Maybe the clipped fresh lavender on that beautiful Saturday morning that I placed in my purse instigated the bees? Comically, all day our family swatted away the busy pests that were incessantly following us from place to place. I had forgotten about the lavender stems that I had haphazardly placed deep within my purse, even though the subtle fragrance emanated everywhere we went that day. Nevertheless, a bee in pursuit eventually stung my husband. While the initial reaction seemed mild, that same day it became very inflamed. By Sunday, his wrist had doubled in size and we began to search for an antihistamine.
We were staying in Gaiole at an incredibly beautiful hotel called Castello di Spaltenna, an ancient medieval castle and hamlet dating back to 1030. The hotel is positioned on a hill just above the town of Gaiole and is surrounded by vineyards. The property was in close enough proximity that we were able to walk down into the town that night for dinner. Initially we thought that we would meander around the centro (center) of town in search of a farmacia (pharmacy) and then have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the town of Gaiole called Lo Sfizio di Bianchi for our favorite dish, black truffled ravioli.
We walked around the town and quickly realized that there weren’t many places open on Sunday with exception of a few restaurants and one wine bar. I entered the wine bar and began trying to communicate our dilemma. I did not speak any Italian at the time except, “dov’é il bagno” (where is the bathroom), so I began my declaration process by pointing at my wrist while making buzzing sounds with an intermittent stop to imitate the sting of the beast. I’m sure it must have been hilarious for the onlooker. The bartender shook his head no, indicating that he could not help Jess. Flustered, I ordered two glasses of Chianti and decided to give up the charades. We sat just outside of the wine bar and shortly thereafter watched the bartender grab his bag, apparently finished with his workday.
Beginning to unwind from a fun day in Chianti, we sipped our wine awaiting the restaurant to open. In the distance we watched the bartender walking back to the wine bar, but this time with a woman dressed professionally, carrying a bag and set of keys. She approached us and with perfect English announced that she was the town’s Pharmacist. With a bright smile and very gentle nature, the bartender gestured good-bye, “Ciao”. The Pharmacist then invited us to follow her just around the corner to the Farmacia, where she opened the closed store and retrieved antihistamine for my husband.
Reflecting on that day, I often wonder amidst the chaos of a typical day in my hometown in the U.S., could this experience be duplicated? Would my pharmacist in my hometown open a store closed on Sunday, to provide an antihistamine for a bee sting? The beauty of a bee sting resonates my love for the simplicity of a rural hamlet, the kindness of its town’s people, and the graceful Italian way of life in Tuscany.
One morning in 2006, an AOL ticker banner flashed "Alitalia Magnifica Fares" across my desktop. My curiosity got the best of me, so I clicked to learn more. That one decision changed the course of so many things over the next eleven years! So many stories to share, and I'm still amazed at how what we thought was a once in a lifetime trip ended up evolving into so many more adventures! Over the years, we have experienced the fruits of incredible lifelong friendships made along the dirt roads of Tuscany, to the Mama Mia Amalfi coastal road, all leading us to remarkable “off the beaten path” hotels, restaurants, farmhouses and villas.
Perhaps, its the genuine simplicity of the rural Italian lifestyle that permeates my craving of times gone by, when family in the United States was truly the center of all activities in a day. To me, traveling in Italy reminds me of the excitement I felt as a child, waiting for my Dad to come home off the road for the weekend. That, to our family meant a weekend of sharing good times and memorable meals together. When you arrive into a small quaint hamlet such as Gaiole or Radda in Chianti around dinnertime, you’ll not only smell the fragrance of black truffles and garlic in some small tucked away kitchen, but you’re likely to see things that are rarely seen here in the United States. Families actually congregating in the centers of those small towns, engaged in conversations with neighbors or friends, kids playing soccer on the cobblestoned streets, or a family sharing a simple game of cards at a sidewalk café. Sounds simplistic, but in comparison to the busy, homogenized lifestyle that we’ve all become accustomed or complacent to in the US, Italy lends itself to the way I grew up. Tuscany is the place where at the age of six, my daughter asked all of us to stop and listen to the wind moving from the top of a Tuscan ridge, as it traveled down through a sunny vineyard. This is the place where I actually noticed the sound of a bee and not because of the threat of being stung, but because of the peaceful busy sound as he made his way to work through the lavender hedge in bloom. There’s something incredible about the distant sound of a church bell ringing in every hour and half hour of a beautiful day. So with a bit of research, our adventuresome nature, a good GPS, and a working international cell phone our lives and perspective began to change.
Debbie Tyson Rosen is a travel, food, wine and music enthusiast and embraces life at every turn with unfettered ambition and a love for all things, Italy. She loves photography, and enjoys being in her own kitchen creating her versions of classic Italian cuisine. Whether it’s her heart-warming stories and captivating pictures from the road, a glowing vocal performance with her jazz quintet, or a transparently honest review, she conveys the essence of simple truths, sharing Passion with Enthusiasm.