Under the Tuscan Sun II – Part I was in our other blog 2 years ago – What is not to love!!!
So with very sore thighs we travelled by car back past Roma and a further 200 km to a beautiful Italiano rural hilltop town set just inches away from the Tuscan boarder called Manciano. Here we were able to meander along the rural roads with the dappled sun shining over the patchwork landscape. Olive trees line the fields next to grape vineyards that lay dormant during the winter months. The soil is freshly toiled full of clay and the colours of the trees and surrounding grasslands are a mixture of fall colours ranging from rich earth brown, orange, yellow and every colour of green that you could ever imagine. As the daylight changes so do the patchwork of colours fusing into blue hues mixed with purples and lavender. We were able to count the number of car that past us on one hand. I was in heaven just like the movie driving Miss Daisy enjoying every ever changing view with no need to speed. My fear is high speeds and Rob’s is heights.
Our Airbnb accommodation in Manciano was self check in. The keys were left in the lobby drawer which goes to show how safe rural Italiano is, just the way we like it! No need to clutch your wallet close to your chest. So this is how we found our medieval apartment. We drove up the steep narrow cobblestone streets to the quaint empty piazza and parked. We admired the beautiful fountain which stood in the middle of the piazza. We looked up as we pulled our bags from the car to see a huge stone medieval castle staring down like a monstrous shadow at us. We pulled our bags over the cobble stone lane and rounded the corner to be faced by a towering medieval tower clock and just opposite that was our beautiful timber front door with a hand made cast iron lock. No two doors are ever the same. Front doors here are a piece of timeless artwork that hold secrets of time past. We knew right there and then we were both in love with rural Italy.
We had to climb steep stone steps that were carved into rock to reach inside our front door. This was a scary climb and Rob had to push me from behind to help me hurdle up over the final stair. When coming down I had to sit on my bottom and slid myself down before grabbing the side railing and cling on as I slowly anticipated each stair. I think these stairs were for me as scary as the ‘Walk of the Gods’ and Rob did the carrying of our bags.
Once inside we found ourselves transported into a medieval quaint character filled roof top apartment with an open fireplace, gorgeous antique timber beams, rustic kitchen and a coiled stair case that open out onto our roof top balcony with the tangerine sun setting with jaw dropping views over the Tuscan landscape. Wow, wow and more wow is all that ran through my head no that’s not true it was I need a glass of Tuscan wine to add to this memory.
Every adventure here in Tuscany gave us a new lease on life. Like young children we couldn’t wait to explore what was out in this beautiful countryside. We form many fond memories here together. We explored archeological Vulci an ancient Etruscan city. We did a 4 km peaceful stroll through the ancient ruins and stood inside the tunnels and remaining rooms under a gigantic Roman dwelling that was built 2500 years ago. For both of us this was mind blowing as most of the underground rooms were still in amazing condition. Here we were able to imagine what a lavish life this family had in their huge villa. It contained its own bath house still in great shape with a feasting room and slaughter house. The mosaic tile had survived in many rooms. Rob having studied medieval history at uni was in his element. The ruins lead us down to a mighty powerful gorge and across picturesque farm land where we came face to face with maremma horned cows and gorgeous winter coated donkeys grazing in lush fields and forests.
CASCATE DI MULINI
If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day we drove down to the famous Saturnia ‘Cascate Di Mulini ‘ thermal outdoor springs that cascades like a powerful waterfall into warm bath pockets in the rocks for you to soak in. It was everything I had dreamed it would be. Warm smelly sulphurous waters with temperatures around 37.5 c full of rich mineral deposits which are said to be full of many healing properties. It was a Saturday afternoon so there were many locals soaking their bodies and having a great time. Locals of all ages walked around in their swimmer, bathroom and thongs as if this was a weekly ritual.
