Climbing 700 meters in less than 15 minutes09.25.09

So we went to Elba (Isola d’Elba) on the Tuscan coast. And with only six days there we had to work hard on the priorities in order to get most of it all in addition to hours on the different beaches. Of course we simply had to visit Napoleon, even though he was away on one of his many excurisons. But that is a totally different story. Except that during the 300 days he was there he spent some nights in a tent halfway up Monte Capanne, the highest mountain on Elba.

Monte Capanne is 1019 meters, and there is a decent footpath going all the way. There is even a decent footpath for hikers going all the way from the east coast of Elba to the west coast bringing you to all the interesting mountain- and hilltops if you’re into that. It’s said that most people would make the hike in three days or less. I, for one, would probably spend the week. And also just climbing Monte Capanne would take too much of my few days of holidays. So we took the easy way out, i.e. we went with the Cabinovia lift.

You could say that lifts are lifts and nothing special about that. I disagree. Time and again since the early sixties I have used Fjellheisen in Tromsoe as an easy start in walking a mountain (ok, more than 10 years since the last time, but that doesn’t mean they need to have such a silly website). And smaller hills/mountains which may be enjoyed by rail like Drachenfels. What makes the Canovia on Elba interesting is the sheer size, or lack of that, of the cabins. Each cabin can carry 2 grown-ups, standing room only. If you add a third person to the cabin you may feel like you’re on the tube in Tokyo. And the cabins themselves are more like baskets with a railing lower than waist height which you easily can open if you like that.

But it is forbidden to open the cabin during the ride. That’s smart. (hah) It’s also forbidden to make the cabin swing. (another hah) That does not cover the swing which lasts for some minutes after you have entered the cabin, a swinging sensation brought to you just from the sheer movement caused by you entering.

That said, riding the Cabinovia is a pleasant experience. Even for those who may have some difficulties with heights. The ride starts softly among the trees, just a few meters above the ground. After a while you climb through to the tops of the trees – all the while the trees getting shorter. Until you get to the bare mountainside.

Halfway through the flip below there is a short scene looking back at where we came from. The base station for Cabinovia is close to the city Marciana at about 300 meters above sea-level. And the city you get a glimpse of all the way down at the beach is Marciana Marina where we stayed in hotel Gabbiano Azzurro Due. The feeling of climbing to the skies was strengthened when a fighter plane passed “just above my head”. They were not looking for me so I made it safely all the way to the top and was greeted by staff for “having made it”. The last few seconds of the flip just pretends to show parts of the scenery which may be enjoyed from the top of Monte Capanne.

There is a bar at the top. But, alas, as we spent every minute until closing-time enjoying the scenery they had closed the bar when we came to to the Cabinovia mountain-station (some 20-30 meters below the top). No birra per me a Monte Capanne. Ma, prosimma volta?! Certo!

Posted in Flip (videos), Italia 2009with No Comments →

Castellina in Chianti – more than excellent wine06.30.09

Sometimes we have been wondering if we are extremely lucky. Because we have happened time and again to end up in festivities when travelling both Italy and other European countries. Maybe more so in Italy than other places :-) , but then the Italians may be a more joyeous kind.

When we went to Castellina in Chianti last year our italian friends “warned” us (jokingly) about all the good wine there. Arriving in Castellina and checking in at that wonderful Palazzo Squarcialupi was positive in itself. And when we commented on the activities in the main street in front of the hotel putting up tables, shades etc. our friendly hosts at the hotel told us that there would be the yearly “San Lorenzo” party next day. Not only had we managed to find a small, nice and friendly hotel with a pool and free spa-facilities in the heart of lovely Castellina. The “San Lorenzo” turned out to be streets packed with smiling people enjoying the taste of good food from a number a small stands and the occasional wine-tasting in between. What a night.

Posted in Flip (videos), Italia 2008, Italy, Ut å spise, Winewith No Comments →

Cable-cutting by the use of trucks and diggers06.27.09

On Thursday 25th a truck transporting a digger managed to “hook into” a few of the cables in the crossing a hundred meters from our home. Power, internet and anything else on those wires went out with an accompanying “crash” which turned out to be one of the poles hitting the ground. Luckily no pedestrians there at that very moment. No casualties. But no power for 8,5 hours and no internet (which was worse – the weather being 25 centigrades +) for more than 26 hours. The loss of cable-television did not bother us too much.

