Ari found this place online called Villa Minghetti in Tuscany and booked it for three nights. The drive from Campania in southern Italy took most of the day. Just when we thought the ride was over, the way became more challenging, as we went up a mountain and down a mountain in a light rain. Tuscany is hilly with forests and narrow roads that snake back and forth. Finally at dusk we arrived.

The kids’ friends, the Busch family of California, reached the villa ahead of us while there was still daylight, got the lay of the land, and told me where I was — Lamporecchio. Bob and Travis are college fraternity brothers. Bob, his wife Magalie, and their three daughters drove down from France via Switzerland. The youngest was a good playmate for Ayla.

There’s plenty of Italian culture and the arts in the immediate area, and it is a short train ride from the next town of Empoli to Firenze (Florence).

Olives and olive oil come from the land around Villa Minghetti. We watched the owners harvest the olives and put in our order for olive oil. I think a parallel activity in Hawaii might be a bed-and-breakfast on a Kona coffee farm. But we’re in Tuscany, and the villa has been in Federica’s family for 300 years. Six bedrooms each with adjoining baths, big kitchen with hearth and modern appliances to prepare our meals, laundry, WIFI, and a view of the quaint town below. (Magalie welcomed the washing machine; she allowed each member of her family only three outfits for the trip!)

Federica, left, tells about the olive product.

Big nets are spread on the ground beneath the olive trees. Then you shake the branches to get the olives to fall. A ladder is useful for reaching the high branches.

Agostino uses a vibrating power tool that looks like a rake to rapidly shake the olive branches. The woman on the right appears to be picking olives by hand.

Gathering olives from the net and transferring to a crate of manageable size.

After one weekend, Pete and I are thinking of returning to Villa Minghetti. It’s ideal for bicycling (for him) and painting en plein air (for me)! Federica’s husband, who you see shaking the olives off of the tree in the photos above, is the very fine impressionistic painter Agostino Veroni, whose oils I like very much. He invited me to bring my students to the villa, and he would give us lessons! Federica said to come in the summer when the swimming pool would be filled. I’m contemplating the best route to get there.

View of the Villa Minghetti swimming pool (filled in warmer weather) and the town of Lamporecchio beyond

She greets us at the entry gate

Pete looks sad to leave. Perhaps we’ll return when it’s not as cold!