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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Under the Tuscan Sun

Hello dear friends.  It is raining cats and dogs here.  I can't complain because we need the rain.  Tomorrow promises sunshine for my day at the showhouse.

If you haven't been bored to tears from hearing about my summer vacation yet, here is the third segment.  The first two posts, if you missed them, can be found here and here.


The cruise ship offers at least five different excursions at each port. I chose our first adventure.  It was purely emotional.  I loved the movie Under the Tuscan Sun and have seen it at least a thousand times.  

Our fellow ship mates climbed onto the gigantic air conditioned bus en route to a day in Tuscany. We were to visit two towns and have lunch at a farmhouse.  This was right up my Tuscan alley.   

It wasn't until then that I asked the Mister how long the drive was and he told me about 90 minutes.  Ugh.  Along with my phobia of down escalators, I also have a tendency towards car sickness.  Being the brave soldier, I took a deep breath and said a quick Hail Mary and buckled down for the ride.

By the time we reached our destination, I had said a full Rosary.  This drive is not for the feint of heart.  Our gargantuan bus traveled up one-lane winding roads through the hills.  Every twenty minutes we had to slow down (thankfully) for another hairpin turn.

I took these from the bus.  

Although it was a white knuckle ride, the scenery was beautiful.

This small guard rail was our only protection.  Many parts of the rail were missing.  I didn't even want to a think about that.


Before entering the town of Volterra, we passed the prison.  This jail is like no other.  It is housed in a fifteenth century castle with towers built by Lorenzo de Medici.  It is also the home of one of the best theater companies in the area.     

New York Times

The jail mates take part in all facets of the theater production. They are serving time for everything from armed robbery to murder.  No white collar crime guys in this joint.

New York Times

It is known as Compagnia della Fortezza which translates as the Company of the Fortress.  It was launched in 1988 and began as "drama therapy" for the prisoners.    


Not only does the prison operate the theater, it also houses The Fortezza Medicea Restaurant.  It is open to the public once a month.  

The prisoners are trained in all capacities: cooking, baking, waiting tables, and wine selection.  The sommelier class includes wine tasting for the inmates.  I bet that class is popular!!

Entertainment Designer

I told the Mister that if we ever go back to that area, I want to dine there.  The tour guide told us that there is a long wait - a few months - for a reservation.  Guess I have to break the law to get in there.  Whatever it takes.

We made a stop in Volterra, which is a beautiful hilltop town.  It is known for a couple of things.

Volterra was the inspiration for the Twilight series.  It was home to Volturri, a coven of rich, powerful vampires.  I did not see any there, but I did keep my eyes open and my turkey neck covered.

This town is filled with beautiful antique doors.  Our tour guide told us that the doors were customary wedding presents from the in-laws.

Volterra is also known as the land of alabaster.  Alabaster is the only translucent stone in existence.

I asked if they carried any busts of George Clooney.  They told me that they just sold out. 

If you are in the market for alabaster, this is the town for you!

Our tour guide gave us an hour to walk around town.  He said if we needed to use the facilities, we should order a cup of coffee in one of the cafes, and use one there.

Looks like this lady was just caught flirting with the Mister!!  

I did not want to spoil my petite appetite for lunch.  The Mister didn't care and indulged at his every whim.  I think he would have sold me to the vampires for one of those meringues.

Needless to say, no matter where we are, the Mister and I spend about eighty-five percent of our lifetimes in search of the almighty wash room.  It is no different in Italy.

This is where we stopped for our "coffee."  Note to self:  check out the facility before making a purchase.  This place was a double YUCK!

We left loving Volterra and hopped onto the bus to head for the  local farmhouse for some Tuscan cuisine.

We arrived at the farmhouse about 45 minutes and 7 hairpin turns later.

We got to meet and socialize with our ship mates.  They were lovely.  The food was delicious and featured grilled vegetables, salami made from boar, lasagna, and sheep cheese, olives, and pine nuts which are indigenous of the area.  The sheep cheese was my favorite.  The cheese is soft and almost buttery.  We even had sheep cheesecake for desert.  We washed it all down with a glass or two of Chianti.  

Can you tell that they are big on sheep around here?

Many artists visit this farmhouse for inspiration.  The views are spectacular.

The next stop was San Gimignano.  It is an enchanting medieval village named after Bishop Gimignano, who saved the city from a barbarian attack.  Glad we weren't visiting on that day!

There were many shops that sold beautiful hand painted pottery. 
Also featured were fabulous fabrics from Provence.

I wanted to bring that big ol' boar home with me.  He would keep Chow in line.  But the Mister said that my suitcase was over the weight limit already.

A Tuscan Selfie.
I think the Mister is still thinking about that lady in the bakery!

Until next time...

