Monday, July 23, 2012

Up at a Villa - to borrow from Robert Browning

the visitors' book of the Villa Massei on the occasion of the visit of HM Queen Sonja of Norway 
There is, as most will readily recognize, a fine but nonetheless distinct line to be drawn between a house in the country and a country house. The Villa Massei, the home of dear friends Gil Cohen and Paul Gervais de Bédée, falls without doubt into the latter category.

the drive approach to the Villa Massei as viewed from the balcony beyond the hall door

a corner of the entrance hall of the Villa Massei - the main door reflected in the looking glass

the fireplace of the principal drawing room at the Villa Massei as seen in summer

the bedroom as occupied by Jane and Lance Hattatt during their recent stay at the Villa Massei

Magnificently situated surrounded by its own olive groves and bosky woodlands, this Renaissance former hunting lodge is today set in the most splendid of formal gardens created over the past thirty or so years by its artistic and very talented owners, Gil and Paul.

the view from one of the many garden terraces towards the surrounding Tuscan hills

lemon trees in terracotta pots and grown in the local traditional manner side a gravel square

the rose pergola, constructed of handmade bricks, which forms a principal axis in the garden

the pool and fountain garden with two of four 'Alice in Wonderland' miniature chairs

And what joy it has been this past week to be entertained in true country house style to all the delights of the Villa Massei. For we have been treated to the most delicious of luncheons and dinners, to the enjoyment of the gardens and grounds in the coolness of the evening, to idling away time in the shade of the loggia, to the brilliance of the poolside and, should this have been not enough, to the meeting with friends on a Tuscan hillside for a salmon supper served 'alfresco' in the gloaming as well as to the delights of a tour of that most romantic of cities, Lucca, by horse drawn carriage.

evening shadows draw across the lawn - our bedroom windows white shuttered in the sun

contemplating the passing of time - Lance Hattatt seated in the shade of the Loggia

the swimming pool of the Villa Massei, the scene of a poolside luncheon with friends

the tree lined ramparts of Lucca which surround the city viewed from our horse drawn carriage

The day of our departure, following on so closely a Puccini concert in the Baptistery and Church of Santissimi Giovanni e Reparata the night before, found us by invitation at the grandiose Villa Reale. Once the property of Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, the grounds contain a green theatre dating from 1652, a Grotto of Pan, the near ruined Villa del Vescovo as well as water gardens, lemon parterre, and the most delightful, if somewhat startling, swimming pool complex of the 1920s now, alas, sadly neglected.

a detail on the splendid west front of the Cathedral Church of San Martino dating from 1204 

the portico front of the Villa Reale once the home of the regal Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi

the now sadly near ruined Villa del Vescovo situated in the grounds of the Villa Reale

built in the 1920s, the swimming pool complex of the Villa Reale remains a fantasy of fun

The highlight of our time at the Villa Massei must be the private visit of HM Queen Sonja of Norway to luncheon and a personal tour of the gardens.

What excitement in the early morning as the Carabinieri descended in force to make their final check and then, some few hours later, to watch from the vantage point of the balcony overlooking the drive as the escort cars, lights flashing, wound their way up the twisting roads of the valley. And then, generously included by our hosts, Gil and Paul, to join with them to greet the Royal party, we descended to the entrance court.

entrance court of the Villa Massei where we assembled to greet HM Queen Sonja of Norway

Such fun it all was. For the Queen was knowledgeable, gracious and charming. Her 'faux' Ladies in Waiting, for the real ones had been imprisoned, so to speak, on the Royal Yacht, were equally delightful and so, in the manner of such an occasion, we progressed in Royal but relaxed fashion through each of the garden rooms.

the sixteenth century Grotto of the Villa Massei where pre luncheon drinks were served

a simple but inspirational table decoration in readiness for luncheon taken in the Loggia

Pre luncheon drinks served in the Grotto and then the most delicious buffet taken in the Loggia where the conversation, never stilted nor silent, was constantly punctuated with the sound of mirth and merriment.

a most regal chair, one of a pair, to be found in the drawing room of the Villa Massei

And now, our sojourn over, we are once more returned to Budapest but where the laughter, life and love of the Villa Massei continues to resound in our ears, as indeed it will do so for many, many years to come.

222 comments:

  1. I am overjoyed you have both been able to witness and relish these settings which are so readily part of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels we enjoy. From personal experience I have learned that the most distinguished people have the simplist of tastes; the bowl of olive cuttings serving as a table decoration testifies to this. Opulence quickly becomes distasteful. Each and every picture you have shared with us sings of beauty and good taste. Isn't life wonderful?

    My heart sang when you wrote about the green theatre dating from 1652 for it was one of my specialities when researching for my Phd.

    I hope you enjoy many happy moments now you have returned to Budapest.

    Stephanie

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    1. We do so agree with all that you write here, Stephanie, particularly that 'opulence quickly becomes distasteful'. As you may imagine, it was impossible not to have had the most wonderful time in such a glorious setting and with such generous hosts.

      The green theatre at the Villa Reale was, and is, even in its somewhat neglected state, absolutely enchanting; happily we took several photographs for our records. How very interesting that such features are a particular interest of yours. Material for a future post, perhaps?

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  2. Jane and Lance,
    So nice to awake and see a post from "H". What a wonderful trip you have had culminating with a royal visit no less! The villa looks sublime, washed by the Tuscan sun. I love the evening shadows cast on the wall, the loggia, the simple and effective table settings. Truly a trip to remember and the company of good friends. What more could one want?
    Di
    X

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    1. That is so very kind of you, Dianne. Our visit to Paul and Gil was simply wonderful and meeting with the Queen of Norway definitely added a certain frisson.

      The countryside around Lucca is outstanding and we were blessed with the most glorious weather in which to enjoy it and, of course, the Villa Massei's own superb gardens and grounds.

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  3. A few spontaneous thoughts come to mind as I am perusing this delightful post of yours, marking your return from what in German is so fittingly called Sommerfrische:
    Where the hats placed on the sofa on purpose, as to keep people from sitting on it, or were they casually left there by their owners, to be put upon their well-groomed heads once again before venturing outside into the Tuscan sun?
    What happened to the roses growing on the rose pergola?
    I am, it seems, not the only one prone to taking slightly lop-sided pictures. What a relief!
    The Baciocchi villa with the 1920s pool house and almost ruined villa del vescovo looks like something I would dream up. Did you know that Baciocchi literally means "kisses eyes"?

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    1. The hats, Meike, do as you rightly assume sit there during the summer months in readiness to be worn. They also, of course, serve a decorative purpose.

      Your pictures are to our eyes always perfect. Our camera is very basic and as before starting this blog we had never had one, we are not at all good at holding it straight.

      No, we had no idea of the meaning of 'Baciocchi'. How very intriguing - and lovely!

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  4. A most beautiful structured garden and one that we as garden lover's can appreciate. It looks an absolute gem!
    Mixing with royality now, who would have thought that would happen back in Arrow cottage.
    At the moment I am entertaining some dear friends too. John and Elfreda are with me and we to are off for a garden visit to Herefordshire. Hampton Court Garden is our destination for the day.
    We will think and have a drink to the Hattats whilst we are there.

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    1. You are so right, Sue, for the gardens of the Villa Massei have the most wonderful 'bones' of the kind which we so much admire. And the setting is, of course, perfect.

