Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 30, 2015

Narrow solutions

Many Italian towns and cities have narrow streets, built long before there were cars. Italians are ingenious at finding solutions for providing services to town centres.

I spotted this fabulous orange delivery truck, with matching driver, in lovely Lucca.

Delivery van

delivery van Lucca

I also love the post vehicle.

post vehicle Lucca

Post vehicle Lucca

…and the amazing Ape can’t be left out. These little vehicles go everywhere and perform all kinds of useful tasks.

Ape in Forte dei Marmi

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 28, 2015

Monte San Savino, city of art and wine

The guide book informed us that Monte san Savino was a city of art and wine. It is also one of the first urban settlements in Tuscany. The town originated in 1100.

Monte San Savino

We entered the town through one of the arched portals to explore.

Monte san Savino

Monte san Savino was not very busy on the day we were there, and we didn’t see much evidence of art and wine, but there are some impressive buildings.

The Loggia dei Mercanti is attributed to Nanni di Baccio Bigio (great name). The interior rooms served as a granary at one stage and the loggia provided shelter for markets.

Monte san Savino

The Palazzo Pretorio dates from the first half of the 14th century and boasts a decorated tower.

Monte san Savino

The main piazza is a great meeting place for the locals.

Monte san Savino

Monte san Savino poet Giulio Salvadori has been immortalised.

Monte san Savino

The highlight for us was the beautiful Palazzo di Monte. It was built by the noble family Del Monte between 1515 and 1517. Its beautiful garden looks over the surrounding countryside.

Monte San Savino

Monte san Savino

Monte San Savino

On the way out of Monte san Savino we spotted this pretty garden. The owner clearly puts in lots of work here.

Monte san Savino

Monte san Savino is not the most spectacular Tuscan town we have visited, but it has its charms.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 24, 2015

Lucignano…Tuscan gem

The fortified Tuscan village of Lucignano with its elliptical shape and concentric roads is a charming place to visit. You can’t really see the shape when you are on the ground, so here is a map we found in the information centre.

Lucignano

We found a park just outside the walls an entered the town through one of the arched portals.

Lucingnano

Like most Tuscan towns the streets are lined with interesting stone buildings, churches and piazzas.

There are pretty gardens and sleepy cats.

We were there just a day before their annual Maggiolata ( May festival) was to take place and the town was decorated and buzzing, waiting for the action to happen. The population of around 3,500 people swells enormously to see the flower filled floats. They take months and thousands of geraniums to create.

We clearly need to return next year to see the fun. Here a a couple of photos from the town’s website…it really is a lovely little town, and quite close to Siena, Cortona and other great place to visit.

Lucignano

Lucignano

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 22, 2015

Faces in Oxford

When walking through Oxford it is always quite clear that you are being watched. Faces peer down from buildings and walls…

Oxford faces

 

Oxford faces

Oxford faces

Oxford faces

 

Oxford faces

I find these faces fascinating. Who sculpted them and why?

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 19, 2015

Excellent Oxford

My clever friend Poorna is doing her PhD in Oxford.  She invited me to stay on my way to Italy earlier this year. I jumped at the chance to revisit this gorgeous place.

I was there in February, the middle of winter. The weather was just as you would expect, cold and damp, but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. Oxford is a lively town, full of students of all ages from all over the world.

Oxford

The colleges, departments, libraries, accommodation and other facilities are scattered throughout the city centre. Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world and has a beautiful collection of buildings…from different centuries.

The Sheldonian Theatre was built by Christopher Wren between 1664 and 1668.

Oxford

The Bodleian Library, which includes the Radcliffe Camera and the Clarendon Building, is the largest university library system in the UK, with over a million volumes housed on over 120 miles of shelving. A tunnel under Broad St connects the buildings.

Oxford

Oxford

A cross in the middle of Broad St marks the spot where Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, Nicolas Ridley, Bishop of London and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury were burnt for their faith in 1555 and 1556.

Oxford

We visited the University Museum of Natural History in its huge Neo-Gothic building. Among many exotic delights they have the most complete remains of a dodo.

Oxford

There is lots of wonderful open space in and around the colleges. The botanic garden is the oldest in the UK. Even in the depths of winter, signs of spring were beginning to appear.

