My favourite days in Tuscany start with no set schedule, just a day to roam, see a new or familiar sight, or possibly start a new book as I swing precariously in the white netted “couples” hammock. The greying wine barrel beside the hammock, provides the perfect perch for my glass of aqua frizzante (sparkling water) with lemone (lemon), or a glass of vino rosso (red wine), if later in the day.
A walk before breakfast was in order as I am trying to keep my “Tuscan weight” in check. Due to recent over indulgences of homemade pasta, boar ragout, Pecorino (Ewe) cheese and excellent Chianti wine, I will need to make a conscious effort. No one can blame me, after all, when you are in Tuscany, the food is simply so delicious it is hard to resist.
I am beginning to feel like Sophia Loren, who exclaimed “Everything you see I owe to pasta.“, now I just need to get my curves moved back in their right locations!
The Tuscan sun was already warming as I stepped outside our chestnut doors. I feel the familiar beads of sweat starting to form at my hairline, just waiting to slip between my shoulder blades. I stood for a moment, drawing in a deep breath and enjoying the intense fluttering sound coming from the rapid wings of a hummingbird-moth. My new friend is flitting at high-speed between the potted pink geraniums and the blooming lavender in search of a nectar dolce (sweet). Apparently the presence of a hummingbird-moth is an omen of good luck, I always smile when I see one, perhaps that is the “lucky charm” of the hummingbird-moth?
Today will be a day of “tranquillità” (tranquility), a term I hear frequently used in Tuscany. It is difficult not to feel a sense of inner calm when you are surrounded with such beauty, the landscape, the people…
We head down the tufa pathway which curves as it leads toward the chestnut gate. The newly built shed, “our Italian style little house” to my right looks wonderful as the “marrone medio” medium brown stain gleams in the sun. I must get the new climbing roses planted, they will look beautiful draping over our garden shed.
I wonder if I will see the young doe I saw this past May? She was crossing the olive grove just below the Casale and was startled by my presence. Using the trunks of the olive trees she hid her delicate limbs; lining them up perfectly behind two olive tree trunks at just the right angle. If not for her gracefully arched neck, I would not have seen her. Today is a perfect day for a game of hide and seek?
We decided to take a different route this morning, walking toward San Gusme but taking the secondary road toward Villa a Sesta. We will be walking through the ancient stone Arceno entrance which perfectly captures the scenery of the estate through the keyhole structure. The walk will be just an hour, who knows what we will see today?
The shade rippled between the ancient Cypress treasures as we walked down Cypress Alley, thankfully helping to disperse the glaring Tuscan sun.
We meet a runner jogging up the Alley, a bit winded, but still able to manage a smile with sweat pouring down his face. We exchange a quick “buon giorno” (good morning). I anticipate he must be training for the Ecomarathon which passes through the Arceno Estate each October. How wonderful it must be to run amongst the ancient vineyards and olive groves of Arceno, ending your run with a glass of Chianti Classico, so civilised and so Tuscan!
The ducks in the pond to our right are cheerfully quacking away as one follows the other across their watery wonderland. The brown toads emit deep croaks which, seem unusually loud, long-winded and somewhat masculine. I casually mentioned to my husband, “even the toads sound exotic in Tuscany”.
Suddenly we notice the lean hind end of an animal quickly moving ahead of us. Soon there are two and we still are unable to identify them. One turns and comes quickly towards us, oblivious of our presence. As it comes closer we recognize a very healthy, brown hare with large ears that stand straight up. They are truly glorious in their natural environment, lean, brown, quick.
One hare darts in the open field area which leads to the vineyard to the left. The other stops at the end of Cypress Alley and soon the two rejoin and dart off together toward Parco Romantico (romantic park), the park designed by the famous architect, Agostino Fantastici in around 1833. How wonderfully appropriate.
In the distance I can see the one-handed statue nestled in the small niche of a stone chapel. I have looked at him a hundred times and still feel the allure of this lonely fellow as he stands stoically at the end of the Alley. Where has his hand gone?
