Postcard of a Tuscan Farm

A number of years ago Craig was awarded a six-month painting sabbatical and spent time traveling to places that he and his favorite painters loved. It culminated in a 10-day trip for the two of us to Venice and Tuscany, Italy, a back-roads approach that included more stone churches and villages than art galleries. We followed the philosophy of Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun and other stories of life in Italy, who said:

“If you settle in, even for two weeks, live in a house, not a hotel, and you buy figs and soap at the local places, sit in cafes and restaurants, go to a local concert or church service, you cannot help but open to the resonance of a place.”

Over the next couple of weeks we will post our reflections of the trip.


It’s 6 p.m., and we still have two hours before dinner. A brief thunderstorm has passed, and Craig has wandered over to a lawn chair to paint the medieval towers of San Gimignano just beyond the vineyards and olive orchards rolling across this countryside south of Florence. I decide to take a walk around Fattoria Poggio Alloro, Laurel Knoll Farm, our home for the next few days.

A couple suns on the terrace outside our room, and a handful of guests lounge at the pool. It’s a lazy afternoon for us, but the work of the farm continues.

The owners, Amico and Rosa Fiorini, tend the garden, not a formal perennial bed but rows of vegetables that will feed Craig and me and the 18 other guests eager to gather at the long dinner table on the terrace. Amico plants another two rows of lettuce to ensure a prolonged harvest. Rosa weeds among her herbs. They have dozens and dozens of tomato plants, some laden with fruit about to mature red, others barely six inches high. I see the pea plants, with their plump pods, that supplied the peas for our pasta sauce last night.

I walk past zucchini plants filled with blossoms, dodge the dill feathering the hillside and scale the rise to arrive at the kitchen. The scent of simmering wild boar, a Tuscan staple, reminds me how hungry I am. It’s been hours since my small tuna panini for lunch. The cook sees me spying and invites me in, lifting the pot lids to proudly display her meat ragu for tonight’s pasta and the sautéing peas, onions and asparagus. I want to linger, to offer to help, but I don’t know the words. I smile broadly and rub my stomach. I hope it’s a language she understands.

As I return to my room to get ready for dinner, I see Sara, the owners’ niece, finishing a tour of the winery for an American family. “You’ve made our trip today,” I hear the dad in the group tell her. “The next time we come we’ll have to stay here.”

Wise choice, I think. I’m just sorry for them that they have to walk past the kitchen to get to their car.


  1. I’ll pack my bag.

  2. This post is wonderful. It makes me want to go and spend time there, too.

  3. Lee,
    Love this post, I also love to be reminded of Italy, as we so enjoyed the Tuscan countryside on a trip there too. I just finished my jar of aromatic herbs, I doled it out carefully because it was so precious! Thanks for reminding me of a special time of celebration around a long table of dear friends. :)

    p.s. I still make that tart!!