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January 29, 2015

The Birth of Tuscan Muse - Part I


Life takes unexpected turns. Small incidents can become the foundation of life-changing paths that determine our course. Tuscan Muse was born quite unexpectedly and with its birth a dream came true.

I am a watercolor artist. A rare opportunity to visit Tuscany came when my watercolor teacher asked me to assist her in a workshop. I jumped at the chance. It would have been impossible to anticipate that the end result was to be the birth of Tuscan Muse.

We arrived at Antica Tenuta Le Casacce, the agritourismo where the workshop in Tuscany was being hosted. We were greeted as we were getting out of our car by the very excited owner of Le Casacce, Enrico Casini. "Mama mia! We have to cancel this workshop!", were the first words out of his mouth. Needless to say, we were both stunned and more than dismayed to be given this news.

The owner of the workshop company had fallen ill in France and was in critical condition. He was the only one with the contact information for the workshop participants, including their flight times for arrival. How could we find them to cancel? Should we cancel? If we didn't cancel, who would lead the tourist segment of the workshop, escorting the guests to the various venues? What venues had the owner chosen? What transportation company had he contracted to provide ground transportation for the guests? What exactly did he have planned for the 10-day itinerary? No one knew.

The workshop participants were arriving in two days. I had never stepped foot on Italian soil, nor Tuscan soil for that matter. I had never, ever met a native Italian. Enrico was a bundle of energy, fast talking, arms flailing and never calm. Much to my surprise I found myself saying, "We can do this. I will take over and manage the workshop." What had I gotten myself into?

I spent the next forty-eight hours with Enrico. We managed to find a relative of the ailing workshop owner who was able to give us the guest information. We arranged for transportation. We madly prepared a 10-day itinerary. I sat with my laptop and Googled every possible location near Le Casacce, while getting Enrico's opinion as to whether it would be a good place to take the workshop guests. "How about Montalcino?" "Is Florence too far away?" "What is there to do in Pienza?" By the time the guests arrived, we had a planned itinerary ready to present to our guests. But, was I ready to be the expert on all things Tuscan?

I loved Tuscany from the start. It was not difficult to be enthusiastic about the itinerary. I hoped that my enthusiasm would carry the day, despite my lack of knowledge. I spent every night memorizing facts and highlights about the places that we would travel to the next day. The daily travels were the easiest part of the job. Dealing with Enrico was a different story. I never knew what mood he would be in or whether his constant yelling at me behind the scenes meant that he was dismayed or pleased. Little did I know at the time, that he would become dear to me as a business partner and friend.

To be Continued in Part Two as the next blog post on Tuscan Musings.

  • Our stay at Le Casacce will always be a glorious memory. By the time the trip was over, we already missed our new friend, Linda. We came home filled with tales of the sights we had seen, the excellent food we had eaten and the good times made possible by Tuscan Muse
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