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Overcome Jet lag on the way to Lucca: Indulge in a drive on E80

Driving from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to Lucca?
You’ve had a grueling time on the plane. Enough is enough. Indulge in some R&R on the way to Lucca. DON’T take the Autostrada del Sole – A11.
Drive north instead on the wind swept, tollway known as E80/SS1. The sea views will take your breathe away.

This highway, originally completed by Roman ruler Marcus Aurelius, has some of the best views on the Italian peninsula without sacrificing speed, since it is still a four-lane autostrada, which will occasionally require a toll. But because for bureaucratic reasons it isn’t completely refurbished and as fast as A11, it will whisk past summer beach resorts and yes, a few power plants and cities, exposing you to Italian history on fast-forward.

First up, the city of Tarquinia beckons with its claim to beautiful women and some of the country’s best preserved Etruscan necropoli — think Fellini’s Roma, before the frescoes faded… It’s worth a stop, if you have the time, or worth noting for a return once you are looking for a day trip.
This is Lazio where rows of umbrella pines punctuate the landscape in elegant rows, demanding attention. There was a time when my sons would spend hours smashing the seed pods of these trees with rocks, in order to extract their prize: a pine nut! If you stop for a break, you now know what to do…

In some stretches along the highway, the speed limit falls to 90 km/hr as the road drops to two lanes. The slow down should help you to admire the scenery, the sunflowers and wheat, cattle and sheep, mixed with gorgeous sea views. Stay the course and you will pass Orbetello and industrial Grosseto. If times allows, this is where you need to take a quick detour, to catch sight of Castiglione della Pescaia, and its resort sister: Punt’Ala.

Best of all this is a great place to grab a delicious lunch.

Exit at Grosseto and take route SP152 to Ponti a Badia where the restaurant of the same name serves exceptional tordelli (ravioli stuffed with fresh ricotta) covered with pomarola, a fresh tomato sauce. Also recommended: the vongole: mussels steamed in a lemony wine concoction.

After an espresso, continue on SP152 to Castiglione della Pescaglia, a picturesque sailing and boating town populated by Italians getting away from it all. After exploring the area, hop onto SP158, taking a left turn onto Strada Provinciale Tirli, and cruise by lovely homes and seascapes on the way to Punta Ala. At this point on the peninsula, literally named Wing Point, there is a nature park along the reef with stunning views that sometimes include dolphins and whales! You can park near the tip of the peninsula and explore it on foot. The private residences in Punta Ala’s resort community have access to beaches, sailing, horse-back riding, tennis and golf; but others choose to camp there in a setting that feels untouched, even if, in reality, it is just very well-maintained.

From Punta Ala, the road passes Follonica, and reaches Castagneto Carducci, a hilltop town named for one of Italy’s greatest poets, Giosue` Carducci, who had a home there in the 19th century.

Perhaps even more scenic is nearby Bolgheri, whose allee` of cypresses inspired Carducci to write a poetic ode that has been memorized by generations of Italian middle-schoolers. Nowadays, most know the area for its SuperTuscan wines, like Salsicaia by Tenuta San Guido, and the Antinori wine, Guado al Tasso.

Have an aperitif, but hold out for dinner in Quercianella. There, on the terrace of the unpretentious, kid-friendlyHotel Belsoggiorno (photo above), you can reward yourself by experiencing one of the best fish stews, known as cacciucco, anywhere around Livorno, where the dish was invented. The space is clean and simply summery. The service as warm as the sun. The windsurfers abound, and you can follow their progress on the surf well below you, as you gaze out on the islands of Gorgona and Capraia, Elba and more…

At this point, you have overcome your jet-lag and are ready for Lucca. Your destination is just 43 minutes away…