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Report 673: Tuscan Rambles

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2004

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Page 2 of 17: Day One – Saturday, May 1: Arrival in Florence; Rental Car to Bivio Nottola

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Villa Nottola

On Friday evening, my BW and I enjoyed the Air France flight from Toronto to Paris CDG, then transferred to a smaller Air France plane for the short flight to the Florence airport, northwest of the city. At the rental car counter I signed some papers, got the keys and received directions to the car rental lot. I went to the wrong parking lot. The rental lot is on the left as you exit the arrival terminal, but it is behind another building - not in plain view.

My difficulty locating the car was the biggest problem we had in Tuscany. In our two weeks, we visited some churches and a few museums, but mainly we drove throughout the stunningly beautiful countryside, explored many towns and smaller cities, visited several vineyards and enjoyed some wonderful food and wine. We had a great time. Like almost everyone who has been there, we are planning how often and for how long we can return. I stopped buying lottery tickets several years ago. Since returning from Tuscany, I have resumed the practice.

We left the airport and easily made our way onto the Autostrada – the A1, heading south in the direction of Roma. Several people had warned me about driving on the A1, but after a few minutes I relaxed and was never anxious behind the wheel the rest of the trip. We drove about an hour south on the A1, exited at Val di Chiana Bettole and made our way to our apartment at Villa Nottola, just down the hill from Montepulciano. Within a couple of minutes of leaving the A1, as we passed through a small village, my BW commented, "This is beautiful." We said that a lot over the next two weeks.

We arrived on Saturday May 1, May Day – a major European holiday. All the food stores were closed, as they are every Sunday. So we couldn’t do any grocery shopping until Monday. Luisa, from Villa Nottola, had alerted us to the situation by email, so we had packed a few supplies in our luggage.

There are a couple of food chains in the area. The more numerous in our part of Tuscany were the COOP stores. Some locations, such as the one in Pienza, are quite small. It may sound a bit strange, but my BW and I enjoyed our grocery shopping experiences. The best store we found for food shopping was the COOP in San Quirco d’Orcia.

Italians certainly pay a lot more for their food than we are used to in North America. It was also where I got the most use of the Italian lessons I had taken over the winter. I was able to interpret many of the signs and product descriptions as well as communicate in Italian in the bakery, produce and meat areas, as well as at checkout. At other times and places, I found it most practical to listen closely to what was being said and try to frame a response or ask a question. In the COOP I had to initiate the conversation.

All of the towns and cities we visited had a market day, but we didn’t plan our days with them in mind.

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