Dr. Dawg

Notes from Tuscany (1)

| Disqus Comments


The sheer perfection of the Tuscan countryside in Spring may be its only flaw—one vista after another reveals lines of cypresses, more vineyards, more olive groves, more pristine fields of yellow flowers. Where we are staying, issuing forth on daytrips, the rural silence is broken by cuckoos in the evening, mourning doves at daybreak.


On the hilltops, walled cities—San Gimignano (a few kilometers away) Volterra, Montalcino, Castellina, Pienza—are challenging for the sedate Canadian driver. Steep winding roads and that favourite Italian pastime, tailgating, combine to ensure a steady flow of adrenaline, while the Lady in the Sky, speaking from the GPS with seeming authority, is not infrequently confused.

Today we were only a stone’s throw from Livorno, our destination, when She instructed me to enter the autostrada, heading directly away. A few kilometers along, She demanded that we “perform a U-turn as soon as possible.” We never did make it to Livorno, but somehow found ourselves in Cecina Mare, some distance down the Etruscan coast, eating fresh fried fish by the beach and restoring frayed tempers.

Ah yes, Tuscan food. Washed down with fine Chianti. Stracotto, the thinking person’s pot roast. Ribollita, a scrumptious bread-thickened soup that could turn me into a vegetarian. Prosciutto crudo, coppa, other thin-sliced hams and salamis, good crusty bread, raw fennel. Truffles, white and black, in a paste with olives, in another paste with porcini mushrooms, or sliced and served in pasta with butter. Pecorino cheese with pistachios, served with honey.

Good grief, I just ate, and I’m hungry again.


It was only yesterday, I think, that I fully realized that I was in Italy. You see nothing but a fairly dreary town. Then, through a portal:


And then:


There is something so “there” about La Torre Pendente when you are actually right in front of it. Naturally I paid the exorbitant fee and climbed right up to the belfry.

Something I hadn’t known before was that, after construction began in the 12th century, and three storeys had been built, the structure was already beginning to list. So the next three, and the belfry, were built with an (unsuccessful) offset in the other direction, making the tower mildly banana-shaped. I had thought it was an optical illusion.

Tomorrow—if we use maps and read signs, as well as listening to the Lady in the Sky—we hope to make it to Populonia on the Gulf of Baratti, once the centre of the Etruscan empire. Perhaps along the way we might find a dish of the famed cac(c)ciucco (the Livornese insist on 5 c’s)—and tomorrow, safely returned, a pointlessly postponed bistecca fiorentina.

More later. In Italy, there’s always more.

[H/t Ms. Mew for the top photo. And she has plenty where that came from.]

Return to the home page

blog comments powered by Disqus

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 25, 2013 11:49 PM.

Dear Sun Media: was the previous entry in this blog.

Torn between outrage and ennui is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 6.3.6