After Assisi, I took the train up to bella Firenze (Florence.) A sweet girl named Sarah met me at the station. Memories gushed up of my very first time arriving at that station, as a student in 1987.
By the way, I brought with me on this trip the coat that my grandmother gave me for that first trip back in '87.
Sarah took me by bus to the church building, where I spoke with a small women's group about prayer and meditation. It was an interesting group in that three of us were American, one from Brazil (i think), one from Albania, and one from California. (Yes, that's a joke.) Italian was the common language, so that's what we used, so it was just kind of funny since none were actually Italian.
Afterward, Julie took me to Le Bagnese, the neighborhood where I used to live, to the home of our friends Tosca and Paolo Chesi. It was wonderful to see them after more than five years of being away. We had a delicious dinner and stayed up till almost midnight talking!
On Sunday afternoon, they took me out to their house in the country, in the little village where Paolo grew up, Strove. It was captivating, and I was captivated. We went for a walk into the fields, and I wondered how I manage to survive living in Memphis! Tuscany is just hill after hill after hill, gentle and beautiful and unending. The green is that achingly vivid green of spring that makes me feel as if my heart might burst if I look at it for too long. It's just so very alive. The sun and clouds were doing their best to overwhelm us with their beauty, too, with each ray shining down clear and separate, so that it hardly seemed real. I wish I could post my photos and will have to later.
We saw two little animals that are something between a goat and a deer, I'm not sure what they are, feeding in a meadow not far from us.
Farther away in the hills was Monteriggioni, with towers all around. It's a bit like San Gimignano in that it has survived into this day and age and still looks like it did in the medioeval period.. I can't remember how to spell that in English. We're probably going to visit there on Monday.
We drove home through the Chianti region, with hill after hill covered in grapevines. Tosca told me that each row has a rosebush planted at the end, which I did not know. It's a Chianti tradition, perhaps adding something to the taste of the wine. Or perhaps not, but a lovely tradition, i think.
The sun was a perfect ball of pink as we drove, and I probably damaged my eyes turning to look at it. It set just as we pulled over to a "belvedere," a scenic point from which you could see for miles and miles. Had it not been so foggy, we could have seen the lights of Florence from there, even.
I cannot imagine a more perfect day. I cannot imagine that they get to see the beauty every weekend! I'm having a hard time imagining going back to flat Memphis and my windowless office, though there is beauty even there of a different sort.