The title says it all. I am in living in a dream; one that I conjured up in years past and am finally living out. Sometimes I stop, take a deep breath, look around and take in where I am and what I am doing. I think to myself this cannot be real. How did I get this lucky? How did I get this blessed? I can only thank my family for their support and pure love for letting me go out and experience these amazing things. Not only am I living a dream and traveling, I am educating myself and not in the sense of sitting in a classroom and learning how to conjugate Italian verbs. I am learning cultures and traditions that are different from my own and I truly believe that this type of education is far more important than anything that can be taught in a classroom. I am also discovering myself- my love for learning new things, meeting new people and exploring this great world that has so much more to offer us than we can imagine. When I say everyone should study abroad or at least take a month to travel the world- whatever part of the world you choose- I am saying it not only so you can bury your feet in the whitest of sands or stand underneath the Sistine Chapel, I am saying it because traveling erases ignorance and judgment and makes us all better people. And a world filled with better people is a better world.
With all of that being said, this weekend was my fantasy. Ever since watching Under the Tuscan Sun when I was younger (and rewatching 100 times since then) I have always wanted to go to Tuscany. Not only go to Tuscany but pull a full Diane Lane and buy a Tuscan villa on a whim and find pure happiness in the rolling hills of the Italian countryside. So when an opportunity to go wine tasting in Tuscan vineyards came up, I grabbed it with two hands and boarded a bus with my two friends, Rachel and Jasmine, to wine country, which was not far from Cortona, the town that Diane Lane buys her villa in. Coincidence? I don’t think so; I’m a strong believer in fate.
We started the day early and traveled to the first wine tasting. This wine company operated out of what used to be a jail where they tortured inmates. Now it is redone and boasts some amazing wines and cheeses. After seeing the barrels and learning about the wine making process we were lucky enough to sample some amazing wines and cheeses. I fell in love with one of the wines we tasted and obviously bought a bottle to bring home with me as a gift for my grandfather, a man who appreciates the simple things in life- a glass of fine wine and a cigar.
After the tasting we were free to roam around and eat some lunch, which we did in the cutest little restaurant, run by the most adorable old lady. I am always happy to eat in little “mom and pop” shops because I get to speak to the people in Italian, which I love because it really helps me hone my language skills that I have practiced in the classroom for so long.
After a fulfilling lunch we explored the surrounding area, which just so happens to be where part of the second Twilight was filmed (when Edward goes to the head vampires and wants to reveal himself and Bella is running to stop him). We enjoyed exquisite views of the endless hills of Montepulciano and pondered how quickly we could find a house and move there.
After enjoying the views, we were back on the bus to head to a smaller town, Montalcino, where we would visit another, more traditional vineyard. And if I thought I wanted to live in the first town, I knew this was where I was meant to be. When you think of Tuscany and vineyards and hundreds of acres of villas on top of hills overlooking rows and rows of grapes to make some of the best wine in Italy, Montalcino is the place you imagine. This place was the images of postcards and photographs that you stare at and admire and never imagine yourself standing there, feeling the wind coming over the hills and smelling the grapes laid out across the land.
It’s a funny thing. I am such a city girl, and if you were to ask anyone they would tell you I belong in Manhattan and I agree. I’m in love with that city, my heart belongs to it and right now it aches for that magical place. However, I have never truly felt more at peace than I did at that moment, looking out over the land and taking everything in.
I was immediately captivated and overcome with joy when I realized that this wasn’t a dream and I was actually standing there- in a place that won an award for having one of the top 100 wines in the world. Unfortunately this wine was out of my price range, but I did buy other bottles for myself and my family.
This was a more traditional vineyard that has been around since the 1400s and has definitely perfected the craft of making unbelievably delicious wine. We toured the grounds and saw the process that the grapes and then wine underwent. The guide explained to us how many years the wine ages in the barrels (most were 5-6 years) and how they were bottled. She also told us the many other products that they make from these materials including a fabulously smelling body lotion (a perfect grift for my grandmother) and brandy. After the tour we were lucky enough to taste three amazing wines while overlooking the landscape. Then it was time to buy the family, and ourselves, some gifts and head back home.
As we boarded the bus and pulled away from this gorgeous place, I couldn’t help but think, that la vita è bella.
“We travel, not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” -anonymous