Tag Archives: beautiful villages


Autumn tour part 2, continued…


Put on the map after being mentioned in Frommer’s 10 years ago, Castelmezzano manages to retain the look of a place untouched by mass tourism. Set within the Dolimiti Lucane mountain range, this small village of less than a thousand souls is a draw for thrill-seekers (rock climbing and ziplining), nature lovers, romantics, history buffs, and even those looking to re-connect with their past. Our b&b host shared with us:

“We had an American here recently. Her father was in the military and the family lived here when she was very young. Her sister died of an illness before they left to return to the states, and she wanted to leave a marker in her memory.”

We came here partly out of sentiment (vacationing friends had sent a postcard ages ago) and because it was listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy. We liked the remoteness, the sensation of being up where the birds fly, and how silent it was at night.

View from room 2
Balcony room at Al Balcone delle Dolomiti

Naturally the first thing we noticed was the incredible view. Looking at, out, up, down, or from if you happen to have a balcony room. This was ours from Al Balcone delle Dolomiti, a family-run b&b at the top of the village. It felt like a privilege compared to other places we could’ve stayed at, but there was a catch – trudging back up the 21% slope when we walked down to explore.

Piccole Dolomiti Lucane
Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa (view large on Flickr)

For a different perspective we drove the narrow winding road (southern option) connecting to Pietrapertosa. From this angle Castelmezzano is barely visible on the left while Pietrapertosa can be clearly seen on the right.

Bedroom picnic dinner

Foiled again! No-dog policy at the only Slow Food resto in town. But a couple of tiny shops had everything we needed: pizza, cheese, locally-produced and super spicy salsiccia, plump muscat grapes, and those peperoni cruschi that I posted while we were there.

Evening picnic in our room

About those peperoni cruschi…

Arianna our b&b host told us the way her mother prepares them: a drizzle of olive oil in a hot pan, then fry the peppers for no more than 30 seconds. Place the pan immediately in a cool area (like next to an open window) so that the shock of cold air will help to crisp up the peppers and make them crunchy. I just tried this with a pinch of fleur de sel – yummy pepper chips!

Peperone dolce

Tavole Palatine

Basilicata merits another visit (a fellow b&b guest said the town of Venosa is a must for ancient ruins) because the region has so much to offer: beaches at Maratea, medieval castles in Melfi and Lagopesole, and last but not least, the city of Matera which is the biggest attraction being a world heritage site. The only ruins en route to our next destination in Puglia were the remains of the Tavole Palatine in Metapontum.

Tavole Palatine

This is all that’s left of a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera. Parking is free and there’s no admission fee, and you’re allowed to wander without restriction. I couldn’t understand why this place wasn’t swarming with tourists, but what an advantage for taking photos.

MIster B and the Mads at Tavole Palatine

Up next: 3 glorious days in a pajara…


Tuscany day 3: Montelliccio dog beach, and more pesce fritto

Maddie at Mortelliccio

Our two “kids” are seasoned travelers in that they do fine on road trips, carry valid canine passports, and behave like saints at restaurants and in public places. This is the first time taking them to a dog beach/spiaggia per cani, and as it goes with all firsts, it’ll either be a good or a bad thing.

It was a hit.

Mr. B's first encounter sand

As I suspected, this landwiener stayed clear of the water and had zero interest in getting his feet wet. He was so engrossed with digging that all other dogs were ignored and not worth barking at.

Mr. B at Mortelliccio

I’ve never seen them so doggone ecstatic, so blown away by this fine, soft, dry material that falls back on itself. While Mr. B dug a hole to China, Maddie investigated the waves and had a sip. Bleah!

Maddie's first encounter ocean

The Mortelliccio location (north of Follonica) was surprisingly clean, long, and not crowded as I had imagined. Visiting before summer is most likely the reason, but I have no doubt the place sees a lot of quadrupeds and their humans during peak tourist season. From the pay-park (1€/hour) it’s a short walk to the beach.

da Mauro e Andreia

We spent an hour soaking up the sun before heading back for lunch, but not before picking up more of that delicious fried seafood from da Mauro and Andreia’s in Castiglione della Pescaia.

Lunch after the beach

Peillon, perched villages, patisseries and picnics

Inevitably, Perosa Argentina’s proximity to France meant that we could not come this far without going all the way. We usually cross the border via Montgenèvre to the east of Torino, but this time headed south, and for the first time ever, used the Tunnel du Col de Tende, just 20 miles south of Cuneo. There is no tariff to traverse the 2-mile tunnel, and it was fairly quick even if only one line of cars is allowed to pass at a time. There was about a 15-minute wait (on either side) before the queue got the green.

Balcony view from Auberge de la Madone
Balcony view from Auberge de la Madone in Peillon, France

Our hotel lay in Peillon – one of those tiny villages perchés that are so cute to look at but often a pain to reach. The pain was mitigated by the fact that we would be driving through a scenic route that included old french villages and the things that we love best about them: boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries.

Tende, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
1st stop, Tende. Boulangerie des Merveilles is on the road that passes through the village.

Boulangerie des Merveilles

This is the first time I’ve come across the onion tart pissaladière (center). What awesomeness it was! The custard tart and pastries (frangipane, apple and apricot) were for next morning’s breakfast in bed because at 20€ per person, Auberge de La Madone’s petit-déjeuner is ridiculously expensive. Maybe if they had promised truffled eggs with foie gras…

Goodies from Boulangerie des Merveilles
Yummy french pastries.

The next day came all too quickly and we ate our pastries and italian coffee (I’ll have to show you my set-up one of these days) at dawn. There was a long haul ahead of us to return home – the same way we came instead of the quicker Nice-Genova autoroute – but not before stocking up on more goodies and one last picnic.

On the way back to Italy: Sospel in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Patisserie Alexis Demaria in Sospel scores big for desserts, but what caught my eye from the start were barbagian / barbajuan, a sort of fried ravioli said to be the national dish of Monaco. The seasoned filling is made with chard, spinach, rice, and parmigiano and they were a bit expensive at 3.20€/100 grams, but the taste makes them worth every cent.

Chevre from Auchan and barbagian
Chevre stash from Auchan in Nice; barbagian from Patisserie Alexis Demaria.

Desserts from Patisserie Alexis Demaria
Raspberry tart, lemon curd tart, chocolate eclair! Around 2.50€ each.

Tuna bento from Auchan in Nice
Mini tuna bento (7.10€) picked up at Auchan supermarket in Nice.

Salmon and tuna chirashi from Auchan in Nice
Salmon&tuna chirashi (12.80€) from Auchan’s made-fresh-daily sushi department in Nice. We also had a baguette and french charcuterie!