|Check the map, I said. Weve been to Tereglio, Ghivizzano, Calavorno, Cardoso, San Romano, Anchiano, Corsagna, Bagni di Lucca, Granaiola, Monti di Villa, Montefegatesi, Coreglia Antelminelli, Tiglio, Barga, Motrone, Cune, Valdottavo, Monte Matanna, Fabbriche di Vallico, Bolognana, Borgo a Mozzano, Diecimo, Aquilea, Tempagnano, and Vitiana. |
Good grief, I guess weve just about covered the area north of Lucca. That does it. Its pretty obvious that there wont be any house for us to come back to in future years. Sorry, Anna, I lamented. Lets stop at Leos Bar for a cappuccino before heading back to Tirrenia. I was doing all the talking, partly to Sue and little Anna and partly just to hear myself think.
We had stopped at Leos several times over the previous few months. Some of the best food on the planet was served there for next to nothing, as the only diners were the local inhabitants, and no respectable restaurant in the valley could stay in business long if it charged big-city tourist prices.
I am not even sure that there was a sign indicating a restaurant was there. In those days, there were no menus or prices posted. You would just take a seat and would be either brought what was hot from the stove or given a verbal selection of the days dishes to choose from.
As we were leaving, I noticed a rusty, bent over sign that could be read with some effort. It was adjacent to a narrow one-lane road rising steeply in a curve up from the Serchio Valley floor.
On a whim, I whipped the Bronco around and started up the hill. Curve after curve greeted us, and as we climbed, the vast range of the Apennines opened up to us and was dotted with dozens of little villages. The view extended for at least 20 miles to the north toward the high peaks that separate the region of Tuscany from Emilia. Checking the map, I noted Monte Sillano at 1,875 meters, Le Porraie at 1,834, Monte Castellino at 1,918, Monte Prato at 2,054 and Monte Vecchio rising 1,982 meters above the nearby Tyrrhenian Sea.
Depending on the direction the road would take as it snaked up the mountain, we could catch glimpses of a little hill town perched above us. We checked the odometer when we reached the village--almost exactly one mile. Perfect. It was not too far off the beaten path and just up the hill from a great little restaurant and bar that even had a telephone.
A spring-fed washbasin was adjacent to the tiny parking lot, which was devoid of vehicles except for a lone beat-up Land Rover. Two women were washing clothes in the basin. They looked up and greeted us as we let our dog out to explore the village. They were very happy to see Anna, and Sue gave them the obligatory rundown following their curiosity-driven questioning, about where we were from, how old Anna was, what kind of dog we had, whether we had relatives in the village, and if they could help us in any way.
A single steep, narrow lane led into the center of the village. It was far too narrow for the Bronco but could accommodate small tractors, three-wheeled carts, and tiny vehicles such as Fiat Cinquecentos. After about 100 yards, there was a split in the lane, and we decided to take the left turn, which led up to the commercial center of town. This commercial center consisted of Martas tiny combination grocery store and bar which was equipped with the only telephone in the village. Since the store was the main social gathering place, it was also the center of village news and gossip.
An elderly man greeted us with great glee when he found out that we were from America. His name was Emilio, and he had emigrated to Canada many years before but had returned to Gioviano to retire. His constant companion was a little black dog that soon made friends with ours. When we asked him if he knew of any houses for sale in this village which appeared to be over half abandoned, he took us to a ruin on the back side of town. It was his, and he offered it to us for the equivalent of $250. As it had no roof at all and did not meet the view criteria, we declined the offer.