      Do, please, give our love to Elfreda and John. We do not, alas, have their email address and it would be so good to hear from them, possibly even to meet up when we are next in Sussex. It is some years since we were at Hampton Court [Herefordshire], but there was much then about the garden which we liked. Whatever, have a fun packed day - as we are sure that you will!

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  5. That countryside is magical; what beautiful tours of the Villas Massei and Reale. My favorite detail has to be the horse sculpture supported on two brackets.

    Your luncheon was an impressive culmination to this trip--some people might be spoiled by such Royal treatment. By the way, were those crab apples just for show or also for dessert? I am an inveterate crab apple eater from way back, and those look good!
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. With so many wonderful things to see, Jim, it has been very difficult to select images to go with this post. Fortunately we have many other pictures to keep for our records.

      In this case the apples were simply used as decoration which, in their simplicity, we thought to be inspirational. Something else to be copied!!

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  6. Dearest Jane & Lance, welcome back! You've been very much missed!!
    I believe I fainted into a dream world while reading this marvelous post...is it real? did I truly just see such splended beauty? Yes, I did...and you both were actually there and able to enjoy it all...so wonderful!
    Your friends 'country house' is magnificent...just breathtakingly beautiful, as is the surrounding scenery and architecture, the history was intoxicating to learn about, what a special visit, so glad you were able to go on such a glorious adventure...and with a bit of royal hob-nobbing sprinkled in for good measure as well, how perfect!

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and Lance...so nice to meet you!
    xo J~

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    1. It was all so very, very beautiful and wonderful, Jessica, and we are so pleased that something of it all is conveyed in the post.

      The Villa Massei and its surroundings are indeed exceptional and both Paul and Gil have such eyes for details that others might so easily overlook. The meeting with the Queen of Norway was simply more icing on a very sumptuous cake!!

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  7. Dear Jane & Lance - it is lovely to be able to welcome you back from your sojourn, and what a trip it has been.
    You will have so many lasting memories of your visit to Lucca which is, incidentally, one of my favourite Italian cities.
    One could say that you were entertained 'royally' whilst staying at Villa Massei - what a very special occasion.
    Your photos convey it all.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rosemary. It is indeed good to be back once more in touch with everyone.

      This was our first visit to Lucca with which we were absolutely enchanted. It is a city which is so very worthy of repeated visits which we very much hope to have the opportunity to do in the future and there are so many wonderful villas in the region to be visited; we touched on a few of which the Villa Reale was a magnificent example of just one.

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    2. Dear Lance - It must be at least 12 years since I visited you at Arrow Cottage, and you look exactly the same as I remember. Have you found the elixir of youth or what is your secret?

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    3. How kind! Is it too trite to say that a happy marriage counts for a lot in life?

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  8. I can almost feel your excitement!

    What a beautiful home and wonderful place to visit. Momories which you will rightly treasure. Good friends are important to our wellbeing and enjoyment of life.

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    1. It was, as you so rightly comment, Gaynor, the most exciting of times!

      Paul and Gil are such dear friends; we count ourselves much blessed to know them.

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  9. Oh those gardens and the home decor and the views, fit for a queen for sure. I could live there quite comfortably.

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    1. Yes, Linda, it is all very splendid and we are certain that you would love it all. And plenty of space for you to have a studio!

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  10. A fascinating travelogue Jane and Lance, the gardens, grounds and villa look gorgeous set against those natural ochre, umber and terracotta colours.
    The grotto picture with the fiori bianchi adorned pre-luncheon table is stunning. How did you ever manage to leave!
    Paul

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    1. It is, as you say here, Paul, all of the wonderful 'burnt' colours which makes Italy such a beguiling place, and not least the Villa Massei which is truly enchanting.

      We left with tears in our eyes but with the assurance of future visits.

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  11. You are back with such a lovely souvenir talks, Jane and Lance. Now I understand a country house is different from a house in the country. What a classy、posh country house with beautiful gardens! A real gem – I can feel from all your photos. I sighed in admiration. No wonder your experiences will stay sweet and fresh in your memory.

    Yoko

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    1. The Villa Massei really is a wonderful house, Yoko, and very much a home as well. The gardens, as you can see, are superb - all that we like best - and 'held together' with a very strong structure.

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  12. Ahhhh you two returned from your mighty adventures! :) I see traveling in style and enjoying all life has to offer! What a stunning place you stayed at! Absolutely beautiful! Fun must have been had!
    I love the beauty of each picture you showed, the place is just oozing with charm and relaxation!
    Welcome back!

    Hugs,

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    1. How very sweet of you, Kasia, to give us such a warm welcome on our return. Thank you so much.

      The Villa Massei is the most charming of houses and our hosts, Gil and Paul, could not be more kind nor more generous. Yes, great fun was indeed had by all!!

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  13. Welcome back! Thank you for a superb tour. The villa and the gardens just radiate the love and superb good taste of the owners in abundance--how lovely to have a summer break there :-) Looks like you had a magical time with your friends.

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    1. It was, as you say here, Antoinette, a 'magical' time spent with dear friends, Gil and Paul. Their house and garden are lovely, as is the surrounding countryside, as is the wonderful ancient city of Lucca. We are already anticipating our return!!

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  14. How lovely that you are posting once more.
    Is it so wrong that my jealousy turned me every shade of green as I was reading this post. It all looks so perfect. The beautiful gardens, the Villa Massei, the loggia looks so comfortable, and the sunshine! Your picture of the grotto is enchanting.
    The swimming pool complex at the Villa Reale looks wonderful.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this post, thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much, Tracey. It is such fun to be back.

      The Villa Massei is simply that, perfect, and we are so pleased that this post has conveyed something of the wonder of it all and each day we were bathed in the most glorious sunshine.

      The swimming pool complex of the Villa Reale is something of a 1920s folly. Great fun to see and we loved all of those vibrant colours.

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  15. Welcome back to Blog Land. And such a fab post, full of wonderful photos. Looking at all that is, well, it's like a little escape from reality. Fairytale. Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Wendz!

      We are delighted that you have enjoyed this post which, we hope, conveys something of our time in Lucca at the Villa Massei.

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  16. Magnifico!

    So nice to see Hattatt back on blogger. You were missed.

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    1. How very kind of you, Arleen, to say that we were missed. For our part it is wonderful to be back and to be catching up with everyone.

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  17. I read Paul's post earlier and you certainly move in exalted circles. But I suppose it is not the first time you have had dinner with a queen. Paul and Gil's garden and house are very nice indeed. It seem they live a dream.

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    1. Now, of course, Andrew, it would depend on how we define 'a queen'!!

      As you may imagine, we had the most enchanting time at the Villa Massei which is the most magical of places.

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  18. L&J, It seems like you've been gone forever and yet it's just a couple of days ...

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    1. We feel very much the same. The only good thing about leaving is, for us, the anticipation of our return.

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  19. So good to see you back again, and what a re entry ! What a spectacular place, and what a fabulous time you seem to have had.J.

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    1. Thank you so much, Janice. We did indeed have the most wonderful time and are not a little sad that, for the moment, it is all over.

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  20. Jane and Lance, I've been missed you friends! Glad you're back and lovely to see that you spend a nice time. Love all your pictures and interiors and views! All it looks magic and nostalgic :o) Thank you for sharing, through your picture I can be there too :o)
    Lot of love from Russia
    Natasha

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    1. How lovely to be missed, Natasha. Such kindness. We are so pleased that you have enjoyed the post. It was so difficult to decide what pictures to include. And you are so right, everything was totally magical.

      We send love to you in Moscow from a sunny Budapest.

