Thursday, 19 June 2014

Our Villa In The Tuscan Hills

I sit on the patio of an ancient Italian villa set high on the hillside of the Tuscan valley near Florence, the Villa Campestri, the new building having been constructed in the Renaissance, only five hundred years or so back, on the grounds and foundations of an ancient fort, built some 300 years before the new. The air is pleasantly cool here in the shade while sun shines, illuminating the hillsides of green, the scent of the gardens drifting by on the gentle breeze rising up from the valley below. The staff chatters in the musical lilt of Italian, guests speaking English, German, Dutch and who knows what else. It is a scene of international pastorality.

We drove here yesterday, or rather Cheryl drove, I, imprisoned in the passenger seat, trapped with legs that no longer work in a car with no hand controls. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that I did not drive at least some of a road trip, if not all of it. The time in the passenger seat was easy, allowing me to nap, to rest, and to watch the Italian countryside roll by, fields of corn, rows of fig trees, vineyards in every small patch that would hold them.

Our original plan had been to drive from Milan to Cingue Terre, about three hours. I looked the route up on Google Maps, seeing that the Google directions took us from Milan to Genoa and then down the Ligurian coast. We got in the car and punched our destination into the GPS supplied by the rental agency. It had trouble finding our destinations, something we put down to spelling on our part. We eventually found something close, with a route taking us further south, on a winding mountain road splitting the Appenines. It was about an hour along this road when we discovered why Google had a different route. The road was completely closed about 35 KM from our destination, undergoing apparently necessary roadwork.

We started to take an alternate route through narrow mountain roads that became ever narrower as we went along. Sensing a bad end to this detour, we asked a local about the way whereupon he told us that we could get there but it would take many hours and the roads would get much worse. We turned around and headed back the way we came, eventually getting to the highway. At that point we decided to defer our explorations for today, heading instead to our villa for the night.

The drive, once again piercing the low ridges and steep valleys of the Appenines Mountains, took another couple of hours, finally ending once again on a narrow, steep, twisting mountain road. Cheryl had a full day of it, driving twisting mountain roads through rural Italy. Me? I took it easy.

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