Boboli Gardens

early view

Early morning view of Florence from the Boboli Gardens Terrace

Friday morning dawned dry and promising so, having foregone a wet afternoon there on Thursday, I decided to get packed and hurry over to the Pitti Palace and gain entry to The Boboli Gardens when they opened at 8.15. This gave me about an hour and a half to walk around, check out the most significant features and return to the apartment to collect my bag by 10am and head to the Railway Station to pick up our bus to Pisa Airport. Continue reading


Perfume Shopping in Florence

If only you could sniff this blog and smell the signature scent of Santa Maria Novella pot-pouri currently filling Miladys Boudoir!

Just over a year ago I was one of the lucky winners of a prize draw on another (now no longer in existence) blog “The Old fashioned Girls“. One half of the duo, Miranda, no longer an old-fashioned girl, now blogs as “Miranda’s Notebook.” The prize was a year’s free subscription to The Perfume Society. As I love perfume I was very happy and after the first year renewed my subscription and was pleased to have the opportunity to choose more boxes of scents to try. In addition to the discovery boxes the Society organise events and send out a weekly newsletter. It was here that I discovered a section “The World’s Best Scent Shopping Cities” and one of these is Florence.

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The Fresh Air of Fiesole

As we boarded the number 7 bus opposite San Marco we appreciated that it was good to sit down for a while. The journey up to Fiesole takes about half an hour. And all was quiet when we got there. We chose to visit Fiesole on the Wednesday because that was the only day that didn’t threaten rain although it often looked very likely. We got off the bus in the main square and noticed a considerable drop in temperature. We soon found a little bakery where we chose a savoury pastry each followed by some little sweet cakes and tea. Refreshed we then began our tour of Fiesole.


Garibaldi etc

The Piazza Mino da Fiesole Continue reading

Continuation of the 90-Minute Walk and the Frescoes of San Marco

On the Wednesday feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep we rejoined the previous day’s walk where the Via dei Servi leaves the Piazza del Duomo and headed north to arrive in the Piazza della Santissima Anunziata. There’s a colonnade on the right, designed by Brunelleschi, behind which was Europe’s first orphanage The Spedale degli Innocenti.  The building now houses a museum of childhood and offices of UNICEF.

Brunelleschi's 9 bay arcade

Brunelleschi’s Colonnade Continue reading

A 90-Minute Walk Around Renaissance Florence [Afternoon]

In order to complete this walk in 90 minutes you would have to virtually run, or at least walk very quickly and not stop to look, admire, take photos, be waylaid by shops and buildings not listed in the route description. After about 4 hours we decided on lunch and a place that was very nearby, and whose description had caught my eye, was a stall in the Mercato Centrale – Nerbone.

nerbone mat

Continue reading

A 90-Minute Walk Around Renaissance Florence [Morning]

It seemed like a good idea on our first morning to follow the self-guided walk described in the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Florence and Tuscany Guide Book.

This walk takes in the Renaissance heart of the city and passes some of its greatest landmarks. Ideally it should be done early on in your visit to get a real feel for the place and if you incorporate a climb up Giotto’s Campanile, you will get a bird’s-eye view of the narrow streets, the characteristic red-tiled rooftops and the many towers that are not so easy to see from ground level.” Continue reading

Continuing Footloose in the Gargano Peninsula

The next day we left the hotel by the way we had arrived but on leaving the section of main road headed off uphill, away from the sea.

An initial climb brings you to a high point with wide views and then down along a stony, woodland track to the base of the next valley. Another climb brings you out to a high point before heading inland. You follow farm track and a short climb on road before picking up a gravel track that gently descends to your final destination with stunning panoramic views across the valley to the sea.”

