2012: # 2 OF A SERIES:
After enjoying a satisfying breakfast at Albergo Scilla in Sovana, southwest Tuscany, we loaded our luggage into the car and traveled westward toward the Mediterranean. Our drive through the winding back roads of Tuscan countryside provided us with a kaleidoscope of sights…cypress trees, wild flowers, farmhouses, vineyards, olive groves and an occasional flock of sheep dotting the hillsides.
When we reached the sea, we headed north toward Viareggio, interrupting our journey with a delightful detour. We had read about the village of Bolgheri, its reputation for fine wine and Giosue Carducci's poem describing the cypresses along the approach to the town. The latter, symbols of Tuscany, greeted us. For five kilometers these majestic cipressi (cypress trees) stood tall like sentinels, guarding the entrance to the village. The village itself is a medieval town
with shops and places to eat, offering visitors prodotti tipici (typical products). Whenever this sign appears one has the golden opportunity of tasting local specialties. And we did, sampling a variety of delicacies: liver pate, olive spread, tomato topping and red pepper, all served over grilled bread, along with prosciutto, salami, several slices of different cheeses, pickled onions, olives artichokes, vegetables with olive oil, cannellini and the largest, tastiest sun dried tomatoes ever.
Accompanying all this was a glass of extraordinary red wine produced by Donna Fittipaldi. We were so impressed by the wine that we bought a bottle to take to Guido and Simonetta, our friends at Casa Bellavista.
After lunch it was back through the tunnel of cipressi and on to Pisa. As we approached the city we followed a couple of tour busses and let them escort us to a parking lot near the Campo dei Miracoli. After walking past vendor upon vendor upon vendor of Leaning Tower souvenirs, we passed through an arch to the Campo dei Miracoli and a breathtaking view of a triple treat, the Duomo, Baptistery and Tower. The sheer vastness of the space, the magnificent architecture and the amazing decorative and symbolic details of each building made the walk along “vendor row” worthwhile.
Following our visit to the Campo dei Miracoli, we drove to Viareggio, a delightful city, which hugs the Mediterranean Sea. It is clean and beautiful, offering its visitors an interesting panorama of art nouveau architecture, pines and palms.
We checked into the Tirrenia, a charming boutique hotel, managed for forty seven years by the same man and his wife, who mixed with the guests and added cordiality and great customer service to the comfortable, colorful surroundings. We drank a glass of wine on the balcony of our room and watched the sunset until our evening passeggiata lead us down the promenade past beautiful art nouveau buildings and interesting shops.
We reached Gran Caffe` Margherita and our much anticipated dinner. The Caffe` itself is a work of art. Its ceilings, balcony and walls feature beautiful ceramic decorations with magnificent patterns and colors in yellow, green and blue.
We opted for alfresco dining so that we could enjoy the warm evening. We sipped wine leisurely as we studied the menu. At last we made our decisions...for me, spaghetti con frutti di mare, which was a wonderful blending of shrimp, clams and calamari in a hearty broth. Edie ordered a maccheroni con verdure e funghi in salsa di vino (small squares of pasta with vegetables and porcini mushrooms in a delicious wine sauce). We were equally pleased with our choices. Then we selected verdure alla griglia (grilled vegetables), which were perfect. To put a cap on our dining experience we concluded with caffe` correto, one with amaretto and one with grappa.
After a pleasant night’s rest, we packed our bags and headed downstairs, where we were greeted with the most abundant presentation of breakfast foods we have ever seen: meats, cheeses, cereals, a variety of breads and pastries, a fruit compote, a basket of fresh fruits, eggs, juices, coffee and more.
Our trip to Viareggio had been fun…a special dinner, a fantastic breakfast. Today’s travels would take us past the many marble works of Viareggio and over the mighty mountains of the Garfagnana to our next adventure as we travelled Tuscany “from one meal to the next”.
Dave and Edie www.fototoscana.com