Wednesday, October 7, 2009

travels thus far: stop #2 Florence, Tuscany

So my friend Silvano offered me to stay at his family's house in Florence in the area called Compiobbi. It was a beautiful house up in the hills right across from an abandoned villa. This villa even had a 12 foot carving of a man in a cyprus tree out front. I spent a few rainy days in Florence which wasn't all that bad because I went to the amazing museums. The art here in Florence is inspiring. The sculpture of David really caught me off guard because I didn't really expect much from it. But when you see it in reality it honestly makes your jaw drop; the proportions, the details of the figure such as the veins, the muscles, and the sheer size are a masterpiece! Another masterpiece of Florence for me was the frescoes of Massacio. I don't know how someone is able to capture so much expression in painting. Florence really was a beautiful city and gelato is everywhere which gives me another reason to love this city. I honestly think I had gelato everyday.
Tuscany, the region that Florence is situated in, is full of cypress trees, rolling hills, olive trees and vineyards. I had the opportunity to drive through the Tuscany hills from Compiobbi to a monastery called Camaldoli with Silvano's Father. This was such a treat because Silvo's Father is a walking history book and told me every battle that happened on every hill we passed (I am NOT exaggerating). It was a little overwhelming by the time we reached the monastery (4 hours later). The monastery is situated amongst beautiful green trees and a river and it reminded me a lot of home. But instead of seeing bears in the woods, we saw boars instead. On the way back we stopped at the town of Poppi where Dante found inspiration for his writings and visited a historical castle; this area is called Casentino.
Another Tuscany adventure I was able to experience was going to the Chianti area of Tuscany where the world famous wines comes from. The cousins of one of Silvano's friends has an agrotourism place in the hills of Chianti and they needed some help one Saturday so, Silvano, his girlfriend Cecilia any myself offered to come for the day. This place is absolutely perfect. Even the swimming pool is situated exactly where the sun rises and sets. From the farm you can see all of Florence. We tasted fresh strawberries (fragola) and another kind of strawberry. So the way the farm works is that people come to stay at this farm in beautiful little cottages and they can pick their own food from the gardens and prepare it for themselves and taste the wines and just relax. It's a very interesting idea for a holiday! So, from around 10am till around 2pm we worked in the winery where the big tanks are kept. I didn't understand much that was going on since I don't know any Italian so I just helped when I could. We took all the juice from the grapes and transferred it into another tank and then strained the skin out and then pressed more juice from it again. We then tasted the juice and had a few wine tastings. Ah, it was delicious. It is really great how the whole family works together and are so united. Then the best part comes when we got to eat a true Italian dinner. The first course was just your basic pasta with tomato sauce, except the sauce had some olive oil with it which was made from the tree outside the window and was AMAZING! Of course there were the wines that are made at Casa Sesta served which again are amazing. Then the next serving was a green salad and meat with potatoes again with beautiful tasting oils with it. Tuscany bread is also present which is quite hard and a tad bit bitter tasting but delicious. There was another plate of meat as well. Then for desert there was a desert wine, biscotti made with nuts from the tree outside the house. The biscotti was to die for!! I have to use this expression because it really was that good. There were some pastries too. Then after that an espresso shot was offered. Then after that some mint was offered. Then after that Grappa was offered, which is the hardest liquor I have ever tasted. It is famous in Italy and is was so strong for me that the moment it touched my lips it burned. I got used to it after the first taste though, haha. Then we went back to finish the work and then came back to the house where they offered their showers for us and then of course offered a cup of lemon tea which was sensational! Oh my, this day was definitely a highlight for me. Such a blessing to experience this. I was also very blessed to have stayed with Silvano's family. It was pretty funny conversing with his Mom though; I would come in the door and we would greet each other and then pause and not know what to say: either she speak broken english first or I try to say something in Italian. If nothing could make sense we would just laugh and smile at each other. She prayed a beautiful Italian blessing before I left and wrote down the scripture verse for me which was so beautiful. I will always remember their kindness and their Italian hospitality.

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