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.


On fire for Firenze…

Bill and I left Torrechiara this morning and decided to take the scenic route to Florence. I had told him many times about visiting the beach town of Viareggio when I was in my 20s, on my way home from the Peace Corps in Armenia. The year was 1997, and I was traveling with a couple of my friends from summer camp, where we all worked during the summer of 1994. Those two friends, Dawn and Chris, are now married and have six kids. Chris is Irish, so they live in Northern Ireland. Dawn was pretty happy when I sent her a couple of pics and a shout out from Viareggio, which was one of my favorite stops on that monthlong tour.

We also visited Pisa today. That was my first time there, and all we did was check out the leaning tower. We didn’t even try to climb it, or explore the Duomo or Baptistery. However, I think I would like to go back to Pisa at some point and explore it more. I hope we’ll have a chance. Today, it was just very crowded, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the COVID crapola. One of the nicest things about that visit, besides finally seeing the famous tower, was the toilet at the parking lot. Yes, it was one euro to use it, but it was sparkling clean and there was no line. It was a euro to pee at the tower, too, and a lot of people were doing it. I’m glad we went at the parking lot.

We got to Firenze/Florence in the mid afternoon. Bill went nuts trying to figure out parking. I ended up checking in by myself, which was a real nutroll. This hotel we’re in has a very old style elevator. But, the rooms here– just seven in all– have frescoes on the ceilings.

We walked to the main plaza… I had forgotten how huge the cathedral is. I don’t know if we’ll tour it, since we did that during our visit in 2013 and I still have photos. 😉 But we do plan to visit the Uffizi tomorrow. Bill will probably go into shock. He loves Florence, and he loves looking at art. This city is huge and bustling, especially compared to where we’ve been. Lots of Americans are here, too. This big American guy sitting near us at the restaurant where we had dinner advised us three times to get the Florentine steak. it was 800 grams… I think we’re having that on Friday, and I won’t be able to get close to finishing it, anyway. I barely finished the filet mignon I had two days ago. Bill had to help.

Anyway, so far this is a wild trip, but we’re having fun. I look forward to writing the whole story when we get home next week. I have a feeling, this will be one of my more entertaining series.