Over the alps to France

Woke to another stunning day in Italy and very warm.

Our accommodation included breakfast which was perfect with a good old cup of tea.

Said our goodbye s to the proprietress, packed the car and headed off fo a little drive around town.

There were some amazing houses and a lot of the houses are now changing in looks and design and reminding me of Swiss chalets.

Unfortunately a lot of the old huge houses were either derelict or closed up.

The views from the top of the hill were fantastic

We set off on the road heading west towards France. We are getting closer to the north west of Italy.

Today was quite different countryside from yesterday. It was very flat and a bit boring as the northern part of Italy we drove through today was very industrial. Each town we drove through had a large industrial area that unfortunately we had to drive through.

There was Decathlon, ikea, and other huge stores and then we came around into another town and it was all the outlets for Prada, dolce & Gabbana etc. luckily we didn’t stop!

As we drove through and got further west we started to move into hills planted with grape vines

These were obviously wealthy farmers as they had a lot more growing on their land other than grapes. There was corn, wheat, fruit trees, everything all there on the land with no space wasted.

At the top of the hill was a huge house overlooking all you could see and there were a few of them.

We started to look for somewhere to stop for lunch but it was Sunday and would you believe absolutely nothing was open. Not even a petrol station. Here you can just drive in put in your credit card fill up and drive out.

So we kept driving. Today we came from Salsomaggiore Terme through around the outskirts of Piacenta, Stradella, Voghera, Tortona, around Alessandria through Alba and into Cuneo which is at the base of the alps that go over into France.

Cuneo was conquered by France only during the Napoleonic Wars, when it was made the capital of the Stura department. After the restoration of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the unification of Italy, Cuneo became the capital of its namesake province in 1859.

We eventually found something open in Cuneo to have a very late lunch but as you can see in the photo above we were at the base of the alps and even though it was 30 degrees in town there was still a lot of snow on the mountains and they looked spectacular.

We decided to push on another 40 minutes down the road, actually up the mountain and stay at a little town called Vinadio.

This is our view from our room

We are now sitting on our verandah having a glass of wine and enjoying the evening and the mountains

Have had dinner overlooking the alps and off to bed.

Ciao ciao.

Slow road to France

Feeling very sad this morning that our fabulous week is over and we all split up to go our separate ways.

It was a sad farewell to everyone, packed the cars and headed out of town.

Max and I are heading back to his place in Brittany but taking our time to get there.

Headed off this morning towards Sienna and beyond but stayed on the back roads nearly all the way.

Came up through Monte San Sorvino and stopped at Loro Ciuffenna for lunch which was a gorgeous old medieval town dating back to the 1400’s.

The countryside was quite different as we headed north. Very mountainous and lots of climbing mountains and coming down the other side. Hairpin bends and mad Italian drivers.

A bit hairy but so beautiful and yet another perfect day.

We made our way across Italy bypassing Sienna, Florence and Bologna and going through little towns away from the tourists.

Came through Borgia San Lorenzo, Barbarino, Maranello which is where the Ferrari factory is and from then on virtually every 4th car we passed was a Ferrari. All red of course!

Ended up in Salsomaggiore Terme which is where we are staying the night. The owners of our Hotel Gloria had been to Australia back in the 1990’s and loved it.

They told us that there was a festival on in town tonight so we had a shower, got changed and walked around the corner to the main part of town and OMG what a surprise. It was a very beautiful town and there were markets and bars with bands playing and at the other end there was a blues festival. So much happening.

We wandered around the streets

We sat in the piazza and had a drink and then wandered around more of the old part of town. On our way there were posters everywhere for my festival (Celeste being my middle name)

Salsomaggiore Terme is a spa town and you should have seen the spa building. Absolutely spectacular

All marble and gold!

We walked back around the corner and here was the band parading up the street playing music until they got to the stage

There was so much atmosphere it was fantastic and a really hot balmy night so everyone was out.

Max and I found a lovely little Italian restaurant on the side of the street that we could hear the band from and had a wonderful dinner

It was then once more around the block and strolled up the street where there were street markets selling handbags, shoes, clothes, jewellery etc.

By the time we had walked the streets and checked everything out it was well past midnight so it was home to Hotel Gloria and into bed. Very warm tonight. I have the fan on.

How am I going to go back to Sydney and winter???

Buona notte

Ciao ciao

The last day

The last day in paradise and another stunning day it is. The temperature has been constantly in the high 20s with it reaching over 30 today and for the next week. Definitely don’t want to go home.

