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02 March 2024

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Tuscan Adventure

Tuscan Adventure

Have you been thinking about joining us on a Tuscan Adventure? Are you wondering what exactly the trip will be like? Read today’s blog for Lori’s perspective on her trip to Tuscany for a peek inside our itinerary!

Ah Tuscany! I believe that there is a part of my soul that has always longed for Toscana and it did not disappoint!

While planning our epic adventure we struggled to find exactly what we were looking for in the Tuscany region so we turned to the experts at Ciao Amici who of course created magic for us!

Filomena and Kelly shared some amazing ideas and planned an authentic Tuscan adventure to rival any movie we have seen about Italy! Those of us staying in Trastevere were picked up by Giuseppe, owner of the property where we would be staying, an agriturismo Italia villa where everything is farm to table from the property. We arrived in awe of the beauty of the landscape, the home, our rooms and the incredible warm welcome of the staff. Actually it feels odd to write the word “staff” because during our 5 day stay these people became our FAMILY and tears were shed by all of us upon departure. The love is real here!!!

While we waited for the next part of our group to arrive, we blissfully engaged in the fine art of doing nothing as we sat outside under the portico. Wrapped in a light blanket, we listened to the rain fall around us. This would be our only few hours of rain on the trip but it was welcomed as we rested and read while sipping on wine…. An exquisite indulgence of peace.

Lunch was selected from a delicious sounding menu and was served on a covered patio. I enjoyed the most delectable tagliatelle tartufo along with Chianti produced at the villa. Divine is far too simple a word to describe the symphony of tastes my senses experienced that day!

The rest of our party arrived in the early evening and once again we were offered a selection of wines for aperitivo. Each wine was unique and a perfect blend of Italian grapes grown locally to create a heavenly indulgence.

Dinner was followed by us gathering in the living room with dessert and homemade digestives in flavors of limoncello, fennel, cherry and more. Laughter echoed throughout the night as we got to know our hosts and more about the area. The fabulous Bertina, our hostess who is a combination of a house mom, magician and Italian leprechaun (if there is such a thing) made sure that our every need was met. She often anticipated what we wanted even before we knew what it was. She is a gift from God and we truly wanted to take her home with us! Here’s hoping Giuseppe will plan events here in Cranford and will bring Bettina along with him. We love her!

We turned in late that night but had some great plans ahead…..

Our second day in Tuscany began with a beautiful breakfast spread along with fresh espresso and cappuccinos! Today was the day for our cooking lesson!!

Bettina outfitted us with custom aprons and chef hats and guided us to the outdoor kitchen where we met chef Giuseppe (not to be confused with the owner Giuseppe!) Today we would create a 3 course lunch for ourselves with the finest and freshest ingredients. Simplicity is the key today and would cause awe as we created magic with the most simple ingredients from the farm.

Our first steps included peeling and chopping to create the base of what would become chicken cacciatore. Quickly the scents of tomato, carrots and onion began to perfume the room. Once this was simmering the pasta making could begin. What seemed to begin as a simple process soon turned into a kneading, folding and chopping exercise that required the muscles of our handsome, big, strong men! Bertina took charge and kept these fellas working hard and on task!!

In the meantime, the ladies prepared the dessert of tiramisu. This unique variation was so simple yet created a dish so elegant and light, we only HOPE that we can replicate it at home. It was truly heaven on earth!

After hours of prep, our meal was complete! As we sat to dine, we felt a keen sense of pride and satisfaction of a job well done. All of us had an appreciation of how simple ingredients can create the most delicious of meals and also how much work goes into creating a beautiful meal!

After our cooking lesson and hearty lunch we rested poolside with cocktails as we took in the amazing views of the Tuscan countryside.

Our hosts suggested that we might enjoy an evening trip to Montepulciano, a neighboring town famous for its wine. Of course we said yes! We had no idea what awaited us and soon found ourselves in a fairy tale village filled with incredibly steep hills, the most gorgeous vistas and surprises around every bend!

The hills require a special mention as the whole village is filled with them. This was not the day for fancy shoes yet those who wore them, balanced with grace and beauty. As for adults in our group, we held on to each other, helping each other many steps of the way!

On our ride into the village we passed a REAL wild boar which brought a discussion of how invasive and abundant these animals are in this region. Though they are delicious to eat, they are a menace to farmers and their crops! While shopping we saw these animals featured in full effect as we passed many stores selling all sorts of boar memorabilia!

After a delightful dinner together we separated to explore what struck our fancy. Some of the group took a wine tour into an old cave where they not only learned quite a bit but also purchased a fair amount of wine which this particular winery offered to ship back to the states for free!

The ladies explored the shops and paid a visit to our new friend Elisabetta at her evening job. Elisabetta hooked us up with a special cocktail which she allowed us to take on the road, as we promised to return the glasses to her in the morning at the villa.

How wonderful it was to discover the actual area of which so many of our favorite wines have come from! Truly a day well spent!

I love to visit wineries! Over the years I have enjoyed the vineyards, the vibe and the taste of grapes from wineries in NJ, NY and PA. But visiting wineries in Tuscany, Italy is a level far above what I have previously experienced and is most definitely in a category all its own!!

