Friday, December 28, 2012

Villa Maddalena, in the village of Montisi, Italy

Welcome to our experimental blog.  As many of you know technology isn't an area where we excel, in fact it is an area that often vexes. 

However, so many people have asked for a way to keep up with the goings-on in Montisi and with the house, that I am going to give it a try, as you know I love to tell stories and take photos. 

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have ideas or questions.  I'll hope to have postings on this page with some frequency, but don't rely on reaching me through this blog.  Contact me through  Our family plans have changed for this next summer so there are some open weeks in July/August 2013.  If you know the meaning of nonna, you'll know why the plans have changed!

It's been a lovely year in Montisi and at Villa Maddalena. 

Our once-every-4 or 5-year apricot tree carpeted the ground for weeks with large succulent apricots.  It was a great year for artichokes, grapes and tomatoes, too.  Parsley has finally settled into the garden for those of you who have consulted on the struggle.  Yes, putting it into the main garden was the answer!!

Montisi has blossomed, too.  We have a new pizzeria in the tiny piazza, Osteria di Simone, a new trattoria upstairs from Il Barrino and Il Rondo is now MaMa' - a fun place with live music on Friday nights.  Antonella Piredda, guide and wine sommilier, and her partner, Maurizo are opening a sophisticated wine bar in a cave on the main street, to be called Vitis Vinifera! Roberto Crocenzi is welcoming guests at daRoberto and Alberto and Giovanna Bindi, at La Romita, have taken their menu to a whole new level - here is the 'starter' plate - !!!

Chef Alessandro Piccinini now has an "app" called "Your Tuscan Chef".  He has photoed and filmed recipes and techniques in the VM kitchen with great frequency.  If you can't find it get in touch with him directly,   It's a recipe book in your palm!!  Amazing.

Montisi will host what is hoped to be its first ANNUAL Montisi Italian Film Festival specifically for US and UK film buffs, April 6 to 13, 2013 with bookings for the 14 films limited, due to seating, to 140 guests.  A fine reason for a week's excursion to Montisi.  3 showings a day, to fit around other diversions.  Combine with some wine tours, sight-seeing and great dining....  Mid-January the website will be up and registration via PayPal will be open,  A non-profit cultural event geared to English-speaking guests.

Liz C has been very busy teaching and painting and Liz Graham-Yooll, who now divides her time between Montisi and her new little house in France, has had another successful show in London  and she is hunting for a gallery in California!!!  We have a new sculptor in the village with a little gallery attached to his studio.  Hot air ballooning has expanded to a new level with several baskets of various capacities to choose from, 6 to 16. The new pilot, Chris Monk and his bride are spending the holidays at Villa Maddalena. 

Last summer was accented by a couple of rides through the back trails of the countryside with Alberto Bindi on one of his ATV's.  It was great fun and showed me the tiny chapels that still stand, alone, in the back woods, having served the surrounding farmers until they moved away.  Hidden things I never could have seen.

We spent the school year living in the center of Florence, where Madelyn finished her last year of high school at the International School of Florence.  Not many mothers get to spend one on one time with their 18 year old daughters!!  I am a very lucky mother!!  (M is now a freshman at UCSD.)

We found many great little shops and antique markets.  You'll find some new art and antiques and several new chandeliers throughout the house....including Madelyn's 'find' of a beautiful hot air balloon, now in my bedroom, Granaio..

Winter has now set in.  The olive oil pressing has finished and the ladders and nets are stored away.  People are slowing down and the street glistens with the early street lights.  It's cold, but we see the sun most days.  Winter lettuces, herbs and greens are occupying the garden.  Artichoke leaves are up in anticipation of next year's buds.  There has been enough rain to fill and overfill the cisterns.  In the garden, the fish pond filled and began to shed water through the old clay overflow pipe.  Ivo has placed some screening to keep the fish from making a run for it.  We've had a skiff of snow over the winter's peaceful here. 

Fires in the fireplace, a lovely new grappa recommended by Gianluca at Il Barrino...the fireplace in the breakfast room works beautifully and makes that room perfect on a cold, frosty day.

Right now the final restoration is underway in the Fresco Room, our one elegant 1800's painted room.  Liz Graham-Yooll, who in addition to being a fine artist is an accomplished specialist in fresco restoration. She is using all original materials to repair the bits of missing plaster that was applied over woven grass-rushing, bringing back the details of the original design - the wrought iron elements - the handrails and the 'frame' that held up the stenciled lace curtains, the doves in the roundels on the ceiling and adding a sprig of olive branches.  And there is an antique chandelier made in Florence, ornamented with tiny glass bells.  Yes, I did relent and put in a canopy bed.
So, it's a lovely time of year.  And to finish, this photo taken on my walk back from the bakery ....Enjoy!  Happy New Year!!  I hope to hear from you!


PS  Don't forget a couple of my usual summer weeks are open, in case you are longing for some summertime in the Villa!!

Happy New Year!!!

I hope you enjoyed some dish that contained lentils on the 31st or the 1st!!  An Italian tradition to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year!!!


I want you to know that we have just put the finishing touches on the Wine and Cooking Week 2013 program.  This curriculum can be provided to groups who visit the house, 6 to 16 guests in number.  It is completely customizable to suit your interests and experience levels.

Villa Maddalena will host three special weeks in 2013 devoted to Cucina Toscana, where your family and friends may develop a more intimate relationship with the food philosophies of Tuscany and its extraordinary wines and foods.  You will cook with us, learn our philosophy of food, enjoy our famous wines and olive oils within sight of the vineyards and orchards that produce them, and visit our producers.  Structured tastings and lessons will be included throughout!!

Saturday to Saturday:

Saturday, village tour, dinner in the village

Sunday, cooking lesson #1 and wine orientation* at Villa Maddalena

Monday, wine tour day* with lunch, cooking lesson #2 with dinner

Tuesday, Market Day followed by cooking lesson #3 and dinner

Wednesday, Siena and market day or Florence

Thursday, Wine tour day* with lunch, relax at the Villa

Friday, cooking lesson #4 and celebratory farewell dinner.

Villa Maddalena, Montisi
Siena Province, Tuscany
Montisi and its sister villages offer a wide range of experiences and services, including many wonderful restaurants, tours of the three great Tuscan wine regions; Brunello, Chianti and Vino Nobile, tours of Siena and Florence, art and historical sites dating to Etruscan times, drawing and painting lessons, hot springs, massage and yoga, even hot-air ballooning and off-road quad biking. And always, the beauty of the landscape, the villages, and the people surrounds you. 

*Wine curriculum can range from ‘meet Sangiovese’ to specially designed for collectors and experts.

I am in Seattle for a few weeks, with a short trip to California wine country with friends.  I'm around to meet for a wine or coffee to help you plan your trip!  Lovely crisp and clear, here in Seattle!!! 1/2/2013