Sonoma, CA, USA

Joe Teno and Gail Clinton,

As if just being in Italy wasn’t enough to help you put your daily worries aside and reflect on a simpler life, the final 2 kilometers of the Vagli’s white road seem to completely untether you from the outside world. At the same time the undulating hand carved road leads you towards something all together different. It is a place steeped in history, surrounded by oaks and chestnuts, teeming with the sights, sounds and smells of the earth, a soulful place, perhaps a place you have not had an opportunity to visit in a while.Once you arrive in your apartment, unpack and tide yourself over with local bread and olive oil. Walk outside and sit under the pergola. Look into the valley. Give yourself a few moments. Breath. Breath again, deeply this time. Then you’ll begin to hear it, the symphony of sounds.Though they may begin faintly, if you invite them, they will begin to wash over you …. the buzzing bees, the wind in the leaves, the birds, the sounds of people speaking Italian…… all served on silent backdrop. You may begin to notice the smells; the vegetation, the damp comforting aroma of the earth, the brief wisps of lavender, rosemary or fennel. Can you smell the vines?If you sit long enough the sun begins to fall below the hills and a new sound is heard, very different, startling, an animal sound. They huff, puff, and snort and then you see them, the family of boar dashing through the olive trees and up the hillside over well worn paths. Ugly as sin but what a delight to watch them go purposefully by.And maybe you’ll begin to wonder, has this changed in 100 years? 200 years? 300 years? If it has, I wonder how? Perhaps there would be more horses, perhaps more livestock and farming on the terraces. Look very closely and you’ll see the terraces are everywhere. Who built them? How long did it take them? Certainly the bird songs and the wild boar and the breezes and smells and colors have not changed. This must be an experience I’m sharing with people who lived on this spot hundreds of years ago.It is late summer but we’ve found that each season offers its own unique experience. In the Spring, the buds and flowers are overwhelming, their intense colors, the feeling of life about to burst forth with renewed energy and endless possibility.In the winter, the contrast between the warm and cozy apartments, the crisp air and crystal clear, blue sky is striking. When a storm comes by covering the landscape with rain or a light dusting of snow, you sit before a warm, crackling fire, with a faint smell of woodsmoke, and feel a startling sense of intimacy with this place, a connection with the building and people who lived here before. They must have been as grateful as we are to feel the warmth and safety provided by the thick and sturdy masonry and yet be so connected to the beautiful land just outside the doors.Walking the trails around the Borgo di Vagli intensifies the experience. Yesterday we started our walk in Cortona. As we started in the morning, mists still hung in the valleys. Up along the medieval path we walked, through more oaks and chestnuts. One wonders again, who were these people who built these paths? How long did it take them? How did they move the rock? These thoughts linger all the way to the top of Mt. Spino where one is rewarded with an astounding 360 degree Tuscan panorama. No need to tarry too long though, this is just the beginning of the visual treats that lie all along the 18 Km trail back to the Borgo. Around a bend the entirety of Lake Trasimeno explodes into view. White roads and single footpaths, intimate forest trails, you will experience them all along this journey.And after hours of walking you may take your eyes off the brilliant views and become aware of something a bit more subtle, you may notice how the sun seems to have moved over your head. Just a few hours ago, in the morning, the sun was low and it was cool. Now a full measure of sun is warming you and casting an array of unique shadows. After another hour or so the sun seems to move again. And now it is afternoon and you get a new impression. There is even more warmth, mixed with a quiet, a stillness. And you may ask yourself why don’t we do this more often? Spend a whole day, sunrise to sunset, outside, walking, absorbing light and warmth as we walk across the land.Moving down Mt. Ginezzo now, headed home, down to the hunter’s camp and the Monastery, you can smell someone burning brush, you can’t see the fire or smoke, but it remains a comforting reminder that you are not alone here.As you pick your way down the final hundred meters of the steep and narrow monk’s trail, prepare yourself for the smell of the wood fired oven and roasted meat being prepared in the Trattoria. If you are like us you’ll look at your watch and calculate the minutes until you can duck your head and descend into the Trattoria’s warm, rustic surroundings about to celebrate a perfect day’s end with a delicious, hand crafted Tuscan meal.And the ultimate pleasure…you can do it all again tomorrow.Our arrival here often feels like springtime with all the possibilities that season presents. And while our departures often feel like fall, with a touch of wistful sadness, we can only be grateful for what we just experienced.Yes, we love.

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