|Castello Ginori di Querceto, a Medieval "village" in Tuscany. |
Pretty much exactly as you might imagine. Took this photo on our walk today.
How did we find this place???? Read on!
Logging in to my blog...it looks like a sweater with shoulder pads from the mid-80s- really outdated, but maybe cool if you think in a retro kind of way. I tried Tumblr once but just not cool enough to do that. I don't want to chat with a Tumblr community. I just want to write and show you pictures. So shoulder pads it is.
Now...down to business....I"m drinking, eating, sleeping and walking in nature. Maybe in that order. As I think of it, covering all the basics here in Italy. Happy to have Lee with me - so add love. But, really it is rather stripped of all the stuff we add to life. And yet, it seems pretty much perfect in its simplicity. The wine and food is all local. They don't really even think of doing anything else. Ate a plate of raw beef for lunch - raised up over the hill. Lee had wild rabbit (hare) ravioli. Tasted like it, I guess. Wine is from the Ginori-Lisci estate, the family who own this castle. Yep, a castle. I grew up on a farm. They grew up in a castle. We grew soybeans and they grow grapes and olives. Right here. Right now.
And about the sounds. Well, there aren't any. The loudest thing around here is the tinnitus in my ears. We hear the doves making that sweet lovemaking sound, the swallows whirring by, a buzzing in the ivy on the stone of some very busy critters, and the lilt of the Italian language a few times a day as we run into the handful of people either working or living here in the "village." But let me start from scratch. How did we find this place?
Ten years ago this summer, Lee and I came to Italy - to Florence - for the first time to celebrate our tenth anniversary. It was my first trip to Europe at 52 years old. (Farm girl from Iowa that I was, sudying abroad meant I could go to the University of Iowa in another part of the state.) But I did study abroad that summer, spending a month at the British Institute of Florence taking a class called The History of Renaissance Art.
We stayed at the Palazzo Ginori on Via di Ginori in Florence, near the Palazzo di Medici , in a Renaissance home built around 1500 and, most impressive, remaining with the Ginori descendants today. They have maintained the palazzo in the most beautiful Renaissance form (while adding modern convenience, of course.) The palazzo is divided into 5-6 apartments - it is not a hotel. The Marchese and Marchesa Ginori-Lisci live in the palazzo, another relative lives next door with her two children and others - some family, some not - rent either long term or short term as we did. We have returned five or six times, staying at Palazzo Ginori every time we are in Florence.
We are always welcomed with a bottle of wine that I noticed was produced by the Ginori-Lisci Estate in Tuscany. So we asked about it a few years ago and learned that, well, of course, they have a castle in the country! A Medieval castle that has also been in the family since they inherited it in the early 1800s. We've gathered information about it and finally, this time, Lee said we should go. We are meeting friends in Florence this coming weekend for a week's visit there, but he thought we should go alone to Querceto for a romantic and adventurous week together. So we did. Now here's the little sidemark: I think we are paying something like $150 per night! There is a divine restaurant on the property that I will write about later. It is incredible and I am a very harsh critic of food. We can't really understand how it manages to survive here other than to think it is simply a part of the offering of staying at this lovely place. Tonight, there was one other couple at dinner! More later....
On arrival, we were shown to our charming apartment - I believe I have read that the castle was built around 1200 so who knows how old these walls and floors and beams are! Let's just say it's older than the suburbs in Minneapolis. A bit chilly but warmed by an electric heater over a door, we are happy to have our Patagonias! But outdoors, with the sun shining, the Spring is lush and full and explosive.
Here's the funny - or not - thing about Italy. They take a lot of time off. Every day. Every week. Every year. So, even though there is a restaurant on the property, it was closed yesterday all day - the day of our arrival. Now, this castle isn't exactly around the corner from a Starbucks. It's a long and winding road to the castle. If it wasn't it would have been pillaged many times over. That's the point of a castle, right? Up high on a hill and hard to reach. So, there really wasn't anything to eat without trekking out. We had passed a restaurant about 20 min from the castle and Anna, the lovely concierge at Querceto, agreed it was very good and would make us reservations.
We were sufficiently tired after our travels to warrant a nap so we tucked in around 5:00 and napped for an hour or so. At 7:15 we left for the restaurant. We got lost, but made our way back and when we got there, realized the chairs were stacked, there were no other cars around and the front door wa locked! Another restaurant closed on Tuesday! As we were getting back in the car, the proprietor came to say hello and explain they were closed, but she was going to get a pizza in the nearby village and we could follow her there and pick something up. We did. Lee dropped me off with her and went to find a parking spot in this Romeo and Juliet of a Renaissance village.
She and I went to the pizzaria and saw that it was also closed!
In the meantime, Lee asked Siri about local restaurants. (This was a VILLAGE, not a town!) and he heard about something, so he came to find me. The very nice woman went on her way - going to forage in her refrigerator, I guess. Lee and I set out to find a place to eat! We were famished by now - having only eaten airplane food for a day. We found a place and when we went inside, we were greeted as if we were long lost cousins with a great deal of money to divide among the relatives. They said, "Are you from Querceto?" "Si," I replied. (All of this in Italian, btw.)
"And are you the Stevens?"
"Si" again! "How did you know?"
"Anna from Querceto called for your reservations."
How does the universe work that we were led to this little village - I still have no idea what it is called - that we were led to this little restaurant and they were waiting for us! I have decided this is how we should just do our lives. just put the intention out and let the universe lead the way, only to be welcomed the minute you arrive. Isn't that just it?
We had a wonderful, very, very, very large Italian dinner. Lee had six courses including two meats and three desserts. I did my best to help him out. But my lasagne and a walnut / pear / cheese puff pastry was more than I could manage. We later learned that Anna had put a note on our door when she discovered the first restaurant was closed to tell us about the reservation, but in our sleep-deprived stupor we missed it and simply went bumbling out into the world, and a fairly complicated, undulating one at that, to find food. And the world was waiting for us.