It has been long on my list of places to experience. Just the imagery conjured up by the name...TUSCANY... In my mind's eye, I envisioned sweeping vistas of rolling Tuscan hills dotted with Cypress trees, vineyards, and olive groves. I imagined classic Etruscan architecture, the simple grandeur of organic structures born of naturally hewn stone, terra cotta, travertine glowing an ochre coloured light.
We rented a villa with Canadian friends outside of the village of Anghiari about a half-hour from Arezzo bordering Tuscany and Umbria. It was at the very top of one of my imagined Tuscan hills. About 10 minutes, straight up a dusty, winding, hot trail ending at our villa with the dreamed-of spectacular view south over Umbria.
I had also imagined that it would be hot and boy was that an understatement. The temperature hovered between 37 and 40 degrees celsius everyday, phew. Thank goodness for the beautiful pool at our villa. We couldn't keep Murphy out of it, she was the first in everyday and swam laps around us for hours.
It was too steamy to daytrip much or venture too far afield. Instead we lounged poolside reading, swimming with the kids, wandering the surrounding olive and fig groves looking for Scorpions and Lizards. Late in the afternoon, we would sit under the Wisteria and Jasmine pergola drinking ice cold white wine, eating pears and parmesan, and melon and prosciutto.
C2 and I left J happily with our friends and their son Tomas one day and took a train north to Florence. We had an adult-only culture date and we revelled in the beauty of this lovely renaissance city. We wandered over the Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace, marvelled at the wonder of the Duomo, and stared in amazement at the open air sculptures of the Palazzo Vecchio.
We discovered a little out of the way restaurant near the Uffizi Museum populated by locals and had a wonderful lunch of braesola, fresh crisp salad, strachietelli mozzarella (the result of the first skimming of the cheese and unlike anything we had ever tasted before), and a gorgeous glass of Chianti. We drooped with the heat by the time we returned anxious to plunge into our delicious pool.
Most evenings, we lingered either on the sun-drenched kitchen terrace or under the cooler pergola eating pizza made in our own pizza oven, or taking pleasure in C2's or Jon's wonderful cooking. Long evenings spent in the laughter of our children, listening to the Cigales (Cicadas) song, drinking Super Tuscans or rich Chiantis, and talking and talking.
We explored the medieval village of Anghiari thoroughly, letting the kids lead us through the old castle walls, seeking out secret passages where they could find them, and rewarding them with granita or gelato. We wondered at the lives of the people living behind the colourful shutters or in the tiny houses up the winding stairs. Our imaginations and curiousity were on full alert.
We also wandered the Tuscan jewel that is Arezzo sitting high on a hill rising up from the Arno River valley. Arezzo was empty of tourists perhaps kept away by the killer heat or by the killer economic climate. A shame, since it's medieval core was an unexpected delight and its' cathedral or duomo, the most stunning I have seen outside of St. Peter's in Rome.
Our children had a wondrous adventure, our empty tanks got filled, our curiosity satiated, and our palates more than pleased. We reluctantly bid arrivederci to Tuscany and returned home for a few days. Happily, we head back to our beloved Italia shortly when we make our annual pilgramage to the beach town of Levanto.