We drove to Luni Archeological Site that is only 8 miles from our house in Nicola. Entrance fees were waived for us older folks so we wandered around viewing all the items they had uncovered. It must have been a pretty impressive town, founded in 177 BC, before it was destroyed by whomever was the next ruling group. They had no English guide or on the individual signs, so our interpretation of what we were seeing was pretty limited. The guide book mentioned that the site was noted mainly for the remains of its great amphitheater, which could seat 5000 spectators but there were no signs at the museum site about the amphitheater. We found it by driving in the direction that it was shown on the map in the guide book. In the middle of cultivated farm fields sits this large arena. The little parking lot was chained off and the gates into the area were locked. It is the most impressive part of this old city and is not part of the exhibition.
We then drove to Sarzana based on a writeup in an Italian Riviera guide book. We were there on a market day. All of the open areas were filled with vendors selling clothes, kitchen gadgets, tools, toys, etc. We visited all of the spots mentioned in the book. The Cittadella, the fortress, was not open as it is being used as the site for an on-going concert of accoustical guitarists. It was still impressive from the outside and one could picture it when there was water in its moat.
We had our snack lunch in the parking lot under a pine tree with cones that were bigger than softballs. Luckily, none dropped either on us or the car. Then, it was on to some of the recommended hill towns and their castles. The first was the Fortress di Sarzanello located at the top of a hill road paved with cobblestones that were a real test of the Renault's suspension and our teeth. It was an impressive structure and open for self-guided tours. We wandered all over this place before leaving for the hill-town village of Fosdinove with its restored castle that is a private residence, but open to visitors.
The GPS took us up the steepest and narrowest road possible to reach this town. We learned later that there is a much better road, which we took after our visit. We bought our ticket, which came with a self-tour guide in English. The lady who sold us the ticket showed us the first couple of rooms and pointed out where to go after the first four rooms on that level. Then she called for a gentleman to come and talk to us. He came over and he spoke very good English. He talked abit about where we should go and asked if we were staying there for the night. He also asked if we paid to get in. We said yes and he told us we should have talked to him first.
Later, we learned he is the son of the owner of the castle, the marquis Filippo Torrigiani Malaspina, whose family has owned the castle since 1340, and restored it, completed in 1960.
During our tour, we ran into the son's wife and one-year old daughter. They are both lawyers who live in the castle for six months during the summer, and live in Florence for the other six months. She was very friendly and showed us many other rooms of the castle. She said they were married in the castle and she has lived there for six years. We mentioned that it must be a challenge to have a toddler running around in a place with so many places that can be dangerous, especially the number of stone stairways. She said it was a constant concern, but she has help during the day when she is working.
When we mentioned we were staying in Nicola, they both mentioned that they knew the lady who owns the resturant at the end of the square. We thanked them for their hospitality and we mentioned to ourselves how lucky we are to meet such friendly people that are willing to share a bit of thier lives with us. We drove down the hill, by the better road, which seemed to go on forever. Fosdinovo is at 500 M above sea level so it is a long road to reach sea level, before we then climb the hill to Nicola which is only at 181 M. Another fun and interesting day all within 20 miles from Nicola. We are so thankful to the Kohler's for allowing us the use their house.
Friday will be a non-travel day as we wash clothes, go shopping to replenish supplies we used during our visit, clean and then pack. Saturday we will go to Torino to visit Beth's nephew and his family. At least this time we will be dragging our suitcases down hill to the car. We made a reservation on Monday night in a small family run farm near Riva del Garda. This will be our first stop as we slowly work our way back to Germany.