Under the Tuscan Sunset

Musings

Moving from Napoli to the countryside of Tuscany reminded me of a speedboat running at full throttle, nose in the air, water spraying all over its passengers, engine roaring, to suddenly pulling the throttle back to idle; the boat settles softly into the water and the serenity of the lake enfolds one like a soft blanket. Are we in the same country? “Definitely not,” the Napolitanos would tell me. I suspect the Tuscanos might agree.

History on Every Peak

Farewell Salvatore! I enjoyed my last cappuccino and it was time to head to the train station. Napoli traffic did not disappoint but I was feeling more like Neo later in the Matrix – I could now see the code and it seemed to make sense. Napoli Centrale was a mound of ants racing to train platforms – many with suitcases in tow. This time, we knew what to look for and the disorientation from a few days ago had disappeared.

Settled into our comfortable train car and seats, we began the 70 minute run to Rome. A little monitor above showed the route and displayed the speed of the train – it topped off at 280 km/hr (about 170 mph) – it was incredibly smooth and unbelievably quiet. Relative to the frenetic world of air travel, these trains are like walk in the Tuscan hills.

Our train raced through a valley between two mountain ranges in the distance. The terrain was rolling valleys between the mountains, less green than the mountains around Napoli, and dotted with small towns and villages typically nestled on the peaks of smaller hills. Old Castles, churches, and monasteries frequently sat on higher peaks and our journey was marked by constant head turning to see another amazing piece of architecture or walled compound sitting on top of another mountain. Even with 30 days, I was reminded that we will only scratch the surface of Italy’s story and many treasures.

Camino Revisited

We arrived at Roma Termini, the main train station of Rome, and navigated an even larger mound of ants in search of Edoardo, who was meeting us with our rental car. Travelers tip: public restrooms in Italy frequently cost form 1/2 to 1 Euro, may combine men’s and women’s in the same space, and seem to always be out of toilet paper. We started carrying extra toilet paper with us…just in case.

We found Edoardo outside along Via Marsala. As Edoardo was walking away, I asked if he had any suggestions on the best way out of the terminal area, he replied, “Yes, you can take that road.” And so we started the next leg of our adventure with Google guiding us to our next target, Viterbo. Rome’s streets weren’t quite as crazy as Napoli’s but I was very glad for my crash course in Italian driving. Giuseppe’s words came back to me, “If you can drive Napoli, you can drive anywhere.” Onward.

The city gave way to countryside and we found ourselves feeling more relaxed. Well, at least I did. Even driving with signs I couldn’t read along unfamiliar roads didn’t lessen the sense of the boat settling down into the water. We arrived in Viterbo about 90 minutes later to discover an old walled city with cobblestone streets that looked like it had remained unchanged from the Middle Ages. Our full size SUV was a bit much for the narrow streets but we manage to wind our way through.

After parking and walking through the old gate, we noticed a “peregrino” outside of a door to small office. Apparently there is a Via Francigena or “road to Rome” pilgrimage that Italy’s version of the Camino de Santiago. Curiously, Viterbo was very reminiscent of many of the towns we entered when walked the Camino in 2019 – complete with the “shell” symbol and signs to mark the way. Hmmm….

La Piantata

After lunch, we visited the Viterbo’s Duomo and an old convent. Every church we’ve entered has contained fantastically beautiful artwork – massive paintings and sculptures. One might run across a Caravaggio or Bernini work without even knowing. The side altars are exquisite with paintings of the saints and the iconography that makes the story telling so consistent and compelling. Perhaps more on that later. This church was beautiful but also a bit run-down with parts of it maintained better than others.

From Viterbo, we made our way across the Tuscan countryside, passing more walled villages, castles, monasteries, and chiesa’s (churches), all looking ancient and stunning. The rolling hills, narrow roads, groves of olive trees, and empty fields disappearing over hillsides, were all incredibly charming. Finally, we pulled up to a narrow gate and rang a bell – “Buongiorno” came the voice and we were soon let in to La Piantata (The Planted), our B&B for the next 2 nights.

La Piantata is an “agriturismo” estate nestled in the rolling hills outside Tuscania. It is one of the largest producers of lavender in Italy and has converted part of the space in and around its olive tree grove to comfortable stand alone suites, typically on stilts or, literally, in the trees. As I write this post, I am sitting on the deck of our treehouse over looking out over the olive trees, listening to the softly flowing brook down the hill, and drinking a cup of coffee. Yes, a bit of heaven.

When we arrived, I was determined to get into the pool which was ice cold but it just seemed right. We walked the grounds, which include a 3km trail down and through the river area and past the original “tree house” out in the middle of a field. The boat is now comfortably idling, slowly moving in the water.

Sunset and Stars

Quiet. Oh so quiet. The sun was getting low and Sally was a young girl again, anticipating the sunset with giddy expectation. We were not disappointed as it lowered toward the horizon, the atmosphere coloring it in the deepening yellows, oranges, and reds, of the best of sunsets. Our deck giving us an uninterrupted view of the sun framed atop perfectly undulating hills. Truly glorious.

Later, we returned from dinner to see a night sky full of twinklings impossible to see for those of living in a city. The Milky Way herself was revealed as we picked out the big and little dippers, Saturn, Neptune, Vega, and so many familiar and unfamiliar points of light. We even got to see a couple of shooting stars as we found ourselves lost in the heavens – infinity and beyond, across God’s impossibly imaginative universe.

Today we’ll visit Civita di Bagnoregio, “the dying city” (more on that tomorrow) and then return to La Piantata to enjoy the estate and it’s peacefulness. Alla prossima!

Showing 3 comments
  • John
    Reply

    The Northwind t-shirts worn around the world! Careful driving Phil.
    Keep posting!

    • Phillip Berry
      Reply

      Northwind has gone international…again!

  • Mary Jo Campbell
    Reply

    So much fun to travel along and listen to your adventures.

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