Bells ringing...Embarrassing confession...Videos

Here is our video from last night of the clock tower slightly beyond our yard:
Confession:  This is embarrassing for a purported technology nerd such as myself...the above is one of only two videos I have ever taken and posted on this site.
Put me in front of any of digital or electronic gadget including computers, and in minutes I can figure it out, often avoiding the necessity of reading instructions.  Many people do the same thing!
In my "old life" I despised taking photos and never had any interest in taking the time to learn to take a decent photo, due in part to a missing piece in my brain (my only assessment which perhaps was a rationalization for "lack of interest").  Its similar to the missing piece regarding "sense of direction" of which I have none. 
Of course, taking videos fell into that same category as taking photos: never took them, never wanted to take them, never learned to edit them, never learned to subsequently upload them to any website, Facebook included.
Another obvious reason; my level of discomfort while attempting to take this video is evidenced by my inability to hold the camera steady.  I can learn this and...we do have a small tripod.
Our first Saturday here in Boveglio, at precisely 5:16 pm and again at 6:00 pm, we ran to the veranda to hear and see these bells ring for five full minutes each time.  Not anticipating we had enough time to get the and record this occurrence, we missed the opportunity. 
Here is our video from this afternoon of the clock tower outside our bedroom window.  We recorded this at 4:59 but instead of clanging five times, it clanged only three times.  As I'd mentioned, its not consistence.  Then again, both of these clock towers are rather old.

Yesterday, with the intention of recording the bell clanging, we set the alarm for 5:10 pm on my phone to alert us that soon the bells would be ringing and to be prepared this time, camera in hand, set to video with the sound enabled.  Only moments earlier, I'd posted yesterday's blog when the Internet had finally come back on an hour earlier.
With the alarm yet to ring, the bells started at precisely 5:00 pm.  What??? What about 5:16?  Nope, this particular Saturday, the bells began to ring at 5:00 pm. 
The moment we heard the untimely loud clanging, I dashed for the camera, turned it on, set it to video and checked the sound while Tom unlocked the old wooden veranda door and we were off of the second bedroom that leads to the veranda. 
Keep in mind, getting from the living room to the veranda is quite a hike with multiple uneven steps in the stone floor of the hallway.  Plus, there are low ceilings in spots.  If not careful, one can bang their head on the way which both of us have done on several occasions.
By the time we were standing on the veranda, me with camera in hand, yes, my hand was shaky, not so much from nervousness, but rather little time to mentally prepare myself to take my second video ever.  After all, when one has little skill, it seems to help to take a deep breath, concentrate and fire away.  With time for neither of those two, this was the end result.
Then, the worse part began.  I tried to upload the video here on our blog over a period of several minutes.  When it wouldn't download in Blogger or Facebook, in the back of my mind, I knew the file was too large to upload.  Looking on my Windows 8 computer, I found no program that would reduce the size, nor would I want to pay for an external program.
For the heck of it, I also tried to upload it to YouTube to no avail with it showing as "stuck" unable to load due to its large size.

Now after 6:00 pm, I'd yet to begin making dinner, hoping to be able to dine by 7:00 pm.  Frustrated, I decided to leave it for Sunday morning (today).  I made dinner, we ate, we watched another episode of The Bible and the second half of a 48 hour video rental, with only 24 hours left to go, The Silver Linings Playbook (quite entertaining!).
This morning I was at it again, bound and determined to upload the video after figuring out how to re-size it.
My favorite spot to visit for free software uploads, is C/Net, which I've used for years.  Here is the link to the free video converter software I downloaded this morning. 
Please keep this in mind that when downloading software from this reliable site:
many of their downloads are free and noted as such.  However, many allow a limited use in an attempt to get the use to buy it. 
We tend to hoose the downloads that millions of other users have used that include good reviews that don't show a price at installation or a button that say "BUY NOW."  In most cases, millions of users didn't pay.  Read the reviews for any "tricks" the developers may have instituted to get the user to pay.
The video converter software, Any Video Converter,  which I downloaded this morning does not require payment now or in the future from what I can tell but does ask if you want to upgrade to the more professional version   Don't give a credit card or PayPal authorization unless you're prepared to pay.  Click the "x" at the top right of the screen to make that disappear. 
After only a few clicks (reading no instructions) I was easily able to convert the video to a smaller size enabling me to post it on my Facebook page and also here.
Now I feel more at ease posting a video from time to time provided a strong wireless signal allows me to edit it for posting.  Of course, I won't start making videos of everything we see. 
I've got a long way to go before I become a reasonably good videographer and...still have miles to go (literally and figuratively) before I even get the photo taking pinned down!

Internet's been down all day until now...MiFi not working here...Cold, rainy day...

