It’s easy to mind your manners when you are a guest of Central Tuscany. Townspeople welcome you; they do not elbow you, stare you down, and cut you off in line -when there is a line. And, when you inadvertently lock the laundry-room key in the laundry room, your villa-mates laugh sympathetically and launder, discretely, by hand until the housekeeper arrives the next morning.
The landscape spawns gentility. Acres of olive groves and vineyards, and woods with miles of pathways for meandering surrounded our old stone farmhouse. My office seemed to be, not just in another country, but in another dimension of time and space.
Without any effort, I learned some lessons in Tuscany:
1. Olive trees are small with dainty white flowers.
2. In some churches etiquette dictates that women only (apparently) cover their shoulders and knees.
3. Vineyard rows look like tight green braids running up/down the distant hills.
4. A Tuscan stone farmhouse can be reminiscent of the Ponderosa (for Bonanza fans):
rustically elegant, ultimately comfortable.
5. A major bank’s ATM card that brings euros in Germany can refuse to cooperate in Italy.
6. Six can play Bananagrams for hours, after pork and pasta, without getting bored.
7. Investing in a gelato shop appears to produce a better ROI than the US stock market.
8. The secret to enchantment lies in the scent of honeysuckle.