After a leisurely breakfast and some washing we said our fond farewells to Julie and Joe as they were leaving today to head down to the Amalfi coast. Very sad to see them go.

After they had left we set off for Pienza. Of course we went down the dirt roads behind our villa and the views yet again were beautiful

Pienza was a papal town built by Pope Pius II in the 14th century. This meant that everyone that lived there had to pay taxes to The Pope.

Another very beautiful town and after our morning coffee we wandered the streets.

Pienza was also the town Franco Zeffirelli filmed Romeo and Juliette back in the 60s. I remember seeing that film and coming out of the theatre hysterical from crying it was so sad. Even though I knew the story and the end!

There were some lovely shops in Pienza so of course did a little shopping!

Ran into Chienza our chef from Ro’s birthday celebrations.

Nicci, Steven and myself decided to go home via Multepulchiano so we left and popped off to MonteP as we now call it.

Nicci wanted to do a tiny bit more shopping so we wandered up the street, she got what she needed and we then ran into Stu sitting in a cafe having some peace and quiet. We disturbed him had an Aperol and headed off via the supermarket and home to laze by the pool for the last time.

We had made arrangements to have a final dinner at our favourite restaurant in Monticello so we got dressed and walked into town.

A beautiful night and quite warm. Summer is definitely here.

The specialty of the restaurant was boars stew which was popular with everyone but I had the beef which was delicious with Tuscan beans. Naturally we finished it all off with Gelato.

Have had such busy fun days I have not had time to blog but will sort myself out as tomorrow we leave and Max and I start the drive back to France

Caio from Tuscany.

The day after

Very slow day today and another beautiful hot day.

We all got up in dribs and drabs today and Meaghan and Lubby left this morning to head to London.

A few of the people went off and did a cooking class and 5 of us stayed behind and went for a walk into Monticello for coffee and walked back and lay by the pool.

It was such a clear day today as there had, over the last few days, been a lot of burning off so it was hazy, but today was perfect

We went for a drive through the countryside below the villa along the winding dirt roads looking a villas as we decided we all wanted to live here so looked on the internet for villas for sale. Saw the one we wanted but it was 7 bedrooms but only 2 bathrooms plus it was 1,495,000 Euro and probably a bit out of our price range.

Interesting looking though and seeing amazing, beautiful villas with 12 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms which were stunning but outrageously expensive. We can dream.

Decided we would be better off renting for a few months a year which would mean no maintenance and we could change our destinations.

The others all arrived home from their cooking class and it was straight into the pool and we had drinks and nibbles by the pool and then I went and cooked dinner for us who hadn’t been to the cooking class and used up all the leftovers.

Another stunning sunset over our valley.

So as our week draws to a close. With the girls leaving this morning and Jo and Julie leaving tomorrow we had a bottle of Veuve around the pool in farewell and it was an early night for us all.

Buona Notte


The big birthday bash

After 2.5 months of living through the Festival of Ro the day of the party has finally arrived.

Two car loads of us headed over to Montepulciano this morning to have a look at another beautiful medieval town. This one was bigger than all the other towns around as equally as beautiful. It was only about 20 minutes from our villa.

Arrived after driving through such beautiful countryside. I just never get sick of it.

Parked the car and headed up to the old town

So beautiful and again the history.

Had our morning coffee with pastries and it was a morning of wandering through the town and doing some shopping

The shopping was wonderful. So much leather and ceramics and clothes and artwork. Totally spoiled for choice.

I had done a bit of shopping in other towns so not really looking for anything however on the way up the street in the first shop did spot a very beautiful handbag but thought, no will wait and see what else is up the street.

The old town of Montepulciano was just one long street of shops, churches, restaurants, bars and little cobblestone side alleys that went nowhere but so much atmosphere and again very lucky that there were hardly any tourists.

There was a fabulous clock tower with a man on top chiming the hour

Ro was the shopping queen and won all prizes for the amount of shopping she did.

Stu and I were getting a little bored so popped into a little cafe or bar as they are called here, and had a little espresso and looked out onto the magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.

Walked out onto the street and everyone had caught up and met us there and we found a gorgeous restaurant for a little lunch sitting on their balcony overlooking everything.

Our lovely waiter explained to us that he was born in Montepulciano and people from the town were known as Politiziano’s which happened to be the name of the restaurant. Of course we thought it meant Police!!

We strolled back to the car after that but not before having a picture taken beside the massive horse which was done by Leonardo da Vinci. It was so big it put out big merino and big prawn to shame

A quick shop at the supermarket and off we went back to the villa for a swim and to get ready for the nights entertainment.