At the ‘base of the next valley’ we came almost face-to-face with a family of wild boars. We knew we just could not pass through the area as they were hidden from us for the most part and making a lot of noise. In order to contact Matteo we had to retrace our steps to the ‘high point with wide views’ and wait for him to ‘rescue us’. This he did efficiently and quickly and offered to walk through the wild boars area with us. We declined his offer with the excuse that we had already lost quite a bit of time and could he put us back on the track a little further along the route.

Turkish oak

The Turkish Oak

Matteo dropped us off on the track (just by a monumental Turkish Oak tree: read more about this species here) that leads over several kilometres to the very remote Agriturismo farm Masseria Sgarrazza at San Salvatore where we were to spend that night.

Sgarrazza sign

arriving at sgarrazza

Arriving at the Masseria Sgarrazza

This amazing place – it was like stepping back in time – has existed as a farm here since 1820. The name comes from the local dialect word ‘sgarra’ meaning split or crevasse, because of the way that the sea splits the horizon where it joins the land. I think the way of life has changed little here; but as we dined that evening we could hear the telly. Access to water sources is a problem throughout the Gargano due to the quick draining cretaceous limestone that makes up the area. Here at San Salvatore water is delivered by truck to a huge water store.

in the dining room

The olive oil served at dinner was all produced here and they make the wine served themselves (but they don’t own any vines). The delicious Caciocavallo cheese is a speciality of the farm and is produced from the limited supply of milk from their Podolico cows.


Caciocavallo cheese

more cheese

cheese hanging everywhere

Cheese maturing everywhere


Podolico cows

Guests (just us) are accommodated in converted old stables and the arrangements were primitive to say the least! The original farmhouse (where the farmer and family ate, cooked and lived) is now just the dining room of the much expanded house.

threshing floor

The Farm and Threshing Floor

The large stone circle in the middle of the farmyard is an aia (threshing floor). There was once a little grain production and when this had been cut it was brought to the threshing floor where horses were led round in circles separating the grain from the straw with their hooves. Then it was manually tossed in the air so that lighter straw would be blown away and the grain remained on the threshing floor. At 254 sq m it is one of the biggest and best preserved in the Gargano. Another aia can be seen in the Pagliaiphoto in the previous post.

sgarrazza view

The Masseria Sgarrazza – miles from anywhere!

A short detour from the next day’s route took us to the 2,500 year old necropolis of San Salvatore. I think we thought we had seen sufficient tombs and necropolises on our ATG walk last year (Etruscan Lanes to Orvieto) but it seemed not and we added a further 2.5km to the day’s walking. Matteo worked this excursion out himself and he writes in the notes :

The necropolis was built by the Daunian Civilization between the sixth and fourth centuries BC. During the 1950s it was stripped by grave robbers; but archaeologists managed to save some finds (eg small pots, tools, funeral ornaments). These are now kept in the Archaeological Museum in the Castle at Manfredonia. It seems, though, that the Daunian inhabitants of this area were less evolved than at otehr Daunian centres (eg Siponto/Manfredonia and Ascoli Satriano). Nowadays, you can only see the square stones cut to form tombs … but to visit a 2500 year old cemetery remains a unique experience … don’t you think?”

necropolis site

The Site (hard to capture the look of the place)



Tombs and Graves

After the detour the route is described thus :

A gravel track descends gently through the valley with wonderful panoramic views across to Vieste (our final destination) passing farms along the way. Then a rolling ridge track with splendid views carries you down to sea level, and the walk is completed along the long beach or seafront of the town.”

vieste and sea view

nearly there

So, lots of ups and downs, super sea and town views and finally arriving at the seaside and straight into the first beach cafe for a pizza lunch. Then it was just a few more kilometres and a climb up into the town to the Palace Hotel very conveniently situated and handy for town, old town and harbour.

palace hotel

The Palace Hotel, Vieste

That evening we went with Matteo’s suggestion to eat at Taverna Al Cantinone in the Old Town. The Route Booklet says :

Fresh and tasty local food. Traditional dishes from the Gargano revisited with a bit of fantasy. Good value for money.”

