beaches, Italy, restaurant reviews, road trips

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part six

Now comes the scenic part of our trip… moving from Emilia-Romagna to Florence by way of the west coast…

As we were preparing to leave La Locanda del Borgo at Torrechiara Castle, Bill asked me if I wanted to go to Florence by way of Bologna, or by way of the Italian coast. Bill knew that I had visited Viareggio in 1997, back when I was just 25 years old and had a second class one month Eurail pass. At that time, I was broke, and traveling with friends who are now married to each other, live in Northern Ireland, and have six kids! We stopped there by chance, mainly because it had a beach, and we wanted to swim.

I had been wanting to visit Viareggio again, mainly because I have such fond memories of the pension where we stayed. It was a one star place– very cheap! But you could get half board there, and the food was excellent. Plus, I remembered that they asked us what kind of wine we preferred. My friends preferred white wine, so that’s what we got. They brought out a big jug of it every time we ate, over our couple of nights there.

We didn’t have time to stay in Viareggio for more than just lunch, but I was excited to see it again. Going by way of the coast also meant that we could finally visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is only about a half an hour from Viareggio. I’ve been to Italy a bunch of times, but never managed to see that very well touristed monument before last week.

Another bonus to going by way of the coast was that it took us through some absolutely GORGEOUS terrain… much prettier than what we would have seen, and did see on the way back, going by way of Bologna. Below are some photos I managed to get on our way to the coast as we made our way to Florence. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to get a good shot of Torrechiara Castle from the drive out. The view of the castle was much better on that route, but there was never a convenient opportunity to catch a shot of it from the car, nor were there any good pull off points. Pity. But at least I got some very beautiful photos of the countryside.

As soon as we stopped in Viareggio, I noticed a small “healthy fish restaurant” called e.Dai near where we parked the car. I knew that was where we’d have lunch, after we went to the sea, so I could touch the water. It was confirmed when I saw the toilet near the door (not every place obviously had one, and we both needed one). It was still too chilly for swimming, but lots of people were walking on the beach, and there were guys there hawking their wares. One tried to sell us a beach blanket, but we were only there to look at the water for a minute. I would like to go an Italian beach and stay for a few days. But it was nice to smell the air and look at the water… I even enjoyed seeing the seagulls. I grew up near the ocean, and I have missed beaches in the time we’ve been in Germany. Below are some scenes from Viareggio. It has kind of a carnival vibe.

After our quick visit to the water, we headed to e.Dai, where we were promised “healthy fish” dishes. I don’t know about that, but it was a nice change of pace to have fish instead of Parma ham or meat from other hooved animals. I miss seafood, too. The fish place did offer something new, but it wasn’t a cheap place at all. We both had sandwiches and wine, and the bill was about the euro equivalent of $50.

After lunch, we made our way south to Pisa, where we found a very convenient pay parking lot with a sparkling clean public toilet. A kind looking lady was collecting one euro from those who needed to use the toilet. I heard one American guy grumble about the price and say he wouldn’t pay it. I was happy to pay, because I had a feeling it cost the same at Pisa; the facilities wouldn’t be nearly as clean; and there would be a line. Sure enough, I was right. So, if you ever find yourself at that parking lot in Pisa and you need the facilities, I’m telling you it’s a good deal. Go ahead and pay the euro for a glorious piss. At least it’s clean, and you don’t have to wait. The lady who collects the euros keeps it immaculately clean!

We chose not to buy a ticket to see the Tower of Pisa, the cathedral, and the baptistery up close, mainly because we were pressed for time. These photos are just of the exterior, which one can visit free of charge. We also knew that climbing the tower meant lots of heavy breathing in confined spaces while wearing masks. I would like to visit again and do a proper visit. I’d also like to see the city itself, which I know is very vibrant and interesting in its own right. Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity. April is a nice time to visit. It’s not too hot!

After our brief visit, we got back on the road to Florence, where we would spend the next three nights, and meet our wine tour group. More on that in the next post.

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churches, holidays

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part four

Parma on Liberation Day…

As I mentioned in part three of this series, I chose to stay at our castle location near Parma because I knew there were several places of interest nearby. There’s Parma, Italy, where Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from, Modena, which is known for wonderful balsamic vinegar, and Bologna, which is just alleged to be a beautiful city with great food and sightseeing. Bill did some research about Bologna and decided not to visit there, because parking was too much of a hassle. I definitely wanted to go to Parma, and Modena was interesting enough for a visit, too.

On the day we visited Parma, which was Monday, April 25th, it was Liberation Day. We did not know it was going to be Liberation Day before we planned our visit. We have a habit of being in different countries on their major holidays. We did the same thing last fall when we visited Wels, Austria. Anyway, Liberation Day was first celebrated in Italy in the year 1946. It was to commemorate the 1945 victory of the Italian resistance to Nazi Germany and the Italian Socialist puppet state. Because it was a holiday, the streets were crowded; some shops were closed; and there was a parade.

We managed to visit Parma’s beautiful cathedral and monastery, followed by lunch at a really cool restaurant where blues were accompanying the delicious food. Below are some photos of our day. Again, masks were required at that time, but as of May 1, 2022, masks are mostly only needed on public transport, in medical settings and nursing homes, and in sports venues, concert halls, or theaters. I note, once again, that Italy is stricter than Germany is right now. One of these days, I’m going to make a video of all the beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen in Europe.

A busker entertained us with Bach. He made me cry.

The monastery is located very close by the Parma Duomo. We had to wear FFP2 masks to see the library.

After more walking around, and more photos taken, we found our way to a quiet little plaza where we had lunch at a restaurant called Osteria del Teatro. This was a cute and popular place where excellent blues music paired with really nice local dishes and wines. Old vinyl records were used as placemats!

Below are some more photos from our day in Parma. Some decorations are in honor of the holiday.

By late afternoon, we were ready to go back to the B&B and drink more wine… which we did.

After our wine break, we watched old American shows dubbed into Italian… The Dukes of Hazzard, The A Team, and Walker, Texas Ranger! No wonder I saw so many Confederate battle flags in Italy.

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