The fresh air soon woke me up though, as is usually the case, and I never cease to be amazed by the view from our patio - it makes me feel glad to have got out of bed.
Exercise and shower done, Stuart and I headed off into Pescia to do the weekly supermarket shop, leaving Sheila to a slightly slower morning with a cup of tea and Reggie for company. This week's was a bigger supermarket shop than usual as we have two helpers arriving on Monday, so will be catering for four of us for the week (indeed the fortnight) ahead. As we trundled around the aisles in Lidl, I was surprised to turn around and hear Stuart speaking to some people. It turned out that an elderly Italian couple had stopped him to ask for cooking advice! They had seen him put two trays of brussels sprouts (cavolini) in his trolley and wanted to know how to cook and serve them! Clearly brussels sprouts are not a staple of the Tuscan diet, and Stuart was more than happy to share with the couple our recipe for what we like to call 'Christmas pasta' - a pasta dish we make with sautéed brussels sprouts along with pancetta, chestnuts, and either goats cheese or salad ricotta (which is a hard version of ricotta which tastes similar to feta). I know that brussels sprouts divide opinion almost as much as Marmite - so let's hope the couple turn out to be in the brussels sprout loving camp rather than the haters!
After Lidl, our trip around Esselunga was far less eventful and we left without having passed any of our culinary tips onto any of the local community.
We went straight home, unpacked the shopping and collected up Reggie and Sheila to head out for a walk along the refuge track. The morning was lovely and bright and sunny, and by the time we'd been walking for a few minutes we were all sweltering in the layers of clothing we'd brought out with us. Spring really does seem to be on a roll here - the woods and verges are covered with crocuses and well as other cheery splashes of colour.
When we decided that Reggie had stretched his legs sufficiently, we jumped back in the car and headed to Montecarlo. Montecarlo has to be our favourite place to visit in the local area - it's a quiet and pretty fortified village in a hill in the middle of the plains. This means that there are stunning views all around the village and it is the most beautiful place to walk around and a lovely place to have a quiet drink or lunch. We'd visited Montecarlo the last time Sheila stayed with us, back in July, and she had said that she would quite like to go back again this time. Since the last time she was there, Stuart and I have discovered the lovely La Terrazza restaurant - a friendly and welcoming restaurant serving great food and with a dining room with simply stunning views. We decided that it was time to introduce Sheila to La Terrazza. They have always been happy for Reggie to come in with us (we have visited with him twice before), and today was no exception, so we had a table for three (plus dog) next to the window.
We shared an antipasti starter, and followed that with an enormous pork cutlet for Stuart, and enormous pizzas each for Sheila and me. Reggie had a few crumbs of bread and some doggie chews that we had brought with us. For the most part, he was very well behaved indeed - there was a growl at one of the staff, but he soon calmed down and spent most of the time lying in the sunshine on my coat.
After a very satisfying lunch, we ambled back to the car, taking in the views on the way. We were quite surprised to realise that you can see as far as the Abetone mountains from Montecarlo - while we were enjoying mild spring-like temperatures, in the distance was a very large, very snowy mountain. (The photograph isn't great, but you get the general idea.)
We arrived back at the house at around 3.30pm - as we were driving along the main road in the valley, we went slowly in order to get a good view of our house and how the terracing is looking these days. We were quite pleased with what we saw! As well as the terraces beneath the house having been revealed (which are still somewhat obscured by the tops of the trees at the bottom of the hill), the little bit of tidying work I've done on terraces 10-12 above the house have really squared things off and made it look a lot more well defined.
Having seen all that on our way home, what else could we possibly do with the rest of the afternoon other than don our work clothes and get out there to do more work? Stuart concentrated his efforts on creating some more smart-looking steps in the terrace above the house, while I took the hedge trimmers down to terrace no.7 beneath the house to finish clearing that one, and make a large dent in terrace no.8 as well. I carried on working until the hedge trimmers ran out of fuel - by which time the light was fading, the temperature was dropping and my energy was flagging, so we both called it a day, packed up our tools and retired indoors to join Sheila and Reggie by the fire.
Tonight is Sheila's last night here with us (on this trip at least) - the time seems to have gone very quickly and we will all miss her when she goes back to the UK. She will probably be heading home for a well deserved rest as she has worked so hard on her so-called 'holiday' with us! From tending bonfires to weeding, raking, moving wood, collecting fire wood, cleaning, tidying, washing up and dog-sitting, you would hardly call it a relaxing holiday, but we've really appreciated the help and hopefully she has enjoyed herself.
So tonight will probably be a fairly quiet and relatively early evening - with maybe a cheeky round of Aperol spritzes to round off Sheila's holiday.