Over the past few weeks Italy has been taking serious strain. After three trips to the country, including our extended 3 week holiday last year, my heart truly belongs in this beautiful country and I’m so broken for their current plight.
I realise that not many people will be planning a holiday to Italy in the next few weeks, but I know how much the Italian economy relies on this revenue and I would hate for people to miss out on experiencing this incredible place for themselves… Yes, we probably do all need to slow down our travel plans – now and always – the planet can’t take much more of us flying around endlessly, but if we all practice more mindful travel experiences where we truly embed ourselves in a culture for an extended period of time I know there is such value in travel for our personal growth and joy of living. I hope that soon we will find a new normal for ourselves, our economies and our world that brings things into a better balance.
Now, back to our incredible Italian experience…
After a rather stressful car hire situation (wrong pick up spot, long wait for a shuttle & insurance hassles), we finally got on the (wrong) side of the road and tried to find our way through the maze of Italian highways, tolls and treacherous mountain passes with a hundred blind corners….
We had landed in Milan and needed to navigate our way to a tiny hilltop town in the top left corner of Tuscany called Cisigliana where our wonderful friends would be welcoming us!
We were all incredibly excited for this next leg of our journey. I had been fortunate enough to visit them at their beautiful villa in 2009 so as we started nearing the area I found myself recognizing some familiar sights. As the sun was starting to set we weaved our way up the VERY windy road, a gorgeous glow settling on all the ancient olive trees lining the road.
As we got to the last few blind corners we announced our imminent arrival by hooting as we went!
After landing at 14:30 we finally arrived around 19:00, hot, thirsty, stressed and exhausted but as we entered the gates at Podere dell’ Angelo (Farmhouse of the Angels) our friends, and their lovely Sienna, greeted us warmly and our stress melted away! The long, long journey was all well worth it in that moment alone! And made even more worthwhile when we stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy a typical Italian spread and a magnificent view of the valley swept with sunset colours.
Their home is located in a converted monastery that overlooks the valley where pilgrims (and Crusaders) have trod for millennia.
A place has never felt more like heaven!!!
The next day we headed out on an early morning bread run to the bakery in the local town, Licciana Nardi, which is about 20 mins back down the very windy road! None of us minded the early wake-up call as we all wanted to experience every moment we could!
The rest of the day we spent relaxing and exploring the tiny hamlet of Cisigliana. Located in Provincia di Massa-Carrara (Tuscany) there are only 17 inhabitants. The most convenient airport is Pisa located about 1 hour’s drive away.
There are several Unesco world heritage sites nearby and the closest heritage site is Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) which are located about 33 km away. Aside from Licciana Nardi the other towns in the area that are worth a visit include Fivizzano, Comano, Bagnone and Aulla.
For the rest of our first day in Italy we enjoyed quiet country walks with the dog (a MASSIVE highlight for the kids), picking wildflowers along the way. Visiting the neighboring farmer to collect eggs and onion and some lazy time chilling next to the sparkling pool!
And this is how we continued to spend our time at Podere dell’ Angelo, our beautiful home base for the three weeks of our trip. We were so fortunate to have a quiet place to return to after the more intense touristy days we spent in Pisa, Lucca and Portovenere, and more especially after our 5 day trip visiting Florence, Tuscany and Rome and before our final stint in Venice!
Experiencing genuine Italian village life was a treat and these special days have stayed with me ever since. I so appreciated the quiet sounds of nature, the slower pace that allows you to appreciate everything. Even hanging out the laundry became a joy! Not to mention a visit to the local grocery store! Italians really do know how to live well – and that has nothing to do with their wallets!
During our time we enjoyed slow walks, pine cone collecting, wild rose picking, cool pool swimming and pool side snacking.
We went on gelato runs in the heat of the late afternoon and spent warm evenings waiting for the first fireflies to blink in the darkness.
We enjoyed home cooked Italian-inspired meals and experienced a “pranzo di lavoro” which is a unique lunch for workers that many local restaurants offer.
We visited Ristorante Galletti in Comano and sampled the local Lunigiana dish of testaroli which is a common dish in this part of Italy. It is actually an ancient pasta originating from the Etruscan civilization and has been described as “the earliest recorded pasta.” Often made from leftover bread or is prepared with water, flour and salt and sliced into triangular shapes. This batter is cooked on a hot flat surface made of terracotta or cast iron and known as a testo. This cooking surface gives the food it’s name. It is sometimes cooked further in boiling water and then served. I love Italian food for it’s simplicity and my testaroli was dressed with pesto sauce, olive oil, Pecorino cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and garlic.
We indulged in sundowner drinks overlooking the sunset sky, read beautiful books, listened to relaxing music, played board games, caught fireflies, laughed and reminisced and just soaked up the time together – as a family and with special friends.
La Dolce Vita indeed!