Italy – Emilia-Romagna

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A week in the Italian countryside; without internet, with cell phone access, without an agenda of any kind.. heaven.

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We’re staying in a little studio cabin in the hills above the little village of Vergato; which is about 30 minutes south of Bologna and close to the border of Tuscany. It’s pretty idyllic. There are 3 house tucked together here; the main house, where our hosts Sylvia and Claudio live with their little 1 year old son, Emmanuel. There’s another little house that seems to be at least partially habited by a woman (whose name we can never remember) and her two young daughters (whom we were never introduced to) and our little cabin. All the homes run on solar power; they have a huge garden, and a big outdoor table under grape vines, an outdoor bread oven; we have a fig tree that shades our porch.

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Sylvia and Claudio are generous and lovely. Talking with them usually goes something like this: Sylvia will start out speaking Italian, stop and then try to get out a few words in English. I respond, obviously, in Spanish, with some french words filled in for my stunning lack of vocabulary. Nolan will throw in a few English words to the conversation. To this, Sylvia will respond entirely in what seems to be slow and simple Italian, of which I probably understand about 50-75%, depending on context. Claudio speaks no English and just prattles off to us in quick, animated Italian of which I probably understand about 20%.
So we do a lot of smiling and nodding. I think they think we’re probably very nice and slightly simple.
But they were amazing; they brought us strawberries and lettuce and vegetables from their garden and gave us suggestions of places to go (with lots of hand gestures) and Emmanuel, a little piston of a 1 year old with the hugest, most luminous smile, completely and totally stole our hearts.

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When we were forming our trip, we built in a couple of longer stays in rural locations so we could get out of cities and experience a bit of life in the country, but also to recharge. It’s been a pretty hectic month so far – (we hit our 1 month travelling mark!) and some recharge was necessary.

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My knee is finally getting better – I can walk fairly normally, I’ve abandoned the cane, and while sleeping is still a bit of an issue – I wake up a few times in the night with an aching knee and need to switch positions – I pretty much am getting around normally. My leg definitely gets tired more easily and I have less endurance in general, but I’m pretty happy with how it’s healing. And more importantly, happy to be walking around instead of hobbling around.

The sun has been shining every day and it’s warm and peaceful and feels great. What else did we do? Really, not much. We took leisurely walks in the evening. We read. We hunted for rocks.

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Nolan’s a pretty great rock picker. I know I married him for some reason.

We laid out in the sun. We found a really fantastic little gelateria in the village that we went to. Every day.

We took a couple of day trips; one to Lucca in Tuscany and the other to Bologna. We did some nature hikes. There was this funny little hand-written booklet in the cabin, by some fellow called Giacomo with ideas and maps of interesting places in the area to visit.
Some of the entries were in Italian, some in English – we tried for one written in English. The description touted it as perfect for a hot day and involved a nice drive, a hike, a roman bridge and a river. Sounded great. The directions were hilariously vague with a crazy hand-drawn map and we really really didn’t think we would actually be able to find our way there, but that it might be fun trying and we would probably end up somewhere that would be fairly interesting.

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And let me be clear, we had *absolutely* no faith in actually reaching the destination. And yet, somehow.. mostly to our own shock, and with only one backtrack, we managed to navigate the directions and find the trailhead. We hiked along the river for about half an hour, then found the roman bridge and worked our way down to the river where we did some rock hunting (seemingly our only agenda for this leg of the trip) and soaked our feet in the freezing cold water. We forgot the camera, so we have no pics, but it was spectacular.

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And then, on the way home travelling through another little village, we found this incredible little food shop where we stopped to buy fresh pasta, homemade pesto, some pecorino cheese and tomatoes from this lovely old woman who was kind and patient with our terrible Italian and smiled at us throughout. We went home and made the pasta with the fresh tomatoes and pesto and the pecorino shaved on top. It was extraordinary.

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The pesto was incredibly subtle and flavourful with hardly any bite to it. She had made it that day. It was simply another food altogether from any pesto I’ve ever had. The meal was deliciously simple and amazing and I know I’ll be thinking about it long after we’re home.

And after this week it’s off to Rome!

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