Porto Ercole Tuscany
The three castles of Porto Ercole, considered the greatest fortification of the 1500s Spanish empire and reproduced in 1555 in murals of the palaces of Florence, blend easily with the yachts and sailboats safely anchored in the port below. The massive walls jutting skyward blend easily with the residential homes and hotels that seem to hang precariously off the cliffs overlooking the bay.
We arrived yesterday for the long weekend. Our hotel is in front of the port that sits comfortably in a natural cove, protected from rough seas by the mountain, this is a favorite destination for the bigger private ships. The provincial road, the only way in and out of the city, runs the entire length of the coast insures a beautiful view of the sea from every location in the city. We awoke late this morning, about 9. The night before, we had shut off the air conditioning and opened the windows. The air was cool with a slight breeze and a hint of salt. The soothing sounds of the water and the pleasant temperature had lulled us into a prolonged sleep.
I woke a bit before Raffaella. I try to move away slowly to not wake her, she is so beautiful, stretched out holding my arm, her head peacefully lays next to me barely touching my shoulder. As I move, instinctively she holds on tighter. I roll to one side and hug her forcefully enough for her to feel it but not enough to wake her and slowly slide out of bed as she falls back into a deep sleep. Quietly, I move into the parlor and call for breakfast in the room.
A cool breeze enters the room from the window and my attention is drawn to the walls. When we first entered the hotel I felt comfortable in the room. Subconsciously I perceived the beautiful furniture, the ceiling to floor drapes, the artisan workmanship of the ceiling molding but I did not fully appreciate the beauty of this architectural masterpiece. The drapes a heavy cotton and silk weave. The background in soothing earth tones but highlighted with designs of bright reds, yellows and browns that made the images embroidered jump off of the cloth. The walls an antique rose, while the molding a dark mahogany. Without touching the wood, it was obvious that it was not a veneer. The images incredibly detailed by some artisan 500 years ago.
I laid my head back on the oversized chair, following the lines of the molding to an elaborate ceiling. My first impression was that the wood molding continued, instead it was plaster masterfully painted, with highlights and shadows. The image was so real I had to stand up to get a closer look. Spaced throughout the ceiling are individual murals telling of sea battles long past, scenes of festivities during the Spanish rule, and nude portraits of beautiful women who no longer walk among us. I was overtaken by anger, I felt so stupid, just a short time ago I was considering purchasing a house in Dallas for an inordinate amount of money where the molding did not even match correctly and if you brushed against the walls with a bit too much energy you would end up in the next room.
Fortunately, a knock at the door. Coffee, hot milk, briosche, fresh bread and fruit jam arrives on silver platters and a waiters cart. I sneak back into the bedroom, Raffaella is still sleeping peacefully. This time as I took her forehead she opens her eyes and hugs me, I wonder what that is all about… The perfume of espresso permeates the air. It seems such a simple thing but is absolutely marvelous. Espresso in the morning, is passion, it is intense, it is an explosion of flavor that startles the taste buds to attention.
As we talk, the church rings the noon bells. It seems as though we are in the church, each strike initiates with a distinct clash of metal on metal then the reverberation of the different bells takes on a different tone. The deep penetrating tones of the big bells flows from one strike to another while the smaller bells chime happily celebrating the noon break. The bells begin to slow, their song fainter and fainter until silence falls again. Several hours had passed since breakfast and we had not even begun to dress. The room was beautiful but we had not come for the hotel.
The fishermen were still unloading the boats with the day’s catch. Calamari, polipi, vongole, coda di rospo, and gamberi were neatly stored in individual containers lined up out side the boats. The fisherman was folding his nets and boisterously joked with his shipmates. It had been a good day and they had wares to show it. I took a pound of each for a total cost of about 10 Euro. We proceeded toward our destination along the pier. The wood pylons holding the planked walkway as thick as I am. Their surface ravaged by the saltwater with crevices that penetrated to the core of this aged wood, yet the walkway barely moved under the swells of the water.
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