Tuscany, Italy

Northern Tuscany walking tour Day 1


Tomorrow we will make our way to join our walking group at the Pisa Airport.  The Exodus folks will pick us all up there and take us to Braccicorti where our home base will be located.

The farm house where we will be staying.

After meeting up with the rest of the group and our guide Sarah at the Pisa Airport, we drove about an hour and a half up into the hills to the farm.  What a beautiful, pastoral place, the sun was shining and the birds are singing.  There are only 7 in our group, 4 from Great Briton 1 Australian and us two Canadians.  We have had the afternoon to settle in, and wander about, our room is lovely with old stone walls.


I went for a walk while Peter rested – he is on the mend thank goodness.  I found a lovely wooded walk that took me to the golf course that is on the property. It’s the last thing I was expecting to see here, but there ya go.

We will meet up for a hike briefing at 7 pm then dinner.  The farm is gorgeous, authentic but with all the amenities.  Our guide Sarah looks like a marathon runner, sure hope that doesn’t mean we are in trouble!

Day 2 Hiking in Tuscany

Today’s walk was through the Orecchiella National Park to Pania di Corfino – a circle route.  A 20 min drive took us to our beginning. After 2 hours of climbing, I realized this is not a walk, this is a hike and what was I thinking!  No doubt this was a little more than I had anticipated coupled with having Peter’s cold moved on to me.  We had quite a day, sunshine, wind, hail storm with thunder, snow and rain. . we had it all.  At mid day there was a little lunch place that was open so that we could get warm before the trek back down the mountain. The path down was an old mule path and quite treacherous with loose rock and constant decline.  But… we did it!  Our guide Sara was great, kept to a good pace and little stops along the way.

Our guide Sara and her dog Elvis. It’s anyone’s guess what he is made up of and he is very sweet. Behind her is John who is an inspiration to us – 79 years old.

There is one English gentleman in our group that is amazing, he’s got 15 years on us and was the most fit of all, often singing away to the group, I couldn’t even talk!  We have a GP and Veterinarian and a psychiatrist in our group so injuries would be covered.  I was the slowest in the group going up hill but no one seems to care thank goodness. Peter took the photos today.  All I could do was put one foot in front of the other. The trek was 13 km’s, with an ascent of 603m and descent the same. Total altitude was 1603m.  The trek took us 6 hours.

We’ll find out tonight what the hike will be for tomorrow.  I expect we will sleep very well tonight!

Day 3 Hiking in Tuscany


Today’s hike was as expected, a tough one.  Not only was the hike challenging but I managed to tweek my knee coming down the mountain yesterday and this cold I have continues.  But off we went. This hike was up to a mountain peak loosely translating to “Dead Man Sleeping”  It was a climb up that included what our guide called, a “scramble” which I now understand to mean hands and knees mountain climb.  While it was a tough ascent, the view really was worth it and I felt like I had truly accomplish something.  16,850 steps according to my Fitbit. Peter was in his element.

Unfortunately the hike back down was extremely rough and did my knee no favors. We all went out to an amazing restaurant in the village below the farm, we practiced our Italian, ordering from the menu.  It was of course authentic and delicious.

Day 4 Hiking in Tuscany

Today’s hike was with one of the family of  Braccicorti, Pierluigi.  He took us on a farm and village walk and really helped to tie together how this part of the world lives and works.

Our guide talks with his hands, so Italian.

This walk was our longest for the trip.  19.6 kms and 24,050 steps according to Fitbit.  The good news was that it was on good footing and my knee was able to manage without too much trouble.  One thing that I have discovered is the benefit of walking poles, they are my new best friend!

Me and my new stick friends after 19.6 km’s.

The walk had been described as undulating, which means some up, some flat, some downhill so not too bad at all.  One of the most important agricultural products in this area of Italy are Chestnuts.  There are Chestnut woods everywhere.  The chestnuts are harvested in October and kept in stone buildings through out the area. The building is heated with a fire fueled by chestnut tree wood and kept going for 40 days.  After that the chestnuts are shelled and used fresh, or ground for flour to make breads and cakes.  They also keep bees in the chestnut woods and make very different flavored honey.  During the WWII it was chestnuts that kept many people alive when the armies came through taking all the food.  The elders call the chestnut the bread of life nut.

Day 5 Hiking in Tuscany

Today was our free day and a good thing it was as this cold got the better of me, other than a little afternoon walk it was a super quiet day.

Day 6 Hiking Tuscany

Back to hiking today but sadly not for me, I just don’t have enough breath yet so have sent Peter out with instructions to take lots of photo’s.  If one must be grounded, this is a pretty nice place to be grounded to. I spent the day reading, a bit of writing, a walk up to the golf course and enjoying the sun pool side.  Not so shabby.

Peter had a great day hiking with the group.


Today there were some sheer cliffs and they even found some snow.

