8:30PM on September 1, 2012. I sat down to have dinner. I looked down the long white table, and saw the travel weary faces of my friends and Kevin’s friends. I couldn’t really believe we were all sitting there, in a beautiful 16th century villa, in Tuscany.
It all started as a tiny “what if” thought in my head, from a conversation with Sammy and Janice. I don’t know how we got on the topic but it went something like, do I want to celebrate my big birthday? Sure, why not. Since I don’t “live” anywhere, where would that be? Could it be at a special destination? I wondered if my friends can get away without the kids. I know how much you love all things Italian, Sammy. Maybe we can rent a big place in Tuscany. Maybe some of my friends and Kevin’s can be there…
And now here we were, 16 of us about to spend a week together in Italy. We came from all over the world and I had friends there who have known me for half of my life and some I didn’t know as well. I confess, it was a bit like MTV’s “The Real World” but much more civilized, relaxed, and lasting only just a week. Oddly enough, the last time I made a similar comment was when I shared an apartment with a group of friends in Florence…
I’ll write more about the villa itself and our week-long stay in Tuscany in the coming days. Today it’ll be just about our arrival and the first dinner together at the villa with everyone. I arrived with Lynnie, after having traveled from Lugano-Milano-Firenze that morning. A side note here- a sigh of relief and thanks to the Italian trains for running on time that day, and a fantastic South African couple we met on the train who made the journey fun. I’ll be sure to look you up when I’m in Cape Town! I’d arranged to meet Jean-Paul and Christiane (who came from New York via Pisa-Firenze) and Yuka (who flew in from Paris the night before) at the train station, along with Matthew who was having the longest travel day coming from Australia via Singapore. As they do in the TV program The Real World, we ran around the villa and took note of which of the 10 rooms we wanted to have (well, actually since I researched and found the villa, I had an idea of where everyone will be staying- very type A, I know). We opened and drank the welcome bottle of wine, and chilled out until the others came.
Janice and Sammy arrived next, looking ghostly white from having gotten lost and driving dangerously close to the Tuscan hills and cliffs. Just an hour or so later came the boys (I’m calling them boys but they are in fact, grown men in their late 20s ~ 30s), who flew from San Francisco and New York via Zurich- Kevin, Ruben, Victor, Marco, and Peter, and of course Paula who had a crazy travel day herself with two connections and 12+ hours. We were missing Ted and Michelle who, due to Luftansa going on strike, were delayed and arrived late around midnight.
With 14 of the 16 of us there all hungry and tired, we started our dinner. We had some serious photographers in the group so I trusted them to do the honors (even though I haven’t seen any from Victor or Ted yet. aHem…). All the photos below of our meal were taken by the one and only Mr. P. Merelis.
When planning for this week at Villa di Masseto, Kevin and my biggest concern was the food. But we shouldn’t have worried at all. Patricia, the chef, turned out to be a true professional who worked at a restaurant in Florence for 14 years and could whip up a 10 course meal without breaking a sweat. There will be more on Patricia later but this is what she prepared for us on our first night in Tuscany. As you’ll see, there was an incredible amount of food that we happily continued eating for days that followed.
We started with some smoked salmon and various Italian cheeses.
Salami stuffed figs were to die for. Seriously. To. Die.
What? It looks like we’re drinking a pitcher of fruit punch? Au contraire, mon frère… That delicious concoction had quite a bit of prosecco in it, I can assure you.
Followed by zucchini soufflé and some white wine.
Then came the mushroom risotto and pasta with fresh pesto.
I forgot that we also had some salad! At this point we really needed a break. We took this pause as an opportunity to open another bottle of wine (I think we ended up drinking 8+ bottles that evening) and hear from Valentina, the fabulous manager of the villa, who gave us the history of the Guadagni family and Villa di Masseto. I’ll write more about that in the next few days… Let me just say that there is conspiracy and murder and intrigue!
Those who didn’t know the menu (that’s everyone except for Kevin and me), thought the meal had finished and we were having dessert next. But no! We moved onto the fish course, which disappeared rather quickly despite everyone complaining how full they were.
The best peas I ever tasted… I had seconds. They were even better the next day eaten cold.
Mixed grill- unbelievable chicken, sausage, and pork ribs.
I know I’m feeling stuffed just looking at the photos…. but one must have saved room for dessert!?
We let out a loud cheer when Ted and Michelle finally arrived. I think it was past 2AM when most of us retired to our quarters, exhausted but looking forward to a great week ahead.
Let “Fun Under the Tuscan Sun” begin!