The road to Pescia, Pistoia, Tuscany…Grocery finding expedition…How’s the budget?

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Our view of Boveglio from the winding road as we began our descent to Pescia.

Pescia, a larger village with a population of approximately 20,000, is located 35 minutes south of Boveglio, our destination today. Less on a mission to explore historic villages, we chose Pescia to find a larger grocery shopping that may have offer some of  the items we’d yet to find at the medium sized grocery store in Collodi or at Vivienne’s tiny store in Benabbio.

Dining out only twice in the 11 days since we arrived on June 16th, with few restaurants in the immediate area, we’ve cooked the remainder of our meals.Delighted with the quality of ingredients we’ve purchases, the use of our own herb garden on the patio, cooking has been relatively easy. It helps that I love to cook.  Its also helps that Tom is an enthusiastic stirrer, chopper and dicer.

Food is a big deal when traveling. As our dear friends Peggy and Lane mentioned in an email to us in the past few days, the food was a motivating factor in their visit to Tuscany some time ago…the pasta, the bread…and of course the wine, none of which we consume.

We took this photo when we found a spot to stop as we maneuvered the winding road.  This is the little village, Boveglio where we’ll live for the summer that we can see on the ascent back up the mountain after grocery shopping in Pescia.

Why would we choose such a place to visit in light of the fact that we exclude these wonderful items from our diets?  The areas we’ve chosen to visit provided an appeal for us in their rich history, their people, the overall beauty, its abundant wildlife and prolific vegetation.

Years ago, I gave up drinking alcohol for health reasons although on a rare occasion I may have a “taste.”  Sadly, the taste of a good red wine sends my taste buds on a holiday, often inspiring me to drink two or three glasses in a sitting. 

The end result? A horrifying hangover, starting in the middle of the night, keeping me awake, plaguing me during the day with thirst, general malaise and constant discomfort, only to dissipate after the second night’s sleep. 

 Zooming in Boveglio from the winding road.  Its interesting how many of the single homes in Tuscany actually share a common wall and yet they are considered single family homes.

It’s just not worth it to me to lose a day of my life feeling out of sorts from drinking a few glasses of wine.  For this reason, I said goodbye to wine years ago. Occasionally, I may consume a light beer when not the designated driver. There again, if I have two beers as opposed to one, I’m a mess the next day.

Tom doesn’t care for wine although he has the tough he-man constitution to handle it well. Instead, he prefers a good beer or cocktail on occasion, never suffering from a hangover. His preferred drink of choice is odd:  Courvoisier and Sprite on the rocks, lots of rocks. The questioning look from bartenders is amusing as he tries to explain this peculiar concoction.

Food, as opposed to wine, with its necessity of sustaining life, becomes a huge factor in most of our lives not only for sustenance but for pleasure, for interacting, for celebration and for many, for reward.

Driving around Pescia for a restaurant that served breakfast was fruitless. Italians drink espresso or a coffee concoctions with a small pastry for breakfast.  One won’t find bacon, eggs and pancakes at any Italian restaurant unless staying at an “Americanized” hotel.

Perhaps, our distance from the larger city restaurants may prove to have made my restrictive diet easier to maintain in our two and a half months in Tuscany. With our limited experience in dining out so far, we’ve realized the difficultly of my having an opportunity to partake of the foods indigenous to the area. 

Cooking our own meals adapting recipes to fit the array of special meats, cheeses, sauces, produce and spices one finds in Italy, provides us both with a sense of the true flavor of the region, although certainly not as rich and fulfilling as one may experience in local restaurants.

Giving up on the idea of breakfast, we decided to take advantage of our proximity to a grocery store in Pescia, the largest we’ve found so far stocked full of fabulous produce, meats, deli and general merchandise. 

This is the nature of our lives, our chosen path to travel the world with these limitations, adapting in the best ways we can and, above all, not complaining in the process. 

We’ve done this well, not making food our main area of focus. Any yet, we shop, chop, dice and stir with the same enthusiasm as a cook with less restrictions. Dinner time for us is as enjoyable as  for others dining in a local restaurant with the freedom of choice. 

