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Tuscany Retreat – a bed and breakfast review

June 2015: Ruth and Randy and Ruth's first visit to Italy and Sant' Andrea Di Compito to meet the Orsi side of the family.

Sant’ Andrea Di Compito is nestled in the hills south of Lucca

Charming, welcoming and friendly are all words you could use to describe the Tuscany Retreat Bed and Breakfast that’s nestled in the hills of Tuscany, but words alone can’t describe the feeling you get when you first arrive in the small village of Sant’ Andrea Di Compito, located just 20 minutes from the walled city of Lucca, and centrally located to many popular tourist destinations such as Florence, Cinque Terre, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and more.

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Ancient watchtower used to signal the city of Lucca in case of danger

Ancient watchtower used to signal the city of Lucca in case of danger

The medieval village of Sant’ Andrea Di Compito is the very essence of Tuscany with lush green hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, stone buildings dating back hundreds of years, ancient towers and a way of life that has changed little over time. Residents still to this day continue to get their drinking water from springs in the area, as they did hundreds of years ago. The villages in the area are located on an ancient pilgrim road called the via di San Colombano.

As you approach Sant’ Andrea Di Compito from the western valley (Pisa and the Mediterranean Sea) you can’t help but notice the ancient watchtower that was once used to signal the city of Lucca of possible attacks from neighboring Pisa. The tower was one of many watchtowers used by the Republic of Lucca. Still visible today is a metal basket that was used to signal the city of Lucca of impending danger. This was accomplished by burning materials such as hay or other material in the basket and sending smoke signals. The tower is made entirely of Guamo stone, which is produced in the region.

Roads are painfully narrow

Roads are painfully narrow

Driving to the Tuscany Retreat you quickly realize why everyone drives compact cars since some of the streets funnel down to a single lane road. Parking is at a premium in the village and while there is parking near the bed and breakfast, it is a short walk to the retreat.

When we arrived at the Tuscany Retreat Bed and Breakfast, we were greeted by the owner and operator, Alda Orsi Jorgenson. Alda, along with her family, has tirelessly restored the family villa, which has been in the family for over 300 years.

June 2015: Ruth and Randy and Ruth's first visit to Italy and Sant' Andrea Di Compito to meet the Orsi side of the family.

Ahhh . . . The sounds of peacocks in the morning!

The villa has been completely renovated and the décor is nothing short of amazing. During our stay the air conditioner was a welcome amenity since the area was undergoing a pretty intense heat wave. We stayed in Tarella’s Suite located in the south wing of the first floor (in Italy the first floor is what we Americans call the second floor).

During our stay we would be greeted in the morning to the sounds of the local church bells as well as the sound of a lone male peacock, who has apparently lost his way and appears to be happy just hanging out in the neighborhood.

The always accommodating Alda would race down to the local bakery every morning for some hot pastries fresh out of the oven. I say race, since there was another bed and breakfast operator in the area and the two of them would always compete to see who would arrive first at the bakery – Alda lost many of those races to Bill since we kept her up until all hours of the night talking about family, friends and all the things we had planned for the next day. Alda was an encyclopedia of knowledge about the area and would let us know the best way to travel into an area and, more importantly, things not to miss.

June 2015: Randy and Ruth's first visit to Italy and Sant' Andrea Di Compito to meet the Orsi side of the family.

Tuscany Retreat’s piazza – complete with stone oven and barbecue (upper left)

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After a long day of traveling and doing the tourist thing, we were able to unwind with a glass of local wine, a bit of crema di limoncello. We would visit with the locals at Pizzaria Tre Tigli and on the weekends we would eat at a wonderful restaurant called La Baita. They have great food and a wonderful owner named Bruno who entertains guests – Bruno is hilarious in any language. However, most nights we simply hung out in the piazza at Alda’s villa, sipping on wine and drinking more crema di limoncello.

