NOTE: I realize I am writing some of this in present tense and some in past. Rather than go through to correct or create a consistency, I’m choosing to go with the flow of my mood. I guess I’m allowed, since it’s my blog and I definitely notice that some of my postings seem to be in the past, while others are right there in the present with me. Go figure!
Tuesday, May 18 – The day dawned with SUNNY skies, for the first time since we arrived. So we grabbed our opportunity to visit the sea and Niki de St. Phalle’s Giardino Tarocchi (the Tarot Garden) near Capalbio in the southwestern part of Tuscany. This is NOT a trip for a rainy day. We hope the sun will hold.
Our drive out to the Promenade d’Argentio (I may not be spelling that correctly . . . can’t find my map at the moment) was simple, uneventful, and took us past the many many vineyards in the Montalcino area, where the best Tuscan wine is made . . . Brunello di Montalcino. It’s fascinating to note the wide variety of vineyards, in terms of the sheer size of the field, the age of the vines (judging by the thickness of each vine trunk), the leafy green vine tops shimmering in the sunlight, quavering in the wind. And each vineyard owner plants roses at the front end of every vine row . . . I know there is a reason for that, but I’ll have to ask Neil when I get home. So beautiful roses introduce the vineyard to any observer who passes by.
When we passed through the Montalcino area and headed for Grosseto and the coast, the terrain changed dramatically. Now the views were much flatter, and I must say less appealing. Is there anything unappealing about Italy? Sure there is, just as in any country, but simply a bit boring is as bad as it got on this ride. Within another 45 minutes, we began to smell the sea and around that next curve, there it was in all its beauty. Sparkling shards of sunlight on the water. White dots of boats out on in the harbors, even the hint of a cruise ship or two.
As we got closer to our first destination, Porto San Stefano, we began to pass “camping” facilities, which were really rows of delightfully colored cabins, presumably on the beaches behind all the buildings and foliage on each side of our road. Then the restaurants, small alimentari (little grocery stores), and an occasional “regular” grocery store (designated by the words COOP in capital letters) began to show themselves, and finally we were on the strip bridge that linked us to “our” island and the Porto. It was easy to find a parking place and we drove past many before we settled on an area that appeared to have several restaurants right on the water, waiting to serve us the freshest fish in this area of Tuscany.
We walked along the water to the restaurant area, even stopping in a small dress shop where the young man was delighted to find four women from Colorado entering his store. He had lived in Loveland for some of his childhood years, and felt as though he had made a connection from his past. I shook my head, marveling at another little synchronicity popping up in my travels. There are many of those here and there if I just pay attention.
The young man at the store pointed us to his favorite restaurant just across the street from his shop, whose name I have forgotten in these wee hours of the morning, and we sat out at the water’s edge, eating fresh branzino (sea bass) in the brilliant sun.
After a leisurely lunch, we made our way to the Tarot Garden, a most amazing collection of mosaic representations of the artist’s Major Arcana. de St. Phalle takes her inspiration from the Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi. The way I have to explain the visual is to say that it is a sort of Moroccan Disneyworld on psychedelics. Incredible, unbelievable, imagination gone fantastic. Check out the website, http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com, for some photos that MIGHT begin to give you an idea of what you’ve missed on this day.
After the visit to the garden, everything else for the rest of the day was anticlimactic!