God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Good Friends, Good Food, Good Talk

San Diego seems far away and out of sight—homesickness has not been a big problem for me--so it is with a feeling of apprehension that I think of returning to the “fast life” of California. We have slowed down here in Greve in Chianti. We have lost that sense of urgency that seems to pervade daily life in the fast lane of rushing from here to there and back again. The pace here is slow and soul settling.

But we do miss our friends and that sense of belonging to a group larger than the three of us. We, of course, have friends here whom we truly enjoy and spending time together is fun. But, this is different than the comfort that takes time to develop and become real which exists with people you have grown to know over years of sharing lives. So, it was with great joy that we had dear friends from San Diego spend last week with us.

And--these friends didn't wait for the glorious time of spring to come to the Chianti--they braved coming in winter--a time when so few people travel that many restaurants and stores close for holiday. A time when it is cold (but not so much this year which is the warmest in 260 years), when the leaves and color are gone, when even market stalls close.

They actually came to see us--not Tuscany--what a friendship that is--one to treasure and we do.

Jan and Keith have been to Italy several times but in the manner that all of us do when we come for just a few weeks and with "things to see and things to do." This time they came to experience life as we know it--settled in, slowly, saying hello to friends at market, relishing window views, slow drives through the country side, coming home to plates of cheeses and meats, sipping wine before joining in to fix dinner, learning about fried artichokes, cheese and honey, fresh ravioli with sage and butter, cream in boxes and so much more. They saw lovely Italia through different eyes this time, and they enjoyed it.

We did do some day trips, exploring familiar places together--Lucca, Cortona, Firenze and little places around here--Volpaia, Montefioralle, Badia a Passignano, Castellina in Chianti, introducing them to the fun of exploring wonderful white roads.

And I learned somethings--like the huge San Lorenzo Market is closed on Monday's in winter. It was quite a shock to walk from the SITA station and see vast empty streets where normally there isn't space to walk. At first I thought that somehow we had lost our way to the familiar. Even many of the stalls in the Mercato Centrale were covered over and empty--it was all quite weird. Jan and Keith have been to Firenze but not the market which I knew they would enjoy--maybe next time. But, of course, in Firenze there is always much to do--if not one thing then another. We went to the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo, wandered, ate and watched the countryside on the bus ride back.

Lucca was Lucca--not with as many people as summer but, because it is a living town with real stores and many live-in inhabitants, it was active and busy even in the rain. Stores and restaurants were open for business.

But lovely Cortona was a different story. The streets that are so jammed that movement is hard the rest of the year were eerie and quiet. Store after store was closed. Few restaurants flaunted menus as the doors were locked and shuttered. Our footsteps echoed.

Alex, a friend of mine, owns a shop in Cortona,
Il Girasole, but it was closed. Fortunately, we were able to call her, and, when we told her we were waiting right outside the door, she graciously left her home to open it for us. What lovely things she has! Much of her inventory is repro- ductions of Etruscan jewelry and pottery but she also carries beautiful linen items with authentic renaissance Florentine designs and soft cashmere stoles from the Chianti Cashmere Company. Jan and I didn't resist buying things--jewelry, linens, Etruscan artifacts--after all, Alex had opened up just for us!

Cortona is home to my most favorite
pasticceria shop in all of Italy. This is because of their totally wonderful meringue cookies filled with nuts--they are beyond delicious! Needless to say, I was more than happy when it was one of the few stores open that day.

So, when you go to Cortona, you really must indulge yourself, just have a salad for lunch. And if you are a chocolate lover, you may want to sample the ones filled with creamy chocolate. Um, Um Good!

With all that we did, I suspect their favorite was the meal at La Cantinetta di Rignana. What a wonderful meal that was--everything about it was "perfetto"--the ambience of the restaurant, the delightful personality of all of the staff and the marvelous food. It was a great evening. The restaurant is hidden in the hills and valleys of Chianti--you must take a white road to reach it, and yet people travel kilometers to spend an evening there. Just read about their cucina on the website and you'll make this a destination. To read more about it, check KZ's blog KZ in Toscana.

Jan and Keith left us early Thursday morning and it has seemed quite quiet since then--it is fun to have a full house with conversation and laughter. We will see them again in August--not here but there.

1 comment:

Judith in Umbria said...

I somehow imagined that this restaurant was near Cortona, which is near to me. How disappointing to find that it is a couple of hours distant!
Anyway, it does look good.