Trippin’ to Tuscany – Part 1

Are you ready for some history accompanied by pictures? Well then, get yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or if it’s that time, something a bit stronger and relax as I take you through some hidden Tuscany gems. This journey will be in a few parts. I tried to narrow it down the best I could regarding the pictures, and choosing those that represent the places we visited, along with objects or people as well.

Our road trip started from western Germany, heading south toward Austria, and then Italy—approximately a 15-hour drive. We arrived in the evening, so the later part of the journey through the mountains was in the dark, and when I say dark, I mean dark. There are no street lights to guide you on the narrow roads. And, as a warning, drive at your own risk. I believe Italian drivers consider speed limits are suggestions.

After a good night’s sleep, we woke to a sunny Tuscany. This is the place and area where we stayed.



We chose the town of Poppi in the Province of Arezzo, which is on the eastern side of Tuscany; east of Florence and Northeast of Siena. I pictured rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves, but Tuscany is more than that. Poppi is rugged with mountains and forests, whereas other parts of Tuscany taper off into the vineyards and olive groves. Ruled by the Guidi Family from the early 1000’s until 1289, Poppi’s medieval town still embraces years gone by.



First mention of the Castle of Poppi was in 1169.

A picture of an older couple looking out onto the hills

This man was painting over old lettering. I don’t know if this is a craft or what the process is called.


The next day we decided to do some hiking in the Pratomagno mountain range. The Arno River runs on both sides of this range and its highest peak is approximately 5,226 feet. Of course, we drove through the mountain range and walked 600 feet up.

This is my husband, his aunt, and Shakespeare hiking up the mountain.

And this is what we were walking toward.


There were wild horses roaming around. To my surprise, they were friendly and kept following my husband’s aunt because she had an apple in her backpack.

We did a day trip to Siena, which is about 2 hours from Poppi. The historic center is part of the the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like many areas in Tuscany, Siena was first settled by Etruscans, approximately around 900 BC, by a tribe called the Saina. Local legend believes the town was founded by Senius and Aschius, who were the nephews of Romulus whom Rome was named after. They fled Rome after Romulus killed their father.

This pottery store was built within a cave.


This is a sculpture on the wall.

This is the University’s courtyard.

And last, a tired Shakespeare ready to crash in the car.

And this ends this part of our trip. Stay tuned for a few more Tuscany travel posts.

Tuscany and Nature,
Baer Necessities

Food: Beef Barley Vegetable Soup
Daily Funny:Image result for funny thanksgiving

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A Slice of Tale

Pizza comes in all sizes, shapes, and desires. Ooey Gooey. Crisp. Stuffed pizza. Thin crust. Stuffed crust. There’s the soft, flaky crust, wood fired oven crispy, bubble crust, a butter crust, and many more. We all have our favorites. Some of our likings have probably changed over the years too. When I was younger, I loved the thin crust piled with cheese, sausage, onions, and green peppers—the oil glistening and pooling on top of the pizza. I’d eat the tiny crust ends and then go for the middle squares. Being a Chicagoan, Giordano’s stuffed spinach pizza was also a favorite of mine.

In my 20s, my friends and I went to Las Vegas. I didn’t have much money with me, so one evening, while a few friends saw a live show, another friend and I stayed in the hotel room and ordered pizza. It was the worst pizza ever. The crust tasted like cardboard, and the uncooked fixings were piled on top. At that time, I swore I’d never order a pizza outside of Chicago again.

Now, I’ve experienced pizza in Spain and Italy, and I’m in love with it. The first time I had a super thin crust pizza was at an Italian restaurant in Spain. It was a big individual pizza, but not as filling as the pizzas I grew up eating. The crust is extremely thin with crisp air bubbled sides, and thin layers of toppings. Sauce and cheese doesn’t smother the crust. When we make pizza at home, we try to get the crust super thin.

My love of pizza has changed over the years, similar to my books. The first books I read were Sidney Sheldon’s (also a Chicagoan) romantic suspense novels. I refused to read anything other him, until I reached for a Mary Higgins Clark suspense novel, and Victoria Holt’s gothic romance. Holt wrote in several genres under different pen names. These authors were the stepping-stones to various other writers and works, but at the time, I was hooked on their writing of romance and suspense.

As I recall, the only descriptive writer was Holt. The sad thing is, I can’t recall my favorite books of these authors. What I do remember is how the books glided along without in depth description. They kept my attention with suspense. From there, I moved onto Sandra Brown, another suspense writer with just the right amount of description for me. It’s no wonder my first novel turned out to be a dark, psychological suspense thriller.

Nowadays, I tend to read a lot of literary fiction; stories about ‘real’ people living or battling extraordinary lives. These are the reads I love, and for some reason can’t branch out. My favorites being, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving; The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Red Tent by Anita Diamant; and I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb. The things these writers have in common are lush characters, they can paint a picture without purple prose, and their stories consist of courage, love, trust, and strength. Since I began reading for enjoyment, I realize that I’m not one who likes too much description, which sometimes can create redundancy. The layers of these stories are evenly distributed, not too much stuff on top of the main plot, and the right amount of character build to hate or love them.

Looking back at the changes in my life, the one thing I realize is how my writing reflects my reading styles—how reading adventures have transferred into my own writing. As a writer, I try to focus on building characters, making them flawed, likeable, and in some cases, hated. I’m also one who tries to spread description out to build characters and plot without leaving clumps along the way. All I can hope is that readers like my writing style.

How do you like your pizza? Do you read books loaded with description? Does your writing reflect your preferred reading style?

Pizza, Reading, and Writing,
Baer Necessities

Too Much Noise

I’ve done plenty of browsing blogs, news articles, Twitter, and LinkedIn discussions. There’s so much noise out there and people wanting to be heard that I wonder if we really hear anything. Instead of adding more noise today, I thought I’d share some travel pictures with you that I’ve collected through the years. Maybe you’ll see a place you’d like to visit. Enjoy!

This will be my last post for a few weeks. Our first U.S. guests will arrive on Sunday, and we’ll be busy sightseeing with them. Tschüß.

Niagara American Falls
Niagara American Falls
Town of Bath in the UK
Town of Bath in the UK
Wedding Couple in Vilnius, Lithuania
Wedding Couple in Vilnius, Lithuania
Point Judith in Rhode Island
Point Judith in Rhode Island
Tower Bridge in London
Tower Bridge in London
Castle and Town on the Rhine Valley
Castle and Town on the Rhine Valley
95th Floor of the John Hancock in Chicago, IL
95th Floor of the John Hancock in Chicago, IL
Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic, Connecticut
San Pietro on Portovenere, Italy
San Pietro on Portovenere, Italy
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Solingen, Germany
Solingen, Germany

Travels and Stories,
Baer Necessitites