Rome was spectacular and a great way to introduce the girls to the iconic places we identify with Italy. But Rome is also quite hectic and busy and my daughter Isabella didn’t care for NYC because of the crowdedness and noise and so I was excited to get her out to the countryside.
There is such a contrast between the cities and the country of Italy. I guess that is true anywhere but I really notice it here. Now getting to the countryside from Rome is always an experience. I have rented cars in the city, taken trains, and rented cars at the airport. Of all of my previous experiences, most being total nightmares, I chose to go the route of picking up my car at the Rome airport whereby once we had the car we would literally by on the autostrada and off to the countryside.
Now some 12 years ago, on one of my first group tours, we had our group pick up our cars here at the Rome airport. Well, the rental car company had all of our cars in different garages and this was before cell phones and Google Maps and all we had were some one mile range walkie talkies which did not cut it. So to just add to the adventure everyone got separated. Luckily, I had given them all maps to the country houses we would be staying at – some 2-1/2 hours away. I stayed at the airport circling for several hours hoping to find even one of my travelers, but to no avail. I drove off to the country wondering if I would ever see my travelers….. What a nightmare. Luckily, when I arrived at the house they were ALL there, laughing and drinking vino and wondering what had happened to their leader! So needless to say I have not so fond memories of this rental car garage – this year all went as smooth as can be. I guess it pays to re-challenge some of those old wounds.
Our drive was beautiful and without hesitation we found one of the cross over the highway Autogrilles which I love We grabbed a quick bite of porcetta and roasted veggies and we were back on the highway in a flash.
As we drove northward we came into a blanket of fog that would turn out to last a couple days. Clear skies above and just fog along the ground. It all added a mysterious and surreal light and mood to the journey.
Our drive took us past Siena and to our little village Poggibonsi which is about halfway between Siena and Firenze and just outside of San Gimignano our dinner destination once checked in. Our home for the next three nights would be the Villa San Lucchese which was beautiful. Set on a hill overlooking the rolling and tranquil landscape of Tuscany.
We unloaded the plethora of bags (traveling with girls is definitely demanding in so many ways) and settled into our beautiful quarters set with high beamed ceilings and fantastic views. We gathered the troops and headed off to San Gimignano for dinner.
San Gimignano is a beautiful medieval hilltown set in the rolling hills of Tuscany. I had only been here during the day on all my journeys here and so I was very excited to see it at night and with all of the Holiday decorations! It did not disappoint. Quiet and filled with the sounds and smells that you can only experience coming here. Isabella and I stopped and took a picture at the spot I took a picture of her on her first trip to San Gimignano - when she was 18 months old....
We shopped for about an hour and then made our way to what would be the best dinner to date on this trip at the Bel Soggiorno. Delicious food and with a spectacular view – which we could not see because it was dark – but we were happily greeted by a beautiful full moon. Our time in the country had begun.