Capturing la Vita
Preppy Empty Nester
Preppy Empty Nester

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Feel free to contact me through comments and email. I love to hear from my readers!


  1. Your photos are "magazine ready" if you ever need a back up career should Super Model Trophy wife run its course (I too saw the eyes the lady in the bakery was making at the Mister). Everything on the menu sounded delicious, what a wonderful trip. Not sure if this will help, but I used to be part of an after school ski club and took 100 kids skiing twice a week, many would get bus sick (ick) I heard that gum chewing helped so I began passing it out. For the most part it did the trick.

  2. A am the biggest fan of Under the Tuscan Sun and one of the main reasons is for the scenery. Your images are beautiful, but not sure I would have done well on the bus ride! You two are so fun - start a travel company and we'll all travel with you!

  3. This is SUCH a wonderful post!!! Thank you so much for sharing all the details with us...I love hearing all about it and your photos are fabuloso! When I finally get back to blogging (hopefully soon!) I am going to link to this post! xoxoxo

  4. Under the Tuscsn Sun is one of my all time favorite movies (and book)! Did you see sunflower fields or was it the wrong time? Looks like a wonderful day, especially the lunch at the villa.

  5. Thank you for the virtual trip...though those hairpin turns I could do without. I remember being so frightened on a bus whose driver was going entirely too fast on a two lane road along the sea between Nice and the Italian border. I don't remember the guard rails, but knew that if that bus jumped track I would die in the Mediterranean Sea. I thought that if I lived through that bus ride I would be thankful for the rest of my life! I am.

    Your photos are great...as well as the selfie! Thanks for the trip.

  6. WOW what an amazing trip! thanks for sharing, K

  7. awwwwww.....wish I'd known you were going to San Gimingnano....could have given you great restaurant recommendation. I stayed there two nights on my backpacking adventure. Sweet...the city of towers. Bought an awesome pair of shoes there and everyone always asks me where I got them...."Why, Italia, of course!"....hahahaha
    Looks like ya'll had so much fun. Hope your walked around the walls of the town....gorgeous views from there!

  8. Your photos remind me of why I love Italy - beautiful, welcoming and scrumptious. Thank you for sharing!

  9. I have loved very post of your summer adventures, keep them coming! I love Tuscany and never tire of seeing or being there, your photos are lovely.

    I am with your husband though, eat all of the tasty treats that you see, they are fabulous and you only live once.

  10. Katie I feel like I am on this trip right with you and how heavenly!!
    I would also love to dine at the prison restaurant!!

    The Arts by Karena
    Artist Nicoletta Belletti

  11. Love the post and photos. I am now feeling jealous. I'd love to visit Tuscany. The closest I might get is Lydia's Italy. Check your Hubby's computer. I hear he's been getting email from the bakery chick. Lol. Wonderful post!!

  12. Thanks so-much for sharing your vacation pix! Tuscany is also one of my very-favorite destinations; not surprising that 'Under the Tuscan Sun' is also a fave film of mine:) Katie, everyone middle-aged who travels abroad is constantly on the lookout for an acceptable restroom...before we decide on a café/restaurant I ALWAYS check-out the facilities:) One bathroom in Lisbon was flooded with a quarter-inch of water...they were so surprised that we opted not to dine there;) Anyway, loved the pix...I'm going to put that cute little-town on the itinerary for our trip to Italy (Sienna is also supposed to be gorgeous). LOVE your blog!

    1. Nickie... We mid-life hotties have our priorities right - clean bathrooms are a must! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I hope you have a great week!

  13. Hi I am back and just catching up. Wow prison never looked so good....that is crazy and so interesting! I am a huge germaphob so I totally hear you on yucky bathrooms.....and lets face it standards are ugh...somewhat different abroad. Dirty restrooms aside, your pictures are fabulous and make me want to hop on the next plane Tuscany bound..what fun!

  14. Hi Katie. Thanks for visiting MyKyLiving. I tried to respond to your note by email and it says your email is not a working one. I just thought you might want to double check the email associated with your blog maybe....in case other adoring fans want to contact you! Ha!

  15. You are the best travel writer, Katie!! We love this account of your day in Tuscany having spent so much time there with an aunt who lives in the Florentine hills. The sign propped up in the meringues made us laugh - its says "brutti ma buoni" which means ugly but tasty! Hope you have a lovely weekend now that the sun is shining again.
    C + C

  16. Gorgeous pictures, my friend! And so well watermarked! ;-)
    That prison restautant sounds intriguing! So intriguing that Peter might consider becoming an Italian felon to take part in the wine classes!

  17. I'm loving your tours here, Katie! Isn't San Gimignano charming? I'm just sure I saw that same boar in the shop a couple of years ago. ;)


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