The Tuscan adventure part 2- Lucca & Pisa & Vinci

Hello my beautiful friends,

As some of you may know, I suddenly got the urge to write again. I missed it these last few months and, although I wanted to get started earlier, no time seemed to be a good time. However, the Tuscan adventure offered me the peace of mind and tranquility that I longed for, in order to tell my stories.

And so, the Italian experience continues ( the Tuscan adventure part 1 – here) with the famous cities of Lucca and Pisa.

Lucca is, indeed, a living testimony of past times and it lies just north west to Florence. This city is almost perfectly preserved and is a jewel of medieval architecture. Since it isn’t a hilltop village, it is ideal for anyone with mobility issues as well as for anyone wishing to take a break from climbing.

From Montecatini Terme- our “home base” to Lucca, a 30 minute car ride awaits. Arriving there, I advise you to leave your car right outside the city walls. You can find free parking outside the city walls, but you’ll have to walk about 10-15 minutes to the entrance of the old city, as well as paid parking right next to the walls. Inside the old town, the parking is fairly expensive. You can find more information on that- here.

Lucca is completely sorrounded by the old walls, dating back to the 17th century. They have a pretty famous architect, the one and only Leonardo Da Vinci and are so broad that there is a road that loops around the top, long of about 4 km, transforming it into a pleasant walk and a nice way to see more of the city.

Lucca is an amazing city to be explored by foot. Wandering through the narrow streets you will find countless traces of history.

We entered the city through Porta Elisa, via Elisa. Continuing straight throug via Santa Croce you will find standing tall Chiesa di San Michele in Foro, in Piazza San Michele. Wander aimlessly around the narrow streets and admire the buildings, enjoy a gelato and an Espresso.

Very close to Chiesa di San Michele you will find Casa natale di Giacomo Puccini, which wasa delightful visit that I highly recommend.

No Tuscan sight is more immortalised in kitsch souvenirs than the iconic Leaning Tower in Pisa and with that in mind we planned the next adventure.

Modern Pisa is best known for an architectural project gone terribly wrong. One of Italy’s signature sights, the Torre Pendente is a 58m-high tower and it took almost 200 years to build. The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground that could not properly support the structure’s weight, and it worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. By 1990 the tilt had reached 5.5 degrees.Fortunately, it was stabilized between 1993 and 2001 and the tilt was reduced to 3.97 degrees.

Arriving in Piazza dei Miracoli , your sight will be captivated by the Tower, but take a look around: the Cathedral and the Baptistery are not to be missed. Take a deep breath and for a second you will understand why the Square is called as it is: everything is inded possible. After that have a good laugh at the tourists taking pictures with the Tower and let yourself loose while you do the same.

The climb up the tower is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the view is spectacular.

On our way back we decided to make one more stop, in a true Tuscan gem: Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci was born here in 1452 and lived here until 1469 when he left for Florence. You can visit his birthplace and a museum dedicated to his ideas in and near the village. As we arrived after sunset, the village was practically empty. Us, a handful of visitors and a few locals were strolling the streets and enjoying a glass of wine (or two 🙂 ) and pasta.

We soaked in the atmosphere and walked aimlessly. It was magnificent.

At last, we stopped for a nice dinner at Convinci where I served Melanzane alla Parmigiana. DE-LI-CI-OUS. I also recommend you trying cannelloni ripieni di ricotta and the lasagna.

Vino… perché nessuna bella storia è cominciata mangiando un insalata.

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The Tuscan adventure part 1- An evening in Collodi

Hello beautiful friends,

I’ve been a terrible ‘blogger’ this past few months. Kidding, I am no blogger, but it’s true that for about half a year I’ve written, well, practically nothing. Why is that one may ask? No idea, I shall answer.

However, I am back in full force, ready to commit, once again, to writing. Not daily, this time, but at least weekly.

This Summer’s adventure was dedicated to ‘la bella Italia’, and more precisely: Tuscany. Tuscany’s been on my bucket list for a long time, because of its spectacular views, the medieval and picturesque villages, its wines and the tasty ‘gelato’. So, this year, after plenty of debate on whether: ‘should I just stick to a classical summer holiday at the seaside or embark on an adventure?’, I chose the latter.

Tuscany is located in central Italy and its regional capital is Florence. I assigned two full days in Florence, out of the nine I had planned. This ensured me about seven days to stroll around and visit as much as I could of this region.

