In 2008 we spent six short weeks in Europe visiting France, Italy and cruising on the Mediterranean and decided there and then that we would return to the beautiful regions of Provence in France and Tuscany in Italy for a extended time once we retired. We loved it there. On returning to our home in Western Australia (WA) we dreamt about where we would stay and what we would do on our return…. and even wondered if we would really ever get there.
So in 2013 when we both retired and the reality was no longer a dream, we headed off on our nine-month trip to start our retirement in La Roche-sur-le-Buis in the Drome region of France. We rented a beautiful little 17th century house “Chez Zena” from a couple who live here in WA. On arrival late in the afternoon our new neighbours who had bought us some bread, olives, cheese and wine, all from the local area, as a welcome, greeted us. What a lovely beginning to our two months here.
Our small village, whose population was only 300, sat nestled in ‘les Baronnies’ at 882 meters overlooked by the ruins of a feudal castle from the 11th century.
About three kilometers down the mountain is the village of Buis-les-Baronnies, which had the most fantastic weekly market. By 8am the village car park was full of vendors selling produce from the area. Fresh goat cheese is a specialty of the region and very popular with the locals. There was an endless number of items including seasonal produce, fresh flowers, meats, seafood, cheeses, olives, pottery, clothing.
Many of the region’s attractions are within easy reach. The beautiful city of Avignon, the wine areas of Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Mont Ventoux, a regular mountain climb on the Tour de France, are all just an hour’s drive away. The many villages close by are so beautiful I wish everyone had the opportunity to visit and experience the wonderful food, wine and hospitality that we experienced.
We could not believe how quickly our two months had gone by, but it had and we had seen everything that was on our wish list for the area.
From here we drove to Ponte a Serraglio in the Bagni di Lucca region of Tuscany in Italy for the next six months of our journey. It was here that we wanted to experience ‘all things Italian’ and once again we stayed in a small village. Driving into the village on a tree lined street and finding that our apartment was right on the Lima River was exactly what we had hoped for. We were in heaven.
We quickly settled into village life and enjoyed all it had to offer. In the small piazza there was a cafe, bar, news stand, hotel, post office, pharmacy, tobacco shop, a couple of restaurants, hairdressers, dry cleaners and galleries. Perfect! It was all we needed.
Ponte a Serraglio is only 30 minutes drive from Lucca, Florence and Pisa were just over an hour away and the spectacular Cinque Terra could be reached in just over two hours. We quickly found out that Italian drivers are good drivers albeit they drive fairly fast compared to the French.