No cooking lessons today!

No cooking lessons today! Today we travel to Sienna, one of the largest cities in Tuscany, and also one of the oldest. We are warmly greeted by Christina, our Sienese guide. She is an expert on the history of this region. A life long Sienna resident, Christina begins to weave a colorful tapestry of historic tales of Sienna. She points out many obscure architectural elements that illustrate the long, extraordinary history of this bustling beautiful city.

Of all the places we’ve visited this week, this is most certainly the most urban. Crowds of tourists mingle with locals in the bustling central market place. We began our day here. Everyone in our group excitedly scatters in search of great bargains. Shoes, purses, scarves and assorted leather goods are snapped up by many in our group. Traveling with only a carry-on suitcase, I was careful not to go crazy. There was really nothing I wanted for myself besides this magnificent trip, which is the greatest gift of all.

I am still in a state of disbelief that I am here, far away from the responsibilities at home, enjoying the incredible thoughtfulness and care from our hosts Coleen and Rhonda. They are so generous with their time and knowledge. I’ve watched them make the effort to get to know every guest and remember touching personal details about everyone’s life. They are extending themselves above beyond their professional job as hosts. They feel like friends.

After a long, elegant four-course lunch in Osteria le Loggia, we split the group up. Half went to the magnificent Duomo with Christina and the others hit the street shopping for clothes or, in my case, specialty foods and markets. With Rhonda’s keen sense of direction and shared love for gelato, I knew I had the perfect sidekick. After sampling some delicious, unusual flavors (Meringue Gelato? Yes please!) we roamed gourmet markets and popped into Siena’s best chocolate shop Venchi, established in 1878. More gift shopping and some sweet treats for the flight home and we were ready for the ride back to Montefollonico.

After a quick change of clothes we head out to the local Pizzeria for some of the best thin crust pizza I have ever tasted. A superior dough, fresh topping and a roaring wood fire oven is the ideal combo for the perfect pizza dinner. Our table devoured bowls of cold, crisp colorful salad and SIX delicious pizzas, piping hot with charred, blistered crusts. Toppings ranged from anchovies and capers, eggplant and zucchini, quarto formaggio and my personal favorite, a white pizza with porcini mushroom and shaved truffles. This raucous, casual dinner was the perfect counterpoint to all the elegant multi-course meals we’ve enjoyed to date. I loved every cheesy bite.
Oh, and did I mention there was fresh fruit sorbet for dessert?