Many of my friends found it hard to believe that I was travelling all the way from California to Italy by myself. Travelling solo (sola in italiano), was never really an issue. I was returning to Il Poggio in Celle Sul Rigo, approximately 50 km south of Siena, for my second visit, so there was a sense of familiarity. Luckily, I made friends easily, meeting fellow travelers along the way. www.ilpoggio.net
Many of the other guests at Il Poggio were either couples or families but everyone seemed to be exceptionally friendly, no matter what language they spoke. The staff at Il Poggio was very genuine and welcoming, but spoke little to no English. By default, I was forced to speak Italian and really enjoyed the challenge–my mind was always engaged!
One of my first italian amiche, (friends) was Ramune, who spoke English commensurate to my Italian. She freelanced as a concierge and tour guide of sorts at Il Poggio. Originally from Lithuania, Ramune was fascinating and enthusiastic, eager to share her time, offering guided side trips throughout southern Tuscany.
Ramune’s other friend was Patrizio, who was in charge of the nearby thermal water operations at the ritzy six star Fonteverde Terme less than 1 km away.
Much to my delight, even the dogs were welcome at the prestigious 17th century Fonteverde Terme! www.fonteverdespa.com
Turns out, I would see Ramune and Patrizio frequently in the little medieval town of San Casciano dei Bagni over the next few weeks. We met up again later that week at Albergo La Fontanella in San Casciano dei Bagni, only 5 km from Il Poggio, to share a bottle of 2008 Contucci Mulinvechhio Vino Nobile that I picked up in while wine tasting that day at the Contucci Enoteca in nearby Montepulciano.
I felt a sense of calmness in this tiny hamlet and was always happy to see my new Italian amiche on the streets or at the market. Indeed it literally was, as Joni Mitchell’s song lyrics so poignantly say, The Circle Game…. “We’re captive on the carousel of time…We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came… And go round and round and round In the Circle Game…”
For me, immersing into the Tuscan daily life was somewhat effortless. Surprisingly so, even though most people in this part of Southern Tuscany did not speak English, language was not really a big barrier. Sometimes the charades were as funny as the conversations! My daily thoughts quickly had morphed from English to Italian, from dollars to euros, from miles to kilometers, from feet to meters, from gallons to liters, from Fahrenheit to Celsius. I felt unfettered and alive! Lots of Joni Mitchell-isms here! (Perhaps that is because Joni Mitchell songs were played frequently on Italian radio and in enotecas along the way)!
Easter week in Tuscany was a great time to visit. There was a lot of hussle and bustle preparing for the holy holiday meals! Not to mention the lavish displays of giant decorated chocolate eggs wrapped in colorful foil and ribbons in the shop windows!
During my last days in town, Ramune’s friend Nella was busy preparing for the opening of her new specialty wine and food shop, Pietanze della Fontanella, in centro San Casciano dei Bagni. Unfortunately I would miss the grand opening, as my travels would take me further north to Chianti the next day. http://www.sancascianobagni.com/shop/shopping/?showcase=pietanze-della-fontanella