We pass by the Tenuta di Arceno Winery on our right (the Chianti Classico Reserva is so impressive) with the source of the winery’s success, the well-tended Sangiovese vines growing to our left. I see the familiar pair of pheasants moving gracefully between the rows of vines, gingerly lifting their limbs. I pretend not to notice them.
As we crest the first small hill, I see Villa Arceno di Sotto with its wonderful three-arched loggia. A perfect place to find some shade on such a sunny day like this. There is a cypress tree at the lower entrance of the Villa which is affectionately referred to as the “praying nun”. The large cypress tilts forward appearing to bow in silent prayer, I wonder who our Nun is praying for today?
As if on cue the birds perched in the olive groves to the right begin to swoop and twirl above our heads. This always happens when we drive by the olive trees and I appreciate this magical moment.
We continue to walk beside the old stone wall and further on we see the abandoned mill which sits by a small river, I wonder if it will become someones Casale or Villa some day? Such a beautifully solid and elegant looking building. There is one vacant Villa on the estate which I understand will never be refurbished. During the retreat of the Nazi’s in WWII, members of a family including, women and children were massacred. The vacant building stands in solitude, a gesture of reverence to those who have lost their lives. So, genuinely Italian and a profound gesture of respect.
As we climb the last hill before reaching the Tenuta’s keyhole, I see the white dust from the road clinging to the stone wall to our right. A vehicle slows as it passes us and we wave to each other acknowledging the gesture. Some may find the sight of the dust on the old stone walls unappealing, I consider the dust to be a reoccurring monument to the daily travellers visiting the estate. The poppies in the spring do not seem to mind, as they peak from between the stones of the walls.
The Estate seems to dance as it peeks through the Tenuta’s key hole.
The scenery on the secondary road toward Villa a Sesta is surrounded by vineyards and olive trees. We laugh as we see a cart with empty demijohns in the field, perhaps abandoned following a party from the night before?
After passing another cypress lined white road, we reach the entrance leading to the medieval village of San Gusme. We meet a few local residents as they take their morning stroll or are bent over tending their gardens. The local red tabby greets us as it slinks along the top of the stone wall overlooking the vineyards surrounding San Gusme. The scenery is breathtaking.
I stop to give the friendly feline a rub on her head, as it tilts its head backward it exposes a mouth filled with a small coiled grass snake. I cringe as the serpent’s head delicately hangs to one side of the feline’s mouth, the snake tongue darting in and out as his conqueror carries him off. I think of my house cat Lucy, who lounges daily in her cushioned velvet seat at home and who meows passionately for her “hand delivered” tender treats.
We walk by Lorenzo’s beautiful garden, his work is in progress and a testament to his ongoing creativity.
The beautiful iron water pump sits quietly ready to quench our thirst as it has for so many who have traveled this same path.
We take the back road to our Casale enjoying the scenery as we walk “down hill” and relishing the coolness provided by the trees. The fencing of the Arceno lands has a hole at the base, perhaps the wild boar have found a new passage during their nightly travels. We meet a few workmen from Castelnuovo Berardenga with shovels in hand, filling in a few holes on the white road. “Buon giorno” and a few nods are exchanged. They wipe the sweat from their brows on their sleeves as we pass.
As our feet hit the bottom of Cypress Alley, my lungs fill with the freshness of the air and I am filled with gratitude for this beautiful day. Now, if only I can make it up the hill!
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault
As we reach the top of the Alley and round the turn toward our Casale, we are looking forward to a solid breakfast.
Shall we have a piece of dry Italian white bread, prosciutto (ham) slices (non dolce), fresh boiled Italian eggs (right off the shelf), fresh pecorino cheese from Pienza, Pera (pear) juice we cannot get at home and acacia honey today versus the chestnut honey we had yesterday?
A Tuscan “brunch” for a perfect end to a tranquil walk with Arceno’s friends. Surely, Sophia Loren would understand.
Brault, R. (2014) Round Up the Usual Subjects: Thoughts on Just about Everything
Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7192677.Robert_Brault