So many villages, so many castles!

I can’t start a blog post on the 2nd of January, my first for the year, without saying “Happy New Year!” or “Buon anno!!”  Hope everyone had a good one, although I hear it was a stinking HOT day in South Australia. Hope the summer isn’t too brutal for everyone.  More about what we did on New Years Eve later…

As I mentioned last time, it was our darling little man’s birthday on the 29th. I remember that day 9 years ago vividly (pretty hard to forget such a momentous and painful occasion!) and I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. Where did my baby go? To celebrate his birthday, Balin wanted to go on a drive and have lunch out somewhere, so we chose Equi Terme.  Equi Terme is a little village south west of here, well known for it’s caves and natural springs.  In winter it’s pretty quiet but I’ve been told that summer is quite a different story.  We saw many summer/vacation houses around there, and I can see that the population would swell greatly during the summer months.  When we arrived, we were struck by the setting of the little village. It is surrounded by huge mountains and seems to be perched into the base of one. Towering cliffs rise around it and the village itself seems to spiral vertically in towards it’s bell tower.  All around you can hear the sound of rushing water from the various torrents and waterfalls, it’s quite lovely.

Equi Terme

Equi Terme, closer shot

We walked into the village and headed towards the caves. They were closed to visitors (of course!!), but we crossed the bridge over the torrent and had a look around under the cliffs. We plan on returning in the summer, maybe with my parents and my sister when they come to visit in August.

The foot bridge near the caves

We continued on up into the village. The little roads were VERY steep and it was a good walk for such a cold day. Once again, it was deserted and we climbed up as far as we could go to the old church in the centre.

A doorway on the narrow streets of Equi Terme

We headed back down to lunch at a local restaurant where we all gorged on carbs (pasta and bread!)…..as you do here in Italy.

One of Balin’s birthday presents was “Stratego” which Chris and I bought from a toy shop in Parma. It’s a game that Chris used to play with his brothers at around the same age, so he thought it might be fun to teach Balin.  After 2 games, Balin crushed the teacher and claimed Stratego victory!

Balin crushes Chris at Stratego

On New Years Eve (day time), we decided to try our luck back in Pontremoli at the Statue Stelle Museo again.  On the way, we stopped in to a few shops as I was searching for Rosehip Oil (I can not get it here!) and we met Geoff.  Geoff (sp?) is the husband of a fellow blogger, Serena, who writes for Transparent Language and he is originally from England.  It was nice to chat with him about the area and some of the challenges newcomers face.  We headed over to the Castello del Piagnaro and the little church nearby (Sant’Ilario? Any locals know if I got this right?).

One of the oddest churches I've seen so far! Cool though 🙂

Side view of the little church in Pontremoli. This is another one of my favourite Chris pics! I can see this as a canvas actually.

Walking up the road to the castle in Pontremoli

When we reached the castle, we found it open but the main part (where the Statue Stelle are) was not.  Story of our lives!  Anyway, we wandered around the ancient castle and enjoyed the old stone structures and soaked up the history of the place. It’s very zombie-proof!  Castello del Piagnaro was originally built around the year 1000 but has been destroyed (by various armies) and rebuilt a few times.  We loved the little courtyards, stairways and battlements. The kids had fun exploring and pretending that Orcs were invading. I accept full responsibility for their Lord of the Rings geekiness 🙂

Us up high on the battlements of the castle

View of Pontremoli from the Castello

Interior courtyard

Interior parts of fortress, you can see the courtyard from the previous pic. LOVE the stonework!

Chris in front of the round tower

After we had wandered around for a while, we went back into Pontremoli for a typical thick Italian hot chocolate at our favourite cafe.  I forget the name of it just now, but I love the interior of this building and the way they have restored it.  I particularly like the light fitting over the bar in this pic (you can just see the bottom part of it).  I’m always getting ideas for our house in Tassie!

The boys in the cafe

That night was New Years Eve and we stayed up until around 11:30 when we went for a walk down the road to see the fireworks.  Chris set up his tripod overlooking the valley and we waited for midnight.  Franco and Gabriella had told us that the place lights up with fireworks at midnight and we were not disappointed!  We could see fireworks all over the valley and the sound was loud and echoed around the mountains. It sounded like shelling and you could imagine what World War II would have sounded like in these parts. I’ve played many a Call of Duty 2 game with that exact sound in the background.

As we stood watching, the neighbours started letting off their impressive fireworks display right above us! We ran for cover and watched the display at a safe distance.  It went for about 20 mins and was quite spectacular. The kids were shouting “bravo!” and “buon anno!” and jumping around excitedly.  Then fireworks started going off in Pieve up the road and in Castiglione and it seemed that all the neighbouring fireworks were competing.  It was a great night and very memorable for us.

Fireworks going off in the valley near Castiglione

The neighbours fireworks

Fireworks lighting up the road in Groppo

Happy New Year!!

The stars from the terrace at the start of 2011

2010 was a good year and we’ve learned so much. There were some very stressful times and much upheaval, but we adapted to the situations we found ourselves in and we were brought closer together as a family. I’m looking forward to 2011 and the adventures to come!

On New Years Day, we took a trip across the valley.  We can see many villages and castles from where we are, so we decided to visit one and then look back to see OUR village and castle.  We chose Mulazzo, as it’s most prominent from here.  It only took about 15 minutes to drive there and we got to explore another part of this region we hadn’t seen up close before.  There are so many villages around here, I don’t know if we’ll get to see them all in a year!  Anyway, here’s Mulazzo:

Mulazzo

The little cobblestone road up to Mulazzo

A little street leading into Mulazzo. Balin jumping 🙂

The church in Mulazzo on the main Piazza. There is a stone laid next to it which was inscribed in the 1300s!

A view from the Castle in Mulazzo. Little farm house on a hillside. Lovely winter pic!

I can see our house!! View of Groppo and surrounding villages from the castle in Mulazzo

Finally, here’s a pic of our favourite past time at the moment: Fog Footy!  The boys enjoy going out into the backyard and playing a modified version of football. The thick fog makes it extra fun 🙂

Fog Footy!

Ciao xx

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About missrini

Global citizen. Travel blogger. Eccentric dreamer.
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