It is the middle of September (yes, I know….I am a bit behind with my blog….) and finally, after a pretty crazy and unpredictable year, where working appeared to be the best option to spend your time, there was something appearing on the horizon that roughly resembled the idea of “holidays”….
Before COVID 19 was tightening its grip once again around the countries of the Northern hemisphere, there were a few places in Europe you could go to without running the risk of having to subject yourself to a two week quarantine.
Italy was one of these places. Everyone who knows me (or if not, then you know it now…..) will be aware that in my mind – as a holiday destination – Italy is the “Gold standard” !
With this opinion I find myself in great company with the famous German thinker Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, who visited the country from 1786 – 1788 and who’s later work was considerably influenced by his experiences as a central European writer by the Mediterranean climate and the way of life and by the constant reminders of a civilization that had laid the cultural foundations (together with Greece) of our continent a couple of millennia ago.
After being reunited with Silke, we started our road trip due South allowing Mia finally an ample amount of space in the rear of the car (I had left my mountain bike and the skis behind) and we had this time only with us a couple of bags and our credit cards. Nothing had been booked and the only plan was to go there where it was still warm, where the wine and the food was good and where the sun was shining….
For this we had to cross through Austria, stopped for a brief visit at Monte Grappa near Venice (excellent hill running !)
and arrived finally in a medieval castle near Monteriggioni, right on the Via Francigena. Walking through vineyards, having cappuccinos on a Piazza or just enjoying Italian ice cream without having to worry about the time or without any commitments for the rest of the day is the ideal recipe to recharge the batteries.
In addition to this, stopping for a while being a veterinary surgeon (as far as that is possible….) and to be just a traveler, concerning yourself only about the next meal and where to go in the next hour, is a well worth exercise. Jo Nesbø’s new Harry Hole outing “Knife” and Raynor Winn’s unusual novel “The Salt Path” were great companions for this.
Unfortunately the nice weather in Tuscany lasted only for a couple of days and as the Met Office’s App forecasted a low pressure front for the next day, we decided to follow the sun further South to Northern Apulia, right to the “stop pad” of the Italian boot, where we were guaranteed constant sunshine and no rain……
Just after sunset, with the heavens opening in biblical proportions and with the night sky being illuminated by lightning worthy to feature in a Frankenstein movie, we arrived at another 15th century fortified dwelling in the middle a plantation of dark olive trees and without a soul in sight – Masseria Barone Gambadoro.
After struggling to find an entrance without having to scale the walls and preparing ourselves for the worst (or a night in the car….) – the contrast of the interior to the outside couldn’t have been greater:
brightly lid rooms with white walls decorated with books, mirrors and a few paintings. Each room – including the bathrooms – an interior design statement, making good use of the curved ceilings and the uneven texture of the walls. A tasteful blending of modern furniture and a few antiques gave everything a warm and inviting atmosphere and we knew : we had arrived!……
This little gem of a B&B with only five guest rooms (of which never more than two or three appeared occupied….) at less than half the price of a sad double room at a conference hotel in Birmingham ticked for us all the boxes. The next day – when thankfully the sun had returned – we enjoyed breakfast under olive trees in the garden, had the pool to ourself and enjoyed the local wine and the regional food at the restaurants in the nearby towns. There was absolutely no point to travel further and while writing this (during the second lock down…..) I am realizing again how lucky we were for having had the opportunity to travel to a place like this in the middle of this strange year……
I am not sure though, if the same can be said for Mia…..
Thankfully she is an extremely good traveler and she doesn’t seem to mind long car journeys.
She also approved of the Italian cuisine
but after a few close shaves and a number of frightening encounters with the local canine community including
a few Maremma Sheepdogs – actually herding pigs – I got the impression that she would not have agreed with Goethe and that she was rather happy to eventually returning to the North again…..