When my Italian friend and host suggested we go to Sassi for the weekend, I agreed, but I had no idea what, or even where, it was. Next thing I know we are headed out of Lucca and towards the mountains of northern Italy. Before long we are zooming along steep switchbacks, away from the city, enjoying the changing colors of autumn and the view of the valley below. Finally, we enter the most charming little historical village and stop in front of a giant red home, made of stones and concrete. To my right the Alps are towering in the distance and an ancient castle sits high on a hill. It was like like a view from a postcard. Staying in a 250 year old home, enjoying the astounding view, and mushroom hunting in the forest were all remarkable, and made for a most delightful weekend in Sassi Italy.
The Historical Home
Paolo Pocai’s family has owned the old homestead for generations. The front part of the home was built in 1770 and there is still an old brass plate above the door with the date on it. As if that isn’t remarkable enough, the back part of the building was a 15th century tower and still contains some of the ancient doors and the original circular stone staircase. The home contains some of the most beautiful antique furniture and chandeliers I have ever seen! It’s hard to guess how big the “house” is, as some rooms in the basement have never been completed, but I would estimate that it was well over 4,000 feet, which seems to be about normal for summer homes in the country in Italy. I helped Paolo prepare the home for winter as he doesn’t go there much anymore in the off season.
The Astounding View
The view from his place changed moment by moment. The elevation was about 2,500 feet and early autumn storms rolled in consistently. One minute we would be lost in the clouds, barely able to see across the street. The next moment the sun would come out and we could see all the way to majestic Alps in the distance. However, my favorite view was the one from my bedroom window! I could see both the Alps and the ancient castle sitting high above the orange and yellow landscape of Autumn, and it was breathtaking!
I was delighted that we went hunting for porcini mushrooms on both Saturday and Sunday. Paolo has been mushroom hunting since he was a little boy and he can easily spot the light brown tops of the mushrooms lying among the brown leaves. It was quite impressive! I on the other hand carried the basket and only found one mushroom the whole time! But it was a lot of fun poking around in all the ferns and climbing up and down the mountains like a wild goat. We enjoyed the porcinis for dinner, and they were absolutely delicious!
On the way home we stopped to fill a bunch of containers with fresh mountain spring water. There is a fountain right on the side of the road just for that purpose. It was the same in both Austria and Portugal. Imagine, their water is so clean and readily available that they can just stop on the side of the road and take as much as they want! I had a wonderful time and I’ll never forget my weekend in Sassi.