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  • Day34

    Bagni di Lucca / Bennabio

    December 16, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    What a Wonderful Day

    We must be either totally mad or absolutely greedy. We woke at 7am today to get ready to make our way to a lunch booked for 12 -12.30. The journey entailed a 40 minute train ride from Lucca to Bagni Di Lucca station, and then a 5km hike uphill to Benabbio, lunching at Locando Il Cavallino Bianco. The weather forecasted storm.

    We got to the station named Bagni Di Lucca, and realised that we were actually at the town Fornoli, 4km from actual Bagni Di Lucca, enroute to Benabbio. Well, if we were to walk 5km, what is another 4 km more, especially with lunch at the end. And we had over 3 hours to make the hike, so we could go at a leisurely pace. In high spirits, we set out looking for the tourist information but a coffee stop was priority. We turned our seasoned travelers, intrepid trekkers noses up at the coffee places along the "main highway", which was a narrow one and a half lane road lined with trees of some leafless sort. We found a little cafe across a footbridge full of old men. A typical village morning coffee stop for locals. Our type of place. The owner spoke excellent English, coffee was good, pastries melted in our mouths, the bathroom was clean, and we were invited to sit down at no extra charge. We even had entertainment watching an old lady feed coins into a colourful poker machine. (It's a little mountain village. We take our entertainment when we can.) I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but in Italy, the price of coffee doubles or more once a seat is taken. We have our coffee and pastry standing at the bar, and will not even stand anywhere near a table. We were invited to sit, and so were pleasantly surprised to pay only €1 per coffee and pastry. The day was starting to look good despite dark clouds gathering and descending. We took instructions to get to the tourist information, and resumed our walk. It was lovely walking by the river, looking at clouds move across the mountain tops and enjoying being in the country. We love little villages, the landscape, the pace, the clean air, the lovely people... We love it all.

    We got to Bagni Di Lucca. Followed the "i" signs to the tourist information, and got to a board with a map. We decided that it must mean the office was close by. So we walked on. "Ohhh, there's a Christmas fair", and we walked. Opps. We're out of the town. No tourist information office. Either the tourist information referred to by the many signs must have been the board, or it was shut in this off peak winter season.

    Onwards we walked. Out of town, the road started to climb. Oh. I forgot to mention that we were walking on the road. There were no tracks that we could see, and of course no footpaths, so we walked single file along the narrow roads whilst admiring the view, and the quaint little houses. All this time, we had varying degrees of drizzle. As the road climbed, so did the precipitation. Blessed be those who developed waterproof fibres and clothes for they have kept many well and dry. May they inherit the kingdom of whatever god they pray to, and plenty of well deserved riches of this world. The rain started to get torrential, and we walked on. With just 1.8km to go, a white car stopped in front of us and reversed. A kindly man stopped to offer us a lift. He did not mind that we were wet, and our boots were muddy. We piled into his car, as relieved to get out of the rain as we were to not climb any more. He shook his head and gesticulated wildly when we told him we caught the train from Lucca then walked from Fornoli. He dropped us right in front of the restaurant and it was not till later that I realised I never saw his face although I thanked him with a big "grazie miele" and shook his hand from the backseat before I got out of his car. He is my faceless angel in black padded jacket.

    As we were early for the restaurant, we decided to explore Benabbio and it's gorgeous stone alleyways. Whilst I was taking some photos, an elderly lady carrying a pail of firewood and potatoes emerged from an ancient stone shed. I smiled, said "boun giorno" (good day), and offered to help her carry her pail. Before I knew it, she shooed me and her pail uphill whilst she disappeared downhill. We waited with her pail, and then I started to wonder if she thought she was robbed or thought I wanted her firewood and potatoes. I pictured the old lady cold and hungry. Oh dear. All the other 3 not-so-awesomes could do was laugh at me. I took pail in search of old lady when she emerged with an empty plant pot. We again mimed that we'd carry the pail for her, and she pointed the way. It took both Swee and Grace to carry her pail about 250m through slippery cobbled lanes. Country old ladies are really tough. Always be nice to them.

    Lunch was certainly worth the journey. We got more shaking of the head and wild gesticulating scoldings from the owner, Alessandro, when we told him we walked from Fornoli. There was no menu for this restaurant. It was an oral menu of 4 pastas for Primi Piatti (first course), and 4 meats for Secondi (second course). Alessandro, starting his sentences with "Attenzione", explained it all in detail with his limited English, aided by lots of mimes and gestures. It was hilarious. Every time he said "Attenzione", I wanted to giggle. We ordered all 4 pastas and 3 mains. We skipped the beef. The vino (wine) which came in a half litre jug was from his friend, and the olive oil was made by Claudio the chef. Both were sublime and better than most we've had in Italy. I love little village restaurants. After pastas, we wondered how we could face the mains. Not only did we face it, we finished it, with bread to mop up every bit of sauce.

    Alessandro asked if we wanted dessert, and I all to enthusiastically said, "of course". There was chocolate and pear tart, almond cake, and apple cake. He suggested that he makes a plate with all 3 for us to share. It sounded like a wonderful idea until we saw the serve. The serve of the 3 cakes made up a whole cake. The girls decided to sing me happy birthday very loudly, and I pretended to blow out candles. We were in a vino and food aided merry mood. The table next to us, a couple from Cinque Terre, who we chatted with periodically through lunch gave me kisses before they departed the restaurant. I love being in the country. Shortly after, the chef appears with a carafe of Vin Santo (sweet sherry tasting desert wine) and 4 pieces of typical chestnut cake of the region, a present from the Cinque Terre couple. Just what we needed. More alcohol and more food. It would have been rude to not partake of such a gift, so we did. We were consoling ourselves with the 9km walk down-mountain to work off the enormous lunch when Alessandro appeared and insisted that we not walk to the train station. He gesticulated that we'd break his heart, and he'd drive us instead. We were so full, we thought he could kick us down the mountain. After all, the train station was at the bottom. We'd just have to avoid rolling into the river.

    Intoxicated and overfull, we boarded the train and immediately fell fast asleep waking just in time to get off at our stop in Lucca.

    What a wonderful lunch. What wonderful people. What a wonderful day.
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