Soprano in Tuscany

One of the best things about my trip to Rome last month was that I got to see a lot of my best friend Lauren, who is living and working there now.

K & L

On Lauren’s balcony

On my last weekend in Italy, N had to head home and I stayed with Lauren and her adorable family. On Thursday that week she texted me that they were thinking of going to the beach in Tuscany that weekend, and was I interested? I had to think about that one for oh, half a second. Probably less.

So Saturday morning they picked me up in their shiny red Fiat 500L, and we drove north. We were headed to Capalbio, their favorite beach town — really a collection of villages scattered across the green hills that roll into the Mediterranean — in southern Tuscany. After only an hour and a half on the road we came to this:


the customs-house-turned-B&B where we stayed overnight. Look idyllic? Check out the view from the grounds:


There were ostriches and donkeys on the property so that the B&B could qualify as an agritourism venue, as well as an olive grove and a beautiful rose garden.


We spent several hours each day on the beach. The setup was just like N and I experienced  in Rome — we rented chairs and bought lunch (wonderful cheese and fried calamari; slightly different fare from what you’d get at an American beach snack bar) at the bar. The beach was much quieter and less crowded than in Rome, and the Mediterranean sea even bluer. There was an exhibition of kite surfers all weekend, and while the kids ran and played we sat in our chairs and watched the kites float across the sky.

Beach Capalbio

We drove up to the old town, perched atop a high hill, to get views of the landscape below,


to walk around its sweet stone buildings,


and to enjoy an afternoon snack, including my last gelato of the trip.


Cioccolato, vaniglia, and frutti di bosco: a cut above Neapolitan ice cream

The entire weekend I felt like I was in a movie, or maybe a tourism brochure. It was that beautiful, sunny, and peaceful in Capalbio. And being led around by friends who know and love the area and took me to all their favorite places made it even better.

Everything was lovely. After an amazing long night of countryside sleep, I woke up in the bright morning to find this gorgeous crostata which the innkeeper had left for us in the living area and Lauren had delivered to our little apartment:


We ate well, saw a lot, and relaxed plenty. Even the somewhat horrific traffic on our way back into Rome couldn’t dampen my happiness on my last night in Italia. It was a perfect ending to a very special vacation.




In Praise of Ecco Gelato

This week I was on a family vacation in Santa Fe, one of my favorite places in the world and a city I’ve come to know through my years singing here with Santa Fe Pro Musica and before that the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. I could make a very long post with a list of all the things I adore about this place, and high on that list would be Ecco Gelato:


Having been lucky enough to visit Italy three times, I’m kind of a gelato snob. Last year during a food tour of Rome N and I learned how to tell authentic gelato from the fake stuff, which is made from a powder. Ecco’s delectable offerings pass the test: no frothy swirling above the level of the pans, no eye-catching slices of fruit or shavings of chocolate adorning the flavors, and no unnatural brightness to the green of the pistachio (here, pictured in excellent partnership with zabaglione):


Ecco’s gelato makes me so happy, I decided to compose an ode to it:

Oh Ecco, your gelato is exceeding fair.
I love your many flavors, whether norm or rare.
Though far across these fifty states my taste buds roam,
Your gleaming case and tables are my heart’s true home.