Under the Tuscan Sun: Italy Part 1

Oh man, there are innumerable things to write about our quick trip to Italy with Mary Mac and Jack in October. Ever since studying abroad in Italy, I find any excuse to go back. It is a spectacular country with hundreds of miles of coastline, rolling hills and lakes, tall mountains that touch the sea, and rows upon rows of olive groves and wine vineyards.

Speaking of vineyards, as many of you now know, my husband Bryan is a HUGE wino. and his favorite wines in the world come from Italy.  So, you can imagine our excitement, when our friends from Atlanta, Mary Mac and Jack, said they were coming to Amsterdam to visit us and then heading to Italian wine country and Florence. We knew we needed to join them for some adventures!

I have not split trips into two blog posts yet, but I need to split our Italian trip with Mary Mac and Jack into two posts: our time in wine region and our time in Florence. There is simply too much to share! (They also spent some great nights in AMS too! :)) But, we will focus on Italy with these posts.

San Gimignano

After landing in Florence and meeting Mary Mac and Jack at the rental car place, we cruised to San Gimignano, a quaint medieval town in Tuscany. Bryan and Jack said we “had to try the best gelato in Italy” and it was supposedly in this town. So, we popped by the gelato place and explored a bit, taking in the architecture and views. (The gelato was unfortunately nothing to write home about, in case you are wondering! :)) I do not want to offend any gelato makers, so I will refrain from sharing the name. But, San Gimignano is worth a visit.

The mysterious scrape along the car was the biggest confusion of that stop. No one heard the car being hit, and no one could explain how it got there! But, it was there when we got out of the car…luckily, we got insurance!


After our visit to the town center, we drove to a beautiful winery called Fattoria di Fugnano. The winery is owned by Laura, who took the property over from her grandfather in 1997.

 Laura on the left!

I loved spending the afternoon with Laura, listening to her passion for the wines, her family story, and tasting her delicious food and wines. Laura even makes a sparkling rose’ which is rare for the region!



We walked around her property taking photos. It was a beautiful and sunny day!



Montalcino: Full Wine Touring Day

After the afternoon with Laura, we headed to Montalcino where we stayed for the two nights in Tuscany. We found an Airbnb in Montalcino, which can be really difficult. It is a tiny town with only one or two hotels at the most.

The night we got there, we went to a restaurant called Locanda Demetra restaurant, and it was wonderful. It serves as a cooking school during the day, so the owner only take several people every night. The food was very fresh and authentic. We did not have enough days to do the cooking school, but would have if we had another day in Montalcino.

The next day was our full wine day. We found our guide Montalcino Wine Tours  online and we highly recommend. Giovanni runs the business and he could not have been more professional. We were picked up by Giovanni’s friend, Mario, bright and early!


Our first stop, was Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, a special and well-known winery. The tasting room was gorgeous, and we enjoyed the presentation and delicious wines.

Bryan, at his happiest!
Loved being back with Mary Mac!
 They took us through several of their wines and gave us a tour of the cellar.

In between our first and second appointment, Mario took us to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo in Montalcino. It is a former Benedictine monastery!


Our second appointment was my favorite memory of the day. We went to a very small family winery, Tornisi, and the family showed us around their property, cooked us a tasty meal while we sat on their patio taking in the stunning views, and served us their wines.
I will never forget how the grandma talked to us and kissed us on the cheeks in her Italian, how we played with the new family puppy, and how we toured their small cellar with their daughter. The experience and meal were pure bliss: almost like a little slice of heaven.

IMG_0370Our last stop of the day was actually Laura’s (remember Laura from earlier?) boyfriend’s family winery: La Fornace. Laura mentioned him during our time with her the day before, so it was funny that Mario took us to his winery!

Bryan loved the wine at this stop, and so we bought a special Magnum bottle with Mary Mac and Jack to enjoy together in the States one day. We signed the bottle too!
Bryan had to hold the family dog in the pic. Ha!
I loved the differences among the Montalcino wineries we visited. While different, one thing remains the same: all wineries in Montalcino are passionate about their Brunello.

The boys were a little sick of all the pictures we made them take throughout the day — notice the faces!

By the way, I also can’t neglect to mention our second dinner in Montalcino because it was great: Re di Maccia.

Montalcino felt very different to me than other cities because it was not touristy. We loved spending time with the locals and enjoying their beautiful wines. I cannot wait to return to Tuscany soon.




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