Fire in the Sky

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration




I am inspired by Nature in all its glory, and have chosen a Tuscan sunset to symbolize this.

Our two-week vacation in Tuscany last year inspired me to wellness. Every time I revisit any of the hundreds of images I captured during our stay, my spirit is transported back to that beautiful place and I relive how incredible it made me feel to be there.

Italy changed me; helped me to feel whole. It lives in me even now.

This inspires me.

Thank you for visiting …



©Dorothy Chiotti 2015

From Colle Sereno to Relative Chaos

The Hills
As you might imagine, leaving the villa and its surrounds was incredibly difficult. We all bore long faces as our cars bumped down the difficult driveway for the last time. Such a peace of heaven we had enjoyed for a whole week.

Still, it was time to move on to another adventure.

My husband and I drove in a convoy of two with a couple we had planned to travel to Venizia with by train. First we had to turn in the rental cars in Firenze and then walk the couple of blocks to the train station. We stopped for a pizza lunch on the way so we’d be well fed and could avoid buying a sandwich on the train. (My last experience with train food ~ travelling Ljubiana to Vienna ~ didn’t turn out so well, and that’s putting it mildly.)

The trip by rail was easy.

When we arrived in Venizia my husband and I were whisked away by water taxi through canals big and small, and a traffic jam or two, to reach our hotel on the Calle dei Fabri near the Piazza San Marco.

Venetian Traffic Jam

The contrast between the serenity experienced in the Tuscan Hills and the relative chaos of Venezia was jarring at first. But there’s something about being in a city built on water that soothes the soul in a completely different way. Never mind the fact that we saw the first rain of our entire trip in this already water-logged place. Didn’t bother me one bit. It just seemed to add to the romance of it.

And then, of course, we found the best gelato in the whole of Venizia just a two minute walk from our hotel … 😉

Thanks for visiting …


©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

The Party’s Over


Our final day at the villa we all decided to stay put.

While most of us chose to laze around the pool, my husband and our marathon-running friend challenged the general feeling and hiked down and up and down and up the driveway and beyond to look at a ruin on another hill which appeared closer than it actually was. While they were gone a thunderstorm could be heard brewing in the distance ~ our first threat of rain the entire week we were there. They were gone about three hours and never reached the ruin. It was just too far away and the storm was a little too hovering.

So Much Food

At the end of the day we were treated to a thrilling repast of assorted Italian foods skillfully prepared by the amazing housekeeper, Marianne. We’d had some trouble with the villa plumbing at the beginning of the week so to compensate for the inconvenience (which wasn’t much because they sent the plumber in to fix it right away) the owners treated us to an array of pre-dinner delights and Italian sparkling wine. In this image our friend Dianne, and her husband, Dave, make the universal gesture of “too much food.” We could all relate to that. 😉

For our final full meal my husband arranged for a complete full course dinner, again prepared by our amazing housekeeper, to thank everyone for allowing us to have the big suite because it had a bath tub. (I do love my baths at the end of the day.) During dinner we shared our wonderful memories of the week. We laughed and laughed and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed all the food laid before us.

Believe it or not, we didn’t have a single scoop of gelato the entire day. Dessert was individual servings of trifle beautifully prepared and presented by Marianne’s 14 year old daughter (whose name, sadly, escapes me.) So good … mmmmm.


After dinner we all gathered in the kitchen to plot our separate routes to the next day’s destinations. Some were driving to Rome to fly home. Others to Venice. We were heading back to Florence to catch the train that would take us to Venice. Note the sombre faces. None of us wanted to leave.

But the party was, indeed, over, and as we departed to our separate rooms and bid each other a safe journey home (some people had alarms set for 4 a.m.) we all agreed that this had been the best vacation any of us had ever experienced … and that we would miss the pool.

Good Evening

We had a wonderful week at “our” villa in Tuscany.

Thanks for visiting …



©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Cinque Terre

Cinque TerreI know … we have seen a million photos like this, but it can’t be helped ~ Cinque Terre, with its five colourful sea villages nestled into the Italian northwest coast is simply one of the most charming areas to be found anywhere.

This image shows Riomaggiore as we passed by on a boat ride which started in Monterosso. We stopped in Vernazza for gelato (go figure!), and in Portovenere for lunch, before heading back by boat again to Monterosso.

