Tuscany, for now…

I’ve been traveling for the past two weeks. A fourth set of friends arrived from Oregon and I played tour guide, showing them around Rome, Ascoli Piceno and Florence.

In Rome we stayed at a little hotel near St. Paul’s Basilica. It was a bit out of the way, but with the ubiquity of Rome’s metro system, we had access to everything.

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Columns in the Roman Forum

The weather in Rome was stiflingly hot and humid. Our first day visiting the Colosseum and Roman Forum found us sweating in 106-degree weather. Traipsing through the Forum was brutal. In the Colosseum I found myself standing behind walls, out of the sun, while my friends snapped photos, oohing and aahing.

The Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica were equally impressive to my companions. Indeed, it was fun watching their eyes widen with wonder as they tried to absorb the finesse behind the tapestries, sculptures and frescoes. Sometimes the three of us would just peer silently.

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Each night found us in a trattoria gorging on handmade pastas with homemade sauces. The desk clerk at our hotel directed us to neighborhood ristorantes where we were treated to exquisite house wines, succulent olives and original entrees. We returned to the restaurants to savor their offerings.

One restaurant in particular noticed that we had returned. Flattered, the owner proffered to us a heaping platter of steamed mussels in olive oil. As we ended our meal, he brought out his mother’s homemade limoncello so grateful was he for our returning patronage. Aaah, Italia!

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In Ascoli Piceno we spent one night in a medieval neighborhood in a tiny hotel. Across the alley was the hotel restaurant where we had lunch. I was able to show my friends around the Piazza del Popolo. We went wine tasting and sampled cocktails. Appetizers with generous helpings were given to us.

I showed them around Ascoli and we visited the churches. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to really do Ascoli justice. We were unable to see the local towns. And, to my horror, my favorite restaurant, La Luna, with its delectable olive d’ Ascolana, was closed.

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From Ascoli, we rented a car and I drove us through along winding roads through the mountains into Umbria and, ultimately, Tuscany. We arrived at our hotel right after a thunderstorm featuring teeth-chattering thunder.

In Florence we saw the Ponte Vecchio, piazzas, cathedrals and the leather market. For two nights in a row we dined at a restaurant I had found last year. We swooned over wild boar pasta, prosciutto and melon appetizers, spinach ravioli, grilled chicken and a tiramisu made by angels themselves.

IMG_1607After Florence, we stayed with their friends who showed us a wonderful time and offered us the opportunity to truly revel in the glorious image that is Toscana.

Our hosts took us for exotic dinners at agriturismos and former estates. We dined on risottos and pastas, washed down with languid house wines. The ambrosia-like nectar of Italian espresso ended our heavenly experiences. We drove down country lanes lined with oaks and Italian cypress and gazed over the undulating Tuscan hills covered with immaculately lined olive orchards and grape vineyards.

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The Tuscan hills surrounding Vinci

In Vinci we visited the da Vinci museum and learned of the brilliance of Leonardo. I was struck to realize that Leonardo da Vinci’s name technically means “Leonard from Vinci”. The town of Vinci was the definition of picturesque. We climbed to the top of the cathedral tower and were swept away by the breathtaking 180-degree views of Tuscany’s countryside.

Now I find myself on a train to Turin to hook up with my beloved cousin for the opening game of the soccer season at Juventus Stadium. I’ve never been to a professional soccer game in Italy so this should be quite the experience.

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Our restaurant in Tuscany

Soccer, of course, is a national passion in Italy. It’s practically a religion. There is something about attending live events that cannot be expressed adequately. It’s so much more enthralling than the passivity afforded television viewing. Being in the audience allows one to witness the exuberance and excitement.

I will stay in Turin for a couple of days. While there, I will isolate myself during the day to get caught up on my writing. I am still working on my essay for the website, Portrait of an Adoption. I want it to be the best it can be. It’s due September 30 so I still have time. But I don’t want to procrastinate.

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The view from our Tuscan restaurant

I will also get caught up on my blogging. This month has been too sparse in the two and a half years of writing for my blog. It’s difficult to write when you’re out the door early and plopping into bed at midnight after a day of sightseeing.

And I have to buckle down on the job search. I’ve got cover letters to write and resumes to tweak. I’ve got companies and jobs to research. There’s so much to occupy my time.

And I have to plan for trips to Liverpool, Cairo and Lviv. I need to buy airline tickets, reserve rooms on Booking.com or Airbnb. My time in Italy is winding down and I find myself feverish to do as much as possible.

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Florence street performer

Should I have been traveling more? There’s so much more I want to see. I’d like to get to Nice. I’d like to see the Baltics. I wanted to visit Belgrade and Petra. I would love to spend more time in Paris.

Should I? The travel I have planned is going to take up a lot of time. More friends arrive in Tuscany in September. Another cousin wants me to visit her and her family in La Spezia. And I want to spend as much time with my family near Ascoli Piceno as possible. I feel a bit of angst because there’s so much to do and so little time left. And I have to watch my funds!

Whatever happens, I will not be disappointed. I’ve had the most sensational experience of a lifetime. Mere words are not enough to describe what I feel inside and how joyful I am.

 

 

 

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