As I’m writing this post, I am on the train from Lucca to Firenze. I am realizing how lucky I have been on this vacation. I just spent two nights and almost three days with the Goodman family. They are just wonderful, generous, and kind people that I really loved to get to know over this trip. For those of you just tuning in, Mike and I met Bob about three weeks ago in Florence. We were going to be in Rome on the same weekend, and decided to meet up with Bob again, along with his wife Michele and daughter Hannah. We had two great dinners in Rome, and the Goodmans invited me to visit them at their second home in Barga later on during my trip (which was now!).
They welcomed me to their Barga home. It is up in the mountains, northwest of Lucca. The town is stunning, with mountain and river views almost everywhere you look. The first day I arrived, the whole family was at the train station waiting for me. They picked me up and brought me to their little town, where we ate at a great pizza restaurant called Capretz (Bob, correct me on any wrong spellings of restaurants!). We then toured the town a bit and hiked up to the stone duomo overlooking gorgeous Tuscan hills. After looking at some amazing artwork on display at the duomo museum, we decided that it was gelato-time, which is me and Hannah’s favorite time of the day.
Their house is incredible, and it was just as Bob described to Mike and I when we first met up. It’s a stone house, three stories, with beautiful rooms overlooking the mountains. Going to sleep in the guest room was like turning on one of those nature clocks with a babbling brook to try to get you to sleep, only the babbling brook was the river rolling right outside their yard. Because their river is drainage from the mountaintops, there was very little water due to us being there so late in the summer.
The next day, July 29th, was a great time. We started off by going into town for coffee and meeting up with some of their friends. Everyone in Barga knows each other, waves to each other as their driving by or walking by. They actually know their neighbors and everyone takes care of each other. Their friends (Ed and Anna) were a pleasure to meet and we all sat together and made good conversation. It was raining on this day, so we decided against going to the pool and just got in the car and explored a little neighboring town. Before getting to the town, we stopped at an amazing seafood restaurant along the highway and just ate ourselves silly. One of the most delicious lunches I’ve had in Italy, actually! Once we got to the town, we did some sightseeing, exploring, and had some fun photo shoots. They drove me over to “Devil’s Bridge,” which is this medieval stone bridge that boasts very distinct architecture. The story of the bridge is: in Medieval times, the town needed a bridge to be built so people could transverse the river. They had no money, so they asked the devil to come and build it for them. The devil agreed, but in return, said that the first soul to walk over the bridge would be his forever. The people agreed, and the devil built the bridge. Once he asked for his end of the bargain, the people sent a dog over the bridge first, so that was his first soul. It’s a cool story and an even cooler sight to see.
We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant (a favorite of Hannah’s) in town called L’Altana. We again ate so much delicious fresh food: fresh pasta with truffle sauce, chicken and vegetables, potatoes, green beans, vegetable soup, veal with ham and melted cheese, and of course delicious house red. We ended the night back at the same gelato place that we stopped at on the first day and treated ourselves to yet another delish ice cream.
Today (July 30) was a great day. We had a lazy morning and were treated to a great American breakfast by Michele. I was especially appreciative of that! Italians do not eat eggs and toast for breakfast here. It’s a sugary cakey pastry and an espresso (un caffe) and off they go. I can’t do the sugary mix in the morning, so this was wonderful! We got our bathing suits on and went to a local pool that overlooked the mountains.
I can’t say enough how happy I am that I met the Goodman family. They are from Chicago, so we are planning a fun weekend sometime in the Fall to all meet and go to a CSO concert together. These are friends that we will definitely keep in touch with for years to come, and how special is it that we met in Italy? Thanks to Bob, Michele, and the lovely Hannah for a fun-filled three days in Barga!
After I got back to Florence, I was hungry for a good dinner. Because (UGH) Roberto Benigni is still performing in Piazza Santa Croce, I had to walk all around the square to get home. I knew that I needed something really good, so I went to Baldovino. The waiter immediately recognized me from three weeks ago (when I first took Mike there). His name is Stefano, and he is adorable and really nice. We talked for a little bit about my long trip here, and he said that he was so jealous that I was going to Cinque Terre tomorrow. He brought over a complimentary glass of Prosecco, just because I was a returning customer. Moral of the story = Baldovino is amazing.
|View from the pool today. Not bad, eh?|
|Umbrellas painted by Keane, a very well-known local artist.|
|The climb up to the Duomo.|
|Dead Man again.|
|View of Barga from the Duomo|
|The Duomo, which was built at three different times. Notice the difference in the stones and construction?|
|Pulpit inside of the Duomo|
|Ceiling of the Duomo|
|Michele, Hannah, me...the girls!|
|Obligatory solo tourist pic!|
|Spaghetti di mare!|
|The Goodmans at Devils Bridge|
|All of us at Devils Bridge|
|Local restaurants capitalizing on the bridge landmark across the street|
|Descending the bridge|
|Tracks that my train traveled on to get me to Barga|
|Cool, asymmetrical clock tower|
|Della Robbia statue of Mary Magdalene|
|Extremely old brick bridge|