Figline Valdarno, a town just off the A1 Autostrade near Florence was to be my dream Tuscan village. I had found an old residence (Villa Casa Grande) that had hosted a Pope among other dignitaries. I read about the vineyard on site and planned to have a massage in their day spa.
My imagination running wild with romantic ideals we pulled off the autostrade and followed the signs to Figline. To my disappointment, it was not set in the rolling, green hills of Tuscany, but instead was a small town, not dissimilar to Holbrook or Tarcutta.
On arrival, we entered the medieval fortress grounds. We enquired about the winery on site… “It is only open Tuesday and Thursday” the receptionist replied. No good for us as it was a Wednesday. “What about the cooking classes?” I asked optimistically. Again, these would not be possible for the duration of our stay. One silver lining was I was able to make arrangements for a massage later that afternoon.
We hadn’t stopped for lunch on our trip to Figline and were a little hungry. It was about 3pm and being in a small town, this meant that nothing, and I mean nothing was open. Not even a supermarket, café or tabbachi for a drink of water.
After wandering around the ghostly piazza, I saw a restaurant that appeared to have people sitting outside. We moseyed over and asked if it was possible to get lunch. The guy looked at us as strangely – he could tell we weren’t from around these parts. He said that they were closed but he could make us something – Salvation.
After lunch, we walked back to the hotel since there was absolutely nothing else to do. The lesson learned here was to conduct more thorough research before being carried into a Tuscan fantasy. AND, most importantly, must remember that nothing is open from about 2pm till 7pm in most places in Italy (apart from big cities).
That evening I was fortunate enough to indulge in a very relaxing aromatherapy massage. This was a nice treat after the long car ride and the hectic beach lifestyle to which we had become accustomed.
One thing Figline Valdarno did have was a Vodafone shop, so once everything opened again, we got ourselves Italian sim cards and joined the prepaid revolution. This though, somehow resulted in both Eldad and I getting about 46 text messages telling us we had insufficient credit in Italian. It was so bad, we had to turn our phones off.
We had a very nice dinner in that night I must say, and there was surprisingly large number of people out and about for such a small place. We had a tasting plate of four different pastas: spinach and ricotta cannelloni, spicy alglio e olio, ravioli and my favourite, ravioli with a walnut sauce.
In the morning, we awoke to another 20 or so Italian Vodafone text messages so decided to stop by the Vodafone store before we left to check what was happening. The storeperson told me I had an incorrect MMS setting and that if I turned it off it should fix it… Well it didn’t. For about another four hours after we left town, I was getting text messages every 20 minutes… Eldad’s phone had thankfully stopped and I was relieved when mine finally did too. It’s comforting to know that Vodafone here has the same problems as home.
Before heading to our final destination, we were making a stop in Florence to catch up with one of Eldad’s friends from uni. We met his friend at the bed and breakfast he worked at… He warmly greeted us and fed us homemade bread, pecorino and champagne. It was lovely. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long as our final destination, Milano was calling us.