Running parallel to the Tuscan coast is a strip of pine trees called la pineta. These are, for the most part, Mediterranean pines—beautiful umbrella shaped trees with tall straight trunks that shoot up then open over your head in a wide, generous canopy of green.
The floor below them is clean and carpeted with pine needles, or, as on the coast of Elba, filled with smaller shrubs and lovely flowering plants. The pines scent the air, making one feel that every lung full is bringing better health.
For me, though, they have a Proustian effect. I look at them and remember my childhood, remember picking the dried husks of cicada skins off the pine bark, or sticking my fingers in the resin that dripped out of them in the intense summer heat. Here, though, they don’t frame the brick walls of my Chattanooga, Tennessee childhood home. They frame the Mediterranean Sea. And, once again, I have to wonder: how did I get here?