Montecatini Terme, Italy

So this is not what people think about when you mention you are going to Tuscany!

Located about 15 kilometeres from Pistoria or 30 km east of Lucca, this is one of the classic European spas with grand temples of health build in classical style. In the 1890's is was the place to be.

The three most famous of the spas: Tettuccio, Excelsior and Leopoldine were originally built in 1775 and then rebuilt in the 1920's.

Today it is still popular and there are plenty of expensive hotels to choose from. The waters have a purgative and laxative action, suitable for the care of gastroentenirale pathology. So as we drank from the many different fountains, a few of the "regulars" smiled at us and advised us not to drink too much!

The buildings all have sumptuously-decorated rooms, galleries, walks, colonnades and statues.

Montecatini Terme, ItalyThere is also a cablecar that takes people up to the small village of Montecatini Alto. Go early or make reservations as we found Montecantini Alto really fills up in the evening. The old centre on the top has a different feel. The main piazza is lined with bars and restaurants.

We stayed at the Hotel Belvedere, Viale F. Fedeli, 10 -- is is a large elegant hotel. Once inside, the rooms have been decorated in a striking modern style. The hotel staff there were extremely friendly and we would certain stay again.



Certosa di Firenza

The cloisters, not gothic in design, have a plain clean look with 66 unique Della Robbia terra-cotta heads.

It is actually called La Ceretosa del Galluzzo. It is located 5 km outside of Firenze. It was built in 1341 with its patrons being an important family of Florentine bankers. The various chapels have numerous works of art. The chair stalls took many many years to complete. One of the word carved doors took itself over 20 years to complete.

Certosa di Firenza



 Arezzo, Italy

Arezzo was one of the richest cities back in the Etruscan days. It lost is independence in 1384 when Florence annexed it. It still have fine buildings and a nice feeling about the town. Today it is the centre of Italy's jewelry industry - the actual gold capital of the country.

It was also the film set of one of Karen's number one movie: Roberto Benigni's La Vita e Bella.



Agricola Casentiese, Italy

It was hot hot hot and we searched for an agritruismo with a pool. We found a great one - the Argicola Casentinese located in the hills above Bibbiena.

The rooms are small and simple. Simple means of course no air conditioning. In the heat we were in this was a problem. But the pool was great, the meals some of the best we had on the entire. Good home cooking.


Poppi, Italy - CastleThe town of Poppi, located some 8 km away from Bibbiena is a beautiful town of arcaded streets and square.

The Castello dei conti Guidi in Poppi is a real treat to visit. Build by Count Guidi, it dates back to the 10th Century. It remained in the family until the 14th Century when it was lost to the Duke of Milan through some type of "bad alignment".

Inside the castle is an impressive external staircase decorated with the coat of arms of the family. The first floor of the castle is decorated with paintings and frescos of the 15th Century. The library is guarded. No photos. It is a massive room with books and papers right up to the ceiling.

Poppi, ItalyUnlike other castles and architecture of the area there has been little damage to the structure.

Our tour of Poppi ended with one of the best gelatos in all of Italy.







Prato Vechia, Italy Prato Vechia, Italy

Prato Vechia has the remains of another castle. Unfortunately it is in private ownership and was not open at the time.

The drive up to the top of the hill, however, was very scenic.



 Located about 38 km from Siena, this is the town that quickly comes into any conversation about a trip to Tuscany.

The town is completely enclosed by a 13th century wall that is over a mile in length. San Gimignano is known as the New York of Tuscany due to the fourteen towns, some of which are over 160 feet high.

The town, a virtually untouched medieval city-state -- untouched except for the hordes of tourists that arrive each day. But why not. the walls, gates, houses, towers and streets have all survived pretty much the same as they have been for hundreds of years.

Walk the main street and you are walking on what was, during the 9th and 13th centuries, the great Via Francigena -- the main road to the trade fairs of France. The road is known as the Via San Giovanni, and beyond the centre of the town, the Via San Matteo. It is lined with buildings and towers. There are the medieval palazzi and sights to keep you head a turning. We have been to this town a number of times and know that we will return again.

The Torri degli Ardinghelli (on the east side) and the Torre del Diavolo (on the north side) stand on the gentle slopping piazza dell Cisterna. In the middle there is a well that dates back to 1263. Grab a gelato and enjoy your time in the piazza. This is the Tuscan experience.


Alassio, Italy - view from our room.

Yes we are here again! We have been here many times, each visit reinforces the memories and the desire to return again. Alassio. Famous for its long quartz beach, one that is considered the finest beach in Liguria. The dry climate creates green orchards and olive groves.

The town was discovered by the English at the end of the last century. There are some grand villas and gardens that bring back the elegance of those years. Fortunately, while the town has been consistently popular, development did not take over the waterfront. The waterfront is lined with interesting and older buildings.Oh yes, Napoleon even spent a night here -- you just can't miss that fact as it is noted just about everywhere he went.

A regular past time is to walk the budello, or alley, known as the via XX Settembre. This street runs through the centre of the town, parallel to the beach. Between 4:30 and 7:30pm it is packed. Numerous places for ice cream. Some of the best in Italy are along this stretch. We can confirm that point!

On this trip we stayed at the Hotel Tirreno, (see Great Places to Stay) which is located right on the beach. This has become a favorite place for us and this was the second time we have stayed here. Previously, it was the Hotel Eden, but a little too popular we have not been able to get into the hotel for the past number of years. The Tirreno, a bit on the modern side, has very basic comfortable rooms,and most rooms have a patio and face right onto the beach. There just is nothing better than to sit on the patio with a drink and watch the evening light take over. The breakfast is included and just what you need to start the day.



Antibes, France

Back in France, this town was originally nanmed Antipolis by the Greeks.

The old core of the city is located behind a massive wall and is quite the lively place with numerous restaurants and cafes.

We had a great meal at L'Auberge Provencale, 61, Place Nationale. This restaurant has a large outdoor patio so it is great on summer evenings. Don't expect a quite stuffy restaurant. It is packed with people. Large trays of seafood make an endless procession from the kitchen.

And that brought an end to another great trip. It was off to the airport and then a mere 13 hours later we were back in Vancouver. Oh well, until next year!