In 1993, my parents and I travelled to Italy for the first time, renting a villa high up in the hills where crickets were active all day and fireflies appeared at night. There was even an outdoor pool where I began each morning with a swim. But what most sticks in my mind is the lush green countryside with its rolling hills and cypress trees. I was reminded of these impressions the day I took the bus from Florence to San Gimigniano. There was something truly magical about leaving the city and its crowds behind to rediscover that amazingly green landscape. In truth, I wanted to journey to last for several hours and instantly regretted not buying a ticket as far as Siena. In San Gimigniano, I wandered further up the the steep slope, past the souvenir stalls with fedoras and the enormous queue for the amazing (and cheap) ice cream and found myself in a small olive grove where a man was playing a harp. I climbed up a little higher to the top of a ruin and surveyed the endless countryside around me. It’s impossible for me to describe how it made me feel, only that it was probably the closest thing to paradise I have known and that I wondered how it would be possible for me to leave this place after experiencing such beauty.
I am still mulling over these thought a month after my return. I still hear the delicate rustling of the olive leaves in the light breeze on that perfect autumn day. It seems so immediate yet far away now that there’s a chill in the air and the leaves have turned and begun to fall. I only hope that I’ll experience that kind of beauty again and leave you with some photos from that day and some more from Florence.