The “wow factor” from Italy!

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.” (Psalm 9:1-2 – The Message)

Andrew's Tuscan town

Okay, here’s the problem. Just how much is too much when it comes to the “Wow factor” in a daily blog? I’ve already decided it would be overkill to post more than once a day this week (plus I don’t have the time)… but Andrew and I are seeing so much and having such great adventures that “fantastic” is pretty much the norm.

Take today. I took 250 photographs and I have over 100 keepers. I certainly can’t show them all in this blog! So I’ll offer a sampling, with just the sketchiest of explanations.

First, I walked a couple of miles before breakfast and stumbled on the above view of Andrew’s village. Yes, that’s right, he lives in an idyllic Tuscan landscape and it really is this pretty. His house (I’ll feature its details in another post) is charming in all the right ways.


For lunch, we drove to Portovenere. Again, and for the seventh consecutive day, we enjoyed perfect sunshine. It was pushing fifty degrees and great walking weather, which was good because we hiked all over the place. The town, which hugs the cliffs like it is literally carved out of the rock face (it is), is nothing but steps. Steps and stunning views.

One of the great achievements of Italy is the pitch-perfect blend of topography and architecture. That and the cappuccino.

Worth the climb....

After lunch we climbed over to the far side of the castle and looked down across the entry to the bay where an ancient church perches on the point, several hundred feet above the blue Mediterranean. Later we spent some quiet moments in the sanctuary, where I lit another candle and talked with God about the same stuff we covered in Assisi.

Lucca is a great walking/shopping town

Later, on the way home, we swung by the medieval town of Lucca – one of the best preserved walled cities in Tuscany.

Lucca is a maze of narrow streets punctuated by squares, churches, and fountains. 90% of the city is pedestrian only, with almost as many bikes as people. We spent several hours walking, viewing the insides of marvelous houses of worship, shopping, and sipping espresso. The best, of course, was simply spending the day meandering and talking with my son.

The church, pictured below, is a standard in most art-history texts. Well, Lucca is full of such treasures, and it’s off the beaten path for most tourists. Andrew says “Don’t tell the tourists about Lucca; we want to keep it pristine.” Okay, you didn’t hear it from me….

One of Lucca's treasures

We rounded out our day with dinner at Andrew’s favorite ristorante in Tirrenia, a sea-side town near his work in Livorno. I have an entire upcoming post dedicated to the food we have enjoyed this week, so I’ll just say the experience was absolutely authentic, and not replicable in any way in any other venue!

I’ll sign off today’s post with another photograph from the coast. Just can’t get enough of this beautiful place.

Peace – DEREK

Awesome place!

The Life-Charged Life Travel

derekmaul View All →

Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at, and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

4 Comments Leave a comment

    • Jeannie… I’d love to park myself in a place like this for a few months, forget about all my day-to-day newspaper/reporting/magazine/teaching etc life, and write my next book. Then I remember I’m a FREE-lance writer….!
      But, the truth is, it’s the day-to-day experiences that provide content and context and I couldn’t write without them…. 🙂


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