Posted in Observationswith No Comments →

Visit Poker in Firenze for the best deal on leather jackets.08.27.08

It’s not hard to find shops for leather jackets in Firenze (aka. Florence). But watch out for those back-street or open air “shops” where they trade non-Italian-made products. They might not have the license for doing what they do. We have visited all the shops in the Santa Croce area these two years and have settled for this one: Poker.

I love my Italian shoes. That’s another story. But Firenze is also famous for a number of other locally made products. (Not only the wine). In and around Firenze there are a lot of small and larger companies making leather products like jackets, bags etc. Normally the use lamb-skin. The skin itself is mostly imported. But the rest of the process is done locally.

Most of the people we talked to said the South-African lamb-skin was the best and gave the best result for jackets. In second place came the lamb-skins they imported from New Zealand.

A number of the shops do mainly trade very traditional designs. Poker does the traditional ones and a number of their own design. You find them in Piazza Santa Croce 28/r, tel. 055 24 22 37. If you refer to the video above you might get a better price than what is listed on the jacket. And remember: the best time for shopping leather goods is when it’s really hot. That’s when the least people shop and the prices are the lowest possible.

Posted in Clothes & stuff, Flip (videos), Italia 2008with No Comments →

Extending my collection of Italian music08.26.08

Whenever I visit Tuscany I have to go to Cory Music in Arezzo to get more italian music. These people know what they sell and they help me find whatever I am searching for. The shop is in Corso Italia 89 in Arezzo. The tel. no. is 0575 20306 and you may mail them at Ci vediamo.

I found this shop in 2004. And have visited it every year since, except 2007. So what makes them differ from other record-shops? The back-catalog, i.e. thousands of records you might have been looking for but can’t find anywhere. And for us stranieri interested in Italian music it is hard to find all the old records we would like to get into our hands. This shop is a must for anybody going Tuscany who is interested in extending their music collection.

But allow me a small side-step before continuing on music: my trusted guide into Italian music, Roberto, who you meet in the video above does also “star” in the video Arezzo Attack found on YouTube. Here he plays the role of “Evil Krest”.

So what did I grab this time around? Well, some more Fabrizio De André since my collection is not complete. Some more Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, some Paolo Conte etc. for the same reasons. And Roberto was, as always, the happy guide into more music experiences.

Sure I can buy the same music from the iTunes store but I still like to have this plastic thingy available for my favourite music. To look through the included booklet and sing along to the lyrics printed there. (even in Italian)

Upon entering Cory Music I heard there was no silly muzak playing. No, it was “Livin’ lovin’ maid (she’s just a woman)” from Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin. Well, Roberto could not know that this is one of my favourite albums by one of my favourite bands. (With the best ever drummer). But while chatting about music he told me a most funny story: “This guy came into this store just minutes ago. He was older than us, maybe 60. And he said: I would like some real rock records, not like the ones the young listen to like the one you’re playing now”. And we both had a big laugh. Zep played by the youngsters? Hah. Zep not some real rock music. Double-hah!

Posted in Flip (videos), Italia 2008, Listenwith No Comments →

gli Scopetti08.26.08

It’s not hard at all to find places with decent food whereever you may be in Tuscany. Just follow this simple advice:

    1. Rule 1 – Avoid red carpet stories Don’t take presentations in guidebooks – or any book for that matter – for granted. Too many of the authors behind these books have had their stay, food etc. for free.
      Rule 2 – Listen to the locals Stay away from places crowded with multi-language-tourist-tanned people. If the locals are a minority in the establishment you have obviously hit upon a tourist trap.
      Rule 3 – Don’t worry about the looks of the place After all: you’re there for the food. So if the place does not seem like that modern, newly refurbished ship-shape place: don’t worry. It’s only after you’ve tasted the food you should start considering the place itself. Marvellous food will absolutely taint your view on those matters.
  • Our first trip to Tuscany took place in 2004. And since then we’ve returned every year. And one night in 2004 we happened to jump of the A1 close to Firenze (aka. Florence). We were bored of the motorway and would rather drive the hills over to Le Buche di Viesca. The road was small, curvy and it was pitch dark. Streetlights is something only for the cities and villages. Suddenly, as we turned a corner, there was this brightly lit place. Cozy enough? Maybe a bit kitsch. But everybody in the car agreed: we should try dinner here one night.