Packed with a big luggage full of comfortable dresses, Dalai Lama’s book on happines (The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama) AND another book on my phone (Still Me (Me Before You, #3) by Jojo Moyes), about three lessons on Duo Lingo (which ensured me I had a minimal vocabulary of Italian, mastering Ciao and Buongiorno 🙂 ) I disembarked in Bologna Airport.

The ‘home’ for this trip was Adua Apartments in Montecatini Terme. Montecatini Terme is located 45 minutes away from Florence and 30 minutes away from Lucca. The place- Adua Apartments- was astonishingly beautiful and I highly recommend it. The host was wonderful, the location was great and it was beautifully decorated (more on that, here).

We arrived in Bologna at about lunch time and headed towards our destination in Montecatini Terme about two hours later, because of an endless queue at the Car Rental. Between Montecatini Terme and Bologna there are around 130 km, so roughly 1 hour 15 minutes on the highway. Keep in mind that in Italy, highways are toll roads and you have to take a ticket at the entrance gate and pay just before exiting the highway. The price we paid from the airport to the hotel was approximatively 10 Euros.

We decided to start our trip with a quick afternoon visit to Collodi and end it with a night walk in Montecatini Terme.

Collodi is practically the birthplace of Pinocchio, but its history dates back to the 12th century. It is a medieval village, which amazed me and quickly became a true delight. Right at the base of the village there is the imposing Villa Garzoni, built in the 1700s, and its gorgeous gardens. Right at the top there is the fortress which offers breathtaking views over Tuscany. Walking throught the narrow and steep streets of Collodi, you can not not be amazed by its well preserved state. Its charm is palpable. The quiet and peace are overwhelming and you quickly relax and feel at ease. Endulge yourself with a gelato at the base before heading to the next destination.

Montecatini Terme, opposite to Collodi, is considered to be one of the biggest Spa Towns in Italy. In the 20th century, a bunch of hotels, restaurants, theatres and even night clubs and a casino were opened, and it quickly became a trendy destination for the famous people back then, like Giuseppe Verdi, Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo and others.

We returned to Montecatini Terme after sunset, prepared for some shopping or at least window shopping, as the shops were still open. We had a delicious diner at Fishing Lab with some wine, excited for the days ahead.

“In the Land of Toys, every day, except Sunday, is a Saturday. Vacation begins on the first of January and ends on the last day of December. That is the place for me! All countries should be like it! How happy we should all be!”

 Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio

Nature’s way of teaching me gratitude

Hi beautiful friends,

Oh, what wonders did my eyes witness today!! The wonders that nature created on its own, and that no man should ever try and change it.

I started the day thinking we were gonna have nice walk, mostly thinking that we would fill this free time we have here. I finished it in owe for this extraordinary sights.

Meet “Plaiul Foii”, an area situated at the base of Piatra Craiului Massif, from the exit of Zărnești town, on a distance of 12 km.

Arriving there you will be welcomed by a Chalet, that keeps the name of the area: Plaiul Foii Chalet, which offers accomodation and a restaurant.

Its terrace, in which we spent an hour after the amazing walk, offers this magnificent and breathtaking view over the mountains. It is a great place to relax, eat a good soup and just soak in all the beauty of the place. The inside is beautifully designed, the food is nice and the atmosphere is relaxed, perfect for an afternoon or lunch. It wasn’t at all crowded today, at this time of day, so that was a huge bonus. Also, the sun was still shining strong, although a bit chillier than yesterday.

And the view.. the view is just spectacular.

Isn’t it amazing?

From the base of the mountain you can start off on different mountain routes, as signaled by the signs. Unfortunately, I did not take any picture at the site, but I found this online and I really hope it’s accurate.


We did not start off on any mountain route, as it was already 13.00 o’clock when we arrived and most of the routes were rather long, of about 6-8 hours.

But, once more, I promised myself, that qt least one time I will do it. I will hike, all equipped properly and my soul will tremble with joy. And who knows? Maybe I’ll fall in love with it and it will become a regular habit.

Although different in many ways, this walk reminded me of last July when visiting Milan we decided to take a one-day trip with Bernina Express to St. Moritz. It was such a unique experience back then.

And today, seeing that my own country has this amazing places, that are so close and come so in handy to visit, made me truly proud and grateful.

You only have to see the good in everything, to find joy and happiness, right?

