Our own private Tuscan Villa

After a whirlwind of a trip in Rome and immediately following our papal blessing we hopped back in our beast of a vehicle and headed to an area of wine heaven called Tuscany.

Months ago my dear friend Corrine had shared with me that her boss owns a villa in Tuscany. If we were interested she offered to ask about getting us a good rental deal.  Obviously I was very interested in getting a good rental deal on a Villa in Tuscany so I gave her an enthusiastic “of course.”  When she got back to me with the price I made her repeat it a couple times as it was incredibly reasonable. Bookings were made. We planned our stay it in conjunction with my Mom and Becky’s visit because wine drinking with family is one of my favorite things.

Staying at the Villa or Casa Montisole was an adventure in an of itself. We really didn’t know what to expect. We knew the words “Tuscan” and “Villa” were pretty great. We knew the Villa was near the filming location of Under the Tuscan Sun. We knew a lady by the name of Stefania would check us in and have an Italian dinner prepared. We knew there was three bedrooms. We knew there was a pool.

With the address in Google Maps we started to drive deep into the Tuscan countryside which is incredibly beautiful with the olive trees, rolling hills and vineyards with grapes just about ready to be picked. The corkscrew roads kept us alert and then on our final turn-off we went unpaved. Up a hill. With two way traffic on a one way lane with blind corners and canopy trees until we came to a quaint wooden sign that read “Casa Montisole.”

The Villa itself is so charming. Almost like staying in a really nice cozy cabin. The isolation and quietness makes it a place of instant relaxation. We weren’t expecting the remoteness of the area. There was nothing near the villa as far as stores, restaurants or even other villas. It was quite a contrast going from the liveliness and pace of Rome to the solitude and peacefulness of our Tuscan Villa. It was a welcome change of pace with perfect timing that made us reflect on the beauty of contrasts.

Here we are in front of the Villa.  You can get a good idea of how beautiful the property is.














In no particular order the following is my top eight stand-outs of our time in Tuscany.

1.  Homemade Italian Dinner

On our first evening Stefania, whom my Mom commented has timeless beauty, left us with a homemade meal of lasagne, chicken, cake, and wine.  After a long drive it was nice to enjoy dinner at home.  It has been a rarity for Peter and I to enjoy home cooked meals as we’re typically without a kitchen so this was a real treat. The four of us sat at the tall counter top table enjoying our food, wine, and listening to soft music.  We recollected our time so far and all that we had to look forward too.  We enjoyed the stillness of the countryside and the pleasure of each other’s company. After a couple bottles of wine and some star-gazing we called it an early night.

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2.  Pet Peacocks

To give you an idea of just how remote a place we where staying at, the property has two of it’s own personal wild peacocks that roam the property, but never leave.  If you were outside they would typically walk over to where you were and hang out.  Admittedly they intimidated me so their presence made me slightly nervous. Most of the times there were docile, but every once in awhile they would bee-line it directly towards you which resulted in a frantic scramble indoors.















3.  Cortona

Cortona is a small hillside town located about 40 minutes from Casa Montisole. Its also the set location for Under the Tuscan Sun.  One early evening we took the drive to Cortona and strolled around the quaint cobble stone village town.  Because Cortona is located on a hill, its rightfully known for spectacular panoramic views of the Tuscan valley and Lake Trasimeno.  Just before sunset we grabbed a table outside at Antica Trattoria in Piazza Luca Signorelli.  It was a great area to sit down for a glass of wine and people watch.

After sunset we walked over to Osteria del Teatro, a dinner spot recommended by Stefania.  The food was good, but we were just spoiled in Rome so were a bit snobbish with our opinions on this meal.  Becky still can’t get over her pasta dish in Rome.  There was one alarming thing about the restaurant.  In the bathroom there were hundreds of porcelain dolls decorating the small single room.  So they watch you while you use the toilet.  Also, I couldn’t help but think about an environmental psychology class I had in college where I learned that when you flush a toilet bacteria is sprayed into the air.  Those dolls are covered in grossness and they already scared me a little.  I digress.

After dinner we stopped for … drum roll, please … gelato.  Ti Amo Gelato was our target and it was delicious.  As we learned in our gelato making class, places with fewer flavors, silver bins, and where pistachio is beige not green, indicates that it’s fresh, homemade and likely amazing. Pro tip: Avoid the shops with gelato mountains as inviting as they look to the eye.

4.  The Scorpion

Unbeknownst to us scorpions are quite popular in Tuscany.  Particularly in the summer months and particularly in remote areas. Both of which we had on our side.

