A visit to the Tuscan Heart, Florence

Another day and another trip away from the Tuscan villa a.k.a. the bolthole. Today it was into the beating heart of Tuscany and the birthplace of the renaissance, Florence. Also the home of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ and da Vinci’s ‘Annunciation’. I may need to get this out early in case I disappoint you. We went to Florence on this day and we didn’t visit any of these! No. Nessuna. Nienta.  But don’t worry I’ve seen them before … twice. On this day we simply wandered, ate and breathed in Florence.

You may see a theme evolving in our Italian trip. Food. And gelato. And contented smiles. Italians have worked it out you see. They know that pleasure and happiness is tied to enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Convivial times and food that comes from close to home and is cooked traditionally, simply and with heart. And of course they are fortunate in that everywhere they wander there is art in all its forms. From the architecture to the vineyards, Italy is purely romantic poetry for the soul. It is hard not to be in love with every second in Italy.

The Pizza Della Signoria, the Florence Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio all relatively empty. I have never experienced Florence in this way. Florence is so mind blowing of course it doesn’t matter who you share it with, but on this quiet day I took some very long, very deep breaths. I also ran into an Aussie friend on the Ponte Vecchio. Right now the world doesn’t feel small but in this magical brief moment of coincidence the world again felt small.

I danced with love today in Florence. For those of you who know us and me you will know Italy lives in our hearts and home. (Complete with the pizza oven.) Even writing here now I feel my heart flutter with a yearning. Perhaps it is curiosity. If I was 20 I’d take a year in Italy. I didn’t know of the possibilities then. I don’t want to lose this feeling. I’m nervous about when I return. Home to Holland where the food can’t be compared, where the cities, language, culture and landscape don’t captivate my spirit in this way! Where I’ll again be confronted with the realities of the current state of the world.

‘As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you.’ – Anthony Bourdain.

I feel the familiar stirrings of change. Of considering what needs to stay and what needs to be let go. Of missing what’s familiar and still craving what’s exciting. Of knowing I still have many chapters to write in this story of my life. That there is some stagnation inside that needs to be broken down so the flow of creativity and curiosity (the life blood) can be free. The marks of travel – the reminders, the peeling back.

Florence lives in us now. And also on one of our dining room walls. In the form of a little piece of Tuscan inspired art, bought on the street from an artist. After this day in Florence my eight year old declared ‘this is my favourite city in the world’. His siblings agreed. My job is done ;) Perhaps I won’t take them to Florence again. It seems a nice way to leave it for them to remember. I will of course come back. Maybe I’ll hike in one day. I’d particularly like to see the Botticelli again and breath in the Florence air. Dreaming is of course my air, my lungs are full. Full of Florence magic.

Leaving the Tuscan Bolthole for Montepulciano.

After a week or so of chilling in one spot we decided to venture out and explore. It’s not our first visit to this region so we decided to pick a new medieval and renaissance hill top town. An Italian colleague of Greg’s had recommended Montepulciano, an hour South of where we were staying. Masks at the ready and perhaps with a tad of nervousness, we packed our brood and drove down the long gravel driveway away from our Tuscan bolthole. Off on an adventure. 

I was ready for some awe. I read a quote recently my friend Brydie shared, let me find it. 

One sec I’ll share it here. 

Here it is …

” … studies have shown that awe can make us more patient and less irritable, more humble, more curious and more creative.” Julia Baird. 

Oh there it is. Actually I needed to read that today. Yes, awe. What a fabulous ‘thing’ to wish for. To experience. Hmmm, yes awe, indeed, this is what I strive to accumulate. Moments of awe. In fact I just found my new intentional direction – in pursuit of awe. Oooh yes. I’ll come back to this once I’ve caught you up on Tuscany.

As soon as we arrived at the parking space to the town it was different! No tourists. No buses. No Busy. We zipped into a parking spot and wandered 100 or so metres through the gated entrance to this classic Tuscan Hill Town.

