Joco Diversions

Silver linings in a Tuscany storm

The calm before the storm in Italy, celebrating 25 years of marriage.
The calm before the storm in Italy, celebrating 25 years of marriage. Courtesy photo

“So this is where we might perish, in the lush landscape of Giardino di Boboli in Florence. And I didn’t even get to walk through the alley of Cypress trees.”

These were actual thoughts I had as horizontal rain pelted my face and jarring thunder cracks zapped my nerves.

We chose Italy to celebrate our 25th anniversary. With three born-and-raised Italian grandparents between us (rest in peace) and a shared love for art and wine, it was an easy choice. Plus, who could shy away from a chance to finally see the chariot ruts along the stone streets of Pompeii? Or spy the exposed ancient bricks and mortar behind Rome’s Pantheon. Or walk the very streets where Michelangelo probably snubbed Da Vinci on his way to lunch with a Medici family member.

Sunny Italy lived up to its name. We had perfect weather the entire week. Except that one hour we ended up as far away as possible from the safety of a covered structure.

Giardino di Boboli graces a fairly dramatic slope, with terraces, steps and many gravel walking paths one could roll down with unstoppable speed. Armed with a selfie stick and a map of the place, we, the silver anniversary couple, kept climbing. I have an inexplicable mini obsession with Cypress trees, and I had a goal to get as close to as many as possible.

This is probably a good moment to mention I secretly think my husband agreed to Boboli-out just for my sake. Strolling through greenery and old statuary was probably not on his to-do list that day, but once one reaches the metallic years of marriage, compromise is like breathing. Which is why I tolerated many, many souvenir shops in Rome. A quarter century ago I said “I do” to Tchotchke Man.

That afternoon, dark clouds began creeping in but we shrugged off the sky. The hills of Tuscany did not give us the proper meteorological perspective, even in a city where perspective was allegedly nailed during the Renaissance.

Several snapshots later we began to hear some muffled, distant thunder. We kept climbing because the higher we went, the more captivating the terra cotta vistas of Florence. We thought we had time to beat the storm as we landed at the top, by a statue of Neptune.

An alarming thunder boom cued it was time to skedaddle. We hung a right in what we thought was a path that would at least give us a scenic exit, because why repeat the same route after plunking down 20 euros?

I wanted to go left, because there was something on the map indicating a cypress alley. However, that area looked more maze-like and the thunder was getting louder.

So exit, stage right. Our pace quickened with every boom. There was no signage. Our whole trip we would see “uscita, uscita, uscita” placards everywhere but when we needed an uscita the most, we were trapped in a labyrinth of gravel and hedges, hedges and gravel.

The gardens were fairly empty at that point, and empty was an odd feeling after nearly a week of rubbing shoulders with too many people who had the same travel ideas.

Then, boom, a sudden downpour and jarring cracks of thunder. We stumbled into a drenched German couple at a cross path who were just as lost. They took off in one direction and reappeared. Not good.

We crouched in a ravine in a position that is supposedly recommended for not getting completely fried by lightning. Just as the rain let up a little, I noticed a hidden non-Renaissance metal fence skirting bushes just behind us. Also a lone, tall cypress tree.

I’m no Ben Franklin, but it seemed we were smack in the middle of a Medici-style kite and key situation. We took off running and found our way downhill to the aptly name Pitti Palace.

We finally had a good laugh, which, after 25 years, is also like breathing.

Reach Denise Snodell at or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell