Sunday 1st October – Thursday 5th October 2017
Castiglione della Pescaia, Tuscany beach town – visiting my friend Mario
On Sunday I had another fun breakfast in pasticceria Stella in Lucca, lots of hustle and bustle. Today I was changing bases to Castiglione della Pescaia, a cute seaside town where Mario’s parents have a second house. I’ve known Mario since 2006, an Italian from Tuscany, now living in Tenerife, but he’s currently staying with his parents in Italy for a while.
The 2 hour drive was very rainy but otherwise fine. Not so many lunatics on the road. 😉
I arrived just on time for lunch with Mario and his parents. They kept pouring me wine so I hid my glass on the other side. 🙂 We had really good food, pasta with broccoli, salad, bread, cut meat. The mother was really sweet, the father a bit awkward and surly (he has a problem with gays). For example they asked about when and where I had been in Italy. When I asked if they had ever been to Amsterdam, the father said, very quickly: ‘No!’. And then nothing for a long time.
And of course they only speak Italian, so with my rusty Italian and with not so many interests in common, it was a bit hard and quite tiring to keep a conversation going, especially the first half hour when Mario had gone out to get some more food.
Mario’s mother keeps (jokingly) hoping against hope that even after turning 50, Mario will still suddenly discover he is not gay, and that he and I are / become an item. Ha ha ha…
After lunch the parents left back for Abbadia San Salvatore, a small town in Tuscany’s mountains, so only Mario and I are spending the week here in their second home. To be honest I was happy that I would not have to be so polite and sociable around strangers anymore.
That afternoon Mario and I went to the castle on the hill that Castiglione is named after, it turned out to also have very pretty streets with houses and people living there on the hill. Mario told me a lot about the surroundings and the history.
Etruscan findings (about 600 bC) and findings at Pompeii
Then we drove to a museum in Vetulonia where they keep a lot of artifacts from the Etruscan empire (before the Romans), found in fields around that town. This time they also had a temporary exhibition of stuff recently found in Pompeii and that a Florence museum lent to them, which is rare.
Vetulonia, too, was a very pretty village with friendly locals.
For dinner we had good pizza in a place near the house in Castiglione that had their last night of the season. The owner also lives on Tenerife 6 months out of 12, so he and Mario exchanged phone numbers.
On Monday we had breakfast on the nice terrace overlooking trees, some streets and then a slice of the sea.
We went for a beach walk starting right here down the street, for about half an hour and then spent a few hours lying on the beach. I fell asleep. I must have slept 14 hours on Monday, including the night!
Big lunch & lazing about
We had a big lunch back at the house, Mario had bought pasta and fish. In the afternoon I was still tired from the sleep on the beach and the big meal, after reading a few pages in my book I fell asleep again. Mario also had a nap.
Sunset & tapas
In the evening we went to look at the sunset from the town boulevard, we had free ‘tapas’ from a buffet, this is a north Italy thing that is more and more common in the more southern parts of Italy. They call it ‘happy hour’ but it lasts for more than an hour. For me a great way to eat small, healthy snacks (they always offer vegetables, fruit, and quinoa / bulgur) and so that I don’t need a full, heavy dinner.
Back home we each read our books, it’s so nice that Mario and I just have such a good automatic ‘flow’ together and we don’t need to ‘entertain’ each other. Normally it costs me more energy to be around another person so many hours, because most people want to talk all the time. Mario is quiet for long spells without the silence being awkward. And in-between we talk and laugh a lot.
On Tuesday I woke up quite late but I’m glad Mario made his own plans and didn’t wait for me, and he had a coffee in town. After I was ready we drove to a beautiful, secluded beach that is at half an hour’s nice walk through a forest area from a parking lot. The beach is called Cala Violina because the sand is so fine that with each footstep it makes a soft, high-pitched sound.
It’s been at least a decade since I lay in the sun on a beach but it was lovely. The only thing I can’t stand is the sun full in my face so I bought a (very gay!) parasol which I donated to the house upon departure.
We went for a swim and had a good lunch from all kinds of leftovers and a salad.
Medieval town Massa Marittima
The sun went away and it was a good time to move on to the medieval town we wanted to visit: Massa Marittima. Back at the parking lot by the beach we found a Swiss couple whose car window had been smashed, bummer! None of the other cars had been hit. I count my blessings that mine was still intact. It looked like those people may have left something of value in plain sight, which I never do. I even took care to put the stuff we needed for the beach on the back seat instead of the trunk, so that we would not need to open the trunk at all in the parking lot, and no one would see us leave behind some other bags in the trunk. Even if those bags contain nothing of value (just spare car oil, water, a blanket etc), I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.
Massa Marittima was yet another beautiful town with a cathedral and a castle and a tower you can climb, I think it dates back to the 13th century. Mario had never climbed the tower either so it was nice that there was something new for him too. The €3 each were well worth the beautiful views over Tuscany’s rolling hills, a part of the city wall, different angles on the towers, and more.
We had some espressos and drove back via a route my navigation system told me and which Mario had never taken either, so again it was also sightseeing for him. The sun set the sky ablaze in pink on all sides of us, over the Tuscan hills and old country houses. It was a joy to drive those small country roads.
My stomach is a bit upset so I only had yoghurt and pear for dinner, Mario had a full meal.
Flamingos in the swamps
On Wednesday we went to the swamp area within cycling distance of the house. It’s so nice to have my folding bike with me.
The area used to be sea but slowly land formed there automatically. In the past, malaria was a problem there until they took measures and dried the swamps out more, and paid families from the south of Italy to populate the area. Now it’s becoming more and more popular with foreign tourists.
It was very hot and I gained yet some more insect bites. Oh well.
It was really nice to see the flamingos feeding and occasionally flying, and the colors of the flowers and grasses were beautiful. After that I was lazy again and lay on the beach, Mario stayed home to read.
Late that afternoon we went for a 1 hour walk to an ancient monastery ruin in the forest, sort of a templar society monastery.
After coming home we changed quickly to catch the sunset.
We wanted to have dinner on the castle hill at a vegetarian / vegan restaurant that we had seen on Sunday, but it was already closed for the season… instead Mario prepared a nice meal at home. And we got our weekend bags ready for a 2 night trip to Rome, the main goal is to visit 2 female friends of his (and for me also: to be in more urban surroundings with a wider diversity of people, just for a while).