Our own hotspot.  On the right is our MiFi that we've rented from XCom Global providing us with high speed Internet connection worldwide.  Unfortunately, due to our current location in the mountains of Tuscany, we're unable to get a good signal.
What a day!  When the wireless broadband went down last night we were worried.  Our MiFi, unable to pick up a signal since we arrived in Boveglio, for which we continue to pay monthly rental fees, recently has been a source of frustration.

Sending it back to the company for the $79.00 shipping fees each way made no sense. We'll need it again in 60 days plus, when we venture out from Boveglio and... if we get low enough in the mountains, we do receive a signal for use with our smartphones.  This enables us full access to Google Maps while driving  and the Internet for points of interest and information on the areas we're visiting. 

Most likely , we'll be needing it again when we arrive in Kenya (where we'll have a better connection.  It's the mountains impeding the signal in Tuscany). 

To further clarify for new readers, there are two ways we can connect to the Internet while living in our vacation homes worldwide:

1.  Through wireless broadband available at the property (a criteria for us in our travels) similar to what you are using to access the Internet from your home or office.

2.  Utilizing a MiFi, a wireless portable wireless credit card-sized device that we rent monthly.  We cannot purchase the unit due to the unique contracts that XCOM GLOBAL has arranged with Internet providers all over the world (in most countries) that provide the device with the signal, once we've charged it and turned it on to connect wirelessly with our laptops, smart phones, and other wireless devices.  It's battery lasts approximately three hours and then must be charged again for another three hours.  We are able to use it while charging.

As we drove higher and higher into the mountains of Tuscany on June 16, 2013, we'd hoped we'd continue to receive a signal all the way up on the winding mountain roads.  About 25 minutes before arriving in Boveglio, we lost the signal, never to return. 

Thus, we've became dependent upon the wireless broadband available in our temporary home which the owners, Lisa and Luca. assured us would provide a good signal 24/7 during our stay.  Unfortunately, they have no control on outages experienced by the local provider in the region.

Apparently, last night around 11:00 PM, service to the general area experienced an outage. Awaking this morning we were disappointed to discover that there still was no service.  

Of course, we became worried, concerned that it could be a week or more until it was restored, as had been the case when the cable TV service went out just before we arrived leaving us with no TV until about a week ago.  There are only two English speaking programs available, Bloomberg TV and MSNBC, both news channels.  With these two news channels we are able to be aware of what is transpiring in the US and worldwide, important as we travel to some high risk areas. 

We had no expectations of watching regular US programming while in many countries.  For entertainment purposes, which we all need from time to time, when we want to wind down and relax, we'd downloaded a few hundred shows and movies on our "MY PASSPORT," a two terabyte external hard drive, its shows to be saved for days like today...rainy, cold, windy, and no connection.

Some have asked, "Why do we need to be online so much of the time?"  There are several reasons for us:

1.  To be able to write and post this blog.
2.  To be able to maintain contact with family and friends via email and Skype at all times.
3.  To be able to maintain financial matters, all of which are available online:  banking, investing, credit cards, payments for future rentals and transportation, etc.
4.  To be able to receive and view our online "snail mail" from our mailing service.
5.  To be able to investigate further locations we hope to visit in the future.
6.  To book hotels and transportation getting us from place to place.
7.  Organizing and arranging maps and points of interest for our weekly excursions away from our temporary home.
8.  Look up medical questions, instructions, recipes and language translation.
9.  Download books to read.  (Once downloaded, no Internet connection is required).
10. Book reservations for restaurants.  Had we not done this for dining out last Saturday, we'd have been turned away at the restaurant, as we observed happening to other "walk-in" diners.
11.  Staying in touch with the property owners of upcoming rentals, asking questions, making future payments.
12. Entertainment.  When all else is said and done, playing with our computers is enjoyable: games, streaming radio and TV shows, watching movies, staying in touch  with family and friends via Facebook or, simply reading the wealth of information at our fingertips, keeping our brains active and hungering for more knowledge.

Yes, we prefer to be outdoors as much as possible on a warm days experiencing our surroundings.  But days like today, remind us how much we utilize this amazing tool,  the Internet, that honestly, without it we'd have had a lot less enthusiasm or interest in traveling the world. 

We often speak of how difficult and cumbersome arranging long term travel was for our ancestors.  How they ever managed is beyond us. 

Some travelers use travel agencies which are quickly becoming obsolete with the advent of the Internet growing worldwide.  With the complexity of our travels, we definitely prefer to take responsibility for making our own arrangements, connecting all the dots along the way. (Although, we've used Joaquin at Vacations to Go for all of our cruises and will continue to do so). 

Also, travel agents don't often handle the single family vacation homes we've been able to find and subsequently rent for our preferred periods of time.

