Europe is so well gardened that it resembles a work of art, a scientific theory, a neat metaphysical system. Man has re-created Europe in his own image. (Aldous Huxley)
Before we leave Florence behind, we decide to spend a day strolling in the Boboli Gardens: an eleven acre expanse on the left bank of the river. It turns out that the garden is anything but a stroll - it winds around the side of the hills, rising from the level of the river behind the astounding Palazzo Pitti (where a costume museum and an exhibit on the treasures of the Kremlin were included in the ticket price for the gardens) to a height surpassing that of the Duomo. Yes, this meant more climbing for our poor prairie protagonists!
The Boboli Gardens represent the antithesis of the gardens of Versailles that we visited earlier in our trip. Half of the garden shares the immaculate grooming of its French counterpart, but the other is unkempt, wild. There, the gravel path gets covered in wood chips, and runs among partially ruined walls. The statues abandon the style of Romanesque busts and become grotesque woodcutters and oversize bathtubs(not kidding!). One can almost feel the edge of Romanticism striking against the ideals of the Baroque. And it is this spirit that best sums up this part of the world - the most beautiful works of humankind are inlaid with the most beautiful works of nature. And yet this intermingling does not lead to conflict; it feels like this is the way that cities are made best, and made to last.
The amazing Grotta di Buontalenti in the Boboli Gardens, where human figures seem to blend in with moss and stalactites of the walls.
This sense has stayed with us as we left Florence and headed into rural Tuscany. Booking our lodgings based on only an internet description, we had no idea what to expect, or even a good idea how to get to a town that not even the local Italians in Florence had heard of. Yet, in another small miracle, we found our way to the small town - nay, three farmhouses and a campground - called Santa Lucia, getting a personal drop off from a bus driver that took us out of Poggibonsi, where the train dropped us off.
Just another one of the breathtaking views of Tuscany.
Along the way, we crossed through the castle town of San Gimignano (of which more will be said at a later date), where the townspeople had to press against the castle walls as the bus squeezed through the narrow streets. After looping around the towers an absurd number of times, we drove down the path to Santa Lucia, where we were dropped off right outside the campground path.
We checked in and were given our key and a map to our room - a little mobile home called the "Charmeur" that was supposedly waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. After climbing (yes, it is becoming a veritable theme!) through a forest down a steep flight of steps we arrived at the mobile home area. Here, we searched out trailer number two. Strangely, the only numbers we could find were little pieces of tape with a number, written in pen, on the door handles. What's more, we were surprised to find a key already in the doorknob. But leaving these oddities aside, we decided to check out our new home.
Nadia gasped as we walked inside. The place looked like it had been the home of some film noir detective: searched through and trashed while he was out having a secret liaison. There was a garden table on the master bed, cushions bubbling out of the sink, and pages of a trip itinerary in Dutch clipped in a maroon binder.
We felt anything but welkom. But, we decided to make the best of the situation. I moved a lawn chair from the dining room and put it outside. Nadia started cleaning the dirt off of the bedroom sheets. It was then that I wondered whether the key we were given at the reception actually fit into this lock. We tried it, and it was much too wide. Looking at the map again, we realized that the layout of the buildings was not quite right - the home we had entered wasn't even on it! We walked north, to an area of homes so nice we thought they belonged to permanent residents. Yet here the numbering system started again. Sure enough, there was house one, and after it, number two. Our little Charmeur, at last! This time, the key fit. The sheets were clean, and there was not even a mop in the toilet! A beautiful wooden deck, with an awning like a house in the tropics, was outside the front door. It looked out onto a valley of trees, of all kinds, and some with great height. Not unlike, or so I imagine, that garden of Eden.