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  21. Glad you are back !! what a wonderful trip you have had !!..thanks for share....love Ria....xxx...

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    1. Thank you, Ria. We had the most wonderful time away and have now fallen in love with Italy all over again.

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  22. If it weren't for your Blog Jane and Lance I would never have the opportunity of seeing and learning and enjoying the rare and beautiful things you so graciously share through your lens and narratives. Thank you so much for bringing forth parts of the world I would otherwise know so little about.
    I now know (chuckle)I 'have a house in country' and not, alas, a 'country house'!!

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    1. This is most generous of you, Rose. We too feel so much the same way about the many interesting blogs to be found on the internet where it is possible to experience things and places which could never otherwise be.

      Alas, we have neither!!

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  23. A superb post on what must have been a wonderfully unforgettable stay, Jane and Lance. Your marvellous photos ooze the essence of Italy - buildings cared-for or crumbling, gardens, mountains, food, sun and, above all, good company. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

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    1. We are so very pleased to think that something of the magic of Italy, that most wonderful of countries, is contained within this post, Perpetua. It is, as you yourself know, an enchanting place rich in treasures.

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  24. Dear Jane and Lance,
    All that I can say is that I want and need friends like yours !!!! haha. You have such an eclectic mix of friends, in various countries .... all different and all lovely.
    What a stunning Villa and such beautiful gardens....... and then, to top it all, lunch with the Royals !!!! I don't think that I will ever be able to top a post like that !!
    If this is a taste of holiday posts to come from you, I can't wait for the next one.
    ........ and, Lance , you look so at home there and very handsome. You look like a character from The Great Gatsby !
    Lovely to have you back in Blogland and to read of your adventures. XXXX

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    1. Jackie, you are kindness itself. And although we have yet to meet - one day certainly - we count you very much among our friends. And yes, we feel most blessed to have so many good and true friends who do, indeed, come from a variety of countries, each one bringing a wealth of riches to our lives.

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  25. Dear Jane and Lance,
    I love that you seem to take me with you in your travels. Your words and images are lovely.
    Welcome back. You were missed.

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    1. We are so pleased, Cheryl, that you feel something of the Villa Massei, our friends, Paul and Gil, and of Italy too in this post. It was all simply wonderful.

      And thank you for such a warm welcome on our return.

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  26. The villa is so serene and calm, and the gardens have me almost weeping with envy.
    Yes I too have been wondering what you two were up to!

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    1. The gardens of the Villa Massei are, Tabitha, to die for. So very lovely in absolutely every respect. And they are all the work of Gil and Paul.

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    1. We are glad that you have enjoyed the post, Suzy. It was great fun putting it together.

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  28. SO glad you are back! And with such delights as these glorious photographs, I feel refreshed and cool despite the overwhelming heat here in Spain just by looking at them. Mr H looks so perfectly at home in this setting too! You are back, we are off - hope to catch up with you again very soon. Axxx

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    1. It is good to be back but we really did have the most wonderful time with Paul and Gil. And we do so hope that your own holiday will be every bit as enjoyable and successful.

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  29. Dearest Jane and Lance

    I am overjoyed to see your post today. Welcome home. Following such a whirlwind royal tour, what joyful memories you will have in your deposit box. Could you hosts have been more gracious? I am afraid I would have gone missing in such a place. The search would still be on. The gardens, the villa, the views all warm the heart. Then to travel through Lucca on the horse drawn carriage.
    Thank you for such an uplifting post, which I will re-read many times today. I am rushing to meet freinds at the airport this morning. More later.
    Sending all my love

    Helen xx

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    1. Oh, dearest Helen, how kind of you to give us such a warm welcome. Your comment is just like receiving a big hug, if only that were really possible!

      We did go walkabout very often in the garden rooms of the Villa Massei and lost ourselves amongst its magical and mysterious delights. We know that you would love it too, everywhere one looks being picture perfect.

      The horse drawn carriage was such a surprise, summoned as if by magic by Paul and providing the most glorious of 'strolls' through the ancient streets of Lucca.

      Never have we been reduced to tears of sadness and joy in equal measure so frequently as we were on this most memorable of visits.

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  30. What wonders you describe and what glories your photographs convey. I am holidaying vicariously this summer courtesy of my blogging friends and here I find myself in exquisite gardens and lunching with a queen, who'd have thought it ;)

    Welcome back, we missed you.

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    1. Well, Annie, we had certainly not bargained for a Royal Visit when we received our invitation to Lucca. But, such joy of joys that we were there to be part of the fun and excitement of it all.

      We are so pleased that you are enjoying your international travels from the comfort of home. We are pleased to be back to Blogland!

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  31. What a positively beautiful sojourn you've described! And to be sharing a meal with a Queen as well! If only we could swap lives for a few days...just to experience the delights of summertime at Villa Massei.

    Welcome back. xx

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    1. Every aspect of our stay was exquisite in every regard. Paul and Gil pay close attention to every detail and to every comfort of their guests. We were truly spoiled!!

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  32. Oh how wonderful of you to share with us your lovely photographs, thank you so much! For those of us lately confined somewhat, to be able to enjoy your truly brilliant and 'Royal' visit has been such a treat!! Oh how glorious are those gardens and your trip in a horse-drawn carriage must have been magical. I agree with Jackie, you look like someone from the film, The Great Gatsby. How fantastic to be able to meet the Queen of Norway, did you have to curtsey? Truly a holiday to be savoured for years and years to come.

    But it's lovely to have you back I missed you both! x

    Hugs Jane

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    1. We are delighted that you have enjoyed looking at the photographs which only capture a fraction of the delights which were arranged for us by our truly charming hosts, Gil and Paul.

      Although as we are not Norwegian subjects, neither curtseying or bowing was not required, we did, nevertheless, feel that such gestures matched the occasion and, so we did!!Practise had made perfect, necessary as the curtsey was required to be effected on uneven ground!!! HM Queen Sonja could not have been more charming and made everyone feel comfortable in her presence. A great skill, we felt.

      The carriage ride was the perfect way to 'tour' Lucca, absolutely fitting to its mediaeval streets and ancient ramparts. The skill of the carriage driver was quite remarkable as he navigated the narrow streets and dodged Italian bicycle and scooter riders with precision!

      We are pleased to be back at the keyboard and to be in touch with all our blog friends, including you, dearest Jane, once more!

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  33. What a wonderful adventure you have had. Thank you for the lovely report.

    Are those Hattatt hats in the third and fifth photos?

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    1. The hats in the hall photograph belonged to Paul and Gil, a selection made and worn on each of our forays made from the house.

      The Hattatt hats were indeed those to be seen on the luggage stand in the guest bedroom. A Panama for him and a black straw for her!

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  34. Sigh. A friend of mine uses the phrase 'smiley dream', Jane and Lance, and it's the one most fitting, to me, of your Tuscan interlude.
    I especially like the handmade brick pillars of the rose arbour, and the crab apples, but everything seems to have been faultlessly executed.
    You won't want to wake up for some time!

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    1. The handmade bricks are indeed absolutely wonderful, Faisal. They are a marvellous colour, perfect form for their function and with all the minor irregularities that single them out as truly handmade.

      It is, as you so rightly point out, the attention to the smallest detail which sets this garden apart. The precise placing of every item of furniture, the carefully considered planting, the touches of humour and the thoughtful selection of colour finishes are all handled with exquisite taste and sensitivity. Truly a masterpiece of horticulture!

