Today I had plans. I was going to do some research on jobs, maybe check on some volunteering opportunities, go to the market, recharge my phone, and possibly even more. Instead Leif talked me into going with him to the Florence by Bike shop and watching them film a video about the bike team he is a member of and about cycling in Tuscany. This film will be shown on Italian television so it is important for the shop and the team. From the moment I said “Sure, I’ll come along” my day became anything but ordinary.
First, Leif was the only team member that showed up. It’s hard to film a team with only one person, so a long time customer of the shop offered to help out. Good! Two people, creatively filmed, can be a team. They wanted some shots taken in the city before heading out to the hills, so they asked me to ride along to help make the group look bigger. I’m pretty sure I look like some alien being dropped into those scenes, since the guys are in their spandex and special shoes while I was sporting my Levi’s, Puma’s and pale green spring jacket. With any luck at all they will masterfully crop me out of the shots of the whole crowd (yes, 3 is a crowd) riding into the square, asking the police for directions and riding into the sunrise.
After this Leif and Vincent rode out of town while I got into the car with the shop owner, Andrea and the photographer, Francesco. I knew better than to try and ride with the bikers longer. I was more than a little nervous about spending the day riding around the countryside with two men who had limited English but I understand quite a bit of Italian now, so it wasn’t too bad. We drove out into the hills of Chianti under the most beautiful sun that ever did shine. The hills are absolutely beautiful, covered in grape vines and olive trees just coming to life above new grass and wildflowers (OK, we all know they are weeds, but they are so pretty right now) while other fruit trees have started to blossom pink and white and yellow. Lines of cypress trees follow the ridges of hills and driveways. All this was the perfect backdrop for a film about cycling the hills of Tuscany with good friends, finding great food and wine along the way.
Yes, there was lunch. Small break here for a commercial. We went to a farm called Corte di Valle, where they have a wine cellar and grow saffron. They also rent rooms and have a restaurant. You should go. Lunch was a fantastic pasta with saffron sauce. It didn’t just taste good, the saffron gave it a lovely pale yellow color that made the whole dish look very pretty too. I keep thinking that every meal I have couldn’t possibly be improved on, but almost every day there is another dish that is more amazing. Add wines from their cellars to the pasta and we had a meal that won’t be easily forgotten. After the meal we got a tour of the cellar, with a special taste from one of the barrels. I can hardly wait the months needed for this Chianti to finish…it’s beautiful now. And what’s more fun than having your glass filled with wine lifted from a cask with a long glass tube and poured directly into your glass by a most charismatic elderly Italian gentleman who is reverently referred to as Signore Marco?
Outside in the courtyard the bees were buzzing around and the birds were singing. Views of vineyards, olive groves and saffron gardens were all around us. I am trying not to make this sound like some sappy, too good to be true kind of day, but the truth is, it was beautiful and warm and happy and not at all the kind of day I planned and certainly not the kind of day I would ever be able to have in Minnesota. Especially as I hear you got 6 inches of snow overnight.
I don’t have a single picture from this wonderful day, because I decided to go with Leif about 5 minutes before we had to leave, but I’m sure the film will make it to youtube at some point and then you can all see the day I had, professionally shot by a real TV photographer. How many of you can say that?