Day 7 Hiking in Tuscany

Today I chose to do a flatter walk around the reservoir while the rest climbed the mountain. My chest cold is still dragging on unfortunately. The walk was a little bizarre, you paid at the turnstile to do the walk, I was the only customer. Apparently the new mayor of this village wants to build tourism so he has added this walk with attractions. On the first section there were farm animals behind fences

The next section on the village side of the reservoir had an odd collection of marble statues, animals and mythical creatures they were signs but all Italian so no help.

Once I crossed the suspension bridge to the other side of the reservoir I came across more marble and some flags. Even more bizarre the statues were of Russia’s Putin and the US’s Trump.

I carried on around the reservoir crossed another bridge to return to the village side.

Once the group returned from their mountain hike I found out from our guide that the mayor wanted statues of good things on the village side of the walk and statues of bad things on the other side. Many of the village people did not want this but he is Mayor and can do whatever he wants. What a curious site.

ITALY – Florence

Day 1 – Planes, trains and automobiles!

Once we were off the ship we flew to Rome then flew on to Florence (Fiorenza).  All the transfers of us and luggage went amazingly well, Europe knows how to move people.


Our little apartment is 1 km away from the city center and is very spacious. The hotels in the city center are about $300 to $400 euro per night, our apartment is just over $100 euro.  With a 20 minute walk we are in the city center so a good deal. We picked up food to make our own dinner tonight and breakfast. There are laundry facilities just down the hall so we can catch up on 10 days of laundry. On the cruise there was laundry service $1 euro per item!  Here we can do a whole load for 4 euro.


We will do lots of walking on this part of our trip.  The first day we just walked to the center to get our bearings, it was raining but still crowded with people. I would not like to be doing this in the height of the season.  My first impression was of the grandeur that the church and elite surrounded themselves with.  Many of the people would have been dirt poor but still gave their money to support these places.  It’s also a strange feeling to be quite out numbered by other races and languages, Italy does not make the same effort to translate signs to English as Greece does.  Despite all of this, the buildings are truly awe inspiring.  Hoping for a drier day tomorrow.


Florence  Uffizi Gallery Day 2

This morning we were  out by 7:30 to get in line for the Uffizi Gallery as the gallery no longer accepts reservations after the beginning of April.  We waited about 1 hour  in line so not too bad.  The day is dry about 22 degrees, cloudy and humid.

Our view as we walked to the Gallery

A true treasure trove of sculptors and paintings by the masters.  Van Gogh, Cezanne, Michelangelo and more. The paintings were dominated by scenes of Madonna and Child.


The sculptures of the elite rulers of the time, as well as mythology stories.


I was enthralled by the ceilings in the rooms, sometimes more that the art being presented in the room.  I spent a lot of time staring at ceilings.


More of the paintings, not Madonna and child but telling the story of the times.


My favorite of all today was this master piece by Michelangelo. Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I was surprised by how old Joseph is depicted in most of the paintings.


Home now for a rest, somehow Peter finds our way through all the maze of streets thankfully.  We will venture out to an Italian pizzeria tonight for dinner, yumm.

Florence Day 3  Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens

The weather has been steadily improving and today, no need of a jacket. Sunshine and warm.  Our walk to the Pitti Palace was so pleasant, mornings are the best here as Italians are late risers so the streets are much quieter.


Compared to yesterdays gallery the Pitti Palace was a treat as there were not the crowds. We spent 5 hours in the palace and gardens, the line ups were growing when we left at 2:00.

Again the ceilings were works of art all on their own.

Napoleon’s private bathroom, not too privileged!



The lady in the Salon and the same lady hunting.

Some of the incredible art.

There were art students working through out the gallery this morning, interesting to see their sketches of the masters.

A taste of the opulence of the palace salons.


We were fortunate to be here for this special exhibit. All the art work we have been seeing has been done by men. This exhibit was about the women artists, their work has a completely different flavor.


My favorite, the people could have jumped right off the canvass.

Today I was missing our dogs so ended up taking photo’s of art work with dogs.


Another lovely piece that caught my eye.

The Boboli Gardens are part of the Pitti Palace grounds, because if you live in a palace, the children must play somewhere. 🙂

I can only imagine what this rose garden will look like in another month, I was in need of some organic beauty and was not disappointed. The birds were singing, it was wonderful.

I imagined that the royal children would have loved to climb this tree.


In keeping with my missing our dogs today, here are some photo’s of dogs we came across today on our way home.  Almost all of the dogs walk on harnesses or nothing at all.  They all seem to have city manners.  The only dogs that showed interest in other people were… you guessed it, the goldens. 🙂

Day 4 Florence

Well I had wondered if we would escape the dreaded recycled air on airplanes and unfortunately we did not.  Peter has come down with a nasty virus of some sort and so today is a stay put day.  Hopefully with lots of rest and vitamin C he will be on the mend as tomorrow we head to Northern Tuscany for the week of hiking.  Fingers crossed….