Perhaps after having had too much to drink, my friend Laura recently invited Daniel and me to stay at her home in Pisa for a long vacation. We took her up on the offer and Daniel booked his vacation time almost immediately. We landed in Florence last Friday, and Laura and her boyfriend Stefano drove us to Pisa just in time for the city’s annual celebration for the patron saint.
So far, our stay has basically been a struggle between avoiding the intense heat and sun during the day and making the most of our time. Laura seems more interested in the surrounding Tuscan cities than in Pisa (or maybe it’s that the the smaller towns are cooler) so we spent our first full day in nearby Lucca, a quiet, small town dominated by a 14th century tower.
On the next day we rose late, lingered over breakfast, and then decided to hit the beach in Livorno. Weather aside, one has to visit Florence, so that’s where we spent Tuesday, but all that I remember was contending with an impressive number of tourists in the mid-day heat.
Worn out after three days of seemingly non-stop exploration and a bit of heat rash, we took refuge in Donoratico, the small coastal town where Laura’s parents live. One perk of staying with a friend in Italy is that we got to tag-along to all of her daily activities, many of which involve driving through the Tuscan landscape.
Laura and Stefano work as filmmakers, and had several jobs lined up in nearby Piombino, so after helping her parents during the days (they manage several rental properties and make olive oil and soaps) the evenings were spent in Piombino. We spent these few days on Donoratico’s marina, watching a big band/oompah concert as Laura filmed, exploring Piombino (which is so nice that Daniel now intends to retire there), and eating our way through the local solstice food festival. I can assure you that Tuscan food festivals are as wonderful as they sound.
Part of the beauty of all of this is that Daniel and I arrived in Italy without any plans or expectations. We agreed that we would just go with the flow and see what happened. This always sounds romantic, but seemed especially promising since we were subject to someone else’s rhythms on this trip; it seemed best not to force anything. Worst case scenario: we’d get to relax in Tuscany and make some good progress on our books.
I know that Laura and Stefano have worked hard to make this a wonderful trip for us, but on our end, it’s felt spontaneous and passive. If there is work to be done, we go along. If it’s hot and they suggest the beach, we agree. If we want to sleep in, they probably do too. I can’t imagine more easy-going hosts, and Daniel and I will be indebted for a while to come. This has most certainly been our best vacation yet, and we’re only halfway done!