Tag Archives: Travel and Tourism

A Feast for the Senses

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Français : Lucques, Tos...
Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Français : Lucques, Toscane, Italie.

After spending ten days immersed in the wine country of Tuscany, Italy, I have etched every moment, vivid and alive, in my memory, and stored every sensory experience, acute and vital, in my heart.

My senses were sharpened, like a chef’s knife, once my worries and obligations of home in Sonoma receded into the background.  Every sound, smell, touch I experienced in Italy, only made my appetite for life greater.

In San Gennaro, Lucca, in the tiny, little village in which we stayed, I could hear the soft church bells in the distance, smell the freshly brewed espresso coming from the only ristorante down the street, and feel the cobblestones under my feet as we walked the narrow alley ways with fresh flowers in the window baskets.  Come evening, I would breathe in the aroma of a fine Fabiano red wine and fall into the flavors of their famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

My husband and I walked the cobble stone streets for miles and miles, and visited the medieval Roman towns of Lucca, Siena, Portovenere, Greve in Chianti, Florence and Pisa and watched the hustle and bustle of not only the tourists, but of the Italian locals shopping for fresh ingredients for their dinner each night.

When it comes to beauty, the Italian people embody it.  Everywhere you look, feel, taste, touch and see, there are fine fashions, beautiful people, delicious wines, exquisite food, historical treasures, architectural delights and art masterpieces to behold.

Italy is, in a few words, a feast for the senses.  I could not stop eating their fine foods, drinking their exquisite wines, walking the Roman streets, or marveling at their art.  In Florence, I stood in the presence of mystical magnificence at the Accademia and Uffizi Gallery.   I simply, could not take my eyes off Caravaggio‘s Bacchus God of Wine, Michelangelo’s David, nor Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came home with a deepened appreciation for my husband, my family, for beauty found right here in the wine country.  My life here in Sonoma–it is a lot like Tuscany, where I grow fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables in my own garden.  I too, can stroll down long country roads with vineyard rows everywhere, and have picnics with fresh bread, a delicious Chianti and imported salami and cheeses.

vineyard light
vineyard light (Photo credit: torbakhopper)

Tuscany is a slice of heaven and so is home, here in Sonoma, where I can practice the simple life in a more meaningful way.

Just outside my window, the vineyard buds are about to open right before my very eyes.

Country Roads Take Me Home

Vineyards in Napa Valley

I ride through the back country roads of the Sonoma wine country, rich in history, song and nature to admire the homes (a restored Victorian especially), living amongst the old Oaks. 

Along the way, I marvel at the rural rustic barns holding up against the hot sun and the deep blue sky with all their might.   

This bike path, in particular remains a favorite of mine on Burndale Road.  A favorite, not only for the scenic sites, but for the strong emotions these historical and natural views conjure up inside my being.  My father once said to me, “How fortunate you are to live in thick of Nature.” How true are his words.

These back country roads take me home, literally, figuratively and spiritually.  I ride for meditative purposes, where the stilled rhythmic movement, riding cyclically into the quiet workings of nature, brings me front and center to what really matters in life: simple joys, which the world at large seems to easily look over.  And these simple joys couldn’t be better conveyed in the song my sister shared with me recently from the play, Pippin.

“Simple Joys”

Sweet summer evenings, hot wine and bread
Sharing your supper, sharing your bed
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Why not go ahead?”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til he’s cold and dead

Well, I’ll sing you a story of a sorrowful lad
Had everything he wanted, didn’t want what he had
He had wealth and pelf and fame and name and all of that noise
But he didn’t have none of those simple joys
His life seemed purposeless and flat
Aren’t you glad you don’t feel like that?

So he ran from all the deeds he’d done, he ran from things he’d just begun
He ran from himself, which was mighty far to run
Out into the country where he’d played as a boy
‘Cause he knew he had to find him some simple joy
He wanted someplace warm and green
We all could use a change of scene

Sweet summer evenings, so full of sound
Gaining a lover, gaining a pound
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Take a look around”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Or a newt on the root of a banyan tree
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til he’s underground

Sweet summer evenings, sapphire skies
Feasting your belly, feasting your eyes
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Time is living’s prize”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Or a newt on the root of a banyan tree
Or a fig on a twig in Galilee
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til the day he, not ’til the day he
Not ’til the day, not ’til the day he
Dies!

So, with that song in my head, and knowing time is life’s living prize, I ride from my home on Lovall Valley Road, down 7th Street East, towards Denmark Street.  There, I look out over the rows of vineyard and soak in the region’s unique beauty; Turning left and towards Gundlach Bundschuh winery, I think of its rich history and vast production of full bodied wines; knowing this. 

In 1858, Jacob Bundschu purchased 400 acres in Sonoma and christened it Rhinefarm.  He went back to Bavaria, married his childhood sweetheart and spent their honeymoon traveling through France and Germany purchasing the rootstock he would be planting here in Sonoma.  The wines, made to perfection over those many years, are a delight to the palate.   I especially love their 2009 Tempranillo.  Anyway, I digress, but what a love story of finding Gundlach’s woman and wine.

As I carry with me, the song of simple joys, Gundlach’s history, with its blood, sweat and tears labored in those wine country hills, I ride further across Napa Road to Burndale, taking a quick right on Hyde Burndale Road for a mile or so, where scattered homes hide alongside the bumpy, rocky road. 

I take a deep breath to muster the stamina to ride up Burndale, a killer hill (there’s a reason they call it BURNdale), panting and praying for the burn to end.  I make my way, very slowly back to Denmark and then, home when another song comes to mind. 

Country Roads by John Denver.  He once sang, (and my mother would sing in her own lyrical, funny sort of way) to my brother, sister and I, Country roads take me home, to the place I belong.”  These country roads in the wine country take me home, back to simple joys, simple living, where I can hear my simple voice, loud and clear, amongst the noise and confusion.