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Part Two: The Beauty of Tuscany

When in Tuscany, time seems to slow down. This is a good thing, not a bad thing, for this workaholic. This is why I’ve not had the inclination to write a blog post since last Friday, so this is my catch-up post.

We checked out of Casa Maria Luigia on Friday morning, ending a magical three-day stay at this gem of a property. After a two-hour drive and a near-issue at the Italian tollbooth when Mark accidentally dropped his ticket outside the window (watching him get out to chase it down, all while watching the cars back up behind us is a memory I won’t soon forget), we picked up our friend Kim from the charming town of Arezzo. This begins part two of our trip – we’ve rented a villa in the heart of Tuscany, near the town of Sarteano, and invited several of our dear friends to join us for a week of leisure and celebration. In addition to Mark’s 60th in two weeks, two of our friends turned 60 earlier this year and one turns 60 at the end of this week.

Friday evening was all about taking in the views and getting settled into our villa, where Mark and Kim whipped up a delicious salad and fresh pasta for dinner.

Saturday started early with a drive back to Arezzo for their monthly antique market – the largest in Italy with more than 500 vendors! We walked the streets of the town and took in the sights, stopped for a delicious slice of pizza, all marking a lovely way to spend a Saturday. Our evening, back at the villa, included yet another delicious meal by Kim (and many helpers) of lasagna soup (deliziosa!) and salad.

Our Sunday was met with chilly, rainy weather. The perfect recipe for a lazy day that included reading, chatting with friends, playing games, and soaking up the views of this gorgeous Tuscan countryside. Our evening was capped off with a treat – Chef Nando (whose food we enjoyed two years ago!) came and served up incredible wood-fired pizza, along with stuffed focaccia, bruschetta, cantaloupe, and prosciutto. Truly the perfect ending to a perfect day.

We ventured out today (Monday) to Pienza, about an hour’s drive away from our villa. This picturesque town sits high above the rolling Tuscan farmland, and was founded by Pope Pius II in 1459. Prior to that, this fortified and primitive village was known as Corisgnano and dated back to Roman times. The city was “born from a thought of love and a dream of beauty,” and the Pope had big dreams for this city to become an urban center for this region. Unfortunately, he died a premature death in 1464 in a crusade against Muslims before realizing his dream.

Our first stop after fighting for a parking space was at a lovely little gelato shop, where we had the most delicious gelato! We then walked the streets, enjoying the charming shops, incredible views from every street, and a lovely cathedral – Duomo di Pienza, la cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. For such a small village, the cathedral was rich with color and character.

Our next stop was to Tenuta Valdipaitta, a small production winery located outside of Montepulciano. We toured their facilities and tasted several varieties of wine featuring the Sangiovese grape – white, rosé, reds, and a dessert wine. While this wasn’t the best wine we’ve had in Tuscany, we were all impressed with passion and creativity of these winemakers. You can tell this is more than a job, or even a career, for them – it’s a calling. Our host, Miriam, spoke of her vineyard as though they were people, using terms like young, spirited, angry, and tough.

Tonight’s dinner, back at the villa, included the best leftovers imaginable. On to more Tuscan and Umbrian adventures tomorrow! Caio!


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