Sunday: Trieste

We said goodbye to our excellent Viareggio host, Roberto, and left for Trieste at about 9:30. It was a nice, sunny morning – perfect for our five-hour drive.We stopped in Rovigo, a city about three hours outside Viareggio and had lunch at Tavernetta Dante 1936, a small place where we were lucky to get a table. When we walked in and said we hadn’t called first, it looked at first as though we didn’t have a chance. After a moment, we were seated and content. The restaurant’s eight tables filled up quickly.The menu was included mainly fish dishes and we both decided on spaghetti with clams. Whenever I see tiny clams being served, it brings me back to my youth and growing up on the bay. Little clams there were seed clams and illegal to dig. This is certainly a different variety but I still reminisce about clamming in the bay.We continued our drive to Trieste, and it is so close to Slovenia we may check it out while we are here over the next few days. Now it is dark and we are happy to have easily found our Clams; a crazy 20€ ($25) lollipop at a rest stop; our neighborhood in Trieste at night

Wednesday: Viareggio

It rained for so long and so hard last night that the power was out this morning and water had come in under the balcony door in both of the two bedrooms in our house. Since the floors are a nicely finished wood, I dont think water comes in very often if at all. It seemed to be an unusually heavy and constant downpour.

Our host texted me first thing this morning to tell me where the circuit box is and how to reset the breaker. A half hour after I did that, it rained hard again and the power went out. I reset for a second time and we were good (= hot coffee).

It continued to pour most of the day, with thunderstorms regularly. We had planned to take the train to Cinque Terre today, but will try that tomorrow. Today we ran some errands, got food to make dinner, and hung out – a nice quiet day except for the rain hitting the roof.

photos: a lime tree across the street from where we are staying. The limes are huge and round; our Airbnb home; the scene almost all day today

Tuesday: Viareggio

Today we explored the seaport city and found that it is wonderful. It was a nicer day that yesterday, with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds.

We went to the yacht building area alongside the Tyrrhenian Sea and checked out some of the huge boats in progress, getting as close as we could near the off-limits work area. The nearby marina was chock-full of fantastic-looking boats. I cannot imagine what summer must be like here, since even with few tourists around (well, we saw none aside from ourselves) the city seems bursting at the seams.

We walked along the beach and the sea was sure acting like the ocean today, with waves one right after the other. The temperature seemed to be about 60 degrees F, and it would’ve been fun to take a dip if I had thought to toss my suit in the car.

We had lunch at Trattoria Giorgio, a charming restaurant that was on a side street from the beach. My spaghetti with squid was excellent, as was my traveling partner’s spaghetti with clams. In talking with the owner, we learned that his father started the restaurant fifty years ago. He got sad talking about his dad, who must have worked so hard to get the small restaurant going.

Yesterday, our Airbnb host suggested a patisserie in town, so we stopped there before going back to our rental house. Well, I jumped out of the car since there was nowhere to park and tons of traffic at 5pm.

photos: Viareggio looks a little llike parts of Florida. The bike lane is as busy as the road at some times of day; a part of the marina; a hangar for mbvaking huge yachts. There’s one in progress on the right.

Monday: Viareggio

It was bittersweet to leave Siena late this morning. Our hotel – Hotel Ravizza – was so comfortable and a great place to stay and Siena is a wonderful city. But we will be in Viareggio for the next few days and I’m sure we will live it there too.

We stopped for lunch in Pistoia, an old city about an hour from Viareggio. It is Monday, so many restaurants are closed but we found a good place for lunch and spent some time there since check-in for our Airbnb was at four o’clock.

We drove around Viareggio and checked out the marina. The largest and most expensive yachts in the world are made here by Benzetti boatyard. They are spectacular to see, but since it was pouring rain we couldn’t walk around at all. We will do that tomorrow.

We will also take the train one day to Cinque Terre to hike and see the five seaside villages and beautiful views. We are hoping for some nice days ahead after almost a week of rain but we will make it work regardless. For now we are settling in at Viareggio.

photos: seen along the way as we drove today – a farmer apparently has a sense of humor about hay bales; this evening’s view from our Viareggio home; little round eggplants for sale

Wednesday: Alba

Despite falling in love with Lyon, we left the city this morning. We would love to come back. For now, we are enjoying Alba, Italy.

Alba is about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Lyon and we stopped a few times along the way. We arrived in the city close to 4pm and initially had some trouble figuring our where our Airbnb actually was. The google directions put us in a busy piazza area. We finally figured it out and were delighted to check in to our Alba apartment.

Our host was kind and spent some time getting us situated. He told us that the white truffle festival is going on this weekend, so we are looking forward to crowds of people and some delicious food. He also let us know about the farmers markets going on three times a week and other cities in the area we may want to visit.

We walked around this evening to check out what’s around and bought some local salami from a butcher nearby, who also got us to try some hot peppers in olive oil. We ended the evening with some gelato, which cannot become a habit despite the shop being next door to where we are staying.

photos: the Italian Alps looking beautiful on a fall day

below: trying some hot red peppers

Alba this evening, the banner is for the Truffle Festival on Sunday

Wednesday/Thursday: Saint-Emilion

Our castle room is fantastic! What a lucky find on Airbnb.

Our hosts, Annick and Pierre, run the vineyard here and it has been in the family for four generations – five now that their son is out of college and actively working in the business.

We enjoyed a tour of their impressive wine-making operation where wine is still made traditionally – quite a tedious process from what we observed. Some of their equipment, like the numbered vats where the wine ferments – were made in the late 1800s. They produce about 45,000 bottles of wine annually. We tried some from 2016, 15, and 14, and liked it a lot. Yes, of course we got a few bottles to take with us.

Our small room in the castle is almost unbelievable, with ancient stone walls and very old solid wood furniture. It is much warmer here than in Ireland but the castle is probably naturally cool all the time. (It does not have wifi or television, and electrical outlets are scarce.)

Annick dropped off a fresh baguette and her own jam this morning and I met up with her after my run into town. (I thought I had woken up just before 7am, but with the time change it was actually an hour later. I guess I was tired after our long drive yesterday.) She is a schoolteacher and told me kids have school from 8-5 just four days a week, off on Wednesday.

We explored Saint-Emilion, full of many wine shops, cheese shops, and plenty of restaurants. The streets are very narrow and ancient, and sometimes tricky to walk on with their sharp, jutting rocks. It is beautiful and charming to walk around and very interesting to drive around. Grapes are harvested this time of year and workers are in the vineyards getting the job done.

photos: above – the door to our castle room.

below – wine vats from the 1800s, still used

bottles of wine produced by the vineyard