After my family visited Rome, Michael and I joined them for a week in Tuscany. We stayed at the Borgo di Pietrafitta Relais, which occupies an entire medieval village, complete with a church, on a hill overlooking the vineyards of Chianti. We stayed in Il Torrino, the watch tower at the back edge of the property. Il Torrino has four bedrooms, two small bedrooms in the tower and two large bedrooms on the main level. The top bedroom in the tower is a nine-year-old’s dream getaway space. Cade decided that since the watch tower windows face north and south, the tower was used to warn the village of advancing troops from Siena and Florence, which were constantly at war during the Middle Ages. The hotel had an infinity pool down the hill, and it was a big hit on a hot summer day!
We arrived in Pietrafitta on Saturday afternoon, bushed from the long, hot week in Rome and from the three-hour drive. We had arranged with the hotel for a chef to prepare our dinner that evening, and it was one of the most delightful meals of the trip. While the chef worked in our kitchen, we relaxed at our outdoor table, drinking wine and talking. The chef served us bruschetta; penne pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil; Tuscan roast pork with potatoes; and chocolate cake, which Cade said was one of his two favorite desserts of the trip. The sun slipped over the hills in a blaze of orange, and we were all as happy as can be.
One huge drawback of the hotel is it doesn’t have air-conditioning. We needed it! The only way we could sleep at night was to leave the windows and doors wide open. Cade’s bedroom in the tower was a furnace, but the hotel gave us a fan for him, and he was fine after a sticky first night. To keep Il Torrino as cool as possible, we closed the windows and doors during the day, but it didn’t help much. The hotel does not have a restaurant, but we had a kitchen, so we made simple breakfasts and a couple of easy pasta dishes for dinner. It was a great place to stay, and we all enjoyed it.
Pietrafitta is four or five miles north of Castellina, which Michael and I visited last spring. The group was pooped after the Palio trial on Sunday, so on Monday, we sauntered around Castellina for a couple of hours, stopping for a lovely lunch at Ristorante le Tre Porte. One of the attractions of Castellina is a tunnel that was used to defend the village in the Middle Ages (the village was destroyed several times during the Siena-Florence battles). The tunnel now holds restaurants and shops, including the wondrous gallery of Andrea Rontini, a photographer who makes amazing art using Cibachrome film. We were enthralled! Michael and I bought a small photo of Tuscany, and Jenny and Steve couldn’t decide between a field of poppies or Venetian gondolas.
We returned to Castellina Thursday night for dinner and ate at Sotto Volte in the tunnel. We were chatting and looking at the menu when suddenly Julie vanished! Her rickety chair collapsed, dumping her under the table! Once we were sure she wasn’t hurt, we could laugh about it, but the rest of us checked our rickety chairs carefully to be sure we wouldn’t suffer the same fate!
We headed back to Andrea Rontini’s gallery after dinner, and it was open and Rontini was there! It was such fun. Jenny and Steve bought their gondola photograph, and Michael and I bought Rontini’s books of photographs of Tuscany and Umbria, which Rontini autographed for us. He was such a nice guy and so incensed that people think that he “Photoshops” his work! If you go to Castellina, don’t make that mistake!