Ah, Tuscany. Land of rolling hills, crisp red wine, shimmering olive trees and hearty bean soup. It's the home of the Italian renaissance and the perfect vacation spot for culinary and art history buffs alike. Yet the best way to experience Tuscany is to rent a car and get yourself lost. And that's exactly what I did in November, driving with my husband and parents through the valley of one hundred castles, just northeast of Viareggio. After a tight turn between buildings and a hair-raising drive up a mountain, Fosdinovo was in sight, as was it's beautiful castle, full of myth, mystery, and murder.
Two particular legends take center stage here. One, a classic Romeo and Juliet, but with a twist. The girl, part of the Malpensa family, fell in love with a boy from another family. When the father ordered the two not to see each other, they did what any young couple did, ignore him. They were both beaten when caught, but nothing could stop love. Except for what happened the next time - the father holed the daughter up alive behind a wall, with a dog for loyalty, and a wild boar. The skeleton of the girl and animals has recently been found, so the legend came to life. The other involves a countess whose various lovers mysteriously disappeared after she convinced them to stand over a trapdoor where they fell to their doom. The bed is said to moan at night.
If you have an opportunity to visit this charming town, make sure to stop by I Cherubini, the only bar open when we visited, since most of the residents fled to the lowlands for warmth, but the food is excellent, the service is with a smile, and there is a view of the Mediterranean not to be missed, complete with the smell of recently harvested olive oil and stomped grapes - a must for Tuscany.