Umbria and Tuscany
Trip Start Feb 27, 2008
31Trip End May 28, 2008
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Where I stayed
Frank and Gaie's house
Frank picked us up from the train station and delivered us through some of the least maintained and windy roads I've been on lately. Frank and Gaie have a little villa near the castle of Monte Santa Marie Tiberna. It's a renovated farmhouse from centuries ago. Nobody knows when it was originally built, and it's the perfect getaway from any style of urban living. This place is out in the middle of nowhere. The air is clean and crisp and at night all the stars come out because there is no light saturation. If you sit long enough you can actually hear yourself think. Frank's father, a true Scotsman like Frank, was staying with them for this holiday as well. He was excellent entertainment and a pleasure to share stories with. Unlike most grandparents who bake cookies or sit on the front porch reading newspapers, Bobby is in his upper eighties and still conducting research on the authors of the Geneva bible and weeding the garden in his spare time
Gaie had dinner and champagne waiting for us when we arrived. I don't know what I did to deserve this treatment, but I'll try to keep doing it. We had rabbit stew with potatoes. Salad and smoked salmon on crackers with cheese and bread afterwards. The food was excellent and the hospitality was absolutely over the top. We went to bed completely content with big smiles on our faces tomorrow, for the first time in as long as we could remember, we had no plans......
Day 27 - We slept in and it was AWESOME! Gaie, Frank, and Bobby went into Florence for a lunch date so we had the place all to ourselves. I grabbed a can of fruit out of my bag and wondered if I could fine a spoon in their kitchen, but when I walked down I found that they had left a full breakfast set out for us. I have died and gone to heaven this place is as good as home. After breakfast and coffee from a perculating coffeemaker (I love those things) I set to the tast of connecting to the Internet. The directions for the ADSL were in Italian but using my general computer knowledge I half guessed at what words meant and I ended up making it work. I now have food and internet--- this might as well be home! Karla and I visited some of the buildings around the house. These include an old church, a couple of worn down farmhouses and a tower that was used as a signal house
Day 28 - We woke up very early and Frank chaueffered us to the train station where we caught the train to Florence. Now not having backpacks we were able to go inside the Duomo. We were a bit jaded about the number of cathefrals we had seen in the last four weeks so we decided against the 460+ stair climb to the top of the dome-leave something for next time right? We meandered through the streets gazing at the shops and eventually found a pizzeria where we had lunch
Karla met Nadine while they were living in the same building in New York. Karla was doing her internship and Nadine was going to law school. The two became good friends and a year later Karla flew to the UK to attend Nadine's wedding. That is where Karla met Frank, Gaie and Bobby as well. Nadine arrived in Florence later then she expected but we still had time to meet up with her sorta-step sister Sophie who is an artist working at a modern gallery in town. We went to an Irish pub in the Duomo piazza. I've noticed you can find an Irish pub in almost any city in Europe, or the world for that matter. This particular pub had a happy hour special where you could pay for the bill in either Euros or US dollars. Given the current exchange rate, how could I pass up a chance to get rid of these green backs-I bought a round for everyone. It was raining cats and dogs so we splashed our way back to the train station and took a train to Arezzo
Day 29 - Today I woke up early and assisted Frank in gathering and cutting wood for the hungry fireplaces. I could hear the voice of my father in my head the entire day. "You like a warm fire and the wood isn't going to chop itself". We felled an old apple tree that was half dead and leaning precariously. I taught Karla how to chop wood and Gaie did a load of wash. Frank and I then hiked into the woods and fetched a small car-load of aged wood left on the forest floor, chopped and stacked it. After a month of vacationing it felt good to put in a days work and earn actually earn the excellent dinner we had that evening.
Day 30 - I woke slowly and had to stretch before rising. I am only 25 years old but already I understand why older men comment on youth. I can still chop wood like I used to, but I can't get up quite as quickly the next day. It only took me half the morning (and three ibuprophen) to mend myself. For lunch we were shuttled into citta d' castello (City of the Castle). The car was too small to fit all of us, so we had to travel in shifts. Nadine, Karla and I went first and walked around the market while Frank returned for Gaie and Bobby. We had an excellent lunch at one of Frank and Gaie's favorite places called Café Roma. This was a very cool restraunt that was so friendly. They greeted Gaie and Frank like family and Bobby like a local Celebrity. After dinner we had Ice cream for dessert and the hostess gave us the glass dishes afterward. I couldn't believe the hospitality! This region was turning my opinions on the Italian culture, Now just the Romans are on my shit list. After lunch we retired to the house and did absolutely nothing
I know it's difficult to write about it when I've done nothing but it's so good for the soul to have a break from all the fast-paced touring without feeling like I'm missing any sights or anything important.
Dinner that evening of course, was very good. I can't thank Gaie enough for all the effort that she put into preparing meals for us. The Topics of conversation that evening included high fashion, Football, Beckham, and concluded with Frank's parlor tricks including setting a teabag into flight while on fire and holding back a glass of water from spilling by using his napkin. These are the type of people I could spend weeks on end with and never get bored of their company.
Day 31 - Today was Barbecue day, and for the second day in a row it had been textbook perfect weather. Bright blue skies, a light breeze and not a cloud in sight. A neighbor brought his daughter down to the barbecue because she was studying English and wanted to brush up on her skills with some native speakers before planning to go to the UK and US. Frank didn't have any charcoal so we had to try a new method of filling the webber with the hot coals from the bottom of the wood stove. All day I tended the fire and probably roasted and entire tree in my attempts to keep the barbeque going
I am sad to be leaving this place, but as so many rock and rollers before me have stated: "the show must go on" and we have many more countries to see. Gaie and Frank are nice enough to invite us back and the stay was so enchanting that I think we might have to take them up on the offer some time in the future. I feel recharged and ready to take on the world again. Frank and Gaie, if you read this, you've made our trip wonderful, thankyou.