After a wonderful evening shared with our Italian hosts, we decided it was time to learn some Italian. We were driving to a charming city of San Gimignano and downloaded a podcast to learn Italian, only 20 minutes per lesson. It was an introductory lesson, where we learned how to properly greet people. Everything is going smooth until we got completely lost. Somewhere between "ciao" and " bongiorno" we lost track of our path and came to a dead end street… What can I say, learning Italian while driving in Italy got us lost in translation… we finished the podcast and got back on the right road, which led us to this magical view...
This town on the hilltop is San Gimingnano. Beautiful, stunning, and simple breathtaking - those are only few words that can describe this place. Finding a parking spot was a bit challenging but once we got one, we started walking towards this spectacular town. It was very crowded but this time, it did not bother us. We were all taken by the beauty and charm of San Gimingnano. As we walked through narrow cobblestone alleys, we passed beautiful ceramic shops, art galleries, restaurants, and gelaterias. This city was old but definitely not dead. As we came to the main piazza it felt like a one big international lunch party. On every corner there were people endeavoring in delicious Italian meals - pizza, pastas, salads, meats, gelato and of course, espressos. We decided to join the party and ordered pizza from a local street stand. We found a shaded spot in the corner of the piazza and started our little feast. The pizza was gone in no time and there was only one more thing to be done - find gelato! We spotted a little hole in the wall and headed straight there. We sat on the steps of a some historic building and enjoyed refreshing and yummy Italian gelato, it was simply amazing.
In the afternoon we planned on going to a nearby winery that we researched the night before. It was called Fattatoria di Fangnano. We did not make a reservation but decided to go anyway and check it out. When we knocked on the door and Laura, who is the owner of the winery, opened. She was in a middle of a private wine tasting appointment and asked us if we had a reservation. We did not and started to walk towards our car. She turned us around and said to wait 10-15 minutes so we did. Once she called us back, we walked into a lovely wine room where she had a table all set for us! She served us several plates of different dishes ( meats, cheeses, and other appetizers) and of course her own wine. First of all, we did not have appointment. We showed up at their doors with two little kids and she took us in as we were very important clients! Somebody please pinch me because I feel like I have been dreaming for a very long time! Once she finished her private tour, she came to us and told us her story. Her family is originally from Sicily. In 1963 her grandfather traveled to Tuscany and he loved it there so much, that he started a new family venture. He purchased a plot of land, rich in vineyards, olive trees, and forests overlooking the medieval town of San Gimignano. She was going to be a lawyer but once her grandfather past away (she was only 23), she left her law studies, moved to Tuscany and the rest is history. That winery is truly amazing, but it's Laura who makes it feel like a special and magical place. We talked, ate, sipped some delicious wine and created another unforgettable encounter. During our little wine party, another couple came in for a wine tasting. They were from Australia. Here we found out that the guy was a famous football player from Melbourne who recently retired. Him and his girlfriend were taking several month off and traveling. We shared some good stories and laughs with them. Leo and Mila were very good the whole time and also enjoyed their short visit to the winery. We left feeling full, happy and grateful. We knew that Italy is a wonderful country but did not expect to meet so many amazing and unique people.
That evening our host was going to attend to his horses and asked Leo if he wanted to help. They are very passionate about the region of Tuscany, their land and of course, their animals. Leo had such a blast and was super happy that he could assist and be useful. As we headed down to see Leo feeding the horses, our host asked us if we wanted to ride and with huge enthusiasm we said yes. First, he explain to us about the connection between horses and human and how important it is for the horse to trust you. Rick was first in line, he has only ridden a horse twice in his life - once as a child and another, during our vacation in Costa Rica. As soon as Rick did few round walks on the horse, he said himself how relaxing it was. Of course Mila wanted to be the center of attention, so she rode together with Rick for a while. I finished the whole horse adventure and loved every second of it (Leo did not want to ride this time). It is truly amazing how comfortable our hosts have made us feel in their home. And frankly, our hosts have been amazing at every stop we’ve had. We may not have our own house but in the last week I have never felt more loved and secured. As they say, home is where your heart is and for now, it will be in a little town of Santa Maria a Monte...
The next day we decided to drive to the coast of Liguria and do a little hike along the world famous Cinque Terre. It was about 150km drive from our current house but we committed to it. We got there around 1pm and the sun was baking and temps were in the mid 90s. We chose a pretty intense hike from Pigulia to Portovenere. The hike was listed as 2 hours one way. It hugged the coastline and the views were spectacular - beautiful blue water, rocky cliffs and burning sun - we were sweating as if there was no tomorrow. The hike was pretty difficult, very narrow paths with little margin for error as the cliff to the sea was easily a 100M drop off. Definitely not kid friendly. It was not only challenging for Leo, but also for us. We were crazy for doing it during such a hot day - one first sign should have been a lack of people on the trail - who in their healthy mind was going to do it in 90 degree weather - someone as nuts as us, haha! Fortunately, we passed two people who suggested we turn around since we still had been an hour into the hike and they said we still had a good 2 hours left. My heart was telling me to continue till the end but my gut said TURN AROUND AND GO BACK HOME! So we did turn around and without a doubt it was a smart decision. We made it safe back to the car, all covered in smelly sweat and dirt. We decided to drive through the commune Portovernere and could not believe the amount of people we saw. After all, it was the Italian Riviera so what could we expect - enjoy beach chair and boardwalks!? We headed back to Santa Maria a Monte getting a test of Cinque Terre, its beauty and its crowds. Tomorrow we’re off to Florence!
Until the next time!