When we first began thinking about buying a house in Italy, one of the first requirements we put on the list was a train station nearby. When I looked at properties in Italy in 2007 and 2008, I visited many houses that were truly lovely and would surely have impressed our guests. Many were in small villages, some on the plain and others high on a hilltop. But none was within walking distance of a train station. 

Ghivizzano does have a train station and it’s a short walk from our house. We are on the Aula-Lucca line. From Lucca, you can transfer for trains to Pisa or Florence. From Aula, you can transfer for trains to Milan, Cinque Terre, and Genova are short trips. And of course France, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria are just beyond the Italian border.

Our home is on a promontory overlooking the Serchio river. The main road, Via Nazionale, is below us and between us and the river. Because the principal piazza is so close, many conveniences are within walking distance. 

Leaving our courtyard, we descend steeply on an ancient cobbled footpath. The right-hand side is covered with bright green, a blanket of weeds so lovely I hate to use that term. To our left is the small valley between us and Ghivizzano Alto (the Medieval town). Reaching the end of the footpath, we turn left and then walk along a short private road. It is level and about half-way along is a bridge that crosses the Segone. The Segone is the rivulet that cascades down and through the eons has carved out the small valley between us and Ghivizzano Alto. Crossing this bridge, we reach the road that descends to Via Nazionale. Opposite us is a cobblestone path that climbs to Ghivizzano Alto. We’ll turn right instead and begin to follow the gently-descending road. We walk past a row of homes on both sides, each with its fenced yard that is lovingly landscaped.  As we continue along this road, we see on our right a two-story edifice with a small parking lot in front. On the right is the pastry shop. I can smell the Torta della Nonna,  a double-crust tart filled with a delicately flavored pastry cream,baking. Perhaps we’ll buy some chocolate-filled cookies. Alternately, we can say hello to Maria Pia in the alimentary on the left. This corner store sells a little bit of everything. Maybe we’ll buy fresh mozzarella or pasta sauce, a deliciously-ripe tomato or olives, house cleaning products or lavender scented soap. If we can resist these temptations, a short piece of road remains to Via Nazionale. When we arrive, we’ll pop into the bakery on our left. Let’s buy a loaf of freshly-made Ciabata, a few pizzettas – a little more than a mouthful, but as flavorful as the larger ones – and a dozen chocolate-dipped cookies.

 Crossing Via Nazionale is our main square, Piazza Quattro Novembre. Let’s stop in Bar Sport. An Italian ‘bar’ is unlike the American version. Especially in small towns, it is the heart of the community.  At breakfast, we can have a brioche and a caffe’. If it’s lunch time, sandwiches (straight from the display case or toasted) and a Fanta or a glass of local wine are available. It’s hard to resist the gelato case, with 10 or so flavors, all handmade by Lorenzo, the bar owner. Here we can also recharge our cellphone, buy a lottery ticket, or purchase a bus or train ticket. After dinner or Sunday afternoon, we can join the crowd around the television or play pool or cards in the next room. In short, Bar Sport will be a regular part of our lives in Ghivizzano.  Across the small square is the Post Office. Here, in addition to mailing letters and buying stamps, we can pay our electricity or water bill. The Italian post office also offers checking and savings accounts, pays pensioners their monthly check, and many other government functions.

 Leading from the piazza is Via della Stazione, another gently-sloping road at the end of which is our train station. From our doorstep to the station – if we’ve resisted all the delights along the way – has taken no more than 7 minutes. And we’re here just as the train to Lucca pulls up. Let’s go to Lucca for lunch – we can be back by dinner time!