And WHAT a Castle!

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The lowlands are behind us and we have wound our way up the drainage to the headwaters of the Arno River that flows through Florence. Following a curvy 2-hour route into the hills east of Florence, the bus entered the region called the Casentino and dropped us at the small town of Ponte a Poppi located on the Arno and a short distance from Popppi. Here we’ll live for 2 weeks immersed in the culture and language of Italy.

We were advised to call for a taxi upon arrival, and were met by Enrico Alterni, a second-generation taxi driver who was born in Poppi about 80 years ago. He said his dad drove larger cars which must have been something to behold considering the width of Italian streets. In fact, the only large car we’ve seen on this trip was  a Hummer—you simply can’t escape ’em. Enrico delivered us to our overnight accommodations (Albergo Consentino / Restaurant, Poppi) and tomorrow we’ll be met by Cornelia who works for our language school and who will, in turn, introduce us to our home stay for the next 2 weeks.

In fine medieval tradition, the town of Poppi sits on a mountain top and commands a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. Arrivning in the afternoon, we strolled to a quiet park bench and enjoyed the contrast from the hustle and bustle of Florence, and its hectic vehicular traffic. We reflected how unpleasant our weekend in Florence was in the hot summer of ’04 (when we rented the apartment in Siena and met Alicia following her term in Ghana) and how peaceful living in the countryside shall be in the springtime.

Poppi is dominated by the magnificant castle of the Guidi counts who were the lords of the upper Casentino for centuries. The castle, erected in the 13th century, is crowned by battlements and features recessed windows and a fine courtyard. It is remarkably intact, and houses a volumnous library of medieval books, manuscriptts, and engravings of significant historical value. There’s also an ancient chapel with centuries-old artò frescos, mosaics, and paintings.

We haven’t a clue what awaits us, and continue to point ourselves in the direction most significant to survival (and having fun). For now, it’s food we need, so we’re off to dinner.