01/09/2010

My Italy Book

Aunt Dot said she must get down her Turkey book quickly, or she would be forestalled by all these tiresome people. Writers all seemed to get the same idea at the same time. One year they would all be rushing for Spain, next year to some island off Italy, then it would be the Greek islands, then Dalmatia, then Cyprus and the Levant, and now people were all for Turkey.
Rose Macauley, The Towers of Trabizond.

That is to say - not that I'm planning on writing a book about Turkey, or Italy, but a post, maybe even several, about my week in Tuscany. And I realise that this is about as original as a holiday slide show. But, hey, no one is forcing you to read this! (If they are please ask them to contact me or my sisters. We'd like to know how they do it). So you can always go check out some other posts instead. Like my Portraits of Autism series, or Marianne's Famous Lemon Tart recipe (translated), or Sister3's amazing photos.  If you've seen all that already, then why not engage in a bit of philanthropy, and go see what Josie from Sleep is for the Weak is up to in Bangladesh. Or if you're already following her efforts there, then just pick up a good book and come back tomorrow.


I took a book with me to Italy:
It was pleasant to wake up in Florence, to open the eyes upon a bright bare room, with a floor of red tiles which look clean though they are not; with a painted ceiling whereon pink griffins and blue amorini sport in a forest of yellow violins and bassoons. It was pleasant, too, to fling wide the windows, pinching the fingers in unfamiliar fastenings, to lean out into sunshine with beautiful hills and trees and marble churches opposite, and close below, the Arno, gurgling against the embankment of the road.
E.M.Forster, A Room with a View.
This is all absolutely true. The hooks on the shutters and window of my hotel room were different from anything I've ever seen. And it was pleasant to fling them open, catch the evening or the morning sun, get some air into the room, invite mosquitoes to party...



Also, there were definitely hills. Both Prato and Pistoia were surrounded by them. Dark green, lush, so obviously fertile. You would see them every where you looked, and wish you could find a bus, or better a horse drawn cart that you would take you up there.  You would imagine the sort of food that could be found there. The cheese, the flavoursome meat, the wine and the fruit. I went as far as questioning a woman in the Tourist Information office very closely indeed, trying to figure out how I might get there without a car. Next time, maybe!


There were plenty of marble churches too, tiled green and white and reddish brown. Too many maybe. I prefer the stone churches of Rome to the flashy ones of Florence. There is too much of the eighties bathroom about them for my liking. But what I did love, was coming across the dome of a church at the turn of a narrow street. A dome that would then disappear as you took another turn, and reappear again a few steps down. We eventually found the one in the photo, in Pistoia, but didn't even try to go in: there is, after all, such a thing as being churched out.

Oh, and I must confess that I didn't see the Arno. The river in my next picture runs in Prato. It's called the Bisenzio. I did spend a couple of days in Florence, and saw as much as I could. But when it came to choosing between going back a third time to see the Arno, and the Ponte Vecchio, or going to Pistoia, a pretty medieval town just outside of Prato, I chose the least tourist-ridden option. On my last day I walked along the Bisenzio. I took this picture from the bridge I crossed daily to go to the conference venue. You can just about make out the hills at the end.

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4 comments:

JulieB said...

For some reason this didn't sound like a family holiday - or maybe I am mistaken? Either way, I am very envious - was saying to my husband at the weekend how I would love to go back to Tuscany. I went with my parents when I was 15 and loved it.

Sandrine said...

No,no,no. No family at all. Not even a holiday, really - I went there for a conference. But it's amazing how much sight seeing and evenings out you can cram into a conference and still not be utterly exhausted when you leave the kids at home! You should definitely go back. I had never been in Florence, and my last trip to Italy was 18 years ago when I spent a week in a convent in Rome.

Varda said...

A trip to Italy (for a conference, even) with no family, no kids... sounds like heaven to me! I bet you had a lot more fun this time than in a Roman convent!

Last I was in Italy was for my honeymoon, 10 years ago, which was also my last trip to Europe. Seems we never go anywhere these days. Would love to put on my traveling shoes again, maybe when the boys are older.

Sandrine said...

It was heaven, Varda. I travel often enough, but I still feel I should do it more. It always seems so tiring and difficult when you contemplate it, and then one or two bad experiences away from home with the kids is enough to make you want to stay put for ever... I'm glad I went and I' ll look out for opportunities to go back. You should do it too. Find a conference that would be really useful and take a trip, by yourself. Just for a few days. Go on!

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