What do wild boar, rogue cows, and hot pink Disney blankets all have in common? They all played a role in an incredible weekend in the Tuscan countryside.
A small village on top of a hill outside San Casciano dei Bagni, abandoned in the 60s, and renovated over the past dozen years serves as a weekend getaway for the family I live with and about 10 other couples and families. They each have their own private space they’ve renovated to their liking, but are also a tight knit community.
We arrived Thursday, after getting settled in, and hanging out with the neighbors, we set out for dinner across the valley. Which means a long drive along the ridge through woods, other small towns, and looking down on the fields below. We ate dinner at the somewhat famous Tratorria da Gianfranco in Trevinano. White wine, draft beer, and bruschetta covered the table quickly. Followed by our main courses. I tried cinghiale in umido, wild boar, with a side of tomatoes. A little heavier than I’d normally eat in the summer, but it was full of flavor and definitely worth trying. We followed dinner with light, fluffy, wonderful tiramisu. On a (very) full stomach we set out for home around 11, only to come across a herd of rogue cows walking along the road. The herd was spread across a mile or so, cows or bulls occasionally darting across to meet one another or walking slowly down the middle of the road. A first for all of us, which I’m sure was an unwelcome surprise for a farmer the next morning.
Friday was a little slower. A cold and rainy day, we slept in and took it slow. The family staying with us arrived from the US that afternoon, so we took a long lunch at the house as the kids got acclimated to each other and the adults caught up. A slow day in is no problem with me when it’s filled with good company, conversation, food, and, of course, wine. The parents all went out for dinner that night, but the kids and I got to enjoy fresh made pici pasta in red sauce and chocolate covered profiteroles for dessert, a favorite in this house and a new favorite for the guests. Then, a rainy night calls for Uno and cartoons.
Saturday, was the day of the big birthday party for the girls’ mom, Carlotta. Unfortunately, it was cold and VERY windy, but that didn’t stop us. We went into San Casciano for a few last minute things, had a snack of pizzette, and went back home for a light lunch of sausage, cheese, and fruit. That evening we had 30 people over for a cookout. Appetizers, bruschetta, bread, plenty of Chianti wine, beer, and champagne, pasta in red sauce and white sauce, chicken kebabs, pork ribs, sausage, fruit tart cake, chocolate cake, and cookies. One of the neighbors played piano and his son sang, which quickly became karaoke. After much coaxing, I sang “A Whole New World” while wrapped in a hot pink Disney blanket. The cold sent everyone inside by 12:30, but not after plenty of Italian and classic 80s songs were sang.
Our last day in the country side was spent exploring Radicofani and the fortress there. After a late breakfast, because everyone except me and one of the girls slept in, we left the villa. Walking the streets of Radicofani, we saw one single person, all the shops and restaurants were closed. It was like being in an abandoned town. But when we came to the center we found a market and restaurant to have a long lunch (noticing a theme?). From there we had to drive up to Fortezza di Radicofani. Where you can see all across the countryside, being the highest point. You can also pretty much see the fortress from any point down below as well. The castle has a long history in the land disputes between Siena, local aristocracy, and the Pope. At one point it was taken over by a man known as the Italian Robin Hood, Ghino di Tacco. Ghinno robbed merchants and travels as they passed, but sparred students and the poor. You can known wander the grounds and climb the tower to take in the view of the expansive Tuscan hills and valleys.
The countryside of Tuscany has this deafening silence about it, where you can’t seem to help, but relax. We’ve explored abandoned villas on precious trips and stopped in small towns and bed and breakfasts for meals. It almost seems like a fairytale untouched, with so much left for me to explore.