THINGS HAPPEN FOR A REASON
15 August 2015 | SAN GIULIANO TERME, ITALY
The car rental pick-up could have been a fiasco. The marina agent insisted on making the original call because she said they didn't speak English in the rental office. Well...he didn't, but we all managed to communicate well enough to get through the paperwork, contract, etc. As we were leaving, he asked if we wanted a TomTom. Ken asked if there was an additional cost. He said 'yes, but no'. So, we took it. Now finished with the formalities, a young man escorted us to our Smart car, loaded our luggage (not so easy), and then set up the TomTom (which we named Tomasina). He switched the language to English. (It had not occurred to me that an Italian GPS would have been useless), entered our destination, and mounted it. As has been our prior experience, he refused our offer of a tip. Off we went on our journey to Monterasso. It seemed as if the trip would be fairly straightforward, just driving along the coast and following the signs to Livorno, Pisa, La Spezia, etc but Tomasina kept taking us off and on different roads. At one point, I, now the assistant navigator, said I couldn't imagine why we were going towards Siena. Suddenly, an alert came on the GPS indicating that there was a route which was 20 minutes shorter...did we want it. Of course! She then led us back to the place we had gotten off the road in the first place. Obviously, Tomasina had goofed. OK. We all make mistakes. I just hate that she was sneaky about it...and never apologized! Captain Ken surmised that the young man who set up the GPS for us programmed it to avoid toll roads. (Smart! You see, he's not just another pretty face.)
Our original plan was to take this leisurely drive and stop somewhere overnight, since we are not scheduled to be in Monterosso until Saturday. Once we started driving, it seemed as if we might as well go right through and see if the room in Monterasso was available earlier. Now, with all of these re-routings, we went back to plan A: find a place. Easy enough in 2015. While Ken drove, I opened TripAdvisor, accessed the link for 'near me' (north of Pisa) and found Locanda Sant'Agata in San Giuliano Terme...13 minutes away for 82 euros and a rating of 4.5 out 5. 'Book now' and I did. While Tomasina did not cover herself with glory up until this point, she did show her mettle getting us to the hotel. It would have been really difficult to find it. Then those long awaited words: 'you have reached your destination.'. Ken made the left into the long driveway leading to a small house in the middle of a sunflower farm. We were greeted by the hosts who speak perfect English, and we're escorted to a large, immaculately clean room with a king-sized bed, beautifully tiled bathroom, and......very fast free wifi. There are only nine rooms here, and as we were checking in, a French couple had to be turned away. By booking in the car, we were able to secure the last room.
Now comes the best part; dinner. They have a beautiful dining area, with views of the mountains overlooking the sunflower fields. The pic of the day is of Ken perusing the very extensive wine list on the iPad brought over by the sommelier. I could have posted pix of the extremely photogenic food, but I couldn't resist the pic of the Captain almost smiling.
And the food......The menu started with a four course sampler for 16 euros. What a bargain...but I really didn't want that much food. The rest of the menu items ranged from 8-20 euros. When I mentioned this to Ken, he said to put on my glasses (which I had left in the room). The sampler was 46 euros...with a fancy font I couldn't read.....so glad I didn't order it. While we were studying the menu, the host brought over Prosecco and an appetizer of delicious regional ham and fresh figs.. both gratis!. The meal we ordered was nothing short of delicious (on my top meals of life) ending with a creme brûlée which was to die for. I usually don't order dishes I make. Having done so, I now have to go home and research new CB recipes. They've raised the bar.
And.....had Tomasina not led us astray, we would have missed this magical experience.
BTW: This would be the perfect location for a destination wedding.