Tuscan Villa Virgins... Taylor Trove Family Travel
Posted on May 10 2018
After our brief visit to Rome, we picked up our rental car from the airport and were ready to hit the open road. Not so fast… cue the horror music. No, not the fact that our rental car was a minivan. We’re a family of six so that’s our reality and we’ve accepted it. The minivan was a manual transmission… a stick shift. The horror! Yes, Mike and I are capable of driving a stick, but had it been a while? Uh, it sure had… try about 20 years. There was some minor whiplash and herky jerky action that the kids loved. They found our steep learning curve hilarious. Glad we could provide them with some cheap entertainment as we adjusted to our European roller skate minivan that had plush seats only rivaling those on the subway in New York.
We told ourselves it’s a short drive and that we could make it. 278 kilometers so that was like, no clue, we had no clue. The drive time was supposed to be under 3 hours. Speed limit signage was sparse so we kind of guessed. The long straight country Autostrata gave way to a lead foot and it wasn’t too long before we’re second guessing if that was a good idea. There were no other cars around, so we couldn’t really pace ourselves. We were eager to get to the villa and we decided our speed was fine. I swear out of nowhere we hear a faint siren… wah-na, wah-na, wah-na… it was getting closer and louder. The kids were asking what the noise was and all we could say was, “everybody be cool.” Anytime I hear a siren I break out in a sweat and my heart starts pounding out of my chest. Suddenly this Italian cop car is right on our tail and I start in on Mike… “I knew it. I knew we were going way too fast.” We move from the fast lane to the slow lane thinking we were going to get pulled over, but no. The Italian cop car went coasting right by us and we both let out a sigh of relief. I let out a nervous chuckle and quietly thanked something, anything that we didn’t get pulled over.
As we approached Firenze, we noticed the signage was becoming increasingly confusing. We also noticed the navigation on our phones was not cutting it. We were starting to feel a little bit slightly really lost. We needed to get to Impruneta. Everyone was hungry, tired, and desperate for the car ride to be over. Yes, driving through the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside was beautiful and breathtaking, but we were ready to arrive. And when I say we I really mean the kids. If you’ve been to Tuscany, you know exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to the signage. Without warning, you’ll be quickly approaching a stack of signs too small to read from a distance. The pressure is on. You need to make a decision in a matter of seconds. Will you be right? Will you be wrong? If you’re not right, how soon are you able to turn the car around to right your wrong? It goes something like this…
Inger: Oh no, I see signs.
Mike: What do you mean you see signs? Like it’s a sign from a dead relative or a sign, sign?
Inger: Right there… a sign, sign. Can’t you see that?
Mike: I’m trying to drive this European roller skate… no I don’t see signs. Oh, yeah… now I see signs.
Inger: What do they say? I can’t read them… can you?
Mike: No, I can’t read them without parking in front of them.
Inger: We don’t have that kind of time… we’re coming to a fork in the road.
Mike: Right or left? Just tell me. Right or left?
Inger: Right! No! Left! Damn it, Right!
Mike: Too late! I’m already committed to left… I’m going left!
Cue crying baby…
Suffice it to say we got lost on the way to the little Tuscan town of Impruneta just 20 minutes outside of Firenze. We called our villa contact; Veronica and she did her best to guide us toward the Impruneta town square where she met us.
We were villa virgins. We booked through vrbo based on pictures and reviews. Isn’t that what most people do? What else do you have to go on? Everything online looked idyllic at Villa La Quercia. It was built in the late 17th century using terracotta and antient stones set on 20 acres of rolling hills with vineyards, an olive tree grove, and even chickens.
The anticipation was killing us. The wait in the town square seemed an eternity with a few locals looking at us like we were lost and in need of direction. Veronica met us and had us follow behind her in our roller skate. The road became more and more narrow until we finally reached the long olive tree lined gravel drive that led to the villa.
Our little roller skate struggled to make the ascent and descent of the gravel drive. We were relieved to finally park our roller skate and take in the breathtaking beauty in front of us.
We were presented with an ancient key that weighed no less than 3 pounds. We opened the front door and were relieved to discovered everything looked exactly as it had in the photos online. The girls ran room to room, deciding who would sleep where while Veronica gave us a brief orientation to the property. It was freezing. Okay, not freezing, but it was early April, so it was in the mid-60s and the air felt crisp both inside and outside the villa. There was the issue of electricity. Veronica spent a great deal of time explaining that the villa was only allotted so much electricity per day and should we require more, we can have more, but we’d need to pay a ton of money to get it. As we walked through, touring the rooms, I quickly discovered this was going to be a rustic experience in the country. Beautiful, but rustic. After all, we were out in the country.
Food. There was no food in the villa, but we knew there was a grocery store near the town square so off we went to buy some groceries. We found Coop, a minimercato. A cart. I told one of the girls to grab a cart while I got Vendela out of her car seat. “I can’t,” she called. It required euros to get a cart… ha! Coop had more than a convenience store, but not much more. The produce set it apart. Being American, I was looking for some convenient processed foods that would be fast and easy for the kids. Goldfish crackers? No way! There wasn’t anything even remotely close to a goldfish cracker. None of the standard kid food could be found so we bought the basics… produce, eggs, bread, butter, milk, bottled water, coffee. Ok, so there was some Nutella and Hit cookies in the mix as well. Uh, I did freak out a little bit when I couldn’t find the eggs. I asked and was directed to the aisle with toilet paper. There they were. The eggs were right next to the toilet paper. What?! No way! No refrigeration… that grossed me out. I was envisioning our entire family battling salmonella poisoning in a foreign country. Other people were buying them, so I got over it.
We returned to the villa, put our groceries away in our rustic kitchen and unpacked a little bit. The girls made their final decisions on who was sleeping where. Vendela bunked with us even though there were 5 bedrooms. I popped open her pak n play and she was good to go. The girls ventured outside to do some exploring while Mike and I contemplated dinner.
We figured we’d head to Firenze the following day, so dinner would be local. Besides, we had just found our way there and with the sun setting, I wasn’t too confident we’d find our way back. There was one restaurant in the town square and thankfully it was decent. After some pizza and gelato, the girls were ready to head home and get ready for bed.
We got back to the villa and it was very evident that someone had been there in our absence. There was a cake left on the kitchen table and some fresh eggs for the morning. Veronica hadn’t mentioned that she would periodically be popping in during our stay, but she did. I decided I’d run a bath for the girls. With the chill in the air, they were looking forward to a nice, warm bath. I headed into the master bathroom, turned the water on and it was cold. Bone chilling cold. Uh, this was not going to fly. Well, remember electricity was an issue and we had apparently used our allotment for the day. No bath. Oh well! I tucked all the girls in bundled in blankets and Mike and I bundled up as well.
No one slept well that night. The pak n play I proudly popped up… useless. Vendela wanted to be sandwiched in with all the warmth from mom and dad. So be it. We all woke with bright eyes ready to take on Firenze. But first coffee. Mike and I were desperately rummaging through the charming kitchen trying to find the coffee maker. Where on earth was the coffee maker?! No one would deprive people of legally addicting stimulants, would they? And then I saw it. No, not a coffee maker per say, but something I’d seen in some of the old movies I love to watch. A stovetop espresso maker. How hard could this be to figure out? When you’re sleep deprived in a foreign country with four hungry kids standing in the kitchen staring at you waiting to be fed, it’s damn hard. A few failed attempts and Mike and I figured it out. The girls ate cake and fresh eggs for breakfast. The weather was beautiful… a perfect sunny day to explore Firenze!
Another adventure was right around the corner!