Cooking up a storm

First of all last night we had the biggest storm and I was awake for ages. It started about 2 and continued for about 3hours A one point it sounded like canons being fired down the streets.
So after a not very good night sleep we headed  off to find a taxi. I was very proud of myself because I managed to ring for a taxi and spoke to the operator in Italian

Pat and I did the most wonderful cooking class. I saw it advertised and sent an email to Paolo Monti and arranged to go today. It was held at an hotel about 20 mins from Lucca . We met chef Paolo and he was a typical Italian -short and charming man. The were 3 others – Pam and Peter from NY and Wendy from England. 

Well we were straight into it. There was a booklet with 3 starters, 3 pasta sauces and 3 main course. We  thought we would just be doing 1 of each but no Chef Paolo had other ideas and we were set to work chopping etc and got the sauces under way . The dolce started and various other tasks. He was so organised with a wicked sense of humour! 
We sat down to start eating around 12.30 and then had a break  to get the next part ready. By 3 we were full – of food , wine and great ideas for cooking. 

Some of the food included a lettuce sauce for prawn and pasta, a cooked tomato sauce to make other things to , a raw tomato sauce with basil on pasta:  porcini mushroom, shrimp and garlic sauce: lemon sauce for pork: , red wine, Marsala balsamic sauce with grapes reduction for beef,: fennel and orange salad topped with shrimp, caper berries:   mussels with vegetable garliccream , wine and Pernod ! Yum! 

I can’t tell you what a wonderful time we had. So much fun, so much cooking, so much food. Needless to say we didn’t eat a thing for the rest of the day. We went for a late passeggiata and around 9.30 had a  lemoncello (and listened to some jazz), purely for medicinal purposes ! It aids digestion. This I know as we went on a little tasting yesterday and limonchino was one we tried ( and bought) . 

Catherine arrives tomorrow and sadly Pat leaves. She has been great company and I’m sorry to say goodbye to her. 

Beautiful Barga

Woke early! Walked to the bus station near one of the ancient gates and bought the tickets ( all in Italian of course, by ourselves)

The bus ride takes  about an hour driving through a valley which changes from light industrial to pretty river, to power station , back to little towns. Then the climb up the hills to Barga. Steep corners and the bus tooting  as it approaches each corner. Quite entertaining.
We arrived at the old town gate and started to walk . Up. It’s a lovely quiet town with winding streets all leading to the Duomo on the very top of the hill. It so beautiful and quiet and much be gorgeous in winter in the snow.

We had coffee on a verandah overlooking   the valley and checked out the numerous roof tops and then the art shops. We wandered through the churches and up and down the streets …. Then had lunch. Yum. Ricotta  spinach pasta.

Got back to Lucca around 4 and strolled home. Now washing and writing and having wine. Tonight another concert. This one across the road at the music academy. We have been listening to the rehearsals  for two days so thought we should go to the live concert!

More later. In case your are missing photos…. Check out Facebook . I am having a vesper spotting competition 

LUCCA is lovely

Monday morning we set off for the  bus station to take the bus to Barga- but took a wrong turn and missed the bus. Not entirely true. We didn’t check the timetable and were aiming for the 10 am bus. But there wasnt  one! So we went toBagni da Lucca instead.
It has a reputation as a spa town set on a river.

The town is in two parts set along a river. We went to the top town first and went into a hotel to get a map. My Italian was good enough to ask the man for a map and get his suggestions for what we should see. He was very willing to chat but his onion breath put us off and we were back on the sunny street before too long. We stopped for coffee and planned our walk. It was a strange little town . Very quiet and you could hardly see the river. The buildings were all along it , so we trudged up and around the river. Very disappointing . We walked through the gardens and then decided to walk down to the lower town. I was all for hitch hiking to save ourselves a 1 k walk in the very hot sun along the narrow road but Pat and common sense prevailed!

We poked around the lower town , had lunch and got the bus back to Lucca. I’m glad we’re not staying there . No decent piazza!

We rested up before our evening glass of prosecco then headed out for a stroll. Or passeggiata. We had dinner at a great little restaurant Pat had been told about. I had breast of quail with vegetables. Delicious.
We decided to try the tiramisu . Nice but too creamy. We’ll have to try again!