Pizzaria Tre Tigli

Pizzaria Tre Tigli

Our trip to the territory of Capannori in Tuscany was not just a vacation, but a hunt for our relatives who were also from Sant’ Andrea Di Compito. Alda was instrumental in introducing us to my cousin Angelo Bartelena and his family. Angelo also helps manage the Frantoio La Visona in Pieve Di Compito and we were lucky enough to go on a tour with a group or Rick Steve’s tourists that were visiting the Frantoio. The Frantoio is a cooperative of small growers and lovers of traditional olive oil processing, which is accomplished with the old system of grinding the olives with millstones and squeezing strictly by cold press, which helps retain the natural fragrance and flavor of the olive juice.

Bruno - Owner and operator of La Baita

Bruno – Owner and operator of La Baita

Some readers from the Northern California area may recognize the family name of Orsi. Alda grew up in the Sacramento area and attended Roseville High School in Northern California and her family used to manufacture and sell extra virgin olive oil under the name Orsi Olive Oil. You can still see old empty cans of Orsi Olive oil in some restaurants in the area, including the Red Barn restaurant chain.

Since we rented a car we were able to venture out into the Tuscany region at our leisure. While I enjoyed driving in Italy, it’s not for the faint of heart. They have traffic cameras for speeding cars as well as stop lights. There are also limited traffic zones in popular tourist areas that carry a stiff fine when caught, which is usually by camera. You may not even realize you got a ticket until several weeks after you get back home. I would recommend purchasing a Nuvi 2559 with maps for both America and Europe. I downloaded points of interest that would warn me as I approached an area known to have had a camera in the past.

One of the many fountains in the Tuscany region.

One of the many fountains in the Tuscany region.

There are tour guides you can hire that will drive you around the region while providing little tidbits of information along the way. We took advantage of one such tour guide, Catia Pardini, who was raised in California and has been living in Italy for the past 30 years. She speaks fluent English and Italian and was extremely knowledgeable of the area. Her and her husband Stefano also manage the local restaurant in Sant’ Andrea Di Compito, the Pizzaria Tre Tigli.

Mill used at the Frantoio to extract olive oil

Mill used at the Frantoio to extract olive oil

The Tuscany Retreat is centrally located with the Mediterranean and all of its beautiful beaches only 30 minutes west and Florence an hour to the east. The walled City of Lucca is only 6 km from the village with Pisa and the Piazza di Miracoli only 20 minutes away.

Just behind Sant’ Andrea Di Compito sits Monte Sera where you can view the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Mediterranean Sea. From our location we were able to take day trips to a number of areas including Florence, Volterra, San Gimignano, Viareggio, Cinque Terre and more.

Many people traveling to Italy are looking for a centrally located place to stay where they can take day trips to the many areas within Tuscany and northern Italy. Sant’ Andrea Di Compito is definitely one of those prime locations and is centrally located. I would highly recommend staying at the Tuscany Retreat if you are interested in visiting any of the areas in and around Tuscany, including the coastal communities along the Italian Riviera.

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Ludacris is a complete entertainer



Now one of the most consistent and recognizable voices in hip-hop, Ludacris’s origins are those of a man just trying to make it in music. In fact, unlike today’s artists who are so frequently “discovered” by celebrity performers or by communities online, Ludacris pursued music much in the way anyone pursues an ordinary job: he got an internship at a radio station in Atlanta. The rest, of course, is history. With a strong discography and endless amount of hits, Ludacris has been a constant in the music industry.

But that doesn’t mean nothing has changed in the past 15 years or so since Luda arrived on the scene. Like many other artists, he ultimately started dabbling in other forms of entertainment, and the result is that he’s became one of the most dynamic and complete entertainers in the business.

The rapper has always shown an entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of simply channeling it into investments, he seems to have taken a liking to partnering with brands and products relevant to his fans. Most notably, Ludacris co-owns Conjure Cognac, marketed as a sort of high-end club spirit, and he’s also been responsible for a line of headphones called Soul By Ludacris. He’s had other business ventures and endorsements as well, but these are side projects he’s managed to use to bolster his image as an entertainer and major name in hip-hop.

