We slept in a bit this morning as I think the toll of travel finally took precedent over the excitement of being here. Once awake and showered we were off for a quick bite at the hotel restaurant and then off to the San Lorenzo street market and the main food market.
This is always one of my favorite stops. I sure wish we had something like this food market in Phoenix…only problem is I would weigh 400 lbs. They have everything here from meats, to fish, to flowers, pastas, seasonings and spices, cheeses, wines…..it goes on and on. We stocked up on some risotto, spice and seasoning mixtures, and we were off.
We rushed back while stopping at a few of the street carts to pick up a few goodies for those back home and it was back to the hotel. We had an 11 am transfer from the hotel to the airport where we would get our cars for the trip to Umbria.
Now driving is always a little initial stress for everyone. We set up two people per car so you eventually have a little freedom, privacy and space. I love the Florence airport because it is small and easy to get out of. A couple of turns and you are on the Autostrada and on your way. This year we have 10 travelers, so 5 cars. I am the lead car. I have to say this was the smoothest transition we have ever had. Trust me – we have had some adventures with this little event over the years!!! But this time, no glitches.
We were off – Goodbye Florence and hello countryside.
We made our way south on the A1 towards Umbria – but we had a little stop along the way to the Prada Outlet. Thank God for the Iphones – they now make my life SO much easier on this trip. Tracking location is great and with all of Italy on Goggle Maps including street views – it is a much easier endeavor. In the past all we had was walkie-talkies and after a mile of separation you might as well be on Mars. I can assure you we had some separation issues in the past but this trip, at least in terms of our first day, we all managed to stay together – for the most part.
We made it to the Prada Outlet and we turned the ladies loose. Luckily there is a little café next to the store and so those not interested in taking advantage of the 40-60% savings were able to relax and grab a beverage and something to eat.
After about an hour and a half of shopping we were ready to go. Back on the A1 and then across Tuscany over the hills and down to the Niccone valley and Umbria. We stopped at the little market in Mercatale a stocked up on supplies – jug wine, coffee, milk, and whatever snackage needed. Then it was down the valley across the river and then up, up and more up the dusty, gravel road to the country houses.
I always love arriving and getting settled in. It’s always interesting to see who picks what spaces for their week here in the casas. We all figured it out, got settled, and then the jug wine was cracked open and the vacation continued but now at a very relaxed pace.
I love the crescendo and decrescendo of this trip. Just like a piece of music this trip amps up and then winds down only to amp up again at the end. Getting my travelers to the country is wonderful. It is fun to see everyone adjust and familiarize themselves with this completely contrasting environment from that of Florence and its tight streets and constant buzz of Vespas and sirens. The country is relaxing, calm and rejuvenating.
A quick swim in the pool and it was time to go up to the main house for our welcome dinner prepared by our host Elizabeth and her partner Paola. To start, they prepared an assortment of local cheeses, sheep and cow cheeses and three honeys - chestnut, acacia, and sunflower. A little dab of one of these honeys on a piece of the cheese and wow what a delight. Add some local sausage and melon and proschuitto and a glass of vino rosso and we were settling in for a relaxing evening.
Dinner included home made lasagna with homemade pasta that just melted in your mouth and a delicious salad with homemade dressing over local greens from someone’s garden in Umbertide. Fabulous setting as dinner was served on the big farmhouse table in the La Pietra cocina.
We enjoyed dinner which was capped off by one of my favorite desserts, panna cotta with fruiti di bosco – local berries. Anyone who has been on this trip remembers this dessert! Wow unreal!!!
With one jug of wine gone and the second jug being cracked open we enjoyed conversation and the cool mountain air out on the porch terrace. Slowly the tempo wound down and it was time to call it a night.