I won’t say any much more. I strongly recommend you visit this amazing place. My feet are tired, but my heart is full.

“All good things are wild and free.”

A thousand kilometers for a moment of gratitude

Hi beautiful friends,

After waking up rather late this morning and having a copious breakfast at the hotel, we jumped in the car and decided to see the Rucăr-Bran pass. The Rucăr-Bran pass is a mountain road that links two counties: Argeș and Brașov. It also houses some of the most beautiful and spectacular views in Romania, looking over the Bucegi Mountains.

As you may see, from the place we are staying at, it is a roughly one hour car ride for around 36 kilometers. The road separates both the Bucegi and Leaota Massifs to the Piatra Craiului Mountains and Iezer-Păpușa.

The views are breathtaking and although the road gets quite bumpy at times, it is worth every mile.

Hundreds of years before, the passing was used with commercial purpose, linking Transilvania to Muntenia.

There are plenty of small villages that offer accommodation and a few touristic attractions, such as: Dâmbovicioara Cave, Dâmbovicioarei Keys, Piatra Craiului National Park, the Heroes Mausoleum, Nămăești Monastery and so on.

Our first stop was the Mausoleum, planning to stop at the Dâmbovicioara Cave on our way back.

I found the Mausoleum being extraordinary well preserved and perfectly taken care of.

It is dedicated to the fallen heroes of World War I that died trying to protect the country. The World War I had another goal for Romania: the Great Union-  the unification of Transylvania, Basarabia, and Bucovina with the Romanian Kingdom in 1918. 

We celebrate the Great Union on every 1st of December and this year marked 100 years since. Each year there are special celebrations in every important city of the country, especially in the capital- Bucharest and Alba Iulia- the location in which the proclamation of the union was signed. Also, every year there is a military parade of the Romanian Armed Forces in both cities.

Anyway, coming back to the Mausoleum.

It houses both a museum and also the Mausoleum itself where an ossuary is kept to commemorate the 400 military men fallen.

The last room of the museum recreates a war scene, with special lights and sound effects- which I found rather ingenious.

Returning back on the same road, we decided to stop at Dâmbovicioara Cave, not with the thought of visiting it (as I visited it before once), but willing to admire the Dâmbovicioara Keys and Piatra Craiului National Park.

Unfortunately, the pictures can not capture the true beauty of the place, the smell of truly fresh air, the serenity of the moment or the chilly air.

We decided to continue our way back to Bran following the Sirnea sign, having no idea what views we’ll find.

I warn you: the road was without asphalt, so it was a true village road, through Ciocanu village-a true gem. The views… oh, the views were to die for.

Finally, after arriving back to the main road, we found a nice spot to eat and relax, before returning for a relaxing evening.

I’ll end up with a picture from this year’s military parade held on December 1st- marking 100 years from the Great Union. (Bucharest)

How truly remarkable is it to have this one day (at least) when you feel so proud of your heritage, despite anything else? And how lucky are we to have these historical sites that remind us each and every time of the people who fought for our liberty, offering us these times we live in: in which we can be whoever we want to.

Grateful- with every cell of my body.

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

Off we go

Hi beautiful friends,

Recently I was waking up with the most overwhelming need to escape the city and take a few days to relax and rest. So we booked a room in the mountains for a few days (also taking advantage of my mid semester holiday).

And this morning, after choosing all my favorite creams, all the things I could not leave behind and after filling my luggage with way to many clothes than I could have needed for five days, as usual, we got into the car and went ahead for the most relaxing week.

First stop after leaving the noisy Bucharest was Peleș Castle, a favorite place of mine, where you can find a cozy and always crowded coffee that has an absolute astounding view over the Castle and its domain. Had a cappuccino and an eclair and obviously forgot my phone in the car, so I did not take a picture, but I found an old pic from October (I told you, I am a big fan of this place, so whenever I am at the mountains, I take a couple of hours to visit and enjoy a cup of coffee).

The Castle makes me dream of the times of its glory and how I must have been of Royal family in a different life :). A girl can dream, right?

Peleș was built somewhere around 1880 and it served as the summer residence of the Royal Romanian Family. King Carol I of Romania ordered its building after falling in love with the beautiful forest scenery.

The Castle is an important edifice of Romania and it received many important figures in its glory period, like emperor Franz Joseph.