Over the years, Ludacris has also connected with various fan bases through his evident love of casino games. Ever since InterCasino launched as the first major online casino back in 1996, a lot of celebrities have taken advantage of Internet gambling as a way to enjoy the activity without dealing with crowds. The original site provides a range of games that mimics the content of a true casino, so it’s a natural online haven for those seeking privacy—and Ludacris is known to be an online poker player. However, he’s also not one to shy away from poker and gambling in actual casinos. A few years back a photo of Ludacris playing blackjack with Tommy Lee made the rounds online, and since then he’s appeared at numerous casino events. He even had poker pro Phil Hellmuth appear at a poker table in the music video for “Sex Room!”

Beyond conducting side ventures in business or dabbling in celebrity poker, Ludacris has made a significant name for himself in film. His first major role was alongside Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, and he ultimately became a key cast member in the Fast & Furious franchise. But Luda also appeared in CrashHustle & Flow, and No Strings Attached, among other projects. An emotional turn as part of the family of actors mourning the death of Walker in Furious 7 showed that Ludacris has come a long way as an actor, to the point that he probably has as much of a future on screen as in the recording booth.

All of this, and he’s still producing music. “Ludaversal,” the ninth studio album from Ludacris, was released in late March and got decent reviews even with Ludacris seemingly more focused on Fast & Furious obligations than music of late. Rolling Stone gave the album three stars, capping its review with the phrase, “Atlanta rap wild man hits middle age, stays potent.”

Maybe that’s the best way to describe Ludacris at this point. He just stays potent—no matter what he does or how long he does it. And at this point, that has made him one of the most complete entertainers.

Shooting reported at Lil Wayne’s Miami Beach home

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne

MIAMI BEACH, FL – According to reports Miami Police are responding to Lil Wayne’s Miami Beach mansion after someone contacted police to report a shooting with at least four people injured.

Officers converged on the home of the famed rapper located on the ritzy La Gorce Island. They have setup a perimeter and are assessing the situation.

UPDATE: This appears to be a case of swatting. Police have given the all-clear. No shooter, or victims found.

Officer Ernest Rodriguez told the Miami Herald that a call came in just before 1 p.m. from a man who claimed to have shot four people at the waterfront La Gorce Circle home.

Wayne’s record label, Young Money, tweeted a short time ago that Lil Wayne is okay and he was not home at the time of today’s incident.

According to TMZ 11 days ago someone contacted police regarding a strange man lurking outside the home. Cops arrived and talked to the man, but released him since he was on public property.

Police believe this may be a case of “swatting,” where someone reports a bogus emergency to see how much of a response they can get from authorities.

Dwyane Michael Carter, better known as Little Wayne, lives in an eight-bedroom, 10-bath home and was recently assessed at over $9 million.


Arrest warrant issued for Queen Elsa of Arendelle

Queen Elsa of Arendelle Courtesy Harlan Police

Queen Elsa of Arendelle
Courtesy Harlan Police

HARLAN, KENTUCKY – On Wednesday the Harlan Police Department issued a warrant for the arrest of Frozen’s own Queen Elsa.

According to Harlan Police, Queen Elsa of Arendelle is dangerous and officials are warning citizens to stay away from her and do not attempt to apprehend her alone.

On Wednesday, having weathered a string of cold winter storms, the Harlan Police Department posted to their Facebook page an all-points-bulletin letting citizens of Harlan know they had put out a warrant for the movie character of “Frozen.”.

According to sources close to the actor, Disney’s sequel to the popular movie “Frozen” is in jeopardy. With the star facing criminal charges rumors have it that Disney may scrap the movie. We have reached out to Disney for comment, but we have not heard back from their representatives.

Elsa is described as a blonde female and was last seen wearing a long blue dress and is known to burst into song “Let It Go.”

Harlan is currently under another winter storm advisory Friday and into Saturday night. Harlan officials have confirmed they will prosecute Elsa to the full extent of the law if these winter storms continue.

In a follow-up post officials said, “All kidding aside, the weather has been very dangerous and temps will get worse. Everyone please take precautions to stay safe and warm. Stay off the roads unless it is an emergency. Watch out and help others who may need help. HPD is doing a great job during this time but it takes everyone working together.”

Let’s hope they catch her before the sequel.

