I’m up this morning bright and early. 6am on the balcony alone with my coffee and my blog. Yup. I could do this for a living.
And besides, SOMEONE had to make the wiener pasta. So, sundried tomatoes, onions, zucchini, parm, local olive oil and penis pasta. That’s the technical recipe. Oddly enough, once I boil the pasta-most if the said shapes break up-except the black ones. They stay perfectly in tact. I’m going to leave that right there.
We pack up our picnic and once everyone has had their morning coffee we are off.
The Crete sensei drive today!. About 30 miles south of our apartment, picture it like the Cabot trail drive of Nova Scotia. A drive through Tuscany’s country side-but not the Tuscany you would expect. When I pictured Tuscany I pictured valleys filled with vineyards and olive trees, wineries and farms. And, much of Tuscany IS that, but not this drive. Crete senesi is translated literally as ‘Sense clays’, and the colour of the soil gives the landscape an appearance often described as lunar. It can be quite grey, bordering on purple. Then in other areas it’s terra cotta coloured. Wide open fields, newly plowed and churned, make for desert like views this time of year. Throw in Cyprus trees on all the ridges and the Tuscany of artists dreams is born. Other times we’ve visited it has been bright limey green- lush and looking much like parts of the Annapolis Valley where we are from. It takes about 90 minutes to get to the start of the drive-and about 87 minutes of Gary swearing we are going the wrong way. He’s old. Doesn’t trust technology. Prefers to fart in the wind to tell him which way North is. Even though both the GPS annnnd my iPhone tell us exactly how to get there-he’s convinced he’s driving in the wrong direction. I explain to him that we don’t have time for him to get out the astronomy navigation apparatus that was invented in HIS time for such things, and he reluctantly follows the directions given-muttering at every turn about how we’re getting lost. When we arrive at the sign that says “you are now at the Crete sensei just like your GPS said you would be”-he says loudly, “see. I told you we were going the right way.” After he removes said GPS from his face hole-we begin the beautiful drive.
We stop and get some fresh bread for our lunch-and make our way to Maltacino via the village of Asciano, and San Giovanni d’Asso, all within the province of Siena- and the area where “brunello” wine comes from. My boss Mike introduced me to this wine a few years back-before I had ever visited Italy-and I’ve been a huge fan ever sense-so no question where today’s budget is going.
After driving for another hour or so through the countryside-stopping for pictures and painting fodder, We find the same beautiful hill side grassy courtyard in Maltacino where we ate last time, and spread out our picnic. Oh the sandwiches! With the aioli and the pepper spread from amalfi and the cheese and fresh veggies from San G. A variety of Meats left over from last nights meal. And the Johnston and Johnson pasta as Nicole and I have started calling it. This is truly like a scene from a muppet movie. Fozzy bear has accidentally offended everyone with his unintentional dirty joke. And we wait….
Well, No one noticed. What’s the saying? “You wouldn’t know a “—-“ if it hit you in the face”? Well……. my father and mother, husband and bro in law, all sit and enjoy their pasta salad-without taking notice that they are digging into a bowl of multi colored genitalia noodles. All while nicole and I make ridiculous jokes about wether the pasta is al dente enough for everyone and ask everyone to describe the taste in one word-and literally cry laughing through lunch. And they are oblivious.
When everyone is finished eating we decide to read them yesterday’s blog. And they clue in and are finally in on the accidental joke. We all giggle for a while-Mom laughing the loudest-and the muppets come together to make fozzy feel better. Telling me that they won’t disown me for making them eat crotch pasta salad. It was actually really tasty-and we decide to bag it up and finish it at home-this Time the pun is completely intended.
We leave lunch and make our way back to the apartment. Stopping first at a winery to pick up some brunello and franciacorta-and vin santo for my dad-his new favorite. We head in the direction of our new home, About a 2 hour drive. And Nicole and I are asleep within 20 minutes. Keeping dirty pasta secrets and making puns all morning is exhausting! However, we don’t sleep before remembering that last time we took this drive- muppets 2 through 4 fell asleep. With gary driving. And woke up in Florence. A good 45 minutes north of our apartment. In rush hour. It seems gary’s internal direction detector was broken? And he just kept driving-assuming his spidey senses would get him home. It took us an extra hour and a half to get home because we had to back track to our apartment, through the twisty Chianti backroads, because the highway was so crowded. So this time we set up the magical GPS, make him promise to consult it-and have a glorious nap.
When we reach San G we stop at the Co-Op and get groceries for tonight- I’m cooking again 🙂 and Nicole requests her usual. Bacon, lots of tomato sauce, and twirly fork pasta noodles. And then my sister-who doesn’t know how to cook what she’s requested-follows me around the grocery store and insists on telling me what i need to buy to put in the pasta she doesn’t know how to make. “But do you need this? , I want it really saucy… so how about this? Do you have enough of this? And bacon? Did you get lots of bacon?” Each thing I put in the cart gets a “do we need that? Do we need MORE of that?”-her cheap side at war with her pasta needs.  We get the groceries and I drag the bags of ingredients and Nicole’s unconscious body out of the store.
Home for a nap at the pool for most-and a watercolor fuel up for me. Painting and drinking wine and giggling. This is the vacation I dream about. Italy will always be a refueling station for me and my artist soul. She changed so much about me when I first visited-artistically especially- that I feel like I owe her this. Almost feeling like An afternoon Painting in her countryside is like the thank you you give a chef after a great meal. I feel like I’m honoring this beautiful Italian earth by doing what I love most in her company and with her inspiration. My artist mind is quieted and my artist heart is full to bursting. Gratzie Mille Bella. Sto benne.
After a few hours we make our way up to the Torre apartment and get dinner together. The other thing I love to do here. It turns out great if I do say so myself-fork twirly and bacon saucy enough for Nicole- and we eat and wine and laugh and talk about our day.
Mom and Dad off to bed after the boys clean up-and us all to the muppet lounge for the nightly rum and coke.
Tomorrow is market day. And instead of selling my art as usual at a farm market-I’m a buyer. Watch out.