A couple of people have asked what a typical day is for us here in Tuscany. I have told you about the festivals, which make it a “not typical” day. But today is a rainy Sunday, so I will tell you what today is like.
We still get up when the sun comes up, about 7:00. I’m usually first out of bed, and head down to the kitchen to put my coffee on and start the fire in the big fireplace. Tim makes sure there is plenty of kindling and firewood the night before, so I call on my Camp Fire Girl background and start the fire. It’s actually colder in Tomales than here in the mornings. But it is a damp cold with no central heat, so a fire is required.
Tim comes down and makes his tea. Thankfully, the giant spiders that used to greet us in the mornings seem to be either hibernating (do spiders hibernate?) or the new roof has discouraged them. Otherwise, Tim would be wielding a weapon and slaying them for me while his tea steeped.
We sit at our kitchen table in front of the fire and, for the next hour or two, read/write and eat breakfast and listen to the church bells. Tim reads books about this area’s history – the current one is about World War II, when it was occupied by the Germans after the Italians renounced fascism. I’m currently reading The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman, a novel (that last is part of its title).
At some point one of us (yes, me) gets antsy and we dress and walk up to the village. We try to take different routes through the narrow streets, imagining what life was like for Santa Fiora villagers in the Middle Ages. One of the paths winds up the hill with a lighted walkway carved into the rock and passing a waterfall, several gardens, and a little rest area with benches.
There are three churches we pass, all very old except the one the Americans bombed by mistake to drive the Germans out in WWII, killing 17 villagers in the process. Their names are on a plaque in a little square near the site. We also pass through the Jewish ghetto – ancient, narrow streets where mostly Jews lived until the Germans came and either killed or arrested them. Shortly thereafter, Italy renounced fascism and joined the Allies in fighting the Germans. (This Tim has explained to me as I am not a history buff.)
Anyway, we get up to the piazza and head to the bar/gelateria for our cappuccino, te, and internet. (Right, still no internet at the house even though the technician promised me he would be here “domani,” which means tomorrow but was yesterday and he didn’t show.) We are now known in the village and the bar owner makes our drinks before we order. Others come in and several we know, so we “buongiorno” to each other. If it’s someone we know well and haven’t seen for a few days, we kiss – first left check to left cheek and then right to right. (Getting that right the first couple of times led to some embarrassing mis-planted kisses.)
An hour of caffeine, maybe a pastry, and internet and we head out the door to shop. If we want meat (we don’t eat much), we buy it from the macelleria, bread from Crostini, and fresh pasta from Tavolo Caldi. The other day we bought a pasta machine, and today we may make fresh pasta for the second time in our lives.
Then it’s the Coop, pronounced “cop.” Think of a cross between 7-11 and the old Traverso’s. When I was in Italy before, there were fresh produce markets a couple of times a week when you bought what vegetables you needed for the week. Here (or now) the farmers bring produce to the Coop, or it is shipped in from Sicily or other warmer areas. The good news is it is all organic (or if something is not, it is clearly labeled). Packaged goods – pasta, bread, cereal – are labeled “biologico,” which means organic too. Italy banned GMOs several years ago.
(Is this boring? Blame it on the weather – it’s still raining out and I’m not walking up to the village in the rain.)
We may also stop at the banca and see our buddy Fabrizio. We used to stop in daily to see if our American transfer money had been released from the Italian main office yet. (It took four weeks, but we finally paid off the mafia laborers last Monday.) It’s not exactly like Exchange Bank. Fabrizio is in his usual sweatshirt behind his desk. The other banker bought us coffee at the bar the other day, and the bank has given us our own post office box in the bank. If you want to try it out, send us something to
Banca dei Paschi de Siena
58037 Santa Fiora, GR, Italy
Geez, we’re only to noon. (And as I write this, the noon bell is ringing!)
Time for lunch, which is most likely back at our casa. We generally have prosciutto, pecorino cheese, olives, and maybe a glass of wine if we’re Tim. Then, after this grueling morning, we take a nap (if we’re Tim) or stoke up the living room woodstove and sit on the couch reading. This is perfectly acceptable as stores don’t reopen for the afternoon until 3 or 4:00 and stay open until 8:00.
The afternoon varies, depending if we need to go to a) the hardware store in Casteldipiano, which is almost every day b) the frame shop or laundromat in Arcidosso (where I bought these cute herb jars), or c) some other destination for furniture or fun. Some days we don’t go up in the morning (like today) and instead walk up in the afternoon when the Coop will reopen (it’s never open on Sunday mornings) so we can get the ingredients for the pasta-making.
Today is different too because our neighbors have invited us to dinner at their house in the village. (They also own the farm next door which is an agritourismo.) Tim did a painting for them to thank Sandro (the Mafioso contractor) and his daughter Corinna (the PhD translator) for all their help in our transition.
Other days we’ve been entertained at lunch in the tiniest kitchen that ever held a man in a wheelchair, the Mafioso’s brother, our UK friend Linda (to interpret), and Tim and me. The table was two sawhorses and a board, about the size of a small card table. And it filled the room. Another day we had lunch at a small restaurant in Arcidosso. Tim ordered what is the signature dish in this area, Acquacotta, literally water soup. It was so good I asked for the recipe, and “mama” wrote it out in Italian for me. No measurements or anything of course. I translated all the ingredients and made it the other night. It was delicious! (If you’ve gotten this far, I will send you the recipe.)
Dinner for most Italians is 8:00 – that’s when restaurants open too. I have no idea what they do between 12:00 (or lunch) and 3 or 4:00 (when work resumes). I’ve read they eat and gossip. Kids go home from school for the mid-day meal, and go back until 6:00 I think. They study English for four years too, so they can all ask us about “Trump the fascist or Trump the stronzo.”
So, that’s it. Not that we don’t travel to other towns or cities (we’re heading to the coast this week for a night and spending two nights in Rome in a fancy hotel WITH INTERNET before flying home the week after). But what we are enjoying now is the quiet and the beauty and the peacefulness. Our go-go-go life was enjoyable too and it will be again when we get back to Sonoma County, but this is just perfect just now. CAIO!