Suge Knight officially charged faces third strike

Suge Knight - 2008 mugshot Credit Las Vegas PD

Suge Knight – 2008 mugshot
Credit Las Vegas PD

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today former hip-hop mogul Marion “Suge” Knight was officially charged with murder and attempted murder in a Compton hit-and-run that occurred on Friday.

Adding to Knight’s woes, his bail of $2.025 million bail was revoked after homicide detectives petitioned the bail commissioner, plus this will be a third strike for the Death Row Records founder.

The 49-year-old Knight was arrested early Friday after going to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station, accompanied by his lawyer. Earlier that day Knight is accused of running over two men following an altercation.

Fifty-five-year-old Terry Carter was killed and actor Cle “Bone” Sloan was injured when Knight backed over the pair in his red Ford F-150 Raptor pickup and then ran over them as he fled the scene.

Knight’s attorney claims he was trying to escape an attack when he accidentally struck the victims. A homicide lieutenant said Knight argued with Sloan through the driver’s side of the truck and then purposely struck Sloan and Carter while in the parking lot outside of Tam’s Burgers in Compton.

Knight has been officially charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of hit-and-run with an allegation that he committed a serious and violent felony while out on bail in another pending case. He was out on bail for a robbery charge.

Authorities said bail was revoked since Knight is considered a flight-risk. They were also concerned about witness intimidation due to his criminal past. The District Attorney has confirmed this would be his third strike if convicted.

Knight faces life in prison if convicted. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

Former rap mogul Serge Knight arrested for murder

1997 nmate photo

1997 nmate photo

COMPTON, CA – Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight has been arrested for murder after two men were mowed down by a truck driven by the troubled artist, killing one and injuring the other.

Los Angeles police Lt. John Corina told CNN that witnesses said it appeared that the driver of the truck intentionally hit the two victims, so they are handling the investigation as a homicide. Knight’s bail was set at $2 million.

According to reports, Knight had an argument with 55-year-old Terry Carter and 51-year-old Cle Sloan, on the set of the biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” a film about the rap group N.W.A. The argument continued in the parking lot of Tam’s Burgers.

Knight allegedly tracked the two men down in the parking lot and backed his red Ford Raptor over the victims and then ran over them a second time as he left the scene, killing Carter and injuring Sloan. Officers later found Knight’s Raptor abandoned in Westwood.

Knight, who was accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station.

Knight, the founder of Death Row Records, is no stranger to violence. In 1996, while Knight was driving a car in Las Vegas, Tupak Shakur, who was a passenger in his car, was shot to death.

Death Row Records filed for bankruptcy in 2006 after Knight spent several years in prison for violating parole on assault and weapons convictions, adding to his troubles he had ongoing feuds with Dr. Dre, Snoop Lion (Dogg) and others.

Last August Knight, along with two others, were shot while attending a party hosted by singer Chris Brown on the evening before the MTV Music Awards. Then in October he was arrested for allegedly stealing a photographer’s camera.

In October, he was busted along with comedian Micah “Katt” Williams for allegedly stealing a photographer’s camera.


Charge dropped again AC/DC Drummer

indexBAY OF PLENTY, NEW ZEALAND – AC/DC drummer, Phil Rudd, who was charged on Thursday with several counts in connection to trying to have two men killed, will be facing one less charge.

According to Rudd’s attorney, Paul Mabey, the New Zealand police charge of “attempting to procure murder” against his client has been dropped.

The 60-year-old drummer for the legendary hard rock band, had been accused of trying to procure the murder of two men. However, the Crown Solicitor decided there wasn’t enough evidence to justify it.

Mabey wrote in a statement, “The charge alleging an attempt to procure murder should never have been laid. The Crown Solicitor’s opinion was not sought. The charge is now withdrawn, within 24 hours of Mr. Rudd’s first appearance in court,” continuing Mabey complained, “Mr. Rudd has suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity as a result of widespread and sensational reporting of a very serious allegation, which on any basis was never justified.”

Rudd still faces several other charges, including threatening to kill.

On Thursday afternoon, Rudd made an appearance in court to face charges of; attempting to procure the murder of two men, threatening to kill and possession of methamphetamine and possession of cannabis.