How did we entertain ourselves today while "out of touch?"  We washed more laundry, finding covered spots in which to dry it considering the inclement weather.

We made a great breakfast of scrambled eggs with sautéed onions and Crimini mushrooms with Emmenthuler cheese and a side of Italian sausage and regular bacon which we were surprised to find at the grocery store in Pescia.  Together, we chopped vegetables for tonight's dinner.

We found a deck of cards and played "Gin" for several hours for the first time in many years.  We'd forgotten the rules, playing anyway and it all came back to us.  We weren't able to look up the rules online!  I won. Tom forgot that he always won years ago.  I'm a lousy loser. He's worse.

Feeling frustrated for a lack of entertainment for Saturday night and not wanting to drive the winding roads that had many warning signs, "Slippery when wet," we'd decided to stay in tonight.  Preferring to save our downloaded books in the event it could be a long period without Internet, we hesitated to spend the entire evening reading.

For the first time since we left Scottsdale, Arizona at the end of December 2012, I plugged in My Passport, external hard drive, browsing to determine which shows and movies we might watch tonight. 

Actually, with no TV at all in Kenya, we'd hope to save all the downloaded videos to watch during the almost three months we'll be living there.  Ah, what the heck! Tonight would be the perfect night to watch a few!

Moments after plugging the device into my computer, I heard the familiar little sound of an arriving email.  "We're back on!"  I yelled out to Tom, causing him to be startled. Yes, we were back on.

Quickly, I sat down in this not-so-comfy kitchen chair and began typing away, anxious to let our readers that we're still here.  Some readers, who hadn't received the automatic emails (which is now working again) assumed that we'd either fallen off the steep road while driving or we'd quit writing. 

I'll promise this, dear readers... If we don't write a word for two or more days, either we're traveling (it takes two calendar days to arrive in Kenya), the Internet is down or something unfortunate has happened to us.  In every case, we will post at the first opportunity, sharing the story and photos describing our absence.

"Consistency" is our middle name or, if you'd prefer the less braggadocios version...we're rampant creatures of habit.  We don't expect that traveling the world will ever change that!

A day in the life...Laundry and language challenges...

I'd expected to see more hanging laundry this morning, hoping to take photos.  But, it was early morning.  This was the only hanging item I found on my walk. Perhaps others have similar slow working front-loading washers with the first batch of the day still agitating.
It's rather odd not to have a clothes dryer.  Neither of us has hung clothes on a clothesline since the 1950s.  We haven't had access to a clothes dryer since we left the US in January 2013. 
Our small clothes "dryer."
Who knew in our comfy lives in the US that a dryer was a hot commodity?  I guess we always took it for granted. Today's dilemma?  With this small portable clothes drying rack, where do we hang the big sheets?  This morning I ran around looking out the windows to see if a normal clothesline existed on the grounds.
Are the vine wires a clothesline option in the garden? Nope, too high to reach.
The only possibility of a clothesline that I could see were the bare wires hung in an area of the garden for growing vines, none of which were covered yet.  Could we use those?  Tom, insisting that we investigate before we assume the wires were acceptable for our use, we headed down the hilly walk to the garden. 
Harder to reach "wires" in the yard, again unsuitable for hanging clothes.
Walking around the yard, closest to the house, there was no clothesline to be found.  The cables were too high to reach, leaving us stuck with the tiny rack or any possible railings.  Having intended to wash two more loads today, my plans are dashed. Certainly, whatever spot we discover, won't leave room for hanging addition wet laundry.
Early morning venture to the garden.  Cloudy day.
As we wandered around the world so far, we've observed that most people hang their laundry over window ledges, veranda railings, and across any appendages that may offer a holding place with sun, a breeze, or both.
As we walked to the garden we noticed these live vines over a doorway to another "attached house.  Tom grumbled, "You'd never catch me walking through those vines each time I went outside!"  I thought they were cute.
As we strive to adapt, we find ourselves in a quandary at times as to acceptable solutions (does it fit the local etiquette?) as well as practical solutions (does it work for us?). 
I took this unfamiliar walkway wondering what was on the other end.
At times, the answer seemed obvious, but we also ask, "Is this acceptable to the owner of the property?"  After all, we are "renters," a state of being neither of us has experienced in over 40 years, constantly striving to be considerate and careful with other people's property.

With the front-loading washer it took over two hours to wash one load.  The manual to the washer, of course, is in Italian.  Making every effort to translate it using Google Translate, there appeared to be no shorter setting that produced a strong spin. 
This entrance appeared well maintained.
Our first few loads came out sopping wet before we translated the manual and figured out a spinning cycle.  Not wanting to start over, it took two days for the items to dry. 
A moment later, I was walking on another narrow passageway. It was like a maze. Of course, I was concerned, I didn't get lost which appears possible. I have no sense of direction, never have.  Tom's good for that!
When we made our plans over a year ago I had fully intended to learn Italian using an online course I downloaded.  Time slipped away and it often does and I know only the minimum.  In two months, we'll leave Italy.  In a short time, I'll have forgotten my desire to learn Italian, facing yet another language to fuss over. 
The entrances to many homes are particularly appealing to the eye.

