1 Tuscany treated me to some of the freshest, simplest, and most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. This caprese was unforgettable.
2 Lunch on the second day was almost too beautiful to eat.
3 This is La Bandita, a traditional Tuscan farmhouse on the exterior, and a chic hotel inside. The only stairs are here on the exterior, from when sheep and cows once lived on the ground floor and the farmer lived upstairs.
4 Large dunes, like the one in the distance, occur naturally in the clay soil, which is characteristic of the Val D’Orcia region.
5 The dunes are called calanchi.
6 We ended every day with a bonfire after dinner. (My fiancée proposed to me here on one particularly romantic evening.)
7 The villa sits on a natural reserve of almost 1000 acres.
8 Curious little lizards occasionally darted across our path.
9 Mount Amiata was once volcanic tens of thousands of years ago. Now, its internal heat feeds thermal baths nearby.
10 Tall, slender cypress trees line many of the beautiful twisting roads.
11 Cypress trees have a rich texture.
12 We visited a winery in Montalcino, a region that produces Brunello (dark) wines made from Sangiovese grapes.
13 At this winery, Brunellos age in still barrels for at least 5 years. The highest quality harvests go even longer.
14 80,000 bottles of wine are ready to be labeled and shipped for sale. This one room held millions of dollars of inventory.
16 Leaving the winery, we saw the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, which is still a working monastery. We heard music echoing through the massive stone interior and stopped in to listen.
17 A magnificent sunset over the Tuscan landscape
18 We visited Pienza, a charming little walled city on a high hill. This is the view from the entrance to the town.
19 A sweet street in Pienza - The Tuscan hill towns are meticulously maintained and cared for.
20 A beautiful plant cascading from its window sill perch - The leaves look like little fireworks. I don’t know what kind this is, but I bet Martha does.
21 This gorgeous flower was so rich and velvety.
22 A pretty hand-painted mailbox
23 Charming signage on a storefront
24 We strolled up a picturesque street in Monticciello after dinner one night. The beauty was overwhelming.
25 The chef at La Bandita made us homemade bread and served it with local olive oil.
26 Olive trees grow everywhere in Tuscany. Many restaurants and farms produce their own product.
27 Pecorino cheese is made from sheep’s milk and is a staple in Tuscany. Here, it’s served with walnuts and acacia honey.
28 We visited a farm owned by this woman, her husband, and their five sons. They make their own cheese, wine and olive oil, and operate a restaurant on the property. They also tend to sheep, goats, pigs, a few cats and dogs, and 3 donkeys.
29 The donkeys greeted us.
30 This guy was sticking his head through the fence, hoping for a snack.
31 The incredible geometric gardens of La Foce, a private estate with a garden designed by an English architect in the 1920s. Some of these cypress trees are trimmed flat on top.
32 One of the many breathtaking views at La Foce. I would have loved to linger here all evening.
33 Tangled trunks on one of the garden paths
34 On our last night we celebrated with a pig roast in the brick oven.
35 As the sun began to set we gathered for dinner.
36 And one last magical sunset