Day 5 of our Italy trip was spent in Tuscany. I have loved every moment of my time in Italy. The people are gracious and funny and kind. The cities are bustling. And the landscapes are stunning. However, I have always felt drawn to the region known as Tuscany, and today I had the deep pleasure of being in the heart of Italy.
Our mornings begin early! As usual, we were on the bus and headed to our first destination at 7:45. We have a rotating seat schedule. Today Elissa, Dayan and I were the front of the bus “kids”. Elissa had the section on the right, behind our competent tour director Fabiola, to herself. Dayan and I sat behind our awesome bus driver, Luciano.
It is the location everyone wants and all will have the chance to sit in those seats. From that vantage point, the views are amazing and Fabi chats and provides additional info. Today we happened to drive along many winding, hilly, one lane roads. I squeaked, gulped or looked away more than once. And vehicle drivers, especially those on scooters and motorcycles, squeeze through impossibly narrow gaps driving at high speeds. It was exhilarating and terrifying to ride up front, although Luciano handled the big bus with ease and calmness.
My favorite part about sitting up front was listening to Luciano and Fabi talk to each other in Italian. Fabi has been teaching us words and phrases everyday in this lilting language. I listened for words I recognized as they chatted. I especially loved when they would laugh together.
My clever way of taking a pic of our driver, in the blue shirt, and our tour director, using the rear view mirror. It seemed a better option than looming over them from above! I promise to post a better picture soon.
Our first stop this morning was Siena, where we walked through narrow streets to the Piazza del Campo. Twice a year the square is the arena for the Palio, a medieval style horse race. From there we visited the spectacular Cathedral of Siena. These humongous ornate buildings literally make me gasp with surprise and often bring tears to my eyes. The architecture is incredible. And as a special treat, Dayan and Elissa (and several other members of our group) bought delicious candies and cookies from a little shop near our gathering spot. I was told the treats were the best thing ever!
Next on our schedule was the medieval town of San Gimignano. This village of 7,000 citizens is ancient, and looks it, with its stone walls, arches and towers. The narrow streets are cobblestone and the buildings rise up from the lanes, shops and restaurants on the ground floor, living quarters above. These towns fascinate me. I could wander around in them for days. Elissa and Dayan climbed almost 300 steps to reach the top of a tower. I hung out with my new friend Judy, from New Zealand. I loved this village!
Our last stop was at the Castello di Verrazzano, deep in wine and olive country. The drive, along those twisting roads, offered incredible views of vineyards, olive groves and villages perched on hilltops. The Tuscany I have always pictured in my head was outside the bus windows today.
The highlight of our day was the stop at the castle, where we learned about wine making and viewed 16th century wine cellars with the charming Neri, and then enjoyed a wine tasting followed by a wonderful four course meal. Once again, the chef prepared special dishes for me, without gluten, meat, sugar or dairy products. It touches my heart that they so willingly see to my dietary needs, and do so earnestly and graciously. When I say “grazi”, they beam with pleasure.
Today was a special day for me. Like my grandson, I have long held a dream that included visiting Tuscany. About 10 years ago, before Dayan decided to visit Italy, I wrote out that I intended to visit Tuscany, Scotland and England, for inspiration in creating a community called Rivendell.
And look at this. 2017 is my year of Inspiration. I am in Italy now. This fall, I am traveling to Ireland, Scotland and England. I am visiting the countries I wrote an intention about, all in the same year, and throwing in Ireland as well. I am creating memories with my daughter and grandson in a place that has pierced my heart with its beauty. I am so inspired. And so grateful.
When I opened Facebook briefly this morning, after boarding the bus, this quote was the first thing I saw: