Most people come to Tuscany to capture that romantic fire that they dream about. Stepping backing in time and reliving history is right up there too. They, most likely, also come to eat the delicious cuisine and drink fine wine. CHECK. CHECK. CHECK. AND CHECK. All of these things churned in my soul and encouraged our journey here.
In coming here on holiday or a romantic vacation, however, you would most likely stay in a cute B&B (I have suggestions if you need some) or a charming hotel. The challenge of the size of the bathroom and the lack of warmth in the room would most definitely be viewed as a sweet inconvenience because well- you’re in Tuscany- and that amazing breakfast that you’re going to have prepared for you tomorrow morning will be fabulous. The walled cities and Etruscan tombs are literally surrounding you. Your eyes take in splendor with every turn of your head….. This truly is paradise.
What you don’t see when you come here on holiday or a romantic vacation is the reality of life. The simplicity that still exists is beyond what I, as an American, could really comprehend at first. (Like- I get my gas pumped-how cool is that?) Things that are after thoughts for me, take time and energy out of the day for the people that live here. The modern conveniences that we are afforded in the States and that are abundantly commonplace for us are just not part of their lives. (I’m not complaining!!!) At home, when the outside temperature dips below that dreaded level that is a tad bit uncomfortable- we complain to anyone who will listen that we “CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S COLD” (even though we live in the Midwest) and begrudgingly go turn that little dial or Lord Help Us have to lift our arm to touch the pad and SILENCE….. our heat turns on. It may smell ‘hot’ for 10 minutes or so, having been dormant for 6 months, and then just like that there is warm, even air penetrating our whole homes. Yeah, so that’s not the case here. The air, in the wintertime, is relatively, cool and damp (and this has been a beautiful year). In our home, here, we heat the house with a good old fashioned fire place – oh the horror- and a Stofa. (I think it’s pronounced STOOFA- but for the first few weeks we called it the Stoofala- we had warm feelings that is would be like a cozy couch-HA) It’s actually a beautiful red stove looking contraption that requires me to clean it every day- sometimes twice a day. I look like the craziest chimney sweep when it’s all over. We then fill the back of the stove with pellets and turn it on. For the first few nights alone here, I didn’t sleep. Being that I don’t even turn my own heat on- you know by pressing a button- I was a tad bit uncomfortable hearing and seeing what felt like a raging fire burning brightly in a stove in between the beds where my children laid their heads. I envisioned the conversations that would erupt, from some, that my crazy whim to show the kids the world ended with me burning us all and this few hundred year old house down. Stable, I know! For the most part, the Stofa does a great job heating the bedrooms but there have been a few days here where coats and blankets, lots of socks and possibly gloves have been required to read a book on the couch. This is true in any of these homes here. They are old (which we love) and this is their reality. The things that we don’t even think about- they work really hard for!!!
Speaking of reality…. CLOTHES!!! At home, I have no problem doing laundry. I throw the clothes in the wash. Take them out, put them in the dryer. When the dryer is done I place them on the counter and pray my Folding Fairy will wiggle her nose. I HATE FOLDING LAUNDRY. People around here, if they have a washing machine, wash their clothes, take them out and then hang them from cords with these pin things suspended floors up above your head as you walk the streets. People still use CLOTHESLINES!! (I joke.) Dryers are a true luxury around here. I love underwear and bra day- I think I would walk the hills more if I were displaying my underwear for everyone to see too- got to keep myself out of having to wear granny panties!! All of my kidding aside- laundry is done based on weather around here. I currently am drying sheets for the second day in a row- because I don’t have the weather thing down and it frosted a bit last night!! The clothes smell amazing when they come in off the line but they can take days to dry. I’ve come to appreciate placing clothes on the line here- my backdrop is Cortona up on the hill. It makes dropping the clean clothes on the gravel- EVERY SINGLE TIME- worth every granule that ends up down my shirt when I put them on.
Elderly woman here are hanging their clothes on the line the exact way I'm describing- only way more efficiently. I'm embarrassed by them in high heels, with awesome calves, basically running up the streets as if they were nothing to get groceries, and carrying them back down to prepare an epic meal by most peoples standards. (Mind you, they are schooling me in my flat boots, huffing my way up.) They aren't sitting around saying they are old. They're working- HARD!! Men of all ages are up and moving, sweeping off store front stoops, tending land and doing chores, chores, chores. One gentlemen- always in a red sweater, has been at his produce shop every single time I've gone to the city- EARLY morning and late evening... working... working... working. He's always smiling! They are all cleaning their stoves (or other such heating elements) so that they can sleep without frost on their noses, hanging their clothes on the line- giving new meaning to laundry day (it’s like a week- then you start again), every aspect of their lives is necessary and hard work but it's also a complete labor of love. All of these things are part of who they are what they do. Their simple lives are complex by the standards I live by at home because my 'work' doesn't tend to be laborious like theirs. Families help each other out, and many times live together, allowing every person to help with these labors. Roles tend to be traditional, which for the rest of the world may seem archaic but as a grateful voyeur into their word, I see beauty and romance blossom out of the HARD work and strength of all that dwell here.