Tuesday was bittersweet as we knew it was our final day together and we enjoyed each other’s company so much! Fabio whisked us away to il Falconiere, which is a luxury resort just outside of Cortona, owned by Riccardo and Silvia Baracchi. Silvia taught today’s cooking class and we learned about the art of cheese making, rolled out by hand the traditional pici pasta, made a tomato sauce for the pasta, a caramelized eggplant that is sweet and spicy to enjoy on the sheep’s milk ricotta cheese that we made, and of course we enjoyed their estate wines, as well. The weather held for our last day and since we were above the morning fog line,  it was gorgeous. Warm, sunny, clear skies, and we dined on the terrace which made it even better. We discussed highlights of the trip, favorite foods/wines/moments, and began getting feedback on what each member of the group would have liked to do differently. Everyone agrees that it is so very difficult to articulate the special qualities of this trip, due to the immersion experience that they could not have gotten with anyone else. It feels really great to be affirmed in such a way.

We pried ourselves away from the lunch tables and went into the walled city of Cortona to enjoy it for just a few more hours. Mark and I just walked the streets that we love so much, enjoyed a few of the shops and looked for friends to say arrivaderci to. We were sad that we did not find Ivan, from our first day at il Pozzo, though we were able to say ‘ciao’ to his wife and daughter. On the way out of town we spied Giovanni leading a group of school kids on a tour and we waved and shouted our farewells from across the piazza. While we had been sitting at an outdoor cafe watching the people go by, we noticed our driver, Fabio, sneaking into the gelato shop for an afternoon treat, waving to us and ‘ciaoing’ all the way. We felt very at home and I will miss this place very much. I don’t know when we will get back, as a return trip is never a sure thing, so it was a lovely way to say goodbye for now. Have I mentioned how amazing the weather has been? Truly, the nicest it has ever been. I couldn’t have planned it better, myself!

We ambled back to the van and headed to Poggio al Sole for our last dinner together in Italy. Benadetta created a beautiful buffet for us, several of the group brought wine, Judy and Susie had their ipod plugged in and as always there was much singing, dancing and laughing. The group surprised Mark with a birthday cake and well wishes, and they also surprised Shannon and Jerry with an anniversary cake and well wishes. We knew that Benadetta’s uncle Stephano was ready to get us ‘home’, so we began to bid our farewells. It took about a half an hour! They got Stephano to dance, which shocked Benadetta and her mother, Lala! A few of the group gave us thank you gifts, which was overwhelming and beyond generous. We finally slipped away and got back to our own bed and breakfast for some sleep before our exit in the morning.

We filled Benedatta’s agriturismo with our group, and Doumina had another house guest, so we have been staying at her neighbor: Locanda della Luna, which is another agriturismo, about 2.5 miles from Poggio al Sole. Our hostess, Maria, made us very comfortable on this rustic, working farm, and our breakfast each day was very enjoyable. It was dark and quiet at night, and each morning either Fabio would pick us up before the group, or we would walk up the hill and meet him there. It was a lovely walk and only a little scary with the hunters shooting all around us. We heard many stories of all the injuries and deaths this year from the hunters, though I have no idea if they were true or not. Each evening after dinner Stephano drove us back to Maria’s to sleep. Maria is as sweet as can be and it is a nice pace to stay, for sure.

We are off to Siena and then flying out of Florence, where we will celebrate Mark’s birthday with dinner at Trattoria Sostanza. Ciao for now!