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Italy, still Thursday night, 1125 am at home, 8:25 pm here

I am sitting in a corner of the service area trying to stay out of the way while the staff here at Parco Fiorito is bustling around me serving about 15 guests for dinner. It smells great in here and I have opted out of the big dinner tonight, as Mark and I are extra tired so we shall retire a bit early.

We had another most wonderful day, thanks to Doumina. We hit the road by 9:30 this morning and were happily traversing the country side enroute to Pienza. It is my favorite of the lovely little hill towns in the area and I would love to live there. We began at the La Cornucopia tasting balsamic vinegars of all kinds. Doumina ran out while we were tasting and got us all a small cup of gelato and the proprietress, Lucy, spilled sweet balsamic on top and it was unbelievably good. I have heard so often about good balsamic and how it is great on strawberries or ice cream, and after being in that shop I fully understand. We also tasted sheep’s milk cheese, pecorino fresca (fresh) and marmalade that was slightly spicy. Such a great combo! We explored the town a bit and piled back into the bus to move on to the vineyards that we were experiencing today.

First to Perazetta, where we met the winemaker, Alessandro Bocci, and his family. Wife Rita, daughter Sara, and father Irio, all of whom have wines named after them and you have sampled them at our wine tastings. Perhaps you have even bought a bottle or two! Sara took the group on a tour of the facility and Joyce and I sat outside trying to get our bearings. We both got a bit motion sick in the bus. We were well enough to fully enjoy the marvelous lunch that they treated us to, at a beautifully dressed table out on the terrace that overlooks their vineyards in the Montecucco valley. The food was as good as the wine, and we had nearly all of their wines. We stretched the lunch out a bit longer than we had planned because everyone was having such a wonderful time. The weather here is still very warm-certainly at least in the mid-70’s and very sunny once the fog breaks at mid-morning. The night skies are even clear, full of stars and the declining moon… just absolutely beautiful.

After we bid farewell to the Bocci family were on our way to La Magia: producers of the famed Brunello di Montelcino. Fabian met us and guided us around the family’s winery and we learned about what makes the process of Brunello special. Of course we enjoyed a few of the estate’s wines while we sat on benches made from the wood from wine barrels, around a ‘table’ made from giant stones. These babies must have weighed 3 tons each: one rock acting as the pedestal and one on top for the table. All this in the middle of a small copse of trees. The views at this estate are astounding and I want to live there. Doumina made me come back with the rest of them and I will dream of that estate tonight.

The drive back took place at sunset and even though our backs were to most of the show, it was remarkable. The colors of the sky were reflected in the freshly tilled fields and all the things that make Tuscany, Tuscany was lit up better than Christmas. Cypress trees, ancient villas, fields upon fields of olive trees and grape vines. We were later than we wanted to be and most folks napped a bit after it got dark. Happily we arrived back at our convent just in time for dinner. And though I opted out of dinner I have been fed lovingly and well by Doumina and Giacomo, Roberto and Claudia… all busily serving dinner and stopping by to feed me a morsel here, a bit of wine there. It is truly heaven here.

My favorite thing that I ate just now was the zucchini. Giacomo slices the squash thin and grills it, then lets it cool. He then layers in the ingredients and marinates it all day with olive oil, pepperoncini, garlic, salt and mint. There was even a piece of bread soaked in the marinade. The smoky, picante, sweet and spicy flavors have me making yummy noises all over the sofa! Doumina moved a bit further away.

The rest of my family has gone to bed, eating and drinking all day can really be exhausting. And tomorrow we have to do it all over again! By the way, do you remember Roberto’s first visit, when he made his ‘chocolate explosion’ cakes? The small, rich, dark chocolate cakes with a gooey center, drizzled with chocolate syrup on top? That is my dessert. Ha ha! I know you are drooling! Next year you will come with me and enjoy all this goodness!

~Ciao for now,