We’ve often said to our friends back home that you can never predict what you might experience when you travel around uninhibited, flexible, not stuck to a rigid schedule . . . what is commonly referred to as “independent travel”. These advantages are what the tour groups and the cruise groups miss, the little, unforgettable events that really make it all so special.
Such was our evening in the tiny village of Montisi in Tuscany, Italy. Montisi is basically one street which runs through the town from one end to the other for barely a mile, surrounded by old, impressive solid stone buildings. From this one street, only a few short side streets branch off, more like thorns on a rose stem.
Montisi is not well known, hardly mentioned in any travel books I’ve seen, even quite difficult to find on a map, even a good map of Tuscany. Just a few hours drive south of Firenza (Florence), it is located pretty much in the centre of the Chianti region, near the old city of Siena, and within a short drive to most of the well known hill towns of Multipulciano and Montalcino.
We had the good fortune to be invited by our friends Carole and Dave to stay with them for a week in an old farmhouse they had rented just outside Montisi. At the time, we were visiting friends in Germany, so via the Brenner Pass, it was just a few hours easy driving to get there.
The farmhouse was “La Casella”, a delightful old place owned by a well known actress in the UK, which had been lovingly restored without spoiling the original rustic nature of the architecture. As the owner did not use it most of the time, it was rented out to select clients through a rental agency. The place was an absolute delight, and will be the subject of further stories in this series.
One sunny day we walked the short distance into the village to pick up a few groceries at the local “alimentari”, or grocery store. The narrow little building was crammed in between others in the centre of town. The proprietor was Senora Ricci, a diminutive old lady that would enthusiastically greet all comers at the entrance, welcoming them into her establishment.
She spoke no English, so we had to use our limited Italian, phrase books and sign language to let her know what we wanted. Actually, most of the time it was easy, we just walked around, picking up things we needed, then let her total up the prices. This particular day however, Senora Ricci had something important to tell us. As our friends knew more Italian than Diana or I, we let them handle the discussion. Apparently that evening, the village was holding a large dinner in the middle of town, a fund-raiser for a local soccer team . . . would we be interested in attending to help raise the funds? Would we? We all realized instantly that this could be one of those rare experiences and we signed up and bought her tickets right then.
Back at the farmhouse, we told two other couples that were staying there of the event and they too marched into town to buy some tickets. So there we were, later that evening, a total of eight English speaking “foreigners”, heading down the little country road to the village, all anxious to see what we had signed up for.
(to be continued)
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