Before you do anything, please click to watch the video below.
Over the course of my life I have greatly enjoyed living in so many truly extraordinary places. From my first two decades as a boy growing up in the wild and woolly North West of England, to the decade and a half spent tucked away in the even more wild and remote Pacific North West of the United States. Add to that the five London years, the four City of Bath years, and now the fifteen spent nestled right here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. All told, I think it safe to say that I know a thing or two about cities, regions, peoples, cultures, habits, customs and wotnot. ‘Thailand’ springs to mind when attempting to conjure the perfect beach. Pompeii appears before my eyes when I wish to indulge my passion for time time travel. My dawn breakfast, alone atop a Mayan pyramid proved quite memorable, as did the astonishing jungle sunrise that followed. And obvious skiing right here in Aspen Snowmass has added more than its fair share of indelibly wonderful moments.
I suppose it is safe to say that we all harbor these sorts of memories, of our own variety, and in this day and age it would seem that everyone has been just about here there and everywhere. I myself have been to so many, many places that, while I loved the moment, and treasure the memories to this day, I feel no particular compelling reason to go back. In other words, no permanent bond was made between traveler and landscape, tourist and culture, diner and cuisine.
However, such is most definitely NOT the case with North West Tuscany, as you will discover if you click on to my North West Tuscan Way.
Not only did I bond with this place, I positively fell head over heals in love with her. For what am I, a mere poor besotted stone carving sculptor to make of such astonishing beauty? But not only beauty – in the natural sense – the stunningly gorgeous scenery. What I fell for was the exotic abundance of stone sculpture. And when I say “sculpture” I mean to include all things architecture, for as you will see, practically every North West Tuscan building of note was hand carved, piece by piece, upon a banker such as mine, and by my Banker Masons such as myself, a very, very long time ago.
In direct contrast to my current circumstances here in The Rockies, which in all honest remains practically bereft of anything resembling stone sculpture. There are one or two rather simple stone buildings to be sure, but contrast and compare with that of North West Tuscany, which simply abounds with some of the most skillful, creative, and altogether fascinating stone sculpture that I have ever encountered. And so very much of it. Everywhere in fact.
And perhaps that is what makes my tours a little different. Once a mason, always a mason. And once a sculptor, ooohh boy, life itself, in places like Pisa, takes on a whole new aspect. Never forget that, whilst gazing at a random masonry building, or any piece of stone sculpture, nothing – not one thing – was left to chance. Everything is marked out and prepared, at great physical and mental effort to those employed in its deft carving, and delicate installation. I know this, for I have spent countless hours, days, weeks even, carving the same block of stone. I know just what goes into the carving, the design, construction, embellishment and adornment of these ancient monuments, and monumental buildings, for I have carved door jams, lintels and fireplaces galore in my time. I have also carved ornate embellishments, fountains, bas relief depictions, you name it. I am therefore also quite able to interpret the often subtle and understated messages, delivered via hammer and chisel, from those canny carvers themselves, many, many centuries ago.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to fall in love with North West Tuscany, and the easiest way to glimpse its glories, is to take a scrolling tour along The North West Tuscan Way – and you can find that ONLY HERE at martincooney.com.
First however, in order to give yourself a decent chance of falling in love, you simply must watch the movie, if you haven’t already. Set aside a few moments to imagine yourself roaming far and wide – free to wander and explore at will.
Of course, you will meet different people, return with different memories, but as you watch the video, or browse any of my North West Tuscan Way posts, just look at that landscape. I really wish you could taste the food, but I can assure you, every meal, bite and bar snack was excellent. Superb. And then there are the people. Such wonderful lives they lead, right there, tucked in and around the mountains, the Med just over there, olives, grapes, fruit and vegetables second to none. Sunshine, balmy evening walks, and culture, culture and more culture at every turn. Wonderful lives and wonderful hospitality. You’ll see what I mean when you actually begin to meet them, but better be on your toes.
