Italy: Day Seven & Eight (Part 1) ~ Travel and Tuscany

Curtis and I talked late into the night on Sunday trying to decide what we wanted to do with the rest of our vacation. We didn’t have to be back in Rome until Friday morning to catch our flight home so we still had four full days to explore. We were on the Island of Capri and it was crowded, tiny, and we were tired from the action-packed touristy sights. We thought about staying on Capri because it was so incredibly beautiful, but the hotels were booked and the AirBnB choices were limited (and expensive). He asked me what else I really wanted to see while we were in Italy and I said I wanted to visit a vineyard and stay in a place where we would be pampered. So Curtis Googled Tuscany and Marriott and found the most incredible resort property located in Barga: the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa. I went online and did some research too… Barga would be perfect…. away from the crowds, beautiful, and quiet. Curtis called them up and got us a nice room and with his points, it would cost us nothing. That’s right, the room would be free! Now I had to figure out travel.

Last Meal in Capri

After we decided we wanted to visit Tuscany, Curtis found the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa in Barga, and we decided that we would travel by train to get there. It would be a long day but we were up for the adventure. We were booked on a noon ferry back to Naples which would get us in around 1:00 p.m., then we would go to the train station to catch our 2:00 p.m. high speed train to Florence. We would have time for lunch in Naples and a snack in Florence, then we would catch a commuter train to Lucca, change trains, and get on another commuter train to Barga, arriving around 8:30 p.m. The resort said they would send a car for us once we arrived. So we were packed and ready to head down to the ferry by 10:30 a.m. Our AirBnB host, Genny, was aware that our ferry left at noon, but he didn’t load our luggage into his car until 11:20… yikes! Traffic was bad and we didn’t get down to the dock until 11:50. By the time I got to the ticket counter, it was too late to make our ferry. The next one that we could take was at 1:00 p.m. but the girl assured me we would have plenty of time to get to the train station in time. The ferry was supposed to take 45 minutes and the map app said it would take a taxi only 5-6 minutes to drive from the dock to the train station. We had an hour to kill in Capri, so we had lunch at Ristorante da Peppino. It was crazy crowded and great people watching!

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iPhone 6S+

Goofy Again

After dining in Capri, we boarded our ferry to Naples at 1 o’clock. Our train was leaving Naples in an hour and we were stressed about time. We strategically loaded our luggage near the exit of the boat and anxiously watched the clock. Ugh, our ferry didn’t dock until 1:47 p.m.!!! That meant we only had 13 minutes to find a taxi, get to the train station, and board the train. We were totally the rude tourists on the boat and shoved our way off the boat first, running with our luggage trailing behind us. God was on our side… there was a taxi driver waiting just inside the ticket area and asked us if we needed a ride. We shouted, “Yes!!! Our train leaves in 10 minutes, can you get us to the station in time?” The map app was now saying the drive would take 11 minutes due to traffic. I didn’t think we were going to make it. And the rest of our connections depended on us getting on this train. The taxi driver was very confident he could get us there in time and grabbed our suitcases and ran with us following behind him. He pealed out of the parking lot and I kept my map app running. He drove like a total maniac, cut through side streets, blaring his horn. I kept seeing the minutes ticking by. There was no way we were going to make it. The driver pulled onto the traffic-jammed street near the train station. Traffic was dead stopped and not moving. Oh no! He started cutting in and out of traffic, went up onto the sidewalk, then pulled into oncoming traffic! Oh my gosh! I thought we were going to die! I swear it was a scene from the Amazing Race!!! Just at the last second, he yanked the wheel back to the right and came to a screeching stop at a red light, actually ramming the car in front of us. When the light changed, he cut through four lines of traffic to the right, and cut off at least a dozen cars waiting to turn into the train station. It was now 1:55 p.m. and our hearts were racing! He drove us all the way up to the sidewalk just outside the entrance, grabbed our luggage from the back, and ran to the entrance. Curtis threw lots of euros at him and we literally ran as fast as we could to the main platform. It was 1:59! Yikes!!! I quickly scanned the departures board and found our track… luckily it was just two tracks down. The doors were just closing as we hollered, “Wait!” We boarded on the train, I couldn’t believe we made it!!! Once we found our assigned seats, we collapsed as our adrenaline subsided. As per usual, I wanted to get a selfie of us as we began our new journey and Curtis did the goofy eye thing… then laughed and laughed. He is so stinking cute!!! Wow, what an adventure!

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iPhone 6S+

Lunch in Florence

The high speed train from Naples to Florence was awesome. It got up to 200mph! We had a very smooth ride and before we knew it, we were in Florence. We had about 45 minutes before we had to catch the train to Lucca, so we found a bar called Vyta and had a glass of wine with some pizza. I loved the way my hat looked sitting on the counter next to my Italian snack.

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iPhone 6S+

Florence Train Station

It was time to find our platform. The Florence train station, called the Stazione Firenze Santa Maria Novella, was much smaller than Naples or Rome. It was much less crowded than the other stations we had visited so far (with the exception of Nettuno of course).