Earlier on Thursday police paid a visit to Rudd’s beach front mansion and searched the premises.

The names of the two men he was attempting to have killed have not been released, nor has the name of the potential hit-man.

Rudd did not enter a plea to the charges at the Tauranga District Court and was released on bail. His next appearance is schedule for November 27.

The Australian born Rudd moved to New Zealand in 1983, after being fired by the legendary rock band AC/DC, but rejoined the band years later.

In 2003 AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and remains one of the world’s biggest-selling musical acts.

The band is set to release their latest album, “Rock or Bust,” in December. However, when AC/DC gathered to film videos for a pair of ‘Rock or Bust’ tracks in early October, Rudd was a no show due to a “family emergency.” Also, in a shocking turn of events, original founding member, guitarist Malcolm Young, was absent after being diagnosed with Dementia earlier this year.

B.B. King falls ill cancels remaining tour

BB King performs at Thunder Valley Casino Click for more images

BB King performs at Thunder Valley Casino
Click for more images

The legendary B.B. King was forced to cancel the remainder of his current tour after falling ill following a shortened performance at Chicago’s House of Blues on October 3.

The 89-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was scheduled to play another eight shows this year.

According to his reps, King did not feel well enough to continue his performance at the House of Blues in Chicago on Oct 3. He was immediately evaluated by a doctor and diagnosed with dehydration and suffering from exhaustion whereby causing the eight remaining shows of his current tour to be cancelled.

No other information was available.

Earlier this year EW’s The Music Mix wrote that Kings performance in St. Louis was shaky and erratic, with Kings reps issuing a statement of apology soon after the gig. “The combination of the rigors of the very long drive and high blood sugar due to his medication error resulted in a performance that did not match Mr. King’s usual standard of excellence,” the statement read. King suffers from Type II diabetes, a condition he’s lived with for over 20 years.

According to the blues singer’s website, “King is back at his home where he is resting. In order to fully recuperate, he has cancelled his remaining eight shows of the tour. He has been on tour all year with over 70 performances for 2014. He does not have any additional shows scheduled for the remainder of the year.”

Earlier King wrote to his fans, “I’m back at home now listening to music, watching movies and enjoying some down time. I think I’m busier at home now than on the road talking to friends calling to check up on me. I do appreciate everyone’s calls and concern. I want to tell you, I’m doing alright.”

Joan Rivers resting comfortably

jkb_joan_rivers_bio_460x460NEW YORK, NY – Comedian Joan Rivers is “resting comfortably” in a New York hospital after suffering cardiac arrest during a procedure to remove a lump in her throat at a medical clinic on Thursday.

In a statement, the 81-year-old’s daughter, Melissa Rivers, said she was resting comfortably at a New York hospital Thursday night. Melissa had to catch a flight from Los Angeles to be with her mother.

“I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming love and support for my mother. She is resting comfortably and is with our family. We ask that you continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers,” she said in the statement.

Rivers had stopped breathing during throat surgery after she suffered cardiac and respiratory arrest. She was rushed by ambulance in critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Hospital spokesman Sid Dinsay said in a statement Thursday, “This morning, Joan Rivers was taken to the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she is being attended to. Her family wants to thank everybody for their outpouring of love and support. We will provide an update on her condition as it becomes available.”

Rivers had been scheduled to perform her comedy act at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, Friday night.

Joan Rivers hospitalized in critical condition

jkb_joan_rivers_bio_460x460NEW YORK, NY – Joan Rivers was rushed to the hospital Thursday morning after she stopped breathing during throat surgery.

According to officials, the comedienne was having throat surgery and suddenly stopped breathing. She was transported in critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Read update on River’s condition

The 81-year-old Rivers has been very open about her health issues and allowed cameras to film last year when doctors discovered a spot on her throat that was causing a persistent cough.

During the episode Rivers explained, “We’re just not going to be sad about this. We’re gonna do jokes and be up until we know. That’s how I deal with things. I’m not just gonna sit around the next couple of days and go crazy.”

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