Conversation is usually quite loud, and by American standards at least, brutally frank, delightfully witty, passionate and warm hearted. I tell you – you too will find yourself yearning to go back, even though right now, at this present point, you have practically no idea this place exists. You too will want to return, and return again. Oh, just wait, you will.
At this point I think it might be wise on my part to disclose my tour guiding credentials. During my third, and longest, spell in Portland, I gave tours covering a region stretching from the magnificent wild and rugged Oregon coast, to the volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range. This huge area was bounded to the north by the Mighty Columbia River, and to the south by the southern fringes of the burgeoning Willamette Valley winery land. Beginning with limousine and town car positions, I was to eventually own and operate Garavance First Class Tours, which, as the name suggests, was something of a sumptuous affair.
But enough of me. What about Pisa, this most glorious, nay positively fabled, Medieval maritime power of yore? This extravagant extravaganza from the past? Well, if you haven’t already, then I urge you to just take a few minutes to watch the video, and we’ll go from there.
You can scroll down, should you wish, and scan the various picture galleries assembled below, but by skipping the video you’ll be missing the sequenced guided tour element, and really, that’s what this post is all about. Just take it easy and imagine for a moment that it is you walking the miles that I walked.
The thing is; I have spent rather a lot of time in this city, and unlike many such places, I fully intend to be back. Pisa is the ideal – no, the only logical, sane starting point from which to embark upon my North West Tuscan Way. The airport is but a mile or two outside the city center, the people seemed really nice, and the city itself is utterly stunning. What is there not to like? “You’re not in the rest of the world now, you’re in ITaly!”
Finally, I have one more revelation to reveal; my ulterior motive. Contrary to how it may appear, my current home here in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the region that I have coined The North West Tuscan Way, share some quite remarkable similarities. Both may boast scenes of quite extraordinary natural beauty. Our Elk Mountain Range, and North West Tuscany’s various spectacular ranges, draw people from across the globe. Both have skiing, and top class restaurants abound either side of the pond. There is even a newly developing sister city relationship between our own Aspen, and the North West Tuscan ski resort of Abetone.
Just as North West Tuscany may rightly boast possession of the most famous marble in the world: Carrara. We here in the Colorado Rocky Mountains may boast of our truly magnificent Colorado Yule Marble. Not only is Yule, rightly and proudly, our Colorado State Rock, it is also renowned as the flawless white marble comprising the Lincoln Memorial. Quarried at 9,300 feet, simply getting this much marble, and in such huge blocks, half way across a continent, and into a project as important as this.
But for the moment I’ll leave it there as there are plenty of posts covering the subject available with one click on a tab at the top of the page.
So, you see, I do indeed have an ulterior motive in luring you onto my website, and thus spreading word of my North West Tuscan Way.
Such is my personal and immediate knowledge of Colorado Yule Marble, that when the chance presents itself I aim to apply my signature Direct Method Curvilinear Carving Technique to Carrara – preferably over there in North West Tuscany, and the world will finally get to see what, if any differences occur between America’s Yule and the Carrara Italy.
Surely there are those within the Carrara marble community who would be interested in the results of my endeavor. I don’t mean this as a challenge – well, perhaps a little – but hasn’t the time come for the great Yule/Carrara carve off ? Come on proud people of North West Tuscany, let’s make it happen.
OK, if you simply do not have the time to watch the video, and you’ve made it to this point, below I have picked out a few of my favorite images from the Pisa tour. If you did see the video, and you want to take a closer look, don’t forget to please…
…click on a photo to expand.
Beginning with the famous Leaning Tower, of course.
Tower induced frenzy
Baptistery and Cathedral
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thanks for visiting martincooney
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Please consider joining The North West Tuscan Way whenever the need arises to escape reality, at least for a moment. And who knows? One day you too will find yourself intrepidly exploring your way through what I genuinely consider to be one of the most beautiful, fun, interesting, and quite delicious places on this beautiful Earth.
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