vandaveer (vandaveer) wrote in gseitaly,

A Marina, A Beach Club, A Winery and a Walled City – all in Day 1!

Ciao again friends and family!  Thanks for all your kind comments and emails – sorry I haven’t had a chance to respond to them but we’ve been starting our days at 8:30 in the morning and not returning home until after midnight, which leaves little time to share the amazing experiences I’ve had.


So I thought I’d start “from the very beginning – a very good place to start….” (for those of you who are not musical buffs – this is from “The Sound of Music” and I’m happy to report that all the girls are huge fans of all musicals and we’ve often had our own sing-a-longs!  J Obviously a group of “soul sistas” you could say… and poor Clint and Averell just tolerate us!) 


Sunday morning we were picked up by three Rotarians from Cecina, a small town south of Livorno to tour their part of Italy.  The day started out cool and rainy but it was certainly not dampened by the enthusiasm and welcome we received.  We started the day by touring the Marina Di Cecina, a relatively new marina which is home to beautiful yachts and sailboats that sail the Mediterrean Sea – in fact this is where Roberto Cavalli keeps his yacht and the paint changes colors as the sun changes position throughout the day – and I thought a speedboat was impressive!  After the tour we headed into a bar right on the boardwalk to have what…. Yet some more proscecco and crostini!  And it was only 11:30 AM!  Oh well – do as the Romans – I mean, Cecians do!  J 


We left the marina to have lunch at a private beach club… because what else would you do after proscecco and crostini – but to eat another 4 course meal????  It was really nice and looked out onto the blue sea, dotted with white sailboats that complimented the white beach with blue sunchairs and umbrellas.  And all set on the backdrop of a sky with billowy, white clouds everywhere – it was really beautiful and amazing.  The only thing that could top it was the meal and company, and it certainly satisfied.  The meal began with Antipasta: typical brushetta which includes bread with tomatoes that we all know, some fresh pate and a variety of meats and cheese.  Then followed by the Primo course of pasta, and of course the Secondi course of grilled swordfish and lightly fried zucchini flowers, the third course of Frutta and then finished off with chocolate ice cream bonbons and of course their version of coffee, espresso – AMAZING!  I’ve decided they need the espresso shot to keep them awake from such a long and filling meal – but man alive – that stuff is strong and potent!!!!  I don’t care how many times I’ve had it, my face still cringes and my body shakes when I drink it. 


I must say that my favorite part so far is the dining experience… and not because of the food.  But this is the time when you can sit and talk and get to know the Italians, about their lives, their ideas and interests, their views on the world…. And they take the time to enjoy being there – in the moment.  It really is so nice when you can have a conversation with someone and you are both stumbling through each other’s languages and there’s a common ground created… where the basis is laughter.  The Italians have a tremendous sense of humor, which is why I probably enjoy them so much.


After lunch we toured the company and factory of the Cecian Rotary President, Giuseppe Piccirillo. He is the president of a valve company for the oil and gas industry and his clients include some of the largest companies in the world, for instance GE.  All his engineers are required to speak at least four languages because they do so much business worldwide – the interesting thing is – he speaks none, not even a lick of English!  So the tour was interesting to say the least, he’d speak fast and explain the materials – and look at us like we knew what he was talking about.  Thank goodness for a Rotarian that was able to translate!   


At this point it was about 3:00 pm and we started heading through the hills of Tuscany to tour three medieval towns – Monteseudario (famous for its wine), Guardistallo, and Casale.  All of them appeared to be frozen in time, with their golden streets and buildings, windy roads just nestled at the top of the hills overlooking scenes that are straight out of postcards and paintings.  I asked one of the Italians if they ever get bored of the beauty of their land – his response, “Um… No!”  Thank goodness – otherwise I’d have to bring out pics of the Bayou City and really put things in perspective!  Ha!  When we arrived in Casale we stopped off the main street and there on the steps of the church were three little old men, just chatting and enjoying their Sunday afternoon.  This scene summed it up for me, the life of a quiet Tuscan town and the peacefulness of the country… what a picture to make me stop and appreciate the moment.


Winding down from the hills overlooking the green and gold countryside, we worked our way to the winery of Poggio Gagliardo and met the owner, Andre Sarbone, for a private tour.  We were over an hour late and needless to say he was less than thrilled with us – especially on his Sunday.  However, he graciously accommodated us and began the tour.  He and his family have four wineries that produce 250,000 bottles of wine a year, both red and white as well as olive oil.  Once the tour began and he realized we were really interested in learning about the process he warmed up to us… what can I say, the wino in me was thrilled!  We saw the fermentation vats, the oak barrels, then went to see some of the vineyards.  He harvests the chardonnay grapes first and then works his way to the cabernet sauvignon – the last to stay in the sun – which is why he named his wine, Utlimosole, the last in the sun!  Once we finished the tour we were taken into the coolest Tuscan room with arched ceilings, wooden beams, tile floors and a beautiful harvest table all set for our tasting.  WOOOO-HOOOO!!!!  Bring on the vino!!! 


Andrea had spoken Italian throughout the tour as we listened intently and relayed back to him in our broken, twangy Italiano replies that we “Capisco” understood.  As the tasting started, he introduced the wines and what they were – speaking English!!!!  We died laughing… told him he’d been holding out on us and then began the festivities of tasting his amazing wines – 5 of them!  Once it was over we posed for pictures and the he presented us with our own bottle of wine to take with us – one that he only gives to gifts to family and friends.  It’s Se Stante, named after a compass for sailors – to put you on the right path.  A perfect gift to start our journey – one that I’m sure will leave me with a new pair of eyes to see the world.


Andrea was so enchanted with the “Bellas from Bayou City” that he offered to take us around his vineyard in his truck and see the entire place – including his villa!  It was the coolest thing… we were driving in his Jeep through rolling hills of grapes and olive groves and could see for miles the breathtaking countryside.  We even stopped to see a beautiful, dilapidated farmhouse and a spot on his land that will be excavated next year because they think they found some bones from the 12th century.


When we arrived back after the tour of the vineyard to meet the rest of the group it was getting to be sunset and I thought the day was over.  Not quite yet, we then headed to the beautiful walled city of Bolgheri to close out this wonderful day with another great meal.  The restaurant was on the edge of the wall and you could look down into the beautiful valley at sunset…. Truly breathtaking!  I sat next to a German woman whose husband, Hans had been my personal tour guide all day (he was the driver of the car I was in.  J ) She was lovely and they had moved from Germany 8 years ago to live in an old farmhouse, work the land and make their own wine and olive oil.  Now this is what I’m talking about!  Their English, German and Italian were impeccable and they were both so friendly and interesting.  Dinner was a lot of fun, and I told the Italians how I’m a “wino” and really enjoy their vino!  It was a big hit and I’m happy to say, that this time – it wasn’t lost in translation.


What an amazing first day on this trip and know that the others will be similar too.  Will update with the others soon, so please stay tuned.  Miss you all and look forward to seeing ya soon!




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