Friday, June 8, 2007

Firenze Countryside

It was Sunday afternoon and I was trying to recover from an eventful weekend. Friday afternoon a wine tasting, Saturday a trip to Bologna, and a lazy Sunday morning spent cleaning the apartment, doing laundry, some painting, writing, and reading. Around 5:30 in the afternoon, I decided to head for Piazza della Republic and take my book.

I had no sooner found a seat when my phone rang, and Francesco told me to meet him at the Ponte Vecchio, where he had his car. The streets were so full of tourists that the usual 5 minute walk took me almost 15, and Francesco was waiting when I arrived. I jumped in the car and we were off!

I have only been in a car a few times in the past 3 months (3 to be exact). I had no idea where we were going, but I didn’t really care. There is a seatbelt law in Italy, but no one wears them, so when in Italy......It is interesting how quickly you can drop "rules" when in a new place, with new people, and new customs. Francesco had the soundtrack for all the James Bond movies playing loudly in the CD player.

On the autostrada (Highway), the roads are wide, but there are no lines, except down the center. People just "bob and weave" all around each other, and really it is worse than being in a New York Taxi, except that it seems they are all playing by the same rules, it is just not exactly clear what those least to me. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about it and put my trust in Francesco.

After a little while of driving, I asked Francesco where we were going and he said "alla compagnia". (To the country). We went about 25 kilometers outside of Florence into the Tuscan Hills where the vineyards and olive groves are abundant. Off the autostrada, the roads were narrower, steeper, and less traffic. We climbed the hills towards a specific vineyard that he had in mind, which is owned by Frescobaldi, a prominent Florentine wine producers.

The views were spectacular, and the winery was in an old castle on the top of one of the hills, overlooking the beautiful countryside. It seemed they were having a family reunion in one part of the winery, as everyone was dressed up, and they had large tables with dishes of food spread on them.

We walked around the grounds for a while and took in the views and the strong smell of jasmine in the air. Back into the car and on the road again, Francesco saw a banner for Festivo della Cinghiale. (Festival of the Wild Boar) in a little town called Peluga. He was very excited and asked me if I liked the cinghiale. I reminded him that I didn’t eat four legged animals and he reminded me that I needed to "experience the happiness" and so we were headed to the festival. (Francesco is the man who said I would not make a good Italian, so I have a lot to prove with him).

We followed the signs to the Festival and came upon a community soccer park, with a clubhouse type building, tables outside and in, and lots of people. I am absolutely positive that I was the only American there and also the only tourist! It was so exciting. Francesco quickly converted to parlare Italiano, and I did the same. He ordered a bottle of wine, Tortellini di Cinghiale, pollo a griglia for me, and patate fritte. We were assigned a table with another family, and went to sit down and wait for out food. There was a 3 piece band playing and people started dancing.

Francesco’s pasta came first and he insisted that I try the cinghiale, which I did, and it tasted very strong, exactly like you would think a wild boar would taste. It was not a bad taste, but after years of not eating meat, it was not one that I am fond of. My pollo came and we finished up our meal and the bottle of wine, and had to race back into Firenze so that Francesco could get to work by 10:30 p.m.

What a wonderful way to end a perfect weekend!

P.S. The photo of Francesco and I is equally bad of both of us. My eyes are swollen from allergies to the jasmine, and he is taking the photo of us, soooooo. Anyway, we were having fun!

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