We had not pre planned this wine tasting adventure so we were quite thrilled to learn Giuseppe could create this experience for us with only a day’s notice. After filling our bellies with a hearty Italian breakfast and espresso, we again boarded the vans, this time through the rolling hills of Toscana!

Our first stop was a quaint family run vineyard where we tasted wine that was stored in clay pots. A unique (and expensive) way to keep wine created a drink that was as beautiful as the grapes that created it. We began to learn about process and aging and the differences in barrels and steel.

Our second stop was in Montepulciano and boy did we need to climb to get there. The walkway up to the winery felt like we were climbing up to the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse and again I found myself grateful for my cute but very functional sandals.

This winery, Crociani, not only produced wine but also their own delicious olive oils. We were lucky enough to taste both! It was here that I tasted a wine that I immediately felt I had to bring a bottle home for a dear friend. Whether the message was heaven sent or not, I don’t know but this wine brought back memories of ‘96/‘97 vintages, spicy pork and laughter so I purchased a bottle and ear marked it for this friend. I hope it lives up to my expectations, because by this point we were starting to feel a bit tipsy!

Next Giuseppe returned us to the Villa for a delicious lunch and a taste of some of the wines produced at the villa where we were staying. Salads, meats, cheeses and a yummy main course filled our bellies and prepared us to enjoy more wine. A fun fact that we noticed, in Italy bread is often placed on the table in bags! Such a unique twist on our American breadbasket!

After lunch we again piled into the vans for winery number 4. As we drove over the hills, the gorgeous cypress trees dotted the landscape assuring us that we were in the beautiful region of Toscano. Here at Innocenti we tasted a different kind of wine, Brunello and of course it was quite exquisite! After tastings and photo ops we departed for our 5th and final destination.

Here we frolicked among the vineyard as we felt the bliss of many glasses of wine. We crunched on tarali as we tasted some really special vintages. Again we purchased many and feeling happy we departed for home to the villa.

Giuseppe ordered pizzas for us as we relaxed by the pool. It was a gorgeous evening and we soaked up every last bit! When the pizzas arrived we again indulged in wines of our villa, this time Chianti’s which were the perfect companion to our yummy Italian pizzas.

As usual, the evening culminated in the living room where we sat chatting and laughing about the events of the day. As the wine began to make our eye lids heavy, we started to retire to our rooms. Tomorrow would be a day of no plans…. Only sun and fun poolside and we were all looking forward to that!

Waking up in a gorgeous Tuscan villa with no plans other than relaxing poolside, is the stuff that dreams are made of! After a sumptuous Italian breakfast, on our last day in Tuscany, THAT is exactly what we had planned.

Since we had no schedule, each of us made our way outdoors in our own time, each finding our perfect spot, whether in sun or shade, where we could while away the hours enjoying cocktails, the Tuscan sun and each other. Bettina and the ladies spoiled us with mojitos (with mint from the garden) and Bellinis along with special Italian treats that were perfect for snacking on. It was an absolutely perfect day topped only by the surprise presented mid morning by our wonderful children.

As we lounged in our Italian bliss, the young ones disappeared and soon returned with a handmade sign, presenting us with an event they had planned for the parents. Unbeknownst to us, they had worked with Bertina and Giuseppe to plan an early evening wine and cheese picnic for us as gratitude for this Italian vacation. (These kids are the BEST!!!❤️) We were SO EXCITED!

Around 5pm we parents hopped into the van and were taken to a beautiful local creamery where they produce a variety of pecorino cheeses. Here we were invited to not only select as many cheeses as we’d like to try, but also any accompanying accouterments as well as the wine to go with it. What a treat!!

After making our selections we were invited to find a space where we would like to enjoy our picnic and a round table under a grapevine seemed the perfect spot! We were soon presented with two beautiful picnic baskets containing our selections, all courtesy of our generous children.

Brian became our sommelier as we tried each bottle of wine to determine which was our favorite. We relaxed as we we reveled in the beauty around us, thanking God for all of our abundant blessings!

While we enjoyed our wine and cheese picnic the younger generation took a ride into the town of Pienza for aperitivo. Sadly, they found that many of the retailers and restaurants closed on Tuesdays, however they did find an open bar with killer views. Around 8pm, we all returned to the villa as we gathered for our final multi course wine tasting dinner.

Dinner, as usual, was a delight for our senses and we were honored to be offered some of the most special bottles of wine to go with each course. We had all become family during our stay and we were all feeling melancholy about our departure the next day. Realizing that our hostess Bettina was celebrating a birthday this week, we surprised her with our American version of “Happy Birthday.”

The evening ended as it had been this week, in the living room laughing and enjoying each other’s stories. Soon though the reality of packing and an early departure crept in to remind us that more Italian adventures awaited us. As we turned in for the night, anticipation began to grow for our next stop which would be Roma!

Wouldn’t you like to experience this for yourself? Join us on our Tuscan Adventure, just click the link below for details!

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