It’s a long turbulent flight. I see my friend in the seat diagonally in front of me popping a pill. I think it’s the Ativan she told me she had stashed in her purse for any possible anxiety disorders she might encounter on the flight. This is a good a time as any, seeing that the plane is violently bobbing up and down.
I’m worried. But not because the plane feels like it will go down, finally ending “this mortal coil”; ----no, I’m worried for my friend. Along with the Ativan, she’s had a couple of martinis and a glass of wine. I close my eyes and swallow hard, and then I steal another quick glance at my travel companion. Is she sleeping, or just praying before the fateful outcome? The rhythmic hiss and grunt coming from where she is sitting are a blessed relief. She has succumbed to slumberland. If I could only do the same now.
We arrive in Castiglione della Pescaia towards evening. The two-hour ride from the Rome airport serves to calm my nerves and quieten her throbbing headache.
As we approach my beloved Castiglione, I come to life again. The ocean brine suffuses the air as we travel down the Via Costiera SP158, a pine tree- lined road that runs along the natural reserve Diaccia Botrona. I remember reading somewhere that this natural reserve is one of the most important wetlands in the world. Maremma is always full of surprises!
Right now, though, I’m anxious to get to what I consider my second home; a delightful little fishing village/ beach town on the Tyhrrenean coast. I’m anxious as well that my friends will love it here as much as I do. It’s only a couple of nondescript hotels that offer accommodations here in Castiglione della Pescaia. But we have a good friend who rents to us one of her spacious, comfortable apartments in the centre of town So we’re set. Our Tuscan week is about to begin.
It’s early evening in Castiglione. Most locals and visitors are starting to congregate at the many available bars and cafes in the town. Aperitif and lately, Apericena (a combination of pre-dinner cocktail and bites) are a must here in Italy. It’s where you get to shrug off the toils of the day and unwind with some good company. Dinner, besides, does not happen till much later in the evening. And what a great way to lengthen the day
I wake up early next morning to the sound of the church bells that beat out the rhythm of daily life here in Castiglione as well as in other Italian villages and cities. I throw open the shutters and take in the fresh late summer air and sounds. Heavenly.
A brisk walk to the beach café for breakfast takes us along the marina where fishermen are already unloading the days’ catch. The air is fresh and crisp and its salt bites at the nostrils.
The littoral is a long stretch of oatmeal coloured sand. The beach chairs are empty at this time of the year but the umbrellas have been opened nevertheless, beckoning late summer visitors. A lone life-guard sits motionless on his throne. It could be a scene from Visconti’s Death in Venice. But I’m hungry, and it’s just my imagination running away with me!
At the Skipper café, we make ourselves confortable at one of the outdoor tables: mmmm, the smell of the ocean,… seagulls squawking, and the rhythmic beat of one of the summer hits playing on the radio inside are the perfect accompaniment to a creamy cappuccino and fresh cornetto.
…what a perfect day!
…well, it was the beginning of a perfect day….and then the clouds started rolling in. No beach for today. Let’s see, what can we explore near here?
We head out towards the interior of the Maremma.
We drive along a sinewy artery that cuts through thick woodlands and brings us to destination.
About 100Km south west of Castiglione, and reigning over the surrounding countryside atop a rocky volcanic outcrop lies Pitigliano. It is an awesome sight. Known as the “little Jerusalem” because of its considerable Jewish community, the town is like an Escher drawing come to life: “ twisting stairways disappear around corners, cobbled alleys bend tantalisingly out of sight beneath graceful arches”. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/tuscany/pitigliano
Walking around exploring the town I see an antique shop and can’t resist going in to inspect up close a magnificent Mid-20th Century Stilnovo Sputnik Lamp. I’m in love, and determined to buy it and have it shipped home. The shopkeeper tells me he will let it go for 2400 Euros. I tell him I’ll think about it!
It’s lunchtime and the rain persists: a good time to stop and eat something. We find PanCaciUa at the start of the old historic city. It is literally a hole in the wall, having been dug out of the tufa rock like much of the city. We opt for a quick lunch of divine bruschette and wonderful platters of cheese, salami and smoked meats. Crostini and large salads are downed with Pitigliano bianco. Heaven.
A good strong espresso bolsters our spirits and reinforces us against the still dreary drizzle we meet outside the trattoria. The hour and half ride back to Castiglione is a quiet one. Everyone is lost in their own thoughts; I’m composing this post in my mind, going over the things we did, saw and want to remember about this perfect little town in Tuscany. Still lost in my thoughts I glance outside the car window and see a magnificent old house dotted with smallish windows overlooking a deep wooded chasm. I yell at my husband to stop long enough, at least, to snap a picture. There must be a quote I can dig up about a picture like this: “My favourite journey, is looking out the window”. Edward Gorey.
When we get to Castiglione we retreat to our rooms to rest and perhaps catch a nap. I spend an hour or so writing. Soon we will meet for our evening stroll in town, a drink, and then dinner. Our walk takes us down to the marina where the fishermen end their day repairing their nets.
We head for the Skipper Club where a great meal is awaiting us. Some good wine and great company is the best way to celebrate this day: my birthday.
By the time we are ready to call it a day, a glorious moon lights the streets for us and bids us a good night.