24 – 25 May: Hello Tuscany…

Author: Mr A

Location: Barga, Tuscany, Italy

Friday: We left the Cinque Terre behind and headed inland into north western Tuscany. Catherine (navigator extraordinaire) had spotted on one of the apps that we use to find camps a winery that was welcoming motorhomes to come and stay on their property. Sosta La Cantina del Vino is also a 5 minute walk from “One of the most beautiful villages in Italy” the hilltop town of Barga, close to Lucca.

We were greeted so warmly when we arrived, and set up on their lush front lawn, power and water on hand, and invited to a wine tasting later in the day. That’s not a bad start for our first day’s exploration of Tuscany!

The village awaited so we walked in and I dived into the first providore I spotted, to be offered wine to taste and local produce…its just gets better.

When in doubt ply your customers with Chianti when they visit!
A local artist paints inside to classical music

A wander up to the old part of town and a cafe in a quiet courtyard just couldn’t be resisted.

The self proclaimed unofficial cultural centre of Bargo – Da Aristo di Togneri Lorenzo

We tried the local bean, lentil and potato soup, just delicious. Some local cats even decided to let us get our feline fix. 

I carried on to sample local cheeses and meats, then we rolled down the hill to camp.

I decided to take a quick explore on the bike. Thank goodness for that Bosch engine I would have never have made it up these hills so quickly and seen so much.

Endless picturesque lanes to explore

I still burnt a few calories though and worked up a thirst for wine tasting. What a grand affair this was, with Prosecco, then rosato then a Chianti, with each wine local delicacies were served.

Not your usual tasting

The nibbles kept on coming

We shared the tasting with the occupants of a couple of other motorhomes that were parked there as well. It was quite an international evening with Germans, an Israeli, Italians and us with a couple of nationalities to chose from. Sometimes we play the Australian card, as Brits dont seem to be too popular right now in Europe. It’s more of a shaking of heads and some quizzical eyebrows and wishing them the best of luck on their separate path post Brexit.

Saturday: We had arrived in low cloud, but waking the next morning this view had opened up.

A fine view to wake up to

Wow – after spending so many years in a country that’s basically flat with a few bumps, it thrills us to see mountains like this. I headed off into the village to source breakfast and discovered it was market day. Catherine’s “fear of missing out” kicked in and she joined me to pick up some local goodies.

Plenty of fresh produce to choose from

Following a delicious lunch consisting of some of our fresh purchases, we went out for a ride on the bikes to explore more of the area, enjoying the gorgeous spring sunshine and perfect temperatures in the early 20s.

The Duomo of Barga – 11th-16th centuries – a good example of Romanesque architecture
Th limestone church was restored in the early 1900s following extensive earthquake damage
Fabulous view from outside the church – twice a year there is a double sunset viewed from here through an archway in the mountain across the valley
A large moth hanging out in town
In the Middle Ages, Barga was known for is manufacture of silk

The further out you ride, the greater the views become, incredible vistas with the mountain ranges looming high over the town

Barga, perched up on the hillside
Pania della Croce, a mountain of the Apuane Alps dominates the skyline

I watch life in Tuscany unfold, trying to figure out what’s peculiar to the region, so what is different about people’s lives here and what’s universally the same. One of the main joys of travel for me. Striking up conversations and learning what I can. I think the big difference seems to be the rhythm of the day, with many, but not all, businesses closing for an afternoon break (the “riposa”). Some said they use the time to return home to family if possible, then head back to work mid afternoon. Family time seems to be given higher priority, and lives seem the richer for it. However, to close your business when so many tourists are passing its door and want to spend money when suits them is a brave decision. Some say the tradition is dying away, but I saw no evidence of that in this town in Tuscany with around 80% of business closed for several hours while us tourists marched past with a hungry look in shop windows.

Sunday: It was time to leave, and that meant no HGVs on the roads today, another pleasant change from what we’re used to in Australia. They are banned in Italy from Sunday travel at slightly different times depending on the time of year. What a relief on some of these twisty roads! We are now heading into Lucca, but that’s for Catherine to share.

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