WELL. This anglaise has been having all kinds of adventures recently – although for the most part, they weren’t occurring in Paris, or even France, so I initially decided against immortalising them in blog form. However, a good portion of those adventures took place in Tuscany, and I feel that the part of my heart/soul which fell head-over-heels for this breathtakingly beautiful part of the world, long before I ever laid eyes on it in real life, is probably same part responsible for my almost-lifelong love affair with France and all things french.* So, for a bit of a change, I decided to write a bit about the Italian countryside I recently spent a week or so admiring in (audible) awe. Variety being the spice of life, and all that.
It’s easy to fall in love with a place vicariously – that is to say, via someone else’s impression of it, whether portrayed in photo, film, print or paint strokes. The problem is, it very often leads to disappointment when, after years of building up a largely fictitious version of somewhere in your head, you finally arrive there, only to discover that the reality can’t possibly rival the combination of art and imagination that had been fuelling your expectations all this time. Most of us have experienced that at one time or another. For me, it happened most memorably on my first visit to Carcassonne. Given that I first “discovered” the little citadel via a historical drama set in the Medieval period, I really should have known better, but… hey ho. You live, you learn.
All of this to say, after a solid decade of dreaming about the Tuscan countryside and the quaint little towns and villages I imagined lay nestled among those rolling hills of green and gold… the region SOMEHOW succeeded in living up to my every expectation. Surpassed a few of them, even.
I mean, honestly, the place is literally like a painting. Albeit with a few power lines thrown in here and there. The aforementioned rolling hills – lush, verdant, teeming with life, both wild and cultivated. Dark green oaks and silvery olive trees, brightly-leaved grapevines, and, to my endless delight, rows and rows of the tall, slender cypresses so synonymous with the Tuscan landscape. Terracotta-topped villas scattered here and there, picture-perfect in their warm hues of soft orange and dusky pink and pastel yellow.
And then there’s what a painting can’t depict, or not so tangibly anyway. The heat, of course – a gentle pleasure in the mornings; oppressive, something to be escaped, by the afternoon. The delicious breeze, an unspeakably welcome relief when it stirs, tempering that heavy heat. And the ceaseless song of the cicadas: the sound of sunshine and summer afternoons. A steady constant from dawn to dusk, until the sun goes down and it’s seamlessly substituted with the smoother, calmer chorus of the crickets, stepping in to take the nightshift.
As ever, my writing is running away with me and I haven’t even started on the towns and villages dotted around this magnificent countryside. Florence needs a whole blog post of its own (and may well get one yet – my GOODNESS, what a city), but I could also wax lyrical (I WON’T, don’t WORRY) about the smaller places too; places where, without exception or exaggeration, every single street, side-street and square was drop-jaw, exclaim-aloud lovely. For me, anyway. Thankfully, I was travelling with THE nicest of people, so if my very vocal, VERY enthusiastic expressions of utter awe and delight at e v e r y corner were as annoying as I could see they might have been… nobody let on.
*Except the bloody administration. And signposting for public transport.