We open the shutters and then the glass to take in the scents and sounds of a Pisa morning. There is coffee brewing somewhere below us. Fresh laundry has been hung out to dry. Distant voices, muffled and soft visit us on each breeze. The sky is blue and the air refreshing.
Our breakfast is included and Italians know how to do breakfast. In the glass room downstairs we are greeted first by Italian opera arias. Then we find a table of pastries and fruit. A cooler that holds four bottles is filled with sparkling water, still water and Pinot Grigio. A station nearby has eggs and bacon. In another room is a long table filled with various dried, thinly sliced meats and cheeses. The Italians make no apologies for their carnivorous ways.
I pick up some yogurt and fruit and we choose a table outside in the garden. A waiter finds us to inquire about our drink choice. I request coffee. “American coffee?” Si, grazie mille.
Fortified by coffee and deliciousness Karin and I begin to plot our few morning hours in Pisa. We will be going back to the Pisa airport today to catch a ride to our yoga retreat in the small Tuscan town of Camiore, but we want to drink in as much of this place as we can before moving onto the next.
As we begin to consider a walk to the river, we hear the first few raindrops on our umbrella. Then a few more. The waiters rush out to remove the table settings and crank the umbrellas closed as if they just received some very urgent information about an impending storm. We gathered our things and headed inside while it continued to softly rain outside.
We choose a table in the corner of the glassed-in room. Above us, faded sheer pink and white fabric is dramatically and romantically draped, allowing just enough filtered light in from the glass ceiling above. In between the folds of fabric, globes of crystal flowers surround single bulbs in place of chandeliers.
We continue our conversation, knowing now we will probably just relax here until we need to leave.
We strike up a conversation with two Canadian couples at the next table who share the highlights of their experience in Italy. We take mental notes.
We each order another coffee and I feel like this is an obviously American thing to do. In that instant I am simultaneously happy to be receiving and ashamed for desiring. I tuck a thought into the front of my brain to learn the Italian ways and practice them while here. Perhaps even bringing home the best of them for myself.
Packed and ready we approach the front desk to request a taxi. “I will call for you. If you need a taxi in the morning we will call in the night before. For one tonight we call right now.” Okay, what if I need one in 30 minutes ? “We call 15 minutes before.” So…
Less than 5 minutes after she calls, our taxi arrives. Our driver is young, and rather than trying to impress us with his speed and accuracy while driving, he employed that other age old universal cab driver wisdom – take them the long way.
But we arrived safely for just an extra €5.
At the airport, we meet up with two other retreat attendees who had just landed. We learn all the pleasant surface information about each other as we wait for our ride.
The drive to our villa on the hill takes only about 40 minutes even with one wrong turn. The last bit of road leading up to the villa once we are in the little hamlet of Camiore feels tight and treacherous for us. But not for the residents of this village. At several turns in the road something like an entire three story stone home juts into the road, serving as a very tall curb, completely obstructing the view. A preemptive honking of the horn announces our presence and intention to round the corner without meeting an oncoming car. In other spots deep drop offs are intermittently protected by guardrails. But not all, not even close. In certain stretches of this road it is too narrow for two cars. Both cars stop and some unwritten code determines who is to back up. Super fun on the aforementioned guardrail-less hill top road.
But we made it. And what a gift.
A quick tour of the villa reveals exquisitely designed rooms, architecturally interesting details, soft, historical colors and great attention to detail. But the view. From the well-appointed vine covered back porch the Mediterranean sparkles in the distance, small villages and towns beneath us all covered in clay tile roofs interrupt the rolling green hills. Trees, trees and more trees. Palm, cedar, olive, magnolia and many others I can not readily identify. Jasmine and lemon blossoms fill the air with the most delicious sweet scent. The air is cool and light.
A thorough exploration is called for. But for now, I am held in place, content to just be. Here.