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  35. Please allow me to join others who have already welcomed your return to this special place from another rather special space. Thank you so very much for sharing the splendid photographs of the Italian country house. I felt as if I had fallen into a dream as I saw the photographs and read your words. It was a dream filled with beauty and serenity.

    And now I must try to imagine that some creative and generous folks actually live in such surroundings. Oh my goodness!

    I have missed your posts and look forward to their resumption.

    Best wishes.

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    1. Certainly, Frances, if this were all a dream, then we should have no wish to wake from it!

      The situation of the house and garden is breathtakingly beautiful. To wake each day with the wonderfully golden Tuscan light pouring through our bedroom windows and to look out onto a sea of green was truly memorable. A life changing experience in so many, many ways!

      Thank you for your warm welcome back. We are so glad to be back amongst our blogging chums!

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  36. what incredible beauty and soul surrounds you there

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    1. The spirit of the place at Villa Massei is very special indeed. Genius, pure genius!

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  37. What? No breakfast?? Or were lunch and dinner so sumptuous none was required?!?! And what a life of glamour and grandeur so removed from my travels in the Aussie Outback!! I guess we could each be exclaiming on how the other half lives!!

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    1. And, there was breakfast too....complete with glorious cappucinos from a very sophisticated Italian coffee machine!!

      But, how exciting it all is that we all live in and experience such different worlds. The spice of life, indeed!!

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    1. If only one could bottle it....but the Lucca Olive Oil is close!!!

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  39. You are most fortunate to have such lovely friends with such an incredible home to share with you....a dream vacation! Meeting Royalty is a treat on top of the already overflowing abundance of their special home. I hope you had time to frolic in the pool! It looks like the place to be when not being fed or entertained. Lovely to see Lance ....just as debonair as I imagined!

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    1. Dearest Susan, thank you so much for your kind and generous comment.

      We do not 'do' water and so were totally content to languish on the poolside sofa and have luncheon there with other friends one very hot afternoon. It all looked just like a scene from a Hockney painting.

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  40. So lovely of you to share with us, some glimpses of your romantic getaway. I am delighted to see you employ your time in the most astonishing company...the Queen and all :). But I must confess I am mostly delighted to observe what a distinguished gentleman, Lance is, there is a very Great Gatsby charm about him :). Hoping to take a glimpse of Jane soon, as well :). Kisses and enjoy your vacation.

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    1. Alas, our time with Gil and Paul went all too quickly for us. Every moment was filled with joy and we are missing them and the delights of the Villa Massei and its garden terribly already.

      To have broken with tradition and revealed one of us is one thing. It may be some time before the other is shown to the world at large!!! Thank you so much for your generous comment.

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  41. These pictures are so beautiful and I can imagine how wonderful it was to stay here - there is a cool elegance and stillness about the place, perfect for the heat of the Tuscan summer. It is lovely to see Lance, looking very relaxed! Puccini too - how wonderful. xxx

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    1. You are absolutely right! A simple elegance pervades the house and garden at Villa Massei with the sureness of touch of custodians with a real sense of place and exquisite taste.We are certain that you would find it wonderful too.

      To hear Puccini in his town of birth in the surroundings of a beautiful church was a magical moment, indeed!

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  42. Definitely not just a country home! Thanks so much for sharing this country house with us, and especially the visit of Royalty. What an honour to meet the Queen of Norway.
    Oh and I enjoyed the virtual trip with you in the horse drawn carriage. Have a good week. Diane

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    1. Yes, Diane, we were absolutely thrilled to be included in the party to meet HM Queen Sonja and her friends with whom she was visiting some Italian gardens.

      Driving the carriage through the bustling, narrow streets of Lucca was no mean feat, we can assure you. Most exciting and, at times, hair raising. But such fun!

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  43. Such beautiful photos. I didn't know you were so capable of roughing it in the country. (Only one ottoman in your room?) What a fantasy vacation. I don't know how you could bring yourselves to leave.

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    1. The armchair with its matching footstool was, as you may imagine, sublimely comfortable. The perfect place for an afternoon siesta....we fought each other for the privilege each day!

      Our tears flowed freely on the day of departure, only assuaged by the thought of returning one day.

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  44. I feel like I just read a wonderful little novella, rich in atmosphere and characters.

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    1. Dearest Jen, how very generous and kind you are. At the Villa Massei, we felt that we were characters in a wonderfully romantic play acting out our parts amidst the most stunning scenery. Perfect!

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  45. Jane and Lance....How wonderful to see you have returned to us safely. I echo Jen when I say I feel as if I opened the cover of a wonderful story and become absorbed by both it language and beauty.

    In each photograph I am drawn to the beauty of simplicity. My favorite I think is the third photo of the entrance...three hats sitting aligned on the sofa. Bonnie

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    1. We are absolutely sure, Bonnie, that you would find the Villa Massei's house and garden truly delightful in every respect. It is as you say, a lesson in simple elegance at every turn and the whole works beautifully.

      The entrance hall is, indeed, a marvellous white space, a prelude for the dramatic colour of rooms yet to be explored.

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  46. Your final sentence made my throat seize up a bit.

    What an incredible post with which you come back to us! At first, I was going to comment on the well-appointed room in which you stayed, then the lemon trees drew my joy, then I was deeply touched at the first sight -- mine, anyway -- of our contemplative Lance! This sent me off to thinking about the winter, and the emails we exchanged then, and I remember us both speaking of warmer, kinder times to come and look -- here they are! I feel such sweet peace at reading these words and viewing these images -- proof positive of hopes fulfilled.

    Blessings on the heads of the wonderful Gil and Paul as they opened their hearts to host two of my favorite people on the entire planet for what appears to me to be an absolute fete for the senses, to be stored in memory henceforth with perfect pleasure.

    I admit, my imagination is particularly stoked by the 1920s swimming enclosure. Such colors! And how they have remained vibrant for what now amounts to nearly a century.

    I am so, so glad to have you back. So glad to be stimulated over my morning coffee by your tales and photographs. What a beautiful way to start the day.

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    1. And, dearest Suze, how our afternoon has been lit up in the warm glow of your generous and loving words.

      How well we remember the bleak Winter days and nights when hospitals and illnesses filled our correspondence and our minds. And yet, as you so joyously say here, we have all come through and can bask in the warmth of summer sunshine and be happy.

      There is, as you can see so well, beauty at every turn at the Villa Massei. Life, laughter and love do indeed ring out from all the rooms both inside and out since this is the work of several decades of two incredibly creative minds whose company we have been privileged to share if, alas, all too briefly.

      The swimming pool of the Villa Reale now stands silent and dry but, without too much imagination, one can hear the splash of bathers and the clink of glasses at the makeshift poolside bar which Gil and Paul speak of enjoying some years earlier. You would, we know, love it all.

      We too are pleased to be back in the welcome embrace of our blogging friends. Oh if only so many, many miles did not separate us in reality, how perfect would that be?!!!

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    2. 'The swimming pool of the Villa Reale now stands silent and dry but, without too much imagination, one can hear the splash of bathers and the clink of glasses at the makeshift poolside bar which Gil and Paul speak of enjoying some years earlier.'

      I'm sure I'm far too affected by the movies of the Golden age of cinema but I picture bathing caps with flowers and flirtatious eyes and laughter -- synchronized, lean legs kicking up in a water ballet around a glittering fountain!

      Okay, that last bit was over the top but I see it, anyway!

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    3. Dearest Suze, we see it too, we see it too.

