We’ve all seen the beautiful photographs of the sunbathed Tuscan hillsides, replete with vineyard after vineyard.
But Tuscany is more than just a pretty face, it’s also the birthplace of some of the greatest minds and artists of all time; Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Galileo Galilei, and of course Dante Alighieri, Italy’s greatest poet and the author of The Divine Comedy, to name but a few.
So we have culture, history, scenery, and great wines. How cool, and our little corner in the municipality of Pelago, in the village of Diacceto, is Tuscany at its most magnificent; quaint, old,
with the famous sunny hillside vineyards. But getting to, from, and around Diacceto can be a bit challenging and ripe for a mishap, or as some might say comedic situations. And we certainly encountered a few during our week long stay.
The first episode occurred on our first full day in Diacceto. Why put off the inevitable, right? We decided to ‘hike’ our way down to the nearby village of Pelago for a picnic and some picture taking under a sky dripping with beautiful billowy clouds. We departed under the supposed capable hands of the Google Bitch.
Too many tiny little side by side roads, she bemoaned, as she has us in circles looking for any way to continue our trek downhill. But, we did eventually find our way downhill and I mean downhill. About halfway down I looked over at Carrie and asked: “Hey, this is a hell of a downhill. Will it be this steep on the way back?” She rolled her eyes and said: “No worries old fella, if you don’t think you can make it we’ll take the bus back.” Ah, we have options, that’s good, I thought to myself.
A Successful Arrival
Finally, we arrived into the lovely village of Pelago and immediately noticed some women standing at a bus stop. We headed over to ask them about a bus back up to Diacceto. Speaking in English very slowly, as if that might help them understand what we’re asking, we say: “What…time…does…bus…go…Diacceto?” all the while pointing uphill. A young woman getting our gist, smiled, grabbed Carrie’s shoulder with one hand and with the other hand wagged her finger back and forth rapidly and began repeating, “NO! NO! NO! Non c’è nessun autobus a Diacetto. Si deve andare a piedi.” The gestures were enough to tell us that we would be walking back, although we did understand piedi since it’s close to French and
A Storm is a Brewing
OK, no problem, we’ll just buy some extra water and make it a slow trek back up the hill. But, after a short time of picture taking, we noticed that the skies had turned rather wicked and that the wind had picked up. “Uh-oh!” I grumbled to Carrie. “We had better head back, pronto.” The wind continued to pick up as we hustled up the hill, but we managed to just get back when the rains began. Exhausted, but crisis averted. Lucky event #1.
The Loop Drive
The next planned event was a loop drive where we would hopefully pass a few wineries. I may not have mentioned that we picked up a rental car at the Florence airport the day we entered Tuscany (Another BlaBlaCar plug. We had a great ride from Genoa to Florence with a very nice couple). We’ve used the GoldCar Rental Car Agency twice in Italy with good results. Inexpensive if you don’t buy their insurance. Check your credit card before you head to Italy to see if they provide rental car insurance. Ours did and it saved us about $15 euro per day. What we got was a four-door Smart Car, yet another stellar automobile for our driving enjoyment (it was cheap, however). This thing had all the horsepower of a 3-legged mule.
The loop: Diacceto –>Pontassieve–>Rufina–>A little ‘off-roading’ through the mountains–>Borselli–>Back home to Diacceto.
No Wine For Us
Our first destination, Pontasseive, was like sticking your head into a beehive. Cars everywhere, one-way narrow streets, and a weeping, completely befuddled Google Bitch. Our destination was a winery that supposedly had a tasting room. The Google Bitch had us corkscrewing towards the winery with each loop getting us closer. Finally, we found what we thought was the tasting room entrance. However, the so-called parking lot was nearly impossible to navigate and the winery itself was in a rather industrial looking location. So after all her hard work, we asked the Google Bitch to get us out of there. All of this and not one Smart Car ding. Lucky event #2.
Getting Back Home
It was our go into Florence and explore day. We’ve learned that driving in rural areas or on highways is fine, however, Pat and the Google Bitch are no match for the octopi city roads or the speed demon Italian drivers. So Carrie searched for and found a small town about halfway between Diacetto and Florence with a small train station. It was an easy entry into the village and easy access to free parking. Everyone was safer because I didn’t have to drive into Florence. We were off at the crack of dawn and all went as planned. We had a lovely day exploring Florence (our next post), but it was now time to head home. We got a later start back home than we anticipated, but no problem, the 20-minute train ride should have had us back to our waiting chariot by around 10pm. The train was to depart from platform 16 and it was ready for boarding. There was a train attendant standing at the end car and we asked him if this was indeed our train. He nodded and motioned us to board the end car.
Tinyville or the Reason I Bolded the Word ‘Small’
Twenty minutes later we pulled into our small train station, but we were unable to get the door to open. Through the darkness, we could see that there was no platform for us to exit onto. Shit! The train was longer than the station platform and we were in the rear car. We ran forward, but we were too late, as the train began to move; next stop Pontseive.
We found two off-duty policemen heading home, explained our dilemma, and asked if they could suggest a solution. They tried to be helpful, but alas, they had no definitive solution. “Maybe you can find a taxi to take you back to Sieci.” One suggested. “At this hour?” The other cop bemoaned. We exited the train at Pontaseive a bit panicked when this young man came up to us and told us that he overheard our plight and may be able to help. There was a train on the next platform, and the young man ran to find a conductor and asked him if the train stopped at Sieci. “Yes it does.” replied the conductor. “Get on, hurry!” shouted the young man. With barely enough time to say grazie, we were off. Fifteen minutes later we were in the chariot and home by 11pm. Nice to know that kind people still exist. Lucky event #3.
A Lasting Impression
But it wasn’t all mishaps or comedic situations. Mostly our time was spent walking the beautiful countryside, enjoying local food and drink, all the while experiencing a glimpse into real Italian rural life. Like the old man, our neighbor, attempting to communicate that he wanted to give us some eggs from his chickens; we had to message our hosts to figure it out. Like fulfilling our daily routine of heading to the cramped grocery store, constantly bumping into people, then off to the Macelleria for our protein/cheese and wine, then to the bakery for
our dessert – pointing and gesturing at which cake and how big a piece I wanted. Each stop a social event. Like picnicking in Borselli on the loop drive. And especially the offer from our Airbnb hosts for a day-long outing of castles, monasteries, and local foods. The pride they have for their country was evident.
Ahh…it was bittersweet leaving Tuscany. Excited to see a new place, but a spot had been etched in our hearts for its people, its beauty, its wine and food, and yes, even those damn roads. Note: Next post is our Florence adventure, still in Tuscany.
Hike Drink Live Laugh (Apero Time!) More pictures below.
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