Once upon a time in Montisi…

Once upon a time in Montisi…
Montisi from above.

A few years back I had the good fortune to visit the beautiful Tuscan hamlet of Montisi with my parents and some of their best friends that I grew up with like a second family. Located in what I consider the best wine region in the world, the town has some of the best food and wine I have ever experienced. The town is about one street long, but the people are so kind and I hope that they will be able to restart with tourism once travel is allowed again.

We stayed in Villa Maddalena, which is an impressive villa with views of the Tuscan hills, a pool, and herb, vegetable and fruit gardens. I remember it felt like a medieval paradise, with impressive wooden furniture and lots of hallways and little nooks for reading or just listening to the birds.

By far the coolest thing about the property was that it happened to be on top of where the jousters from the quartiere held their annual feast before la giostra – the town’s jousting tournament – began. My mom and I heard some excitement and as curious being we ventured down and found a secret entry to the banquet hall. Instead of asking us to leave, we were obligated to stay and celebrate, toasting to the young rider who would be performing in the event. It was like being in medieval times for real and I will never forget it. I’m so glad I got to share that experience with my mom, too. She even started speaking Italian after a few bicchiere di vino.

La Giostra

And speaking of vino. The reason I am writing about this beautiful little hamlet is that our tour guide and sommelier during the entire trip, Antonella, was fantastic. She and her husband run a little wine shop in the town, and of course this being peak tourism season with little people passing through, they are doing their best to stay positive and continue supplying excellent wines to their customers and clients.

Antonella is great because although it is unlikely (although I hope not) that we’ll get to go back to Montisi, she remains in touch and continues to send us messages about what is going on in town. She started a new project to teach people about wine, and I wanted to share it here. If you know me, you know I love wine, and I’m thankful for all the amazing lessons I learned while living in Tuscany.

Antonella has started a video series giving online classes about wine, and I’ve started watching them. At least while I’m sitting at home I can learn something while I imbibe! You can see the trailer to her video, here. To learn more about the classes, send an e-mail to antonella.piredda@live.it and she can let you know how it works. She’s also set up a webpage. It is important to note that 50% of all proceeds Antonella receives will be given to local charities. And apart from wine, she can hook you up with olive oil, cheese, truffles, and even local art. Get in touch with her and help Montisi survive!

Use this time to learn about some amazing wines and come out on the other side impressing everyone!

People are doing some pretty cool things during this time, and I’m enjoying seeing the creativity. How are you spending your lock-down time?

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Firenze Marathon in Barcelona

 

This is transcribed from a notebook because I still roll that way…

I’m on the train ride back from the Barcelona Marathon weekend. It was a great weekend but completely exhausting. I can’t believe I spent Saturday night in my hotel room watching the Malaga-Barcelona match but after two solid days of travel and engaging with the athletes and their families, I couldn’t imagine going out. Plus the weather was shit (although thank goodness it held up for the runners on Sunday morning!). It seems I brought the Florentine rain to Spain… but as my roommate the Franimal reminds me, we need this rain for the huerta to be fruitful in a few weeks!!

I stayed in the NH Barcelona Stadium hotel near Sants Station. The location was great for my purposes. Not central, but close to Plaça d’Espanya, with nice staff, clean rooms, and a seriously excellent breakfast buffet. I’d definitely stay again. I also really enjoyed a little bar across the street (the kind I like – full of locals, no wi-fi, good pinchos – no google maps presence). They had three tv screens to watch soccer and the people were really great. A few were volunteering to hand out water at the marathon, as well.

Friday I checked in then went straight to the expo where I joined Fulvio Agresta (apparently fluent in not just Italian and English but Castellano and Catalan as well — also a lacrosse goalie! Who knew?!) and César Corral (and his lovely daughter) to get to work. Our stand was located just at the expo exit so we received a lot of traffic. Communication was a hilarious nightmare as it tends to be in these international situations I love: a bad mix of Spanish, Italian, Catalan and English. We made it work. I’ve heard it’s really bad to mix languages — that you should decide on one to speak at a time beforehand and operate in one language at a time — is this true? Why? Anyway, I tried.