      And, not published here, the baked surface of the long abandoned tennis court.....the thwack of the racket as it hits the ball hangs in the air.....

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  47. Jane and Lance, welcome back, it is so good to hear from you. What a splendid vacation you had, meeting with a queen, staying at the so peaceful villa of Mr. Bedee. Can't get any better.

    Best wishes

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    1. You are absolutely right. It really does not get much better than all of this. There was so much to see, do and think about that we could barely sleep. Back at home we have to keep reminding ourselves that it was all real for this is the stuff of which dreams are made!

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  48. Absolutely stunning! Those gardens could be right out of a fairy tale, or a Merchant-Ivory movie. ;-) Thank you for taking us along on this lovely escape.

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    1. Thank you so much. The gardens are indeed breathtakingly beautiful and so perfectly suit the Tuscan idyll in which they are situated. The Villa interior is also a delight and we felt well and truly pampered during our stay.

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  49. I felt as though I was with you all the way ... if only! What wonderful memories to treasure. M

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    1. Indeed, Marina, the Villa Massei evokes a time and a place which it would be very easy when contemplating the modern world to believe had gone for ever.

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  50. Such a lovely post! This trip seems like something out of a dream almost, with visits by queens and journeys in horse-drawn carriages...and in such a wonderful villa! I love their style - a couple of shots reminded me of Janet's style of The Gardener's Cottage, with the simplicity and the black and white. I do love that last chair though, that fabric is stunning! And I adore cypresses and lemon trees too.

    So sad about the Villa Vescovo - perhaps someone will rescue it one day! And that 1920s swimming pool complex is stunning as well. I'm impressed at how bright the colours have remained.

    Looking forward to hearing more of your adventures!

    Melusine

    Melusine

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    1. The restrained elegance of both house and garden are the true touches of genius, we feel. It is all so understated, carefully considered and beautifully executed. We would defy anyone not to fall in love with it all, we most certainly did.

      There are so many villas the length and breadth of Italy in need of rescuing that it all seems a rather overwhelming task. And yet, as at the Villa Reale, one can still imagine the way of life there and the glory of its heydays.

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  51. What a beautiful home to spend time in. Such wonderful pictures!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. It was the most memorable of holidays!

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  52. Welcome back dear Jane and Lance. How missed you were! A wonderful and captivating post my dears. Lucca - I fell in love with the city last year when we were on holiday in Tuscany last September (did you see my post I wonder...). We hired bikes and cycled the route around the city walls under the shade of the trees. So much fun!

    The Villa Massei is stunning - what a wonderful place - and I would have loved the Puccini concert. Did you go to Puccini's house at Torre de Lago? Very interesting place. And a photo of Lance too! We are spoiled:-)

    Jeanne
    x

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    1. This, dear Jeanne, is kindness indeed. How very sweet of you to say that we have been missed. For our part it is good to be back and to be in touch, as we are with you, with so many very special people.

      How splendid that you too know Lucca [we shall certainly look up your post] and fell in love with it as we have done this last week. The city walls are indeed amazing, all of those wonderful plane trees with their magnificent coloured bark.

      Alas, no time to go to Puccini's house which we shall hope to do on a subsequent visit. The evening concert was wonderful and so very atmospheric and then, afterwards, to a restaurant for a delicious fish dinner. Perfect.

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  53. Wow, Lance and Jane, this is a dream you've made real. What a wonderfully romantic setting. AND you get a visit from Royalty as well! This is truly an embarrassment of riches. You are both very fortunate (as I'm sure you know) to have experienced this and THANK you for sharing it with us.

    And welcome back, by the way. You were missed.
    AND TO MAKE MATTERS EVEN BETTER, we get a photo of the elusive Lance. A wonderful, wonderful post. (Why am I not surprised?)

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    1. Oh, Yvette, how very generous of you to delight in all of this with us. It was a very special week and the meeting with Queen Sonja of Norway, who was so very charming, was the icing on the proverbial cake which was already full of goodness.

      And thank you too for commenting on our being missed - it means a great deal to us.

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  54. It's nice to see a post from you again! It seems you have had a wonderful time since you last wrote. I love your friends garden and house, so beautiful. I sure you will treasure the memories of your visit for a long time to come.
    Sarah x

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    1. We have indeed had a wonderful time away, first in Poland and then, more recently, in Italy. The Villa Massei is, as you say, Sarah, very very beautiful and our friends, Gil and Paul, gave us the most splendid of times. We were so sad to leave.

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  55. Dear Jane and Lance,

    Villa Massei is paradise on earth. It looks beautiful.
    And how lovely that you had such good hosts!

    And welcome back. You were definitely missed.

    Red

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    1. Villa Massei is, as you rightly say, a paradise on earth. And how splendid it was for us to wake each morning, to fling back the shutters and to have that wonderful wonderful garden and landscape set out before our very eyes. Then to be able to experience it all at some other time of day, the changing light constantly creating a new and different picture. Paul and Gil are perfect hosts - that goes without saying!

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  56. My dear Jane and Lance,

    A big hello and welcome back. You are greatly missed. But what a treat to have this exclusive tour of the most beautiful part of Italy. We are all rewarded by this most exquisite and hearty post about your holiday in Lucca. Dear Lance, what a dashing picture of you! If Lady Ottoline was still alive, I'm sure that she would be taking a picture of you by her camera, just sitting like that.

    What a great time you and indeed, the generous hosts, Paul and Gil must have! When I saw the pictures of the beautiful Villa Massei and the gardens, one feels as though one has gone back into the garden of Eden. I think E. M. Forster was right when he wrote this following line in his novel, A Room With A View:

    “One doesn't come to Italy for niceness. One comes for life. Buon giorno! Buon giorno!” ~ E. M. Forster

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    1. Such very kind and generous words, dear ASD. We have had, as you must surely know, the most perfect of times. Staying at the Villa Massei with Paul and Gil is to experience Italy in the best of all possible ways. The house and garden are superb, as is the landscape, filled with woods and olive groves, which surround them. And how sweet you are about the picture and the thought that one might, possibly, have fitted into Garsington.

      And yes, we do so agree with you over Forster's words - so very, very true.

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  57. This sounds really like a country weekend...which is not the same as a weekend in the country :-)

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  58. Welcome back Jane and Lance, I love all the architectural buildings that you took pictures of, I love things like that;)

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    1. Thank you for your warm welcome, Launna. It is very much appreciated.

      Lucca is an architectural treasure chest. So much of beauty at every turn!

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  59. Oh I know what you mean about a difference. Last week I was in and around Rome last week and this week in and around Barcelona.the only thing in common is enough money to buy the house of our dreams OR the good sense to select parents with taste :)

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    1. Rome and Barcelona in the space of a week, what adventures you are having, dear Helen! Yes, parents with taste what a benefit in life that is if only one is lucky enough to have it. Why our grandparents did not snap up Impressionist paintings we have absolutely no idea. If only.....

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  60. Thank you for allowing us to join you at the Villa. I can see why you were so relaxed in such wonderful surroundings. You have built a store of memories (and these delightful photographs) to lighten any dull days ahead.

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    1. These, and other pictures which we took, will as you say, Marilyn, be fun to look back on in time as a prompt to memories of a most wonderful time spent at the Villa Massei.

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  61. Replies
    1. Indeed it was, and one that we shall not forget in a hurry!

