No Longer Just Dreaming of Tuscany
After a relatively simple drive south from Venice to Tuscany, but a rather complicated search for our villa once we got there, we finally arrived at our beautiful countryside destination. It was a two storey, two bedroom, 16th century structure filled with antiques (not just us), but with modern conveniences for daily comfort such as TV, stove, fridge (except for heat, which would have been 20 euros a day extra- we wore sweaters instead). The owner was very welcoming to Canadians. In fact, all the Italian people were very helpful, especially when we couldn't find a street, a store or a parking spot, ... or we got lost.
At right I'm reading in the living room of our villa. Notice the ancient beams holding up the second floor. The walls were at least a foot and a half thick!
Here I'm having a wonderful meal in our dining area prepared by Chef Judy.
And here she is doing her thing, in the small but efficient cooking area.
About 5 minutes from our villa was a large CO-OP grocery store very similar to those we have in Canada. It had everything (and more) that we could wish for our home cooking desires and requirements. (You notice I used the word "our" but actually my lone contribution was eating ... and helping wash the dishes). From fish to pasta to salads- Judy was able to produce her usual gourmet meals. There were of course many items unknown to us North Americans, such as the breaded Zucchini flowers depicted below They were delicious, as were several other different treats we discovered!!!
This next photo should come with a special App so one can sample the wonderful meal that Judy created in our Tuscany castle!
And for Judy's beverage of choice, there was a vast selection of Tuscan wines to choose from.
This particular wine was a personal "everyday" favourite of the gentleman who owned our villa!
How is this for an automatic dish washer! He works for food and gelato.
Note where I'm stacking the dishes. The bottom is a wire rack which allows the water from the wet dishes to drip into the sink - a clever dish dryer/ time saver!
Our bedroom- very pretty and comfortable- especially after a long day on the road. The painting on the wall to the right is an original!
This is the second bedroom, for guests who never came...
At right is our yard as viewed from the side door off our kitchen. The fall colours were spectacular. The choice and arrangement of the plants and trees were conducive to privacy and relaxation.
Traveling by car allowed us to tour Tuscany on our own schedule, to such places as Siena, Montepulciano, Assisi and Cortona. The highways were excellent and the villages and countryside as lovely as the brochures would have you believe. However, driving in the big cities is limited to certain areas, and can be very confusing! Check out the plethora of signs at left which was all too typical.
We found this out, much to our chagrin on the morning of our return flight to Canada, when we became lost negotiating several roundabouts in the early morning darkness and rush hour of downtown Florence. In desperation, we stopped at a trattoria to ask directions. We were rescued by a man who offered to lead us to the airport, as he worked close by. So we trailed his car, which he kept at a reasonable speed, not the typical Italian speedway approach! When we reached the airport, he stopped, came over to our car and wished us well. He wouldn't take money, just said "No. I friend.", then tootled off to his workplace. Without him we would NOT have made our flight.
We had only one negative experience. This was with a gas station owner when we initially attempted to buy diesel fuel for our U-Drive. The Italian procedure is entirely different from our North American method, involving prepayment in cash at a separate machine, then taking the voucher to the gas pump and inserting it there to get the pump working, making sure it's diesel, not gas as our U-Drive was diesel!!! We really couldn't blame him because he was as frustrated as we were. He had probably spent the summer (or years) trying to educate North American tourists on how to buy diesel fuel, how to pay at a machine (cash only) and how to start the pump (Really!).
At left I am standing beside our yellow Fiat U-Drive. As can be seen it has lots of baggage room in the rear though the passenger compartment is rather crowded.
Hard to believe that it could hit over 120 km/h in just over 10 seconds!!! Sure, if we drove it off a cliff and ended up in free fall!!!
Actually, we spotted this cute beast in one of the towns near our villa.
Our U-Drive was an upgrade to an Alpha Romeo MTO powered by a diesel engine - very fast and with outstanding acceleration, yet phenomenal fuel economy!
It is shown at right and below in our villa parking area.
While it was quite stylish and relatively easy to drive, it had its drawbacks. Both the speedometer and RPM dials were partially blocked by the steering wheel. The brakes were very touchy and a six speed , manual gear shift is not easy to adapt to in Italian traffic situations and hilly roads. Clearly a typical Italian tendency of style over utility, but still a very comfortable means of transport.
Of special interest to me by this time in our trip were the Gelatos, as you may have already gathered, as they provided all the necessary basic food groups to keep me going (topped with fruit and chocolate for instant energy). As can be seen, it's best to have one in each hand for a balanced diet ... or could this possibly be a case of over-rationalization?
I defy anyone not to start salivating when confronted by the mouthwatering sight of the typical Gellateria displays at left. They were spectacular- mounds of gelato, each decorated differently with nuts or fruits or wicked sauces, all calling, "Eat me!". How many per day, you ask? I'll never tell!
And of course there was always pizza!!! My favourite, which Judy now makes, was simple: tomato sauce, mozarella, capers, sliced black olives and, most important - anchovies. Mamma mia!!!
But enough on the culinary niceties that I found so attractive...Time to share all the gorgeous vistas we encountered during our daily travels! To see a representative display from this incredibly diverse and beautiful area, just click on the impressive gateway below.
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