A Mother-Daughter Tuscan road trip

Once upon a time on a trip to Italy four women – two sets of mother/daughter pairs broke off from a larger group, rented a car in Florence and drove out to the Tuscan countryside. Our destination for a couple of nights was the Hilton Borgo Alle Vigne resort in Selvatelle, Tuscany.

After settling into our new digs we went off Montefoscoli for a cooking class organized through the resort.  If you ever find yourself staying near Montefoscoli then by all means sign up for a class with My Tuscan Kitchen.  Our class was held out at a traditional Tuscan farmhouse in the hills near the village.

The Temple of Minerva a short walk from where we took our cooking class.

Before we started cooking we walked over to the Temple of Minerva – a neoclassical building built around 1822 by a Pisan physician and dedicated to the goddess of medicine.  Rumor has it the temple had a hidden room where experiments on cadavers were done and so inspired Mary Shelley to write the novel Frankenstein.  However, since the novel was published in 1818 that’s probably not the case.  Later excavations on the grounds have revealed an empty room below the monument…

…okay, enough of that.  On to a fabulous Tuscan meal with home-grown wine, olive oil and other treats.

Chef Daniela – ready to teach us how it’s done!

The class was held on a traditional Tuscan farm where in the main building the animals would live on the bottom level and the family at the top.  The same is the case today although instead of farm animals there is a nice, large kitchen.  The trough makes a convenient storage space!

Our chef Daniela walked us through the making of Antipasti (Bruschetta with Mushroom Topping), Pasta e Fagioli (bean soup with pasta), Pollo Cacciatore (Chicken Stew) and Salamanca di Chocolate – a chocolate roll using graham crackers, cocoa powder and Alchermes Liquor.

After a fantastic meal we fell into our beds with visions of bottles of Temple of Minerva wines hidden in our carry on bags dancing through our heads.

The following morning after sleeping in we drove over to the town of Lucca. Lucca is a fantastic medieval town with a bike trail along the ancient ramparts.  Unfortunately, our mothers weren’t up for renting bikes but we had a lovely time browsing the local shops and eating lunch in the main square.

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Golden mosaic on the facade of the Basilica of San Freudian in Lucca, Italy.

After getting some gelato to go we got back in the car and drove off looking for some tower that is famous for leaning. We found it along with a hundred other folks. We’ll take it as a given we took shots of ourselves trying to hold the thing up.

After doing our bit to save the tower for posterity we hopped back into the car and went searching for a sunset on the water.  Being landlocked midwesterners this was a critical end to our day.  After some driving, some consultations with the GPS, some more driving and a wrong-way trip down a one-way pedestrian mall we found our sunset in the tourist town of Livorno.

Sunset off the pier at Livorno.

After basking in the glory of our sunset we drove back to our home away from home where we played cards while enjoying a smorgasbord of bread, cheese and wine we bought in Lucca.

The next morning we loaded up the car and fueled by a stop at a local café for coffee and pastries we headed out for wine country.  One stop for wine tasting later we got to San Gimignano – a hilltop town that from the surrounding parking lots appears to be quite popular during the summer months.  Since we were there in March we had the place practically to ourselves.  We wandered the streets, explored the church and even chatted with an American priest who was enjoying living there but still missing hamburgers and peanut butter.

View from San Gimignano

We then drove to Siena where we parked at the train station, walked through a shopping mall, across a street and into the old medieval town for an outdoor lunch and more browsing – including a scavenger hunt for some lovely Italian yarn my mom will make something from.  I’m looking forward to seeing whatever it is!

After saying ‘arriverdverci’ to Sue and her mother who were driving on to Pisa my mom and got on a local train back to Florence where we checked into the lovely Novella House.

Ceiling from our room in the Novella House, Florence.

I normally don’t get too excited about hotel rooms.  If the room is a clean and safe place to sleep in between visiting what really interests me then I’m a happy camper.  However, seeing my mother’s reaction to the lovely ceiling frescos left over from when the hotel was a private home made me happy I had booked the room.  The good coffee and biscotti selection in the room was also a treat.  I would definitely stay there again if lucky enough to get back to Florence.

However, we had family to reunite with for dinner so our ceiling-gazing had to be cut short.

One of my favorite sights in Italy was my nephew enjoying spaghetti and clams. If he ends up posting shots of me spilling food when I’m in my nineties I probably will deserve it.

Road Trip Roses

  • You can learn a lot about your mother when traveling together.  For example, I never knew she hated to cook until the Tuscan cooking class came up.  The fact it was my friend’s bucket list item made her go along. Of course, once we were there she was the most enthusiastic – asking questions, taking notes on the recipes and sending them to us after the trip.  She’s a good sport.
  • You can learn a lot about your friends by watching them play cards with their mothers.  Lots of laughs had all around.
  • Not eating out every night.  A loaf of bread, some cheese and other delicacies plus some wine and you’re free to enjoy your home away from home.
  • Tuscan cooking class – truly a memorable evening
  • Livorno sunset – worth the effort!

Road Trip Thorns

  • You will move slower and see less when traveling with your mothers.  Plan accordingly and plan for more time in each place.
  • My friend’s credit card account was compromised at the car rental agency in Florence.  Did they think she wouldn’t notice!?

Road Trip Buds (If I go again)

  • Spend more time in small towns like Lucca and Siena

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