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Waiting on Our Train

As we were waiting on our train to take us from Florence to Lucca, I kinda wished we had stayed one night in Florence. We didn’t get to see the city at all and the photos I’ve seen of Florence are stunning. We did enjoy the people watching as we waiting on our train to arrive.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/320 | ISO 200

As we were pulled out of the Florence train station, Curtis got this shot of my hat hanging on the hook beside our seats. The serenity of the scene belies the daring escapade we had endured just a few hours earlier. We were still laughing about that!

Samsung Galaxy 6 | 4.2mm | f/1.7 | 1/500 | ISO 40

Florence to Lucca

We left Florence and the terrain changed. It became more mountainous and green. We would pass by these small towns that were so picturesque. I wanted to get a video to show mom (sorry the window is so dirty!). Isn’t it pretty?

Florence to Lucca

iPhone 6S+

Tuscany Country

We changed trains in Lucca and had time to get a gelato. This part of the trip, from Lucca to Barga, was short and we made half a dozen stops or so. Even though the window was dirty, the scene was so pretty that I had to get a quick snap with my phone. We went over lots of rivers and through lots of mountains… trestles, bridges, and tunnels. Tuscany country is so very beautiful!

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/100 | ISO 25

Train Station Platform

We arrived in Barga, there were only a few of us that got off the train here. As the train pulled away, I got a video of the beautiful surroundings. It was so quiet and peaceful. I felt immediately at home and relaxed.

Train Station Platform

iPhone 6S+

First Look at Barga

We walked around the building and Curtis called the resort to send the car. They said they would be there in about 15 minutes so I pulled out my big camera (for only the second time that day!) and took a couple of pictures. The air was much cooler compared to Rome, Naples, and Capri. It was only 75 and not humid at all. The trees were huge and everything was so green.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.5 | 1/320 | ISO 1000

Barga Train Station

We waited just in front of the Barga train station for our car to take us to the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa. The station was old and had such character. I’m so glad I got a shot of it.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.5 | 1/250 | ISO 1000

So Quaint

I just love the curlicue metal accents on the buildings, the old clock, and the Italian flag… it really was a quaint scene.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.5 | 1/250 | ISO 1000

Late Dinner at the Resort

Our driver arrived within a few minutes. It was dark by the time we got to the resort. We got checked in and made a dinner reservation for 45 minutes, went to our room, changed, freshened up, and went down to the restaurant. We were tired but thoroughly enjoyed our late dinner on the terrace.

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/8 | ISO 160

Our (Free) Room

After our long travel day, we came back to our room after dinner and I took some photos. I’ll just share this one of our room. I still can’t believe that we got to stay here for free! Yay Marriott points!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/2.5 | 1/160 | ISO 1250

View from our Room

We woke up Tuesday morning to greet our first full day in Tuscany. This was the view from our room. We could see for miles. The weather was so nice that we had our doors open a lot!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/320 | ISO 50

View of Barga

Stepping out onto our patio, I put my 85mm lens on and got a shot of the town of Barga. The colors of the buildings are so bright and happy.

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Nikon D750 | 85mm | f/4 | 1/320 | ISO 50

Morning Coffee on the Patio

We ordered coffee in for our first morning. Curtis took some laundry down to the concierge while I got the coffee set up to enjoy on our patio.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.2 | 1/320 | ISO 50

Wish You Were Here

I do wish you were here. I wish every single one of you could enjoy the beauty of Tuscany and the opulence of the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa. I felt so blessed!

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/450 | ISO 32

Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciccio Resort and Spa

Because Monday had been a travel day, we didn’t take many pictures. We decided Tuesday morning after a late breakfast that we would walk around the property and take some pictures. Then we would head to Old Barga in the afternoon to walk to the duomo, an old castle. We took so many photos in Barga (we initially had 188 5-star photos between the two of us!) that I decided to split Monday and Tuesday into two posts. This first post is of our travel day on Monday, Day Seven, then Tuesday, Day Eight Part One, would be of the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa and New Barga. Next week I will share our photos from Old Barga. The resort is a gorgeous property! This is the main entrance to the resort which is located 2/3 of the way up on a mountain.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4.5 | 1/400 | ISO 50

Curtis also got a wonderful shot of the resort’s entrance. I am not sharing quite as many of his photos today because we got so many similar shots.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/22 | 1/1600 | ISO 4000

The Grand Entrance

The entrance to Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort and Spa is grand. The sky was clear blue, the air was crisp, and we felt so happy to be here. (I couldn’t pick which image was my favorite, so you get both!)

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/1000 | ISO 25

Ivy Covered

Just inside the entrance, you can see the ivy covering the walls to the tunnel.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4.5 | 1/400 | ISO 50

The Drive Up

Turning to the right of the entrance, you can see the part of the long drive up the mountain. I didn’t expect this area to be so mountainous! There are apartments and retail shops located at the entrance to the resort.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/400 | ISO 50

Path to Reception

Coming through the tunnel, there is a divide in the road. To the right are the shops, in the middle is a raised courtyard area that leads to bigger apartments (I think they are rented out to wedding parties), and to the left is a small cobblestone circular drive that leads to reception.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4.5 | 1/400 | ISO 50

Central Courtyard

Once inside the main area, looking back toward the grand entrance, there is a large brick-lined courtyard. More retail shops line the right side which lead to reception. Just behind me is a terrace and bar that overlook the pool.