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  62. Yay! So glad you're back--and what a spectacular post!! It's all quite stunning...paradise with a royal visit to boot!
    (PS Rachel returned home last night. Can't wait to hear about her continued adventures, as well as her version of the visit to chez Hattatt :) ;) xo

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    1. It has all been enormous fun and we have truly had the most wonderful time and seen the most interesting and beautiful things. Lucca is an exceptionally lovely and historic city.

      We are so pleased to learn that Rachel is once more safely home. Do please give her and Thomas our love.

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  63. Hi Jane and Lance,
    And thus, to make your hearts sing with joy, I am now here to submit one of my, no doubt, anxiously awaited comments.
    Delighted to see your triumphant return to the wondrous world of blogging. You certainly have kept up your usual articulate and visual standards in this engaging article. Such a magnificent location and this tour of your adventure, was very much appreciated.
    In kindness and goodwill, your way, Gary

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    1. We have so enjoyed our break away but, equally, it is good to catch up once more with all the events and happenings in the Blogosphere!

      For this post we had so many possible images to choose from it was difficult to decide which to use. We are pleased that you have found the post of interest.

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  64. You always take us to the most wonderful places. This looks like an amazing trip!!

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    1. Lucca, and the Villa Massei, are indeed most wonderful. We are so fortunate to have Italy virtually down the road so to speak for it is the most beautiful and interesting of countries.

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  65. Ah, brilliant! What a lovely time away, and thank you for giving us a view in as well. I suspect, if they had a BBQ grill, they would know how to make it work, as well!

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    1. Everything about the Villa Massei, as you rightly guess, is carried out to the highest of standards and what a delight that is. We think that you may well have enjoyed the Puccini concert too for it was in the most atmospheric of settings.

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  66. How lucky you both are to visit such a place. Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon's siter? I'll have to check. Its great to have you back with us.

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    1. The Villa Reale is the most extraordinary of places and steeped in history, as is the whole of the Lucca area. There is, as we found, so much to learn.

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  67. What wonderful architecture, along with the beautiful flow of nature intertwining each structure. I enjoyed being along on your journey!!!

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    1. How very kind of you. Some of the architecture which we saw on our visit was simply breathtaking and amazing to think that it had been there for centuries, outwardly hardly altered.

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  68. Dear friends, you have been greatly missed, but what adventures you share with us. By some chance I discovered Paul's blog and website about a year ago and devoured it all with my eyes. The estate is exquisite but comfortable, a place to be enjoyed with all of the senses. Of course, the Hattatts would be a welcome addition to that idyllic scene.

    Your photos show the gracious entertaining of a luncheon fit for a queen, and enhanced by the lively conversation brought by the Hattatts. Lance, you look like a model brought in for the photo shoot of a glossy magazine of gardens and elegant living! How perfectly lovely that Paul and Gil so hospitably opened the gates of Villa Massei for you two.

    Thank you kindly for sharing this memorable vacation with us. So glad to have you back.

    Bises,
    Genie

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    1. And we, Genie, have missed our Parisian visits!!

      The Villa Massei, as you say, is very much a home, beautifully maintained and run by Paul and Gil who have such an eye for detail. As for the setting, the surrounding landscape is simply magical with woods, olive groves, ancient roofs, and Italy!!

      As you may imagine, we took so many photographs it was very difficult to decide which to select. We hope that those we show do, indeed, give some idea of the atmosphere and beauty of it all.

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  69. I follow Paul's blog and spending a weekend in such a spectacular place must be totally enchanting. How nice this must have been.

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    1. Our time with Paul and Gil simply flew by and was packed with so very many wonderful happenings. We were, as you will imagine, Adrienne, most sad to leave.

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  70. My goodness, dear Jane and Lance...welcome back, you have been missed! But what a holiday you had! An enchanting and gorgeous place, time spent with dear friends...and a meeting with a Queen...sounds like a dream... :) So very happy for you...and what a treat to see dashing Lance!
    Splendid...thank you so much for sharing your very memorable trip. I hope Budapest is breezy and warm for your return!
    Blessings,
    - Irina

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    1. Thank you, dear Irina, for your most kind and generous comment.
      Yes, we did have the most magical of times at the Villa Massei in the creative and capable hands of our delightful hosts, Gil and Paul. It will, as you say, stay in our memories for all time.

      Budapest is decidedly cool in comparison and we dream fondly of those hot summer days which we spent warmed by the Tuscan sun. Sigh....

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  71. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful pictures. I read your commentary and was in awe of the scenes and have come back for a second look. It looks simply magical and I'm so happy you had such a perfect time with friends. I have been staring the the photo of the rose pergola and can only imagine being there; it looks so peaceful and the brick columns are fabulous. I am so glad you all had such a lovely time; you do have wonderful friends and my father always said that was the sign of good people. Annie x.

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    1. It has been a great pleasure to write this post, Annie, for not only are we delighted to share what was a wonderful experience but also, along with other photographs which we have, it acts as a reminder of the time spent at the Villa Massei with two friends who are very dear to us.

      The bricks of the pergola are all handmade and produced locally. We agree, they are very splendid.

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  72. OH Jane and Lance - WELCOME HOME! It's wonderful to read of your adventures and see the photographs. What delightful times and memories, thank you for this post. My home is a house in the country. Dave and I didn't finish the renovation but, I believe, the scenery outdoors makes up for the lack thereof. Lance, you are looking SO well; it does my heart good!
    Love to you both, continue on the path to wholeness.

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    1. Thank you for such a warm welcome back, Sandra. Looking at the images which we have seen of Thistle Cove Farm we know it to be a very special place and set in the most magnificent countryside.

      At last we both feel that we have turned the corner health wise. The six monthly check ups are always a slightly nervous time.

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  73. how utterly gorgeous...I am transformed...love Lucca!!

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  74. Once again you have transported me to a wonderland that I could never imagine, even while sitting with a mason jar full of gin and a mesh lawn chair looking out over the cow pasture in my back yard! It's a lovely reminder that life is rich and good, if you open your eyes to the beauty around you!

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    1. Surely, dearest Helen, with a mason jar full of gin you could easily imagine almost anything!! Life is indeed good, as you so rightly say, and in the company of wonderful friends with such beautiful surroundings, it really does not get any better!!

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  75. Welcome back, what a simply wonderful experience and in such a beautiful place.

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    1. Yes, we enjoyed a truly magical time. An experience never to be forgotten!

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  76. Perhaps next time they would delight in the witty charm of an American guest from California ?
    Cause I would be down for that!

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    1. One can always hope! We do regard ourselves as having been extremely fortunate to have been entertained in such regal style!

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  77. WOW..............Jolie fotos!!!!!!! :O)
    MAGNIFIQUE inerieres et tres jolie jardin!!!!
    With love from Moscow!!
    xxx Maria xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment. We are delighted that you enjoyed the post.

      And, we are thrilled to welcome you as our latest Follower. We shall now seek you out!

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  78. I greeted your comment today with a lift of joy---it's lovely to have you back---and with such TALES OF ADVENTURE to tell!

    After this parched Summer, I've just been drinking in all the greens and the sumptuous shade in gulps and sips, and to see all the places and beauties that you experienced---I have no words.

    As my dear Mammaw used to say, "It'll take two lookin's and a half to take it all in," so I'll return for another helping soon.

    moire non,

    rachel

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    1. It is very fortunate indeed that the Villa Massei has its own water source since all around was very much parched in the dry heat of the Tuscan sun. As you say, it is so refreshing to be surrounded by so much green and all beautifully lush and well tended. Pure delight!