Never staying in one location for more than three months, inspires me to let go of the angst over not learning a country's language. Instead, we focus on doing the best we can to communicate while enjoying our time enmeshed in the culture and its people.
This was the view over the railing, tile rooftops, green valleys, clouds rolling in over the hills.
Soaping up a few paper towels I headed to the veranda washing the railing which wasn't as dirty as I'd expected.  It will be a good place to hang the sheets.  It's not sunny but it is breezy, accomplishing two of our laundry hanging criteria.  Oh good grief, there's a plan for everything!

Looking down as I take each careful step hopefully prevents clumsy me from falling on the uneven stone walkways.  On the way back up, I have the momentum of the climb to aid in sure-footedness.
Taking a break from writing this today, I ventured out on my walk, snapping a few photos, greeting a few neighbors with a hearty "buon giorno," hoping not to sound like a fool, puffing and panting, all the while. 
What a morning!  What a view!
Today, I traveled further than in the past and found several narrow roads I'd yet to explore, with a renewed enthusiasm to venture further and further each time as my ability to climb these hills improves.
Some property owners cordon off their lawns and patios for privacy.

Dog, "cane" on my return walk.  No leash laws in Tuscany.
After all, the road of exploration never ceases to amaze me and...never seems to end.  Now, off we go to hang the sheets!  See the photos below.
Impeding our view for the day, if we decide to sit outside in the cool weather we've had since Monday.  But, well worth using this railing for the hanging.  Clouds hovering above may put a "damper" on our sheet drying. 
Its a guy thing.  I suggested using the rain gutter.  Tom ran to get the hangers to avoid getting the sheets dirty.  Then, he moved the table and chairs to ensure the sheets didn't touch the tabletop.

The road to Pescia, Pistoia, finding's the budget?

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Our view of Boveglio from the winding road as we began our descent to Pescia.
Pescia, a larger village with a population of approximately 20,000, is located 35 minutes south of Boveglio, our destination today.  Less on a mission to explore historic villages, we chose Pescia to find a larger grocery shopping that may have offer some of  the items we'd yet to find at the medium sized grocery store in Collodi or at Vivienne's tiny store in Benabbio.

Dining out only twice in the 11 days since we arrived on June 16th, with few restaurants in the immediate area, we've cooked the remainder of our meals.Delighted with the quality of ingredients we've purchases, the use of our own herb garden on the patio, cooking has been relatively easy.  It helps that I love to cook.  Its also helps that Tom is an enthusiastic stirrer, chopper and dicer.

Food is a big deal when traveling.  As our dear friends Peggy and Lane mentioned in an email to us in the past few days, the food was a motivating factor in their visit to Tuscany some time ago...the pasta, the bread...and of course the wine, none of which we consume.
We took this photo when we found a spot to stop as we maneuvered the winding road.  This is the little village, Boveglio where we'll live for the summer that we can see on the ascent back up the mountain after grocery shopping in Pescia.
Why would we choose such a place to visit in light of the fact that we exclude these wonderful items from our diets?  The areas we've chosen to visit provided an appeal for us in their rich history,  their people, the overall beauty, its abundant wildlife and prolific vegetation.

Years ago, I gave up drinking alcohol for health reasons although on a rare occasion I may have a "taste."  Sadly, the taste of a good red wine sends my taste buds on a holiday, often inspiring me to drink two or three glasses in a sitting. 

The end result?  A horrifying hangover, starting in the middle of the night, keeping me awake, plaguing me during the day with thirst, general malaise and constant discomfort, only to dissipate after the second night's sleep. 

 Zooming in Boveglio from the winding road.  Its interesting how many of the single homes in Tuscany actually share a common wall and yet they are considered single family homes.
It's just not worth it to me to lose a day of my life feeling out of sorts from drinking a few glasses of wine.  For this reason, I said goodbye to wine years ago.  Occasionally, I may consume a light beer when not the designated driver. There again, if I have two beers as opposed to one, I'm a mess the next day.
Tom doesn't care for wine although he has the tough he-man constitution to handle it well.  Instead, he prefers a good beer or cocktail on occasion, never suffering from a hangover.  His preferred drink of choice is odd:  Courvoisier and Sprite on the rocks, lots of rocks.  The questioning look from bartenders is amusing as he tries to explain this peculiar concoction.

