Tag Archives: beautiful villages

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!

Perched villages in the Cote d’Azur

Peillon village

With the french border just an hour’s drive from Albenga, the one thing I really wanted to do was to have a leisurely lunch at one of those cute little bistros out on a sunny terrace with views all around. Well, we got all that (minus the terrace) when I mapped out an all-day drive that would take us to some pretty villages high above Monaco along the Cote d’Azur.

Departing Albenga around mid-morning, we took the route of PeillonPeilleSainte Agnés in order to have that lazy lunch before anything else. Les Plaisirs fit the bill as a small, cozy restaurant serving traditional cuisine. Two menus, 19€ (entree+plat or plat+dessert) or 29€ (entree+plat+dessert), so we opted for both plus 1/2L of the house white and split everything between us. The chef and waiter were one and the same. There were only 3 occupied tables on the last Friday of the year but our entire meal was truly un plaisir.

entree@Les Plaisirs

I don’t recall what the chef called this entree, only that he described it in french and english. The filling was ground veal and it had delicious texture from the cooked and raw veggies.

Les Plaisirs

The best braised lamb stew that I’ve had in my life. Initially I had ordered something else for plat but the chef was fresh out and brought a double-serving of MotH’s plat selection – in this large pot! And as if that wasn’t enough, it was accompanied by 3 very generous sides of pureed potatoes, green beans and braised endive (not shown).

vegetable sides@Les Plaisirs

After all that wonderful food came dessert (I had baba rhum). A slow lunch exactly as I had hoped to find and money well spent.

dessert@Les Plaisirs

Peillon in the distanceI forgot to mention that Peillon will come as a delight when first spotted from the main road at the bottom. I knew it was a perched village but I wasn’t expecting it to be that perched. A winding road with lots of tight turns leads visitors up, but it needs to be backtracked in order to continue on to Peille and Sainte-Agnés (below). This village dates back to the 11th-century and admired from afar, is breathtakingly awesome. It is considered among the most beautiful medieval villages in France and hosts a lavender festival in July.

Sainte Agnés