I've witnessed the end of summer and beginning of fall here. The summer heat suddenly dissipated and the air is crisp and pleasant. The green leaves on the oak trees and grape vines have started to change to shades of yellow, orange and red. It has transformed the landscape into a new kind of beauty. Grapes have been harvested and the aroma of fermenting grape juice has filled the air. The daytime crowds in the hilltop towns have dispersed and the cobblestone streets are now occupied with more locals than visitors. Shop owners stand outside, breathing in the fresh air and greeting passers-by. Overall there is an aura of relaxation. Locals and visitors alike seem to linger a little longer to finish their lunches, chat with a friend, sit on a park bench, or take in a view.
I too, have been affected by this unhurried atmosphere. (Or maybe it's just the fermenting grape must that we're all breathing in!) I am so much more relaxed with guests. I am thinking less and taking in the moment more. I find myself strolling instead of speed walking, taking more photos of my surroundings and taking an extra minute to talk to shop owners who now recognize me. I frequently stop in my tracks to admire the landscape. I've gazed at so many sunsets and it always mesmerizes me.
It's white truffle season here - every restaurant is serving up the freshly shaved morsels on top of homemade pasta. We met with a truffle hunter, Paolo, yesterday, who talked to us all about his job that he loves and introduced us to his trusty canine "co-workers". Before dinner we accompanied our guests into the restaurant kitchen as our chef demonstrated how to make the antipasti that we would be eating: a pumpkin soufflé with pecorino cream sauce and shaved truffle on top. We were in heaven when we sat down and enjoyed every bite with the Vino Nobile Riserva made by the owner's son.
Our guests keep commenting how great this trip is and that they don't want it to end. I can honestly say that I feel the same. My co-leader and I have been enjoying this just as much as the guests. They refer to us as "the parents" because we "take such good care of them", but truthfully, this week hasn't felt like work. It feels more like showing off our hometown to friends, taking them to all the best places and watching their faces light up with every new experience.
As the season as a tour guide comes to an end, I am grateful to leave on a high note. It has been extremely difficult at times, but also very enjoyable and surprisingly rewarding. Most of my colleagues request to work someplace else after working in Tuscany. They want to see new places and live in a leader house that is less chaotic. They complain that Tuscany is too boring and cliché after a while. I disagree. I am finding so many moments of gratitude for this time that I've had to discover and become familiar with this part of the world. I too, would love to see new places and live in a quieter leader house, but Tuscany has grown on me, and I am in love. I would be thrilled to come back to this dreamy place.