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Candelaria Design Tour Italy 2014 - Day 10 - Free Day in Umbria

This is our last day in the countryside of Umbria. Nothing on the agenda so all of our travelers are free to come up with their own itinerary for the day.

This is also a great way to assess the adventurous nature of my travelers as tomorrow we drive for over 5 hours across Italy to our final destination Lake Como. Each couple has their own car and for the last 5 days we have been grouping ourselves to minimize the number of cars and so our best drivers have been driving each day. Well today that all changes as each couple is free to explore the area as they so choose in their own car.

Isabel and I slept in. Our plan was to go to the Saint Antimo Abbey near Montalcino for the the 12:45 chanting by the monks. I promised Isabel we would make it there this year in time to hear the monks chant. Well we got off to a late start and so we hustled into the car and set the gps and it said it would take us two hours to get there. It was already 11:15…...I underestimated the time it would take to drive there. So someone was not pleased with my ability to plan everything for the group but not get this little detail spot on! As we drove I quickly searched the website and saw they had another chant session at 2:45!!! Amen - the monks had saved me!

So we made our way across the hills of Tuscany and now had some time to pick up some goodies for a picnic. I had stashed a bottle of Casanova di Neri Brunello, a corkscrew and two glasses in my backpack. We stopped in Pienza at a restaurant Pino had introduced me to many years ago, La Mensa del Conte, for a salad, a panino and some drinks to go and we were set - on to Montalcino and Saint Antimo.

We found our way to the Saint Antimo Abbey with about 10 minutes to spare. We walked around the church and enjoyed the calm and serenity of the space. Filled with the aroma of frankincense  you could feel the spiritual peace of this space. We made our way to a pew and said prayers for our friends, family and travelers, and then rested in silence as the monks made their way in for their 2:45 chant. With the chanting underway you really almost go into a trance and your mind and spirit just floats with the smell of the frankincense through the space. Very tranquil, very calming. So nice to share a moment like this in the midst of our busy travels with the woman I love.

With the chanting complete, the monks rose from their kneeling position and slowly made their way back to their space and vow of silence. Isabel and I rose from the pew and made our way out to the garden and grabbed our lunch and backpack and found a beautiful spot in the olive grove of the abbey to enjoy the Tuscan countryside, the warm sun, our tasty lunch and that fantastic Brunello.

The shadows were growing longer and the temperatures were beginning to cool and so it was time to go back to Pienza for a little shopping, a cappuccino and gelato to offset the Brunello and then make our way home across the beautiful hills while the sun set on this Italian paradise.

While we were away, all of my travelers were off on their own adventures. On our final night we all gather at the big house, Casa LaPietra, for a pot luck, and a final chance to empty our refrigerators from all the leftovers, and a wonderful farewell dinner in Umbria. Oh…..and don't forget the beef stew!!! Left over from the steaks  8 days ago in Florence, the ladies had been patiently waiting to serve this masterpiece of flavor to us all. The stew that had traveled through Umbria! It was fantastic as were all the leftover creations!

We shared our stories from each of our adventures. Some ventured as far as Assisi and Cortona. Some went to Lake Trasimeno for lunch, and others just made it down to the grocery store in Mercatale. No matter the destination, every traveler had their own unique version of this day - and therein lies one of the beauties of this trip and the reason I love each couple having their own car.

Our time in the Umbrian countryside and the Alta Bella Country Houses was complete. A unique experience not many people who come to Italy every see, feel, touch or smell -  but one that truly defines what Italy really is all about!