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By Geoffrey Dean
[Sequel to "Continuing 2013 Italian style"]
Following our early morning seaside walk in Civitavecchia and a generous breakfast in the Roman catacombs-style basement breakfast area in the Roses hotel, we dutifully loaded our GPS info into the device, but secretly vowed not to listen to it because 1) it seemed to choose circuitous routes and 2) the female British-English speaker had horrible Italian pronunciation. We had heard her say “Strada provinciale” like “STRAY-dog prov-in-SEE-ayl” way too many times the previous day.
As we headed north into Tuscany, with the city of Grosseto as our next reference point, we got used to the two narrow lanes in each direction, and had just resigned ourselves to the mercilessly view-blocking high guardrails on each side of the road in each direction when we spotted what appeared to be a castle or fort capping a hill not far to the east.
To the navigational tune of “recalculating,” we ditched our route and followed what we hoped was the road up that hill. In just a few kilometers our risk-taking spontaneity paid off as the hilltop structure, now almost above us, again came into view. The stone walls and tower gave the general form to what proved to be Montepescali, a small medieval town (piccolo borgo medievale) built around a medieval nunnery.
Like so many other clocks in Italy, the tower clock had either stopped or told the wrong time (it was actually around 12:30 p.m.). Many of the old homes along its several narrow streets seemed interconnected, the archways over the streets supporting rooms built onto them that extended from houses on either side. On facades throughout Montepescali we saw ceramic tiles with historical anecdotes or depictions of the town itself.
These may be the work of local ceramic artist Claudio Pisapia. Olive orchards abounded on the slopes around the town
and to the north there seemed to be several similar stone-enclosed communities on the crests of neighboring hills.
After our Montepescali detour, we continued north to Livorno on a Strada provinciale. The sea views at Quercianella, a resort area just south of Livorno, enticed us to stop long enough to take this photo
but not to eat lunch, because we were anxious to reach Ardenza, the namesake of the Ardenza Trio and just a short way off. There wasn’t much to explore in Ardenza, but we made the most of it. The locals in the café on Via dell’Ardenza nearest to these signs
explained that Ardenza was a frazione (a section, literally a “fraction”) of Livorno, and were surprised that we found their house coffee so fascinating. They apparently didn’t make the connection that Arcaffe and its logo, passione d’espresso, had Ardenza connotations.
We hoped to find an Ardenza wine, and scoured Via dell’Ardenza for a wine repository (enoteca), only to be told by several sources that such a wine is inesistente. In our desperation we photographed anything else we saw with Ardenza in the name, which besides this small hotel
and outdoor movie theatre
included a driving school, an auto service, a graveyard, and several bus stops. Apart from the main street, the rest of Ardenza is marked by the socialistic sameness of its matching brick apartment buildings. While we can’t recommend it as a tourist destination, we suspect it may be a decent place to live.
Next stop: Pisa!
Copyright © 2013 by Geoffrey Dean