We got in right at 5 p.m., after roughly seven hours on the road from Como. The drive was nice, but we were all losing our cool toward the end. Tuscany is similar to what I imagined, with the arid but lush landscape, and the peekaboo views of the Mediterranean. We drove 100m up the driveway, spoke to an Italian woman who gestured to where we should park, and squeezed in a tight space below some grape vines. Miriam greeted us, and showed us inside. Olivier was at the pool with Max, and dried off to help me carry our luggage inside and show us to our rooms.
The villa is much more than I imagined. It’s 200 years old, four bedrooms upstairs, large eating areas and lounging areas downstairs, and everywhere outside, the sound of crickets. The sound is hypnotic, constant, and not the least bit irritating. Why is it so soothing?
Olivier made pasta for the girls and then a different kind for us. I asked him if it was beef and he said “boar.” In fact, we have to keep the gate locked out front to keep the boar out so he doesn’t trample the garden, inside. They make their own olive oil here, and have something like 800 trees on the property. They charge 10 euros a liter, and Olivier said you can pay that much for crap olive oil in the grocery stores, so it’s a good deal. We ordered eight tins.
Max, their three year-old, seems confused by why Olivier speaks French to him, English to us, yet asked Max to begin speaking English to him this morning going forward. So Max continues speaking French to his dad, and English to the rest of us. The logic of it seems hard for him to comprehend, but he is well on his way to multi-lingual, so who am I to challenge his logic?
I got self-conscious by the smell of my sandals (or feet) last night, but realized this morning it’s a rotten fig that got stuck in the treads of my Teva’s, so I fixed it. We had our first outing to the beach this morning and it was divine: there’s a parking area where a couple young Italian guys control the spaces, and charge around 1 euro an hour for non-residents. We had the spaces that are covered, in the shade, with some makeshift scrims and modest bamboo-style poles. I was surprised to see that they have rows and rows of wooden beach chairs and umbrellas set up for beach-goers to use, which is very orderly compared to other Italian beaches, Miriam said.
The sand is in fact black – closer to brown/gray – due to some volcanic phenomenon. It’s also very hot, and you can’t walk on it without sandals, or if you’ve just come out of the water. Lily got right into the sand, shortly after we had lathered her up in sunscreen, and so she looked like she had been dipped in crushed Oreo cookie, or a like four year-old girl wearing fake gorilla arms and legs. Charlotte followed suit, and got her first time-out in Tuscany for throwing sand in Lily’s hair three times.
I lost a diamond out of my imitation Cartier bracelet, but at least I can tell people I lost it at a beach in Tuscany.
The temperature of the water was perfect, and if I could complain about it I would say it was a shade too warm, in fact. There were mountains in the distance and a small castle tower on one, and the sea was salty enough to keep me buoyant on my back, with just the air in my lungs keeping me afloat. I did that several times, to recreate what I miss most about living by the Mediterranean: the sea itself, and just floating in the water on my back, with my head underwater.
Then we went for lunch. There’s a small restaurant there, which Olivier said is self-serve. I had low expectations for just a walk-up eatery on a beach, but then I saw what others were eating as we walked to our table: fish, wine, dishes of pasta with clams, fresh melon/fruits, on and on. So very civilized. Olivier said Italians won’t tolerate anything less, and that’s why restaurants go to crap if they’re written up in a guide, or recommended to tourists. The tourists are less discriminating, so the owners of the restaurant can increase their margins by offering lower quality and charging the same price. Here, I paid 31 euros for two full plates, a couple side dishes, and a large Italian beer, which was cold and refreshing.
A modified version of a Coldplay song came on, with what sounded like a Miramba-beat made by a Casio. Olivier got coffee for Dawn and himself, and we got out of there as Charlotte began her overdue-for-a-nap-meltdown. We paid the lifeguard for “due gettoni” (two tokens, for the shower), and put our tokens in the machine to activate the water and hose down the girls. It’s then I realized my diamond was missing and I really didn’t care.