30 Days on the Road in Italy…Day 18: Tuscany

Come with us as we explore Italy and check out properties for Gira! Italian Vacation Rentals.

Villa CastiglioneThis morning is a welcome break from the fast pace we’ve been on. We get some laundry done and hang it out on the line at Villa Castiglione.  The weather has been off and on, but today there’s enough sun and it looks like a good day for getting out and seeing more of Tuscany.  Luciana is a warm and friendly caretaker at the villa and she offers to take our stuff off the line when it’s dry and store it in a dry place for us.  She’s terrific.

From Villa Castiglione, you can walk into the village of Fiano, which is visible from the villa, at the crest of the hill nearby. This morning it’s a little muddy in the olive orchards (and the hunters’ shots can be heard in the area) so I take a quick drive to Fiano to see what it’s like. I stop into Jack’s Bar and have a quick cappuccino. The barrista is singing along with a Rolling Stones tune that is playing on the radio. It seems that a lot of the neighborhood is hanging out here and in the square right outside. I take a quick stroll through the town streets (my favorite pastime) and end up at some houses with terraces that open up directly to the olive orchards. This must be a nice place to live.

Gelsomino apartment at GelsobelloIrene has invited us to lunch at Gelsobello, so we don’t want to eat too much for breakfast, and we certainly don’t want to be late.  Irene and her family have a lot going on at their farm estate.  It seems that Irene has enough energy for everyone.  She is a fountain of ideas and initiatives that keep Gelsobello always at the forefront as one of the most accommodating and innovative places to go in Tuscany.  First, we take a quick tour of the newly renovated Gelsomino apartment.  It features a beautifully furnished terrace with a gentle view of the woods surrounding the estate, two bedrooms and a very modern living room and kitchen.  We love Irene’s taste, and how she takes these spaces and makes them so warm and welcoming.

Gelsobello viewWe continue around the property and down the scenic path behind the buildings, down to the cantina, where much of this year’s production of Fattoria Valacchi and Valicaia are being stored.  There is a thriving winery here at Gelsobello, which includes a very smooth grappa.  When you stay here, you can also taste the locally produced balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sweet vinsanto wine.

Irene at GelsobelloNow, with all the work out of the way it’s time to make our way to the well equipped kitchen/classroom where the cooking lessons are taught by native Tuscan chefs.  Irene and her staff have prepared a delicious lunch for us, which includes home made breads, cheese, prosciutto, olives, fruits and pasta. And alongside all of this, of course, her locally produced red and white wines.  We start to laugh at Irene’s stories and tell a few of our own.  She’s proud of the new kitchen and loves to use it.  When you stay at Gelsobello, we will send you the list of courses and the meals you will learn to prepare.

Gelsobello in TuscanyFollowing our extraordinary lunch, we retire to the breakfast room, which overlooks the terrace by the pool.  Irene’s dad is asleep in the warm November sun and we snap a quick photo of him.  We spend some time talking about funny political things that are happening in Italy and get into politics for a little while.  Italians love to talk about politics.  It’s not such a taboo subject as you might find the U.S.  They disagree and still love one another.

Florence American Cemetery and MemorialAfter a long goodbye, we find that we have enough time to see the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial.  It’s just before sunset when we are waved in by the guard at the entrance.  There are only a few visitors and several are leaving because it’s closing time. We spend a few minutes walking around the memorial and reading the quotations and wall-sized maps inside the building.  Hundreds of names are engraved on the wall, and for a time we walk among their graves.  It’s a sobering moment and a beautiful tribute to those who served to liberate Italy.  We can’t forget this history.

Our friend David is from Denver, but now lives full time in Florence.  He is the owner of Charnes Tours, which offers a selection of guided and self-guided bicycle and hiking tours in Tuscany, the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast.  We asked him to find us an economical spot for dinner in Florence and we know that we have asked the right guy.  We meet at the Piazza della Signoria.  We only see him once or twice a year, so there is a lot to get caught up on.  He takes us to a family run restaurant that is down some steps in the basement of a classic Florence building.  We enjoy the house pasta and unusual polpette specials and some good old Moretti beer.  After dinner, he recommends a little gelato at Grom and it does not disappoint.

Tomorrow:  A trip to visit our ancestors’ village of Lenola in Lazio.

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