“We residents sometimes pity you poor tourists not a little – handed about like a parcel of goods from Venice to Florence, from Florence to Rome, living herded together in pensions or hotels, quite unconscious of anything that is outside Baedeker, their one anxiety to get ‘done’ and ‘through’ and go somewhere else. The result is they mix up towns, rivers, palaces in one inextricable whirl.”
– E.M. Forster, British novelist, essayist, and short story writer, from A Room with a View
When I came across this quote from the movie A Room with a View, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We were wrapping up our Firenze part of our trip and everyone was exhausted. We saw as much as we could in the few days that we were here. Pisa was a huge tourist trap, though I am glad we were able to see it and it was along our intended route. I think we spent no more than two hours in Pisa. As we headed up the Tuscan hills on winding roads, I saw the most spectacular views of the Italian Alps in the background, ancient stone bridges for vehicles and trains arcing the valley and fume, or river, below, charming hamlets and villas jutting solidly from the hills, brightly colored villas with geraniums spilling out of window flower boxes in hot pink, orange, and red. I was also clutching my seat because the roads were narrow with little shoulder room to share with the many brave bicyclists who mastered the steep inclines of the mountainous roads. Hairpin turns. Those crazy Italian drivers again who would pass you on a near-blind curve. I appreciated David’s driving even more as we chugged up the mountain terrain in roughly two hours.
We had to stop at Gallicano to get some groceries at the Conad superstore, the chain supermarket in Italy. While Piazza al Serchio has a small grocery store, bakery, and vegetable/fruit store a short walk from the villa, Conad had a bigger selection of items that we’d need for breakfasts, snacks, and dinners. One thing I have enjoyed drinking in the mornings here in Italy is pera, or pear juice. The directions to the villa were interesting as soon as we got to Piazza al Serchio – look for an old locomotive on your left, a petrol station in the center, a bar to the right, make a sharp hairpin turn left and cross over and go down this somewhat steep street.
We drove up, with Mike in the lead car, and proceeded to drive into the driveway after opening up the automatic gate. Mike was greeted by a young woman and man in swimsuits. From our car, we could see the woman shaking her head and Mike pointing to a piece of paper. Raissa came over to update us. The girl at first said the house number was 38 or some such number and not the obvious 5 that was on a sign right by the gate. Then she said Rita, the woman who communicated with Mike and Raissa when they were booking the villa, was her grandmother, and her understanding was that the next set of guests would not be arriving until July 4th. The grandmother apparently rented it out and didn’t tell the family. An older man was also on the property, and it turns out he is the caretaker. When all was said and done, the granddaughter, who was very nice but confused, and her group of friends vacated the pool, while we proceeded to unload our luggage and bring it into the house. Not unlike our Roma apartment introduction, our snafu at Piazza al Serchio was quickly resolved. Not only did Rita hurry over and apo