One morning while I was in my room doing yoga to work off the pasta and gelato, I heard my mom say, “Peter I need someone else to look at this.”  What ensued next was Peter walking into my mom’s bedroom and taking one look at her cause for concern and confirming her fear – your little friend here is a scorpion.  At first investigation they both thought the scorpion to be dead. Peter grabbed a broom to sweep it up and when the bristles hit the scorpion’s body it jumped to life, scrambling towards safety, its tail erect and ready to defend as it ran. Scorpions move fast and with the foresight of restless nights if this scorpion got away, he quickly stopped its run before it could escape with the broom.  At this point, full of adrenaline, Peter and my Mom decided to coordinate an attack with a one-two punch. He would lift the broom and she would smack it with the dust pan. They executed with precision and perfection. I’m just sorry I didn’t get to witness this two-person circus. Mother-in-law bonding at its best.

After the incident all of us took to Google.  If you put into your search “Tuscan Scorpion” the second article that comes up is entitled “Scorpions in your bed.” We also discovered that scorpions are nocturnal which was alarming and left us all to sleep with one eye open.  For the next two nights, I made Peter pull back all our covers and shake out our pillows before bed.  For the record we did not see anymore scorpions on our visit.

5.  Montepulciano

The day we went to Montepulciano was my favorite because this was our wine tasting day. Also, Montepulciano is just a fun word to say (Mon-te-pul-che-ano).  Peter and I try our Italian accents with this word all of the time.

This area is known for Vino Nobile and Rosso.  Most of the grapes in the area are Sangiovese, however, some wineries grow Cabernet and Merlot grapes.

Our first stop was Poliziano, which is located just outside of Montepulciano city center.  This winery is located on a beautiful vineyard with row after row of ripened grapes.  They were going to start harvesting in a couple weeks and they stressed how important the final weeks were to the grape’s outcome.  While touring the property we took grapes right off the vines and ate them.  Something I have never done before.  The ripened grapes from the vine were unbelievable good and like nothing we have ever tasted from the grocery store.  The winemakers say they lose more grapes to birds than tourists so don’t seem to mind.






















































When we were done running through the vineyards and confiscating grapes we headed into the winery where we were greeted by Fabio for our tasting.  He sat us with six other Americans.  The crew we sat with were three older couples that were all friends from the military.  One couple, celebrating their 50th anniversary, is from La Quinta and they run a wine club of about 100 or so people.  I thought I had a big wine club with my 12 women.  I bet mine is more fun though.  They were a lively bunch and shared with us their stories of staying in a Villa as well and that one of the woman had found a scorpion in her bed.  I asked my usual question of what marriage advice could they bestow on us.  One of the woman mentioned “iron his clothes.”  Then she went into a story of how she ironed her husbands uniform for years, but then found out that the other women weren’t doing it, so she stopped.  The story didn’t make much sense to me, iron then not iron, but their group had been touring wineries for a good part of the day, so it could have been the wine talking.

Peter really enjoyed what Poliziano does with their Cabernet / Merlot blend so we bought a bottle.  He also realized at this point that Sangiovese isn’t his cup of tea.  At this point I roll my eyes at my husband and tell him he is just a snob now after all the French wines.

Next up was another great winery, Talosa, which has a tasting room located in the heart of the the hilltop medieval town of Montepulciano.  We had to take walk up winding narrow stone roads to get there.  When we opened the door, we were greeted by a gentleman who sent us downstairs to check out the cellar.  We descended the 61 stairs to the ancient underground cellar that dates back to the 16th century.  The huge oak barrels and brick walls were a sight.













When we returned our wine expert, Christian, entertained us as he poured our wine and fed us knowledge of Talosa wine making,  He was enthusiastic and fun.  We tried four delicious wines, including a dessert wine and grappa.  Grappa is what is made from the left over pressed wine, is high in alcohol, and essentially tastes like gasoline.  Not good.

