Europe: Tuscany

Leaving Rome was quite the adventure.  We rode the metro to a rental car location and got our first rental car!  I was quite excited to get to drive through Italy and stop whenever we wanted.  Joel was a little nervous, but he was driving, we were in a large foreign city, and the car was a manual - which he had not driven in a few years, so he had reason to be I guess.  However, he did amazing! Minus when he turned the car on and almost ran into the pole in front of us.. besides that, he did amazing! We drove all the way from Rome to Siena through the beautiful countryside on windy, two-lane, often narrow roads. It was a beautiful drive, and we were quite excited to be out of the city for a few days.  It helped that we were anticipating our next destination very much since we had heard so much about it for so many years.
Joel's parents, Brian and Kelli, so kindly gifted us with two nights at Casa Bolsinina.  This is a bed and breakfast type of place, however, a more correct name for it would be bed-and-breakfast-and-amazing-dinner-from-the-kindest-people-ever (Maria Pia and Marcello) type of place! Kelli first visited there 15 years ago with her two sisters and her mother. She and Brian have since been back a few times, as have most of her extended family. It is a truly wonderful place. Joel and I think it might literally be his parents favorite place on the earth (Now we can see why!). When Joel’s parents found out we would be in Italy and were not yet going to Tuscany, they decided to gift us with two nights there, for an anniversary present. What a place - I am not sure I even have words to describe it. So here are some photos. 

Every night, Maria Pia and Marcello, the owners, cook and serve 4 course meal that is other-worldly. There are usually 5-6 couples they are serving, all seated in the dreamy outdoor courtyard of the house. Maria Pia does all of the cooking and Marcello serves and chats with you during the dinner. He chose a bottle of wine for us each night and I think even gifted it to us for our anniversary as well. Such kind and humble people.   
Marcello and Maria Pia have been running casa Bolsinina for 18 years. It is roomy and comfortable and it kind of just feels like you are there by yourself, at your own little vacation house in Tuscany.  There is a pool in the back yard that you can use at any time of the day and the sun is the warmest sun I have ever felt. I am a redhead - sunblock is key, but the first day we were out in the sun for 4 hours and I wore sunblock and didn't get a bit of color. The second day, as an experiment, I didn't wear sunblock and after being in the sun for 3 hours,  hardly got any color again, and most certainly didn't burn. It's hard to explain, but it feel like your under a warm blanket, not hot - but warm. You don't sweat, just gleam. It's magnificent. I think it's why people talk so much about the "Tuscan sun." 

We ventured into Siena one of the days, the town nearest to Casa Bolsinina. It was a really nice little town, a lot like the other little Italian cities we had been to.  Siena is full of beautiful buildings and architecture, magnificent churches, and a lot of little shops.  I took advantage of this and got an Italian leather purse.  My mother in law said I had to, “buy leather in Siena,” so I bought a bag at the same store she found her bag.  It was nice just to walk around the little city and look through the stores and markets.  Although there were quite a few tourists there, it did still have that small Italian town feel.

 We only spent about 3 hours or so in Siena and then drove back out to the countryside.  We looked up a good place to eat and what we found seemed to have good food and wine.  So we drove quite a ways a way up an intense hill, winding back and forth, hair pin turns every 15 meters or so, and all on gravel, hardly easy in a tiny stick shift rental.  When we finally got to the top we found a very, very, swanky looking resort.  We thought, this can’t be right, so we drove down a little further and found a wine tasting room, but there they only had wine.  That wouldn’t suffice for us, we were very hungry, so the kind lady in the tasting room us told us there was a public restaurant up at the resort.  So we headed back up to the way-out-of-our-league resort and asked for directions to the restaurant.  They led us through this gorgeous, very well kept, resort that we would only be able to afford if it was all we wanted to do in Europe. We ordered black truffle pizza, it was too good.  We had some regional wine.  We had some really good water - I mean really good - it was eight euros after all.  Here are some photos of this place.

Overall, Tuscany was beautiful.  I only wish the miles and miles of beautiful sunflower fields were in bloom and not brown, droopy and ready for harvest.  That would have been incredibly epic.  We are so glad we got to experience Casa Bolsonina and thankful for Joel’s parents generosity in that gift.  The food was the best I had in Italy, and although Italy is hospitable in general, this was a whole different level of kindness.  If you ever find yourself in Tuscany, you must stay at Casa Bolsinina, it is worth anything my wonderful inlaws may have paid for it!