Visit to little villages…A great day out and about…Photos…

Wildflowers growing in the little village of Colognora, the smaller of two villages with the same name.  At night beyond the mountains, we can see a scattering of lights in the distance.  That is the location of the other Colognora that we may visit one day soon. 

Today was a great day!  I don’t know why Tom’s haircut days are such fun, but they always prove to be a memorable day. Tomorrow, we’ll share his haircut story and photos, once again, a delightful experience.
As we mentioned in the past, staying put in our cozy surroundings in Boveglio is easy to do. At our fingertips are all the distractions we love; good books to read, Internet access, favorite TV shows and movies downloaded on our laptops, amazing views, mouth-watering food, and of course, the companionship of one another. Why go anywhere? We’re rather comfortable.
The proverbial laundry basket (we have the same style) in front of a house in the village of Colognora, filled with wet clothes. “Where shall we hang them today?” the owner of this house may ask. “Why not leave them on the road until we decide?”  We love the casual attitude of the Italians. Can you imagine placing your laundry basket filled with wet clothes on the road in front of your house?  The neighbors would wonder about you!

Why go anywhere? We’re rather comfortable in our now familiar surroundings. Alas, it’s the food thing. With few restaurants nearby plus my peculiar way of eating, dining out is more of a chore than a relaxing experience. 

Even with the use of my printed list in Italian of my “can have” and “can’t have” it becomes stressful and difficult for the chefs in this country in particular to create a meal in which they feel proud of their skills and quality ingredients. And, chefs in Italy, certainly take pride in every plate of food that is placed in front of a guest. We get it.

Throw a juicy rare steak or a piece of grilled fish, a side of steamed veggies, and a big salad in front of me and I’m thrilled. But for a chef, this offers little satisfaction.As a result, we cringe at the thought of dining out often. 

With the language barrier, it is impossible to explain the omission of many foods they perceive as “safe” to eat for gluten intolerant individuals.  For me, it’s much more that must be restricted.

We couldn’t decide what this tiny building is, with a park bench in front of it. Could it be a bus stop? It doesn’t look like a garage.

As a result of these issues, we’ve wrapped ourselves in the reality of being our own chefs preparing fun and delicious meals, no questions asked.  With an abundance of the finest ingredients in the grocery stores in Italy (although many of my everyday ingredients are unavailable), we have been able to adapt most of our favorite meals to provide us with not only a delightful presentation but a mouth-watering experience.

More steep roads leading to attached and unattached houses.

After our sightseeing excursion today, we headed to our new favorite grocery store in the larger (19,851 pop.) town of Pescia, a 35-minute drive down the winding mountainous road with no less than 50 hairpin turns.
As we’ve become more at ease with the drive, coupled with Tom’s good driving, the trip seems less intimidating. Today, we decided to visit several villages along the way.  On the way back, we’d be rushing to get our groceries back home.

 

This looks like “our town” of Boveglio. But, it’s not!  Are we noticing a similarity in each of these charming little villages, a bell tower!

After stopping in these little villages, exploring their nuances and charms we headed for Pescia to find a barbershop before going to the grocery.  Yesterday, we looked up the word for a barber shop in Italian (Barbiere) which I not only wrote in my smart phone’s notes app but locked in my memory banks of yet another Italian word learned (not that many so far).
A view of the mountain from Colognora, as more clouds, roll in.  The day started out sunny and clear.  The haze in many of our mountain fountains is due to the massive amount of vegetation in the hills creating a constant haze of humidity.

We’d looked online on several sites for any possible Barbiere in Pescia with no luck. Many were either out of business or hadn’t been updated in years.  Not in the mood for a wild goose chase, we decided to visit a few strip malls we’d noticed in our past visits. 
As Tom slowly cruised the strip mall parking lot, I yelled out the door to two men sitting outside a shop, “Barbiere?”  They immediately started waving their arms pointing to a little shop we’d easily have missed.  More on this story tomorrow, as mentioned above.
An hour later, we were once again on our way to the grocery store, Esselunga in Pescia, forgoing any more trips to Collodi for food at the tiny, grumpy grocery store, next door to the tiny grumpy bank where Tom invariably ends up locked inside the theft-proof revolving tube. 
With no available parking spots, once again, we drove around until we located a spot in the overflow lot.  With my Euro $1 in hand I paid to unlock a grocery cart heading inside the store,   Leaving Tom in the car, to join me in 45 minutes, he was able to continue to peek in the rearview mirror at his latest haircut, yet to determine if it was to his liking. 
Parking the car, we walked to explore Colognora.  The roads were too narrow and the
 Houses too close not to intrude upon the homeowners, many of whom were either hanging laundry or working in their gardens.