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/1000 | ISO 25

Like a Movie Set

The resort’s main building looks like something out of a movie set. Everything is lush and green. Ivy grows up the walls. Just beyond this building to the right is the terrace bar.

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/350 | ISO 25

Roosting Place

The terrace bar has a long narrow seating area that is covered by an arbor and overlooks the pool. We sat here several times in the mornings and had a second cup of coffee. I tried to get a panorama shot of this beautiful space. (It’s not actually curved, it’s straight.)

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/280 | ISO 100

The Spa

We went exploring in the resort and found ourselves in the Spa. Wow! I wished we had booked a treatment so that we could’ve enjoyed this space, but it was super expensive and we had already spent a lot of money. Gorgeous, right?

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iPhone 6S+ | 4.2mm | f/2.2 | 1/35 | ISO 32

Resort View

After we had a late morning breakfast, we got a car to take us to Barga. While we were waiting to get picked up, we got some photos of the view from the front of the resort. It was so pretty, pictures hardly do it justice!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5.6 | 1/400 | ISO 50

Curtis got this amazing panorama of the landscape!

Samsung Galaxy 6 | 4.2mm | f/1.7

New Barga Square

A short drive down the mountain and a beautiful 10-minute drive through two small towns brought us to New Barga. The concierge explained that Old Barga is best visited by foot and that we should start here in New Barga then walk over to one of the old gates to enter the city. This is the main square in New Barga. The first thing I noted was how peaceful and quiet it was.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Scuola Giovanni Pascoli

We began the walk over to Old Barga. This is an old school called Scuola Giovanni Pascoli. It was deserted on this Tuesday morning.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Curtis got this great shot of a kid doing a wheelie on his bike. Great action shot, babe!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/22 | 1/1600 | ISO 4000

Gelateria Artisanle

We had a late breakfast at the hotel, so it was time for gelato. It’s always time for gelato in Italy! The owner didn’t mind me taking a photo but asked that she not be photographed. She had a heavy Scottish accent and we learned that in the late 19th century, Italian silk-makers emigrated to Scotland to find work. They intermarried and then came home. Barga is known at the most Scottish town in Italy. No wonder I felt at home!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/4 | 1/320 | ISO 640

Gelato Selfie

Hi guys! There were no tourists, only locals at the gelato shop. Such a stark difference from our visits to Rome, Naples, and Capri!

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iPhone 6S+

Old Church

Just beyond the gelato shop was this old church. We saw the first of many tiny cars (you can’t get around Barga in anything but a tiny car). We noticed that there was no graffiti and no trash littering the streets.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Look at this artistic shot my husband got of the church’s cross silhouetted against the sun. Wow!

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/22 | 1/6400 | ISO 4000

So Vivid

The buildings were so colorful and vivid. I definitely felt like we were in old Italy here.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Statue of Christ

In nearly every home and business were these niches to hold statues. Some were of Christ and others of the Virgin Mary.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/3.5 | 1/320 | ISO 100

The Bridge to Old Barga

Now we crossed a bridge that led from New Barga to Old Barga. We were on the pedestrian bridge and we could see cars crossing at street level. The weather was absolutely perfect!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/8 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Red Telephone Booth

The area underneath the bridges is a huge park (Parco Kennedy… see the sign?) that is way down in a valley. I was tickled to see an old red telephone booth. This is something that was brought back from Scotland to Italy. Once we got closer, we could see that the telephone booth had been converted to a lending library.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/9 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Turning 180-degrees from the bridge, we began a walk up the steeply inclined street. The part to our left is Old Barga which is surrounded by a centuries old stone wall. Curtis got this great shot, then headed back across the street to join me on the sidewalk.

Nikon D700 | 24mm | f/22 | 1/2500 | ISO 4000

Beautiful Intersection

We made it to the top of the hill and found ourselves at this beautiful intersection. Just ahead on the left is one of two main gates to enter Old Barga. To the right is a lookout point… see the next photo!

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/6.3 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Wow View

We walked over to the lookout point and could see for miles in many directions. I made Curtis pose for me! There were benches with Italian writing that said:

“Tu su la bruna valle alta stavilli
Barga, coi cento lumi tuoi”

Which translates to:

You are on the brilliant high valley
Barga, with your hundred lumens

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/7.1 | 1/320 | ISO 100

This is Tuscany

Looking to the right from the previous photo, is this gorgeous view of New Barga. This is Tuscany.

Italy travel street photographer

Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/9 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Curtis was able to get a close-up of the New Barga buildings with his zoom lens.

Nikon D700 | 58mm | f/22 | 1/2500 | ISO 4000

So Picturesque

We crossed back over the intersection and began walking up the hill to the gate of Old Barga. Just before we got there, I turned around and got this shot of the tree-lined front yard with the lookout point just beyond in the distance.

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Nikon D750 | 20mm | f/5.6 | 1/320 | ISO 100

Thanks for looking! Next week we will share our favorite pictures from our favorite place and our favorite part of the entire Italy trip… Old Barga!

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