Friday: Viareggio

Today was mainly a relaxing day. I did some reading and some work, and we went to lunch in the city – the same restaurant as Tuesday since we liked it so much. I have been eating squid at every opportunity since it is so fresh and we don’t have it often/ever in the Midwest.

We did some planning for the weeks ahead and walked around the city.

Of course it was raining.

Photos (it was not much of a photo day, especially with no sun) – a typical apartment building in the city; my favorite food around here; our home here.

Saturday: Collodi

(I am not sure why this post came up blank for a few days, but I only realized it thanks to my friend, Daniela. I’ll summarize my original post.)

Collodi is an interesting and somewhat quirky little town and the place where Carlo Collodi created Pinocchio. It was on our way to Scandicci, where we will stay for the next five days, so we made a stop there.

What a delightful place. We walked around the gorgeous gardens of Garzoni – the 17th century estate built by one of the most important families of the time. Probably because it is so huge and expensive to maintain, some of the upkeep seems to have slacked off but the stairways and statues are beautiful. We enjoyed checking out the expansive grounds.

We had lunch at a cafe next door and then walked around seeing the cute Pinocchio-themed everything that is a huge part of the town’s livelihood.

We took a series of winding dirt roads to the absolutely perfect Tuscany villa where we are staying. If not for GPS, there would be no way to find Pinocchio is at the entrance to the town; the entrance to the gardens; waterfall statue at the GarzoniĀ  gardens

Wednesday: Saluzzo

We drove to Saluzzo today, a medieval city that is about an hour from where we are staying. The fog was very thick when we started, but as we drove up in the mountains a bit it became much clearer.

We got to Saluzzo on their big market day and many roads were closed off in the center of the city. We drove around for a while before finding parking on a side street – it seemed that everyone in Saluzzo was at the market.

We checked out what they were selling: meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and clothing, shoes, household items. The market was similar to the one in Alba on Saturday, but still fun to walk around.

We had wanted to tour La Castiglia, a castle there, but it was not open today. The ancient church was closed for a funeral. No matter – it was still quite a beautiful town to walk around. We bought some tomatoes and a couple kiwis.

We had lunch at a busy restaurant with a fantastic buffet. Again, it seemed as though everyone in town was there. We headed back to Alba after buying a few bakery treats at a forno – a bakery – we walked past as we went back to our car.

photos: the ancient city; at the market; decorated streets for a festival this weekend

Saturday: Cliffs of Moher

It was a wet, wet, wet day to visit the Cliffs, but since we are just in the area today, we went anyway.

The 45-minute drive there was pretty, as all drives around Ireland have tended to be. As we got closer, we saw more than a few large coach tour-buses. I guess rain won’t stop anyone’s plans.

There’s a short walk from the parking lot to the cliffs, and it gets more amazing with every step. We walked up the slick staircase to get the best look we could, but there were no puffins out today. Nor were there any other sea birds or the wild goats I had read about.

The cliffs themselves are fantastic, and I’m sure they could be unbelievable on a sunny day. The rain continued. We watched a short film at the visitors center and eventually left.

We had planned to have lunch at a nearby town, but it was deluged with tour buses so we kept driving and found a pub about a half- hour away. The sun came out at the end of the day and our Saturday was complete.

photos: a rainy, foggy day at the Cliffs.