Spring has rolled out her green carpet

Wildflowers, olivesVal d'Orcia







Spring has finally arrived and the months of rain seem to be behind usSpring carpet now…until the Spring rain! It’s such a beautiful time of year and the views are stunning. Soon we will come out of our winter tunnel when we wind the clocks forward an hour and the days become  longer.
The past few weeks I have been gallivanting about, and the Spring landscapes in Tuscany and the Cinque Terre are stunning.
The green carpet on the hills of Tuscany around Montepulciano and SpringtimePienza is breathtaking in its simplicity. Nature is an evocative master.






Locals are busy pruning their olives and council workers are hard at work lopping the trees along the avenue. As my gardening tour leaders used to say “give a man a chain saw and he can be positively dangerous – boy pruning they called it when the tree looks more like a stump!Olive pruning

Council pruning






Almond and cherry trees in full bloom, lead the way on our hike around the Chianti hills.

And even my little garden has a show of daffodils and jonquils and my banksia rose is now lusciously green on the archway.

Wildflowers Spring Cinque Terre






Yellow and white wildflowers enhance the trails at the Cinque Terre, violets peek out between the moss, and irises and delicate snapdragons create an instant garden. Buttercups burst out of the old and new dry stone walls, or cover the scars of an old ruin.

Buttercups CornigliaButtercups









The sea is calm and people lazily fish enjoying the sunshine as the early tourists strip and soak up the sun on the beach at Monterosso.
Monterosso, Cinque Terre






Fishing nets

Serious fishing hasn’t started yet as can be seen  by the nets stacked up at Monterosso.

While tourists laze around or sport T shirts and shorts along the trail, locals tend the vines, tying them up with fronds of ginestra (broom).Tying vines

Vegie patches are dug over leaving a few black cabbage plants still going strong while some early lettuce varieties are already sprouting.vegetable garden






And when hunger strikes, the “Siamo Fritti’  ( We’re doomed!) the fried seafood takeaway at Riomaggiore has hardly a queue, and I’m next after the cat!Takeaway Riomaggiore


Ps And Spring is in the air even downtown as a Spanish visitor to the Uffizi Gallery stripped in front of  Botticelli’s “Venus” yesterday!


Carnival of Dreams

 CarnivalAt Carnival time many think of the beautiful period costumes and alluring masks of Venice and rarely of the huge satirical floats of Viareggio, Tuscany. I had been once to this parade years ago, and with a forecast of sunshine I headed for the beach town. A brilliant day, drenched in colour and sunshine with crowds of families and teenagers who had come ready to party and join in the fun. Kids screaming and laughing as they tossed handfuls of confetti  and sprayed iridescent foam on unsuspecting bystanders.

Carnival float

Politicians -Lost in the Clouds

Carnival magic

Lost in the Clouds on parade









The idea of a parade of floats started  “In February 1873, around the coffee tables of the Casino, creating a major industry for local craftsmen and artisans: sculptors, carpenters, iron smiths  who knew how to build ships able to challenge the tricky waters and capricious winds of the ocean were well equipped to build floats that have navigated through a sea of amazed and amused people.” (Carnival Foundation brochure)

Submerged Peninsula

Submerged Peninsula had our last Prime Ministers peering from their relevant hometown monuments and our current PM Renzi desperately hanging on to the bell tower of Florence.

The fabulous paper mâché  floats, portray a clever satire on the current political, economic and social climate. And, in spite of the GFC, locals were delighted to rediscover their politicians “lost in the clouds” or as marionettes juggling taxes, Vat and home rates, or floundering in rough seas or Scrooge-like stuffing money into their pockets!. Much play on words, which may have been difficult for visiting tourists to grasp, but they still enjoyed the fun atmosphere.

Same Old Story

Same Old Story

Carnival Joke

Is this a Carnival Joke? Renzi juggling taxes and Berlusconi as Superman

Tuscans have such a great sense of humour, very tongue in cheek and are happy to laugh at themselves and even more so at people in power, and the floats  (il carro) reflected that. The creative master Carristi need to be adaptable as the political situation can change so fast here that heads can need replacing during the 12 month construction period!Voodoo doll float

Young and old volunteers dance to blaring music in a choreographed line up both on and around the float, and the crowds sing along to any well known tune.

Voodoo  was a doll with a graveyard of promises never maintained and consequences – workers rights, justice equal for all, abolition of home rates, savings dashed, pensions cut….

Carnival float


It was a Carnival of Dreams with a Dreamcatcher – hoping to hold onto our dreams




Last Beach (meaning a last resort) had volunteer lifesavers leading with gravesites behind of artisans, commerce, agriculture, small businesses, and industry.




Last Resort

Last Resort




Carnival splendour

Don’t Enter that Website


Web Connection float

Web Connection




Even Internet rated with Web connection and Don’t enter that website – fb, twitter, google, you tube

Social themes with Children of a lesser god preceded by 4 mini floats – Poverty, Homosexuality, Immigration, and Racism followed by an angelic Freddy Mercury moving to the blare of Queen. And Hysteriaan hysterical young red head under psychoanalysis in search of a solution, thought to be  difficult and improbable.Carnival parade

Freddy Mercury

Children of a lesser god





Berlusconi float

Who laughs best laughs last





And a special tribute to Berlusconi – Who laughs well has the last laugh – with twirling Berlusconi clowns to the tune of ‘ I’m sexy and I know it’!


My favourite – Revolutionwith John Lennon and continuous Beatles soundtracks and no end of dancers and revolutionaries.  John Lennon Revolution float




Families and friends came dressed as  pirates, ladybeetles and bugs, swinging 30’s, 70’s hippies, tigers and leopards, Zorro and Batman, complete with their dogs flaunting tulle. Father and sons as cowboys, mother and daughters as fairies, no costume too sophisticated or too expensive!Locals

The “vu compra” boys adapt by selling spray foam, confetti and colourful wigs, while the usual food stands give out enticing aromas of roasted pork, aniseed from the freshly baked brigidini chips,  roasted chestnuts, and crepes with nutella. And if you still need a sugar fix, there’s nougat, nut toffees, fairy floss, squishy crocodiles and even pop corn.

It’s awesome to think these massive floats, have been made out of simple strips of newspaper and a wealth of imagination and creativity.  Sophisticated mechanization systems internally make Freddy Mercury’s wings spread wide and John Lennon’s hand open to hold the dancing flower girls. The music is earsplitting  at times and the atmosphere electric.

As I leave it’s hard not to feel moved by John Lennon’s “Imagine”.  I say  “Every Italian is a dreamer…but they’re not the only ones!” and they will ride through this tough time.

Little Prince

Little Prince

Renzi the Magnificent

Lo_Renzi the Magnificent

Viareggio beach