City in the clouds

From Bomarzo we’re hading North into Southern Tuscany – we’ve selected our next stop based on some epic Google Image results so we’re really hoping it lives up to expectations. We’re to meet up with our Italian-speaking-only AirBnB hostess on “the big piazza”, so I’m also nervous about finding that! The road is beautiful to Pitigliano where we’ll stay for four days, and the landscape subtly changes around us until we reach our destination in the late afternoon golden sun, and it dazzles us.

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We don’t know yet, at this point, about the view of the entire village we will discover in the coming days, but already as we drive through a stone arch under the Orsini fortress, alongside a medieval aqueduct through which you can only see sky, and onto “the big piazza”, we feel excited to have this beautiful place to discover. Having messaged back and forth with BnB lady for a while before realising she was sat on the bench right next to our car (come on, lady, how many British cars are you expecting to see in Pitigliano today?), we follow her laden with bags and bags of our stuff, down a narrow medieval street, and then a narrower alleyway which ends at the edge of the town, by a balcony over a cliff. She lets us in to our humble abode halfway down the alley, a tiny dark corridor of a flat which still manages to look quite cosy. We quickly discover that there will be no Internet for the next four days as we apparently had to let her know we wanted to use it so she could “bring the device”. We are deviceless, so be it. There’s also no working washing machine, which is a little bit more of a problem as Hev has somehow managed to pack only a ridiculously small number of pants for our trip – but here’s a benefit of being a lesbian, she can wear mine: true love, I tell you.

We set off into the evening to have a good wander in the village. Its streets are too narrow for proper cars, but we see plenty of Vespas and those ubiquitous three-wheeled mini pick-up trucks are whizzing up and down the village all over. Each time we leave the house, it’s like we’re parading our child through streets of adoring worshippers, so we have plenty of Zaza-related stops for her to listen to the praise. She LOVES it, can’t get enough of it. She’ll choose a likely worshipper, catch their eye, then shoot them her most dazzling smile, throw her head back and to the side in a coy manner afterwards so they cannot fail to make many sounds of being overcome with joy at being chosen by the baby. You should see the look of disappointment on her face if the target does not respond.

Anyway, Pitigliano is beautiful but we can’t seem to find a good viewpoint to take it all in from, because it turns out the village resembles a ship perched atop an impressive cliff, and you can’t look at the whole of a ship from its deck now can you? We can still admire the views over the countryside around as the sun sets: deep forested gorges with occasional glimpses of a rushing river below, acrobatic-looking windy roads disappearing over shadowy crests, soft green fields framed by the blurred shapes of rolling hills in “sfumato” effect into the rose-tinted sky. Pretty amazing.

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Oh hey if you’re not sure what sfumato is, it’s the effect painters used in the Renaissance to give the illusion of depth and realism to landscapes, by allowing tones and colours to shade gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms. Think of the background to the Mona Lisa, for example.

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We’re after a restaurant; after reading all the menus (I kid you not, that’s how Hev rolls), we choose one that’s called “the Key to Paradise” in Italian, lured in by the fact that they produce their own organic meat and there’s pictures of happy cows in fields with a dude on horseback who’s the restaurant owner. Zaza is miraculously asleep in her buggy, but not for long, as we’re sat next to a table of increasingly inebriated German ladies, whose zest for life is wonderful but who wake up our baby with their hearty laughing. Damn you, happy ladies, damn you. We enjoy the typical Tuscan fare of ground wild boar on pasta and tender steak strips with porcini mushrooms, it’s pretty delicious, despite having to perform a relay exercise with the buggy up and down the street to keep the baby from screaming the whole terrace down. We also taste one of my favourite desserts this trip: cantucci (almond biscotti) dipped in vin santo, a strong dessert wine. Nothing takes the edge off parenthood quite like being slightly sozzled.

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We go to sleep exhausted and excited to discover Pitigliano some more the next day.

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