shelling beans can be relaxing- but if not, buy them already shelled
If you can't get fresh beans, try to by freshly dried beans from a reputable shop. Dried beans can be years old and hence take forever to cook. I am friends with Steve of Rancho Gordo in California and totally support the work he is doing with beans. Check out his site, he ships! He has also written a great book on beans.
I was very lucky to work in Fiesole when I first came to Tuscany. I was hired as a waitress, as kitchens were run by the families that owned the place I worked. Tito, the father and head chef had owned one of Florence's oldest trattoria's which was down on the river. When Florence flooded in 1966, it was wiped out and the family re-opened in another spot, and eventually took over La Romagnola in Fiesole where I met them. Cooking large quantities of beans stove-top can be hard, I adore this oven-baked version which also creates a cassoulet style crust on top of the beans. Stir them for even cooking.