Remember the scene in Under The Tuscan Sun where Diane Lane has a freak-out moment with a scorpion? I have my own freak-out scorpion story and it goes like this:
Several years ago, I read an article in Architectural Digest about the restoration of the Tuscan hamlet, Borgo di Vagli. The article spoke about the 14th-century authenticity that was restored to the buildings. It also talked about the wide-open views of the Niccone Valley, as well as the rosemary, lavendar and forsythia plants that surround the landscape. Even Frances Mayes was quoted saying the civil engineer behind the restoration "is the best."
Of course I had to stay there! I'm all about getting an "authentic" experience! Right? Plus, the hamlet is only 20 minutes from one of my favorite Tuscan towns, Cortona. Reservations were made and we were off!
We turned off the A1 heading toward Cortona, then on to Mercatale. Before we knew it, the scenery changed to winding roads tucked amid the moutains. The hillsides were dense with trees. There was not a car or house in sight. Sheer outdoor perfection!
Next appeared the Pierle Castel and the 11th-century Church of San Biagio. We were instructed to look for a small wooden sign directing us to Borgo di Vagli. We were also told that the hamlet is only accessible along the original medieval unpaved path (a.k.a. dirt and gravel road). No problem for us Texans!
We found the small sign, turned left and headed down the dirt road. Twists and turns. Up and down. Rounding a sharp turn we were faced with an incredibly steep hill. Hubs gunned the engine. But instead of barreling up the hill, we found ourselves stuck at the bottom with our wheels spinning and spitting rocks on everything behind us. "Lower the gear and give it some gas," I instructed with assertive assurance. He did. Tires spinning and grinding for traction, we willed our car to the top where we stopped for a hardy laugh at the whole ordeal.
Ah, Borgo di Vagli. We made it. What an unbelievably beautiful place. And, so quiet. We were escorted to our one-bedroom apartment. It was a two-story -- living space and kitchen downstairs; bedroom and bathroom upstairs. Charming. Exactly what you would expect in a Tuscan home!
We fell asleep that night the moment our heads hit the pillows. In part because of jet lag. In part because of the quiet whispers of crickets and other nocturnal creatures singing us to sleep.
Around 4 AM, I was abruptly wakened to the sound of a loud bam, bam, bam. I sat up. Hubs wasn't there. There was a dim light streaming from the bathroom. I was afraid he had fallen, so I yelled out to see if he was OK. He headed back to bed and spoke only one word: SCORPION!
OK. Guess who was up the rest of the night? I imagined scorpions crawling on the perfectly hewned brown beams above our bed, losing their grip and breaking their fall on me!
The next morning, I shook shoes and clothes fervently before donning them. I searched high and low before entering the shower. I investigated every inch of my surroundings. No scorpions. Phew! It must have been a one-time occurance. It could happen, you know. We were, for that matter, in the middle of the woods!
After a long day of sightseeing, a full belly of Tuscan goodies and a scramble up the dreaded gravel hill, we headed to bed the second night, again exhausted. Before I could drift off into never-never land, there was a rapid thump-thump-thump-thump-thump on the rooftop. The sound was heading for our open window. My side of the bed was a mere 2 feet from that window--a distance easily manageable for a woodland creature! Waiting...watching...nothing launched itself through the opening. Finally, I fell asleep.
Bam. Bam. Bam. No, not again! "Another scorpion?" I asked. "Yep," he replied. Another sleepless night.
This scene repeated itself for the remainder of the week.
Aside from the scorpions and the spritely woodland creatures, we really enjoyed our stay at Borgo di Vagli. Every morning, we enjoyed coffee on the private patio soaking up the view you see in the picture on the right. Every evening, we turned on the kitchen radio that seemed to aptly play James Blunt's Beautiful every few minutes and drank a glass of wine while watching the sun set. We even enjoyed our daily treks up the gravel hill, gambling each day on what it would take to make a perfect ascent.
Borgo di Vagli is a magical place. It's history and it's rebirth make it so. You can learn more about Borgo di Vagli by watching the short film below.
Do you have an "authentic" Tuscan experience to share? I'd love to hear about it!