greve in chianti.

when i booked my trip to italy, i had one destination that i was unsure of.
the only thing knew was that it was in tuscany and that i'd be driving.

it wasn't until the morning of my flight that i looked it up on the map and found some destination sites nearby. pisa, assisi, siena, etc.

so when i come to that leg of my tour, i pick up my car in florence and am told it is about a half hour drive to greve in chianti.

that is, if you don't get lost. which i quickly did.

i drove up a mountain, scared to death of the edge. i came to a farm and stopped for directions to be met by someone who spoke no english, as i spoke no italian. i tried to back out and burst into a sweat when i couldn't seem to get the car into reverse.

surely the beginning of an adventure alright.

2 hours later, for a 20 minute drive, i find my town. there is a small city centre that i stop through and eat a bowl of pasta. shortly after i make it to my inn.

and it is gorgeous. a wine/olive oil/saffron farm. rolling hills and green everywhere. i meet elaine, who seems to be running the show. she's kind and quiet and i appreciate this. the place is cold and dark and beautiful. antique furniture, cathedral ceilings- much different than the shoe box room i had stayed at while in rome.

and soon i realize that i am the only guest.

i am told to lock the door of the inn when i arrive home from my travels since there is no one working there overnight. it's strange, i try not to over think it.

i take a nap from the mere fact that i am a bit overwhelmed by it all. i'm not quiet sure what to do right now. do i take the car out for a road trip? not really feeling it after 2 hours lost on the road. i'm freezing. i have no computer (and have yet to figure out wifi on my ipod) my phone doesn't work, there is no phone in my room. and so, i sleep.

i get up a bit later and drive again into the city centre. i eat dinner at the same place that i had lunch. they recognize me, it's nice to be a familiar face. and it's quiet again until 25 Italian men come in for a party. suddenly i'm afraid- intimidated to have to finish and walk past that crowd. a single woman. but, in time i do and i am not harassed or cat called. i leave in peace.

i try and call my mom from a pay phone. i can't get through. the one coffee house in town with Internet service is closed. i can't connect with anyone. and suddenly i feel very alone. very upset. i cry when i can't reach home. and i go back to my room feeling slightly defeated. there is no american television, and i am the only person in this place. it's dark, i recall horror movies for a moment. what to do? i read, i write, i think, i listen. i wanted solitude, i certainly got it. and i just figure this is how i'll deal with it. quiet, meditative moments. i sleep well and wake up early. they make me my own private continental breakfast with a banquet table set for one. it's pretty endearing. i drink lots of coffee and get on the road to travel to pisa.

the few days i had here in greve in chianti were absolutely remarkable. there is an expression, "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it." i apply that here. i wanted to be alone. to clear my head. this leg of my adventure gave me just that. i travel on unknown roads for hours through the tuscan mountains not knowing where i am, making stops in villages that look interesting. seeing some remarkably beautiful landscapes, as well as breathtaking architecture and history. communicating with people through human expression when words can't be exchanged. people help me, people are exceptionally kind to me without any expectations. i let go of a lot while i'm here. i had no choice, it wasn't a matter of thought, it was a matter of necessity. and the one word that i learned to apply was surrender.

surrender. it's an action word.

sometimes, things don't go our way. we have to surrender. we have to turn it over. as my plans fell through or weren't as expected, i had to let go and ask, "what is in store for me?" after all this was a trip for me. i was in a foreign place alone. there was plenty to see and do and i had to believe i was going to go where i needed to be to experience the things i needed to experience. i couldn't have asked for much more.

and if i had known what i was in for in tuscany, as far as solitude was concerned, i don't know that i would have planned it. after all, a city like rome or florence is a bit more familiar with the bustle of people and activity. but, this was a huge step out of my comfort zone and i am so grateful that i was able to do it.

so, when i check out of the villa, i stop in their shop to pick up some wine, olive oil, saffron and pasta and i take some photographs of elaine and her uncle (the proprietor- who had a constant smile and happy demeanor) and as i wrap up my purchases she asks me if i'd like to stay for lunch. she was translating for her uncle who spoke no english. she then asks me if i like truffle.

yes. i like truffle.

so i stay to have lunch with 6 italians, 2 of which speak english. it was quiet an experience. i felt very honored to be there. a doctor friend brought a truffle which we ate over pasta. there were many dishes that weren't for me since they were meat but they made special provisions for me as well as for elaine's father who was in attendance (she explained to me that he didn't care much for meat either and choose to eat more along the lines of a vegetarian.) they laughed that i also didn't drink the wine or champagne that was offered and wondered what i did to indulge. they poured olive oil all over their food and i watched in amazement. i didn't have a clue what they spoke about but sat next to a woman who translated a lot to me. and it felt nice to be with her. we spoke of the states where her daughter had studied and i felt i had a compadre.

i took some photos, i asked them to put on some silly hats that were hanging in the dining room. they agreed we all laughed and had fun with it. that was universal.

and this was my send off. i didn't connect with many people when i was in italy, let alone break bread but, this was a special day. i couldn't feel more grateful for the hospitality i was shown that afternoon. and if i hadn't been open to letting go of my plans and letting the world head it's way, i may have missed out on such a lovely experience.

i get in my fiat rental and travel into florence smiling.