Most of the day Friday I was in the expo working the stand. I did go visit the other stands to score swag as one does. Why else go to the expo? I had a seriously mind blowing moment when I got my body mass composition checked. No need to go into detail here but three months of tapas and cold in Madrid, despite continuing workouts, has taken a toll. Que venga la primavera ya…!

Saturday I headed to the expo and was feeling antsy. Being around so many runners training and getting pumped up for the event has an effect on me. Despite my complicated (read: nonexistent) finances, I decided to splurge on a new pair of trainers since the Asics Women’s Gel Kayano 23‘s I got in November (THANK YOU Firenze Marathon) had already developed a hole!! It had been driving me crazy, and the expo is a great place to look for deals. I scanned the periphery of the expo to check out the smaller shops that tend to be getting rid of extra stock and finally found a pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 13 sneakers that would fit my giant 41.5 size Anglo-Saxon feet — not an easy task here in Spain (or Italy, for that matter). [Note — so far I’ve used them three times and I’m really liking them. I think my Asics were just a little bit too small. They also gave me some ankle problems.]

And then, new shoes on, I was off. At César’s suggestion I headed up to the Castell de Montjuïc which proved a really enjoyable uphill run past lots of gardens with beautiful views of the city and the sea.

I absolutely loved running in Barcelona. As I ran, I was thinking about the whole run-travel industry and how much it makes sense. At least to me. I guess some people are happy to run the same routes continuously, or workout in a gym on a treadmill. But just like participating in a race gives you an adrenaline rush, a race in a new location doubles the effect. At the Barcelona expo there were representatives from races from all over Europe and the world. I wish I could go to all of them. I guess my priority for now needs to be focus: on getting ready for the Madrid Half in April, on myself and finding some clarity/direction, and on my work, i.e., improving my language, writing, and wordpress (nightmare) skills, and on generally enjoying my day to day life without anxiety.

Do you have questions about Barcelona? The marathon? Want to run in Florence this year?

Contact me before March 18, 2018 for a promo code for a reduced registration rate for the Firenze Marathon 2018 which will take place on November 25!!

 

Follow Your Passion… or Find Stability?

Follow Your Passion… or Find Stability?

I have been sitting inside at my friend’s home in Madrid on my second to last day of vacation. I am feeling the anxiety that comes with vacation’s end (it’s very real) and trying to get my thoughts and projects in order as I prepare for what is promising to be a whirlwind of a rientro. I recently spent a week in Valencia doing “research” and have been struggling to put all the information I received into useful blog posts for people wanting to visit the city. So instead I’ll just write.

Sweating in Valencia

I just got off of an interview with Lisa May, owner and producer of ExPat Real TV, a channel that she started to share stories of Americans living “alternatively” around the world. We chatted about our experiences — she moved to Bali and is now living in a small town in Portugal — and she gave me some challenging questions that I really had to think about.

What would I tell my 23 year old self before moving to Florence? What is the hardest thing about living abroad?

Super tough questions. To start with, Florence wasn’t my first nor would it ever be my final destination. Maybe my continuous returns to Spain and the land of sol y playa have always been an effort on my part to maintain some sense of stability and order in an otherwise chaotic, unstable situation.

So what is the hardest thing? For me it has been fighting my internal desire for change and adventure coupled with the need for family and stability. More adventurous than many, I feel proud of the life I’ve been able to make for myself (together with the help of many, many people!) not just far from home, but in a completely different country, where many odds were stacked against me. I’ve managed to navigate international bureaucracies, mother hundreds of not-my-children (I love all my students!) and learn to create spaces where I genuinely do feel at home with friends who have become like family. And just when it seemed like everything was clicking into place, I’m the one who wants a change.

What would you do? Do you want security or adventure? What is the right balance? How much freedom would you give up for constant stability?

As I ran this morning through the Sierra de Guadarrama (12km,1200 altitude!), surrounded by cows and horses and old campesinos on their morning hikes, I reflected. Am I doing the right thing? Am I crazy to give up the stability of a 9-5, in another country, no less? I’ll keep you posted as my adventure unfolds, but comment below and let me know your thoughts!!

Following the wind