Italy road trip: Taking a break in Tuscany
Smoke wafting from a distant chimney reminds me of childhood autumns in Virginia: coming home from the pumpkin patch, laying down newspaper on the glistening wooden kitchen table, three young girls chirping excitedly about what they would carve into their vine finds. A few years later, this would turn into coming home from high-school field hockey practice, dropping my gear off in the utility room, nestling into the sofa with a handful of candy corn while pondering whether I'm too old to dress up for Halloween this year.
In the hillside town of Santa Maria a Monte in Tuscany, the air is crisp but the sun's heat drenches me in my plush black winter coat. Temperatures hover in the 50s (Fahrenheit) but the Tuscan rays make it feel much warmer.
A cat has made her way onto the chair next to me, dressed similarly to me in a thick grey-brown coat of fur and lightly tickling my elbow with her protruding whiskers. I've aptly nicknamed her Whiskey, and she has succeeded in distracting me not only from my writing but also from the divine valley views that stretch out below me.
This day has been the first on this road trip through Italy with my two sisters in which we don't have a plan, a schedule, or any rush to travel to the next town or squeeze X number of sights into a matter of hours, at least before the sun starts to set just shy of 5 p.m.
We've settled in nicely in our split-level guest room with a basic kitchen, long dining table, and loft consisting of three beds, allowing us to completely unpack our suitcases and our busy minds. Outside, birds tweet, dogs bark, and a rooster crows. A bi-plane soars overhead, briefly disrupting the nuanced notes of nature that surround me. I close my eyes and envision the summers at this Tuscan villa, undoubtedly abuzz with flower-hopping bees and splashing water from the patio's pool. I revel in the off-season scene in which I sit, noticeably more serene and arguably more enjoyable.