This is ancient, traditional and modern Italy. And this is an exceptional moment in time to experience it. Big deep appreciative breaths (from behind the mask). Everyone is wearing masks here. So different to The Netherlands where the reluctance to wear masks (except where it is mandated on PT) is quite astounding to me. 

First food. As we wandered into the town there was a restaurant directly to the left. The food looked mouth watering. In case you’re there the restaurant is Osteria Porta di Bacco.

‘Greg, look at that food’ I said. 

‘Let’s eat here!’ He replied directly.

Ok then lunch sorted. And of course there was a table available because few tourists. 

Sweet Jesus! The food. We all died and went to heaven. Can I share with you how pleasing it is to have your kids socks rocked by food. Very pleasing indeed. 

‘Best food ever’ they proclaimed in unison (even the fussy ones). 

The pasta is pici and it’s traditional to this area. It is also apparently one of the easy pasta’s to make at home. I will be trying it! Jamie has one that’s made with courgette. Anyone want to try with me? Here’s the recipe. I’ll give it a whirl this weekend – seems like an ‘awe’ inducing kind of thing to try. 

The kids had theirs with wild boar ragu. It’s their favourite meal now, Not sure where to find wild boar but I’m on the look out. It’s also not heavy on the sauce. We get that a bit wrong outside of Italy I think. Mine was a simple one; tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. I also had stuffed zucchini flowers … that melted in my mouth. Greg ate a cow as you can see. The boys assisted. 

 

The afternoon was spent slowly wandering the car-less cobblestone laneways and taking in the beauty that is to be somewhere astounding. Somewhere that is centuries old. Centuries old ingredients, walls and life. We walked (and parkoured) in the footsteps of those who has walked and lived amongst these walls in complete contented awe. There was no need to be nervous about traveling here now in Corona times, I felt the fear ease. 

‘This’ I said to Greg.

‘This wandering amongst life and history (and eating) is a thing I love to do’. 

This day I really felt awe. I felt a deep return to a feeling I love. The joy of wanderlust. 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t forget you in Tuscany!

I did however take leave from the Tuscan villa to do some exploring and at the same time I took some leave from writing. And from thinking about writing. Because sometimes it’s the time to do the living without expectations, without the commitments. To go out and learn things, feel things, make things, try things, new things, old things differently, just things, experiencing the things and the feels.

It’s not a biggie today, just a little note to say I’ll pick up where I left off in Tuscany tomorrow. A hill top town friends, that’s where we will go. My writing here is not a thing I want to leave behind. I’ve missed this space, the routine of it, the clarity that comes from it, the longer words that allow more depth than a caption. The way it propels me towards my own path and of course the connection with you lot. I’ve missed you.

 

 

Walking Through The Tuscan Hills.

 

Many years ago, perhaps 16 or so we traveled through Italy with our then six month old baby boy. He’s our nearly 16 yo delightful lad now! We stopped a few days in Tuscany during this Italy trip with the baby and stayed at an old villa with big Tuscan style rooms and a shared kitchen. In this shared kitchen we met walkers! Walkers of all ages who’d spent their days wandering the hills of Tuscany. Their nights were spent stopping along the way in these shared style accommodation guest houses eating and chattering.

Our villa is along the way of a walk called Via di Francesco. Also we’re right by the town of Poppi. This is funny to my family as pop is my childhood nickname. Pop is the Dutch for doll. My dad called me poppi! Dolly. You do know I like a coincidence. :)

Most days I walk to the right of my front door and head up the hill. I’m drawn to a good climb. On this day, however, I went left. Left in the fierce heat (with water and a visor) to see what I could see. In search of, and open to the treasure. There is always trasure.

Each step in the heat blissfully rewarded with wildflowers, farmland, nature and peace. The kind of peace walking allows you in its gentle rhythmic, meditative way. Yes I could feel those mozzie bites (all 500 of them), and yeah it was hot and sweaty, and yes a bit of hmm I wandering alone in a far away land, but also just the beauty of the trail and me.