Oddly, I had more fun on this grocery shopping trip than any other since leaving the US.  With my usual free grocery shopping app Grocery Tracker on my phone with literally every meal planned for the next two weeks and now familiar with the store’s layout, I felt confident it would be a pleasant experience.

A closer look at the bell tower in Colognora, almost identical to our everyday view.

Indeed it was!  At the deli, where we buy meats, cheeses, Prosciutto, and bacon, the deli guy spoke English.  Oh, I was in heaven.  He was the first English speaking employee we’ve encountered since arriving here almost four weeks ago. I almost couldn’t stop ordering. 

Euros $33.11 later, Tom had since arrived to help (we wait to order all the meat purchases last), we were on a roll.  Our cart overflowing required an additional handheld basket.  Looking at the huge amount of food as we began checking out, I was certain, we’d be near US $400 when all was said and done.

Stone endures, hundreds of years later to provide cool insulated housing for generations of homeowners.

As we were presented with a total, we handed over a credit card, I was stunned Tom was too busy packing the groceries to notice.  I saved the news for the ride back, the news being, our grocery total for two weeks, every meal, was a paltry Euro $222, translating to US $289!

Many of the old houses, show water damage and wear as a result of heavy precipitation and humidity in the Tuscan regions.

On the winding ride back, the stick shift jerking to and fro, I read that long receipt from top to bottom, looking for an error attributing to our good fortune. The total of US $289 resulting in a grand total of US $144.50 per week to eat like queens and kings was beyond me.

The red paint slashed across the name of the town indicates leaving the village limits.

We’d purchased a half a cart full of the freshest of organic vegetables, and grass-fed meats, locally made exquisite cheeses, and free-range eggs, enough to feed us for no less than 14 days and nights.  Why is it so much less than that which we paid in the US, never less than $200 per week, using coupons and scrambling to get the most current specials.  Who knows?
As we drove through Bagni di Lucca with the car windows opened, we heard the rushing water inspiring us to find a place to park and get out.

After numerous trips up and down the stone steps, emptying one grocery bag after another, washing all the produce, freezing portioned servings into freezer bags, and placing it all in our newly cleaned and defrosted (by Tom a few days go) refrigerator and freezer, we felt that comfortable sensation of “plenty” one feels when the cupboard is full.  Plenty and, grateful.

 

The creek running through the village, many years ago, created an enticing backdrop for the many homes along its banks.
Apparently this black rod was placed on the edge of the creek in an effort to keep visitors from entering.

After considerable time spent, it’s now time to prepare dinner, tonight, something easy and quick; on bread-less “Jimmy John” type club sandwiches, fresh green beans on the side, and of course, our usual giant bowl of coleslaw which we cut up a short time ago.  Large Romaine lettuce leaves serve as the bread while we wrap everything tightly in parchment paper to be rolled down as one eats. 
Ingredients: fresh sliced deli ham, fresh sliced turkey, cooked bacon, sliced tomatoes, sliced purple onion, sliced Provolone cheese, and a glob or real mayonnaise, all of which is wrapped tightly as one would wrap an egg roll or sushi roll. 
I should have adjusted the camera in the momentary brightness of the sun to better reflect the poppies on the edge of the creek.  Still learning.

Off we go, to enjoy yet another episode of The Borgias and Dexter, downloaded from Graboid and a dinner of our giant “sandwiches” with the windows wide open on another beautiful evening, minus swatting a few flies, bees, and mosquitoes. Who’s to complain? Not us!

Old, abandoned property which most likely burned many ago.  In the US burned-out structures would be required to be demolished. Not so much here in Italy. We’ve seen many of these.
Looking back from Bagni di Lucca to Colognora as we continued on our journey to Pescia to load up on groceries and find a Barbieri (barbershop) for Tom.  He hasn’t had a haircut since March in Belize.

 

I know.  This looks almost identical to the above photo of Colognora but it’s actually the bell tower at Villa Basicalla, another village we visited today.
Some areas of Villa Basicalla appeared to have newer homes with obvious new construction in process at this time. This road suddenly was filled with cars, giving us little opportunity to stop and take more photos.