On a cold winter early, early morning in January, I reviewed emails sent to me by friends, recommending accommodations in Italy. My mountain friend, G, had enquired of her friend where she’d stayed in Tuscany, recalling it was paradise. Email located, I clicked on the link to Frances’ Lodge Relais. My jaw dropped as I saw the photo of the first room, La Sala Bianca, the White Room. And then the Yellow Room, the Rose Room, the Moroccan Room. I sent off an email to enquire into availability and prices.
As it was so early in the morning my time, in less than an hour I’d received Frances’ warm reply, and learned that I could make another dream come true and be in Tuscany for my birthday. It was almost too much! Dare I??? Another email to wonder about location, and ease of seeing other of Tuscany’s famous hill towns? And if only the White Room had the private outdoor sitting area with a view to Siena. (At this point it was a toss-up between the White and the Yellow Rooms, and the outdoor terrace would be the determining factor.) A while later, another “warm” reply from Frances, that only the White Room has the terrace, and that to visit all the hill towns of my inquiry, I would need to spend several more days, and that she could accommodate me from April 8 – 13th. The payment terms were explained.
Oh my goodness…dare I???? “The Scientist” was away, I don’t recall where, and so the decision was completely, unequivocally mine. I needed to take some time to make such a commitment. Even with the discount, for travelling “sola” and paying cash, it would be the most costly of all my reservations to date. But more to the point, causing a deep trembling inside, was that I could really make this long held dream of spending my birthday in Tuscany come true. This was the real commitment at stake…the one to my deepest self…and I know that these commitments are, many times, the ones we compromise, give away, or abandon altogether.
I busied myself with some housework and then finally went back to our office, and send the email saying, “YES.” Gave my Visa number and was confirmed, and committed, and delighted. And if you visit Franca and Franco’s (hence Frances’ – the plural to capture both names of this lovely couple, he from Siena, she from Florence) website and view my photos, you’ll see why.
I arrived on Friday, my birthday, three trains later – from Lucca back to Pisa, then to Empoli, then finally to Siena. A cab through the surprisingly large city of Siena, up the winding roads into the country, then through the locked gate and up the long drive where I was greeted by smiling and charming Franco. He quickly ushered me inside, where he began the welcome to their home and its amenities speech, the town, maps, travel directions —- all a blur—- and then finally showed me to my room.
I had suspended all expectations, remembering how my first apartment, in Bologna, had looked so much bigger on the website, than in reality. But, oh my goddess! This room was every bit as beautiful as I had first seen that cold dark winter morning in January. Soft, white, feminine, spacious, with light streaming in through the lace curtained window, and the tiny terrace with the sun setting over Siena. A simple tiled bathroom with a large shower. A TV tucked high in the corner that I knew I’d never watch. A complimentary bottle of bubbly in the tiny fridge, together with fruit juices, a basket of fresh fruit, a kettle, mugs and an assortment of teas and coffee.
Could I be so blessed to have visited Heaven three times in a week?
Given my growing weariness and vulnerability, to simply sit here among such beauty, both natural and enhanced by Franca’s creative talent and vivacity (a woman who appeared to be “after my own heart”), would be the much needed and perfect rest and restorative. I had already known that I’d not leave here to venture into Siena for a couple of days.
And now, after having spent a full day by the pool, in very unseasonable warm and sunny weather (Franca loaned me a swimsuit, pareo and flip-flops – who would have thought to pack such things for an early April trip!!!), I’ve decided to forego visiting any of Tuscany’s famous hill towns for another time when I can travel by car, as Franca has said Siena is not well-serviced by trains. I’m not complaining about the weather…I know the Fair Weather Goddess has simply pulled out all the stops to ensure I have a birthday to always to remember.
I could go on and on about the breakfasts lovingly served and described by Franco outdoors, in the wisteria-draped terrace, with birds chirping as they busily make nests.
Or the simple and plentiful traditional Tuscan dinner (every bit as good as a fine Sienese restaurant) enjoyed in the open gazebo with its stellar view of the sun setting behind Siena, where I savoured an antipasto of olives and sun-dried tomatoes both marinated in olive oil, all from their gardens; unsalted Tuscan bread topped with chicken liver, and olive oil with a grating of salt – the olive oil must be the “protagonist” said Franca; an assortment of salumi…the homemade pasta…peccorino cheeses, varying from fresh to aged, served with a drop of chestnut honey…and Franco’s homemade vin santo with biscotti.
I am happy. My heart is full and as is my custom, when full, tears flow. My sister, a skilled healer, would also say it’s in part due to adrenal fatigue and this, too, is so.
I am grateful beyond to be here…to have made this commitment to my Self…to have the means to make this so…to have the love and support and encouragement of my husband, family and countless friends…for the kindness of strangers, in particular, this time around, the tall and slender, beautiful “conductoressa” on the train from Lucca to Pisa.
She, who heard me holler “un momento” and delayed the train’s departure after the whistle so that I could make it. She, who told me to catch my breath and not worry that I, in my haste, had forgotten to validate my ticket. She, who told me the train to Empoli was really the train to Firenze (I would have never known that.) And she, who quietly whispered and assured me all was OK when the man sitting behind me, erupted in anger when she told him he needed to disembark.
Grazie mille a lei, a tutti.