The view at sunset from the Tuscan Villa
I love off the beaten path travel. Especially when it brings me close to nature. But sometimes you can be a little too close. Case in point Italy.
When I visited the lovely countryside of Tuscany, I had the pleasure of staying in a villa so remote it was off a dirt road. When my group of companions and I first drove up to the gate to the villa we were greeted not by the owners, but by a pair of beautiful white cows. They ambled up to the fence and sniffed in our direction. I said to my friend, ”Do you think we smell like Americans?”
My friend laughed. “I think they’re just curious. They know we’re not from around here. Our novelty will wear off.”
She was right. After two days the cows didn’t bother anyone—except me. Every time I walked by, they trotted over to the fence and stuck their noses through the slats. I took it as a compliment. They knew an animal lover when they saw one.
But cows weren’t the only native animals we had the pleasure of meeting. On the villa grounds there was a pretty little courtyard with a charming three-tiered fountain that several types of birds used as their bath. On the other side of the villa was a lovely stone patio and a few feet away, barely noticeable through the overgrowth of vines, was a grotto filled with tiny fish.
The grotto remained forgotten until one night we were sitting out on the patio drinking our wine. We heard a loud grunt coming from off in the distance. Then the one grunt was joined by a few others. In a matter of minutes a chorus of grunts and croaks grew so loud we could hardly hear ourselves. I shouted at my companions. “Where did all the bull frogs come from?”
The man sitting next to me laughed. “Must be mating season. The grotto is the perfect place for them to show off. Great acoustics.”
A woman said, “Oh aren’t they cute. They really are trying to impress the ladies.”
After the cacophony of croaks and grunts reached super sonic level people went inside. In my bedroom, not even the steady splash of the courtyard fountain near my window could mask the sounds of the frogs as they continued to perform until right before sunrise. Once again I kicked myself for forgetting to bring my earplugs.
When I went downstairs to meet my friends for breakfast, I could tell I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get any sleep. I looked into my friend’s bloodshot eyes, “What are we going to do? Those frogs are so damn loud.”
One of the men said, “Oh, they didn’t stop? I slept like a log.”
Men! Another guy who’s just like my husband and could sleep through anything. I ignored him. “What are we going to do? I don’t think I can take this. How long is mating season?”
“Too long,” my friend said. “We need to take action. Tonight we’ll start operation good night’s sleep.”
That evening, after another day looking at fabulous 12th century villages, we set out for the grotto loaded down with pots and pans. The frogs were croaking up a storm until they heard us coming. Then all was quiet. My friend said, “Okay, now.”
We banged pots until the grass swayed like ocean waves from the frogs jumping for they’re lives. That’s over, I thought as I settled into my bed ready for a great snooze. I’m not going to need a pair of earplugs after all.
Then all of a sudden I hear a loud croak much closer than from the grotto. Then another and another until the singing was so loud I could barely think. My friend came running into my room, “What the hell? They are even louder than before.”
I flung open my bedroom window and looked down into the small courtyard. I turned to my friend. “You and your brilliant ideas. Guess where the frogs found a new home?”
She looked down at the fountain covered in singing frogs and had the nerve to giggle. “Seems they like you as much as the cows.”
Moral of the story: Be sure to follow Fish Out Of Water Rule#7 and pack a pair of earplugs. You never know when the native wildlife might hit mating season.