Toscana~ redefining long weekends

We just got back from an enchanting few days in the Maremma region of Tuscany.  As seems to be happening quite frequently as of late, I fell madly in love with it and decided to move there*.  My mom & dad are visiting so the girls stayed home with Gramps & Lolo while Scott and I went up to wine country for grown up vacation.

View from our lounge chairs at Quercia Rossa

The first night after dinner, we made my dream for the last several months come true and stopped at Saturnia hot springs.  Back in February I saw this picture
Special thanks to www.about-maremma.com apparently.

and for the first time in my life made a 'bucket list'.**

The next morning brought sunshine and a delightful breakfast buffet.  Nearly everything was homemade~ bread, jam, honey, cherry tarts, and yogurt (all from local sources)... soft boiled eggs in a wicker basket... local cheese infused with red pepper... cold cuts... and the ever important espresso.

Bellies full and hearts happy, we headed to Sovana and the Etruscan ruins.  These people/ towns are fascinating and deserve/ will get their own blog post later.
    Ancient demon carved out of volcanic stone that stands watch over one of the tombs.

    Pictures are so much easier to take without toddlers in tow :-)
    Now I kind of want cave people from thousands of years ago to design our house...

    From there, we drove to Sorano.  First settled by the Etruscans, it was later inhabited and fortified by Romans. The village as it stands now was build sometime in the 1200s.
    A view from the Fortezza Orsini overlooking the town of Sorano.

    Walking around Sorano was one of the most magical experiences of my life.  As you may know, I've always felt I missed my calling as a medieval princess and this was a chance 5 year old me never could have dreamed of.  Turrets... underground passageways... castles... fortified walls...

    Where the drawbridge used to be.  Because apparently
    enemies were stupid/ brave/ crazy enough to:
    scale the sheer rock up to the town, scale the
    town walls, make their way through a hostile
    village to the very peek where the castle was
    located, and then to attack a fortress.

    Deep in the belly of the castle , these tunnels connected different parts of the fortification to each other underground.

    five year old me hadn't considered how difficult it is to hold an armored hand

    I think the most incredible thing about Sorano is that it is still inhabited... it has so much history that just hasn't stopped.  It isn't ruins or relics, but an ancient place that has never stopped being a part of the world.  Kings and queens and dukes and senators walked those same streets.  Families have lived in those homes for 30 generations... there is just nothing I had ever seen to compare to the timelessness I felt there.  World powers, religions, allegiances, languages, clothing has all changed, yet this is still there, still baking bread, still drying clothes out on balconies, still looking out over the vineyards that have been producing their wine for over a thousand years.

    The roads were built for horses/ walking and haven't changed.  This itsy bitsy truck
    does all the deliveries for the town.  The guy standing gets out and pushes it up hills when
    the going gets too steep.

    So... real people live in houses up these steps.
    It's almost enough to make the tiny
    truck seem respectable :-)
    Wanna stay here?

    On our way home, we once again stopped at the hot springs.  This time it was daylight so we took some pictures.  Blows my mind that we were frolicking in the spas where Roman senators used to go to "get away from it all" and rejuvenate.
    Obligatory pose under a waterfall.
    I can still barely believe a place this perfect exists
    View from about halfway up.

    Inspired by their delicious breakfast, we decided to have dinner at Quercia Rossa as well.  At the table next to us was an awesome couple from Amsterdam who spoke impeccable English and told us all about the Netherlands and the many amazing places they've traveled.  Everything you've heard about Amsterdam is totally true.***

    An awesome local salad.
    Another morning, another amazing breakfast, and we headed to Isola del Giglio, a little island off the Maremma coast.  All of my daring medieval princess fantasies were dashed when the day showed me what a giant pansy I am.  First was this bird:

    It had evil in its soul
    It followed us the very THE ENTIRE HOUR we were on the boat.  Just hovering and swooping about 8 feet from us.  You can't tell in the picture but it had red-rimmed eyes and I'm pretty sure was the devil incarnate...  After landing on the island we hiked around until we found a remote spot to snorkel.  I couldn't get my goggles to properly seal and simultaneously they got a leak and my snorkel tube closed off and I couldn't breathe, and I had a panic attack roughly 15 feet from shore.  I am not such stuff as warrior princesses are made of :(

    Scott didn't freak out, and managed to see a lot of cute little fish swimming in the azure water.
    There's one...

    There's some more!

    (and yes, the creepy seagull followed us the entire ferry ride back to shore as well)

    The next morning, opted for the sanitized, animal-free pool for our water time
    Peroni should use this for an ad campaign a la Corona.   

