In renting a farmhouse in Tuscany, Jules and I fulfilled a long held ambition to spend some time enjoying the simple life in the Italian countryside. The spot we had chosen was ideal as it sat high on a hill looking directly across a valley filled with grapevines toward the famed medieval town of Siena. The two-storey farmhouse was rustic and traditional with accommodation above and a workshop below. The customary terracotta building had been constructed in the late 1800’s and had not dramatically changed from that time, with large green shutters on the windows, an old stone barn and a well. The amenities inside were equally characteristic of the time, with high ceilings, a large open fireplace and heavy wooden doors. The best part was of course the views from the various windows, which were just stunning and reminded us daily exactly where we were. While we had no television and only a small radio for entertainment, it didn’t matter, this would be our base for exploring, painting, eating and drinking Italian style. After some settling in time, we eventually decide to explore the surrounding area and in particular the nearby town of Siena, sitting high on the distant hill much like an ancient fortress. As we make our way upward through the narrow laneways of the old town we find it buzzing with excitement and tourist activity. It seems that we have accidentally chosen the time of the year when ‘The Palio’ is held. This is an annual horse race that is steeped in tradition and sees riders racing bareback around the central piazza. In preparation, banners and flags are being hung throughout the town and the Piazza Del Campo is being converted into a giant racetrack covered in red earth. Meanwhile, our exploration leads us to Jules’ favourite place, the local market and she has the opportunity to practice her Italian while buying some deliciously fresh produce for our evening meal. Eventually we head back to the piazza to indulge in the inevitable slice of pizza and a gelato, as we would continue to do on several subsequent visits. Although the tourists have well and truly discovered Siena, it still remains a special place and we never tire of just wandering around. There are some grand buildings to be seen, including the ‘Basilica of San Domenico’ and the magnificent gothic masterpiece of ‘Il Duomo’ with it’s distinctive white and black horizontal stripes of marble that stands in contrast to the sea of surrounding terracotta. Of course there are some lovely little food stores too, with all manner of sausages, meats and cheeses hanging in the windows. By the end of the day we always tended return back to our little farmhouse with a bag or two of delicacies, as is the Italian way. In the cool of the evening we would enjoy our spoils and the tranquillity of the Tuscan summer.