Amid all the charming old buildings there are abandoned apartments and commercial buildings.

Last night, as the smell of our chicken with homemade pesto topped with the finest cheeses and fresh herbs filled our senses with anticipation, leaving us heady and anxious for the first (and last) bite.  r hearty plates of fresh organic vegetables and salad added perfectly to the mix. Do we miss pasta, bread and wine? Not at all.  It never enters our minds.

So today, off to the big grocery store in Pescia, we were content. The only items we couldn’t find… Tom’s preferred powdered non-dairy creamer for his coffee (I use real cream, here non-pasteurized, spoils quickly) and Crystal Lite Ice Tea.

Many of the villages, such as neighboring Colognora are imbedded into the hillside have a clock tower, many of which continue to chime centuries later. 

Tom also warned me about an article he’d read that clearly stated that grocery shoppers don’t mess with the produce:  no squeezing, no holding it in one’s hand spending time checking out it’s quality and viability.  

“Put on a plastic glove, place the item in a plastic bag provided, weigh the item(s) on the scale which prints a price sticker after selecting the item from a list and carefully place the sticker on the plastic bag ensuring it won’t fall off.” OK.  I did this!

Many simpler less decorous homes are adorned with flowers of the season.

Today, we purchased a small bottle to try of the Italian version of Crystal Lite, already prepared lemon flavored iced tea. We’ll see if we like it. We’re fast running out of the Crystal Lite packets we brought with us.

With a backup plan in place, we may end up ordering the Iced Tea online and having it shipped to us while we’re here, not the worst solution, albeit pricey.  But there again, it leaves us more to pack. Our rationale? We don’t have to give up everything we like! This life we’ve chosen is not punishment or banishment from all familiar products.  We feel we’ve adapted quite well without most of our “creature comforts.”

Apparently, a devastating storm had an effect on vegetation in the area. Piles of wood indicate it may have occurred in the past few years.

Shopping in a totally non-English speaking environment is challenging especially for the few packaged or bottled items we may use, although we’ve be able to decipher many of the verbiage on the labels. Buying meat, dairy and produce is a breeze. 

Tom recently read that there are strict etiquette rules in Italy. For some of these in regard to dining out click here.

The big challenge today was determining which coin we had to place in the lock of the grocery store cart to free it from the bunch in the parking lot for our use. The amount wasn’t posted. A kindly woman stopped by (no English), giving me the single Euro required when I handed her two Euro $.50 in its place. 

With the warmer weather and the long ride back, Tom drove fast on the long stretches making it difficult for me to take photos.  On the narrow winding stretches of road, there was no safe way to stop.

When bagging our plethora of groceries, for which they took a credit card (yeah!), the checker counted the plastic bags we used, charging us Euro $.35 for the seven plastic bags which translate to about US $.45. 

Yes, it cost about US $2 right out of the chute for the cart and the bags. A consolation is that the cost of food is about 20% less from the US which certainly makes up for the difference. 

Even the less appealing is appealing in its own way.

Our average food bill is running at approximately $200 per week including dining out twice.  We’re satisfied with that as it falls in line with the $2400 we’ve budgeting for food, eating in or out, for the 12 weeks we’ll be here.

I should mention that we only eat twice a day, a hearty breakfast and dinner. Neither of us are hungry again until dinner. Our way of eating has a propensity to kill the appetite for hours after eating with nary a thought about a “snack.” Plus, we no longer have any dessert after dinner, especially now that we dine around 7:00 PM most nights, preferring not to retire on a full belly.

One’s reactions must be quick when encountering a batch of road signs such as this.  The winding road often prevents turning around for another look.

With all the groceries put away in our tiny refrigerator and freezer, we’re content to spend what remains of the day, taking care of necessary business matters, prepping for tonight’s dinner, reading our books and catching up on US news. Tom found an English speaking news channel on the now working old fashioned TV! We’re so out of the loop these days!


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