The serious runner in our group (a couple or more Boston and other marathons under his belt) ran the path from Monterosso to Vernazza where he was to join us lesser mortals taking the boat. He almost didn’t make it. The path was much more difficult than he’d imagined. He was the last one on the boat as the crew were pulling up anchor. Sadly, he missed the chance to have gelato. 😦

Meanwhile, I held my own. Careful not to overwhelm my recovering adrenal system, I remained low key. Still, I enjoyed the opportunity to be out on the water with our friends and to enjoy the pretty coastline.

After the two-and-a-half hour drive back to the villa we happily hit the infinity pool and cooled down as the setting sun disappeared behind Tuscan hills.

Day's End

Such a beautiful day …

Thanks for visiting,



©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Siena Calling


Day three at the villa ~ off to Siena, where we haunted the leather goods shops, stopped for gelato (twice! ~ it was a brutally hot day … just saying 😉 …) and soaked in the ambiance of the Piazza del Campo where they hold the bareback horse race ~ the Palio ~ twice each summer.

Today’s image is of an old image of race day on display in one of the streets of the town. Superimposed are some friends trying to decide how to get to the restaurant we’d decided on for lunch. We ended up taking a rather convoluted route up and down some steep hills almost coming full circle from where we started to reach Enotica I Terzi ~ an off-the-beaten-track gem … with air conditioning!!!

The food was so delicious no one spoke for as long as it took us to eat. That is except for the frequent “mmmmms” and “ahhhhhhs” and “wows!” that reverberated around the private room we’d been allotted. Somehow the food in Italy is that much more delectable than anywhere else. Perhaps its due to the fact they don’t use GMO produce.

After a further wander around the town, including three intrepid members of our party climbing the 500+ steps of the Torre del Mangia, (and another stop for gelato) we high-tailed it back to the villa for a refreshing swim.

(Sigh …)

Thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane,


©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

A Perfect Day

Tuscan Heaven

On day one at the villa we all stuck around. Sure, there were all kinds of sights we wanted to see, but first we wanted to relax and enjoy the amazing location and its ambiance.

First thing in the morning I went for a walk with a friend (in the interest of getting some exercise, don’t you know 😉 …) down the long, rolling driveway (pictured). It’s the sort of one-lane gravel road you drive once and wonder if you dare do it again. I believe we all collectively held our breath every time we started and ended a day trip, wondering if the cars would make it up and down those acute hills and around the sharp bends. We also prayed we would never have to negotiate it in the rain. (Fortunately we didn’t.)

The lane is longer than it looks, too, and under the heat of even the early morning sun can pose quite a challenging walk. But it was worth it. The views were amazing, and it was fun to inspect the plant life.

For the balance of the day everyone lazed by the amazing pool (pictured yesterday) ~ the guys barbecuing for lunch and the ladies on clean-up duty.

In the evening we dared negotiate the perilous driveway (where we frequently bottomed out!) and headed into tiny Iano for pizza.


Our first full day at the villa could not have been more perfect.

Thanks for visiting …



©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Tuscan Sun



So, leaving Firenze we headed, by rental car, an hour and a half into the Tuscan Hills and the hamlet of Iano. There we, and five couples from our neighbourhood (we called ourselves the Tuscan Twelve), had secured a week in what we hoped would be a beautiful villa.

The vacation was planned as a once-in-a-lifetime event to celebrate special wedding anniversaries, birthdays and life. The idea was that each couple would plan their own vacation ~ some started in Rome and toured the Amalfi; another couple started in Venizia and drove through the mountains; we started in Firenze ~ and that we’d all gather for a week at the villa and then go our separate ways to get home.

It took several meetings and a year of planning to bring it all together. We found the villa through a luxury villa rental site and identified all the important amenities we wanted to define our search. Rooms with ensuites, a swimming pool, a view, an indoor and outdoor dining area that would accommodate all 12 of us, laundry facilities, etc. helped us come to a final decision.

I can clearly remember the afternoon we converged on Colle Sereno, and how awestruck we were by the beauty of the area. We could hardly believe our good fortune. The villa and location exceeded our expectations in every way.

For dinner the first evening (which we had arranged in advance ~ we fed ourselves for the rest of the stay except for our final meal) the housekeeper served an incredible multi-course extravaganza so delicious that even the pickiest eater among us couldn’t get enough.

Between courses we congregated on the balcony to absorb the incredible sunset as it boldly painted the horizon.

All the hours spent planning had been worth it. We knew we were going to have an amazing week.

Tuscan Sun

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂


©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015