Tag Archives: vacations in Tuscany

Tuning in to the Rhythms of Tuscany

I can’t seem to tire of the Tuscan landscape. I have been here for two and a half weeks now and am still in love with the rolling hills, the textures and the vibrant colors of this region of Italy. Deep greens, golden fields and silver wisps of leaves surround me. As you drive, or walk, throughout Tuscany you see amazing landscapes such as this, that have been manipulated by man for centuries.

The curved rows of plowed, mustard-yellow fields are of the semolina wheat used to make pasta (that I am eating too much of!). By the end of June, most fields are plowed with bales of wheat rolled and waiting.

I adore the ever-present groves of olive trees, like these just outside our window. The Frantoio Franci olive oil company is  in walking distance to our vila. These are younger trees that are not producing usable olives just yet. Off in the distance, are older, more rugged trees with darker leaves, that are being harvested.

We are awakened each morning by the sound of tractors and the yips from the workers’ dogs who accompany them. The red ladders and three-wheeled mini pick-up trucks are often back in the fields after siesta—when the temperatures drop again and it is easier to work. Siesta, which is approximately from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., is completely understandable to me now. With temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit daily, it’s critical to slow down—especially when working outside. Most businesses, except restaurants, are closed during this period as well. There seems to be no option but to take life slowly in Italy. When we first arrived in the province of Siena, I was concerned by the fact that there was no wifi in our villa and it was hard to come by in the village. I had an article to finish about Autism. I managed to do it on a dialup modem—but it was a looong and frustrating process. I couldn’t Skype with my boys. Email was hard to check. It felt like I was adrift. Once the story was in, I relaxed and started to breathe deeply and became more in tune with the rhythms of this world that are intrinsically linked with its landscape. My siestas became endearing to me. Here’s a typical siesta:

I sit in the local piazza. I notice a grandfather making amusing faces at his grandson as he buys him a gelato before heading home. I hear the adorable singsong voices of children who say papa! as they run home. A woman smiles and makes fun of me, calling me an “Alaskan” since I prefer ice cubes in my drink. I notice a momma bird feed her baby bird bread crumbs on the piazza floor.

I see a momma cat and her kittens hide in the shade of chairs.

I watch bees harvesting nectar from the potted lavender bushes and hear the bells chime from the convent on the hill above the village. A Vespa whines in the distance. I take a bite from my panini of prosciutto di Parma and Fontina cheese and think how marvelous it is that I haven’t once looked at a cell phone text or read an email. This won’t last, of course. But I am so thankful to have been given this temporary taste of freedom from my addiction to the Internet and with the need to keep up with all things and all people all the time. I give in and tell myself that my boys are just fine without me for a brief time. I pull out a map and start to plan a day excursion to another village. I begin to think about dinner—the obsession with food is quite contagious in Italy. And by the end of an hour, I head back home. Perhaps boring for some, but for me, being in the moment and present in my surroundings is a gift. I want to bottle it up and take it home.

When we arrived at the end of June this was just another green field with rows of leafy plants. Within two weeks, like so many of other fields in this region, it literally burst overnight with bright yellow and brown heads beaming up towards the sky. Driving past later in the afternoon, I shot this picture from the car window. I didn’t have time to stop with another car close behind me on a winding two-lane road—but I couldn’t resist the urge to capture their newly emerged faces. These proud, tall sunflowers seemed to scream “Smile, Damn it!”

And I did.

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Get Your Knees Up!!

I am completely breathless and my feet incredibly swollen as I write this. Yet, I am exhilarated too, while en route to Italy. I have one thing to say: NEVER embark on a multi-leg journey without all of your boarding passes! I began my day in Los Angeles Airport where I was given two boarding passes and was told that getting the third would be “no problem.” RIGHT. So, I raced to make my first flight with only 10 minutes to spare, to Charlotte, NC.  From there, I embarked to Frankfurt, Germany and had an amazing experience on the flight where I made a good friend. (I will write about this amazing Italian woman, who is fighting for her daughter’s life, in my next post.)

For whatever reason, maybe US Air’s computers were down or weren’t linked correctly, but I had to navigate the Frankfort airport and to try to get the Lufthansa boarding pass that I should have been given in LA. I did this after already traveling over 12 hours. Needless to say, computer glitches—married with a communication barrier—made me nearly miss my flight to Rome. Somehow, I mustered up the courage NOT to take the pitiful advice of three negligent Lufthansa agents and I ran to security and begged a woman to let me through, sans boarding pass, to my departure gate. Somehow, miracle, of miracles, she let me through!

Basically, in Frankfurt I went to two kiosks that didn’t give me my boarding pass and was directed to a long check-in line (which of course, I didn’t need to be in, as I had already checked my bag all the way through to Rome from Los Angeles!) And then when my heart started beating overtime, I jumped out of that line and went into the first class line. When that wasn’t moving I raced over to priority. When that wasn’t moving, one snotty man who worked for Lufthansa actually told me that I would just have to buy another ticket to Rome. WHAT? I mean, this was all their fault, right? And I was already checked into the flight from Rome, I just needed a f*cking boarding pass that they should have already issued me to get on it! So I raced to security and passport control and luckily, a woman felt sorry for me after looking at my printed itinerary (ALWAYS have a printed itinerary for these multi-leg flights) and she let me through.

With 25 minutes until my flight took off to Rome, I waited and waited in a ridiculously slow security checkpoint and then raced through miles of airport, running like the wind with my swollen feet about to burst. I had to race through three terminals and to the very end of one in order to wait in another line to finally get a new boarding pass at the gate. What a nightmare!!! Luckily, I only had one light roller bag, so racing through the airport wasn’t too difficult. At one point during my race, when a very large American family blocked my way, a cute Italian pilot looked at me sympathetically, pointed and screamed “Mi Scusi!” and pushed the obese man and woman out of my way and winked, letting me continue to run through the terminal. I’m sure I ran a bit like a girl, but hey, I made it. AND…I didn’t lose it like this woman did, who missed her flight to San Francisco earlier this year. Take a look at this for a laugh. Thank God I didn’t lose my cookies like she did, but I can completely understand her stress!

So, I am now sitting sandwiched between two enormously fat teenagers from Atlanta, Georgia (what is going on, my fellow Americans??) who are going to Italy to study abroad for the summer. One is sweating profusely and I’m trying to ignore that aroma as I write. Just 90 more minutes and I land in Rome to be greeted by my adorable boyfriend who will make this trek worth the hassle! By this time tomorrow, when I’m driving with his family to our vila in Tuscany, today’s stress should be a long-forgotten, or at least humorous, memory.