‘Solvitur Ambulando – It Is Solved By Walking.’

Remember this one friends. It’s one of my favourites. And one I think can help us in these crazy times. Walking creates the space to wonder. Space to flip the circuit if we’re stuck in thoughts. It’s an invitation to notice the happenings of the season, the time. It’s a way for our minds to gently process on its own in the background, while we can be lost in the world of ‘doing the noticing’.

On this day I did realise how much I do love to walk these long walks across countries. I would like to make time for these when the time allows us again. A long camino is not in my life space/timing right now. But days, possibly a week here and there, yes. I would definitely love to do some walking across Tuscany.

I’d like to do it with a friend I’ve decided. I’ll be seeking the ‘hers’ who love to hike when I return. I’d like to be one of those walkers who arrives at a guest house after a day’s wandering and debriefing the fun, laughing at the challenges and eating the local food. When I find her, I’ll be asking ‘her’ if she’d like to go for some days of walking through hills. I think in these times we need to know our ‘hers’ ladies. And we do need to walk with ‘her’, so do ask her if you need a walk or talk.

#stillwriting

#beenadventuring

#beenexploring

#catchingup

From The Grill In Tuscany

An evening meal grilled on the barbecue is an exceptionally fine way to ease into an evening of together whilst holidaying in Tuscany. The weather here has become so warm even the crickets and cicadas have gone silent. In these surreal travel times we find ourselves eating in for our trip. Of course this was the plan. To simply find a bolthole we could set up home in for a wee time.

Thankfully, one of us loves to cook! And he’s rather spectacular when it comes to Italian cuisine. I refer to him as the Italo-food-phile. Let me take you through some simple Italian style dishes we feasted on last night. Perhaps there’s one for you? All these dishes can be also be done in a pan or roasted in the oven.

First job, heat the charcoal grill! Then the zucchini’s are added. These have been cut length wise in quarters and seasoned with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), salt and pepper. As the foodie started the cooking I joined him with the topped glasses, it seemed the supportive thing on a Saturday night to do :). And quite frankly the setting does demand it! Look at that view. Obviously we left dry July in Holland.

Next up the radicchio. Drizzled in EVOO and grilled on the BBQ. Once cooked topped with balsamic to serve. Slightly bitter, crunchy, delicious and full of goodness for health.

The Chicken. These pieces had been mixed with garlic, rosemary (from the garden, goodness) and lemon juice, the mixing perhaps half an hour before the cooking. You could prepare earlier and leave in the fridge.

When in Italy – tomatoes of course! With a little salad, parmigiano  and topped with EVOO and balsamic (of course). We did plan to add roasted peppers but forgot!

Served with bread for soaking the flavour and leftover sauce from the bottom of the plate! Perhaps we would have eaten in local restaurants some evenings in different times. We ventured out for gelato one evening this week. The town was quiet, many restaurants and bars empty. It’s hard to know how busy this town would normally be as we are off the tourist grid but I imagine there would be some tourism. Tourism which as yet hasn’t returned.

It’s a treat to eat under the golden light with the local town in view. In normal times we’d be campervanning in summer. Today we talked of many things and of the  freedom of the van. In this heat we’d probably have moved towards the mountains to cool down at night. There’s a lot of delicious food and much food for thought this trip! Or is this a collective time of considering where we all are? You, me our friends and families.

Where we are now and where we want to be. It seems the time and place for pondering and feeling grateful for good things. And of good things, thankfully, a cool breeze arrived this evening. Hopefully, combined with another day of hiking in this Tuscan landscape sleep will come easily tonight. And also to my friends and family in Melbourne in this time of great unease they may be finding themselves in. An unease that’s a little with me too because of my love for them.

#writingstreak

#underthetuscansun

#ladocevita

 

 

 

Stories inspired by travel and life from the verdant Dutch Village we currently call home.

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