Today we hired bikes and ride around the wall. It was such a lovely day. Blue sky, cool breeze an lots to look at. Mothers strolling with babies, men of all shapes and sizes jogging, some very attractive young ladies keeping their figures trim, older nonnas strolling and talking, some sitting in the shade reading. All sharing the space together. We finished by riding around the streets – the quieter ones –  sightseeing as we went.
After the post ride coffee I returned to the apartment to shower and visit the language school and Pat went to visit Pfanner Palazzo and for a spot of shopping. The leather shops here are just amazing. Bags of every style in the most gorgeous colours. Orange being my personal favourite. When I was here with Catherine and Margaret about 4 years ago I bought an orange bag for Marg my sister in law. They are still beautiful.
Tonight we had a vino and went to a Puccini concert in a church. A young couple soprano and bass put on a very good  performance. We followed this with lovely food at Gigi.
Tomorrow we are trying Barga again. This time with  a timetable check.

White Night

What a night it was! Thousands of people mostly locals all wandering around the town. Bands playing different styles of music in each piazza. People eating , dancing, kids chasing balloons, shops  selling full on late into the night. . We had dinner in the ancient Anfiteatre with a band belting out old favourites.
Then just on midnight a spectacular light show . A real one -as finally Lucca was going to get some rain. And down it came about 12.30am just as we got home.
It poured for a few hours so I can only imagine  how soaked everyone got.
Took ages to go to sleep listening to the rain , the people and the sirens.
Our apartment here is in an ancient building on the 3 rd floor opposite the Guigni tower. It’s 2 bedroom, spotless, views over the roof tops and free wifi!

We are also opposite an old church with Pucini concerts each evening -so that’s where we will be at least one night this week.

The next morning it was COOL so after breakfast  we walked around the walls of Lucca. For those who know Lucca you know how beautiful that is.  It was fresh and shaded as the sun came out. Lots of bikes but today we walked. It was gorgeous.
Finished with coffee and back to the apartment to freshen up for the afternoon activities which included a stroll around the rain washed streets. The shops stayed closed  all day so things were quiet.
Saw lots of art students drawing and painting and I thought I really should be getting my sketch book book out. Di Kelly gave me a lovely little sketch book to encourage some drawing. I will do it !

In the evening we found a lovely little trattoria called Sergios and it was a really good family run place. I had wild boar stew with polenta. Yum

Tomorrow will visit the language school which happens to around the corner!
Then a bus ride to nearby Barga

Ci vediamo readers

Lerici to Lucca

Up in time to pack,  tidy up and have coffee with the 2 nonnas at the bar near the Castillo. Over the last few days they have come to expect to see us each day for a cool drink after our walk up hill. Today it’s arrivederci as we struggle down with our bags.

Got Lericis best taxi driver. He chatted to us all the way to Sarzanna -in Italian ( and a little English)
He was so nice and so loves this area. Told us all the things we should be staying on to see and do. Yes it is a beautiful area and not  over run with tourists. Almost everyone on holidays are  from areas north of here -including Milan.

Got the train -no problems and are now in a lovely apartment just across the road from Luccas famous Guinigi Tower.
More later as I should sleep because tonight is white night -where everything goes all night!

Oh what a night!

Sagra in La Serra

Ieri sera
_last night we went to a Sagra -a kind if food festival in a little village . This one was in a town I had visited before when staying with my niece Berti two years ago. It was a snail Sagra! Each village has one in summer and choose one type of food The Sagra lasts 3 days.
We arrived late after Prosecco in Lerici. At about 9pm we joined the queue to buy tickets  . Met a lovely German girl who told us a few things about the Sagra. Then the fun started. We found a table of people to sit with -in the middle of a long table and it wasn’t long before we got talking to the couple around us including a lovely couple from Milano and a funny couple from nearby San Terenzo.
Ragaazzi  swaggering, lights in trees twinkling, music blaring, young lovers kissing, people slurping snails, and seafood, mopping up the  juices with slabs of  bread. Young waiters in blue helping  out. Drinks flowing, cigarette smoke twirling and people young and old heading onto the dance floor including ME!
At midnight Pat  ( and I guessI) had worn ourselves out and didn’t know if we could get a bus or taxi back to Lerici several miles away. I tried to hitch a lift with Franco but his wife wasn’t keen and he only had a bike! Then we met a lovely young woman and when we asked her to phone a taxi for us she said she was going to Lerici. So lucky us-it all turned out ok!

