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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Respite in Tuscany

I'm wrapping up the first week of my final housesit, at least for some time to come, on a restored farm along a remote dirt road, just outside the lovely village of San Giovanni d'Asso, in the heart of Tuscany in central Italy. I'll be here through the end of May, at which time I'll return to the Loire Valley in France.

The vistas from my little cottage's window are breathtaking, particularly at sunset, when the sun's light is reflected off the terracotta-colored buildings on each hilltop village, causing them to glow as if each edifice sports a deep summer tan. Birds sing here both day and night, and the continual hum of flying insects and chirping crickets is a subtle musical backdrop to the rolling green hills. My cottage is the former hayloft, and consists of a narrow bedroom, bath and a lounge/kitchenette, and despite its diminutive size, is extremely comfortable.

It is here that I have discovered a decidedly enjoyable way to multi-task. I spend at least 90 minutes each day working on my tan while learning French, listening to audio instruction on my laptop. (The irony of studying French in Italy is not lost on me.) This way I don't feel guilty lounging in the sun, and haven't sported a tan this deep since I was on the Mediterranean in Spain two summers ago.

After that, I head for the welcome shade of the porch each afternoon to write, trying hard to ignore the profusion of scary-looking wasps and hornets that abound. (No scorpions spotted yet, although my first few nights I encountered no less than five sizeable centipedes in the bath and kitchen, each easily two or three inches long. Hardly the stuff of Papillon note but disconcerting nonetheless.)

The care of one elderly and slightly infirmed cat in a group of four means I can't venture out terribly far. It may mean missing out on places like Assisi, which I've longed to see, unless I can convince the housekeeper in the main house to do the midday feeding, as Assisi is a 3-hour roundtrip drive. (Beatriz is delightful but doesn't speak English.)

Siena is closer, just an hour away, and I'm sandwiched between Montalcino and Montepulciano, where I've already scheduled this coming Thursday and Friday, respectively, to visit the Avignonesi and La Fortuna vineyards for both wine and olive oil tastings, so it's hardly a complete loss!

If prices aren't too high (gotta watch those centimes now that I'm buying a house in France), I'll stock up on Italian goodies I can't buy in France, including what I'm told is the local prized proscuitto, cinta senese. I'll be sampling some of that on Thursday at the Montepulciano Avignonesi wine tasting. I shall even buy an obscene amount of dried pasta, as it's not easy to find recognizable brands in France, at least in rural areas. Those brands they do carry are unknown to me, whereas at least in Italy, names like Barilla and Di Cecco, popular favorites, abound. That's one advantage to making these journeys by car rather than airplane.

Ciao for now....

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