I am home again jig-adi-jig after a wonderful week in Tuscany, Italy. It is not a place I have been before but it is a place I want to return to whenever I can. The weather was remarkable, after a torrential few days of rain in Ireland we arrived to temperatures in the 30’s. We stayed in an Airbnb rental in Larciano, a small village equal distance from Florence and Pisa of about an hour. The house was very traditional with oak beams and cool stone walls and there was plenty of room for the whole family and we had some wonderful meals sat around the big kitchen table.
The cities however beautiful were not my highlight but the calm, peace and tranquillity of the medieval towns and villages peppered on the hills around us were absorbing in their charm and distinctive architecture. The hill side olive groves, the erect Tuscan cypress trees and the crisp golden grasses dotted with wild flowers, red poppies, blue gentian, pink dianthus and walls of flowering jasmine heady with scent.
We spotted a pair of hoopoes nesting nearby as well as turtle and collared doves. Butterflies flittered during the day, including a yellow brimstone, lizards sunned themselves on the stone walls and fireflies lit up the night accompanied by chirping crickets. One night the sky high above the mountain behind us gave a tremendous back drop to an electrical storm even though there was no rain and a barmy 24 degrees.
We feasted on the flavoursome bounty, the assortment of fresh sweet fruit, melons, apricots, peaches and my personal favourite handfuls of red and black cherries, with their mixture of sweet and sour juices. We made a fruit salad that matched the colours of Tuscany, the houses various shades of the fruit adorned mostly with green shutters and topped with terracotta tiles.
Cold smoked meats, fat plump sausages, salty cheese and olives galore washed down with red wine and the occasional not so Italian Gin and Tonic in the evening.
There was hot coffee to die for and cool gelato ice cream during the heat of the day to refresh the sweating brow. The small town of Vinci the birth place of Leonardo was a family favourite and the romantic and musical sounding Montecatini with its designer shops and film set features and the much smaller town of San Miniato perched high above the countryside below offering a breathtaking view over vineyards and fields of sunflowers.
In Cerreto Guidi we discovered a Medici House and wandered round its cool interior marvelling at the frescos of local scenes, in the gardens amongst the wisteria arch swallow-tailed butterflies floated like kites and one took a fancy to a fake flower on Jasmine’s hat.
Suki spotted the blue flash of a bird in one village and I went exploring with my camera. I was delighted to find what I later discovered was a Blue Rock Thrush proudly carrying a lizard in its beak, a tasty morsel.
Hours were spent by the side of the small private pool in amongst the shade of the trees or cooking our own version of Italian pasta dishes using the lush plum tomatoes complementing the local beef simmering on the range. Lemons hung from the pot plants and small oranges hid amongst their shiny green leaves.
I don’t speak much Italian other than hello, goodbye and thank you but I was asked a number of times on my opinion of Brexit! I don’t live in the UK but as I spoke English it was presumed I did. Everyone who asked me seemed sad about the UK leaving Europe, “jumping the boat,” as one man in Florence described it.
There appear to be many economic problems in Italy and many were keen to talk about it and expressing an uncertain future, so behind the ancient statues and thick stone walls the Italians just like us worry about the journey we are all taking, the flora and fauna may be different but the hopes fears and aspirations are the same, we often focus on what are the differences between us and maybe we could look more towards what makes us the same.
I am glad to be home and I managed to bring a little sunshine back with us. The garden needs a bit of a tidy up, the grass needs cutting and the hedges trimming as well as the weeding. When I came back from China I was inspired to build the Chinese Garden and now I am thinking of a Tuscan Garden, it is too wet and windy for the Tuscan cypress and I won’t get vines and citrus trees to grow outside but I still have some ideas that I plan to try out, a miniature version using plants more suited to Ireland, I will have to put some more thought into it but I think it might just work.