Food, as opposed to wine, with its necessity of sustaining life, becomes a huge factor in most of our lives not only for sustenance but for pleasure, for interacting, for celebration and for many, for reward.

Driving around Pescia for a restaurant that served breakfast was fruitless. Italians drink espresso or a coffee concoctions with a small pastry for breakfast.  One won't find bacon, eggs and pancakes at any Italian restaurant unless staying at an "Americanized" hotel.
Perhaps, our distance from the larger city restaurants may prove to have made my restrictive diet easier to maintain in our two and a half months in Tuscany.  With our limited experience in dining out so far, we've realized the difficultly of my having an opportunity to partake of the foods indigenous to the area. 

Cooking our own meals adapting recipes to fit the array of special meats, cheeses, sauces, produce and spices one finds in Italy, provides us both with a sense of the true flavor of the region, although certainly not as rich and fulfilling as one may experience in local restaurants.

Giving up on the idea of breakfast, we decided to take advantage of our proximity to a grocery store in Pescia, the largest we've found so far stocked full of fabulous produce, meats, deli and general merchandise. 

This is the nature of our lives, our chosen path to travel the world with these limitations, adapting in the best ways we can and, above all, not complaining in the process. 
We've done this well, not making food our main area of focus.  Any yet, we shop, chop, dice and stir with the same enthusiasm as a cook with less restrictions.  Dinner time for us is as enjoyable as  for others dining in a local restaurant with the freedom of choice. 

Amid all the charming old buildings there are abandoned apartments and commercial buildings.
Last night, as the smell of our chicken with homemade pesto topped with the finest cheeses and fresh herbs filled our senses with anticipation, leaving us heady and anxious for the first (and last) bite.  Our hearty plates of fresh organic vegetables and salad added perfectly to the mix.  Do we miss pasta, bread and wine?  Not at all.  It never enters our minds.

So today, off to the big grocery store in Pescia, we were content.  The only items we couldn't find... Tom's preferred powdered non-dairy creamer for his coffee (I use real cream, here non-pasteurized, spoils quickly) and Crystal Lite Ice Tea.

Many of the villages, such as neighboring Colognora are imbedded into the hillside have a clock tower, many of which continue to chime centuries later. 

Tom also warned me about an article he'd read that clearly stated that grocery shoppers don't mess with the produce:  no squeezing, no holding it in one's hand spending time checking out it's quality and viability.  

"Put on a plastic glove, place the item in a plastic bag provided, weigh the item(s) on the scale which prints a price sticker after selecting the item from a list and carefully place the sticker on the plastic bag ensuring it won't fall off."  OK.  I did this!

Many simpler less decorous homes are adorned with flowers of the season.

Today, we purchased a small bottle to try of the Italian version of Crystal Lite, already prepared lemon flavored iced tea. We'll see if we like it.  We're fast running out of the Crystal Lite packets we brought with us.

With a backup plan in place, we may end up ordering the Iced Tea online and having it shipped to us while we're here, not the worst solution, albeit pricey.  But there again, it leaves us more to pack.  Our rationale?  We don't have to give up everything we like! This life we've chosen is not punishment or banishment from all familiar products.  We feel we've adapted quite well without most of our "creature comforts."

Apparently, a devastating storm had an effect on vegetation in the area. Piles of wood indicate it may have occurred in the past few years.

Shopping in a totally non-English speaking environment is challenging especially for the few packaged or bottled items we may use, although we've be able to decipher many of the verbiage on the labels. Buying meat, dairy and produce is a breeze. 

Tom recently read that there are strict etiquette rules in Italy.  For some of these in regard to dining out click here.

The big challenge today was determining which coin we had to place in the lock of the grocery store cart to free it from the bunch in the parking lot for our use.  The amount wasn't posted.  A kindly woman stopped by (no English), giving me the single Euro required when I handed her two Euro $.50 in its place. 

With the warmer weather and the long ride back, Tom drove fast on the long stretches making it difficult for me to take photos.  On the narrow winding stretches of road, there was no safe way to stop.
When bagging our plethora of groceries, for which they took a credit card (yeah!), the checker counted the plastic bags we used, charging us Euro $.35 for the seven plastic bags which translate to about US $.45. 

Yes, it cost about US $2 right out of the chute for the cart and the bags.  A consolation is that the cost of food is about 20% less from the US which certainly makes up for the difference. 

Even the less appealing is appealing in its own way.

Our average food bill is running at approximately $200 per week including dining out twice.  We're satisfied with that as it falls in line with the $2400 we've budgeting for food, eating in or out, for the 12 weeks we'll be here.

I should mention that we only eat twice a day, a hearty breakfast and dinner.  Neither of us are hungry again until dinner.  Our way of eating has a propensity to kill the appetite for hours after eating with nary a thought about a "snack."  Plus, we no longer have any dessert after dinner, especially now that we dine around 7:00 PM most nights, preferring not to retire on a full belly.

