Becca and Kate arrived in early July, staying two nights.  Even though they had to take cold showers, I think they really enjoyed their brief stay.

Saturday morning we were up for an early breakfast.  We caught the 8:45 train to Lucca and spent the morning wandering the narrow streets.  We of course had to stop for a cappuccino and gelato during our stroll; all 5 senses were satisfied.  By 12:30, the sun was directly overhead and it was hot and sultry.  We found a wonderful restaurant in a piazzetta just off the Via Filunga, the main shopping street, with dining under lovely umbrellas, and, even better, air conditioning inside.  It was our good fortune that the food was really good, too.

After delaying our exit as long as we possibly could, we returned into the hot, still streets of Lucca.  To work off our lunch, Kate and I climbed the Torre Guinigi, the highest tower in Lucca. It is as famous as much for the oak trees growing on it (6 stories above street level) as for its incredible views of Lucca.  Pepper and Becca sat and awaited our return (and Becca had a nice power nap).  The best part of our visit to the top was not the marvelous vistas. It was the wonderfully cool breezes that blow along the tiled rooftops, with just a little tang of the sea (or perhaps this was suggested to me by the cry of the seagulls).  Kate and I lingered a good while and hated to leave our breeze aerie. But our friends were baking below, so we begrudgingly spiraled down again.

The best antidote to a sultry afternoon is gelato, of course, so we sauntered back to the train station, licking cones and slurping spoonfuls of the delicious (and cold!) treat.

Whether it was the heat or the wine at lunch or the gentle rocking of the train, Kate and I couldn’t keep our eyes open, even for the 25-minute return to Ghivizzano.  A short nap refreshed us and then we drove to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana for a sunset stroll and wonderful dinner.

Sunday morning was a lazy one, with the girls coming to breakfast after nine.  With stomachs full, we drove first to Ghivizzano Alto.  Our Medieval village is a perfect introduction to the  structure of the hundreds that are scattered along the Serchio and Lima valleys.  Each town, tiny or large, is similar and yet each has its own history and geography to render it unique.

Our next stop was Coreglia Antelminelli, the seat of power for our town (Ghivizzano is one of 5 villages that make up a ‘comune’).  Being much larger, it also takes much longer to walk through, but provides many more photo opportunities.  Coreglia is also at a much higher altitude, constructed on the peak of a mountain so the alleyways can be much steeper.  The houses on the side alleys were festooned with geraniums, lavender, hydrangeas and other flowers. We finished off the morning with a cappuccino, and hopped in the car to descend to the valley floor.

After a wonderful lunch of pizza (and water this time, to avoid afternoon sleepiness from wine), we strolled the Ponte della Maddalena, also known as Ponte del Diavolo.  Then we took a ‘Sunday drive’ (Kate said it was just like her grandparents used to do) to a village up, up, up on a promontory above the Lima river valley.  This village was tiny, so the complete circumnavigation lasted only 20 minutes or so. But the views in all directions were incredible!

We ended the drive by dropping down, down, down to Bagni di Lucca for a wonderfully cold gelato.

Too soon, Becca and Kate departed on the train to Lucca.