2007 came to a close walking through Tuscany, Italy with my husband. A walk I had dreamed of for a long time. We rented a little apartment on a winery/farm tucked away on a hillside just outside Montalcino, with shuttered windows that opened to rolling hills filled with vineyards and perfectly planted fields. And miles of curving roads that wound in and out of this breathtaking Italian countryside. So with more enthusiasm than words can truly express, we began our discovery of Italy. I invite you to come with me for an edited version of my walk through Tuscany. Did I mention, I stopped at every gelateria to sample yet another flavor of gelato. And found there is never too much when it comes to eating gelato.
It's market day in Montepulciano. We park our car outside of town (as you do in most Tuscan towns) and walk up the hill into town. Most all of the old towns we visited in the Tuscany region were built on hilltops in the form of fortresses to protect its citizens from the ongoing wars that seemed to go on for centuries. After spending time around these fun-loving Italians it's hard to believe that these loving people didn't always love each other. The marketplace is filled with laughter and chattering and smells of Italian sausage, fresh baked pastry and people strolling and bumping into each other. (The vendors that make up the Marketplace travel from town to town throughout the week with each town having their designated market day). After hours of strolling and bumping we head back to our car with bulging bags tucked under our arms filled with Italian sausage, and cheese, (of course!), Italian leather shoes (my husband's), a new skirt and wool jacket (for me), many scarves and a nagging desire to bring home so much more.
As I strolled the streets of these Tuscan towns their ambiance washed over my whole being like a warm rolling ocean wave caressing the sand as it washes onto the beach. I daily fantasized of living behind one of the doorways surrounded by Italian pots filled with trees, vines and flowers. I wanted to bring every pot home with me including the plants that were trailing out of them and finding their way over doorways and around windows. I pictured them around my doorways. But I guessed somewhere in customs they would all be taken from me.
We embraced life on our farm Le Chiuse and quickly found ourselves settling into the rhythm of Italian living. Eating pecorino cheese for breakfast, sipping wine with lunch and dinner, always with a glass of Italian bubbly water which the locals refer to as "gas" water. Lingering over lunch for at least two hours and even longer over dinner. Arranging site seeing from noon to 4pm when all the stores are closed. Experimenting with the few Italian words we had learned, Buon giorno (good morning), buona serra (good afternoon), buona notte (good evening) and grazie (thank you). My husband tossing in bits and pieces from his slight knowledge of French. We found ourselves daring to communicate with our new Italian friends.
I have found that if we pay attention to the details in life, ordinary moments turn into extraordinary adventures. Italy was filled with both of these and my camera was constantly clicking because I didn't want to forget any of them. So as I settle into my seat on our plane heading home, I click my seatbelt and begin revisiting the memories of our Tuscany tour. These are some of my favorites: Leo the farm dog who showed up at our door every morning in time to share breakfast with us, usually bringing the farm cat along with him; trying to drive as fast as we could to stay ahead of the Italian drivers, but no matter how fast we went, they went faster and always passed us; the extraordinary colors and flavors of Italian food; the walk to Frances Mayes' home in Cortona; cutting clumps of grapes from the vineyard just outside our door to eat with our meals; washing laundry by hand and hanging it out on the communal clothesline, and sitting out by the pool early in the morning with my new friend Rosie the artist from Denver, CO, (also a guest on the farm), watching her draw and paint water colors of the surrounding landscapes and sharing our life stories. And taking a cooking class with my new Colorado friends - Rosie, Karen and Linda. Did I mention that I love gelato?? Ok, somewhere in there I think I did!
And I haven't even mentioned our stay in Florence, visiting the Acadamia, the Boboli Gardens and the Duomo, walking on the Ponte Vecchio, just to mention a few. But, that's for another time.