They just don’t build ’em like that anymore

6 days since my last post! No, I haven’t run out of things to say, it’s just that there is so much to see and do around here and I’ve been concentrating on the “see and do” instead of the “show and tell”.   Anyway, time to settle in with a cup of tea (or your brew of choice) because this is going to be a long one!

We took a short trip to Aulla last weekend. We needed to visit our regular department store, Stefan, for some supplies but we also wanted to revisit the old town centre where we had been taken once before (you may recall the friendly and helpful Italian mother and daughter who had escorted us personally to the TIM store).  I have some photos for you of some of the sites that we regularly pass on the way from Bagnone to Aulla:

A Villa. I love the old gnarled trees at the grand entrance

We call this the "Call of Duty" house for obvious reasons

Abandoned house in a field. They're a dime a dozen, but we still think they're cool!

We went on foot through Aulla on a rare day of no rain.  Even though the village is quite old (founded in the late 800s), it was mostly destroyed during the war so it’s not as pretty as some other villages around here but still holds some charm.

We came across the first playground we've seen since we came to Italy

A piazza in Aulla

The entrance to a little street off the piazza

Whilst wandering around the streets, we happened to look up at the fortress (The Fortress of Brunella) on the hill above the city. Chris had been reading about it in a book, so we went back to the car and tried to figure out how to get there.  It was suprisingly easy, and we soon found ourselves heading up a VERY steep, narrow goat track of a road towards the fortress.  God knows what would have happened if another car had decided to come the other way, but like most of our travels so far there was nobody else around. Yes, it is winter here and tourists are rare. The girl working at the Fortress seemed pretty shocked to see us actually!

The fortress is a military construction built around the 15th century, but there seemed to be some disagreement about it’s actual age in the pamphlets I read.  It was purchased in the 1960s by an English family who actually lived there for a few years before giving it to the government.  Imagine growing up there! What a cool place for a kid to explore.  Nowadays, it’s a museum of natural history but you can still walk around and explore all the old tunnels and battlements.  Take a look:

I want a bridge like that leading to my front door one day

Fantastic view from one of the balconies (still standing inside)

Now THAT'S a view!

We walked all the way around the fortress

The boys on the steps of the fortress

A room with a view

We love these old buildings. They really knew how to build them to withstand anything. You can get lots of great ideas for modern structures too.  Zombies wouldn’t stand a chance!

During the week, we met up with our friendly translator Andriena again.  Oh, I have a pic of her too. It’s always nice to put a face to a name:

Andriena and I

After conducting our business in Villafranca, Andriena took us to a “secret” medieval village called Ponticello near Fillatiera where she lives.  She is very knowledgeable about the area and is on the council that restores the buildings around there (they also organise an annual festival in August which celebrates the history of the site).  You cannot see Ponticello from the road. There is a huge church that you have to walk behind to see the entrance to the village.   I will let the photos do the talking (read the captions):

Ponticello is also full of cats

We met an old guy with a pristine vintage Fiat, his pride and joy

This is a reproduction of the 2000 yr old statues found in this area

A Tower house in the centre of Ponticello

The entrance to the village behind a large church

Creepy old villa door where Nazis shot some villagers, can still see the bullet marks

After our visit to Ponticello, we had lunch over at a Trattoria. There was a set menu with a choice of 3 courses and coffee/wine for 10 euros.  We weren’t very hungry, so just had pasta and coffee for 6 euros each.  Good thing we just got the pasta as it was HUGE and we were so full afterwards.  The restaurant itself was unusual as it was full of men (mostly older) and groups of men who had obviously just knocked off work. It was a bit like an RSL. We stood out like sore thumbs, and I’m sure it was because our faces were unfamiliar in such a small community venue where everyone knew everyone.  Around here, the streets are deserted and shops are closed at midday, and now we know where everyone has been going!