We got back to our village and the film festival was in full swing so we joined all the crowds eating gelato and had one before our 80 step climb home to bed!

Little sleep in before our morning swim. Quiet lunch in our apartment sleep then more Prosecco
dinner and then we went to the outdoor cinema.
Lots of people walking along the sea front, children squealing on the carousel, rows of white chairs facing the large outdoor screen with the twinkling lights of the Golf de Poeti in the background.
Short films ( some with subtitles) some good some silly, one scary. 80 steps home to bed. We leave this lovely place tomorrow morning. Saturday.

Lovely Lerici

Hello Readers
It’s been awhile and the reason is – it’s  just so beautiful here and we are so laid back I find it hard to get to the wine bar to get my free dose of wifi.
We are swimming daily with the nonnas. They are gorgeous to watch – and we are loving observing them. There’s a lot to be said for a daily swim and chat.
This is followed by cafe and sometimes gelati!
We went to the Cinque Terre yesterday by boat. A very good way to see it and reminded me of ten years ago when I was here with Wendy and Ginetta.
It was very busy and so hot. We got our own deck chair and umbrella at Monterossa and we wanted to swim. The water is blue , aqua but not as clean here as in Lerici!
Tonight we are off to dinner at a lovely enotecca and then a jazz and blues session at one of the cafes

Oops I can here the bells and they are chiming ave Maria. It happens at 8pm every night. Bliss

As we sit here sipping Prosecco I can see the little blue train making it rounds along to the next beach, people back from the beach dressing up for dinner, music from the cafe, gelati eating kids, A man in a bright pink shirt and white shorts looking very gorgeous, ladies in white linen, a few English tourists smiling, boats bobbing, lights starting to come on as it’s 8.15, children playing games, people reading menus,  all of it entrancing.
Tomorrow we are going to go to the nearby island Palmaria for a swim and lunch. Then in the evening  to a nearby village for the Sagra – a summer festival kind of night and they focus on a food. This one is snails!
I’m sitting in my new vestiti de  cotone , molti colori con  fiore ( cotton flowered dress)

Hope you are all well. Send email or comments – its lovely hearing from you .

Last day in England

We toured Canterbury Cathedral and were in awe at the size and sense of majesty. It’s the place where Thomas Beckett was killed and has been thoughtfully restored.
After leaving town we headed for Rochester and the start of Steve’s nostalgia trip. He has done so much research on the background of his Grandfather and has written and published the history of his Grandfather and family, after he and sister Marg made a trip there several years ago.
Rochester is a very pleasant small town south of London .

 We walked around the town, saw the castle and the rather lovely Cathedral had coffee and far welled Pip. She is returning to London for 2 more days before heading off to NY. We’ve had a great time with her along. She has a great sense of humour and we had lots of laughs together….and the line ‘I love Murphy’s” became our catch cry . It came from Ireland where we overheard a young boy plaintively telling his mum “I love Murphy’s” as he passed the ice cream shop (made by Murphy’s of course!)  ……you had to be there.

After leaving Pip we continued the tour . The hospital  where his uncle was brought when he died falling from a cliff. The cliff itself, the various houses…..etc….. It was interesting and mad my little trip to McGann’s pub look very insignificant.

We drove on to Crawley in the late afternoon and met up with Pat my friend coming to Italy with me. We hd dinner and now I  use get to bed.

So , domani Italia…… Buona Sera.

Brighton to Canterbury

We had a wonderful night in our new room and headed off to buy a new camera and get to Brighton for fish and chips.

Brighton is something else. Big and busy and loads of people with many  tattoos and few teeth.
The pier was really great – lots of fun things to do and we tried to do them all!
We particularly liked this one of me saving life saver Steve.