What it doesn’t tell you about is the lovely homely atmosphere and decor and the friendly, helpful and charming owners; a chef and his Spanish partner who serves at front of house. In fact, we ate there both evenings.

On the seven night ATG walking holidays there is always a free day so this meant we spent two nights at Vieste. On our free day we’d expected to take a boat trip to visit caves and spend a few hours with our reading at the Palace Hotel private beach. But the day dawned cloudy and windy with rain threatening so at breakfast a quick decision was made, the receptionist consulted for timetables and we took the local bus along the coast road to nearby Peschici. It’s another characterful old town with a castle (due to rain we visited the grisly Museum of Torture! – torture in itself!!), church of Sant’Ella (with Bauhaus style paintings of the Stations of the Cross), bell towers, town walls, narrow streets and plenty of craft and souvenir shops.

bell tower

Bell Tower at Sant’Ella

stations of cross

Stations of the Cross

Typical souvenirs are wooden Pinocchio-style puppets and these dolls :

the dolls

about the dolls

and models of trabucchi :

model trabucco

Trabucchi are wooden structures submerged in the sea. They are an ancient form of fishing technique consisting of large platforms anchored to the rocks and long wooden poles, ropes and pulleys. These days they are no longer used, except as a hobby, but they strongly symbolise the tradition and culture that was once fundamental to the economy of Vieste and the immediate region.

Vieste trabucco

A trabuccho at Vieste

By early afternoon we were back in Vieste where the sun was beginning to come out so we walked round the old town looking for the trabuccho, the Pizzomunno  stack and visiting the Cathedral.


Il Faraglione ‘Pizzomunno’

This is a magnificent example of a calcareous monolith that stands 25m high next to the cliff side on the Castle Beach. It has become a symbol of Vieste. The rock’s name is taken from the legend associated with it. Read the story here.


The Cathedral

old town

The Old Town of Vieste

And so, after a week of walking the paths of Gargano our trip was soon at an end. On the final evening we met again with Matteo to give our feedback and the next morning our taxi driver, Giancarlo, picked us up to whizz us along the autostrada to Bari Airport in his comfortable air conditioned Audi limousine, telling us proudly on the way how his grandfather began the family taxi business with a horse and cart.

What an adventure and what an achievement!


Footloose in the Gargano Peninsula



Whilst staying at Sant’Antonio in March I picked up a copy of H V Morton’s “The Traveller in Southern Italy”. It fell open at p.150 where the first sentence of part 8 of chapter 4 reads “The best way to see a country is on foot …”. By coincidence, or design, this sentence constitutes the strap line for ATG (Alternative Travel Group) of whose walking holidays I am a keen advocate. I also read Morton’s description of his visit to the “unexplored” Gargano Peninsula. My reason was, of course, that this June I was already booked on an ATG Footloose trip to explore the Gargano Peninsula. This part of Italy is still relatively unknown although some tour companies do visit and ATG have been sending walkers there for quite a number of years. We chose flights to Bari from Gatwick and ATG made our taxi arrangements for us. We had to go in June since we already had a family wedding on 13th and I had booked the month of May to be Ireland. So we had an inkling that this trip might be harder work, due to warmer weather, than previous walking holidays. In fact, I think I would say that, this one turned out to be the most strenuous of them all. However, as they say, “no pain, no gain”, we felt that we had made a great achievement as we walked along the designated route. Planning route

Initial Route Planning with Matteo

Yet again we had a great Route Manager to help us along the way, give advice, transport our bags and generally be a presence in the background in case of need. The Route Booklet explains the route step by step and we are now very familiar with the distances and what to expect. However, the ever-helpful Matteo explained that in certain places he had attached ‘environmentally-friendly’ blue tape not to show us the way but just to confirm that we were on the right track. It was always a relief to spot this tape! blue tape