    We did. And the food was marvellous. Nice hosts too. So we have been going back to this place every year, except 2007 when we failed to schedule a visit here :-(

    Went back there this year. As starter we had a nice dish of pici, these hand-rolled spagettis. And as a main course I had sliced, barbecued chicken (tagliate di pollo). All fitted nicely with the house wine. Good food. Too much food. At a reasonable price. Troppo, troppo. Did not manage to try any dolce, there simply wasn’t room for more.

    Speaking with one of our hosts at a fattoria where we tasted wine, she simply said “ah, gli Scopetti, they’re famous”. And I knew she meant they were famous for the food.

    I really hop not too many tourists find this place, because then it will all be too crowded and Rule 2 above will stop me from going there.

    Posted in Eating, Flip (videos), Italia 2008, Ut å spisewith No Comments →

    Flipping in Montalcino08.20.08

    I really love my Flip as an additional way of documenting where I’ve been. Putting together a DVD with photos after the travel seems more fun when the DVD may be given some extra life through some short video-stunts. And all that easy.

    And I just love my flip so much that I do all the amateur errors and no-nos of video-shooting. For instance, I know I should not be doing all these pannings. There are several reasons for that (as my pal Aske keeps pointing out to me every now and then).

    One reason is that that moving the camera about instead of just documenting things moving might making the viewers a bit seasick. I know. I’ve suffered from this seasickness watching amateur videos.

    Another reason for not moving a camera such as the Flip (or anything going digital encoding) is that as soon as you move the camera you make the camera work harder, and the result will definitely be more fuzzy video.

    But then I come to these beautiful places, like Montalcino, and what I would like to give you is a panroamic view. And being lazy I do not care to shoot all the still photos and Photoshop them together. So here goes four short panning flips from Montalcino. The first one is from the lower piazza where the famous winebar is found. This is the place to go if you are looking for the good wines.

    And in the second panning we have moved up past that winebar and to the enoteca where we bought some wine :-)

    In the next Flip we have moved about 10 meters from the enoteca. The reason for the short distance is not a heavy load of wine. Anyone who knows the Norwegian taxation system for alcohol knows that such a move would be real silly. Anyway, here goes:

    And then, at last, back at the parking at the very top of Montalcino. Sorry for the shake-out at the end. Hope you all didn’t get too seasick.

    Posted in Flip (videos), Italia 2008with No Comments →

    A coffeebreak in Montalcino08.20.08

    Let me first of all express how sorry I am for the delay in the publishing of the “Italian videos” of 2008. And to everybody who said “yes, of course” when I asked to tape them: your videos will be here, but it might still take a few days. You could say that you should never trust what a blogger says, only what he blogs.

    The same goes for the stories and recommendations on where to go when in Italy, where to eat, where to stay etc. It will all be here, but it may still take some days. Keep returning here for more.

    After Arezzo we went to visit a fattoria near Montalcino (this will be described later). We have visited Montalcino a number of times before. And always returned from Montalcino with a bigger smile on our faces due to either good food, good wine and/or good coffee. So we drove the 20 minutes from the fattoria to Montalcino. Since we had just had a nice lunch, coffee seemed the number one object. And what nicer place to enjoy that than in Belvedere?

    How to get there? Well, we always park at the very top of Montalcino, close to the castle. Then it’s just downhill past the church and to your right. Anyway, here is what you might see from the veranda:

    And once you get there, you will always be most welcome:

    Posted in Eating, Flip (videos), Italia 2008, Ut å spisewith No Comments →

    Max and Charlie playing at Le Buche di Viesca08.13.08

    Max got a visit from Charlie and they just started playing.

    Posted in Flip (videos), Italia 2008with No Comments →

    • the tuscan cat
      I for one believe that Leonardo (da Vinci) was really smart. And I also believe cats are smart creatures. So when I spotted a nice cat sleeping on a scooter carrying "the signature" Leonardo somewhere in beautiful Italy I just had to "shoot".

      For all you non-norwegian readers: older entries are in Norwegian only. Sorry.