The next chapter

06/12/2012 - 01:12


  As for travelling abroad, In Italy I have a stone detached cottage in Northern Tuscany, on the Pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome, seconds walk from open woodlands, 5 minutes walk to the nearest river. 5 minutes drive for airport connections via rail or drive all the way (1h) to Pisa and Parma & Genoa (over 1 hour). I always think you should aim for a holiday destination to be max - 1 hour, but if you really need to - Milan is 2 hours.   The cottage itself set in a small garden with a cherry tree, and views from the back garden of the mountains that stand openly across the valley.   Further for leisure activities, for the summer there is an Olympic open air pool beset beneath the mountains, just 10 mins drive, the nearest free (sandy beach - with bar - cafe - washing facilities, is 35 mins away (beaches normally cost about €10 to visit as you enter via the hotels beach entrance and then they offer facilities)), Cinque Terre 35 mins, Friendly Versilia, gay (50 mins away - google Friendly Versilia). For winter, Ski resort 45 mins; Cerreto (The hotel on the lake although dated is a brilliant hotel - where you can swim in the warmth and watch the skiiers - from the hotel) or Zeri (tends to be more cross country skiing).   There is also horse riding, golf plus the many festivals including the book festival of Pontremoli and the Bancarel del vino (Slow food festival) of the local hilltop Medieval village Mulazzo (worth a visit - if only for the views over the valley, although this is also the home of the Malaspina Family).   In this area, the local specialities include wild boar, bean caserole, herb tart, and the oldest pasta in Italy - Testarola (I accept that pasta originally came from China), but you can try the first version here.   Further, aswell as being a historic pilgrimage route, it is also the land of 100 castles, famous through Dantes writings, and of the Stone/Bronze/Iron age stones of the Stele, of which some were found in the village which my cottage is based.   The property itself consists of a double bedroom, a lounge with a sofa bed, with a woodstove - for log fired traditional cooking (oven and hob).   A small kitchen which provides a good sized sink and drainer/preparation base, Fridge, electric Oven (Turbo Fan, Spit, Pizza oven & grill), Microwave and storage space.   And the bathroom which hosts a sink, WC, bidet, & shower (and washing machine).   Upstairs there are two rooms - currently unused, 1 used historically for the roasting of chestnuts (the region is famous for it's chestnut flour and honey, the European Union has awarded the chestnut honey from La Lunigiana, DOP certification – the only Italian honey to qualify).   This roasting in this upstairs room has hence caused it to be blackened out, and the 2nd room via ladder access in the lounge, has glass tiles to lighten it.   There is a local bar 50 metres away (and on the same side of the road (so no playing frogger);). It's open from 6am till midnight, and if you are an early bird you might meet up with the Caribinieri (social police, there are several different forms of police in Italy) on their way to work - supping an espresso at 7am. For you TV sporty lot - they show Sky Sports.    On the opposite side of the road there is a shop - that seems to sell everything.  And ok - you do get to play frogger.   Gas bottles, Delicatessan meats (see the hogs leg on the plinth - they arent scared of what meat looks like here), household stuff, loadsa pasta, fresh vegetables, cheeses etc and beers and wines, plus within reason they can get you something you need for the next day. Further, they can get touristic dishes also delivered the next day. There is a fish van that arrives every Wednesday.   700metres away is the nearest restaurant, but travel 1.5 km and you get to Manhattan's Pizzeria - ok not that Italian sounding but it gets a very diverse range of clientele there, and the food is great, and the wine was last time I was there €3 for a litre of house red, and quite reasonable. You get families there seating 10-12 and also single people too - its only a small town/large village but it is well patronised. Everyone is welcome.   Pontremoli is 15 minutes drive and offers more restaurants - for you to find out... An historic town with a lovely river and castle museum hosting the story of the Stele stones.   I have owned the house since 2005 and have never rented it out - I rent out property in the UK - and am now thinking of doing the same there.   Here's the but! It still needs some cosmetic work, for instance - the pipes had burst in the bathroom, the pipework had originally been buried in the walls - the pipework - is now on the surface between the bathroom and kitchen - and may seem unsightly to some. But if you can forgive the property for this - it is just a great place to stay.   For the house, it's a lovely rural retreat, ideally you need a car, but my sister has survived there by the 2km walk to the train station and the house has a bike!   Should I rent it out? Have a think, and let me know what you think.  

Can you work out - where my house is? My sister and I were sitting in the garden, and my sister called out to 2 passers by, a woman that had flown in from Canada to France, and a priest that had come from Paris.  Both of them - had met each other whilst walking the pilgrimage route, the priest walking and surviving only on providence - he had no Credit cards, they are put up along the route by local hostels and churches. I offered them Blood Orange juice and yoghurt... as we sat beneath the cherry tree and talked some about their journey and how they met. The priest was walking to Rome. The nearby town - although small - still manages to have a plumber's merchants, and a tractor for hire merchants, and the pool... and a rather special shop - upstairs - for everything you might want in the home and at fair prices. There is no need to travel to Massa for Carrefour - shop locally... There is a bike shop that does local hire of bikes too.