Our adjustment to life on the road continues! Following the hustle and bustle of Rome, we were all feeling the need to get away from the busy city and catch our breath. Renzi had us on a breakneck schedule learning, observing and talking about what we’ve seen. It was great, but completely exhausting for us all. What better place to get some R&R than Tuscany?
We had to be out of our apartment in Rome by 11 a.m. and our home in Tuscany was not available before 4 p.m. We decided to bypass the boring toll road through Italy and head for the longer and beautiful drive along the Mediterranean coast. What a treat that turned out to be! I am a girl who loves being on or near the water so, with a little help from Google Maps, we found a quaint beach town about 40 minutes outside of Rome called Santa Marinella. I’m sure Italy has a hundred Santa Marinellas, but this particular town was perfect for a quick stop. We learned the town had origins as an ancient Roman bathing resort.
We pulled over at a lovely spot for lunch called Bianca Ristorante and the boys spent time eating (one of our first times to have fish on the trip and it was delicious!) and playing in the water right outside of the restaurant. It was so nice to breathe in the beach air and enjoy!
It was then time to find our home for the next four days. Enter our friends at Inspirato who worked with us to book one of their amazing properties near Siena. “Near” is the optimal word. We found ourselves climbing a remote hillside up a gravel road for over three kilometers, a good twenty kilometers from Siena. It was so remote. Finally, we arrived to a clearing of three homes in a perfect cluster with a thousand year-old restored monastery anchoring the property.
We were met by Andi and his father, Lazano, at the gate and they showed us around the property and our villa. Andi shared the history of the house, first as a working monastery, then a private residence and even abandoned for 300 years. Andi and his family have been living here for 37 years. The place is spectacular, full with a pool, tennis court and plenty of grassy areas for the boys to play soccer, run around and just be boys!
Our first night we cooked some of the groceries that we selected to be here when we arrived. We drank wine and opened the windows and listened to the rain. Perfecto!
Renzi and I made up our mind pretty quickly that we were going to spend most of our time on the property, despite two millennia of history at our fingertips. Mainly because we have two more weeks touring around Tuscany, including an upcoming week at nearby Arezzo at the University of Oklahoma. Secondarily, because this place is so amazeballs. The pictures are incredible and still don’t do it justice.
The three weeks leading up to our departure were filled with eating out and each day in Rome was pretty hectic since our kitchen was small and there were so many options at our fingertips. All that to say, it was nice to have a kitchen to cook. We may not be Italian chefs but this girl has always been able to make a mean plate of pasta, vegetables and bread. Did I mention we bought some wine? So we are eating in three of the four nights we are here.
OK… I fib just a little.
One of the nights we had a special treat come to us. We hired a pizza chef named Nando from Napoli (Naples) who came to the house and showed us all how to make pizza dough for a pizza party. We learned the difference between Tuscan and Napoli pizza crust (Tuscan is more crispy) and which ingredients are typical for the Italians (ham, olives, artichokes, and mushrooms). Nando says his father, who is also a pizza maker, disagrees that crispy is better. All of us agreed that Tuscan pizza better than Napoli. ?
On the property is a wood burning pizza oven that has been here for 901 years! It was an incredible evening.
Our final day, Inspirato set up a tour of an organic family farm that specializes in cheese. We got to see how they make Pecorino (which means “of lamb”). The boys got to run around and pet the lambs, hold kittens, watch the largest pigs I have ever seen in my life get a fight, run after chickens and roosters and see how the actual cheese operation works.
After the tour we were invited inside the home of Giovanna and Giovanni Paugnano, where Giovanna cooked the most delicious lunch, all made from ingredients made on the farm. Both of their daughters help run the operation which includes renting apartments to travelers. The Paugnano’s are a part of the WWOOF network of organic farms. Renzi had heard about it as a possible experience to look one up in New Zealand and it was cool to see one here in Italy. Andrea was our translator and also Giovanni’s apprentice on the farm. To our surprise, Andrea was in a second life. Previous to the farm, he was an interior designer in Milano (Milan) and decided that life was not for him. After taking a break and travelling to India to “spend some time by myself and think,” Andrea left Milan to work on the farm. “I’m just trying to do my best every day, learn as much as I can,” Andrea said. It was a moving experience to sit around the table with this incredible family and eat the most amazing food ever.
As this relaxing Inspirato experience comes to an end and we get back to explorer mode, I’m even more grateful for my family, for the slower life in the country and for the adventures ahead! Renzi has promised if he wears us out that we can look for another Inspirato property to visit. I’m going to hold him to that.