Oxford

Oxford

Oxford

Oxford

Oxford

I was delighted to see a fat little robin. He is the first one I have ever seen and he posed very nicely for me.

image

Oxford is a beautiful and interesting place to visit. I would love to be there on a fine spring day. Being an Oxford student must be an amazing experience.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 16, 2015

Lunch with Gaudi

Antoni Gaudi was prolific. Barcelona is dotted with his exotic constructions. Even after 2 visits to the city we haven’t managed to see them all.

One of the Gaudi buildings open to the public is La Pedrera, the magnificent apartments in the heart of the city. It was the last civil work designed by Gaudi and was built between 1906 and 1910 for Roser Segimon and her husband Pere Mila on the corner of the very fashionable Passeig de Gracia and Provence.

la Pedrera

It was actually called Casa Mila, but popularly known as La Pedrera, “The Quarry”.  The couple had their home on one floor and the others were rented. Pere died in 1940 and Roser continued to live on the main floor until her death in 1964, despite having sold the building in 1946.

It fell into disrepair but was restored after being bought be Caixa de Catalunya in 1986.

Now it is possible to visit parts of the building including an apartment which has been furnished with furniture of the period.

The building is structured around 2 courtyards that provide light to the 9 levels.

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

The shape of the exterior continues to the exterior, which caused friction between Gaudi and Mrs Mila. She complained there was no straight wall to place her Steinway piano. Gaudi’s response was “So play the violin”.

The apartment is a delight. I could happily move in any time.

La Pedrers

The attic, where the laundry rooms were located, was a clear room under a Catalan vault roof supported by 270 parabolic vaults.

La Pedrera

One of the most interesting parts of the building is the roof. It is crowned with skylights, staircase exits, fans and chimneys. The gorgeous sculptures have specific function.

La Pedrera

The view from the roof is excellent.

La Pedrera

There is an outdoor cafe at the base of the apartments, which we were disappointed to discover was full. It turned out to be a lucky thing because we found the stunning indoor version up a few steps.

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

 

The restaurant is very elegant and we thought the food would be expensive. We were delighted to find the 3 course lunch being offered for €18. It was beautifully presented as well as being delicious.

Of special note was a dessert with a thin toffee presented on an easel like a piece of art. We didn’t order it, but when it arrived at the table next to us the diners saw our interest and offered us a taste. It was flavoured with violets.

 

La Pedrera

Our kind waiter also saw our interest and brought us one of our own.

La Pedrera

We enjoyed our Gaudi day. Barcelona is full of amazing things…we will return.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 13, 2015

Eze…the eagle’s nest of the Cote d’Azure

We stopped in Eze, high above Monaco on the south coast of France for the night on the way back to Italy from Spain.

Eze

We stayed at a hotel at the bottom of the rocky hill where the town perches.

Eze

The entrance to the medieval village is through the Poterne, which actually means hidden door. In ancient times it was made up of a series of doors and a drawbridge over a moat. I guess you really had to want to get in back then.

Eze

Eze

It is different now, visitors are welcomed through the door into the Placette, small square at the beginning of the Rue Brec which goes towards the parish church. Enjoy a crepe on the way.

Eze

…and the view over the edge.

Eze

Eze

Eze clings to an arid rocky peak and has always suffered water shortages. Throughout its history the inhabitants were forced to draw water from one of the 2 village cisterns. In 1930 a fountain was installed, with the water being pumped from Bass Corniche on Eze canal. It wasn’t until 1952 that  a water supply reached the houses.

When you walk to the top of the town along the gorgeous stone streets lined with stone houses it is easy to see the difficulties there must have been to bring facilities to the residents. Life must be a bit easier now, and it would be a beautiful place to spend your days…take a look.

We found a restaurant with a view over the coast and watched the sun go down and the lights appear.

Eze

Eze

The restaurant had an outdoor terrace, but it was a bit too cool to be there…next time.

Eze

The next morning we were out bright and early to make our way all the way to the top of Eze to see the gardens.

After WWII the municipal council of Eze created a botanic garden with the help of Jean Gastaud, creator of the Exotic Garden of Monaco. Because of the poor soil and arid conditions cactuses, agaves and aloes were chosen with great success. Originally called the Exotic Garden, it was renamed Garden of Eze in 2004.

Eze

Eze

Eze

Eze

Eze

Above the gardens are the ruins of a castle built during the second half of the 12th century by a noble family of Eze. The castle was destroyed in 1706.

