As I was saying….
by Debra Chappell
View from the Tuscan Countryside: As I was saying, (see last blog post), sometimes the things unplanned are the most memorable on a trip like this. Case in point…we set out this morning to go rent the car that we planned to have for three days of touring through the Tuscan countryside ala Thelma and Louise sans (hopefully) the final cliff scene. To get to the Hertz office, the front desk at our hotel suggested we take a cab as it was on the outskirts of town and hard to find. The cab arrived and to our surprise and delight the cabbie was a woman. We told her of our touring plans on the way to the rental office and asked her suggestions on what towns to see and shared with her our interests ((namely wine, ceramics…did I say wine?) Her eyes lit up and she started rattling off a host of suggestions, even missing her turn because she “got so excited” when we mentioned ceramics. Needless to say, we clicked with her immediately and found the 20 minute ride to the Hertz rental office flew by in no time. AnnaLisa dropped us off (in the drizzle that had started) and Elaine and I climbed out of the cab
Almost simultaneously we had the same thought as the cab pulls away – namely….WTF are we thinking? She’s just like us, loves the same things we do, speaks great English (even if broken which made for some real laughs), is fun and knowledgable and knows how to drive a stick shift — Bloody hell!!! We should have hired her to take us around instead of trying to do this ourselves!!! To make a long story short, we ask the Hertz clerk to call her back saying we left something in the cab, negotiate with her for a daytrip of touring, then cancel the rental car and climb back in the cab, all of us laughing like hell, even AnnaLisa, our new BFF and driver for the day.
She was nothing short of fabulous – she not only squired us through the gorgeous countryside but dropped us at her favorite hilltop villages to taste, shop, take in the vistas and genuflect repeatedly (I have been in more churches today than I have in the past 20 years – I’m surprised the walls haven’t been hit by lightning!) And AnnaLissa was brilliant – she told us the history, pointed out the geological significance of certain places, was truly and impressively knowledgable about wine and the foods of the region, and yes, has the same fetish for the handpainted ceramics as moi — what’s not to love? She capped off our fabulous day by taking us to her personal friends winery who gave us a complete tour of the facility as well as a hospitable private tasting of the wonderful Rosso de Montalpuciano (younger wine made of Sangiovese grapes) and Brunello, the aged version unique to the region. We learned along the way that AnnaLisa is a single mom, has been to the states and loved it, was a lawyer before driving a cab, and absolutely loves her job. Little did she know that her fare to the Hertz office at 11:00 this morning would turn into a 7 hour day of driving, gabbing, laughing, and celebrating the left turns life hands you… but we came away not only appreciating the fabulous gifts of the Tuscan countryside, but the warmth of a new friend as well. There surely can be no better souvenir than that to take home with us, and one that can be carried in the heart instead of the already overstuffed suitcase!