      We are certain that no matter how hard one looks or however focussed one may be, there are always surprises in store in the garden at Villa Massei. It has so many different moods and elicits so many emotions, one can never tire of it.

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  79. WB Jane and Lance and thank you for yet another wonderful travelogue. I've never tried it riparian style before, looks lovely. I would have left a comment with you yesterday, however, I was sidetracked by looking at pictures of Queen Sonja of Norway, she bares a striking resemblance to my friend Queen David of Thornton-Le-Dale. Did the villa come with it's very own punkah wallah or Italian equivalent?

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    1. Although we know you to be drawn to the Costa Too Much and Blackpool in equal measure, we are nevertheless certain that the Italian style at Villa Massei would sweep you off your stilettos!!

      For us, a Queen was a once in a lifetime experience whereas we know you to be well acquainted with their company. Queen David sounds to be of good Yorkshire stock and surely would prove to be a marvellous travelling companion should you head south to Lucca. You would, most definitely, not be disappointed, but watch out for the fast young men on scooters!!

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  80. How reassuring that you should have been wrest away from us in such a good cause. Bitter words may have been spoken when you abandoned us, followed by heavy sighs as calamity piled upon calamity. My ring was lost, a blogger in Colorado burnt the top layer of her cake, and I see that another constant reader of yours suffered some Inner Doubt one afternoon, all while you were away from your watch.

    But our loss was dear Queen Sonja's gain, and now that you are returned to us our hearts are at rest and we are rewarded with a glimpse of the elusive Lance. When may we hope for a sighting of our dear Jane?

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    1. Dearest Mise, if we had only known that your sparkly ring was to be mislaid and require search parties, then we should have definitely stayed close at hand in your hour of need. Queens may come and Queens may go but searching turf sheds and flowery meadows, when they belong to a blogging chum, must come first, especially when one is certain of a freshly baked scone,a warm by the Aga and horizontal rain. How could the golden Tuscan sun of Lucca, the mediaeval walls, and a Renaissance hunting lodge have competed?

      Only one of us can operate the camera. It is the one not in trousers. So further sightings may be some way off!!!

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  81. Hmmmmm.......I like how you live!!

    Jo

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    1. We could certainly have moved in to the Villa Massei without any difficulty!!

      Thank you for your comment and for signing up as our latest Follower. We hope that you will continue to enjoy what we write.

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  82. My dear, dear wonderful friends. I fell asleep last night while reading the comments of your amazing post and so had dreams of grottoes and queens, straw hats and laughter. Today, I spent several hours putting together a very long post which passes on a Sunshine Award, of which you both are two of the recipients. I hope that you don't find that too silly but I have no silver bowls to give you, only my affection!

    You were truly missed but in no way could I ever want you to feel chastised for leaving all of us for so long, not when such wonderous adventures to be had! And to see Lance is quite a treat. That too may seem silly but it is a step forward until we do meet and we will. Similarly, I loved your swoop of a signature, Jane. Much more impressive than my kinetic scribble.

    Salut my friends et gros bisous,
    h.

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    1. Oh how exciting it is, dearest Heather, that we must be poised in two different countries, typing simultaneously our comments on each others' blogs!!!

      Truly, we hardly slept a wink at the Villa Massei such was our excitement at all the comings and goings there. The house and garden are simply divine and our friends, Paul and Gil, could not be more attentive as hosts. We just know that you would fall in love with it all as we did.

      We are absolutely thrilled that you have chosen to select us for an award. Not silly at all. We are honoured and blushed upon reading your fulsome praise of our blog. For this and for your friendship we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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  83. Jane and Lance I loved this! It is so beautiful there and what a privilege to meet the Queen.
    I had a feeling you were off doing something special.
    Thanks so much for sharing it with us, you are generous.

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    1. HM Queen Sonja was charming and could not have made everyone feel more at ease. She is exceedingly pretty and highly knowledgeable about everything from skiing to fishing, gardening to wine and all things in between.

      Yes, Dani, our visit to Lucca and the Villa Massei was very special indeed.Thank you you for your kind comment.

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  84. Dear Jane and Lance,

    Welcome back! Your stay in Tuscany sounds lovely. How wonderful the world of blogging is. It takes you to the most beautiful places, meeting special people.

    Your photo's speak for itself! It's not difficult to imagine how it must have been. Hope your week in Krakau was wonderful too.

    Lance, you look very stylish on the photo and fit in perfectly! I believe this must be the first photo of you on your blog. Jane, you are next :-)!!!

    Much love,

    Madelief x

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    1. How exceptionally kind of you to take the time and trouble to comment particularly as we imagine you at the start of your holiday and, we trust, soaking up the first bit of sun to shine on the United Kingdom since the Ark came to rest!!

      Tuscany was wonderful and, as you will so readily imagine, we fell in love with it all - the countryside, the people, the food, the Villa Massei, everything. And that on top of a most enjoyable time in Krakow about which we will post in due course. As for the picture in the Loggia, let us say that it crept in in error!!

      Now, our love to you all, have a really good time and we will be properly in touch on your return.

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  85. This is one of my favorite posts Jane and Lance. I imagine it would be much like a dream to spend time in such a place and to have the privilege of meeting a real life queen. Imagine!
    The country house is so perfect. Just right.
    We have many houses in our countryside here and they are light years away from being anywhere as special as the Villa Massei. I'm so glad you shared your visit here for this armchair traveler.

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    1. Dearest Rubye, this is such a kind and generous comment. We were saddened by your latest post which tells of the strains and stresses that you are experiencing at the moment and we do so hope with all our hearts that life will be easier for you in due course.

      We are, of course, delighted to have you with us as an armchair traveller, something we love to do ourselves when it involves anywhere over the Atlantic Ocean. We regret that our fear of flying may mean that we shall never see anywhere more than 3hours flight time from London or Budapest except in the virtual world.

      We have seen many country houses in our time but nowhere comes close to the Villa Massei. Genius loci!

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  86. Wow what a beautiful house! That pool and pergola are both so lovely. Thank you for sharing. Did you sit in that chair? I think I'd be scared to!

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    1. Yes, Katherine, the house and garden are truly wonderful. Paul and Gil have such creative talent and exquisite taste.

      No, we did not sit in the chair, but we did admire it longingly. The fabric is absolutely stunning.

      Thank you so much for becoming our latest Follower. And now we shall seek you out!

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  87. Dear Jane and Lance,
    I'm glad to see you back in Blog-Land! Though I would have understood if you remained much longer in such a dream of a villa! The photographs are superb - the mild ochre of Tuscany, the mellow light - all bring the atmosphere over here. Your room: what a marvel! And the idea to put a few apple-twigs as a centre-piece: inventive!
    My comment is no. 177 - had a few incidents to keep me from writing earlier - but as I said: I'm glad your back!

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    1. You are so right, Britta, the Villa Massei is an absolute dream brought to reality through the kindness and generosity of our dear friends, Gil and Paul. It is, as you say, the wonderful colours enhanced by the light which makes everything so special.

      We too thought that the crab apples made for an inspirational table decoration.

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  88. What a stunning property. I adore the potted citrus. Must have been to difficult to drag yourselves away.
    And luncheon with a queen, what a highlight!
    Penny x

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    1. The lemon trees in their aged terracotta pots do look absolutely wonderful, we agree. They are all pruned in the traditional style, as a 'wine glass' with the centre of the bush open. This does seem to be a very effective way of getting the lemon trees to fruit profusely.

      Thank you for signing up as our latest Follower, Penny. And, now we have found you!

