Like sand through an hour glass, the days of our time in Tuscany have almost run out. Staying in an agritourismo, a sort of self contained farm house, has been an experience so gentle and life-giving, it deserves a few lines of description.
We've spent 8 days now, high in the foothills above Lake Tresamino near the medieval hill town of Montepulciano. The views are stunning and encourage reflection on anything you like as you sit on a chair in the early morning watching the world below stretch, rub its eyes and start its day.
Most days we set out on the local back roads to no particular destination. While fuel is expensive, food and drink are very cheap compared to what we are used to, and it's been easy to talk ourselves into a lazy lunch at some eatery or other. Bliss . . . although it's wise to be careful with the wine and beer if you are driving afterwards. Some days we took a picnic lunch, thrown together after a supermarket foray; once again, very cheap and good quality food. The taste of sliced roast pork with stuffing is imprinted on my memory. Melt in the mouth stuff!
You can spend time in the many tourist oriented shops selling artwork, leather goods and ceramics, and of course wine. We did that, but after a day or so the novelty pales. Luckily we resisted most of the urges to buy that special piece we'd fallen in love with.
Far better to park the car and walk around areas off the tourist track. Unfortunately, the roads are not set up for walkers and there are not many, if any, dedicated paths that we found. If you look for possibilities though, you will be rewarded by rich experiences, one after another. Personally I would not even consider cycling in this area. For one, it's too hilly. More crucially it's just too dangerous on the roads which are narrow and carry fast traffic. Cyclists here earn my respect!
This morning, feeling like a quieter day, we searched for, and found, a local market.
Fresh, colourful, aromatic fruit and vegetables of all kinds filled a multitude of baskets and tables. They were for sale at ridiculous prices. The only obstacle was that unless your sign language was good you needed a little basic Italian. We passed the test though and came home with bags full of cauliflower, potato, egg plant, onion, and, of course, lashings of sliced stuffed pork for lunch. I feel an afternoon siesta coming on!
Sue bought a bright red table cloth for a few euroes and I considered a leather belt but fought the impulse.
We were the only tourists at the market that I could see. This was such a welcome change from yesterday when we foolishly set out for a day in Florence. What a huge contrast between the two experiences! Yesterday: crowded, smelly, dirty, expensive (albeit beautiful in parts), with tidal waves of gum-chewing tourists, many of whom would have thought that a visit to Florence meant they had 'done' Italy. (Ok, maybe I am being a little unkind). Today: a community experience, immeasurably cheaper, not much cleaner, but still with its own beauty. I know which day I will treasure most in memory.
Tomorrow is our final day in this beautiful part of Tuscany. We will be sad as we catch the train north to the Alps. Pienza, Orvieto, Assisi, Montepulciano, Montalcino: We will miss you!
While I wouldn't necessarily say this has been a cheap experience, it was an inexpensive one. Nowhere near as expensive as the same time in one of the cities thick with tourists, such as Rome, Florence or Venice would have been. My estimate? Maybe 50% cheaper – for an unforgetable experience (depending on the mix of eating in and eating out you choose). Accommodation cost us around 60 euroes a night.
Slow holidaying with a large helping of culture, delicious food, and beauty all around.