05.20.2010 - 05.29.2010
May 20th - May 22nd
After quickly navigating our way through the winding streets of Florence we got onto the A1 and were headed out to the countryside in our Mercedes C-class sedan. We felt quite stylish in such a nice car and still think the car company messed up but who are we to complain? The girls and I felt that we were almost back at home being in a car again with me driving and them in the backseat. We turned on the radio and all enjoyed rocking out and looking at the view. Of course I was rocking out a little too much and missed the turnoff to Assisi so we took the scenic route and drove through many small Tuscan and Umbrian towns that were not part of our original plan. Thank goodness for my navigators in the back!
After making our way down the steep, windy lanes in Assisi we arrived at the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement St. Anthony's Guesthouse. It is a convent that was originally built in the 12th century and the American and Canadian sisters who run the guesthouse were very welcoming and the views of St. Clare's Basilica were amazing. The first night we played in the garden of the guesthouse and headed out once again in search of pizza.
On the 21st we had a full day in Assisi and took in all of the sights. We all enjoyed learning a lot about St. Clare and St. Francis and a highlight was seeing some of their relics (robes, hair, sandals, etc.) in the basement of St. Clare's church. Their message was one of peace and harmony and walking through Assisi you got that feeling. There were pilgrims from all over the world enjoying the town and we saw many nuns and priests walking around as well. The girls really wanted to do what Francis did so we hiked up to a woods above the town and they took off their tops and ran around laughing. It was quite the sight! Assisi is a very tranquil town of 3,000 people and it was the first time I felt really comfortable walking around alone with the girls late at night.
Before getting into the car and heading out on our drive to our villa we all decided that a 3 mile uphill hike to the place where St. Francis and his followers use to go to meditate would be a good idea. The sisters at our guesthouse packed us a wonderful picnic lunch and we set out on our adventure. About 1/2 way through we were looking for the mules that carried the girls on our hike in Morocco and it took quite a bit of encourging from all of us to get to the top. We were all thrilled once we got there (of course I took a wrong turn and we went at least a mile further then we needed to) and the site was magical. We had to eventually jump the fence to get into the chapel area because we were so tired. There was a small outdoor chapel and caves where he used to meditate.
We freshened up at the guesthouse after the hike and then hit the road to Cortona to meet up with G'mama, Alice and Mary Jane.
Our Tuscan Villa 15km outside of Cortona
May 22nd - May 29th
We all arrived at La Cantina (the villa) at about the same time and were blown away by the views. I couldn't think of a nicer place to spend a week in Tuscany. The villa is on a working winery and it is surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills. At night you can see hilltop towns lit up on the surrounding hillsides. We have had a very enjoyable week together with a lot of time relaxing by the pool, chatting over coffee in the morning and of course drinking our fair share of wine in the evenings. Again we keep repeating that we are living in a postcard or travel brochure.
In addition to our time at the house we visited several hilltowns including Cortona, Montepulciano (where they filled the New Moon movie), and Deruta (to buy pottery). In each town we wandered the narrow, cobblestoned streets, ate our fill of pasta and gelato and did some obligatory shopping. In Cortona we ate at the fabulous Osteria del Teatro where Alice had eaten last Fall and the chocolate marscipone did not disappoint for dessert. In Deruta the girls liked seeing a car similar to Mr. Bean's and we couldn't believe that they were taller than the car.
One evening we asked Edda, the woman who owns the villa, to give us a cooking class in the evening. We cooked two types of pasta, tiramisu and bbq'ed some veal. It was a lot of fun and we promised to get together on our return to try to cook the meal again.
Tomorrow Alice and MJ head to the Cinque Terra and we head to Croatia. I have enjoyed immensely my time with them and we will all miss their company. Peace...