Thursday, August 30, 2012

Our 20th Anniversary Adventure - Part I

Yep, you know when there's a part I in the title that I've got a story for you. :)

July 25th was our 20th wedding anniversary and the day we booked a Vespa tour through the Tuscan countryside. I was super excited and had in my mind that this would be my favorite day of the trip.

The fun faltered when Brian woke up feeling ill ... again. I know, I know, I should be a supportive spouse, but I was annoyed because my assessment was that he was eating too much rich food and drinking too much red wine and that's why his stomach was off. His version is that he caught some kind of bug (and he was probably right). To his credit, he didn't complain, pasted a smile on his face and we headed out for the Vespa tour.

When we finally arrived after a wait, some negotiating with the parking police in Florence, and more waiting for some ditzy girls tagging along to go horseback riding, we drove about 30 minutes outside of Florence into the Tuscan countryside. Here, we were given a sales pitch about extra insurance and issued helmets. Then, we got our lesson and about 15 minutes to get used to driving the Vespa. After some lectures about how we wouldn't be allowed to go if the instructors didn't think we could manage the bikes, we all passed and headed out. Here's Brian getting his lesson from our guide - not a bad place to learn to ride a Vespa, huh?

Unfortunately, the only time we could take pictures was when we were stopped. A shame because the scenery was breathtaking. You had to work hard to keep your eyes on the road and not start staring at the countryside. So, here are a few photos of the views as we stopped periodically along the route.

One stop was at a winery, which also sells olive oil. Actually, most of the vineyards make olive oil, but very few have the quantity to justify the expense of the equipment to press their own olives so there are olive pressing companies where the farmers bring their olives, then decide how they want them pressed and then wait 45 minutes to an hour for the process to complete, put it in their containers and take it back home. I'm thinking it's kind of like a feed mill back home where the farmers bring their corn and have it processed for them. The photo here is the olive jars this winery uses for their olive oil once the olives have been pressed. The fresh olive oil sits in these barrels so the sediment can settle.

Overlooking the sculpted garden at the villa/winery we visited. We had lunch here as well. It was billed as a "three course Tuscan lunch", but in reality meant 1) salad, 2) pasta, 3) another kind of pasta. :)

As I look at these now, I'm sad I couldn't take any photos while on the Vespa as these just don't do the trip justice. It was an amazing experience.

So, by now, you're probably wondering "where's the story?" There are two actually.

The day was going quite well until literally almost the last stretch of road before finishing our trip. There was a steep hill and a sharp curve and ... let's just say that the banged up knee of one of our party was an attempt to avoid another Vespa not in our group who didn't make the turn. An ice pack and compression bandage (and a Long Island Iced Tea at one of the cafes in Florence) and things were back on track.

Back in Florence, we did a little shopping and then headed back to the train station. The second adventure started when we arrived back in Rignano ...

... and Brian realized he didn't have his wallet.

(cue the suspense music)

He ran back onto the train, but couldn't look for more than a few seconds or the doors would have closed and he would have been off to the next stop. We looked around through his bag, my bag, but no wallet. Had it been stolen? Did he leave it on the train? Was it in his pocket the whole time?

You'll have to turn in for Part II to find out ...

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