Under the Tuscan Shade: Demystifying the Romanticization of Tuscany
I called shotgun, ran to the car and we were on our way. San Gimignano, here we come. But, as we drove out of Siena, we realized that the car we were following knew the winding roads very well. We also realized that, collectively we were directionally challenged. Strangely the idea of getting lost did not bother me at all. How could I be bothered by where I was when the Tuscan countryside is a wonder of its own. Tuscany is a beautiful place, no wonder countless Hollywood films are shot here.
Even if we got lost I would be perfectly content walking around the hills of Tuscany. Everyone in the car joked, that we did not mind spending more time in the Tuscan, shade? Right as I was going to say sun, we drove through a row of leafy trees. We laughed it off and finally caught up with our van.
The most common phrase I heard before coming to Tuscany was, Under the Tuscan Sun, and yes it is amazing. The sun on my skin feels amazing. But almost two months into the program and the weather still felt like summer. With 80 degree days and at least a 30 minute walk to and from school, I found comfort sitting under the shade of a nice tree, or the shade from a building while eating lunch in the Piazza Del Campo.
The Tuscan sun is Amazing but since this Fall has been unusually warm, resting under a cypress tree is just what the doctor ordered. It is easy to forget that the landscape of Tuscany would not look the same without the trees to line the hills. Olive trees, cypress trees, and hazelnut trees are all native to the Tuscan area and all have a special significance to the people in the region.
Cypress trees are most commonly seen near cemeteries to line them. I learned that Cypress trees are mostly commonly used to notify cemeteries. The long green bushes that reach up to the sky. They are also said to have pollen that calms people down.
The olive tree has to be the most famous tree seen throughout Tuscany. A Professor told me during class, that most people who live in Tuscany do not buy their olives from the supermarket because everyone knows someone who owns an olive grove. You can see their silver leaves line the sides of roads mirroring the rows of the vineyards.
The Castagna, or Hazelnut in Italian, tree can be found all around the Fortezza in Siena. The nuts are protected in a spikey shell that is alarming when you sit on it. Inside the spikey shell is the nut with its’ hard smooth surface. They are slightly larger then a walnut and much harder to crack. As a child growing up in California, roasting chestnuts on an open fire was never an option but I had higher hopes when I saw the grounds of Italy littered with this nut. And one day on my walk home I saw a man roasting chestnuts on a pop up stove. It was not an open fire, but they were very delicious.
The Tuscan sun may be better known, but the shadows of Tuscany have a lot to offer as well.