Our time in Florence was great and the city is beautiful, but I was cravin’ me some delicious Tuscan countryside. On Monday morning, we set out in a rented Fiat 500 (+ earned Italian street cred) and headed south toward the hills. Before reaching our final destination, we made a day of wandering across Tuscany, with our first stop in Siena, a charming ancient city famous for its annual bareback horse race, Palio di Siena, in Piazza del Campo. We stretched our legs by walking around town and shared a panini from a local butcher plus fresh pesto pasta from a pasta window down a small alley. By far, my favorite part of Siena was the exterior of the town’s Duomo. Its pink marble, bright color and reflective glass make it far superior to Florence’s Duomo in my opinion.
Following lunch, we had arrangements to visit a Tuscan winery, Tenuta di Arceno, owned by California’s own Jackson Family Wines. Ted developed a relationship with Jackson Family through work, and they kindly offered a private tasting when they heard we’d be in Tuscany. We got thoroughly lost on our way to the hidden winery (seriously, Italians don’t believe in signs) but were rewarded with awesome views and nice wine upon arrival. Tuscany specializes in Chianti Classico so we tasted 3 of those and 3 other wines, all red- – all good. Our tasting started out sunny, but midway through a storm rolled in and we suddenly found ourselves sipping private reserves with a live lightning show from Mother Nature herself. After pleasant conversation with our host Patrizia, we literally sprinted to our Fiat and got absolutely SOAKED (like, squeeze-your-clothes-and-water-comes-out wet) within 13 seconds. The downpour continued for the majority of our 2 hour drive, washing out small back roads roads and making it the hardest rain I’ve ever witnessed. The drive onward was so pretty though, complete with rainbows, double rainbows, and windy roads.
Finally, we arrived at Agriturismo Fontenuova, our temporary home in
heaven Saturnia, Italy. As we drove down the long gravel driveway, our jaws fell on the floor when we saw our view for the next 5 days. We arrived during “golden hour” and instantly fell in love with this spot. The hills reminded us of California, but the green forested areas and jagged rock looked like something out of the movie Avatar. So I guess that makes it Avatornia?
Take a look for yourself:
Here’s one I snapped the next morning. It’s totally Avatornia.
Saturnia is a small gem in southern Tuscany, off the beaten path and largely undiscovered by tourists. It’s famous for the naturally occurring thermal hot springs/ rivers and Ted and I only found it several months back by closing our eyes and putting our finger on a random spot in Tuscany. I really wanted to stay on a working farm, and we hit the jackpot with Agriturismo Fontenuova. We had a tiny, private “casetta” and basically the entire 70+ acre property to ourselves. The on-site caretakers made us breakfast every morning at 9am overlooking the hills and we did whatever we pleased for the remaining hours of the day. Over the course of our time there, we hiked the river for a few hours until we found natural pools deep enough to swim & cliff jump off of, visited a nearby village built into the side of a cliff by Etruscans before Roman times, spent several hours in the natural thermal springs, and relaxed on our front porch and by the pool. I’m fully aware this sounds like a fairy tale, but that’s because it was. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Quaint Etruscan village, Pitigliano, about 30 minutes away from Saturnia.
Cascate del Mulino (the local thermal hot springs), a 4 minute drive from our Agriturismo:
These are naturally occurring, totally free, and open 24 hours a day. We brought the GoPro one night and grabbed some shots.
View from the opposing hillside.
The Agriturismo also had a kitchen for guest use, and we cooked some delicious meals each night like pasta tossed in the farm’s own olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, and chunks of mozzarella. During our walks into town for ingredients, we developed a friendship with the local butcher shop owner. We purchased foods and drink specific to Tuscany like salami with fennel (called finocchiona), a local soda (called Chinotto, made of fruit) and other items that are local to Tuscany. He was always so impressed with our “exotic” selections; he didn’t speak English, but his expressive eyebrows and the intonation of his voice left me feeling like a proud puppy who learned a new trick each night. 🙂
The view from the kitchen/ eating area:
Speaking of puppies, when walking into town each day, we’d stop and say hello to a dog just outside of the Agriturismo’s property. She lives in a dark, small chain linked area amid trees and bushes and is completely alone from other dogs, people, houses, etc. 😦 We learned she is the hunting dog of the town’s mechanic and their philosophy on working dogs is, sadly, much different than ours. Her owner comes to clean her cage and feed her each day, but other than that, she gets no human contact with him unless it’s hunting season and she’s performing her job. But fear not, we made sure to love her lots each day. She was SO sweet, craved the contact, and we strongly considered breaking her out and bringing her back to California 🙂 We “fake named” her Stracciatella , a popular gelato flavor with vanilla and chocolate shavings.
We’ve also been talking a lot more seriously about our plans for a pup of our own, and have been checking rescue sites with increased regularity. There are several we have our eye on, but who knows if the timing and everything will work out. Fingers crossed that this website’s namesake will be satisfied soon!
A highlight of the trip for sure- -let’s plan a group trip there! Who is in?!
Posted from: Fly Boutique Hotel. Naples, Italy