Tag Archive: Tuscany

Amazing Airbnb Number 1

This series of posts will be dedicated to the most amazing, yet budget-minded Airbnbs I’ve found in my obsessive browsing of that site. I’ve stayed at some of these places; others are just on my personal someday list. Unlike most Airbnb best-of lists, all of them are relatively affordable.

Today’s Amazing Airbnb is an apartment on an organic farm in Tuscany. I stayed here and it was a great three weeks. There are two other apartments on the farm as well, but this one was my favorite:

Organic farm hills of Florence 3pax in Incisa, Florence

Apartment in Incisa, Florence, Italy. Poderaccio farm is nestled in the hills between Chianti and Valdarno Superiore, just half an hour from Florence. The guest house is a 18th century farmhouse divided into 4 apartments, renewed in 2012 using greebuilding materials. We only use rene… View all listings in Incisa, Florence

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One Brick at a Time – Peace

I had no Internet connectivity when I wrote this post and the prior one, so I’m posting them now. This one is from Sunday:

A peaceful Tuscan hillscape at the farmhouseI wake up in the quiet. I’m getting used to it.

I open the window and smell wood smoke, leaves and sharp, clear air. If clean has a smell, this is it.

I boot up the computer. Still no Internet. It annoys me but less than it did last week.

I open TextEdit and start to write. Yesterday I read a book I bought two years ago. With no Internet, I’m plowing through my accumulated Kindle books.

The mountain view through the bathroom window is hazy blue, with low clouds filling the valley.

I hear other people in the house stirring, in other apartments. In my apartment there is peace.

I make the bed, smoothing the duvet so it looks welcoming again.

I start water for tea, steaming hot in the cool air.

I leave my socks off so I feel the brick floor rough under my feet. I like feeling each step as I take it.

An Island in Tuscany – Solitude

Saturday:

Tuscany viewI feel like a girl on an island, except the island is a hill in Tuscany.

I go outside at night and listen to the leaves rustle. Wild boars grunt in the olive groves. A pile of wood next to the house stands fallow until winter. A cool breeze slips sharp through my sweater.

Listening to the world is an experience I welcome in life.

Sleeping in pitch dark, in the quiet of the old farmhouse, terrified me at first but now is welcoming.

I no longer leave the light on at night.

I dream of strange things that I can’t remember in the morning.

I watch the leaves turn from green to gold over the hills surrounding the farmhouse. I eat the fruit from the garden and find I can cook well after all. I learn because I have to learn.

I deal with slow Internet and procrastination and cabin fever and self-doubt. I try to move enough every day that I do not become totally sedentary.

I am stranded. I am frustrated. But I am also happy.

Waiting for Tuscany

I’m struggling with Tuscany. The rhythm of it, the late summer that fought against giving way to fall, the bees and landlockedness and slow pace.

I’m not a slow-paced person. I came here, in part, to experience the pace while remaining productive.

But I find I’m intensely productive in spurts, even as Tuscany conspires to create spaces where productivity is impossible.

I struggle to be okay with this.

I waited an hour for the train on Friday. I wanted to go to Florence. After an hour passed and the delay stretched from five minutes to fifty, the announcer stated the train would not come at all, and the next train would be in two more hours. I left.

I walked to a nearby cafe. Sat down. Had a pastry and a glass of sparkling water. Seethed.

My host was returning in four and a half hours. Until then, I was stranded in town with nothing to do.

I added the tally of hours spent and yet-to-be-spent waiting during the trip. I calculated that I had spent roughly three days waiting out of 20 days in Italy. The reasons varied. Waiting for trains. Waiting for cars. Waiting for paperwork. Waiting for doctors related to my ankle-sprain.

All of the restaurants were closed between lunch and dinner, so a hearty meal was out. There was no Wi-Fi, so the Internet was out. I opened my Kindle app and read The Four-Hour Work Week.

I’ve put off reading this book many times. Its title doesn’t appeal to me because I have zero desire to work only four hours per week. I want to work a lot, make a lot of things, and be productive in society.

As I read the book, I realized that is (sort of) actually the message. Service is one of the themes of the book. I feel it could be a stronger theme, but it’s there. And that’s really where I’m at with this wandering-the-world/learning thing. I want to get to where I can work on things that interest me and be of service, in a different way than I was during my prior job. There, I pushed hard against giant gears to get them moving. Now, I want to create new gears.

