Following on Points of the Compass Italian Style, our accommodation in the Tuscan town of Verrucole was an old stone house, #9 Via delle Forte. Like our accommodation in an old converted winery in France, it was exactly as it had been pictured and portrayed on the internet. However, on arrival, our hosts were on site trying in vain to restore our heating. They managed a temporary repair which involved something about bypassing a circuit breaker with a switch. What it meant was we had hot water OR heat but not both at the same time.
We had this house all to ourselves – a living room with old wood floors and a fireplace with light filtering in from several windows deeply recessed in the thick walls. The fully equipped kitchen had a beamed ceiling and a large lovely wood table. On navigating the narrow staircase to the upstairs there was a bathroom and two large bedrooms. Here the deep marble sills enhanced the shuttered windows.
Our room looked out over the church and tiny village square; to the left, the village of Vibianna above us clung to the mountain across the valley; to the right was a beautiful view each morning of clouds hanging in the deeper and broader Valley del Serchio that spread out below us. The second bedroom had a view of the village proper and of the Fortezza delle Verrucole above us.
Booking of our Italian accommodation had been my sister’s responsibility – now she was wondering what she had gotten us into. We had hot water but no heat; or we had heat but no hot water. One bedroom had no towels, we had no phone, we couldn’t get the gas stove to work. With no mastery of said stove the only supper we could prepare at the end of our long day was a packet of dry soup mix using the electric kettle and then keeping it warm on the hearth by the open fireplace. However, my sister went to the local bar about a 30 second walk down the road, and there used the phone to call our English-speaking contact. She popped “up” (as opposed to “down”) from San Romano and everything was righted in the end and for our inconvenience we were provided with free wood for the fireplace for the duration of our stay.
This local bar was actually a bar-come-hardware store-come-pizzeria-come local grocery and sold everything … everything. And on the wall was a map where visitors could show where they were from by placing a pin in their place of origin.
The bar, the church, and three houses lined the approach to the village proper. On one side of this approach the land sloped away and rose again to the village of Vibianna, while on the other side, the land immediately slipped away into the steeper Valle Del Serchio – our teeny tiny Tuscan town sat on the ridge of the mountain, crowned at the top by the Fortezza. Verrucole had a total population of 50. By arriving that October afternoon we had raised the population by almost 10%.
Cars had to stop short of the three streets in the village proper because these streets were old and cobble stoned and too narrow for any vehicles. The small cluster of houses were also old and of stone, some better kept than others, some undergoing repairs; most had numerous rocks on the roofs to hold down the worn and broken Spanish tiles in the strong winds that sometimes blew across the mountaintops and down the valleys. Whatever the status of repair, almost all the homes had the most beautiful entrance doors, just as we had seen in our meanderings in southwest France.
I thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this little hill town – we strolled the chestnut woods in the valley, we day tripped to other villages and roads off the beaten path, we had a boot lunch in a marble quarry, we saw a lake of magnificent reflections that conceals an entire abandoned village and we dined on exquisitely delicious fresh pasta in a rural restaurant somewhere out there in the hills and valleys we traversed. I took time to sketch some of the buildings and beautiful doors in Verrucole and these turned into some of my favourite moments of our month-long trip.