The drive from Verona to Tuscany was beautiful. The hills between Bologna and Florence were a lush green, and my anticipation for arriving in Tuscany was growing. We were headed for Al Gelso Bianco, in the town of Barberino right between Florence and Siena. As we passed Florence and got closer to our destination, the hills rolled more gently, lined with olive trees and vineyards.
We finally arrived, got settled into our apartment, and checked out our new place for the next 5 days. It is a functioning vineyard that produces Chianti wine, in addition to grappa, and their own olive oil. The olive trees were gorgeous (now I understand the color olive green - duh!) and there were even olives on the tree. I had never seen that before. In just a few weeks they will start olive oil production, with wine season just ending a few weeks ago.
At dinner that night I ordered the full menu, 5 courses of traditional Tuscan food. Delicious! Including papardelle noodles with wild boar sauce and some kind of veal. Simon liked it too!
We spent the next days exploring new places - Siena, San Gimigiano, Montereggioni, Florence, Greve, Montefioralle, Panzano. Each place was unique and beautiful. And the food was outstanding. I loved the pici - a really fat spaghetti type noodle that is common in that region. I also loved the ribollita, a Tuscan bread and bean soup that is the perfect comfort food. For sweets - of course the gelato is fabulous. In San Gimigiano we even got to try some from the 2-time gelato World Champs - it warranted seconds. My other favorite sweets was the bakery - everything in it. They were so beautiful and full of beautiful and delicious snacks. I can't remember what my favorite one was called. Guess I'll have to go back and jog my memory.
As always, traveling with Simon presented its challenges. While we traveled quite a bit this summer, months had passed and it's always a new game with kids at this age. From the very beginning we let go of any semblance of a routine and tried our best to feel out how he was doing and what he needed. We went out to dinner the first 6 nights of the trip - which meant eating late and staying up late - and he took it like a champ. He slept in the car, slept in the stroller, slept in the backpack - just slept when he could. And when he wasn't sleeping he was loving Italy. The food is perfect for a toddler - and the people love little bambinos. There was lots of cheek pinching, playing peekaboo, and just general goodwill towards Simon. He played on many restaurant floors (he loved the big baskets of corks that every restaurant seemed to have) and no one ever seemed to think he was in the way. This made meals with him a lot more enjoyable for Martin and I, as well. Overall he did great, but that doesn't mean that it was easy.
We were so sad to be leaving Tuscany. We actually stayed a day longer than initially planned, continuously shifting our itinerary around. As we left Tuscany, however, we really had something to look forward to - dinner with Farbror (Uncle) Magnus. He was working on an assignment in Milan - which was right on the way to Berne, Swizterland, where we needed to be by Thursday. Perfect timing!
Pics from the whole trip here.