Algernon and Ilsa: in Toscana

Algernon and Ilsa spent the summer in a cottage on the grounds of Castello di Porciano in the Casentino Valley, where I joined them in late August. They were eager to do some sightseeing in the area and I was happy to oblige!

Soon after I arrived, our hostess took us on a jaunt to nearby Strada in Casentino, where Algernon and Ilsa explored the Loggia del Grano in the town center. Then it was up the hill to Castel San Niccolò, where we walked through the village and gathered windfall apples.


Left to right: Algernon and Ilsa at the Loggia del Grano; with apples on top of the Banana.

Our next trip was to Anghiari, site of a famous battle in the 15th century. Anghiari is lovely and we enjoyed our stroll around town and the views from the walls. While we were there, Algernon and Ilsa posed for a photo with their “Elka Strong” bracelet. Elka is a friend of mine who is battling cancer and her husband had these bracelets made. He asked people to take pictures of the bracelets wherever they were worn and Algernon and Ilsa wanted to participate.


Algernon and Ilsa “Elka Strong” in Anghiari.

On another outing, we went to Deruta, where we visited Antica Fornace Deruta; its shop, furnace, and museum were fascinating. Giovanni, the owner, kindly took a picture of all four of us, posed against the outside wall of the shop, which had pieces of pottery embedded in it.

Before heading back to Porciano, we made a stop at Santuario Madonna del Bagno, outside of the historic center of the town. Inside this church, the walls are lined with votive tiles, many of which depict the deceased’s manner of death. After looking at the tiles, Algernon and Ilsa stepped outside to have their photo taken underneath an ornamental orange tree.


Clockwise from left: “Elka Strong” in front of Antica Fornace Deruta; “Elka Strong” under an orange tree at Santuario Madonna del Bagno; a votive tile in Santuario Madonna del Bagno.

Another day trip was to Cortona, which was wonderful. After a two-hour drive, we took a few minutes to restore the tissues at an outdoor café before setting off to explore the town. We had a great time and Algernon and Ilsa had their picture taken in front of the Palazzo Comunale in the Piazza della Repubblica.


Left to right: Ilsa and Algernon restoring the tissues with a cioccolata calda; “Elka Strong” in front of the Palazzo Comunale.

The final excursion of my visit was to Montemignaio for the polenta festival. This was mainly a communal lunch in the town square, with different preparations of polenta being served. We didn’t have lunch, but the drive was beautiful and the town interesting.

By the time I left Italy, winter was approaching. Algernon and Ilsa were hoping to stay on the Casentino for several more weeks, but were feeling the cold. I outfitted them with hats and scarves to help stave off the chill before heading home.


Left to right: Ilsa and Algernon “Elka Strong” in Montemignaio; Algernon and Ilsa outfitted for winter.

Algernon e Ilsa: la dolce vita

By the time I returned to Florence last fall, Algernon and Ilsa had had many adventures in Italy. During the winter, they went to Venice, where their friend Donna helped them pick out the perfect masks, and to Castello di Porciano.


Left to right: Algernon and Ilsa on the Grand Canal; en masque; at Castello di Porciano.

In May, they went to Naples, where they attended the opera two nights. They loved it and Ilsa came away from the experience wanting to take vocal lessons.


Clockwise from left: Ilsa and Algernon at the port of Naples; posing with the opera house stage and orchestra pit in the background; mingling with the other attendees.

The summer was a challenge; who knew that Florence is one of the hotter cities in Italy, due to its situation in a valley? They took to their bed on a lavender-stuffed pillow, with cool cloths on their foreheads, in an effort to deal with the Tuscan sun.


Ilsa and Algernon dealing with the Tuscan sun.

With the onset of autumn, Algernon and Ilsa revived enough to make two trips to Austria, one to Vienna for the opera and the other to Salzburg.


Left: Ilsa and Algernon at the opera house in Vienna. Right: above Salzburg.

One of the places we went together was Cinque Terre. We stayed in Vernazza, where we had a wonderful dinner our first night on a patio above the Ligurian Sea. The next day, we explored Riomaggiore and Manarola, enjoying beautiful vistas and quaint villages.


Counterclockwise from top left: Ilsa and Algernon on the train to Cinque Terre; at dinner in Vernazza; on the cliff walk in Riomaggiore; on the prow of a boat in Manarola.

Where will Algernon and Ilsa travel to next? Stay tuned!