Guide book writer Rick Steves, of whom I’m a unabashed longtime fan, says the key to great travel is “be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic.” I say, “Hear, hear.”
Today I set out for the Villa Gamberaia in Settignano, a small town in the hills just outside of a Florence. I heard it described as the eighth wonder of the world — wouldn’t you want to go? A quiet day painting in the Tuscan hills. Yes, please!
It’s Saturday today and I could say I deserve a rest, but painting is rest for me, so I packed my supplies and with a smile on my face, headed out.
After asking the group of men who run the busyard where exactly Bus 10 could be picked up, they graciously pointed my way, but not before telling me how beautiful I looked today. I love this country. Italian men, I have heard, have won Europe’s award for most improved, and it’s true; 20 years ago, they were in my face about it. Now they only graciously boost your ego and send you on your way — eyes following you, yes, but no longer a whole person following you. Still, if a group of American men acted in this way, you’d be completely freaked out. But it’s perfectly all right here; this, after all, is Italy.
But errr, I digress. I’m off to the “eighth wonder of the world” to paint. From Settignano’s town square, it’s a lovely walk through the Tuscan hills, with glimpses of Florence lying below in the distance, playing peek a boo with my good mood.
Arriving at the Villa was confusing, it appeared closed? The posted hours verified it open, so I rang the bell, someone said something to me I did not understand, and the door opened. So, naturally, I entered.
The man waving his hands inside and making his way towards me, however, did not look inviting. (Note: he was not Italian.) “No, Madame, we are not open, closed for event, wedding.” In the name of all things holy, really? ‘Cause I just came an awfully long way… All right, it was only 20-25 minutes by bus and a glorious 10-minute walk, but I’m here, and I want to paint. Are you sure? A wedding? Today?
“Yes, Madame, closed, wedding. Maybe Monday?” Maybe Monday? Mama Mia!
Well, back to Plan B. A simple afternoon at the Boboli gardens. And so it was a hour and a half later I found myself at the Boboli, to tired to paint. A wee siesta on the grass and then much exploring.
A delightful lunch at Pitti Palace cafe and a evening on the Piazza della Signoria with this local white wine I can’t spell or pronounce but promise to find out for all of you.
Time to call it a wrap. The optimist in me says it was a really good day. A day of rest? No, but I once read Saturdays were for adventure, and adventure it was!