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Before I begin with today’s events, I have to say that, if you ever plan to come to Tuscany, consider yourself very fortunate if you can do it with good friends who have traveled here several times and know their way around the towns and the mountain and valley roads that get you there. I know, from my photo tours to Norway, that it’s so good to be able to get behind the wheel, know exactly where I’m going and how to get there and I love showing the Lofoten Islands off. I’m sure that’s the way Charlie and Cheryl feel about touring family and friends around Tuscany and they are such great hosts. They’ve been to several locations to show them off, but they keep finding new ones too and we’re getting the advantage of it.
As it turned out, the weather this morning wasn’t nearly as bad as what was forecasted. Unfortunately, Bonnie went to bed last night feeling like a sore throat was coming on and it didn’t improve overnight. A cough has developed now and we’re just hoping that it doesn’t turn into a full fledged cold.
On with the day. We left the villa mid-morning for our drive to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, a large Benedictine monastery founded in 1313, in the Crete Senesi area of Tuscany. The drive was, once again, spectacular and, looking at the map of the area later, we covered only a small portion of it. That does it….we have to go back, if not on this trip, but the next one for sure. Later this summer or fall is still in the back of my mind, but previous obligations, as well as availability of the villa, might make the decision for us.
We climbed into the mountain and arrived at the abbey about 11:00. The abbey’s buildings were mostly built with red brick, which stands out against the green forests, grey clay and sandy soil – crete senesi – which gives this area of Tuscany its name. The monastery is accessed via a drawbridge, which leads to the medieval red brick palace. Over the entrance arch is a terracotta depicting Madonna with Child and Two Angels.
I couldn’t begin to tell you what all of the buildings are, but they were all interesting and the view around the area was spectacular. We walked down the hill, past what I would call a ‘step well’, which I’m familiar with from India and was just as grungy looking, to the main square and the church.
After checking out many of the buildings and much of the grounds, we huffed and puffed our way back up the steep hill to the main building and restaurant. We had already decided to have lunch in Lucignano on the way back to the villa, but we enjoyed a tasty treat of gelato before leaving.
As we were driving out of the abbey, we got a great view of the Le Crete Senesi clay cliffs.
During the drive to the Abbey, we had passed a stunning property with a field ablaze with poppies. Cheryl has been hoping to get a good shot of a poppy field and this was the best we had seen yet, so it deserved a stop.
We arrived in Lucignano about 1:00. The streets were very quiet, since most businesses close down between 1:00 and 4:00. We checked a few out and finally found one open: Lo Schicchero (low Ski-care-o), where we enjoyed yet another excellent meal. Pasta yet again!
When we came out of the restaurant, the Nona was cleaning up one of her large clay pots on the street. I said to her, “Carozza?” (which means car or carriage….it’s the same in Maltese). She nodded, yes, a car had hit it and, obviously, the driver didn’t stick around. Charlie and I helped her clean up despite her and her daughter’s protests.
Other than the hit and run, the only other action we saw on the street was a group of men (I won’t say old because some of them were probably younger than us) sitting outside the Bar Tabacchi and they were kind enough to pose for a photo.
When we arrived back at the parking lot, I noticed one of the 3-wheeled ‘pick-up’ trucks and checked out the make: an ‘Ape’. The book I’ve been reading about a couple who moved to Tuscany, refers to an Ape a few times. For sure we’ll buy one when we move here!
Back to La Colonica, a salad for dinner later on, some reading and a couple more episodes of ‘Northern Rescue’.
We’re not sure any more what the weather is going to be, since the forecasts we’re picking up on Bonnie and Cheryl’s iPads haven’t been too reliable. So, all we can do is hope that good weather develops overnight and that the vitamins, honey and hot tea that Bonnie has been scarfing down miraculously cures her cough.