Tag Archives: Adventure

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Tuscan Wandering.

Every window and every door of this traditional Tuscan villa offers a glimpse of postcard Tuscan wonder. This vista the view from the bathroom. When the end of the work week arrived last night, rather than a knock off drink the husband and I took ourselves off on a knock off hike! A wander out the front door and up into the Tuscan wonder.

I’ve given up my running schedule while I’m here to hike this trail each day. It is spectacular. And it’s simply Tuscany. The colours, the rolling hills and valleys, olive groves, vineyards, bountiful fruit trees, earthy brick and concrete buildings as far as the eyes can see, wildflowers at ground level and expansive skies above. The buzzing of the flies during the day and the mozzies at night remind us there’s always some discomfort! However, dips in the pool, a fan to sleep near and Italian gastronomy more than compensate for this.

My legs hurt in new places. I tricked them with these hills and the hiking. They were so used to running across flat Holland. This is the hiking I love. Wild wonder. Adventurous trails with surprises along the way. It’s good to change it up, do something different with your legs and for your mind don’t you think? I feel a familiar sense of myself on these trails. Hiking through and across countries. The solitude of simply walking.

It’s a weird time in the word to be travelling. The familiarity of being here, the slowness of the days, the long nights and the unfurling of this unplanned time away doesn’t feel like travel. It feels like living. Living within a community, quietly up on the hill and in the local wildness. This is slow travel, this is home for now, this time here behind the Tuscan windows.

#underthetuscansun

#writingstreak

#somewherenewwithlife

 

 

 

 

A Little Story Of Synchronicity From My Tuscan Desk

I was a little way into my writing streak when I happened on a heron. I was out running. I hadn’t seen a heron for a while so I had to stop. In the past I’ve written about heron’s.  What are you here for? I wondered. Why am I seeing you now? And yet, of course I knew. I didn’t get the message last time. I wasn’t ready. I had more hurdles to jump.

I see a lot of myself in the totem meaning of a heron.

It’s the resourcefulness and self reliance of the heron I’m drawn to. It’s the reason I think it continues to show up for me. Use what you’ve got. Adapt to your setting. Grow something new with this opportunity. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. But in this phase it’s been more of a struggle.

Writing here daily, my #writingstreak happened after I had a fall whilst out running. I wrote To Fall Or Not To Fall. Deep down I knew I hadn’t tried hard enough with writing this camino story of mine. And yet I didn’t feel ready or able to go back to the book.

It felt like too big a challenge to simply go back to writing the book. So I decided to write daily. Running daily had proven to be an excellent way to start something with running. Why not see where writing each day would take me? It could only be good!

The night I’d seen the heron I started to watch some YouTube videos about writing a memoir. Meh interesting but lots about plans, order and software. I like the idea of all of that, but it’s not me. I’d have to change too much. Then I happened on a video interview between Joanna Penn and Rachael Herron on how to draft you memoir.

This interview completely engaged me. Rachael basically says Just.Write.The.Book. Don’ edit, don’t stop, just get on with and write a draft. She talked about NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. The annual writing project where during the month of November people use the month to write a  50,000 novel. Yes, an entire novel. Each day 1,667 words.

Hmmm I thought. There’s something in this. I’d heard it before. Just write the darn thing.

Later that night I looked up Rachael’s website. It was then her surname dawned on me. Herron. Sure it had a double ‘r’ but still it’s not a stretch for me to find some synchronicity there. I signed up to her email subscriber lists and let her ideas sit with me.

That week I also received a comment on my blog from a writer whose blog I went on to read. I happened on this post of his. Write A Shitty First Draft. I Dare You. The penny was starting to drop.

“The only kind of writing is rewriting.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I already had the structure, a plan. I blogged my camino. I already had the backstory behind it. I’d lived it. I’d even blogged that too! Those of you who have been around for a while remember Choosing Simplicity and The Gentle Intention? What I didn’t have was a first draft to start rewriting, or to call a book.

I continued to write daily. Through the easy days and the blocks. I kept my eyes open for little stories to tell. I tried different things. I learnt that I can write each day. I learnt there are stories everywhere and I realised how I write is how I write. I write non fiction and non ‘how to’s’. What I write is personal stories. This is my style. This is the style I find meaning in. It’s the style that flows from my dreamy world and into the keyboard through my fingers.

I am a memoirist.

I also learnt to not feel guilt or scared or ashamed of the time I give to writing, or of my writing. It became something normal I did. ‘Are you writing your blog’ the kids ask. They’d watch Bondi Rescue and I’d write. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes the afternoon. If time was short I’d shorten what I wrote but I still wrote. Everyday.  Every day for 31 days. I’d notice errors after I’d posted. I’d correct them and move on. I’m sure it will happen today too. No confidence has been lost to mistakes. It’s all practice. It’s being unafraid to fall.

‘Let us risk the wildest places, Lest we go down in comfort, and despair.’ – Mary Oliver

To write for me is to take the risk into the wildest place. The risk of failure is far more attractive to me that the risk of comfort and despair.  Except there is no failure. I am writing a book and let’s face it, the chances of it being published are next to slim. I am totally cool with that. I am writing the story because I want to write it. The story wants me to write it. I am prepared now. I have the skills to get the first draft written. Beyond that I’ll develop the skills required. I’m resourceful, I’m a heron. And dear heron I’m in the wildest place. Writing myself into adventures and creating a story from a story. To me there is no wilder place.

 

#writingstreak

#day31/31

#theplacesyouwillgo

#cookthebook

#writethebook

#steertheship

#fromwhereIstand