After a beautiful stay in my new favorite city--Florence--my family and I scooted out into the countryside, headed for Tuscany. I was a bit nervous about what the famed wine country would be like. I'd hoped it would be a mirror image of the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun," complete with rolling countrysides of olive trees and vineyards, homes (still standing) that were built in the Middle Ages, grumpy Italian grandmas and dreamy Italian stallions; small hole-in-the-wall ristorantes with life-changing cheese and wine. I was ecstatic to find that it was all I'd hoped for. Never before had I slept in a castle, drank incredible wine with my lunch, eaten mozzerella like this before. Go to Tuscany.
But if you can't get there anytime soon, here's some motivation.
We spent three nights in a castle near the tiny Tuscan town of Monteriggioni. Our home base, Castel Pietraio, sat on 378 acres of rolling countryside, off the beaten path and centuries back in time. The grounds featured a vineyard (delicious wine) and a working farm.
This courtyard was just asking for a scene from Romeo + Juliet to go down. Sadly, it didn't happen during my stay.
Here's the mailbox. It's unsmashable.
Spread out on 378 acres, Castel Pietraio has plenty of space for winemaking. Vineyards for days.
When you make your own wine, you've got a lot of bottles to recycle. Here's how Castel Pietraio does it.
So many nooks and crannies on the property to explore. All of them romantic!
Nothing says "home" like giant castle fortress walls.
Yes, I did try to scale the wall on the left. No, I don't think you're supposed to.
Lots of outbuildings on the property to peak your inner child curiosity. I found this abandoned barn(?) or stable(?) on a walk of the grounds.
A fixer-upper, but not without charm. Our first day, we took a drive into the little town of Monteriggioni, a medieval Tuscan village with a castle, fourteen towers and a huge curtain wall. Inside is a large town plaza skirted by small ristorantes, cafes, wine shops, boutiques and shoe peddlers. I had the best caprese of my life here.
Little kids taking a donkey ride through the village.
Great views of the Tuscan countryside from the top of the castle walls.
We spent the following day exploring the town of San Gimignano, another walled medieval Tuscan town with the best views and incredible restaurants. I found the lasagna of my dreams here, and my sister fell in love with a tiramisu that was to die for. But, back to the views:
You could spend days walking the tiny side streets and alleyways, each boasting life-changing restaurants, yummy gelaterias and inspiring art studios. You really are transported back in time.
Beautiful ceramics at every turn. Want. Though it was cloudy most of the day (including a torrential downpour at one point) we were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Speaking of sunsets, the handful we got back in Monteriggioni weren't too shabby, either.
There's nothing like coming home to your castle after a long day exploring Etruscan towns.
And finally, as promised for my Aunt Linda, here are the shutters and doors of Tuscany.
This one's a chicken coop, but I still had to include it. While I was sad to leave Monteriggioni, there were more sights to see and gelato to eat. And so, we packed our bags and readied for a day in Siena (coming next!) and our next abode in Pietrasanta.
Special thanks to mi sorellina, Kara, for capturing a candid of me at work. It's rare for the photographer to end up in the family photos, so grazie, mi sorellina!
All the photos above (and more of Tuscany and Florence) can be viewed and purchased here.
Next stop: Siena and Pietrasanta!