Few places left on earth feel as though little has changed in three hundred years. Bhutan is one. Tuscany’s Crete Senesi is another.
For five days, we stayed in the Crete at Agriturismo Il Molinello, owned by our friends Sandro and Elisa and their kids Emma, Guido, and Bernardo. Cristiano and I playfully call them ‘the family from Mulino Bianco‘ (referring to the perfectly happy family from the ads for this breakfast cereal company). Though Sandro and Elisa are among the most wonderfully real people we know, their homestead and its environment do feel like a dream.
Originally from Siena, in 1997 in their mid-twenties, Sandro and Elisa decided the life they wanted for themselves, and the children they would have together, would be in the countryside. (On a morning drive along one of Le Strade Bianche, the old white gravel roads characteristic of the Tuscan countryside Tuscany, between two sets of undulating hills, Sandro pointed out the other farmhouse they had considered purchasing.)
After nearly twenty years of iterative restorations, Il Molinello has truly reached its peak. Sandro’s parents keep the garden. His father trains truffle-hunting dogs. There are chickens to provide fresh eggs each day—and vacuum up any leftover table scraps. And Elisa is a magical baker and maker. (Breakfast here is a thing to behold.)
In the travel business, it’s become hackneyed to call a place “real” or “authentic” but little in Tuscany compares to this place. As a region, Tuscany is undoubtedly Italy’s most popular tourist destination, and while many facades still reflect the Old World and the prevalence of the agricultural sector ensures a largely pristine landscape, in many parts, local culture has thickened around the visitor.
Here it’s different. As an agriturismo, Il Molinello is certainly for the visitor. But it’s also Sandro and Elisa’s home, their dream for their children, and their means by which to share their slice of earth— its culture, history, cuisine, geology, and even ornithology— with the world.
Agriturismo Il Molinello is just a thirty-minute drive from Siena, and ninety from Florence. This wonderful video by our friend Jenny Woodward will whet your appetite for the place.
Peruse where we go in Tuscany while enjoying a couple of Elisa’s cantucci* and a glass of Vin Santo. (Or another of Elisa’s recipes for the classic Tuscan soup ribollita.) And follow us at #FoodintheBoot.
*Cantucci are a specific type of cookie that come from Tuscany. Somehow, after Italians came to America, the word biscotti became synonymous with this type of cookie. But, biscotti just means “cookies” in Italian.