One's reactions must be quick when encountering a batch of road signs such as this.  The winding road often prevents turning around for another look.
With all the groceries put away in our tiny refrigerator and freezer, we're content to spend what remains of the day, taking care of necessary business matters, prepping for tonight's dinner, reading our books and catching up on US news.  Tom found an English speaking news channel on the now working old fashioned TV!  We're so out of the loop these days!

A walk around the hilly neighborhood...My new form of exercise...Maintaining health while in Tuscany...The simple things...

Lisa and Luca presented us with this basket of cherries from the tree growing in our yard, after they'd seen us admiring the tree.  Lisa, speaking no English and us, no Italian, it was impossible to explain my restrictive diet that forbids any fruit sugars. Tom, fortunately, may have a few each day, while I've merely enjoyed their beauty.We thanked them profusely, impressed by the thoughtfulness they have shown each day since we've arrived.  For more information on Lisa and Luca and their properties, visit them at their Facebook page:

It appeared that this house may be occupied, one of few dilapidated entrances in the area.
Without a health club within an hour's drive from Boveglio and certainly not carrying any exercise equipment in our limited space for packing, I was in a quandary arriving here 10 days ago.
This hill is much steeper in person than it appears here.

Many individual houses are attached, a common occurrence we've observed in certain areas of the world, such as Dubrovnik and Mykonos.
Having worked out most of my adult life, the thought of not having access to a facility and equipment for my twice-weekly High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) worried me.  Some time ago, I changed my workout routine, as I've mentioned here in the past to concur with the research presented in Jonathan Bailor's Smarter Science of Slim, a profound life-changing book of both healthful diet and exercise.
Rushing by this flowering plant to avoid the hovering bees, I caught a whiff of pure heaven.
Obviously, no cars fit between these narrow pathways to the houses. Its no wonder that the Italian people appear slim and fit.  The parking area, as for us, is a bit of a hike from the house.  Add the hills to the walk and it becomes quite a workout on a regular basis.
With a medical condition that has since been resolved after almost two years of a strict adherence to my diet, combined with exercise, not being able to do so, is a big deal to me. 

After days of becoming familiar with our house and the neighborhood, a solution to this dilemma presented itself. 
More blooming flowers.  In a few days, the many lavender bushes in our yard begin to bloom.  Photos to follow.  I wish we could do online "scratch and sniff" for the sweet smells in Tuscany.
HIIT required excruciating workouts at the maximum possible energy expenditure for 10 minutes twice a week, utilizing as many muscles as possible, working to the point of exhaustion.  This has been easily accomplished at a health club by performing a series of specific exercises, working for the major muscle groups. 
Ah, a flat stretch on which I can catch my breath.
In conjunction with HIIT's strenuous short bursts of exercise is combined with a commitment to expending approximately 10,000 steps per day, one can maintain an excellent level of fitness.  The steps per day, in part, are accomplished by walking in this lengthy house along with going up and down the many flights of steps indoors and outside all day.  

Add a daily walk in the steepest neighborhood I've ever seen, walking briskly up the hills, twice a week, while on a more normal walk the remaining days and I'll almost be where I need to be. 

This is my favorite hill (yea, right!)
I recently found two identical weight logs for the fireplace in the wood pile which I'm using for my twice-weekly HIIT arm exercises.  And, I've instituted the dreaded lunges twice a week.
The weight lifting logs, the perfect weight, considering my bum shoulder which seems to be improving.

Maintaining a sure footing on this walk is more important than the exercise factor.  The stone walkways are rugged and uneven inspiring me to keep my eyes down as much as possible.
The hills? The most difficult of my routine. Walking down is easy. It's the trip back up that pushes me to my limit, exactly what I need.  Tom prefers to lounge at home while I'm on this twice-weekly mission. But, he will walk with me on the less strenuous days. 

Good grief.  He's walking, something he swore he'd never do.  I'm thrilled about that!  He's now back down to his 45-pound weight loss after dining-at-will on each of our eight cruises and now eating mostly what I do for the past 10 days.
Nothing like stopping for a sniff along the way.
Yesterday afternoon, alone on my strenuous day walk, I took these photos on the way down, many of which don't fully illustrate the intensity of the walkways.
On the way back up I stay focused and stop only for a moment to catch my breath if necessary.  My goal is to be able to make it back up without a single breath-catching stop which I should be able to accomplish within a week or two. 

