Part 1, the journey begins…

Good old British Airways from Heathrow, my airport of preference, given that from Notting Hill, if timed right, its only 20 minutes to Terminal 5. The weather was fine and it’s always a nice feeling to see a bunch of Union Jack flags lined up waiting to whisk travellers to places far and wide, Look!. Having arrived at Pisa airport safely, on Friday 13th January courtesy of British Airways (who assigned me seat 13F), it turned out to be a better day than expected with clear, crystal blue skies.  I was met at the airport by my good friend Muzz Murray and his new friend Molly in his trusty Fiat Panda 4×4. We headed North East (as the crow flies) for Pistoia, the capital of one of the provinces of Italy bearing the same name. After less than an hour the familiar skyline of Pistoia came into view, identified by the Bell Tower of the Cathedral (Il Duomo) in Piazza Duomo and the Cupola of The Basilicata of Our Lady of Humility. Pistoia is a wonderful city to visit with other points of interest being the Octagonol Baptistry of the Cattedrale di San Zeno, the Ospedale del Ceppo with its intricate frieze and the Bishops Palace (Palazzo dei Vescovi). On this occasion though we sped on by, as much as an ancient Fiat Panda will allow, with a hunger to reach the mountains – we we’re headed to the Toscano-Emiliano section of The Apennines in the Province of San Marcello Pistoiese.

From the flat plain of the Pistoia province, the hills begin to rise immediately as we headed north, in the general direction of Abetone with our destination being San Marcello Pistoiese. Our base was to be the hotel Albergo Il Cacciatore, not your typical Italian mountain hotel but, in a fantastic location with a wonderful kitchen producing amazing food with local specialities featuring strongly. The hotel is run by the very friendly, hospitable and helpful Lenzini family.

A shot of history…

San Marcello is situated approximately 600m from hotel and originates from the 3rd to 2nd Century BC. It became a strategic centre during Roman times and by the 12th Century was an independent commune but, fell to Pistoia by the 14th Century. After the advent of Christianity the village was named after Pope Marcello the 1st. The nearby village of Gavinana was the site of a famous battle in August 1530 between Florence and the Roman Imperial Army during the War of The League of Cognac.  One of the major icons of the Italian risorgimento, namely Francesco Ferrucio, was at the head of the Florentine forces and was ambushed on his way from Pisa to Florence by Philibert of Chalon, Prince of Orange. The Imperial Army although outnumbering the Florentines were being driven back and the Prince of Orange was fatally shot by 2 arquebus balls. The fortunes of the Florentines were reversed though when 2000 reinforcement troops of the Imperial Army arrived , led by Fabrizio Maramaldo. Feruccio had already been wounded in Pisa and was eventually captured and personally executed by Maramaldo. Feruccio’s famous last words to Maramaldo were “tu uccidi un uomo morto” (you are killing a dead man). Maramaldo’s behaviour was considered shameful in historical reports and in modern Italian, Maramaldo means “cowardly murderer”. A fabulous statue of Feruccio astride his horse exists in the main square of Gavinana.

We did consider what Feruccio was doing in Gavinana on his way from Pisa to Florence but, perhaps we can answer this for you later…

So, we arrived at the hotel, settled in and awaited dinner time.

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