I know it is another stretch of a post to add Tuscany to things I love about France, but very simply, we would not have driven to Italy if we didn’t live in France. Travelling down through the south of France, we thought, “What the heck, let’s go to Tuscany!” It has been on the bucket list forever, and there is no time like the present, non?
So far we have not been disappointed, although, I don’t know about the whole under-the-Tuscan-sun-thing. For most of the time we have been under the Tuscan clouds, but yesterday, the sun finally came out. That said, the light has been extraordinary in the clouds, mist, and sunshine, and the family time more than precious. Even for this dedicated Francophile, it has been nice to have a short break from France (although there are so many French here, some days it feels like we never left). The Italians have been gracious and gregarious (except for the Florentines, who can definitely give the Parisians a run for their money on the unpleasant and rude front) and the food, of course, has been fantastic.
Here are a few favorite things I have notice (and loved) about Tuscany on this trip:
Laughing out Loud Loudly
I had not realized how much I miss hearing other people laugh out loud loudly. It is so very rare to hear French people laughing out loud without reserve in public. In Italy it seems like a requirement to laugh out loud.
I am a big laugher, not an annoying one, but I do like to laugh, so being back in a culture where it is okay to express your happy self in public is terrific. I also love watching (and hearing) Tuscans talk to each other. At first I thought every conversation was an argument, but it seems like they are simply just very animated (loud) here. It is liberating to not feel like you have to be reserved and talk in hushed tones all the time. As much as I love the quiet restaurants in France and the French desire to keep their private lives (and observations) to themselves, it has made me quite happy to see strangers laughing it up in public and wearing their emotions on their sleeves.
The Lack of Litigiousness
Compared to the USA, both Italy and France fall in line with this lovely lack of litigiousness. We enjoy the fact that it is possible in both countries, to do and see things that in America would be a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen. In the States you can sue anyone for anything. No one takes personal responsibility for anything.
If you trip on a crack and slightly injure yourself on your neighbor’s driveway in Colorado, go ahead and sue them. The potholes are too big after a huge snowstorm and your scalding hot MacDo coffee burns your leg as you drive down the highway? Sue the city for the lack of immediate street maintenance and Mickey D’s for making their coffee too hot. In France and Italy it is the opposite. Climb a narrow winding 700-year-old staircase with your enthusiastic dog, but without railings or proper lighting to capture the perfect sunset over Siena, do it at your own risk. Ride the crazy whirly-doo at the local town fair without seatbelts and be encouraged to stand up and dance in the middle and drag a few strangers with you, bien sûr! Have as much fun as you want. Just remember, it was your decision, you are responsible for the outcome.
Italians do plazas and grand gathering spaces really, really well. As much as I love café sitting in Paris, it is just not the same as sitting in the sunshine in one of these grand piazzas and being overwhelmed by the history of those who have come before you, and those who are living the experience with you at the moment. Nothing beats an Italian Piazza for people watching.
The Italian’s answer to the French’s champagne. I love them both, but sipping Prosecco with your family and friends on your terrace overlooking Chianti is pretty darn magical.
Burnt Siena Rooftops
The rooftops in Tuscany are very different from the Paris rooftops, but equally as lovely. After spending a few weeks in Tuscany, I now understand where all those colors in the 100-pack Crayola crayons come from. The rolling waves of tiled tops make me want to paint.
Teeny Tiny Cars
As I have posted previously, I am nutty for the teeny tiny cars of France. (Remember I come from the environmentally unfriendly land of the mighty SUVs and Humvees.) So while in Italy, I have forced my family to stop every time I see an adorable mini car. Cliché moi especially loves the itty-bitty Fiat 500.