Carol II was born in this castle and afterwards King Mihai I was born here. He served as the last King of Romania until his death in 2017. Having no sons, the Crown is kept by Princess Margareta (Custodian of the Crown of Romania), the eldest daughter of King Mihai I and Queen Ana of Romania.

The castle can be visited all around the year and its magic is real. Every Monday it’s closed, so today it wasn’t so crowded and so I got a chance to feel its vibe and feel the true serenity of the place. The best part of our walk after the coffee was seeing the employees put down the Christmas decorations, that so beautifully completed its architecture.

Our second stop was right at the pension we booked for our week, which is situated over the hills, offering an amazing view over Bran and its surroundings. For that, I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves.

Nihil sine Deo.

Embracing art and beauty

Hi beautiful friends,

What a sunny and beautiful day was today! After hundreds of days without sun, with tons of snow and ice (which don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love- but I also live in a big city and sooner or later, snow becomes a huge pile of mud), today was shiny and sunny and the temperature was around 10 degrees C. This meant that it was the best time to grab my animal print short dress with some high boots and a loose jacket, my boyfriend and my small bag and hit the road for some food.

We found a really nice spot in Carol park and I even convinced my bf to eat outside (that is f***ing huge). He loves spending time outside, but hates feeling just even a little bit chilly, unlike me. We had all our favorite foods and the smell of popcorn and children’s laughter filled the air, making the atmosphere so cozy and playful.

After that, we got into the car and headed towards the city center, to Odeon theatre where we had already bought tickets to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Having arrived early we took advantage and strolled around “Calea Victoriei”.

Calea Victoriei is a fairly large boulevard that binds Piata Victoriei to Piata Unirii and is filled with beautiful buildings with amazing architecture, cafes and shops, a few luxury hotels and a few museums: the History Museum, The Art Museum and also the Romanian Atheneum (these are just a few). About this, later, when I’ll take you with me for this awesome walk- one of many, I hope. Anyways, the plan was to find a nice cafe shop and stop there until 19,00, when the play would’ve started. We changed our minds, seeing how peaceful it was and decided to walk from one end to the other.

Immediately after we parked, right in front of the History Museum and behind the amazing CEC building, I got a glimpse of the Moon and had to capture it.

When the night had already set in, Odeon theatre located also on Calea Victoriei, showed its face, beautifully lit.

The play was astonishing, truly. The cast was young and full of life, and the director did an amazing job at adapting the screenplay to these times, making it so much easier to “digest” and understand the plot.

My biggest surprise was when in the middle of the play, they moved us to a different room, to make it more realistic, by arranging the stage into the middle practically. So dynamic and breathtaking.

I truly recommend it!

When we arrived home, I made some pasta for us, using tuna, some peppers, garlic, a few cherry tomatoes and tomato sauce. I mixed them all nicely with some olive oil into the pan and afterwards with the penne, adding lots of mozzarella. Added some basil and chili flakes at the and and VOILÀ!

Blessed be these days, filled with art, in any form, serenity and love!

The rest is silence.

Decorating our new home

Hi beautiful friends,

Today I woke up with zero inspiration and that is a pity.. I realized how many more days will be like this one during this journey I plan on having.

However, the highlight of today was that our new sofa just arrived this morning (and the Lebanese food I had) !!! As I told you in my second post I just moved in with my boyfriend in December, leaving behind my beautifully decorated room, right into a new home that needed decorating. And today, the couch has arrived!!!!

I am so freaking excited. We can finally watch TV properly, and I can read my books, nap and cuddle here :).

The two pillows, the red and blue one, are the absolute first thing I have bought for this home, around October and they mean so much to me. Unfortunately, bf says they don’t fit at all. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

I have no idea how the room will look like in the end, but I would absolutely adore a yellow carpet, just like this one:

Is it too much, given that I would LOVE a yellow lamp, the same shade?

I found them both on this online website, vivre.ro, that is actually from Romania.

I would very much appreciate if you had any recommendations of websites that sell furniture or other decorations that also ship internationally!!! Would be of so much help, given that we still need so many things to make it perfect. It’s already so homey and cozy, but in urgent need of some personality.

What do you use to inspire you? Pinterest? Furniture websites? Ikea ideas? Tumblr? All of the above? Something else? S.O.S

And by the way, we were just watching Titanic, a movie that I always thought I disliked deeply, until.. tonight. You love it or find it too mainstream?

For tonight….

“Where to, miss?”

“To the stars.”