Savoring Tuscany

Oct 18th, 2011

We arrived into Florence airport and were greeted by sunshine and our guide met us with her sunny smile as well. It was a wonderful flight over Greenland into Amsterdam and then a short trip to Florence on a connecting plane. After driving to our villa we were invited to go to the vineyard we are visiting in a few days with our guests. We said sure, knowing we had not slept a minute yet and it was just morning in Italy the next day. We thought we could make it back by 5:30 and get plenty of rest for the next day. We didn’t arrive back to our room until 9:30 and finally got to go to bed—this was about 30 hours of being up starting in Portland.

After a very quiet night, we woke refreshed and ready to go to Paola’s prearranged appointments. She is looking already for our next tour. We visited the Butcher, a small business that has taken off—he now operates a full restaurant with his meats. He is famous for his McDario hamburger was a half-pound of well-seasoned ground beef with a quick sear and served on a pile of lightly sauted onions, some fresh tomato slices, and some Tuscan bread and fried potatoes. He dubbed the “Mc” prefix to emphasize it is not a McDonald burger. He is not fast and doesn’t want anyone to eat it fast either! He and his wife, Kim, an American, have become one of the most sought after tourist locations. We walked into the butcher shop to be greeted with wine and bread and olive oil and their salty-peppery blend. They through in some wine and it was almost as good as a lunch—but it was just their way of saying welcome and let me show you what you can enjoy in our restaurant upstairs. Of course the first time we went it was too busy and we were to leave after our tastings disappointed, but happy this passionate man and his wife have carved out a very successful lifestyle while making a living. Sound familiar? Lenore and I are seeing allot of this. People have told us they first made wine for a hobby and finally decided to go into the wine business. There was the pasta lady, Willma, Tavernelle, who told us she just made pasta and sold it until one day a visitor asked if she would teach her how to make the pasta. She did and then it was the beginning of her newfound business of cooking classes. She handed me an apron and I got to work making her Chianti style pasta.

Our guests finally arrived in Florence on Monday October 17, 2011; we met and boarded our 20 seat bus and took off for our Castle in the Tuscany Hills. It was a little like taking a ride through a wormhole and back to the middle ages as we went from the skinny paved roads to the dirt and dusty Roman road that leads to the Castle. Our guests commented on the scenery and fresh cool air as they filed off the bus. Next they were shown to their rooms in this thick stone walled building that has been home to many before but perhaps none who loved it more than its current owners. Sergio and Stefano are chefs from a former life, but now the proud hosts in this beautiful place. Our rooms are furnished typical of the country side homes in Tuscany. Furniture is not new but rather handed down from generation to generation. Each room has an old armoire and two twin beds under one double headboard, pretending to be just one bed. Every room but ours has its own bath, and our bathe is just a short distance outside in the hallway. There are two common areas—one for three bedrooms (where ours is) and the other for five bedrooms. All rooms are spacious and clean with the sheets and towels smelling of fresh air. Dryers are not used in the country side of Tuscany.

Dinner tonight was long and lovely. To watch our hosts in their element and treat us to their beloved recipes of a black cabbage soup, made with white beans, and bread—one of the many ways Tuscan’s