Our favorite of all places in Italy: Podere Spedalone, an agriturismo
not far from the Tuscan town of Pienza. We were greeted immediately by
Alessandro, whom we liked instantly, had a glass of wine and breathed in
the rolling green hills and abiding quiet. The agriturismo is a working
farm, with 14 guest rooms in a main building. Chickens, pigs, turkeys
(the goose was eaten by a fox, apparently,) an impressively-sized
vegetable garden, vines, herbs, and olive trees. Modest, charming, and
quite comfortable room -- and we were instantly happy. Dinners at
Spedalone are served family style, with all the guests and sometimes
some of the staff sharing the meal at a large wooden farmhouse table.
Food was prepared in an open kitchen, where my husband, a professional
chef, was a frequent guest. Some of the food was standout delicious;
some was just comfortably good. (The suckling pig and capicola were
standouts; the rest was pretty darn good, as well.) Wine was poured
freely, and every night was different but the same: Awkward greetings
among guests from Italy and abroad, drinks outside to watch the sun set,
inside for a few-course dinner with the conversation gradually warming
from cordial to warm to uproarious laughter. I nearly cried every night
from laughing so hard, and though I tend to be guarded and unsure around
people I don't know well, found the family-style dinners to be a
huge highlight of the trip. I won't soon forget the folks I met
around those tables. Good people, drawn by a good place, and a
wonderful, talented host.
Alessandro is behind it all and is what makes Spedalone so warm, welcoming, and deeply relaxing for its guests. Funny, charismatic, hardworking -- so hardworking -- curious, intelligent, a truly skilled people-person, we fell in love with Alessandro, and after our few days at Spedalone consider him a friend.