(Re)Living The Italian Life

Last night I went to Tuscany. San Gimignano to be precise. Oh, the food, the wine….

Yeah, okay, so I didn’t really go there. Well, not on an aeroplane in actual person. What do you think I am, a movie star?

I did, however, buy a bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano and make homemade ravioli. And I listened to Italian music while I wrestled with the pasta machine. (There may or may not have also been some choice Italian swear words in action.)

“Why??”

I knew you were busting to ask that.

Two lovely friends are currently living the Tuscan life on the trip of a lifetime in Italy. They’ve been posting photos and stories on Facebook and I’ve been reminiscing.

Yes, we did once fair dinkum go to San Gimignano.

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On a seven-week European odyssey with three small boys in tow (ages 11, 8 and 5), we had wisely booked a week in a small Tuscan town at about the halfway point. We didn’t know it was wise at the time. The wisdom only became apparent when we got there after our previous stop in Nice included the line “I’m over it! I want to go home!” That was me. As chief travel agent, tour guide, purchaser, cook, washer and seemingly font of all travel wisdom, the pressure was building. The opportunity to stop and breathe in one place for a week brought sanity back to us all.

Sometimes the significant travel memories that stay with you are not about awe-inspiring art or impressive structures or spectacular landscapes. Sometimes they are about living the life, feeling a part of a community of which you are a part for just a tiny moment. That was Certaldo for us. I’d managed to book a three bedroom apartment in a former 13th century palace with a tower where you could sit and see the towers of San Gimignano in the distance for only AU$800 a week.

Of course, first impressions count when you travel and the fact that we arrived on the weekend of their annual food and wine festival may have had some impact on our positive experiences. We didn’t know it was on when we booked. Another of those serendipitous moments that make a holiday special.

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Boccaccesca Wine and Food Festival, Certaldo Alto

It was like it was all meant to be.

We relaxed, shopped at the market, read books, ate a lot of good Italian bread and cheese and made day trip forays into neighbouring tourist centres such as Sienna and San Gimignano. We didn’t have a car so these were accessed by public transport. There’s nothing quite like squeezing onto a crowded local bus to make you feel a part of the community.

It was a favourite moment in our holiday and I can’t help thinking that its impact was greater because it came at just the right time. We headed off after our week-long stay with renewed energy and patience.

I’d love to go back but I suspect that it wouldn’t be the same.

In the meantime, I’ll find the odd bottle of Tuscan wine in the local Dan Murphy’s, drag out the pasta machine and relive la dolce vita at home.

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Certaldo Alto, Tuscany

 

 

 

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63 thoughts on “(Re)Living The Italian Life

  1. Sounds like one great Italian trip, Heather. You said it so well: “Sometimes they are about living the life, feeling a part of a community of which you are a part for just a tiny moment.” Isn’t it. It’s about being immersive where you are, among the locals and the way they choose to go about their lives.

    Lucky they were short. Lol, that really looks like a low ceiling but a cozy room. Was that part of where you lived there? πŸ˜€ Ah, nothing like homemade pasta. I’ve been having a lot of pasta of late myself, but I don’t have the patience to make it myself. Your gnocchi looks really good I must say. And lots to go round too…or maybe there was never enough πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, all the photos in that first gallery are of the apartment where we stayed. You can see us all standing in the windows in the first one. The two smallest boys shared the low-ceilinged room and the eldest got a big bed all to himself in the tower. It was an amazing place to stay and I still can’t believe what we paid for it.

      I don’t make pasta often as it’s usually an exercise in frustration but I must say I really liked the pasta dough recipe I used this time. It was easy to work with and cooked up very nicely. I’ll be using that one again. When I was dishing it up, I thought I’d made too much but it all got eaten. As it often does in a house full of boys. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 3 people

  2. This is my preferred way to travel Heather. Renting a property & venturing out from there. Packing & unpacking every few days is the worst! By staying put in one spot for a period of time, it allows you to unwind & experience a more local feel, using the rental as a home base & then venturing out to various spots of interest. We have also found that in doing so, the owner of the property quite often shares a wealth of information, suggesting spots to go to that as a tourist you would have never known about.

    We visited San Gimignano on our first visit to Italy. Such a beautiful hilltop town! That dinner of yours looks fabulous btw. If you didn’t live so darn far away, I would have been at that table sharing that bottle of wine!

