This month I had the chance to make a decade-long dream come true: A week in Tuscany, with my husband, Erez -- alone! We left our three lovely children in the capable and frankly heroic hands of their Savta (grandmother,) and made our escape! A quick 3.5 hour flight from Tel Aviv, and there we were: Italy, at long last!
We spent our first couple of days in Rome, and our last few days in Umbria, but the highlight of our visit was decidedly the few days we spent in Tuscany, at a little agriturismo (farm stay) called Podere Spedalone, not far from the Tuscan town of Pienza.
We arrived after a 90-minute drive from Orvieto, down windy and dusty country roads, and were greeted immediately by Alessandro, whom we liked instantly. We drank a glass of wine and breathed in the rolling green hills and abiding quiet. The agriturismo is a working farm, with 14 guest rooms in a main building. Chickens, pigs, turkeys (the goose was eaten by a fox, apparently,) an impressively-sized vegetable garden, vines, herbs, and olive trees. Modest, charming, and quite comfortable room -- and we were instantly happy.
Dinners at Spedalone are served family style, with all the guests and sometimes some of the staff sharing the meal at a large wooden farmhouse table. Food was prepared in an open kitchen, where Erez (who is a professional chef) was a frequent guest. Some of the food was standout delicious; some was just comfortably good. Wine was poured freely, and every night was different but the same: Awkward greetings among guests from Italy and abroad, drinks outside to watch the sun set, inside for a few-course dinner with the conversation gradually warming from cordial to warm to uproarious laughter. I nearly cried every night from laughing so hard, and found the family-style dinners to be a huge highlight of the trip. I won't soon forget the folks I met around those tables. Good people, drawn by a good place, and a wonderful, talented host.
Alessandro was behind it all and is what made Spedalone work so well for us. Funny, charismatic, hardworking -- so hardworking -- curious, intelligent, a truly skilled people-person, we fell in love with Alessandro and after our few days at Spedalone consider him a friend. He has just the right touch: how to engage in an honest and serious conversation, how to bring out the shyest of guests, how to delight us each with his stories and jokes without feeling like we were just another couple to him. We felt at home, because Alessandro opened not just his property but himself up to us. We found ourselves doing much the same, and truly, there is nothing so freeing as opening up your heart to others. It was truly perfect.
In between the many bottles of wine and great laughter we enjoyed at Spedalone, along with the gorgeous country views, the sounds of chickens squawking and birdsong and buzzing insects, we enjoyed wonderful day trips in the area. Montepulciano was probably our favorite: climbing the clock tower and seeing the expansive views all around were a highlight. Nearby Pienza was lovely, as well. Siena, about an hour away, was terribly crowded -- we were there over the weekend -- and although the Duomo / Cathedral was an amazing sight to see, we preferred the smaller towns. Montalcino had the loveliest of views, surrounded by its mountains and vineyards, lots of cute wine shops in the old city.
Tuscany looks like the picture postcards. It's so beautiful. We didn't find it overly touristy, for the most part, maybe because we stayed away from Florence and were so far out of the country, or because of when we travelled, midweek, mid-May. The weather was perfect, mid-70s and sunny most of the time. It was like a dream.
Alas, all good things end, do they not? So back to Rome, some quick shopping and dinner, and the next morning we found ourselves on a plane, and now home.
It is good to be home, and back in the studio. Very contented to have my memories of this trip, and delighted in the knowledge that we will go back. To Italy, to Tuscany, to Spedalone. To freedom, and to laughter! And wine. Really pretty much the greatest things around.