Fireflies and Nightingales in Tuscany

Ours was a warm, still spring night with 'no breezes from heaven blown.' We stood instead in the dark, amongst the roses and their perfumed air, looking up into the olive grove with its shaggy grass and wild flowers hidden in the dark.
Fairy of the night fireflies and nightingales

‘Where are you going?’


‘Arhh…Italy’ As a friend remarked over dinner last week, if you say you are going to Italy then the response is always an  …Arhh.

Only the thought of Italy does this. It does not ease the release of air  from lungs so much as puncture hidden wells of nostalgia. The sighs that escape pushed by spasms of muscle memory recalling air expelled in laughter, love, youthful escapades, long summers and newly fallen snow. All sit within those gentlest of sighs   …Arhh Italy. 

I’ll bet that sound has been heard for millenia. From Roman soldiers  stamping to keep warm around fires on Hadrian’s walls, pining for the green of Italian seas, the red of Italian wines, the white of Carrra marble to homesick Italians looking for ‘pane e lavoro’ in New Worlds. We are so lucky, living as we do with one foot in England, one foot in Italy always able to come back and top up our memory banks. 

There are so many ways Italy makes you say ‘Arhhh…’

The ways Italy makes you say 'Arhhh...'

Fresh produce
Fast cars

If November is the rainy season where silent streets are walked by long dead ghosts, April and May are the opposite. It is the return of life after the slumber of winter.

 On the far side of the garden a pathway bordered by roses  delineates the edge of the formal gardens.  The roses are just out, heavy with scent. An olive grove planted by GS climbs up the hill.  Every year I plead that the wild flowers be allowed to bloom before being cut down, the grass under foot ‘cleaned’ to reduce the wild fire risk.  This year the cold, wet weather has meant that grass has been allowed to grow tall,  shaggy and lush. The hillside is a  meadows of delicate wild flowers splashed with red poppies, and delicate flowers in whites and yellows. For me- perfect.



Heavily scented roses.
The rose borders battered by April showers.
The olive grove and wild flower shaggy grass meadows.
Where formal meets wild.

The late April weather is unsettled. Two days ago, between winter rains and forecast storms we were promised two days of summer.  We took the first opportunity to eat outside and fire up the BBQ for  Tuscan steaks and sausages, salad and tomatoes as stiff and crunchy as apples. Afterwards it was just about warm enough to sit outside wrapped in blankets.

It was dark, just starlight. There was no breeze just an occasion light waft so soft it could not be felt but only detected as air perfumed with rose perhaps, the last of the wisteria or waxy jasmine? 

Distant memories of Keat’s Ode to a Nightingale bubbled up.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;

Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

And then as if to confirm the spirit of Keats drifted in the scented air, in the dark woods a lone Nightingale started to sing.

A Nightingale sang in the tree outside my room when I lived in Rome, when I worked in Macedonia the forests were full of them, and last year we found another similar wood nearby. Like Sparrows and Swifts they  have their own volumes, tell stories in  the library of nostalgia within.



And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
And that is where 
we parted from Keats. Where he found melancholy we found magic.

For ours was a warm, still spring night with ‘no breezes from heaven blown’ and therein lay the difference. We stood instead in the dark amongst the roses  breathing warm perfumed air, looking up into the olive grove with its shaggy grass and wild flowers hidden in the dark. And all around us flew fireflies blinking silently in the darkness as if we had somehow stumbled into the land of fairies.

Arhh Indeed.

Magical fireflies

I do hope you have enjoyed this little bloglet about Tuscany. I would love to hear if you say ‘arhh’ when you think of Italy too.

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  1. Italy . . . arhh. I have lived – very briefly – in Rome, and also stayed a weekend on the Amalfi coast that made me want to stay there forever. I have wandered the streets of Rome, the Ponte Sant’Angelo and Bernini’s angels, and visited the crypts of St. Peter’s. But I have never been to Tuscany. Sigh.

    1. Arhh! Indeed! I spent a decade in wonderful Rome- and spent a summer just off Sorrento! It’s a wonderful, wonderful country – you can spend a life time here and never touch the surface- but try and get to Tuscany too. Every where in Italy has its treasures! Thank you so much for your comment! xX

  2. I’ve only been to Italy once, and it was amazing!

    1. Where did you go? It’s such a great place!

  3. I love the name ‘bloglet’ it’s so cute!
    Such evocative musings I can feel the magic of Italy calling me!

    1. Thank you so much Suzanne! I really appreciate your comment, and taking the time to read my little bloglet (I love the name too!) And Italy? There is only one answer….Arhhhh! and to surrender to the call! X

  4. Isabelle Cockburn-Busch

    So evocative…. The fireflies darting around magically in the moonlight , the heady scents of the roses and herbs filling the Tuscan air after a rainfall… Loved this bloglet , thank you xx

    1. Thank you, it really was a few moments when time stood still x

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