How I have longed to type “Tuscany”. This part of our amazing trip was a dream fulfilled. We left Cinque Terre in a slow, steady downpour of rain. We headed inland slightly, driving past mountains scraped naked for the precious Carrara marble inside. The highways there are lined with slate after slate, marble factory after marble factory. We took a quick detour to see the leaning tower of Pisa, a visit worthy of it’s own post, and then turned even more inland towards Florence. Towards Tuscany.

The rain slowed, the sun broke out a little, the kids snored quietly in the back, and Dave reached over and grabbed my hand:

“We’re in Tuscany!” He whispered excitedly.  Sure enough, rolling green hills, grape vines, olive trees and the famous Cypress trees towering like sentinels over the bucolic Tuscan farmhouses filled our windows. It was like driving into a picture, or a movie. Tuscany is exactly as I imagined, and more. Better. It is my new happy place.

We drove along small, winding, breath-taking roads. We drank in the fresh post-rain air. Our eyes grazing the countryside with love. The kids stirred in the back, I may have veered off the road a touch while daydreaming of moving to Tuscany, and they too fell instantly in love. We unanimously decided to skip Florence. We had no desire for a city. For museums. For art. All we wanted was to see the beauty of this countryside. Of Tuscany.

I’m terrible at navigation. Even with a GPS. Especially when the roads are one step above a dirt road. I got us lost. I pulled up to an big, magnificent, winery. Grape vines and olive trees rolling down the hill at it’s feet. The walled city of San Gimignano a stunning backdrop several kilometers away. Dave and Christian went in for directions. They came out grinning ear to ear, Christian clutching a bottle of wine. They had directions, just across the road, and a spot in the wine tour and tasting in the morning. We were home.

Our airbnb here is out-of-this world. The Montegonfoli farmhouse is stunning in every aspect. We had an amazing, large, roomy 3-bedroom apartment with a living room, big farmhouse kitchen and 2 bathrooms. On our budget race through Italy, this was a gem. We decided to eat in and drove through captivating villages to the big grocery in Poggibonsi. One of my favorite pasttimes is shopping in native markets. I loaded up our cart with new-to-me goodies, while Soren found some fresh tuna and salmon fillet that he later grilled up as the best midnight snack ever.

We fell asleep completely, perfectly happy. All of us woke before the alarm, thoroughly rested and at peace. Tuscany is where you go to reset. I reset. I felt relaxed.  Happy. Radiant even. We drove through the grape fields, on a dirt road, to the winery across the street. We passed horses out for a morning run, cows grazing under the Tuscan sun, and bees buzzing the Spring blooms collecting pollen for the local honey.

The winery, Fattoria Poggio Alloro is stunning. Founded in the 50’s by three brothers it is still run by a large and loving family today. Besides wine and olive oil they also grown saffron, raise cows for beef, and honey from their own bees. We were treated to a fabulous wine tasting complete with rustic plates of cured meats, cheeses, bread and the most amazing olive oil ever. I can honestly say, those hours, sitting under the warm, beautiful, perfect sun, are some of the best in my life.

We fell in love with the food, the wine and the people. After our tasting we went in to buy some wines for home. While they ship some of their wines to the states, it is obviously a much better price at the farm without international shipping costs. Soren and Lindsay enthusiastically filled a case (or two) with bottles and loaded it into the back of Veronica. Amazingly, all that wine made it back safely to Texas through customs. While shopping, and trying to not buy it all, we were assisted by an absolutely delightful young woman. Sarah Fioroni herself. I may have a little crush.

Sarah is not only the daughter of one of the founding brothers, Amico, but an accomplished author (her book A Family Farm in Tuscany is wonderfully written), chef and so much more. I cannot wait to take one of her cooking workshops back in Tuscany or in Texas. She’s even coming here in November, and has graciously invited us to a wine tasting in Stuttgart. I’m melting inside. I cannot write enough wonderful things about Sarah,  Fattoria Poggio Alloro, the wines themselves. The S. Gimignano D.O.C. Rosso “Convivio” is  my favorite. I’m a red wine drinker, and this one was perfection. Deep, dark, full-bodied. Gorgeous with the cured meats served during the tasting. I am saving my precious bottles for the perfect occasion here at home.

I am counting the days till Sarah is here in Germany. I am counting pennies till I can go to Tuscany again.