Christian informed us that John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen had just been in a few days ago and that Ed Norton and his wife just before the singer and supermodel.  He shared with us the pictures he had taken with them.  He also mentioned that he was not a fan of Ed Norton’s wife.  Peter then got him going on my stint on CSI Miami so Christian insisted that I get in a picture with him too.  After wine tasting I asked him how much we owed for the tasting to which he replied, “Are you crazy? Pay to taste?” Peter and I really liked the wine and ended up buying a bottle of the specialty, Vino Nobile, to enjoy back at the villa













As we said our good byes to Christian we asked for a dinner recommendation.  He suggested a place right around the corner, Osteria del Borgo.  Predictably, it was fabulous.  It was also my favorite meal in Tuscany.  I ordered the truffle pasta and it was as good as it sounds.  As I write this, I suddenly miss Italian food.  As we left dinner that night, the manager followed us out.  He barely spoke English, but it was very important for him that he find out if we liked our dinner.  I gave him two thumbs up and a big smile because I don’t speak Italian and I figured that would be the best way to inform him.

As we took the walk back to the car through the cobblestone streets you could hear an opera singer in the distance practicing in her home.  Isn’t that a magical end to a perfect day?

6.  The Bathroom Incident

On our way back to the car my mom needed to use the toilet and sometimes, more often than not,  it can be a challenge to find a restaurant that will let you use their toilet if you aren’t eating there.  Montepulciano is a small town and at that time of night things are closed.  We walked into a restaurant where the host explained that we could not use their toilet.  Ok fine, we’ll buy a drink to use the toilet. No, there is no bar to buy a drink from. At this point principle came before etiquette so we stood waiting for a different answer in the nearly empty restaurant. Then he hit us with, “This is a first class restaurant. Please leave.” We took our second class selves past their first class chalkboard menu and checkerboard tablecloths and eventually found a cafe where we treated ourselves to limoncello and the toilet.

7.  Full moon 

That night when we got back to our Villa we enjoyed an exceptional bright full moon.  Remember we were in the middle of what felt like no where so a full moon is especially bright without city light .  We sat outside as the moonlight lit up our villa pool, opened a bottle of wine we had just purchased, and enjoyed the tranquility of Tuscany.

8.  The surrounding area of our Villa

We had so much fun doing photo shoots outside our Villa because the scenery is stunning.  The only problem was at times insects and peacocks would dive bomb us or intimidate us.  That is another part of being out in the country, the bugs.  The beauty certainly outweighed the bugs and still didn’t compare to the blankets of mosquitoes I have experienced out at Minto in Alaska.















































Tuscany was really good to us.  Such a beautiful countryside.  I look forward to going back to visit some other areas such as Siena, and Montalcino where the “special wine” Brunello is made.

In the morning we loaded up our large van for the final leg of our Italian road trip for George Clooney’s wedding in Venice. We actually missed that madness by about two weeks.

With gratitude, thanks for following.  If you get inspired to travel by reading this, just do it!

Much Love,

Mrs Fotheringham (I’m still getting use to that)



  • Becky Lessley

    “We took our second class selves passed their first class chalkboard menu
    and checkerboard tablecloths and eventually found a cafe where we
    treated ourselves to limoncello and the toilet.” That is my favorite line of this blog. I laughed out loud for a long time. I had totally forgotten that entire incident. Thanks for the memories. And, like you, I missed the killing of the scorpion. So wish I had been there to see that. I would NOT have been one bit helpful in that endeavor other than screaming. You forgot to mention that Rosemary never slept in that room again. She moved upstairs and slept in the extra bed in my room. She figured the ground floor was just full of nasty creatures. PLUS watching Peter try to get away from the bees and/or hornets while taking pictures of you and Rosemary was hilarious. I was laughing so hard. Remember, there was a nest nearby. Good times!

  • hahaha Becky I liked that line too. Limoncello and the toilet. I also changed the passed to past. Man proofreading is challenging. Thanks for mentioning my mom not sleeping in the room again. That was a great memory as well as Peter dodging insects as he took pictures. What a trip! Loved it!

  • Becky Lessley

    I did notice passed rather than past. My thought was that if you had just put a comma after selves, passed would have just worked fine so………… I gave you guys a “pass” on that bit of proofreading :) Love you guys!

  • Rosemary Hodges

    Once again you have completely outdone yourself. What fun to laugh out loud and cry tears at the same time. Never forget the scorpion incident or the fight for a bathroom in the” first class” restaurant.I would have failed to realize our good fortune at being in a first class restaurant if he hadn’t told us. I just wish he had told me before I asked to use the bathroom. I mean honestly…….first class restaurants don’t have bathrooms. Please leave. Loved Christian, our wine expert. They need him on the E channel. He would make a great foreign correspondent. Its all so good. Thanks so much.

  • The scorpion really added some good drama to the trip. I was fearful every night I went to sleep after that. Really what I loved about staying in the Villa was how peaceful it was. Thanks for reading and being a part of it.