I remember when I was a kid we used to fill jars with fireflies believing we could read by them – and while they weren’t quite that bright, it is now quite cool to find even a single firefly. What happened to them?
There was a nice double rainbow after a major thunderstorm outside our apartment.
Abetone is literally within sight of our apartment in Tuscany. While it is not more than 15km away as the crow flies, it is a 52km drive that takes a bit more than an hour because it goes through a lot of small towns and up into the mountains (much longer in inclement weather).
We did not try the Mutlipass (a la 5th element) but we did ski all the trails lifts in Val de Luce, which is a US equivalent resort with condos and rental shops and big parking lots and easy lift access about 10km and 20 min further away from us than the first lift that access the greater Abetone ski area.
It is about half the size in terms of lifts and capacity of Megeve, and not nearly as extensively developed. Where Megeve has lots of gondola and acceleration lifts, Abetone is dominated by treadmill acceleration lifts. It is gorgeous, wide-open terrain.
We visited after a long season of heavy snows, but late enough that warm days had made a hard cover and thus skiing on piste was barely distinguishable from off-piste, in fact the piste had more scraped powder.
But the open, forgiving terrain invites exploration and there certainly is plenty of it. While we only spent a half day there (vs. three days in Megeve) we found our own favorite geography and never had to share it with anyone else. The user small compared to Megeve, and infitesimal compared to US resorts: we never had to wait in a lift line and once we cleared the debark we were free of any other skiers even when the schools were operating.
I’m not sure I’d make Abetone an international destination, but as a convenient, local resort, it is far superior to Tahoe on anything but the best days, and only an hour away. If I was in Borgo A.M., I’d make the trip after every fresh snowfall.
I rented a pugeot 207 in Lyon and drove it over 2,500km through France, Italy, and Switzerland, through blizzards and over single track mountain roads in the alps and dolomites alone and filled to exploding with passengers and luggage. It never failed and from the day I picked it up to up to the day I wistfully dropped it off; I never had even the slightest problem.
The 207 is a fast, sporty car that handles alpine roads with finesse and aplomb. I never squeaked a tire or upset it in the slightest despite making good time on roads mostly frequented by 3 wheelers and 4WD Pandas, but making far better time.
The car was quiet, had a loud, clear stereo, and a very comfortable cabin. Luggage space was compact (inevitably) but adequate and fortuitously sized to carry two large roll-aboard duffel bags. It was not sufficient for four passengers and luggage, but managed three.
It had good manners on snow and ice, even when other vehicles spun out and slid across the road, the 207 managed to pull through and when it couldn’t it was light enough to push. It was admirable on the unpaved roads in the mountains of Tuscany, though the sporting suspension limited ground clearance and thus the available roads to explore.
The configuration I rented had the lesser stereo option which did not include a line-in input. This is a major shortcoming on any modern car, but particularly manifest where radio stations come and go and offer limited selection. There is still value in traveling with an assortment of CDs – at least it could decode MP3 off redbook disks, if not accept an accessory input.
The 207 gets good mileage but has excellent pickup. On the long trek through some of the geographically undifferentiated north of Italy around Parma, the car just naturally drifted toward 200 kph. It was always comfortable at the more standard 130, climbing or descending or though 15km tunnels like Mont Blanc or the one in Switzerland between Italy and Basil.
All in all a very nice upgrade from the Panda I reserved (though Fiat Pandas have their charm too).
Winter is beautiful in Tuscany. The light is more gentle all day than in the summer and the warmth seems closer when the distant mountains are covered in snow and the nights are cold. We had a lovely time there, if only for two nights, warming the house with the wood furnace and taking long walks down to town and up to Rocca.
We ate at I Macelli in Borgo a Mazzano the first night – I had the Minestra Di Cereali, then the Ravioli di Castagne and finally the Filetto Di Manzo, all excellent as always. The food at I Macelli is excellent, always. The second night we had dinner at The Butterfly, just outside of Lucca. Butterfly is a Michelin rated restaurant and perhaps the best restaurant I’ve ever been to. Everything there is amazing.
Carolyn and I both had the “of the land” tasting menu. Of I think about 8 courses, only the pasta with sardines was not to my taste, but I don’t normally like them anyway and even so it was good.
It is a source of constant amazement how affordable first rate restaurants are in Italy. The food there is much better than anything one can get in the US, probably because the supply tend to be local and everything is made fresh and from local ingredients, and possibly for the same reason the prices are surprisingly low, even with the painful exchange rate one eats better in Italy than one could in the US at 4-5 times the price.
And then there’s the bulk wine dispensed into your own bottle at less than 2 euro a liter…