I romanticize. It’s true. It’s why I’ve ended up, more times than I can count, doing something that I’d convinced myself would be fabulous but would later discover is kind of terrible. Other people tend to see the writing on the wall, but I like to slap a thick coat of rose-colored paint over the message and call it an accent piece. It’s the kind of thinking that’s led me bounding towards a cruise ship dreaming of the glistening open seas, my turquoise sarong effortlessly tied (I mean, come on, already there’s a problem here) as I bask in the sun alongside a shimmering, crystal-clear pool. In reality, I find myself slightly sea-sick, desperately tugging at my wind-whipped cover-up as it flaps over my face and dragging a screaming child out of an onboard cesspool while wondering if I might have the symptoms for scurvy. It’s why I’ve found myself skiing slopes way too steep for an amateur or screeching down mountain bike trails I have no business walking let alone riding. It’s the wind in my hair, the gorgeous, sunny day, the careless put together image of myself that tends to wash over the real-life hot mess express I am typically running to catch.
This is the exact kind of thinking that landed me in the middle of Tuscany, 20 miles outside of Siena, on a farm known for its pigs and prosciutto, startled awake at one in the morning with a grasshopper the size of a stapler on my forehead and a mouse in my bed.
But let me back up.
Tenuta di Spannocchia
I’d heard about Tenuta di Spannocchia through endless Googling and researching. I wanted a true Italian agroturismo stay. I wanted to step away from the hustle and bustle of Florence and Rome and roll back into time. I wanted the picturesque rolling hills, the Tuscan sun, the Diane Lane. And Tenuta di Spannocchia promised to be all that and then some.
Settled on a 1100- acre organic farm, Tenuta di Spannocchia has been home to folks from all around the world. A muse for scholars, artists, musicians and environmentalists and a pillar for sustainable living. The farm produces certified organic olive oil and wine. The vegetable garden provides all the necessary ingredients for their authentic, rustic cuisine. And the farmhouses, available for rent, date back to the 12th Century. But it’s the pigs, the Cinta Senese, a heritage breed native to Tuscany that was almost extinct before Spannocchia started breeding them, that are the main attraction.
Obviously, the perfect spot for people who have no concept of farm life.
A Warm Welcome
Upon arriving, Casa Dami--the farm’s largest and oldest house-- had been prepared for us. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it was plenty big for the four adults and three kids I had lured to the countryside. Three single beds for the kids were neatly set up in the main floor stone bedroom while a queen-sized bed was waiting in each of the rooms upstairs for the adults. A gigantic fireplace took center stage in the cozy living room and windows facing out to the rolling Tuscan hillside dotted the dining room. Our hosts had filled the farmhouse kitchen with an overflowing basket of vegetables from the garden, fresh eggs, warm bread, and a bottle of wine.
Outside, there was a lovely pool with a ping pong table and some shady trees--a fast favorite among us all. A small reception area sold wine and olive oil and other fruits of the farm and a large common space hosted a cocktail hour and delicious family-style welcome dinner for guests and interns alike.
Too Hot to Handle
But, as the temperatures rose (it got over 100 degrees), the heat began to burn the edges of the picture I’d been painting in my head. Words like rustic and secluded and authentic started to take on a different meaning. Rustic was code for sweat-through-the-mattress hot at night and bye-bye wifi. Secluded meant it would take 30 minutes just to find a market that wouldn’t have what you need. Authentic meant mosquito bites the size of quarters and grasshoppers so green they looked like they were radioactive.
And while our stay was everything it promised to be--rustic, secluded, authentic--and the pigs were exactly as described, and the farmhouse was just what I’d ordered, this farm just wasn’t for these city slickers.
So, when I awoke at one in the morning with a grasshopper the size of a small stapler on my forehead, jumped out of bed like a rocket, and ripped off the bed sheets (in search of the insect) only to find a trail of mouse poop, it was time to say goodbye.
Tenuta di Spannocchia was everything it said it would be. I, somehow, missed the message.
Where to Stay: Tenuta di Spannocchia
What to Do: Cinta Senese Tour, Siena
Where to Eat: Made our own meals at the farmhouse
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