A crazy idea but when you’ve visitors who have limited time to explore, its doable - just.

We set off to catch the 6.28am regional train from Chiusi, it was dry, mild and dark and not all of us were awake to appreciate the sunrise as we headed northwards stopping at the little stations on the way. Arriving in Florence main station we had an hour before our connection on the Italo high-speed service. We’d chosen this over the Frecca train run by Treni-Italia as there was just 8 mins to catch the connection and any delay and we would have missed it and been forced to buy new tickets. We had a coffee and snack for breakfast, spent 15 mins trying to find the loos, hidden on platform 5 and they cost 1 euro to use too. To our slight dismay we learnt that there was a strike of the regional drivers so trains between 6am and 9pm from Florence might not be running. There was consternation from those trying to get connections to airports and appointments by this news.

We boarded a very smart burgundy train, our carriage and seats pre-booked, and were sped at 300km/ph to our destination through the varying countryside from hilly with vines to plains of cereals and rice. 11am and we were getting vaporetti tickets to see the island of Murano, astonishing, where we browsed shops and ate a quick lunch. It was very busy compared to April when we’d stayed previously. Three huge cruise ships were in dock with an estimated 6000 people on board each, plus day trippers and those who’d flown in. The locals manage the invasion either stoically as the money helps pay for the upkeep or frustratedly as they can’t get around as visitors don’t understand the up on the right, down on the left system used to get over bridges and up narrow streets.

From Murano we took another boat to the Grand Canal getting off at St Marks to see the Dodges palace, listen to a small orchestra serenade late diners at a very swish restaurant, gawk at the lines of gondoliers ferrying passengers and buy small gifts and momentos. All too soon we had to get another boat to take us back to the rail station to catch the 5.55 train. There were a few moments we thought we’d never make it. They overloaded the vaporetto so it listed sharply to one side almost to the waterline, we were tossed about by the wash from a passing water ambulance, and with standing room at shoulder to shoulder it was an effort to get off at our stop before they moved on again.

The return trip was just the reverse if the one up with supper at Florence station, there are at least 3 eateries offering a huge selection of foods, and time to recover a little from the rush. The regional train was waiting for us at 9.09 and we arrived safe but weary at Chiusi before 11pm so we were home nursing strong cups of tea before midnight. It was not an early start the following day.

The following weekend we met up with Tim (not seen for 40 years) and Irene (not met before), in Orvieto and took them to Bagnoreggio for bruscetta lunch and the views. We think we got on really well sharing similar hobbies, tastes and cats. All too soon they were back on the train to Rome to continue their holiday.

The apples, peaches, plumbs & walnuts produced a bumper crop, perhaps a sign of a harsh winter we wondered? We Jammed, froze stewed fruit, bottled and pickled a lot and wrapped some apples in paper to over winter, we hope. The walnuts we collected early and started to dry the husks by the house as the squirrels had started eating them plus they’d have all the ones out of our reach, about ¾ of the crop. We had our wood for the winter delivered, just over 7tonnes, and we stacked over 4 days and almost finished us off but the weather was due to change to drizzle, but it didn’t , so as a treat Mike went flying on the Saturday, passing over Annie’s, us and Ann’s properties. The start of the 3rd week we tackled the varnishing of the windows, teak oiling the loungers, pruning the fruit garden and spraying the North end of the house with the water resistant product purchased in April to try to keep the damp out.

Saw an interesting sky, it looked like bright cobbles under a gray blanket, it drizzled for a while and the resulting rainbow was very defined.

At the end of the month, as a treat for our anniversary we dropped the car off to be serviced and caught an early regional train to Florence and changed there to go on to Lucca. This is one of the easiest towns to talk or cycle in. The wide topped fortified town walls are used by visitors and locals alike to circumnavigate the city and stop most of the windy gusts that emanate from the distant Alps and hills. Known as the town of 101 churches, we stopped at the dumo, St Michaels in the center and St Giovanni’s. We found an old tobacco factory (looking for something else) which is in the process of being converted into something else not explained by the geometra’s permission posted externally . Visited the Piazza anfiteatro (a circular piazza of properties, mostly souvenirs and cafes), saw the Torre Guinigi (the tower with the garden on the top but from the ground its sprouting trees) we didn’t have the energy to climb up to look at the views from the top. There are several towers, much like in San Giminagno and a piazza with a column in the center, which we passed in our travels through the town, and the shops are as goods as any in Milan or Florence with prices to match. The highlight for us was when we saw a small ginger kitten startled by a huge dog take refuge in a church, we followed to see if it was safe only to discover an exhibition of Lenonado Da Vinci’s working machines from his sketches. We paid the entrance fee and spent 90mins “playing” with many of the 60 models on display, reproduced from the Atlantic Codex and watching a video based on his life. The kitten was persuaded gently by the custodian, who eventually managed to catch it, to rediscover the street out side. We ate on the hoof and rested on steps and on benches in the various parks and on the walls. Having woken at 5am to make the train we were flagging by mid afternoon so decided to take an earlier train home, someone was watching over us, for as we arrived at the station the train just arriving, 5 minuets late, was heading for Florence so we made a dash and caught it. When we got into to Florence another for Chiusi was already waiting but there was time to grab a bite and a coffee before we settled down for the homeward trip. We ambled over to collect our car from the garage, they were half an hour from closing, and they told us for some reason they thought the car was going to be there a week and had intended locking up with the car inside the workshop as they were waiting a part. Had we gone for the later train or missed the delayed one we would had faced an 8km walk in the dark home!

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here