So here’s the situation: In our Italian neck of the woods, there is a law that permits only a certain number of windows per room. Yes, that’s right. Apparently, the practice started years ago when farmers didn’t want so many windows due to their inefficiency—you know, drafty winters, vulnerability, etc. So, over the centuries, they just made the practice into an architectural common law of sorts. Why not? You can do that kind of thing here  . . . it’s Italy! (more…)

Don Quixote might mistake the windmill called Mulino a Vento as a “giant,” standing on top of the ridge, with arms outstretched over the valley below, ready to do battle with any approaching foe. It surely must be a giant, right, because there aren’t any windmills in Tuscany? Everybody knows that! Right? Well, “everybody” is mistaken. (more…)

Imagine a hiking trail 100 miles long with no particular destination. Sound strange? What if you could actually see the focus of your wanderings, yet never arrive there? What if the trail encircled the most magnificent symbol of the Italian Renaissance—the Duomo, Cattedrale Santa Maria del Fiore—the main cathedral in the heart of Florence? Now, this is really getting interesting. Well, there is such a trail—where the real destination is a deepening of the magic and mystery of that special place known as Firenze—the heart of Tuscany—an experience like no other! (more…)

È quest’autobus per Santa Brigida? Is this bus going to Santa Brigida?”
Seems like a pretty simple question, but after a 5 hour hike and an hour wait for the last bus of the day, we wanted to be sure. We had no interest in retracing our steps back to the car. ” Sì, questa è l’autobus giusto. Yes, this is the right bus,” she replied with a smile. (more…)

Our friend Sergio has a dream tucked beneath layers of rust in a salvage yard.

Whenever we need an old unique piece made of iron, we go to see Sergio. He’s been tirelessly collecting everything iron for decades now, and his collection is indeed impressive. He has meticulously gathered everything from enormous iron gates from the largest villas in Tuscany, to the miscellaneous small parts to make them work. He has old statues, machines, beds and swords. You name it. He has it. (more…)

One empty bench beckoned us from across the park. We had been hiking a bit, so we were ready to sit down and relax for a few minutes. All the other benches were occupied, so we felt lucky to find the last available seat in the “house.”

As we approached the bench, Em said, “Oh, there’s the reason this one’s empty!” He was referring to the paint that had been drizzled across the wood slats. But, to me it looked like dried, glossy enamel, which can often give the appearance of being fresh. So I took my right index finger and lightly touched the paint. “Argh! It is wet paint!!” I declared. I then took a tissue from my pocket and wiped my finger. To my surprise, the wetness came off, but the violet color remained. My finger was semi-permanently dyed. I went into a nearby restroom to wash my hands. Nothing phased the stain. I examined more closely. My finger made it look as though I’d recently voted! I showed Em. And suddenly, I felt pleased with my dyed finger. (more…)

Last week we experienced a serendipitous moment. While browsing online for a nearby restaurant, we came across one with a curious name: Vino y Otros Remedios (Wine and Other Remedies). The name was intriguing with its suggestion of healing the body with great foods and wines, but it was the reviews that really sold us. We cross-checked a couple of sites. Yep . . . it looked like a winner. Since it was located only a block and a half away, we were out the door without giving it another thought. (more…)

On a brisk, cool Saturday morning in September, we set out on our trek through the French countryside. From Rue de Saint Jacques in the town of Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques, toward Toulouse, the trail known as the GR 65, wends its way through some of the prettiest French villages in the country. Within minutes, we were on the pilgrims’ footpath, leading to Santiago, Spain, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. But we weren’t going that far . . . not even close . . . not this time. Our plan was to cover only a little over 200 kilometers (125 miles) in 10 days. Next year, perhaps we’ll walk another section. We’ll see. Our conclusion is that those medieval pilgrims were some pretty tough cookies indeed! (more…)

We decided to take a big walk!

Sometimes it’s helpful to symbolize life’s journey by creating a walk that challenges us with everyday trials, on our way to a special destination. It’s even more powerful when that path is one that’s served as The Way for millions of pilgrims over centuries of soulful walking.

The Way of Saint James is one of the most famous pilgrimages in the history of the world, and is made up of countless paths throughout Europe, all converging at Cape Finisterre, at the western coast of Spain. Finisterre means “land’s end,” and was definitely thought of in ancient times as the “end of the world.” What better destination to symbolize life’s pilgrimage? (more…)