It was getting late so wrapped in our towels (no bathrobes just socks) we tiptoed back along the stony path in the cold to get dressed from the boot of the car as the chilly air engulfed our soaked supple warm skin. And then…. our worst nightmare happened. Our car wouldn’t start!!! The sun was going down we were a 3.5 hour up hill walk from our accommodation in the bush!!! The dash board was flashing tyre air pressure so I thought someone had slashed our tires and then they were going to rob us. We checked the tires and they were fine. Rob was a little distracted trying desperately to start the engine with more flashing lights saying something about gear box. I said to Rob we need to ask someone for help as I didn’t want someone coming over to us. I bravely went and asked a couple who had been innocently get change in the back of their car. They spoke no English we spoke no Italiano but they willingly tried to help. They also asked another Italiano family and presto we had a young Italiano girl who spoke English. As the sun went down and the cold rose we were so thankful to these two families who went out of their way to help us. The ordeal lasted for about 3 hours. We were surrounded by the real deal the Italian grandfather (I called him the godfather) parents and grown up brothers and sister all loudly chatting away jumping in the car to try and start it to opening the bonnet and unscrew the battery. We were speechless and anyway they did understand what we were saying. We could hear their tone of disgrace when Rob told them the car was an automatic. Come on what Italiano would ever drive an automatic no wonder it broke down! Their laughter and banter made us feel like we were part of a large Italian family. This is when we realised our bad situation had been turned into a glass half full experience for us. Chatting and listen to these families made me fall in love with the Italian language. We had definitely immersed ourselves in a Italian family. Rob joined in on the shananigans by pulling out a bag of his proudly brought fire wood throwing it over his shoulders and saying we are set for the night. Our new Italiano friends thought this was both funny as well as that there was a good possibility that we would need to set up a bush camp for the night.
With no such luck of getting the car started the young girl called Rome for us and got our car company to send a tow truck and a taxi. We exchanged numbers, said goodbye to every member of the family using the double kiss system and then to show our gratitude I gave them a bottle of wine which we had brought for ourselves. This was a funny moment as I said I only had one bottle between seven of them. The Italian family happily left us knowing that our tow truck was half an hour away. But an hour later Rob and I were still standing in the dark cold car park with less than a handful of cars left when the first Italian couple returned to check that we had left. Once again Rob had to use google translated to chat with this beautiful considerate couple who were on a weekend away together from Milano. Then the police arrived, thank goodness they didn’t ask Rob for his license as his new one will be posted to Switzerland for us to pick up. About an hour later the tow truck arrived and cut a long story short the tow truck drive jumped in our car turned the key and hey presto Mr Magic man our car started. Some how we all laughed even the tow truck drive who had just driven an hour stretch down mountainous winding roads. He waved his hands and said no tow no charge and he was smiling and giving us hugs. Wow! After all our long Italiano goodbyes to our new found Milano couple who were probably on a dirty weekend we jumped in our not so trustworthy VW rental car and drove cautiously up the mountain to find that the tow truck driver was parked on the side of the lookout waiting to follow us safely up and off the mountain. Once we were at the top we pulled over to let the tow truck driver past and he madly waved as his bucket was full. Rob was feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. He realised once we made it back safely that the hair pin curves were a little hard to see as he had been driving back with just his parking lights as all he had wanted to do was just get the hell out of there. He couldn’t think clearly as couldn’t wait for the nighttime to end. I think we could seriously sell this script to a movie producer and call it Ozzie Holiday Road!
TERME DI SATURNIA
After our day in ‘ruins’ we decided to head back to Saturnia but this time we wanted to unwind and relax so with a little trepidation not knowing how our car would go we headed to the well recognised Terme Di Saturnia Thermal Spa and Golf Resort. All I can say is that I would have been happy if our car failed to start as this was an amazing oasis. Whilst Rob had a true Italian massage I soaked my body in the huge array of outdoor therapeutic thermal spa pools. Whilst soaking I gawked with my mouth dropping open at the surrounding hillside littered with its castle,medieval houses and rolling hills. The warm afternoon sun was great for relaxing in a cosy lay back chair. The dress attire was swimmers, robes and thongs. This was an adult only zone a world of peace and relaxation where voices were kept to a whisper. It was wonderful to see how doting the elderly Italian men were at helping their wives with their robes. Once Rob had had his massage we were like kids our mission was to try each of the ten pools. This was definitely a highlight of our trip thus far. The resort itself had marble walls and falls with long corridors where automatic doors swung open to let you pass. You would expect to see someone strolling along in a straight jacket. Large glass windows allowed people to lay out and view the surrounding golf course. The Italians definitely know how to holiday. At one stage Rob got very excited as he thought he recognised one of the football managers. My response was that if it was this is definitely where they would holiday. To spend the day in the thermal spa pools cost 25 euro per person. A little pricey but well worth it as you have lockers for your valuables. The natural waterfall spa was lovely but we were constantly watching our bags and towels laying on a rock. We were glad we did both experiences.