God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Day to Wander

This morning Ken said "What should we do today?" It didn't take long--one look out the window--to know that this was a day meant to spend exploring. With a quick look at the map, Ken found a back route from here to Radda in Chianti that had mysteries yet to be discovered. So, grabbing the camera and simple light weight vests, off we went.

We took the mountain road leading to Figline, but, once through the roadside hamlet of Dudda, we took the almost dirt road turn off to Lucalena, which we found to be a small village with one little, little store and a scattering of homes. I was puzzled because I knew there was a highly regarded restaurant in Lucalena but it clearly was not in the village. A little further along the road, we found it in a typical, intriguing borgo with crumbling old stone farm structures -- Locanda Antica Borgo. But, it is closed right now except for weekends. I suspect that sometime after Easter it will come alive again as tourists return and the "season" begins and we no longer wander alone. The crowds we are beginning to see in Firenze have not yet reached the countryside.

After looking in the windows of the Locanda and walking around the borgo, we hopped back in the car and continued down the road. Before long we saw a little turn off to a place called Badia A Montemuro--surely worth a look as Badia means Abbey which usually translates into interesting.

Badia A Montemuro is quaint and intriguing with lovely views, trees with beautiful pink blossoms and picturesque corners and turns but with few vestiges left of an abbey or monastery. There was one small church with a stark but haunting crucifix on the stone wall by the closed door and then there are what perhaps are remains of another structure and some grass covered foundations. Obviously, whatever it was in time past has been decimated at some point in history--bombing, morter shells in WWII? battles between Siena and Firenze? Guelphs and Ghibbelines? Or maybe just too many churches and abbeys in too many small villages. If I could read Italian, I would spend time researching this little out of the way place.

After Badia, on the road to Radda, we saw a sign to a Parco Naturale--so, off we went to explore it and what a find it was.

It is a wonderful place for families and organizations to spend a special day in the summer--which I guess is the only time it is really open as the sign seemed to say July-August, but, maybe I missed something in the translation--quite possible. There is a lake with ducks and geese (?), animals of several ilk, a rifugio, albergo, restaurant, barbecues, swings, and more. It is very large and perfect for a hot day. We will bring Casey and maybe his friend Tommy here someday.

When we entered the parco, we had noticed a very rough memorial which simply in its appearance was moving. On the way out, we stopped to read it and found that it is a memorial to partisans who were martyred as they fought the Germans in WWII.

From here we enjoyed twisty, turning roads through forests not yet green with new leaves. It is amazing the things we see now which will be so well hidden once foliage returns.

In a few weeks, this empty, desirable stone house will hide behind the trees. I remember last December when suddenly we became aware of many things that had eluded us for months.

Eventually, we saw a sign to a restaurant that's been on our "must go to" list for months. So off we headed for Ristorante Badia a Coltibuono (Badia of the Good Harvest.)

This is a very well-known culinary destination which includes a prestigious cooking school. Having now eaten there, I know why. Pranzo (lunch) was outstanding. I had a simply prepared sea bass on a bed of spinach--outstanding and worth a trip back. Ken had cinghiale (boar) in a sweet and sour chocolate sauce which was excellent, regardless of what it sounds like. Service was excellent and the view spectacular. It was a wonderful way to top off our day of exploration.

We headed on back to Greve, arriving in time to pick up an 8 year old, having enjoyed our day of being nothing more than retired folk on excursion.


rowena said...

Hi Jane,
I was looking for some info on Osterio del Cucco (Urbania) and came across your post on Aug. 2006. Just wanted to say how much I appreciated your review on the place! My husband and I hope to visit next month for a change of scenery and Cucco will be on our minds when it's time to dine out. Sounds like a great little place!

Jane said...

Lucky you as this is a great little place to go. Remember, it is quite, quite small so you may want to reserve a table if going at night--or even lunch. We got there early for lunch but before we left, all (5) of the tables were full.