Italian Inspiration

Rocca d’Orcia, Italy
A couple months ago, Matt and I were lucky enough to tag along with some family and friends on a hiking trip through the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany. It was nothing short of FIGO! The natural landscape is spectacular, the small medieval villages are a delight to explore, the food is made with love, and the wine … oh, the wine.

It was of course a perfect time and setting to brainstorm and find inspiration for ‘Chups, which we had already started producing. Whether it was a local wine or olive oil label catching our eye or having a spiritual moment observing the beauty of grapes growing on the vine, there was more than enough stimulation for the imagination and doses of extra enthusiasm to fuel the creative urge.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip. 


The vines in the foreground with the cypress trees behind them and the truck traveling up the dirt road in the background makes this picture so quintessential Tuscan countryside, it makes me melancholy. But in a comforting way. Is that possible?



I’m not sure of the percentage of the Tuscan landscape that is exactly like this photo, but it has to be high. The precise lines of the vines and the perfection of the grapes in their natural state was one of the most beautiful things about the region. To reflect on all the centuries of wine production coming from these fields is really something inspirational.



This photo is a blog post all its own, but to make a long story short for now, we freed this little guy who was stuck in a small cemetery gate. I’m not sure how I even spotted him in the first place, as he blended in magnificently, but something tells me it was fate. (Or my inner Chi Omega speaking to me … an owl is our mascot.)



This is the Abbey of Sant’Antimo. Its’ amazing there are no tourists in this shot. Could almost imagine it when it was built in the very first century. (Of course, it has changed since then, but … details.)



Montalcino! Aka “favorite town #1”. We hiked up the very steep side of this city after one of our longer days and I cannot even explain to you how WORTH IT it was. I would hike up that hill 20 times over to spend time wandering the tiny streets of this amazing little town. We also had what felt like an out-of-body experience our second night there when an Italian line dancing crew and country band performed, all wearing cowboy hats and boots with American flag bandanas.

The above photo perfectly encapsulates the small, windy roads, the charming architecture and the impressive views of the expansive Tuscan countryside that are around every corner.


Sometimes it’s the little things! I spotted this guy right outside the charming and delicious restaurant La Cisterna nel borgo. La Cisterna resides in the piazza of Rocca d’Orcia, a medieval town of only 28 residents! The lovely Marta & her beau Federico cook, manage and do all the work of running and owning the house. We even spent the night above the restaurant in their well-kept rooms. The hospitality was impeccable and the food divine.



I’m obsessed with this photo Matt took of an olive tree grove. The symmetry and shadows are so beautiful! It almost reminds me of one of those eye-trick games, where you are supposed to find another image within the repetitive design.



The kitties were everywhere! I love this picture for a couple reasons: right before I took it, a man who was leaving his apartment in this piazza “meowed” endearingly at the cat. It made me smile thinking how the sounds of an animal are universal to any language.

The second reason is because of something I read about this specific square, which is in Castiglione d’Orcia, the larger (but still small) town right next to Rocca d’Orcia. Called Piazza del Vecchietta, some of the stones and bricks below Mr. Whisker’s feetsies date back to the 1600s. I had a good time imagining a similar cat wandering the town center over 400 years ago.



Don’t need too much of an explanation for including this one. It was taken from just below the impressive fort between Rocca and Castiglione d’Orcia. (The fort can be seen in the first picture at the top of this blog post.)



An old (no longer used, thankfully) walking bridge.



What, you thought I’d get through a pictorial of a trip to Italy and not include something with food and wine?! Doesn’t get more stereotypical with some mouth-watering caprese. Though Italian bread can tend to leave one wanting a little more … salt? Pizzaz? French inspiration?


The large bath in the middle of Bagno Vignoni, a town famous for its ancient springs and thermal waters.
OK, we’re ready to go back! 
It was an unforgettable trip and one we’ll look back on fondly forever. I cannot more highly recommend a hiking tour of this region. It is the best way to see the landscape and to take advantage of all its wonderful FRUITS (!) From stopping in at random vineyards for wine tastings, to playing an impromptu soccer match on an empty pitch … from using universal hand motions to get extra water from a local Italian family-run farm, to SAVING AN OWL … we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect experience. 
If this is a trip you’d like to look into for yourself, please contact the gentlemen at Girosole. They were beyond WONDERFUL. 
If you want to see more pictures, check out our Flickr set

One thought on “Italian Inspiration

  1. Pingback: Writing for Me | Condiment Chronicles

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