BY BRENDAN BOYLE
Tuscany has many fortress towns and many are more famous than Montecatini Val di Cecina, but I’m claiming it as a discovery because most of the other tourists – and they were not many – were Italians discovering their own history.
The town was founded in 960 AD and changed hands in a series of local wars over the next 700 years.
Parts of the old town date right back to the foundation, including a magnificent square tower that is now someone’s home and a semi-circular turret that is home to another family.
A smaller crenelated tower on the edge of town marks the remains of what locals claim to be the oldest copper mine in Europe. It ceased production in 1907.
But the pleasure of this little town is, of course, to walk – or scoot if, like us, you’re on a VespaVenture – through the lanes that seem to almost to pass through people’s homes.
The roof of one lane is made of wooden beams that look to be centuries old.
One resident has turned a tiny courtyard into a spectacular little garden. Another, for some strange reason, has opted to plant a garden gnome at the bottom of the stairway.
The locals come out onto the town square late by South African standards, filling the two tavernas while children race about.
There are no souvenir shops, but the little grocer has a spectacular range of cured meats, there is a baker and a small market comes to town on Fridays.
Follow Brendan Boyle’s journey by Vespa across Italy on Twitter at Twitter at @VespaVenture.
All pictures: Brendan Boyle