The perfection of [im]perfection

We were fortunate to spend a summer holiday in Tuscany. A destination which had been on the top of our list for a number of years, but never really happened. We had our eye on a luxurious, idyllic agriturismo just steps from the beach. On one side was the rolling countryside and on the other our beloved Mediterranean. Throughout the whole of romantic Tuscany, this was truly a unique place. We saw the perfect picture coming into our minds. We’d heard that this region has a stunning countryside and grape growing area but that the coast isn’t the most beautiful. But as we love the sand and salt sea, we thought we could have ‘the best of both worlds’. Expectations were high.

On paper it seemed to be ideal, but the closer to our destination, the closer the industrial towers from the Port came into view and the further the vineyards seemed to be. We searched diligently for winding, hilly roads, but with no result. The driveway to our accommodation was completely in line with the image from the many travel brochures, but from our terrace we had a view of the high towers of the Port instead of the rolling hills and vineyards. And the cars racing along the highway didn’t sound too far away either. Bye bye perfect picture. The result of too high expectations, I guess.

This first, slight disappointment passed. We’d we heard about a beach that was very popular among the locals. That was exactly what we were looking for. After a fifteen minute drive, we were treated to a breathtaking view. A bay filled with an azure blue sea and a wonderful, fine sandy beach. The many red-and-white parasols fitted perfectly with the picture we’d had in mind. The moment we took our first dive in the sea, felt the salt on our skin and saw an old man driving his ice cream truck through the surf to sell his gelato, we knew it couldn’t have been much better. Our two little boys had great fun building their sand castle. Wow, how beautiful was this place, and how wonderful did it feel?!
How could we have felt so disappointed less than 24 hours ago?

After a few days, the sun let us down and the rain filled the dried-out sunflower fields with a considerable amount of rain. We decided that this was a perfect day to visit the much-discussed countryside. After driving around for an hour, the landscape changed and it seemed as if our perfect picture of Tuscany was unfolding before our eyes. This is where the beautiful hills and all those vineyards were hidden.
We parked in a lovely Italian village to wander around and look for a bar for a cappuccino and a simple lunch. The last days the spaghetti vongole, salad caprese and delicious pizzas tasted very good, but today we sought out a panini.
After we had wandered around the historic streets, a rain shower suddenly started. We decided to take shelter under an awning. As luck would have it, in the alley behind it stood an old bicycle resting against a peeling, painted wall. It seemed like we had landed on the set of an old Italian movie. At the most unexpected moments you suddenly come across something beautiful. After I had taken enough pictures to fill a coffee table book, and the rain had subsided just a little, we decided it was time for lunch. We had already walked into a few restaurants, but almost everything was packed with tourists and a simple panini did not seem to be part of the menu. We were probably looking for something impossible again (something we seem to be experts at!). After a few minutes of wandering around, resulting in irritation by my other half and sulking from our little men (read: when will we go swimming again?). Before I knew it, we all got grumpy in the car and left this charming village behind us. Without a panini. This was not the romantic day in Tuscany that I’d envisaged. Again, bye bye perfect picture.

We drove a few kilometers without saying a word. And suddenly, at the edge of the road and between the vineyards, a village square appeared. Two people quickly agreed to stop and park the car. The boys ran excitedly to the playground in front of us and we took a good look around us. A baker, a butcher, the sun on our face and there it was. The little bar that we had been so busy looking for an hour ago. A meeting place where locals from the neighbourhood come together for an espresso, a gelato or a simple, delicious panini. And, not a tourist in sight!
Suddenly it seemed that driving away, slightly grumpy from the previous village had brought us the desired result. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. This was exactly what we were looking for!
The moment you let go of your expectations, the best experiences often unfold. Everything happens for a reason, I firmly believe that.