It amazing to know you can be in Italy in 12 hours. And boy, were we energized when we arrived at the Florence airport!

Our flights went flawlessly, and our good luck continued once we got into our rental car, as the driving instructions I printed out from Google Maps took us right to the small family winery, Il Santo, where we have “our” apartment in Greve, with nary a wrong turn. It was only a 30 minute drive.

Our host, Allesandro, has become a good friend, and he works hard to assure that his guests have a great time here. He even came up with an American coffee maker when we asked for it (Italians drink espresso, in small quantities). We bring our own coffee and filters because we prefer American coffee.

We also always recommend that you rent a car if you want to really explore Tuscany. There is very little public transportation available here.

After unpacking, we drove down the hill to the village and enjoyed cups of gelato at Gelateria Da Lorenza. You’ll get the best gelato of your life here in Italy, something we discovered on our first visit 10 years ago. Next we visited the small supermarket COOP, purchased a few groceries, and came back and enjoyed a glass of wine with fruit and cheese, just enough to tide us over for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the town square, Magiando Magiando.

This is our fifth trip to Tuscany and we’ve visited Greve every time. We really feel at home here.

Read our Travelin’ Maine(rs) column this week for our thoughts on a typical day in Tuscany.

What do we love about Il Santo?

Well, the stunning view of the surrounding hillsides of olive trees and grape vines, the outside table where we eat many of our meals, the comfortable apartment with a full kitchen/dining room downstairs and a lovely bedroom loft, the many historic hillside towns within a 60 minute drive, the Saturday market when many vendors come to the square selling everything from hardware and clothing to amazing pork sandwiches, several favorite restaurants in Greve and surrounding towns, the wonderful hikes we enjoy up, down, and across the hills, the historic churches and amazing art, the small shops (wine in one, pasta in another, fruits and vegetables nearby) and oh, this is only a partial list.

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Standing outside our apartment at Il Santo, every view looks like a work of art. We’re surrounded by hillsides of olive trees and grape vines, blossoming flowers and small shrubs full of lemons. We look around, choose a road on a nearby hillside, drive there, and walk, usually for an hour or two. Some of our favorite walks start right from our apartment.

The slow pace of life here keeps us coming back. Shops close for a few hours every afternoon, and dinners don’t begin until 7:30 p.m. and can last for two or three hours. Sure, you can eat sooner and faster, but why would you want to?

We did go to dinner the first night a little early, anxious to get back to the apartment and catch up on sleep. We sat outside at Magiando, in the village square, with a nice breeze blowing, and enjoyed people watching while we ate. My all-time favorite pasta was on the menu, pappardelle with wild boar sauce, and it was soooo good. We generally order the house wine. It’s always good and inexpensive. Linda had spaghetti. We raced through dinner in 90 minutes. Well, that’s racing by Italian dinner standards.

While I’ve tried to speak Italian, it doesn’t work so well with a Maine accent, but Linda is pretty good in Italian. I do try. In Italy, they don’t bring your check until you ask for it, saying “Il conto, per favore.” That means “Please bring our check.” When we were ready, I motioned to our server, and as she approached the table, I stumbled on “conte,” and simply pointed at Linda, who got out the whole phrase. Even the server laughed.

But I’m not sure I got an A for effort.

Check back later for more blog posts about the trip. 

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