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We are sitting in a sun-shaded arbour/patio, looking across at the snow-streaked Apennine Mountains and, in the far distance, the Apuan Alps, currently shrouded in mist. We are very luxuriously ensconced in a beautifully renovated former barn, now a holiday hideaway for Paola and Nicola (HomeExchange) and their family. We are in the hamlet of Careola, about six kilometres from Pontremoli in Northern Tuscany. We look down on the River Magra, winding its way to the Adriatic Sea, near La Spezia and the Cinque Terre.
We are most fortunate to be enjoying back-to-back HomeExchange stays in beautiful Tuscany in two very different regions. While the landscape here in Careola is dramatic and impressive, our ‘backyard’ here in Paola’s home is an oasis of tranquillity. The meadow below our patio is covered in wildflowers, which surround olive trees and is edged with newly budding vines and lavender bushes. Paola’s garden has a variety of herbs, some of which are rosemary, salvia, mint, basil, marjoram and of course, there are potted geraniums! We are enjoying the sunshine, a gentle breeze and listening to a variety of birdsong.
Hamlet of Careola, Northern Tuscany
We are content to sit and soak it all in, just enjoying the peace and quiet but we have to admit to ignoring the many wonderful walks that are possible here; even the hamlet itself is worth exploring. It’s so lovely to retreat from our usual activity! We met an English couple who run yoga workshops here and that would have been more our ‘cup of tea’ or coffee – this is Italy – but they were going back to the U.K. for one of their regular visits.
View of the Valley
Our homestay is really idyllic and our hosts were most welcoming on our arrival and have checked on our comfort and well-being since, in true HomeExchange fashion. We have everything we need and more. There is only one small ‘fly in the ointment’, the somewhat torturous six-kilometre road from Pontremoli to Careola – one and a half lanes of very rough road at times and the constant blind corners on mountain roads, where there is little room to manoeuvre; however, as the saying goes, ‘No pain, no gain’ and the beauty and peace of Paola’s and Nicola’s holiday home is a gain worth the travels of the journey. We can wholeheartedly agree with Robert Frost who said, “(We) took the road less travelled by and that has made all the difference”. At Careola, it is the destination that makes the HomeExchange difference on our journey.
Paola’s Home, Careola