m not kidding! There she was standing next to the famous painting, about to recount her escapades in the year she was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. Who would have believed it, the last living relative of Mona LisaNatalia Guiccardini Strozzi. Actress, ballerina,  marketing and export sales director of her family’s prestigious wine estate and Princess  to boot!

Natalia is used to the limelight and her curriculum boasts 4 languages, tutored by Nureyev for many years, as well as being a choreographer and pianist. And her performance was about to begin in room 15, Leonardo’s room in the Uffizi gallery of Florence. Monna Lisa 2

I have delighted in many productions’ by the Compagnia delle Seggiole, an itinerant theatre group  who perform in museums, monasteries and the like, bringing back to life the characters that were so much a part of the building in its heyday. The extra twist that Natalia was a direct descendant (together with her sister Irina) of Mona Lisa took me by surprise. You may make comparisons but Natalia has more than an enigmatic smile, a truly warm welcoming one and an engaging twinkle that exudes fun and fantastic energy.

She transformed into the painting itself, describing her excitement at being outside of the gallery, travelling in the arms of her thief sounded more like being in the arms of her lover, being hidden in various dubious places brought a thrill to her voice…it was freedom after the dreariness of the gallery!

Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi

The Cellar -Tenute Guicciardini Strozzi


Who had been the culprits? None other than 3 Italians, one of whom had worked as a handyman in the Louvre. They had hoped to sell the painting but it was obviously to hot to hock and when eventually one tried 28 months later he was arrested and the precious Mona Lisa returned to the Louvre.Leonardo Da Vinci

And would you believe, on my way to the Uffizi who should come round the corner but Leonardo da Vinci!?





Mona Lisa in chalk



And then when I was on my way home I almost tripped onto Mona Lisa by talented chalk artist, Matteo.





And just in case you were thinking of buying the beautiful villa in Chianti where  Mona Lisa was born, I’m afraid your too late as it has been recently snapped up. By who? We’re not sure, maybe a South African diamond dealer, or a group of Chinese investors, but if you want to see what you missed out on…

Check my earlier post of 12 August, 2013 for “Will the real Mona Lisa please stand up!”