The hills are alive with snow capped mountains

OMG what a day.

Had the best nights sleep and after breakfast we wandered through the amazing castle that is above and around Vinadio.

We headed out of town towards Guillaumes which is on the French side of the alps.

Amazing drive. Hairpin bends, single road and lots of motor bikes and cyclists. We climbed up to 2235m and cyclists were cycling up those mountains.

There were amazing sites of looking back down the valleys and villages and monasteries built on the side of mountains.

Some of the most spectacular scenery and it only got better.

We got to the top at 2235m and there was the French border and we were right at the top of a ski slope with the top of ski lift right there.

While we were driving up the mountains we saw a lot of little furry animals that I thought looked like beavers. Thank you Mr Google They were Marmots which are common to alpine areas. When we got to the top there was a big statue of an Alpine Ibex which are also common to this area

Very flamboyant antlers but you still got the idea!

We crossed the border

Funny! They call France the cote d’zur.

Driving down the other side of the mountain you could see all the ski lifts and ski runs. It was huge.

On the way down a baby deer (bambi) ran out in front of us So by the time we reached the bottom of that mountain we had seen heaps of wild life.

The road just kept going up one mountain then down the other side and up the next one. All of it totally spectacular.

We only had 98kms to go from Vinadio to Guillaumes but it took all day due to only one car fitting at a time, hairpin bends, no barriers and speed limit of 20-30kms ph.

Villages on the side of mountains

Amazing bridges to cross

And of course all the mountains still had a bit of snow on them. We reached the snow line a few times and I got out of the car in my shorts, T-shirt and thongs.

We arrived at Guillaumes for lunch and what a pretty town it was set between the mountains. It was a medieval town as well. Had a little walk around

Found a lovely cafe for lunch and in walked 2 Australians from Melbourne. Had a chat and a lovely lunch with a very cheeky waitress who I think was the owner.

Off we headed for Barcelonette which was only 62kms away but we had to cross another mountain so took us an hour and a half to get there.

Again truly spectacular scenery and some amazing tunnels that they had cut into the side of the mountain to continue the road.

This time I got out of the car and put my feet in the snow

Wasnt cold at all. I have been taking photos of the beautiful alpine flowers

It was the most amazing day of incredible scenery that I have only seen in movies or on chocolate boxes. Absolutely beautiful.

Unfortunately the photos don’t do it justice.

We came down and are now in a bar in Barcelonette as when we arrived it started pouring with rain so checked into our little hotel and found a bar out of the rain.

Every time I come to France it is overcast and raining. At least it is warm.

Hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow. This is the first rain I have seen since being in Europe.

Have been sitting in the bar for a while and it is full of English cyclists who have all been cycling the mountains today. Huge effort.

The rain has stopped, we have got our bags out of the car and had a shower. I have my leggings and my French striped jumper on, to fit in with the French as well as my Flanders poppy scarf so feeling very French.

It is a tad chilly here in France but I am sure, being the eternal optimist and am sure tomorrow will go back to the hot Italian weather.

We have had a wonderful dinner in Barcelonette and it is now time for bed

Buon nuit mes amis

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

Caio

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.

Ciao

Monticchiello

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.

Caio