Monday Fun-day


Santuario di Monte Senario

Mondays are my longest time without the kids. They go to school at 8.30am and I don’t have to pick them up until 4.30pm. Normally I use my time pottering around the house: doing the housework, shopping, reading etc.  Nothing really exciting or out of the ordinary. I know I should go and discover the surrounds but to be honest I have more fun doing it with friends so I usually wait until someone has a few hours to spare and meet up with them. Mondays are house days…until today.

After the kids were dropped off at school and I’d chatted to my parents in Australia, I was just getting ready to put some tunes on and pull out the mop when my friend Ross texted and asked if I was up for a hiking expedition- hell yes! It was arranged that I would meet him in 10 minutes and we would take off on a trail and see what we could find. The housework could wait another day. As I ran down our path to meet him (it’s about 100m) I noticed he was in his car, hmmm. ‘Let’s have an adventure’ were his words as he handed me his trail guide book, all written in Italian. Ross’s Italian is much better than mine, however, both our partners are fellows at I Tatti and do most of the talking/reading when out in public; so whatever we were going to do was sure to be an adventure whether we liked it or not!

We decided to go somewhere we had never been and see more of the Tuscan countryside that was laid before us. Our direction was toward a little village called Bivigliano. Woohoo, let the fun begin!

Bivigliano is about a 15-20 minute drive from Fiesole (or 18km from Florence) along winding, narrow roads that give you a staggering view of the Tuscan landscape. It was a magnificent day to be out in the woods, quite a turn around from the weekend of torrential rain. Arriving in Bivigliano is like arriving at many Italian villages, blink and you could miss it; therefore, our plan was to park the car and take a walk up to Santuario di Monte Senario. In classic Ross and Camilla style, we didn’t actually have a map. However, we pulled up in a clearing, saw a red and white marker, decided it was in the general direction of Monte Senario and decided to take it and see what happened.


Ross on track 65

Ross was sporting the ‘trendy hiker’ look, while I was going for more of a runner/hiker don’t-have-a-shower-or-brush-your-hair kind of look. The track was muddy and slippery and we loved every minute of it. After a few good uphill climbs we came across a track and had to decided which direction we would take. I was more inclined to trust Ross’s sense-of-direction as I have not a clue and would have walked for hours in circles!

Upon finding more red and white markers and hoping they led to our destination, we were in luck as we came to a road that looked like it was leading up to something a little bit fabulous.


As the mist creeps in

After following it for a few hundred metres we fell upon the beautiful sight of Monte Senario!


The beautiful steps of Monte Senario

This place was amazing! The sky opened up and pushed the clouds away for us to see the most spectacular views around and the best part was, we were the only people there!


Breathtaking views of Tuscany

This is just a small glimpse of the 360 degree view, and here is a little more…


A sight you can never get sick of looking at

Just to make sure we were definitely there, we did the only thing you can do…a selfie!


The glamping selfie

After wandering around the Monastery and their lush grounds (looking for the grotto to no avail), we decided it was time to head back in the direction we came and see if we could, in fact, find the car!! 


Trail 65…we are back on track

Not only did we find Trail 65 but we also (well, Ross spotted it first) found a natural spring running under our trail. Adventurous hikers that we are, decided to go down and take a better look. You forget how beautiful the sound of birds, stillness and running water can sound without the hum of traffic and city noise in the background.


Fresh water spring just off our trail

Now, if I was out hiking by myself I would have finished my hike and gone back home, had a shower and made myself a sandwich for lunch. However, I forgot who I was hiking, or should I say ‘glamping,’ with (note my reference to his trendy hiking gear and my throw-together, dirty look in the beginning!).

“Let’s get some lunch” was the comment Ross dropped as we approached the car. At this point I was hungry, dirty, muddy and on a high from our adventure so I agreed that was a great idea. However, I thought we were going on a regular hike so I didn’t bring anything with me except my house keys. This didn’t matter to Ross, after all he looked like he could be seen in public!

It was decided we would venture over to a town called Pratolino. Ross was looking at this village the day before from a friend’s house across the valley and wanted to know what it was like (fair enough). It took us about 10 minutes to arrive and another 5 minutes to find a restaurant and park the car. 

