We want to thank everyone again for the overwhelming support and feedback on our House Hunters International episode, “The Full Montepulciano”. We are currently preparing for our exciting and surreal move to Tuscany in less than two weeks! We promise to post lots of updated photos of the renovation once we arrive and get settled in. That said, we do have two more past stories that we’d like to share with you. Although we both write the blogs together, we are going to temporarily break from that and Toby is going to tell you the first story…
With Mother’s Day coming up, I can’t think of a better time to write about than our January 2018 trip. We were fortunate enough to have my mom, Victoria, join us and what adventures we had! Not only was this Victoria’s first trip to Italy, but this would be the first time we were able to stay in our newly renovated private space at Fonte Martino!
Let me start by telling you about my mom. She is strong, brave, smart, kind, generous, and loving. Those are only few of the many words I can describe her. She has always sacrificed what she needed to make sure my sister and I had everything we needed growing up. My mom has this light that surrounds her that brightens any room she enters. I am often told that I have her smile…which is such a compliment. She always encouraged me to spread my wings and to dream. Nothing is ever impossible in her eyes and when you meet a challenge, her advice was – “work harder”. Somehow, no matter what the challenge, by following her advice I always succeeded…even when I failed – because I tried. If it wasn’t for her constant love, support, and encouragement, my life would have been much different and you probably would not be reading this.
We met my mom at the Cleveland airport and once we went through security, we settled in the lounge anxiously waiting for our flight to board. We have a tradition that we take a photo with whomever we are traveling with sipping a glass of Prosecco. We talked about the upcoming flight and we were all getting very excited. In a few hours, we would be landing in Rome!
We landed, picked up the rental car, and began the drive to Fonte Martino in Montepulciano. With each passing mile, we were getting more and more excited wondering how our new home would look in person. We have not seen the house since our visit in November. Although we were all tired from the flights, my mom (known for her endless energy) was peering from window to window to see as much of Italy as she could.
We arrived in Montepulciano and began driving down Via di Valardegna, the road that leads to our home. The excitement grew as we reached our entrance gate. I think mom was a little overwhelmed…just as David and I were. We drove up our drive and Fonte Martino appeared. This is the first time my mom was able to see it in person and the first time we were able to see the new renovations. We unlocked the front door and when we walked in, we had a huge sense of accomplishment and joy in seeing all the changes. We were blown away…a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new tile floors, windows and doors – it was beautiful!
Keeping in mind that this was the first time we were able to actually stay in Fonte Martino, we warned my mom that this trip would be more like “glamping”. Not quite camping because we had heat, hot water, and two mattresses to sleep on…but that was basically it! Being the trooper she is, she said it didn’t matter if she had to sleep in a sleeping bag! We set up the mattresses and then ran to the local grocery store for supplies – we all need our strong Italian coffee in the morning!
We awoke the next morning refreshed from the journey the day before. After our morning coffee, it was time to show my mom Montepulciano…our new home town! We decided to take her to lunch at one of our favorite cafes in town, Caffè Poliziano. We suggested that she try the Pici, the official pasta of Montepulciano. She LOVED it! During our lunch, we were very fortunate to introduce my mom to one of our new friends, Davor. Montepulciano has that small-town feel where you can run into people you know but is big enough to have amazing shops and there is always an event or festival going on.
We finished eating and just after paying the check, the power went out. Now, in all our travels to Italy, this was the first time this ever happened. Everyone started wondering what was going on. The staff at Caffè Poliziano were checking to see if a fuse blew and Claudio, our friend and one of the owners, went outside to check things. He came in and said the entire town was without power! We went to check Fonte Martino to see if we had power and all was well. The next day, we were reading one of our Italian news feeds and learned just how the town lost power. Believe it or not, a local hunter was aiming at a wild boar and when he took the shot, he missed it and hit a power line! Fortunately, the power company responded quickly and repaired within a half hour.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was taking my mom to Cortona. Cortona is where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun took place, although most of it was actually filmed in Montepulciano. This is a movie that both my mom and I have probably seen over a hundred times (seriously…this is not an exaggeration). Each time the movie comes on, I torture David by making him watch it! Cortona is also the first town I called my mom from on our very first trip to Italy in 2010. Mom and I were so excited to go to Cortona…well, let’s just say we drove David a little crazy! One of the very first things we did upon arriving was to have David take a photo of us standing in the same spot where I first called her. What a beautiful memory…
We explored Cortona and had cappuccinos in Caffè Vittoria – mom is convinced it’s named for her. David suggested that we then go see the Basilica of Santa Margherita, a church located at the top of the hillside, above Cortona. Although you just follow the streets up and up and up, it is a long hike to reach the church, but well worth it because of it’s incredible beauty. We were all exhausted by the time we got to the top, fortunately, the journey back to the car was all downhill!
Speaking of churches, my grandma Irene asked my mom to light candles in churches for her. At first, we thought this was a really sweet request…but then after going in our 200th church to light candles (ok, maybe exaggerating a little), we began to question how sweet it was. Add to this that my mom has many Facebook friends and they all started to request candles to be lit. It got to the point where mom was lighting so many candles that we were worried she would start a fire in one of the churches!
We had so many other fun adventures, too many to write. We spent the day in Siena, and yes, we went into a church to light candles! There is an amazing panoramic view of Siena that is at the top of a 131-step corkscrew stairway which we decided to climb. My mom is not a fan of heights, but she was a trooper and when we reached the top, we were greeted with one of the most amazing panoramic views of Siena. We also decided to spend the day at a beach located in the Maremma. Yes, it was January, but it was always sunny and the temps were in the upper 50s. My mom loves the beach and was completely in her element walking in the sand, feeling the warm sunshine, and hearing the waves of the Mediterranean Sea crash along the shore.
On one of the final nights, Cristina invited us to dinner at her home. Well, when Cristina’s mom found out about this, she asked if she could help. This turned from just helping to completely taking over the dinner…and what an amazing dinner it was! My mom was looking forward to a real Italian dinner…and boy did she get it! The dinner lasted 5 wonderful hours. The amazing food and wine kept coming, as did the stories and laughter. What a perfect fun-filled evening that we’ll never forget. The generosity and kindness that Cristina and her family have shown us has been overwhelming and we are so grateful.
Back at Fonte Martino, it was finally time to pack our things for the journey home. The trip went too fast and has come to an end. There would be one final task – trying to fit everything my mom purchased into the suitcases. SHE CAN SHOP! She had a list of people to purchase gifts for and even added to the list along the way. Her list even included buying gifts for the people who work in a convenience shop she frequents! Fortunately, we had an extra suitcase from transporting things to Fonte Martino. She filled it completely with all the treasures she found shopping in Montepulciano, Siena, Arezzo, Cortona, and many other places we visited. We needed a crane to lift the fully packed suitcase, but somehow, she was able to get everything inside!
We had an amazing time taking my mom to Italy for the fist time. We created so many memories filled with fun and laughter and know there will be lots more adventures to come!
Mom – Thank you for giving me wings and teaching me to fly. Thank you for your never-ending encouragement and for believing in me. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better person and always supporting my dreams, no matter how crazy they were! Here’s looking forward to our next adventures together!!! Happy Mother’s Day and I love you Mama…