Thursday, June 8, 2017


On birthday morning, Sally woke to a floral message on the dining table created by Claire
It's been 40 years since I was last in Tuscany and in many respects, not much has changed.
     10 years ago, we celebrated Sally's 60th birthday in a villa on the Island of Kefelonia. This year, Sally wanted to rent another villa and have the family join us. Which she did, and they did. Georgia joined us from Rwanda where she was visiting a hospital treating cancer patients, and Claire joined us from Spain where she was partying.
     We initially met up in Rome and then took the train to Florence, or Firenze as it is better known over here, where we met up with Maxine Long, Sally's very long time friend. We rented a car from a location near the train station, and carefully drove away from the city. I say carefully since there is a no-go zone for tourists in Florence and the internet is full of stories about tourists who make a wrong turn and end up with a very expensive fine.

Renting a car in Italy: some words of advice if renting from Avis/Budget
We rented this Opel Zafira, a GM model not available in Canada. It was an excellent choice with a sliding interior sunroof opening up to a large windshield. The car included a lot of features including navigation
We booked a car many months ago through and I paid extra for additional full insurance coverage. However, when we checked into Avis/Budget, while they had the voucher from the lady at the counter claimed there was no additional insurance being provided. After being told the value of the car, were strongly urged to pay for additional insurance coverage, which I did at a cost of 25 euros per day, plus an additional charge for windshield coverage.
     I subsequently spoke to in UK who told me the voucher did indeed indicate we had paid for full coverage and that The Avis/Budget office was aware of this. They went on to say that they had received similar complaints from other customers.
      When I returned the car I tried to get satisfaction from the attendant, but without success. To further add insult to injury, I also discovered I was being charged 'counter charges' which were subsequently explained as roadside assistance. The fact is I never asked for this, nor was it ever explained to me. I have subsequently written to the manager of the Avis/Budget office, but based on my experience, I would suggest that you deal with another reputable company if renting a car in Florence.

A villa in Tuscany
     Sally was concerned that our Airbnb villa, a 17th c renovated farmhouse with a very lovely pool, might be a bit isolated. After driving on gravel roads for what seemed like an eternity, we all agreed she was right to be concerned. However, after meeting the owner, she assured us we had taken the long route, and the location was not quite as remote as it might have seemed. We are in La Cetina, which consists of little more than about 6 farms and houses. The closest village is Sovicille and we're about 30 minutes from Siena. The property is just as advertised, rustic but charming with 'all modern cons'. The pool is truly lovely, There are fruit trees around the property and wonderful apricots and cherries waiting to be gathered.
As the old TV commercial used to say, I can't believe I ate the whole thing. (Actually I did have a bit of help!)

Georgia and Nona, who did much of the cooking.
There are a number of very pleasant restaurants nearby. If you are in the neighbourhood, we have particularly enjoyed Donato e Donata, where we enjoyed a true Italian 'country-family-style' dinner. Also L'Osteria di Piscialembita where we had an excellent meal once our server understood that we wanted the pasta after the antipasto and the osso bucco after the pasta. Caution: the portions are much too large!

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