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  89. Dearest Jane and Lance
    What a delight and great honour to be amongst the guests at Villa Massei with the Queen of Norway. This post reads like a fairy tale . I read it twice.
    The Villa is absolutely stunning. Your friends sound most gracious and charming.
    From Poland to Tuscany and now home to Budapest. These wonderful days will remain with you forever.
    As always i do so much enjoy reading your exciting posts.
    sending you both best wishes for a wonderful Wednesday..
    val

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    1. It was all great fun and, at times, most exciting, Val. The Queen of Norway was delightful and as charming and appreciative of everything as anyone could possibly be.

      Yes, the Villa Massei is wonderful and we shall never forget flinging wide the shutters each morning and feasting on the most marvellous view and hearing the church clock strike the hour.

      Thank you so much for your good wishes which are, of course, returned in full.

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  90. I will chime in with the others and let you know how much you have been missed, and to welcome you back.

    Reading your post, on yet another dreary afternoon of a non-existent Irish summer, I was immediately transported to a sunnier place. To a country I love above others, brought to me by your words and photos. The colours of Italia, those sunburt terracottas and siena, the shrubs and flowers and looking up with you at the Villa del Vescovo ruins (2nd photo) made me sigh.

    My fingers have even taken on a languid motion as I type this and remember my many sun-drenched days in Italia.

    I must say that Lance looks marvellous sitting there in the Loggia. The drinks table in the Grotto is perfect, just perfect, and I am curious as to what you sipped? Again, welcome back X

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    1. As the artist you are, dearest Joanna, we know that we share with you a love of the glorious colours burnished by the Tuscan sun which make Italy and its gardens the most wondrous of places. Indeed, it has been raining in Budapest since our return from Lucca and it is almost as if even the weather is sad to know that we have had to be torn away from our dear friends Paul and Gil and their beautiful Villa and garden.

      The aperitivo, taken in the Grotto before lunch, was a deliciously, crisp Italian white wine. Chosen with care for the occasion, chilled to perfection, held at a perfect temperature in the cool shade of the Grotto and served with canapés of anchovies on tiny squares of freshly baked chestnut bread, we were spoiled before even drawing up a chair at the luncheon table!

      Thank you for your warm welcome back!!

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  91. Oh! You're back! Hooray! Hooray!

    and, once again, what adventures! Are you sure you're real?!!! ;) =D

    and, looking at this and, then, hands on hips, looking at my tiny cottage garden (that has had me toiling and toiling to water in the drought and to chase chickens out of and to keep Japanese Beetles at bay....) I think, Hm!!! I need to think bigger and grander, still! =/

    and, this post has made my mind wander to another thought that's come and gone in my mind for a couple of years, now.... you probably wouldn't remember when I shared a post about some of my very, very favorite gardening books - especially, the "Cotswold's Gardens" by David Hicks. I never, ever get tired of reading it and looking through the photos.... hundreds and hundreds of times - it's getting dogeared and it's supposed to be a lovely coffee table book. Well, you said that you knew David Hicks and said a few words about him and I went and looked him up and, I must confess..... I was completely crestfallen - I thought he was my own secret that nobody knew about!!! (I'm really laughing at myself, right now - hold on....!) You know, I've felt the same about you but I've been a very good girl and shared! and, indeed, I have no choice - you know EVERYONE! Such beautifully social creatures you are and it makes me smile and rejoice in you.

    How fortunate to have such a visit with friends.... I'm talking about Gil and Paul.... and the Queen, of course!

    By the way, what a funny coincidence.... Tom and I were just guffawing, the ohter day, over a private joke about "'Under a Loggia' by Eleanor Lavish(e)"! =D

    and, speaking of chickens.... I must, now, go and release the hens! It's a lovely day - just beautiful and full of possibilities!

    =]

    Love,

    Katy xxo and xxo

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    1. Holytoot, dearest Katy! Now you even have a picture of one of us, so we are becoming more real by the minute. However, as for living in the real world, now that we try to avoid as much as possible!!!

      David Hicks is a guru of interior decoration and garden design as far as we are concerned. We have many of his books and, like you, never tire of looking at them. Indeed, it is incredible how contemporary many of his decorating schemes and garden designs look to be even though they may have been effected several decades ago. The graphic quality of his work is what appeals to us most, such elegant simplicity, how we love it.

      Do not lose heart for a moment about your own garden. You are just beginning and there will surely be many revisions before you are happy with the result. Whatever the size of the garden, however grand or simple it may be, one thing that remains true is that green is a colour and should be the dominant theme in the overall composition. Too many people overlook this in the quest for ever more 'colour'!!!We are certain that one day your garden will be an idyll too, especially with its backdrop of the most stunning countryside in which you are so very fortunate to live.

      Yes, lounging in the Loggia, something we did a lot of at the Villa Massei, was indeed rather like a scene out of Mapp and Lucia.Although, the sipping of raspberry red Campari and Sodas added a cheeky touch to the proceedings that only Gil and Paul know how to do with such style!

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  92. Thank you for the lovely photos!

    So finally we get to see Lance... Jane, it's your turn! :)

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    1. We are so pleased, Rose, that you have enjoyed the post.

      Now, more pictures of us, well......!! In time, perhaps!

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  93. How perfectly divine.
    I felt as though I were there with you.
    In a white linen dress and with one of those fabulous hats on my head.
    xoxo,
    pamela

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    1. How really kind of you, Pamela. Our whole time at the Villa Massei was nothing if not very special. And how wonderful it would have been had you been there too.

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  94. What a stunning part of the world to spend time in. I hope you had a wonderful vacation with dear friends. Your photos have captured the essence of Italy and I love the images of the pool and countryside. Any future trips planned? Take care Fifi x

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    1. It really was a wonderful holiday and we could not wish for more attentive or fun loving hosts. We were very, very sad to leave.

      As we really do not like flying our horizons must be contained within bounds but we shall certainly be making an annual pilgrimage to Venice and we toy with the idea of Naples. When we shall next see Brighton is anyone's guess!!

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  95. Hello! Wonderful place! Thanks! Have a wonderful days!

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    1. Thank you, Amin. We trust that you are enjoying happy summer days too!!

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  96. Dear Jane and Lance,

    It feels great to have you back; must say, it was getting somewhat boring here without your brilliant posts. And what joy you have brought back with you. The gardens and the architecture are an absolute delight, but two things in particular quite grabbed my attention - the lone vintage chair and the lemon trees in terracotta pots!
    It all seems very, very perfect (just like they say and show) under the Tuscan sun. Thank you for this lovely, lovely tour.

    Love,

    Suman

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    1. Dearest Suman, how very kind and generous of you! We are delighted to be back at the keyboard too and to catch up with all the news of the Blogosphere.

      The lemon trees in terracotta pots look absolutely divine and there is really nothing quite so thrilling as to go out and pick a fresh lemon straight from the tree as and when needed. Paul and Gil have trained their lemon trees in an ancient method which makes them into the shape of a wine glass. In this way, the fruiting is encouraged to be even more prolific.

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  97. That is a grand house,
    uber lovely!
    I love the outdoor spaces
    they look so fabulous even now yet one knows they are from a different era and is full of history and style.

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    1. The Villa Massei was far from lovely when Paul and Gil went there some thirty years ago. Over the years the have restored the beauty of this ancient place and given it a dignity that it fully deserves. It has all been a huge amount of hard work and not a little money but they have succeeded in saving what is a truly magical place for future generations to enjoy.

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