Accommodation Italy: Participating vs. Spectating

As we opened the door to the back patio, there they were: a love-insatiable dog, a just-loving-enough cat, and a setting on the edge of the vineyard with a view to the surrounding farms and hills. The picnic tables — one outside, another inside — spoke to the perfect place for the all-night rolling snackfeasts of local Tuscan produce we had envisioned.

When a vacation rental option in Tuscany revealed itself before our visit, we seized the opportunity. Not only would this provide us an unusually comfy place to lay our heads (keep in mind that we often sleep in scrappy places), but it would allow us to be active participants in Tuscany’s fresh markets.

Saturday Market in Cortona, Italy
Saturday Fresh Market in Cortona, Tuscany

We could throw our arms around it fully, every day could feature a picnic. We could buy and eat whatever we liked because we had a full kitchen to store and prepare it all, a place where it wouldn’t go bad, a place called home. And the whole experience was tucked into Tuscany’s vineyard lands.

View from Window of our Vacation Rental - Near Montefellonico, Tuscany
A view from our bedroom window overlooking the vineyards.

Partaking in market products allowed us to fully engage and satisfy our food curiosity. Fresh vs. aged pecorino? Tuscan vs. Parma prosciutto? Plum vs. cuore di bue tomatoes? What’s the difference? And would the baby zucchini taste as sweet as it did all those years ago on our trip to Liguria?

And when we visited wineries, we chose a favorite bottle knowing that we could enjoy some of it that evening in situ on our back patio rather than having to figure out how to jam it into our checked luggage, airline security restrictions on liquids be damned.

Our Collection of Tuscan Wine - Montepulciano, Italy
OK, so maybe we went a little overboard on the wine…

In other words, because of our accommodation situation — that we were staying in a vacation rental-cum-agriturismo rather than a hotel — we could be full participants rather than just spectators at wineries and local markets.

You may be thinking, “Hey, Italy has all this fantastic food. Why would you want to eat in at all?

Fair point. But we found restaurant food so rich and the portions so generous that eating out once a day was just about right. (Eating out in Italy twice a day leads one to feel like a goose in a foie gras factory).

Our lunches out were filling, intense sometimes. We’d slowly make our way back in the afternoon, visiting the last of the day’s hill towns before returning home. Evening time was grazing time. We’d retire to the back patio, put our feet up and drink a glass of local wine as we gazed at the next vintage. Then we’d pull out the giant breadboard, spread it with aged pecorino, prosciutto, salami, and the world’s most perfect grape tomatoes. Glaze the zucchini with a little olive oil and broil.

A Tuscan Picnic Fit for a King - Montepulciano, Italy
Tuscan picnic at night. Just about perfect.

One bite into another, one sip of the day’s wine, and our evening pace was set.

And with some of our burning questions answered (yes, the baby zucchini were as sweet and tender as we had remembered), we primed ourselves for tomorrow’s history lesson, tomorrow’s scavenger hunt.

Disclaimer: Our vacation rental stay was sponsored by HomeAway, but our experience and opinions are entirely our own.

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  1. says

    Your posts kill me!
    I’m sitting in cold South Korea, wondering why spicy fermented cabbage has to be the national food here, and why we don’t live in Italy.

    Thanks for making my mouth water :)

  2. says

    “We could buy and eat whatever we liked because we had a full kitchen to store and prepare it all, a place where it wouldn’t go bad, a place called home.” Home, albeit temporary, is certainly a nice thing to have!

  3. says

    @Andrea: I don’t mean to laugh at your pain of spicy fermented cabbage as the national food where you live, but your comment was very funny. My father who spent time in Korea as a kid sent me a note saying how much he empathizes with you. Good luck making it through the winter!

    @J.R. Parks: This was the first time we used and were pleasantly surprised at the selection. Of course, the earlier you can reserve the more selection you will have. VBRO is another good service. We’ve also found that searching on google for the area/city you want to stay and “apartment” can put you in touch directly with owners.

    @Kyle: Definitely agree! We’re about to leave our Berlin “home” and it’s bittersweet – excited to move on (and get away from winter), but enjoyed having a place to our own for a while.

  4. says

    As I return to places I’ve been before and feel less of that insane urge to run around and see as much as I possibly can (or maybe as it’s just as I get older and, hopefully, wiser), vacation rentals seem like the ultimate way to go. Really getting to experience a place by living there is so rewarding and so much more fulfilling than checking off lists of museums or whatnot. I’ve used VRBO before and in Buenos Aires. I’ll have to check out and see what they have for our next destination.

  5. says

    Bless your father for his emapthy, and we don’t mind you laughing at our plight. We are leaving soon, but until then we keep enjoying real food via you :)

  6. says

    Wow, the food and the view just so breath-taking. Drinking ur favorite wine in ur patio sounds better then squeeze in ur quitcase and break it or taken away ..haha.

  7. says

    @Theresa: I agree with you about enjoying just taking it easy and enjoying the pace and rhythm of a place. It seems that the longer we travel, the more we really value this. We rented an apartment in Buenos Aires for two months and this was also great to get a good feel for the city.

    @Andrea: When we’re in Central Europe for a while, we start missing spicy and strong tasting food like kimchi. So, I guess the grass can be greener :) Enjoy the rest of your time in South Korea and we’ll keep trying to supply fun food posts and stories.

    @Sarah: The vacation rental was in a really nice setting. It is definitely much nicer to enjoy the bottles of wine in the moment instead of trying to pack them. That said, we still packed a few bottles in my backpack to give as gifts.

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