Archive | August, 2011

The Morning After.6

15 Aug

Before we turned to leave, Marisa said one more thing to me. I smiled and nodded my head yes.

You may recall this as the ending to our meeting with the ladies. When I smiled and nodded yes, I was actually accepting Marisa’s invitation for breakfast the next day! Around nine the next morning, we walked down the long drive to their house.  I think Len was about to ask “Are you sure you understood her?” when they came around the house waving at us.

We exchanged hugs and buongiornos and a few minutes later they emerged with the largest croissants we had ever seen. They were filled with various jams and cremes and accompanied by rich espresso. Heavenly.

Once again, conversation flowed easily…we were like old friends now enjoying breakfast together, sharing our plans for the day, and soaking in what the experience had to offer. There were times I think all four of us were talking – and hearing – at the same time,  a great cultural skill if you happen to be from an Italian family.

We spent a lot of time talking about their home in Naples, a city where Len and I want to spend more time and also the birthplace of my maternal grandparents. Before long, they were inviting us to visit them in Naples! We exchanged phone numbers and mentally added this to our bucket list. Around 10:30, we finally bid our farewells. Lots of smiles, hugs, and promises to meet again. Oh, how we only hope!

After we left the ladies, we met with Emanuela, shared our stories about our dinner and our time with the ladies, then ordered some Pietranera to be shipped home. Each time we open a bottle we’ll relive these marvelous days and think fondly of our new friends.

Arrivederci ladies, and grazie for the most amazing memories!


Judy and Len

The Dinner on the Hill.5

13 Aug


There is a paradox about many of the hill towns in Tuscany. You can clearly see them from a distance, yet they disappear as you approach. Such is the case with Sant’Angelo in Colle. Marisa, Maria and Emanuela had all recommended that we drive to Il Leccio for dinner. Not far, they told us. Just turn left, then right, then keep driving.

So after a most enjoyable day, beginning with our tour, then the tasting and finally our chance meeting and subsequent two-hour conversation with the ladies, we headed for dinner at Il Leccio. The restaurant, we were told, offered the highest and most amazing views of Montalcino and we were hungry.

We set out for what we thought was a 5-10 minute drive. We drove through the winding hills, and with each turn, expected to see the restaurant yet all we saw was a town in the distance. About 20 minutes into the trip, with the sun setting and our stomachs unhappy, we needed to decide to continue or turn back. Oh, well, we had come this far…

Finally, up the highway, we saw a sign. We were in another town! The sign read Sant’Angelo in Colle. Surely they would have told us the restaurant was in another town, but to them, I guess it’s all Montalcino.  Onward we proceeded and eventually saw an arrow pointing to the left and the name Il Leccio. Finally! But not so fast, impatient ones, for ahead of us was a cobblestone street with a pebbled parking area on the left and no sign of a town. We parked and saw what appeared to be a few locals. “Il Leccio?” we asked, and in the typical Italian manner, they replied “Si, sempre diritto.” To Italians, everything is always straight ahead.

Ok, where is the town, where is the restaurant, where are we???? We started to climb some very steep streets…we were in the wall of a city but where was the city? At each intersection we randomly chose a direction.

After an amazingly steep climb,  we heard some voices. Yeah! We actually split and ascended the hill from separate directions. At the top was a piazza, a few restaurants, a church, and the magnificent view. This was the city we had seen from the distance.

“Do you have reservations?” they asked at Il Leccio. Stay calm, Judy, after all this, we are going to eat here. There were several large parties, but one small table outside that was surely meant for us.

We learned that Sant’Angelo in Colle is the highest growing area of Montalcino, 400+ meters above sea level. Although the sun had set, the moonlight and stars cast a glow on the hillside, the night was brilliant, and the view spectacular as promised. We shared pasta and salad by candlelight under the stars and simply ordered a bottle of sparkling water as we had ample wine waiting for us at the villa. A storybook ending to a most amazing day.



The Owner.4

4 Aug

“My name is Judy,” I explained in my best Italian. “My husband and I are guests at the villa tonight.”

“Oh, they didn’t tell me anyone was staying here,” she replied in Italian, looking from me to her friend.

“I recognize you from your website – your face and smile!” I blurted out as it struck me I knew this lovely stranger’s face.

She smiled at me and we all relaxed enough that she invited me for coffee.

“Let me get my husband and I’ll be right back.” I didn’t want Len to miss this.

But back “at the ranch” when I told Len the ladies had invited us to coffee, he looked at me like I had two heads. “Let me get this straight…it’s 5:30 PM, and I’m going to leave the comfort of “our villa” and this wonderful array of wines to accompany you to have coffee with two women I’ve never met and not understand a word of the conversation.

“Right.” And then I smiled in a way that wives know how to do.

We walked down the long drive and I knew Len couldn’t believe we were actually going to visit with the owner of the estate. After all, he was the one who had done the research and found the estate after so many years.

We sat on their large, inviting patio overlooking a huge crystal blue pool on one side and the glorious sun laden hills of Montalcino on the other. They served us dark rich espresso they had just brewed. Marisa Centolani, her husband Giovanni Peluso, and their children own and operate the estate. He comes from Naples, where they still live much of the year. Maria, the lighter haired lady, is Marisa’s cousin who accompanied her on this trip as Giovanni was in Paris on business.

We talked about everything…our families, our travels, places in Italy we’ve visited and those we need to visit, politics, the state of the world, life in Italy, Italian musicians, the difference between the food, pizza, bread, etc., from north to south, the winery, the age and history of the buildings, Italian culture, and living life to its fullest. The conversation flowed easily between Italian and English, with me interpreting and everyone nodding, talking and engaged in the moment. This truly was the highlight of our trip. It’s impossible to describe the warmth and loveliness of this experience…four people, two sets of strangers, worlds apart yet brought together because of a shared passion for life in Italy at its best…no noise, no traffic, no tourists, no graffiti, no shops.

After two hours, we invited them to join us for dinner. They had already prepared food for themselves but encouraged us to head to Il Leccio at the highest point for the view and great food. After a round of hugs and photos, we expressed our heartfelt thanks and bid each other farewell. Before we turned to leave, Marisa said one more thing to me. I smiled and nodded my head yes.



The Villa.3

1 Aug

After the wine tasting, and since we had been given the keys to the house, I decided to explore. Our villa was actually a 19th century farmhouse that has been restored to serve the needs of the estate. Generally, the only guests that stay in the house are business partners, friends or relatives, and not so often individuals like us.

The first floor has several comfortable dining and sitting rooms with a lovely color scheme of  yellow and blue. Large windows fill the rooms with light and reveal the valley below.

Upstairs there are two apartments and our room. The ceiling in our room, like so many it Italy, features large beams in an interesting pattern. Looking at the beams, I was hoping they would not choose our stay to fall on the bed.

When I finished my inside tour, I left Len to stand guard over the bottles and ventured outside to take some pictures. Across from our villa was a small building that housed another apartment. We never saw the inside but it seemed so ancient yet inviting.

At the end of a long drive, but still on the estate, was another home that belonged to the family. We had been told that Mrs. Centolani was in town for a few days at her home. “She doesn’t speak English, so if you happen to see her,  just wave as she is very friendly.”

As I stood at the top of the drive taking pictures, two ladies emerged from behind the house, stopped at the gate, and asked loudly, “chi è, chi è?” Hmmm…I hope my Italian will be good enough to explain who I am and why I’m on their property!



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