I had a remarkable stay at the Podere Spedalone last week. This is an "agritourismo", farm stay B&B place near Pienza, in Tuscany. It is a modestly priced place with a capacity of about 30 people. The building is old, and cool, but not fancy. It may have originally been a barn or some other service building for the farm.
This was by far our best and most memorable lodging in a trip that included some very fine and vastly more expensive hotels around Europe. When it was time to say our goodbyes and leave, I was on the verge of crying. Not that it takes that much to make me cry, but still. I haven't ever done that at any other hotel. Why? What was so great about this place? I think it was:
We made real relationships with the staff. Alessandro, Fabrizio, and Massimo weren't just checking us in, giving us advice, and serving us meals. They were our hosts. They were fun to be with, and funny. They were enthusiastic. They cared about us. If we needed help with something they'd help us out. Not because it was a "revenue item" for them, but because they wanted to help us.
We got to know the other guests. It was fun. Meals are around one big table. The guests were from many different countries. Not all could speak English, but many could. Sauro and Elena taught McHenry how to play an Italian card game called Scopa. I learned way more about Lithuania than I ever thought I would. I had a close encounter with a wild boar, which led to extensive conversations about those somewhat frightening Cinghiales.
The food was outstanding, and outstandingly local. Honestly the first night's dinner may be the best meal I have ever eaten. The sausage was from the farm. The cheese was from next door. The tempura squash blossoms were from the farm and were addictive. The pasta, made in-house from local grain, was astoundingly flavorful. I'm not a foodie, but this eating experience has really changed the way I think about food. And this particular food could not have happened anywhere else.
It was beautiful - the surrounding farmland is one of the most beautiful agricultural areas in the world. Lucy was in photography heaven.
It was peaceful. Travel is often not really relaxing, but this was. We re-charged.
It was unique. We could not have had an experience quite like this one anywhere else in the world.
Here's to you, Alessandro, Fabrizio, Massimo, and everyone else at Podere Spedalone. I hope that we at Las Catalinas are helping people have great experiences like you helped us have. I think we are, and our experience with you will help inspire us to do even better.