Sunday, January 23, 2011


This past week has been a busy one. I have done everything from sledding, to chopping wood, to trying my hand at roman engineering. I have started living with a lovely british family who have an olive grove here. It is a beautiful place, the trees growing on terraces built by the romans, the house probably older than my country, the driveway in-fact a roman road. 

The town itself is lovely too, it is the first real italian town I have stayed in. All the others have been either super rich, touristy, or german. There is a real sense of community, and the people are so nice. Unlike most places, if you go into a store here and ask to use the washroom, they will let you, even if you don't buy anything, just as an example.

Although the nights are cold, the days can be warm, and actually the bulbs are just about to bloom. We ate lunch outside a few days ago in t-shirts, a welcome change from the negative temperatures of the north.

I have basically been helping out around the house, and the farm. They have about 600 olive trees, plus every kind of fruit tree you can imagine, from apple to orange to pomegranate to lemon. 

When they bought the place a few years ago, it had been abandoned for many years, and it has been a huge amount of work to bring it up to a working level.

Last weekend, we headed up to Abetone, a ski mountain an hour and a half from here. The road there was amazing, very windy, but with nice corners all the way there. There was not much snow, but we found enough to go sledging.

Just yesterday, Simon, the other guy who is staying with the family, and myself went to Lucca for the day. It is a very beautiful place. The wall around the old city is a very impressive work of engineering. 

As it is not the tourist season, many of the shops and restaurants were closed.

We wandered around for a while, mainly in circles it seemed, but eventually found the as Simon said "round square". It is one of the piazzas in Lucca, and it is in fact round, which makes it funny to talk about in english.

A little bit of wandering later, we found the tallest tower in the city, and paid the 2 euro student price to go up to the top. The climb wanders through several different staircases, eventually ending up on the top of the tower.

It is a bit strange in that it has trees on the top of it. The view was great, although it was not sunny, and we hung around up there for a little bit.

The rooftops of the city, ancient as it is are very interesting to look at. There are buildings and roofs all jammed together, with little additions that have over the centuries made a convoluted mass of buildings. Neat to look at in my opinion.

From the top of the tower, you can see outside the city walls to the roman aqueduct a few kilometers away.

After descending, we wandered for a while, looking for a place to eat, and eventually found a tasty pizza place.

We soon wandered back to the train station, and took the train back here.

Last night, Simon and I had helped Chris, the owner of the house, figure out how to get the tractor he had bought out of the box van he had transported it in.

Not an easy task.

There was nothing at the house we could use as ramps, so we headed out to find something. 

First we went to a garage just across the valley, but the ramps they had were still to short and created much to steep a ramp. We continued up the valley, eventually spotting a toilet paper factory that had a loading bay.

We went down to it, and asked if we could try, and they said we could, but only for 10 minutes because a lorry was coming in then. The place was perfect, but we could not get the tractor started in the confined space of the truck.

We had to give up and drive off to find another place.

After several tries at places that were all gated up at 8pm on a friday night, we found a street with a bank off the side that seemed like it would work.

We were smart this time, and after backing up to it, we simply took off the handbrake and pushed it out onto the grass. We left it there under the confused gazes of the neighbors on the other side of the street.

Chris had managed to drive it back while we were in Lucca, and it was on the bottom terrace with the vegetable patch when we got home. We all got to take a turn driving it. Lots of fun.

This morning, I cooked breakfast. Scrambled eggs with fried tomatoes. There are no electric stoves in the house, so instead of lighting the wood cooking stove, I used the barbecue.

Standing outside in the chill morning air, on a terrace of an olive grove in tuscany, cooking eggs on a barbecue, being pestered by a feisty goat named Dommy, being serenaded by the many churches in town, I kept thinking that this is why I am here. This is why I left home to come traveling. Experiences that cannot be had anywhere else.

Said feisty goats:

Later today I am going to walk up to a church perched up on the other side of the valley.

Tuscany is amazing.

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