Posted: 2009-09-24

Tuscany Excursions

Rita has a shop in Castagneto Carducci, and we went with her one day to drop off some wares.  There is a count who owns a castle and 12 kilometers of land just outside of town.  All sorts of celebrities vacation in this town including Tony Blair, Kate Moss, Mick Jagger, Sarah Ferguson, Harrison Ford and others, and some stay in the count’s castle.

Rita’s store

A view from the hilltop town of Castagneto - you can see the blue Mediterranean Sea in the distance

You can see the two towers of the count’s castle in the middle of the photo

One afternoon, Rita took us on a trip to Volterra.  We stopped first at an agri-turismo owned by her friend Giovanni.  An agri-turismo is kind of like a bed-and-breakfast on a farm.  Guests pay to stay on the farm and enjoy life out in the countryside.  Giovanni makes cheese, and his agri-turismo has a small shop where he sells cheese and wine and Rita’s products.  There is also a restaurant on the premises.  Rita had to talk business with Giovanni, so Chad, Giusi and I just chilled out on the terrace, enjoying the view.  Giovanni kindly sent a bottle of wine our way to help us pass the time. 

The view from the agri-turismo

Another Tuscan view

Relaxing at the agri-turismo

When we left the agri-turismo, we headed into Volterra.  Volterra is one of those quaint little Tuscan villages which spills down the side of a hill.  The town is known for its products made out of alabaster - lamps, jewelry, knick-knacks - and the sculpting of alabaster can be traced back to the Roman times.  More recently, Volterra has become famous for being the hometown of the Voltari vampires in the Twilight book series by Stephanie Meyer.

Here’s the city hall of Volterra where the Voltari vampires hold their council

Our farm was near the small village of Bibbona.  Rita had some extra bikes, so Chad and I rode to Bibbona one afternoon.  I had not been on a bike in 25 years, so I got off to a wobbly start.  Luckily, there is a little, gravel farm road the goes from our farm to Bibbona, so we were able to ride there without any car traffic.  (Car traffic takes the paved road about a kilometer away.)  We rode past grapevines and farms and barking dogs.  It was a nice ride.  Bibbona is a tiny village, but it has a pub with 150 types of beer.  Chad and I had a couple of beers and a couple of plates of prosciutto (cured ham) and cheese. 

By the time we left, it was dark outside, but there was a full moon.  We went back to our little farm road and hopped on our bikes to ride home by the light of the moon.  I made it about 50 feet when I lost control and flipped and landed on my back in the ditch.  The bike was on top of me with the wheels spinning in the air, but I was all twisted up and couldn’t push the bike off.  I was also laughing so hard that I couldn’t move.  I was stuck!  I was trying to yell, “Help, help!” but I couldn’t talk due to all of the laughter.  Chad came over and pulled the bike off of me.  I got up with leaves in my hair, and you would not believe the bruises on my legs.  After that, we walked our bikes home, all 5 kilometers.  The moral of the story is:  Don’t drink and drive.

Here I am enjoying my pre-wipe-out beer at the pub

The next day, we decided to go to the beach.  We were told it was just a 15- or 20-minute bike ride.  Well, as you can guess, I could not ride a bike the next day, because I was too sore.  We figured we would just walk.  Um, that was the longest walk of my life.  It was so far!  When we got to the little town by the sea, we had to re-fuel with some lunch.  Then we went to the beach for a little while.  Of course, the seaside town was so small that it didn’t have taxi service, so we had to walk home again.  Momma mia!  I was exhausted by the end of the afternoon.  But the day did not end there…

You have to walk through a forest of pine trees called “La Pineta” to get to the beach

That evening the whole gang piled in the car, and we went to Lucca, about an hour away by car.  Lucca is one of those towns which still has its old defensive wall circling the city center.  (No, I did not take a picture so you’ll just have to look for an image on Google.)  The top of the wall is very wide with rows of tall trees and people out for their evening stroll.  We had a fun dinner in a pizzeria and then walked through the town after dark.  It’s a beautiful town, well worth a visit.

The main cathedral in Lucca is built of white Carrara marble

-Julia Abbott



Crash and Burn!


Good agri-turismo photo. It looks like you belong. Wipe-out! Wasn't that a Beach Boys song? You give it a new meaning.


I wish I was drinking wine with you Juli! smile


So you proved that you can't drink and drive. I can just picture the scene now. Love the pic of you and Chad. Thanks for sharing. What wonderful memories you will have and I can't wait to hear all the other tidbits when we see you again.


I am so enjoying your pictures and comments, Bike riding is an art, not one to be taken lightly.

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