We start the day with a quick jaunt to the Mercato San Lorenzo and a little food shopping. I love this place - and wish we had something like this in Phoenix. I would probably live there! From mushrooms, to cuts of meat, fish, baked items, to fruits, herbs and flowers - it's all here and all arranged in typical Italian fashion - beautiful and artful. Even the smells are amazing as you transition from one venue to the other.
There is always a fair amount of anxiety when you have 18 people all of sudden being asked to drive their own car especially after spending three days in Florence witnessing some of the craziest driving I've ever seen. But that is in the city and we stay far way from places like that. After getting everyone checked into the rental cars we spend a fair amount of time making sure everyone has a dropped pin in their phone to the country houses in Umbria, and that everyone's maps are marked. We have had some real adventures getting people to the country houses. Not so much from Florence, but some of our episodes from Rome to the country houses have been quite memorable....we will skip the details.
This years drive went without a hitch. Nine cars streaming down the A1 and into the countryside. I think we either looked like a funeral procession or the Secret Service! After about 2-1/2 hours we climbed over the mountains and into the Niccone valley whose river divides Tuscany from the west side of the valley from Umbria on the east side. It is beautiful, tranquil and most fertile with an assortment of crops being grown from corn, to sunflowers to tobacco. The smell of the earth and Umbria is infused in the wines that I enjoy later. I love it here. You can just feel the calm and the relaxed way of life, especially from the constant buzz of Florence.
After settling in and unloading the luggage we made our way down to the pool for a refreshing dip and a glass of wine and then loaded up and made our way back down the hill to the little market in Mercatale - the village in the valley. With 18 of us descending on this store, I think we just about cleaned them out - I'm sure we made their day! Everything from eggs, to cheese to the local jug wine, we were ready for a wonderful week here in Umbria.
Upon our return, our home manager, chef, owner and author, Elizabeth Wholey, and her sidekick Paola, prepared us a meal of local cheeses and honeys, local salamis, truffle hardboiled eggs, lasagna with fresh made pasta, an absolutely delicious salad dressed with local olive oil, apple vinegar and honey. Finally it was capped off with panna cotta (cooked cream) with fruitti di Boscho - wild fruits from the forest. There is nothing better than enjoying laughter, amazing food, local wines and the fabulous view of the hills of Tuscany and Umbria. It was a wonderful way to start our adventures here in Umbria.