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Report 818: Mountains and Masterpieces

By Dana K from Pennsylvania, Spring 2005

Trip Description: My eight day trip to Tuscany in which I learned about marble and Michelangelo, masterpieces and more.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Tuscany

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; Large Group: 10 or More

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Page 1 of 12: Day 1 - Arriving at Calcione

photo by Dana Kaplan

The Farmhouse San Giuseppe

In March 2005 I visited Italy for the first time. It was a serendipitious event that brought me there. My good friend had attended a small private girls' school as a child. The headmaster of the school was now planning, on her own, a trip to Tuscany for a small group of people, mostly alumni or family of alumni. To be able to rent the size house she wanted she needed 15 people to sign up and only 14 did. My friend suggested to Susan, the headmaster, that I was very interested to join them and I quickly sent in my deposit.

Susan had a great idea. Although the schedule was kept very flexible and open she thought it would be fun and more interesting to visit places sort of chronologically. She thought we could start with the end of the medieval era and travel through history a little up to the Renaissance. Everyone liked this idea. It would be especially good to look at art this way. We had a few special tours with private guides arranged in advance, another advantage of the size of our group, but the rest of the trip was left open.

On March 19 we arrived at Calcione, the estate in Tuscany that would be our home for the trip. We were a varied group. Our hometowns were as distant as Arkansas and Belgium; we ranged in age from 29 to 84; our politics, religions and views were just as diverse. This was to lead to lots of good conversation over the next week.

We all settled into our rooms in the two farmhouses on the property. Each house had its own kitchen but the main kitchen was in the larger of the two houses, a farmhouse called San Giuseppe. It was here that we met for most of our dinners. Calcione employed a private cook for their guests, Amel, a wonderfully talented woman from Tunisia. This was great because during the next week Amel fed us traditional dishes from the region that we would not have known about or how to prepare, and she gave us little mini lessons in how to cook them.

Upon our arrival Amel was ready for us tired travelers. There was a wonderful lunch of risotto and salad. Right from the start we all fell into the habit of clearing the tables ourselves and carrying dishes back into the kitchen. I think it was because the kitchen was such a fun place to be. It was large and old and real, with a long farm table in the center of the room on which to work. The ceiling was very high, the walls were stucco, and there was a giant fireplace which was used for cooking. Maybe we were underfoot but Amel was always too polite to say so.

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