The group grew by 2 for today, as we picked up a fun couple from Seattle to join us in Pienza and at our winemaker’s, Perezetta. Pienza is a very scenic town and they filmed the English Patient there. A hill town surrounded by fields of sheep (this is the heart of pecorino country) and wheat, vineyards and olive trees. The fields are turned right now and the rich color of the soil contrasts beautifully with the greens and silvers all around. The drive is a bit long and very curvy so we are lucky to have great views.

Our first stop is la Cornucopia, a sweet little shop steeped in Slow Food. Every article in the store is artisanally made, and the reason we are there is to taste balsamic vinegars. This may sound odd to those of you who have never tasted fantastic balsamic, as it did to me before my first visit to this store. There are many different styles (the white balsamic was a big hit), variations (no one cared for the chocolate flavored vinegar), and ages (the 22 year old balsamic is heaven on my tongue) to explore. We even had a little vinegar on gelato! We also tasted some pecorino and some special conserves from the region. Then we were all off to explore and shop for about an hour.

I picked up my round of pecorino in walnut leaves that is my tradition to take home, visited a church that I had not seen before (I love going in them!) and walked the path on the edge of town to enjoy the unequaled views. Mark and I saw a group of people on an artist’s tour, and they were all painting the view and getting help from an instructor. It looked like a fun way to travel for artists. It was almost time to be back at the bus when I discovered a cermics shop that was very different from the others. Every beautiful piece was done by the owner/artist and I love her work. Linda Bai is her name, and she has a web site so you can see her work, as well.

We got back and saw that many big tour buses had come to town (I have never seen it like this before) and our driver, Fabio, was very smart to park way down the street with all the big buses behind him. The street is quite narrow and no one could leave until one particular bus moved, so there was a big blockage of buses and a farmer with a truck full of pigs, and lots of cars stuck behind it. We headed out of town and on to Perezetta. The group got a tour of the winery while I visited and got caught up with the Bocci family. Alessandro, Rita and their daughter Sara work this business together, farming and making really wonderful wine. Sara is a new mommy and when I saw her last Emma had only been discovered inside her one day before. Emma is now 16 months old and exceedingly cute! Daddy took her away for a nap, as she was stealing the show.

We had lunch with the family on the terrace (Sara is an accomplished chef) and tasted their wines all the while. The Boccis are very generous and everyone felt like family by the end of the meal. Some of them even did the dishes, which shocked and delighted our hosts, as no one has ever done that before! I have to say, this group has a really special vibe together, and it is incredible to watch them enjoy themselves. On the drive back there was much singing and joking, and as tired as everyone was, they were planning to make a light dinner together when we got back. They enjoyed themselves so much that we returned 2 hours later than we had planned to, because no one wanted to leave the Bocci family!

Today (it is Friday morning here, while for you it is still Thursday evening) we will visit Avignonesi, a very old winery, and then we will learn to make gnocchi together, up at Benedetta’s. We will help prepare a 4 course meal and enjoy it together, which is the best part, of course! It will be a lighter day, which is great, and I have a feeling more singing will be heard.

We hope you are all finding some laughter in each of your days, as well. Ciao for now!