This morning I accompanied a soon-to-be bride to the village florist’s shop.
The florist is a dear friend, a true artist. She does not speak English but many foreign brides go to her for wedding flowers because her work is really outstanding. (http://www.fioriedintorni.com) So much better than most florists’ in the region and maybe well beyond that. Anyway, a comment by the bride’s mother got me thinking. She was amazed at the fact that a flower store, and such a lovely one, could survive in such a small village.
Not the first time I’ve heard the question “how do people survive out here?“.
This got me thinking about how relative a concept “out here” is and how much people from cities often have no idea of how much stuff you can do living “slower”, in a small, quiet village in the Tuscan countryside.
First, the “out here” concept. The people in the area, and I am not just thinking of the people living in the village and immediate surroundings, but the people living in Southern Tuscany in general, would consider Civitella to be in an extremely lucky location. It is just by the major road connecting Florence to Grosseto via Siena. This means that you don’t need to drive 10 minutes on a small, winding road, before getting on the road that will take you where you need to go, you are already on that road. This also means that you can be in downtown Grosseto in less than 30 minutes and in downtown Siena in less than 45. Plus, being only 6km away from the road that goes to Monte Amiata, it means that in 30 minutes you can also reach the top of the mountain, as well as Montalcino and the Val d’Orcia. And the road that goes to Massa Marittima and Follonica, passes by the village too, so it’s very easy to go there as well.
Second, we are all so used to having to drive to the city for anything, that it does not really seem that big a deal at all. Crossing a larger city in traffic takes more (time and stress) than driving from Civitella to Siena. We are used to driving there for anything, I wrote, but I should have said “for anything major“. Because the other thing that most people tend to forget is that small villages like Civitella have a life of their own. There are shops, bars, restaurants (by the way we have an excellent one for real, with people coming from all over the region to eat there – La Locanda nel Cassero), and there are PEOPLE, who need to buy flowers, bread, and food, who go to the restaurant, get married, have children, and so on.
The small villages which are just a holiday destination for most people are hometowns for others, and this is how LOCAL STORES survive: because there are LOCAL PEOPLE. And thank God there are foreign people too, who come enjoy the beautiful area!
Third, we are “small but resourceful”! Most people would be astonished by how lively small communities can be. Also, internet really helps. In a global world also our local communities expand!
Lorella, the florist, works all over the region: thanks to the internet, brides from all over Tuscany but also lots of foreign brides contact her and ask her to do their wedding flowers. She studies a lot, also on foreign sites and publications, where she can get new, different ideas and fresh sources of inspiration.
And small communities are also lively from a cultural point of view. Pari, for instance, is a village of 180 people more or less. And yet, it has a lively cultural center (Pari Center for New Learning) and even a publishing house (Pari Publishing) that are renowned and appreciated not only in Italy, but in Europe and in the States too. They have visitors, courses, conferences, and contribute to keep alive the dialogue between local and global on such important issues as literature, social action, science, religion, the arts, linguistics, and even women rights. (check their new books by the way!)
So, surprised people, we can indeed live very well “out here”. It’s actually very pleasant! :o)
Just think about this when you travel: the place you call a destination, for some people is home. :o)
An interesting link to sustainable tourism near Siena: from tourist to citizen of the Terre di Siena.