Friday, May 13, 2011

A Peaceful Morning in Tuscany!

     This morning we had a little break so were finally able to settle into our quarters in Tuscany.  Our windows overlook the fabled Chianti hills and we have a little terrace to sit outside.  So we thought we’d have breakfast on the terrace, relax for a minute and enjoy the view.  We hard boiled some brown eggs, then I toasted a piece of ciambellone that Josephine made back in Morolo to go with her homemade cherry jam from their own trees.

View outside our house
We took our plates out onto the terrace, the May sun warming the terracotta tiles.  The vista is panoramic.  If I were a painter like the group that is here this week,  I’d count 3 layers of hills shifting progressively from green to blue.  I often think, “Thank God for the glaciers,” because this landscape owes all of its soft, sensual curves to the Ice Age.  80% of what I’m seeing is forested.  And the strict Tuscan zoning laws will insure it stays that way.  There are diamond shaped patches of vineyards incised into the hillsides, dirt roads – or “white roads”, as they call them – cutting through the greenery and stone farmhouses with red tiled roofs scattered across the landscape.  Linda pointed out that the dark green cypress trees seem to be placed exactly where your eye needs a vertical line after too many horizontal curves.  (The rest of Italy jokes that Tuscans situate their cypress trees like furniture.)  I’m sure this is the same background I’ve seen in countless Renaissance paintings, like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
I cracked an egg – the yolks are yellow as saffron – while I heard the chickens cackling somewhere below us.  I could also discern the tinkle of some sheep bells down in the valley, a donkey or two braying and hundreds of birds – including a cuckoo – singing through their work.  Bees zipped by my head, not at all interested in what we were doing there.  With this sublime setting we started planning the day: taking the group into Siena, introducing them to our favorite gelateria on the Campo, showing them where Saint Catherine’s head is on display (yes, her real head!) discussing the menu for dinner.
I could smell the acacia flowers, signature of this season, and the aroma mixed with every bite of my ciambellone.  Ah, Tuscany!  The peace, the tranquility.  No wonder it is on every traveler’s list of places to visit.
Suddenly out of nowhere, a rumble turned into a roar turned into a glass shattering screech.  A pack of 5 fighter jets screamed across the sky over the wide open valley.  Then they banked sharply and blazed back through the air leaving my teeth clenched.  Practice sorties for rookie pilots from the nearby Asciano air force base.  Linda and I sat frozen.  All other sounds stopped in their wake until the echo of the jets faded away.  Then cautiously the sheep and the birds started in again as our hearts started beating again.
I cleared my breakfast dishes and headed to the bedroom where I heard the soft thrum of an engine.  When I opened the door I found the room filled with a squad of bees all smashing into the window panes and madly crisscrossing the ceiling beams.  It was bedlam!  I tried to shoo them out until they darted for my head, but I couldn’t open another window because out on my little balcony there was a cloud of about 400 more bees laying siege, battering the door trying to break in.  So I ran out of the room, slammed the door and yelled for Linda to run for her life.
Ah, the peace and tranquility of spring in Tuscany!