Typically Tuscany - Landscape

Facebook Brought Us To Tuscany

Facebook is great for a lot of things.  First of all, it’s a wonderful time killer.  It is a spectacular medium for sharing funny videos about cats.  The site is also great for shameless self-promotion of your unimportant blog (ahem).  Facebook keeps me and Jen apprised of popular youtube videos and trending pop-culture stories we would have otherwise missed living in another country.  But perhaps best of all – it helps reconnect people after many, many years.

This is how you “like” a post on Italian Facebook

This was recently the case when my wife re-connected with a high school friend of ours, now living in Tuscana (Tuscany).  Beth traveled to Rome in 1999 to study abroad.  There, she found her love and has been living in Italy ever since (to clarify, I mean a man – not just a love of the country).  While they enjoyed living in Rome together, they eventually moved back to his hometown in Tuscany, a short distance from Pisa.  It was here that Beth and Andrea started a family together with the birth of their son, Indi.  We were thrilled we got to spend some time with them in their amazing home and had the opportunity to reconnect with Beth while getting to know Indi and Andrea (whom we both loved).

Beth and Indi
Beth’s “front yard”
Still in the front
More views from the front – ridiculous, I know!!

Jen and Beth had been exchanging Facebook messages about getting together (we’re roughly 3 hours apart) almost since we moved to Italy this past January.  And then, the timing seemed to click perfectly.  The 25th of April is Liberation Day in Italy.  Festa della Liberazione is a holiday that marks the end of Mussolini’s Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945.  Today, this holiday is celebrated with the closure of nearly all business, which affords the people a good reason to get together and do what Italians do best – eat wonderful food, drink amazing wine and trade passionate stories.

Congregating after lunch

As we soon discovered, Beth lives in an incredible 500 year old farmhouse and her neighbors were having a party for the holiday.  There was to be a big lunch outdoors, with music, kids and plenty of wine.  She invited us for lunch and extended the invitation through the long weekend.  I don’t know anyone that would turn down such an amazing invitation – and we were no exception.

The farmhouse Beth and Andrea share (the building in back)
Their home
Another angle
Building used to store hay – now used for parties :-)
The plan was to arrive just ahead of lunch – the real start of the party.  It was to be a typical Italian lunch, with all the courses and dishes we love – but, quite literally Under The Tuscan Sun and with some regional favorites we were eager to try.  I would not allow our typical tardiness out the front door get in the way of this epic meal.  So, I fibbed and told Jen we needed to be on the road earlier than we really did.  Then, I budgeted an extra 30 minutes for typical trip delays (over an hour buffer in total).  If you know me, you’ll know this was the type of meal I would not want to miss!
Everything was going according to plan until we neared Milan some 40 minutes down the road.  Traffic got a bit thicker.  By the time we got on the Autostrada toward Tuscany, we were stuck in stand-still traffic, moving 0 km/hour.  That converts to 0 mp/hour.  I watched the GPS arrival time creep later and later.  11:30am turned into 12:00pm and before you knew it, 1:00pm.  I tried a short cut that just added to the time.  By noon (and an estimated arrival of 3:00pm) we sullenly threw in the towel.  We pulled over and ate panini at the AutoGrill.  I swear as the day is long – I’m getting depressed all over again just typing this.  The sandwiches were good – but nothing like what we were missing.  Thankfully, we kept our spirits high and pulled into Beth’s house by 3:30 (a seven hour trip).

The remnants of the meal we missed :-(

Since everyone had eaten, we jumped right into the party.  Beth has some spectacular friends and we had a wonderful time.  It came as no surprise that everyone was so warm and inviting.  They talked to us as if we had been friends for 15 years and took to Julia as if they had watched her grow up.  We drank wine, fresh mojitos and swayed to the beats of the DJ spinning outside.  We spread our toes in the Tuscan grass and ate some fresh food off the grill.

Relaxing together
Julia loved playing with Indi
DJ spinning great music
My kind of speaker set-up
Part of the party
Say “formaggio!”
This nice kid fired up the grill for us

At one point, a big blue tractor showed up and it almost sounded like some of the male partygoers were arguing with the man driving the tractor.  I recognized a few words and hand gestures usually only reserved for a type of heated debate.  After a few minutes, the arguing died down and the guys walked with the tractor driver to the bar area to get a drink together, laughing like they were best friends.  It didn’t seem to make any sense until Beth explained.

What’s this guy doing here?

The land we were on (including the farmhouse, all the structures and ten more homes nearby) belonged to the Marchese (Marquis).  The Marchese is a man of noble decent who carries his title and rules his lands as if he were still in power.  In reality, he has no more power than you or me.  That is – if you or me had a noble bloodline, hundreds of acres in Tuscany, a mansion, dozens of employees and a several properties on our land.  In 1948, the newly adopted constitution of Italy refused to recognize all noble titles (the Republic of Italy replaced the Kingdom of Italy in 1946).  So, the Marchese (whom I was fascinated to learn loves the aristocratic pastime of hunting with dogs) “rules” his lands and everyone is just sort of happy to let him go on thinking it.  He had “ordered” this man to drive up the hill in his tractor to tell us to lower the music.  At home in the States, I can imagine a property manager (at the behest of the landlord) banging on someone’s front door to tell them to lower the music would be greeted with a bit of disdain.  He would certainly not be invited in for a drink and food.  But this is Italy.  After a couple glasses of wine together, we lowered the music and the man drove back down the hill having successfully completed his task.  But not before letting Julia drive his tractor – quite literally, he let her steer unaided for about 10 meters (until she almost put him into a field).

Only a small portion of the Marchese’s house can be seen here – it was huge
He let Julia drive
She was ready to GO!

After some time, we decided to go in and feed the kids and make a proper meal.  Beth’s time in Italy was definitely evident, as she “whipped up” on the best pasta dishes we’ve had since arriving here.  We paired with another wine and settled in for a relaxing weekend in Tuscany.

Dinner is about to be served – LOVED the charm in her home
Wonderful Tuscan dinner
Baby Indi munching on his mom’s wonderful cooking

More to come about this amazing weekend in Tuscany in a subsequent post…

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