The Story (Part 2)

The next ten days were heavenly, the local towns all looking like the original Nativity scene, with their beautiful Christmas crèches and decorations, the little local shops displaying their delicious pecorino cheeses, local wines and specialties with a sense of beauty that is hard to describe. Entering shops and restaurants was always an uplifting experience: the kindness of the owners, their genuine smiles, and the friendly conversations with them were heartwarming. Everyone seemed to have time for us, and that was one of the greatest gifts. Everything seemed to be slowing down for us. We simply felt good. Our minds were finally able to rest. The temperature had dropped to 5 C° (41 F°) degrees and in the serene countryside a blanket of silence suggested a landscape that had also gone into a rest.
We soon realized that it was not possible to walk on the local streets with our 4-inch high heels without risking to break an ankle. Also we were cold, accustomed as we were to our city apartments where you run around in your t-shirt 365 days a year. In Tuscany, you barely get to 18 C° (64 F°) inside your apartment because the cost of propane gas is outrageous—people here get used to being in their homes wearing warm, thick clothes, thick socks, extra sweaters, and to light the fireplace every day to save on the heating bill. And, they don’t need too much space either—so they heat up one room in a very nice way, leaving the other rooms to stay freezing cold. The final heating bill in our apartment was one of the worst I have seen in all my years of work. I think we paid more in heating than in rent, ha ha ha!
Later during our stay, a lot of snow fell. In the beginning we were simply “wowed” looking out of the window, feeling so fortunate to be there. And like excited children, we felt compelled to run outside and play in the snow—throwing snowballs at each other and making snowmen! How much fun and laughter!
The rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside were like a fairy tale, covered by an immaculate blanket of snow. Everything was like a dream, suspended beauty and ethereal. We were really able to disconnect from our work-a-day lives. We kept our fireplace roaring happily from morning to late at night, and the bottle of Luciano’s grappa never seemed to last as long as we hoped!
Carlo came over every morning to greet us with sweet surprises such as fresh eggs from the farm, homemade ragú from his mom, a sip of vinsanto, and fresh ricotta from a friend’s farm: the taste of sheep’s milk in the fresh ricotta cheese combined with honey and topped with pine nuts is still one of my favorite combinations! We felt so special, so well taken care of, and so spoiled!!
The days went by with a slow pace and in lovely conversations. Carlo told us about his life, his passions, his work in the countryside, and very quickly we felt as if we had always known him. He explained that he grew up working on the farm, and he went to school in Siena to study agriculture—which had always been his passion. When he recognized his special ability to taste and smell, he studied to become an olive oil tasting expert. He is an official olive oil taster in Siena, serving on a panel that evaluates and approves the quality of the region’s olive oil. He also loved to make the very best wine possible.
Carlo seemed to be a grounded man with a personality as warm as the sun. He was so down to earth, without a need to impress anyone. And during those days of cold temperatures and snowstorms, this was the nicest discovery of all (at least for me :)).
After a few days Sabrina’s boyfriend, Andrea, finally arrived. That was the beginning of the best time I had spent in years—because as Andrea was spending more time with Sabrina, I was spending more time just with Carlo. 🙂 We were always together, talking for hours, cooking, laughing, and we really had a great time, and we became good friends. My mother used to say, “if you want to find out about a man, don’t look at the way he treats you, but look at the way he treats his mother, children, older people and waiters.” That is so true! 
 Carlo was perfect: kind to everyone without exception.
Here in Tuscany was a sense of grounding that just made me feel I was in the right place. I was fascinated by this timeless land, by daily discoveries, by this Tuscan man, and I started to realize that it was really a different world.
However, I did not realize how much different it was, indeed.

The time to leave arrived. Not one kiss. I wished I could steal one, but it didn’t happen. We left, but my battery charger didn’t come with me.
What a blessing. 🙂

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