Getting ready for a rest…


Nothing to see here. Just a sunday bike ride.

To make sure we arrived at our Christmas work-stay fresh, energetic and ready for labour we smashed out a few sightseeing days in Rome, exhausting ourselves walking for miles looking at awesome fancy old stuff. There is so much to see in Rome and I would highly recommend it for a city break, though probably don’t arrive by bike, there was a few crazy big roads until we could get on the Tiber route. If you do arrive by bike, make it a Sunday, as then you can ride right past the forum and up to the Colosseum traffic-free, except for pedestrians. Two of my favourite things were 2000 year old dice in the colosseum, just the same as modern ones, and a 2000 year old door that still opened and closed with fully functional lock and key in the Forum. The Romans were chuffing smart. There were loads of churches, artworks, ruins, musters of starlings and great Christmas lights. Total winner.

Life size nativity and rainbow baubles at St Peter’s

We had to cheat and get the train to Florence to be on time for our Christmas break, gaining an afternoon and evening to walk even further around the sights of Florence. This was aided by the best sandwich I have ever eaten. A few weeks later someone from Florence asked me what I liked about the city. They seemed slightly offended by my focusOn the sandwich. They really shouldn’t have been. Go try for yourself. Confident that it was a short ride out of Florence to our Tuscan Christmas residence we rode up an extra hill to Michaelangelo’s tomb and a great view of the city. It proved to be a good warm-up, the 35km ride was absolutely brutal, lots of very steep climbs and not so many twisty descents.


‘I think i can see the sandwich place from here’

We arrived at a hill top outside the village just as the sun was setting, and Tuscany did a great job of looking exactly like Tuscany should. Soft light, layers of steep hills, farms dotted around. It seemed our decision was a good one.


Tuscany: Does exactly what it says on the tin.

The family were lovely and we learned lots quickly about donkeys, dog treats, olive oils and (most importantly) food. This is no light matter.

“I do not trust an English woman to cook pasta. I will teach you once, and maybe once you will get it wrong. This is ok. A second time wrong, this is not ok”.

Ditto polenta.
As we were in charge of things for a week alone, we spent a lot of time with this motley crew…

The Donkeys

Judy (middle)

Likes: big fringes, apple pieces, suddenly diving into vines when walking

Sofia (left)

Likes: being pretty, a controlled hairstyle


Not sure what the donkey on the right is called.



Likes: trying to get out, stealing food, being noisy.


Guarina checking out the exit routes


The Cats


Likes: Antagonising Vesper, tagging along with dog walks, cuddles with Jo, thieving the dog food. (Caught out one day by loud crunching).

Dislikes: the pink labelled cat food tin, the nativity scene, the hiding of the dog food bag.


Nap buddies


Likes: James Bond, pretending Luna starts the crazy chases, cuddles with debs, sitting on the dining chairs right before dinner, the English Premier League.

Dislikes: Moving too much, the pink labelled tin, being tipped off the dining chairs so people can sit in them.


Come on the foxes


The Dogs


Likes: Collecting sticks, food, playing with sticks, doing her own thing, walking slowly, going in the truck, teasing Oliver with sticks.

Dislikes: Responding to commands in any language, walking quickly, walking far, being on a diet.


Phoenix probably going the wrong way



Likes: Being super cute and friendly, long walks, escaping, cuddles, sticks.

Dislikes: Walking at Phoenix speed, smelling nice, the donkeys, the barking dog at Lucardo.


Such a cutie but so much trouble…

There are more Oliver stories for another time. The countryside was lovely and we ate lots of awesome food in between feeding the animals and walking the dogs. When the family returned there was more food (including a jabugo ham from Spain) and time for cycling – to San Gimignano and other pretty towns. We also enjoyed the village new year party.
Thanks to everyone in Tuscany who made our Christmas break fab, especially those at Fattoria Barberinuzzo.