This year one perfume influenced our (my?) decision where to spend our family vacation: Etruscan Water by Francesca Bianchi Perfumes.
Ergo, the Etruscan Coast, what else? The rest of the team didn’t mind.
Just kidding (and not). This perfume has been haunting me ever since I first tried it, seducing me over months to follow, and when I fall in love I can’t really focus, and I go all the way to the Moon and back, collect a star or two while floating blissfully in space, do a couple of backward flips, usually lend straight on my nose, and this is why I didn’t finish my review yet! It’s still brewing inside my heart. I stray- let’s move on, vacation, road-trip, brain-out time…
Here’s my Tuscan Coast travelogue, and a story about Etruscan Water: where the idea was born…
Anyway, if he couldn’t talk you into visiting his birthplace, I don’t know who could:
Oh, Italy! Sights and sounds, scents, and tastes!
My secret mission: to seek and find the exact spot (which she casually mentioned to me during a conversation) that inspired Francesca Bianchi to create this perfume! I shall show it to you, don’t worry.
The Etruscan Coast is a long narrow stretch of coastline along Tuscany’s coast that reaches from Livorno to Piombino:
As always, we follow our internal family vacation rules: stay local, eat local, drink local, keep away from mass tourism (if possible), try to communicate in the language spoken where you are, be open-minded and learn, learn… When in Rome, right?
On our no-hurry-no-stress road-trip from Zagreb to the Etruscan Coast we stopped in Trieste, just because of the beautiful architecture, and to grab a couple of good coffee basso’s. If you are passing by, make sure to visit Piazza Unità d’Italia, Museo Revoltella, and Miramare Castle, built for Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg (executed in Mexico).
Padua too, just because we love to return to Padua!
We spent two days there, going to St.Anthony’s was obligatory: if you take a better look at these photos, you’ll notice my scent of the day:
We also made short stops in Bologna and Ferrara, just as a quick reminder, because we stop there every time when on our way to Florence. When in Bologna, do try the ragu bolognese (yes, it’s there again…)
I was fortunate to find and book a nice apartment for us in the small town of Riparbella, a quiet, strategically located place close enough to all points of interest. This was our sweet, old fashioned penthouse in a typical Tuscan house:
From there we drove along the coast, and inland. If you don’t feel like driving around a lot, find a “base camp” close to a train station: trains in Italy are really a cool and fun way to get around!
Livorno is a port, dating way back to Etruscans. Then Romans came, and many more rulers to follow. Medici invested in transforming it into an “ideal town”, and an important trading center.
As we walked around the city, heavily destroyed in WWII, I couldn’t help noticing that most of the facades desperately need renovation…yet it is charming in its relaxed way. You can easily reach all the main sights around the city center on foot – do stop and take a look at Monumento dei quattro Mori/, completed in 1616. If you can find an angle from which you can see noses of all four Moors at the same time, that brings you luck.
From Livorno you can grab a ferry to many destinations, like Barcelona, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, etc. – I will explain more about ferry tickets a bit later on.
The city of alabaster with fortifications, many Etruscan and Roman remains and a wholly functional – state prison. The atmosphere is timeless, local products tasty, and alabaster hand-made souvenirs tempting. Local food and wine, coming from surrounding farms are delicious:
Rosignano Marittimo/Solvay, Marina di Cecina, San Vincenzo, Montecatini Val di Cecina
From Livorno to Piombino there are miles and miles of sandy beaches (imagine the intense scent of wet sand, sea, seaweeds, and Mediterranean shrubs), and interesting small towns – old cities, located away from the seaside, up in the surrounding hills. Those soft, curvy, old Tuscan hills…with narrow winding roads leading sharply uphill.
Second gear and there you go.
Since I’m not exactly a big fan of sandy beaches, we would just stop by to take a swim to cool off and continue gallivanting (thanks for this word, Nick) around these cities.
Montecatini Val di Cecina was very refreshing: a beautiful, small medieval town, dreamy and graceful. Great local wine, too!
We reached Piombino to take a ferry to Elba. Ferries leave for Portoferraio almost every half an hour, but we had to rush to catch our ride (Tip: it’s better to book your tickets online two or three months ahead and compare prices.
Weekend rates are more expensive, and do try to avoid the vacation period between August 5-20, if you can). There’s plenty of parking places, so you can leave your car in Piombino, and travel around Elba with local, public transportation, which functions very well. From Piombino, you can take a ferry to Cavo, Rio Marina, or Portoferraio on Elba, for example, or travel to Pianosa, Sardinia, Corsica, etc.
I’ve already written a text about Elba here, but I loved it so much that I really looked forward to going there again!
I stopped by one of the Acqua dell’Elba shops located in the center of Portoferraio to check out their new, limited edition perfume Cosimo I de’ Medici:
The best ever spaghetti con vongole, too:
Sightseeing, Napoleon’s home-in-exile and empty streets at siesta time:
Finally, one beach that I enjoy tremendously: the very shore from which Bonaparte escaped to Corsica, just us and a couple of people there enjoying it, maybe because you need to hike down a steep path to the beach which is cool until you realize that you have to climb up the same way, flip flops and all:
Talking about aquatic frags – it smells great here!
This part I enjoyed the most: tall, beautiful, and old umbrella pine trees. Miles and miles of sandy beaches:
Etruscan remains all over the place and a small museum in a perfect little ancient town of Populonia Alta:
Yes, we are getting closer to THE place of inspiration: Buca delle Fate/The Fairy’s Hole Beach and Cove! I’ve done some crazy things in search of inspiration behind a perfume, but never like this! Just imagine a thirty minutes walk amidst thick Mediterranean woods and macchia, the Etruscan quarry and tombs that you pass through in the woods, lizards running across your path…
When you finally reach the rocky coastline, the full magic of Buca delle Fate takes hold of all your senses. The sea, the macchia covered hills behind you, the whole Island of Elba in view: what a magical place! There’s a legend: this place was (is?) inhabited by mermaids who bewitched the fisherman and sailors, to capture them and prevent their return home:
Remember to bring your own water and food, and that it takes another 40 minutes to return to the main road (less if you’re not wearing flip flops as I did).
That’s not all: during our stay in Riparbella, we attended two local events: Wild Boar Hunters and Harvest Festa with an exhibition of old tractors. That smell of fresh hay:
On our way back home, we stopped to spend a couple of more days in Montegrotto Terme near Padua: thermal water, indoor and outdoor pools, massages, Turkish baths, and more great food. We discovered a small restaurant there – Mamma Perdonami, I really recommend it:
Tip: pasta doesn’t make you gain weight. I lost 2 kg in Italy while enjoying pasta as primo almost every day!
I hope you will find some useful information here, feel free to ask me if you’re planning to visit these places and have additional questions.
You can find myfull perfume review here.
La vita e bella! And I love Etruscan Water!
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl