Notes from Our Recent ARIA TOUR...
Day 1 - Within an hour of picking up our guests from the Florence airport, we welcomed them to our Villa, settled them into their rooms and treated everyone to a welcoming massage. Because we were blessed with a beautiful day, we enjoyed a lovely lunch alfresco. On this first day, we enjoyed getting acquainted, lounging by the swimming pool, recovering from some jet lag, ending with an early dinner of soothing tortellini in brodo. Buonanotte!
Day 2 - Another gorgeous day. One of our guests got in a sunrise run in the countryside before our Italian breakfast and a leisurely morning. The olive trees shimmer now and the groves are enticing to walk through here. Our drivers, Paolo and Enrico picked us up and we drove through the Chianti “Strada del Vino” to one of our favorite wineries for a seven wine tasting paired with a long lunch- including tagliatelle a tartufo- the fragrance of which reaches your nose long before it arrives at the table. Again, we sat under umbrellas and our view was the marvelous landscape of hills, vines and cypress trees. We also toured the winery and everybody now understands what Chianti Classico is and what the black crow symbolizes. After taking naps back at the Villa, we gathered for a pasta making class where everyone put their hands in flour and we made tagliatelle bolognese, ricotta and spinach ravioli with sage and butter sauce and for dessert, panna cotta with dark chocolate. What fun - and a wonderful way to appreciate what the grandmothers taught us about food.
Day 3 - We rose early to another clear day and I was especially grateful because we visited my ancestral place: Carrara and the white marble quarries. Davide, the owner of Marmo Tour, took us up high into the mountains in a Range Rover. What a ride! My guests learned about the 2,000 year history of this mining were nothing less than astounded by the beauty and scale of this place. I am always amazed by the look on their faces. We stopped in the great city of Lucca on the way back for a lunch of pappardelle cinghiale - the wild boar stew that is so hearty and delicious in Tuscany, followed by a much needed walking tour of the City- a trip through time which is really told through its architecture. After some restful time back at the Villa, we watched the sun sink into the hills before once again gathering at the table for a chef prepared meal of pumpkin cream soup topped by some of the new olive oil (literally 24 hours old).
Postcards from Tuscany
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Day 5 - The David, Santa Croce, leather and an elegant lunch. Again, Alessandra’s talk on David transported our group. Seeing David through the lens of Michelangelo’s strategic and ambitious mind brought the sculpture to life for us. The Santa Croce church is the Who’s Who of Italy buried here. We learned about the value of the real estate according to where you are laid to rest. Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini all have prominent places. In the church you will also find the famous leather school, founded after World War II to offer orphans training. The same family owns and runs this, creating authentic Florentine leather items. These are not souvenirs but keepsakes. Lunch at the very elegant Frescobaldi restaurant, owned by the noble family and wine maker. The beautiful day I forwarded us another alfresco experience!
Day 6 - Siena and The Maremma. It was hard to say goodbye to our villa home, but we were soon awed by the beauty and majesty of Florence’s rival, Siena. Our guide, Cristina, born and bred in Siena, brought history alive —including its citizens’ obsession with the Palio —the famous horse race with ancient roots held in the Campo during Summer. There was a special race held here just two weeks ago when nine of the jockeys fell off their horses and one of those horses went on to win the race! 17 neighborhoods in Siena, called Contrade, are named after animals including the shewolf, the turtle and the caterpillar — all vying for the trophy.
Lunch with plates of handmade pasta – Pici with wild boar ragu – made by our friends’ mother every morning was a revelation.
We headed for the coast for a quick stop at Talamone, a view with warm sea air that was refreshing. We ended the day arriving near my family farm in southern Tuscany. The view of Pitigliano is breathtaking as we rounded the corner, a page equipped from a medieval fairytale. Later, we gazed upon it at night.
Day 7 - The Etruscan Tombs. Sant’Egle, a restored 1600s customs house is our residence, owned by Erica and Alessandra, visionary Tuscans who have created a highly sustainable and beautiful agriturismo in this more remote part of Tuscany right across the road from my family‘s farm- where my grandfather emigrated from 100 years ago. This is a very special part of the trip for me.
We enjoyed a quiet and restorative yoga class in a studio that Erika designed that contains two Etruscan tombs. It is hard to describe the peaceful and expansive energy in this place. It was a great start before we ventured into the places where Etruscans built their decorative tombs 3,000 years ago. These were carved directly into the volcanic rock called tufa–truly unbelievable.
The Etruscans were civilized and cultured people, traders of olive oil and wine who were eventually conquered by the Romans. This was another completely unique Tuscany experience! We had lunch at the home of a brilliant chef, Moinia who prepared several types of Tuscan fare for us. . This is not a place you find on TripAdvisor! A walking guided tour of Pitigliano followed and also gave us some time for shopping - artisans making olive wood items, jewelry and linens - there are no chain stores here!
I cannot say enough about The Maremma- except that this place that tourists seldom visit might be the best part of my Tour. I also got to visit my family on our farm. A very good day!
Day 8 - On our last morning here, we took another long look at this natural and beautiful landscape, before driving back to Florence. On the way we stopped for a very long and leisurely lunch, seaside. Many plates of fresh seafood arrived at the table as we enjoyed the fresh sea air coming through the windows and being treated to a spectacular view of the sparkling coast of Italy’s Argentario.
We said our goodbyes as we brought people to their hotels in Florence that afternoon and all of us felt that we had become like family around the table during this week.
Until next time - early April! Come with us!