Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Under the Tuscan Sun

Authenticity, charm, and wonder are three words that come to mind when I think back on my Tuscan getaway last weekend to Mugello. Nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany was the quaintest bed and breakfast villa that became our home for three days. Le Due Volpi, which means "The Two Foxes" in Italian, is the comfortable and cozy home of Heidi and Lorenzo Balloni. I hope I can convey to you a glimpse of my wonderful weekend in Tuscany.

The house is the yellow building on the right and the sun porch where we ate is on the left.

Friday was a cold and rainy day. We finally arrived to Mugello after figuring out how to get there despite the random train strike that occurred Friday afternoon. The B & B owners picked us up from the Florence train station - little did we know that this small hint of kindness would not stop at the ride from the station, but throughout the entire weekend.

Heidi showing us around her kitchen and preparing lunch Friday

Our welcome lunch - pasta with sun dried tomatoes and feta

On a rainy afternoon, we were cozy and warm next to the fireplace.

Tuscan bread soup for dinner

On Saturday we woke up to a delicious breakfast and then got ready for a day of shopping and cooking.

Shopping at Italian outlets

Heidi and Lorenzo picked us up from shopping and took us to a indoor market.

Olive oil dispenser on the left, wine dispenser on the right

Woman making tortellini

"Fresh Pasta"

This area of Tuscany is known for its chestnut flour

After the market, we started preparing dinner. Heidi gracious gave us step-by-step cooking lessons as we prepared stuffed artichokes and ravioli for dinner and the homemade pasta for Sunday lunch.

About to bake the stuffed artichokes for dinner

Preparing the ravioli we bought at the market

Making fettucini for Sunday lunch

Lorenzo, the meat man, is always in charge of the antipasto and meat courses. Lorenzo reminds me of my dad - he is always quick to get you a drink, refill it when its empty, give you snacks, and when you are done, ask if you want more. Lorenzo and my dad would be friends.

Dinner table

Our fresh ravioli with butter and sage

Girls at dinner - me, Becca, Madelin, Lauren, Laurel, Mary Hester

I woke up early Sunday morning to the most beautiful sunrise. I sat in this cute little chair for about an hour and a half and reflected on the Lord and His beauty, greatness, and love.

Sunrise over the vineyard

Breakfast felt like Christmas morning!

Homemade croissants and homemade jam

Lorenzo loves to collect radios. He gave us each a tiny radio to remember our weekend - so sweet!

Becca, Lauren, Mary Hester, Lorenzo, Heidi, Madelin, Laurel, me, and Snowy

Lorenzo named us "The Six Foxes" at lunch on Sunday, we were honored. We had such a great time with Heidi and Lorenzo under the Tuscan sun.

"Conditions in Tuscany are perfect."-Olaf Ludwig

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Discovery of the Buried City

When I was in the fourth grade, my mom, Meg, and I went on a trip to Williamburg, Virginia with two of our friends and their moms. One day we went to Busch Gardens. My favorite ride that day was "Escape from Pompeii." It was a log flume ride that took you up to the town of Pompeii where you were put through the experience of living through the horrific heat, lava, and panic of a volcanic eruption.

I found a clip on YouTube of someone taking the actual ride. Click here to see it. It might not look scary on this video, but to a fourth grader it was pretty scary. haha. I remember it being really hot in there because of all the fire effects, which I think were meant to be like lava. Then, going down and splashing into the cool water was really fun and such a thrill. I loved the ride so much I bought a keychain at the souvenir shop. (I was in my keychain-collecting stage - where I collected a lot of keychains and put them on my bookbag and clanked around and thought I was cool. haha.) Anyway, a little over ten years later, I was actually standing in Pompeii, Italy! It wasn't a ride at an amusement park, but the actual place. I was amazed.

Other than the fact that the ride was just a ride and by all means "pretend" - the largest misconception of that ride and among what most people think happened at Pompeii is that lava never reached the town, therefore it was never the lava that killed the people of Pompeii. Another misconception is that everyone in the town was killed by the eruption. Actually, of the 20,000 residents of Pompeii, 2,000 died. Most people were able to flee because the start of the eruption made an earthquake and many people got scared and left. Those who stayed died from the intensity of the smoke and ash of the volcano.

It was an ordinary summer day in southern Italy on August 24, 79 AD. Pompeii, near Naples, was a rich and lively Roman town full of activity. The shadow of Mt. Vesuvius they lived under was never given a second thought - life was good for the wealthy Romans basking in the power and prestige of the Roman Empire. Today, we see evidence of that lifestyle. Their lives "frozen in time" by the molten rocks and ash that buried them. The excavated town offers a snapshot of Roman life in the 1st century. Here are a few pictures from my day in Pompeii.

Casted skeletons of people buried in volcanic rubble

"Beware of the Dog" sign

"Welcome" mat

The bakery

Abbey Road - Pompeii Style

The Forum; you can see the bottom of Mt. Vesuvius on the right

The group in front of the Forum and Mt. Vesuvius

We watched a video before we left on our field trip. The dramatic/cheesy last line was "Mt. Vesuvius erupts every 2,000 years. It is due."

In that case, I'm glad I really did "escape from Pompeii..."