So, my daughter, who decided about ten years ago after one week’s vacation in a Tuscan farmhouse that she would be an Italian Studies major, and that’s all there was to it, landed a post-graduate internship at a villa near Florence this summer. I flew down from Vienna to visit her this week–the culmination of my ingenious long-term plan to raise children who get posted to nice places so I can visit them without actually having to move.
I’m not going to name the villa, because they are a bit proprietary about their publicity, but let’s just say it is pretty much how you would imagine an Tuscan villa to be. Unless, of course, you have not visited Italy, in which case you might be expecting modern conveniences like a dishwasher, a clothes dryer, or a microwave. Nope, the Italians believe if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Drying towels out the windows and washing dishes in the sink has worked for several hundred years, so why change now? And a bit of wear and tear and tilt on buildings just adds to their charm. They are still standing, right?
Anyway, her apartment is in the top part of a huge renovated barn. The bottom part is not renovated, and in the jungles of northern Virginia would probably have 100 raccoons, 500 bats, and a million squirrels living in it. But here, it’s mostly home to crickets and owls. It’s like camping, only with a terrific view of God’s country and free wine–bottles with messed-up labels and such from the on-site winery. Yes, she lived for ten weeks in an Italian villa with free wine. And olive oil from the groves right outside the window! So what if they didn’t pay her?
The villa is very isolated, at least in European terms, which makes it very restful compared to Florence, for example, which I am convinced is one of the most crowded places on earth. The location is ideal if you have a car, but of course she did not. So, getting home at night involved leaving an isolated bus stop to hike up through pitch-dark woods by herself. I am very glad I did not know much about this until I came to visit. I am a mom, after all.
The villa is close to two small cities: Pistoia and Prato. These are off the beaten track for most tourists, and were fun to explore, especially with someone who speaks Italian. We took buses and trains to both places, and also visited Montecatini Terme, a spa town, and Montecatini Alto by way of a very cool funicular railway. We stuffed ourselves with amazing food and wine, of course. We also found the Italian leather boot store, and that’s all I’m going to say on that subject. 🙂
Then my husband and son drove down to spend a couple of days sightseeing and to move my daughter’s stuff back to Vienna. More on that later. We’re leaving today, after my great big adult children wake up!