Chienza arrived about 5 to start cooking and we all went off to spruce ourselves up for the party.

Everybody got very dressed up for the dinner and we had Prosecco and a few nibbles by the pool prior to sitting down to a wonderful dinner all home made by Chienza

As we were sitting at the table there was a fabulous sunset over the Tuscan hills

It was an absolutely wonderful evening with lots of laughter and stories and speeches and then out came the cake

It was a very late night and a few sore heads this morning but at last the Festival of Ro has been celebrated to the max and can be put that away after 2 and a half months.



Another glorious day in Italian paradise.

After a wonderful nights sleep a few of us walked into Monticchiello this morning.

Left about 9 and strolled along the winding road into town

walked up the hill into the most beautiful town that is protected by UNESCO.

We stopped in the cafe for coffee

It is only a little town but soooo cute I am going to put photos below of nothing else but the town as we wondered around it.

After walking around the town that had 2 restaurants, a dress shop and a linen shop and a tourist museum we headed back to our cafe for gelato and we could look across the valley and see our villa

That is it just to the right of the line of trees in the middle of the photo.

I then walked back to our villa and it was so hot we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool playing water polo and just relaxing.

It was Joe and Julie’s 36th wedding anniversary today so they went of for a romantic dinner in town and Nicci and I cooked a yummy pasta for dinner.

I am now in bed having an early night in anticipation of tomorrow nights birthday celebrations.



Made the decision last night to head to Florence for the day.

Up and on the road by 8.30am. Took 2 cars as Ro, Ben, Nicolette, Stu, Meaghan, Lubby and myself set off on the road to Firenze.

The Italian countryside is absolutely gorgeous and so green with rolling hills and (I think) pencil pines along the top of the hills leading up to another villa overlooking the countryside.

Arrived in Florence and parked the car and came out of the car park right in the middle of the market and found a bar for our morning coffees and waited for the girls to arrive in the other car.

What a beautiful town.

The churches and statues and intricate decorations and carvings were amazing.

The Duomo was spectacular.

Took a photo of David and Perseus with the head of Medusa. There was Neptune as well.

Of course there was so much shopping and the smell of leather was incredible.

Was so tempted to buy a leather jacket and tried on a few but just couldn’t do it. I was not that taken with the shoes either as they were all dead flat with no support in them. However the handbags. Now there was another story.

We got to the Ponti Vecchio and what a wonderful sight.

I think we timed it quite well as even though there were a few tourists it wasn’t too bad.

We walked over the bridge and could not get over the amount of gold and jewellery shops that lined each side of the bridge. In fact every shop on the bridge, both sides were gold and jewellery shops. It was amazing. We got to the other side and made the decision it was time for lunch.

It was extremely hot so found an air conditioned restaurant to eat in

Margarita pizza, the most delicious ever! Beats Franks and of course the obligatory Aperol.

Our waitress was absolutely gorgeous and cheeky and then found out it was Ro’s birthday and then we told her that Ro was marrying Stu so you can imagine the hilarity of the conversation.

Left the restaurant and started to head back the way we had come and when we got to the bridge they had closed the middle of the road off and lined the cobblestones with gold sheets.

It was to be a fashion show apparently and the models would be walking on the gold runway.

We squeezed down the side and came back through town.

Ro was on a shopping spree so we decided to split up and half of us went back to the car and came home while the others stayed for some serious shopping.

It was a fun day and so glad I went and saw Florence.

On the way out of town we walked past a Bar and here was a couple sitting having a glass of wine with their dog enjoying the evening with its own drink

Arrived back at the villa with a car full of shopping and Max and Alba had dinner ready and again we sat around the fabulous dinner table outside and had a very funny night.

It is now bedtime and looking forward to another day in heaven tomorrow


First day in our new Villa

After a very late night of drinks, stories, aperol and limoncello it was a bit of a slow start this morning.

Many cups of tea later it was on with the cossie and into the pool for the day.

A few of the crew went into town to do the shopping but it was a total chill out for me today.

This is what I have had to put up with whilst lying by the pool.

It has been a very relaxing day of laughter, swimming, chatting, shopping and just generally enjoying being under the Tuscan sun.

We are now sitting under the al fresco dining outside by the pool and having pre dinner drinks and playing cards while the boys are cooking the barbecue.

what a wonderful night it has been sitting around the table eating good food, laughing lots and enjoying this fabulous place

Another perfect day in paradise


Onto the next Villa

Very sad this morning as it was time to say farewell to all the fabulous people I have met and had lots of laughs this week.

