Our one week stay at Cretaiole was perfect. The property has been owned by the Morricciani family since the mid 1960's (prior to that the family worked the land as renters under the Feudal System). The Farmhouse was painstakingly restored by the family and has been operated by them as an Agriturismo since the mid 1980's. The setting overlooking the Crete Sensei with the town of Pienza and Mt. Amiata in the background is stunning. During our week there were 16 guests renting the 6 apartments.
Our host, Isabella Moricciani, was an amazing woman. Originally from Milan, Isabella met Carlos Morricciani while vacationing at Cretaiole with friends 16 years ago. Her knowledge and love of the Val D'orcia is obvious, freely shared and contagious. She goes above and beyond to ensure that each guest enjoys their stay. Isabella has organized a list of activities in which guests can participate, ot not (no pressure). Some are free, while others are reasonably priced. We chose to tour the Etruscan Ruins on the family's property and participate in a group dinner at a nearby Abbey (where the English Patient was filmed, name escapes me). The company was good, but the food was just ok. I ,along with several other guests, opted for a massage in the Olive Groves at Cretaiole. It was truly heavenly.
The Thursday evening Pici making lesson at Cretaiole followed by dinner with the Morricciani family was great fun. There was a lively discussion about the types of travelers who enjoy staying at an Agriturismo, as well as the personality of various groups who have stayed at Cretaiole. Most groups, like ours, "click", but there were some funny stories about groups that did not click.
We were supposed to have a tour and lunch at a nearby winery run by a local family on our last full day. Unfortunately there was a medical emergency in the family and the tour was canceled. There was also a Vegetarian Luncheon at a family run Organic Farm nearby, that people raved about all week. We chose not to participate in that since we had dinner reservations at Grappalo Blu and didn't think that we needed two big meals that day.
Funny story (now) about the Etruscan Ruins tour. The ruins are located behind a padlocked gate. The first stop on the tour was a small chapel with carved Madonna. To continue the tour it was necessary to descend 3 long, steep flights of stone steps. I am petrified of heights and decided that I would stay behind at the Chapel. Needless to say the group exited and disbursed from another location. Joe came back to get me, but I was behind the padlocked gate! After some moments of panic, we used the cell phone to call Isabella. ", Oh Madonna mia, I'll be right there" she said. Joe was studying the gate, and slowly but easily lifted it off of it's hinges and let me out. We were both waiting for Isabella on the right side of the gate when she arrived!
During this week we explored many small and medium sized towns as well as Sienna. We heard the Gregorian Chants at Sant' Antimo and shopped at the market in Chiusi. We marveled at the Tuscan Landscape during long, aimless drives. I was not always a good passenger on the many winding roads that looked like they were climbing up to the sky. Some very narrow roads led to no where. At least twice I got out of the car while Joe made a U-turn so that our kids would not be orphaned! We ate, we drank and we people watched for hours in all of the towns we visited.
It was fun to come home to Cretaiole each night and share our days adventures with the other guests. During our week , there were two other couples celebrating anniversaries and two families with 5 kids between them as well as an Artist who visits every year to paint. Julia and I were very early risers and enjoyed coffee together each morning. She and I share a dry and somewhat sarcastic sense of humor, and we had great fun.
In my next entry, I will post some photos of our explorations during this week. We barely scratched the surface of this wonderful area. Though we loved Florence and had a great time there, I think that we both regretted not staying longer in the countryside.