    Liked by 2 people

    • We did a mix of both on that trip. There were a few here-today-gone-tomorrow stops but with three young boys you can’t really do it that way for long. We were in on the apartment thing long before they even thought of AirBnB ;). Mostly because it was the cheapest way to travel with a family but, like you said, the bonus was meeting the owners and getting tips on where to go and what to do. πŸ™‚

      I was really pleased with how that meal turned out and I would have welcomed you at the table! πŸ™‚ I was also a bit relieved it turned out so well given it took me about two hours to make it…..

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m very impressed, Heather! Despite your not being a major international star, you still managed to get to stay in a 13th century palace! That’s a pretty good deal, I’d say. I think it’s clear from the nice, relaxed faces everybody has in the photographs that spending a little relaxation time in Tuscany was an outstanding idea. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

    • We did live like stars that week. It made up for the tiny hotel room with only four beds (we took turns sleeping on the floor) in the seedy part of Nice we’d just come from. I’m not sure if we’d still be a family of five if we hadn’t had that week in Tuscany. I had, not long before, walked away to the other end of the train on one trip and seriously thought about getting off at the next station without telling anyone. There’s only so much boyishness a mother can take in close quarters…..

      Liked by 2 people

  4. What a wonderful reminisce, Heather πŸ™‚ And talk about impressed! Homemade ravioli, gadzooks! I know Heinz do it πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Tee hee- I’m running now. Don’t chase after me with the rolling pin. I know you can outrun me πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Happy days!

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  5. heather – your trip looks like it was amazing -and whew – the boys were at a nice age – I wonder if the 5 year old remembers a lot….

    anyhow, the ravioli is what grabbed me here – had to stop by and see more – and glad i did – wish I could taste the wine tho – is there any way to allow for this? jk
    have a great day!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m often surprised at what he does remember. Hard for him, being so young but we wanted to go before the eldest hit high school. (Plus the ‘adult fare from the age of 12’ rule was an incentive.)

      I found that wine at my local wine store so…. google? πŸ˜€

      Thanks so much for stopping by and vicariously enjoying some rather tasty ravioli and even more tasty wine. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • well thanks for having me (and by the way I came from restless jo’s site)
        and was teasing about the wine – I am fasting until January (long story for another time) but I have some red zinfandel ready for January 1 – and love Trader Joe’s for red zin and for Grifone reds….
        and that sounds like a lot of great incentives to take the trip at that time…. and photos help I am sure – the photos really help. πŸ™‚
        thanks for the reply….

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, yes. Nicely done! Lovely photos, too.
    Now and again I make some ravioli just for me, in the middle of the day. It makes up for all those times I’m convinced I’m the only one who appreciates me πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Our vacations are rarely like this one. We’re usually on a frantic schedule with barely time to catch our breaths. I like your version a LOT better. The castle doesn’t hurt either πŸ˜‰

    It’s so much fun to pull out the old photos and relive a trip. This stop on your journey looks particularly beautiful. Wow – 7 weeks with 3 children in tow. I’m impressed! Kudos to you!!

    … and I’ve never made my own pasta. You get double kudos πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • It wasn’t all like that. Here’s how we got to Certaldo: Get on night train in Nice. Get off train at Pisa at 5.30am. Put bags in storage at station and walk to tower. Wait for tower to open, climb tower, visit chapel, etc. Back to station, get on train. Get off at Florence. Put bags in storage at station and walk to cathedral. Visit cathedral and climb dome. Back to station, get on train. Get off at Certaldo. Find accommodation. Fall into bed. πŸ˜€

      I’m not sure how we did that trip now. Seems insane to me. But kudos also due to kids who managed it without getting left behind or put back on a plane home to Grandma. (Although it was a close thing at times.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yikes, that is a crazy schedule!

        Gilles always prefers to rent a car which is usually terrifying for me. Not necessarily because of the driving part, but the parking part. RARELY EASY TO DO!
        That kind of stuff doesn’t faze him, but leaves me a wreck.

        I loved travelling with the boys. They were always such adventurous little troupers πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Che gioia ! Che bellezza ! – e che bella storia ! I can almost feel your happiness while making the pasta and reminiscing about it all, H. And of course you are right: it cannot ever be the same again. I LOVE the photos; and those dear little kids … well, gosh ! – we know that two of them and now 8 feet tall, and the third probably not much less And there you are, looking exactly the same. HOWJERDOOWIT ???
    XXOO

    Liked by 2 people

  9. What great photos you’ve posted here. Very embracing! And as nice as that trip with the boys looks….it seems to me maybe you’ve learned something in the meantime…you cook in your own kitchen, still get the wine, still practice your Italian through various swear words, still have the music and you get no sore feet, outrageous bill, or complaints from weary fellow travelers! Sounds like a nice way to revisit an exceptional trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Travelling as a family of five, we found it easiest (and cheapest) to rent apartments. It also meant we had a kitchen to cook meals and somewhere to wash clothes. We also used youth hostels in Germany and Austria which are designed more for families than backpackers and put on a breakfast buffet big enough to pack a lunch.