I thought as it was the final day before we left I would post where we have ridden all this week. So enjoy.

As you can see we have traveled some kms and I feel so much fitter at the end of this week than I did at the beginning.

Now it is off to Lucca to be picked up by my brother and be whisked off down to Monticello to our next villa to start the birthday celebrations of the year!

What a lovely afternoon we had. Met Max at the cafe in Lucca and after a few coffees headed out of town.

Drove through beautiful Italian countryside all the way to Monticello stopping for lunch in a little cafe on the way

Eventually arrived at our villa and how stunning was the view

It was a very hot afternoon by the time we arrived at the villa. Julie and Joe has arrived and it wasn’t long before Nicci and Stephen and Ro and Nic and Ben arrived and we were all sitting around the pool having drinks and enjoying the summer evening. Julie and I went for a swim in the pool and then a huge surprise as Olaf (Stuart) arrived as a huge surprise for the celebrations.

Ro had booked us in for dinner at 8 in Monticello so we loaded up a couple of cars and headed into town for a beautiful dinner in the medieval town of Monticello

So the end of another fabulous day in Italy.

Tomorrow will be a chill out by the pool and total relaxation.

It is very late and am ready for shut eye

Buona notte

The last day of cycling

Am lying in bed late at night having had a huge day today. So tired will have to post in the morning.

Well what a day it was. Everyone up early for the most challenging of all our rides.

We cycled into Lucca and out the other side and headed for a little town called Buti. It was quite flat for a considerable way so I didn’t turn on my power.

It was a great ride and another beautiful day. We started to climb up into Buti so went to turn on my power and nothing happened. No power.

Kept cycling and had a terrible thought that I wouldn’t have power all day.

The climb started and Nick, one of the support team came up and rode beside me with his hand on my back giving me a boost up the hill.

It was so lovely of him to help me as the e-bike is a bit heavier than the other bikes so it was a bit of a slog up the hill.

Am proud to say I made it to Buti very red in the face but I did it. Apparently on an e-bike if you don’t turn it on it goes into shut down mode after a certain time and that is what happened.

We stopped in Buti for coffee and there was something happening there presumably over the weekend as all the doors in the town had blue rosette sort of things on their doors and in the town piazza they were setting up a huge stage. It was suggested it was for the local football (soccer) team celebrations which happens in each town.

We will never know as we headed out of town after our coffees.

This is where the hard bit started. We cycled 10kms up the side of the mountain with switchbacks and steep climbs all the way to the top. Thank goodness my bike was working.

You can see in the photo above the tower at the top of the mountain. That is were we were cycling to.

Even with a e-bike it was quite gruelling but I made it. I think the worst bit is that the constant riding in the saddle I had an extremely sore bum and bits!

yes that is were we came from!

Came around the corner at the top and there was a cafe/restaurant which we rested outside in the shade until everyone had caught up and were at the top. Only to be told we had another 2kms to the very top.

After sufficient cooling down and regrouping we set off for the top.

And then the best bit! 9 kms of all downhill, quite steep and lots of hairpin bends. I loved it. Going fast downhill is my favourite part of any ride.

It was a very quick trip to the bottom of the hill and then a few more kilometres ride back into Lucca and out the other side to a lovely little restaurant on the side of the road but when you got inside you could have been in another world. Beautiful setting under the trees in a garden.

My beautiful bike.

After lunch we then rode about 500m down the road for the obligatory gelato and then back to Lucca where we handed our bikes back.

It was quite sad to do that as it meant the end was coming to a wonderful week.

A few of us went and had an Aperol while waiting for our transport back to the villa.

As it was the last night we were having a big farewell dinner out at a restaurant so had a little while before we left to relax, start and pack and wonder how I had more things to fit in my suitcase than when I started out a week ago???

We all got quite dressed up and had Prosecco on the lawn before a group photo and off to the restaurant.

It was a local Trattoria that had been in the same family for 300 years and the food was fabulous.

One of the dishes was amazing. They wheeled it out on a trolley and it was a massive wheel of Pecorino cheese that the top had been cut off and a bit scooped out and they put all the pasta in this and just tossed it and tossed it and then served it. It was absolutely divine.

It was such a lovely night and have met so many wonderful people it will be very hard to say goodbye today.

Later on I will post the rides we did everyday.

So it is breakfast and off to the next destination

Goodbye from Lucca.