Zocchi was our restaurant of choice, because of the fantastic panoramic views that were before us. Not expecting anything amazing we were pleasantly surprised with our lunch. We started with a delicious vegetarian crostini (forgot to take a photo…too hungry) that had a tomato bruschetta and a porcini bruschetta and also a fried polenta chip doused with more porcini mushrooms in olive oil and garlic…delicious!

Ross ended up having the homemade spinach ravioli with gorgonzola and walnut sauce


Ravioli with gorgonzola and walnut sauce

While I was very excited to have homemade tagliatelle tossed with butter and shaved truffles…


Shaved truffle butter pasta


The meal was fantastic and just what a couple of hikers needed after a morning in the woods of Tuscany.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day and to top it off with a delicious lunch of shaved truffle pasta and tiramisu (did I forget to mention that?), well it doesn’t get much better. Ross and I decided we should try to persuade our academic partners to perhaps take a morning off and have a Monday fun-day with us the next time we go for a hike. However, I will remember it’s more of a glamour hike when Ross is involved and will dress appropriately…with cash in my pockets!


Ross can cook

Now it’s not everyday that we get dinner invites and it is even rarer that we get one a week, however, to our luck and bewilderment our good friend Ross texted me the other day inviting us up the hill to his place for pizza. We were quite impressed as we knew Ross and his wife E are doing the tag-team parenting scenario (across Italy and the US last week but a mere distance of Florence and Roma this week) and I am sure he was aware we were up with E the week before (apple pie blog) and so instead of missing out on our fabulous company he would dine with us too…

Ross first promised PizzaMan pizza, a local joint I hear makes a very good pizza in our area of Florence. The boys were stoked as they have been wanting to try PizzaMan for a while, and I was happy with anything I wasn’t making, however, as we were back and forth texting the plan started changing and then I got a call from Ross at the store informing me he was in fact going to cook and he was fine with the challenge but ‘let’s just run through the menu’. I’m not sure sure if E had got in his ear about cooking or whether he really did want to cook for us. But that’s a mystery I can live with.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Ross cooked a delicious two course vegetarian meal for us (he is one of the five vegos we have met since living here in Florence, this is new for me!) and I brought up the rear with cakes from our local patisserie…….I mean who could resist? We had a brilliant night of chat and food and we are all looking forward to schedules calming down a tad so we can all dine together in the same country, until then here is a photo diary of Ross’s dinner. What makes it even more special is the fact that Ross doesn’t usually cook (so my friend Shelly tells me) so here I have it plain as day in colour photos ROSS CAN COOK!

We started the evening with a very traditional Tuscan bean bruschetta, however, before you scroll down I do have to apologise for the poor quality of the photos, the iPhone isn’t quite up to standard here.


The quick, no fuss method, open a can of cannelloni beans, pour entire contents into a saucepan and heat up, meanwhile toast good quality bread in toaster, rub with raw garlic clove and then just before serving add beans and some juice (important) to garlic toast; drizzle over GOOD QUALITY extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt flakes then devour. So simple and yet very, very tasty….good job Alex was there to keep an eye on the salt intake!


Once beans were devoured Ross made a simple tomato sauce, adult version (we fed the kids first!) he started with a good dollop of harissa, lots of fresh crushed garlic and some extra hot little dried chillies and slowly sautéed in olive oil then added a tin of tomatoes followed by a slosh of red wine vinegar and salt. I have to mention at this stage I kept asking him to taste the sauce and see what else it needed….this concept was new to Ross He could have got a little annoyed with me poking my head in but then again he didn’t seem to mind too much and it tasted really, really good!


We are not quite sure but Nic seems to deny any wrong doing with the extra salt on the table. Just wondering if this was a game tactic or if he wanted more red wine.


Ross looking super serious dishing up.



A healthy shaving of parmesan and fresh basil leaves finished off the spinach tortellini with spicy tomato sauce perfectly!



I could have made more apple pies but when you have these little beauties just down the road….why would I? Once the kids took off with their favourite looking ones we were left with the coffee squares, orange cheesecake bites (OMG sooo yummy) and the strawberry squares that actually tasted like a mouthful of strawberries!

All silliness aside, it really was a lovely evening. I am so glad Ross decided to cook as it was a quick, easy and very yummy dinner. I am sure we will do PizzaMan another night. Maybe when it’s my turn to cook!