The 7,000 acre Banfi vineyard estate has won countless awards, earned millions and revolutionized the Italian wine industry. At its center at one end of a ridge opposite the proprietor’s Tuscan villa, soars Castello Poggio alle Mura, or Castello Banfi. The castle’s 8th century charm and whimsy remain after intelligent renovation transformed it into a 14-room hotel of the most luxurious sort.
The Tuscan countryside heaves like a giant sleeping under a massive green patchwork quilt – and there are views of it from everywhere. The vineyards sprawl in every direction down from the castle hill and small ponds and forests dot the landscape.
But the castle itself is the temporary home to so few guests that it is impossible not to feel at least some of the communal camaraderie that the 8th century inhabitants must have felt – minus the plague, of course.
Friday evening we were lucky enough to be invited free of charge by the Banfi Estate – as was every other guest at the hotel – to the town of Montalcino’s annual Honey Festival. It took place inside the castle walls, which is the only time each year that part of the castle is actually opened to anyone, let alone the public.
Local officials and honey producers gathered for a 7-course feast celebrating the honey harvest, one of the important local products other than wine and olive oil.
We joined them at large banquet tables, albeit way in the back, but the community atmosphere at our table was no less joyous.
We met a young couple from Texas, also on their honeymoon who had more in common with us than many people we know in Massachusetts. She was sweet and he was funny and by the time the dessert wine was poured, we had become fast friends, or as I liked to call it because of the dinner, fast food friends.
We also met a nice older couple from Kansas City who had a daughter our age and an older couple from Toronto with Italian roots who gave us excellent travel tips and local recommendations.
In all, the amazing dinner of pastas and meats and honey took a backseat to the people and of course, the Banfi wine.
The feeling continued Saturday with a winery tour comprised of many of the same people as well as new friends. When we entered the 5-star restaurant on the castle grounds that night to enjoy our 5-course dinner and wine pairing, a few of the same couples were already inside the high-ceilinged castle room munching away on the first course.
It was a nice feeling to walk by tables and have people genuinely say ciao in between bites of black truffle ghnocci or roast suckling pig.
At dinner Danielle and talked about many things, one of them being travel and the experiences we’ve shared. We agreed many times but the most important time was when we promised each other to continue sharing them together and someday with our children. It is one thing to say you’re part of the world community. It is quite another to build a community of your own around the world.
(We are off to Cinque Terre! I dont know what the internet situation is there so check back with us soon!)