Thursday, June 25, 2009

Poggio Ai Santi: 
The Perfect Getaway or "Vacation from your Vacation"...

Last weekend I kidnapped my husband.  Well, kind of.  He knew I was taking him somewhere, just not where, until we got there.  It was a very busy spring for the both of us and with a crazy summer ahead of us, I wanted a chance to do nothing but relax for 24 hours or so.  I had been wanting to visit Poggio ai Santi ever since Di sent me some info on it a couple of years ago.  It looked lovely, and (keyword here) relaxing.  I called up Thursday for a room on Saturday knowing the chances weren't good, but they'd just had a cancellation for one of their suites.  I'd hoped for one of the guest rooms, but the need to getaway was strong enough to justify the suite, so I booked it.

We drove an hour and a half south to San Vincenzo, a small quaint enough seaside town on the "Etruscan Coast" of Tuscany (also known as the Alta Maremma) and headed up the hill overlooking the sea.  We knew from the moment we entered the wrought iron gates, we were in for something special.  Immersed in pine trees (oh the smell!) and olive trees sits this magical compound consisting of the main house and several one-level buildings spread around nature. We were happily greeted by the owners two dogs (always a plus for us) and then the receptionist showed us the way to our suite.

Our accommodations were nothing short of lovely.  Wood beamed ceiling, hardwood floors, sleek and cool linens on a "to die for" comfortable bed, fancy modern bathroom of travertine and steel, and the sound of birds and bees floating in the air.  The suite was quite large (maybe 55 square meters or 600 square feet) and included a kitchenette inside a pretty wooden armoire.  We knew then we could have easily stayed a week!

We decided to spend the afternoon by the pool which is also surrounded by lush gardens and to one side has a view of the rolling hills, sea and Elba.  We had found paradise.

The details of the rest of the day remain simply wonderful (even our mishap, 5 hour long dinner with a wacko chef added to the fun), but it was the next day that summed it up.  I had read that check out time was 10:00am (which seemed odd to me for a place like this (price and the serenity of it all) so we got our stuff together and in the car then headed to breakfast.  As we turned in the key, Giulio, the owner's son, said "but you don't need to check out now.  it's not until 11."  I explained that I saw it written int he booklet as 10am, and he laughed.  "We'll need to change that...and for that matter, why don't you use the room until 1pm.  We don't need to change it over the for the next guests till then?" How nice was that?!

We entered into the dining sala which is gorgeous and includes a "winter verenda" where we found a table with the perfect view.

Breakfast was abundant and delicious with honey, jams and meats made from the property itself. They also serve a variety of exotic teas.  A nice touch for this avid tea drinker!

Giulio checked on us and also suggested we stay for lunch.  We had regretted not staying for dinner the might before so we agreed.  Another couple of hours by the pool and then we headed back up to the main building where another fabulous table had been set up on the terrace. Here we were greeted by Denny, the chef of the hotel's restaurant called Il Sale, who handed us menus and made recommendations.  I regret not having stolen a menu, because it was so innovative and filled with really great combinations (Denny spent 4 years in Greece with his own restaurant there before returning home to San Vincenzo, so there was a little "hellenic" influence in the offerings.  While we enjoyed our meal with a view, we met Francesca, the owner, who ended up keeping us company for the rest of our meal.  She recounted the story of how had inherited the property and started building the place about 10 years ago, all the "blood, sweat, tears and TLC" that had gone into creating the place.  We discussed the design, the furnishing (she even offered to help me with great, "secret finds" for our eventual house!), being in the tourist business, etc.  It was an exceptional experience: food, company and location.

We were a little melancholy when it came time to leave.  We easily could have stayed another day.  But we know we'll be back.  For us, it was the perfect getaway - just what I had hoped for. Poggio ai Santi is a sanctuary.  If you are looking for nightlife and a little action, this is not the place for you.  If you are looking to relax, eat well, sleep like a baby, enjoy the serenity of nature and the fabulous taste of Francesca, then this is "IT".

Cost: Starting at 140-195 Euros for the guestrooms and 176-307 Euros for the suites 
including a delicious and robust breakfast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top 10!

Downtown Lerici on Market Day

I received a very nice surprise from the Diva yesterday on my facebook page.  She congratulated me for making the list.  What list I thought?  Turns out the James Martin of Wandering Italy gave me the honor of being one of his "Top 10 Blogs for Exploring Italy".  The article appeared on and also in the Seattle Times, and possible more newspapers to come.  HERE it is!

Grazie mille James. You made my day...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wedding in Portovenere...

Back briefly...  

One of the events that has made blogging time so sparse was an actual event!  I organized my second wedding on the Riviera.  This time in my favorite spot in Italy, Portovenere.  Imagine...a jewish, symbolic ceremony overlooking the sea.  

At first the folks in PV thought I was crazy: they don't have chuppahs and why have a fake wedding?  Well, by the time the day and ceremony were upon us, it was clearly obvious it was a very special and romantic event.  (Even the restaurant owner got teary-eyed during the ceremony!).

I was so pleased with how it went, but also quite humbled by the love and charm of the little, spunky bride and her wonderful parents.  You can't help but get attached when the people are so nice.  

It's a big responsibility, no matter how big or small the wedding party is.  Lots of sleepless nights (and a pad of paper and pen always on my night stand), lots of triple checking, lots of putting on a happy face when you're wondering if the cake is melting in the sun and a lots of TLC.  I don't know how wedding coordinators just "crank on out" wedding after wedding.

There is almost nothing better than having a bride come up to you at the end of the evening and say, "Thank you for making all my dreams come true".  Satisfaction, relief, pride and a few tears.

Would I do it again?  Right place, right time, absolutely.

Tanti, tanti auguri Shari & Brian!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Press "Pause"...

La Maddalena, Monterosso
(more to follow...)

There is just too much going on 
professionally and personally these days, 
so my blog is taking a back seat for a while.  
Don't give up on me though, I'll be back when I can.