Eze

Eze

The views from the top make the steep climb worthwhile.

Eze

Eze

We had one last look at Eze on the way back to the main road, and home to Bagni di Lucca. This was our second visit to Eze, it won’t be the last.

Eze

Exquisite Eze.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 10, 2015

Fiat free Piazza Napoleone

The beautiful Piazza Napoleone in the centre of Lucca used to be a car park until 1998 when a smart mayor changed all that. Here it is back in the 1960s. Don’t you love all the little Fiats?

Lucca car park Piazza Napoleone

Nearly 2 centuries earlier Elisa Bacciocchi , who was princess of Lucca at the time, tore down a collection of medieval buildings to make room for a piazza in front of her palace, Palazzo Ducale. This was very unpopular, as one of the buildings was San Paolo church. There was almost a revolt in the town.

She named the piazza after her brother, Napoleon…no photos.

Now Piazza Napoleone is a wonderful open space that hosts a fabulous summer music festival…and other great things. In winter there is an ice skating rink and in summer, a Merry-go-Round. There are also markets at various times of the year.

Piazza Napoleone Lucca

Let’s hope it stays car free always.

In fact it is a good idea not to try driving inside the walls of Lucca. It is for locals only. There are cameras dotted around the town and if your car is photographed a fine will appear in the post for you a while later…an unwelcome arrival months after your holiday.

There are exceptions. If you are staying at a hotel in the centre,  the comune will be informed and it will be OK to park your car.

There are also a couple of car parks inside the walls where you can park after paying a small fee. One is just inside Porta S. Anna, another is near Porta Elisa and there is some parking at Porta Santa Maria. Unless you are certain that the area you drive in is OK, stay outside the walls.

There is lots to see in lovely Lucca…go to “Categories” on the right and click “Lucca” for more.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 7, 2015

A new adventure park for Bagni di Lucca

There is an exciting new adventure park in Bagni di Lucca. Canyon Park has opened at Scesta, near Cocciglia, on the Brennero road towards Abetone.

It is the first adventure park developed in a canyon in Italy. Lucky visitors will be able to go rafting on the river, use the fabulous zip line and wire suspension bridge across the canyon and other fun things.

Ruggero Mengoni took some great photos of the park’s first days…

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

 

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

 

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

I think this is a fabulous thing to happen in  Bagni di Lucca. I can see it being very popular with locals an visitors.

www.canyonpark.it

Phone…(39) 327 6153483

Photographs…www.ruggeromengoni.com

There are more photos on Bella Bagni di Lucca. Click here to take a look.

Canyon Park Bagni di Lucca

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 4, 2015

Saints by the sea

We stopped for a while on the way back from Spain to Italy at the pretty French seaside town of Les Saintes- Maries-de-la-Mer on the recommendation of our friend Maria, whose suggestions are always excellent.

Known as Villo de la Mar in the Middle Ages, it was on the site of a Roman fort that, according to legends, the Saints Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome, Martha, Mary Magdelene and their black servant Sarah, accompanied by Maximus, Lazarus and Sidonius, were shipwrecked on the wild shores of the Camargue.

Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe and Sarah remained after the other left to pursue different things. The spot where they were buried became an important site of worship and Christian pilgrimage.

The current church was built at the start of the 12th century, apparently on the ruins of a shrine. Then later it was fortified to provide the inhabitants with protection against the Corsairs.

Les Saintes-Maries

Saintes

Les Saintes-Maries

A well was dug within its precincts to provide water in time of siege. It is still in the church.

Les Saintes-Maries

The 2 Marys can be seen in their little boat.

Saintes

Les Saintes-Maries

Les Saintes-Maries

Sarah can be found in the crypt where she receives homage from pilgrims each year, especially gypsies who have adopted Sarah as their Patron Saint.

Les Saintes-Maries

We climbed the winding steps to the roof of the church for some great views of the town.

Les Saintes-Maries

The town is very popular in the warm months. There is a long, white sand beach and inviting blue water.

The town is very quaint and the main streets are lined with pretty shops, houses  and cafes.

On our way back to the car we came across an enthusiastic games of boules.

It is easy to see why so many people flock to the seaside and the Saintes Maries.

The Camargue area is full of rice paddies…I had no idea. We passed several on our way back to the highway.

Camargue is a beautiful and diverse area…don’t miss it if you come to the south of France.

Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

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