I Heart Italia, Part Due (that’s two in Italian).
Ten miles outside of Siena lives an interesting fellow named Franz. His family’s barn, converted into a Tuscan farmhouse, has been in existence for 800 years. With Franz… a cast of characters. There’s the helpers, and a smiling Antonio and his wife (?). Hens and roosters rule the roost… until the peacock shows up with all of his feathers in full display.
The white doves coo, and the four cats meow. The gaggle of geese drop by, but don’t get too close, they’ll chase you off to the field where the cow nibbles on grape leaves in the vineyard. Nearby, a donkey chills with a calf, while white horses gallop in the sunlight.
Rico the Bernese Mountain Dog and Rocco the corpulent Rhodesian Ridgeback greet you as you walk up the step to the rustic home. Bees buzz about the wisteria and tulips, and as you enter the house, the smell the leftover campfire scent permeates the air. Does it sound like a storybook? Cuz it is. This is Ebbio.
Ebbio was a home base for seven of the days I was in Italy. Franz is an interesting character… he’s half excitable and willing to please, half annoyed that another group of yogis is taking up his time and space. As a fully functioning farm, we indulged in (literally) farm-fresh hen and goose eggs, yogurt, and vegetables daily. The pasta was made fresh and with only a few ingredients. Eggplant, stuffed peppers and artichokes were a part of the menu. Nothing had more than three-four ingredients, as is the Tuscan way of cooking. And the olive oil. Oh goodness, the olive oil. I was addicted. I would put in on everything. Seriously, EVERYTHING.
Every morning, the roosters would cock-a-doodle-doo, and we would awake for yoga, and the three or four white horses would trot by the yoga studio, their white coats a contrast to the green grass and trees of the property. We would have our requisite espresso, coffee, and breakfast. Some days included donuts that were heated and crispy on the outside, the filled with a warm custard and the right amount of sweetness.
From our home base, we would venture out daily. Here’s what we did:
Archeological evidence confirms that Volterra, ideally situated on a Pliocene ridge 541 m above sea level, has been favored as a settlement since the Neolithic Age (www.comune.volterra.pi.it). Volterra was another castle-town, where we wandered the city taking in the views and the ancient sites. There are several places to stop and see, a map can provide you with the spots of interest. My favorite pizza of the whole Italy trip was in Volterra, and I wish I had written down the name of the place, but I think it was La Mangiatoia. We had a truffle pizza that was amazing. I wish I hadn’t eaten so much of the meat and cheese plate and bruschetta prior to getting the pizza , or I would have eaten the whole thing.
Volterra had it’s fair share of shops, and the most delicious pistachio gelato I had tasted on the trip.
P.S. There were no vampires to be found.
“The Castle” as it was affectionately dubbed by the Ebbio locals, was about a 20-30 min walk away from our location. It is a cute, tiny little town enclosed within its own castle walls. Little shops, a couple of restaurants, and a hotel inhabit the space. We walked around the entire village in about an hour-hour and a half, including paying 2Euro to walk the castle walls, and get a little souvenir shopping in.
I have to be honest, because I fully participated in the wine tasting portion of this program, I didn’t 100% take adequate notes on where we went this day. I can say we started our day at Rocca delle Macie. I also know we went to a town – I believe it was Castelli del Chianti, where we continued our wine tasting at a darling wine shop called Enoteca Le Volte. We had the most charming host, Gilles, who spoke Italian, English and French, and helped us get through our ten (yes, 10) tastings.
We spent the day in Siena… aka, a mini-Florence. We were dropped off at the Piazza del Campo, one of the largest, if not the largest piazza I had seen in Italy. Great place for people watching, and really the central point of Siena. We spent the day meandering about the streets and walking around. The only actual excursion was visiting the cathedral, Duomo de Siena- the interior of which was striped in black and white.
One of my favorite meals of the trip was at La Taverna del Captiano, right off the Duomo Piazza. We had both lunch and dinner there it was so good. But don’t ask for the olive oil- apparently it is so expensive, it can only be offered with a menu item that comes with olive oil- like a salad, or bruschetta.
Siena is full of shops, gelato places and restaurants. We were there the full day, but probably could have left earlier. A cute place and worth the visit.
I didn’t actually participate on this excursion, but was told the best gelato of the whole trip could be found here.
It was a little bittersweet leaving Ebbio… the food was fresh, amazing and simple… you can really taste the difference in the quality of ingredients and lack of GMO in Italy. After awhile, I did get used to all the farm life… even the sounds of the roosters. I didn’t need earplugs by day three. While I am happy to be back to functioning plumbing and wi-fi, there was definitely a certain charm and healthfulness about farm life.