Saturday, 31 March 2012

Nesting in a 'Medici Hunting Lodge' in the Hills above Florence!

It’s Mothers’ Day, and casting my eye around the nest it feels particularly empty.  Moss is beginning to wear thin here and there and protruding twigs make their presence known, where once feathery down nurtured my happy brood.  Softly, a card falls on to the ‘welcome’ mat by the door and opening it carefully, I read the message inside, “ For Mothers’ Day, your daughter Katie would like to buy you an air ticket, to spend a weekend with her anywhere in the world!”

The roar of the jet engine rings loud in my ears, as the Boeing 737 leaves the tarmac and propels me in the direction of Italy, my chosen destination, the birthplace of my great-grandfather and a country steeped in dreams of the Renaissance. Ahead of me at Pisa Airport, Katie awaits my arrival, ready to share the ‘Dolce Vita’ with her Mum.  She knows I only need a gentle nudge to ‘fall out of my empty nest!’

Collecting our hire car at the airport, the scene is set for our Tuscan adventure.  The helpful assistant behind the counter, upgrades us to a sporty white Fiat with a sunroof!  Wishing us, “Buone Vacanze!” he sends us on our way with a cheeky Italian wink!

Our bags stacked in the back and sunglasses on, we hit the road.  Ahead a heat haze hangs over the rolling Tuscan hills and tall cypress trees paint familiar pictures, only seen in books or as the backdrop to some famous ‘Renaissance’ painting!

Eventually, at around eight in the evening, our little Fiat climbs the steep cypress- lined drive to the old Medici Hunting Lodge that is to be our base for the weekend.  Falling out of the car after our journey, we look around to find ourselves at the centre of an Italian wedding celebration.  On the terrace, huge stone urns nurturing lemon trees and plump red geraniums are tied with cream ribbon for the occasion and everywhere the air is warm and still.  On the beautiful stone terrace, with its classical balustrades overlooking olive trees and vineyards, bathed in the yellow haze of the setting sun, tables are set, bedecked in linen and flowers under vast canvas umbrellas.

The air is alive with music, interspersed with the sound of crickets, as they vie for supremacy, and climbing the stairs we follow in the footsteps of the famous Medici family, as we make our way to our room.  Settling in, we watch the festivities from our open window and looking down as the bride and groom lead the dancing under a canopy of stars, we witness the ‘Dolce Vita’ enfold below us, until we fall into bed intoxicated by the atmosphere of this magical place.

The next two days find us steeped in the history of Art, as we browse the Uffizi Museum in Florence.  Katie originally flew the nest to study Art History and French and now my clever daughter is my own private guide, revealing to me the beauty of paintings like Sandro Botticelli’s, “The Birth of Venus” and my favourite, “Primavera”, depicting mythological figures in a garden, their diaphanous garments set against the colourful vegetation, portraying the lush growth of spring.

Laughing together, we persuade a passing tourist to take our picture on the “Ponte Vecchio”, the oldest of the six bridges in Florence, with its secret corridor built by Vasari in 1565 for Cosimo de’ Medici, as a secret walkway for the family and now home to their vast portrait collection.  We stand at café counters sipping ‘espressos,’ and gaze up into the blinding sunlight at Michelangelo’s ‘David’ towering above us and spend hours in the cathedrals of Florence and Siena, lost in a world of Gothic splendour.

At night, we taste the best pizza in the world, in a sleepy little village in the Tuscan hills, where outside the silence is almost tangible and inside the welcome as warm as the pizza oven itself! A mother and daughter together in a country where family is still the most important thing, I forget about my empty nest, as arm in arm we step back into the sultry evening air, our laughter the only sound to break the silence.

All too soon we find ourselves on the road back to the airport and stopping off in Pisa to get that all-important picture beside the leaning tower, we share our final espresso.  Parting at the airport, I see Katie off on the train to her nest in Switzerland, waving until she is out of sight and boarding the plane, I return to my empty nest, still filled with the spirit of the ‘Dolce Vita.’  A very special Mothers’ Day gift from a very special daughter!


  1. You make me relive it all! I, too, have been with my daughters to Italy twice. And years before, I took my mother there. Not her first time - she was from Palermo.
    Thanks for a lovely visit back to the hills.

    1. Glad it brought back lovely memories Melodie! Thank You for your comment.

  2. Hi Heather, this sounds like a wonderful weekend! I've been to the Uffizi a few times and love the Ponte Vecchio. Also have a picture from when I was about ten holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I went up it with my Dad-don't think you can do that now. It was a scary experience climbing the crumbling steps. At the top there were no barriers so it would have been really easy to fall off!

  3. I thought you would have visited Florence Anita,hope it brought back some happy memories! While we were there, we also visited Siena, where you lived. The Cathedral was amazing.

  4. At! Italy! such a special place....