      Pasta and rice are staples in this house. We’d never survive on a carb free diet.

      Like

  10. Delightful photos and memories! I think there are some places you could return to over and over again, and while your adventure might be a bit different each time, the place would remain the same. I’m thinking, of course, of many European locales where structures have stood for hundreds of years, and will likely remain for hundreds more. Time seems to stand still!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Margie! I just found this in my spam folder. What have you been up to?

      I agree that there are places that are wonderful no matter how many times you return and there are certainly cities I’ve visited multiple times and loved them again every time and would go again (eg Edinburgh, Paris). There are also places I’ve had amazing experiences in where I’ve returned and it just wasn’t the same. I think maybe it depends on the people involved and on the emotions experienced. Sometimes you just can’t replicate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. After a day of driving two hours in the rain, a meeting that went too long and another two hours driving in pouring rain, I would have loved to have a bowl of that pasta and a glass of wine waiting for me. Yum.

    The week in Italy is a very special memory, relaxing in a beautiful community with the family. I bet given the chance, you would go back in a heartbeat and let someone else make the ravioli.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m impressed that you made your own pasta…well done. I own a pasta machine but rarely bother to use it. I must get it out when we get home. We’ve been staying in airbnb places on this current England trip, for several days at each place. The last one was a cottage, part of a stone built terrace in a tiny village in the Lake District, with a millpond full of ducks and geese out the back and a field with resident Shetland pony, goat and more gees. It was so beautiful. These are the memories I will take home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. You totally get it. Some of my favourite memories are about quirky or interesting places we stayed. Imagine how boring it must be to stay in the same hotel chain the world over as some do.

      I have a good pasta dough recipe for when you get that machine out. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • We are always astounded by people who do the 15 countries in 10 days European trip and then complain about how awful it was. Once I had a conversation with a lady who couldn’t believe we went overseas for five weeks and did a week each in London, Bruges and Brussels before spending time with friends in Germany and finishing in the Black Forest for a few nights. She didn’t get it!

        Send me that pasta dough recipe please!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. We LOVED Tuscany and it is a place we very much want to go back to and stay for several weeks. You were very smart, planned or not, to have that week to decompress. I must say those three boys are so cute I felt a cheek squeezing coming on like I am some old Baba! Lucky family who go to eat your home made deliciousness. Yummy!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am in awe – I have never made real pasta! But I have been to San Giminiano. I was on a camping trip in the 1970s with parents, an uncle and two friends. We had gone to Florence to see the Henry Moore exhibition (odd I know, but we did). My birthday fell while we were there and for a surprise my friends organised for me to go to the opera (Madame Butterfly) in the main square in San Giminiano. I remember it started a good half hour late and the audience didn’t mind at all. It was magical.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Looks like that was a terrific trip. It is always challenging to travel with children and I think you “hit the nail on the head” which is that finding one spot to base everyone in, rather than rushing from point A to B, is usually an optimal way to go. How serendipitous to be there at the time of a special event, that really is what often takes a trip from “good” to a higher level of something amazing.

    Your homemade pasta looks fab!!

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Peta. πŸ™‚
      Arriving into the town to red carpet laid down the main street was certainly a bonus! And it was such a lovely introduction to the area. The kids had a ball sampling all the produce especially the cheeses. (Even the Middle Son who didn’t like cheese!) We even managed (somehow!) to carry safely home our festival wine glasses. A wonderful souvenir of our stay. πŸ™‚

      Like

  16. Loved reliving your Italian holiday and seeing your efforts in the kitchen to experience the wonder of real pasta.
    I did smile when I saw your washing! When I lived in Urbino, I had to ask if I could put up a washing line. The farmer’s wife put one up for me and I know they must have laughed at me trying to dry sheets in winter, when they went stiff with ice and snow! They used to put their clothes on bushes! I think the sheets must have gone to a laundry, as I never saw them. Great post H!!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Looks wonderful! Growing up my family always did those “always on the road” type trips, but my wife hates that. When we travel we go to one place and stay there the entire time. We don’t see as much, but we get to know that location! On the other hand, we usually do closer to 7 days than 7 weeks!

    Liked by 1 person

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