We lunched in La Spezia while waiting for the siesta to be over so that we could collect our hire car from the local Avis office (which is HIGHLY recommended !), and mooched around wondering what the awful smell was ... found out later that recent high tides had backed up the drains, causing 'em to overflow here and there. Sighh ... Life in the provincial lane.  ;-)
Hot. It was really hot !
The car turned out to be an upgrade because, as ever, the one we'd ordered wasn't there (happens everywhere, all the time), and all that was available was this lovely little Renault Mégane diesel. Such happiness on CS' part !
We got in, he took a cursory glance around the car and off we went; he was totally unfazed by the left-hand drive, gear-stick on his right (and him left-handed !) and absolutely unknown streets. I did do a bit of hissing "You're too close to the cars on this side !" between anxiously clenched teeth, but that only lasted until we got out of downtown La Spezia and were on our way to Lunigiana. Or actually just about in it ...
And it was the best choice we could have made (which we did from brochures, believe it or not !): Lunigiana is, to put it concisely, divine.
Alas ! -- it's now being discovered; there is very little time left in which to see it in an unadorned state, because the arrival of various kinds of loud tourists will indubitably lead to the building of hideous bars, parking lots, playgrounds et al. If you want to see Italian mountain towns in an almost natural state, go to Lunigiana NOW.
I practised my developing Italian on the wonderful Brunelli family who run La Nuova Jera, the albergo ristorante we'd booked into for the few days of our stay; as ever, this practice brought only smiles and praise. They are so nice, the Italians ! -- and they tell such porkies !  ;-)
After our first night's dinner there, we changed our booking to mezzo pensione for the whole time; Angela Brunelli's cooking was simply too good to miss out on. Nothing else to be said.
From Jera we covered as much of Lunigiana as we had time to do, trying to see all the castles we could. You can judge their attractiveness on the following page, and will understand why we are so drawn to them. We would rather 'do' castles than art, any time -- and we do.
The fact is this : I *must* go back to Lunigiana; penso di avere lasciato in quel luogo il mio cuore.
I think I left my heart there.