A Tour of Tuscany + An Unexpected Day in Cortona

TuscanyOur Saturday in Italy was spent on a tour to Tuscany with the wonderful Michelle W., my Doha friend who is my travel inspiration. We met up at the Piazza del Popolo where we took in more of the beauty of Rome. The morning was great weather wise. It was in the low 80s and the sun hadn’t yet taken over. There was a large group of us, 50 to be exact. We headed to the bus for the first leg of our tour. The bus was nice and comfy which was great because I was ready for a nap.

Our first stop was Montepulciano, a quaint little Italian town with rich history. We spent about an hour there with a guide and got good historic information while visiting key sites. The hillsides are just unbelievably beautiful. Everywhere I turned I wanted to take a photo. We finished up there and headed to Sant’Antimo, a beautiful church nestled in the hillsides. We entered the church to witness the peaceful ritual of the Gregorian Chant performed by the monks who reside at the estate. It was quite enchanting (no pun intended) and beautiful.

We then headed to Poggio Il Castelliani, a beautiful winery, to have lunch and do a wine tasting. All 50 of us sat down to meat and cheese boards with a wonderfully refreshing salad. It was all very good and we were served our first of 5 wines. The lady served Jaden a glass of wine with the first course and when I gave her the eye, she didn’t serve him any more. He had a good ‘ol Coca Cola! Our second course was spaghetti and it was good with a bit of a spicy kick to it. And finally, we had biscotti that we dipped in our last wine. Whew! The wine was so strong! It was Vin Selto del Chianti. It tasted like a cognac. It tasted better as a shot. The other three wines in between, two were nothing to write home about but the Brunello di Montalcino was amazing. I really wanted to take some home. I will forever love a Brunello. It’s truly a great red wine.

We finished up at the winery and headed toward our last stop: Pienza. We had an hour to spend there which was fine because it wasn’t much to see. Jaden and I spent the first 25 minutes trying to find a bathroom! That was annoying. But once we finished with the bathroom, we roamed the streets a bit. We saw a wedding, people on stilts, and went into a few shops. I did find a couple of cute metal rings that I added to my jewelry collection. Then it was time to go! My only regret is that I didn’t taste the stinky cheese. I was over it by that time and was ready to head back. So we headed back to the bus en route to Rome.

I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of tours but this was a good one through Dark Rome. It is a nice way to see a lot in a short period of time. I think it was well worth the time and money.

*          *          *

A few days later Jaden and I were invited to spend the day in Cortona. We took a 2 hour train ride from Rome to get there and spent a spectacular day with spectacular people. The train station in Rome is nothing like the one in Paris. It’s a bit unorganized and we were totally left wondering if we were going about things the right way. Part of the confusion as well is when you’re sold a first class ticket on a train that doesn’t really have first class. It was a bit funny actually. Once we found the car marked 1st class, there was no AC in the car. So we rode comfortably in a 2nd class car.

Anyway, we spent the day exploring the beautiful town of Cortona with friends. We had coffee at La Saletta, a cute little place near the square. It was evident that the locals are well acquainted. They are very friendly people and we were welcomed. I went into Il Pozzo, an art gallery and gift shop. This is such a brilliant place. They have beautiful pieces of art and photography. Additionally, they have spectacular paper goods and leather goods. The shop owner is a kind man and was happy to pour us a couple of glasses of Prosecco while we browsed. I couldn’t leave without getting a couple of gifts and something for myself. After wandering into a few more shops, it was time for lunch.

We had lunch at La Loggetta. This little place is a gem! It was truly one of the best meals I had all week. Our starters were: mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, artichokes, & deep fried porcini (I think) mushrooms. Ummm Ummm good. I had a pasta dish for my main course and Jaden had grilled sausage that was wonderful. I also had a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. An excellent choice. We were in great company as well. Once lunch was over, we witnessed Gregory serenade a wedding party. It was a great finish to a great meal.

From there Samantha welcomed us to her home, a beautiful one I must say, in the countryside of Cortona. As we sat out at the table, I looked around and missed home a bit. I could imagine the gardening I could do…and it was peaceful and it felt like a home. Samantha’s son, so thoughtful, brought out a plate of watermelon. We introduced him and his cousin to salted watermelon. He thought we were joking but he tasted it anyway and like it. I strongly encouraged him to try a little salt on the cantaloupe next time.

It was soon time to head back to the train station. And we did. It was a great day in Cortona. I hope to get there again one day. Thank you Samantha & @ggeneret for your great hospitality. Jaden and I will always remember our time in Cortona fondly. Please tell your family thank you as well and Samantha, remind your mom that she must get to Portland!

Living life.

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