    My lack of shave is getting more and more noticeable~ Scott

    My shorts-tan is getting similarly noticeable

    Pitigliano was our last stop.  Another 13th century city built on tufa cliffs and owned by the Orsini family.

    Orsini's other castle... crazy Orsini stories to follow
    Menora window in the
    Jewish ghetto

    Viewing this medieval fortress in all its splendor, all I could think was what a giant suckfest building it must have been...

    We heard so many amazing things about these places while we were there...  For the similarly curious, I'll post the details/ stories in a shorter blog once I've done some research.
    *That brings the grand total up to a rather astonishing: Naples, Tuscany, Hawaii, California, Germany, Vermont, and Michigan

    **it contained one thing: going to these hot springs

    ***some rather grown up stories that don't go in this blog, but feel free to ask :-)

    La Promessa (Italian for, even as our economy is on the verge of collapse, we still put your parties to shame)

    Laura & Enzo on Promessa day

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Lindsey & Scott on Promessa day ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    9:30 am
    Scott: Oh for f*$%'s sake!
    (Looking at the butchered capris with the crooked hems that used to be dress pants)

    ~~~~~~~~~~ rewind a couple hours to see what led to this ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Saturday 7 am...
    Me: Did you still need those pants hemmed for the Promessa? *
    Scott: Yeah, I pulled up a website for you.
    Me:  Hmmm.... It says here "this is a very difficult stitch that should not be done without a lot of practice" 

    7:05 am
    After practicing on a paper towel, decide to give it a go

    7:30 am
    Ripping out stitches

    7:45 am
    After practicing on a piece of printing paper, decide to try again.  Feeling confident I can finish this, get myself and the girls ready, and pick up a little gift in time for the Promessa at noon.

    9:30 am
    Scott: Oh for...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ and we're back to real time ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    9:45 am
    Me: Okay girls, time to get beautiful for the Promessa!
    Kylie: Yay, Promessa!  We're having a big party for my birthday!
    Me: Well, the Promessa is going to be a big party, but it's for Enzo & Laura because they're getting married!
    Kylie: Yay, we will all have cake because I'm getting married!
    Ava: Ruff ruff, I'm a puppy!  Ruff Ruff!
    (comes bounding up with her dress shoe in her mouth).

    the puppies managed to get dressed eventually

    Seriously, how cute are they?
     10:00 am
    (Enzo rings our doorbell in his full suit, shiny shoes, and fresh haircut)
    Me: Oh you look so handsome!**
    Enzo: You are still coming, right?
    Me: Of course!
    (Enzo looks skeptically at me in my slept in clothes, un-showered hair, and Scott in his workout gear)
    Enzo: Okay, well... see you at 11:00
    (Scott runs frantically into the house to show Enzo the invitation stating a start time of 12)
    Enzo: No, the ceremony is at 12 but the buffet is at 11

    (A stream of profanities flows forth from my mouth, none of which is appropriate for a family blog.  As it had already broken 105 degrees though, 'holy f-ing s$*%tty sweatballs' was prominently featured)

    Raffaela & Valerio. on one of the few days I was glad they spoke no english whatsoever
    10:15 am
    Valerio (at our gate): So you're still going to take all the pictures for the event, right?  Of everyone arriving?

    Kylie and Ava are still in diapers.  Oh seven hells...

    10:30 am
    I am trying not to stab myself in the eye with eyeliner as I do my makeup in the car, going more than double the speed limit
    Turns out babies are a carte blanche and all non-makeup was forgiven

    11:00- 6:00 pm

    An amazing string of dapper men wearing full suits in 115 degree weather... live music... an incredible lunch buffet that after my third plate I was informed was *not* in fact lunch, but just appetizers... happy old grandfathers slapping their knees/ clapping like in old-timey movies while all the kids danced... *actual* lunch which was a 9 course extravaganza of everything that is good in this world (or this country, at the very least)... sweet little grandmother types coming over and letting us know that whenever we wanted, they would be more than happy for our kids to come play at their house while we went exploring in Italy... amazing strangers-who-became-friends urging us to sell our house/ quit our jobs/ stay in Italy forever with them...
    the clapping grandfathers

    For all the strikes... the power outages... the water that turns ice cold midway through every shower... we are so incredibly blessed to be here.  To find this family and be welcomed so easily into what has taken them generations to create.
    the amazing friends

    Somehow through all the failures and stress and blunders and confusion, we've managed to ingratiate our family into a group of people welcome us with open arms, babysitting offers, bottles of wine, and then insists we're too skinny and need more cheese and gelato.  It really is heaven :-)

    *actual translation: Promessa di Matrimonio= promise of marriage aka engagement party
    ** as always, italics = translated Italian