Piazza al Serchio and the cottage – Part 1

When planning our Italian holiday I had a fabulous idea, we should base ourselves for a couple of weeks in a Tuscan cottage. Having a base would allow visits to little towns and villages around the area plus day trips to Cinque Terra, Sienna, Lucca and Florence, to name a few. We could also spend an odd day or two sitting around the pool enjoying the solitude. The plan was to write a chapter or two of my book on those odd days. Yes, this would be the perfect opportunity for relaxation.

The one thing my rapidly planning brain had forgotten was that we aren’t people who enjoy sitting around….out and about, looking, watching and shopping, that’s us! But searching the internet, seeing the amazing Tuscan scenery, pretty stone cottages perched on the hills, the pencil pine trees standing straight and tall by the front entrances, quickly erased any misgivings.

With GPS set to our destination, we were eager to leave Rome and head for the hills, the three of us are off. It would be a long drive from Rome to Piazza al Serchio and the little cottage in Casciana, Garfagnana region! My flu/virus (new companion) had worsened even though I was taking a number of cold and flu tablets and a very foul-tasting medicine. Perhaps the fresh air of the Appuan Alps (part of the Apennine group) would help relieve the symptoms.

The road from Rome to Lucca was very good, freeway all the way (A1 I think). However after reaching Lucca it was a different story. Lots of Autogrills along the way for coffee stops and loo breaks. As we headed out of Lucca the road narrowed a little, but the further away from Lucca we travelled the narrower the road. Of course the Italian drivers don’t get any better.

We were told the L’Clerc in Gallicano was the place to stop for supplies , we dutifully did that. A supermarket that had everything, similar to a Walmart but considerably smaller. Luckily for me it also contained a Farmicia because Ty felt I should add to my stores of medication, perhaps might we become lost in the Alps or couldn’t find our way to another chemist!!!! The Pharmacist couldn’t speak or understand english and we could understand very little Italian. I tried all the usual hand signals, you know, rubbing my nose, blowing into my tissue, that fabulous sawing motion across my throat but no, still she stared at us and said “non capsici”. Through sheer frustration at the fact these people continued to play a one-sided game of charades, and weren’t going away in a hurry, she invited us to come behind the counter and choose our own products. Ty was very excited at the prospect of getting his hands on all those lotions and potions he rushed behind the counter picking up bottles of this and tubes of that. It was soon evident even though the label was in Italian the ingredients were in a universal language. In no time there was a selection of tablets, icky nasal sprays and cough medicines assembled on the counter. “do I need ALL these” I queried. “yes” was his reply, “You’re not getting any better and these will all help” Of course they will, I thought, as I handed over 25 euro…

The road from Gallicano to Casciano narrowed again and we missed the little signpost and the sharp left hand turn that would take us to the village. We found somewhere wide enough to make a u turn and headed up the “road” which was tiny, very windy and each bend was like the top of a backwards ?. We were in a little Golf and at the same time as negotiating the bends, we were climbing higher and higher, I was sure the car would topple backwards. I was already starting to worry about where I had stationed us, of course, it didn’t help when Ty kept saying “where are you taking us” as he negotiated another steep bend on the goat track. It became much more stressful when a van was coming from the other direction. “He surely isn’t serious, there’s no room to pass, we’ll fall off the edge” “I don’t like this road”, I said, “there must be another way in and out of this village”. I tried to stay calm and gripped the armrest tightly as we continued along the goat track,finally, after a 4 hour drive from Rome, we reached the village of Casciana. Thank god, I think we were both relieved, time to have a drink – the cottage can wait.

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