We have also been spending some time in Pontremoli lately. It’s only about a 15-20min drive from Bagnone and has some great shops, markets and restaurants as well as LOADS of history and pretty streets. We visited on a rainy day and there was nobody around, but we returned the next day on market day and the place was positively bustling.   Here’s some pics from the rainy day:

I wish all streets looked like this

The HUGE church that dominates the piazza (you can't see the dome here)

Yes, more streets!

I want to buy this house!!

The Piazza in Pontremoli

Market day was lovely and we had fun walking around looking at the stalls and buying small items we needed.  Amongst our finds, Chris bought some Italian made pants of excellent quality for only 10 euros each (he bought 2 pairs).  He had to try them on in public, but he said it was worth it!  He also bought a wallet and some undies. I bought a travel handbag and some diaries for the kids school.  We stopped and had a coffee and pastry in the piazza.

The piazza on market day

That lovely church was open, so we went in!

There was a bus strike (and possibly a teachers strike?) this week, so we had to drop off and pick the kids up on one day. It was good actually as it allowed a bit of a sleep in, instead of our usual 6:30am wake-up time.  Btw, here’s a pic of the boys on the way down to the bus:

Wide awake and ready for school at 7am!

Dropping the kids off at school gave us the opportunity to visit Denver’s class again and see how he’s getting on.  Unfortunately, he’s still having issues and is quite resistant to learning Italian.  We are trying a number of different strategies with him, and on this particular day we set him the task of getting all of his classmate’s names and writing them down in his book.  It seemed to help him communicate in Italian, so we’re going to continue setting him these little tasks.

Picking up the kids...check out the people parking wherever they like! On a roundabout?!

I’ll leave you with a funny story (and some random photos from this week). Chris has been having “issues” in the waste expelling department, and I’m not talking garbage disposal. He really needs coloxyl to soften things up a bit, but we didn’t bring any with us.  We went to a Farmacia in Pontremoli to try and ask for what he needed.  I was able to ask for constipation medication, but it was a harder task to explain that we did not need laxatives, just a stool softener (yeah, TMI I know!).  I tried to explain the soft part, but they thought I wanted something “soft” for him to take instead of tablets (like a liquid or a powder). Chris kept saying “caca dura” which means hard poo, but in the end it was not working and they didn’t appear to have what he needed. We staggered out in fits of laughter crowing “caca dura doo!” because…well…just because it was funny 🙂  Luckily, the pharmacist in Bagnone speaks English and he was able to help us out later on.

For your viewing pleasure, some more pics:

Just putting this here because he's so adorable!

The persimmon (cachi) cake that I baked. It was DELICIOUS!

The village next to us: Pastina. They have a cool tower

Standing in Pastina

Fog in the valley

Denver holding a "wish", his favourite plant in the whole world!

A winter sunset in Groppo

and last pic for this blog entry….(did I really put 38 pics up??!!!)

View of malgrate with a dead cornfield in the foreground. My fave pic of the moment.

We’re off to visit Lucca this weekend (and hopefully meet some Puccettis!), so next post will probably be all about that.  ‘Til next time….ci vediamo! xxxx


About missrini

Global citizen. Travel blogger. Eccentric dreamer.
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3 Responses to They just don’t build ’em like that anymore

  1. Steve says:

    I was enchanted by the fortess. I want THAT building!

  2. Deanne says:

    Oh dear too much info about the stool softener! LOL! Pics are lovely, can’t wait to visit you guys and get in a bit of ‘culture’ 🙂 Good to see Denver finally making some progress and getting happier about being there. All in good time, just might take him a few weeks. I assume Balin is having a great time as we don’t hear about any dramas there!

    Obviously you’re going to have to watch that excess baggage on the way home – and I’m not talking about purchases! 😉

    We miss you lots, especially times when I’m going down to Adelaide (like tomorrow) and know that I can’t just drop in for a cup of tea 😦 August 2011 will be here soon enough!

    Hugs and kisses to all,

  3. ryan says:

    hi balin and denver . have a good trip and comwe back safely. come to our house to plaay tricky. love ryan xxx

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