So I struggle when the Wi-Fi struggles. I envision lying in a hammock, happily streaming edX videos while learning about solar energy. Instead I plug in my Ethernet cable and hope the network is functional. If it is, I often squander it playing games or reading news — a messed-up reaction that could only come from my lizard brain.

In fact, I get more done when I unplug the Ethernet cable entirely. Then I focus, write, code and read. Then I feel good about myself and this trip.

The important things are good. I’m here, I haven’t re-injured my ankle since Cinque Terre two weeks ago, and I love the scenery of Tuscany. Almost everyone I’ve met has been amazingly understanding, friendly and welcoming. The food is good, I cook home-grown organic vegetables almost daily in my kitchen, and the hosts at the farmhouse where I’m staying are wonderful. We had a traditional Tuscan dinner last week in the host’s kitchen, and it was a wonderful evening full of laughter and conversation and good food and wine. So I have nothing to complain about.

I struggle. And I let go. I left the cafe and walked through the small town, stopping for gelato and then meandering along a path beside the Arno River. I crossed a small bridge and found a medieval tower standing beside it, a landmark for the town. I walked some more, back and forth along the path, shopping for groceries and visiting the cafe again. This time I relaxed instead of seething, and the patrons laughed at my expression, with my head against the wall and my eyes closed. “Are you tired?” he asked. “No, I’m just relaxing,” I said. And I sort of was telling the truth.

Each night, I huddle in the farmhouse, getting ready for sleep, wondering what tomorrow will bring. I know the trains will probably not run on time. I know the schedule will probably not be what I expect. I know I cannot predict how the day will unfold, or how much I will get done, or whether I will be able to check email at any given time. I know the food will be good, and I know the day will be beautiful, and I know the hosts are great people and I’ll have a great day if I can just relax and let life lead me.

It’s funny how the more I surrender to that, the more I get done.

A Tuscany Farmhouse: Peace, Time and Space

Tuscan farmhouse

The main room of the apartment

I wake up in a Tuscany farmhouse. Slide my feet onto the floor, smooth brick not quite cold yet in October. Open the wooden shutters, which cover windows of different sizes, and look out at a haze of mist and rain. I can hear rain on the roof, muffled by the wooden ceiling in my apartment.

In the kitchen, I attempt to figure out the gas stove, which tends to ignite in a large puff of flame. Gas stoves are not my strong suit, but forced to adjust, I succeed in heating a large pot of water for tea. I use a ladle to spoon the brewed tea into a mug. There is a teapot, but it would make only eight ounces of tea, so I use a pot and brew about 40 ounces. I think it’s decaffeinated, but my Italian comprehension leaves me unsure.

Breakfast

I arrived yesterday with no food, so the owner gave me a basket of vegetables from the organic garden and a breakfast basket. There’s bread, cereal, milk, yogurt, butter, pecorino cheese, honey, jam, crackers, pasta, mandarins, tomatoes, apples, garlic, onions, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and fresh cannellini beans. Truly, I cannot complain. I have everything I need to eat for days.

I’m living on the second floor of the farmhouse, in one of four apartments. I listen to the silence of the Tuscan countryside with utter contentment and the tiniest bit of panic. I’m not sure what I’ll do here, but I feel like I have all the time and space I need to think and decide.

View from window

Peace, quiet, time and space

I watch a Google Hangout for a NovoEd class I’m in, catch up with the lectures from Sam Altman’s startup class, finish reading a book I’d started, cook some cannellini beans for lunch, and write this blog post. I feel amazed and happy that only half the day is gone — with few distractions, I’m left to my own devices and find I’m neither stressed nor bored. I see a box of spa products in the bathroom that I would like to try. Perhaps later.

Tonight is pizza night, hosted by the owner for her guests. I’m really looking forward to getting to know her better and hearing her stories. Last night, after I arrived and before I had any food, I met the next-door neighbors/guests and they invited me for dinner. At that point I was really hungry, so I appreciated the help, as well as the good conversations, good food and open door.

Rainy Morning

This morning at breakfast

I imagine more people used to live like this, in the quiet, with animals nearby, trees and fresh food. I can see the benefits. It’s refreshing just to sit and breathe here. I know I couldn’t do it forever — I’d keep wondering, “What’s next?” like I always do — but it’s far preferable to a cube-based existence with no variety or autonomy. (I’m not saying there are no jobs with variety or autonomy; there clearly are many, and I’ve had some of them, but in too many industries and for too many people it’s not the norm.)

Onward to more things I’ve meant to do, surrounded by peace, time and space.