(excerpted from my voluminuous diary of a trip to Tuscany 12-26 September 1994)

between Florence and VolPaia

Please click on the photo to enlarge it

photo between Florence and Impruneta

we walked 20 km from Florence to Impruneta


Impruneta, 14 September 1994 11:00pm 10C
We finally got started about 10:00 this morning, J in the car to VolPaia and G, P, T and I on foot. There had been some rain but it was sunny and hot by the time we were leaving. We headed south out of Florence up through pretty ritzy neighbourhoods. One house we passed had a plaque on it saying Tchaikovsky had lived there "coming from the great plain of Russia to feed our immortal souls". Shortly after that we had to cross quite a busy road. An elderly gentleman with a big umbrella thrust his umbrella out into traffic to stop them and we all crossed. He said (I think) that we'd never get across otherwise.

We stopped to look at the view and T exuberantly cut his luggage tag off with his new wicked looking knife. He suddenly grabbed his hand. I asked if he was all right and he said he wasn't telling. But he had cut his hand about 3 inches. We tied it up with one of my handkerchiefs. It bled a lot and we eventually got some antiseptic cream to put on it. P has started calling T "Il Cotello". We got to a trattoria where T could wash his hand properly. I got some olives while T was washing his hand. The proprieter asked if we were tourists. (I wanted to ask him what his first clue was but didn't know how to say it.) I did manage to tell him that we were walking form Florence to Castello VolPaia by 3 today (I thought I was saying "in 3 days").

It was very windy, cloudy and getting rather cool.photo dogs on roof We stopped to photograph 2 labrador retrievers standing on the roof of their owner's house. We walked on, gazing at the vista below us and G suddenly pointed and said "Isn't that El Duomo?" (the cathedral in Florence) We realized that we had taken a wrong turn and walked in a huge circle. We reckoned that we walked an extra 5 miles. We headed back past the dogs and finally got back on track.

We forged on climbing lots of hills. It was very windy, sometimes a bit rainy.photo natural spring We passed lots of olive groves and there was dill, rosemary and fig trees growing wild by the sides of the narrow dirt road. The fresh figs had an amazing taste mixed with the heady aroma of the rosemary and dill we had bruised with our trodding feet as we snagged the lucious fruit.

As we crossed the highway we looked back at Florence in the distance to see the big dome of the cathedral being deluged with rain. In the distance, we heard thunder. We continued on in the gusty wind watching the occasional giant rain drop scatter the dust on the dirt road in front of our feet.

photo between Florence and Impruneta

[...]

VolPaia, Friday 16 September early morning sunny
T and I have a HUGE room overlooking the valley. Last night, just as we were going to sleep a bat flew into the room (and happily, out again). It is very quiet and beautiful here... but I must backtrack to Impruneta. In the morning, we all sat at the Pergola bar (the pergola was covered with wisteria) and drank even more coffee. We decided morning that P, T and I would walk to Greve and that G and J would drive to Lucca and Puccini's house. Then we would all meet in Greve for dinner. The three of us started out. We stopped in at an Alimentari and bought wonderful black olives to snack on. I guess it was about 10:00am. It was sunny, about 20C but not humid.

The scenery changed somewhat from that between Florence and Impruneta. We saw lots of pine forests and no fig trees. In Strada we bought lunch at an alimentaria. They had the crustiest whole grain bread. T bought some tunafish to make a sandwich. I asked the woman to cut my bread in half and then she put peccorino di San Giomani and the most gorgeous green coloured pesto on it.photo near Giobbole P had prociutto and peccorino. Then on to a frutteria(?) for some pears. We continued walking and shortly after saw all the shops closing for siesta. Whoosh! Lunch bought just in time! The road became quite busy because everyone was going home for lunch. Just before reaching Giobbole, we stopped for lunch by the side of the road. We went into an olive grove and sat looking down into the valley at a huge wine estate. T's fish was v good as was P's prociutto and cheese. My sandwich was simply fabulous. (a sandwich by which all subsequent sandwiches are measured; none have surpassed that sandwich) The pesto, that had so much basil and clearly the most wonderful golden olive oil, had oozed into the bread but not so much that it made the bread mushy. It was... well, what can I say? All words are inadequate to describe that sandwich! The pears were exquisite and it was with a little reluctance that we got up from that shady spot beneath the olives.

to pesto recipe

photo Etruscan style grapesHowever, sated, we continued on. About 2 km south of Strada, P pointed out grapes trained up a tree, saying it was Etruscan style. They twined up making the tree look like a grape tree! It was covered in big clumps of frosty blue grapes. In Giobolle saw a small church covered in ivy and surrounded by topiary hedges shaped like ostrich and armadillo. Across the road and in the distance, there was a field checkerboard planted with olives and grapes. And from then on to Greve we encountered many big wine estates.

A fellow wearing a grey fidora, long sleeved undershirt and vest was picking little red berries that he called Giugiole. We tried one - strange and slightly wild tasting; we couldn't tell what it is in English.

We arrived in Greve about 4:00. It is very touristy. I bought some postcards and wrote postcards as we waited in the square for J and G. We also waited for 3/4 hour at a crowded barbershop so T could have a shave but we had to leave. I was going to have my hair washed at the hair salon down the street but the same thing - it would have taken too long. While we were waiting, T went into a butcher's shop and asked where we should eat dinner, asking for a not so touristy place that had regional food and that she would go if she went out. The woman there directed us to a place that is about 8 km out of Greve..

When J and G arrived at 7:10 (ten minutes after our planned meeting time - NOT BAD!) we walkers changed our clothes in the car and off we went up a narrow mountain road. We weren't sure how far and when there was an opportunity to stop and ask a van, T did. He felt strange saying to someone, "Parla Italiano?" because if they did, he knew he wasn't dealing with a tourist. We were still on the right track.

And the butcher lady didn't steer us incorrectly. We had the most fantastic dinner! T and I tried only speaking Italian even though the waiter spoke English. He was kind to speak Italian back to us.

Ristoro di Lamole
50020 Lamole (Greve in Chianti) Firenze

1st course:
Farnito Carpineto 1992 Chardonnay

E&T: (shared) spinach and gorgonzola fusilli
P: penne with tomatoes and ricotta
G: various crostini (toasts)
J: spinach and gorgonzola fusilli

2nd course:
Chianti Classico Buonasera Schwermiger Villa 1990

E: rabbit with black olives
T: stew with beef & tomatoes
P: veal with porcini
G: the rabbit
J: zucchini parmigianna
all: cauliflower piccante (lots of roasted garlic!)
deep fried zucchini

dessert:
E: Peach gelato
J: lemon gelato

When the waiter was describing desserts, he asked T(!) for the English translation for uva secca. (We looked it up in our dictionaries afterward - raisins) We were so impressed that he thought T lived in Italy and that's why his Italian was so good!! (Not bad for someone who spoke no Italian 6 months previously!)

After a lot of discussion with the waiters about our route to Vol Paia, we headed out - up and down a very narrow sometimes unpaved road for about 10 km. We arrived here to our palatial apartment. It is now 8:45 am. Coffee has just been delivered to me by P and T is badgering me to come out into the gorgeous kitchen to start our day. This is too much happiness!



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