Pietrasanta: A Weekend in Tuscany

Roman rain is dreary in January, which is why we escaped to slightly-warmer Spain over the weekend.

The Barcelona jaunt was short lived and being back in the land of unpredictable downpours and unreliable transport has me longing for summer in Tuscany.

Rome is photogenic if you get below its chaotic facade, but Tuscany is instantly picture perfect.

Seriously. These pictures looked staged, but all we were doing was strolling through the center of Pietrasanta.

Pietrasanta is also the single chicest place I have ever been.  The art was omnipresent. The people, with their obligatory fixed speed bikes outfitted with custom baskets, looked like they had just rolled out of a magazine. The boutiques were impeccably stocked.

Talk about lifestyle envy.

Pietrasanta is in the province of Lucca and is not far from the town of Lucca itself. I had hoped to see that Tuscan destination as well, but one look at Pietrasanta (and its well-heeled inhabitants) and I was hooked.

But as much as I was swayed by the superficial, the town is not all glossy veneer.  It’s home to international poets, photographers, sculptors and painters.  An art enclave, where the churches include Boteros rather than Caravaggios.

I can’t wait to go back!*

(*to shop!)**

(**When I win the lottery. Damn my expensive taste).


All the Answers

La bella vita

T contacted me the other day, subject: I NEED HELP.

Now, I don’t claim to have all the answers about making your dreams come true in Italy, but the tone of her email made me remember what is was like to be standing on the abyss of a move.

You don’t know where to find information. You think you’re doing the right thing but some people imply it’s the wrong thing. You worry about the language. You worry about the money. You worry about a lot things.

So for T, here are all of the answers (and none of the questions).

1. I moved as a student

2. I did NOT have a job but I did freelance for companies in the US at first. Now I do have a job. But it is super hard to plan anything FOR Italy while you are OUTSIDE of Italy. You will get there, but not until you are actually here.

3. I did have student loans, but I have paid them off since I moved here.

4. I knew Spanish, not Italian. I figured out Italian out of shame and a desire to be understood. Don’t under estimate the motivating factor that is shame.

5. I do not have a scooter. I think they are death traps. Have an Italian teach how to drive one.

6. I had a gym membership but it was so not worth it. Now I just use not-having-a-gym-membership as an excuse to buy lots of shoes because you will walk through all your shoes. You will walk everywhere.

7. You will eat better than you have in your entire life. There are no doritos or skittles to distract you. In fact, there few (delicious) processed snacks at all. So instead, you will eat real food. You will eat good food. You will eat normal portion sizes. So, it is certainly not some impossible task to have a healthy diet. In fact, it’s hard to avoid. Just don’t plan on eating a lot of non-Italian food unless you are very handy in the kitchen.

It’s going to be ok. In fact, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

[Ed Note 1: I didn't mean to imply that it was impossible to find processed food in Italy. See example. I meant instead that it is still easier to find unprocessed food in Italy than it is in the US, though the times they are a-changing]

[Ed Note 2: Coincidentally, Georgette just launched a feature where she offers real answers about living in Italy]

Looking forward to 2014

I am a few days tardier than those devoted souls known as ‘good bloggers,’ but it is finally the weekend. As I sit here with one too many espressi coursing through my veins, and a brief but furious downpour outside, I am trying to sketch out how I want to shape 2014.

(New Year’s Eve in Rome both looks and sounds a bit like a war zone)

If the first five days of the year are any indication of the next 360, my 2014 diet is heavily pasta-and-cheese based. Also some gelato. This is fine with me.

The last weeks of 2013 were spent split between three different continents, so to 2014 travel I say: bring it on.

Picking up where the 2013 mid-year roundoff left off, July to December was a continuing adventure:


Highlights of the year include: hiking a volcano with my sister, celebrating Bastille Day in Palazzo Farnese, sand boarding in Wadi Rum, watching 3 love stories play out at 3 weddings on 3 different continents, and the Munster Hurling Championship (of course).

Happy new year- may 2014 bring plenty of adventure!


Photo Friday: Pocket Coffee as Far as the Eye Can See

Now, I am fan of cigarette and beer vending machines

But this strictly Pocket Coffee contraption might be the most beautiful one yet.

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Winter in Rome

Whereas the ochre and terra cotta give Rome a sun kissed aura in summer, the city shows its age in winter. The fading colors and decaying structures are antiqued under a grey sky.

It was a good day for a walk.


Merry Christmas from Rome!

Today we had sunny skies, and tonight we had bright lights.

Merry Christmas from Rome!

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Photo Friday: Please Excuse the Dust


Exploring Tuscany: Bagno Vignoni

I love November in Tuscany.

November in Tuscany is cozy. It means olio nuovo, which is one of things I can’t live without!

The days can be rainy, or they can be surprisingly sunny, though always with a chill that nips straight through and makes you long for hearty soups and evenings by the fire.

But when you want to get out of the house, the best substitute for a fire in the hearth may well be terme- natural hot spas.

Bagno Vignoni is a village in San Quirico d’Orcia. It is a town of terme in the province of Siena, not far from Pienza.

As you can see, the town is so known for terme that even the main piazza is a pool of hot water.

We chose Hotel Posta Marcucci and bought a day pass to take a dip in their massive natural hot spring pools.

The pools are tiered, so if you can’t stand the heat, you can head to one of the lower pools where the water has cooled to a temperate 28C. The higher pools are around 38C. Perfect for gray November days.

After we worked up an appetite by, well, floating around and relaxing, we explored the tiny town.

As luck would have it, we didn’t have to wander far before we stumbled upon Il Loggiato and decided to stop for lunch.

After three years in Italy, this was one of my favorite meals.  Unsalted Tuscan bread, new olive oil, polenta, and mushroom soup.

I don’t even LIKE mushrooms, but this was one of the best things I have ever eaten.

So here’s to chilly days and hearty Italian soups to keep you warm after a tough day of terme. Cheers!

Il Loggiato
Via delle Sorgenti, 36
Bagno Vignoni, Italia
+39 0577888973


Photo Friday: Spaghetteria

Photo Friday: The Colors of Esquilino

Esquilino: one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rome.

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