Tom quit smoking for hopefully the final time shortly before we left Minnesota in October.  He now walks several times a week, mostly when we are exploring.  He's rid of 45 pounds of belly fat.  He's relaxed and relatively stress-free (except for hauling luggage on moving days) and most of all, like me, happy. 
This old tracker and trailer occupies a spot in the shared parking area.
Perhaps, we'll be lucky that all of this attention to health will ultimately pay off with long and healthy lives.  All of our efforts are, by no means, a guarantee that we'll avoid illness or injury, not for us, not for anyone.  But, somehow, it may prove to be instrumental in our continued enjoyment of the quality of our lives into our old (older) age.
An inviting doorway.  Wonder what's on the other side?
Also, when a basket of cherries can offer so much joy, even if they are "to look," not "to touch," it must have a positive effect on our well being.  It's the simple things in life, isn't it?

Soon, I'll climb up to our "terrazzo" on the dangerous steps over the stone stairway, hang a batch of laundry that is currently in the washer and pick a big batch of basil for tonight's dinner of boneless chicken breasts topped with the finest locally made mozzarella cheese and my own homemade pesto, a huge side salad with homemade dressing and a platter of steamed veggies.  Yes, it is, the simple things...

Monday's road trip to Bagni di Lucca...lots of photos...

This was the first bridge we drove across to arrive in the center of the town.

The view as we approached Bagni di Lucca, not the same town as Lucca, itself, which we'll  also visit in the near future.

Notice the "no honking" sign. 
The vegetation was so thick as we drove along the Lima River while entering Bagni di Lucca, this was the best shot we could get until we arrived closer to the town.
Awakening early Monday morning, Tom suggested, "Let's hit the road!"

Anxious to begin touring the many towns of Tuscany, an hour later, after a hearty breakfast, we were on our way, choosing the historic village of Bagni di Lucca for a few reasons; one, its river and bridges and two, its relatively close the crow flies.
The last portion of the road as we began the descent into Bagni di Lucca.

The street is so narrow it only allows for one way traffic at a time at the upcoming "T".  As a result, we sat at this light for no less than 7 minutes.
If we thought the drive to Boveglio to Benabbbio or Bovelgio to Collodi was winding and treacherous, we were kidding ourselves!  Never, in either of our lives, have we seen or experienced more hairpin turns, winding, hilly roads than along the drive today. 
Many of these building appear newer, although less interesting from the exterior. But many of them are hundreds of years old, built to last with simple exterior design, common in different times.
Tom, good driver that he is, and considerate of my tentativeness and, duh, our lives, drove carefully putting my mind at ease.  The scenery along the road warranted photos but with literally nowhere to stop, we missed many good shots.
Hairpin turns, every few minutes.

Historic ruins along the banks of the river remain a part of the properties (circa 1900's) built over the centuries.

With little rain recently, the river bed was sparse of water in parts, the snows having melted some time ago.
Former Minnesota fishing enthusiasts, we couldn't resist this fish as it swam in the Lima River, as we watched from the shore.

Outdoor cafes never cease to delight us, a novelty from whence we came.
Of course, once we arrived in Bagni di Lucca, we stopped many times visiting the historic sites, walking on narrow foot bridges across rivers, walking along the boulevards, all the while "ooh-ing" and ahh-ing" over one thrilling moment after another. 

How could any region be as breathtaking as Tuscany?

Over and over, I find myself saying, "How could we have lived our lives without seeing Tuscany?"  Its unique lush mountainous greenery caresses one charming Tuscan building after another.  Even the old dilapidated buildings are awe inspiring. 
It wasn't easy to walk past this bakery.  The smell of fresh baked pastries wafted through the air.
Everywhere we walked, the sweet smell of blooming flowers filled our nostrils as we sucked in the heady perfume of Mother Nature.  Add the meticulous loving care the people of Toscana exercise to maintain its centuries old demeanor and style and you have one of the most enticing areas in the world. 
The sprawling Lima River seems to provide a backdrop for most of the interesting and historical buildings.
With much world ahead of us yet to see, we have no doubt that the memories we'll gather from our short two and a half months in Tuscany will remain with us forever. 
Pretty mountain village, a mixture of old and newer buildings.
The following well written story Tom found online about Bagni di Lucca was taken from a real estate website, Casa Tuscany, that we found describes it best.  We borrowed these two photos.  All of the other photos are our own.

"One of the oldest and most famous towns in the province of Lucca, Bagni di Lucca is easily reached off the SS12, just past the Devil's Bridge. This once-grand spa town has always been known for its curing waters, appreciated even in Roman times. 

Bagni di Lucca was frequented for centuries by noblemen and famous people and became known as the land of princes and poets. It became extremely fashionable during the 19th century when it became the meeting place for such distinguished people as the poets Byron, Shelley, Browning, Lever, Giusti, Monti, Carducci, Pascoli, Montale, writers such as Dumas, musicians such as Strauss, Listz, Paganini, Puccini, Mascagni and politicians, saints and popes. Heine described it as "a true and proper sylvan paradise. I have never found a valley more enchanting, even the mountains are nobly formed and not bizarre and Gothic like those in Germany."

