To Tuscany and Beyond, April 2022 – Part 1

Our Italian odyssey started in Stockport (obvs…) with a quick visit to the Favourite Eldest’s to drink a toast to her birthday. She’s starting to accumulate the kind of numbers where women request that disclosure is applied with discretion.) I don’t like driving in Manchester as it has been dangerous on occasion and I worry that the recklessness is created by drivers on drugs. Five minutes from Katrina and Matt’s abode we stopped at the front at some traffic lights. First an old BMW 3 Series pulled up in front of us and then a VW Golf. With the lights at red one turned right against the traffic and the other just kept going. I suspect they were peddling rather than taking drugs and either chasing each other or escaping. Lovely.

Indoor fireworks and some fizz for the birthday girl

Sophie and Harry attended the celebration as well and Katrina’s milestone celebrated. We then proceeded to the Premier Inn at the airport for an overnight stay. We had a fairly early flight and bottlenecks in Security meant getting there well in advance. Even in the ‘Fast Path’ lane we idled for 40 minutes. Worse was to come as my bicycle multi tool was confiscated. I have several but I tearfully said goodbye to something that has traversed America, most of Europe and a long way up Australia with me. I took it because our host had threatened a bike ride. (This never came to pass!)

The flight was routine albeit we were back to wearing masks during the flight (thank you Italy). In fact it was a special kind of mask, more substantial and uncomfortable. After having mooched around the Terminal for so long before the flight, cheek by jowl, with other unmasked travellers then what this mask was going to prevent is anyone’s guess. Italy was also enforcing Covid vaccination status in restaurants and insisting on masks before you sat at a table. Bonkers as regards a preventative measure, but it was nice to use my App after never having used it since my last trip to Lanzarote.

Finding the car rental office near Pisa Airport wasn’t routine. It wasn’t located in the main area for the other rental companies. More by a hunch than knowledge we came across it on a side street near an underpass away from the Terminal. Oh how we laughed over the 40 minute hunt. The chap on Reception then badgered me about extra insurance due to high excesses on car damage. On my declination he took a long video around the car to capture it’s pristine state and waved us away. This small Citroën was so under powered that it couldn’t pull a sailor off your sister let alone comfortably cope with all the hairpins and climbing to come.

The drive to Anghiari is the type of excitement you usually have to pay for at a fun fair. Narrow dual carriageways with cars flashing you from behind if you strayed into the outside lane or massive articulated trucks straddling both lanes as they coped, at speed, with the winding carriageways. The central reservation is a solid concrete barrier. I thought hard at this point about the extra insurance I’d declined. We texted Tony, our host, close to Anghiari and was delighted after the meet up with his idea of a drink and stroll around this medieval hillside town along with Karen, his wife. Frazzled nerves were calmed. Tony is on my website and blogs as an accompanying cycle tourer. We met in 1985, on our MBA course at Bradford University.

The main square in Anghiari
Anna and Karen take the lead
A near dusk sky

The drive into the countryside, to their palazzo, was predictably windy and mainly up hill (welcome to most of Tuscany). This is their second home and much time, love and resources have been poured into creating an idyll over a decade. Such was the remoteness it wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that the locals were still finding German soldiers, in the 1970s, hiding in the woods unaware the war was over. As Tony commented there would be no noise or light pollution at night. The villa with its pool is stunning and the tranquility complete. A frustration is the proliferation of wild boars in the area. They dig up the ground in pursuit of things to eat and a lot of the ground has been ‘turned over’. A fence around the house garden is in place to stop this damage closer to the property. Anna was keen to see the said pigs during her stay but they failed to materialise but we knew they were there due to the ground condition. Apparently they are hunted in the autumn but a licence is needed and a gun!

We enjoyed a brief tour of the home and then especially catering for Mrs Ives a courgette pasta was rustled up and after some wine near a log fire we tumbled into bed ready for sleep. A great start with splendid hospitality and lovely surroundings.

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