Spotting Matteo’s blue tape

In brief, we walked from Manfredonia to Vieste officially a distance of 41.1 miles but we are positive that we walked a lot further than that! (… and I have the Fitbit to prove it!). ATG sum up the walk thus : “Limestone hills rising to 2,700 feet with coastal paths, quiet lanes, farm and woodland tracks and pilgrim routes leading up to Monte Sant’ Angelo. Occasionally rough under foot.” leaving first hotel

Leaving our first hotel

There was a long, but pleasant, walk from the first hotel along the promenade into the town centre of Manfredonia. Here we lingered a while viewing the Cathedral, the Castle and Town Hall Courtyard and Museum. Main Street Manfredonia

‘The Corso Manfredi’, Manfredonia

City Hall and Museum Manfredonia

Town Hall

Cathedral Manfredonia


Castle Manfredonia


There followed an even longer walk out of the town and through olive groves across the coastal plain before we even started on the “Jazzo Ognissanti” the historical and natural path.

There's Mont St Angelo

We Climbed Right Up There!

Walk along the coast then across a small plain before ascending an ancient pilgrim route, once used by crusaders before they embarked for the Holy Land. The route, now a grassy ravine with ruined monasteries on either side, leads to the ancient town of Monte Sant’Angelo (2,755ft), with its whitewashed houses, steep narrow alleys and stairways, and views across the bay of Manfredonia and coast to the south.” Pilgrim Route info boards along the way View back to Manfredonia The Pilgrim Route to Monte Sant’Angelo was memorably tough but very special and we enjoyed exploring the town the next day visiting the Sanctuary of St Michael the Archangel, churches and the Old Town (the JUNNO Medieval District) before heading off on the next stage (and getting soaking wet twice in the process) to our next stop, Mattinata. streets of Monte st  angelo


Shops selling religious mementoes abound in Monte Sant’Angelo


Santuario door

The Santuario Door

santa maria door

Door to the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore

Time to explore the town and visit the famous cave church, venerated as being the last place St Michael appeared on earth in 491 AD, before setting off down a well-made pilgrim path to the small town of Mattinata (650ft) set in olive groves, close to the coast.”You descend from 800m to sea level on rocky paths, stony mountainsides and through woods, with wide views of Mattinata and the coast, following the remains of an old mule track called ‘Strada Comunale Mattinata – Monte Sant’Angelo’, which was once the only way up!” pagliaio On this section we came across pagliaio: shelters that were once used by shepherds to keep grain and straw for their herds and to sleep in if necessary. We had lunch in the shelter of one as it poured with rain. Later in another, even worse, downpour we sheltered under some trees but these made little or no difference. a pagliaio and storm clouds

A Pagliaio with storm clouds brewing

Mattinata looked like a nice town but we didn’t stop to find out as the shops were closed in the early Saturday afternoon and we needed badly to dry out our boots and clothes. The local museums had strange opening hours. The Museo Civico 5-10pm Tuesdays and Saturdays and a Museum in the local pharmacy was also open on that Saturday evening. In the end we just couldn’t face getting wet again.

Sunday dawned bright and clear and the walk on that lovely day was virtually over by lunchtime when we arrived at the beach. We ate a leisurely lunch then hiked the final couple of kilometres to our hotel. lunch venue

We looked rather out of place in our hiking gear!

The route undulates across two valleys following surfaced road, grassy and stony paths and along a high ridgeline path with wide views east and west to the sea, before descending and across a wide plain. The route brings you close to the shore and along it before a brief section on road to the hotel.” beach

The Beach from our dinner table

Except for Monte Sant’Angelo and Vieste our hotel arrangements were on a half board basis. This is ATG policy when a hotel is not near a choice of good restaurants. The Hotel Villa Scapone is set on a cliff: walk down to the pool and up to the restaurant from our individual room with separate entrance and private terrace. It was a wonderful place to spend a relaxing Sunday evening halfway through our journey. Hotel Scapone

The Hotel Villa Scapone, Baia Fontana delle Rose