The English came to know Bagni di Lucca as the 'Switzerland of Tuscany' and its prestige at that time led to the construction of an Anglican church, an important suspension bridge, the Ponte delle Catene, a neo-classical temple and the Villa Demidoff, the casino, where roulette was invented in 1837, the Circolo dei Forestieri, the foreigners club, now an upmarket river-front restaurant and numerous important villas immersed in greenery. 

Also characteristic are the feudal and medieval structures of the mountain villages, rich in history, traditions, legends, and some with Romanesque parish churches, such as Vico Pancellorum and Pieve di Controne."
Now, with a plan to continue to reach out to more villages in Tuscany, week by week, we find ourselves considering that we may not choose to drive the huge distances to the tourist packed areas in Italy, perhaps focusing our attention around Florence and Tuscany.  After all, our plan all along has been to do "what feels right to us" as opposed to "what others think we should do."

Walking across this foot bridge we commented about its sturdy feel. Looking online, we found this story about the "New Stress Ribbon Pedestrian Bridge."
Yes, we're happy we had the opportunity to experience Venice.  But, the crowds were such a damper to our visit with tourists at one's elbow at every step.  A gondola ride, once savored as a "must do" became dull and uninteresting in the massive "traffic jams" we witnessed on the canals.

Danita Delimont Bridge was built in the 1700's.  Walking across we were impressed by its strength and stability. 

This old bridge couldn't have been more well preserved while maintaining the significance of its historical design.

Google Translate wouldn't translate this for us.  Anyone want to assist?
Here in Boveglio, there are few tourists, no crowds, no waiting in line.  We may be two of a handful of tourists.  There are a few B & B's in the general area.  We've yet to speak to one English speaking tourist or resident.  For us, this adds to our experience. 
The only spot where we saw rapids on the Lima River.
Without a doubt, we've loved all of the fun and interesting people  that we've met on our eight cruises, many of whom we will remain in touch with by email and our blog. However, in one's everyday life, one doesn't necessarily make new friends every few months. 
This riverfront property, although appearing newer, could well have been 200 years old.
Many friends we know and love, seldom entertain or socialize beyond an occasional get together, often as infrequently as once or twice a year.  In most cases, this is the norm for middle aged and older people instead spending more time with family.

The footbridge lead to the past behind me, where we wandered around.

As we stepped off the footbridge, we noticed this rushing water channel alongside the river.
Social butterflies that we are, we fully enjoyed the interactions on the cruises, but are quite content just being together, day after day, in our own little world, that, in essence with readers all over the world may not be so small after all.  We don't feel isolated.  

Tom, at the park by the river.  One of our readers made a comment that his white tennis shoes are a dead ringer for a tourist. Apparently, Europeans wear darker colored shoes. Although, we're not ashamed to be tourists, spending money and savoring every moment in the current country in our journey.
Of course, we miss our family and friends and always will, staying in touch by Skype and email as much as possible.  Someday, we will settle down, where we don't know at this point nor do we worry about that eventuality.  Most likely, our staying put, wherever that may be, will add to our accessibility to our family members and hopefully our friends.

We called this a "camouflage" tree, based on the coloration and pattern of the bark.
For now, we continue on, with our new plan to further explore Tuscany upon awakening any morning, knowing today is the day to go, grab a map, load up in our iced tea, my tube of lipstick (no purse), our camera and Tom's excellent driving skills to venture out on more of these crazy roads. 

Building a park around a historical structure is common from what we've seen of the world thus far.  Hard to read signs prevented us from determining the origin of this structure.
That, my friends, is what being retirement is all about...doing exactly what we choose each and every day, health providing, funds well-managed, rental car gassed up, and an easy spirit in our hearts to live life to the fullest, for as long as we can.

Sign near exit to footbridge.

Thank you, Bagni di Lucca, for yet another memorable day.
The humid valley as we drove back.  Later in the day it rained with thunder and lightening, the first time since we arrived.  The humidity is high each day due to the vegetation although not uncomfortable.  The fresh smog free air makes taking a deep breath refreshing and energizing.
Returning in the afternoon, we immediately ran around securing all the windows as a sudden deluge of thunder, lightening and rain ensued.  The cozy feeling was not lost on us as travelers intent on following the sun. 

Off we go, back to the hairpin turns and our carefully executed return drive to Boveglio, our new home.
The gardens were watered, the flowers soaked up the much needed moisture and the stone patios, streets and walkways were cleansed of their dust and soil.
This morning sunshine prevailed as it shone on the lush greenery surrounding us, maybe one shade greener than the prior day, if that's at all possible.